How companies turn off turned-on people

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Most companies will consciously move towards talent. This is done through promoting corporate image and branding in the market place. Advertising campaigns create a strong presence. Even the vacancy advertisements are prepared in such a manner that it attracts people to join.

What most companies are weak in is in the retention of good employees. Why? Well, getting married to an identified person is more important than keeping the marriage going. Recruitment is a sort of ‘marriage’ between an employer and employee. Just like in the marriage between two people.

Companies build up strategies to make them a premier choice where people would want to work. So, the ‘getting married’ part is well done. Just like in the case of a married man and a woman, what about the second strategy to keep the marriage warm, exciting, adventurous with a commitment to one another. This is the area where companies fail.

Some new employee ‘turn offs’

  • Make sure that a work area has not been created or assigned. (Let him sit in a hall or share a cube for the first few days while you scramble to create a work area.)
  • Schedule the new employee to start his or her new job while the supervisor is on vacation
  • Leave the new employee standing in the company reception area for a half hour while reception staff tries to figure out what to do with him
  • Leave the new employee at his/her work station, to manage on his/her own, while co-workers pair up and head out to lunch
  • Provide an hour in a noisy lobby for the new employee to read and sign-off on a 100 page employee handbook
  • Show the new employee his office and don’t introduce him to co-workers or assign him a mentor
  • Assign the new employee to a staff person who has a major, career-impacting deadline, in three days
  • Assign the new employee to (you fill in the blanks) your most unhappy, negative, company-bashing staff member
  • Assign the employee “busy work” that has nothing to do with her core job description, because you are having a busy week. Is there any value addition here?
  • Start the new employee with a one or two day new employee orientation during which period the Human Resources personnel and line managers make presentation after presentation after presentation after presentation

Managing day-to-day employee performance

Managing employee performance every day is the key to an effective performance management system. Setting goals, making sure your expectations are clear, and providing frequent feedback help people perform most effectively.

Learn more about managing performance. Several companies measure performance through appraisals and feedback on an annual basis, bi-annual basis or quarterly basis. Who looks at the work and offer support on a daily or weekly basis?

What makes a work environment hostile?

What constitutes a hostile work environment? Some employees believe that a bad boss, an unpleasant work environment, a rude co-worker, or the lack of perks, privileges, benefits, and recognition can create a hostile work environment. But, the reality is that for a workplace to be hostile, certain legal criteria must be met. A hostile work environment is created by a boss or co-worker whose actions, communication, or his/her behaviour makes doing your job impossible. This means that the behaviour altered the terms, conditions, and/or reasonable expectations of a comfortable work environment.

A boss who verbally berates you about your age, your religion, your gender, or your race may be guilty of creating a hostile work environment. This is especially true if you asked the individual to stop and the behaviour continues.

When the good done is swept under the carpet and the employee hears only blame and ‘curse’ by his supervisor for any slight mistake, the environment becomes conducive to hostility.

Hostile working environments

Though workplace theoretically should provide substantial learning  opportunities to their workers, which is acknowledged throughout the world, and workplace learning has actually drawn increasing attention, it is undeniable that due to various reasons, lack of funds, for example, hostile environments still exists in certain workplaces up to date.

Hostile work environments are defined as related to both organisational and social contexts. From the organisational perspective, hostile environments results from tight division of labour, task fragmentation and the existence of vertical supervisory hierarchies.  From the social perspective, hostile environments mean low inter-personal trust and unwillingness of experts to mentor novices. Clearly, both organisational and social environments of the workplace can vastly influence the learning processes and outcomes of individual employees.

Organisational perspective

In many an organisationally hostile workplace, the division of labour, task fragmentation and vertical supervisory hierarchies are manifest, which imply that the individual learning opportunities are severely restricted compared to other employee-friendly workplaces. Because workers are highly likely to do the same type of job for most of their working time under such working conditions and environments. Consequently they are quite familiar with a certain skill for a job and they might tend to lose opportunities to develop other work-related skills from a wider respect; it in turn restricts the employees’ mobility.

In the manufacturing industry, for example, less-skilled workers are likely to do repeated jobs for many years. What they have learned is perhaps simply mechanical repetitive skills, and this is evident not in the interests of personal development, not to mention coping with the ever-changing work demands. Survey research already suggests that employers invest less in training lower level workers, and consequently, these groups have fewer (formal) training opportunities than their senior and secure peers (Beinart and Smith 1998, La Valle and Blake 2001).

The division of labour, task fragmentation and vertical supervisory hierarchies also seriously discourage employees’ learning intention. People nowadays are more aware of the need of updating their work-related skills; however, if employees perceive that they are competent at their jobs, their learning subjectivity can dramatically decrease.

Let us imagine in a hostile workplace, worker A is assigned job of type A while worker B is assigned job of type B. Over time they are eventually capable of successfully fulfilling their own share of job, and there are no more requirements of other work skills from them, because the division of labour is clear-cut, and the task fragmentation of task is also strict. All wanted from both A and B are only performing their specifically set tasks. Then it will be challenging for them to keep learning at workplace, for not all people are highly self-motivated, especially without clear goals in their minds or without definite requirements from them, or without the sense of urgency.

Social perspective

Social environment plays a very important role in how employees behave and think at workplace. Thus social environment invariably weighs heavy against informal learning among employees, especially between the skilful and the less-skilful. Concerning informal learning, learning-by-observing is largely employed, but it has limitations under this hostile work environment.  As mentioned above, the situation of low inter-personal trust and unwillingness of experts to mentor novices surrounds hostile workplace; it is realistically difficult for novices to obtain essential practical knowledge through certain types of informal learning, such as observing or consulting other more skilful co-workers.

In a workplace of vertical supervisory hierarchies, it is clear to employees that the more exclusive skills they possess the more power they hold. As a result, such a situation further creates and propel keeping skills or expertise to themselves among skilled employees—they are unwilling to teach or help their counterparts master any skills, in fear that other less-skilled coworkers are able to share the similar remuneration or working status with themselves. Under work environment like this, it is difficult for new joinees or novices to learn effectively at the workplace.

Another phenomenon should be taken into account is age discrimination. The term, age discrimination here, refers to the reduced organisational or formal opportunities of learning for older employees. It is not uncommon that older employees tend to be left behind when it comes to personal and professional developments of the workforce.

Colour in the office environment

Several years ago, NASA funded an extensive review of literature on colour to determine which colours and colour combinations would create the most seemingly spacious, pleasant, and productive environment for the habitation module. NASA’s research findings in¬formed the selection of the office colours we tested. The quintessential office colour is white and in a prior study the workers were less productive in a white of¬fice than in any other office colour; therefore mono¬chromatic white was selected as one of three office colour schemes to be examined. Also, a monochromat¬ic white office was of interest for the additional reason of informing NASA of the effects of white on worker productivity and mood over a long period of time in a relatively confined space.

For a second office, a predominantly bright red colour scheme (contrasted with medium blue-green) was se¬lected as a colour scheme because it has frequently been associated with negative effects. From summa¬ries drawn from NASA’s report, it was predicted that an office colour scheme with the largest surface area of a vivid colour would create an environment which would seem more confined, unpleasant, and less con¬ducive to productivity.

Conversely, a third office employed a predominately light pastel colour scheme for the room. The intention was to test NASA’s prediction that productivity would be enhanced and the worker would believe the room to be pleasant (in contrast to the red office).  The colours were selected based on NASA’s conjecture that the largest surface area should be high in value (light), low in saturation (dull), that the second largest area should be medium in value and saturation, and, fi¬nally, that the trim and accents should be high in sat¬uration (bright) and either high or low in value (light or dark). Thus, a light blue-green office was chosen for comparison of a predominantly cool colour scheme with a predominantly warm colour scheme. Also, liter¬ature citations on colour preference indicate that office workers prefer a light blue-green office colour (Brill, 1984, 1985).  The purpose was to determine the effects of these three colour schemes on mood, speed in performance of clerical tasks, and accuracy on proofreading cleri¬cal tasks administered to office workers.


Workers in the red office reported higher negative mood characteristics compared with workers in the blue-green office. In examining the effects on productivity of the three different colour schemes, the results suggest that colour scheme alone may not have a discernible impact on productivity.  By themselves, the three different colour schemes did not impact productivity differently. Only when individual differences in the ability to screen irrelevant environmental stimuli were taken into ac¬count did the color schemes exhibit a differential im¬pact on productivity. Website:

Colour psychology and marketing

Colour is a meaningful constant for sighted people and it’s a powerful psychological tool. By using colour psychology, you can send a positive or negative message, encourage sales, calm a crowd, or make an athlete pump iron harder.

Natural lighting

There are persons who have a great love for what is natural and freely available, i.e. fresh air, natural sunlight and even, in certain instances, rain. Some would love the rain falling close to where they sit so that it brings them closer to nature.

There are some organisations that are built in a manner that give the optimum natural light and natural air circulation and without artificial air conditioning.

Some reference sites for greater research are:

(The writer is the Managing Director and CEO, McQuire Rens Group of Companies. He has held regional responsibilities of two multinational companies of which one was a Fortune 500 company. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka.)