As anyone who has ever worked in an office setting can tell you, it isn’t always easy to get along with your coworkers. This is especially true in offices with seas of cubicles where employees are sitting in extremely close quarters. And, when you consider that most professionals spend more time at work than they do at home, it’s no wonder that coworkers can sometimes begin to irritate one another.
If hostility between coworkers is causing your work environment to suffer, there are a number of things employees can do to ease the tension. Below are just a few suggestions you can offer your employees to help improve the dynamics in your office:
– Take the chitchat to the break room – When an employee is on deadline or faced with a challenging task, unnecessary gabbing can cause quite the distraction. Encourage your employees to move away from the immediate workspace if they feel inclined to share their weekend plans or want to discuss other aspects of their personal lives. Even work-related chatter can break a worker’s concentration, so employees should be encouraged to use a conference room or meeting space if they need to have a lengthy talk about projects or clients.
– Keep politics out of the office – Discussions about gun control, abortion, and other hot-button topics are rarely appropriate in any public setting, let alone in the workplace. The chances of offending or alienating a coworker are just too high, so employees should be urged to save discussions about controversial issues for outside of the office.
– Communicate your frustrations – We’ve all had one of THOSE coworkers. Whether your office’s culprit clips his fingernails at his desk or insists on slurping her coffee, the offending individual (or individuals if you’re really unlucky) can irritate just about everyone in the office. Rather than snicker about the offender behind his or her back or allow feelings of aggravation and resentment to fester, advise your employees to discuss their concerns. If an employee doesn’t feel comfortable confronting their coworker or they’re worried they’ll come across as rude or pushy, make sure they know their manager or a member of the human relations department is available to address their problems on their behalf.
– Follow the rules – Your organization likely included certain rules in the employee handbook for a reason. Remind your employees to review the handbook and make note of any regulations that relate to office policies and interpersonal relationships. For instance, the handbook may dictate that employees aren’t permitted to eat lunch at their desks. By simply following this rule, employees can avoid uncomfortable situations that can arise when a coworker’s food reeks of fish, garlic, or broccoli.
– Participate in group activities – Off-site events, whether informal or intricately planned in advance, are a great way to promote camaraderie in the workplace. While employees shouldn’t be mandated to attend – nor should they be made to feel guilty if they’re unable to find a babysitter or reschedule an appointment – their attendance should be encouraged. One way to ensure that all employees are able to participate is to schedule activities or outings during regular office hours. It could be something as simple as hosting a lunchtime potluck or heading out for ice cream one afternoon.
Fortunately, improving your company’s workplace dynamic is probably easier than you think. If your employees are resistant to your ideas, then it might be time to bring in an expert on interpersonal relationships and workplace dynamics. A professional “team builder” can help your employees identify their personality types and teach them how to better communicate with their peers.