Last Updated : 28-08-2014 12:10


Workplace harmony: Key to enhanced performance

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The employees of any workplace establish a kind of relationship among each other that keeps a diplomatic approach but usually does not go beyond personal level.  Since everyone has to work towards a common goal, the departments too are interrelated in their functions. Even the management and the employees need to work hand in hand to attain the objectives of the organisation.

You may have obviously heard of the term ‘office politics.’ This is a workplace situation where diverse and unique personalities as well as behaviours result to an uncomfortable environment in the office. The concept of ‘office politics’ refers to any behaviour and process that are deemed inappropriate and unfavourable for the organisation.

If an organisation is going through such a discordant atmosphere, particularly in turbulent times, it is essential to learn and apply the ways to maintain harmony in the workplace.

Make an effort to adhere to company policy
Ground rules are established to keep an organisation guided and controlled. At times, we feel that certain rules are choking us to the neck. This may be grounds for emerging conflicts between employees and the management. Whenever an individual feels that there are inconsistencies and irrationalities in the workplace, the tendency is the person struggles to break free from such process.

For employees, it may take an effort to really understand that setting such rules is a way of maintaining standards in the company. But this should be well-implemented and properly disseminated by the management in a way that will not seem like a threat to the individuals.

Keep a cordial relationship with your colleagues
The first section of this article tells you that working individuals create a kind of social and diplomatic connection with each other. This means that keeping such affiliation professional and at the same time a cordial one is essential in building a harmonious atmosphere. Personal attack on an individual on work performance is normally discouraged and must be avoided.

If someone in the team or the person you are working with lacks competence in the job, learn to understand the person’s weakness. Instead of putting the person down, attempt to help the individual realize the weak points and improve himself. A disparaging attitude toward another individual may develop conflict.
It is the same thing when you are working with a team. In order to keep the team members working together, each member should not expect too much from each other and know that we all have our own differences. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and we have to respect these diversities. If ever a team fails in reaching the goal, blaming is not an option because nothing good will come out of it.

Listen with your heart
Listen to your team members and subordinates. If they feel you don’t listen, they won’t come to you with feedback, suggestions, or even status reports. Employees are a company’s most valuable asset. They’re in the trenches every day and you need their input to best serve your customers or clients.
Even if you’re not naturally a good listener, you can become one. Listening isn’t a talent that you’re born with; it’s one that you develop:
  •     Give nonverbal feedback. Nod your head at appropriate times. Say something here and there. Have an animated expression. Make eye contact.
  •     Don’t be distracted. No matter where you are, focus on the person you’re talking to. If you allow yourself to be distracted, you may miss an important point and end up spending more time solving a resulting problem than if you’d simply listened carefully from the start.
  • Don’t interrupt. Don’t complete someone else’s sentences and don’t jump in the minute he or she takes the first breath. The speaker should feel like he or she can pause without losing the floor.
  • Don’t assume. You may think that you know what someone is about to say — but there’s a good chance you don’t. Keep an open mind and don’t try to second-guess. If you don’t understand what the person is saying, ask questions or paraphrase what you heard and ask for clarification.
  •  Think before you respond. Don’t jump in the minute the person stops talking. Really think about what he or she said and choose your words carefully.
Even if you’re listening to someone over the phone — and they can’t see you — don’t check your e-mail or clean out your drawers in your desk.
If you do this consistently, you can make your firm employee friendly, so it becomes a great place to work, in terms of both productivity and company culture. The employees will not only begin to feel respected and valued, but they also will learn to trust their leaders and co-workers.

Discourage ‘yes’ men
In any business organisation, (particularly in times of crisis) it’s all too easy to fall into an yes-man culture, especially when workers feel insecure about their jobs. To create an environment of open communication, leaders must reward and publicize new ideas, encourage dissent from staff and even challenge employees when everyone seems too agreeable.

This writer believes that the company CEO has to set the right tone. The worst fatal flaw in the leadership of companies is the ‘not invented here’ mentality: ‘If it’s not my idea, I don’t want to hear it’. Employees will work harder and more efficiently if they feel listened to their problems. It really does help the morale and the spirit and the dedication of the people in the company because they feel like they’re part of it; they’ve given their input.

If the culture of your company is characterized by fear, intimidation and favouritism, upside-down transformation is immediately needed. The CEO should present a ‘new’ vision for the organisation and a plan to establish openness, honesty, mutual respect and integrity with fellow employees and regulators. He should begin to hold quarterly meetings that end with a question and answer session for employees. If no challenging questions emerge, top managers should be encouraged to ask about issues they know are raising concerns.

In some successful global companies, the people who ask outstanding questions are recognized in the company’s newsletter. They’re viewed as the champions or the role models. The reason the top management wants his employees to raise hot issues is that’s where they learn about bottlenecks. They see where they have organisational issues.

Of course, it’s important to encourage constructive criticism rather than a culture of complaint. In order to disagree agreeably, both sides need to handle things with respect and the proper interpersonal approach.

Senior managers can create a safe space for critical feedback during one-on-one interactions and meetings. Remember the kindergarten rules: No yelling or abuse and stick to the principles of respect and the basics of human dignity. It works really well both in life and workplace.

Give a fair deal to all
Equity in a workplace means everyone receives fair treatment. There’s a transparency to cause and effect and everyone knows what to expect in terms of consequences and rewards. When equity exists, people have equal access to opportunities. It sets up an advantageous environment for both the employees and the employer.
The opportunities afforded by an equitable workplace motivate employees to achieve. Believing that rewards will be commensurate with effort, employees with ability and drive strive to shine. This behaviour is explained by equity theory, which links fairness to employee effort.

Equity also encourages employee retention. An employee, who believes he can have a bright future with a company, wants to stay and claim it. When employees stay, companies are relieved of brain drain, the expense of training replacement employees and watching former employees enrich competitors with training provided by the original employer.

On the other hand, attracting talent is easier for companies that pursue workplace equity and foster a meritocracy than it is for those that do only enough to avoid breaking employment laws. People who have a lot to offer want to be compensated fairly without worrying about hidden agendas that lead to preferential treatment for a chosen few. Talented people are ready to excel and they are also excited that cause and effect rule in an equitable workplace. It means investment of brains, energy and dedication pays off. It also gives these achievers the chance to work with other achievers.

The ideal set-up for a company in times of a crisis!
(The writer is a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience. He can be contacted on


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