The current workplace environment, in which there's no trust, no security, and in which face-to-face communication is rare, has resulted in a toxic tone for workplace conversations about personal issues. Relationships are so antagonistic that most are viewing every personal interaction as either a potential weapon or a possible shield.
Employees, realizing that their jobs are in danger, are understandably willing to take advantage of any grounds they might seize on to claim unfair treatment. Employers, realizing that today they can fire almost with impunity, are using veiled and subtle hints to force changes in behavior or attitude.
As a manager, you need to weigh every word you use in a conversation about personal issues as if you were stepping into a minefield . . . because you are. Preparation and scripting for these situations is more important than ever before. You have a great deal of power to influence employees with just the subtlest act or word. But one misstatement could provide the employee with all the opening needed to threaten legal action.
And just to make the issue more pressing, in today's workplace you need to speak and act with the speed of light. You need more preparation than ever, but you have less time than ever to prepare, whether it's for dealing with office gossip, flirtatiousness, or slovenly dress.
There's a reason some companies insist on uniforms for their personnel. Appearances matter to every organization. ...