May 3, 2012
The definition of a “barrier” is something that “restrains or obstructs progress, access,, etc.”-Dictionary.com
I would include that barriers also infer a level of distrust, that brings that barrier into being. Barriers can cause a breakdown in how the team functions, in work collegiality, and in your personal life. These barriers can be caused by:
- religious misunderstanding
- differences in social standing
- lack of effective communication
- personality conflicts
- lack of understanding in job descriptions, or in what colleagues are doing day-to-day
- disagreements about flexible work time arrangements
- situations that have occurred in the past and have not been resolved
- general mistrust of the motivations of others
I believe that we try very hard to be professional and polite, and sometimes this works to our detriment. We try to let things go, and then those things that are important to you tend to fester because they are unresolved. We do not want to make waves or offend people. However, there are ways to be more effective in communicating, that allows for better discourse and the possibility to resolve deep-seated grievances.
The article links below are some good guidelines to use when trying to overcome barriers, or to avoid them altogether. I have found the following useful for me in various situations:
- Listen actively, which is different from just hearing. Acknowledge the thoughts, feelings, opinions of others.
- Listen as an ally and not as an adversary
- Make sure that feedback is constructive and not unnecessarily negative.
- Make sure that your opinions come from the head and not just the heart (if I am in a bad mood or particularly emotional state that day, maybe I reserve my comments until I can express myself in a more practical way)
- Be prepared to stand up for what you believe, even if it causes discomfort. Also be willing to stand up for others who are not being acknowledged. Everyone should have a voice and opinion that can be respected.
- That said, be willing to let go and pick your battles. Consider others’ feelings and try to understand why they feel the way they do. Don’t jump to conclusions.
The Kaleel-Jamison Group does training on culture and inclusion. They have a great list of 12 Inclusive behaviors. Being aware of these behaviors in your interactions can make a true difference in how you see others, and how they see you.
Working in teams can be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences you face. I have found that these extra strategies can make a more constructive and a happier environment.