Offices are being taken over. Not by members of a specific generation, not by social media, not by unskilled workers, but by negativity.
Negativity and lack of cohesiveness is hurting our productivity even more than skill gaps and generational work habits. Negativity is universal and affects our offices no matter the stage of one’s career. And while dirty politics, snide remarks and insults are being treated more like personal issues than personnel issues, the lack of employee professionalism speaks more to a lack of management and leadership in that space.
We have all done it, snickered about a fellow employee, and then compliment them when they walk by. Participated in a session where management or a process is being bashed without helping to keep things appropriate for sake that we’ll be talked about next. And while no one can keep people from talking negatively, there are ways to harness the negative energy and to use it to build up your office.
Listen to Jay-Z
In a song entitled, The Takeover, the great philosopher Jay-Z stated “A wise man told me don’t argue with fools; Cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who…”
Participating (sounding just as unreasonable or negative) in these conversations without attempting to provide solution makes us just as bad as the negative employee. From a distance, it looks like total participation. When you are the bigger person, those that constantly stir the pot will either acknowledge your positive suggestions or not speak that way when you are around.
If people are always using you as that type of sounding board and telling you unflattering things about coworkers, management or the organization, you must ask yourself, “Why do they feel so comfortable telling me this?” Are you encouraging it? If you didn’t stop them and their negativity at the door, in essence you are saying, “Ok, come on in and stir up trouble!”
Acknowledge and Learn
While the delivery method of complaints can be a cause for concern, what is just as or more important is what the employee is saying and/or feeling. Why is the staff lashing out? We know that our employees clam up when asked straight forwardly, “Tell me how we can improve our office?” or “How can things be better?” So if employees have plenty to say outside of that meeting space, we need to pay attention to it, admit that there may be validity to the issues that are being raised and use them to improve self or how things are managed in the office.
When leaders catch wind of concerns or problems, management malpractice occurs when the manager does not professionally and authoritatively approach the source and root of the issue. Ignoring it or relying on someone else to eventually say something furthers the notion that management does not care, so we’ll just keep griping amongst ourselves.
An important quality for a leader to have is the ability to respond to an issue or crisis quickly…or better yet, proactively before it becomes a crisis. Managers loose more credibility and respect when they avoid the tough conversations and sit on their hands in the midst of negativity. If not a part of the solution, this manager is a part of the problem…and that lack of action is probably what the employees are talking about in the first place.
“Take focused and decisive action. They will follow you.” – Justin Harris, 2014
New rules and procedures alone will not a change make. Management has to step up, show commitment and be firm in what will and will not be accepted in the office. There must be leadership by example and demonstrative respect of people, ideas and the organization. This change requires those with power to come out from behind their desk and to interact with their people, so their knowledge of what is being said is no longer 3rd and 4th hand info, but a first-hand glimpse into the disconnect…so that it can be attacked first-hand.