One of the primary goals of your HR rep is to create a positive company culture – an environment where employees feel appreciated, engaged, and have some degree of camaraderie with their coworkers. However, we also know from experience that just one bad apple can spoil it for the bunch. By nature, some folks do tend to skew Debbie Downer, but it can become truly problematic when they introduce significant issues into the workplace. Read on to learn how you, your HR team, and your front-line managers can address some of the most common toxic work behaviors head-on and prevent a company-wide meltdown.
In business, it is wise to heed the cocktail party rule that you never discuss religion, politics, or money. However, the 24-hour news cycle, coupled with access to social media and all the good (and bad!) that this onslaught of information brings may mean that people’s aggravation trickles over into normal, every-day work and you can quickly find your team (or company!) divided over their varying views. While it would be nice to go ahead and put a widespread ban on all types of political conversation, it simply isn’t feasible. Instead, you must set expectations for employee behavior that allows for safe, respectful employee discussion. Specifically, the pros recommend that you remind workers that as a business, you have expectations that colleagues’ views will be respected both inside and outside of the workplace. Further, you should refer any employees who may be more vocal to your policies on workplace harassment so that they can ensure that they aren’t flirting with a violation.
Gossip is a part of human nature. Just look at the success of celebrity magazines that tout news of the latest it couple’s impending breakup or confuse a starlets tiny burrito belly for a baby bump! However, when gossip takes place in the close confines of the office, it can seriously hurt morale, causing divides among teams, and truly impede productivity. The trickiest part about office gossip is that it generally doesn’t happen in front of managers, making it somewhat hard to police. However, when rumors are overheard, managers should try to trace them back to their source and address it directly with the individual or, in cases where this isn’t possible, discuss and diffuse the rumor with the team. In particular, you’ll want to clarify why the gossip is untrue and how such a rumor could be harmful.
Passing the buck
Most offices usually have that one person that seems to get by with doing the bare minimum and always seems to get away with it. In some cases, this individual’s commitment to doing the least can mean that they’re shifting tasks to other team members, but in others, they simply pile the blame on their coworkers if a group project falls short of projections. This behavior can really sap morale, especially among team members, but also across your entire company so you’ll want to be proactive in nipping it in the bud. This can be accomplished by having managers consistently hold employees accountable for the work that they are assigned through quantifiable goals and a system of tangible rewards and remediation. If that doesn’t do the trick, it may be time to examine team dynamics and create a more effective and efficient system for group projects, such as using collaboration software and task management apps more closely.
Once you get to the business world, it’s unlikely that you’ll be subject to being stuffed in a locker or given a swirly. However, bullying is still alive and well in corporate America and can take on many forms, including belittling, sabotaging, or even playing pranks on coworkers. The big issue with bullying is that in the office, it’s relabeled as harassment, which is a serious offense. Should bullying in your office come to light, you’ll need to fully investigate the claim and take action as outlined in your corporate policy. Further, make cooperation, inclusion, and collegiality a part of every worker’s job requirements and performance goals so that it is a metric against which they will be measured and held accountable to further reinforce optimal behavior.
Resistance to change
They say no one really likes change, but there’s not being thrilled about a new way of doing things and being downright obstructive to its implementation. When a worker stands in the way of a change going through, they can not only stall implementation but also create a divide within the office and undermine the authority of upper management. To head this one off, be as transparent as possible about the new process – hold meetings to discuss the impetus for the change, what folks can expect, and when the change will roll out. Allow workers the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns and address them in the moment where possible. Let workers know that their opinions are valued and that this change will be an ongoing process and that you would appreciate their feedback to guide future changes. Should an employee choose to continue to resist or otherwise hinder implementation, document these behaviors and implement consequences as appropriate until the situation resolves.