I spent many of my years living in the south and experienced many different storms; thunderstorms, cloud bursts and hurricanes. Naturally, some storms were more severe than others, but I also learned that severity doesn’t necessarily correlate with the degree of danger. Let me explain.
A hurricane is much more severe than a thunderstorm, but a flash flood can be much more dangerous. Why is that? It’s because the hurricane provides plenty of warning while the flash flood can occur with very little warning, catching people unprepared. I also noticed that the larger the storm, the more time one has to prepare for it. Sitting on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, you can feel the shift of the wind, the wetness in the air and the clouds on the horizon. When you see these warning signs you turn your boat around and head back to shore.
When it comes to your work climate, there are often signs of an approaching storm. If you are in-tune with the people you work with and around, you can feel when the company is not going right, when things are beginning to change. However, too many of us are not in-tune with our work environment. Certainly we know what we are doing, and we know when our buddies Steve and Sally are upset, but we fail to notice outside of our immediate spheres. Take a walk around your office, anyone missing? Is that one guy who smiles all the time now sitting quietly minding his own business? How about the woman with the contagious laugh, when was the last time you heard that?
Before a company collapses or slides into a period of turmoil, there are many warning signs, just like with a storm. Here are some signs of a potential storm coming to your place of business.
- Absenteeism: this is a common symptom of people not happy at work, but pay closer attention to the people who rarely miss work and are now missing work more regularly.
- Grumbling: while people do tend to gripe about things at work, it is the content and frequency of the grumbling that is critical. When grumbling changes from “Oh God, another Monday” to “I don’t even care, they don’t listen to me anyway.” This is a sign that you are losing your people. This person wants to participate, but isn’t allowed to do so.
- Bickering: when co-workers start bickering with each other it needs to be addressed immediately, unless you want a whole lot of people to leave the company. Sometimes bickering is a social dynamic rather than a work dynamic, but when it occurs at work it affects everyone
- Silence: this may very well be the worst sign of a storm, because with silence you don’t get to hear what’s going on. It’s fully up to you to notice a lack of noise, to notice something missing. When the office is full, but so quiet you can hear the clicking of the antiquated clock on the wall, that could be a sign of a big problem ahead.
If any of you are familiar with the south, you realize that not every sign of a storm materializes into a storm, and the same is true for the office. I’m not a meteorologist so I don’t know what intervenes that stops the storm from forming, but in the office you need to be the intervening force.
*previously published on LinkedIn