A young associate of mine recently shared with me, “I don’t have to like you to work with you”. I was shocked and amused by his comment. Shocked because I thought of him as a person who selected his acquaintances and clients with great care; although highly motivated and determined, he had a gentle, loving nature and clearly cared about the people who crossed his path. Amused because, I found myself judging him based upon his age – in my reactive analysis, he was just too young and inexperienced to have worked in a situation where there was interpersonal conflict. He was unable to mark the distinction between a loving work environment, where employees collaborate and support and enjoy time spent together at work and often beyond; and, of course, a destructive work environment where workers oppose each other and willingly undermine competitors to further their own advancement.
Only yesterday I was consulting with an associate and he commented on his workplace saying that their top man was toxic to the organization. The bad news is that this person will not be leaving the workplace tomorrow. So what can you do, in fact what must you do to create a work environment where a senior person makes life a living hell and you have no power to escape the influence of this person?
The loving, nurturing, helpful workplace contributes to improved health, while the stress and anxiety caused by an indifferent workplace lead to disease.
Could this be why the Dalai Lama (Vancouver Sun, Compassion for our Fellow Human Beings is the Key to Happiness, Sept. 25, 2009) says that the purpose of life is happiness. As the Dalai Lama cites “every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering”.
The Dalai Lama suggests that our mental development is of the greatest importance to each of us and this should be where we invest the greatest time and effort; and why is this important? As the Dalai Lama points out, “I have found that the greatest degree of tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well being becomes”.
To my young friend: it is not enough to work in an environment where we are polite and courteous to each other. We must invest in caring about the people in our lives and, yes, this includes the workplace. The Dalai Lama adds that “True compassion is not just an emotional response, but a firm commitment founded on reason”. The extreme of this commitment is unconditional love, where an individual continues to love in spite of the hurtful intentions of others.
So here are a few suggestions on how you can make a significant contribution to your workplace:
- Treat your work as service: To take a service approach requires you to care for your colleagues and clients. It is not enough to deliver a service or product at the margin. You must be sure that the work you undertake is truly meaningful and appropriate.
- Spend time with your colleagues and clients: This means that you must get to know them. You must be willing to listen to their ideas and they must know that you feel they are worthy.
- Try to understand the motives of others: Nine times out of ten, people’s intentions are constructive and positive. They are in fact doing what they think is integral and worthy. Avoid your first response to react and take the time to dig a little deeper. This could pay huge dividends.
- Think of your colleagues as family: Typically family protects family even when they can see the error of their ways. Be responsible to them by offering needed support and by occasionally offering a little honesty.
- Use life tests as opportunities to grow in compassion: Understanding that more compassion in the world is a good thing is not enough; as the Dalai Lama points out, conflict creates the training ground for personal growth, “…and who creates such opportunities? Not our friends, but our enemies“. He says that we should start by feeling gratitude when a challenge is sent our way.
In conclusion the Dalai Lama puts an optimistic spin on the condition of man. He points out, if hatred and anger had been the predominant emotion on this planet, the human species would have ceased to exist. In his mind, it is the love and compassion that we show for each other that has permitted the human world to survive and thrive in many ways.
Please tell me what you think. The person who chooses to lead in this way will surely become an ambassador of love.