Conjunctivitis In the Workplace

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Pink eye infected our house this week.  It started with my daughter and then rapidly spread to the rest of the family.  Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, causes red, swollen, watery eyes.  Anyone who’s had this is familiar with the symptoms.  You’re also probably aware of how incredibly contagious it is.  It’s amazing how quickly and viciously bacteria can spread.  Even with vigorous hand washing and constant loads of laundry our entire family was infected in 2 days.

In an effort to find a positive in every negative situation, I uncovered a topic for this week’s blog.  Conjunctivitis in the work place.  I’m not referring to the actual bacteria affecting the eye, rather the workplace “bacteria” that can bring an office to its knees.  The “bacteria”, in this instance, is a bad attitude.  All it takes is one person to infect the entire team.  A few snide comments made to a coworker over the wall, trashing company decisions at the water cooler, and the dreaded “that’s not my job” response are all irritants.  In a matter of days the attitude spreads and the result is an unproductive and unhappy team.

So how do you remedy this problem?  With pink eye our doctor prescribed antibiotics.  In the workplace the manager needs to take a similar approach.  Like an antibiotic, the manager needs to find a solution that will selectively isolate and kill the single source bacteria. I’m not suggesting you terminate the individual, just that you remove them from the inflamed situation.  Sometimes simply moving desk location works.  I find that assigning the bacteria to a project they can find pleasure in helps.  If people are happy with their work they typically have a pleasant disposition at work.  Other times it helps to meet with the individual and understand the root cause of their frustration.  If there are issues that can be addressed, do so.  But also explain that the appropriate way to manage those frustrations is to address them with their supervisor and not the entire team.

How do you battle workplace conjunctivitis when it infects your team?

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