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Does it matter if your colleagues like you? 

3 June 2014

We cannot like everyone we work with but how serious is it if colleagues do not get on and what can employers do to address a hostile environment?

Unfortunately, nearly half (49 per cent) of Australian employees in large businesses (250 or more employees) admit that they dislike their colleagues, according to research conducted by global workplace provider Regus. This is a troubling result as animosity between employees can often lead to conflict and may even escalate to workplace bullying or harassment.

The study, released on 26 May, identified several key reasons why employees may find it difficult to like their co-workers. The most common response was the belief that the colleague had a poor work ethic (31 per cent).

Employees who are unable to do their job properly received 19 per cent of their disgruntled co-workers’ hostility, followed by those who act in an overpowering and controlling way (18 per cent) and individuals who believe they are "too good to work hard" (11 per cent).

The survey respondents believed the best way to handle the co-workers they disliked would be to manage their performance until they improve their work ethic and abilities (53 per cent). Just over a third (34 per cent) agreed that getting to know the individual better may be the best solution, while 6 per cent thought the only option would be to fire the disliked employee.

Training

This shows the clear danger that a lack of performance management poses to employers. Where employees are perceived to be “not pulling their weight”, hostility and resentment may build up amongst the other members of the team. With more than half (53 per cent) of those surveyed stating that performance management would be the best approach to making a team member more “likeable”, it is imperative that employers ensure managers are responding appropriately to poor performance and are trained in how to effectively conduct performance management.

Furthermore, if it is suspected that underlying tensions exist within a team that may be harming productivity and damaging a positive work culture, employers can take action by conducting a workplace inquiry to uncover any risks and to seek out the cause of the tension.

This will enable employers to put remedial measures in place to address any concerns around behaviour, performance, cultural issues or management which are uncovered and may be causing problems within a team.

This approach may help employers to avoid claims of bullying or harassment and to identify ways in which to improve performance and engagement such as training or coaching for individuals, mediation between parties where needed and structured performance management.

Additionally, Regus Australia and New Zealand Chief Executive Officer, Paul Migliorini suggests some tips for employers to improve working relationships:

  • Have areas in the workplace for workers to collaborate and socialise together to help increase staff engagement
  • Introduce flexible working methods allowing workers to have more control over where and when they work
  • Help team members to improve their skills with training and development opportunities and coaching
  • Set up a structure with goals for managing workers in order to help them get to where they need to be and to increase their abilities
  • Host social functions to encourage mingling between co-workers
  • Foster a positive work environment such as writing the company values up on the wall with positive messages.

iHR Australia offers extensive workplace training solutions, including customised and blended learning to help foster an inclusive and positive working environment. Additionally, iHR provides executive coaching and consultancy to ensure business leaders can effectively manage a diverse workforce.

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