Updated: Aug 15
Somewhere in your workplace there's probably a fire hazard. I don't mean the health-and-safety kind of hazard, I mean a location where problems tend to erupt and people readily lose the plot on what to do about them.
You might harbour a well of negative potential where gossip emerges about the slightest detail on a worst-case-scenario slant, causing a doom-and-gloom outlook to take precedence over any kind of optimism.
Or there could be a danger zone, a team / people ready to blame other teams / people for issues that arise rather than take responsibility for tackling things in a proactive fashion. These zones cause blockages in communication and information exchange while heavily dampening morale.
If such tendencies sound familiar to you, take heart, for they are born of internal stress, and that's something you can do something about.
People are subject to psychological challenge of all kinds and there was nothing on our early-years curriculum to teach us how to self-manage. While stress and mental health are talked about a lot more these days, knowing how to handle them effectively is still something of a dark art. In the workplace there are ways to ease stress without incurring lots of down-time or expenditure, because much of 'what's wrong' in the matrix of the company is due to lack of self-worth, distress and frustration. To combat such problems, how about these for starters:
1 Set up a working party for soft-skill KPI implementation. If this is an alien concept to you, here's a check-list published on Synergita.com:
2. Creative thinking
4. Time management
5. Decision making
6. Critical thinking
8. Change management
10. Effective communication
You can implement KPIs to measure these critical components of good working practice - it takes a little imagination and two key criteria: a) a strategy that people can enjoy taking part in and b) one they can readily understand.
2 Provide a recognition scheme. Openly applaud the efforts, however small, that staff put into making a positive difference. You can do this by vote ('employee of the month') and/or by observation of positive approaches and actions. Enlist people to recognise best-practice in others and record instances so they can be openly publicised... allocate a new Recognition Officer each month and give them a check-list of things to watch for along these lines:
Offering support to others
Helping out with difficult situations
Offering a solution to a problem
Helping to keep a customer happy
Yes, you're going to get people voting for their buddies. Yes, some actions will be passed by. But again, given time, the autonomy involved in taking responsibility for noticing what's good is going to overtake the tendency for everyone to focus on what's bad. Consider publishing a quarterly newsletter to celebrate achievements and bring innovations to light.
Before you do any of these things, make sure your employees have a mindset that will enable them to sustain the self-management necessary to implement improvements over the long term - talk to me if you're unsure about this.
3 Build a Coaching Support Network
Providing an outlet for people to talk through their own issues is an invaluable step that will pay dividends. Commission a drop-in coach or mentor for those who need help in certain areas at random times. Bringing someone in from outside who has nothing to do with the politics of the company to help support those suffering from internal turmoil is crucial - you can't provide the necessary level of confidentiality in-house. Giving people credence for their sensitivity, their EQ, and their individuality while addressing psychological needs will keep your company on track in terms of humanitarian compliance, an area of social governance that's becoming increasingly mandatory.
After a while, people in your culture will begin to identify themselves as proficient and experienced in fields that lead to them wanting to coach others themselves, and you can build a network of support that embraces new recruits and encourages loyalty from those who might otherwise leave you.
Want to talk through some of the issues covered here? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org