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Learning to Collaborate with Nontraditional Officemates

Posted by HRDQ on 04/03/2018
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I work from home and my "officemates" are the coolest. But they aren’t always the best collaborators. As I’ve used the Interpersonal Influence Inventory for years, I’ve started to notice that my four officemates exhibit the four styles perfectly:

  • Jake is assertive.
  • Luna is concealed aggressive.
  • Bean is openly aggressive.
  • Neville is passive.

They all mix and mingle politely, even though you can tell they aren’t the best of friends. But they tolerate each other and -- as time goes on -- the "team" continues to unite and works well together.

Jake, a 12-year-old golden retriever, is a natural leader. He is calm, teaches by modeling the way, kind, and assertive. He’s clear when he doesn’t like something and will politely tell you his feelings. When he can’t make change in a situation, he gets up and removes himself and goes where he’s more comfortable. He’s the guardian of the house and we all look for his cues for how to assess a situation.

Luna, a 2-year-old hound mix, is concealed aggressive. When she trusts you, she’s as sweet as can be, but if she doesn’t like something she’ll moan, slink off, and sulk. If she doesn’t trust you, she will bark and lunge until she scares you away. If another wants to share a space with her and she’s been laying in a tight ball, she’ll stretch herself out so they don’t have room to join her. She’s not always consistent in her likes and dislikes, so there’s a dance to do first to scope her out.

Bean, a 1-year-old mama cat, is openly aggressive. Most days, she’s charming and calm, but if her space is crowded or she feels threatened, she lashes out and then walks away as the others back down immediately. She’s consistent in what she doesn’t like and brings the same outward, alarming reaction each time.

Neville, Bean’s 5-month-old kitten, is passive. Nothing seems to bother him. He lays down and looks at you innocently no matter what’s going on around him. He doesn’t seem fazed by any reaction from anyone else. Either he’s just never stressed out and relaxed all the time, or maybe he’s learned to cope by hiding his unpleasant feelings.

We value learning in our house and that extends to our pets. Each have gone through training and transition as they’ve joined the pack. We also continue to guide and adjust as they age, learn new behaviors, and their environment changes. Our approach has always been positive reinforcement training that sets clear expectations and works with the personality they bring. We aren’t all the same and therefore our learning, expectations, and relationships aren’t the same.

Assertiveness training looks to value the openness of communication and consideration for others. Its foundation is respect. My officemates have very different personalities and come from very different backgrounds. It’s amazing to see the transition of them accepting each other as a team. We’ve come a long way and I credit active training based on sound theory to get us here.

--Sara Lindmont