By E. Elizabeth Carter
According to several sources, xenial means being hospitable especially visiting strangers or guests. So why is it that most of us would never think to be unkind to a stranger but we can at times be super harsh on the ones closest to us? Not only does this apply to our family and friends but we can also be super critical and abrupt with our coworkers.
It is important to have a work environment where everyone feels safe to express their opinions and viewpoints, but it is also necessary to do it in a manner that is not offensive. Some put their guard down and are more forthcoming with ones we have in our “inner circle” but that does not usually accomplish anything if things are said to put others on the defensive. It is not always what is said but also how the message is delivered. Hiding behind texts and emails may reduce conflict in the eyes of the sender but it has been proven many times that these forms of communication actually create more problems than if a meeting occurred face to face. Body language, tone, and inflection all plays are a part in communications.
In addition, certain things that were commonplace years ago now seem to be unique and other things that were taboo are now acceptable. When someone opens the door for another person, gives up their seat on a bus or train, or sends a handwritten thank you, it is a nice surprise. Shouldn’t that be an everyday occurrence? Swearing in a normal conversation used to be considered unacceptable but now it happens even in formal business meetings, advertisements, and television shows. How did we get so far off course in acting in a respectable manner?
All of this needless to say affects the workplace especially if several different generations are on the same team. Younger generations who swear may offend an older person as an example. It is important to periodically review with the whole team what the expectations are not just with the allocation of the work but also how each team member should be treated and respected. Leaders may be hesitant to comment on one particular team member’s behavior and communication style but over time this may create animosity amongst others and also create factions within the team.
Another thing to consider is being present. If you are interacting with a stranger most likely you are paying close attention. However sometimes we take people for granted as we become more comfortable with them. This may translate into being late for meetings, focused more on your cell phone then the conversation, or just being completely disengaged from the others. I recently witnessed this with a group I was facilitating. Some were really trying to rally the team but a few not only were “in a fog” but at times were even being confrontational which was odd considering they really did not know what was going on. Not only did the work product suffer but also the morale of the team.
If everyone treated each other like you would treat a stranger hopefully there would be more open dialogue, conflicts would be reduced, and the team would be more engaged. If at times this does not occur, swift action needs to take place.