April 8, 2012

Every once in a while, Plinky.com has a prompt that is interesting.  Some tend to be bland, but all in all, I must commend the users or owners with creating these prompts.

The prompt from a few days ago, which I will attempt to answer now is:  “What are your coworkers like?”  Hmm… dare I discuss this in a blog.

I assume that the term ‘coworker’ means the people who occupy the same level of work as yourself, and excludes management.  I suppose that prompt will come up later!

Over my many years in the workforce, I have had many coworkers, as we all do.  I have worked in many fields and industries.  I have performed manual labour, retail, education, administration, clerical, hospitality and have had the chance to work in two different countries.  One thing I will say now – ‘… people are the same wherever you go…’  If you recognize this line, you’re as old as me!

I think a lot of how one feels toward their coworkers, is directly related to how one feels toward their ‘job’.  If you enjoy your work, chances are, you enjoy your coworkers.  If you don’t like your work, then your coworkers can be, in a word, annoying.  The same applies the other way around.  If your coworkers are fun or friendly or just plain nice, the job tends to be enjoyable.  If your coworkers are a pain in the posterior major, then the job is probably crappy.

Since my last 10 years has been in Taiwan teaching English, it would make more sense to talk about my present and recent past coworkers.

One of the difficulties I do face in Taiwan, as I’ve mentioned before, is the inability to speak Chinese.  Sure, I know a few words, and a few phrases – enough to ‘get by’, so how I perceive my coworkers depends a lot on how I am treated.

An old adage that is still applicable goes, “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” or something along that line.  I try to put this into use all the time, every day.  If I want others to treat me well, and feel comfortable to talk to me, then I must make an effort to treat them with respect.  I must admit that I do not treat my managers as ‘gods’, but I do treat them with respect.  I accept that they may have more knowledge or education or experience, but I won’t treat them any different than I would expect them to treat me.  The same with coworkers.

There have been a few positions I’ve held over the years, where I have been the longest servicing staff.  Of course, I have also been ‘low man on the totem pole’.  Presently, here in Taiwan, there is one place of business where I am the longest serving teacher, and another where I am kind of in the middle.

In the first business, I am the only foreign teacher.  Yes, I have had my ups and downs, but mostly ups.  I have seen other staff come and go so much, I can barely keep up with the changes.  Fortunately for now, it does seem that the present staff are a bit more stable.  The other teachers recognize that I have been around for 10 years, and do tend to show me that respect.  However, I only see them for a few hours a week.  I only teach at the schools for a few hours.  They are the ones who are there every single day, for the full hours of operation.

Most of the teachers do speak a little English.  However, respecting their language abilities, I do try to use as much Chinese as I am able to speak, to make things easier for them.  Just as they try to use their English as much as possible.  For this, I am thankful.  Between our abilities in the other language, we all seem to get along well.

I’ve noticed over the past few months, that they are ‘warming’ up to me more. Sharing more of their experiences both in school and in personal lives.  I always try to speak with the teachers for a couple of minutes each class, again to show them that I am interested in their lives, and not just see them as the local teacher.  To sum up, I would have to say the present staff are wonderful people.  I look forward to seeing them each and every time I go to work.

The other place of business is a bit different.  For the most part, even though I have not been working there as long, I do work more hours at that school.  I must say, in the beginning, because of several factors:  more students and more teachers, fitting in was a little more of a challenge.

However, now that I have been there for a few years, I’m feeling more of a ‘family’ atmosphere.  I always try my best to be in a good mood when I get to school.  I try to engage the other teachers in conversation – some more than others!  I guess it’s part in parcel to the fact that the teachers I deal with, their English abilities are a lot better.

Over time, I have become closer to my fellow coworkers.  I have proven to them that I can be a good friend and confidant.  It is true that a simple, “Hello” each time we meet, makes them feel a more at ease.  Even newer staff, although I may not see them as often through my week, just greeting them, asking them how their weekend was, or chatting about some inane news tidbit, can go a long way with building friendships.

I’m not always ‘in the loop’ with the inner workings of my places of business.  Partly, that is due to the fact, again, that I don’t speak Chinese, and that I don’t work a full ’40 hour’ week.  In the past, some of the employers I’ve worked with, would not pay the local teacher for the time that I was in the class.  This made the teachers resentful toward the employer, and in turn, resentful to me.  I don’t habour an bad feelings toward these teachers, however, it did make for a tense workplace.

These two that I work with now, I am under the impression that the local teacher is not deducted in pay by my presence.  Therefore, there is no resentment to me, and in fact, I feel that for the most part, the working environment is a happy one.  The teachers chat with me, share a bit of their lives, and I in turn do the same.  They all seem to enjoy their work, and seem to enjoy seeing me each week.

It is a great feeling knowing that the people you work with, enjoy seeing you as much as you enjoy seeing them.  It makes for a great work environment and makes the time more productive.  I look forward to many more years of serving with these people.


That’s it, that’s all… for now!


1 Comment

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One response to “April 8, 2012

  1. joyce oconnell

    I found that you work with so many people, and as you get used to reading them as you meet up each day or week, you get to know when some are in pain, or pre-occuppied that just a simple hello, is enough, and when the time is right they will respond to your kindness.

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