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Friday, October 4, 2013 - 3:37am

WORKING: Learning From The Shutdown

Friday marks Day 4 of a government shutdown after congressional leaders couldn’t come to a budget agreement Monday night.

At its core, Congress is a workplace where co-workers must tackle projects together and must work as a team to get things done. Brandon Smith, a workplace consultant who teaches about leadership and workplace culture, said lawmakers are not doing three key things that adults do at work: compromise, commit and plan.

“What we’ve got here is just folks not acting like adults in the workplace,” Smith said. “What adults do really well first, and most importantly, is they’re able to step back and recognize what needs to get done. It doesn’t mean it’s fun, it doesn’t mean it’s comfortable, but they’re able to step back and say, ‘At the end of the day, this has to get done.’”

Smith said the best approach to working through difficult workplace negotiations is to re-frame the issue.

“Take it away from my personal needs and your personal needs,” he said. “Re-frame it so it’s talking about the bigger issue.”

Smith said trying to figure out the best way to tackle a project or solve a problem is to “seek to understand, not to be right. We should be seeking to the other person’s perspective. Get curious. Learn more about why they do it that way. Look for those threads that are similar.”

Brandon Smith teaches about leadership, communication, and workplace culture at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. More of his advice is on his blog and at While you’re there, ask him your workplace or career question. We might answer you in a future radio segment.

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