For those of us who work near (within a city block of) other people, good social skills are a must. The workplace is either a pleasant and synergetic experience or a living hell, depending on how well we "get along" with our coworkers. If you are in a unit with two or more people, there is some getting along to do, so you may as well get on with it.
As a youngster, at the mercy of a pack of older siblings, my idea of getting along was surviving the activity if not the entire day. Now I have wider view and strive simply for accomplishment without bloodshed. I will admit, sometimes I could be a bit more sensitive to the emotional thresholds of the people forced to share space with me. Take huge rubber insects, for example. I feel a big spider can break up a tiresome meeting or offer a lighthearted contrast to a tedious task. So far, I'm in a whopping minority there. When I employ the big creepy bug stress-relieving tool, my coworkers twitch, grow quiet or hum tunelessly and check their (and my) leave balances.
What would the perfect workplace be like? Some people weasel out of the issue and make deals to work at home or so independently they may as well be at home. The rest of us are jealous, but can only dream. So let's dream. What would perfect coworkers be like? Starting with the simple courtesies, they would open and close doors and drawers gently and only interact with you when you are at a natural break or finished with what you were doing. They would never ask you how to spell words you don't know or don't like. They would bring high quality chocolate to share and always clean up the coffee station. After asking you a question, they would let you answer it. They would hum complete phrases and in tune then give it a rest, for crying out loud. They would come to work with at least two out of three of on time, awake and cheerful. Your dream team would know what the unit's task is and want it to succeed. There would be no whining, dawdling, doodling or drooling. That doesn't seem like so much to ask, does it? Would you miss slamming doors, coffee stains and the sounds of uncontrolled yawning?
One idea for harmony might be a non-verbal workplace. Talking, listening and understanding really take time and effort. There is explaining, describing, coordinating, discussing, planning, reporting, yadda, yadda, yadda. My coworkers might confide that I get impatient with the word stream and mentally move on before the song is over, so to speak. They have tried withholding punch lines, cutting out all the nouns and using flash cards. I'd like us to try a telepathic work environment. We could have nice music that we wouldn't have to talk over. A downside could be lack of discretion since I don't know if you can be diplomatic telepathically. I don't want to mention any names, but I think one coworker would send me the opening bars to The Teddy Bears' Picnic over and over and the other would be constantly reviewing my leave balance.
Nita Nettleton can be reached at email@example.com.
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