May 25, 2007

Can you remove negativity at work?

Negativity in the workplace can have dramatic effects on productivity of your teams. This can run the gamut from harassment to outright violence.

Violence in the workplace usually stems from negative behaviours displayed by employees or clients: gossipping, yelling, threats, and so on. Sometimes, not all the time, you can pretty much tell from the get-go that an employee is going to cause problems.

Many companies have a written policy to help deal with this issue, which can help. Especially if there are regular reminders and reviews of the policy, as well as open and honest discussion on the issue.

Is it enough?

What brought on these thoughts?

This morning, I read an article on the new Ocean's Thirteen movie, where director Steven Soderbergh said that he had one rule for filmmakers: “We wouldn't have anyone with a reputation for being unpleasant. That solves everything. No jerks.”

That got me thinking: wouldn't it be great if you could actually hire and fire people based on their attitude? Without the threat of being sued?

What about an employment contract that has an attitude clause? One which explains in plain language, not legalese, what it means to have a “positive attitude” at work. When people choose to join a company, they must adhere to that clause by signing it. They are also made aware that should they break this clause, they are liable to get fired, without compensation.

What about giving employees many options to help them deal with issues that affect their attitude? I know that many companies already have people on the HR staff, as well as psychologists whose job is to deal with these types of situations. What I wonder is, how often are people sent to these professionals to prevent violent situations? My experience has been that this occurs after the fact.

As a manager or team leader, how effective are you in picking up the subtle clues that signal an attitude shift? Do you address it directly when you see it? Do you monitor that person more closely?

How often have you spoken to someone you know well, and realized that he or she was in a funk? When you asked, the person replied, “Nothing. I'm just tired is all.” But you knew better. You pressed on, and asked questions until that person finally let the cat out of the bag. After discussing long enough, the person finally thanked you because you were the first person to take an interest in him or her.

We often do this to the people we love and care for. How often do we do it for our employees and our coworkers? How beneficial could it be if we started doing this more regularly?

Now, I don't mean to turn the workplace into a “love fest” where all we are doing all day is discussing our problems. Not at all! However, I do think that it is imperative to create a more positive attitude in a workplace where stress is more present than ever, and people are overworked and tired.

How fast can you jump in and call someone on their behaviour and attitude? Both go hand in hand. I believe we often wait too long before telling someone to “shape up or ship out”.

The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to address the issue. Especially if the person you need to speak to is already agitated. It takes more time to calm them down and get them to listen. And if that person's issue has been lingering and festering long enough, it becomes more difficult to resolve it.

Attitude is one of the best indicators of success. The better your attitude, the better your odds of succeeding in your chosen field. Conversely, the worse your attitude, the worse your chances of success.

One thing that many people forget, at times, is that our attitude affects those around us. Or as I heard it said, “You either affect people or you infect them.”

I'm curious: what are some of the processes and procedures in place where you work, which help to prevent incidences of violence and negativity?

How confident do you feel about dealing with a coworker or an employee's bad attitude?

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