Looking around my office I realise that people are the most expensive item on my profit and loss. And they are also where I experience the most issue within my business. Toxic work environments reduce productivity, create stress and can drive good performers to leave.
For those of you old enough to remember there was a great episode of Yes, Minister where the Minister and Bernard discuss a new hospital completed 15 months previously. No medical staff had been employed nor had any patients yet been admitted. The 340 odd administrative staff argued that doctors and patients would only wreck a smoothly functioning hospital! People are a problem it seems.
People matter, and people have personalities.
The risk of a toxic workplace
The management of people and how they perform in their roles is a major key to our business success – Duh! No news to me as a business owner.
It has been my observation over many years of working both in my own businesses and with clients that all workplaces have the capacity to become toxic and dysfunctional. Employees in these workplaces start to define relationships in the workplace not based on the organisational structure but by co-workers they favour and those they do not like or trust. In time your team becomes distracted by gossip, dramas and animosity and inevitably become less productive.
As a manager my answer to this risk is to focus on more closely on ways I can assisting my people to understand that they are part of a business organisational system in which relationships are dominated by work related activities and goals. When they arrive through the door each day, they will be working with other people. People whom they may like or they may actively dislike at times. People who will approach their work in different ways. People who will have different priorities to theirs.
Focus on work related performance
Experienced managers learn that honest and open feedback is your only avenue if the work environment is to function effectively. Tiptoeing constantly around the personalities and personal issues of various individuals creates a stifling atmosphere. Change becomes tediously slow and difficult or worse still, cannot be implemented at all.
We set out to create a system, or workplace in our office that allows open, honest and timely feedback on work related and technical aspects of performance, focusing on those issues that influence work results.
Our solution has been to embed a management system within the business that removes some of the personality issues from the system to allow the processes of the business to flow and to ensure that team members are very clear on their roles within the business. If people are aware of their role within the general plan then they can co-operate to work to that plan together.
People need to understand clearly what they must do to be a successful team member. Focusing on what they need to do to contribute to the goals and outcomes of the business helps to remove the personal angst that can develop.
And encouraging professional behaviour between team members sets the standard for the kind of work ethic we want in our office.
Communicate constantly and in many ways
Let’s be honest – no one really sets out, or wants, to be merely average in their role. Everyone wants to achieve and meet their goals, but if those goals aren’t set out and clear, then they fall to a level of mediocre – to the lowest common denominator.
What does this entail?
- Job descriptions
What tasks I am expected to perform? What are the outcomes I need to produce? What are my responsibilities?
- People development plans
What plans are in place to help me improve and develop my career
- Key matrix as to the skills required for them to perform their role
What skills am I expected to have? What do I need to get training in?
- Open feedback which is timely and constructive
Let me know at the time the incident occurred what were the issues and why, and what I can do to change next time
- Feedback that is interactive, communicative and conducive to meeting their own and the corporate goals
Who can I discuss this with to give my feedback, resolve my problems and ask for guidance and mentoring? Will my supervisor communicate with me regularly in a constructive way so that we can all achieve our goals
Creating a Performance Management system
We are currently rolling out a performance management system internally that addresses all these areas. It will focus on work related performance, skills and activities and on regular communication which is professional and directed to work performance. Shortly it will be released to a number of clients.
If people are one of your biggest costs, or if the management of your people has ever been an issue then this system is something you should consider. Ring me personally to discuss your situation.