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Commentary: Relationship-building may trump rushing

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Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about the office busy-person. Not busybody—that’s a whole other article. But second-hand stress, and in particular rushing around, author Sue Shellenbarger says, may affect other employees negatively.

The thing is, changing individual behavior isn’t easy or even appropriate, and offices all have their own cultures. One model for change captured the imagination of government-watchers last week, though, and should work in smaller offices as well.

On December 12, Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, who is the Senate Budget Committee Chairman, talked with Judy Woodruff on the PBS “NewsHour” about the model that broke the stalemate on federal budget talks. Speaking about relationship building with Senator Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, she said:

“And we both agreed at the beginning that we could sit in a room and debate the hot political topics of the day, or we could set those aside and find out where we agree. We started out having breakfast many months ago here in the Congress to talk about our families and what motivated us and what we cared about. We have spent time jabbing each other on our football teams and our fishing expertise and have learned, you know, to trust and respect each other.”

Getting things done doesn’t always mean rushing to do them. And in the final analysis, rushing may be a style, not a defect.

Linda Chalmer Zemel teaches in the Communication Department at SUNY Buffalo State College. Her new book, COUSINS, a picture book for kids from 3 to 8, is available on and through major distributors.

She also writes the Buffalo Books column. Contact Linda at



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