If there’s one thing true about work environments, it’s that everyone will have good experiences and bad ones – very bad ones. This can happen for a lot of reasons, from company culture to awful bosses. While conventional wisdom would say that we should simply quit, finding a similar job is easier said than done.
The question here, however, is what defines an environment as inherently “good” or “bad,” and how does this affect overall productivity? Logic dictates that a positive, supportive work environment generates happy, engaged employees. Alternately, an oppressive situation leads to poor loyalty, high turnover, and low productivity.
Ultimately, what defines a workplace as being inherently positive or negative lies in a variety of factors, all of which can easily change. If low productivity is an issue, managers should examine some of the following things and make any necessary changes.
Recognition and Productivity
We can’t stress enough how important recognition is in any workplace. This involves more than the occasional incentive or prize; it needs to carry a real message of gratitude.
We’ve covered this topic extensively in the past. A simple “thank you” targeted toward an employee’s achievement(s) indicates that he or she is valued. In turn, individuals will strive to make their employers proud.
But recognition shouldn’t end at junior staff. Managers need to feel acknowledged as well. After all, it’s through their leadership that teams can achieve excellent results. A manager who fosters high morale and co-operation among his or her people deserves to be recognized accordingly.
The Open Door Policy
The workplace may not be inherently democratic – after all, we can’t vote for who becomes our boss. What we should be able to do, however, is oust supervisors who hinder the organization’s overall productivity.
To that end, managers and senior management alike should have a so-called “open door policy.” Like the name implies, this means that any employee should feel free to approach members of leadership with any questions or concerns they may have.
A major problem for many organizations is that they don’t want to hear staff complain. They feel that once authority is established, it needs to be obeyed. This, however, is a terrible attitude. If workers can’t do something when they feel mistreated or underappreciated, they’ll simply stop trying.
Productivity through Communication
Communication with management shouldn’t be limited to complaints. Companies have hundreds – if not thousands – of people working for them. This means that they’re all a potential gold mine of great (or not so great) ideas. Good or bad, it’s important to encourage openly sharing suggestions. After all, one good idea is often all it takes to dramatically improve performance.
Of course fostering such an environment is management’s responsibility. Aside from the aforementioned open door policy, regular team meetings or individual evaluations are a great opportunity for feedback. As senior staff, it’s important to emphasize that there’s no such thing as a bad idea (even though that’s technically not true). We don’t mean that even the most impractical of suggestions deserve implementation, but rather that staff shouldn’t be laughed at – publically or privately – just because they tried to make things better for everyone.
Benefits to Productivity
So how does a positive work environment help employees be more productive? According to an article published in Harvard Business Review, “Engagement in work — which is associated with feeling valued, secure, supported, and respected — is generally negatively associated with a high-stress, cut-throat culture.” Consequently, this lack of engagement leads to poor effort.
Furthermore, “In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time.”
The bottom line (no pun intended) is that if improving productivity is the ultimate goal, “cracking the whip” simply isn’t the answer.