What kind of workplace environment does your company have? Is it one where people enjoy working together and look forward to coming to work? Is it one where people happily and willingly come together to create products and services that the company’s customers want to buy? Or is it one where people drag themselves to work just to do what is necessary to earn a paycheck; one where they do only what is necessary to survive; one where they work begrudgingly with others only because they must, and do only what they are told to do? Or is it somewhere in between?
Your workplace environment, healthy or not, may not be a function of the company as a whole, but of the specific organization or group you are in within your company. A company where there is uniformly healthy behavior across all organizations and groups is worth its weight in gold, and unusual. Subsets of organizations or groups within a company with healthy behavior can make life happy, acceptable, or bearable to those in them to the extent those organizations or groups can operate largely on their own. But very few organizations or groups operate independently, and when they, of necessity, interact with other organizations or groups that exhibit unhealthy behavior, it is not always obvious whether healthy or unhealthy behaviors will win as the workplace environment that results when they come together. Fight for your healthy behavior, but recognize that it may become a fight.
Most reasonable employers actively encourage treating people with dignity, respect, and compassion in the workplace, at least in principle. They do this simply because it’s the right thing to do; to treat others as you would have them treat you. They may or may not publicly advocate it, or establish formal policies. This is at least a start.
Some companies recognize the value of treating people with dignity, respect, and compassion and establish formal policies with such behavior as a key element. One I’m aware of has established specific priorities to build trust through collaboration, working with others to find solutions and take action by increasing opportunities and effectiveness with internal and external relationships by focusing on treating colleagues, internal and external, with dignity, respect and compassion. This company even measures their people against these priorities as part of their performance review process, putting their money where their mouth is. They realize that treating others with dignity, respect, and compassion doesn’t just make sense from a personal perspective, it also makes sense from a business perspective, recognizing that if people are to work together effectively, they must feel valued. If your company does not have such formal policies, perhaps they should.
Critical to building a healthy workplace environment is communication, informal and formal. More communication is to be encouraged, including one-on-one conversations, small discussions with key players, group discussions, inter-group discussions, larger department or company-wide meetings. Try to gain an understanding of misperceptions, misunderstandings, differences in opinion and their causes. Try to uncover the underlying root causes beneath symptoms and surface appearances; what’s really going on rather than what appears to be going on. Without an understanding of the root causes of problems and proper ‘diagnosis’, you are unlikely to come up with permanent ‘cures’ or sustainable solutions. Recognize that such solutions may require changes in your own behavior.
So what can you do? Give encouraging kind words to employees who need them. Listen and really hear what they are saying (especially when others are not), and help to turn their useful suggestions, that appear to be falling on deaf ears, into reality. Show empathy and sympathy to an employee and his/her family when the situation calls for it, going out of your way to be of help in a time of stress or need, and be supportive when it appears others are not. Help to create a healthy workplace by always doing your best to be a good person when it is really needed. The reward will be employees who work harder and give their all to help the company that helps them grow and prosper.
A healthy workplace environment is clearly something to aspire to. It takes hard work, but the rewards can be great. Essential to such an effort is the need to treat others as you would have them treat you. Treat everyone you interact with with dignity, respect, and compassion. What a concept!
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