Yesterday, I conducted a “Positive Workplace” program for a large organization. I know what you might be thinking: either “Ugh, another one of those programs” or “Isn’t it enough that I work 50 hours a week? Do I have to be nice and ‘positive’ as well?”
I suspect the participants felt the same. I started off the program asking “How many people drive? How many people obey the speed limit ALL the time? How many people perceive the speed limit to be the speed limit plus 10 miles per hour over it?”
The point I was trying to make is that most of us consider ourselves to be law abiding and contributing members of society. And most of us also believe we are safe drivers. Yet, at one time or another, we violate the speed that is safest for ourselves and our fellow motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Likewise, while most of us perceive ourselves to be positive and productive colleagues, all of us need reminders.
Next, I asked if anyone had ever experienced a time when they felt that their values were being violated in the workplace. Up popped a hand, in record time.
Dorothy said, “Before I came here, in the place where I used to work, when a spider or an ant was on someone’s desk, they killed it! They didn’t take the time or effort to return it to nature. They just killed it! They killed one of God’s creatures and they felt no remorse. I had to leave that place.”
So, I have to tell you, I am of the spider, ant and fly squashing camp. My only consideration is trying not to leave bug juice on the wall when swatting. It was an effort, a lot of effort, to hide my surprise.
But, through Dorothy’s experience, I was reminded that each of us has different values and standards of what is appropriate at the workplace. Likewise, it’s in everyone’s best interest to create workplaces where differing values are respected.
When a colleague tells you that your jokes are offensive, your pranks feel like bullying or your music is too loud, find compassion, understanding and a middle ground. It takes courage to speak up and those that voice their needs deserve to be heard.
Yes, those that speak up need to be heard and we create better workplaces when we hear them.
Yesterday, I was meeting with a senior manager – we’ll call him Saresh – and he was telling me about a problem he had with one of his employees, Chris. Saresh told me that Chris hadn’t been sharing information with the team.
Saresh also told me about a number of other small problems dating back months and years…As we talked I realized that there weren’t a few problems, but a lot of issues; and they weren’t small, some were rather big and impactful.
When I asked Saresh how Chris handled it when he gave him feedback, Saresh said that he hadn’t given much feedback. Saresh felt it was always better to give positive feedback, so he never commented on the things that were going wrong. Not surprisingly, the behavior and problems continued.
We talked about how important it was for Saresh to sit down with Chris and address the issues. He agreed to do just that, but I had forgotten to tell Saresh, “Just a few at a time. Don’t overwhelm.”
So, Saresh sat with Chris and he noted a lot of the problems – some dating back as far as two years prior. This, as you can imagine, led to a complete overload of information.
What went wrong?
Think of how a body needs to be nourished. We need healthy foods day in and day out. Our bodies benefit from moderation and consistency.
Feedback is just the same. Many employees are literally starving for feedback. They want the positive feedback, we can think of it as the dessert, and they also want the feedback that will help them grow, perhaps the veggies. Employees benefit from consistent feedback in small doses, just enough to ‘digest’. This is the type of feedback that they can apply to make changes and streamline and improve practices.
An overload of feedback in one sitting is like Thanksgiving dinner at my mother’s house. My body becomes overloaded and sluggish.
Have you even been overloaded or starved for feedback?