Team members joking about problems is a common trend across low-performing teams and organizations. Have you ever been on a team where bad behaviour gets glazed over, and problems become jokes?
“Uh oh, looks like Gaby is half an hour late to another meeting!”
“Jim forgot to record a client’s details again, classic!”
“Ha, why is Lana even a manager if no one ever listens to her?”
Does this sound familiar? Are you guilty of this?
Maybe it seems like it’s all in good fun because everyone in the organization is friends. Or maybe this office “comedian” thinks they’re influencing a shift in behaviour.
Unfortunately, neither is true.
The harm of laughing off an issue
When someone exhibits bad behaviour, they are at fault. When others don’t help them correct it, everyone is at fault. It might seem like a message is getting through when you jokingly prod into an issue, but it isn’t.
Think about it – if a bad behaviour is frequent enough that people joke about it to the person’s face, it’s a behaviour that people want changed but aren’t confronting. Does the person in question even know that the team wants them to change their behaviour if everyone is joking and laughing?
Jokes about things that people know are real problems will always have an underlying tension. Real feedback needs to be given, and change isn’t being made.
Give real feedback instead of letting problems become jokes
In general, feedback delivered in a constructive way will be appreciated. If you had something stuck in your teeth at a lunch, wouldn’t you rather someone point it out?
When behaviour needs to be changed, it’s time to evaluate if the person actually knows that their behaviour is a problem. Have they been told? Could you help solve the underlying issues?
One final note – is the behaviour one that can’t be changed? Perhaps a medical condition prevents performance from being exactly as you expect. If something can’t be helped, it should go without saying that you shouldn’t make jokes about it! The person probably knows that they have this problem, and highlighting it is nothing more than bullying by means of public shaming.
Remember – leaders raise the people around them, not just themselves. And you have the power to go forth and lead 🙂
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