By Rebecca Harmon, MPM, RHIA, CCA
In our world and in our workplaces, we don’t have to look far to find disagreement, polarization, and divisiveness. The challenge lies in being able to rise above this seeming new normal and find the common ground that exists between us.
I believe most people show up to work with basically good intentions. Our goals are similar. We are all working to make a living; to care for ourselves and our families. We are all juggling the many facets of life – good days and achievements, as well as difficult days and loss. We all have days when we are focused, engaged and on-target with what we need to get done just as we all have days when the burdens in our personal lives hang over us and threaten to weigh us down so heavily that we cannot walk upright.
This is simply the ebb and flow of the human experience.
I have taken this realization and formed a basic presumption from which I approach any personnel issue that comes to me at work. It can be summed up in one short statement: assume good intent.
When an employee speaks to me in a way that I don’t appreciate, and that might be valid cause for disciplinary action, I stop and ask if this was an intentional disrespect or if the person may be at the end of their rope for things I will never know or understand. If it were me carrying that burden, would I want more headache by getting a disciplinary action added to that burden, or would I be grateful for some grace?
When a colleague seems unreasonable in their actions on a project and I am tempted to throw them under the bus to the management team or others, I pause and ask myself if I think that they are intentionally causing an uproar, or if perhaps there is something else going on that is wholly unrelated to our work issues. Again, if I were the person struggling, how would I want others to treat me?
Sure, there are times when people are being intentionally disrespectful, unreasonable, and inappropriate. As managers, we must address those instances when they arise, but I strongly believe that these are the exceptions and not the rule, which means that we have a lot of opportunities to “Find the Good” we can do.
We don’t have to agree with everyone’s life choices, career decisions or politics. Changing others is not our work to do. Instead, I believe it is our job to plant seeds of peace wherever we can. Regardless of our role or rank, each one of us can start today by choosing to see every interaction with others through a lens that assumes good intent – regardless of how it presents itself.
Whether it’s the person who cuts us off in traffic, or the colleague who can’t get it right and causes us more work, or the supervisor whose tone we don’t appreciate: we have the power in those moments to incite more anger, division and unrest or to plant a seed of peace by assuming that their intent was good, even if their approach or delivery was not.
I believe with all my being that while one small act of grace will not, in that moment, change the entire world, it can create a powerful ripple. Like a pebble tossed into a pond, those ripples of goodness and grace will extend out beyond that moment in time.
We may never know the impact our choice in any one moment has on the bigger picture. Still, imagine what might happen if we all took a chance on peace – in the moment, in our work environment, in our lives – and assumed good intent in the people we encounter. Collectively, we might just change the world.
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