April 20, 2014

Keep your distance (no, please don’t)

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One of the things that often puzzles me is when we are told to “Be Professional.”

 

Usually, that term is invoked when something ridiculous is happening and we’re supposed to ignore it, most likely because someone with either: A)  superior rank or B) an obviously messed-up personal life, would be embarrassed if anyone said what everyone is thinking.  There’s also option C, I suppose – when it’s us who have the problem and need to straighten up.

 

There’s a bit of a dilemma in all that, though – isn’t there?  First off, no matter what it says on your business card, you’re entirely capable of being a bone-headed screw-up.  Learn to enjoy the taste of humble pie, it’s good for you.  Appreciate it when someone recognizes you need some mental floss.  If you really want to show your enlightenment, actively seek out those opinions rather than passively absorbing them if and when they should happen.

Secondly, I understand not everyone’s comfy with personal information – we all have our tolerances.  What I don’t understand is the myth that those things should be kept out of the workplace.  For one, it just makes everyone cold and distant and, ultimately, uncaring and reinforces the notion that there’s some kind of facade we’re all supposed to put up the instant we touch the door handle on our way into the workplace.  Secondly, it’s just naive and ignorant to think that a person’s personal life isn’t well-known across the workplace anyway.

We all know our co-workers, even if we don’t want to.  Gossip is as much a part of an organization as the air we breathe – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Think of the people you work with.  Truth is, there’s the people who were just married, or just divorced, have rotten kids, who were having an affair, who weren’t having an affair, who just bought a new house, car, adopted, lost a parent, were diagnosed with the Big “C” or just beat it…..all those things.

We’re all told none of that “belongs” in the workplace, but that’s impossible – because it’s all about humanity, for all its beauty and faults.  Truth is, people will do more to care about each other than they will to cut each other down.  Yes, there are petty people who are vindictive and enjoy hurting others, but they are also a very small lot.  Unfortunately, all our policies, rules and laws have done little else but give them the loudest voice.

We should focus more on those interpersonal bonds, and cultivate them as much as possible.  Business will go well or poorly, projects will succeed or fail, there will be transitions, promotions, demotions and reassignments – but the people remain.  The more we can do to bring some of those personal foibles out into the open, and create a common sense of appreciation and an emotional connection, the stronger the group becomes.

There’s nothing wrong with caring.  In fact, there’s everything wrong with not.

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