#3 Helpful and Harmful Behavior at Work


The 1st step in addressing a work culture that could use some tweaking, is to get people talking about it constructively in an open respectful way. I say open and respectful to distinguish this conversation from gossip and complaining which seems never to need any organized encouragement.

In our case we decided we needed some outside help to figure out how to do that, and I would suggest you consider this as well. We turned to Deborah Anderson of PivotPoint Consulting for help and much of what I’ve learned in this area comes from her coaching. There are, of course, other people who coach/consult in this area as well. In my view, the benefit of a coach/consultant is not just guidance but also something akin to ballast for a ship in rough water. When your organization starts opening up the dirty laundry hamper of bad behaviors at work, some emotional push-back is to be expected and without some ballast, your fledgling project might capsize. Your coach/consultant can help bring perspective and resolve that can only come from outside your organization.

That said, beginning a project in culture modification is very exhilarating! People who had come to believe nothing would ever change can now voice their hopes for a better healthier workplace and envision real improvements in the weeks and months ahead. All this raises awareness of work culture and awareness is a precursor to change.

We did an important exercise in identifying what we would list as healthy workplace behaviors and, of course, harmful/abusive behaviors. This too is awareness raising. We all began asking ourselves how we were perceived by our co-workers. Am I part of the solution or a part of the problem around here? I am reminded of a story I heard some years ago about a man who raised his hand at a conference about workplace behavior. He said –“I am a bit confused here. You are talking about intimidation as though it were a bad thing. I have been a manager for 12 years and use it all the time. I don’t know how I would get anybody to do anything without it”. Gaining a new perspective is powerful force for change.

In the long run, everyone wants to be part of the solution and this is a subtle force that creates some self-modification over time as awareness increases. There are always a few, of course, who can’t or won’t change their harmful behaviors. These people often become uncomfortable in the newly evolving culture and leave for other employment.

Culture change is a slow process and requires resolve and patience, but I have personally found it very rewarding and more than worth the effort.

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