Are we fighting a losing battle in attempting to be more civil, polite and respectful? Author Susie Wilson Research best practices for interacting with someone different from you. If you are seasoned (read: of a certain age) professional, realise the faces and priorities of the workplace have changed dramatically right under your nose. While diverse populations have always existed to one degree or another in the workplace, in the last century, conformity to expectations built around the majority (e.g., white males) was key. Differences in perspectives, challenges, and needs as they related to gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical abilities, religious beliefs, etc., were not issues — at least not for those not of those populations. Today, employers embrace diversity, knowing the direct positive effect it has on the bottom line. ERGs — employee resource groups, also known as affinity groups or employee networks — now exist in 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies. As the workplace becomes increasingly diverse, employees must not only accept but welcome diversity if they themselves are to continue to be welcomed. Why not research the best practices for interacting with someone with a specific disability or someone of another culture? New understanding and new friendships may be the reward. Accept that anonymity is a thing of the past We are under digital and visual surveillance many of our waking hours and virtually all of our working hours. Our commutes are chronicled by tollbooths, stoplights and highway cameras that take our pictures while recording tolls paid, lights run and speeds traveled. Mobile phones track our movements. Office parking lots, garages, building entrances and elevators are watched. Walks through security and to desks are logged. Office walls no longer exist. Our Internet use, email communications, and telephone calls are monitored. Sensors in name badges monitor how we move around the office, who we talk to and even our tone of voice. Occupancy sensors indicate when we are at our desks. Gone are the days when we can fudge our whereabouts or otherwise tinker with the truth. Accept rather than deny or try to thwart these new workplace realities and proceed accordingly. It may be the smartest career decision you make that day. Brush up on interpersonal skills While we’ve been busily honing our technical skills, convinced it’s all about writing the code or coming up with the next killer app, we have not been paying attention to what employers now actually value most. Today, companies are “hiring for attitude, training for skill.” And as more and more jobs are absorbed by artificial intelligence, smart machines, robots, and drones, experts say companies will hire for the interpersonal skills of empathy, compassion and caring. They will look for the human qualities of generosity, tenacity, good judgment and humour. If we have not thought about our adeptness with such interpersonal skills as listening, showing respect and building relationships, now would be a very good time to start. Take breaks from technology Many of us cannot fathom going an hour, never mind a day or a weekend, without using our electronic devices. Our psychological dependence upon them is intensified by FOMO (fear of missing out), so much so that we experience true anxiety when we do not have access to them. But our dependence upon our devices comes at a huge cost to our physical and emotional health, and to the quality of our relationships. People are beginning to take notice of this and are deliberately taking back control of their lives from their devices. “Digital detox” weekends, dedicated tech-free times, and rooms and social gatherings where devices are checked at the door are beginning to catch on. People are also engaging in new activities and hobbies that require the use of both hands, making electronic device use impossible. Those who have trouble relinquishing their devices are even paying for help, spending weekends at hotels that proudly promote “no Wi-Fi access” as a selling point. Make a conscious decision to limit your time on your devices and commit to it (perhaps with the help of a family member to help keep you on track). You will reap immediate personal rewards and may find out you actually prefer a tech-limited lifestyle. Make time to meet with colleagues face-to-face Who has time to go out to a meal with a colleague or client? In fact, you can’t even remember the last time you’d had an actual face-to-face, uninterrupted conversation with someone over a meal. The intensity of the 24-7 workplace makes this luxury an impossibility to take advantage of. And besides, there is free food in the lunchroom. Why pay for it? But you have to admit, sitting behind your screen and “talking” with others only via text sometimes gets old. You actually sort of miss seeing the smile on another’s face or sharing a laugh over some silly joke. You have completely lost track of your co-workers' lives even though you sit just a cubicle away. Why not set aside one morning each week to meet someone for coffee? Or one lunchtime to get some fresh air with a colleague? Or maybe a regular bike ride each week to reconnect and recharge? You may wonder why you hadn’t done it sooner. I am reminded of Jack Nicholson’s famous and iconic line from the movie, As Good As It Gets, when he was so inspired by Helen Hunt’s character’s decency: “You make me want to be a better — and more polite and respectful — man!” Here’s hoping it lasts.