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Face to Face

4 June 2018

When we get back home after work, what do we talk about with our significant others? Twenty per cent is about our professional accomplishments and 70 per cent is about our coworkers (what they have done or said, what they have not done or said)! And the remaining 10 per cent? Well, that would be for some quiet time, when nobody complains about a guy in the office next to yours or a new girl whose shirt is too revealing! Quality silence time… because too much energy during the day is wasted on office gossip.

These numbers are actually based on my own past experience and conversations with my colleagues. But I stay optimistic as everything leads me to believe that in 2018 balanced work relationships are becoming more common and easy. More and more, employees are looking for friendly work environments where human relationships are based on mutual respect and assistance. Some are even willing to accept a salary cut if it is the price to pay for an opportunity to evolve in an inspiring office setting…

There was once a workplace where all employees were friends and had healthy relationships founded on mutual respect. Everyone liked to highlight the qualities of their team members and learn from their peers to grow together. But one day, a new employee joined the team. She was obviously too pretty for the job (phone customer service rep!). That’s when everything went out of whack, setting in motion the wheels of the energy-sucking machine! It all started with one little comment casually dropped by someone at the office: “She must be related to the boss, otherwise why hire a girl whose skirt is so short it leaves nothing for imagination.”

I know from experience that a comment like this may be first but definitely won’t be the last one. Soon, like a magnet, it’ll attract others! Humans simply cannot resist the temptation to drop unnecessary and uncalled-for remarks. Fortunately, people don’t give in to bullying that easily anymore, bullying that is so common when we are kids. However, there are a few bad apples in every bunch, even nowadays: men and women who get carried away and join the wicked game of rumors…

Can it be nipped in the bud, before it’s too late? Sure! I am not a psychologist, but it seems to me that becoming part of an unhealthy office environment – and frankly, it applies to any situation in our lives – testifies to low self-esteem and lack of confidence in these people. When you hear an inappropriate comment, simply ask yourself if you will feel any better if you join in on it? Will you be happier? Instead, why not ask the “bad apple” for the true reasons behind this remark? Is it about seeking approval and validation from others?

I have to admit that once I found myself sucked into this destructive cycle too. Did I feel like I accomplished anything? I’ll let you guess. But I learned from this experience. Now, when I meet someone new, I try to know this person a little better as soon as possible, because I am 90 per cent certain that before long someone will make a critical remark about the newcomer. My trick now is to comment on a quality I saw in the new employee instead. This stops the critic short and even becomes an opportunity to change opinions and attitudes. We can all grow from our experience, evolve and realize that life is too beautiful to focus on the bad!

It is obvious that for a company manager, bad attitudes and workplace conflicts would be unwelcome. So do not ignore any destructive behaviors and negativity, even if you have your hands full with business tasks. It is easier to put a stop on it before the situation deteriorates by making it clear to the team that no inappropriate behavior would be tolerated. And if you feel you don’t have it under control, seeking external help could be a good solution.

The last point I want to make here, and I take it straight from the experience of Mylène Inc.: as a manager, always take the time to introduce the newly hired employee to your team, talk about her professional experience, skills, qualities and the reasons why she was selected for the job. It would be harder for the negative minds to find reasons to pick on this person! It goes without saying, you might think… Well, believe me, it doesn’t!

An easy way to introduce your new employee would be through a joint team activity. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a little get-together during your lunch break. Your employees would certainly appreciate it. Oh, I almost forgot… One last tip: make sure your new employee knows your office dress code.

So, which side do you prefer?

Mylène Grégoire

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