QOne of the people on my team isn't friendly. His work is fine and he does well with clients, but doesn't mix much with the rest of us. I'm trying to build a positive culture, plus it's more fun when people get along. What should I do?
ADetermine if there's a problem; if not, accept that people differ in what they're looking for in the workplace.
The inner game
First, look objectively at your employee's behavior. There's a big difference between reserved and unfriendly, so clarify the situation while setting aside your emotions. List specific behaviors; then, imagine what his version of the same events would be, and how a third party might see them. Also assess whether this is new, or if it's been this way since he was hired. This will help determine if you're reacting to style differences, or if there's a personnel situation to address.
Then evaluate the actual effect his demeanor has. Apart from bothering you, have you had complaints or comments from other employees? If not, this might not be a team issue.
Think about your vision of a positive workplace, from practical aspects related to getting the work done, as well as the ideal team interactions. Try envisioning a week of the "perfect" workplace. What would it look like and sound like? What do people do during lunch hours and break times? Are there after-work get-togethers?
Finally, look at your own bottom line on the situation: "If he doesn't start interacting more, I will ...." Fire him? Accept his strengths and that he's not going to be part of the social scene? Try new ways to understand and engage him?
The outer game
If this is a new dynamic, make a plan to talk with him. If something is bothering him at work, he may be willing to share that. Try something like, "I've noticed that you're quiet at work these days and, while your work quality is fine, I'm concerned that you're not as happy here as you were. If that's the case, I'd like to work with you on it."
Then be prepared for a range of responses. He may come back with "everything's fine." Try following up with examples -- abrupt interactions, lack of participation in events, whatever you've noticed. He still may not want to discuss it, and you'll need to respect that. End the conversation with an offer to talk again when he'd like to.
He may have feedback that's uncomfortable for you to hear, including team dynamics, even your management style. Listen non-defensively and then either explore solutions or take some time to ponder his comments. Be sure to thank him for any feedback he offers.
Recognize that work is only a part of most people's lives. Personal concerns outside of work may be taking up a lot of energy. You can gently ask if you wish, but respect his boundaries if he doesn't want to engage.
The last word
If there's really an issue, address it directly, but recognize that respecting diversity includes personal style so you create a positive workplace for all employees.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.