Gallup study says bosses are the only ones who can stop jerks at work

The office can be an emotional place, and who you interact can affect your performance.

Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO at Gallup, outlined how to assess a company’s culture in the article “Are You Sure You Have a Great Workplace Culture?” and included the company’s suggestions on how to make improvements to each type.

Gallup also conducted interviews, analyses from outside researchers, information from executives, managers and workers, and a review of their databases of more than 60 million workers for a research paper called “Re-Engineering Performance Management.”

Clifton writes about how managers are the key to company cultures. But be aware that you could also become like your negative coworkers if you’re caught up in a bad work environment.

Positive company cultures start with managers

Your supervisor can impact the nature of your workplace. Clifton emphasized just how significant a role he or she can play.

“Remarkably, 70% of the variance between lousy, good and great cultures can be found in the knowledge, skills and talent of the team leader. Not the players, but the team leader. This is one of Gallup’s most profound workplace breakthroughs,” Clifton writes, after attributing the idea that managers are “the silver bullet” to the company’s Chief Workplace Scientist Jim Harter.

Gallup finds bosses needs to motivate employees more

A few findings stood out in the company’s comprehensive paper — including the role supervisors can play in shaping the targets that workers want to reach.

“While just 30% of employees strongly agree that their manager involves them in setting their goals at work, those who do strongly agree with this statement are 3.6 times more likely than other employees to be engaged,” the paper says.

But it doesn’t seem like many workers feel they have the tools necessary to do a great job.

“Only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work,” the paper says.

The authors of the paper go on to point out that “performance management” is meant to enhance corporate culture, but that “traditional approaches have consistently fallen short of this goal.”

The paper says that in “many companies,” workers consider “the annual performance review” to be “unfairly subjective” and that they don’t happen enough to help people do better at work. The authors suggest that “performance management practices — including performance ratings and reviews” don’t have to go, but that talks about how workers are doing and how “progress reviews” are carried out should be enhanced.

How you do at work could hinge on your relationship with your manager.

Lousy corporate cultures must be torn down and rebuilt

Clifton categorized workplace cultures as “good,” “lousy” and “great,” depending on the people working there (managers included), and said that improvements can be made at all levels.

One of the company’s recommendations that stood was total restructuring. After writing about the influence of the “team leader,” Clifton writes, “So you say, ‘What exactly do you recommend?’ Our answer is, it depends on where your culture is today. If it’s lousy, you should start over. Get out a clean canvas and announce you are reorganizing the whole company.”

Restarting with a clean slate could change how employees view their environment and their assignments.

Gallup also made more suggestions, including that teams should alter their “leadership philosophy from the current command-and-control to one of high development, high purpose and strengths-based coaching,” that they should change expectations for managers (have weekly coaching sessions with “team members”), and that they should announce the changes in culture to the “executive committee and board.”

Why you should avoid the wrong people at work

You could become like the negative people you meet at work, according to research from the book The A–hole Survival Guide: How to Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt by Stanford professor Bob Sutton.

Sutton’s tips reportedly include avoiding them if possible, resisting revenge (but if you choose to: consider your role in relation to the other person’s, have proof, and the power of having multiple people on your side), and “reappraising.”

Eric Barker puts it more succinctly: “If you spend most of your day around a jerk, your chance of becoming a jerk more than doubles.”