How to Turn the Dysfunctional Workplace Into an Environment Where People Actually Want to Work

by Linda Ray

Dysfunctional workplaces are not enjoyable places to work and they are just as uninviting for customers. Employees are often micromanaged, paychecks are erratic, pointless meetings take up valuable work time and staff members don’t even pay attention during meetings. When morale is low, the company’s profits suffer through high turnover rates and poor client satisfaction. Managers, small business owners and human resource professionals can turn the environment around, however, by taking steps to fix the underlying problems.

Open Up Communications

One of the tips that reveals a company’s dysfunctional patterns is if much of the communication within the firm is done through the grapevine or gossip. Employees often gossip when the management team is secretive and the staff never knows what’s going to happen next until something happens. Let employees know that managers have an open door and then open the doors -- literally. Employees who fear retribution for asking questions or talking directly to the boss about issues will readily voice their concerns once they see no consequences happen when they do. Tell employees there will be zero tolerance for gossip.

Include Employees in Company Goals

Nothing brings a group of people together like shared goals. Whether you offer profit-sharing or just company news as it occurs, employees will feel like they’ve contributed to your success when you share the wealth. Bring in treats when the business hits its monthly sales goals and share them with the entire staff. Announce promotions and bonuses openly to give employees an opportunity to congratulate their peers. Buy lunch for the staff after successful stockholder meetings and bring in representatives from every department for strategic planning sessions and reviews.

Build a Team-Based Culture

Place the responsibility of morale and employee respect back on the staff by creating teams that are accountable to each other and to management. Fear of conflict and turf wars are often at the root of dysfunction. By teaming members up to achieve common goals, employees can get a chance to know each other better, create opportunities to have fun while working and band together to achieve results. Develop activities teams can participate in together and make team meetings worthwhile by setting specific goals. Consider an off-property retreat to kick off the team concepts and let employees relax while working out their previous difficulties.

Empower Employees

When employees feel like their every move is being scrutinized, they tend to get paranoid – often for good reason. A dysfunctional workplace shows no respect to the staff and places very little trust on front-line employees. For example, if IT protocols are so strict that employees can’t even log in without manager approval, morale is going to suffer. When decisions can only be made by the boss, supervisors can’t take ownership of their staffs and end up perpetrating the culture by micromanaging every move their staff members make. Empower employees to make the right decisions; expect them to work for the best interests of the company, and they most likely will step up and do exactly that.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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