Are your employees bickering constantly? Is it affecting productivity? It's worth your while to get to the root of the problem and figure out what's causing all the angst.
Fighting amongst co-workers in close quarters is inevitable. After all, you can't spend 40 hours a week with the same people day in and day out, trapped together in a confined area and forced to share space and resources, without developing a little bit of acrimony from time to time. We're human beings and bad days and isolated incidents are occasionally expected. But when those isolated bad days turn into regular occurences and start affecting others at work, that's a problem. For them and for your business.
So which traits cause coworkers to hate one another? We've got eleven of the most common ones.
A little messy? OK. A tad unorganized and slightly eccentric? Sure. But let's face it, no one likes a disgusting slob.
When your employee's cubicle looks like it hasn't been cleaned since Clinton was in office and the mold from leftover coffee cups is turning into a sentient being with plans of office domination, you officially have a slob on your hands. Throw in the complete disregard of the company dress code and the curious decision to only shower twice a week, and you have a worker destined to be an office pariah.
You shouldn't lecture employees about being fashionable (unless you're managing fashion models) but if it becomes an issue, you should point out the dress code and make sure your workers look presentable while representing your business. It's tougher to talk to workers about personal hygiene, but office settings are close quarters and B.O. emanating through the cubicles mixed with workspaces that are potential biohazards does become management's business.
E-mail has revolutionized the way we communicate at work, but it's not without its downsides.
First of all, if you don't already have a company e-mail policy, get one. While buying software that monitors employee e-mails is a decision each company has to make on its own, there are some basic rules of thumb. For instance, it is never acceptable for your workers to be using their company e-mail addresses to send threatening or harrassing correspondence to anyone else -- especially fellow co-workers. Also, while some people think that forward about the priest and the rabbi walking into the bar was hysterical, others found it offensive.
So to cut down on in-fighting and acrimony, do your best to make sure e-mail is being used as intended -- an internal communication tool for professional purposes only.
Knowing what you're talking about is a good thing. Being a know-it-all? Not so much.
High performers are great to have on your team, but can often be a problem when talking about office chemistry. Sometimes they can be so busy being right, they end up alienating the rest of your team and now no one wants to work together because of all the resentment.
It's up to you to show your high performers there's a way to stand out in a positive light without kicking everyone else into the abyss. Tell them not to stop coming up with great ideas, but use that brilliance to foster the ideas of others and bring them up to the same level without drawing the ire of the people they have to work with on a daily basis.
Too Much Information -- or TMI as the kids are calling it these days -- is a tricky thing.
While most co-workers share a certain amount of personal information with one another and the line between just enough and too much is often blurry, it is still there. For example, it's perfectly acceptable for co-workers to talk about their weekends spent at bars and clubs. But when they start detailing the times they got so wasted the bouncers had to toss them out for fighting or disturbing the peace, that's TMI. The same goes for excessive talk of personal health problems, marital spats, their child's latest accomplishment at preschool no one cares about, and "private" phone calls during work that are anything but.
Co-workers sharing ideas is good, but when overshare goes into effect it will start to negatively impact your bottom line.
Laziness isn't one of the 7 Deadly Sins for nothing.
Every office has at least a handful of these lazy employees. They've been around for a few years, don't like their jobs very much, and therefore do as little as possible -- basically only performing in their duties enough to not get fired and keep collecting a paycheck. So while they might perform the bare minimum, don't look for these workers to carry their weight as part of a team or contribute anything worthwhile during a big project. Yet they never have any problem accepting the credit courtesy of the people who actually did work hard -- hence the reason lazy workers made this list.
If you can't fire the bad apples, at least be sure not to promote them or put them in leadership roles. Make an effort to seek out your best workers and minimize the bad influence of your more shiftless and poisonous problem employees.
This is a tough one for management to enforce, but as crazy as it sounds, lunchtime and food in general can be a catalyst for office discontent.
We understand everyone has different tastes and people come from all walks of life -- and that includes what we all eat. But if you're in an office environment, your workers need to remember everyone is sharing space. Sometimes with dozens and dozens of other people. So when employees start reheating leftover fish in the microwave, it's like dropping a stinkbomb right in the middle of the office. And while curry and Tex-Mex taste delicious if you're the one eating it, everyone else loses their appetites because that smell is going to linger for the rest of the day.
You can't regulate what your employees eat for lunch, but a sign with a friendly reminder that the kitchen is a shared space might be a good idea. Not to mention finding space for a second microwave in another room for those with potentially odiferous lunches.
Office politics isn't always a bad thing, but it can get pretty messy when employees start jockeying for position and taking credit for things they didn't do. That's why it's up to you to trust, but verify.
Know who your key players are and make sure you're giving credit where credit is due. This will not only help ease tensions in your office, it will be of great assistance come promotion time. If you are boosting the wrong person up the corporate ladder that's going to backfire at some point when a project fails and the bottom line is impacted.
If you can't say something nice...
Hey, it's not like your employees have to be all sunshine and rainbows. They're professionals working with other professionals, and it's business not kindergarten. But while not every idea is a winner, you don't want to reward the employee who automatically dumps on every single idea in a brainstorming session or planning meeting.
If new ideas are met with this kind of negativity and judgment, eventually your other employees will feel less and less comfortable sharing things with you or in front of you. At that point, whatever new ideas and valid criticism brought to the table might go ignored because everyone is used to being shot down and made to feel stupid.
So while babysitting should not be your goal, creating and maintaining open and safe places to generate ideas is a vital part of business.
This one is a biggie when talking about the pet peeves of co-workers and it's a constant bone of contention. The seemingly oblivious (or worse, just plain rude) co-worker who whistles/sings/hums/chews/plays his music too loud on a non-stop basis can raise the collective ire of an entire office in no time. Maybe they're nice people who just don't realize what they're doing, so you don't say anything because you don't want to complain and hurt their feelings. But on the inside you're seething as they use their fingers on the desk to beat out yet another Led Zeppelin drum solo that cuts through you like a knife.
If enough of your workers complain, or if it's just an obvious nuisance, you're well within your rights to put a stop to it. Just issue a friendly reminder about noise levels and common courtesy. The trick is to do it before it becomes a large-scale issue.
Think there's no room in business for good manners? Think again.
People notice the little things, which is why consistently using "please" and "thank you" are an underrated yet important factor when it comes to dealing with other human beings on a daily basis. In an office setting, you're normally in too close a proximity to be rude without major repercussions. That's why manners and basic common courtesy are so important.
So if you see one of your employees barking orders at others, take him/her aside and impart some wisdom about engaging in some civility and asking politely. Also, if you have two workers who can't get along, make sure their bickering isn't done in public in plain view of everyone else. Tell them work it out in private or involve HR if necessary. Discontent can be contagious.
"Let's wait another five minutes to start the meeting because (insert name of chronically late coworker here) hasn't arrived yet."
Is there anything -- and I mean ANYTHING -- more frustrating than dealing with other people who show absolutely no respect for everyone else's time? In our "Wasting Time at Work" survey last year, 47% of workers said meetings were the biggest time-waster in the workplace, because if someone is late to the first meeting it pushes each subsequent appointment back until there aren't enough hours in the day. Your employees who were hoping to get home early or attend their kid's special event will now face far-reaching consequences that extend well beyond cubicle walls.
The answer is simple -- make your workers be on time. Start by creating a "Late Jar" and whoever is late has to throw in $1 (or $5, $10, etc). When it gets up to a certain amount, use it to buy lunch for the office. But if the light-hearted approach doesn't work, take the offending employee aside and let him/her know everyone's time is valuable and lack of punctuality is a real problem.
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