Often, we wonder how people manage to excel in hostile work environments. Typically, the workplace should be an environment where everybody feels safe and comfortable and can perform their work to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
A hostile work environment is where employees feel frightened, uncomfortable, or unwelcome at their jobs. Also, workplace conflicts and arguments arise frequently with detrimental effects on the well-being of victims of harassment. A recent survey on hostile work environments showed that 49 per cent of UK office workers and 51 per cent of US office workers personally experienced some form of workplace misconduct during their working lives.
In a recent attempt to establish new academic collaborations at work, my actions were misconstrued and led to an unpleasant backlash from a few peers. Some observers who witnessed the event asked me later, how I could remain focused and productive in such a hostile situation. My answer was simple. Act with integrity, avoid being righteous, and know when to step out.
So, what did I mean? With integrity, I meant acting honestly and exhibiting strong moral principles, i.e., moral uprightness. Evolving from the Latin adjective integer, integrity means whole or complete and is ascribed to an inner sense of "wholeness."
By "avoiding being righteous," I meant refraining from wanting to be right (all the time), especially in a moral way. Or said differently, avoid trying to justify my intentions when I was right and others were being unreasonable.
Religious people often talk about being righteous, and in their view, the righteous person not only does the right thing for other people but also follows the laws of their religion. In this lies an element of steadfastness that may reflect integrity. Hence, while integrity focuses on a steadfast adherence to strict moral or ethical codes, righteousness centers around being right in your words and actions, i.e., conscientious, honest, honorable, noble, or pure.
So, when I said, "Act with integrity and avoid being righteous," I meant that it was not enough just to do the right thing or do things rightly, but strive, to do the right things right(ly). When I said to "know when to step out," I meant that the moment you recognize that respect is not being served anymore, it is time to muster the courage to leave the table.
Jamiu Busari, associate professor of medical education at FHML and dean Health Professions Education (HOH Academy Aruba)