There are many approaches we can take to our work and organizational goals and different strategies may yield comparable outcomes. While this may make sense to us, often we operate in our roles without reflecting on the nature of our work style, where it comes from or the impact it has on others. We may also hold an implicit belief that our own way of working is most correct and insist directly or indirectly that others comply with our work style. When we embrace collaboration across difference, we commit to examining the nature and impact of our working style and consider practicing in ways that are unfamiliar or even uncomfortable for us. At the core of this competency is the practice of taking perspective. Many of us have engaged in perspective taking when we have been prompted to consider “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.” To embrace diverse working styles, we can begin by considering what it’s like to “work in someone else’s shoes.” Such reflections allow us to see our own working style more clearly and consider opportunities to shift our own practices to meet the needs of our team.
At Oregon State, embracing collaboration across difference may look like a project leader recognizing and adapting long held communication patterns which are in fact intimidating and silencing to their colleagues. It may also look like program supervisor remaining flexible to the strategies of their supervisees and maintaining openness to new ways of accomplishing a task.
Individually, learning in this dimension may result in greater self-awareness and awareness about how power and privilege shape our work and communication styles. We may improve our ability to collaborate and manage conflict. We may also initiate exploration of the needs of others and do so with openness and flexibility. As a community, when we learn together, we may discover more innovative and effective means of achieving our goals.