Six-and-a-Half Workplace Communication Lessons Stephen Colbert and Bill O’Reilly Can Teach Us

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s another classic cable feud developing between Stephen Colbert and Bill O’Reilly in which the two are spatting back and forth. These two giants at odds with each other in the same industry got me thinking about times in which my workplace relationships were lacking… let’s call it, civility. I’m sure we have all been there before, maybe not to the extent that O'Reilly and Colbert are locking horns, but we have all shared an office with someone who just drives us nuts! If Colbert & O’Reilly weren’t television icons and instead were regular cube jockeys like you and me, how could they put aside their differences and get along? Here’s a possible six-and-a-half step formula:

1. A little small talk goes a long way. If you’re having difficulty with someone at work, try staying away from the heavy work issues for a while to find some common ground. Rather than discuss world politics, maybe Colbert & O'Reilly could agree that Paul is their favorite Beatle or Harry is their favorite member of One Direction.
2. A little beer also goes a long way. You don’t have to be besties or stay out all night, but a one-beer-happy-hour could be just what the doctor ordered. No more than one beer, though, because any more than that amount of alcohol could release your “honesty filter” and you could be worse off than you are now. If Colbert & O'Reilly enjoyed a glass of suds together on air, we might witness the hatchet being buried with hilarity.
3. It’s not you, it’s me! Don’t discount your role in a bad workplace relationship. Some soul searching on this front could drive you to different and more positive behaviors. Colbert probably should not have poked old poppa bear by insulting his world policing policies, but at the same time O’Reilly’s retort could have been more thoughtful than calling Colbert “dumb.”
4. Don’t take it personally. This is MUCH easier said than done, but why not just let it go? According to a Gallup poll, 70 percent of Americans say they are disconnected at work. So if this is the case, why are we choosing to connect only when it comes to the irritants? Mr. O’Reilly has been razzed many times by Colbert; so why did this one strike such a chord? Only O’Reilly knows, but what is clear is that this time, he is taking it personally!
5. Humor & humility. Take responsibility when you mess up. Everybody loves someone who admits mistakes in a self-deprecating and humorous way. If O’Reilly and Colbert went on air together to make fun of themselves, they would likely win over the hearts of both of their audiences.
6. Know your triggers. There are certain things about ourselves that we know will set us off. For me, it’s sitting at a red light for no reason with no cars coming… it upsets me and I know it will. If you know what is upsetting you about the behavior of your co-worker, you can prepare a plan of how to react when you are triggered.

And Six-and-a-Half: Trust falls. If all else fails at work, trust falls will help you overcome.* I’d pay good money to see O’Reilly and Colbert do this at a team building workshop

*Trust falls will not work if you have more than one beer (see step #2).

Categories: Effective Communication Personal Brand Strategy