Written by: Kyle Woodward
Employees may have major disruptive arguments at work because they can’t get along with co-workers.
Your accounts receivable administrator is backed up due to planning the family vacation. A foreman calls in sick because of marital issues. An account manager spends most of his day telling everyone he sees about his child’s’ college search process. In life, and in business or at work, there are ups and downs, growth cycles and recessions, good days and bad days. If each day were predictable, life would be extremely dull and boring. How we interact with others and how people handle themselves under a variety of circumstances is what truly puts the spice in everyday life. It’s the smile you get from a stranger while in line at the grocery store, a cranky complaint from a neighbor, an announcement that a new family member is on the way, or the news that someone you love has been in an accident.
The amount these interruptions or distractions detract from your company’s bottom line is arguably enormous, but also nearly immeasurable.
I would theorize that the productivity LOST in the US annually from work/life distraction probably exceeds some developed nation’s total GDP. How can we combat this? What can be done to improve our productive time at work for our business units?
Practicing and teaching soft skills help employees develop their emotional competence. Emotional competence allows individuals to appropriately deal with life events, but continue to be focused on personal and company objectives. Helping people stay engaged in their personal goals and missions is how we can attempt to recover these lost hours and dollars of productivity. Simply put, the less distraction, the higher the productivity. The better your employees cope, the more you get accomplished from day to day. In addition, you’ll have reduced turnover of staff, fewer on the job accidents, and less sick days taken, just to name a few, all further contributing to your firm’s bottom line.
No matter what business we are in, what our company provides, how big or small our family is, there are always challenging dynamics. Take for example my employee Ted. Ted is a veteran of the industry but new to our firm. In an industry with a very large paper trail like financial services, having your paperwork done correctly can be an important task. It can make the client you’re working with a complete pleasure to serve, or it can turn your day into a nightmare. It’s safe to say that paperwork is not Ted’s forte. He should have an assistant, but his revenues aren’t yet to the point where he’s ready to take that leap. His applications take longer than expected to be processed. He is sometimes missing needed forms or signatures from clients. It takes multiple visits to complete the sales process for certain clients when it shouldn’t be necessary. Ted sometimes loses clients, their business, and his confidence in our team and company. It seems twice weekly Frank and I are snuffing out nuclear reactions from the home office.
Teaching Ted soft skills and polishing up his emotional competence has minimized problems and potential issues with both Ted and our team. He’ll only outwardly vent around his issues to me in private. Ted doesn’t discuss paperwork problems with newer impressionable employees, unless he’s helping them avoid an issue he sees them walking into. He’s come to understand there will be frustrations and difficult policies from time to time in a highly regulated environment. He’s apologized for inappropriate comments he’s made along the way. Ted still gets his blood flowing weekly, but the fallout is no longer detrimental.
Here are a few examples of how to teach soft skills to your employees:
Provide employees an article for review on emotional competence – discuss at your next luncheon meeting.
- Set aside time in the agenda of a regular meeting to review client interactions, business ethics, or etiquette issues.
- Set up an off site meeting to review goals or plan out a campaign. While there review the basics of conflict resolution.
- Post around the office a list of office “norms” – Regularly expected behaviors that should be followed by your team.
- Give on the spot feedback, in private, if things get out of hand with staff, for any reason.
- Praise an employee for exemplary behavior with a weekly blurb in the newsletter or at the job site.
The most important prescription for soft skills training is a healthy dose of leadership by example.
Don’t over-react. Communicate regularly about delegates’ performance and goals. Mentor others and train them appropriately. Try not to micromanage. Listen and understand employee issues. By setting the right tone from the top and surrounding yourself with good people – you’ll recover some of that lost time and productivity. Good people will constantly develop and grow their emotional competence in a contagious manner when on a team or project. The environment will stabilize, less stress will surface, and your bottom line results will follow.
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