Monday, March 01, 2010

Try to Control Your Work Environment

I work with a lot of young people. They do a lot of complaining. And, while some of them are vocal and speak to managers and highers-up about inequities or other issues in our workplace, many of them simply complain to each other. I don't think that has anything to do with age because I've had my fair share of older coworkers, who showed that same tendency. My advice is always the same, no matter who I'm speaking to...

Whenever possible, try to control your work environment.

For instance, if you are having communication issues with a coworker or manager, maybe think about sitting down with them to discuss ways that you can communicate better with each other. I've had to sit down with a coworker and say something like, "Look, it seems like we are always speaking past each other, when we have a conversation...wires seem to get crossed. Maybe we could understand each other/avoid confusion if we..."

I've also had a conversation with someone that went something like this, "You probably don't intend to make me feel this way, but you have a way of speaking that comes across as condescending." I coached it with "you probably don't intend..." because it's a way of saving someone face and making them a bit less defensive, so they can actually hear what I have to say and hopefully make a positive change. My thing is "Hey, we have this problem...what can we do?"

Now, I'm very plain-spoken and to the point. So, I'll just come right out and say what I have to say, if I decide I need to speak on something. I don't have it in me to do some long-winded and around the way preamble to an issue. I'll just approach, ask if I can have a word with you and spit it out. But, that's me. That's my style.

You can speak to someone in whatever way works for you. But, what I would suggest is that you don't communicate about a senstive issue via email--initially. Many a company will use that email as an example that you are "closed off" or that you are "confrontational" or that you made "threats" or were "intimidating" or "only chose to speak to people by email and never face-to-face" or they can accuse you of any number of fake and distracting non-issues.

So, go ahead and try to talk to someone. Keep the mood as light as possible. Try to use humor. And, try to find some common ground. Believe it or not, I had issues with a senior manager and what made things better was when she learned we both like the show I Love Lucy. Stupid, but true. Suddenly, she had jokes and was talking to me about certain episodes. She wasn't so bad to work with anymore. Yes, she still had some ways. But, I could now tolerate her. Before that, it was a nightmare dealing with her. But, making that ridiculous connection with her changed things dramatically for me at work.

If you're having issues, try to work things out. Don't just complain.

We spend more time at work and with our coworkers than we sometimes spend at home and with loved ones and friends.

Try to make your enviornment as positive as you can. Take some control!


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