By Esther Francis Joseph
With many different personality types in an office setting, the workplace can either be a pleasant place to be or hostile territory. A lot depends on the dynamics and interactions between personnel. When a coworker has done something inappropriate in their role as a manager or as an employee, destructive emotions and reactions can arise. In either position the repercussions can affect the entire department and ultimately the company’s bottom line.
For example, John and his coworkers had been working on a project for one of their largest accounts for the last few weeks. On the day before it was due to be presented to the client, John left work early with no explanation or forewarning. Understandably, his coworkers were furious that he skipped the final preparations, and the company ultimately lost the account. Now John is faced with working in a hostile work environment, knowing his coworkers are extremely upset with him.
If you are the person in the wrong, it is important to know what to do to resolve the tension you’ve created when seeking to improve office morale and return to a positive, productive workplace once again. A strong, respectful working relationship with bosses, colleagues, and subordinates can be achieved by utilizing these 3 A’s for a peaceful environment that everyone can enjoy being part of.
Apologize for a Peaceful Workplace: A disagreement among work staff can emerge from any number of situations. An email that seemed a bit too harsh in its language, personal phone calls when that 5 p.m. deadline is looming; numerous other circumstances and reasons can lead to an interpersonal conflict that requires a subsequent resolution.
John knew that to successfully continue his work, he needed to apologize to his coworkers. John gathered them together and said, “I would like to apologize for leaving work early Monday, the day our project was due, without informing anyone. I realize my actions wasted weeks of everyone’s hard work, and cost us the account. You guys have every right to me angry with me.”
If you are the person who is at fault, whether you are an executive or staff member the first step is to apologize. For decision-makers this might be difficult to do, but for most people an apology is a powerful first acknowledgement of responsibility. No matter the title, it means that the individual apologizing understands his or her error and is not likely to repeat it. It helps to dissipate the anger and other negative emotions from other staff associated with the situation.
In terms of the act of apologizing, it is extremely important to be concise. Frame your apology around the situation at hand, and do not stray from its focus. Avoid long explanations and excuses for your behavior. Acknowledge what you have done and the impact it has had on others. Show that you regret your action and mention how you will act differently when faced with a similar situation in the future. Perhaps most importantly, conduct your apology in a conference setting if possible, where there is an opportunity for further conversation from the offended parties.
For most people an apology involves a degree of embarrassment; one has to be humble to apologize. Humility often breeds compassion in others. This exchange of vulnerability and compassion is a necessary step in obtaining closure in many conciliatory situations, even in the office.
Agree for a Peaceful Workplace: It is equally important to simply agree with whatever feedback you receive from your apology if your goal is to restore that fragile working relationship with your coworkers. Agree with whatever your boss or coworkers have to say in regards to the circumstance. This act of agreeing emphasizes that you are willing to work through the situation, repair it and move beyond it.
After John apologized, he gave his officemates time to respond with their feedback. Some expressed anger and disappointment but many expressed their anxiety over the real possibility of layoffs as a result of the lost account. Though it was hard, John listened attentively to everyone’s comments, only interjecting to say that he agreed with what they were conveying.
If you have apologized and shown remorse for your conduct, it is beneficial at this point to just listen to the input of others without offering any feedback of your own. By paying attention and accepting their contribution no matter what they might be, you are proving that your regret is truly heartfelt. Your office will see that and be more willing to forgive you. You’ll be perceived in a more favorable light.
Accept Responsibility for a Peaceful Workplace: Accepting responsibility for the situation is the third element in mending a workplace wrong you have committed. Be upfront and readily accept that the situation is, indeed, your fault. Any attempts to deflect fault will leave you appearing less than genuine. Readily accepting responsibility for both your successes and failures in the office shows that you are a mature individual and an asset to the company.
In his efforts to restore office morale, John finished with, “After listening to your comments and agreeing with everything that has been said, I’m willing to accept whatever reprimand is deemed appropriate. If necessary I am willing to offer my resignation to save another staff member their job. Once again, please accept my sincere apology; I promise that this behavior will not happen in the future.”
When implemented, these three important A’s – Apologize, Agree and Accept Responsibility – will establish more positive and productive relationships in the office. Everyone makes mistakes, and problems will arise in the workplace at one time or another. The ability to handle these situations effectively is the sign of a superior manager, employee or coworker.
Esther Francis Joseph is a personal coach and author of, “Memories of Hell, Visions of Heaven: A Story of Survival, Transformation, and Hope,” her personal story of survival and perseverance, despite a violent childhood. Growing up on the picturesque island of St. Lucia, Esther molded her literary talents with her childhood experiences as she continues down her path to leading a joyous and fulfilled adult life.