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Stressed out is one thing. Downright nasty is another.
Though some employees are able to keep a cool head when tensions mount, others are cracking under the pressure and taking it out on their coworkers. As a result, “workplace incivility” is on the rise, according to researchers at a recent American Psychological Association conference. And what, exactly, is “workplace incivility”? Basically, it’s disrespectful behavior in the form of rudeness, insults and generally crummy manners.
With researchers suggesting that 75 to 80 percent of workers have experienced ugly behavior while on the job, clearly workplace incivility is more than a few, isolated incidents. What about your workplace? If your employees’ stress levels are through the roof, chances are it’s showing in their actions and attitudes. Here’s what you can do to reduce some of that tension, while also encouraging more respectful, responsible behavior:
Confront the irritable individuals. In some cases, the problem may be specific to one or two “Sour Sallies” or “Cranky Carls.” Like with any other behavioral or performance issue, it’s up to the manager or supervisor to point out the problem and set expectations for change. If the employee is normally pleasant and productive, take a more sympathetic stance and try to get to the bottom of the matter. What can’t be tolerated, however, is if the employee is mistreating others to the point of harassment. This type of conduct needs to be addressed swiftly and thoroughly.
Allow telecommuting and other flexible options. Loosening the reins on a rigid work structure can make a big dent in employee attitudes. Consider letting employees telecommute, work a compressed workweek or leave early one day a week (if they’re meeting their obligations otherwise). Not only will most employees appreciate having to spend less money in gas every week, but they’ll also feel more productive and less burned out.
Extend more “thank yous” and compliments. When raises and other perks aren’t possible due to tough economic times, it is imperative that leaders and managers ramp up their recognition efforts. Heartfelt words of praise and encouragement have a way of immediately lifting spirits. Look for ways to call out a job well done, whether it’s submitting an error-free report, staying on task with a high-profile project or working well with others on a team initiative. And remember: Though it’s great to recognize the “big wins,” it’s also important to call attention to the smaller, everyday achievements. Tune into the “quieter” contributions that still make a difference in the business.
Roll out an employee wellness program.It’s widely recognized that regular exercise improves health and reduces stress. Even better, healthier employees make fewer trips to the doctor, reducing medical costs and insurance rates. Some idea to get employees moving: Organize a weekly walking program, offer mid-day yoga or meditation in a large meeting room, or arrange a deal with a local gym for discounted employee memberships.
Foster a more positive work environment. Is your corporate culture tired and draining, or vibrant and energizing? It starts with your leaders and managers and trickles down from there. What messages are they sending regarding the business and the role employees play in the company’s ongoing success? Especially during trying times, employees need to be kept informed and to know that “we’re all in this together.”
For other ways to boost corporate culture, display inspirational and motivational posters throughout the building, introduce team-building or motivational games as a part of staff meetings, and provide occasional social events on company time to strengthen camaraderie among employees and management.