In one of my favorite books, the authors Kathi Elster and Katherine Crowley write, “Let’s face it, the relationship at work between a boss and an employee often becomes a minefield of emotional misinterpretations.” I couldn’t agree more, and it’s not just between the supervisor and their direct report, it is between employees at all levels.
Almost every time I speak about destructive conflict at work, I hear stories from audience members about how they were misunderstood or mistreated at work. I’m continually amazed at how mean-spirited people are at work. After all, we are hired to move the organization toward its goal, and when we can’t get along, we are moving the organization in the opposite direction.
Most of the time, misunderstandings stem from an underlying assumption about the situation we haven’t verified. Of course, you may be thinking, “It’s not me. I don’t have the problem. It’s my coworker (or my boss).” Maybe so, yet each of us plays a part.
Here is your part: ask the person for their help in understanding their position. And then…listen. Listen for understanding. Listen for the emotion beneath the words. Listen without judgment. Listening is some of the hardest work we do and because of that, most of us don’t do it.
Please spend the next work day really listening to people. Post your experience here. I believe we can make a positive difference at work when we listen to each other.
By the way, the book title is Working with You is Killing Me. It includes lots of great information about what you can do to make a difference at work.