Pettiness is described as the attention given to issues so small and trivial that it’s almost silly.
Pettiness also describes the quality of a person’s viewpoint that could be described as “small-mindedness”.
“Don’t be so petty!”
How many times have you heard that before?
It’s important because a colleague’s pettiness can be hard to work with, since pettiness focuses on trivial matters and sometimes “petty people” seek self-serving satisfaction for the slightest things that are perceived wrong in the workplace.
Every workplace, unfortunately, has workplace pettiness.
Pettiness is unavoidable whether it is kept low-key or manifests itself as a full-blown public domain petty incident.
It’s important however to understand that pettiness usually stems from feelings;
And many more feelings too.
Whilst workplace pettiness is a nuisance that gets in the way of the important stuff, it can cause friction, anxiety and de-motivation amongst work colleagues in a big way. It is something that Managers need to deal with rather than brush off… or brush under the carpet.
There are several tactics that Managers can use for dealing with pettiness in the workplace… but here are 4 really simple ones.
1. Have a Daily Key Focus Meeting
By leading a Daily Key Focus Meeting into your daily routine, you can encourage and focus all colleagues to get on board and see what the big picture really is.
Focusing on the main goals and objectives required of the team and the opportunities presented to them during the day will have your team focused, open and energised to leave the pettiness behind and get on with the important stuff. Ensure the team have clear objectives and targets for the day that make sense and mean something.
2. Establish a Set of Key Action Markers each week.
A robust set of key action markers included in the weekly meeting or team brief will offer the opportunity for employees to have a clear and specific set of goals for the short term.
The aim is to get the team focused on the next few days ahead to ensure that progress is being made in-line with the overall objectives… but also highlight any tasks and activities that are not adding value. Pettiness will raise its ugly head in these discussions and clear direction will need to be provided to the team about what will and won’t be done and what will and won’t be focused on.
Clearly defined weekly key action markers will also provide the opportunity for the team to highlight resisters, blockers and barriers that are hindering the team’s progress and need your support.
Without clear and specific goals, many employees have difficulty trying to figure out what is important and so they tend to focus on the things that are not important.
Also, when people have too much time on their hands, there is a tendency to leave room for unimportant tasks, trivial details and comfort activities. Which leads us on to point 3…
3. Facilitate a team with “Meaningful” Work
“Meaningful” – Adjective
Significant, relevant, important, consequential, material, telling, weighty, valid, worthwhile, purposeful.
When employees find themselves with too much time and not enough meaningful work to do, there is a prime opportunity for miscellaneous pettiness to grow.
Make certain that your employees have enough important tasks to do, but make sure that they are not overloaded. Stand back and observe to ensure that there are enough meaningful activities flowing smoothly throughout the workday and that these tasks well assigned and well-spaced out.
4. Be the Bigger Person
Whist the idea of being the bigger person is not a new concept, there is a recent alternative twist on being the bigger person.
Being the bigger person does not necessarily mean you are the better person; it simply means that you see beyond the immediate map of reality and that you have the ability to see beyond the edge of that map to reveal the bigger picture.
It’s important to remember that your employees have experiences and memories from their past or even in their current lives going on that you are not even aware of… and the pettiness is not about you. Also what may seem petty to one person may be really important and not petty to another based on their personality, beliefs and values.
Also, dealing with workplace pettiness may mean extending the olive branch to achieve a level of mutual understanding, respect and cooperation.
When dealing with pettiness, it is important to recognise and accept the word itself.
Pettiness means to give too much life and energy to something that is deemed trivial. It is a simple word to understand but not black and white when dealing with it for real in the workplace. The key is to not let word pettiness get in the way of dealing with it effectively. It is only a word that needs to be faced up to by all managers nearly every day.
Reaching out to your line manager, peers and employees in order to dispel the negativity associated with pettiness may be all that’s required for a little more peace and harmony in the world of work.
At Ican Development we’ve been working with Managers for many years to fine tune those people skills, to be more effective in their role and achieve success in their business.