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How to Fight Terrorism
in the Workplace

They may not kill people, but certain ill-conceived actions, whether by co-workers or by management and whether deliberate or not, could be the death blow for productivity, morale and the free flow of ideas

by T.T. Mitchell

I hate terrorists. I hate the concept of terrorism, I hate the acts of terrorism, and I hate the results of terrorism. Thereís nothing positive that can ever be attained through acts of terrorism in any way, shape, or form.

Now, when I mention the word terrorism, every person reading this immediately thinks of whatís going on in the outside world today - in most cases, in some distant country.

What most people donít think of, though, are the acts of "terrorism" that happen every day in the regular workplace.

Personally, I work for myself; were I to pracice terrorism, I would probably need to be committed. But in a regular workplace, where they are at least 5 employees, acts of terrorism could be occurring on a daily basis.

Everyday examples

What do I mean? Though no one dies through these types of acts, here are some examples of what Iím referring to as "business terrorism";

  1. Someone sabotaging a project intentionally so it will fail.
  2. Someone talking badly about another person.
  3. Someone passing information along to sources who donít need to know it.
  4. Someone trying to work on projects they donít have enough knowledge on.
  5. Someone passing along bad or incomplete information.
  6. Someone taking credit for another personís work and ideas.

The problem with issues of this sort are that, intentional or not, they bring down the efficiency and camaraderie of the workplace. Free ideas canít flow if someone is clogging the pipeline, for whatever reason.

Very few positive accomplishments can be attained because thereís no sense of cooperation, and almost no one cares whether achievements have been made or not. Thereís a general sense of entitlement, without any real commitment to success.

Most insidious of all

The most insidious thing about this type of terrorism is that it might be fostered, knowingly or unknowingly, by the manager or supervisor.

Management canít only be concerned with product and process; management needs to be concerned about people. Bad management will allow employees to fail in more ways than one; good management, though it probably canít totally stop terrorism, can minimize it and its effects drastically.

Letís face this one fact first; terrorism can never be totally eliminated. If someone is totally committed to ruining you and your life, thereís little you can do except to get rid of that person.

But there are no guarantees that the next person you hire will be better; there arenít even guarantees that the terrorism bug hasnít already been passed on to someone else already working for you.

As an example, you have one employee who routinely talks badly about management to another employee whoís always believed everything that person says. Management learns about this employee and terminates them; suddenly, the newer employee feels that the proof has just been shown to them, and now they have to take actions to ďprotectĒ themselves.

Letís look at the six examples I used above, taken in reverse order, to see what we can do to help alleviate some of the concerns when they occur.

6. Someone taking credit for another personís work and ideas

If youíre a co-worker and taking credit for someone elseís work, youíre earning payback points that are going to mark your time at any company you work for. If youíre management, it should be considered almost criminal, in my opinion.

Every person needs to be accountable for themselves, and if youíre stealing from someone else, itíll only be a matter of time before youíre discovered. Long before that, though, youíll notice the effects. People will not want to work with you; employees will not come to you with ideas to help the department or the company.

Sooner or later, youíll be forced to come up with your own ideas anyway, and if youíve had no practice at it, youíre not going to survive long.

5. Someone passing along bad or incomplete information

No one knows everything, but many people feel they should always have an answer to whatever question theyíre asked.

Iíve worked with other consultants who have said that you shouldnít ever tell a client you donít know something, because theyíll lose confidence in you. Iíve always said that if I donít own up to something and itís wrong later on, not only will I have lost their confidence, but theyíll pass that on to others and Iíll lose business overall.

If youíre a manager and you give your employees the wrong answer, you have no one to fault but yourself. Most of the time itís easy to find the correct answers; it only takes a little bit of effort. As a co-worker, if youíre giving information out that you really arenít sure of, youíre not doing anyone favors.

Remember, what goes around comes around, and you can be sure that youíll get bad information back later on, possibly as a result of what you passed on initially.

4. Someone trying to work on projects they donít have enough knowledge on

Since I already said no one knows everything, this time Iíll say that not everyone can do everything. I like to think of myself as a fairly smart guy, but I know nothing about cars. When I go under the hood, Iím as likely to be checking the transmission fluid as I am in checking the oil level.

In business, many managers assume that because theyíve given some information to their employees that itís fully understood. Quite often, thatís not the case.

Whereas Iím not saying that one should treat employees as if theyíre in first grade, I will say that many times employees will not come to you, if you havenít fostered an open environment, and let you know when they donít know something.

I worked with a supervisor many years ago who said that she only said something once, and she expected you to know it. That supervisor better be glad she had me along, because she wasnít the best educator in the world, and quite often others came to me asking for more clarification because they were intimidated by her.

If you want things done right, youíd better verify that everyone fully understands what youíre saying.

3. Someone passing information along to sources who donít need to know it

Since I do much work with healthcare entities, privacy is a very big thing. Basically, Iím privy at times to confidential information, and if I divulge some of it, even in general conversation, I could open myself up to major fines.

In business, there are separation of duties at times for a reason. Usually, if one department knows something, others in another department may not know it. In some situations, itís information that doesnít need to be shared.

Thereís also something called "intellectual property", which means that divulging company information to people outside the organization may be illegal; it could easily be damaging, especially if the person youíre talking to is in the same field.

As a manager, itís up to you to help employees determine what can be shared and what canít be shared, because youíre the one whoís going to be held responsible, whether it was by accident or not. As an employee, you need to use great discretion in who youíre talking to about company business, what youíre actually saying, and why youíre saying it in the first place.

2. Someone talking badly about another person

Weíll face the fact that not everyone likes everyone else in this world. Weíll also own up to the fact that when people are upset, if they have someone to talk to they inevitably will. Thatís human nature, and thereís nothing that can be done about it.

However, outside of those particular extraordinary events, you have those people who will just talk about someone else because they have to find ways of building themselves up. Theyíll make up a lot of it, or expand any perceived negativity theyíve ever heard about someone and spread it around.

Sometimes it just might be fostered; if youíre a bad manager or co-worker, youíre going to get talked about. Many people will take what they hear about you at face value if they donít know you all that well, and if itís negative, thatís not good for you or the workplace.

Itís always up to each individual to determine how they want people to perceive them, and if you treat people right, or hold others accountable for treating people right, then youíll garner nothing but positive feelings.

1. Someone sabotaging a project intentionally so it will fail

You only have two ways to fight this sort of thing.

One, you have to try to know the people you assign to a project, or the people you work with on a project. Two, you have to hold yourself accountable for not only your portion of the project, but every other personís portion of the project.

If youíre working in an open environment, youíll know better how things are going, what challenges may be taking place, whoís pulling their weight and whoís not. If youíre working in a closed environment, which means each person is working on their portion and thereís no constant feedback or sharing, youíll eventually discover that at least one person isnít doing what was expected, and you may not know what their motives are.

They may not have wanted to work on the project in the first place. They may not have agreed with the principles. They may not have fully understood what to do. They may not have fully understood its importance, and worked on other things instead. They may not like the people they were supposed to work with on the project.

There are many more examples, but this is enough to show that if something is important enough to be worked on, itís important enough to make sure that the right people are working on it, and that everyone is working together, towards the same goal.

Fighting terrorism isnít something that someone else has to do; we each have to do our own little part, whether itís real world, or business, to try to help reduce its possibilities of occurring.

T.T. "Mitch" Mitchell of T. T. Mitchell Consulting specializes in helping companies produce more effective and satisfied employees at all levels, as well as helping individuals be better and more content in their professional and personal lives. He concentrates especially on management, leadership and diversity. Read about and subscribe to his two newsletters - on management and healthcare business issues respectively - here.

Some Related Articles:

How to Deal With Workplace Bullies
Become a Credible Communicator and Win Respect
How Character Flaws Can Ruin Your Career
How to Deal With Negativity in the Workplace
Let's Get Real: The Case for Being Consciously Authentic
Three Basic Rules for Management Communication
Conversations can be the Key to a Manager's Success

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