Guest Post Written By: Scott Lesizza, Principal at Workwell Partners
When you’re looking to strike a balance between fun and productivity in the workplace, it’s important to realize that management sets the tone. When you are an executive looking to inspire and spark creativity, you get way more from your team if you are in the trenches with them. The end goal in creating a relaxed work environment is for people to enjoy where they spend most of their day, by being happier, getting more work done, becoming more loyal employees and spreading the word to others, and ultimately producing better work.
Most C-Suite executives that we speak with prefer to maintain their full floor-to-ceiling glass offices with an open door policy and a willingness to engage their people ‘on the floor.’ The open door policy extends to allowing their private offices to be used for various purposes, including mini conference rooms and often multi-occupancy rooms. It’s important to be engaging, but not too close so as to be intimidating. The old concept of “management by walking around” plays much better when the manager is seen regularly in all manner of roles and spaces. Openness encourages productivity, loyalty and reciprocity, especially in the fast-moving world of tech.
Recently, I’ve begun to ask, “at what point are we being too laid back?” and “does our natural tendency to relax in the absence of chaos take over and affect our work?” In other words, at what point does that lax atmosphere spill over to loss of productivity and a nonchalant attitude towards tardiness and attendance? When are we being too soft, and at what point do people start taking advantage? I write this because I certainly see a correlation, I’m curious if others do, and I’d like to find that happy medium.
After much introspection, and some insight from others, I’ve decided that we let our office become way too lax. Here are a few tips to identify if your office is shifting towards becoming too lax and ways to help maintain productivity in the workplace:
- You sometimes need to act contrary to your nature to send the right message
Some who know me might laugh at this, but I am laid back by nature. It comes across in the clothes that I wear (but I am making every effort to better look the part!), my oft “under-organized” office, my non-deliberate walk, and even the way I talk. I’m not saying any of these traits are bad—they make me who I am and are characteristics that have proven effective for me. However, they do have an effect on those around me. Most often, it’s good to have the people around you feel relaxed, but you don’t want to go too far and risk your office resembling a campus fraternity or sorority house. It’s hard to just flip the switch and become serious, and in most businesses the ability to immediately turn it up a notch is vital to success. You need to show equal amounts of rigidity and slack. I also realize that regardless of the fact that I may not like it, people often judge leadership by appearance as much as ability. So if you want an office that’s not in flip flops every day but instead comes across professionally, dress accordingly and set an example. There are times to let the guard down and there are times to be solemn. It’s important to be conscious of the message you are conveying and adjust accordingly.
- Once you identify your office is getting too lax, Own it
If your employees start coming in later and later each day, or are spending more time on Facebook than they are on their projects, as a leader this is YOUR fault. You have either allowed it to go unchecked for too long, have been too lax yourself, or you have taken your eye off the ball. Assuming you have hired good people, it is up to you to inspire and keep them motivated and working hard towards a collective goal. One of the strongest character traits in a leader is understanding that EVERYTHING flows from them, and there is no such thing as bad employees, just bad leaders. Very few things happen in any environment organically; they are orchestrated and take work and effort. If there is someone on my team that is too lax, then I have made the mistake of hiring the wrong person or have not inspired them enough to work their tail off. If they are increasingly slacking off, I’ve allowed that behavior to go unchecked (and perhaps spread) throughout the office. Take ownership, learn from mistakes, and change the work environment to regain focus on organizational goals.
- Don’t stick your head in the sand when employees start to “Check out”
I recently had an employee leave my organization, and my partners had been telling me for months that this person had “checked out” – but I refused to listen. I personally hired this person, spent a lot of time training him, and thought that we had an open, honest dialogue. Whenever I brought up my partners’ concerns, he dismissed them as “just having a bad day.” I became personally vested in his success, and I suppose I felt that if he failed, then I had also failed and would have to admit that my judgement was off. The correct decision would have been to realize the fit was not right and to part ways well before he decided to leave. I didn’t make the tough decision when I should have so his attitude and negativity affected others and spread throughout the office (toxic workers like this need to be identified and dealt with immediately). This could have been avoided if I had separated myself and made the decision to admit that I had made the wrong call/decision.
- Have a confidant to help
Every business leader has been caught off guard at least once when the revolt happens in the office. You all know what I’m talking about. You encourage open and honest dialogue amongst employees, and the next thing you know, they are storming your door with torches and pitchforks, growling through their teeth. Once this happens, you’ve already missed all the signs. The key is to make sure you have a confidant that can read the pulse of the office and let you know if employees are starting to get upset about something (perceived or legitimate). Through communication and isolating the perceived problem, the fire could have been eliminated way before it started—but only if you have a person that you can trust that is connected to the entire office (and we all know who that person is in our organizations).
Remember that only management can identify when the office is getting too lax. The red flags are typically everywhere. Be bold in putting a stop to it, be proactive in regards to ensuring it doesn’t happen again, and continue to be your happy, jovial self—just don’t be a pushover!