I have been reading the responses to the Wall Street Journal article about workplace behavior. It is so interesting to look at the pendulum swings from "it's all about making money" to the plaintive cry from every leader "Why can't we all just get along?"
I do believe that work is so much more than just making money. It is the next level of education for all of us once we finish whatever level of schooling we have attained. It really doesn't matter if you are a high school dropout or head of a government. Unless there is an understanding of the deeper aspects of human interaction we will remain stuck in the polarities of "make money" or "just behave"!
What forms us happens so early we are not really aware of it. And often, what we learn from our family, our culture, and crises often stays unresolved. We are hard wired early in life with the values and beliefs that were handed to us from generation to generation.
These values and beliefs sit in the lower areas of the brain, especially the amygdala where patterns of fight, flight, and freeze are regulated. Then when we leave or original organization, the family and go to school we take what we learned with us, the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful.
The work environment is where we take the early patterns and it is there we play out the unfinished business of fairness, favoritism, gossip, one-upmanship, betrayal and the like. It is in the workplace that office politics thrive and resemble the phone calls and emails from family member to family member discussing challenges and hurts.
Can we get along at work? Can we get along at home? Can old feuds be put to rest? Can we become reasonable and rational when we talk with each other?
The short answer to all these questions is "Yes, of course". However, there is a longer answer needed if there is really going to be resolution to workplace conflict and answer the question about why it is so hard for all of us to get along.
It is the responsibility for every individual to become self aware. This seems to be a time in the work world where self awareness is gaining momentum. It means looking at your own behavior patterns, really looking at what you do and say, and taking responsibility for your actions, all of your actions.
Till now, we have been such a finger pointing society, always saying, it's his fault, it's her fault, it's their fault. Now, if we all take the time, and that does not means years of peeling away and dissecting, it means just noticing what pushed your buttons and who you find most annoying, and begin to make incremental changes we will finally be in the ballpark to find new and better ways to relate to each other at work.
All leadership development programs, all workplace seminars about how to handle conflict, how to engage better at work need to have a module that points the finger back to oneself to look and learn.
We can all get along better when we see that work is so much more than a mere job, it is on the job training for living a more positive, more creative, and more enjoyable life.