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  • Brian Reynolds

Getting to Know a Colleague – Why Bother?

Some Called Him Annoying

Some called him annoying, others simply stayed clear. Interestingly, he possessed a great deal of knowledge and seemed helpful to everyone but many never afforded the time to invest in understanding who he was. Many thought “Why bother? Everyone’s trying to complete their own work on time. I don’t have the time or extra energy to hear his “long and exhaustive” answers. Just give me the Reader’s Digest version! He would have loved it if someone would see his perspective and commitment to the job differently.

A Funny Thing Also Happened Along the Way

I experienced this type of work relationship for months (felt like years sometimes) until one day a new product was being introduced to the industry which meant I had to collaborate with my coworker on numerous occasions. We needed to be on the same page, the same path and the same vision in order to have the same success. The scheduled thirty minute meetings turned into hour-long, information-overload, “how to” sessions. As time went by however, the discussions grew to be more fruitful and focused. A funny thing also happened along the way. I began to learn more about the way he approached his work and his life. Our conversations became more insightful and meaningful which lead to a new level of respect and appreciation for each other.

The Proof is in the Pudding

The proof is in the pudding as they say (who said this anyway?) when the time arrived to begin presenting the launch of the product to markets across the country. We were “forced” (assigned seats next to each other) on every flight to every destination. It’s amazing what you can learn about someone on a five hour flight! I am not suggesting that you should find out every detail of the people you work with (many don’t want you knowing anything about them). It can creep people out. “They might use it against me”. “I just want to stick to business”. “We don’t need to be best of friends”. Let’s face it many of us tend to think the worse.

‘A Paradigm Shift’

When you have a new perspective of someone you begin to build bridges of trust and respect for that person. I remember listening to an audiobook years ago read by the late Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). The story is about what he calls a “paradigm shift” (I always thought of it as perspective or how you see the world and others).

“We Just Came From the Hospital Where Their Mother Died an Hour Ago”

Covey is peacefully riding on a subway reading his newspaper when he is interrupted by a father and his three young children when they get on the train. The kids are running up and down, yelling and throwing things. Covey is annoyed at the kids and, even more, at the father who is allowing them to carry on. After several minutes, Covey asks the father if he could control his children a little more. The man lifted his gaze and said softly, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

‘Can You Imagine What I Felt at That Moment?’

Covey goes on to say; “Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely”. “Your wife just died? Oh I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.”

Think About It

By giving my colleague some of my time I began to see him differently. I gained a new perspective. You might be the ONLY person at work (or even outside of work) who purposefully and intentionally makes time for them. Think about it. Your words of encouragement could be the deal breaker for your colleague. You could be the catalyst for that person to help reignite who they are. How much does that really cost? (BTW, the launch of the new product was a great success surpassing all sales goals)!

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