Workplace friction can affect employee morale, performance, and productivity, and cost your business plenty
Most SBOs are lone guns, with no one to supervise but themselves. However, some of you folks have employees, a responsibility that takes management skills. It also means keeping your temper in check when things go wrong at work, as they often will. In other words, while it might feel good while you’re doing it, freaking out in front of the staff is a no-no. The same goes for tolerating workplace bullies who can and will damage productivity and employee morale.
True story: A drill field with a battalion of Marines in formation in cammy trousers (utility trousers or fatigues: Marines don’t wear pants) and tee shirts…lots and lots of different-colored tee shirts. What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty! The uniform of the day prescribed by the battalion commander in that morning’s order was: boots and uties: “Cammy trousers and the unit’s red tee shirt.”
What’s the big deal? A tee shirt’s a tee shirt. Right? Maybe so, but not in the Marine Corps. Fact is, the unit CO (a Lt. Col) thought it was such a big deal he stormed up to the Gunnery Sergeant, standing conspicuously at attention at the front of the formation. The Col. got up tight into the man’s face–as if this senior NCO was a raw recruit standing on the yellow footprints at Parris Island–and (well) went berserk in the best tradition of Marine Corps Drill Instructors—those World-renown DIs famous for such motivational leadership tips as “Any Stinkin’ Day, Ladies!”
The problem is what works for DIs and recruits does not work for Lt. Cols and Gunnery Sergeants, especially when done in front of their Marines. The Gunny was humiliated in full view of the men and women in his charge, and the Col. humiliated himself by temporarily shedding the dignity that marks the behavior of commissioned officers, or should.
The Same Goes for SBOs and Employees, and Vice Versa!
Even if an employee’s gaffe is major or expensive, or both, and happens often, keep your cool. Wait til you’re calm enough to speak normally before bringing the matter to the employee’s attention. But not all the offenders are SBOs. Many are employees known as “Work Jerks!” Reinforcing that point in her Pro Shop column in Smart Money, The Wall street Journal Magazine (www.smartmoney.com ) staff editor, is Lisa Scherzo’s aptly titled: “Stanford Professor Slams Office Bullies, Work Jerk”
The Title is Dead On! It seems reports, Ms. Scherze, that Robert Sutton, a blogger and professor of management science and engineering at Stanford, “has become a reluctant Dr. Phil. Instead of counseling overweight, cheated-on alcoholics, he ministers to victims of workplace bullies and the companies that harbor them.”
Sutton receives a flood of email from people eager to unload their: “you-wouldn’t-believe-the-jerk-I-work-with” stories, which he posts on his blog, Work Matters – A Harvard Business Blog (http://bobsutton.typepad.com/). These refer to folks who can never look you square in the eye during conversations, traffic in ethnic slurs, and are adept at intimidation, insults, belittlement and general condescension.
Every office has one! Sutton steps up to the widespread affects workplace friction can have on employee morale, performance, and productivity. The cost to businesses, large or small, is plenty, he reports. How much? Sutton admits estimating the "TCA," or "total cost of a–holes,"(his term, not ours) is tough, but he insists business owners can and should try to determine the financial and psychological damage those people are causing, and then fix their employment policies.
Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out!
Sutton tells of a computer company that calculated the “TCA” costs created by just one of its highly paid salespeople with a wicked temper who insulted co-workers until coerced into attending anger-management classes (another expense borne by the business). The firm’s Bean Counters estimated the time-and-dollar costs of the damage done to employee morale and productivity by this insulting individual and the attempted rehabilitation at about $160,000. If that had been my company, he would have been long gone.
The Bottom Line: Office bullies may be a potent topic of water-cooler talk fests. But in the end, Sutton concludes: When workplace bullies become too expensive and counter productive to a small business, they just have to go!
Those who don’t believe that can go tell it to the Marines!
Comments: We want to hear about bullies in your office, past or present (no names please), and how they affected your business, financially and in terms of employee morale. Also, if you’ve found a good way of dealing with these types, what is it? If it’s transferable from one small business to another you’ll be doing a lot of other SBOs a big favor!
Bill is a freelance writer in Clearwater, FL. See my bio under Guest Authors.
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