Yesterday, I conducted a “Positive Workplace” program for a large organization. I know what you might be thinking: either “Ugh, another one of those programs” or “Isn’t it enough that I work 50 hours a week? Do I have to be nice and ‘positive’ as well?”
I suspect the participants felt the same. I started off the program asking “How many people drive? How many people obey the speed limit ALL the time? How many people perceive the speed limit to be the speed limit plus 10 miles per hour over it?”
The point I was trying to make is that most of us consider ourselves to be law abiding and contributing members of society. And most of us also believe we are safe drivers. Yet, at one time or another, we violate the speed that is safest for ourselves and our fellow motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Likewise, while most of us perceive ourselves to be positive and productive colleagues, all of us need reminders.
Next, I asked if anyone had ever experienced a time when they felt that their values were being violated in the workplace. Up popped a hand, in record time.
Dorothy said, “Before I came here, in the place where I used to work, when a spider or an ant was on someone’s desk, they killed it! They didn’t take the time or effort to return it to nature. They just killed it! They killed one of God’s creatures and they felt no remorse. I had to leave that place.”
So, I have to tell you, I am of the spider, ant and fly squashing camp. My only consideration is trying not to leave bug juice on the wall when swatting. It was an effort, a lot of effort, to hide my surprise.
But, through Dorothy’s experience, I was reminded that each of us has different values and standards of what is appropriate at the workplace. Likewise, it’s in everyone’s best interest to create workplaces where differing values are respected.
When a colleague tells you that your jokes are offensive, your pranks feel like bullying or your music is too loud, find compassion, understanding and a middle ground. It takes courage to speak up and those that voice their needs deserve to be heard.
Yes, those that speak up need to be heard and we create better workplaces when we hear them.
I have had both the joy and the opportunity to vacation in Nags Head, NC for the past 23 years. This year, we decided to go parasailing. While being suspended, I was able to see the island of Nags Head as an island. I saw the Kitty Hawk dunes where the Wright Brothers launched their plane. I saw the beauty of the island from another vantage point.
My work also gives me the opportunity to see companies from different vantage points. I notice who greets me in each place I work. The receptionist, or lack thereof, sets the tone of the workplace. I notice whether there is natural light, I notice what the lobby smells like, I notice the type of office furniture. While the physical surroundings aren’t the only determinant of the workplace culture, it sets the tone.
What does your workplace say about your culture?