Office-odium is agnostic to all human segregations, whether geography, sector, organization, gender, designation, level…whatever. Two individuals can make it happen for reasons ranging from professional disagreements to body odour!
A recent blogosphere discussion queried leaders about whether they had ever worked with an employee they did not like. Responses were erudite and politically correct. Predictably. Boss dislikes employee? Very understandable.
But can we pause to consider what effect this leader-dislike could have on the psyche of the employee…?
Human beings are sensitive creatures. Our senses are evolved enough to pick up unspoken signals of negativity radiated by someone who dislikes us. When that someone is our boss, our life in office is fraught with fear:
Professional ostracism: The biased appraisal, being left out from or bypassed for high impact assignments, recognitions and even promotions. The fear of the professional sepulcher.
Personal hurt: Those innuendos, sarcasm, hurtful comments, needlessly harsh retribution for otherwise insignificant errors – even ‘too long’ in the loo. The fear of a personal reprisal in the office.
Social crucifixion:Most leaders may actually desist from this. But the fear of public punishment and humiliation in the mind of the employee is very real. That overt snub, broadcasted work criticism, name and shame for insignificant reasons – or even well-meant professional contributions. The fear of public denigration.
Mercifully, only leaders who work in organizations that don’t care enough for people will publicly show their dislike for a junior. Elsewhere, this art gets subtly embedded into a leadership style.
Hay Group’s Four Circle Model for organizational performance and effectiveness demonstrates that leadership styles impact organizational climate. Because, let’s not kid ourselves, everybody on the team feels the leader’s vibes. Further, organizational climate influences the discretionary effort that drives organizational effectiveness (Profit, Margin, Growth).
It’s logical! Employees will only go that extra mile if the leader creates a work climate conducive for everyone – individual dislikes notwithstanding.
Hay Group’s research indicates that teams experiencing outstanding work-climates put in 30-40 per cent more discretionary effort. That’s a huge opportunity to miss out on just because two individuals dislike each other!
All it takes is for the leader to do a few smart things:
Make the first move: Leaders, be aware! People you’ve dumped in the doghouse will stay there – until you choose to pull them out! Therefore, please, take ownership, a deep breath and swallow that pride. Get the first-mover advantage!
Have a we-need-to-work-together conversation: The organization wants results. Personal relationships are okay, personal dislikes are not – they affect work. Hence, office relationships must be kept “professional”. So, place the cards on the table, recognize the problem and agree that work must go on: “Look, could we put our personal feelings aside and work together to make this business succeed?” It’s a useful conversation to have.
Arrive at a working agreement: Draw up workable rules of engagement that both must commit to. Deconstructing the reasons for the dislike would only cause unnecessary arguments. Instead, focus on individual behaviors. For the leader: No public criticism; no yelling/expletives; more listening; more encouraging. For the employee: Participate; improve performance; come to office on time. Interestingly, coming late to office, suddenly, inexplicably, and every day, often signals that an employee may be disengaged…
Appoint an observer/mediator: A peer or colleague who keeps an eye on situations and raises a flag if promises are broken; a mediator who can deliver non-threatening, unbiased, yet incisive opinions. If the situation is very difficult, the Office of the Ombudsperson is a good place to seek help.
- Conduct Climate Studies: While friction may exist between the leader and only one individual, measuring the effect on the rest of the team is a good investment. Climate surveys identify specific areas of development within leadership styles and personal behaviors, thereby enabling targeted, individual, action plans.
- Make an honest attempt: Nothing’s perfect in life – not even advice. However, as in any relationship, only diligence and sincerity can make things work. So, at least, try – honestly!
This isn’t just about ‘making up’. It’s about winning back trained talent that’s floating and adrift. It’s worth a leader’s effort. It helps free the work environments they own, of personal bias and negative vibes – especially their own quirks!
So, does this mean that irrespective of who is at ‘fault’, the leader is responsible? Absolutely! Live with it! Better still, act on it! Reaching out to someone less powerful than one’s self is what being a good human being is all about. Good human beings always make good leaders. And good leaders always win!
So, go ahead, reach out! Win. There! That wasn’t so bad, now, was it?