Bridget Morris, Organizational Development and Learning
When we wound ourselves, we put a bandage on as a temporary fix until it fully heals. In the workplace, when conflict arises and toxicity spreads through the team, we often cover it up and hope that it will heal by itself over time. But for the team to fully “heal,” we have to rip off the bandage and expose the wound so that we can address it and move forward. Just like with a wound on our skin, it hurts when we remove that bandage; but it is something that we also know needs to be done.
Trust is the foundation of a productive team. When that trust is broken and when it is tested, the result can be low productivity, apathy, and anxiety. And, we sometimes see people even leave their jobs.
How do we move a team in pain into a positive direction?
• Bring in a mediator: An unbiased, third party can help expose some of the underlying issues.
• Identify bully-like behaviors such as: being disrespectful/devaluing someone, manipulation, harassment, intimidation, and the spreading of gossip (especially if this gossip defames someone’s reputation).
• Make behavioral expectations clear.
• Provide a safe, neutral place for team members to have healthy discussions.
• Set “norms” for the team.
• If necessary, put employees on corrective action plans.
The most important thing is to make sure the issues are addressed sooner rather than later. The longer they are avoided or swept under the rug, the more they begin to take on a life of their own. The bandage can be a temporary fix; however, to make progress, we need to expose the wound and have healthy, open, honest conversations.