I often meet with clients and contacts at a discrete coffee shop to talk through current or future projects we are working on.  I often get there 15 minutes early for some quiet time to plan and get myself organised for the meeting.  I am constantly stunned and amazed at the number of people who are sitting next to me at the coffee shop who are there to have a bitch and moan about their boss or a work colleague.

I have been going to the same coffee shop for quite a while now and in the past month I’ve really noticed a massive spike in the number of these conversations taking place – but you can trust me, I’m not eavesdropping!

Why are these conversations happening in a coffee shop with colleagues as opposed to a line manager or human resources representative?  There are a number of reasons for this and my top three would be:

1.Lack of trust in your boss or colleague to have the needed challenging conversation

2. Lack of people, process or structure to facilitate the issue

3. Lack of a formal/informal feedback loop

So, what can you do about this?  I previously wrote a blog about Cohesion and how to build a high performing workplace.  In this article I mentioned that to build cohesion in your business you really need to ask yourself a number of key questions – five in fact.  The two that are most relevant in this instance are:

1.How do you measure and manage performance of your teams?  If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage and improve it

2.How are you measuring how engaged your teams are? When is the last time you’ve done an engagement survey and actioned all the key initiatives that came out of it?

Are people having these gripes because they aren’t performing in their role or their boss/peers haven’t been clear about what is expected of them?

Have they had these issues for a while, and they haven’t had a forum to discuss them or voice their opinion?

If you don’t have a workable performance framework or survey feedback tool, have a look at Employee Life which we have developed at Optimum to support this process.  Whether you do or don’t have a framework that works, here are three questions and tips that I would recommend asking yourself if you’re not getting a great vibe from people who work for or with you.

1.When is the last time you had a genuine conversation with your boss or colleague and had a genuine interest in them – not the work you are doing?

2.When is the last time you’ve had a catch-up coffee, drink or similar with them?

3.Have you asked your boss recently about how you’re going and performing – are there any areas you can improve in?  Are there any areas that you can improve that have been raised by others?

By opening dialogue and finding some common ground, you will be able to identify areas that will move the mood, conversation and outputs to be a lot more fun and productive.

At Optimum (yet another shameless plug 😊) we partner with organisations to improve the performance of their business through people and cover all of these key areas mentioned above.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this delicate topic and how you have improved the situation.

Richard Dunks – Executive Consultant

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