All of us in our lives draw from the various experiences that we have had at work or otherwise. We see the world and the way it is shaped for us, in context of our experiences. This is true for everyone. Similarly, the people we work with also come with a set pattern of behaviour that defines them and the way they work. Which is why behaviour and culture are the toughest things to work on as organisations.
Culture and behaviour are defined by circumstances and situations that we have been exposed to. Human nature desires repetition and seeks patterns. Whatever the situation, good, bad, or ugly. For example, if someone has worked in a toxic environment for a long period of time and has been subject to negative scrutiny constantly, their behaviour pattern tends to be offensive, defensive of insecure or a combination. Versus someone who has worked in pleasant, positive environs will carry a sense of balance and exude positivity. Having said so, as conscious people and professionals, we can always choose to override these patterns that put us in these boxes.
All workplaces will have difficult or complex people who you will need to navigate and the smartest things to do are:
- Focus entirely on the outcome and the job at hand
- Grow a thick skin
- Focus on the issue, and not on the person
- Try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes
- Patience and tolerance are long lasting virtues
- Don’t pay attention to it if it is not urgent or important
- Use language that is neutral and communicate neutrally
- Do not bring in previous situations and behaviours to assess the one at hand
While it is easy to say all of these are hard to put into practice because that means it becomes a conscious effort to work on ourselves and not bring our past experiences into the situation. A lot of times, we pre-empt behaviour based on past instances but all behaviour in context of us is in our hands to engineer. We are all guilty at different points in time of writing off people after we label them a certain way. We are also guilty of judging someone’s behaviour based on the behaviour of others around them.
Everybody you work with does not need to be appeased or made friends with. It’s alright to be professional yet detached. It is also okay to have healthy conflict because from conflict comes outcomes that trigger changes that could be positive both at a relationship level and at an organisation level. Channelling conflict, agreeing to disagree, and arriving at common ground can often be cathartic as a process. The key is to avoid getting personal and making it about the person and not the situation.
As we journey into leadership roles it is important to remember to set aside the ego, which is when you will be truly able to let go. This also needs awareness about the fact that while you may be willing to operate without an ego, everyone else at the table might be still holding on to theirs. The struggle is in finding that sweet spot where everybody’s differences are set aside, strengths are augmented, and the team is brought together to deliver the best that they potentially can. This is where personality diversity plays a role because every table needs a cynic, an optimist, and executer, and ideator and more. In collective collaboration and the mingling of various mindsets is where true growth and true potential are resting.
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