negative work experience

The Keys to Overcoming the Negative Work Experience

Conservative estimates claim we spend a third of our lives at work. The unfortunate reality, for many workers, is that the experience of work is marred by negativity. Stress, poor management, distrust of leaders, and the unrelenting pace of change, are just few of the reasons for this. One of the most significant contributing factors to a negative work experience is a mismatch of management practices to employees’ expectations.

What’s more, the complexity of today’s business environment requires managers to re-evaluate their role in the business regularly. In our client work, we see willing leaders struggle to adapt to necessary role changes. Of course, some are unwilling to adopt new ways of managing and leading today’s workforce. As a result, every stakeholder suffers the consequences.

This reality may seem bleak, but there is a path forward. The key ingredients to any potential solution include a leader’s personal touch and the use of technology. Both ingredients rely on high value management practices.

High Value Management Practices

High value management practices have multiple benefits.

  • They help teams collaborate more effectively
  • They help create progress on important assignments and projects
  • In the end, they positively influence employees’ perceptions about work

In my work to understand what makes a positive work experience, I’ve discovered that there are a multitude of high-value practices a manager can employ. For this article, I’ll focus on three of the highest value practices: be technology savvy, focus on workplace climate, and build high quality relationships.

Be Technology Savvy

Microsoft Office recently published a white paper, “5 Faces of Today’s Employees,” that illustrates how generational differences influence technology expectations. The core message of the paper is that leaders need to understand how technology can support the myriad ways employees want to work.

Technology is already an integral part of our lives and its influence will only strengthen over time. When it comes to overcoming a negative work experience, managers can use technology to help employees build work habits that increase their work satisfaction. Some of the benefits Microsoft lists include improving team collaboration, holding productive online meetings, and timely, free-flowing conversations.

Your role as a manager may not include becoming an expert in different technologies. But at minimum, deepen your understanding of how technology can enhance the ways employees can work. Work flexibility is a positive influence on the work experience. It’s also a powerful acknowledgement of employees’ diverse needs to be productive and do quality work.

Focus on Workplace Climate

Most managers are familiar with culture. Culture is a powerful influence on the experience employees have at work. It’s difficult and expensive to change cultural influences that cause negativity. The good news is there’s another approach—focus on climate.

Climate is different than culture. Climate is what it feels like to work somewhere. It’s based on employee perception. Research by the management consulting firm Hay Group finds that a leader’s style accounts for 70 percent of an employees’ perception of climate. A manager can adjust her leadership style more easily than changing the culture. Changes to the climate can nudge the culture in a new direction.

A great place to start improving the climate, is for managers to understand how their style impacts employees. A cost-effective way to do this is through one-on-ones. Managers can ask their employees two straightforward questions:

  • What do I do that helps you be successful?
  • What do I do that creates barriers to your success?

While there are many ways to improve climate, some, like the need for growth opportunities, team recognition practices, greater autonomy, can be addressed by asking these questions.

Build High Quality Relationships

I’ve long advocated that businesses are built on the back of relationships. This gets lost in large corporate environments where the daily grind of work distracts from building high quality relationships. However, for managers who want to positively change the negative work experience, modeling behaviors that strengthen relationships and initiate bond-building between team members is essential.

We are social animals. We thrive when we have relationships with people we like and/or admire. Some of us may, occasionally, need time away from our peers, but none of us can work and make progress in isolation.

Leaders can create a sense of belonging by pairing team members when working on projects. Or they can encourage virtual teams to have connection time at the start of every meeting (this is time allocated at the beginning of a meeting to discuss other topics that promote bonding).

The goal of this practice is to help team members learn about each other’s skills, goals and aspirations, project updates, and even personal insights. We collaborate more effectively when we invest time in building high quality relationships. Other benefits include the belief that we are valued and wanted. It may even increase general happiness.

Be Willing to Make a Difference

It’s a popular belief that it takes on organization wide effort to overcome a negative work experience. While this is ideal, it’s not always practical or timely. The fragile state of most workplaces increases the need for managers who are willing to make a difference for their team… today.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to stress the importance of relationship building and create an optimistic climate. And it’s your awareness of the effective uses of technology that can begin to undo the effects of a negative work experience. It doesn’t require special training to make a change in your work environment. It starts with choice—you choosing to improve your team’s work experience.



This is a Microsoft Office sponsored post

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of Switch and Shift. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

  • I like the idea of giving managers and other influencers questions to consider. It’s mindfulness. It can have an impact on morale over time.

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