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The five current workplace gremlins & how to fix them

The five workplace gremlins - Two women looking at a laptop with a cool wooden light effect behind them.

In last month’s article I prompted you to reflect on how hybrid working was going for you and your team.

This month, I want to surface some of the workplace gremlins I am currently seeing, from my current work with individuals and teams.

I’ve focused on the main five (in no particular order) and explain below why each is a danger.

  1. Cancelled or postponed one-to-ones. Right now most companies and firms are extremely busy, there is a lot of work around for most in service businesses. On top of that, there is a shortage of candidates for roles. This means teams are very stretched. People are needing to prioritise and organise their time well which is vital. However, many are cancelling regular one-to-ones with those they manage or work with closely. This is ok if it’s very occasional but can become a bad habit and an ‘easy’ way to gain 30-60minutes. It can have extremely negative long-term effects including:

  • People becoming demotivated as they feel they don’t matter.

  • You not knowing what is really going on. If people feel you are too busy then they won’t tell you what matters. This can lead to bigger problems later.

  • Lack of awareness if someone is likely to resign – people retention is a key priority, especially now.

  1. Overuse of email. People are a bit sick of video calls so of course a much easier and seemingly quicker option is email. It definitely has a key communication role to play. However, you need to consider carefully when it is used, with which people and the purpose. A simple phone call can often be a much better way to get a quick answer, if appropriate. Or, if you are in the office, to have a brief conversation in person. For slightly tricky situations, talking to someone allows you to understand more, as people will often say things they won’t ‘put in writing’ and you have the benefit of hearing their tone of voice and if in person, seeing their body language.

  1. Conversations with a narrower range of contacts. The pandemic made us all focus on who we really needed to speak to – the ‘obvious’ people who help us get our day job done. Unfortunately for many, this has remained the case. People who used to see each other around the office, go for catch up coffees or meet each other at regular networking events are now mere acquaintances, at best a connection on LinkedIn. This is a real loss as many of these relationships will not only bring social pleasure but potential business benefits. That might be a valuable referral, a more senior person in your organisation supporting your case for a promotion or you hearing about a new role from an external connection.

  1. Making assumptions. When we see people less frequently and have fewer conversations, we make assumptions about someone’s reasons behind their actions and/or what they are thinking. This is extremely risky and can lead to very negative cycle starting as you will adapt your behaviour to these assumptions and related thoughts which will impact how they respond to you. You can read more on the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in this article.

  1. Thinking how we show up on video calls doesn’t matter. We’ve been doing them a long time now, surely it doesn’t matter if you look un-showered or have an old jumper on? It does. How you show up at work matters, even on a screen. You don’t need to be in formal clothes but think about the impact you want to have and how you want to be remembered. Does anyone want their colleague leaving a call thinking how different they looked/that they looked a mess? Read more on why personal impact matters here.

Are you guilty of any or all of these workplace gremlins? If so, consider which ones are the priority to work on. Some top suggestions for each:

  1. Cancelled or postponed one-to-ones. It will feel hard but reinstating one-to-ones if they have slipped completely is an important start, even if less frequently than is ideal. If they are sometimes still happening, try and up the frequency of them happening slightly.

  2. Overuse of email. Consider more carefully which means of communication is best for what you need to achieve. Don’t forget the trusted phone!

  3. Conversations with a narrower range of contacts. Note the top five people you talked to pre-pandemic that you now don’t - this should include internal and external people. Consider how you can reconnect with them.

  4. Making assumptions. Be aware of when you are doing this and consider what you don’t know and how you can find out rather than making a potentially dangerous assumption.

  5. Thinking how we show up on video calls doesn’t matter. Consider when and with which people you’ve let this slip. What can you do to make it look like you’ve bothered?

These might all seem like small things but over time they can lead to much bigger problems. Negative ‘Office Politics’ characterised by poor professional relationships leads to reduced career success, decreased productivity, poor decision making and collaboration, as well as individual illness and resignations, amongst other issues. If everyone in a team makes a concerted effort that adds up to a huge benefit.

If you’d like to talk to me about any of these challenges or others that you or your team currently have, send me an email.