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Office Gossip Kills Organizational Culture

I had a colleague at my last job, prior to starting Candid Culture, who was a peer and a friend. We were at a similar level and would periodically sit in one of our offices, with the door closed, engaging in office gossip, talking about the bad decisions our company’s senior leaders made. One day I realized that these conversations were exhausting to me. They were negative and didn’t make me feel better. In fact, they made me feel worse.

Some people distinguish between office gossip and venting, asserting that venting is cathartic and makes people feel better. It doesn’t. Venting and office gossip are one in the same and both will make you tired and feel worse about your job and organization.

I’ll use an analogy I read in one of Deepak Chopra’s books. When you put a plant in the closet and don’t give it light or water, it withers and dies. When you put a plant in the sunlight and water it, it grows. And the same is true for people. Wherever you put your attention will get bigger and stronger. Whatever you deprive attention will become smaller.

In addition to draining you of energy and ensuring you focus on the things that frustrate you, office gossip kills organizations’ cultures. If employees can’t trust that their peers won’t talk about them when they’re not there, there is no trust in the organization. And this lack of trust feels terrible. It makes employees nervous and paranoid. A lack of trust sucks the enjoyment out of working because we feel we have to continuously watch our back.

Office gossip isn’t going anywhere. It’s a human phenomenon and is here to stay. But you can reduce office gossip.

Here are five steps to reduce the office gossip in your workplace:

Reducing gossip in the workplace step one:  Address the gossip head on.

Tell your employees, “I’ve been hearing a lot of gossip, which is not good for our culture.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step two:  Hold regular town hall meetings, and give employees more information than you think you need to about initiatives, organizational changes, profitability, etc. Employees want to know how the organization is  doing and what they can do to contribute. In the absence of knowledge, people make stuff up, not because they’re malicious, but because they have a need to know. Employees don’t have to fill in the gaps with office gossip when you inform them.

Reducing gossip in the workplace step three:  Create a no-gossip-in-the-workplace policy.

Tell your employees, “We want people talking directly to each other, rather than about each other. As a result, we’re putting a no-gossip policy in place.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step four:  Draw attention to gossip.

Perhaps suggest, “Every time you hear gossip, wave two fingers in the air (or something else that’s equally visual).” This will draw attention to office gossip without calling anyone out.

Also, ask your peers and friends not to gossip with you. End conversations that contain gossip. This will be hard to do, but if everyone does it, it will become much easier.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step five:  Have an agreed-upon consequence for gossip.

Tell employees, “Every time we hear gossip in the workplace, the gossiper owes a dollar. Every quarter the gossipers will buy the office lunch from the office gossip jar.”

The keys to reducing office gossip are to draw attention to the gossip, have a consequence for gossiping, and over communicate so your employees don’t have to fill in the gaps themselves.

Venting and office gossip are the same. If you’re talking about someone else, unless you’re planning a conversation with a coworker or friend to address a challenge or problem, you’re gossiping. And talking about what frustrates you will only make you more frustrated.

My advice:  Do something about the things you can impact and let the other stuff go. Talk about the things that matter to you. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about the people around you. And know that anyone who will gossip about someone to you, will also gossip about you.

Negative Feedback


Want A Nice Company Culture? Be Nice.

People are busy and stressed. Reading the news is stressful. Sitting in traffic is stressful. Feeling we need to check our phones at all hours of the day and night is stressful. It’s easy to make someone’s day at work better. Why not do it? be nice

I’m going to suggest being nice to people at work. And I’ll give you my definition of nice. In my world, nice isn’t about asking about someone’s weekend, how their kids are doing, or what they’re doing with their summer. I won’t tell you not to talk about these things at work, but they aren’t required to be nice. In fact, those conversations can be distracting and keep people at work longer than they want and have to be there, which is anything but nice.

Here are six ways to create a nice company culture:

Nice company culture tip number one:  Look people in the eye as you pass them in the hallway, both people you know and don’t know, and say hello. I’ve always found it odd that someone can pass me on a sidewalk or in a hallway and pretend I’m not there. It’s weird. Say hi to the people you walk by.

Nice company culture tip number two:  Don’t send emails cc’ing people who don’t need to know. This damages relationships, annoys people, and fills people’s inboxes with unnecessary emails.

Nice company culture tip number three:  Take the high road. It’s easy to fall on principle or insist on doing something a certain way when the other person is frustrating or otherwise difficult to work with. Resist the temptation to be right and instead, do what works.

Nice company  culture tip number four:  When you disagree, pick up the phone rather than having a text or email debate. You can often resolve issues more quickly and manage communication better verbally than in writing.

Nice company culture tip number five:  Do the things you said you would. Be on time, meet deadlines, and keep your agreements. If you can’t keep an agreement, make it known as soon as you know.

Nice company culture tip number six:  Don’t gossip. Definition of gossip:  Talking about anyone who isn’t physically present. Gossip creates environments of negativity and distrust. Think it and then let it go.

You have more control over your workplace atmosphere and your day than you may think you do. Be nice. Just because.

People are tired, busy, and stressed. Be nice to people. Just because. It will make your day, their day, and your work environment better.

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Organizational Culture – Hire and Fire for Fit

When I interviewed for my last job, before starting Candid Culture, the CEO put a mug in front of me with the company’s values on it and asked if I could live by those values at work. He was smart. Hiring someone with the skills to do a job is one thing. Hiring someone who fits into the organizational culture, is another.cultural fit in the workplace

Determining if a prospective employee will fit your organizational culture is much harder than determining if someone has the skills to do a job. Often when an employee leaves a job, only to take the same role at another company, they left for fit. They just didn’t feel comfortable. They weren’t a good fit with the organizational culture.

You’ve probably heard discussions about employees who deliver results at the expense of relationships. Or about employees who fellow employees really like, but they just can’t do the job.

Leaders of organizations need to decide what’s important:  What people do?  How they do it? Or both. I’m going to assert that both the work employees deliver and how they deliver that work is equally important. I think you should hire and fire for fit.

Work hard to hire people who will fit into your organizational culture. Get rid of people who don’t fit. The impact on your organization’s reputation and on internal and external relationships depends on hiring people who behave consistently with your brand and how you want your organization’s culture to feel.

At Candid Culture, we teach people to have open, candid, trusting relationships at work. Thus we must hire people who are open to feedback and communicate honestly. And we fire people who don’t model those behaviors.

If you want a high service organizational culture, you can’t hire people who don’t care about others and want customers to feel good about working with you.

Here are a few ways to ensure you hire people who are a good organizational culture fit:

  1. Share your current or desired culture with job candidates early, often, and clearly.
  2. Work to assess how candidates fit the culture. Use practical interviews, job shadowing, and reference checks to assess organizational culture fit.
  3. Talk about the culture when on boarding employees.
  4. Make behaving according to the culture part of your performance appraisal process.
  5. Reward behavior that matches the culture.
  6. Have consequences for not acting according the culture. A negative feedback conversation is a consequence.
  7. Ensure your leaders and managers live the culture. Get rid of leaders and managers who aren’t a good culture fit. This takes courage.

When people leave an organization, they don’t often take copies of reports they produced or work they created. And if they do, they rarely look at that work. What they do take, remember and find meaning in, are the relationships they built at work. Relationships are dependent on organizational.

Determine the organizational culture you want. Talk about regularly. Require people to act according to the culture. Reward the ones who do. Get rid of the ones who don’t. Make working in your organization feel as you want it to feel.

 

cultural fit in the workplace


Office Culture: Your Job Isn’t to Make Everyone Happy

disapproval is part of the job

The inspiration for this week’s blog came from the most unlikely source, time with my son. I want each of his days to be exciting and fun. On the days we do nothing but hang out and play at home, I feel like I’ve failed just a little bit. It’s a lot of pressure. Not unlike work and creating an office culture.

I want each of my employees to be happy and to enjoy their jobs and enjoy working for me, every day. That can’t and won’t happen. Some days are hard. Some are dull. Sometimes I’m fun and easy to work for. Lots of days I’m not.

I had a manager years ago who told me that my need to be liked by my employees would take me down. He was right. Unfortunately, I’m not the only manager with this challenge.

Lots of managers tell me they’re hesitant to give feedback because they’re afraid employees will quit. Other managers do work they know they shouldn’t be doing, because they don’t want to burden their employees.

Not every day will be great. And that’s ok. Work is a roller coaster. Some days are awesome. Others are the pits. Your job isn’t to make people happy at every moment, it’s to create a supportive environment and ensure people have the tools to be successful.

My son has a clean and safe home full of fun toys. I’ve created a positive environment for him. My employees have all the tools they need to be successful. I work hard to set clear expectations and give timely positive and upgrade feedback. The rest is up to them. Some days I’m sure they’re happy. Most days, hopefully. And then I’m sure there are days that a job at Taco Bell sounds appealing.

Here are five actions to create a positive culture at work:

Office culture tip #1: Set clear expectations at the beginning of every new project and task. The root of frustration and unhappiness is thwarted expectations.

Office culture tip #2: Ask for and be open to feedback from your employees and coworkers. Ask for feedback regularly and work to respond with, “Thank you for telling me that.”

Office culture tip #3: Respond to feedback by changing what it makes sense to change. Giving feedback that is never acted upon creates cynicism and distrust.

Office culture tip #4: Provide rationale for your decisions. It’s fine to do things the way you want to do them, even if others disagree. Explain your rationale. You’ll get more buy in.

Office culture tip #5: Don’t be afraid to make decisions that are unpopular. There is a reason that you want to do what you want to do, the way you want to do it. Vet your plans, when appropriate. Be open to others’ input. And then do what you think is right (within the scope of your role).

Your job isn’t to please everyone and trying to do so will likely produce lesser results and be exhausting.

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Corporate Culture – I’m Not Invisible

I’ve always thought it was weird to sit next to someone on a plane and not say hello. I don’t mean a long chat, “Where are you going? Do you live there? What do you do for work,” merely a hello. Or to pass someone on the street or at the gym who pretends not to see me. It’s downright weird. And it’s even worse at work.

Passing someone in the hallway at work who you may or may not know and notcorporate culture saying hello can be off putting to many people. Admittedly, some people don’t care. But more do.

Many of the people you work with are affronted if you pass them in the hallway and don’t smile and/or say hello. They’ll never tell you they’re put off by the lack of social graces, they’ll just make decisions and assume they’re right. They’ll tell themselves, “We sit in multiple meetings together, and that guy doesn’t even know who I am.” Or, “I’ve walked past this woman every day for five years and it’s like she’s never seen me before.” Or, “Bob never says hello when he sees me in the hallway. I wonder why he doesn’t like me?”

Chances are you’re not thinking any of these things about the people you work with. You’re busy and focused on other things, and your mind is not on making small talk when you pass people in the hallway. But know that not saying hello can have an impact on the people around you and your corporate culture.

Start this simple practice: Smile and say hello to everyone you pass at work. Saying hello in the hallway won’t cost you anything or take any more time. And you never know the doors it might open. Maybe the person in accounts payable who’s been kicking back your expense reports will cut you a reimbursement check even when you fill out the wrong form. Or maybe IT will come to your desk first versus eighth when your laptop decides it’s taking a vacation day.

Get more simple ways to strengthen your corporate culture with a signed copy of How to Say Anything to Anyone. The book is on sale for $15 to celebrate our 4th printing. It’s the perfect holiday gift. Get your copy now! Offer ends 12/31/16.

 


Office Gossip Kills Organizational Culture

Venting = office gossip

I had a colleague at my last job, prior to starting Candid Culture, who was a peer and a friend. We were at a similar level and would periodically sit in one of our offices, with the door closed, engaging in office gossip, talking about the bad decisions our company’s senior leaders made. One day I realized that these conversations were exhausting to me. They were negative and didn’t make me feel better. In fact, they made me feel worse.

Some people distinguish between office gossip and venting, asserting that venting is cathartic and makes people feel better. It doesn’t. Venting and office gossip are one in the same and both will make you tired and feel worse about your job and organization.

I’ll use an analogy I read in one of Deepak Chopra’s books. When you put a plant in the closet and don’t give it light or water, it withers and dies. When you put a plant in the sunlight and water it, it grows. And the same is true for people. Wherever you put your attention will get bigger and stronger. Whatever you deprive attention will become smaller.

In addition to draining you of energy and ensuring you focus on the things that frustrate you, office gossip kills organizations’ cultures. If employees can’t trust that their peers won’t talk about them when they’re not there, there is no trust in the organization. And this lack of trust feels terrible. It makes employees nervous and paranoid. A lack of trust sucks the enjoyment out of working because we feel we have to continuously watch our back.

Office gossip isn’t going anywhere. It’s a human phenomenon and is here to stay. But you can reduce office gossip.

Here are five steps to reduce the office gossip in your workplace:

Reducing gossip in the workplace step one:  Address the gossip head on.

Tell your employees, “I’ve been hearing a lot of gossip, which is not good for our culture.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step two:  Hold regular town hall meetings, and give employees more information than you think you need to about initiatives, organizational changes, profitability, etc. Employees want to know how the organization is  doing and what they can do to contribute. In the absence of knowledge, people make stuff up, not because they’re malicious, but because they have a need to know. Employees don’t have to fill in the gaps with office gossip when you inform them.

Reducing gossip in the workplace step three:  Create a no-gossip-in-the-workplace policy.

Tell your employees, “We want people talking directly to each other, rather than about each other. As a result, we’re putting a no-gossip policy in place.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step four:  Draw attention to gossip.

Perhaps suggest, “Every time you hear gossip, wave two fingers in the air (or something else that’s equally visual).” This will draw attention to office gossip without calling anyone out.

Also, ask your peers and friends not to gossip with you. End conversations that contain gossip. This will be hard to do, but if everyone does it, it will become much easier.”

Reducing gossip in the workplace step five:  Have an agreed-upon consequence for gossip.

Tell employees, “Every time we hear gossip in the workplace, the gossiper owes a dollar. Every quarter the gossipers will buy the office lunch from the office gossip jar.”

The keys to reducing office gossip are to draw attention to the gossip, have a consequence for gossiping, and over communicate so your employees don’t have to fill in the gaps themselves.

Venting and office gossip are the same. If you’re talking about someone else, unless you’re planning a conversation with a coworker or friend to address a challenge or problem, you’re gossiping. And talking about what frustrates you will only make you more frustrated.

My advice:  Do something about the things you can impact and let the other stuff go. Talk about the things that matter to you. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about the people around you. And know that anyone who will gossip about someone to you, will also gossip about you.

Negative Feedback


Retaining Employees is Everyone’s Job

Questioning Your Purpose

What to say about September 11th, this year, didn’t come to me until I was standing in front of a client’s leaders, talking with them about retaining employees and what they could do to become an even better place to work.

Their office isn’t too far from Shankesville, PA, where flight 93 crashed on September 11th, so they seemed like the right group with whom to share my story. Then I decided that perhaps I should share it with you too.

I bought my first house in Denver in 1999 and went on vacation shortly after closing on the house. Right before I left, my manager told me he had too many direct reports and was putting a layer between us. I’d have a new boss when I came back from my vacation.

Two weeks later, I returned to my new manager and found her to be defensive, paranoid, and irrational – in short, impossible to work with. I did everything I knew to work well with her, calling on our HR department and the EAP counseling available to me, for help. Despite that I led communication skills training for the company and taught conflict resolution, I couldn’t work with her, and let my old boss know I’d be leaving.

I suspect he already knew my new boss wasn’t going to work out (I wasn’t the only person struggling to work with her), and offered me a position in our New York office. He told me that if after 90-days I wanted to return to Denver, I could. Ninety-days in New York with all my expenses paid or unemployment with no plan? The choice was clear. I went to New York and moved into my office in Tower Two of the World Trade Center, where I worked on September 11th.

I’m not proud of uprooting my whole life for a manager I couldn’t work with, and it’s not something I recommend others do. But it does demonstrate the difference one person can make. I never actually lived in that first house I bought. I accepted a permanent job in New York, but wasn’t ready to let go of my life in Denver. So I struggled with the decision of whether to stay in New York or return to Denver, for three years.

It’s normal to question our purpose and wonder if we make a difference. If you ask these questions, consider all the people you work with on a daily basis and how you impact their daily lives. We spend a huge portion of our existence at work, and how we interact with coworkers, customers, direct reports, and vendors impacts their happiness, or lack thereof, in a big way.

Don’t underestimate the difference you make when you smile at someone in the hallway at work, or don’t. When you thank someone for making your job easier, or don’t. When you take the time to teach someone a quicker way to do something, saving him countless of hours, or don’t. Regardless of your title and position in your organization, you impact the people around you in a huge way, every day.

During last week’s training in Pennsylvania, I talked about the four things essential to retaining employees.

Retaining employees –the four things employees need to be satisfied and engaged at work:

  • I trust the leaders who run this organization.
  • My opinion means something. I am listened to.
  • I feel respected (by my manager). We have a good working relationship.
  • My work is challenging and interesting. My career is going somewhere here.

If you’re a manager working on retaining employees, spend time with your employees. Ask questions about their career goals. Take the time to coach and give feedback. If you’re a senior leader committed to retaining employees, be visible. Walk around your office(s), addressing employees by name, and asking about their daily work. And if you’re not in a position of leadership, be easy to work with by keeping your commitments, being a short cut and providing information when you can, and offering to help employees who are overwhelmed. Retaining employees is not just a manager’s job. Every person we work with impacts our daily lives more than we know.

Enter to win!


Corporate Culture – I’m Not Invisible

I’ve always thought it was weird to sit next to someone on a plane and not say hello. I don’t mean a long chat, “Where are you going? Do you live there? What do you do for work,” merely a hello. Or to pass someone on the street or at the gym who pretends not to see me. It’s downright weird. And it’s even worse at work.

Passing someone in the hallway at work who you may or may not know and not saying hello can be off putting to many people. Admittedly, some people don’t care. But more do.

Many of the people you work with are affronted if you pass them in the hallway and don’t smile and/or say hello. They’ll never tell you they’re put off by the lack of social graces, they’ll just make decisions and assume they’re right. They’ll tell themselves, “We sit in multiple meetings together, and that guy doesn’t even know who I am.” Or, “I’ve walked past this woman every day for five years and it’s like she’s never seen me before.” Or, “Bob never says hello when he sees me in the hallway. I wonder why he doesn’t like me?”

Chances are you’re not thinking any of these things about the people you work with. You’re busy and focused on other things, and your mind is not on making small talk when you pass people in the hallway. But know that not saying hello can have an impact on the people around you and your corporate culture.

Start this simple practice: Smile and say hello to everyone you pass at work. Saying hello in the hallway won’t cost you anything or take any more time. And you never know the doors it might open. Maybe the person in accounts payable who’s been kicking back your expense reports will cut you a reimbursement check even when you fill out the wrong form. Or maybe IT will come to your desk first versus eighth when your laptop decides it’s taking a vacation day.


Dealing With Difficult Coworkers: Three People No One Can Work With

If you read your organization’s handbook carefully you will see, in the very fine print, the rule stating that there will be three people in your organization who no one can work with. Everyone knows who these people are. They are the people who employees are afraid of, who tend to make others’ lives hard, and who no one wants to work for.

Employees wonder, doesn’t anyone in management know about these people? Why isn’t anyone DOING anything? Someone is most likely doing something. Dealing with difficult coworkers just take time to work themselves out. And managers can’t talk about others’ performance with you, as you wouldn’t want them talking about your performance with others.

What to do in the face of a crazymaker who doesn’t appear to be going anywhere?

Crazymakers are often bullies and bullies push the people around who let them do so. Despite your fear, give it right back to a bully. Chances are she will back off and find someone else to pick on. Do this professionally. Don’t compromise your own reputation by interacting with a bully in the way she interacts with you.

Work around the person. I’m not giving you a pass to avoid the people you don’t like working with. If you have done everything you can to work well with someone and he won’t work with you, do your minimal best. Be polite and respectful. Keep the person in the loop when necessary. But don’t go out of your way to nurture the relationship. You can’t work with someone who won’t work with you.

Doing everything to work well with someone includes talking to the person about your working relationship, admitting it’s strained, and asking for feedback about what would improve the relationship. Doing everything might involve getting a third party or outside mediator to broker a conversation. It might include weekly meetings to ensure regular communication. If you’ve tried ALL of these things with no outcome, then you can work around the person. But everything is NOT, “I sent three emails and didn’t hear back.”

Dealing With Difficult Coworkers

You can leave your organization to avoid the person who makes you crazy, but s/he will be waiting for you at the next company in a different body.

If you like the work you’re doing and, for the most part, like where you work, don’t let dealing with difficult coworkers drive you from the organization. Ask for help. Let someone who can do something about the situation, assist you or at least give you the go ahead to work around that person, when possible. And if the situation becomes untenable, before you resign, tell someone in a position of formal authority that you’re at the end of your rope and you’re planning to leave. If something is going to change in the short term, he or she will often know and tell you.


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