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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Getting Along on the Job

Published August 10, 2015 12:09 PM by Debra Karplus
The other day, I started thinking about an interesting interaction that happened a few years ago with a couple of co-workers. I'm not even sure what prompted this experience to pop into my head when it did, but I will share the story.

At a long term care rehabilitation facility in a small town just outside of where I live, I worked as an occupational therapist supervising a crew of certified occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) and a couple of rehabilitation aides, whom I will call Alice and Lisa. These two aides worked very hard and had a wonderful friendship with each other, and had great rapport with even the most difficult patients. I had a good relationship with both Alice and Lisa, and every few weeks I treated them to lunch at a place that they both really enjoyed just a few blocks from where we all worked. We looked forward to and enjoyed these meals together.

The town where this rehab facility was located, like many small towns across America, had little diversity. So I kept a low profile on the fact that my religion was different than perhaps anyone living in that town. So when I embarked on a course of study of my religion and some of the rituals, celebrations and ceremonies, I just kept my mouth shut.

At around the same time, I sensed a sort of coldness between the two rehab aides and me. I had a feeling I might have said something or done something that angered one or both of them, or that they figured out about my studies outside of work. But I had no idea if I should confront one or both of them, or just hope that, whatever the problem, it would disappear over time.

One afternoon while at the facility, many people from the staff showed up in the rehab room carrying gifts, some small and some very large. It turns out these were baby gifts. That was when I started asking some specific questions and came to discover that Lisa's son had gotten Alice's daughter pregnant. It was an accidental pregnancy and the two teens had no intention of becoming a couple or a family. The "chill" that I felt in the rehab room during those weeks had absolutely nothing to do with me. It was the disapproval and conflict between Alice and Lisa and with the future of their children and soon-to-be-born grandchild.

So what is the point of this tale?

I am one of those people who are able to get along with most others. Typically, when I have an issue with someone, it turns out that other people do, too. I am willing to take ownership for misunderstandings with others, but, more often than not, my intuition guides me and I generally make good judgments and good choices.

Getting along on the job or even in your non-work life is not rocket science; be pleasant, be congenial, be accepting of differences with co-workers - whether they are your supervisor, supervisee, or your patients and their families.

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