Imagine a very busy time at work. The pressure to perform increases, people get stressed and tempers flare up. There is name calling going on. “Why don’t you know how this is done? You’re stupid.” Or: “It’s always the IT department that is holding things up; that is why we can’t get anything done around here.”
As a manager or supervisor, how do you reframe these situations? Here are 5 steps to gradually creating a culture of caring and mutual respect in your organization.
- Stop the Blame Game. It is human nature to cope with overwhelm and stress by blaming co-workers, the neighbor or spouse. In the group processes I’ve done on interpersonal dynamics in the workplace, where participants needed to work together to solve a problem, I’ve noticed that the first thing people do when things go wrong is blaming each other that things don’t work. Although it seems like blaming is somewhat of a cultural norm, that doesn’t make it right or constructive. You can stop the blame game by looking at your own contribution in the situation and postponing your judgment until you know more. You can help the other to stop blaming by acknowledging that he or she is under a lot of stress and not acting like him or her true self. Dismantle the blaming by asking the blamer: “Is there anything I can do to help?”
- Understand versus Judge. Listen for understanding first, rather than pushing to bring your point across or judging the other for their actions. We don’t know the whole story. We never do, until we take the time to listen and step into another person’s shoes, see their perspective and understand their emotions around the situation. Check the assumptions you’ve made with the other, the story that you tell yourself about other people’s motives. Is it really true and how do you know?
- Get to know people on a personal level. The cycle of disrespect and intolerance towards each others’ differences starts with stereotyping. Once we start believing that the stereotypes we hear are true, we start treating and interacting with people according to these stereotypes, which often have a negative impact such as exclusion from a group or nasty remarks towards an individual. When we take the time to get to know someone as an individual and no longer see him or her as part of a group, we can appreciate them for who they are and find evidence that the negative stereotyping isn’t true for this person. Who are you seeing in a negative light, because of a stereotype you have about the group you have placed this person in in your mind.
- Gather a small group of like-minded people. Meet up with people that share your vision of creating a caring and respectful workplace and start the conversation about what that means and would look like in your organization. What would you see people do, hear people say that is caring and respectful? Share these ideas with others in conversation over lunch, in a company newsletter or at a staff meeting.
- Invite Communication and Expression. Gather ideas from your staff and colleagues about what would make the workplace more enjoyable and energizing for them. Ask them which one thing they could do that would make their immediate workplace more pleasant. If you have regular staff meetings add this topic as a standing agenda item for a few times and see the conversation open up.
Inspired by an article by Roz Zander in the “Intelligent Optimist” Magazine.