Drama in the workplace is an HR nightmare, and it lowers the moral for the entire office. It happens for many reasons, and not just because of different personalities or women bickering and gossiping, which are two of the most cited reasons by managers who don’t know their employees. Negativity often exists because the structures currently in place do not support any changes you make. In other words, employees feel a loss of confidence, control, or community. This could be because of growth in the company, layoffs, or decisions you made that impacted the employees. The best way to combat negativity is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are a few tips to help you in that regard.
Allow Employees to Control their Jobs
The most frequent cause of workplace negativity is a manager or organization making a decision about an employee’s work without his or her input. Decisions made that specifically exclude the person affected is perceived as negative and it breeds contempt. Give your staff an opportunity to give you input before you make a decision. Sometimes they may be able to provide an angle you didn’t think or, or they can explain why the change might not be in the company’s best interests. Another factor to consider is that the person doing the job has a day in and day out understanding of what’s happening, while the decision makers look at numbers on a page.
Provide Regular Updates
When a big change is on the horizon, the best approach is to let the employees know. The fact is, most executive teams get a few months to prepare and adjust to the change, but employees don’t know about the change until it happens. It creates a lack of confidence and control within employees, which causes them to feel out of the loop. The brain registers uncertainty as a threat, and when employees feel threatened, they get frustrated and gossip. You can prevent this and other negative behaviors by providing regular updates.
Allow True Open Communication
Employees should be able to discuss their concerns about policies and procedures without fear of retaliation. Far too many companies say they have an open communication policy, but those employees who speak out sometimes find themselves behind everyone else for raises and promotions, or they’re just out of a job. If you have a disruptive, disrespectful employee, that’s one thing. But, in general, true open communication means the employees can address their concerns without fear, and the company includes a two-way review system, which allows employees to review their managers.
Create Clear Policies and Expectations
This one causes a lot of havoc for small and family-owned businesses. The lack of clear boundaries contributes to the lack of consistency. Remember, the brain perceives uncertainty as a threat and that leads to negative behavior, so make sure that policies and expectations are clear. Also make sure you have consequences for not following those rules.
Treat everyone like an adult, and be fair about it. Do not let your top salesperson get away with breaking the rules. Do not ignore policies when it suits the situation. These behaviors cause a lack of trust between the employees and with the company as a whole. Lack of trust in the workplace is corrosive to an effective working relationship, and once it breaks down, the workplace becomes a den of negative drama.
Limit the Rules
Do not create a new set of rules for employees to follow when only a few people are violating the norms. This rigid attempt to control employees will create anger and frustration, which leads to gossip and drama. You want to limit the rules you impose on adults in the workplace, and just let them know the expectation. When you treat people like adults, they will usually live up to your expectations.
Help Everyone Feel Equal
Everyone wants to have the same opportunities, the same information, and the same freedoms as everyone else. When you cherry pick who gets what information, hostility and resentment develop. Provide context for your decisions, unpopular or otherwise, and communicate regularly. Do not play favorites.
Training is expensive, and some companies largely ignore this aspect of development to save money. Don’t. Training, opportunities for promotions, lateral moves for development, and cross-training opportunities show employees that an organization is committed to their growth with the company. Not only that, new employees who do not receive training are less like to meet company expectations their whole career than someone who receives training. There are always exceptions to the rule, but training is important.
Be a Leader
People want to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves, and when they go to work, they want to know that their actions mean something. An organization without a mission, vision, values, or goals will have more workplace negativity than an organization with them. Those core principles are what define the company, and it makes employees feel comfortable when their employer knows what it stands for, and what it is willing to do.
Rewards and Recognition
As stated before, employees want their contributions to mean something. Providing appropriate rewards and recognition is one of the most powerful tools you can use to bolster staff morale. The rewards do not need to be overly expensive gifts, trips, or watches. Although some companies want to provide those large gifts, sometimes small tokens of appreciation mean more to an employee.
If workplace negativity is an issue for you, there are some immediate actions you can take to fix the situation. The first step is to get to the bottom of the negativity and figure out what’s causing it. Start visiting with your employees to determine what their needs are, and communicate any changes or policies that haven’t been clear in the past. Get the ball rolling on training options and start providing your employees with rewards and recognition to help motivate a positive change.