Toxic Cleanup

It’s been an exhausting couple of years for most people. However, if you’re laying the blame for your fatigue squarely at the feet of the increased responsibilities and long hours you’re facing, you could be wrong. Most people wrongly assume that their tasks and responsibilities are grinding them down. While work is a convenient scapegoat, the real culprit is often the negativity of the people with whom you work.

The fact is, many of us work in a world of drainers. This can describe anyone in your spa—a manager, a therapist, even a client—who sucks the energy out of you. No one sets out to be a drainer. It’s just that some people regularly exhibit energy-draining behaviors. What’s worse, many bosses allow them to continue or are themselves guilty of such behaviors. And over time, the entire culture becomes poisoned. In Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture (Wiley, 2010), I lay out the ingredients that make up a nourishing culture, instead of a draining one. Here are 10 draining behaviors, as well as tips for how you can make a change for the better:

 1. The Energy Vampire Attack

DON’T: Let negativity become your go-to response. There’s nothing more draining than a boss or coworker who is constantly negative. According to them, you might as well give up before you start.
DO: Respond constructively when someone offers up an idea. Even if you have more experience than the rest of your team or are positive that the suggestions others are making are off the mark, hear them out. As pessimism rises, performance decreases.

 2. The Out-of-Control Complain Train

DON’T: Give in to the temptation to whine. It’s a well-known phenomenon that can have catastrophic consequences: One person’s complaint resonates with someone else, who then proceeds to add grievances to the pile, which prompts yet another individual to throw in his or her two (negative) cents and so on.
DO: Push for solutions. The next time a water-cooler conversation threatens to barrel out of control into Complaint Central, step in and ask the complainees how they would make things better.

 3. The Vicious Voicemail (or Email)

DON’T: Leave critical or harsh messages on voicemail or send them to an email inbox. Not only could your words come back to haunt you, they’ll also be a constant reminder to your coworker or employee of his or her supposed shortcomings.
DO: Conduct the tough talks in person. If you need to have a stern talk with someone or talk through a conflict, do it in person, if at all possible.

 4. The Loaded Monday Morning Inbox

DON’T: Overwhelm your team with a mountain of emails before the week is underway. If you’re finishing up your own to-do list late on a Friday night, it can be tempting to dish out the details and to-dos as you think of them. However, coming in to an inbox of 57 new messages is draining and makes folks feel like they’re fighting an uphill battle from the start.
DO: Boil down and bundle your communication as considerately as possible. Be sure to flag any urgent emails so that your teammates know which tasks to tackle first—and include as many details as possible so you won’t forget them and the recipient can get started as quickly as possible. If you can, combine many of the tasks and questions into one document. One email, as opposed to 10 separate ones, is a lot less intimidating.

5. The Busy Bee Bamboozle

DON’T: Confuse activity with progress. Just because your day is full of things to do doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting them done.
DO: Set goals, and hold yourself and your employees accountable for results. These results should be ones that matter and are visible and valuable to your team. It can be helpful to transition over to a day-to-day plan that will help everyone stay on the right track.

6. The Low Performer Look-Away

DON’T: Let sub-par work slide. Low performers drag the rest of the team down. They are like a cancer inside your organization, creating resentment and generating more work for everyone else.
DO: Institute a zero-tolerance policy for
low performers. Hold your entire team accountable for meeting their goals and adhering to the same performance standards. Let your employees know you value their hard work and that you will not allow others to do less and get away with it.

7. The Unclear Communiqué

DON’T: Assume others have all the information they need, or that something you know isn’t really all that
important. When employ-
ees, coworkers, or supervisors have to spend their time tracking you down for clarification, productivity falls and creativity is stifled.
DO: Make a concerted and proactive effort to make sure the right people are in the know. Whether it’s letting a therapist know a client’s daughter is getting married or telling a coworker that a vendor prefers to be contacted only via email, be sure to tell the
appropriate people.

8. The Disorganization Drag-Down

DON’T: Allow disorganization to impede productivity. If you’re managing or leading a spa or traveling non-stop, it’s likely you’ve lost an email, important paper, or phone number in your day. But constant disorganization can drain your employees and coworkers if they always have to cover your tracks.
DO: Make an effort to keep up with your tasks and responsibilities. And if you can’t
immediately put your hands on something you need, don’t automatically ask others for help. Take a minute to find what you need on your own.

 9. The Unattainable Atta-Boy (or Atta-Girl!)

DON’T: Get so caught up in what’s coming down the pike that you forget to acknowledge what’s happening now. When responsibilities give you to-do tunnel vision and cause you to skimp on the “job well dones,” employees can get discouraged in a hurry—especially if you immediately ask about another goal that’s gone unmet, or push more work at them.
DO: Express appreciation and admiration when appropriate. Leadership is not so much about what you do as about what you can inspire, encourage,
empower, and coach others to do.

 10. The Blame Game

DON’T: Point fingers at others in order to take the heat off of yourself. If your employees or your coworkers don’t think you shoulder your share of the blame or are unapproachable when it comes to constructive criticism, they’ll start to shut down toward you.
DO: Accept responsibility for your actions gracefully and humbly. Nobody likes to be the one at fault. But owning up to your mistakes and learning from them are a big part of being successful. Now is the perfect time to take stock of what’s making your culture less than nourishing—and resolve to make it better. A little acknowledgement can go a long way toward a brighter, more productive, and much more energized 2011.