We all know people who are hard to get along with. But when that person is someone we work with, it can be hard to find a way to cope. Learning to work with someone rather than around them can be challenging. However, it is possible with a little compassion, honesty and wisdom—the cornerstones of Buddhist teaching. My friend Lodro Rinzler gives terrific advice of how to bring these ancient but timeless practices into the workplace in his book The Buddhist Walks Into the Office.
I’m fortunate enough to have a staff that’s enthusiastic, passionate and easy to be around so I enjoy going to work every day. But I know a happy work environment isn’t the case for everyone, and there is usually at least someone with whom you don’t see eye to eye. Being mindful of these encounters can make all the difference:
Even though you may desire to cultivate the qualities you want to see in the world, you may not be in the best work environment for doing so. Often we are forced to work in less than ideal positions. We may not always even agree with our company’s mission. We may feel like we are supporting a corporate behemoth when we really want to be putting food in the mouths of small children. While it is helpful to continue to evaluate your intention and determine if your livelihood suits you, it might be even more helpful to consider Atisha’s advice. When in the belly of the beast, you can create tremendous positive change simply by taking whatever comes up at work as an opportunity to exhibit the power of an open heart.
The workplace, says Rinzler, is also a place to cultivate bodhicitta—a Sanskrit term that can be translated as “awakening mind” or “enlightened mind.”
It is where you spend most of your waking hours, so if you do aspire to develop virtue around the clock, you have to actively apply bodhicitta when you are at your desk. Your workplace is where you are faced with discomfort, where frustration rages, where you may at times feel a disconnect between your personal values and those of your employer, and where people are sometimes just jerks. It is the perfect battlefield for unleashing your personal weapon: the bomb of bodhicitta.