Staff Not Getting Along: It's Like We've Forgotten How to Talk to One Another

empathy employee experience listening organizational culture
Be kind with words, be kind by giving grace, be kind by getting curious, practice respect, grace, and curiosity

Staff not getting along? More than one of my customers has said to me lately something along the lines of "It's like we've forgotten how to talk to one another?" How do we bring kindness and respect back to the workplace?

The first step is to look at the underlying reason for those short tempers and biting remarks. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is my team under a great deal of stress? 
  2. What are we doing to address the source of stress?
  3. Have they undergone recent trauma? (The answer is yes - we've all been through a worldwide pandemic.) 
  4. Has communication been clear or are people confused, and thereby stressed, and therefore short with one another? 
  5. Are you seeing this with one or two people? A certain group of people? Or pretty much everyone? 

Once you have the answers to these questions, then you can address the underlying source of your staff not getting along and, hopefully, see some improvement. Here are some other ideas to try today. 

LISTEN: I will beat the listening drum until I am blue in the face. It's the first step to finding a solution to just about anything. Sit with your team members and ask questions about their experience. Do it without talking back or getting defensive. Watch their body language and tone of voice. Walk around and ask questions such as: "If you could change one thing around here, what would it be?" This accomplishes two things. 1. People love to be heard. 2. You'll get insights as to what is causing the issue of staff not getting along in addition to other challenges.

HELP THEM GET TO KNOW ONE ANOTHER: One of the trademarks of our programs here at Red-Carpet Learning is that people get to know each other through icebreakers and interactive activities. Our customers tell us it breaks down silos and people emerge with new and/or closer friendships. Taking time for those types of experiences is not a way to waste time. It produces ripple effects that build bonds and lower defenses. Give people time and facilitated experiences to help them get to know one another. 

CREATE GROUND RULES: Get your team members together and create ground rules for how you will work together. Start by asking them "What would it look like to work in a place where everyone felt respected" and then define ways of working together that would create that place. Once those ground rules are set, ask each person to commit to living by those guidelines. Then, be prepared to intervene when you see the opposite. 

INTERVENE and NIP DISRESPECT IN THE BUD: As Mike Domitrz from the Center for Respect said in my book Employees First! Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the HEART of Your OrganizationIntervening is ultimately a key element to creating a culture of respect because people are going to be thoughtless at times, and if you don't have a way to intercede, the disrespect will build and build. For instance, if you see someone interrupt someone else in a meeting you might say, "John, let's let Susie finish. I'd like to hear what she has to say. Then we can come back to you because I'd like to hear what you have to say as well." 

ENCOURAGE SHOUT-OUTS and GRATITUDE: Take time at team meetings and ask associates to give shout-outs and share gratitude for their co-workers and people who have helped them during the week. This works two ways. It gets people focused on the positives about each other. Also, it makes the recipient feel good which helps their positivity, which influences the way they speak to others. Give someone a lift today and encourage others to do the same.

If you see your staff not getting along, try some of the above actions and let me know what happens. 

Donna Cutting, CSP is the author of 3 books and the Creator of the Red Carpet Culture Club. 

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