Welcome to this week’s HR Blast. We look at an issue that often arises during the training courses we deliver… Woe is Me!
Some employees suggest they are victims of life. Others say the company has disillusioned them. Others say they are angry at what their organisation has done to them. Some say they are being worked to death with no support and no clear direction. Some say all leaders are bullying tyrants. Others yet claim workplace change has made them stressed – and all their colleagues too.
But is this right? Are employers really to blame for so much? And what can we do about people who moan or who lash out at everyone around them?
A bit of scene setting/perspective:
- Whatever the cause of anger, depression or disillusionment in the workplace, death rates as a result of suicide or self-harm last year (and every year) show that men are most vulnerable. The percentage split by gender of deaths by suicide and self-inflicted injury is 78% male, 22% female. This means that employers and employees need to be aware of those who may be struggling around them and know that fewer men than women actively ask for help.
- Change is a constant in our lives but many of us find change upsetting and disruptive. There are though certain types of people who actively enjoy change and also types of people who struggle with change. Ask us about psychometric profiling for staff if you want more information, but either way, educate your staff about the different ways we all tend to deal with the workplace change that impacts us.
- When are adults allowed to be children in the workplace? The answer is Never! Are you one of those employers who has fallen into the trap of acting like a parent to your employees or otherwise treating your adult employees like children? That is an energy sapping way to run a business. Take some time to think about whether your staff act like children, waiting for you to provide all the answers, tell them where to go next, sort out their squabbles etc. If you do have staff who act like children, perhaps you need to create a plan to start treating them like adults and in turn setting new expectations in respect of their behaviour.
Our Top Tips for dealing with disillusionment and anger
There is no doubt that change at work often upsets the equilibrium and that many staff react badly. Change is often the root cause of disillusionment, fear and anger in the workplace. But reacting badly to change is, in fact, human nature as you will know if you are familiar with the change cycle, so this is not about blame or recrimination. But what we find is that not enough employees are aware of how change might impact them and the feelings and moods they are likely to have to work through to return to a state of equilibrium.
Be open about how change impacts people. Explain how everyone can support their colleagues to work through natural responses to change, this support can speed up the healing process. And if you, as a manager, are not familiar with the change cycle, ask us for a one-hour training kit so that you can both get the familiarity you need and also roll out a short training module on this for your staff.
Choose your attitude. When we walk through the door each day at work we can, in fact, choose our attitude. We can choose to be miserable or we can choose to be happy. Sometimes we might choose to be happy even though things are not going our way and it might feel a bit forced at first, but it doesn’t take many minutes of laughing and smiling before we actually start laughing and smiling inside. In contrast, if we choose to be miserable, not only do we continue in our state of misery across our entire day, but also we depress all those who come into contact with us.
Make sure your staff are aware that it’s simply personal choice whether we choose to be in a good or bad mood at work. That each and every one of them has a choice. Life is not being ‘done’ to them. They are not victims.
Equally, are your managers confident enough to pick someone up for bringing misery to the workplace? Help them understand the impact it has on everyone and everything and advise them how to manage it.
Speed of intervention
Interestingly, we tend to recruit for skills but dismiss for attitude. The question though is: are you dismissing often enough?
A victim approach to life is a bad attitude. It’s personal choice how we respond to what life chucks at us and behaving like a victim negatively impacts others. But do you as an employer, recognise victim mentality fast enough and sack soon enough, or are you giving them the benefit of the doubt for far too long and taking way too many months or years to get to the point of wanting to dismiss?
In terms of responsibility, should a manager prioritise support for the employee who is fed up and angry or support for the team around them? Often managers, when asked what their ultimate responsibility is in the workplace, suggest it is to the staff they manage. No wonder then that they struggle to manage poor behaviour or stress if they are torn in two between supporting the employee and doing what seems most sensible in respect of productivity, profit, team morale etc.
In reality, of course, their ultimate responsibility is to the owner or shareholders of the company. Their employees are not their top priority. And if more managers understand where their ultimate responsibility lies, then often it becomes much clearer what action to take and how soon to take it when an employee is derailing the success of the team and impacting overall team morale.
It’s easy to be fed up and angry if the situation around us appears to lack logic, clarity or vision. In these situations rumour mongering and grumbling often cause untold damage. Quite often the media reports about brutal and bad company bosses don’t help confidence either.
It’s useful to remember the saying ‘communication is the response it elicits’. It’s not enough just to know as an employer you have communicated. You need to think about how the message has landed and whether further communication is necessary.
Too often employers communicate the ‘what’, but not the ‘why’. Perhaps they think that staff don’t, or won’t, understand the business issues and business strategy. There is nothing quite like someone saying ‘it’s a need to know basis only’ for winding everyone up. How did this suddenly appear to become about a power game rather than straightforward honest communication?
They also often during a period of change tend to communicate the short-term ‘what’, but not the long term ‘what’. But it’s often the long term ‘what’ that provides employees with a sense that turmoil and uncertainty will come to an end. We know you can’t be precise and want to hedge your bets in case the goal posts change, but people need to know what you and they are working towards. Staff/employee representatives can often be of support here. Reissuing the company vision and strategy is hugely important too so that staff can see where they fit in it all.
Jaluch supports hundreds of organisations with:
- staff representative training
- psychometric profiling and emotional intelligence assessments
- staff surveys
- staff discipline, dismissals and the management of grievances
Call us now for a no-obligation quote. We offer a pay-as-you-go service and no contract is required to make use of our services.
The information contained within this article is for general guidance only and represents our understanding of employment and associated law and employee relations issues as at the date of publication. Jaluch Limited, or any of its directors or employees, cannot be held responsible for any action or inaction taken in reliance upon the contents. Specific advice should be sought on all individual matters.