We are bound to spend the better half of the day in our respective workplaces, irrespective of the kind of job we do, if we are to hold down a full-time job.
And thus, it becomes that much more important to go to a workplace that offers a sound environment. It’s not just the type of boss that fate has in store for you, but one needs to be lucky with the type of co-workers they’ll get -- and that is what ultimately affects our productivity and attachment to the company we work for.
Professionalism is a concept that we all learn to chisel and perfect over time. The longer one works, the more experience is gathered, and so, the more, hopefully, professional one becomes.
Mind you, you are expected to leave behind all your baggage and bad habits back home when you set out for work, you are expected to not bring in your personal drama and trauma into the workplace because you are expected to remember that it is a professional setting where a group of individuals need to co-habit and be efficient, regardless of the nightmares that keep you up at night and/or the challenges you face in your life outside your workplace.
It may seem obvious and redundant to write about such basic norms and expectations, but things often take a turn for the worse, when it is not you who forgets the obvious, rather a fellow co-worker who forgets his/her core responsibility to remain professional.
What is one to do when you face an outrageous, unacceptable, and inappropriate situation that is beyond your control and yet puts you in the spotlight? You take the high road.
Through these five steps, it is possible for any employee to be professional when dealing with a co-worker who is, shall we say, “less than professional”:
1. Maintain distance
When you work in a company, and lack the authority to make recruitment calls, you can only hope for decent co-workers to work side by side. This means luck plays a hand in determining if you have to coordinate and work alongside a compatible colleague, or the very opposite.
If it is the very opposite, do not fret. The only approach to tackle this situation is to maintain distance as much as possible. This means you ensure that work is not hindered in any scope due to the distance you keep, but cordial interaction is the extent of your relationship with the person of concern.
In most cases, unprofessional employees who lack the mental capacity to accept criticism related to their work tend to throw a tantrum at the slightest of indication that he/she is at fault, and that he/she needs to work on their shortcomings to improve their work performance.
Let it go.
I know it sounds unfair, but you can inform your supervisor of the problem and let it be his/her responsibility to address it, so that the end result of the work your department is in charge of remains unaffected. It’s best not to address the problem directly, and this helps you remain in line with the first step. Win win.
Always remember that you are in a workplace, regardless of the accusations and comments thrown at you
3. Remain calm
In the most unfortunate of circumstances, you may have to, reluctantly, respond to the person of concern if he/she puts you in the spotlight in a confrontation of sorts that you did not instigate or provoke. In such a scenario, it is absolutely necessary for you to remain calm to your best of your abilities.
Always remember that you are in a workplace, regardless of the accusations and comments thrown at you. Now, this may take a very ugly turn and get out of hand, especially if the person of concern lacks any sense of an office’s code of conduct, and lunges into a full-throttle verbal attack of name-calling, slurs, and what have you.
It may get personal and you may find yourself in an utterly unprecedented volatile situation. But you should hold your ground to the best of your abilities, and refrain from stooping as low as the person of concern. It is never worth it to stoop, and thus flex your muscles to practice divine refrain, composure, and patience.
4. Talk to your superiors
In the event of such a rare but possible offense, you have to report it to HR, the head of your department, and, if possible, the head of the company or the closest approximate. Be sure to follow through all official steps, regardless how taxing the process may seem.
It is in your best interest to see the process through, to inform the office authorities of the unfortunate episode, share all the details of the altercation -- basically, paint a very vivid picture with words in a calm voice.
If the incident has taken place in the presence of others, that works even better for you because now you have colleagues who can collaborate with your account of the truth, and in effect, hopefully, expedite the process.
5. Be patient
Once step four is accomplished, you may think that the matter is settled. Never be so certain. You still have to perform well, keep your head in the game, and exercise patience. Depending on the nature of the offense committed against you, you can expect your workplace to take certain actions within a certain timeframe. If you are not satisfied with how the office responds to step four, remain patient but don’t hesitate to express your discontent.
If step five fails to secure satisfactory results, there are more steps to follow to remain professional, but that is for quite a different article.
After all, just like how you, an employee, have some responsibilities towards your office, the office too has responsibilities towards you -- one of the more important ones is to provide a sound work environment for you.
You need to remember that all the time, and therefore take the high road, because, at the end of the day, it’s the office’s duty to stop the well from being poisoned.
Here’s to a happy work day to you.
Nusmila Lohani is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.