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Getting It Done While Getting Along…Overcoming Your Co-Workers Poor Habits

The 4/26/12 live webcast call – “Getting It Done While Getting Along…Overcoming Your Co-Workers Poor Habits” for the AMA(American Management Association) turned out to be a very popular topic and call. Hundreds tuned in to listen and we received dozens of questions from the listeners. In an effort to address as many of the questions as possible, I will be addressing and posting a couple of the questions to my blog each. As always feel free to comment, ask a question and/or share your idea or solution.

If you missed the call or would like to listen again, you can access the call recording by clicking here

Q. I like the communication tips for addressing a group. How do you “measure” or keep the expectations met after we communicate them?

This is a great question. Know this: the compliance or effectiveness of any shared expectation will always come back to the quality of the workplace relationships. Cooperation requires trust and respect.

If there seems to be a long list of office misdemeanors that are being tolerated mostly because people are afraid or uncomfortable addressing them, this could be a red flag that there needs to be a plan for or emphasis on some team-building opportunities. When people like, trust and respect each other, 1) they tend to be more conscientious to “do their part” and 2) it makes it less threatening or uncomfortable to say something like, “So it’s you that keeps leaving the coffee pot empty. Let me tell the others that we have found the culprit!”

With that said when you address an offense in a group setting it is important to also make sure that the expectations are fully understood… “Does everyone know how to operate the coffee machine?” “…when to use/not use ‘Reply All’?” “…understand why it’s necessary for you to not use your speaker phone?” etc. In addition, you will want to ask for agreement. “So is everyone on board for doing their part in refilling the coffee pot?” “…willing to reconsider using the ‘Reply All’ function?” “…not using their speaker phone?” etc.

After you have addressed the offense in a group setting and all agree to the expectation, here are a few ideas you could consider for managing the follow-through. Use your discretion based upon the nature of the offense and your office relationships.

• In a friendly, joking manner you could use, “Let’s all keep an eye out for the culprit and if someone is caught, they have to put a dollar in the holiday party fund, agreed?”

• Make it a game or contest. “For the next 30 days, let’s all help each other stay accountable for using the new email rules. If someone inter-office isn’t following a rule, we remind them, agreed?”

If it is a bit more serious infraction, communicate what the consequences will be if they continue to do whatever it is that is inappropriate. If violated, this would be the manager/supervisor’s role to address one-on-one with the offender.

Let me say again that workplace camaraderie and cooperation requires trust and respect among co-workers. Consistently looking for opportunities to build these kinds of relationships among co-workers can make a big difference in the quality of work, customer service provided, the bottom-line and can even positively influence employees’ personal/family lives.

Q. I have a coworker that makes negative remarks almost non-stop throughout the day. What can I constructively say to her that might get her to discontinue this annoying habit? I want to be very careful not to hurt her feelings also.

First, you are kind and wise to want to approach it in a way that doesn’t hurt her feelings. It will be a bit tricky for me to know/suggest the best approach as I’m not privy to the kind of relationship you have…do you ever have lunch together, share in personal conversation, is she much older/younger than you, how long has she worked there/have you worked together, do you know of any personal hardships that she might be experiencing, etc.

With that being said, I’ll take a stab for a couple of ways you might consider approaching it depending on your current relationship.

• The next few times she makes a negative remark about something, try saying in a polite way…let’s look at the bright side/positive side, etc. and offer another perspective. Maybe something like, “You know, I see it like this…” and offer a more positive perspective to the situation.

• Perhaps you can bring up at an appropriate time that you recently read something interesting about “negative thoughts/thinking” and that you are going to try to do better/be more aware of how you choose to see things/talk about things, etc.

• If you have some kind of friend relationship, perhaps you could ask over lunch, break, etc. “I’ve notice that you have been a bit negative lately. Is there anything going on that you would like to talk about?”

Nobody “wants” to be a negative person…they usually end up that way when they haven’t experienced an environment or regular influence of gratitude or encouragement in their lives.

It may not be fair that you have to sit beside and put up with her negative attitude and I don’t blame you for not wanting to work alongside someone that is being so negative. Perhaps you are there to be an encouragement for her. This could be an opportunity to bring some “light” into an otherwise dim world for someone. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes…”Be the
light you wish to see in others.”


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