Are You Confident Your Staff Are Projecting The Values Of Your Business?
I see and hear it all the time, particularly in retail and hospitality environments. Recently, I observed employees who were serving customers but also having conversations with their colleagues sighing about the number of hours they had to left for the day. Within earshot of multiple customers.
When I think about the owner of that business, I imagine they’d cringe at the thought of three people openly talking about wishing they were going home in front of the people they were serving. As owners, it’s impossible to monitor our staff at all times. What we can do is endeavour to turn the volume down on the negative talk while turning the volume up on the positive. And, by bringing focus to the values attached to the work we do.
The countdown until the end of the workday is a common conversation. So is complaining about another team member or whining about a task they’d prefer not to do.
A negative mindset is also apparent in non-verbal cues. As we know, body language can hold equal weight to words. Chances are, like me, you’ve been on the receiving end of service that looks like a dull-eyed reply, a monotone voice or even the old perky voice with dead-eyes response (the ‘I’m here, but I’m not really here’ conversation).
So, Why Is It Happening?
For a whole myriad of reasons. It may be the result of people not identifying that it’s time for them to move on. There could be a single person bringing down the team. We’ve all worked somewhere with a person who can significantly change the climate of a workplace by influencing the moods or attitudes of others. Unfortunately for us, these people are not always the easiest to identify.
It could also be that our staff are getting a bit too comfortable. After we’ve spent more hours in the workplace than at home, it’s going to feel comfortable and familiar. We all know what it feels like to ‘be part of the furniture’, and that can become danger territory in the attitude department for some. As staff develop friendships over time they’re naturally more inclined to reveal more of themselves, extending through to consciously or unconsciously infusing negative undertones into conversations. Getting overly ‘comfy’ with customers is another under this banner. Friendliness and familiarity is great with our frequent customers, but talking about other staff members, customers or management or the business itself, is a no-go zone. Obviously. Or is it…?
If you have a manager or supervisor, observe their behaviours. If they regularly incorporate negative talk into their conversations particularly in front of other staff members, it’s a sure-fire way to open up the floodgates to this being a perfectly acceptable practice in your business.
We also need to take a good look at ourselves as business owners. Are we whining about difficult customers after they leave? Are we modelling the reaction we’d like everyone else to have? Are we demonstrating that ‘this is just part of business and we get on with things’, or are we making it apparent that problem solving is achieved by vocalising our frustration first?
What Can Be Done About It?
The easiest way to have a helpful and mindful team is to hire effectively. Not too long ago I interviewed productivity expert Cholena Orr who has spent a large part of her career in recruitment. She says the key to productivity is for staff to be already happy. Ideally, we should hire people who are innately happy. People who demonstrate optimism, a ‘can-do’ or problem solving attitude. It can be done. But, we know that people lie and put their best foot forward in interviews so this is not always easily achieved. We also know that, over time, people can become unhappy in the workplace.
What can we do if we’ve inadvertently hired unhappy people? What if they were perfectly happy people who are progressively allowing more of a negative mindset into their workday?
Sometimes we all need a reminder to find happiness in our everyday.
Start The Conversation
Start by having a meeting that is open and collaborative. Ask your staff to talk about their experiences of poor or bad service, of inattentive people on the job and examples of unhelpful service. Encourage paired chat about what those experiences looked like, sounded like and and how it felt as a customer and then share with the group. Talk about other stories they’ve heard from family or friends. Ask:
How do you know about their story?
Were they so frustrated with the experience that they needed to mention it to others?
Talk about the impact that experience their family member or friend must have been to share the story with someone else. Also discuss what gets someone to the point they feel they need to vent.
Then discuss how this affects their buying decisions. Perhaps they were so annoyed it means they will go there less often. Perhaps so disappointed they’ll never return.
Reflect on a variety of scenarios varying in severity brought forward by your team. They may include situations where a staff member speaks abruptly to a customer when under pressure, overhearing other staff members talking poorly to or of, another staffer. Introduce scenarios that you know are happening in your workplace and take the individuals out of them.
Role play and talk about the thoughts of a typical customer in these situations. Talk about the subtle impacts that happen when people aren’t positive or present while they work.
Talk about the likely impact on that business. Talk about the likely impact on the customer. What if it happened to ten customers? Or more? How could it impact the business? How then, would it impact staff?
Discuss what happens when one person says they can’t wait to go home. Most people wouldn’t have said this in their first few months of work. What changed? When did this become okay? Does it feel like the time’s going faster or are you more alert to it being so far away? Does complaining do anything about the situation? Is there a better approach?
Make Positivity A Priority
Spend more time asking your team to discuss the benefits of being optimistic, positive and present. Share what great, productive days look and sound like for different people. Focus on the positive outcomes and positive conversation that forms part of a great day. That being engaged in what we do brings positive outcomes too. We all need to work – why not make the time we have there enjoyable? You get where I’m going with this…
Finish by revisiting (or sharing if you haven’t already) your business values. Turn the learnings from this exercise into positive goals that when achieved, will have benefits for the customer, the business and for the staff themselves.
Next, use this information to create some clear key performance indicators (KPI’s) going forward. To support these, place visual reminders around the workspace that evoke your collaborative goal to focus on the positive in their workday. Use phrases created by your team so it resonates with them.
It’s also a good idea to track the ‘happiness’ level of the workplace. Prior to this conversation, you may ask people to complete an anonymous survey to rate their happiness in the workplace, their interest in increasing the happiness level, comparing the results and finally, revisiting the topic as part of your staff meeting agenda.
How you frame this discussion is key to it’s success. Treat this as a reflective opportunity rather than a finger-pointing exercise and communicate this from the outset. This is designed to encourage your people to feel safe, be open and collaborative so they can become more mindful and aware of their actions in the workplace. Make it a fun and enjoyable process and you’ll be setting the tone for a present, productive and happy team environment.
If you’ve read this far, I’d love your input…
Have you experienced this in your workplace?
What worked for you in removing negative talk?
Do you have any other suggestions or feedback?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Mel