Openness in the workplace

As a person in authority, one of the most damaging things that can happen is that your workmates assume the worst about you. Typically this happens because someone has become offended, because the boundaries you share aren't very obvious or because you simply process things differently. Maybe you feel undervalued or mistreated. Maybe you feel like people don't respect you and your position. Perhaps you even feel like others are really working around you instead of with you.

What you are discovering is the absolute importance of talking over even the smallest issues if they erode any portion of trust in a relationship. There are many things we choose to just "live with." We tell ourselves things like, "This person doesn't mean any harm" or "That's their decision, they are in control, I just have go along with it." What we are doing in these situations is giving ourselves a reason to doubt later on. These small situations mount and grow in number. Pretty soon, there are enough of these little pebbles of sand that we have a dune between us and the other person. We must commit ourselves to the process of removing these grains of sand one at a time as they try to fall between us and those we work with. If we don't, it's only a matter of time before we can no longer see the other person through the dune that separates us. As managers, we have to open the door of kindly confrontation and allow those around us to approach us fearlessly and honestly. Being in authority doesn't mean that we are perfect relationship builders. We still need the input of others around us.

What are a few things you can do to keep the sands of misunderstanding from becoming a dune?

  1. Be honest. You have to trust that the people you work with are mature enough to discuss anything. You must at least try. If you approach a co-worker with an issue that sparked emotion or concern inside of you and they retaliate when you speak, give them time to cool down and try again. Just be honest with them and with yourself as you journey ahead. Don't feel that silence is golden in situations that frustrate or bother you. And give them the opportunity to be honest in return. It may sting but if you are committed to them, it will work itself out in the end.
  2. Be doubtful. This may sound odd, but you really do need to go into sensitive situations with a little doubt. Doubt that the person really is against you. Doubt that they mean to hurt you. Doubt that it is as large a situation as you may believe. Then give that person a chance to prove you wrong. I think you will typically be surprised at how small some of these bothersome situations actually are.
  3. Believe. Choose to believe in the other person that you are dealing with. There is a friend and good co-worker inside of that person. Believe in them and offer your friendship, your trust and your respect to them as you work through these small grains of sand. Remember that it's just a small grain of sand. If you already have a dune in the way, believe enough in the other person that you are willing to take the time and patience to remove that hill one grain at a time. It will take a while but don't give up. Allow them time to believe in you, too. Be patient. Healing doesn't happen over night in many cases.

Do you know someone that would benefit from this article? Why not just forward it to them. This and many other topics like it are covered in the book Making It Count: Putting meaning back in business and relationships. Bryan Hurlbut is the author of Making It Count: Putting meaning back in business and relationships.

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