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Come Together

Some of us remember the old Beatles song, "Come Together". Now, after many months, employees are coming back to the workplace, and at least some of the time, are working at the workplace instead of or in addition to home. What attitudes and frustrations will they bring with them?

It seems as if the country now is divided in multiple areas. Some of those divisive attitudes can carry over to work. Some examples could be in the areas of mask wearing or not mask wearing. Some may still choose to wear masks, even though it is permissible to take them off. Will there be arguments over who is or who isn't wearing them? Will there be "mask harassment"? What about the lunch table talk about politics, the economy, the environment, global warming, and a number of other hot topics that we, as employers cannot legislate away from the company?

It seems reasonable that the best way to deal with things is to address situations BEFORE they happen. At a staff meeting, it may make sense to ask people to be tolerant and kind to each other, to prevent frustration levels from affecting the culture and the work of your employees.

It also makes sense to have some training in constructive confrontation. There are two ways this technique can be used. One is if I am being confronted by someone, and the other is if I need to confront someone. When confronted, we need to listen first, get the frustrations/feelings aside, and then make our points. Feelings are acknowledged when stated. Then, we can move on. So, after the person vents to us, we might say:

"Sounds like you're frustrated with government policy now. Things can certainly be confusing. I guess I just as soon not get into arguments about it" OR

"Sounds like you're angry with me because of how I voted in the last election. I can understand that we all have strong feelings about it, but I hope we can get past it so we can work well together"

If I have to confront, it's best to do so using "I" messages, expressing feelings and then hearing the other person out.

"I'm feeling a little frustrated that I'm getting grief over wearing this mask. I get that we all have our views on the CDC and the guidelines, but I feel safer with it on, and I hope that we can get past this and work well together."

(After saying this, the person may vent....if that occurs, we say, "again, I understand your feelings on this, but whether it's worn or not worn, I just want to come to work, get along with the people I work with, and go home."

It may take some time before we get back to the "Way We Were" (An old Barbara Streisand hit since we're on the music theme today), but in the meantime, we may have to use effective confrontation techniques to get differences acknowledged, and then set aside so that we can get along well enough to get the job done. Why worry about it? Because an underlying frustration level can mean a focus on the wrong things, and can leave an organization vulnerable to disputes, conflicts, factionalism, and even safety concerns. A policy or procedure cannot regulate people's feelings, only their actions. Speaking out on issues before they arise, and then confronting those issues if they persist are ways to make sure frustration levels stay small and don't get out of hand.

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