How many new employees have you hired in the past year? How many employees are nearing retirement, but not ready to leave the intellectual productivity of a daily job? Have the newbies met anyone in person? Leaders and employees are feeling challenged by work, whether remote, hybrid or in person. The serial change caused by the pandemic has been mind numbing. Now is the time to push the reset button and engage at a human level with three simple time-tested tactics. Assume good intent, be curious, and practice active listening. Whether you are in your first year in the working world or your fortieth, these three free and readily available techniques will help break through minor misunderstandings and even the toughest generational logjams.
As you have seen, there are many ways organizational fragmentation shows up at the office. You’ve probably witnessed the following scenario more than once. …You had an interaction with a member of the team. Something felt off. Maybe it was an email, phone call, or body language expressed during a meeting. Tactic number one, assume good intent. This means you have to drop your initial reaction of annoyance and be open to the possibility of good intent. Tactic number two, be curious. Reach out to the person and seek further clarification and context. Tactic three, actively listen to their response. This means, stop thinking about your next response and truly listen to what the person is saying in real time. 9.5 times out of 10, the situation has nothing to do with you and everything to do with external issues. Irritation gone, problem solved, and positive attitudes are preserved. (I see that smile.)
Do you feel as though you could do a better job influencing everyone’s attitude? As leaders, you do have the power to flip the narrative and model effective behaviors. When team members express frustrations, reframe the situation emphasizing the possibility and the opportunity. It will be empowering when employees realize they can propagate a more positive, collaborative work environment inclusive of all employees with their own efforts.
Using curiosity and active listening, I recommend you also have some darn fun. We certainly haven’t had enough of that in the past two years. Send your employees on a scavenger hunt with a set of questions and the goal of forming new relationships across the organization. Give out prizes. Mix it up, across products, specialties and departments. (Yes, engineers and accountants really can have a conversation.) Leaders, help your team members practice these three tactics and ask them to take note of the things they learn each week about life, love, work and humanity. I am certain you will be pleasantly surprised, and your multi-generational work team will operate more successfully, with better attitudes and improved cohesiveness. They may even start to like each other. And that would be a slam dunk!