Why Buddhists Make the Best Collaborators

3 Slightly Noble Truths for the Modern Office

How can we apply ancient wisdom from Buddhists to facilitate collaboration in the modern office?

Buddhists believe in tenants like overcoming innate character flaws to escape the cycle of rebirth and reach nirvana.

While some of us may not even believe in reincarnation, we can still steal some basic principles from Buddhism to solve problems in the modern workplace. The three Buddhism inspired mental guidelines below can enhance team effectiveness and quality of work regardless of your own ideology.

The Removal of Self. [you are not a demi-god]

/when arguing about a decision, keep your ego out of the discussion. Prioritizing your needs over the project’s needs will shift the discussion away from being about the project to being a political debate.

For Example: Let’s say you are in a heated debate with a team member named Felix about a client demand. The man always challenges your ideas just to be confrontational, but arguing 1–on-1 with him will focus the team’s energy around your personal need. Instead try opening the debate to opinions from other team members that have not been heard.

It is important not to let the ideas from the loudest person in the room dictate what is best for the project. Make an effort as a team to acknowledge when individual’s tendencies are interfering with the group’s progress and make sure everyone has a chance to be heard.

The Absence of Blame. [your team has bad karma]

/when mistakes happen, look for a solution rather than a culprit. Directing negative energy towards an individual will only postpone the process of finding a solution and damage morale.

For Example: Let’s say your co-worker Carrie encouraged the team to try a new workflow strategy which ultimately didn’t work out. Telling Carrie she really fucked up might feel good in the moment, but merely harms your relationship with Carrie and discourages her from contributing to the team. Instead try brainstorming alternative directions.

It is important not to dwell on issues. All team members must be compassionate. Understand that nobody is perfect. Utilize your energy to seek solutions which will help you grow as a team.

The Inevitability of Ignorance. [you still have the capacity to learn]

/when you are not a subject-matter expert, be comfortable asking others. Attempting to appear all-knowing in front of your peers will further cloud clarity around the knowledge at the table.

For Example: Let’s say you are in an internal meeting with your boss Liz and she references an unfamiliar acronym like HEV. Nodding your head may convince your superior that you know your shit about cars, but it will mislead your peers to thinking you know the answer and discourage them from asking what the term means. Instead try politely asking your manager to clarify for the team what the acronym stands for.

It is important not to struggle with feeling incompetent because of a lack of knowledge. Be comfortable that you might not have all the answers and rely on your team to build out your knowledge base.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to learn from one.

No matter your belief system, principles like these can be applied in work and life to live more harmoniously.

Working to incorporate these simple guidelines into your daily grind can make a big difference in improving team culture and productivity at the office.

For further reading: on cautionary tales of dangerous egos

For further reading: on the collective brain trumping self-sufficiency

Max is an Associate Design Researcher at Lextant, a global user experience consultancy in Columbus, OH. An altruistic people watcher, he prefers to see the similarities in people than highlight the differences. Content with a spiritual domain for now, he enjoys learning from exposure to new religions. Principles that transcend cultures and geographic regions are his favorite.