What Lingers In the Space

View from an airplane window at the wings and flying over a scenic landscape of green hills and rivers

It’s been a rough autumn. And winter. I got pneumonia and have been really sick for some time now. What an interruption to my life. Lucky for me, I was able to identify the moment of infection…and even “Patient Zero.” One shared retreat followed by four people out with the plague. Nasty!

Ever since this retreat, I have been thinking about germs. The things we cannot see or hear or smell or feel. The things that exist and that we take for granted. Until it is too late. I am intrigued by the germs that lingered in the retreat space as we planned, built team, conversed, played. The pneumonia germs were ever-present, looking to infect unsuspecting people, even at a time of great collegiality and productivity.

And I got to thinking… pneumonia germs are a lot like the toxins that exist in the workplace, the toxins that linger waiting to infect the productivity and cohesion of the team. They are so familiar to each of us. Some people and behaviors that when unleashed, infect the space and ruin everything. For everybody.

Excuses. Ego. Laziness. Arrogance. Clashes between generations or departments or across functional areas. People who show up late. Unproductive meetings. Undermining behaviors. Poor quality of work. Rudeness. Lack of civility. Collusion and coercion. Lack of creativity, kindness, support, resources, time, ideas. Crying. Rage. Ignoring the issues/problems. Revenge and retribution. Slacking. Internet and social distractions. Lengthy personal breaks. Blame. Defensiveness. Quitting. Scapegoating. Withdrawal. Terse e-mail exchanges. Door slamming. Tattling. It goes on and on.

We have been sanitizing the home and office for a month now. Disinfecting wipes and anti-bacterial dispensers and laundry and handkerchiefs and isolation when needed. So far, so good. No one else is sick! Pneumonia be gone!

But how do we do that in the workplace? What does sanitizing and disinfecting the workspace look like? How do we eliminate the toxins? Manage the toxins? Heal from the toxins? How do we acknowledge that toxins may exist and then behave accordingly? What germs are you carrying into the workplace, knowing that if you spent the day in bed, you could eliminate them? And when you notice the toxins, what do you do? What is possible for you and the team if you spoke up? Where does the courage come from? Talk about having to be conscious and aware!

Good health to you in the new year!


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Gary M. Groth, MS, PCC, CPCC

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