For many of us, our co-workers are a second family. And, like any family, misunderstandings can occur. We're all human; we make mistakes, and if we don't learn how to clear the air with each other, we're left with a miserable work environment. Taking the time for a bit of compassion and empathy with the people you spend most of the day with will garner better productivity and peace of mind.
The question becomes how to go about it when you know you're not the problem. Of course, we all know it's not you; it's everybody else that doesn't know how to read an email thoroughly or answer the phone when it rings. How hard is it to simply do your job and stay out of everybody's personal business? The truth is nothing gets accomplished when everyone feels they're not to blame for the tense atmosphere in the office. We all have to take a hard look at the prospect that we may be contributing, even unconsciously, to a poor workplace.
My friend, Debbie, once told me she didn't enjoy the people at her work. She said they barely spoke to her, or each other for that matter. So, I suggested she come to the office with a bright smile. Take a moment and look at the person walking by you and greet them with a cheerful 'Good morning.' Ask them about their weekend and let them know you're interested in their answer. Then, as your day progresses, pay attention to how focused you are on your fellow employees. Are you actively listening to them by being engaged and nodding? Are you asking follow-up questions? Are you letting them know you appreciate their work? Try this for a week, see if you can't change their perspective, and get them to open up a little.
Debbie called me the next week and admitted that she wasn't sure any of my advice would work but was willing to give it a try. She said it was quite a revelation to learn that some of her co-workers found her to be aloof and standoffish. However, they were happily surprised to see her in a good mood and that she wanted to engage with them. As the week went on, Debbie found it easier to talk with them and noticed that more people were having fun conversations with each other.
We can't control the narrative in someone's mind of how they perceive us, but if we take the time for them to get to know us, we have a better chance of having a good working relationship. Our words and actions matter. People will stop trying to help us improve if we're defensive of constructive criticism. If we don't follow up on a project, make excuses, or worse, blame somebody else, we lose credibility. We need to be aware of respecting personal or professional boundaries. If a co-worker doesn't want to discuss a particular topic or share personal information, respect their wishes.
It can be challenging to get along with everyone you work with. We all come to the table with our insecurities and self-doubt. The effort each of us puts into trying to hear another's concerns and viewpoints, the greater our chances of building strong relationships. The best part is when people enjoy working together; everyone feels a more balanced and rewarding life.