Sometime earlier this year, I was invited by the British High Commission in Singapore to talk about the new modern workplace coupled with the new cultural and social practices. It was an interesting conversation which examined management in a physical environment. An interesting question prompted me to state a general principle which I state in how I manage people regardless of workplace and cultural differences.
Whether it is a open, closed or hybrid office concept, the essential principle to bear in mind is that the workplace is all about the people in how they operate in the environment in the most productive, efficient and within cultural norms that are both culturally and morally acceptable. It does not matter how technology is being infused into the environment because it is how people leveraged on these tools whether it is a collaborative online tool or a communication protocol via some sensors. From remote to face-to-face working, the way we work is often seeped in how we communicate in order to get things done. As corporations expand regionally and globally across different geographies, we are often reminded of cultural differences and how we need to make adjustments to adapt to them.
Someone from the audience asked the panel whether there are any general principles that one can adopt to the modern workplace. I gave a surprising answer that may stem from my roots as a theoretical physicist who is constantly reducing anything down to something as simple as possible. The best way, as I explained, boiled down to one simple principle which some might call empathy or compassion.
I often operated on what I termed the compassion principle in the way how I managed people regardless of environment and cultural differences that you should not do unto others that you do not want others to do to you. This principle is remarkably universal among different cultures no matter how much nuances we remind each other that we are different people living in different parts of the world. In managing people particularly in handling difficult conversations, I adopt this principle so that the outcome remained professional and not personal.
This is not a simple principle that one can learn immediately to use but requires one to practice over a period of time and even till today, I am still refining my approach with this simple guiding principle in mind.