Communications Open Forum

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Stop Taking the Bait

By Heather Joyner posted 02-20-2019 07:53


When you have a member of your team approach you to share of a little gossip regarding a co-worker, how do you handle it? Do you have them pull up a chair and engage in unproductive conversation? Do you get upset and make rude, inappropriate comments? Do you react by showing your authority? Or, do you become frustrated and take your anger out on the whole shift or department?

You know, it's easy to take the bait of buying into the stories and assumptions of others and allow negativity and destruction to take its course. It's especially easy when caught off guard to react without thinking.

When in a position of supervising, managing or leading, you have to create space, become curious, fact-find and coach others to do the same.

Leadership inside a PSAP or a 24x7 facility is very unique as the work environment never shuts down due to personnel working around the clock, day in, day out, to include nights, weekends and holidays. If you don't have a strong, unified supervisory or management team, the cycle of negativity and gossip can linger forever.

When you are caught off guard, take a breath and create space to give yourself time to process information. It's hard not to react to the behaviors and mannerisms of others. At times this may require you to set a boundary and have the employee come back when you are prepared to listen, focus and not be in a position of multi-tasking. 

Creating space may also mean that once you have heard of a situation, incident or issue, that you not respond but set a time for a follow-up meeting, allowing yourself time to think about corrective actions or strategies for handling. Avoid the tendency to focus on a solution before clearly identifying the problem. Put your focus on results. What result do you want versus the results you are getting?

When information is shared, become curious. Ask questions to gain clarity of the situation. When you find yourself doing more talking than asking questions than you know you've already taken the bait and now are engaging in unproductive conversation.

Fact-finding is vital in determining validation regarding an incident. This may be in the form of running statistical reports, having a team meeting with all involved, or doing your own performance review or observation. Once you have all the facts then you may react by setting expectations and boundaries for improved behavior or performance. At times this may even require following up with Human Resources on a course of action, which may include approval of a work plan, the use of EAP (counseling), or disciplinary actions. In short, you need facts to get to the root for setting a realistic goal or seeing the results of a positive encounter.

24x7 work environments will always allow you an opportunity to grow, learn, course-correct, or become consumed with drama, negativity, and gossip. Professionals working in these environments need support and management has the responsibility to perform with expectations for setting employees up to be successful. 

Coaching or mentoring employees is a positive approach for reducing the workplace drama that impacts your call centers performance. Coaching (versus fixing) is a better method of promoting a workplace culture of personal responsibility and improving productivity rather than allowing your call center to revolve in turmoil. So, what are your actions steps going to be today?