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Company Culture: A Call for More Civility in the Workplace

Company Culture: A Call for More Civility in the Workplace

In the workplace there is little room for civility and kindness unless it is ingrained in a company culture. Business tends to lean towards being hard-nosed and competitive with people adopting the “what’s in it for me” attitude. This has resulted in an unspoken culture of incivility in companies, a behaviour that we’ve all probably engaged in from time to time but one which we don’t approve of. Incivility means that we’re disrespectful and undignified towards others, and express this by not listening attentively, by looking at our phone while someone is speaking to us, working on our laptop while talking, taking credit for a job that we didn’t do, blaming others and not taking ownership when we make a mistake, walking away from people while they’re still talking, publicly mocking or belittling people, being dismissive towards others, ignoring or excluding people in conversations, and withholding information. We may not be doing these things with malice but rather from a place of ignorance; however, in a workplace environment incivility in a company culture comes at a high cost. It doesn’t matter if you’re directly involved or if you’re observing incivility towards a colleague, it affects you just as much!

Incivility can be summarised as being blatantly rude towards others and not respecting diversity. Most leaders are actively doing their best to promote and get a healthy balance within their teams and using diversity to appreciate and leverage off each other’s many and varied talents, skills, strengths, ideas and perspectives. Incivility simply pours ice cold water over diversity. Research shows that incivility within a company culture results in decreased work performance, reduced creativity and brainstorming by up to 39%, disengagement in meetings, a lack of attention to instructions, and emotional exhaustion. Incivility comes at a high cost to organisations, but it is seldom ring-fenced as such. We think that people are under pressure to perform and busy with work tasks which makes multi-tasking acceptable, when in actual fact it is not. We’ll start to see little cliques developing within our teams and will notice that some of our colleagues are more isolated from the team than they should be. We all see it, but we don’t always take the time to stop, think about it and reflect over its impact on others, the team and our organisation. We may be directly involved and know how emotionally draining it feels to be sidelined or bullied by others, but we don’t often stand up for ourselves. We see it, we hear it, we feel it, but we don’t do enough about it to stop it, and we allow this uncivil behaviour of others to wash over us. Incivility in the workplace is not ok and it’s not acceptable. The change can come from leadership and be filtered down, but it can also start with you and be filtered down to your co-workers.

To shift the lever from incivility to being civil and respectful can start with being kind and empathetic towards others by using these tools.

  1. Saying thank you can go a very long way. These are two very simple and easy words that we only use 10% of the time at work. Be civil by thanking the people around you for their contribution, for their ideas and for their commitment. Thank you is also about acknowledging the person and being respectful of their work, time, ideas and resources. It’s about not taking other people for granted. Make a conscious effort to thank people more often.
  2. Share resources and knowledge: At work we often hold onto our knowledge believing that if we share it with others it may make us perhaps dispensable or vulnerable as others can use our work, ideas and concepts. Quite the contrary is true! When we share our knowledge and resources, we make room for innovation and allow for creativity with new ideas and concepts. Sharing is definitely caring, and often through conversation entirely novel ideas emerge. Not to mention that nowadays most of the knowledge can be googled and doesn’t have the prestige and power it did 20 or 30 years ago. Share your time and knowledge openly, frequently and generously.
  3. Give feedback generously and express gratitude: Giving someone feedback goes a level deeper than simply saying thank you as you have to be more specific. Articulate clearly what you liked about what they did and want more of, or what you think could be improved on. The art here is not to be general, but to really take the time to be specific about their behaviour, language, skill or process as that depth helps people to make the necessary change, by either repeating a behaviour, tweaking it or mastering it. Also, share what you’re grateful for in the person, and acknowledge them for the strengths and values they bring to your work.
  4. Attentive listening and attention: How often do you catch yourself listening with one ear, nodding away to the person talking, but already thinking of something else? It’s an unhealthy habit many of us have developed that is completely rude. We know very well what it feels like to be on the receiving end and we don’t like it at all, so be civil and don’t do it to others. Stop what you’re doing and honour what the person has come to share with you. Listen attentively to them about what they want or need from you. Tune into their mind and way of thinking so that you can solve a problem quicker or address their concern without miscommunication. Listening saves time and demonstrates respect towards the other person.

The time has come to reduce incivility in the workplace and to shift into humane engagements that value respect and honour diversity and kindness. Don’t wait for others to kick-start this; be courageous and start with your team and your co-workers.

Take this brief civility assessment to establish what your score is as well as areas that you can improve on: http://www.christineporath.com/take-the-assessment/

Do your bit to change your workplace into a happy environment.

Light and Fun Team Building Activities

Light and Fun Team Building Activities

October is an unusual month in the workspace. We’re fast approaching the end of the year, and it’s amazing to think that we may have as few as 75 working days or 10 weeks left before 2017 work projects need to be completed. We ferociously push through to the finish line; our intention is focused, but our overall energy levels are low. Some people haven’t taken a holiday during the year and are snappy, moody and edgy. Team vibes may be delicate and a tad sensitive. It’s not that easy to be working in an environment where everybody is walking around on egg shells.

At this time of the year, team interventions and company fun days are planned to celebrate the year’s achievements and accomplishments. Celebrating is extremely necessary and is not done often enough. It lifts the energy, boosts morale, acknowledges people’s efforts, and it’s often a festive day.

However, a year-end celebration has an organisational feel to it. They’re generally fun activities with no intention of learning, understanding or improving anything in the team’s performance, productivity or effectiveness.

That being said, the year-end function might be weeks away and your team needs uplifting and some light-hearted fun right now – something that will ease the tension, and make everybody laugh out loud. This kind of fun doesn’t have a long lifespan, but should raise the team’s level of happiness for a few days. It will make the workload and work pressure, collaboration and communication easier.

Statistics show that children laugh up to 400 times a day, while adults as few as 20 times; a staggering 2,000% difference

Often, when we work with teams, we are amazed how little the team members know about each other. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to become best friends, but getting to know about your team member’s hobbies and social activities gives a good understanding how they think, what they value and appreciate in life, and what makes them happy.

To get to know your team, you can use this quick team activity called “I am proud”. Pair up in twos, sit opposite each other and for five minutes share moments in your life that you are proud of; and then swop around. You’ll be amazed at how this lifts the energy levels and leaves positive lasting moments.

Every second employee leaves their organisation because of a lack of recognition. This is a staggering figure when one considers recognition to be quick, not expensive or extremely time consuming. It needs some planning and thought; that’s all.

So, the last fun team building activity to try is to create a recognition day where every team member says two or three things that they want to recognise each team member in the team for. Let each person stand up and give feedback to the person. There will be laughter, maybe tears, but there will definitely be moments of appreciation and recognition.

Fun team activities don’t always have to be planned in advance; they can be impromptu for an hour. What matters is their underlying intent and getting the team involved.

What are you going to do to lighten up your team’s spirits?

Match team building exercises to the team’s needs

Match team building exercises to the team’s needs

Building high performing teams doesn’t come easily. Before you reach that optimal level, there will be loads of blood, sweat and tears! There are so many elements that we often forget, or don’t think about. Most leaders are aware of things like articulating the common team purpose, clarifying roles and responsibilities, providing resources, and regular feedback, etc. that go with inspiring a team – these components are essential, but don’t necessarily build team spirit, morale and fun. Building a team into a vibrant and energised unit should be filled with joy and fun for both the leader and the team members.

You may be asking yourself how so?

We learn through laughter and having fun, and it also helps us to get to know each other. To do this, team building exercises are the ideal tool. I can see some of you cringing at the thought of going to some remote place to spend the day drumming, hanging off a rope, paint balling, shooting or rock climbing. There is definitely a time and place for those fun activities; some outdoor activities might be linked to a deeper purpose of addressing an underlying team challenge such as low communication, lack of trust, accountability or collaboration. What do you want to address or achieve? Being aware that team building exercises should align with where the team is at, i.e. is it a newly formed team, an established team going through a rough patch, or a team that has experienced a failure and needs a boost.

Here are practical team building exercises for each team stage.

Newly formed teams spend time sussing each other out. They are observing others to establish who they like and who they don’t, which person they can trust, who the inherent team leader is, and how they can be accepted into the team. In the beginning stage, a team needs exercises that assist and support this “getting to know each other” process.

* Truth or Lie – Each team member introduces themselves to the team by saying their name and then one fact about themselves that is either true or false. The other team members have to decide if the statement is true or a lie. Depending on the size of the team, you can repeat this game three or four times. It breaks the ice and allows people to get to know one another in a fun way.

* Blind Drawing – Seat two people back-to-back on chairs. Give one a pen and a piece of paper and the other a picture of a simple image. The person holding the picture has to describe the image to the other person without using any of words associated with the image.. The other person has to draw the image based on what he or she hears. This team building exercise is ideal for enhancing communication skills and collaboration.

Established teams who have been together for a while may get accustomed to each other to such an extent that they will understand one another without too much communication. The potential downfall is that the team may operate in their comfort zone without stretching or challenging each other’s thinking.

* Barter Puzzle – This exercise is best for small teams of up to 16 people. Divide the teams into three or four equal sized groups. Each group receives a different jigsaw puzzle of the same difficulty level to complete. The aim is to complete the puzzle in the fastest time. However, some pieces are mixed up with another team’s and they will desperately need those missing pieces to finish the puzzle first. Collectively as a team they will need to agree on how to barter for those pieces.

* Flow Moments – This is a more serious activity, where everybody shares activities and tasks where they lose total track of time. These will be moments where the challenge and the stimulation meet each other at a sweet spot. Share these moments and chat about how everyone can have them more often which will transform the team’s performance and bring in a magical fresh energy.

Every team experiences a low point where all energy and performance has been drained because of an unexpected mistake that was made. This mistake will have knocked the wind out of the team’s mojo. How and why the mistake occurred is not relevant, but what is important is to allow the team a time to “mope” and lick their wounds and thereafter the onus is on the leader to shift gears and get the team firing on all cylinders. Two team building exercises for this stage are:

* Strengths finder – Give the team a pack of blank cards, and ask each team member to write down one strength on each card that they feel the team has. In the end, collect all the cards and tally them up to show which are the most common strengths. The team must then discuss how they can bring alive what’s natural to them.

* Savouring – Taking Post-it® notes, let each team member write down up to three projects that the team was involved in where they delivered a phenomenal job. Remind the team of past successes and collect evidence so that they can and will experience these moments again which will help them to savour the past and move positively into the future.

In closing, team building exercises are important to build team spirit be it in a newly formed or experienced team. They shake up the energy, bring in fun and laughter, enhance team collaboration, open discussions on unpleasant topics, and stimulate innovative thinking.

Try it!

If you would like more ideas and exercises, or for us to build up happiness in your workplace, contact us at info@4seeds.co.za