Crisis and Answers
In a financial crisis, companies spend lots of money and many hours trying new ways to reduce costs. Oftentimes they tend to follow conventional economic prescriptions such as budget reductions, redundancy, reorganisation, new strategies, and other technical improvements… but very rarely do they spend money or time on maximising on the talent they currently employ or invest in employee relationships.
Inter-office work place conflicts are expensive from a human and business point of view, and can damage business reputation, performance and bottom-line profits.
Studies have shown that managers spend up to 40% of their precious time addressing conflicts in the workplace and that 65% of performance related problems were the result of relationship breakdowns between co-workers and not from skills shortages.
Some of the consequences of bad relationships at work are absenteeism, errors, loss of performance, waste of time, or even sabotage.
Competition Or Cooperation?
According to a recent survey from Liverpool University, organisations will spend vast amounts of money on Team building activities and programmes, which by themselves may exacerbate problems and are counterproductive.
The problem is that many of these activities pitch groups or individuals against each other in competition which brings the opposite result. How can we still expect that pitting people against each other could bring more team spirit, cooperation and performance?
For a company, performance cannot be measured at an individual level. It is the global performance of everybody altogether which defines the overall result of the company. One person can be performing fantastically well but if it is at the expenses of another team member, can we really be satisfied with the result?
From The Company’s Perspective
I am mesmerised by the lack of initiative from corporations to address the relationship situation in the workplace. The potential of improvement of global performance is phenomenal. This is the one area where amazing progresses can be made and one which can translate into improved performance and impact output as well as the fiscal financial bottom line.
The great advantage for any organisation is that this people-focused investment will benefit the company and the employees and that the return on investment will be beyond expectations.
When you create a culture of better cooperation, organisations will maximise efficiency, reduce absenteeism and once again increase the profit.
There is a huge responsibility in the hands of the top management. They are the corporate role model for many in the organisation and their behaviour and the way they interact with people has a great impact and sets the acceptable company culture.
If they are warm, open, communicative and have a supportive approach, people will feel supported and part of the organisation. If cold, closed, non-communicative or undermining they will contribute to the dysfunctional relationships and may well damage the entire organisation.
There is a great avenue of improvement and optimisation in the workplace by just leveraging the quality of relationships between people. I recently witnessed a speech from a top Executive of an international bank. He was talking to a team of about 20 managers during a seminar. Believe me or not, this man did not look at the audience in the eyes even once during the 10 minutes speech. What kind of message does it give to people working hard for the bank?
From The Employees Point of View
We spend many hours per day at work and the atmosphere and quality of relationships in the workplace have a tremendous impact on our wellbeing and performance. It is, of course, not easy to get on with everyone but we each have a major responsibility in our hands to get along because as long as we react to our environment, we are positioning ourselves as victims.
Whether an issue is with the boss or a co-worker with a change your perception of that issue, you can, in an instant, have an impact on the way the person behaves.
A company will not just fix everything for you because this part is your own responsibility. Imagine for a second that part of a colleague’s behaviour is the result of your own conduct, whether you are conscious of it or not. You can make simple behavioural shifts which will help others to change their behaviour. Don’t think that you do not have this power. The theory of system is clear on this. If any part of the system changes (even the tiniest), the all system changes. You have power and as such, you have the responsibility. The company can only invest in you in terms of coaching and training to help you become more aware of your potential to change.
Relationships: Key for Success
What relationships are we talking about here? In fact all relationships: be those between colleagues, line managers, subordinates, co-workers, Board members, or clients… At all levels of the hierarchy, relationships are the true key.
Let’s take a metaphor to illustrate my point. Imagine that a company is like a physical body.
It is a system where the level of health of the body will be a result of the cooperation between each organ, each cell of the system. Now imagine for a second that the Liver and the stomach become embroiled in conflict and refuse to work together? What do you think would happen? The body (as a system) would suffer instantly from the situation. The way failing businesses and organisations work is not so dissimilar
I know that the leading companies of the future will be the ones who understand how paramount it is to support change and to improve relationships all around the workplace, starting with the Board.