Have you returned to the office after the holidays and the reality of your work situation has slammed into you? You are sitting there at your desk, same view, same people and same problems to solve. Suddenly all your holiday relaxation and goodwill has fizzled.
I had an interesting lunch with a man that has been running his own, very successful, business for over 25 years. I was telling him the most common topic that I hear about is office morale and the general decrease in the standards of behaviour amongst colleagues. He made a very interesting statement –
It can be surprising where personal growth arises from. I have been through some real ordeals in my work life but those ordeals have created in me a will to succeed and a determination to finish the job. You may well be stuck in your own personal work nightmare right now but sit tight and think about how you can help yourself to get through and over the ordeal. Do not allow yourself to become the office victim.
It sounds like the most trite part of office life to talk about and yet everybody is talking about it. Where did respect for our colleagues go? Across varied industries the employees that we have been talking to all feel that inter-colleague respect is at an all-time low. Colleagues that stab each other in the back, use inappropriate language in the workplace or behave aggressively, management that encourages gossip and office politics – where does the change start?
What is vital in a good work environment are moments of levity. Without it work is just that, work. We spend so long with our ‘work family’ that making it enjoyable can be the difference between just getting through and actually enjoying it. One of the safest forms of office humour is self-deprecation. Be careful not to overdo it as you do not want to lose the respect of your staff.
I remember during my first post-doc I shared a lab space with a post-doc from another lab. She started several months after me so I was already familiar with her lab mates by the time she joined. She had to run a particular protocol which was very complex and it just so happened that there was an undergraduate in the lab that had worked exclusively on this protocol as a summer student. I told her she was lucky because this boy was a whiz and would be able to walk her through the whole protocol step by step.
“There’s nothing wrong with the car except that it’s on fire” – Murray Walker
Do you work with the Queen or King of the understatement? If you do, it can be difficult to really know when the car is on fire. They may just not really understand the seriousness of the situation or be able to appreciate the impact that inaction can have. It only takes a couple of flaming engines to realize that it would help to know about an issue before any sparks flew. Try to learn your team’s language use so you can detect differences when events are escalating.