Opening Your EARS to a Better Workplace
You approach an employee about a project you delegated to them whose deadline has long passed. You’re definitely OMG-peeved. But, ever the peacemaker, you summon up your inner Buddha to politely ask that they approach the task with a greater sense of urgency.
- Criticize the issue or behavior, not the person. You may be the John Wayne of steel-hearted emotion, but most people, especially at work, are hyper-sensitive to criticism. When lobbing a complaint, remember to focus on the issue, not the person you feel is responsible. Don’t listen to the ghosts of a coworker’s past miscues during heated conversations about mistakes.
- Realize that each person has worth. Listen hotshot, just because someone works in the mailroom doesn’t mean they’ve stamped away their soul. To effectively listen and empathize to anyone, you must first realize that everyone — every single person in your office — deserves equal respect and sustained attention.
- Avoid absolutes — right/wrong, bad/good. The workplace is fertile ground for surplus superlatives, fulsome flattery and garrulous genuflection. “We offer the best services around!” “You’ll throw your life away if you use our competitor!” Unless you’re writing marketing copy or drafting the company newsletter, rhetorical pom-poms are rarely effective communication-tools.Conversely, when approaching a dilemma in conversation, don’t start pontificating about the impending apocalypse. Everyone else realizes the minor leak isn’t going to sink the ship — and no one will trust your judgment or input if you’re constantly going overboard.
- Send “I” messages or “I feel” messages. It’s awfully tempting to let someoneknow your opinion is shared by the entire department. But no one enjoys being ganged up on. Limit your statements to personal reflections. This will have the added benefit of personalizing your message.
- Engage your brain and suspend your emotions. Let’s keep it real — if you take even minimal pride in your work, criticism feels like a dagger to your competence. Suspending your emotional response is probably the single most difficult rule to adhere; it’s also the single most important. Let your brain do the legwork during conflict, not your heart or wounded ego, and you’ll see problem issues more clearly.
Remember: your office isn’t the Senate floor. Devote less effort to becoming the picture of prolix perfection, and more energy to opening your ears to empathize with those around you.