We often spend more time with coworkers than family on a weekly basis, so keeping the office a pleasant place to “live” is important to our mental health level and productivity. Simple rules would seemingly avoid problems, e.g. don’t be a jerk. Unfortunately, as we all know, there’s almost always someone (or two) who don’t get the memo.
It boils down to self-awareness, and some people are simply more attuned to their social self than others, and everyone to a degree has a blind spot to things they do that may irritate colleagues.
Know When Others are in the Zone
So you’re minutes away from a deadline to file a report with your boss, and the brain’s firing on all cylinders, when suddenly someone decides now’s a good time to show you a picture of their toddler niece. Blowing bubbles. For the first time. Cylinders screech to a halt and that brilliant point your last sentence was making disappears.
Some folks like the social side of work too much, forgetting to stop to observe what exactly the other person is doing, and, if it appears to be a serious concentration, slink back to return with their Facebook moment later in the day.
Technology is awesome, but it has caused workday distractions to skyrocket.
Instead of rushing to share, try:
- Keeping an eye out for nonverbal cues that signal how engaged another person is in their work before approaching them.
- Sending a quick message: “Hey, have time later to catch up?” That way, the other person, who likely muted alarms for messages until their project is done, can respond when they want.
Maximizing Emotional Intelligence
As if following a cue from recently passed President H.W. Bush, offices are trying be “kinder, gentler” places. Concepts such as servant leadership, emotional intelligence and collaboration versus individual pursuits are trying to remove the stress-inducing, time-wasting backbiting that plagues the office environment at times.
How does serving others translate into individual behavior? Asking ourselves:
- “What’s the best way I can support a co-worker, boss or staff member today?”
- Is there any expertise I can share that relates to a project someone else is struggling with?
- Does someone just need a sounding board to help them work through a problem?
Becoming an emotionally aware person involves:
- Actively listening to others, without rushing to express your own thoughts.
- Responding to ideas with “Yes, and …” instead of “Yes, but …” The difference may appear minor, but it achieves volumes in setting a positive tone.
Collaboration. It really isn’t all about you:
- Adopting a mindset of finding the best solution, not just yours.
- That means respecting every opinion, even if you disagree.
- Refusing to encourage or enable complaining unless it quickly evolves into problem-solving.
- Remember, some people are more sensitive to certain odors than others. Try not to eat at your desk if working in an open office. Keep perfume/cologne to a minimum.
- Stay home if you’re sick! Nobody is impressed by a go-getter who gives them the flu.
- Some people have no idea how loud they are on the phone. Remember: the “use your inside voice” rule applies to adults too.
So it appears the “Don’t be a jerk” maxim has many layers — from simple stuff such as keeping noise, smells and interruptions to a minimum to carefully considering the emotional and mental state of our co-workers. With enough awareness and consideration of others, we can make the workplace an enjoyable home away from home.