If gossiping and backbiting are a problem in your work area, consider these three suggestions to address it and improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, and improve morale. Learn more in the latest issue of the PAS Supervisory Newsletter.
I don't want to ignore my gut if I think an employee is struggling with a serious personal problem. I know I can't probe, diagnose, or cross boundaries, but what compromise can be made so I don't ignore signals of what might be a significant unaddressed need?
Supervisors may naturally come to know their employees quite well as they discover their work goals, ambitions, personality styles, and whatever personal information they choose to share about their lives. It follows that the same supervisors will notice when things are not quite right. It is then appropriate to ask - and supervisors should ask - how employees are doing. These meaningful conversations with supervisors may lead to employees getting help for personal problems. Seeing an employee at his or her desk all day and not interacting with others should concern you if it is uncharacteristic. Showing concern could lead to the discovery of a serious matter and referral to PAS.
I think most companies suffer with gossip and backbiting in the workplace, which erodes morale. What can supervisors do to affect change in this area?
Organizational psychologist Glenn D. Rolfsen, Ph.D., discovered through working with more than 200 companies that gossip and backbiting are indeed stubborn problems, but eliminating these problems will increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, and improve morale. The best tactic he discovered was to change behavior associated with gossip, which helped employees acquire new habits of personal awareness to change the behavior. He did three things that produced the result he wanted. First, he educated employees about gossip's toxic effects. Then, he got everyone to sign a commitment to eliminating it. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he discovered a way to keep that goal in front of everyone effectively to achieve "top of mind awareness." It worked. See his TEDx presentation on this achievement and consider what may fit with your situation. Ask PAS to team with you on projects to improve morale and develop a positive workplace.
We had an employee experience a major heart attack in the workplace. It was dramatic and frightening, but the hard part for me was the next day. As the boss, I was unsure what action to take other than responding like everyone else to the shock and processing it. What should a manager do?
When tragedies like the one you describe strike the workplace, the immediate response is usually obvious - engaging first responders and immediate needs. Days later, supervisors wonder, "What's my role in helping everyone? What do I say? How do I act?" You will make a huge impact on employees with the simplest things: being more available, being empathetic, engaging PAS, modeling your own need to process and share feelings, being a good communicator, making it easier for others to spend time discussing or processing their reactions, finding ways to lighten the load, and being flexible with work demands. You will be surprised how employees will thank you later. You may think to yourself, "Wow, I didn't do much." But in fact, you really did all that was needed. Supervisors represent the organization, and tragic events are always remembered in terms of how "the organization responded." That's you.