We don’t do our jobs in a vacuum. We have to interact with others. The attitudes and behaviors of our bosses, coworkers, and customers contribute to the culture of the workplace. They make it consistently positive, negative, or a bit of both.
So what happens when you see and hear insensitive, divisive, or self-serving words and actions that don’t sit well with you? Do you:
- Keep silent (a signal of consensus)?
- Report it to the boss or HR for action?
- Complain to coworkers who feel as you do?
- Take action in your own way?
The power to affect change comes from within you. It takes a plan and committed, sustained action. The power of “you” can be formidable.
We often think that only management can fix what’s wrong with a company’s culture, even when they’re a part of the problem.
We may think that sexism, bullying, antagonism between labor and management, and an everyone-for-themselves performance mentality are behaviors we have to learn to live with.
Sadly, that’s why these behaviors continue and escalate.
We all have positive role models we try to emulate. Now it’s our turn to be that positive example at work, one day at a time.
We can each contribute to turning negative behaviors around by:
- Becoming a conscience for what is right
- Setting an example by what we say and do
It’s not for us to get on a soapbox necessarily, but simply to intervene, one-on-one in most cases, to call attention to a more positive way to communicate and act.
Consider personal objectives like these:
1. ) Increase awareness of language and actions that have overtones
When you hear language that’s sexist or ethnically insensitive, suggest a more appropriate choice of words to the individual speaking or writing. Suggest that certain assignments be balanced between women and men.
In the hurry of the workplace, some coworkers may not be aware of the stereotypes they are promoting through their speech and assignments. Serving as a conscience has real power.
2.) Refuse to gossip
There’s always news that spreads throughout the workplace, but much of it can be hearsay, personal, undermining, and counterproductive. When we listen to or contribute to gossip, we become its agent.
Each time we decline to participate and offer our rationale for why, we influence one or more coworkers. That may lead to some to gossip about us, but it sets the right example, furthers your cause, and may also counteract some bullying.
3.) Discourage “us” v. “them” attitudes
Blaming can become rampant in organizations. It can target employees (us) versus management (them), employees in one group versus those in another, or you versus someone who, you believe, has made you look bad. Nothing good comes from blaming.
If you believe in personal accountability, as I do, then you can wield personal power by always owning the outcomes of your work, being unwilling to enter into the blame game, and expecting others to also own their work. When they don’t, that’s an opportunity for you to raise their awareness.
4.) Quell complaining and venting
If coworkers know you will listen to their complaints, they will continue to unload on you. If, when they start, you say you’re too pressed for time to listen or call attention to what they did to create the issue, they will likely stop.
A great many complainers fill their days dumping their load on anyone who will listen. If you reduce their audience by one, others may follow suit.
A matter of time
Making a difference takes time. The more ingrained the insensitive, divisive, and self-serving behavior, the more difficult it is to change. You have it in your power to influence other people. Whether it’s one or many, it just matters that you do what you can to have an affect.
Every action you take has the potential to inspire someone else to follow your lead or tap into their own “you” power. What could be better?
Photo from F-2 via Flickr