Protecting Your Team Culture

How Can You Positively Contribute to Team Performance in Divisive Times

fighting-co-workers

It happens every four years. During elections many people become impassioned with communicating their every thought and feeling about the candidates, their concerns and the causes important to them. This is all well and good when having discussions with friends who will likely be open to having a give and take conversation, but if your employees are connected on social media there are potential pitfalls that could crop up in the workplace.

As we focus on enhancing teamwork and communication through Emotional Intelligence, let’s examine some possible threats to productivity as we enter into a New Year with an upcoming transition happening in the White House this month.

OVERSHARING

While people are often friendly in the office, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have deep and abiding friendships in life – e.g. they may not spend time together outside the office, share common views, etc. When this is coupled with being “friends” on social media, it can present challenges.

Because social media is a great way to stay in touch with many people from across different facets of life, people sometimes have a tendency to “overshare” information with a larger group of people than they actually would without that podium. When these associates also work in the same office together, people who do not share the same viewpoint may start to view their colleagues with different lenses. In doing so, co-workers may find themselves wanting to disagree, dislike or disrespect someone in the office because they did not like their point of view outside the office. Even though they may try to set aside what the other person has posted that they didn’t like, it can secretly linger in the back of their minds as a judgment.

To overcome this, co-workers connected on social media should consider setting up specific groups to share certain information with when posting, to share with an audience that shares the same views or to share with a close group of friends. If your platform does not allow this function, we should encourage associates to think about professionalism and how they want to be perceived in the workplace (and in the world – your digital footprint will follow you forever!). Do employees want to be taken seriously, work well with others and be a contributing team member? Then mindful posting and possibly filtering information shared would be advised.

Of course social media is considered “your voice” … so why, you ask, should we have to employ a filter? Just think about how you feel when you think someone else shares damaging, hurtful or one-sided information when you somehow identify with the opposite view. This bus usually travels on a two-way street, and there are times people could be feeling the same thing from you. Sharing more benign, thoughtful and universal information helps prevent this and can assist with keeping the peace in the office. Limiting your posts about a topic are also helpful – some get carried away and post several times a day about the same viewpoint, which can actually lessen a message anyway due to overexposure.

ATTACKING

This comes into play specifically when people share such opposite or one-sided viewpoints that they can be seen by the “rival” group as extreme or caustic (when, in fact, someone from this other group may be doing the same thing from the opposite extreme, which results in both sides feeling the pain). These “one-sided” individuals tend to generalize and may, purposely or inadvertently, attack an entire group of people when trying to prove a point. This may occur even though all people in that group (or even people in the middle) may not share some of the viewpoints associated with the generalized rant.

Attacking can come in the form of name calling, condescending, bullying or making fun of individuals or a group. A post that feels like an attack to one person may have been as helpful by the person giving the information, because when they are so passionate about their viewpoint they put it out forcefully in an attempt to educate or convince others of its importance, certain of their message. Unfortunately, most of us have never seen anyone won over by these types of posts that poke fun of other people. It just serves to alienate others, sometimes even those who are in the same camp. When people feel “attacked,” the intent of the poster may not even realize the energy conveyed with their post. In some cases, they were just trying to be funny. Not everyone sees it that way though. Then you wonder if you run into a situation where someone ends up feeling harassed for differences, which could get you into legal hot water.

Attacking is particularly dangerous to a work culture. It causes people to not want to cooperate or work together, and often breeds discontent and disrespect. In the case of a supervisor being “friends” with employees on social media, if a leader’s posts appear to attack a certain group of people (voting affiliation, candidate supporters, belief holders, etc.), any subordinates in that group could feel their job is threatened back in the office if they don’t subscribe to the same viewpoint, even if it’s not. It’s all about perception.

TIPS FOR PARENTS

This happens in schools, too. I have spoken with students who held opposing views and were afraid to say anything for fear of repercussion from their teacher. Children’s viewpoints often come from their parents, so parents out there should be aware of the things they say about candidates and issues, noting that the impression is being made on young minds and the way they communicate in the world. This is sometimes the beginning of bullying among children in schools, when children debate who is best on the playground. Wouldn’t you rather they just play as planned instead of argue?

Raise open, intelligent, tolerant minds who will move well together in the world. They are our future, and teaching them that differing values can help provide balance is useful. Specifying to them that it’s good for people to hold different views, but that we should all respect one another and work together well regardless of differences is the key to success.

SAFEGUARDS

To prevent divisiveness and a lack of teamwork, everyone should consider what type of information they share and how they share it. This is primarily a Relationship Management issue, but it requires a high degree of Self-Awareness and Self-Management in order to execute effectively.

Why should you care? Shouldn’t you be able to share whatever you want, whenever you want? Of course … your social media platforms are your voice to freely express yourself. Just realize there could be some repercussions to that, especially when you are connected with others in the workplace. Others can and will view you differently based on what you disclose about yourself and your life, opinions, actions and activities. Consider privacy standards and connections as you navigate your positive EQ pathway.

From an Emotional Intelligence standpoint, it would behoove you to pay attention to how people make you feel. We are a diverse country with many different viewpoints, backgrounds, races, religions, national origins, etc. It is one of the best thing about living in these United States of America.

It is important that we come together and work to accept one another, even at times when that may feel tumultuous to some and individuals do not appear to understand one another. I have seen some unfriending going on in the cases where there was such a value mismatch that people can’t imagine themselves staying connected. That ended up being a good solution for some if they needed to not be connected with people they weren’t really friends with anyway.

But just think … if some of those people also worked together, what then? De-friending can lead to divisiveness spreading into the office, and it can then breed gossip. That is not a good scenario for your company, and productivity and cooperation will go down.

Be mindful of your actions, and realize there are certain helpful tools that allow you to hide updates from people so you don’t even see them. Or I like to think of Dory in “Finding Nemo,” and how she always said, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!”

In this scenario, every time you see the familiar poster you have no desire to read come across your timeline, you can simply tell yourself, “Just keep scrolling! Just keep scrolling!”

THE BEST APPROACH

Ultimately it comes down to the thought I saw on a recent meme, regardless of your viewpoint: “Be a nice human.”

When you have a goal of treating everyone with kindness, compassion and tolerance, wanting to be an example rather than operate on a need to prove a point, the rest of it fades into the background.

Look for the common ground with others, not the differences. That is where we find our connection and are truly united.

Wishing you all a safe, happy, productive and healthy New Year!

OH! AND PS …

If you are posting on LinkedIn, that is a business social networking site. Posts there should definitely have a professional tone, and not a personal one. 🙂

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