Often I walk into offices and am greeted by smiling people. They are happy to see me. They shake my hand heartily; some hug me as our relationship has been years in the making (don't worry, during work, it's an affirming side-hug that's HR-approved). I am fortunate to know so many wonderful business friends and colleagues. And yet, I was struck this week by the amount of time spent on relational issues.
At the workplace, I get to hear about how so-and-so told so-and-so about how such-and-such happened. And from that, the hurt feelings, the anger, the retaliatory talk all began. My opinion is then asked for in how to deal with it and how to make it so these types of incidents don't happen, or at least reduce in number.
And so, I do some research into the company. I look at how functions and processes flow. I observe managerial interaction. I look at how the executive team engages with all levels of employees. And then I make some recommendations to better align or even fix some issues in process, procedure and/or organization. And while I know those recommendations and action plans are used and appreciated. There's often one item that I don't put on the list because it's too hard to manage.
We, as a people, struggle to be gracious. I know, I know, we are the most generous country and help more countries than anywhere else. I agree and there's no argument there. We do know, to a degree, how good we have it. However, those interactions are distant. We can text our donation to the Red Cross and not have to engage any further. It only cost us $10.
Graciousness is seen in action. When it comes to an interaction with a co-worker, do you err on the side of grace in conversation? Perhaps the person you are talking to is a dunderhead (tough word, I know) and it's all you can do not tell him/her so. Count backwards from 10 and stay in the conversation. Think of ways to help rather than tear apart. Think about this: how can I impact this person for good today? If we're all about reacting and being nasty, what will that profit us?
More time, resources and money are spent on relational problems than any company would care to measure. We should think like a business owner every day. What will I do to make sure this company is moving forward and not mired in time wasting? Extending grace to someone is not over-rated. In fact, quite the opposite. Consider the other person. For as annoying as that person might be, think about what may have happened in that person's life for he/she to be this way. I don't mean this judgmentally, but rather, compassionately.
If someone who was abused as a child is now defensive in most conversations, it is understandable. If someone who had been stabbed in the back by a co-worker at a previous job keeps his/her guard up and won't engage with the rest of the team as desired, it's understandable. Notice that I am using the word "understandable" rather than "excusable." There will be reasons for these folks to move beyond the behavior they demonstrate or the language they use in order to contribute effectively in their role, but it's unlikely that those employees will be willing to do so without first being understood.
We might be too quick to jump on someone for something they say. Please understand, again, that I do not find any inappropriate or conflict-starting verbiage or actions acceptable. What I do know is that I would rather meet this person with grace to understand so that he/she would have the guard down to receive instruction and coaching. I have had to train myself (not that I am a total expert by any means) to not assume the worst in conversations or to have my back up the moment a particular individual talks to me. I realize this may be very tough for some, but it's something to examine.
Our time is valuable. Our companies are trying to make money every day to keep the doors open and the lights on. When we engage in marginal conflict with another employee, when we don't want to understand someone else, when we think we've arrived and everyone else has the problem, then we jeopardize the health of our company.
I do feel the need to mention, however, that if you are dealing with a co-worker who is clearly using offensive language or abusive engagement, then you ought to seek out your HR professional for assistance. Something needs to be done about that.
So, the next time you feel tension coming on due to a co-worker's approach or due to something someone has said, breathe. Count backwards and think big picture. Offer grace and trust in the fact that the likelihood of repair and correction will come as a result of the initial reaction. As Ms. Jackson says, "Nasty boys (and girls) don't do a thing for me." Grace allows the attractiveness of relationship to be forged deeper and, in the business community, will allow for better investment of time, money and resources to move beyond the petty.