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A Line in the Sand—Stop Crazy-Making, Culture-Destroying Behaviors for Good

by | Culture

I believe that sometimes, sadly, a workplace can feel a bit like an adult day care.

In this episode, I’ll show you how you can stop the behaviors that keep you stirring at night while your ability and “safety” to lead is pulled out from under you.

You may feel that you have a good culture, but a few people “stir the pot” and bring drama—whining, complaining, game-playing, and other destructive behaviors. It stomps on your soul when those things happen, because you can see how it takes away your ability to lead a good culture. Well, hang tight, because I’ll show you how you can take back your peace of mind.

If your culture is nearly perfect and those behaviors hardly happen, then hallelujah, that’s fabulous. You’re going to love some of the ideas you’re about to hear to make sure that any one destructive person can’t destroy the great culture you’ve created.

And, if you’re the kind of person who is disheartened because you’ve seen the figures about how those behaviors cause disengagement and what that does to your ability to grow profit and have a good night’s sleep, I’m really here for you today. Because life is too short to have anyone take your energy away. Nobody gets to take your energy.

If you look at Gallup’s statistics, you know that every business is facing challenges in getting the culture they want.

I’m now going to give you a four-step approach that will make your results dramatically different in a few weeks, giving you the ability to exhale deeply knowing you are safe.

Step 1: Fluffy approaches to improving culture, such as “bringing in a motivational speaker,” make the “motivated” happier for a few days, but do nothing to stop the destructive behaviors that hurt the energy of everyone in the workplace. You need to understand that in the absence of formalized “agreements” and the education to get people to immediately and sustainably live those agreements, the “false attempts” often actually make the culture worse, because they think “management doesn’t get it.”

Step 2: Instead of just hoping the culture changes, set some solid “non-negotiables.” People need to know what gets them “off the bus.” With more than one in four people receiving treatment for mental illness and substance abuse each year, plus many people who just have “issues,” there’s quite a few bad things that can happen when you put the pressure of outcomes on people’s challenged selves. Be careful in drafting these so they truly are non-negotiables—you have to be willing to enforce them or they aren’t really non-negotiables at all, are they?

Step 3: As opposed to the “keg of dynamite” approach of drafting them and then telling the team, release them only after the team has just had some huge successes and improvement in engagement. This way, the non-negotiables will be received well and people will be thrilled to see that their workplace is going to be protected. Let’s face it, it crushes their hearts to be around gossip too—nobody’s safe around people who are “indirect” and “inauthentic” communicators. The problem is that even the gossipers don’t want to gossip—they are often unaware of what gossip is, and that their little transgressions are mean, cruel, and destructive to a safe environment.

Step 4: Don’t even think of doing this the way most initiatives are handled. This needs to be done correctly—from the proper introduction, to the interweaving of many cultural tools to make this stick and make it real. Also, take care, because a misstep can make this disengaging instead of engaging—and that would be a mess.

Let’s repeat those four steps for clarity. First, don’t even think of a fluffy “rah-rah” approach, because it will do more harm than good. Second, set the non-negotiables. Third, time their release perfectly so you already have some traction and they are already seeing the benefits of those improvements in the culture. Finally, build a carefully weaved assembly of systems to make sure that this isn’t just another “this too shall pass” initiative—that it is sustainable and never goes away.

I remember the days when restaurants had non-smoking sections. The problem was that you were choking on the smoke that spewed in from the smoking section. When gossip and other “pot-stirring” crazy-making adult day care behaviors get into your culture, nobody is safe and you’ll never be a high performer.

You deserve to have peace in your soul—which is what happens when you are clear about your lines in the sand in terms of what you expect in your workplace.

Make sure you tune in next time, when I’ll show you how to create a system for an ever-improving culture score and build a workplace where people love to be.

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