Steven Covey wrote about having a positive balance in your “Relationship” accounts. In other words, positive actions and negative actions create an interaction balance. Studies show that unless the positive interactions with your partner or team outnumber the negative interactions by a ratio of 5 to 1, the relationship is likely to fail. In other words, it takes 5 good interactions to make up for every 1 bad interaction.
The 5 to 1 Ratio has another application. Studies show that negative information, negative experiences, and negative interactions have a far deep impact on employees in the workplace. It could be an interaction with a manager, a coworker, or a grumpy customer, but the impact on an employee’s feelings of 1 negative interaction in the workplace has a 5 times stronger impact than that of a positive interaction.
Certainly, we want to maximize the number of good interactions we have in the workplace, but various studies suggest that managers and team leaders will get far more bang for their buck if they focus on eliminating the negative interactions in the workplace.
Here are a few negative actions, if removed, will benefit your team:
The effect of “toxic” people in work groups is contagious. People who exhibit grumpiness, disrespect, selfishness, or laziness will drag the performance of your other team members down. A team with just one person who exhibits any of these behaviors can suffer a performance disadvantage of 30% to 40% compared to teams that don’t have to contend with a “toxic” environment. Do not interpret passionately arguing for a position or idea that someone believes in as “negative”, which would be a big mistake.
Disagreements and debates about what course of action to take should not be seen as negative interactions. If you only surround yourself with optimistic “yes people” because you like having a harmonious and positive work environment, you risk being blindsided. You want thoughtful people who are less likely to be swayed by the opinions of the group, and who will argue for what they passionately believe to be true vs. what is popular, or what appeases the leader.
As painful as it may be to listen to someone who disagrees with you, you need at least one person on your team who will argue for the worst case scenario, and challenge you to a good debate by pointing out all the flaws in your proposal. Having someone play devil’s advocate is an asset to strategic decision-making, so if you don’t have such a person on your team, you need to appoint someone to play that role.
Managing High Performance
High performing teams have a clear set of core values that they all subscribe to, and use as the basis for hiring, performance management, and decision-making. The managers of high performing teams confront behavioral problems directly and quickly. High performing teams have a clear set of key performance indicators that provide clarity about the performance standards for people in every role. Managers of high performing teams tend to be a little bit tougher. These hard-driving managers inspire higher performance because they make it crystal clear that they will not tolerate poor performance or any behaviors not aligned to the core values.
Finally, don’t procrastinate when it comes to doing the unpleasant work. Confronting poor performance and negative behaviors is not fun, but it’s an essential part of being an effective manager.
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