If you turn on the news or pickup the latest edition of the newspaper, it is very easy to become jaded with people in general simply because unfortunately, media has a tendency to only focus on the negative. So it is not surprising when that same negative thinking enters the workplace.
As such, scrutinization of employee behavior, performance, attitude, and engagement is at an all time high; the focus on people has been lost in the intertwines of schoolyard pettiness by both leaders and even HR. Instead, the focus has become simply about what someone is not doing or why they are pushing back.
While the bounds of employee pushback has increased over the years, I also point out that leadership guidance, support, and ability to manage situations has subsequently decreased. Therefore resulting in many managers and even HR professionals doing one or several of the following:
- Passing off employee issues to HR or someone else to handle;
- Ignoring the situation completely;
- Focusing immediately on dismissal because the level of frustration has reached an all time high
With any situation, accountability is key. It all starts here and by defining clear expectations and managing those expectations, it can be easier to avoid the schoolyard brawl situations. However, before it even begins with defining expectations, it starts with treating people like people.
Sure, it is easy to simply treat people like cogs on a manufacturing line with no emotions, but that honestly will not yield anything. People must feel valued, appreciated, and have an opportunity to be understood (even if it isn’t always right). And this all begins with communication. True face-to-face communication….not an email, IM, or text message.
Having dialogue with someone can tell you a lot about what they are experiencing. It is the tone, inflection, and non-verbals that tell you more than the words they are saying. You certainly cannot get this through an email, IM, or text message. Which is why it is ever important to have this dialogue when something concerning occurs.
For example, let’s say you have a handful of employees come to you and state their manager is creating a hostile, intimidating, and threatening work environment. Because much of thinking today is jaded with regard to people, one might immediately think the manager is guilty of the actions and want to move for dismissal (all without ever speaking to the person). However, this is where conversations are still ever so important. There are always two sides to every story – we just have to be quick to remember that instead of thinking the one side is correct.
Having the conversation with the manager who is claimed to have created a threatening, intimidating, and harassing environment may reveal to you they are not. Instead, the context of their words or the way they are speaking could be interpreted or perceived incorrectly. Which can be resolved through coaching, feedback, and development – not termination. But without the conversation with this manager, this interpretation or perception would have been lost on the situation. Therefore resulting in termination of the manager in true error.
Situations as that above happen every day. And it is situations like these that I believe can assist us remember some valuable lessons when it comes to dealing with people:
- Remember people are people; they are not cogs or machines. They have feelings, emotions and want to be heard and valued.
- Conversations are ever so impactful. A conversation alone can brighten someone’s day by providing guidance, words of encouragement, or a different way to see something. Conversations create a dynamic environment to produce truly great things.
- Take time to react. A reaction to a comment or something someone does doesn’t warrant the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, take a moment to reflect and analyze to ensure your reply has meaning, provides value, and can make the situation move forward.
- Not everyone is acting with malicious intent. While I understand it is easy to become jaded today, not everyone has the intent to act maliciously. Some instances are that where people really did not know. They haven’t taught, trained, developed, or perhaps they didn’t realize. Guide these situations to make people better.
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