Dear Hanna Mae
BY HANNA MAE GUMMENT (AKA SUE CONNELLY, FCLSA, AND URSULA LOTZKAT)
I can hardly believe it's been a year since I started answering your charming cards and letters. As I looked through the final stack of "Dear Hanna Mae" mail nestled between my flour and sugar canisters, I found a common thread in many of your letters: "How can I get along with my co-workers?" Well now, that's a good question!
Some of you might adore your co-workers, while others of you might simply tolerate them. But regardless of how you feel, you still must work together. While you can choose your friends, you don't have much of a say about who's in your family, who lives next door or who occupies the desk space at your elbow. And yet you have to find a way to get along, play nice and, ultimately, get things done.
Mind Your Manners
With apologies to Robert Fulghum, everything I ever needed to know about working with others I learned from living in a small town. For instance, be nice because everyone is your neighbor. In a small town, the people you see on the street, those in your grocery aisle and those who worship alongside you in church are people that you know. The pool of potential new faces is, well, rather limited.
The same holds true in a professional office. Those faces around you don't change too frequently (or they shouldn't), so it just doesn't make sense to pick a fight or be discourteous.
Simply remembering your manners can go a long way in keeping the peace in a small town (or office). Say "good morning," "please," "thank you," and "I'm sorry." Smile. Keep your front yard (or desk area) neat and tidy. And don't peek into people's windows if they forget to pull the shades. In a small town and in a professional office, you have to maintain a neighborly relationship with everyone (but, I didn't say you have to like everyone). No one wants to move from a house or job that he likes just because you all couldn't get along.
Show Some Respect
In a small town everyone will know your business, so think first and speak second. Don't say or do anything you'd be embarrassed to have your mother or your boss find out about. Because they will. Trust me. Don't say or do anything that you wish you could take back or that will hurt another person's feelings. Don't say things that are untrue. And in a small town (or office), everyone knows your business, so you don't need to gossip -- because everyone already knows.
Only one person can be the boss and make final decisions. There's room for only one sheriff in a small town. Oh, a number of people usually want to be the deputies and have a say in each and every important matter that comes along, but not everyone can be off making decisions on their own. In your office, the doctor or the office manager may function as the sheriff or as law enforcement. Whoever it is, that person needs to have the final say as well as everyone's respect and empowerment.
Pitch in and Help Each Other
Finally, when it blizzards in a small town, everyone has to shovel because everyone relies on each other. Why, each winter I'd be at the mercy of the first big thaw if I didn't have neighbors who were willing to cross their property line to help me and others out. And when I can help someone else by baking a pan of bars or a potato hot dish, I do that gladly knowing that that person will be there with an extra shovel when I need it. It's vital that co-workers also feel that a helping hand will be there to help them when a blizzard of work begins to fall. It doesn't matter if it's "not your job." If you have a shovel and it's snowing, then start digging.
Ms. Gumment is ready to start her next new adventure in helping to improve human management skills in the eyecare industry. She has been signed by the local cable channel to host a talk show "Eye Speak," which will feature guest lecturers, local celebs and an occasional cooking segment.