Professional environments differ from personal ones in a way that even everyday virtues take on a different meaning. Consideration is one such quality, we all grow up being taught how to show consideration towards others and what consideration we can expect in return. In the professional environment, however, there is no “map of consideration” and we have to come up with our own definition of what it means to be considerate.
Below I highlight three key elements of professional consideration:
Value Other People’s Time
This has been a pet peeve of all my colleagues through my time in a corporate environment. It may be acceptable to be late to certain social engagements but at work, it is almost never ok. This doesn’t just apply to turning up on time to meetings, it also applies to responding to meeting invitations, emails marked urgent, and chat messages. Now, we are all expected to use our time wisely at work but this does not mean that we become robotic about things. For example, if you are unable to make it to a meeting, simply declining it almost borders on rude. Instead, try to add a comment or two to explain the decline or to simply say “Apologies, this clashes with something I cannot move”. If the invite is for a one-to-one meeting, always suggest an alternative time. To emails and chats marked urgent, if you are unable to respond to the request, drop a quick line to say that you will respond in the next couple of hours, end of the day, or any other timeline you can meet. The idea is that you do not keep someone waiting indefinitely.
The Right Way to Refuse
As you progress in your career, you will need to say no more than you may like. You will need to be cautious of demands on your time, your team’s time, and prioritize like it’s your job. That does not mean, however, that being kind or considerate can take a backseat. Assess the situation and judge for yourself what the best method of communicating a refusal would be. Depending on the priority attached to the project in question, choose between communicating your refusal or alternative timelines over email or in a meeting. It is almost always never a good idea to flat out refuse without offering alternative options, no matter how unnecessary the request may seem to you.
Considerately Managing Conflicting Opinions
We do not always agree with those we work with and we should not feel like we have to. Each person is hired for their unique perspective and abilities. What makes this dynamic success is if everyone is able to opine and debate without descending into arguments or causing resentments. The minute a discussion begins to involve clashing opinions, mentally go to your calm place where you are able to hear what the other person is saying and stay open to new ideas. You may find that you like the other person’s perspective more. At all times, remember that the idea is not to have a winning idea but to create a spectacular result that everyone was able to freely contribute to and can take pride in.
In conclusion, being considerate is an art but it is not rocket science. Being in a professional environment does not mean that we become robotic, rather it is an opportunity to employ our strengths of consideration, compassion, and kindness to bring meaning to our careers. Employ common sense and always respond from a place of benevolence.