This post is a reminder to the leader who cares about those they serve.
The person exhibiting authority and assertiveness might be doing so because they have a low level of control at home.
The person talking about the office, even people inside the office, as if they are somehow above the fray, might be looking for a place where their opinion matters.
The person going around the office telling everyone how great they are might have been verbally abused for years.
The person with strong opinions about particular issues of the day might have experienced a great hurt in their past.
The person that seems emotionally distant, always tired, and not as engaged as they used to be, might have a child needing extra help and support.
The person that is quiet might simply be alone.
The person that says the inappropriate joke might simply need a real friend.
The person that makes work seem like “life or death,” might be doing so because other areas of their life lack the meaning they hoped for.
Work is human.
While I do not claim that all work conflict stems from the “mights” listed above, a leader has to remember that those they lead bring everything with them to work.
There is no such thing as work-life balance.
There is, and should be, limits to work.
There is not, nor should be, limits to being human.
Therefore, the whole person comes to work.
As leaders, then, we need to see the person behind the worker.
We need to be curious, without being over-bearing or unnecessarily getting into their business.
We need to ask questions when the door is open.
We need to listen, rather than to counsel.
And most of all, we need to care.
Not all problems at work originate from what we bring to work. Further, work conflict can be very healthy to both the organization, and the individual, when it is constructive.
But, disclaimers aside, this post is a reminder that work is human.
The problems we see at work are often not the problems.
They are a window into the soul of the worker and into the brokenness of the human condition that we all share.
Let’s see the human.
Let’s care for the soul.
Let’s affirm the person.
That is what leaders do.