THE interaction between workers of various backgrounds is crucial in an organisational setting to ensure that there is a dynamic synergy and effective work culture.

As advocators of dialogue and peaceful coexistence, we believe that a healthy form of interaction is manifested in dialogue.

Martin Buber, a philosopher on dialogic concepts, defines dialogue as a “genuine exchange from communication to communion”. This concept points to a positive interaction between different parties which begins with sincerity, without ulterior motives and which proceeds with openness and results in collaboration.

In this relation, the basics of dialogue, which have been outlined in the Quran, can benefit
all people, regardless of one’s belief.

One of the most essential foundations of dialogue is acceptance of diversity, that is, by being keen to understand the other’s point of view with modesty and respect.

This is what the Quran states: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you nations and tribes that you may know one another.

“Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.

“Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Chapter 49, Al-Hujurat: verse 13)

Such openness is promoted by suspending hasty judgments and being careful of preconceived ideas about the other.

Each person is unique with his or her good qualities, and each person also has flaws as a human being.

So, avoid being judgmental as the Quran tells us: “O you who believe, avoid much (negative) assumption.

“Indeed some assumption is sin.” (Chapter 49, Al-Hujurat: verse 12).

These two fundamentals of dialogue are the mental state to enable a paradigm shift from status quo to a more progressive outlook, which Hans-Georg Gadamer, a German philosopher, has termed “fusion of horizons”. This is a state when readiness to learn from each other occurs.

In layman’s terms, it can be illustrated as follows: I have my style of doing things. You have your way. We do things differently based on our different backgrounds. But if I consider your style and adopt accordingly to things that I am accustomed to, we could together create a better outcome, or offer a better solution as compared with the current practice.

Dialogue, if applied in this manner, can prevent maltreatment in workplace, which includes gossips, insults and discrimination.

It can also potentially keep employees and employers alike from the ugly effect of office politics, which stems from the idea of manoeuvre for self-promotion and self-interest, most of the times at the expense of integrity and public interest.

In short, dialogue is the key to the emotional wellbeing at the workplace.

In the long run, conducive interaction leads to self-efficacy of employees and efficient work performance, which, in turn, increase the productivity of an organisation. Thus, let us together celebrate dialogue at the workplace.

DR ALWANI GHAZALI AND DR SITI SURIANI OTHMAN

Faculty of Leadership and Management, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia

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