It’s Sunday night. You’re laying in bed and trying to go to sleep. But you can’t. Your mind is racing, and you feel you can’t settle down for the night and fall asleep. You’re thinking about Monday morning at work. What you have to get done, what you are stressed about getting done, and maybe even fear of going to work because you don’t know what your boss or fellow co-workers are going to do, or say to you. This can create a lot of stress, and maybe even keep you from sleeping much at all. You lay there, calculating how many hours of sleep you will get if you fall asleep right at that moment. Monday morning is coming, and you dread going into work; you might even have some anxiety about having to once again put on a “face” to keep your boss content and continue to hope no one else will notice how much you don’t like working there.
Maybe it’s an exaggeration, or maybe it’s spot on, but likely we have all been there at some point in a past job. Maybe you feel that way now and this post rings especially true for you. Either way, I think we can all agree it sucks and we don’t want to be in that situation. It can wreck your work life, your career, and can follow you home everyday and wreck your home life as well.
Two jobs ago, this was me (not quite that bad, but it sucked). I had a terrible boss and I was pretty sure all my co-workers were really partially trained monkeys, barely able to complete simple tasks without yelling and throwing poo. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but I think you get the point. Why are you talking about poo, you ask? I have not forgotten about that job and it’s something that motivates me to make sure that never happens again. Not only for me, but for everyone I work with now.
Think about what that can do to a person and a company. Negativity, gossiping, manipulation, and position fighting. I can’t believe I am doing this, but Yoda said it best, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering”. This applies to many things, including your work environment. If your people fear going to work, either because they just don’t like being there, or genuinely fear what crisis or disaster they are going to walk into it will lead to the company and/or the individual team member suffering.
Of course it’s not going to always be sunshine and rainbows either…where everyone can’t wait to jump out of bed Monday morning and rush into work. But a lot can be done to not only minimize those feelings, but create a work environment that people are truly excited to be a part of. A place where they can feel like they have given genuine contribution to the team, self worth, grow in their career as a person, gain definition from their work, and know that they provide real value to the company as a whole.
Now this is not something that you can create or fix overnight, but rather something that you have to continue to work at daily, and often many times throughout the day. The good news is it can be quite simple. Decide what you wish your workplace to be, and BE it. It does not have to be the boss, (although coming from the top is best, but we will get to that) you can have great impact on your own workplace from what you decide to do each day to create it. Do you not like your work environment, and try talking to everyone that will listen on how bad it is? Common mistake. You won’t get far with that, you will only create more disdain, and likely make it much worse. Again, the key lies with your actions. Rather than talk about what’s wrong, BE the solution. You want a workplace where people collaborate more, and promote more creativity? Then you need to make it your work life’s mission to go out of your way to create moments where you collaborate. Create situations where you reward or compliment creativity. The great part about this is others will see your actions, copy them, show them to others, and that positive attitude will spread.
Again, don’t expect immediate change. This won’t happen overnight. It takes time to spread and even more time to spread throughout the entire company. Some people will take longer to make the change and others might not change at all. But they will stick out and make it easy to identify them, which is where the real change will start to happen. Either your boss will see the benefits of this behavior and culture creation or will continue to attempt to squash it. It will be up to you to identify which he or she has chosen and maybe make a tough decision. Keep going? Or is it time to move on? Either way, give it time and don’t give up too soon.
The top is where the culture is created. So if you are reading this and you’re the boss, then the problem with your company culture is YOU. Just like in parenting, it’s easy to pass bad habits and social dysfunctions on to your employees. You sign the checks, so your team is going to act like you, think like you, and build a culture that you have created. The good news is, since you are the reason, you have total control over how to fix it. It’s just like the steps I described above for the team member. Define what you want your culture to be, what you want it to promote – from creativity, communication, collaboration, and even strengthen your team’s emotional intelligence and problem solving. I can’t emphasize how important it is to define your culture clearly and thoroughly. Not just in your head. Write it down!
Next step: BE the culture you want. Create overt examples of the type of behavior you want to see. Want better communication with your team members? Define what “better” means first, then show your team how it is executed. Setup a meeting where they might have a task to complete, but you have a totally different objective for that meeting – improved communication. Speak with them in the way you want them to communicate to each other, then sit back and watch. They will start to do the same thing, then boom. Change.
You’re NOT DONE! Just because you have shown them how you want the culture to be, it will never stick if it’s only modeled once, twice, or even the 100 times. The changes you want in your company environment will only come if you ALWAYS do it. Every time. Be the change you want…you will become it – so will the rest of your company.
I have seen the “bad” and I am sure many of you have as well. It motivates me to be the person I want others to be at my workplace. I am not always perfect, but I never stop working at it and always will. It’s just too important. To close out my Yoda quote, I am going to always be Yoda (there is another blog post in there by the way) and never the emperor.