There are people in my life who work in the construction industry who often get sworn at, berated for small mistakes, and are only rarely, if ever, praised or recognized for their hard work. They don’t like going to work every day and have little respect for their leaders.
While many construction organizations are good to their employees and can be found amongst Canada’s top employers, the experience of those close to me is that many organizations, job sites, and work environments in the construction industry can be toxic.
Why this toxic work environment exists
At SHE Day 2016, Colleen Munroe, the President of Hugh Munroe Construction, spoke about an “old boys club” mentality that still exists in the construction industry. Many believe that employees should do their job because that’s what they’re paid for – they don’t need to like it!
This mentality is often passed down from manager to employee – those who weren’t treated well as young employees now see yelling and intimidating employees as the only way to effectively lead their people.
Why this leadership style doesn’t work
In the short term, barking orders and yelling at employees when they aren’t perceived to be working fast enough might produce results. They want to avoid the wrath of the boss and don’t want to get fired, so they will work faster….
…at least while the boss is hanging around over their shoulder…
The moment their leader leaves, the employees will probably stop working and start conversing about how much they dislike him/her. They will not respect their leader and will never attempt to go the extra mile. They will hide mistakes or problems from leadership simply to avoid being punished. In the long run, this leadership style doesn’t lead to higher productivity – it leads to high employee turnover and hidden mistakes, which may turn out to be extremely costly in the end.
What can I, as a leader, do instead? How can I create a positive work environment?
- Stop the blame game: everyone makes mistakes – managers and employees alike. If an employee makes a mistake, bring it up to them behind closed doors. Tell them that you understand that mistakes happen. Ask for their assistance in resolving the situation and MOVE ON. If you make a mistake, own up to it. If you can take responsibility, then your employees will learn to do the same.
- Have their backs: don’t speak negatively about an employee to others in the organization (unless you would like to breed distrust within your team). If you have something to tell an employee, do so respectfully one-on-one. Let them know that you fully support them and will do whatever you can to assist them in moving forward positively.
- Be respectful: Supervisors and Managers often believe that they deserve respect because their position demands it. However, to gain the true respect of your employees, you need to give them that same respect. Yelling, swearing, and belittling employees only builds resentment. Respect people by setting meaningful expectations, recognizing their hard work, and holding people accountable for their work in an understanding and respectful manner. Demonstrating this respect will, in most cases, lead your employees to show respect to you, their co-workers, and subordinates.
- Say thank you: Employees will thrive when they feel appreciated. Give employees regular feedback (both positive and constructive). If you meaningfully thank an employee for a job well done, (s)he will likely try to do even better the next time to continue receiving that positive feedback.
The truth is, every employee has the right to an environment free of harassment and discrimination. In addition to being mandated by legislation, it is in the best interest of every company to create a respectful work environment. Employees will be more productive, be respectful of those around them and enjoy coming to work.
Click here to view more information about Acuity’s Respectful Workplace Training.