From gossip to collaboration in the workplace. Part 1 of a 3-part series

From gossip to collaboration in the workplace. Part 1 of a 3-part series

I received an email from a business leader titled, “Can’t we all just get along?”

The majority of the team were six-figure employees but spent much of their time on elementary-age behaviors! They were gossiping to their employees about work frustrations, withholding critical information from peers, and deliberately creating more headaches and work for everyone involved.

Can you relate?

Do you mentally take work home with you, wondering what others are thinking? Typically when we don’t know what others are thinking, we fill in the blanks with whatever story we see fit. Or worse, are you finding yourself sucked into the gossip?

Learn how to minimize your frustrating work days caused by drama. Start with part one of a 3-part series to understand the foundation that allowed this team to move from gossiping to collaborating at work.

1) Understand yourself.

I know it seems basic, but it’s the foundational piece and here is why it matters. It’s difficult to understand someone else’s behavior if you don’t first understand what drives you. Imagine you are leading a new team, you have a list of expectations and you never share them with anyone. I’d say the odds are fairly slim the team will meet these expectations in a timely manner, if at all. Can they learn your expectations over time? Sure, but imagine all of the headaches, frustrations, and drama that will arise before getting there.

By understanding your personal preferences and how they shape your expectations, your approach to work can greatly increase the chances others will meet your expectations. So what does this really look like? To gain baseline insight into yourself, answer the questions below.

The first two questions are focused around the pace you prefer to work at.

Are you fast-paced or methodical?

  • Are you someone who is fast-paced, always running with several tabs open on your laptop and in your mind? Do you have a need to keep things moving whether it be ideas, projects, conversations, and meetings?
  • Or do you prefer a methodical approach, where you are even-keeled and closing one loop before starting the next?

The next two questions refer to how much you prefer to interact with others at work.

Are you more people or logic focused at work?

  • Is being focused on people important to you? Do you enjoy frequent interaction with others, and finding ways to work together as often as possible?
  • Do you find logic and structure more appealing? Are you seeking opportunities with minimal interactions with others and a chance to be an expert?
You should have identified yourself as one of the following combinations:
  1. Fast-paced & Logic-focused
  2. Fast-paced & People-focused
  3. Methodical & Logic-focused
  4. Methodical & People-focused

Here’s an example of why this matters. Let’s go back to the earlier situation where you are leading a new team.

If you identified yourself as #1 being fast-paced and more focused on logic. Your new team will benefit if you were to share the following insights:

  • You like to keep things moving. Therefore, you will expect frequent updates and progress reports on projects.
  • Often you will be working toward multiple goals simultaneously.
  • You are less likely to relate to emotional appeals; instead, you feel more comfortable when information is presented in a straightforward manner sticking to numbers and evidence rather than feelings.
  • You will not call meetings unless there are specific agendas and action steps at the end.

If you identified yourself as being #4 methodical and more focused on people. Your new team will benefit if you were to share the following insights:

  • You like a consistent, steady pace in moving forward.
  • You prefer to close out one item before moving onto the next project when possible.
  • Opportunities, where the team can collaborate systematically, is your preferred work environment. It allows everyone to have a voice and gives you a higher chance to support their needs.
  • Meeting agendas are usually sent out ahead of time so others can feel comfortable and prepared for the meeting. There is often some social element woven into the meeting.

Here is one action you can take tomorrow with your new learning. Whether you are heading into your next meeting, connecting 1:1 with an employee, starting a project at work, or finding yourself as a new leader, ask yourself, do those who work with me understand my work preferences? If not, don’t assume others know how to work effectively with you. Share your expectations and preferences. Here are a few tips which were effective in this team becoming more collaborative.

  1. Write your expectations on paper. Take the time to determine what is most important to you as a leader. Keep it simple.
  2. Meet with your team as a whole. Having clarity with everyone in the room at the same time can be powerful and minimize the “meetings after the meetings”.
  3. Facilitate quality 1:1 meetings. Connect with your employees individually and ask what expectations and questions they have for you. If you are not already meeting 1:1 with key employees, this is how you determine their engagement overall.
  4. Follow-Up on Commitments. Employees quickly know if you are not being authentic. Be willing to follow-up when expectations are not met and address issues as they come up.

In part two of this series, we are going to shift into how you observe others you work with and how they may approach work differently than you do. To ensure you don’t miss it follow me on LinkedIn or sign up directly on our website for the weekly newsletter. You’ll gain free tips, resources, and freebies on HR and Leadership.