Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thinking Out Loud: Hiring a Positive Work Environment

I've written earlier about the mistake of addressing a team problem with an individual solution.

The more I see of various employee problems - and I've seen plenty - the more evident it is that one of the major flaws in the workplace revolves around just what a hiring decision contains.

Is an employer simply hiring a person? No. In most cases, the employer is hiring the person and a series of relationships. If the individual performance is fine but the individual is unable to establish and maintain positive working relationships with other employees, then, just as we do with "no fault" divorce, we should consider that no judgment need be made about the parties in order to conclude that the relationship doesn't work.

Rather than adopting that approach, employers (and employees) seek to ascribe individual blame. This effort consumes a sizable amount of time and effort and often exacerbates an already bad relationship.

Attorneys may rightly say that the law protects individuals against harassment and other wrongs. Employers, however, may prevent such problems early on by creating a version of the concept of a hostile work environment. In other words, it would be made clear to employees and to new hires that their ability to foster and maintain a positive work environment will be evaluated. Rather than falling into a blame game where each side may argue that it is less guilty than the other, management will provide an incentive for all parties to work things out, for if it concludes that the relationship is negative, then the relationship must change. That may involve transfer or termination.

This does not mean that a person who has been harassed would be treated the same as the harasser. There are "single situation" harassment cases, but harassment often involves a pattern of smaller actions. An alert employer would act before the behavior reaches the level of harassment and either conclude that one party is at fault or the relationship is faulty and needs correction.

And that may be the most vulnerable point in implementing a positive work environment. Far too many supervisors and managers do not know what is going on in their workplace.


Eclecticity said...

"it would be made clear to employees and to new hires that their ability to foster and maintain a positive work environment will be evaluated."

Let's hope that the same is expected of the big boys and girls up in the C-Suites.

Turf wars and silos often arise because those expectations are not made for ALL in the organization. And the CEO / COO fail (or don't know how) to build a cohesive executive leadership team.

Great post Michael.


Anonymous said...

I had a situation where an employee sent out an email with shouting in it and it was just a downright hurtful and embarrassing email. This employee sent the email to everyone in the entire department which was uncalled for. If this person had just sent it to me, then things would have been different. It was like saying to all the employees in the dept. "ha, ha, look what she/he did. I told my boss that what this person did was wrong and this person would have been fired if this person had done it somewhere else. Public humiliation is a form of harrassment!!! When I showed the email to a Union official, at first the union official didn’t see the harm in it. When I later explained the situation to the union official, it changed this union official’s tone as well. On top of this I also have a physical disability as well and because of the nasty email she sent to everyone in the dept., I missed 1 hour and 2 days of work because of what this person did. My boss and the higher ups of management refused to see my point when I told him that this person is responsible for all the "tension" in the dept. Rather my boss and management refused to see it and sided with the person who created this hostile work evironment. (this person is one of 3 that have been known to create hostility/work place bullying). This person told me one day after work that "social communication" will make "work communication" better. I disagreed. Social communication IS NOT part of my job description. I should not be made to feel that I "have" to communicate "socially" at work. I am at work to do a service/job, not socially communicate.