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Ombuds’ Insight: We are in the culture in the petri dish

by Tony Belak, university ombuds last modified Jun 14, 2012 09:05 AM

When we believe others view us negatively or in a false light, we struggle as though to breathe in an oxygen-deprived atmosphere.

Ombuds’ Insight: We are in the culture in the petri dish

Tony Belak

The implications are huge since the more we feel devalued the more energy and effort we expend in defending and restoring our value…which allows less energy to create that personal value.

When we express feeling about ourselves, others, the situation in which we are currently, or just about anything, a new level of dialogue is opened, and we can exchange and share authentic relationship data that could strengthen bonds and build trust. Empathetic communication links people and performance and forms the basis for common action, generates power to leverage communication to targeted goals and gives relationships their foundation to empower rewarding and positive exchanges.

If collaboration is a sharing of responsibilities and resources to achieve a common goal, we do this all the time, but the extent and quality of those interactions often do not meet expectations. The shared reality of people at work depends on the structure of their relationships; the culture within their organization, including the sub-culture of their immediate workplace; and the degree of cooperation, communication, solidarity and collaboration among them.

In its broadest sense culture is a way of life, but within an organization it means the shared attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and relationships that make up the organization’s norms and customs. Changing strategies and structures could prove ineffectual or detrimental if the culture, the surrounding sea in which we swim, remains unaltered.

Organizations are social systems in which people are strongly influenced by the organizational culture. Therefore, the most potent tool for improvement is cultural change. The goal is to increase the long-term health and performance of the organization, while enriching the lives of its members.

Appropriate communication and listening skills can benefit workplace interactions and impact the bottom line. We assume we are better listeners than we really are, so, in a tense situation, despite our sincerity and selflessness others can’t read our minds or motives and our egocentric perspectives keep us from realizing people can’t measure our actions except by the signals we send—which aren’t as clear to them as they are to us.

Training in constructive conversation can be rewarding to the individual and the organization. Good communication skills are mutual-respect skills and each person should show respect for the other as well as for self. Not many aspects of human experience are as powerful as the desire to be understood. Core values to promote trust, diversity, personal and professional growth, mutual respect and constructive communication are absolute requirements in a vibrant and healthy business or association of people.

The preservation of workplace relationships, resolution of disputes, advocacy in conciliation and early intervention, and interest-based approaches to conflict are attainable through training, education and coaching.

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