Opinion

Soul Surgery – Coming Clean with Colleagues

Soul Surgery

“A great place to work is one in which you trust the people you work for, have pride in what you do, and enjoy the people you work with.”

— Robert Levering, Co-Founder, Great Place to Work ®

Valid and relevant this statement may be, but is it always the case?

Because we’re human and each created profoundly differently – full of foibles, preconceptions, pride, and perceptions, there are bound to be clashes. There’s a ‘rubbing up the wrong way.’ Subtle innuendoes can lead to scratchiness and hidden hurts that if left undealt with, like weeds, begin to choke relationships between boss and employee, or even teams.

When there is deep hurt, all the buzzwords and rhetoric in the world won’t cut it. ‘Transparency,’ ‘trust indexes’ and ‘culture audits,’ ‘policies’ and ‘practices’ mean nothing when deep rifts between individuals or teams remain unchecked.

At this point, we have the option to ignore the issue at hand and let it fester or worse still, discuss the so-called offender with other colleagues. We can allow pride, a lack of trust and deep hurt to take root, readjust our masks and endure rather than thrive. Creativity and a sharing of ideas can be curtailed. Our masks can remain firmly in place for years. Relationships can limp along without much life until a day when they flat-line. Too much water under the bridge. Too difficult to broach the subject. Just too hard.

The standard and most natural outcome of unresolved issues in the workplace is sadly too often resignation. Good people leave. Hurts remain, and glaring problems go unresolved. In the same way, friends can sever all contact. The danger of opting out is that the cycle continues. Gnarly growth that should have been pruned a long time ago continues unabated.

But what if we did the unthinkable? Courageously chose to stand up for our values and principles – to be obedient to the small, quiet voice and calmly confront with humility. Talk. Share what’s jarring and what caused the hurt. Allow some ‘pruning.’

The risk of downloading is great. The manager, staff member, colleague or friend can choose to walk away. They can choose not to listen or candidly admit they messed up too. They can refuse to acknowledge that there may be a glimmer of truth in our ravaged revelations. Pride and arrogance may render them blind. Their perception of events may be entirely different to our own. And their reality at odds too.

Open heart soul surgery is messy. It’s ugly. It’s humbling, uncomfortable and not for the cowardly.

The vulnerability that follows is profound. Perhaps deep down, if we’re really honest, we all just want to be liked, accepted and respected. Revealing our most profound shortcomings and uncovering those of others removes the outer layers – the smooth, glossy ones we prefer people to see. In the messiness of open soul surgery, every ounce of self-preservation may be lost. The raw wound is not pretty.

But what freedom in being faithful to that gentle prompting to do what we know is right! After the storm has abated, an honest confrontation is like salve to the soul. A balm that heals and restores. And in the discomfort comes growth, newly forged character and a reminder that above all, we should remain humbly teachable.

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Filed under: Opinion

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Lois Nicholls is an Australian Journalist and author of 'Aussie, Actually' - A South African woman's memoir of migrating to Australia. Follow her on Twitter @loisknicholls.