Turning toxic water cooler talk into constructive water cooler talk
Two key questions come to mind: What do I need to have and what do I need to know? Yes, Mr leader-manager that would be your employees whom you leave hanging when you or your key leaders fail to communicate sufficiently. Oh, you think this ought to be perfectly clear since everybody (hopefully) has a job description. Think again. Typically job descriptions do not list the authority that any given employee has. Also, neither job description, nor employee handbook cover pieces of information that I would label as tribal knowledge (aka corporate culture). Or are seemingly inane details covered such as who orders ordering paper clips or coffee when they are out?
Lack of information will almost always lead to toxic water cooler talk. The so called grapevine can go rampant with not very constructive rumors and speculations. It adds no value whatsoever.
There is of course an antidote to this costly issue. For one you should allow time for regular one-on-one time with each of your direct reports. Make sure you make it their time not yours when you spend quality time with them. Have regular department meetings. On the agenda: One part of general information where you, the department and the company are header and the other part could be about the status of this year’s goals and how it affects the team members. Last but not least think about having a weekly state of the company meeting. 15 minutes standing up and with all employees. This works well with up to 100 people assuming you have a public space big enough accommodating this crowd. Topics can be open book financial report, success / challenge report outs, sales/engineering/customer support report out, ……. insert your own ideas here.
I try to be as transparent and collaborative as I can be. Yet, no one has ever told me that I am over communicating. I am fairly certain that is the case with you as well. Your top number one job for top number one problem is to turn destructive water cooler talk into constructive water cooler talk.