Workplace wisdom that comes from being a parent

Recently at a mentoring event at work, I was asked whether being a woman gave me an edge in handling difficult inter-personal situations. I ended up steering the conversation in a slightly different direction....how being a parent gave me an edge on that front. This post is an extension of that little chat.

I have often maintained that kids have done a much better job at training us to be better individuals than what we have managed in terms of training our kids!  So thanks to parenthood, thanks to all our kids, here are some tips that we can all take back to our workplaces. These tips are particularly useful when dealing with coworkers under difficult circumstances (not necessarily difficult coworkers). Being parents, we are not only made to realize & understand the value of these tactics but are also pretty much forced to practice and perfect them day in & day out!

Tell what not to do, also tell them what to do
Sometime back my daughter kept repeatedly banging a cup & annoying everyone else at home. I kept asking her to stop the banging but to no avail. Suddenly, I switched track and simply asked her to keep the cup on top of the counter. And it worked like magic. Which is when I realized she didn't really know what the right alternative was. I have to admit though that I have not been this successful in some other instances at home. However, at work, I have had a much better success rate with this approach - the approach of not just saying what is not working or what someone should not be doing but also adding what the right alternative is.

Proactively (or rather pre-emptively) lead
Kids typically have very high energy. If we let them lead & then try to keep up, then we are setting ourselves up for exhaustion. There is no way I can keep up with my kids. Instead, if we switch things around keep them on their toes. i.e., us taking the lead & making them catch up then life becomes slightly easier. What this means is proactively planning the days, making some decisions & setting the tone for them to follow. That is only way to have some control over our days.

Keep reactions under check
There are quite a few good reasons why we should under react or in some cases not react at all:
a. If I reacted to every feedback, opinion, wish and complaint my kids have, our lives would be practically impossible. The same logic applies to my workplace.
b. Half the time I have absolutely no clue what the right reaction is.
c. More often than not, my reactions make the situation far worse than they were to begin with.

Give them a big (mental) hug
When I look at my kids late in the night, after a really long, rough day, it often strikes me that they have had as tough a day (if not tougher) as we have all had...and I end up giving them a big hug. At work too, I strongly recommend that at the end of any such particularly difficult day, do give your colleagues a big mental hug. Chances are they have had as rough a time as you have!

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