October 27th is not only four days from Halloween, it’s also Cranky Co-worker’s Day. The day isn’t quite a celebration, rather a day of recognition. Dealing with difficult colleagues can be just as frightening as anything you might see on Halloween. Luckily, there are a variety of ways you can tackle this to ensure a happier and more productive workforce.
For an organisation to succeed, it needs a leader to focus on keeping his/her employees engaged and happy. Without a clear initiative to achieve this, you will fail to maximise the impact your people have on overall business success.
Lilli Hender, of workplace experts Office Genie, shares a few strategies to counter cranky co-worker’s and create a happier and more productive working environment.
First things first: What are the benefits?
There are one of two ways to approach “cranky” co-workers: you either leave them to it and accept that not everyone is going to get on, or you take steps to actively improve working relationships. The former approach is understandable; it isn’t written into employees’ contracts that colleagues must be anything more than acquaintances. There are however a few downfalls to taking this view, the primary one being that if you endeavour to have positive relationships in the workplace you’re likely to see a wide set of benefits.
These benefits are both personal and professional. The Personality and Social Psychology Review discovered that social identification within a workplace boosts wellbeing. The researchers found if an individual had high levels of identification with their co-workers, their psychological and physical health was in a better state. We all know that with improved wellbeing comes a variety of advantages, and if making sure employees get on is a step towards this, it’s a necessary one to take. Everything from engagement to productivity, revenue to workplace culture stands to be in a healthier place as a consequence of workplace wellbeing.
Hiring on personality isn’t for every company but it can help to ensure there is a good fit amongst employees. It shouldn’t be the main criteria, yet it’s important to keep an idea of the sort of candidate that would suit the organisation and its people when recruiting.
Write down a list of positive, desirable attributes held by most, if not all, of the staff members at the company and refer to it when interviewing applicants. Or go one step further, add it to the job description. The thing to bear in mind with this strategy is it won’t make workplace spats disappear. However, it can make them less frequent and easier to handle.
The following are good examples of traits indicative of certain types of personality: “progressive”, “respectful”, “inquisitive”, and “adaptable.”
Mindfulness and resilience workshops
“Workplace wellbeing” or “workplace wellness” is a hot topic of conversation in the HR world at the moment and has been for the last few years. It appears in several guises, one of which is wellness workshops. The workshops pertain to an aspect of wellbeing and are usually optional but encouraged.
Key topics to improve employee bonding are mindfulness and resilience. Inviting expert speakers to the office to discuss methods for recognising and tackling stressors (resilience) and acknowledging and accepting your present state (mindfulness) can have significant interpersonal rewards. Heightening self-awareness and teaching ways to cool a hot-headed response can only help employee relationships.
Importance of emotional intelligence
Leading on from the last point, the need to have an emotionally intelligent workforce is greater than it has ever been. When work is no longer nine to five, but accessible in the evenings, at the weekend and on holiday, negative interactions with colleagues don’t just affect your working life but your home life too.
Arguably the most important skill under the umbrella of emotions is empathy. The ability to understand your workforce, or at least be aware of someone else’s feelings is invaluable when it comes to appreciating other people’s viewpoints and work processes. Empathy is a welcome side effect of creating an environment in which employees are encouraged to engage with and properly listen to one another.
A great way to promote positive engagement within a workforce is to focus on social investment and adopt some team-building exercises. The term “team building exercise” has a somewhat forced connotation so it’s recently undergone a rebrand and companies are preferring to use the term “social” instead.
When an interest is taken in a colleagues’ home life – and they are seen as people rather than co-workers – it can help to establish better relationships. If you know what’s going on with them outside of work, it can inform the way you interact within work. More traditional activities such as paintball or obstacle courses similarly provide an insight into how someone functions and what makes them tick: whether they’re competitive or prefer to take a backseat, for example. Such findings can give a good idea into how best to work together.
Communication through honesty and openness
Finally, the secret to positive relationships between staff members lies in good communication. Effective communication is the cornerstone of a happy and engaged workforce.
If you don’t feel comfortable communicating with a fellow employee or your employer, problems will go unresolved and endure. There are a variety of methods to put in place to encourage discussion: regular team meetings and one-to-ones; feedback sessions; real-time employee engagement surveys; and open-door policies.
The phrase “a problem shared is a problem halved” doesn’t go amiss in the workplace. If an employee is having a difficult time with a colleague, they need to feel comfortable enough to seek the support they need from their manager and HR. Hopefully, with the above tips, they will feel able to work through the matter with the co-worker themselves but ensuring support avenues are accessible (both in documentation and in action) is crucial.
When it comes to cranky co-workers or disengaged employees the sooner an issue is tackled – the sooner all parties will return to working happily, productively and effectively. This will ensure you are maximising their performance, boosting culture and increasing revenue.
Office Genie recently analysed the factors affecting workplace happiness, which can be found in their Workplace Happiness Report.