There seems to be a ton of personal drama in the office. And I hate it. It disrupts not only my day, but others get caught up in back-and-forth conversations about things that don’t lead to productive work habits. How can I shut this down?
THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Encourage people to be up-front and honest, but with discretion. Get everyone to focus on what really matters and keep them busy working toward those goals. Shut down the rumor mill. Talk to people about taking a walk before blowing their stack. Teach your employees to value differences and to treat all people with respect, no matter how different their opinions or beliefs might be.
Unfiltered commentary does no good. You hire employees for their ability to make good work decisions. Make it clear you expect the same when it comes to their actions with co-workers. Not everything needs to be said. Not every situation calls for speculation. Ask your employees to filter what they say and make it clear with your own behavior that that is the standard.
Put people on the same side of the fence by giving them a set of common goals. Make sure people understand they have to work together to achieve those goals, even if individuals might have different abilities to contribute. Lead by example, encouraging people to team up with you. Take a good look at who you team up with, to be sure you’re being inclusive.
Talk openly about the challenges posed for the workplace by negative thoughts, back stabbing and rumors. Ask people to focus on the work to be done and cut out commentary that leads to dissention and discord. Tell people you expect them to root out the truth behind rumors and come forward with facts, not interpretations.
Give people the opportunity to walk away from volatile situations so they have time to think about what they’re about to say or do. Encourage people to recover their composure before acting. Whenever you think someone is about to say or do something that will be unproductive or hurtful, ask them to take a break first.
Know that you own and run the company. It’s up to you to set and adhere to a set of standards. If you find individuals feeding the rumor mill, take them aside and privately explain that will no longer be tolerated. If it keeps up, take them aside again. As in any other personnel situation, consider when the problem rises to the level of being worthy of probation or termination. Make sure you have backup for personnel you consider especially problematic, and pick a time that works for you to lay it all on the line by putting the repeat offender on probation with a choice of cleaning up their act or leaving the company.
Consider that some people have experienced poor examples of how to communicate, but also consider that you’re hiring people for their ability to learn and grow. Get the point across that everyone must communicate with respect while at work or when dealing with work.
Teach people the following:
• Practice the mantra, “If you think you shouldn’t say something, don’t.”
• Even though the temptation exists to share some juicy piece of gossip, resist.
• If you’re about to share something and ask the recipient to keep it secret, you’re better off keeping it to yourself.
If you think you need help, consider implementing training courses on productive workforce behavior.
Encourage collaboration. Put people with different points of view together. Give them a common goal to achieve. Monitor how things are going with new work groups until you’re sure everyone is working together effectively.
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: “Don’t Sabotage Your Career: 11 Power-Filled Steps to Succeed,” by Connie J. Miller.
Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., StrategyLeaders.com, a business-consulting firm that teaches companies how to double revenue and triple profits in repetitive growth cycles. Have a question for AskAndi? Wondering how Strategy Leaders can help your business thrive? Call or email for a free consultation and diagnostics: 877-238-3535 or AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com. Check out our library of business advice articles at AskAndi.com.