Two women speaking ill of another at work

Stirring the Pot, Part 2: What is Your Workplace Culture Like?

This is part 2 of “Stirring the Pot,” a three part series on leadership for a positive workplace culture.

Think about it: Nearly a third of dysfunction and conflict come from a lack of honesty or integrity. What causes people to come from a place of deceit rather than from a place of respect? What is so psychologically unsafe that people are driven to take the low road instead of the high road and maintaining a place of dignity and respect? Go figure! It all circles back to people differences that naturally exist, the art and craft of managing those differences, and informed leadership that know when and how to make a difference.

So, what are the implications of these five players in workplace culture?

  • A full 25 percent of employees say that avoiding conflict and unhealthy workplaces lead to sickness or absence from work.
  • Nearly 10 percent describe how workplace conflict led to project failure, costing their organizations big time in terms of revenue, customer relations, and overall reputation.
  • Good people leave good organizations because of poor leadership. One study cited that more than one-third have left their company due to conflict and workplace dysfunction, either through firing or quitting. Other studies have put this figure much higher: 60 percent of people who leave good companies because of unresolved conflict, particularly with their direct boss.
  • Just like with customers, it’s easier and less costly to retain good customers than to go out and pursue new ones. Replacing an employee, rather than improving an employee and the culture, costs 150 to 200 percent more than that employee’s salary and benefits.
  • Losing even a mid-level employee making $50,000 a year could cost your company $100,000 or more to replace. Could this money be better spent in training, coaching, mentoring and building positive workplace culture?

Oftentimes, conflicts between people are less overt, such as subtle forms of harassment or bullying, and are often supported unknowingly by management. So, what can you do as a leader at any level to influence positive change, to help people find their voice and claim their leadership? Here are four simple steps to start taking:

  • Hire SMART using Emotional Intelligence so you select those who have the “people” savvy, not just the “technical” savvy, to avoid conflict and build a positive workplace culture. Ask emotionally “smart” questions to identify those who cause conflict versus those who strive to resolve conflict through courage, compassion and collaboration.
  • Understand the culture that exists at your organization and how it actually encourages conflict or facilitates the management of conflict. What are the sources of existing conflict and what can be done to teach people how to better engage around conflict to actually reduce, resolve or prevent conflict. Many people simply don’t have the skills, knowledge, and understanding for how to manage conflict and either fun from it or blow up over it.
  • Change is possible if senior leadership is absolutely committed building their skills around how to create an emotionally intelligent workspace to change the culture from dysfunction to positive functioning. And, it takes commitment with a game plan on how to turn things around to make a difference.
  • Teach people, and leaders at every level, on how to have real conversations about challenges encountered, the impact of present behavior, and identify the desired behavior to achieve the kind of outcome intended. Build skills, knowledge and awareness for how to prosper, not suffer, from people’s differences, stress experienced, and workloads that are overwhelming.

If you missed part 1, read “Stirring the Pot, Part 1: Five Factors of Workplace Dysfunction.”

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