A big factor in workplace discontent is not wages, benefits or hours — it’s the manager, says a recent Gallup poll.
Employees supervised by highly-engaged managers are 59 percent more likely to be engaged. Half of U.S. adults report they have left jobs to get away from their managers.
That’s pretty sad. But anyone who influences the attitudes and actions of others is a leader — whether or not he or she has a leadership title in an organization.
Great leaders engage employees and team members in an atmosphere of trust and honest communication, which not only prevents chagrin from escalating into a crisis, it improves worker productivity and retention. A good thing to remember about communicating in any environment is this: people are sensitive and everyone wants to be included.
I have facilitated more than 4,000 workshops, seminars and keynotes over my 30-year career in the U.S. and internationally, with clients that have included some of the world’s largest corporations. I see frequently that leaders need to learn how to communicate proactively with employees in order to build a positive, team-centric atmosphere.
Maintaining a positive corporate culture within an organization is not only a human resources issue, it’s a financial one. Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202 percent, according to a Dale Carnegie research study.
It will always require fewer resources to address a distraction than resolve a conflict. Few problems go away by ignoring them; that’s why it’s better to assertively address the source of employee chagrin.
Here’s a work-conflict escalation continuum that should motivate any leader to address those insignificant situations before they grow into major ones:
Chagrin — Being left out of an email chain, not being recognized in a meeting, or making an appointment with a leader that is not kept are all small things that can damage a work team. Leaders need to cultivate a team spirit that encourages people to speak out and speak up when feeling even slightly disengaged.
Conflict — Conflicts can emerge as retaliation to being excluded, disrespected or underutilized. There may be break room conversation about other team members or immature behavior that insults or hurts a coworker. A great workplace leader addresses the issues directly — and perhaps privately — with affected employees.
Crisis — When the organization becomes the focal point of a negative news story or lawsuit — especially if it involves a perceived injustice or unlawful termination — then the issue is a crisis. Lawyers or public relations professionals can spin a situation, but crisis mitigation is expensive and takes a toll on your bottom line as well as your reputation.
The best leaders reduce communication barriers, allowing employees to make a maximum contribution. Visit personally with employees beyond an annual review. Communicate to each person in an informal, personal way that builds trust between you. When people feel included or important, they feel respected and recognized.
Finally, get the right answers by asking the right questions. Leaders sit squarely in the middle of the conflict escalation continuum whether they recognize it or not. The good news is that they have the power to choose the level at which they will engage honestly with employees.
Kendall C. Wright is president of Entelechy Training and Development (entelechy is a Greek word meaning “realization of potential”), and helps individuals and organizations develop leadership, management and motivation skills. For information, visit www.EntelechyCan.com.