What Do You Think?
There’s three things to keep in mind when you want your employees having constructive and passionate discussions – the people themselves, the reasoning and the methods. Get these three things down and you’re well on your way to a team that works better together.
An office space is segmented into cubicles. Even if you don’t have those neatly squared boxes, you at least have a desk, some leg room to stretch out, a little corner cut out just for you. This dissection of an office room can be thought of as the blueprint for the under workings of the office itself. To each his own. The individualized spaces we hold dear at our work habitat, and the everyday memorabilia we keep there, the little routines we indulge in those confines tell us that employees are after all individuals. Even if we are only a small part of the whole set up, we are unique to oneself in many of our daily choices, in music, websites, lunch schemes, brands, drinks and even moral conundrums. And the office is made up of people who work it out together, who play as a team under the aegis of the system. But if you take that out it’s mostly a gathering of people in proper clothes, with distinct histories, personalities and quirks of their own. The point being: the said system that binds all the people in that office together should keep in mind the individuality of all its cogs if it expects to do better as a whole. And nothing proves this advice better than when it comes to handling office discussions. Healthy discussions are so important to get rid of the yes-sirs and land up with better ideas, that we cannot push it off altogether under the rug. But we cannot let them get out of hand too.
We all know at least one Mr. Know-it-all in our lives. It’s safe to assume the smartypants will eventually get a job one day, and in his weekly meetings he will annoy as many co-workers as he’s annoyed fellow students in college. Then we have the know-it-alls who don’t really know that much but put all their effort to convince everyone otherwise. We also have the demure ones, who have something useful to say but can’t pronounce it and those who don’t actually have anything to say and out of habit don’t say much either. We have everybody else in between, from the passionate to the stoically cold. While discussing an office matter in a meeting, all of these personalities will play out in their own ways. In a heady mix of ego, history, and a fan that’s stopped working in the middle of summer, you might have a full blown war in your hands for the smallest reasons. Conflict can be regressive if not handled with care or shaped towards a productive end. And it leaves stinking vibes all around.
The What to do
Management gurus are gaga over the ideal conflict. Which is when every little exchange is doing the company (and in turn its employees) good. It’s not happening tomorrow at your office though. The thing underpinning a bad discussion is almost always a bloated or hurt ego. When you don’t like someone, it’s very hard to see their ideas objectively: the good ones are pompous, over the top, reaching for clouds that don’t exist and the bad ones are downright silly, hilarious even (when you do that snobbish snort). If you see a pattern in two people acting weird like that, it’s time the hierarchy moved in and got to the bottom of things. When suspicion is found out to be true, it needs reminding that the greater good is always with the better idea. Nothing personal should be tinkering with this mantra. Put out the bad ego flames and you’ll have an office humming along like a happy bee hive.
Also there is something to be said about criticism. Literary pundits have figured out a way of criticizing creative writing called the sandwich method, say something positive: put in the negative criticism and layer it up with something good in the end. This can be useful when criticizing upon ideas in an office environment too – have at least two good things to say about something that might be bad, so that the person won’t take it too personally, but one has to be sharp and aware of what he/she is saying. Positive reinforcement, putting out egos and a good, solid leadership will be enough to get an office discussing things for better results.