An unheralded aspect of work is the impact it can have on the way we relate to others. In the course of a work career we learn much about the behaviors which are productive, and those which are unacceptable. Most people develop a “work persona”, which is very closely aligned to their personality outside of work, but is generally more restrained. Much research has been given to understanding the most effective work traits, but here are three simple approaches which I have found helpful in increasing productivity, avoiding conflicts, and coming to solutions quickly.
I have a block of wood in my office on which the words “Never Assume” are painted in bold black letters. An early boss of mine was a hard task master who tolerated no errors, and accepted few excuses. If an employee made a mistake, and then offered the excuse that he or she had “assumed” that someone else was taking care of the matter, my boss would immediately open his desk drawer and hand out a block of wood with the words “Never Assume”. These blocks of wood became conspicuous symbols of dishonor on my co-workers’ desks throughout the office.
I Can’t Read Your Mind
This rather obvious phrase is relevant to all relationships but is particularly important in the work place. Work is a team activity. There is a mutual reliance between team members. When we need help, and reach out to a coworker, we expect to get that help. There are many times when the person from whom we need help is embroiled in their own tasks. How nice it is when someone is straightforward and direct, and explains up front that they cannot help right now.
This last expression may be the most powerful words in the history of human relationships. These two words demonstrate the admission of being responsible for something that did not go well, and are especially powerful when our actions have caused hurt or offence. A genuine apology enables a relationship to leave past mistakes behind, and move forward.
Businesses are populated by people of different backgrounds, ages, objectives and ambitions. We each bring a unique set of skills and character traits to the office. This collection of talents and behaviors meld together to form the character and culture of a firm. Working together requires respect for each individual on your team. The three approaches outlined above can be a critical part of a winning team formula.