Isolating the most common workplace issues depends at least to a certain extent on the type of business and overall office environment, but in general problem areas fall into four broad categories: communication, harassment and bullying, gossip, and overall morale. How these play out and the effects they have tend to vary from one place to the next. Still, managers and executives in most settings usually have the best shot at eliminating or at least reducing these by paying regular attention to what’s going on at all levels of the corporation, and looking for ways of solving problems when they first arise. Creating a strong office culture can eliminate or at least minimize many issues from the start. Employees also have a role to play, though. They can improve their environments by focusing on the tasks at hand, looking for the positives, and trying to avoid resentment and constant comparisons.
Communication between management and staff is very often one of the biggest causes of workplace issues. If management is not open to listening or implementing solutions that would make life easier or more efficient for workers, it can be perceived as cold-hearted or uncaring. This, in turn, can cause it to lose the respect of the employees. Resentment and bitterness often follow.
If, on the other hand, workers do not give a manager an honest chance to lead the team and refuse to follow suggestions, the manager may also become resentful and angry. In a workplace setting, it is vital that everyone feels that they can be safely and fairly heard. Sometimes this can be done in team meetings; open-door policies and transparency between executives and laborers is also usually a step in the right direction.
Harassment and Bullying
One of the most dangerous problems in the workplace is office bullying, which often goes hand-in-hand with harassment. The main difference is usually the power dynamics between the primary players. Bullying happens most often between employees of equal stature, whereas harassment is usually defined by one person exerting his or her control or authority over someone in a weaker or subservient position. The consequences of each are harmful, both to individuals and corporate teams.
Bullying and harassment happen most often when workers feel pressured by one or more colleagues, bosses, or co-workers into behaving in certain ways. Sometimes the pressure revolves around reporting problems or taking part in illicit activities and sexual relationships, but it can also be as simple as a group or individual ganging up on one or more others in order to make them feel “outside.” People who are bullied in the office often find that they shoulder more than their fair share of the work while others take credit for their efforts.
These behaviors may also have the added angle of threatened job security, which basically means that the person being victimized feels that, if he or she does not “play along,” his or her career is at stake. Although workers may be afraid to speak up in these situations, it is important for the safety of everyone that bullying and harassment be immediately reported and handled at once. If management is not listening or takes part in bullying, employees should speak to human resources staff or individuals in upper management in order to ensure that the work environment remains a safe and judgment-free place for everyone.
Gossip in the workplace is another very common issue that can damage relationships and diminish productivity of people, teams, and even entire divisions. It's understandable on some level for people be interested in their co-workers' lives; with many workweeks stretching beyond 40 hours, workers may see their colleagues more than just about anyone else. When gossip rages about sensitive issues, such as a co-worker's failing marriage or a possible workplace romance, however, it can become destructive and can create a great deal of negativity.
Experts in office dynamics usually say that the happiest workplaces are those in which employees keep overheard conversations or confidential admissions of other workers private and stay out of conversations where others are gossiping. If necessary, individuals can remind co-workers that none of them would probably enjoy being the subject of gossip. Managers can also work to keep personal matters off the table when it comes time to making decisions for projects, assignments, and promotions, and can look for ways of encouraging constructive and positive chatter amongst employees.
Motivation and Morale Issues
Another core issue arises when workers at any level begin to grow dissatisfied with their work. This can happen for a number of reasons. Some are more or less universal, for instance a company deciding to shift the work of departing employees onto those who remain rather than hiring replacements; it can also be personal and individual, though, such as the manager who simply doesn’t get along with key members of her team, or a boss who is disrespected and widely perceived to be unfair.
Whatever their root, morale issues can lead to low productivity and performance issues, which in many cases will impact a company’s bottom line. Solving this problem often starts at the hiring phase, and companies with the best teams often have strong policies in place to hire not just the best candidates on paper, but rather the individuals who will work best, personality-wise, with people already on the team. Looking for ways to balance work and outside life can also help improve morale, and employees who look for ways to make the best out of their situations are often the happiest both when it comes to job satisfaction and individual career development.