Paul Butler: Loving thy co-workers

Paul Butler

Last weekend was rather sad for us. We moved from a house we’ve lived in for nearly 14 years. Our children essentially grew up in that house and, now that they’ve grown and flown the nest, we had the opportunity to downsize a little.

Have you noticed some people have “good neighbors” and others complain about “bad neighbors?” Have you also noticed some people have “good co-workers” and others complain about “bad co-workers?”

I’ve come to the conclusion we can influence, positively or negatively, our own environment and so in effect, by our own example, we can create a situation where we end up having “good neighbors” and “good co-workers.” As Mahatma Gandhi famously said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I like that turn of phrase.

My wife and I have really endeavored to be the best neighbors we can be.

The neighborhood we’ve loved and are about to leave is such an eclectic mix. One of the neighbors hosted a leaving party for us last night and we were reflecting on the mix of people at the event. There were married couples; single people; some younger and some older — some with children and some who have grandchildren.

Beautifully so, our little neighborhood in Valencia comprises of people from many corners of the globe — South Korea, India, Puerto Rico, Ecuador and as mentioned, we’re originally from England. We have one neighbor from upstate New York and we also have a native Californian and you know how like, totally rare they are.

Just as we’ve all heard the phrase: “Love Thy Neighbor” I wonder what kind of working world we’d have if we also focused on “Loving Our Co-Worker.” Yes, work is work, but wouldn’t you agree we all spend so much of our waking hours at work we may as well go out of our way to be the colleagues we want to see in the world?

So what makes a good co-worker? I wholeheartedly believe the attributes of being a good co-worker are very similar to being a good neighbor.

Be friendly — It was wonderful to hear one of our neighbors, Robyn, last night mention the first time she met my wife. Robyn apparently went into the house and told her husband Mike, about the “lovely neighbor” who’d offered her a bottle of cold water. Apparently my wife had seen Robyn carrying in some boxes and figured she need helping hand or at least some light refreshment.

Simply being a friendly face and offering to help where you see a need can go a long way with co-workers. Work is an interdependent activity where people should be helping each other “carry boxes” together toward a common goal.

Be compassionate — When Kevin’s dog died we sensed it was like losing a close family member as he and his wife, Jerry, were devastated. We sympathized with them during that time. On a brighter note, it was wonderful to celebrate a new addition to their family — “Sweet Pea” when they got a new dog some months later.

Stuff happens (I think that’s what the bumper sticker says) and so it’s highly likely in the workplace that your co-workers will face challenging times in their personal lives. Being there for people is not only the compassionate thing to do — it’s the right thing to do.

Have fun — Suki and Dave moved in across the street with their two young sons — Ezekiel and Daniel. Our kids were at college when they moved in and so, hearing that the boys were both basketball players, we rolled over our basketball net (much to the annoyance of the homeowners association) for them to use. What made these two young South Korean boys feel even more welcome to the neighborhood and even giggle a little, was when the old Englishman challenged them to a game or two.

I’ve noticed how the workplaces of the world seem to work even better when people have fun while at work. It’s not uncommon nowadays to see ping-pong tables, cornhole and other games scattered around the common work areas for all to enjoy. We can all make time to “shoot a few hoops” now and again at work.

In summary, I am convinced that being a good co-worker is the same as being a good neighbor — be friendly, be compassionate and have some fun along the way. Oh, and also be good at what you do!

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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