“Don’t you at least need to do SOME of the work for me to call you a co-worker?”
Ahhhh the things you wish you could say out loud sometimes…
As much as we all have an innate need to belong, being part of a group, coupled with an expectation to work productively within the group’s difficult social politics and constraints, can be a ‘tough, rough, enough-is-enough’ challenge.
You remember, right…?
Getting assigned to do the worst part of a group project.
Your very important role of being a ‘semi-still’ tree in the school play!
Coming up with the fun-est ideas ever for the yearly family vacation but instead being guilted into succumbing to the whole ‘majority rules’ thing. (I actually stopped typing to do the air quotes.)
It’s no different in the workplace. People from different backgrounds, opposite traits, and clashing principles suddenly find themselves required to work together in a group. It’s a lot like crewing a ship or casting a movie. The general public only sees the final show, but the real juicy drama happens behind the scenes. The employees’ manager becomes the ‘Greatest Showman’ orchestrating an array of different characters, and trying to bring out the best of each person’s potential on the platform.
As one of the group members, it’s crucial to understand the dynamics of what makes a team reach it’s peak performance levels, because the truth is, you’re only as strong as your team is.
Now since I’m the psychologist on call, I happen to have backstage access to all the ‘Top Box Offices’ (Nice pun, ha?)
Would you like to meet one of the most popular workplace casts?
Sure! Here’s your pass. Come this way:
1. The Hulk
He seems a bit scary and intimidating, huffing and puffing in this dark and edgy room. He (or she) might be a co-worker, but they sure act like the boss. In fact, in a very weird way, they take on the role of their own boss’s boss!
Regardless of what the company handbook says, the Hulk (or Hulkette) will set his or her own rules, and expect everyone to follow them. They’re the Alphas; sharp, dominant, stubborn, impatient and viciously honest. People fear them and look up to them at the same time. The Hulk’s ‘getting-the-job’ methods can be brutal but let’s face it, they’re also effective.
Trait Bait: Be clear, direct, concise and straight with the Hulks.
This all sounds like a Thesaurus synonyms overload, but it also brings me to my next point:
Use the ‘Broken Record Technique’ and keep repeating your concern about their bossy/aggressive attitude in a formally proper way. Your consistent refusal to be treated as a doormat will eventually be taken seriously.
“Listen with your heart, you will understand…”
Male or female, this character’s inability to tolerate conflict is legendary. They’ll dedicate most of their working hours to prevent social wars and will keep going back and forth between offices until they achieve peace and harmony. This one is the healer, the listener, the ‘you need to talk about your feelings and cry it out’ type of co-worker. They basically smooth out the emotional bumps in the workplace.
Trait Bait: You probably won’t have a problem with the people who live to prevent problems unless you’re the type that doesn’t understand why problems can happen which can in itself be a problem! Keep reading…
3. Inspector Gadget
The Perfectionists of the world fall into this category. For heaven’s sake, look at this office! It’s the classic portrayal of what OCD looks like. (We’re pretty sure the perfectionists call it CDO, it’s exactly like OCD but the letters are arranged in alphabetical order. You know, the way they ‘should be’). These people thrive on following the rulebook. They’re the best supervisors, planners, and organizers. They’re also very detail-oriented and a bit judgmental.
Trait Bait: Breaking the rules breaks something inside those people’s souls, leaving them paralyzed. Try giving the ‘Inspector Gadgets’ clear guidelines and well-thought-out plans. Don’t involve them in the innovation process. Instead, give them something to work on alone until the final plan has been hatched out and is ready for implementation. And never stop with the praising!
4. August Rush
The artist is in the building, people!
This one is so imaginative we need a new word for it! The August Rushes of the world are creative, passionate, curious and extremely unpredictable. They speak the language of the heart, which is why their ideas resonate with the audience. They’re popular amongst their peers and very friendly, but their constant search for freedom can actually cage them in an endless stressful struggle.
Trait Bait: No doubt they’re charming, but they’re also easily charmed. Compliments, encouragement, and praise go a long way with the artists. Speak softly from the heart and you’re good to go.
5. The Terminator
This type of employee is programmed to kill your spirit. He or she are critics at heart, they have an uncontrollable need to point out everything that’s wrong with the world. They like to make waves and probably have a Ph.D. in arguing. They will find a problem with every solution because in their eyes if it sounds too good to be true, it definitely is. You may benefit from knowing about filing a complaint against a co-worker if they are causing too much distress to you.
Trait Bait: The Terminators’ apparent negativity can actually help the team stand on solid, balanced, realistic grounds. They’ll find the loopholes, weakest links and be the devil’s advocate when you need one the most. Just let go of your need to win the debate and they’ll lose interest in provoking you soon enough.
6. Lord Of The Rings
Think of Gandalf the wizard; for this type is wise, highly intelligent, and is always up for mind-bending challenges. The wizards in the workplace have a strategic, intricate mentality. They uniquely pair both perfection and imagination, which makes them a rare asset to any team force. They are the ‘doers’. Give them a seemingly impossible crazy idea and they’ll work their magic into making it a successful reality.
Trait Bait: One downfall with this type is that they can be very full of themselves so try to look beyond their arrogance and don’t you dare praise them too much. Too many rules can weigh this type down. They need to be convinced with the logic behind each move so be patient because they’re the masters of ‘win-win’ scenarios.
7. The Gladiator
They’re in the field getting their hands muddy and the jobs done. This type is reserved, responsible, emotionally detached and usually excel at enforcing law and order. They do what they’re told and are not very intrigued by new ideas, innovations, or anything else that might threaten their comfort zone. This type works to put food on the table, that’s the main motivation for keeping them going.
Trait Bait: Again, don’t force them into participating in the inventive process or make them break the routine. Keep them busy doing what they know how to do, and keep the relationship formal. If they don’t want to hang out by the water cooler to socialize on lunch break, don’t take it personally. So let’s get out of this office and leave them be!
8. Scar Face
Are those blood stains on the wall?!
Confidently evil to say the least, Scarface will instigate hatred, fights and bitter competitiveness at the slightest chance he or she gets. They will lie, manipulate others and even trick or betray their colleagues if they have to.
They’ve probably suffered from a lot of injustice in their youths, so much so that they can’t help but spread the darkness they have inside.
Trait Bait: I don’t know if it’s realistic to ask you to understand their inner struggles, but either way, make sure you don’t let them drag you down. Think of their existence as a trial for your honor and morals and take it as a challenge to remain upright.
Like they say, what’s a fairytale without a dragon?
9. Mr. Bean
Remember in school, that one person in class who made you laugh till your stomach hurt? The Mr. and Mrs. Beans of the office are kind of like that, too. They have a knack for cracking jokes right in the middle of a crisis. They literally believe that laughter is the best medicine, and will make sure the workplace is a happy, fun environment. They’re warm, cheerful and very optimistic; they sure bring out the best out of each team member.
Trait Bait: The Problem with the Bean’s is they can be utterly unfocused sometimes, which can affect productivity. To balance that out, try to cultivate close relationships with them, and don’t stress too much on deadlines and workloads. Make sure you let them in and treat them like close friends because that’s when they calm down and get the job done.
10. Forrest Gump
We shouldn’t stay here for too long coz this type of employee doesn’t fancy socializing the least bit. The ‘Gumps’ are the introverts in the workplace, much like the lone wolves. They work alone. Eat alone. And pretty much keep to themselves. Many of them are absolutely brilliant, but their inability to mingle and blend in makes them put up concrete social walls that no one is allowed to break. They would rather have individual goals than work as a team.
Trait Bait: These people are prime targets for lazy colleagues who take advantage of their quietness and use it as a green light to dump more work on them. Careful coz when the lone wolves attack, there’s nowhere to run. So instead, respect their need for privacy and treat with kindness even if it’s not always reciprocated, know they’re smiling happily on the inside.
Alright, so this brings our backstage tour to an end. But before I go, let me pass on some of the wisdom that I’ve learned throughout the years of coaching people on how to live and let live. And these are the top three lessons:
1. People Respond To Perception Not Reality
We’re all different. We bring our different perspectives to the table. This diversity of background, cultures, beliefs… etc. is a constant reminder that none of us know what we don’t know! We need humility to be able to work together. We need to absorb that each and every one of us has a valuable life experience that can benefit the whole team. Think of how unalike Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali were or how different Hamza, Musa’ab Belal and Salman the Persian were (may Allah be pleased with them all) yet they all worked together perfectly and brought the best out of each other!
So be curious about people’s way of thinking. It will only make you smarter and raise you higher in both the business world and in life in general.
2. Empathy Is Powerful
Whether you’ve been wronged or feel like someone did something wrong, before you approach that person, take a moment to remind yourself that maybe they feel like they’ve been wronged, too. Maybe they have their own set of troubles and inner struggles inside or outside the workplace. If you want to be the best team player there is, your only motivation for confrontation must be empathy. Give importance to making the team members feel important. You need to care about that human being in the cubicle next to you, not just their performance or contribution.
3. Nothing Happens In Isolation.
Alone or in a group, we still perform it the same way, yet prayer in congregation is much more beloved and highly rewarded by Allah [SWT].
Why do you think that is?
We’re social beings. A sense of unity and belonging is crucial to our well-being; it’s how Allah created us. In fact, one of the longest most profound studies done in Harvard over three generations, integrating brain scans, blood work, field research and psychological analysis, boils down its findings to this:
Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
Yes, you can have all the money, fame and success in the world, but without a strong support system, you’ll be beyond miserable.
The Prophet said, “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other.” The Prophet then clasped his hands with the fingers interlaced (while saying that). [Bukhari]
You can’t make all people like you, but you can collaborate and learn from one another.
Allah says ” O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [Qur’an, Chapter 49, Verse 13]
I know I said the tour ended a long time ago and you guys are professionals, you probably have a lot on your plate, but I’m dying to include this last bit.
Things are hardly ever what they seem.
Your team might act like they want to put you down
Your boss may snap or overload you with work
You might feel awkward or unaccepted or even socially impaired
Things are hardly ever what they seem…
We make assumptions mainly when we’re looking for things to confirm our beliefs. But the people you work can’t be put inside the frame of ‘what you choose to see’ or ‘what they choose to show’. Your coworkers have so many untold stories just like you do, and without curiosity, empathy and unity, we can never feel that sense of ‘belonging’ we’re all craving.
Being part of a team is like building a huge structure. It’s not about the intensity it’s about consistency. We work and fight for the same goal, all the while watching the love, trust and cooperation grow.
It won’t happen overnight.
You’re not going to see results the very next day or the very next week.
And I can’t really tell you exactly what day it will happen. But I promise you, it will….
Because things fall into place when you do the right thing….
Learning how to work with different personalities is something we constantly do throughout life, since no two people are the same. But part of becoming the best version of yourself depends on the way you treat others. Our upcoming retreat is the perfect opportunity to spend time with people from diverse backgrounds, learning the essential tools required to excel professionally, personally and spiritually.
By incorporating Islam and modern day science, our retreat is a tailor made, life changing experience to discover how you can become the best version of yourself. It is not to be missed.