How to cure workplace dysfunction

As a marketing leader, you are responsible for guiding your direct reports, but also keeping your clients cool, calm, and collected; they are putting their trust in you and your team to deliver the goods. It takes a great deal of skill to juggle all of those roles, so a stable work environment is key. But what if your work environment isn’t all sunshine and daisies? Even worse, what if you’re contributing to the darkness? I spoke with Brandon Smith, author and founder of the Workplace Therapist, who had a lot to say on the subject of workplace dysfunction.


What causes workplace dysfunction?

Getting to the root cause of the dysfunction is the first thing leaders can do to make corrective changes. That said, one has to identify which of the two workplace dysfunctions are at play.

“Workplace dysfunction occurs in two ways—structural and emotional,” explains Smith.

  • Structural: “Any structures, systems, or procedures that prohibit one from achieving what they could or should be able to normally achieve. Meetings, for example, are almost always dysfunctional.”
  • Emotional: “Any kind of emotional or mental block that can prohibit people from having a healthier or optimal emotional well being in the workplace.”


Why it’s a problem

Bottom line, how you treat your team does affect your bottom line. In fact, when you’re running an unhappy workplace, not only are your employees impacted, but your clients will feel the discord as well.

“Emotions are contagious,” says Smith. “It goes back to your clients; how do you want your clients to feel? They’re going to feel what your team feels, which is what you feel. Do you want your clients anxious and depressed? I don’t think so.”


How to cure workplace dysfunction

In order to change the course of workplace dysfunction, leaders have to tap into their EI skills. To help cure your environment of workplace dysfunction, leaders have to be actively engaging in the following:

  • Notice your own emotional mood. If you’re feeling anxious all the time, your team is going to feel that. If you’re feeling depressed, you’re team is going to feel it, too. Ultimately, they’re going to feel what you’re feeling.
  • Are you clarifying expectations? Dysfunction can often be eliminated if expectations are clear and out in the open.
  • Provide positive feedback. “Whenever you’re giving feedback, make sure you’re at a 3:1 ratio—three positive remarks for every negative. You’re reinforcing the good things that people are doing—making sure their emotional bank accounts are full. You’re also appropriately course-correcting, as your team needs correction.”


Curing your environment through emotional intelligence

“It’s all wrapped up in emotional intelligence. It takes a certain amount of emotional intelligence to reflect on how you’re feeling,” advises Smith. “There’s a certain level of emotional intelligence to being able to adjust and give people positive feedback. It does require a degree of intentionality.”

When managers can tap into their self-awareness, as Smith explained in a TEDx talk, they can positively impact their environment. It starts with owning your emotions. With that ownership, you can create a work ecosystem that is out of this world.

Post by Taryn Barnes

Taryn Barnes is a freelance writer and journalist. She writes about HR Tech and the evolution of the workplace and has written on workforce trends for Forbes and Workforce Magazine.