A friend of mine…ok, maybe it was April…went to take a shower this weekend only to find worms in her bathtub. Obviously, this is gross, and obviously she texted me freaking out about how gross it is to find worms in your bathtub. It ends up that this is a common phenomenon, and is a sign of an underlying infestation problem.
Nobody wants to think about worms or bathtub infestations, but sometimes the biggest problems seep out in the smallest ways. This is all too common in the workplace. Perhaps it’s a coworker, going over your head one too many times instead of coming directly to you. Or maybe it’s someone coming out of nowhere and starting to nit-pick your work a little too closely. Either way, it’s aggravating, frustrating, and you know it’s going to mean a whole lot of intensive work to fix the problem.
Like with bathtub worms, we all wish we knew where these problems started, or why. I can attest to the fact that April isn’t a dirty, nasty-pants…she happens to live on the coast in a wet environment, and has a very old home. But why worms, and why the bathtub? Similar to at work, why go over your head or why suddenly start nit-picking? An ideal work environment would foster open communication; anyone can come to you if they have questions and you can discuss it like mature adults.
One of the jobs of a manager is to not play favorites and to not allow employees to power-trip. Have open discussions, ask the employee if they’ve gone to their coworker with an issue (obviously this may not come into play in harassment type situations), create the environment where coworkers communicate honestly and openly with one another. If someone can always run to the boss with an issue, then the employee in question will feel they are being attacked, marginalized, and like their opinions and voice don’t matter. If this carries on long enough, a bigger infestation will grow and mistrust can become a real issue.
When employees feel like they’re being picked on, spied on, or overrun, morale decreases and the infestation will grow. Resentment, unhappiness, and productivity can decline and you’ll find yourself wondering where all the worms are coming from. As you begin to pull away the tiles, you’ll realize the problem is bigger than you thought and will end up costing a lot in both time, and money, to fix.
PS – I promise April isn’t gross…but worms are.