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Job Performance - 2 November 2015

There are many factors that influence employee performance.  A lack of motivation, poor leadership, and ineffective recruitment are just a few examples.  But now, in two new studies published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, there's another (major) one that can be added to the list:  de-energising relationships.

It's best reflected in this comment by a participant in the research who was talking about a colleague: "Working with her sucks the life right out of me."

The problem with de-energising relationships is that they can't be avoided.  Much of what happens in the workplace involves teamwork and interdependence, such that the energy-sapping nature of one person is easily contagious.  The result is a deterioration in creativity, enthusiasm and concentration.

That's why the scholars weren't surprised, in their first study, to find that de-energising relationships are "especially related to the lowest levels of job performance".  That's quite a big statement to make.  Their second study, however, is even more interesting because it discovered, among hundreds of participants, the potential solution: thriving.

We all know what thriving means but, in the context of this research, it's a term used to describe employees who are engaged enough, resilient enough, and smart enough to withstand the performance-depleting influence of their colleagues.  To build a sense of thriving within your team so that there's a buffer between them and their toxic colleagues, focus on the two experiences that comprise it.

The experience of vitality:  This represents employees who feel alive at work.  To ramp this up, give people a variety of interesting tasks and be sensitive to energy troughs you can respond to with stimulants.  That stimulant might be a coffee run, a short break, a laugh, a team activity, a sugar hit, a reward, some recognition, or something else.

In the long term, a better solution is to isolate the de-energisers so that they're not impacting everyone else.  (Isolating someone is different to ostracising them.  The former gives employees independent duties where there's little need to interact with, or rely on, anyone else; the latter makes people feel left out, which should never be the intention.)

The experience of learning:  This represents employees who feel as though the workplace is a location at which they can embark on continuous self-improvement.  To ramp this up, establish a regular schedule of development opportunities, conduct 360 surveys, set stimulating challenges, and design jobs that are more meaningful and of greater substance.

That way, you'll avoid comments like this from another participant in the research:  "There are many things that I love about my job.  Working with him is certainly not one of them."


To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click here.

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