Here’s the real thing about workplace life: Sometimes you have to walk a tightrope between keeping things professional, and making sure that you don’t step on peoples’ emotional wounds. Here’s a quick primer on a couple of things you can do to make the worklife family work a little better.
When you work with a bunch of people in an office, you form a dysfunctional family unit, and being something of a lay psychologist is one of the ways that you can maneuver through the various emotional traps that lay before you in the office. Besides the normal things, like being polite, making sure that you give credit to people who help you perform a task, and not stealing someone else’s yogurt out of the mini-fridge, there are lots of other things to consider.
There is Debbie, who has worked for the firm for a long time, and feels under-appreciated. If you have to ask Debbie for something, going out of your way to thank her and acknowledge her years of experience in the matter will go a long way towards making sure that your interactions with Debbie go smoothly, and will give her ego the priceless little boost she needs. If you are supportive and motivating to Debbie, the whole office will benefit from the 20 seconds you took to make her feel appreciated. Now, was that so hard?
What about Matthew, the guy that all the guys in his department tease for being a little bit of an egghead, but who obviously has a good heart and is a great worker. If you know that Matthew is handy with repairs and such, ask Matthew if you need your chair fixed, or if the drawer handle falls off of your desk. Be very careful to make sure that he understands that it isn’t some kind of flirtation, but if you can make it clear that you are buddies, you could become his one breath of support and sense of dignity in a department full of insensitive bros. Having that kind of lifeline is just the kind of thing that keeps someone from becoming a completely disgruntled worker.
There is the emotionally needy office person, Susan, who needs to tell someone about her adventures in felted wool reproductions of Star Wars characters. If you can find it in your heart to listen to her for a limited amount of time once or twice a week, Susan will make sure that you always get your messages, and that someone leaves you a little half n half in the break room instead of scarfing it all up like an animal. Susan can be your ally in many things. Just be decent and read up on felting wool or Boba Fett or whatever it is she is babbling about. It’s a kindness that will come back to you threefold.
Take it from me, the woman who will bore you to tears with my latest cat story or glowing report about the last concert I’ve been to – a little bit of attention from you, and I’ll make sure that you always have your reports with the important parts highlighted. Because a little kindness goes a long way at the daily dysfunctional family reunion we call work.