Making work a safe haven in uncertain times

More than once in my HR career I have heard all sorts of people say that work is a respite from their chaotic lives. 

I’ve heard from the hyper busy parent who only gets peace at work, from the employee that finds work a much-needed distraction from a scary diagnosis and from people going through difficult life changes, who feel work is the one part of their life that they feel good about. 

But right now, when we need to entice people back into workplaces and back to their productive selves, the world is telling them that work is unsafe.  And when that happens performance and productivity suffer.

Here are 3 ways to create or restore a safe haven in your work team.  These are common sense commitments that need to exist across all layers in a workplace, for there to be forward moving performance. 

Your role, as a leader, is to channel your inner Mrs Bucket (or is it Bouquet) from Keeping Up Appearances and be on the lookout for lapses in etiquette.

Remembering that how we behave at work ought to be different to how we behave elsewhere will give you a rock-solid foundation for your safe haven. 

Good, clear, enforced boundaries around your safe haven will save you countless hours of staff problems and lost productivity. 

  1. Ensure Respect, Trust and Fairness. I’ve written about these many times before because they are the must have, foundational commitments for a team to thrive.  These concepts can be poorly understood in teams, so it’s worth creating a cohesive perspective on them.

You can work this by opening a discussion with your employees about respect, trust and fairness. Work through examples of when it happens and when it doesn’t and how that impacts on people.  Then agree together on how you can change your actions and behaviours to get to the outcomes you all want. 

By working together on the problem, you will have built engagement and buy in which makes your job of ensuring people perform to the agree standards easier.

From then on leaders gently and constantly remind their people of the agreed professional boundaries. It’s tedious but repetition is the mother of learning.

  1. Clarity and consistency in expectations and communications. Safe havens have a predictability to “how we do things around here”.

People might like surprises at home but at work they represent disruption, chaos and cause people to fear and mistrust. 

A great practice is to adopt a “no surprises” rule at work.  It’s sounds too simple but the best way to succeed is to not to surprise your boss, your team or your co-workers and clients.

Ensuring “no surprises” sign of deep respect.  As CEO Dan Wallace said, ”No Surprises Management seems pretty obvious. Why in the world would you want the people you’re counting on to help you achieve your objectives to be blindsided?”

But we do blind side each other at work, with last minute requests that disrupt workflow, by reacting badly to a mistake instead of offering trust and understanding, though ill-prepared communications and hiding problems from our bosses.

Without this commitment to respect, people reciprocate with their own disrespect and the outcome is disloyalty, backstabbing, low levels of performance, high turnover etc…. It becomes easy to see how a no surprises approach has massive benefits for organisational performance.

  1. Bring back manners. Without sounding too much like Mrs Bucket, I’d like to see manners make a comeback. Not the stifling sort but the ones that remind people that how we behave at work is different to how we behave elsewhere. 

The people problems I mediate often boil down to bad manners.  And often, these costly disputes could have been avoided if workplace manners were considered earlier.  Here are some common examples of bad manners.

Someone didn’t say hi to me, there was no please or thank you, x person ignored me. Instead of asking me to get out of the way politely they pushed into me, x person always interrupts me, that’s not a proper apology, that person speaks too loud or is always later to meetings or check their phone all the time, that person leaves a mess or moved my stuff without asking or washed their feet in the kitchen sick (yes, it really happened).

Upholding manners solves all sorts of people problems, from little issues like greeting co-workers to dealing with the office bigot.

All it takes is to be mindful not to behave in a way that makes others uncomfortable and encouraging your team to do the same.

Until next month,

Andrea Tunjic

Strategic HR & Leadership Coaching

PS: I’m super approachable, please get in touch.

Our human resources article this month has been contributed by Andrea Tunjic (CAHRI) 

Andrea is an award winning Leadership and Human Resources Strategist.

With a diverse career spanning 25 years in the people management space, Andrea has earned a 360 degree perspective on work. She started out as a union official, has worked as a senior HR manager, lead her own small businesses, consults in all aspects of people leadership and business improvement strategies to organizations throughout Australia and has written a book on the topic called People Power.

She is also the creator of a range of online leadership courses aimed at helping managers become more effective leaders and teams to Vibe Up.  She is also the is the developer of ICoachMe, a self-coaching process

that has been recognised by the International Coaching Federation. Andrea’ s approach to people management is engaging, knowledgeable and practical with an unwavering commitment to empowering staff and leaders to work to their best, resolve problems well and enable them to become happier, more empowered and more successful at work