Multiple shifts often mean multiple sub-cultures. The way things are done during the day shift, for example, can vary (sometimes greatly) from how they are done during the night shift. An us/them effect can take over and the disparity in attitude can cost an organization in lost productivity and higher payroll due to paying more for the extra time it takes to get things done.
In one organization I got to be a part of some years ago, the day shift thought the night shift was a bunch of freaks. They would spend part of their work day and break time discussing how dumb, crazy, stupid, bizarre and idiotic the night crew was. Sounds productive and helpful to the culture, right?
Management has one choice in this type of situation – Get up. Get out of your ergonomic chair and get on the floor. Engage with the sales teams, line workers and administrative staff. OK, how?
- Change the tone and type of conversation by being an example of healthy communication and encouragement towards goals. Make the decision to not participate in smearing an entire team’s or group’s reputation. If an employee thinks the night shift is filled with freaks, ask why? Challenge the basis, not argumentatively, but directly.
- Consistently be seen. This effort cannot be a “one and done” deal. It cannot be a once per month which happens to fall during the same time each month. It cannot be done daily at the same time. Mix it up. Catch people outside of habit or comfort. Allow them to be affected by your presence. Your mere presence should give cause for employees to pause and think about what they are about to say to someone else.
- Don’t allow comfort to get in the way. You’re going to have to do these things on all shifts. Only engaging with the shift that is most convenient to your schedule will fall short. Those workers on the shift you hardly come to see will know it. It’s not hard to amplify an us/them feeling when you’re dealing with multiple shifts and teams. The likely winners are usually the Monday through Friday day shift. They are able to work with the bulk of senior management and administrators during the “normal week” schedule. You cannot allow that to be the perspective; it will foster the feeling that any other shift is less than desirable. Get up on a Saturday. Go into work at 3AM for the overnight crew (just leave early from work the next day). It’s a little inconvenient but it’s an appropriate message to those employees.
Simply, be present and persistent. Set a tone that you would want others to follow. Don’t wait for someone else to start it (scary, I know). You set the bar and start the momentum. Don’t look to the right or to the left for someone else to champion the cause.
The only freaks that ought to be named should be those who do not extend themselves for the betterment of the company. What would it mean to your company if this were true? The anomalies of the company are those who are not present fully and persistent in protecting culture. Nothing scary about that!