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Every day I come in there’s always someone bitching. Either a customer, or my colleagues. Usually my damned colleagues, bitching about one thing or another – sometimes me, which they think I don’t know about, but I do! I bitch about them too, but only because I hear them, talking away – till I come into the room. Always the same s*it, different day: moaning, talking rubbish, and then if it isn’t, then it’s some ungrateful customer getting on my last nerve.
It’s not true, not for me anyway – I love my colleagues and our customers. And our team is largely remote, so we don’t really have an office to commute into or a break room where my colleagues – hum, just to repeat for emphasis, I love – are standing around bitching about me. But for a vast majority of people this kind of scene is a reflection of the workplace at some point in their careers. Office politics. The silent drain on productivity and morale, which goes on across every office in every country in the world.
We complain about the bitching, backstabbing and ugly infighting of our political leaders, but what they do is not unlike what we all do, every day in our offices, between co-workers. Gossip is shared. Rumors spread. Lies told. Tempers fray. Some team members are more efficient, so get stuck, like a car on a country lane behind a tractor, behind inefficient colleagues who delay projects and further infuriate our working lives. Working relationships are the basis, the prism, through which we experience our careers and too often office politics and personality clashes lead to a deterioration in the quality of those relationships.
How To Create A Better Working Environment
1. Provide Team Venting Sessions
For the most part, when making hiring decisions, how well someone will interact with colleagues has to be taken into consideration. No one purposefully hires anyone who is likely to be a problem, so why do personalities clash so regularly?
Normally, behind any personal animosities which spring up, are legitimate professional grumbles. As a manager problems have to be solved. So, give people the opportunity to air, either in private or as part of a group, the problems they are having and then find a working solution.
2. Mediate Disputes
Some people just don’t get along. It doesn’t mean you should be resigned to allowing professional and personal skirmishes in the office. When colleagues aren’t cooperating, they’re normally recruiting allies, which further complicates how efficiently a team works together, which normally has a knock on impact on customers.
When resolving conflict in the workplace, find out as much you can about that conflict, get the facts, and then get the key people in a room in order to try your best to settle the dispute. Impose follow on actions and regular check ins with those involved, so that you can keep an eye on whether what was discussed has been implemented.
3. Strengthen Positive Feedback
It could be the case that you are one of the problems. Your team might feel undervalued, so take their frustration out on colleagues. Look at the environment of feedback – both positive and negative.
Are you praising your team as much as you are encouraging improvement? If that ratio is out of balance – too little praise, too much feedback – then it might be time to redress this situation and find a way to reward your team for all their hard work.
No one wants to come into the office angry at their colleagues or boss. Nor should this situation simply be grudgingly accepted as normal. Next time you overhear or sense that people are bitching about their colleagues, just remember that this is one of the worst silent drains on morale and productivity which pervades our workplaces. It’s time we did something to make everyone’s working environment better and leave politics to the politicians.