The employee environment in a small to medium sized business can feel like an extended family, and that may give you a powerful advantage as a business owner. Keeping your staff small can make it easier to give your employees the attention they need and deserve. When employees feel appreciated and empowered, productivity increases and absenteeism decreases. A small business vibe often feels intimate, helpful and friendly to customers, too.

An intimate work environment has lots going for it, but there are dangers to look out for. When small office politics get out of hand, problems can spring up that are hard to squelch. In a small organization, the personality strengths (and weaknesses) of the individuals involved are magnified. When you want to address issues but keep things positive, these tips will help you revitalize workflow and help stop uncooperative behavior before it starts to impact work performance.

Five Ways to Revitalize the Work Dynamic in Your Small Business

Avoid Monday and after-holiday overload – Mondays are usually prime days for meetings and new policy rollouts. The first day back after a holiday is almost as bad. Blame overzealous weekend management planning or executive worries over dips in holiday productivity. Whatever the reason, Monday workloads can seem overwhelming to employees, resulting in sour dispositions all around. As a manager or owner, you can get as much accomplished by paling out work assignments and doing project follow ups gradually throughout the week instead of making the week’s work seem prodigious by announcing your expectations all at once.

Say it in person – Creating the right tone for constructive criticism can be hard enough when you do it in person and can gauge the effects from the other person’s facial expressions. Cosigning difficult topics to email is often devastating. If you have suggestions or complaints, you’re more likely to get a favorable response, and get your point across without inspiring rancor, if you do it in person instead of via email, instant message, text or sticky note. If your company is large, some impersonal communication comes with the territory. If you’re small, however, the personal touch can work wonders.

Manage the now – When you manage people, it’s easy to start thinking five steps or ten steps ahead of where you are today, but what’s essential planning in a game of Chess may not work with real people. Knowing that a project needs to come in under budget and on time may have you pushing great workers without giving them a sense that their daily efforts are appreciated. Don’t save your praise till the end. Instead, offer it up as the project progresses. That way you’ll inspire good will, loyalty, and enthusiasm instead of incipient resentment.

Recognize poor performance early – You may think you’re a great judge of character, that your employees are exemplary, and that your management skills are superior, but you’ll still have to deal with poor performance issues eventually. Good employees can develop personal problems that impact their work performance, new employees can have difficulty adjusting to your management style, and issues can arise when prioritizing the way you want things done. Whatever the reason for poor performance happens to be, ignoring it or making others pick up the slack without a solution is sight never works for long. Deal with performance issues as soon as you notice them or they’re brought to your attention.

Turn criticism into critical thinking – No project, plan or business is perfect. The result: there’ll always be an opportunity (and often a legitimate reason) for someone to complain. One of the big problems with employees being vocal about their displeasure is that negative comments seem to breed — more negative thinking. Embrace suggestions and listen to complaints, but insist that complainers invest the time and energy to come up with solutions, too. If an employee has the insight to recognize and articulate a flaw in the master plan, he should also come bearing some creative ideas for a solution. Once that’s understood in your organization, your job is to take suggestions seriously and respect the process of change and growth.