The workplace is a special place in certain ways, because the people we interact with are not of our choosing most of the time, and relating to them isn’t the same as relating to family and friends.
On the other hand, it’s not so unique that being good at healthy relationships doesn’t help. Keeping peace in the office is achievable by raising your awareness to the level where peace is something you value and want to nurture. Here are seven tips for becoming a unit of peace wherever you work.
1. Don’t Be a Stressor for Other People
Peace begins by dedicating yourself to being part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Most of the stress in any workplace is caused by people rather than the external situation. Don’t add to the stress by doing things that provoke stress. These include joining cliques, gossiping, taking sides in office politics, and stirring the pot when there is tension in the air. Avoid all of them.
2. Examine Your Behavior in Light of How it Affects Others
Behavior that creates discord and distress in any personal situation can cause the same effects in the office. Look at yourself and be honest about any tendency you have to be demanding or a perfectionist, to criticize others in public, or to push to get your own way. Even if you are in a position of authority, these are negative behaviors that diminish productivity and injure your relationships with the people around you.
3. Keep Lines of Communication Open
It never works to isolate yourself. When there is lack of communication, people feel neglected and ignored. As we all know, being given the silent treatment isn’t neutral. It always feels as if we’re being judged. Don’t use gossip or complaints as a form of communication—they are just a form of venting, not true communication. The emphasis should be on appreciating others, offering mutual support, and being a good listener.
4. Establish Trust and Loyalty
The higher your position in the workplace, the more you need to be trusted. Feeling loyalty from above is one of the primary needs that workers report, along with feeling that their jobs are secure. Trust can be established by following through with your decisions, keeping your word, not playing favorites, and taking responsibility for your own missteps rather than blaming others.
5. Be Aware of Other People’s Needs
No two people are exactly alike, and yet we share common needs. Besides safety and security, which are basic in any situation, the workplace brings up the need to accomplish and be rewarded fairly, the need to be heard, and the need to be valued. Unless these are met, anyone could feel under-valued.
But there is also a higher need to feel creative and to be called upon for what you’re good at. Notice which of these needs are not being fulfilled—either for yourself or others—and do what you can to improve the situation.
6. Turn Empathy into Bonding
It’s natural to sympathize with others, but people often shy away from turning their sense of empathy into action. When we activate empathy, we create an emotional bond with someone else. This doesn’t just have to be in times of trouble—you can empathize with people when they are experiencing joy as well. Nor do you have to fear that you will be entangled in someone else’s personal issues—simply be clear and set boundaries to protect yourself.
Forming bonds in the workplace is a delicate matter, and sexual overtones are unwelcome, so being reluctant to treat others with personal attention is understandable. Begin by bonding with someone on a safe plane, such as appreciating their work and encouraging them to tell you their hidden aspirations and creative ideas. Once you form trust at this level, let the bond between you grow stronger naturally.
7. “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World”
This is a famous saying of Gandhi’s that applies in every part of life. Trying to change others doesn’t work. If you encounter resistance when seeking change, you’ve met the resistance that inertia always causes. But if you exemplify the change you want to see, the people who also want to change will be attracted to you, and if there are enough of you, a movement will be created. One caution: If your desire for change is motivated by anger, step back and take a second look at your desire. Few people can stir up anger and come away unscathed. If your workplace is totally uncomfortable and unfair from your perspective, a change of work is probably your best recourse.
A laundry list of tips won’t bring peace to your workplace until you start acting on them. Adopt one tip that appeals to you and try it out, cautiously at first. The whole point is that you can feel in control far more by acting on your highest intentions than by sitting around passively putting up with a deteriorating situation. Being a unit of peace brings inner satisfaction of a special kind; you deserve to experience it for yourself.