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Employees can't even agree on where they should work. Of those whose job can be done remotely:
This means your workplace likely has some deep divisions within it -- either under the surface or, increasingly, out in the open.
Workplace divisions not only threaten daily productivity; they also threaten the trust and social bonds that managers have worked so hard to cultivate on their teams. Some managers have invested years in building a strong, positive team culture -- and for the first time, they are beginning to see that team unity unravel on the basis of personal beliefs.
Many managers are struggling to talk to their employees about intensely sensitive subjects. They are uncertain about which conversations are necessary and how to shape those conversations in a way that leads to positive, constructive outcomes.
When looking for "the right thing to say or do," here are three time-tested and evidence-based actions managers can use to keep their teams engaged, future-focused and unified during divisive times:
The best solution to combating divisiveness among team members is uniting them around a shared purpose -- a mission they can all get behind.
One common purpose we can all get behind is doing great work for our customers -- to make the world better for others. You may not be inventing the world's next vaccine, but you are removing frustrations, meeting needs, solving problems and providing support. Everyone in the world is burdened right now, but your team's job is to make things better together, in big and small ways.
Divisiveness creates deeply personal distractions. Being future-focused can help: Everyone needs goals in their work life that keep them focused and striving to do their best work.
Development is your best tool for keeping employees focused on working toward a bright future in a way that's highly individualized to them.
Everyone needs a plan. Ensure each person has a written "individual development plan" for achieving their most meaningful development goals, whether that means training to master a current role, learning new skills, receiving mentoring or gaining new key experiences. Ensure their plan includes a "career path" with potential options and criteria for career advancement.
When sensitive topics arise, the natural response for some managers may be to lean out of their team relationships. The belief is that the fewer conversations we have, the fewer land mines we will hit and the safer we all will be.
Although managers can't solve all of the world's problems, they can provide the only neutral ground that some people have. Managers can listen to what people can't say to their families or their coworkers. And listening, even if there are no great solutions, can help clear the air so employees can focus effectively on work.
Ongoing employee recognition, in formal and informal ways, is a great tool for creating social habits that point to our shared values and goals. It makes people feel noticed, appreciated and valued for doing great work.
It's a reminder of our performance standards, celebrates people who role model excellence and gets the conversation moving toward how we can all be our best in the future. It also steers conversations toward what's working rather than everything that's not.
Solve the problem or leave the problem. But…… Do not live with the problem.
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