How to be Patient at Work
In your career, you are not going to agree with every decision is made. If you have already experienced this, you’re thinking “Duh” in your head, if not, wait for it, it is inevitable. It’s not always negative, either. There have been plenty of times, especially early in my career, when I may not have understood or agreed with a decision at first, but it turned out to be the best thing for the company.
We are in a service-oriented career, and we want to help people. I care about the people I serve and support, and if you are in Human Resources (or any iteration of it), I’m sure that you do, too. As my good buddy Steve Browne says in his book HR on Purpose, “If employees are a pain point or source of frustration for you professionally, then get out of human resources. It isn’t the career for you.” If you haven’t read his book, download it or pick it up today.
This is not to say that those making the decisions do not care about people. I feel that is a common misconception. Having been the one making unpopular decisions at times, I can promise you, I cared.
Full disclosure: Patience is not one of my virtues. My team is giggling at this right now, and my husband is sighing, I’m sure. It’s a work in progress. I do, however, have an appreciation for having patience in the workplace, and I greatly admire those that exercise patience.
To be a great leader, and to serve people, you must exercise at least a modicum of patience.
Being patient at work does not mean that you are blindly following orders, without question, without a second thought. It does, however, mean that if a decision is made, and you don’t understand the rationale, respectfully request more information, asking your questions, etc. Focus on the issue or the situation – not the decision maker(s). Assume positive intent that those that made this decision have done so with all the information available to them at the time – some of which you may not be privy to, and that the decision was made in the best interest of the business overall.
If you are the person that will inevitably deliver this news, it is imperative that you make sure that you are clear on the rationale and underlying understanding of the decision. YOU WILL BE ASKED. Be prepared for the questions.
Choose your moments to challenge wisely. You don’t want to get a reputation for being the person that continuously pushes back or challenges decisions. Do not behave in a way or create a reputation for yourself that you are difficult to do business with. If and when you do pose a question or respectfully challenge a decision, you will have greater impact if you have typically demonstrated support from your position.
That being said, even if you believe that you have a valid business case for why this decision is either not living the company values, is not the right thing to do for the employees, etc., your belief is exactly that – a belief. If your feedback is taken under advisement (or not) and there is no traction, do not take it personally, focus on understanding the rationale, and move forward. Becoming emotionally attached to decisions will emotionally highjack you.
At the end of the day, our role is to support our people. Whether we agree with what has happened or not, we must trust our senior leadership to make the best decision for the business overall, and we must do our best to support our people as the decision impacts them. They will take their cue on how to react and handle things from us.