All the hours we spend around people at our workplaces don’t just bring us our income. These hours also provide the opportunity to develop more maturity, kindness, life skills and self-esteem.
How? Our workplace relationships.
You may love your co-workers, clients and customers, supervisors, the children you teach. Or perhaps you wish they’d just go away. Either way, your interactions with these people can help you become more of the person you want to be.
Create More Fun and Enjoyment for Everybody
Doing small acts of kindness make you feel good. They brighten the day for the people around you. Raising others’ self-esteem through positive words and thoughtful acts makes for a happier work environment for everyone.
When I worked at a community mental health center, one of the nurses went on a trip to Australia. She brought home a little stuffed koala bear for each staff member — around 40 people.
I wouldn’t have expected her to haul home all these little bears. But she no doubt got a kick out of doing it.
We hadn’t really known each other before her trip, but I felt closer to her after her generous act.
What are some kindnesses we can share at work?
- Organize potlucks
- Bring cupcakes on our birthdays, just like we used to do in school
- Pay sincere compliments on a regular basis
- Offer rides to people who are getting their cars repaired
- Give holiday cards and birthday cards
What If Your Co-workers Aren’t So Nice?
Wouldn’t it be great if all the people we interacted with at work were friendly, easy-going, responsible? No crazies?
The good news is that being around the most difficult people gives us the greatest opportunities for growth.
Let’s look at some general things we can do in our relationships with these folks.
The Loving-Kindness Meditation
In a previous post we talked about a meditation that can help us build a sense of love and kindness towards ourselves and others. When we’re dealing with difficult people, working with this meditation helps us change our thinking and see this person with compassionate eyes.
Here’s the Loving-Kindness Meditation
May (the person’s name) be filled with loving-kindness
May (he/she) be well in body and mind
May (he/she) be free from anger and anxiety
May (he/she) be peaceful and at ease
Happy people don’t create problems for others. It’s a safe bet that this trying person struggles with sadness, low self-confidence, anxiety, shame or other negative feelings. They probably experience little good will from others.
What might happen if you started to see this person as unhappy instead of as a jerk? How might your relationship change once they began to feel your empathy?
Working With an Aggressive Co-worker or Client
With this sort of person, you might first try finding out what’s upsetting them, validating their feelings, and offering to help them find solutions.
You may be thinking, “Why is it my job to make this person happy? Their anger is their own problem. Why should I have to take their abuse?”
Think of it this way: you are suffering because of their behavior. You want to reduce your unhappiness when you’re around them. It’s a question of doing what works.
When you show understanding to a hostile person, it may well soften them up a bit. You might start to see the vulnerable side of them. You’ll understand how they are trying to protect themselves from the rejection and and blame they expect to receive.
Dealing With an Abusive Supervisor
With a supervisor with anger problems, you may have to set firm boundaries. If you hate conflict or feel that you need to hold onto your job at any cost, what are your options?
Find within yourself the self-respect that says you’ll no longer tolerate this.
Once you make this decision, you’ll change your own behavior. You’ll send out non-verbal signals that people need to show you respect.
Often, your supervisor will begin treating you differently in return. They pick up on your new attitude and just back off.
However, you may practice kindness towards them or act more assertively with them and see no softening on their part.
The next step may be to tell your supervisor you’ll no longer accept their behavior.
This is a hard one.
Write down what you want and need to say to them. Find your own words to tell them they can’t treat you this way. Practice the conversation with a friend or relative, saying your words firmly, confidently, and calmly.
If nothing changes or things get worse, it’s now time to begin looking for another job.
When someone has authority over you and doesn’t modify abusive behavior, you can’t continue putting up with it. For your emotional and physical health, you must not stay in this environment.
Even if it’s going to be very difficult to find another job, even if you have to take a job that pays less, you can’t afford someone’s cruelty. You will find another job. Don’t let your self-esteem crumble to bits.
Summing It All Up
How do you need to grow? Do you want to develop greater kindness and compassion towards others? Do you want to see that you can effectively make your workplace more fun? Perhaps you need to overcome your fear of standing up to people.
Our workplaces are ideal for growing ourselves. Use your power to build up your people skills. You’ll feel good showing yourself how effective you are.
Readers: What have you learned about growing through your work relationships? Please share your wisdom with us!