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Create a happy workplace which is both constructive and candid

Sanjana Ray
22nd Sep 2016
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We’re all so caught up with the idea of achieving success at any cost that we often forget the journey that will lead us to it. Too many companies nowadays have drilled into their employees the idea of ‘overworking for ultimate gains’, resulting in an almost mechanical work culture. Pretty soon, their days become so routine and stressful that the spark of ingenuity disappears from their lives, and as a direct consequence, the overall productivity and morale of the company plummets.

It is imperative to function as a happy workplace for a more productive and effective work culture, with strategic planning when it comes to feedback and execution. In most offices nowadays, ‘open to feedback’ has become the norm, be it regarding the work of a fellow colleague or even your boss. This new measure of ‘front stabbing’, as it is popularly referred to, has been taken to quite the extreme and, more often than not, causes rifts between fellow colleagues for being a bit too ‘candid’ with their criticism.

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It has been proven scientifically that the brain tends to focus more on the negative than the positive, something every individual will understand considering one fight in an otherwise sunny day can ruin all of it. Similarly, in the workplace there is a tendency to go all out on the concerned employee’s ‘mess-ups’ rather than their worthy contributions, hence crushing employee morale considerably.

Hence, a fool-proof strategy has to be endorsed in these situations, where you offer feedback that contains ‘constructive criticism’, but you also highlight their positive efforts to strike a balance between the two as a safeguard. Being a part of a ‘happy workplace’ does not mean that one has to be “relentlessly positive” all the time, as The Guardian puts it. But at the same time, you have to know where to draw the line of criticism as well.

An instance recorded by The Harvard Business Review accentuates this point. Former Google Employee Kim Scott, who worked for Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg at the time, recalled how effective the latter’s candid criticism on her manner of presentation helped her in her professional life. Sandberg told Scott, “When you say ‘um’ every third word, it makes you sound stupid.” Although some might consider this harsh, Scott wasn’t perturbed or offended. In fact, she said she took the feedback well. In her own words, “I knew that she cared personally about me. She had done a thousand things that showed me that.”

Here are a few ways you can make your workplace dually happy and constructive without sending your employees running for the hills.

Focus on the positive rather than the negative

Not to tip-toe around the matter per say, but it is important that the feedback given to an employee contains as much positive contain as it does negative, if not more. As stated before, the brain will automatically take in the negative quotient faster and hence it should be backed up with a ‘But you also did a great job in the….’ and so on. According to HBR, “Positive communication correlates with much higher worker engagement,” and so is necessary to raise both employee morale and work productivity. It will also make them look at the feedback as ‘healthy’ and will ensure that they incorporate the said changes in their everyday work.

Involve them in decision-making

Although most companies have a hierarchical structure, employee involvement is the key to imminent success. When all the decision-making is executed without the knowledge of the employees at subordinate levels, there is a general tendency of detachment they feel from the project or even the company. This will lead to a major backlash because employee commitment is one of the greatest strengths of any company. Instead, make them aware of what’s happening and ask them insightful questions like ‘What do you think we should do with this?’ or ‘How do you think we should proceed?’ Basically, make them feel involved and their opinions valued.

Be open and objective

Ask any successful business founder and they will tell you that one of the most important parts of working as a team and running a successful business is open communication. Being objective means viewing a situation from all possible angles and suggesting possible alternatives. This will help you win the support of your whole team, who will appreciate you for championing the situation without pointing fingers or playing the blame-game. Consequently, they will grow to trust you and each other and adopt the workplace as their second home.

As a business leader, you have tremendous responsibility to carry out a workplace that is happy, constructive and candid at the same time. But once you master the art of balancing the three, as they say, the ladder only goes upwards.

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