Friday, November 23, 2012

Sensible Tolerance

When a stubborn fool is irritated, he shows it immediately, but a sensible person hides the insult. (Proverbs 12:16 GWT)

I work for a startup in a very small office, and it is important that I get along with my co-workers. Occasional conflicts however are inevitable, especially when it comes to the sharing of limited resources and managing personal differences like our working styles, behaviors, preferences, and sometimes even restroom practices.

Once in a while, tolerance is much desired despite feeling irritated, in particular, when faced with a colleague who persistently does things in the exact opposite of how I would have preferred. Maybe it is because of age barrier or maybe it is the fact we do not think the same. No doubt, the co-worker is younger and less experience than me, yet perhaps it is time I learn to adapt to new ways of doing things since everything else in the world is changing all the time.

So what should we do when we encounter a co-worker who we simply cannot get along?

"First look at yourself, then look at others," said Andy Selig, ScD, a management and organizational psychologist in the article ‘Work it Out: Getting Along with Co-Workers’ by Sonya Collins at "We can't usually change other people, but we can change ourselves."

Selig said while a co-worker's behavior may feel like a personal affront we did nothing to deserve, he or she may feel affronted too. We should therefore first examine ourselves, are we moving too fast? If we are, Selig’s advice is we should not be too quick to hit the ground running, especially if we are new in a job. We should instead come in slow to ease the tension rather than start parenting right away as we need to earn the trust of those we work with in order for them to value what we have to say.

If conflict resolution demands that we talk to someone higher or with the co-worker whom we are facing problems with, the advice in the article by Collins is to first count to ten and not react to the co-worker’s most recent offense. Instead of confronting the co-worker asking “Why are you shooting down all my ideas?” consider saying “I think I may have gotten off on the wrong foot. Is there anything I can be doing differently?” Always keep conversations and attitudes professional, not personal.

Like the advice given in the article at WebMD, the Bible also teaches that we should not be like a stubborn fool to react insensibly when irritated (Proverbs 12:16). We should instead have self-control to persevere in the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus (Romans 15:5; 2 Peter 1:16). If we need to deal with a difficult co-worker or someone who is misguided, ignorant, or seemingly dislikes us, do so gently since we ourselves and the antagonist are also beset with weaknesses (Hebrews 5:2).

Always look within ourselves first to find out whether we have been difficult, rather than be too quick to point a finger in accusing others. Even if we are not in the wrong, we must be sensitive not to take offense or break the relationship when correcting the other. As believers in the Lord, let us demonstrate God’s love one to another, for by this all men will know we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35). 

Dear Lord, forgive us for sometimes taking offense instead of keeping our cool when irritated. Help us Lord not be like stubborn fools to insensibly react to people who irritate or insult us or be too quick to accuse them. Change our attitudes O Lord if there be anything in us that turns people away from You. Guide our ways Lord that we may do all things sensibly according Your will.

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