‘Joy tsar’ Saj Shah, bestselling author of Joynetix – who is regularly called upon to advise organisations on how to establish thriving, joy-fuelled cultures at work – explains why leaders shouldn’t allow office politics to spiral into grudges between employees if they want to build a productive, innovative, and rewarding work environment.
There’s a myriad of reasons why the modern world can feel overwhelming. From global conflicts, health crises, and societal issues, to name a few, the potential sources of stress seem endless.
Amidst all this, the workplace should be a sanctuary, not an added source of distress. With roughly 60% of the global population engaged in work [LINK TO https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-at-work]spending approximately a third of their lives working, enduring a work environment poisoned by grudges and bitterness equates to a life significantly shadowed by negativity.
In the ever-evolving arena of business leadership, peak performance isn’t solely about astute strategies, pioneering concepts, and market relevance.
It’s about leaders diligently crafting the emotional climate of their institutions – a factor that might be understated but plays a pivotal role in determining business direction. At the heart of this lies tackling workplace resentments, which, albeit silent, can massively hinder organisational progress.
Think about the consequences when management efforts shift from propelling innovation to managing the mire of ongoing bitterness. What emerges is a harmful loop of stifled creativity, compromised trust, and an oppressive environment that curtails personal satisfaction and collective joy in the workplace.
Leaders must recognise that harbouring grudges isn’t merely a passive state; it’s an active detriment.
As the adage goes, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” In the realm of business leadership, grudges don’t just poison relationships – they sabotage success.
The Hidden Cost of Holding Grudges
‘Office politics’ is a phrase that can evoke dread, reminding us of a myriad of strained interactions and perceived slights.
Understandably, every workplace comprises a melting pot of personalities, egos, ambitions, and values. Disagreements are inevitable.
However, when they mutate into lasting grudges that become an insidious tenant in our mental landscape, the repercussions echo far beyond the individuals involved.
To hold onto a grudge is to cling to feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment stemming from a real or imagined wrongdoing. While it may seem inconsequential, holding a grudge in a professional setting is anything but benign.
There is an impact of holding onto resentments. When faced with injustices, particularly in professional settings, our reactions don’t merely remain emotional.
Scientific research has found that holding onto resentment fuels anger while repetitively revisiting past wrongs amplifies such negative emotions, consequently keeping the stress response in our bodies perpetually dialled up.
This ‘fight or flight’ stress-response mechanism, beneficial when faced with immediate real threats, wreaks havoc in our bodies when chronically activated. The health consequences of such chronic stress range from mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression, to physical issues like hypertension and weakened immune function.
In one study, adults who held onto anger and hostility over the course of a decade experienced greater cognitive decline than those who were more apt to forgive.
And in another study, participants who thought of a conflict in which they didn’t forgive someone performed more poorly on a physical fitness test than their peers who recalled a time when they forgave the other person.
From a business standpoint, environments marinated in resentments, negativity, and suspicion hamper creativity, erode teamwork, and suffocate any joy.
The end result? With Gallup’s findings that 60% of people in the global workforce are emotionally detached at work and 19% are miserable, companies could find themselves stagnating, bereft of the groundbreaking insights that a positive, synergistic, joy-fuelled setting might spark.
The Antidote – Craft a Joy-fuelled Ecosystem
Building a workplace that is not just functional but joy-fuelled is an attainable aspiration, and it starts at the top. Leaders who model emotional intelligence, empathy, and forgiveness cultivate environments where employees feel valued, respected, and happy.
Here are five ways to ignite this transformation:
- Master Emotional Intelligence: Leaders must be adept at introspection, recognising their own emotional triggers and understanding the roots of grudges. This self-awareness creates a proactive approach to conflict, turning potential grudges into opportunities for growth and enhanced team cohesion.
- Prioritise Empathy: An empathetic leader seeks to understand employees’ perspectives, values, motivations, and feelings. This approach builds a psychologically safe space for open communication, mutual respect, and reduced potential for resentment.
- Celebrate Team Achievements: By spotlighting collective successes, the focus organically shifts from individual grievances to shared victories, fortifying team unity and cohesion. This positive reinforcement not only boosts morale but also nurtures a collaborative spirit.
- Promote a Gratitude Mindset: Implement initiatives that encourage employees to acknowledge and appreciate what’s working in their professional lives. This practice can counterbalance negative emotions and create a more connected atmosphere.
- Champion Forgiveness: Forgiveness is the pinnacle of a joy-fuelled workplace. Forgiveness is not forgetting or condoning any harm that has been done; instead, it is a conscious choice of letting go of the need for revenge and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment. Leaders promoting forgiveness pave the way for a healthier, more positive workplace culture.
Integrating these practices into the workplace means moving beyond transactional interactions and fostering a culture where every individual feels valued, heard, and empathised with.
When leaders and team members let go of grudges, they’re not just improving their mental health; they’re also setting the stage for a more harmonious, productive workplace.
This joy-fuelled environment doesn’t just make each day more pleasant; it drives collective ambition, fosters a supportive culture, and paves the way for ground-breaking innovation and success.
Leaders capable of instigating and nurturing this shift keep their teams among the fulfilled minority, contributing to a more engaged workforce.
And bit by bit, they help carve out a happier corner in the world. Because when our substantial chunk of life spent at work is positive and fulfilling, the ripple effects are monumental – both for individuals and the companies they help build.