That was the question posed during a recent client meeting. How do we get people to care more about each other? How do we get people to be more engaged and trusting? How do we eradicate negative behaviors from our workplace and encourage a higher level of professionalism?
Watching our clients shake their heads in frustration and wonder out loud about why it was so hard to get people to change, I smiled . . . and waited.
When they grew quiet, I asked, “Do you remember the first time you used hand sanitizer?” Blank stares.
I told them, “I’ve been to your offices many times, and I am always greeted warmly. I sign in at the front desk, get my badge and chat briefly with the receptionist while I wait for you. Part of the welcome experience also includes an invitation to use the complimentary hand sanitizer on the desk. Do you realize that sometime in the last 6 months, hand sanitizer has become standard operating procedure for receiving your guests?
“It wasn’t all that long ago that I had never heard of hand sanitizer and now it’s everywhere. It’s in your conference rooms, your restrooms, your hallways, your receiving areas. And you’re not the only people doing this. In fact, another client told me that as a result of their union negotiations their company is required to place hand sanitizer in all workplace common areas.”
My clients laughed. One of them explained that it was the recommendation of their company’s “Pandemic Committee” to furnish hand sanitizer throughout the workplace. They explained, “We want to avoid the spread of flu and other illnesses. We take safety very seriously here.”
And there was their answer to the original question.
If you can get people to use hand sanitizer – and to actually expect that it will be furnished throughout their work areas so that they can use it readily – then you can certainly get people to turn off their BlackBerrys during meetings, calmly talk with each other when problems come up, and demonstrate caring and respect for each other, even in the face of deadlines and disappointments.
The way to change workplace behavior and prevent bad behaviors from going viral is to introduce some very simple habits that help everyone to perform at their best.
In fact, with the hand sanitizer visibly present throughout their offices, I suggested that they stick labels on the sanitizer bottles to remind them of basic habits of good citizenship and behavior:
1. Arrive prepared and on time.
2. Tell the truth.
3. Do your best.
4. Include each other.
5. Be accountable.
6. Offer to help.
7. Increase face to face interactions.
It’s really pretty simple. . . if you make it that way.