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10 Business Norms that Damage a Corporation

Call that professional?

Call it crazy but there are those who love to work. Mondays mean the start of productive bliss and not the blues. Weekend work emails are still switched on, in case that important client gets in touch. Shock, horror, there are some who don't even mind working for a comparatively lower salary or five figure bonus. It's something corporations would be only be too happy to hear, but due to current workplace habits, a keen worker is something they can only dream of.

What a shame a large chunk of potential staff choose to join the dole queue instead, or go self employed. It's not that they don't want to work for companies, but current work trends just aren't for them. 

Just as it's a employees job to perform well at their tasks, it is also the company's job to ensure that their staff stay motivated. Worryingly, corporations have adopted a severely unhealthy system which goes beyond making their staff disposable. Jobs are also seen as disposable to existing talent out there, which in turn affects company productivity and revenue due high employment turnovers. To be honest, these companies are asking for it. Some habits, which although are deemed unprofessional in the employer's 101 handbook, still thrive in the workplace, like that annoying little kid trashing up their home just because Mum and Dad love them too much to do anything about them. 

Here are a few examples:

1. Gossip

It's in the old age manual that gossip is an unethical habit but we all do it. It's great to let off steam instead of minding Ps & Qs—we're human and not all of us appreciate having to bite our tongue. However gossip is also a cheap and lazy way to monitor staff for managers who don't have the time. Gossip has some severely damaging effects on careers out there—the action itself is a sadistic method of pushing employees out of an job for the most trivial of reasons. It's to be noted that if someone is more than comfortable to kill the reputation of their own peers, then they will be even more than happy to ruin the reputation of an actual company.

Solution: There's a place and time for gossip and it's nowhere near the workstation or during operational hours. Incorporate a no gossip rule or nip it in the bud early if you hear something negative being said about someone. What does work is counteracting it with a positive comment. Gossip also brews from lack of knowledge on individuals—organise icebreakers regularly as part of office meetings. Not only will this liven up conference room boredom, but it'll give everyone a chance to know each other beyond the corporate facade, dispelling tall tales. If people really need to let out steam, appoint them to an onsite/offsite counsellor who would most likely provide them with constructive advice rather than choosing the next canteen boogeyman.

2. "It's your job to know/You should know this already."

Anyone who uses this line fails to realise how unhelpful they are being as a team player, let alone a leader. It's also a clear deflection on the lack of knowledge possessed by those who say it, but belittles colleagues nevertheless. No one has a right to define someone else's role, especially in the working world where staff are expected to multitask, leading onto duties that aren't necessarily part of their actual job description. Usually those who utter the words "it's your job" are using this awful phrase as a cop out alternative to what they're really mean to say: "I don't know."

Solution: Keep information in an accessible place where everyone can refer to easily. This includes those who use the phrase "You should know." It's quite obvious they're trying to hide incompetence with arrogance. Put systems in place to change that phrase of "you should know" into "let me check."

3. Multiple CRMs/ Working Systems

You put the client information on one system. Then copy and paste it onto another system. Then edit the information to make sure it fits into a character limit on a messaging system. Then log it manually in a book. And finally summarise it again in a report. Then ensure it's all filed away along with a detailed form explaining its contents which are the details on the computer, report notes, and log book. The time taken for this repeated process could've been used to take a client order or complete a much needed administration task. A client will not care that their query has been unattended to in an untimely manner just because their details weren't uploaded onto a computer all the way in a head office fifty miles from where they're calling. Lagging data entry is not part of their needs nor their problem. Companies change CRM and work management systems all the time, which affects productivity and company efficiency. Let's not even get started on the new system training dates, dragging everyone out of the office when they're nearly close to their targets. You know who you are.

Solution: If it aint broke, don't replace it—fix it. There are plenty of computer graduates out there who would be able to churn out their talent in merging different databases into one and they would most likely cost less than losing out on major clients or buying a new database. Hire interns or part time staff to assist in paperwork—transfer it to scanned documents that not only save space but keep things more confidential. It also helps financially too-storage space isn't the cheapest and sometimes even the health and safety of the premises is compromised due to boxes of documents from years ago blocking fire exits and no joke, washrooms.

4. Lack of Diversity/Being a "Food Fit"

The workplace couldn't be a more different picture than the ideal poster child for diversity. The term a "good fit" usually means an office full of people on the same scale of a Meyers Briggs test, family, class, or even worse, ethnicity. Understandably this does lead to the ongoing problem of racism, sexism, homo and transphobia, and various intolerances which result in bullying and lawsuits. Studies show that the most productive teams are the ones with a good mix of different individuals due to tasks being delegated in accordance to various strengths which we all have. Having a team comprising entirely so called "good fits" is a recipe for disaster or at best, stagnation. Companies lose out on potentially excellent talent because of the interviewer's cowardly intentions of not wanting to ruin the status quo.

Solution: Diversity is key in addressing not only client needs but colleagues too. The workplace isn't a schoolyard full of kids, the idea is that it's for adults so it's not unreasonable for staff to expect this. Staff whinges like "I just don't like him/her" should be addressed immediately as a majority of them are based on hateful attitudes towards a particular community. Organise different cultural events, appoint an unofficial event organiser to mind an celebrations calendar and deck out the office for other festivities apart from Christmas. Days like Hannukah, Diwali, Eid, Mother's Day, and Gay Pride are of value to people too. This will add a more positive vibe for the office to look forward to and inclusion has never failed to impress clients or staff alike. Organise team building events and ensure that people pick out colleagues, not friends as team mates. Apply the same to desk arrangements to prevent cliques. The office is a place to work, not a hangout. And before you turn away that interviewee because they're not a "good fit," cross check elsewhere in the company where they could be.

5. Impersonal Management

Let's play devils advocate and agree that managers are human beings and are likely to make mistakes as much as anyone else. They're likely to be affected by personal problems as much as anyone and not all of them enjoy putting on power trip masks without an ounce of regret. Currently, both managers and directors rely heavily on figures on a screen to pass judgement on workmanship rather than popping by at the office as a trusted and authoritative figure doing their job. If they're lucky, they'll have a supportive team who will understand that they're just as vulnerable as them. But when they're sitting there behind a screen judging that their administrator has only being keying in fifty client records while conveniently ignoring the fact that they have been also attending to client meetings, assisting marketing and accounts on their paperwork and an abundance of business queries on a non stop phone, they shouldn't expect any form of empathy even if they're working past the Cinderella hour.

Solution: If the workload gets too much, delegate bite sized tasks that can be afforded to spare. Don't forget to acknowledge the staff who help in this and give them credit. The most respected of leaders are the ones who are willing to share the limelight rather than keeping it for themselves. If supporting staff are having to share figures, start sharing online calendars too which they could update with the tasks they are doing, keeping everyone in the know. This would give a clearer picture on what's being prevented to get things done in a timely manner while saving staff the unnerving conversation on why they missed out on a target. And keep that door open.

6. Not Being Able to Ask Questions

Closely linked to those fond of quoting "you should know this, it's your job." No staff member should be put in a situation where they feel that it's not safe to ask questions about the job. It stalls productivity, creates uncomfortable environments, and is the cause of many mistakes. It also creates "go to" individuals which although flattering for them to be the abundance of office knowledge, creates extra responsibility in an unfair manner—everyone should be the "go to" person, or should be willing to help in anyway they can. Dismissing staff queries as pointless or something they "should know already" or even "shouldn't know" shuns people out of career growth and potential.

Solution: Regardless of how silly some questions may be, always encourage staff to ask. They may come from different working environments where what's normal there will be totally different in their new job. They're going to be making personal changes to their working habits and will need a supportive environment more than ever. Some other staff may want a change in how they get things done—again this is where answering questions, no matter how trivial, will need to be answered without making someone feel that their competence is being questioned. Stay away from the dreaded T for Training word, unless the staff member specifically asks. A few questions on how to gets things right doesn't necessarily mean a retraining session, which also sounds like a line up for demotion.

7. Healthy 'Competition' AKA Sowing Seeds of Sistrust

Humans are a competitive lot—read any history book and it shows. However, unless you're competing for the Olympic games, it would be an idea to tone down the competition rather than encourage it. Humans work better together rather than against each other in the long run. There is nothing healthy about giving people a superior or inferior complex. Half the time winning a competition is about including the actions of sociopath which would include manipulating, backstabbing, stealing from colleagues, fibbing about figures, and licking filthy backsides without guilt. Why on earth would anyone want to be encouraged to feel inferior to that?

Competition also leads to another really annoying habit-comparing one worker to the other. So staff A is better at sales than staff B. That doesn't encourage neither to change their ways. The only time comparing is acceptable is on Trip Advisor. These are people, not holiday destinations.

Solution: Give credit where it's truthfully due. Don't catergorise workers into "best" or "most"—the reason why they're sitting in that workplace is because they all were seen as having the best potential. Why should that change? If you're stuck for ideas on how to distribute prizes, just add it to their payslip as discretionary bonus.

8. Shunning Introverts

The trend of ignoring someone with introvert traits or full introverts is a nasty one. A large number of "unemployable" people are introverts. The ones who don't shake poms poms on the wondrous things they do, when they walk through the door of an interview or save the day from a team drowning in despair. On the other hand extroverts are the ones getting promotions for possessing only a fraction of the working knowledge of their softly spoken counterparts. What's worse is when they wear it like a badge of honour to the oohs and aahs of approving staff waiting in line to gain a pat on the head from the office jock or it girl. Just because someone doesn't aspire to be the equivalent of an attractive Boris Johnson, that doesn't mean they're any less dedicated to their job. Just because someone doesn't constantly sing their own praises about something they're paid to do in the first place, it's doesn't mean that they've failed to achieve it. The office introvert is seen as a suspicious and aloof character that no one wants to be associated with unless running the risk of being part of the untrendy clique.

Solution: Attitudes towards introverts are absolutely pathetic and need to improve. Companies prefer to dismiss introverts as nothing more than unsociable oddballs with valuable skills that don't need to be highlighted. Although an introvert would usually prefer their own company, studies show that they shine in leading presentations and even team projects. Give introverts work assignments that allow the rest of the company to see who they really are, rather than what they're mistaken to be. Have regular catchups with them, or give them a position of trust like buddying up with a new team member. Get them in charge of the office newsletter or brochures with their name as the author. Make sure that their names are known for the right reasons.

9. Inflexible Rules (No Headphones, Strict Dresscodes, No Eating at Desks, Etc)

Treating your staff like naughty toddlers will result in dead end approaches towards their job. Some workers prefer to work creatively, others over a bowl of porridge or wearing denim. Provided that it's not a client facing environment, casual work environments are the way to go compared to posting a whole set of rules for the sake of appearing professional with virtually no one to impress. It's most likely a director would be concerned more on company revenue rather than who broke the acceptable sock colour policy or ate pot noodle at their desk as part of their teabreak.

Solution: There's no such thing as being too content or too comfortable—if you're comfortable being where you are, you're comfortable in getting things done. Modern and successful companies where employees stay longer are decked out in jeans, goth makeup, and cartoon posters without a tie in sight. To top it off, they're full of qualified people, not kids. If your staff are not required to answer the phone, let them tune into their headphones; not everyone is a fan of a mainstream playlist. If someone's wearing canvas shoes instead of high heels, so what? One less of a health and safety hazard. Readdress that rule book and think again—are these rules beneficent for the business or for the sore eyes of a pedantic dinosaur who's never there?

10. Inaccessible Locations

Big cities mean big rent. It's not difficult to see why more companies are venturing to the humble suburbs and industrial parks in the middle of a scenic motorway. Now and then a bus will stop by next to a couple of bridges about fifteen minutes away from the office front door. Add another five to ten minutes with a busy lift that stops at every floor before reaching the penthouse which is the actual address of the office. If only all members of staff knew how to drive...

Cars aren't cheap. If supporting staff easily had enough money to buy their own vehicle they probably wouldn't be feeling the need to work in the first place, let alone in a company twenty seven miles away. Sadly we're not in the age of teleportation as yet so the shiny office in the middle of a dreary unreachable landscape seems to be an ongoing problem.

Solution: With every humble suburb comes a large pool of potential staff on your doorstep. They would be the ones to turn up at the office when needed to, without worries of transportation costs or tardiness issues. The only question is how to hire them. Reach out to the local community spots-the libraries, town halls, or radio station. Set up a recruitment stall in the local shopping mall. This might even attract a client or few. Certain companies arrange company transport vans from the nearest station, keeping staff happy that they don't have to go that extra mile on foot at the crack of dawn.

These are only some of the examples that keep a business from retaining the best of work talent out there. Hopefully with the future focused more on engineering due to relying heavily on technology, things will change. 

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