It can sometimes feel like every work day is an onslaught. You arrive at the office after almost getting sideswiped by a reckless driver, and you see the voicemail button flashing on your phone - is it an irate customer with a POS problem?
Then the sales manager is at your office door asking if an important processing deal ever got finalized. And what about that simmering tension between colleagues that threatens to morph into all-out office war?
The stress of these and other issues derives from the fact that they are largely beyond your control. For example, you can't dictate how other people drive or prevent your company's server from crashing in the middle of the night. And what can you do if personalities in the office clash or a co-worker has a child who is acting up or a parent in need of nursing care?
However, you can control the overall office environment, making it a place where every employee takes responsibility for adding to a calm, positive workplace - an oasis of sorts against the pressures of the job and life itself.
First, the workplace should be a sexuality-free zone. Relationships are already complex enough between men and women, and between people with different sexual orientations, religious views and life experiences.
If employees can refrain from making sexual references of any kind - whether they be jokes or seemingly innocuous observations - then staff members will be far less likely to become embarrassed or feel harassed due to unwanted attention on what is a private area for most.
Avoiding sexual banter is a tall order; our popular culture seems to be obsessed with sex, to the exclusion of just about everything else. That is all the more reason to make the workplace free of it. If workers feel that the office is a safe haven in that respect, the environment will be more relaxing for all involved - and more productive.
While you're at it, ban all comments about the appearance of colleagues. Humans come in all shapes and sizes. People who are handicapped or are different from you in some superficial way deserve the same respect and consideration as anybody else. Juvenile taunts and talking badly about others behind their backs fosters a negative, even vicious, atmosphere. Managers who tolerate such behavior undermine morale and efficiency.
Another important aspect of social interaction is the need for civility. Vulgar language has its place in certain venues, like comedy clubs, where its shock value can be funny. But the workplace is not one of them.
The problem with using foul language at work is that it can seep into the foundation of the business and negatively affect every area of the company, including customer service. It is hard to imagine a best-in-class enterprise that encourages the use of comedy club language on the job.
Maybe some folks can cuss up a storm with co-workers, then moments later be completely professional on the phone with potential clients. But can the best workers really be satisfied upholding a clean-as-a-whistle corporate image that is false? Stellar professionals gravitate to businesses where the culture matches the image.
This is not to say that ideal workplaces should be uptight environments, where everyone is on pins and needles about getting in trouble over saying the wrong thing or making a tasteless joke.
But payment jobs are tough enough. Don't make your office culture an energy-draining obstacle. Co-workers who watch their language and strive to be respectful to all will help create a kind of workplace where everyone has the opportunity to be at their best.
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