Contractor Tip Of The Month: Instead of Trying to Make People Nice, Just Hire Nice People

Damian Lang

Anything can set off an argument at a jobsite, especially when your crew is tired and stressed from things like long hours or bad weather conditions. But the most common cause of bickering is when a crew just can’t seem to get along because of someone else’s bad attitude. This causes the work environment to become dysfunctional and disorganized, decreasing productivity significantly. It ends up costing everyone involved a ton of money.  

One thing is for sureall problems are people problems. Mixers, forklifts and scaffolding don’t wake up with hangovers or a bad attitude, but some people do. Think of it like this: If you don’t remove a spoiled potato from the bag, it will spoil the rest of the potatoes. One employee with a bad attitude can spoil the whole crew.  

To avoid this situation, we have a policy at our companies that states, We don’t try to make people nice; we just hire nice people. As hard as we try to detect poor attitudes in the interview process, there are still times when someone gets past the gate. In this case, we work with the person to try and fix the situation right away. If we cannot, we remove the person as soon as possible.  

Here are some questions and answers about conflict that can help change the dynamics of a jobsite and get everyone back to doing the job at hand:

Do you have the right boss on the jobsite?
If your crew supervisor is not a nice person, or more of a follower than a leader, the jobsite will be in a constant state of chaos. Unfortunately, what generally happens in scenarios like this is that one or more of the crew will attempt to take over in order to give some structure to the work environment.  

Of course, once the actual supervisor picks up on this, a war typically ensues. So the first way to reduce jobsite conflict is to make sure that the person you put in charge has a good attitude and is a take-charge kind of person who can plan, coordinate and promote teamwork.  

Is everyone on the same page?
It is crucial that the supervisor and crew members stay on the same page by keeping the communications between them honest and open. One way to do this is through regular mandatory meetings that establish the goals of the project. Cleary define who is assigned to do each task and when they need to have it done.  

On each jobsite, we conduct daily planning meetings and weekly tailgate safety meetings to insure everyone is on the same page. We also hold quarterly meetings where we train all employees on our policies and what we expect from a performance perspective.

Are you holding after-hours activities?
We hold an employee golf outing; Christmas party and a company picnic annually. Having these after-hours events allow coworkers to see each other in a less stressful environment. It helps them bond in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. We are big on making sure all employees are invited to attend, instead of separating management or other groups from one another. This keeps employees from thinking were favoring one group over another.  

Our supervisors also are encouraged to take crew members out to lunch every once in a while. To avoid favoritism, we make sure that each crew member is invited at some point.

Who helps who on your jobsites?
If your crew members are not nice people and act in a manner that is only beneficial to themselves, disputes are bound to happen. You are also going to be dealing with a high turnover rate because no one is going to want to work in a tense environment. One great solution for this is to have a helping-hands policy, which encourages everyone to want to help each other instead of fighting about the problem.  

Are you hiring nice people?
Again, all it takes is one person with a bad attitude to spread negativity to an entire crew. That’s why we hire employees based on positive attitudes and an appreciation of teamwork. The theory behind this is dependent on research that proves that people who have a positive attitude see problems that arise as challenges that can be surpassed. They also tend to have a higher work output, better job ethics and an easier time getting along with others.  

 

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to fire people who are a little pessimistic, but it is important to do your best to get them to see the impact they can have on those around them. 

Despite all of these efforts to maintain peace on a jobsite, you will inevitably have a conflict that arises because it is impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. You have to handle arguments in a professional way, get results and consider both sides of the story. Never allow name calling, verbal bashing or physical fights because they will bring down the morale of the entire crew.  

 

This process is much easier when you “Hire nice people, instead of trying to make people nice.”  

Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Malta Dynamics, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email:dlang@watertownenterprises.com or call 740-749-3512.