Nothing can crush your momentum quicker or kill morale faster than needless tension between your workers. But it’s not just any set of workers who perpetually seem to have a rivalry. It’s common for concrete contractors to share the same problem — tension between their “wall-dogs” and their “flat-rats.”
You are not alone if you feel like you’re continually breaking up fights between teenage siblings whenever your foundation and your flatwork crews cross each other’s paths in the yard. Generally, foundation crews think all flatwork crews are full of prima donnas, and flatwork crews see foundation crews as a bunch of wood-butchers.
There always seems to be a rivalry between foundation crews and flatwork crews. But since this problem hasn’t halted production, some contractors turn a blind eye. The crosstown rivalry might not bring things to a screeching halt, but it hurts your bottom line. Worse, some contractors don’t address the problem simply because they don’t know the solution.
If you’re looking for creative ways to bring peace to your company, boost morale, and increase production, here are some tips to generate unity:
- Cross-train your laborers and occasionally shuffle some of the more skilled guys between walls and slabs. The more interaction your crew members have, the more they know each other’s responsibilities, and the more connection they make, the less territorial they will be. Cross-training has an additional side benefit: If one or the other branches slows down or is between projects, you can still use the bulk of your workforce.
- Highlight the accomplishments of both branches of your organization as often as possible. Chart out the amount of yards being placed and the projects being completed in plain view of all of your employees. You’re not making people compete; you are nurturing mutual appreciation for the workload that each crew carries.
- Have your crew leaders, foremen, and superintendents visibly cooperate. Whether it’s in a safety meeting, planning session, or in employee reviews, have your key leaders portray teamwork and cooperation. Your crews might need to share concrete pumps, heavy equipment, or lumber and supplies, and if your key leaders aren’t able to work together, it reflects poorly through the ranks.
- At least twice a year (perhaps at a company picnic or party) have your top leaders from your foundation and your flatwork crews together in front of all your people celebrating the value of working with your company. Everyone receives a paycheck with the same signature, so they might as well act like they work for the same company.
- Personally model respect. Your people must see firsthand examples of the culture you want most for your organization.
At the end of the day everyone must see and believe they are all on the same team. Unity isn’t easy to achieve, but without it, you will have fruitless conflict and more frustration than is healthy for your organization. Float around a few ideas and nail down ways you can seamlessly form a solid foundation of teamwork. It might be the most important legacy you leave behind before you finish your career.
Craig Cottongim is certified in conflict resolution and is a long-time concrete finisher who is also a writer and communicator.