In this politically volatile culture of ours, peace in the workplace is a timely virtue. We would all do well to pause and reflect upon it. In a recent faith-based blog about peace, Elizabeth Scalia cautions that “the propensity to label-and-dismiss anyone with whom we disagree has led our nation…toward dangerous cliffs.” Peace cannot exist in a culture of labelling.
Scalia’s warning challenged me to consider whether our workplaces might not be headed toward dangerous cliffs as well. Are we sowing seeds of peace or discord by the way we behave with co-workers?
Let’s first describe what peace in the workplace looks like. Peace refers to harmony, accord, and good will. Peaceful behaviors are kind, considerate, respectful, just, trustworthy, civil, and tolerant of others’ beliefs and behaviors.
I have to agree with Scalia. The growing tendency to assign degrading and pejorative labels to a person, thereby dismissing the value that person brings to the table, is a huge challenge to peace, no matter what the context – workplace, family, political arena, social relationships, etc.
Recalling the words of Søren Kierkegaard, “When you label me, you negate me,” Scalia explains:
“When we label anyone, we immediately do them an injustice, even if the label seems accurate. We shortchange their story. We open them up to caricature and to the misunderstanding that comes with it. Labels reduce all of our complexities and beautiful human nuances into easily negated ‘types’ and turn our efforts to communicate with each other into punchlines.”
Peace, on the other hand, pierces through the shallow center of one-dimensional labelling, identifying it for the blight that it is, and opening the way to a workplace of appreciation, community, and engagement.
Examine your own heart and past behavior. Consider your workplace behaviors over the past week and honestly rate yourself on how much peace or discord you sowed.
Spend five minutes (set your timer) at the beginning of every day doing a simple breathing exercise. Breathe in slowly; hold; exhale; repeat. Bringing your pulse and heart rate down to a slower pace, will automatically make room for peace in your day. Repeat at noon and night time if you can.
Intentionally pause for five extra seconds before you respond to challenges, issues and problems in the workplace. Just take a long deep breath and exhale slowly. You’ll be surprised how that little burst of oxygen to your brain will reap a more peaceful outcome.
Practice goodwill toward everyone. Say only what is good, kind, and true.
If you have an issue with someone that needs attention, approach them directly but in a caring manner. After all, you want them to improve or be aware.
Refuse to gossip. Again, that topic of gossip comes into play, challenging every workplace virtue in one way or another. Refuse to gossip! Don’t initiate it or participate in it.
Never attribute a negative label to anyone. Never. You’re bigger than that, and so is the person who is causing you frustration. Negative labelling is a blight on your company culture. Root it out and destroy it, wherever it exists.
Practice zero tolerance for negative nicknames, slurs, inside jokes, prejudices. Zero tolerance.
We are big CliftonStrengths proponents at Purple Ink. We travel all over the country, to businesses large and small, evangelizing the value of knowing and celebrating employees’ strengths in the workplace. Peace is a natural outcome of celebrating co-workers’ strengths. There’s no room for negative labelling in a strengths-based culture.
Even if you haven’t adopted the CliftonStrengths assessment in your workplace, you can become more intentional about scouting out employees’ strengths – what they do best. Notice them. Name them. Celebrate them. Reward them. Encourage them. Provide more training in them. Promote them.
In everything you do, earn the trust of your co-workers by demonstrating your loyalty. We sow seeds of workplace peace when we back one another up and support one another in good times and in bad, both professionally and personally.
Let it be known that you are the person that people can call on and count on. It’s a far more peaceful workplace when co-workers know they have a community of goodwill behind them to support them.
For more on virtue in the workplace, check out the rest of this blog series.