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Keeping The Peace At Work

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Every workplace is a diverse environment. There's a wide mix of cultures, races, religions, genders and sexualities. It should be a safe place, where people feel secure and can be themselves no matter what their characteristics, free from prejudice or discrimination.

The office is also often a jokey place, with lots of banter and mick-taking. There's no harm in friendly jokes and having a laugh with colleagues only strengthens relationships, but sometimes office banter can go too far and peoples' feelings can get hurt. This can lead to arguments, feelings of isolation or even bullying, which must not continue. Here are some tips on how to be sensitive to your colleagues to keep the peace at work.

1. Think before you speak

Sometimes it is easy to say something insulting without meaning to, it just comes out wrong or you didn't phrase it quite how you would have liked. Therefore, mull over what you are going to say before you blurt it out, think if it could cause offence in any way and rework it if it is ambiguous and could be misunderstood.

2. Know the limits

Knowing how far you can push a joke is the skill of a good comedian. Often, people are happy to be the butt of a joke if it's in good humour, but know your audience. Some people are easily offended especially when it comes to personal traits, so be aware of who will take it well and who should be steered clear of. Stop the comments before they go too far and, if in doubt, air on the side of caution and quit while you are ahead (and are still seen as funny rather than offensive)!

3. Keep strong opinions to yourself

Opinionated people sometimes don't realise the impact their comments have on other people. If you are having a discussion on a sensitive topic then be respectful of others' opinions. There?s no harm in having your own thoughts on a matter, but if they aren't related to your job then work might not be the time and place to express them.

4. Respect taboo topics

Your work isn't an ideal setting for a lengthy discussion on certain topics (use your imagination). Further, various cultures have different ideas about what is and isn't appropriate public discussion material let alone if you are at work or not. Be aware of what topics might not be appropriate and save those conversations for the pub after your shift.

5. Take care with what you share

There's a wealth of comedic material out there in cyberspace, just waiting to be bulk-emailed around the office for a giggle. Not all workplaces permit this sort of behaviour, but if they do then it is ok to get involved, so long as what you distribute is appropriate for all your colleagues. If there is any chance someone could be offended the chances are you probably shouldn't be sending it anyway. Keep the jokes in good taste, and the information free from personal biases.

6. Take an interest in them

There?s no shame in not knowing about or understanding different people and cultures, but if you don?t even make an effort to get informed then you could come across as rude, vain or disrespectful. Get to know your colleagues personally and if you have any questions about them then ask; they'll be pleased you want to learn more.

7. Treat them as you want to be treated

A rule of thumb for life in general and highly relevant for keeping the peace at work. Don't say or do anything to others that you wouldn't want said or done to you. If you think you would be offended by your actions then don't do it, simple!

8. Be open

Sometimes you can inadvertently upset someone and in these cases it is important to acknowledge their feelings and apologise for what you've, mistakenly or otherwise, done. The same is true of the reverse, if someone has offended you, you need to tell them, otherwise it might happen again and get worse. Nip borderline comments in the bud as they arise. People don't always realise the effect they have, so keep the channels of communication open to save any confusion.

9. Learn from yours and others mistakes

Reflecting on your behaviour and the impact you had can save future situations. Similarly, if someone else has rocked the work boat then learn from their actions so the drama is not repeated.

10. Don't be judgemental or discriminatory

This kind of goes without saying, but unfortunately it still needs to be addressed.

Have you got any other tips for keeping the peace at work? Please share!
anna pitts grb author

Anna Pitts studied English Language at the University of Sussex and was a marketing assistant and online researcher at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau. She now works in Marketing and Advertising for Hearst Magazines UK.

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