According to research, conflicts with coworkers or supervisors and high emotional stress significantly increase the likelihood of an occupational injury. Interestingly, the lack of job satisfaction or job commitment doesn’t considerably increase the risk.
Negativity is Toxic
Think about it. How many people have stayed at a job because they like their coworkers, but not necessarily the work? On the flipside, how many good workers have gone elsewhere due to a colleague they couldn’t stand—or a chronically negative boss?
After a particularly negative encounter with her superior, a colleague (pretty high on her company’s food chain) told me, “People don’t leave jobs because of difficult work. People leave jobs because of difficult bosses.” Leaders and managers—whether working on the assembly line or in the boardroom—have a responsibility to set the emotional tone for a company. Workplace negativity is toxic.
Daniel Goleman and his colleagues’ book Primal Leadership summarizes its message in this manner: “If a leader resonates energy and enthusiasm, an organization thrives; if a leader spreads negativity and dissonance, it flounders.” Later, they write, “For too long managers have seen emotions at work as noise cluttering the rational operation of organizations. But the time for ignoring emotions as irrelevant to business has passed.”
I once had lunch with a human resource consultant and mentioned that we were considering using a standardized emotional intelligence measurement tool as a factor when hiring new employees. He told me that I should stop reading MBA textbooks and find someone who could hire the right employees for me. Puzzling in light of the research, isn’t it? (By the way, that wasn’t in any of my textbooks.)
Striking the Right Tone
A hostile emotional environment, higher employee turnover, higher injury rates… all of these things negatively impact the workplace. Perhaps it’s time to pay more attention to the research regarding the things that positively impact productivity and reduce injury rates. Maybe it starts with employees and leaders who strive to strike the right emotional tone.
To be sure, I’m not placing blame on leaders and managers for workplace injuries. Unfortunately, accidents and injuries happen. Employees move on. The goal of an organization should be to remove barriers to safe work practices, implement effective safety measures, and create an environment that makes people want to work for the company. When leadership can set a positive emotional tone with employees while reducing workers’ comp costs and turnover simultaneously, it only makes business sense to do it.
How can your company do this? First, walk the shop floor or office corridor and get to know your employees by name. Ask them about their day. Take a genuine interest! Second, when conflicts arise amongst employees or leadership, deal with them head-on. No good worker, manager or leader likes to work in an environment that fosters discord. If they do, it’s time for a change. PM