“Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” –Ronald Reagan
Are you working in a demilitarized strike zone? I admit, after some conflicts, the workplace can be intense. How do you restore peaceful conditions? Or, perhaps your situation is truly dire. So how do you CREATE a harmonious workplace? I am by no means an expert on this subject, but I have worked in several different assignments and I know this is a pertinent conversation for government employees. Several of the questions on the online assessment for potential food inspectors at Usajobs.gov concern your personal preferences when working with others. My favorite is number 51: “how important is it to you to have a job that has nice friendly people at work? A. very unimportant B. fairly unimportant C. fairly important D. very important.” Now, I don’t expect everyone to come to work every day singing “Kumbaya”, but can’t we all just get along?
The answer is yes, but there has to be a conscious effort by everyone involved. I have several theories I have tried over the course of my career; some were successful, others were less successful.
- As always, you must be flexible and adaptable. I cannot repeat this enough times. Public service is not like that familiar burger chain-you CANNOT have it your way! There are generational, religious, parental, personality, and educational differences on every assignment; you must make an effort, not to assimilate, but you must assimilate. Sounds redundant, but you must make an effort to understand, if not embrace, the culture of the assignment you are on. I was told to always be a thermostat, not a thermometer…..a thermometer can only tell you the temperature of a room, but a thermostat can CHANGE the environment of a room.
- Check your personal feelings at the door. I wish I could post signage everywhere I turn……this is business, please don’t make it personal. The majority of workplace conflict is rooted in personal conflict….’he doesn’t like me, she’s always talking about me, and they don’t speak to me’….so what? I am friendly, but I don’t come to work looking for friends. I have a job to do and that’s my primary purpose for being here. Have my feelings been hurt at work? Yes. Hurt people hurt people. I CHOOSE not to wear it. Would I like to have deep, meaningful relationships with the people I work with? Yes, but if I don’t, the world doesn’t stop turning on its axis and life goes on.
- Be respectful. I detest the “mean girl” syndrome. You’ve seen that movie….it’s high school, you’re new and they’re all “cliqued up” which means you don’t fit in, no matter how you try. I choose not to try. Be a trailblazer. Come in skipping, singing, and smiling daily and treat your co-workers with respect. It’s been a LONG time since anyone heard me “going off” at work; it’s unprofessional, unnecessary, and disruptive. Screaming, yelling and cussing never solved anything–and words hurt. You can’t take back what you’ve said, so be careful what you say.
I intend to revisit this conversation in the near future. Do you have any tips that you have used to increase (or develop) workplace harmony?
Adrienne Nelson-Reynolds is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.