Limitless Maastricht

How do you bridge differences in the workplace?

We all know it: you are talking to someone but feel that your message is not arriving at all. The cause of this is often that you are different. How do you deal with this and still feel connected to the other person? Therefore, some tips for myself, colleagues and perhaps also for you, to get closer together:

  1. Check for yourself which values are important to you. I am regularly stopped by the question why some (work) relationships do not go as I had hoped. What is obviously important to me is not so to others. Especially if someone is in a different phase of life or has a different cultural background. But even if this is (almost) the same. Example: I think it is important that everyone feels the space to be themselves. Because of this I am sometimes not radical or direct enough in expressing my opinion. Another who is and just says what it says is annoyed by this. Another example: Many Western women find it important to pursue a career and develop themselves professionally. Our female trainees from Syria do not have this desire. Simply because women play a different role there and respect other values such as housekeeping, cooking, taking care of the children and that's it. This is not directly pathetic or bad. They sometimes do not want to worry about more. In Grenzeloos we would like all trainees, young or old, to work with themselves. Discover who they are, where talents lie and how they can develop them further. But if self-development is not an important value with which someone has been brought up, you can still try so hard to help or motivate this person, but that will not achieve much. Professional development for women is therefore a fairly modern and Western value. Being aware of this creates understanding for people who do not use these values. And you can discuss this with each other. Every person develops different values and interests, based on his or her life course and personality.
  2. Be patient. I can speak quickly as the best. Make my point and continue. This may seem efficient, but it is certainly not effective. Chances are that colleagues do not understand what I mean. Clear and unhurried communication is important in every relationship. Take the time to find out if someone is following your story. In the meantime, allow yourself and the other person the time to adjust the conversation where necessary. Previously I was mainly busy with the question 'Did I say what I wanted to say?"and not with"Did the other person understand what I said?". As soon as I deal with the second question, I notice facial expressions better and there is room for interruptions. Be patient and check if someone has understood you. For example, ask if the person you are talking to wants to explain what has just been said. This way you can finish the conversation well, without miscommunication.
  3. Give space to discover and make mistakes. When I feel I can be myself, I love it. That not everything is filled in for me and is certain. That creates a stuffy feeling. Suppose if my boss has an attitude of 'That's how we do it here and there 🤨 'That really won't make me do my job any better. That creates the opposite of what you want as an employee or manager. The masks disappear and people discard their insights and values in order to fit within the company profile. That is why it is important to sometimes give up your own sacred truth and be open to other opinions and insights. This is valuable for the organization. Different knowledge and insights lead to innovation and improvement of quality. In addition, there is appreciation and mutual trust for your boss or colleague if you feel that that person considers your input important.
  4. Give responsibility and confidence. Perhaps you have certain questions that you cannot solve. Then put it to the other person and ask how he or she would handle it. Listen carefully and take this answer seriously. In the past I have used this method purely for the form: asking what he or she thinks and doing according to nothing. It doesn't work that way. Example: At Grenzeloos we make almost everything ourselves. The sauces, breads, cakes, you name it. This requires a lot of preparation. Previously I told the trainees what to do and I did everything. Now we do that differently. We give responsibility and confidence by saying “This is what is planned for today. Get started and if you have any questions, let us know. ” This is exciting, because the chance that something will go wrong is greater. A burnt cake, too salty cake, too small cake, we've all seen it. But people are self-reliant, motivated to put their best foot forward and feel responsible. Together we carry the company and we improve our quality.
  5. Search for matches. You feel (physical and emotional) pain, the other person also feels that pain. You want to receive love, the other wants to receive love. Good to keep this in mind when a conflict occurs. That makes both parties happier. You are milder and less irritated when you realize that pain, brokenness, joy and love is in every person. It can help to ask personal questions. Looking for similarities. This may sometimes feel inappropriate. That is why it helps if you start sharing your own experiences. Looking up the conversations that reveal deeper thoughts and feelings, creating a connection, even if you are super different. Precisely by looking for those similarities, the moments of recognition, you tolerate differences all the better.

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