Hitting the right note at work Not everyone realises it, but the mood you bring to the workplace can have a huge influence on the people around you, especially if you’re in a management position. It’s a powerful form of communication and not to be underestimated. If you are in charge, you don’t have to say a word to set the tone in the office for the day. What you express, verbally or non-verbally, can send productivity soaring or plummeting, depending on how you’re feeling. Staff will pick up on your signals very quickly and react accordingly. A former boss of mine was in her first management job when I worked for her and she had received no management training. On particularly busy days her mood often got dark, especially if things were challenging. When I got to work I would email a colleague to take the temperature of the office, to see how the land lay. More often than not, the reply would tell me to “get the hard hat on’’, so I would brace myself for a difficult day. The staff were too scared to speak when our boss was in a sour mood, so we would work in uncomfortable silence. She would emit loud sighs and angry muttering, slam her mouse down on the desk from time to time, her face looked like she’d sucked a lemon and anyone game to ask her anything would get a curt reply. Sometimes she would disappear, only to return looking tearful. Everyone around her would walk on eggshells and it was miserable. I found it astonishing that one person could bring an entire office of people into such a negative space. I don’t think it did productivity any good whatsoever and there was no morale to speak of. And, she was clearly very unhappy. Eventually she left and we all sighed with relief. Her replacement was an upbeat, positive person and the mood of the office lifted immediately. There was a noticeable increase in the flow of good ideas and people were much more willing to volunteer to go the extra mile when required. We resumed some social activities outside work and team spirit grew. We had plenty of laughs during work hours but the work itself didn’t suffer. We met our deadlines, there was far less stress and we didn’t dread going to work any more. Author and professional trainer Tim Schneider, whose company Soaring Eagle Enterprises teaches business development skills, says setting the tone of the workplace is a “core leadership skill that requires effective leaders to invest significant time and energy into the morale and energy of their team members”. However, he acknowledges this comes at a cost:
© Word Wizard 2012
“Perhaps one of the biggest penalties of leadership is that as a great tone setter, the leader is not allowed the luxury of having a bad day. No moping about what happened at home. No complaining about how the organisation has pooped on your career path. No crying about other people or how you have not been dealt a bad hand. Another cost of tone setting is the amount of physical energy that is required to do it well. It is common to report a feeling of being drained when tone setting was used consistently as a leadership skill. “To be effective in this skill set, the leader must recognise that the tone setting responsibility begins the moment that he or she is at the workplace. In some cases this means being a tone setter in the parking lot or walking down the hall to the working environment. Team members will pick up as much on non-verbal signals as what the leader says. Great tone setters approach this phenomenon almost as being ‘on stage’ or ‘show time’.” He gives some tips to help you set up a good buzz for the day: •
Arrive in the work area with an upbeat facial expression, neutral or positive body language and an approachable walking pace.
Even if there is work crying out to be attended to in your office or on your desk, messages to be answered, emails to be read, etc – greet your employees first. This tells them they are the most important part of the organisation.
Make your greeting sincere, positive and individual – and avoid mentioning any work issues at this point. You are setting up good morale for the day. It isn’t a tour of inspection.
Take advantage of further opportunities during the day to maintain or reestablish a positive workplace tone.
Review situations with optimism, provide regular positive feedback, and avoid negative language, sarcasm and gossip (and discourage it in your employees).
Try to maintain a good sense of humour and don’t take yourself too seriously.
The benefits of encouraging others, setting a cheerful tone and keeping a lid on negative behaviour will be many. Schneider says morale will rise, “productivity is enhanced, turnover is reduced, service is improved and the cost for this improvement is absolutely nothing more than a little leadership energy”.
© Word Wizard 2012
Published on Sep 18, 2012
Managers and business leaders can improve morale and productivity in the workplace simply by changing such nonverbal communication cues as b...