Where there is a workplace, people congregate. They talk. They exchange ideas. They develop solutions.
Sometimes, they develop solutions that can advance the business in a big way.
And then at other times, they develop solutions to problems that might have nothing to do with improving the results. Like finding ways to get rid of that annoying co-worker who does everything right.
I’ve worked with leaders who get suspicious when they see employees talking to one another in a context other than a meeting. Even over lunch in the cafeteria. When I am coaching leaders like this, I always spend time with them on the topic of the Three C’s. When you see two or more employees talking together, one of three things is likely happening.
Collaboration – Employees are comparing their information sets to see if there isn’t a better way to do the work. Wouldn’t it be great if you could assume this is what is happening? This is what happens when everyone understands the goals and are recognized for helping make a difference in achieving those goals.
Commiseration – This is when employees join in an “ain’t it awful” discussion. They are complaining together about the performance management process or the new medical plan. They are developing a united front of dissatisfaction. Maybe they are complaining about you.
Conspiration – And here we have employees planning to preserve the status quo, or maybe even to upset the changes they don’t like. This is where they plan resistance, sabotage, or even deliberate obedience.
How do you know which of these is going on? Well, if you don’t know right away, then it is not likely collaboration. Which means you have work to do. And if it is commiserating or conspiring going on, then you need to not get to the bottom of what they are doing, you need to get to the bottom of what you are doing.
The moral, I tell them, is that the only way to know for sure is to be part of the conversation. That’s called engagement. You know when employee engagement is good? When you choose, as a leader to engage them, and create, encourage, and recognize collaboration each and every day.