I heard him as I was walking down the hall, “I can’t believe you screwed that up! You are so incompetent! Now I will need to stay late! Aarrgghh!”
As I entered the cubicle area, I saw him ride his broom into his office just as he slammed the door. (Okay, so I made the broom part up.)
I looked around to see if everyone else was horrified. They were not. While there was no way that anyone in the vicinity could have missed hearing the yelling, no one looked up from their desk or rushed out of their office. In fact, it was just the opposite. Everyone pretended to be doing their work so they wouldn’t be next in line for screaming and bullying. Yes, being yelled at like that is bullying.
The next week, I was at a different company and the executive director was furious. Her face was red and she was pounding the table at her monthly staff meeting. She shouted, “I am the executive director! I don’t need to put up with this!” I knew from working in this organization that everyone had heard that rant more than once before. Even I had heard it more than once.
It’s interesting. Most organizations have policies that state that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. When lower-level employees are unpleasant or harsh, they are often counseled or reprimanded, but when the IT guy who understands the legacy database starts screaming, no one does a thing. Why? “We can’t afford to lose him,” I hear when I ask.
Well, I hear it sometimes. A few great organizations say, “We need the IT expert, but we aren’t going to tolerate demeaning behavior.” When that happened in one organization I worked with, we met with the IT expert and set up a performance plan and a coaching plan. In six months, her behavior improved…a lot! And not only did her work behavior improve, but so did her home life. We are not different people at home and at work. When we become approachable and less volatile at work, that same behavior spills into our home, and vice versa.
Elizabeth Jeffries in her new book, What Exceptional Executives Need to Know states that “What You Permit, You Promote.” Whoa! When I read that, I thought, “How True!”
What does your organization permit that needs to stop? Let me know — I am interested in hearing.
When I first saw this ad from H&M, the huge retailer, I thought, “What kind of diversity do they have on their marketing team?”
What my colleague Tina and I know from our training as coaches and Tina’s certification as a Diversity Professional is that diverse work groups would have noticed this and someone would have raised the red flag to stop the campaign.
Knowing that, I then wondered, “Did someone notice and not care enough to stop the campaign?” Did they notice and mention the problem, and their words fell on deaf ears? What kind of corporate culture would thwart “the someone” from speaking out? What kind of corporate culture would be dismissive if “the someone” spoke up and no one cared? And finally, did the organization know and choose to alienate a large group of customers (now former customers)?
As our nation struggles with gender equality as well as diversity and inclusion, those issues seep into boardrooms and workplaces. Tina and I have been consultants and coaches long enough to be a part of the trends. We used to advise companies to stay away from politics. Now organizations are making statements with their policies and their attitudes.
As Oprah so powerfully stated at the Golden Globes recently (echoing the female leaders in Hollywood), “a new day is on the horizon”. While Oprah was referring to women long being silenced by powerful men, the lesson extends beyond Hollywood and beyond sexual harassment. Organizations must create appropriate times and places to hold conversations regarding what is appropriate in their company. Companies are “at risk” when they don’t take the time to assess their workplace culture or have an independent group do that for them.
Every day another company, industry and celebrity is exposed for wrongdoing. At Concordia, we know that the more diverse a workplace, the more effective the workplace. And we don’t define diversity with only ethnicity, gender, and age. In response to the news and the world we currently live in, we have developed a new program on Diversity and Inclusion. And it’s not what you are thinking. There’s no guilt, shame, or uncomfortableness. It’s actually a lot of fun and we will work with you to make sure your team wants to be there. Give us a call if you want to know how Diversity and Inclusion can be both fun and profitable.
Is it time to reassess your office rules?
When I was in my twenties I went to visit my girlfriend Anne at her parents’ home on the Kilmarnock River. Once there, I found myself helping with their spring cleaning ritual, and a ritual it was! It included setting up their porch for outdoor summer relaxation. Down from the attic came bright chairs and tables, seat cushions, and a huge 1960s indoor-outdoor carpet. Trying to show initiative, I started to unroll it.
“Stop!” came a roar from their entire family. Startled, I froze. They explained, “We start unrolling from this corner, not that corner.” “Why?” I asked. The answer: Because that is the way it had always been done.
Now Anne’s family were loving and generous. They invited me to share their home and go out on their boat. They treated us to a crab feast and they lavished attention on us. They just had rules. Some made sense to me, and all made sense to them. I see the same phenomenon in many workplaces. Think about the rules that you have in your office. If you use the last of the paper in the copy machine, do you replace it or is it the job of the person who follows you? If the workday starts at 8:30, is it okay to arrive at 8:31 or even 8:51?
Of course we need rules, but problems arise when we don’t communicate and assess them. So ask yourself, “Are office rules serving you or are they getting in the way?” If you’re not sure, ask your colleagues — they will be happy to tell you if your rules are in their way!
Once you figure out the keepers, communicate them clearly and without judgment. I find starting with “I would appreciate it if…,” is a great way to get the conversation started.
Let me give you an example of a rule done right. In a workplace I frequent, there is a sign above the copier that reads, “Use the second tray and input this code, or the copier will jam.” I appreciate that clarity. I don’t want to be the one who jams the printer and creates a big hassle. And that is really the litmus test for good rules: Do they make the workplace a more efficient, friendly, and productive environment for everyone?
What are some of the rules in your workplace, written or unwritten?