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Get off my turf!

How to work better together

Q. I’m really getting fed up with the tension between departments in this company. In order for us to turn out a good product, it’s absolutely necessary for sales, engineering and manufacturing to work together. But it’s becoming so difficult to get a simple job done because of the distrust and disrespect throughout the company. Rather than trying to share ideas, everyone is always on the defensive. I’m trying to figure out how I can make a difference. How can one person change the culture of an entire organization? – Bill

A. In order for an enterprise to prosper, it is necessary for all elements of that enterprise to work toward a common goal. Each division or department within that enterprise needs to recognize the value and importance of the other. It is the responsibility of each individual throughout the organization to establish a spirit of respect. François Michelin (long-time managing partner of Michelin Tire) once remarked: “As Pope John Paul II has often affirmed, every person is unique and unrepeatable. This is the true foundation of enterprise. If one does not take the time to listen to the people around him, he commits a grave mistake – I would say, almost a sin – because he has not been attentive to the truth that God has placed in those people and that he needs to welcome and receive if he wishes to do well in his business” (Religion & Liberty published by the Acton Institute). What does this mean for us as individuals? It’s easy to blame problems on others or on the organization. It is difficult to realize that if we’re not helping to fix the problem, we’re contributing to it. We each need to step up to the challenge by reminding ourselves of the Prayer of St. Francis to seek first to understand, rather than be understood.
    The challenge is to get into a habit of responding to negative attitudes with a positive one. In 1 Peter, we are encouraged to not repay evil with evil, rather with blessing (3:9). If you receive a negative reaction from someone at work, try responding in the following manner:

•  Resist the natural inclination to respond in kind.
•  Remember what François Michelin said about respecting the truth with which other people are blessed.
•  Express interest in the other’s perspective, and a desire to better understand.
•  If there is a legitimate disagreement, approach it in a respectful manner.
•  Seek a win-win solution, rather than a win-lose.

– Tim Ryan

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