Have you hugged a colleague today?
Due to the nature of my work, I am often called in by a client to find the source of poor productivity and low morale among the workforce. Besides the hard issues (organisational structures, processes, workload etc.) it is surprising how often it is the soft ones that play a key role. In particular interpersonal relationships or rather the lack thereof. (Be it at staff or management level.)
Mistrust, gossip, avoidance, accusations, personal email battles, impatience and even sabotage are clear signs that things are wrong on an interpersonal and or interdepartmental level.
Communication is the foundation of relationship building but it takes a certain level of emotional intelligence to ensure that what is being communicated is also received and understood the way it was intended. Sounds simple. It is. So why is it going wrong in the office?
From my observations, stress is often the main culprit. In this instance, stress brought into the office, not caused by the office. South Africa is often quoted as the second most stressed country in the world. (Nigeria takes first place…) What does this mean? Most people come to work carrying huge burdens of personal stress. Be it financial, health related, domestic violence, addictions or crime or else… At one time or another we are all hit by trauma and worry. Regrettably, besides a myriad of physical health issues, stress tears down our walls of reason, logic, compassion, patience and energy. All are vital to basic constructive engagement.
The next time you feel seriously aggrieved by a colleague’s actions, perhaps you should get up close and personal – with patience, an open mind and empathy. You’ll be surprised what people have to bring to work everyday and why they struggle to conduct themselves in a professional, pleasant and productive manner.
Getting to know your fellow worker is really important. In particular in workplaces as diverse as in South Africa.
Understanding brings perspective. A small incident can easily be diffused, if acted on immediately by the parties themselves, before it turns into a full blown conflict. Engage – carefully if need be – and listen. It works. Trust me.
Clearly, deep, longstanding disagreements and feuds in the workplace are better resolved with the help of an independent intermediary.
So – have you hugged a colleague today?