Focus on Common Ground

More people are terminated because of interpersonal insensitivity than job incompetence. Better said, at a time when everyone who has a job wants to keep it, mind your manners.

Think before you speak. Words have meaning well beyond what you intend when you say them.  Words live on beyond apology; your belated ‘what I really meant to say”, your attempt to diffuse the sting by telling the one stung, ‘you’re just too sensitive”, doesn’t undo the damage done.

You might ache to tell the truth as you see it, directly, without camouflage, costume, or political correctness.  Yet the truth as you see it is camouflaged, costumed, and politically correct,  because it is the truth as you see it,  as you have experienced it, and as you have lived it. That‘s called perspective. And when you share it, it’s called opinion.

Your perspective and your opinion should be valued. And it will be if you learn to offer it in a way that can be accepted without having to be affirmed. “Here’s my truth,” you can say… and proceed to say it. Or, “This is my perspective, based upon my read of the situation”, you might add, and proceed to add it.  Just don’t insist that it ought to be everyone else’s truth, unless they say it is or agree that it ought to be.

There’s room for you and your co-workers to see the world differently. As long as you don’t make your point with a hammer they won’t feel the need to respond with a two by four.

It’s not your job to censure their world view. Your job is to do your job, to anticipate what needs to be done, to trouble shoot where the problems might be and solve them while giving a heads-up to your managers so they aren’t surprised.

The work place isn’t the place to debate religious preferences or practices, to argue pubic policy, to rally for or tilt against political parties whichever side or ideology you believe to be right. The workplace is a place where diverse perspectives and experience can come together to create new products and delivery systems; new ways to solve old problems and where old rivalries can come together to forge stronger and more resilient organizations.

Separate what divides from what unites. Focus on common ground and give no ground to unnecessary dissension that only serves to take down rather than build up. It isn’t worth the cost. It isn’t worth the effort.

It is hard enough to get along when there is more scarcity than abundance, and without feeling as though you have to compete for moral high ground. It’s harder still to get ahead in a field that’s crowded and competitive when you have to endure sharp elbows, low blows and brickbats.

If you haven’t already, learn how to manage relationships and co-exist with personalities and diverse viewpoints that you might not like yet have to accommodate, just as others must learn to endure yours.  Jobs are too hard to come by for dysfunction to derail our progress within them.

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Joyce Richman ( has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce has appeared regularly on WFMY-TV and is the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at