A few weeks back, I joined the Raipur office of Centre for Learning Resources. When I reached the office I was trying to avoid all human contact, going straight to the guesthouse, which was just a floor above the office. After continuous travel from Udaipur to Pune and then Pune to Raipur, I was harrowed and sleep deprived. A colleague, roughly my age, came upstairs thrice calling me and my co-fellow for a quick orientation and introduction. Reluctantly, we got introduced to everyone at the office.
In the guest house, we were living with our colleagues. It was the first time I was sharing my personal space with so many people. It was humbling to see everyone, irrespective of the hierarchy, working along with us, cooking and doing everything a normal family member would do. Initial days were easy and we hardly had any problem in adjustment. As some more colleagues arrived, hailing from different cultural backgrounds, having different lifestyles, there were some misunderstandings between the nocturnal and diurnal population. Further, going out at night by some was misinterpreted by few colleagues. Gradually, a schism started forming within the guest house. This was the time when our director and project manager intervened with a friendly ‘disco’, office lingo for disciplinary committee meeting. Keeping all their work assignments aside, and ignoring the important phone calls, they eked out full two hours to talk to us. We revisited the lessons of empathy learnt in the induction training with the grandma’s tale of fox and stork. Before judging any action of an individual, it is important to understand what were the catalysts and inputs that triggered the reaction. The actions of an individual might simply be the result of the environment they had always seen. Their intention might not inherently be malicious. Understanding the other person requires some effort on our part. Unless we build some rapport with the other person, we might never know their situation, we might lose out on a good companion, most importantly; we might end up stereotyping those coming from a different background than ours, judge them, and have ill will in our hearts against them. Recognition of the point when this was about to happen and the effort to nip it in the bud was worthwhile. The two hours of intense reflection gave me a mild headache, but some of my clouds of doubts about circumstances beyond the guesthouse issues got cleared through this session.
Eventually, me and my co-fellow took over the responsibility of making breakfast for everyone, and took part in daily chores other than our own personal chores. During this process we interacted with the morning people, and it was unexpectedly fun. A pampered soul like me started doing some work responsibly. The work culture at my organisation treats everyone equally, which ranges from celebrating teej with the cook to the director lending a hand in cleaning of the house. The moment you understand your colleague at work, working becomes much easier. It creates a sense of ownership that produces excellent results, not only in work, but in personal relationships. You find a new family, a home away from home.