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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Career Learning Lessons: Listen, Respect and Get to Know Your Colleagues

Whether you are an employee or the boss, it’s imperative that you listen when your colleagues speak. 

A recent LinkedIn post reminded me how important it is to remain silent when your co-worker says something controversial. WAIT - Why Am I Talking, resonated with me and I decided to put the acronym into full practice in my professional life. 

Be Willing to Ask Why

Several months ago, I was listening in on a heated discussion in the office. Instead of flying off the handle, my colleague Andrea* calmly asked our co-worker, “Why do you think this is the case? What’s been your experience?” 

Because Andrea asked calmly, the conversation did not escalate. It was at that moment I learned to appreciate the value of listening to my colleagues. 

If you’re willing to ask why, and if you’re willing to listen, you’ll probably find out what your coworker's aspirations are as it relates to the workplace. 

Respect the Experience

The same rules apply when talking to colleagues who have been working on their craft for several years longer than you and even those who are new to the workforce. 

As a journalist who is smack dab in the middle of her career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with professionals from Millennials to Baby Boomers. The one thing I know for sure is that I learn something new almost every day from newbies and veterans. 

No matter how much or how little experience your colleagues have, don’t be so hasty to give your insight as to why you think they should step outside of their comfort zone. 

I recently went to a journalism workshop. There I met a fellow journalist, who appeared to be in the business much longer than I. We had a decent conversation of why journalism shifted from television and print to digital and the importance of sharing news on social media platforms. When I learned that Sandra* is reluctant to doing video I quickly gave my two sense as to why she needed to get on the ball and embrace it.

Sandra later explained she’s still relatively new to the journalism world. She received her masters in 2012, and since being in the field, she was working through some insecurities because of her age. 

What I respect about Sandra’s experience is that, despite her age, she decided to return to school to earn a degree in a profession she admired. Most people in their 40s or 50s would say “I’m too old to go back to school.”

Get to Know Your Colleagues

If you ever felt that your colleagues misjudged your character, it’s okay to speak up. 

I had a colleague who assumed that because I’m a journalist, I lacked creativity. And instead of stewing over Janet’s* assumption I spoke to her directly and politely. In five minutes she learned that I’m passionate about music, art & culture, and I burn the midnight oil working on personal creative projects. 

You might find yourself in a similar situation, and I’m here to tell you there’s no need to be nasty or offensive. Janet gave me a heartfelt apology and the little tiff is now water under the bridge.

It’s easy for anyone to be misunderstood by colleagues and bosses. Even though we spend hours a day with coworkers doesn’t mean they are the same people outside of the office. 

Try to get to know your colleagues beyond their resume. Get to know their hobbies, inquire about their pet peeves, and if possible try to find out about their past lives. 

You don’t have to become their best friend but at least make an effort to find out what interests them outside of the office. You might find that you have more in common than you think.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of my coworkers. 

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