Working at an office can be an enjoyable, fulfilling endeavor, but it can also be a soul-crushing ordeal that some would eagerly swap for a lengthy jail sentence.
Workplace misery is not typically a result of outwardly evil behavior. Rather, it’s often an accumulation of small annoyances. A thousand paper cuts of minor inconveniences, hassles, slights, miscommunication, nonsense and, sometimes, actual paper cuts.
Unfortunately, crushing spirits and smooshing morale is quite easy. It doesn’t take “we’re eliminating the health care plan,” “the espresso machine has been removed” or “everyone must work Saturdays from now on” to sap motivation and zap enthusiasm.
Consider these four sins of omission that deflate morale more than you might realize:
1. You fail to notify staff when someone leaves the company.
What ever happened to Bob? Was he spirited away to a detention center? Cast into a memory hole?
There’s something draconian and disheartening when people just vanish, with no acknowledgment or confirmation of their situation. Did they ever even exist?
You don’t have to share the gory details, but you should give your people a heads-up when someone leaves. Something along the lines of: “Bob is no longer with the company. We wish him well,” will suffice.
In addition to common sense and decency, there’s a safety aspect here. Your colleagues should be aware of who’s no longer on the team, just in case Bob turns up one day looking disheveled and wild-eyed.
Quash potential rumors with a simple message when someone leaves.
2. You fail to cultivate some semblance of community.
It’s not your job to entertain people or to make sure your colleagues are leading healthy, balanced lives, but communicators can and should strive to cultivate camaraderie.
You’d be surprised how lonely some people are. That’s terrible and sad on a personal level, but worker loneliness is also bad for business.
Many companies fail to prioritize—or even recognize—the bottom-line benefits of fostering genuine connections in the office, and so they do nothing on this front. That’s a missed opportunity, as happy workers are more engaged and productive.
Try to create small groups where people can connect and enjoy each other. What shared interests or hobbies do your people have? Ask around, find out, and get groups officially sanctioned. Just a little bit of positive fellowship can be transformative.
3. You fail to communicate when change is afoot.
People can sense when something is amiss. Don’t treat your staff like dummies. Not communicating change is tantamount to a slap in the face.
Rumors spread in an office faster than an escaped jackrabbit, so it’s better to get out in front of news—even if it’s bad. From an employee’s perspective, it’s awful knowing something is brewing and having to stew in anxiety for weeks. Give them hearty helpings of truth, and give it to them straight.
Presumably, you have big girls and boys on staff. Treat them accordingly.
4. You fail to honor the significance of consistent, everyday, prosaic labor.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a company that doesn’t reward a job well done. Consider rewarding a job faithfully done.
Landing a big sale, securing a big interview, scoring a major win for a client—those are usually recognized with flair. What about the gal in accounting who crunches those numbers all day, or the guy who continually removes viruses from everyone’s computers because the staff keeps clicking dubious links?
Celebrate your unsung heroes. Make your people feel loved. Let there be no doubt that their labor is worthwhile, appreciated and essential to the overall operation.
Failing to honor the dignity, esteem and importance of faithful work might be the biggest, most damaging sin of omission.