Creating Collaborative and Happy Workplace by Mike Orlov

Is your workplace chronically chaotic, a ferocious place riven with conflict? Is it a command and control environment, threatening to you and your colleagues thanks to others’ coercion and Machiavellian-powered collusion? Are you in a defeated-culture, where everyone is looking at compromise – a sad race to the bottom? Or is it a workplace powered by collaboration and consensus? Is it a happy work workplace?

There are many owners, CEOs, MDs and managers who bully those working for them; remember I’m the boss and ruler and don’t you forget it.  Manipulatively managing theirstaff they create anxiety, stress and fear, smothering happiness. Their internal organisational-politiking leads to chaos and conflict in the workplace. Sounds familiar?

Those working for bullies who demand ‘people do as they are told’ know what it is to operate in such a vicious environment. Perhaps the most obvious traits of a conflict-driven culture are hostility with damaging arguments. This will lead to much more in-fighting. A conflict-focused culture means you’ll find disputes leading to quarrels and dissensions, with prolonged periods of struggling against the enterprise by some of your colleagues. You’ll know this when harmful confrontations due to incompatible opinions are central to most activities.

Conflict-cultures are encouraged by narcissistic, sociopathic bosses, seeing themselves as a never-wrong ruler. They thrive on clashes and friction, believing it is better to divide and rule than it is to encourage and engage with colleagues and employees.

Perhaps your workplace is less extreme but there are still practices and actions where pushing someone to do something by using force or threats is the order of the day; a way of doing things which could be described as coercion-culture. Oppression, harassment, compulsion and manipulation are key leadership tools in these command and control environments.

When political power is on display and is obvious but conflict and coercion are less prevalent, with different groups vying for control through secretive cooperation, then you are working in a collusion-culture. This can be typified as a series of conspiracies in order to benefit members of a particular grouping or cabal without putting customers, other employees or the enterprise first. A culture where personal benefit comes from political intrigue tends to exhibit non-ethical activity where people scheme and plot to gain power; whatever happened to adding value for customers and shareholders?

Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be in an organisation where there are regular attempts to find lowest common denominators for the sake of agreement. Such a compromise-culture has at least some people listening to each other. There will be slippage of personal-moral and enterprise-ethical standards; principles will weaken. There will not a sense of coming-together, more a pathetic recognition of mediocrity as everyone is ‘racing to the bottom’ to keep the peace.

How would you describe your work environment: a chaotic command and control approach; rife with conflict and coercion; needing collusion to get anything done; a place depressingly focused on compromise; or a collaborative culture creating consensus and happy employees?

How wonderful to work in a collaborative-culture, where people, teams, departments, divisions and the enterprise overall operates through generative dialogue following harmonious reflection and generation of new ideas. Creating such synergy and concord out of conflicting opinions has to be one of the toughest yet most rewarding leadership tasks. And working in such an environment is oh so wonderful; are you one of the happy few, really enjoying your work?

Is your office a chaotic conflict-culture or one driven by consensus, where you know you have support, are recognisedappreciated and praised? Time for SRAP in every office and create a happier and collaborative environment.

Most people are happier when they recognise they are being listened to and being included in how things are done. There is constant pressure to innovate and position products and services more creatively than ever before. Happy workplaces release positive energy and are therefore much more innovative and creative.

Employees will not be happy if they have heightened states of on-going daily anxiety where they expect something awful to happen at any moment. Worse is when employees believe or can sense debilitating stressful incidents about to occur. And if they exist in a fearful state, concerned about a public telling off or fear about losing their jobs, employees will turn into inert-inepts.

In order to inspire happiness at work, leaders should focus on creating safe, positive, and nurturing environments rather than a threatening, bullying, fear-engendering hell. If we can create appropriate safe-places where individuals trust each other and bond with other team members, and bridge gaps between teams, then we are more likely to build sustainable success.

When our employees sense they are understood, and welcomed, they naturally feel happy at work. To feel happy at work, or indeed at home, individuals have to feel like they belong. Happy workplaces contagiously inspire people to greater levels of initiative, to be innovative, to achieve higher productivity and to perform more effectively. Workplace happiness is real and is attainable but does not happen by accident. Leaders need to set themselves a goal with specific objectives to ensure a happy workplace.

Encouraging employees to feel a part of the enterprise rather than treating them as carbon units-of-production, enriching work lives through effective job design and enlightening individuals through communicating purpose, vision, values and mission will aid in this creation of appropriate safe-places. Energising people through recognition of a job well done, appreciating them for their positive efforts and praising them publicly will enable a happier work-space.

Delegation through agreeing specific objectives and indicators to be achieved on the journey to achieving these objectives will empower people. They will feel much more in control of their activities and sense the organisation’s processes need them, rather than feeling they are just a part of the processes.

If initiative-taking, innovative and industrious implementers are part of your vision for your employees, help them by creating a collaborative, consensus-driven and happy workplace. Then you will have individuals working with you who share a sense of imagining a positive future for the enterprise as well as for themselves, built on sustainable success and collegiate collaboration and coordination.

A happy workplace is one anchored in a feeling of community with shared and normalised purpose where individuals are given a secure-space and are made to feel welcome. Opening the door to workplace happiness for employees, where they feel they are understood, respected, comfortable and cared for will ensure they feel at home. They will then give more to the future success of the enterprise.

Happy workplaces value relationships, personal growth, positive reinforcement, and brainstorming; a place where everyone’s ideas matter. Of course, employees initially seek to further their own personal interests when they join an enterprise, to secure: income; achievement; status. They then strive for recognition and greater responsibility. If they are happy in a collaborative culture, they will then want to contribute much more as they realise their employer’s values do not contravene their own.

Happy employees will then wish to use their knowledge, experience and skills they bring with them. They will also gladly and willingly want to develop more capabilities for the benefit of the enterprise as well as themselves.

Employees are looking for an equitable effort/reward balanced-bargain which is not only acceptable but delights and excites. Are you ready to start your movement to build an organisation focusing on workplace consensus and happiness, where parity of esteem and unity in diversity underpin development of people and a happy workplace?


This article was originally published in the May issue of 'Business In Gulf'.


Mike Orlov is passionate about interactions between people, facilitating the release of an individual’s potential and propositions between teams, divisions and companies; the key focus is creating alignment among individuals and developing value-driving operations

Having completed an MBA in 2004, achieving a Distinction and invited to study for an executive PhD, I underpin my extensive commercial experience in Europe and the GCC with a robust business academic foundation and am committed to building partnerships and continuous learning. I am also a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management (FInstLM)

Balancing intellectual rigour with an experienced and practical approach, I have been a publisher of magazines, ran a national newspaper advertisement sales team in the UK, held a board directorship at the London Evening Standard and been a director of one of Northern & Shell's businesses

Before becoming a partner at SSG, I launched media brands in Dubai, was Chief Performance Officer for News Group International and was the Chief Executive at Primedia International, with offices across the GCC

I am a leadership and management transformation and change agent, facilitator, mentor, business coach, trainer, public speaker, presenter, story-teller and a published business author with a weekly column in a daily newspaper and a regular business magazine slot.