Friction in the workplace is part of life. It’s inevitable that when you gather a group of people together to work towards a common goal, friction will arise. We are all human and as such we are prone to good days and bad days, we are likely to get sick, feel tired at work and feel stressed from work and personal pressures. Friction happens simply from interacting with one another. Think of the friction you have experienced yourself; when you resent someone holding a meeting that drags on too long while you have a million other things you could be doing, or when someone interrupts you while you are trying to get an important task done with a looming deadline, when someone sends far too many unnecessary and long-winded emails or when someone doesn’t trust you enough to just do your job without breathing down your neck… whatever the reason, friction is an inevitable part of working life and something we have all experienced. While it is inevitable and unavoidable, it can also be dangerous for an organisation’s productivity if it gets out of hand.
If you are in a leadership role, being acutely attuned to the friction within your team is crucial to keep the tension to a minimum and not let it overwhelm the morale and productivity of your staff. Friction can lead people to think they have opposing values and it can become a reason to stop trying. Friction can result in the collaboration between two people/ two teams to drag or start grinding to a halt.
Getting your team to see the bigger picture and re-connect
One of the best ways to reduce the effects of friction is to take time out to re-evaluate what’s important and to reconnect to a higher meaning, to remind everyone what you are working towards. Often reminding staff of the bigger picture allows everyone to feel part of something bigger than themselves. It allows people to focus on the more important purpose of their work and can be a great way to motivate your team and reinvigorate their energy and intent.
A great way to minimise the friction within your team is to ask them to individually write down what’s important to them at work. Ask them to answer this question “What, in your opinion, makes for a healthy workplace?” Give them time to ponder this question and write down their answers. Then, if they are not gathered together already, organise a time where
everyone in your team can get together and ask each individual to read out their answer, or even better write down on a white board what they read out. Ask your team to notice what they hear. Perhaps after each person reads their answer you could ask someone else in the team to reiterate what they have just said, in their own words. Then ask the person who just read out their answer, if they agree with their colleague’s interpretation. More often than not in this situation, there is agreement.
And more often than not, the answer to the question “What, in your opinion, makes for a healthy workplace?” is, in any variation of wording;
At the highest level, or at the global level, we all agree these are the two crucial factors that make for a healthy workplace. The friction that occurs, is happening at the lower levels. And the friction is happening because we are all human. We get sick, we get tired, we get frustrated, we get anxious, we get jealous and we have other stuff going on outside of work. Sometimes, because we are human, we simply don’t meet up to others’ expectations of us. We don’t even live up to our own expectations of ourselves at times. It’s important to gather everyone together to reflect on these higher values from time to time.
Of course, there are things that can be done at the lower levels to help minimise friction. Gathering productive feedback on processes and procedures is also a great way to tweak how things are done to help make life easier for your staff and help them do their jobs more effectively. Amending the guidelines around meetings, amending the guidelines around how to communicate within the team. By putting some structure around how and when you communicate, the friction can be minimised as everyone is aware of the boundaries and expectations.
Keeping focussed on the higher purpose and the shared values of collaboration and respect is an important aspect of any workplace. They are a whole bunch of ways you can achieve this, and I have outlined just one practical way to do this. However you approach it, as a leader it acts as a great reminder of our shared human experience and is a good exercise in empathy and compassion, something we need more of in all aspects of our lives.
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.