Co-Workers Are People Too!

Joshua - Atlanta, Georgia
Entered on January 8, 2009

When I was building the new website for my speaking services, I wanted some references and quotes from people who knew me. I wrote to one of my previous managers and asked him to write me a short paragraph or two for my site. This is part of what he wrote:

“Joshua realized that work is not just a place to do a job, but it is also a place where a group of people are more or less forced to spend a lot of time together. He did everything he could to make the job more fun and if possible, to bring a smile to anyone he encountered during the course of the day. Joshua always understood that clients and coworkers are first of all people with the same problems and needs that everyone else has.”

From that statement, I have taken my title for this article, “Coworkers Are People Too!”.

I have always felt very strongly about the way people treat other people. In fact, I believe that the vast majority of problems in our work places today are because people have the greatest lack of respect and concern for other people.

You may question that statement; “How could just the way people treat their coworkers cause the majority of problems for a company?”

Well, when employees treat others with disrespect, with anger, and act as weasels, they make the working environment harsh and uncomfortable. When workers feel uncomfortable and upset with others, they end up hating their jobs.

What happens when people hate their jobs? There are several results that can be directly attributed to this:

• Good workers will be more apt to leave and look for employment with other companies where the working environment is better.

• Employees who have bad attitudes will be rude to clients and customers.

• They will feel less willing to cooperate with other employees, causing disruption of work.

• Bad attitudes spread. One rotten apple soon spoils the entire bunch.

So, does this mean we’re just supposed to sit there with a smile on our face and let people walk all over us while we say; “Have a nice day!”? No, that’s not at all what it means. We can be firm in our opinions, do our best job possible, say “no” when necessary, and still be nice and friendly about it.

The story is told that Jefferson Davis once asked General Lee for his opinion about a certain confederate officer who was under him. General Lee gave nothing but glowing reports about that officer’s actions and work. Later, one of General Lee’s assistants expressed his surprise at the General’s comments. “That officer says nothing but bad things about you!” said the assistant. General Lee replied; “President Davis wanted to know my opinion of that officer’s abilities, not that officer’s opinion of me!”

That is the hardest part about treating others kindly and with respect. There are always those who are such lousy workers, who lie, cheat, and steal their way through the company, that they don’t deserve to be treated kindly. But life isn’t really about getting what you deserve. Life is what YOU make it.

Let’s look at this from a hypothetical perspective here. Suppose a coworker says something bad about you, or “steals the show” on a project you worked hard on. Our first tendency is to get mad and think we have to get even. So, when our big moment comes along, we take our chance and retaliate for what they did to us. Then, they are mad at us, and are looking for a way to get us back for our retaliation.

Then, suppose we’re meeting with some managers and one of them mentions an open position, and says that he is thinking of offering it to that person. We know that person would be great in that position, but we’re mad at them, so we offer some excuse why they shouldn’t get the position. The manager offers the position to a person less qualified, and they take it.

A major client calls with a problem, and the person less qualified isn’t able to handle the pressure, and they make the client mad about something, and the client takes their business elsewhere. Several thousand dollars are lost, just because we were mad at another coworker.

While as I stated, that was just an illustration, it is not at all unthinkable or impossible. And as long as there are people, there will be those who act with disrespect and rudeness to others. However, if we would just stop and think for a moment before we act in those ways, we’d save ourselves and our companies a lot of unnecessary trouble.

In today’s society treating others with kindness doesn’t come with any regularity. People are so wrapped up in their own little worlds, they don’t have the time or the care for others. It is really a sad situation for our corporations and places of employment to be in. We spend 8 or more hours a day, 5 days a week with these people. If there was just an atmosphere of kindness and respect in that office or workplace, what a difference it would make in people’s lives.

I don’t really think many people stop and think about the results of their actions and the way they treat other people. Like so much in today’s world, we are focused on “instant” action. All we care about is what is right now, not thinking about how that instant action may affect other reactions down the road.

And then, there are thousands who have never considered putting others first in their work or in any part of their lives for that matter. They don’t realize the value and importance of such a way of living. Sure, it doesn’t come naturally at all. We are pretty much programmed to put ourselves first. Our focus is mainly on I, ME, MINE. What a vast difference it would make in our companies and work environments if we started putting others first, and we stopped for a second to think before we say something or act a certain way.

One important thing to remember is what has been called “the Golden Rule” – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That applies to all of us whether we are a janitor, a secretary, a manager, or a CEO, the way we treat others will affect not only our own lives, but the lives of many people. It kind of has a “trickle-down” effect. If we ruin someone’s day, they will be more apt to ruin someone else’s day. If we brighten someone’s day, it will have the same effect. So, remember, attitude is everything, and treat others with kindness and respect.

In his 35 years with the United Nations system, Kofi Annan has come to be known as an evenhanded man with an ability to see parts and the whole at the same time. It is this quality that makes him one of the more popular executives in the United Nations. He recalls an unforgettable lesson learned in Ghana at age seventeen: One day our headmaster walked into the classroom and put up a broad sheet of paper with a small dot in one corner. “Boys,” he asked, “what do you see?” All of us shouted in unison, “A black dot!” Then he said, “So not a single one of you saw the large white sheet of paper? Don’t go through life with that attitude.”

So, stop looking at the negatives in everything, and start focusing on the positives. Thank your fellow employees when they help you., buy lunch or something for someone who does a good job, show some courtesy and respect, and go out of your way to be kind. Remember – coworkers are people too!