Happy 2013 everyone!
Given that this is the last week in January, I have a brief window of opportunity to discuss the New Year with you. Once February comes, we are on to Valentine’s Day … and that’s a subject for an entirely different blog (I’ll call it “Managing Cupid’s Arrow – the Importance of Boundaries in the Workplace”)!
Back to New Years. The beginning of each year is a perfect opportunity to reflect on your role, over the past year, in making your workplace better. How did you – through your decisions and through your actions – make the workplace better in 2012 than in 2011? How did you make it a healthier place to work? What steps did you take to prevent, reduce or resolve dysfunctional conflict within your organization?
As part of this reflection, it is important to recognize the steps you did not take in 2012 and the consequences of your inaction. Did you ignore or avoid a conflict or behavioural issue within your team? Did you fail to speak up when a colleague spoke disrespectfully to or about someone else within the organization? As a result, did the disrespectful conduct, dysfunctional conflict or unacceptable behaviour continue or become worse? Did a valuable team member become noticeably less engaged, resign, transfer or go off on sick leave as a result?
This exercise is not meant to be destructively self-deprecating – that is, self-reflection does not need to become a self-attack. There’s no need to call yourself (or others) names. It is simply helpful to reflect on your past actions and inaction – when making decisions about the coming year.
Just in case you have not made a New Year’s Resolution for this year, let me respectfully suggest one: Let “Early Resolution” be Your New Year’s Resolution. When you hear or observe disrespectful conduct, speak up. If you suspect there is an issue on your team check it out. If you observe hushed huddles, strained faces and palpable tension, ask questions. Talk to your staff. Listen to what they are telling you. Watch for signs of concern. Then … act on what you see and hear. As difficult as it may be. As reluctant or as fearful or or as busy as you may be.
The earlier you act, the better – for your team and for the organization at large. Dysfunctional conduct and conflict does not disappear over time. Quite the opposite. It becomes worse over time. One brazen disrespectful comment to a supervisor – if left unaddressed – often becomes a pattern of insubordination. A one-off argument between staff – if left to fester – evolves into persistent conflict often resulting in camps of coworkers for and against each other.
Most claims of harassment/bullying can be traced back to “one dysfunctional conflict” or “one unacceptable behaviour” that was allowed to flourish.
In 2013, take action. Monitor your workplace for signs of dysfunction. Do what you can to put an end to unacceptable behaviour. Any action on your part is better than no action, especially when it comes to building a culture of respect.
Please feel free to share this with others. Together, we can build healthier workplaces, one decision at a time.
See you in February … tell Cupid to hold off on sending any arrows until he/she reads my next blog.