Imagine a world where people always said “please” and “thank you”. A world where drivers didn’t speed up when they saw that you are trying to merge in to traffic. Where people showed common courtesy, regardless of gender by giving up their seat to the elderly, a pregnant woman, or a disabled person on the train. A world where lemon drops and lollipops rained down from the sky and …
Not the real world; I get it!
We cannot always control our environment, but we can influence the behavior within our workplaces.
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A friend shared an interesting story with me that highlights the broader implications of workplace feuds.
The friend worked with two employees whose personalities meshed like the proverbial oil and water. You could almost see the hate spewing from their pores. Their dislike for each other was palpable.
As far as he could tell, there was no particular reason for their intense dislike. He assumed that it stemmed from some sort of perceived workplace slight.
Regardless of the reason, the co-worker’s inability to work together spilled over into the broader workplace.
Projects were botched because the two refused to collaborate; and although it was never proven, it appeared that one or both may have even sabotaged the work of their colleague.
The behavior became the talk of the office. Their co-workers wondered what would happen next, and whether the pair would be fired. One of the biggest concerns was how the supervisor would rectify the issue.
As it turns out, it appears that the supervisors’ approach was a ‘they are adults so let them work out their differences’ strategy. Needless to say, the strategy bombed.
The interoffice feuding began to affect their office colleagues’ ability to get their work done; either directly because the feuding employees’ inability to work together directly impacted their colleagues work, or indirectly because staff spent work time gossiping about their latest antics. Employees started to question their supervisor’s ability to lead. Others felt that the environment was too intense and started looking for other jobs.
I shared earlier that employers can control the culture and behavior of the workplace. Here’s how:
- Make sure that your staff understand your expectations related to workplace etiquette before issues arise. Set the tone by letting your employees know the type of culture your company espouses to and that there is a zero tolerance level for inappropriate behavior.
- Don’t let issues get out of control. Yes, adults should know the importance of professionalism in the workplace without being told, but the reality is that people are people and some tend to let their emotions supersede their logic. Do not hesitate to speak directly to staff about behavior that is less than appropriate. Be very clear about your concerns and what your expectations are moving forward. Let your employee know that you expect the behavior to end immediately and that you will be watching to be sure that the situation has improved.
- Emphasize the consequences of the behavior; not just the impact on the ability to get work done or the impact on their colleagues, (all of which is important), but that there are are dire personal consequences which may include formal disciplinary action or termination of employment.
- Discuss the time frame that you expect changes to be made. In cases of inappropriate behavior, employees need to hear that you expect the behavior to end immediately. Let your employee know that you will be following up with them and gaining feedback from others to assess whether the changes discussed are being made.
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