The effects of the pandemic have been so pervasive that when we look back on 2020 it may be the only thing that seems relevant. But there were other significant events that would have seemed massive this year were it not for COVID-19.
The commonality between these events was that they led to differing, strongly held opinions. People have strong viewpoints on COVID-related policy, and they’ve made those views known. People have strong opinions on the role of Police in society, and they’ve made those views known. The same goes for politics.
Much of this social growth and change, unfortunately, has happened while co-workers were isolated from each other. Once the pandemic begins to subside and offices start returning to “normal,” we’ll all realize that none of us are exactly who we were before we started working from home every day. It’s impossible to have gone through 2020 without it changing you at least a little.
In short, co-workers will find that they’ve grown apart during the pandemic – and if those differences are accompanied by strongly held opinions, they’re likely to cause friction that wasn’t present in 2019.
Building a Better Work Environment
In reality, the office probably isn’t a great place for co-workers to have a conversation about their vastly different political perspectives. However, it is critical that employees feel comfortable presenting different perspectives about work-related issues, and that their co-workers truly consider those perspectives. It’s not only a matter of respect; these conversations are how flaws in seemingly great policies are uncovered and addressed before they cause problems for your agency.
With that in mind, here are three ways that you can encourage employees to respect co-workers with different opinions than their own.
#1 – Discuss the Value of Different Work Personalities
There are an unending number of ways to categorize work personalities, including Myers-Briggs, Caliper, DiSC, the Enneagram and the Make a Difference Personality Profile. The best of these point out both the strengths and the weaknesses of each work personality type. They also highlight what failures would beset a team with only one type of work personality.
These systems all demonstrate the importance of differing opinions to team members. Great team-building discussions about personality types should explain how viewpoints or behaviors that some people find annoying are actually critical to the team’s success. In addition to increasing employees’ respect of co-workers with different perspectives, these discussions should also provide tips on how two people with very different personality types can communicate without driving each other crazy.
#2 – Collect and Distribute Positive Feedback
In some offices the most visible employees feel appreciated, while others feel that their contributions go unappreciated. Other offices may not have a culture of positive feedback. In either case, promoting a positive work environment will encourage your employees to continue to grow one themselves.
One thing that managers can do to promote positive communication is to solicit feedback on employees who made life for a co-worker better either through their hard work or gracious attitude. These plaudits can then be incorporated into a regular (weekly or monthly) email that goes out to the wider team. This ensures that positive feedback has high visibility, encouraging similar behavior from all team members while helping to dampen any negative interactions that people have with co-workers.
#3 – Direct Energy Toward Positive Change
Strongly held opinions can drive people apart. But they can also drive people to change things for the better. Human Resource teams can put together lists of uncontroversial ways to make change in the community, and encourage employees to pursue those opportunities to improve their community. Examples include registering people to vote, mentoring a child, volunteering with a prisoner re-entry network, building care packages for police and other first responders or becoming a SCORE volunteer.
To learn how CMTS:HR can help your agency’s HR investigators close cases more efficiently, call us at 919-747-3812 or email us at Team_CMTSHR@CMTSHR.com.