Nurturing Respect in the Workplace
Rachel: We are very fortunate to have Marjorie Nichols as our presenter. She is Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has provided Behavioral Healthcare for over 30 years. Ms. Nichols graduated from Eastern Illinois University with an Undergraduate Major in Psychology and Health Education. She holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois and has served as a field instructor for the University of Texas at Arlington for social work interns. And without further delay, Marjorie, I will turn things over to you.
Marjorie Nichols: Thanks so much Rachel and hello everyone!. I am looking forward to talk with you all about nurturing respect in the workplace because there is a therapist in your Employee Assistance Program world, I work with a lot of people who are struggling with what is going on in the workplace or what often times we refer to is that concept of etiquette and now if were all face to face with one another, I would ask you all for some examples of bad manners or poor etiquette, at your current workplace or a previous one, and we would probably begin to laugh about all the examples, we could come up with poor manners or a bad etiquette. And now what I would like for you all to consider is what’s the costs are to all of us, of those types of disruptive or rude behavior.
Well the cost can be measured and challenges to stay focused, to increase your workplace performance, sliding morale and so on. There is a direct correlation between good etiquette and successful business practices. It sometimes makes, it’s a difference between the job that you want to go to in the morning and the job that you want to avoid, right.
So towards our goal of helping empower you with some tools to have a great positive work culture. I will talk just very quickly about our learning objective. Today, the path that we are going to take, we begin with defining what etiquette is, and then I will list just some of the many inappropriate behaviors that we see at the workplace and then, I will take you through the very effective step in addressing the inappropriate workplace behavior with using a tool that we in the communication world, call assertiveness techniques and then I will describe the tips, the steps and techniques that you can use to have an assertive discussion with the co-workers. So it makes sense that we all start with the same foundation and that is a couple of definitions, that ValueOptions feel. Describe pretty well what etiquette is?
The practices and forms prescribed by a social convention or by authority or the second, rules governing socially acceptable behavior. Let’s move on to some questions that I hope encourage, some thoughtfulness from you all. So as I read through these questions, consider your work environment, and then consider how you define your workplace etiquette. The first question, what behaviors are acceptable at work? The second, what behaviors are not acceptable at work? The third, do life experiences such as where we were brought up affect how we define workplace etiquette? And lastly could there also be generational, cultural, or other differences?
Well, let me actually go back to this for a minute. I want, again, the goal is that we are all thinking similarly. The answer of course is yes. There are many differences that we are all working with today and of course all of you represent different work setting. So your different work settings, whether it’s a different physical work environment that the one that I have, there is different logistics, there is a difference in the businesses, all of those shape the type of etiquette that we have in our workplace. Now that you have considered what the standards of the etiquette is for your team or your group or your work environment reflect on what the benefits are, to have a set of behaviors that are customary for your work environment.
I think you would all agree with this, that somebody else's behavior speaks volumes about who they are, right?
Well, this idea then made me think about a quote from Maya Angelou, which is, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Now consider the set of practices that we will refer to as business etiquettes and consider that this set of business etiquettes helps us to flourish at the work place and it’s comprised of thoughtfulness, good communication, conflict resolution skills, and this in turn promotes successful relationships, while reducing and often eliminating, distracting and sometimes destructive behavior. So let's review what some of that destructive behavior can be.
Again, we all could come up with a list of 30 or 40 right. So we would come up with just a couple to get us starred and I'm going to add a couple, not following through what they say they're going to follow through on. Habitually late for meetings, I am one of those people that meetings need to begin on time and end on time. Constructing floppy, email messages. A person that you have done something for and then doesn’t thank you for it or leaves spoiled food in the refrigerator I'm always inclined to think to myself. I'm not your mother, clean up after yourself and then there are issues of personal hygiene or those that gossip, outburst of anger or cursing or this one, saying negative things about other employees behind their back.
Well some of this reminds me of a client that I worked with some years back. For confidentiality purposes, let’s call her Shirley and Shirley actually came in to see me as a result of continued pressure that she was feeling at the workplace about somebody else’s bad etiquette. Let me tell you the story about Shirley.
Her cube was right next to a coworker's cube, a woman who had a very loud booming voice and so when she was talking to clients or to someone personally, she was speaking so loudly that it interfered with Shirley’s ability to concentrate, or to talk with her own customers on the phone but the insurer was the one that really put her over, was when this coworker was beginning to make funeral arrangements for her mother on the phone, while intermittently having a conversation with her brother over the phone about her mother's estate, surely was going through a divorce in a way, a death of a relationship for her and it overwhelmed her and it sickened her and it just put her over the top with these conversations and what she realized was these feelings of this women were contagious.
So thinking about other people’s behaviors and your behaviors help you to begin to determine what is poor etiquette, on your part or somebody else’s and once you are quick to observe -- first of all what it is about yourself that you need to change or what is it about somebody else that you'd like to influence a more positive change. We have a formula for you and that’s called ACT, Assess, Calculate and to Take action. So let me talk about each one of these to give you an idea of how to approach a difficult situation that you may be facing, at your workplace or in your family.
First, Assess the situation. Identify the specific issue that is leading you to feel annoyed or distracted. Well let’s go to Shirley’s case again. So with her, with my help she identified the thoughts and the feelings that she was having. I have already mentioned to you, feeling overwhelmed by the constant noise of her coworkers voice, the bing with on her phone indicating she had another Facebook connection or something else.
Marjorie Nichols: And what began to happen for Shirley that she had escalated stress and anxiety because she couldn't tune the coworker out. But now she is delineated, the assessment of the situation we began to move, to calculating the plan, formulating a plan that would help her address this in a constructive and helpful way. So again in Shirley’s case, she needed to ask herself some difficult questions. Did she have a part in this problem? Well, she wasn't the one that was speaking so loudly or rudely but the part that she did having this problem is not having addressed it directly with this individual, in fact, what she ended up doing was gossiping, talking about her with a couple of coworkers perhaps with a thought that they might say something to her and then the problem would go away. I think we kind of call that the ostrich effect right.
Now the last is to take action. If you decide that the behavior causes too much distraction or potentially causes you a problem, you need to address it directly with a coworker and that’s exactly what Shirley did. She did it with me while incorporating what we refer to as assertiveness techniques.
Now assertiveness, here you see a definition. It is the ability to express your feelings, preferences, opinions, beliefs, and needs directly openly and honestly in a manner that is neither threatening or nor punishing towards another person. So what I would like you all to do is to imagine a continuum or a line in front of you and at one end of that continuum, at the far right end is aggressive communication and at the other end is passive communication. You all know about passive, aggressive behavior right, it’s what Shirley had been doing, talking to people other than the coworker that she was having difficulty with hoping that somehow the problem would go away.
Other times, we address problems in an aggressive way where we are demeaning or disrespectful but in that center of the continuum is assertiveness and that’s where we have an abiding sense of self-integrity, and self-respect. We understand what our personal rights are but we also respect somebody else's personal life, and we speak up for what it is that we want, what it is that we may need.
Now, the center with assertiveness is we may not always get what we want, but what I remind my clients about is that at least you spoke off, for what your concerns were and by the very nature of speaking up to what our concerns are, we begin to lessen whatever resentment, regret or remorse we have, towards that person that were having difficulty with.
Assertiveness is not about controlling or manipulating other people. It is an effective tool that perhaps and usually does increase your chances of having authentic healthy relationship in your work environment and in your personal life and by using assertiveness skills, it helps to improve your decision-making skills and your problem-solving skills. There are multiple games or outcomes with using assertiveness techniques. One is, that both parties begin to move towards a collaborative relationship, where they may not get everything that they want but they have had a chance to address the concerns as they see it and perhaps and usually be able to influence positive results. So let me walk you all through what Shirley and I did.
First of all, I addressed with Shirley that she wasn't being direct with the coworker, that she was avoiding the problem and by gossiping, she was part of the problem now rather than the solution. So with a great deal of practice in my office, and in her home, Shirley did approach the coworker and she asked her to come to go to rather an empty conference room and then she said that she felt distracted from her work and her ability to talk with other customers over the phone.
When her coworker was speaking, she said, “you may not be aware of this but your voice carries and because of that I am sometimes unable to hear my customers on the phone”. She went on to ask of her coworker to please move her personal calls into a private area”. Shirley told her that she wanted to respect her privacy but when she talked on her phone, she wasn’t able to turn around and therefore she was hearing these personal conversations. You see being direct and honest shows the other person respect and then she asked for feedback but she starting with saying, “my intention is not to be disrespectful but rather to get my work done and to meet my own deadline”. And then she said, or rather asked, “do you understand that my focus needs to be on work right now”. So it didn't come off as critical or judgmental, she wasn't being aggressive and she wasn’t being passive.
Now the next bullet on your slide, use your assertiveness skills carefully. I want to call your attention to what people who are expert in communication already know and that is that only 15% of what we are communicating, we communicate through words, the rest is through our eye contact, our voice tone which should be firm but pleasant, our facial expressions and our body posture.
It can face, sometimes 80%-85% of the message that we want to get across. There is a sender and there is a receiver. It is the sender’s job to have cohesiveness or similarity between what we say and how our body posture and eye contact, voice tones and facial expression should match what it is that we are saying.
And of course, think before you speak. Sometimes to the most difficult assertive conversations that I have made, needed to have had, I wrote down what I wanted to say and I used this method and I want to share it with you, this is not my method, this is a very helpful communication style predicated or embedded in assertiveness which is using I statement. By using an I statement, you are sending a message to the other person that offers complete information, leaving no room for doubt or second-guessing and it also takes the judgment and the criticism out because you are stating from your experience using an I statement. Let me explain to you how this works.
So you begin with addressing what the behavior is? In Shirley’s case the behavior was you speak loudly, you take personal calls, it interferes with my work. The feeling that she had was anger and the effect was her diminished work capability. So let me put it all together for you now and give you an example of how Shirley used an I statement with her coworker.
When you speak loudly on the phone, whether to your family members or your associates that’s the behavior, I feel distracted at times, I feel angry, that’s the feeling because I am unable to focus on my work that’s the effect. Again be aware of your non-verbal behavior, your eye contact, your facial expressions, your body language, have it be open body language, and be respectful of the receiver, watch them, use your social radar, are they picking up what I am saying. Keep any expression of annoyance to the minimum. Your very act of giving them this feedback helps to grow a relationship, not to accelerate a problem. I am going to give you some additional examples of an, I statement. So you better understand the difference between being aggressive and being assertive. And I will just read them from the slides.
An aggressive comment might be, you always interrupt my presentation with questions. And assertive one, in which you are beginning to instruct someone on what you would like to have happened, I would like to complete my presentation and then take questions at the end.
Avoid exaggerations, you are always late. I remember when I was a parent of younger children, I would sometimes say that. An assertive reframe of that would be, you were 10 minutes late returning from your lunch hour, that’s the fourth time this happened this week.
Once stick with facts, it’s pretty hard to refute and the last, state the facts rather than the judgment. An aggressive statement would be, you put no effort into this. Assertiveness would be, this presentation is missing key information and then lift what that information is.
To summarize, what I have talked with you all about. Consider the acronym ACT which will remind you to take action on concerns that you may experience. Consider that you work with the same people daily and often and you see them for longer periods of time than you do your family and other loved ones. So work towards harmony, using the ACT formula Assess, enables you to use the simple tool to remind you not to attack or to assert.
Assertiveness is all about communicating with respect and treating the other individual with the same respect you wish to be treated. Often we are unaware that our behavior, loud formed voice, an extended conversation, a chat-up in somebody else's cube about your own personal problems could become troublesome unless we are afforded the respect from the other person to be told that we are creating difficulty for them.
Be mindful. Assertiveness is an act of respect. It’s not about attacking or blaming. Consider that we are working in a new culture, when four generations, lots of diversity always changing, so because of that leaders look to their team to work effectively with people who do a great job, working with people who are different from them.
Those that get the promotions are the ones that can manage difficulties, conflicts in an assertive way, using courtesy, diplomacy and respect. Remember to set your standards of positive behaviors high, and be a strong example of a great business etiquette because that too is contagious.