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Whaa! When Your Work Team Turns Mean and Childish


Is your work team turning leaner and meaner lately? Okay, scratch the "lean" part. Your work team is just plain mean.

Your once-smiling co-workers no longer say "hi" when you walk into the room. You know it's not you, because they're doing it to each other, too. Eyes are rolling in staff meetings as much as biting commentary rolls off the tongue. Your once-friendly work team now lacks compassion, consideration and patience. They don't have each other's backs as much as they're busy backbiting. Kindness seems so 2015.

When Your Work Team Turns Childish
You're spending valuable mental bandwidth trying to figure out the source of your team's childish attitude problem. It's not layoffs; there haven't been any layoffs in quite awhile, thankfully. It's not a negative new hire; the new staff additions are great people.

It's not the work; everyone's workload is fairly balanced. It's not that your co-workers are trying to cut corners by getting to work late and leaving early; they put in an honest day's work, and they work hard. So what's the problem?


It's been very demoralizing to watch accomplished adults bickering back and forth and taking the bait like middle schoolers on Twitter, on cable news, and everywhere else. It's become more acceptable to bully, to taunt, to outright lie and to mock others. It's okay to call people names and to "fight back". And it feels like it's not going to stop anytime soon. Where have all the adults gone?


Unsurprisingly, incivility is making its way onto our work teams. When the Workplace Bullying Institute surveyed U.S. employees last spring, it revealed a growing sense of despondency over our treatment of each other at work. More that half surveyed (61%) said their workplace relationships have suffered more in 2017. Another 46% believe the 2016 presidential campaign had a negative impact on employees.

But how can you positively impact a work team that is suddenly suffering from a basic civility deficit? Here are seven tips:

1. Be the change you wish to see. Everyone on the team has becoming more backbiting and sarcastic, but it doesn't mean you need to follow suit. Choose to be kind and compassionate every day. It's a choice.

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2. Be the team's moral conscience. Two teammates are openly mocking another co-worker, perhaps in their presence. Instead of remaining silent simply say, "That's unkind" or "That's mean." Refuse to participate in an unfair take down of a fellow teammate.

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3. Be fair in your dealings. Lying is becoming more acceptable in a post-fact world and there seem to be no major consequences for it so far. But continue to play fair at work. Know your boundaries, find your moral compass. Your word is your bond. Once you lose someone's trust, it's awfully hard to get it back.

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4. Be mindful. Always be thinking ahead, because what you say today could have big impacts on your reputation tomorrow. As the old saying goes, it's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

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5. Be realistic. If you wouldn't dare say something to somebody's face, then don't say it online, either. No, really! If you can't say it to somebody's face, then you shouldn't say it at all.

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6. Be the grown up. Too many grown adults online are acting like they're still in middle school, and there's temptation to follow the crowd to look "cool." Let's stop "adulting," and just be adults. Besides, you're already cool.

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7. Be you. You're a good person who doesn't need to take a teammate's bait. Pick your battles wisely, because you are wise.

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We live in strange times that force us to think more deliberately, and with greater intention. Especially when we're dealing with middle school behaviors on our work team. We can be the adult in the room at work. It's really all we can do right now. One employee at a time. Keep up the good fight.

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