Ask The Experts

Building a safe working environment

Question: I cannot confidently say that my new place of work is harmonious, even though there are few open quarrels and arguments among the people.

Neither can I say that this state of affair can continue this way, because something more serious may be simmering beneath, which may soon show itself.

These worries are causing me to be a little uneasy with the current cordial atmosphere that is going on here. Are my fears founded?

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Answer: You read it well. Lack of conflict does not necessarily mean a healthy environment.

When it appears calm at the surface, it can mean many things apathy, the lack of commitment, boredom, low self-esteem and the fear of offending one another.

When open or silent conflicts are not attended to quickly, they can lead to (silent) resentment, lack of cooperation, lack of energy, avoidance of issues, indirect attacks (or back biting) and later may even lead to open violence, which can have far-reaching consequences.

The situation may call for a change agent, of which you can be the champion of this cause. If possible, get a few accomplices who also feel that the current situation needs a change.

Meet and discuss with them on how to create an open and transparent environment. Look at major areas in the work environment where this can be done, such as during meetings, office communication, everyday dialogue and project work.

Agree on ground rules and expected behaviours with everyone there. Observe and give instant feedback should the previously-agreed upon behaviours not be complied with.

To top it all, you need to ensure that you are a role model to what you want to see happen. Continue doing this till you begin to see the right culture taking shape. Enthuse and encourage those who show signs of making positive changes, especially when people show authentic conversations and communications.

Powerful questions:

What is it about the current situation that is making you uneasy?

What and where would you like to see changes?

What do you want to do as the champion of this cause?

Article by Dr Michael Heah, an ICF Master Certified Coach with


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