How’s the weather where you are?
Not the kind of weather that you experience when you walk outdoors, but the weather when you walk in your office.
Earlier this year I had a conversation with an employee in a business that was really struggling. He said, “When I enter the office in the morning, I can feel the tension. People barely acknowledge each other.”
There’s an undercurrent that’s creating a toxic environment. He said people are out for themselves. They’re sabotaging each other. There’s no trust.
Over the years I’ve had similar conversations with a number of people in different industries and businesses of all sizes. Even virtual teams sense when negativity is in the air. As the volume of work increases, stress escalates too.
When teams become dysfunctional, it’s easy to point fingers at the people who aren’t working well together. “If she would communicate better, things would improve. ” “If he stopped hoarding information, we could get more done.”
Some teams do their best work under extreme pressure when there’s much at stake.
Others crumble under the pressure.
What’s the difference?
You can’t control the weather outdoors, but as a leader, you can influence the climate in your office. In fact, you already are.
Think about how you’d describe your current work environment.
As an exercise, ask your team members how they’d describe the work environment. If you’re concerned they’re telling you what they think you want to hear (a common concern for many executives), find an outside resource to help.
Then set your intention about the environment you want to create. Talk about it openly with your team. Give specific examples of the kinds of behaviors, attitudes and interactions you’d like to see.
Some questions to prompt your thinking:
What kind of physical environment would best support your team’s work?
Maybe you need to reduce clutter, change space or lighting, etc. An office that’s too quiet becomes problematic when people are distracted by colleagues’ conversations. If too noisy, some people get frustrated. More companies recognize how the physical environment affects employee morale.
What kind of mental environment would best support your team’s work?
Maybe you need to create more opportunity for open communication in group meetings or one-on-one conversations. Maybe you want to create an environment that encourages creativity or collaboration. An environment to help you think better.
What kind of social/human environment will best support your team’s work?
Consider how you want to engage with each other, respond to conflict, deal with challenges, etc. Also note how the team can express appreciation, gratitude or share accomplishments. You might need to establish or re-establish rules of engagement that work well for everyone.
If you believe there’s a negative vibe brewing on your team, address it quickly.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is to do nothing–to hope the situation will resolve itself.
People become disillusioned when they’re all paddling and the captain is nowhere to be found. They’re exasperated when “no one at the top seems to care.”
Don’t underestimate your influence.
If you’re intentional about creating the best environment for your team, you’ll get better results, and you’ll make work more enjoyable for everyone.
Wishing you blue skies ahead…
PS – When you feel like something’s off in your own work, check your own personal environment.
Make sure you have the space, support, resources and people around you to help you thrive.