Recognize these behaviors and find ways to shift them from negative to positive explains Ayanna Castro
Over the course of my professional career, I’ve had the opportunity to hold various positions in different industries for some great companies. Each company had its own culture and vibe. Some companies were very straight-laced and followed policy and procedure to the letter, others were very relaxed and allowed creativity to dictate the daily schedule. While their mission statements, strategic goals and corporate cultures were different, they all had one thing in common; employees that displayed less than stellar behavior in the workplace. Their undesirable behavior goes beyond talking loudly on the phone in a cubicle setting, or taking an extended lunch hour while the rest of the team is trying to meet a deadline for a client.
Here are five workplace behaviors that need to stop – and some tips on how to handle them:
1. Unproductive gossiping
Whether it’s a gathering around the water cooler or the coffee machine, there’s always one person who knows the latest scoop about everyone and everything. Latest office romance? Check. What department is being abolished? Check. Only the executives are going to receive a year-end bonus? Double check. Not only is this type of gossip unproductive and unnecessary, it is completely unprofessional and can cause division within the office.
But did you know there’s such a thing as productive gossip?
Talking positively about a new project and how great it is to be on the team, or sharing how the new initiative will improve workflow process can boost employee morale. Productive gossip is worth sharing. If you have a person in your office that is prone to gossip, give them some “insider information” about the new vending machine that will have healthy snacks or the multi-purpose printer that will be installed. Another way to decrease the amount of gossip is to have consistent messaging. If asked a question is asked about a project or initiative everyone involved should provide the same answer. Giving conflicting information could cause employees to speculate and make up facts that just aren’t true.
2. Taking credit for work you didn’t do
I honestly can’t believe people still do this and think that they can get away with it. I’ve heard numerous horror stories of outright theft of intellectual property and I’m appalled that it is allowed. That adorable BCC: feature on emails is used more often than people think, especially if someone has had their hard work stolen before. If you are the lead on a project and working with a team, make sure you publicly thank the ENTIRE team for a job well done. How do you go the extra mile and really show that you are a team player? Send a thank you email to each member of the team and CC: their supervisors, if they work on a different team. You will not only earn the respect of your co-workers but management as well and will be sought after to be on and lead teams in the future
3. Arriving late to meetings
It’s sign of disrespect to the meeting organizer and the other attendees to arrive late to a meeting. Whatever happened to professional courtesy? Or letting the meeting organizer know in advance if there is a possibility that you might be late? The catch phrases of “Sorry, I just got caught up” or “I didn’t realize the time” have been abused. My previous supervisor had a standing rule: if you were late to one of her meetings, you had to either sing, dance or tell a joke. The rule was so well-known that senior managers would dash down the hallway so that they would not be late. Apparently three of them were late for a meeting and ended up singing as a trio. Don’t be the source of entertainment or laughter. Learn how to manage your workday and get to meetings on time. One way to ensure you are not running from one meeting to the next, is to block 15 minutes prior to any meeting on your calendar. Not only does that allow you to avoid the embarrassing trot down the hallway for your next meeting, it gives you a cushion for the “what if’s” of the day
4. Coming to Meetings Unprepared
In my opinion, this is worse than arriving late. If you are facilitating a meeting, make sure you have an agenda. No one wants to sit through a meeting while you try to remember the discussion points you wanted to cover. The easiest way to be prepared is by having a simple, bulleted script:
- Welcome attendees and thank them for attending
- Restate the purpose of the meeting
- Review the agenda
- Agenda Item #1
- Point 1
- Point 2
- Agenda Item #2 etc.
If you are responsible for an item on the agenda, make sure you have completed your action items beforehand so that you can contribute to the meeting. Do want to be known as the meeting superstar? Distribute the agenda and reading materials ahead of time so that the attendees can come to the meeting fully prepared and ready to contribute to the conversation. Sounds like common sense, but many meeting organizers fail to take this additional step.
4a. Using Technology During Meetings
This is not about the use of a laptop or tablet to record notes. This is web browsing, checking social media notifications, and texting because of disinterest in the topic of discussion. While there are allowances for emergencies, checking your email and scrolling through your phone during a meeting is not only a distraction, it keeps you from being actively engaged in the meeting. As the meeting organizer, you can politely request that attendees discontinue or limit their technology use during the meeting. That simple request shows the other meeting attendees that you respect their time while letting “Texting Timothy” know that his actions have not gone unnoticed.
4b. Not Ending Meetings on Time
Take a moment to imagine…you’ve sent out the meeting request, attached the agenda and the read-ahead package. The meeting attendees arrive on time, they are prepared and ready to conduct business. Now imagine their dismay when the meeting, which was originally scheduled for an hour, has now turned into an hour and thirty-three-minute meeting with no end in sight. As the meeting organizer, it is your responsibility to ensure that the meeting starts and ends on time. You might be wondering: How can I keep the meeting on schedule if I’m not the only person contributing to the conversation? Simple, provide the total time allotted next to each agenda item so that each contributor knows in advance how much time they have to report and answer any questions. For example:
- Employee Appreciation Party – Christine Ball (10 minutes)
- Office Move Timeline Update – Laura McDuffie (20 minutes)
5. Being a Naysayer…ALL THE TIME
Negative Nelly. Debbie Downer. Nervous Norbit. Buzzkill Bobby. It is this type of behavior that can do the most damage in a work environment. For the employees who come to work to make a solid contribution to the organization, hearing negative comments or complaining, daily, can cause undue workplace stress. In addition, constant negative comments about every idea under the guise of playing “devil’s advocate” quietly kills creativity and innovation; and can stagnate the growth of any organization. Naysayers are typically insecure and often use negativity as a form of deflection. If you have naysayers in your office, ask them why the new idea introduced at the staff meeting won’t work. What I’ve found by using this approach is that you will get one of two responses:
A. “I just don’t think it will work.” – They will not provide an explanation and will probably be surprised you asked for their opinion. These types of naysayers are sometimes difficult to work with and are often resistant to change. One way to keep them engaged is to ask them to brainstorm to create solutions to current challenges. Their solutions may very well lead to a new idea that they can take ownership of.
B. “Well, if you take a look at past data for XYZ when we attempted to do ABC, the outcome wasn’t favorable for 1,2 and 3.” – You NEED this naysayer on your team. Why? They will pick apart every single detail until they find any errors and consequentially create a solution. These types of naysayers can help lead the way to a successful project.
Recognizing these behaviors and finding ways to shift them from negative to positive is part of creatively managing professional relationships and maintaining employee engagement. The positive shift can change the trajectory of a department’s productivity and of an organization’s growth and success.