There is a simple fact that exists in the worlds of business and management: A dysfunctional work environment will impede productivity and eventually get somebody fired. While it is essential that management-level company officials create and maintain a professional and cordial work environment, executing that mission can be more difficult than one might imagine. An office or business’s organizational structure and management principles and policies set the tone. Maintaining some level of harmony is a constant challenge and a regular source of frustrations for managers. Interpersonal relationships among subordinates and between subordinates and superiors have to be managed on a near-daily basis. Frustrations and anxieties permeating a workforce will invariably poison the atmosphere and seriously diminish productivity. Quality of outcome is at risk when employees or management-employee relations are suffering.
Given the propensity of individuals within a family to butt heads and get on one another’s nerves, imagine the scenario when deadlines loom, equipment is failing, and personality conflicts are allowed to fester in a workplace. Furthermore, a company’s reputation both for the quality of its products or services and for its image as a stable, productive environment in which to work is sacrosanct. No business owner or manager wants to appear from the outside to be losing control of one’s workplace or to be responsible for management deficiencies that result in lost productivity and the departure of a company’s best employees.
With all this mind, it is incumbent upon management to create a work environment in which the inevitable personality conflicts that arise among employees can be managed and contained. Frustrated or disgruntled workers need outlets to vent their frustrations, but those outlets should be managed so that redress can be considered and, in the case of interpersonal conflicts, resolution of disputes negotiated to everyone’s satisfaction.
It is questionable whether or how employees should be expected to control their emotions – emotions that adversely affect customer relations as well as those within the organization in question. There is a limit to how much employees experiencing frustrations, anxiety, anger, or disillusionment should be expected to sublimate those emotions for the good of the company. Certainly, employees should be expected to act professionally, both in the office and outside when interacting with customers. At some point, however, management needs to work with the employees in question to resolve outstanding complaints. If the source of frustration involves fellow workers, then either the workers who are having issues can resolve their concerns, or one or both of the employees have to go. Often, a workforce suffers at the hands of a single or of a small number of colleagues who refuse to hold up their end of a process. Incompetency is frustrating for others; laziness on the part of one or more colleagues is maddening. Working one’s backside off while the other employee sits at its desk everyday playing video games or talking on a cell phone will definitely poison the atmosphere and, consequently, cause a diminishment in the quality of the work being performed.
Staff are all, presumably, mature adults. Each of those adults should be expected to control its emotions for the good of the whole. Outside variables affecting personalities, such as an employee going through a difficult divorce or dealing with an illness, are hard to conceal, but the requirements of professionalism dictate that those emotions remain tempered and not be allowed to interfere with broader institutional goals. “Leave your problems at home” is sage advice, but it can be unrealistic when the problems at home are severe – for example, a serious illness affecting a family member – or when relationships among workers are adversely affected by personality differences that cause resentment and even hatred for the worker sitting two cubicles away.
Understanding and managing emotions is great. It may take years in therapy, but it is an admirable goal. Keeping emotions removed from workplace considerations, however, is probably a bridge too far. People are people. Idiosyncrasies, prejudices, voice patterns, matters of personal hygiene, tastes in music, spending too much time on the phone discussing extraneous matters all contribute to the creation of a dysfunctional work environment. Such seemingly minor considerations can individually or aggregately have a deleterious impact on workplace productivity. When employees can manage their emotions and learn to ignore or accept the quirks of others, productivity improves; most of the time, however, these types of problems fester until the proverbial mushroom cloud appears above the office roof.