Posts Tagged ‘confrontation’

Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Difficult People

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Learn to Play Nice

I think it’s safe to say that all of us, at one time or another, have had to deal with a difficult person at work. But the good news is, you do not have to let them get the better of you! Below are proven tactics that can help you get past a co-worker’s difficult behavior.

From Know-It-Alls to Hecklers

Everyone has met these people. You may not have taken the time to categorize them, but difficult people generally fall into the following categories according to a Huffington Post article:

  • Talk hogs – dominate the discussion, either in a positive or negative way
  • Know-it-alls – chime in whenever, about whatever, no matter what is being discussed
  • Resenters – use dismissive hostility to make it known they would rather be anywhere else but at work
  • Hecklers – use off-putting remarks, backhanded compliments, and tasteless jokes
  • Gripers – constant complainers, always pointing out the negative side

No matter what kind of difficult behavior these people subscribe to, the air can be sucked right out of the room, and productivity screeches to a halt. It’s been said before and it will be said again, the only person you can truly control is you, so don’t let Debbie Downer or Steve the Bully get to you!

Don’t Let Them Push Your Buttons

There are four tactics to utilize to keep difficult people from getting a rise out of you:

  1. Keep emotion in check; stick to the facts of the situation, calmly state what you know, and what you can do to help
  2. Consider an alternative; in some cases it’s better to remove yourself from the situation (especially if the person just rubs you the wrong way and there is no way of getting past it) or engage a third party as an intermediary
  3. Don’t personalize it; when others are being difficult, sometimes the easiest course is to take it personally. Don’t; because it usually doesn’t have anything to do with you
  4. Collect yourself; for example, if you are conversing with a difficult person on the phone, pause and take a deep breath before responding, sometimes that moment makes all the difference in the world

Not matter what technique you may engage to deal with a difficult person, the situation may not be able to be diffused. In this case remember, only address the unwanted behavior, and not the person. No one benefits when it crosses the line and becomes personal.

I recently encountered a know-it-all when I was presenting to a group of about 35 individuals. She constantly interrupted and tried to correct me. It could have really rattled me, but I did not personalize it. I found out later that she does this to compensate for her own lack of self-esteem. I didn’t realize this until I personally witnessed her crying in front of another presenter. It took me back – I realized then that she was not the person who I thought she was.

Safety First, My Friends

Difficult can cross to scary before you know it, so be mindful of workplace safety for yourself and others. Remember the following:

  • Ask for help from others
  • Don’t get cornered
  • Avoid being alone with a difficult person
  • Try not to turn your back on a difficult person
  • Don’t take it personally

 

Article by, 

Dealing with difficult people: A guide

Monday, February 20th, 2017

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) shakes hands with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the Gleneagles Hotel for the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland July 7, 2005. Aid, debt relief and climate change will top the agenda when leaders of the G8 - the Group of Seven industrialised nations plus Russia - meet for three days in Gleneagles. UNICS REUTERS/Jim Young CRB - RTRGQCN

Difficult people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress.

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus—an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success—when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.

Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. If your non-profit is working to land a grant that your organization needs to function, you’re bound to feel stress and likely know how to manage it. It’s the unexpected sources of stress that take you by surprise and harm you the most.

Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with difficult people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, difficult people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralize difficult people. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ to keep difficult people at bay.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that smart people employ when dealing with difficult people, what follows are some of the best. To deal with difficult people effectively, you need an approach that enables you, across the board, to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize.

They set limits. Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.

You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

They rise above. Difficult people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. So why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix? The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.

They stay aware of their emotions. Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.

Think of it this way—if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he’s John F. Kennedy, you’re unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.

They establish boundaries. This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve found your way to Rise Above a person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn’t mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members.

You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

They don’t die in the fight. Smart people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

They don’t focus on problems—only solutions. Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.

They don’t forget. Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Smart people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

They squash negative self-talk. Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

They get some sleep. I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.

They use their support system. It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.

Bringing It All Together

Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you’re going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people. Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.

Article by,

Travis Bradberry, President, TalentSmart

6 Tips For Dealing With Difficult (Even Impossible) People

Friday, February 10th, 2017

1. I Am Really Ticked Off. Do I Have To Be Forgiving?

The last two years I’ve had several difficult personal and professional problems, which left me feeling mad, victimized and obsessed with a few people’s General Awfulness.

This is what Hell feels like: to be obsessed with a generally awful person who isn’t even aware of the turmoil he or she is causing. Heaven is to have forgiven — or to have forgiven-ish, the best you can, for now. When your heart is even slightly softer toward that person, and you are less clenched and aggrieved, you’ve been touched by grace.

Grace is spiritual WD-40. It eases our way out of grippy, self-righteous stuckness. The question is, how do we avail ourselves of it?

I’ve learned that if you want to have loving feelings, do loving things. We think we’ll eventually figure something out, and get over the grudge, and that this will constitute forgiveness. But it’s the opposite: We take an action and the insight follows. Any friendly action will do; intention is everything. We show up somewhere knowing the person who aggrieved us will be there, and we go up and say hi. If the person is a relative, we ask for help with the dishes. (This is very subversive.)

Any warm action will yield the insight — life is short, and Earth is Forgiveness School.

All of my resentments have been healed. That doesn’t mean I want to have lunch with those people, but my heart has softened, which is a miracle. One person still judges me, and bears false witness against me, but thankfully, that is not my business or my problem, because I have chosen freedom. Nothing is more wonderful.

Anne Lamott is the author of Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair.

2. What’s A Respectful Way To Defend My Beliefs?

When I became a political commentator, I looked for a refresher course in persuasion. Unfortunately, Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion, by Jay Heinrichs, had not yet been published. (I highly recommend it.) I did stumble across the Monty Python “Argument” sketch (“This isn’t an argument.” “Yes it is.” “No it isn’t.” “Yes it is.”), which sounds a lot like our current political discourse.

I approach every argument as if I’m trying to get out of a speeding ticket: with humor and respect. I listen. And when things get tense, I pretend I’m in a restaurant, debating what to order. Public policy isn’t coleslaw versus French fries, but persuasion starts with respecting that there are many valid choices. Another trick? Slow down. Powerful speech can come in at around 120 words per minute—angry or nervous speech can be about twice that. When all else fails, make a joke. There’s no better tool for reaching across the “I’ll.” Yes, I just said that. A little pun, even a bad one, goes a long way.

Donna Brazile is a syndicated columnist, political strategist, and contributor to CNN and ABC News.

3. What’s Code For “Mind Your Own Business?”

Dorothea Johnson is the founder of The Protocol School of Washington, and actress Liv Tyler is her granddaughter. They are the authors of Modern Manners: Tools to Take You to the Top.

Liv: Say, “Thank you for trying to help, but I’m not comfortable talking about that right now.” Often you can shut someone down by mentioning your feelings.

Dorothea: Offering thanks is diplomatic. Kill ‘em with kindness!

Liv: Even if something really offends you, ask yourself whether it contains some truth worth exploring later.

Dorothea: And don’t get argumentative about unsolicited advice. Take the high road. The low road is so crowded.

4. How Can Friends Stay Friendly?

Pals Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have coauthored eight books; the most recent is The First Affair.

Emma: Going back to grade school, girls find comfort in friends who have the same tastes they do. Any difference can provoke anxiety. Some of our greatest tension has been about whether a character’s curtains should be cream or ecru!

Nicola: We’re with Ben Affleck: Like a marriage, friendship takes work — the same honest communication and frequent check-ins you need with a partner. Celebrate your conflicting opinions. They only make the relationship stronger.

5. Can I Maintain Sanity In My Nutty Office?

Even in toxic environment we can achieve a sense of calm, through meditation. No one has to know what you’re up to. Spend five minutes sitting at your desk, with your back straight but relaxed; try not to look directly at your computer. Breathe at your normal pace and frequency, then sharpen your focus by noticing the sensations in your nostrils, chest, abdomen. You’ll feel more balanced with each breath. And the next time a coworker frustrates you, be grateful that her nastiness comes your way only in two-minute bursts; she has to live inside that energy all the time.

Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg is the author of Real Happiness at Work.

6. Why Should I Hang Out with People Who Think Differently Than I Do?

Cultivating contacts outside your social circle brings a little ordered chaos into your life. Most of us find the idea of chaos stressful, but history suggests that the disorder following upheaval often brings unexpected benefits: The Plague, for example, helped usher in the Renaissance. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for catastrophe to strike; just form relationships with all kinds of individuals. I call them “unusual suspects,” because they’ll naturally push your thinking in new directions. Ask yourself which groups have made you a bit uncomfortable in the past, and try reaching out to them. (I’m from Israel, and one of my unusual suspects runs a church.) Make a point of getting together with your new connections with no agenda. Even if you just chat, you’ve created an opportunity for ideas to be born.

Article by, Ori Brafman

Ori Brafman is the coauthor of The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success.

Human Interaction: The Skill Nobody Ever Teaches You

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

What’s more important: knowledge, work habits or the way we interact with others?

Recently, one of my clients was creating a project team. Several people volunteered, yet when they found out that Ms. So and So was going to be part of it, they quickly retracted their offers. The project hadn’t even started, yet they were already jumping ship at the mere thought of having to work with Ms. So and So.

Here’s the weird part: The person nobody wanted to work with was highly regarded for her knowledge of the subject, and she was generally known as a hard worker. What’s more, most of the team believed she probably wanted the best for the organization as a whole.

She was smart, she wanted to help and she had a good work ethic. So why didn’t anyone want to work with her?

Because her personality was so negative that she sucked the life out of people. With everyone already overworked to the max, they quickly decided that they weren’t willing to muster up the extra emotional energy needed to deal with her.

What’s sad is that I doubt she has any idea how she’s coming across. She probably thought all her criticisms and negative commentary were actually helpful.

Negative people rarely recognize just how challenging they make it for everyone else. However, seasoned managers quickly learn that the extra effort you have to expend managing a complainer just isn’t worth it.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s the Fortune 500 or the PTA. A negative attitude will overshadow a high IQ, a strong desire to serve and even a great work ethic.

Ironic, isn’t it? We place so much emphasis on knowledge and work habits, yet the thing that often derails people is their interpersonal skills.

What’s even more ironic is that unless you’re a speech, drama or broadcast major, you can go all the way through college without ever getting any meaningful feedback on how you’re being perceived by others.

The challenge with over-the-top negativity is two-fold. First, the offender is usually so interpersonally unskilled he or she doesn’t recognize the problem. Numerous studies reveal that competent people tend to rate themselves much more harshly than incompetent people because a person’s incompetence literally blinds them to their own incompetence. (You’re entitled to a self-satisfied chortle here.)

But the second challenge is that no one calls them on it because we often assume that they’re doing it on purpose and that they like being a project killer.

So the smart, on-time-with-their-work-yet-emotionally-clueless person continues to over-complain (or needle people about inconsequential issues, or whine, or make negative assumptions, etc.), oblivious to the fact that the rest of the team is deflating by the moment.

The solution is simple: Get some training. We don’t expect people to learn chemistry without a teacher; why should we expect people to instinctively know how to create positive interactions?

Don’t get me wrong: You don’t have to ooze charisma or become a Pollyanna. People are just fine working with shy, quiet people, and nobody expects a non-stop cheerleader.

But if every comment you make is negative or critical, you’re probably detracting from the group more than you’re adding to it. Your knowledge may be valuable, but if you consistently serve it up with a scowl, nobody is going to want to hear it.

Bottom line: Learning how to evoke positive feelings in others isn’t cutesy; it’s critical.

Can I Quit

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Is it OK to give up on your difficult person?

There may come a time in your relationship with your difficult person when you realize it is never going to work out. You are never going to reach a middle ground. You are never going to change their behaviour.

Is it OK to give up? Absolutely!

We have choices to make in life. Times when you have to decide to accept a situation, change it, or leave it.

Accept the situation the way it is. Emotionally detach yourself from it (thereby removing all of the stress the situation causes). This is the “let go of it” approach to dealing with your difficult person. Just let it go. Accept that it is what it is, and decide you aren’t going to worry about it anymore. I have accepted that it snows in January in Ottawa, and I don’t give it another moment of thought. I have accepted that politicians don’t always do what they say they are going to do. I have accepted that my teenaged daughter is not ever going to clean the way I want her to.

Try to change the situation so it works better for you. You’ve probably already tried to do this. Tried to make the situation tolerable or to deal with it in some way. You attended a seminar on dealing with difficult people, you read books, you searched the Internet for advice. You formed an action plan, a strategy and had an end result in mind.

Walk away from the situation entirely. In the case of a difficult person, this means leaving the relationship. Quit your job, change departments,  no longer work with this person ever again. It means leaving the relationship and the family that goes with it. You can say hello when you see the person in the future, but the relationship will be similar to what you would have with a stranger. You leave the relationship emotionally.

When you give up, you choose to either accept the situation or leave the situation.

Accepting and leaving are not the same as quitting. By choosing to accept or leave, you are making a choice that is right for you. That isn’t quitting. Quitting implies a lack of choice. When you choose to accept or leave, you are making a choice. You have chosen what is right for you.

I ended a friendship I had with someone who became too high-maintenance for me. She moved into the category of difficult person because it seemed that I could never be the friend she wanted me to be. It didn’t matter what I did, it wasn’t enough, or it wasn’t right.

I tried for a very long time to find the middle ground in our friendship. I was never successful. I thought about accepting her the way she was, giving her what she needed and not worrying about what I needed. I was unable to do that stress-free (because I couldn’t emotionally detach myself). I tried to find middle ground (change things), and wasn’t being successful. So I left the friendship. I gave up on it, and I’m OK with that.

What I didn’t do was continue the friendship, complain about her high-maintenance personality and continue to be stressed during our time together. It wasn’t worth it to me.

I decided to walk away. That was the right solution for me.

Go ahead and give up on your difficult relationship if that is the right decision for you. It’s a smart person who knows when to stop pushing forward and try another path.

– As appeared in The Huffington Post January 31, 2017

How To Deal With Difficult People

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Article by, Darylen Cote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Whiners, Know-It-Alls, and Steamrollers: Strategies to cope with even the most hard-to-take personalities.

We’ve all been there. There are just some people we can’t stand! Perhaps it’s the Whiner whose complaining drives you to distraction. Or it may be the Steamroller who makes you crazy—the person who pushes her ideas and never lets others get a word. People like this can make your PTO leadership experience seem endless and stressful, even blocking achievement of some of your most critical goals.

Every person has his own triggers when it comes to dealing with difficult people. Those triggers stem from your background, perspectives, and from your goals in the situation at hand. But there is good news. There are ways to deal with even the most difficult people that can bring out both their best and your best.

The first step, described by Rick Brinkman and Rick Kirschner in their book Dealing With People You Can’t Stand, is to get to know your difficult person—to know what needs that person may be trying to fulfill that cause the problematic behavior. Successful leaders listen carefully to figure out the underlying motives.

Generally, people in any given situation are task oriented or people oriented. Their concerns center on one of four goals: getting the task done, getting the task done right, getting along with people, or being appreciated by people. When they perceive that their concern is threatened—the task is not getting done, it is being done incorrectly, people are becoming angry in the process, or they feel unappreciated for their contributions—difficult people resort to certain knee-jerk responses. Responses range from the passive, such as withdrawal, to aggressive, such as steamrolling or exploding. The difficult person often does not recognize that his behavior contributes to the very problems that he is attempting to address.

Brinkman and Kirschner identify 10 different behavior patterns often exhibited by people under pressure.

  • The Steamroller (or Tank): Aggressive and angry. Victims can feel paralyzed, as though they’ve been flattened.
  • The Sniper: The Sniper’s forte is sarcasm, rude remarks, and eye rolls. Victims look and feel foolish.
  • The Know-It-All: Wielding great authority and knowledge, Know-It-Alls do have lots to offer, are generally competent, and can’t stand to be contradicted or corrected. But they will go out of their way to correct you.
  • The Grenade: Grenades tend to explode into uncontrolled ranting that has little, if anything, to do with what has actually happened.
  • The Think They Know It All: A cocksure attitude often fools people into believing their phony “facts.”
  • The Yes Person: Someone who wants to please others so much that she never says no.
  • The Maybe Person: Procrastinating, hoping to steer clear of choices that will hurt feelings, he avoids decisions, causing plenty of frustration along the way.
  • The Blank Wall (or Nothing Person): This person offers only a blank stare, no verbal or nonverbal signals.
  • The No Person: He spreads gloom, doom, and despair whenever any new ideas arise, or even when old ones are recycled. The No Person saps energy from a group in an amazingly short time.
  • The Whiner: Whiners feel helpless most of the time and become overwhelmed by the unfairness of it all. They want things to be perfect, but nothing seems to go right. Whiners want to share their misery.

Just Get It Done!

Chances are you have had to deal with at least a few of these characters. These are not odd or weird people. They may even be you upon occasion. Everyone has the potential to be difficult given the right, or wrong, circumstances. To understand why, return to the concept of a basic orientation toward people or task. Couple that with the typical ways people respond under pressure, on a continuum from aggressive to assertive to passive. Then add in the goals people have under different circumstances.

According to Brinkman and Kirschner, when the goal is to “get it done,” people with a task orientation and aggressive temperament tend to dig in and become more controlling. They are the Snipers, the Steamrollers, and the Know-It-Alls. From their point of view, the rest of us are goofing off, obtuse, or just plain taking too long. The Steamroller can run over you if you get in the way. The Sniper often uses sarcasm to embarrass and humiliate at strategic moments. The Know-It-All dominates with erudite, lengthy arguments that discredit others and wear down opponents.

When the goal is to “get it right,” people under pressure who still have a task orientation but a more passive personality become helpless, hopeless, and/or perfectionistic. They become the Whiners, No People, and Blank Walls. When Whiners are thwarted, they begin to feel helpless and generalize to the entire world. Instead of looking for solutions, they complain endlessly that nothing is right, exacerbating the situation by annoying everyone around them.

No People feel more hopeless than helpless. Like A.A. Milne’s Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, their sense of gloom carries its own cloud. Their certainty that things can never be right can pull down morale for an entire group. Blank Walls simply withdraw. They will bear no responsibility when things aren’t exactly right.

Drive To Survive

People who want to “get along” tend to focus more on the people in a situation. When they are innately passive, they become approval-seeking Yes People, Maybe People, and sometimes Blank Walls. Yes People overcommit and underdeliver in an effort to please everyone. Their lack of follow-through can have disastrous consequences for which they do not feel responsible, because they are just trying to be helpful. When, instead, the people they want to get along with become furious, they may offer to do even more, building their lives on what other people want and also building a deep well of resentment.

Maybe People avoid conflict by avoiding any choice at all. Making a choice may upset someone, and then blame will be heaped on the person who decided. Maybe People delay choosing until the choice is made for them by someone else or by the circumstances. When Blank Walls have a people orientation, they want to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. The old saying, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all” gets carried to the ultimate extreme in this case. But Blank Walls also avoid sharing anything genuine or honest about themselves and therefore never really achieve the “getting along” goal.

Like To Be Liked

To “get appreciated” is the ultimate goal of people-focused, more aggressive folks. They include the Grenade, the Think They Know It All, and sometimes the Sniper. They share attention-seeking behaviors that never accomplish what they intend. The Grenades are aggressive Rodney Dangerfields; they think they get no respect or appreciation. When that feeling builds to a certain point, they have an adult temper tantrum. It’s not pretty and it certainly gets attention, but blowing up never gets them to the ultimate goal of appreciation.

The Think They Know It All person knows a little bit about a lot. He is so charismatic and enthusiastic that his half-facts and exaggerations can sound plausible and persuasive. When people discover that these people really don’t know what they are talking about, the attention they seek becomes negative.

The Sniper in this case is attempting to gain attention by being playful. Many people engage in playful sniping, but we all need to be careful about how it is being received. Whether it is funny or painful is truly in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes this kind of sniping is passed off as teasing, which can leave scars even when it’s friendly.

Looking in the Mirror

So what can you do to change the course of your interactions with these difficult people? There are some simple strategies that work well with practice and patience.

In general, when your difficult person speaks, make your goal habit number five in Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek first to understand.” Often, unless you’re dealing with the Grenade or other overt hostility, it helps to mirror some of the nonverbal cues the person displays. Don’t overdo, as it can look like mocking if you copy every gesture. Your aim, according to Brinkman and Kirschner, is “blending.” If you adopt some of the same traits as your person, such as a facial expression or posture, you send the message that you are “with” them, on the same wave length. Blending begins to facilitate trust. Often we do this kind of thing without even noticing that it’s happening. You also need to blend vocally with the person you’re trying to understand. Volume and pace are two examples of how to blend with another person. Blending is how you begin to build rapport with people and signal that you are really listening. The only exception is yelling.

Also, some of what the person says needs to be repeated in a technique that counselors call “reflection.” This is a way of feeding back what you’ve heard, on both feeling and content levels, so that a person is sure that you’ve heard him. With no interpretation and without parroting exactly, use some of his actual words to demonstrate your understanding. How much to do it depends on the person you’re dealing with. With Steamrollers, keep reflection to a minimum. With Know-It-Alls, Yes People, and Maybe People, a great deal of reflection may be useful. This is especially true on the feeling level with Yes and Maybe People.

Get to the Real Issues

Next, ask clarifying questions to help your difficult person open up and to ensure that you fully understand all she has to say. The kinds of questions you want are open-ended, those to which there is more than a yes or no answer. They begin with what, how, where, who, when, and sometimes why—without an accusatory tone. A simple “Tell me more about…” can also serve the same purpose.

The importance of this information-gathering stage cannot be overstated. It keeps you out of a reactionary mode and helps you bring all of the issues to the surface. At the same time, it shows that you really care about what the person has to say. It can also begin to defuse emotions and help the person think more logically.

Finally, still in a “seek to understand” mode, summarize what you have heard and confirm your understanding. Do not assume you “got it.” Ask, “Did I get it right?” If not, keep listening until the person is satisfied that you understand.

The next step in the process has to do with attitude. Search for and acknowledge that the other person’s intentions are positive. This means giving the person you are dealing with the benefit of the doubt. Brinkman and Kirschner advise, “Ask yourself what positive purpose might be behind a person’s communication or behavior and acknowledge it. If you are not sure about the positive intent, just make something up. Even if the intent you try to blend with isn’t true, you can still get a good response and create rapport.”

Some Specific Responses

Consider this example.

“One of the duties of the vice president is to choose which six members go to the PTO Show this year,” Jerry reminded Jennifer again. “You have only two weeks before the deadline. Do you have any idea whom you want to go?”

“Not yet,” said Jennifer. “I want to be sure I make the right decision.”

“People need to make their plans, and we need to commit the money. The sooner you make a decision, the better for everyone,” prodded Jerry.

“OK. I’ll get to it,” promised Jennifer.

The next week, when Jerry inquired again, Jennifer said, “I’m still thinking about it!”

Jennifer is a Maybe Person. She will delay her decision until there is almost no decision to make because the deadline has passed or people can no longer rearrange their schedules with the short notice. Jerry might say to Jennifer, “I appreciate the care you are taking with this decision, Jennifer. I know you don’t want to leave out anyone who would like to go or who deserves this special reward. Who have you considered?” Simply stating understanding of Jennifer’s positive intention may unlock her indecision enough to move forward.

The next step to take when conflict emerges is to go beyond people’s stated positions to identify underlying interests or objectives. Brinkman and Kirschner call these “highly valued criteria.” They are the “reasons why” people desire specific outcomes.

Here’s another example:

Susan had agreed to chair the annual PTO carnival. The second planning meeting was underway when Marge, the vice president of the group and also the immediate past chairperson, barged into the room and started to berate Susan. “I heard that you’re eliminating the dunking booth! What a dumb decision. Don’t you have any brains at all? I thought you’d do a good job and now you’re making decisions that will ruin our carnival! Now here’s what you have to do…” And with that she barked orders while everyone else on the committee stared in disbelief. As quickly as she had come, she turned around and left.

Marge typifies the aggressive, angry style of the Tank or Steamroller. Once Susan gets her calmed down, it would be important to ask, “Why the dunking booth?” If she replies that the day invariably is hot and people enjoy the splashing and cooling effect of the water, then you have her underlying interest on the table. Another water game might satisfy that interest just as well, but you do need to slow the Steamroller down before you can get to the whys.

Say What You Mean

Stephen Covey’s habit number five also has a second part. Part one, “Seek first to understand …,” is followed by part two, “…then to be understood.” Once you have put in the time and hard work of deep listening, the goal is to speak so that you may in turn be understood. But watch your tone of voice. The old saying applies: It’s not just what you say but also how you say it.

The next step is to state your positive intentions: “I care that people at the carnival have a chance to cool off, too. I want to make it a fun and safe day.” When the Steamroller starts to interrupt again, tactfully intervene. Repeating someone’s name over and over until she stops to listen can accomplish that end. So Susan might say, “Marge. Marge. Excuse me, Marge.” Once the person has paused, you can insert your positive intent or a clarifying question, for instance. Then speak about the situation as you honestly see it. Use “I” statements, be as specific as possible, point out the impact of the behavior, and suggest a new behavior or option.

So Susan might say, “Marge, I appreciate your input. I know you want the carnival to go well, the same as I do. We replaced the dunking booth with another feature for a good reason. When you try to override our decisions without asking why, it sure makes the rest of us feel like our work isn’t worth much. Would you sit down and discuss our plans with us?” Marge may try to raise the volume and continue to steamroll, at which point Susan would need to start repeating her name again until she stops. Once Susan gets her piece said, she will need to be ready to stop and listen again.

When you have a Blank Wall, the person who chooses the ultimate passive response instead of an aggressive response, your tactics need to be a little different. First, even though you may not feel particularly relaxed, calm yourself. It will not help to push, so plan plenty of time. Ask the open-ended questions with an expectant tone and body language. Try to lighten things up with absurd guesses as to the cause of the silence. Be careful with humor, but if you can get at least a smile, it’s a beginning.

Make It a Habit

Difficult people are really all of us. Depending on the circumstances and our own perspectives, our behaviors can slip-slide into the childish, rude, or even churlish realms. The key is to think first instead of simply reacting when we feel pressured by time or by the competing interests and needs of others.

Thoughtful responses can help people identify their real needs and break negative behavior patterns that don’t serve anyone well. If you make a habit of listening deeply, assuming best intentions, looking for common ground, reinforcing and expecting people’s best behavior along the way, then the difficult people in your life may come to view you as a respected friend—as opposed to one of their most difficult people.

New Supervisor Worries

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

Help Me Rhonda:

I’m new to my company, in my first supervisory position. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and I want to be seen as a friendly boss but I feel like I’m being tested every day by my new staff members. For example, two of them will often be chatting to each other (in what is clearly a personal conversation), completely ignoring a ringing phone or the work they have to do. They won’t even stop when I walk by, and it feels like they are almost daring me to say something. How do I fix this situation without pulling rank or being too bossy?

Signed,
Cautious of Overstepping

Dear Cautious of Overstepping,

You’re absolutely right, they are testing you and right now you are not getting a passing grade.

Remember when we were in high school and a substitute teacher would come in? We’d put that poor teacher through the ringer just to see what we could get away with. We’d learn very quickly which substitutes would tolerate our bad behavior and which ones wouldn’t let us get away with anything. Your employees are doing exactly that to you.

At the moment, you seem more concerned with them liking you as a person than doing your job effectively. Work is not a popularity contest. They don’t have to like you. You do have to pay the rent and buy groceries though, so given a choice which would you choose, making friends or being effective as a supervisor? (Hint: If you choose making friends, then I would suggest that a supervisory position is not the right one for you).

The good news is that you can be an effective supervisor without alienating your employees. You can be friendly and still garner the respect your position deserves and ensure that the work gets done. If they decide to dislike you because you are expecting them to do their jobs, it sounds like they wouldn’t be the best kind of friends anyway.

The key is for you to be respectful, polite, specific and clear. That will demonstrate that you see what is happening but you aren’t making a big deal about it. The next time you walk by and the telephone is ringing, say: “Diane, could you please answer that ringing telephone?”

She will probably give you a funny look, but answer the phone anyway; or she’ll tell you why she isn’t answering the telephone. If she refuses, or if it happens over and over again then you’ll need to have a more detailed conversation with her.

Let’s assume the testing is continuing, the phone is continuing to ring, and you don’t feel that your instructions to answer the phone promptly are being followed when you aren’t around.

That’s when the DESC strategy will come in handy for you. DESC lets you plan what you are going to say:

D – Describe the situation objectively (rather than subjectively). Keep it black and white; state the facts with no interpretation of those facts yet. Your goal is to get them to look at you and wonder where you are going with this. Their likely response will be, “So?”.

“Diane, I couldn’t help but notice that the last four times I came out of my office you were engaging with Michelle in a conversation that didn’t appear to be work related.”

E – Explain the problem. This is where you give your interpretation and perhaps the consequences of the situation. After you make this statement, you should be prepared for a defense statement from them.

“It actually makes it look like you do more socializing than working, and when deadlines aren’t met I can’t help but think that if you chatted less and worked more we could get everything done on time.”

S – Solution. Offer a solution or ask for a solution. Always begin with the end in mind. Know what you want the solution to be before you ever have the confrontation.

“Could you and Michelle please restrict your socializing to coffee and lunch breaks?”

C – Commitment or Consequence. You want to get the other person to agree with you or make some type of comment that at least affirms that they have heard and understood you. You don’t want this to be a lecture, but more of a discussion.

“Does that sound reasonable to you?” (wait for the answer).

or

Consequence. If your position warrants it, and it’s necessary, you can give a consequence.

“Since this is the second time that I’ve mentioned it to you, I will tell you that if we need to have this conversation again, it will be an official conversation and a record of the conversation will go into your personnel file.”

Let them speak, defend or whatever will keep the conversation going. Don’t lecture. Do your best to get agreement (commitment) from them during the conversation. If necessary, follow up with an email.

You don’t have to be a tyrant but you are being paid to supervise, and although you are working with adults we all sometimes need to know what we can get away with and what we can’t. Set boundaries. Say what needs to be said, respectfully and professionally.

Your job is to be an excellent supervisor, not make friends. However, you can do both if you approach situations methodically and professionally.

Good luck.
Rhonda

How to Deal with Difficult (Even Impossible) People

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

She thinks you’re having a conversation, but you don’t get to speak a word. Something doesn’t go according to plan and you’re the one he blames. Whether it’s a family member, a co-worker or (worse) your boss, highly aggressive and challenging people can turn a perfectly good day into a dramatic experience without any reason. When walking away is not an option, what do you do?

We have all met people who are so prickly and difficult that no one wants to handle them. In most situations, walking away is an option, and you escape with no more than ruffled feathers. But some situations are inescapable. You can wait until the thorny personality is gone and moan “She’s just impossible” to a friend. Far better, though, to begin to develop skills in practical psychology.

First, take responsibility for your part of the interaction. Animosity is created in your own heart. Even the most impossible person had a mother. He was loved by somebody. If you can deal with your own reaction and take responsibility for it, no step is more productive. Detachment is always the best response, because if you can interact without having a reaction, you will be clear-headed enough to make progress in relating to this difficult person. Next, try to name what specifically causes the difficulty. Is the person clinging, controlling, competitive? We all tend to use descriptive words loosely, but it helps to know exactly what is going on.

Clingers

Clinging types want to be taken care of and loved. They feel weak and are attracted to stronger people. If desperate, they will cling to anyone.What doesn’t work: Clinging types cannot be handled with avoidance. They are like Velcro and will stick to you every time you get close. They ignore a polite no, but you can’t use direct rejection without making an enemy. Neutrality hurts their feelings and makes them feel insecure.

What works: Clinging types can be handled by showing them how to deal with situations on their own. Give them responsibility. Instead of doing what they want, show them how to do it. This works with children, and clinging types are children who have never grown up (which is why they often seem so infantile). If they try the gambit of saying that you do the job so much better, reply that you don’t. The stronger and more capable you act, the more they will cling. Finally, find situations where you can honestly say, “I need your help.” They will either come through or walk away. You will probably be happy either way.

Controllers

Controlling types have to be right. There is always an excuse for their behavior (however brutal) and always a reason to blame others. Controlling people are perfectionists and micro-managers. Their capacity to criticize others is endless.What doesn’t work: Controlling types won’t back down if you show them concrete evidence that you are right and they are wrong. They don’t care about facts, only about being right. If they are perfectionists, you can’t handle them simply by doing a better job. There’s always going to be something to criticize.

What works: Controlling types can be handled by acting unintimidated. At heart, controlling types fear they are inadequate, and they defend against their own insecurity by making other people feel insecure and not good enough. Show you are good enough. When you do a good job, say so and don’t fall for their insistence on constant changes. Be strong and stand up for yourself. Above all, don’t turn an encounter into a contest of who’s right and who’s wrong—you’ll never outplay a controlling type at his or her own game.

Competitors

Competitive types have to win. They see all encounters, no matter how trivial, as a contest. Until they win, they won’t let go.What doesn’t work: Competitive types can’t be pacified by pleading. Any sign of emotion is like a red flag to a bull. They take your tears as a sign of weakness and charge even harder. They want to go in for the kill, even when you beg them not to. If you stand your ground and try to win, they will most likely jump ship and abandon you.

What works: Competitive types are handled by letting them win. Until they win, they won’t have a chance to show generosity. Most competitive types want to be generous; it improves their self-image, and competitive types never lose sight of their self-image. If you have a strong disagreement, never show emotion or ask for mercy. Instead, make a reasonable argument. If the discussion is based on facts, competitive types have a way to back down without losing. (For example, instead of saying “I’m too tired to do this. It’s late, and you’re being unfair,” say “I need more research time on this, and I will get it to you faster if I am fresh in the morning.”)

Self-Important People

These people have their say. You can’t shut them up. Mostly you can ignore their contribution, however. They tend to forget what they said very quickly.What works: If they domineer to the point of suffocating you, stay away. The best strategy—the one used by those who actually love such types and marry them—is to sit back and enjoy the show.

Chronic Complainers

These people are bitter and angry but haven’t dealt with the reality that the source of their anger is internal.What works: Your only option is generally to put up with them and stay away when you can. Don’t agree with their complaints or try to placate them. They have endless fuel for their bitterness and simmering rage.

Victims

These people are passive-aggressive. They get away with doing wrong to you by hurting themselves in the bargain. If they arrive half an hour late at a restaurant, for example, they had something bad happen to hold them up. The fact that you are the target of the inconvenience is never acknowledged.What works: The best tactic is to get as angry as you normally would, if called for. Don’t take their victimization as an excuse. If the victim is a “poor me” type without the passive-aggressive side, offer realistic, practical help, rather than sympathy. (For example, if they announce that they might lose their job, say “I can loan you money and give you some job leads,” instead of “That’s awful. You must feel terrible.”)

In the short run, most of the everyday difficult types want somebody to listen and not judge. If you can do that without getting involved, lending your ear for a while is also the decent thing to do. Being a good listener means not arguing, criticizing, offering your own opinion or interrupting. If the other person has a genuine interest in you—most difficult people don’t—he or she will invite you to talk, not simply listen. Yet being a good listener has its limits. As soon as you feel taken advantage of, start exiting. The bottom line with practical psychology is that you know what to fix, what to put up with and what to walk away from.

Article By, Deepak Chopra

How To Handle An Angry Outburst In The Workplace

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Have you ever been so angry you couldn’t speak? Have your buttons been pushed so that your detonation switch was triggered?

I can relate. I have been so angry that I have lashed out like a two-year-old. I have avoided people after saying something I deeply regret. I have lived those moments in my head over and over again.

And I have learned, albeit the hard way, that when I am angry it’s best for me to say nothing at all.

But that’s easier said than done.

Experts tell us that the average explosion of anger is 45 seconds long. Try being on the receiving end of 45 seconds of anger, frustration, and undoubtedly unprofessional behaviour. But, sadly, it does happen in the workplace as well as in our personal lives.

When your opponent is letting loose on you, it is important to take the high road, to remain calm, and to avoid saying something you will regret saying.

But how do you do that?

Rather than focusing on your anger, focus on hearing what the other person is saying. Don’t listen to what they are saying — hearing and listening are two totally different things. Hear past the person’s words, and try to understand what they are trying to tell you.

When they are finished, avoid the temptation to ask them if they are finished yet (remember, we are trying to be professional here). Let two or three full seconds pass before you say anything. Maintain eye contact. Remember that you still have to work with this person in the future (or attend family gatherings with them).

When the time has passed (to ensure they are indeed finished), put on your most “adult” voice, with as much calm as you can muster, and say, “I’m sorry you feel this way.”

This, in my opinion, is a beautiful statement. It does not mean that you agree with what they are upset about; it does not mean anything, really. You probably are sorry they feel this way, because if they weren’t so upset, you wouldn’t be at the receiving end of this explosion (and undoubtedly your day would be better).

Don’t say anything after that. Stop talking. Let them get the final bits of anger and frustration out. Don’t become a sponge, and don’t absorb what they are saying. Don’t defend yourself, or even comment on what was said at this point.

This will be difficult.

Here’s something that will be even harder: to simply walk away. Walking away and remaining quiet are two of the most important things you will ever do. You can’t say the wrong thing when you walk away. And it gives you time to ensure that you do say the right thing.

Before you walk away, you do need to indicate that this person’s behaviour is not acceptable and that you both need to do something about it. Say, “I agree that we need to talk about what just happened.” (Be sure to avoid the word “you.” Don’t say “We need to talk about what you just said.” Although true, it creates defensiveness and your opponent will not listen to what you said.)

Say, “Let’s get together again in two hours in my/your office to discuss this.” And then leave. If two hours is not OK with your opponent, leave it up to them to reschedule.

You do need to deal with the issue. But the middle of an angry confrontation is not the right place, and certainly not the right time. You need to prepare yourself for what you have to say, how you want to say it, and ensure that you are focused on the real issue and not caught up in the emotions of the situation.

I am certainly not telling you to avoid confrontation. You know I teach a webinar and deliver training programs on how to do that effectively. I am telling you to gain control of an explosive situation. At this point, you have no control. You will not say the right thing. You need time to settle down, gather your wits and your professionalism and take the high road.

When I was much younger, I worked with a man who was very verbal with his frustration. Since I was the new kid on the block, I appeared to be the easiest target. The first time it happened I had absolutely no idea what to say or do, and I was completely dumbfounded and speechless (which quite frankly, rarely happens to me). I said nothing.

One of the other more experienced people in the office came up to me and let me know that saying nothing was the perfect response. Jim wanted to fight, and by not responding, he couldn’t fight with me.

The next time it happened, I again said nothing; but I didn’t feel good about that response because his behaviour was clearly continuing. I was not about to be his verbal punching bag.

The third time it happened, I did say that I was sorry that he felt that way, but that taking out his anger on me was inappropriate and unprofessional. He had just been “told” by a 19-year-old, and he looked juvenile. I knew there was a silent round of applause for me that day. The next day (it took me a while to gather my bravado for this), I approached him, in private, and told him that if he was upset about anything that I did, I would appreciate if he spoke to me privately instead of in front of everyone. I don’t honestly remember what else I said (19 was a long time ago), but I do know that it worked, even though I was shaking in my boots.

Jim found a new target. I didn’t change his behaviour completely, but I did let him know that I wasn’t going to OK with his exploding on me, especially in public. He found someone else who would let him fight.

It is very hard to stand up to a bully. It is very hard to take the high road. It is hard not to say exactly what you are thinking, but it is well worth the effort.

So the next time someone starts screaming at you, imagine that you are being watched by an invisible camera and look as professional, calm and in control as you possibly can be — on the outside, anyway.

As appeared in the Huffington Post on January 3, 2017

5 Conflict Management Strategies

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Don't let conflicts get out of control.In any situation involving more than one person, conflict can arise. The causes of conflict range from philosophical differences and divergent goals to power imbalances. Unmanaged or poorly managed conflicts generate a breakdown in trust and lost productivity. For small businesses, where success often hinges on the cohesion of a few people, loss of trust and productivity can signal the death of the business. With a basic understanding of the five conflict management strategies, small business owners can better deal with conflicts before they escalate beyond repair.

Accommodating

The accommodating strategy essentially entails giving the opposing side what it wants. The use of accommodation often occurs when one of the parties wishes to keep the peace or perceives the issue as minor. For example, a business that requires formal dress may institute a “casual Friday” policy as a low-stakes means of keeping the peace with the rank and file. Employees who use accommodation as a primary conflict management strategy, however, may keep track and develop resentment.

Avoiding

The avoidance strategy seeks to put off conflict indefinitely. By delaying or ignoring the conflict, the avoider hopes the problem resolves itself without a confrontation. Those who actively avoid conflict frequently have low esteem or hold a position of low power. In some circumstances, avoiding can serve as a profitable conflict management strategy, such as after the dismissal of a popular but unproductive employee. The hiring of a more productive replacement for the position soothes much of the conflict.

Collaborating

Collaboration works by integrating ideas set out by multiple people. The object is to find a creative solution acceptable to everyone. Collaboration, though useful, calls for a significant time commitment not appropriate to all conflicts. For example, a business owner should work collaboratively with the manager to establish policies, but collaborative decision-making regarding office supplies wastes time better spent on other activities..

Compromising

The compromising strategy typically calls for both sides of a conflict to give up elements of their position in order to establish an acceptable, if not agreeable, solution. This strategy prevails most often in conflicts where the parties hold approximately equivalent power. Business owners frequently employ compromise during contract negotiations with other businesses when each party stands to lose something valuable, such as a customer or necessary service.

Competing

Competition operates as a zero-sum game, in which one side wins and other loses. Highly assertive personalities often fall back on competition as a conflict management strategy. The competitive strategy works best in a limited number of conflicts, such as emergency situations. In general, business owners benefit from holding the competitive strategy in reserve for crisis situations and decisions that generate ill-will, such as pay cuts or layoffs.

Article By,
Eric Dontigney as Appeared on www.smallbusiness.chron.com

Avoiding Confrontation Is Not The Answer

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

REFUSING FLOWERS

I’m dealing with an avoider. I find it very frustrating.

Every once in a while you will encounter a situation where you want to deal with it in a calm, professional manner, and the person with whom you want to deal with, does not want to deal with it at all!

An avoider is someone who truly hates confrontation. They would rather the situation sit and fester than to sit down and handle the issue with you directly.

In fairness, many of us prefer to avoid than to have a confrontation. I mean, who really likes confrontation? Not I that’s for sure. However, it is important to deal with some issues instead of avoiding them and having them potentially blow completely out of proportion.

When an “issue” occurs, you have 24 hours to start to deal with it. It might mean that you say to the other person that you want to talk about it, you might arrange a meeting, but you must do something within the first 24 hours to show that you are willing to deal with the issue and not avoid it.

I called Mary and outlined the situation. I was careful that I used “I” language instead of “you” language (to avoid making her defensive), I was very aware of my tone of voice and I was well prepared for what I wanted to say.

When I called Mary, I got her voice mail. My message outlined quickly what the situation was. I avoided placing blame. I told her I was wanting to speak to her directly so that we could reach a mutually acceptable solution. I was professional, clear and upbeat. I asked her to call me back at her convenience.

She sent an email to our office manager, Caroline (and thereby avoided me all together) asking to be removed from our distribution list and wanted to avoid further contact from our office.

Not exactly the nice friendly approach that I way I was hoping we could deal with this misunderstanding.

I called her again and left another voice mail asking if we could talk about this, as I wanted to avoid any hard feelings whatsoever. In my voice mail I did mention that I would follow up my call with an email with my proposed solution.

I hate dealing with these types of issues on email. Be sure to use email as a confirmation tool, instead of a confrontation tool.

Long story short, I have had no direct contact whatsoever with Mary. She has only responded to Caroline via email, refusing to discuss anything with her or me.

I did everything I could do to deal with the situation professionally, but she was unwilling.

Sometimes we will meet others who are not nearly as professional or courteous as we are. Sometimes we will have to deal with the situation in a manner that makes us uncomfortable.

Remember to always take the high road. I regret nothing that I did in the encounter with Mary. I do regret that her need to avoid discussing the situation meant that there would be hard feelings.

When dealing with confrontation follow a few simple rules:
– use “I” language, instead of “you” language
– avoid blame, and focus more on solving the situation
– be prepared so you are not reacting to the situation, and are responding to the situation
– take the professional path (the high road), even in your personal confrontations
– know when to walk away

I’m sorry a simple misunderstanding has become a major issue. I have learned that even the “right” approach doesn’t always work, and that you need to be flexible when dealing with confrontation. I wonder what Mary learned from our encounter.

Article by,
Rhonda Scharf Headshot

As appeared in the Huffington Post on December 13, 2016

The Secret to Dealing With Difficult People: It’s About You

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

Do you have someone at work who consistently triggers you? Doesn’t listen? Takes credit for work you’ve done? Wastes your time with trivial issues? Acts like a know-it-all? Can only talk about himself? Constantly criticizes?

Our core emotional need is to feel valued and valuable. When we don’t, it’s deeply unsettling, a challenge to our sense of equilibrium, security, and well-being. At the most primal level, it can feel like a threat to our very survival.

This is especially true when the person you’re struggling with is your boss. The problem is that being in charge of other people rarely brings out the best in us.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton said way back in 1887. “There is no worse heresy than the office that sanctifies the holder of it.”

The easy default when we feel devalued is to the role of victim, and it’s a seductive pull. Blaming others for how we’re feeling is a form of self-protection. Whatever is going wrong isn’t our fault. By off loading responsibility, we feel better in the short-term.

The problem with being a victim is that you cede the power to influence your circumstances. The painful truth when it comes to the people who trigger you is this: You’re not going to change them. The only person you have the possibility of changing is yourself.

Each of us has a default lens through which we see the world. We call it reality, but in fact it’s a selective filter. We have the power, to view the world through other lenses. There are three worth trying on when you find yourself defaulting to negative emotions.

The Lens of Realistic Optimism. Using this lens requires asking yourself two simple questions when you feel you’re being treated badly or unfairly. The first one is “What are the facts in this situation?” The second is, “What’s the story I’m telling myself about those facts?”

Making this distinction allows you to stand outside your experience, rather than simply reacting to it. It also opens the possibility that whatever story you’re currently telling yourself isn’t necessarily the only way to look at your situation.

Realistic optimism, a term coined by the psychologist Sandra Schneider, means telling yourself the most hopeful and empowering story about a given circumstance without subverting the facts. It’s about moving beyond your default reaction to feeling under attack, and exploring whether there is an alternative way of viewing the situation that would ultimately serve you better. Another way of discovering an alternative is to ask yourself “How would I act here at my best?”

The Reverse Lens. This lens requires viewing the world through the lens of the person who triggered you. It doesn’t mean sacrificing your own point of view but rather widening your perspective.

It’s nearly certain that the person you perceive as difficult views the situation differently than you do. With the reverse lens, you ask yourself, “What is this person feeling, and in what ways does that make sense?” Or put more starkly: “Where’s my responsibility in all this?”

Counterintuitively, one of the most powerful ways to reclaim your value, when it feels threatened, is to find a way to appreciate the perspective of the person you feel devalued by. It’s called empathy.

The Long Lens. Sometimes your worst fears about another person turn out to be true. He is someone who bullies you unreasonably and seeing it from his perspective doesn’t help. She does invariably take credit for your work.

When your current circumstances are incontrovertibly bad, the long lens provides a way of looking beyond the present to imagine a better future. Begin with this question: “Regardless of how I feel about what’s happening right now, how can I grow and learn from this experience?”

How many times has something that felt terrible to you in the moment turned out to be trivial several months later, or actually led you to an important opportunity or a positive new direction?

My last boss fired me. It felt awful at the time, but it also pushed me way out of my comfort zone, which is where it turned out I needed to go.

Looking back, the story I tell myself is that for all his deficiencies, I learned a lot from that boss, and it all serves me well today. I can understand, from his point of view, why he found me difficult as an employee, without feeling devalued. Most important, getting fired prompted me to make a decision — founding the company I now run — that has brought me more happiness than any other work I’ve ever done.

Article by, Tony Schwartz



Tony Schwartz
is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebook and connect with Tony at Twitter.com/TonySchwartz and Twitter.com/Energy_Project.


Why Employee Conflict Is A Good Thing

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

 

Have you dealt with conflict amongst your team lately? If not then you should be concerned.

You see too often leaders try to stop conflict that exists amongst their employees, but the reality is conflict is a natural outcome when putting a diverse group of employees together. In fact there are numerous benefits to employee conflict if it’s managed correctly. Watch the brief video below to learn more. 

Please be sure to subscribe to Shawn’s YouTube channel for more strategies on how to improve your business success.

© Shawn Casemore 2016. All rights reserved.

We Need To Build Bridges, Not Walls

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
 bridge

The U.S. election has unleashed a style of aggression, anger and hatred created like no other. There have been friendships lost, families torn apart, and relationships that will take a very long time to repair. If they even can repair.

Sadly this type of situation happens all the time in the workplace. It could start from union strikes, a bully in the office, or a leader that inspires internal competition and fear.

Unfortunately when things get that bad at work, we usually decide that all the stress and frustration aren’t worth it, and we leave. Perhaps we burn the bridge with the boss, the bully, or the company; and realize that we could never go back. And we are OK with that because we made that choice.

However, in some situations, that choice isn’t an option. A union strike is an example, a divorce is an example, and a divisive election is an example.

Sometimes you can’t run away by building a wall and hiding behind it.

We need to build bridges, not walls.

The question is how do you build that bridge so that you can detach yourself from the emotions the situations causes?

Here are three things you can do to build a bridge instead of a wall:

Don’t Interrupt. When someone is saying something you don’t agree with, or making a statement that makes your skin crawl; don’t interrupt them. By interrupting, you are being the wall, refusing to hear what they have to say. Interruptions are seen as aggressive and rude. Let them finish their statement and then follow the next two steps.

Stay calm. Whatever the disagreement or difference in opinions; it is not personal. Don’t take it personally, and don’t make it personal.

Sadly the fact that many people seem to be taking the election personally is what is causing so much strife. Someone has an opinion that you don’t understand. Their point of view is different than yours. It is not your job to convince them they are wrong and don’t take it personally if they try to convince you that you are wrong.

In a perfect world, we would not launch insults or hate because someone has a different perspective. Unfortunately, it is the way it is. Be the voice of reason, stay calm, don’t take it personally and hopefully others will follow your suit.

Set Boundaries. There are some subjects that will just be off the table for discussion. I’m seeing that on social media today with the U.S. election. People are giving themselves a “free zone” where there is permission NOT to speak about anything election related. The boundary says no political comments allowed. That is a pretty safe and smart thing to do when emotions are high.

In my family there is a topic that we have all agreed will not be brought up in conversation. We realize that not everyone agrees, that no one is happy about, so we just don’t go there. Do not enter into that area of discussion.

If you have decided to build your bridge instead of a wall and the dangerous subject is brought up, it is not unreasonable to say “I am uncomfortable with this line of discussion and I’m requesting we discuss something else.” If the other person continues to have the discussion, give yourself permission to disengage and if necessary leave the room. By engaging in the discussion you are now arguing and this is not the goal. Change the subject, but don’t go there.

Building a bridge doesn’t mean we’ve repaired the divide. It means that we can move past whatever the contentious subject is and continue.

Walls create borders, sides, and promote incivility. Bridges create solutions.

Build a bridge, and get over it.

Article by,

Rhonda Scharf HeadshotRhonda Scharf
Consultant, Speaker, Trainer and Author who works with organizations to save time, money and sanity.

As appeared in the Huffington Post November 9, 2016

How to Deal With Difficult People by Mastering Yourself

Friday, November 11th, 2016

We all have some people in our lives who can be considered “difficult.” They can make life really unpleasant. That is, if we let them! We can deal with difficult people in a number of ways. The amazing thing is, when we combine these elements, we may actually help them become happier and more easy-going as well. Sound too good to be true? Read on!

Dealing with difficult people can be a drain!

The first element in dealing with difficult people is self-control. You have no control over their behaviors or attitudes, but you can always control your own response. For example, what happens when you come across an unpleasant customer service rep, or a surly sales clerk? Or if it’s the flip side of the coin and you are the customer service rep being screamed at by a hostile customer? Do you automatically become tense or do you deliberately maintain your composure? Do you try to become even more cheerful and compassionate or do you automatically become hostile too, in defense of yourself? It’s worth becoming aware of how you normally react when you’re confronted with someone who is being less than pleasant. Remember, you can always choose your response.

Don't get caught up in the negativity!No matter what the situation, you can choose to not get caught up in their negativity. You can choose to not allow them to ruin your day. Instead of letting the situation escalate, you can calm yourself by entering the slower alpha brainwave state, and prevent the automatic fight-or-flight response – in most cases, this automatic negative reaction will not benefit you. All it does is create stress and makes you less in control of your emotions and actions. The fight or flight response has undergone an evolutionary change. It is a survival mechanism based on a physical response to danger – fighting, or running away. But in modern man, that response has evolved into anger and fear, since most of us are too civilized to react with physical violence, and the situations we’re in don’t usually warrant running away. The result is stress. The adrenaline rush is still based on the physical reaction to perceived danger but today, we usually don’t need to fight or run away. Instead, we react emotionally, in the heat of the moment, with anger and fear. You can derail your automatic fight-or-flight response to difficult people by deliberately relaxing yourself immediately before the negativity escalates. The Silva Method teaches several techniques for maintaining your composure in a difficult situation. You can focus on your breath, enter the alpha state and use the Three Fingers Technique for instant self-control and relaxation.

The second element of dealing with difficult people is perception. Again – we can’t control the behaviors and attitudes of others, but we can choose to see them in a different, more compassionate light. It’s not always easy! Slowing your brain’s activity to the alpha level is essential for this to work. In alpha, you can view the person with more understanding and compassion. Maybe they really hate their job but they feel stuck and resentful because they wish they could have a better life but don’t know how to go about it. Maybe they’re having difficulties at home. Maybe they are struggling with a huge stress load. Maybe they don’t realize they are being difficult! Most of us can’t see ourselves the way others see us. We may believe we’re projecting confidence, for example, only to have someone tell us we’re being arrogant. So try to put yourself in the person’s shoes and empathize with them.

The third element is self-awareness. Are YOU coming across as difficult? For example, if you walk into a store to return a defective product, you’re already unhappy and you may unconsciously project negative energy even if you put on a pleasant face. And if you’re feeling stressed and resentful, you may be projecting it more than you think. People pick up on each other’s energetic vibrations. So become more aware of how you approach a situation. Consciously become more approachable, friendly and reasonable before you enter the situation – sometimes, walking in with a smile, makes all the difference – !  Your attitude is all-important. Self-awareness is something that comes easily when you’re in the alpha state.

Emotional mastery helps you deal with difficult peopleThe fourth element is emotional mastery. If you have a difficult family member, you are probably conditioned to automatically respond with some emotion or behavior – irritability, shutting down, anger, weepiness, etc. – so you have to master your emotions. When you feel emotional response, allow it to course through your system without becoming attached to the thoughts that generated the emotion. Let it pass. Think about the situation as you would like it to be. Friendly, cordial… not tense and hurtful. Again, people pick up on each other’s vibes. When you’re conscious of the vibes that someone is projecting, you can choose to either take that energy on, or deflect it with love and compassion. Rephrase the way you think and talk about a person. This will affect the way you deal with them, and may eventually change the way they deal with you as well.

You can choose your response to any situation!The Silva Method teaches that a part of any problem-solving or goal-setting process is to first identify the problem. In this case, you use self-awareness to identify your automatic response, your unconscious pre-conceived attitude, and the emotions that determine your reaction.

Some people aren’t going to change their attitudes no matter what you do. That can’t be helped. They may not have the self-control you do and they may not be aware they can choose their response, too. But you can choose. You can use the Three Fingers Technique to program yourself to be more compassionate, loving and understanding while at the same time programming yourself to be less prone to anger, hostility and fear. They may continue to behave the same way, but your perception of them will change for the better.

 

As appeared on Silva Life System

 

The Arguments Your Company Needs

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Asked several years ago to describe the most important argument taking place at Walmart, then-CEO Lee Scott immediately replied, “The size of our stores.” The world’s largest retailer was debating just how small its footprints and formats could bewhile still serving customer needs and its own brand equity promise. That conversation, Scott said, provoked a lot of new thinking and analysis.

The most important argument at a fast-growing Web 2.0 services provider revolved around its “freemium” offer. Should the firm aggressively test multiple ways to hybridize its free and fee services? Or would prizing and positioning simplicity above all make the most sense? For a prestigious publisher, the essential — and vociferous — disagreement cut to its entrepreneurial core: Should its popular conferences reinforce the firm’s “countercultural” vibe? Or should they comfortably embrace the world’s biggest, richest, and most established firms, as well?

All firms have strategies and cultures. But sometimes the quickest and surest way to gain valuable insight into their fundamentals is by asking, “What’s the most important argument your organization is having right now?”

The more polite or politically correct might prefer “strategic conversation” over “argument.” But I’ve found the more aggressive framing most helpful in identifying the disagreements that matter most. Of course, there’s frequently more than one “most important argument.” And arguments about which arguments are most important are — sorry — important, as well. (If people insist there are no “most important arguments,” the organization clearly has even bigger unresolved issues.)

The real organizational and cultural insights — and payoffs — come not just from careful listening but recognizing that, as always, actions speak louder than words. What role is leadership playing here? How is the CEO listening to, leading, or facilitating the argument? Is disagreement viewed as dissent? Or is it treated as an opportunity to push for greater clarity and analytical rigor?

Sentiment is as important as situational awareness. Some arguments stir organizational emotions in ways others do not. Similarly, some disagreements energize the enterprise just as surely as others drain the life out of people. Having the same most important argument for years tends to be a very bad sign.

Responses to most important arguments typically fall into one of three rough interrelated categories: strategy, values, or people. Strategic arguments tend to be the most straightforward: Do we compete in this space or not? Are we going to be a leader or not? On the other hand, values arguments are understandably more complex: Does attempting to serve a new customer base compromise who we (think) we are? Do we want to make ourselves even more data-and-analytics-driven in our decision making? Does our intense customer focus risk violating their privacy? Values arguments, even more than strategic disagreements, tend to engage a greater portion of the firm. Healthy arguments around conflicting values demand smart facilitative leaders and leadership at all levels.

Intriguingly, the worst most important arguments I hear usually revolve around people. The CEO or a particularly intrapreneurial business unit leader exhibits behaviors or makes comments that polarize. What did the CEO mean by that? Can you believe the company lets that manager get away with that? What might be called gossip in some organizations mutates into strategic or values arguments. Values and strategic arguments are played out through people and personalities. Corporate characters are alternately heroes, knaves, wizards, and fools. There’s often a fine line between strong and powerful leaders and personality cults. If you think the most important arguments going on in your organization revolve around particular individuals and their unusual mix of style and substance, watch out.

But that affirms one of the great virtues of the question: Are you having the kind of most important argument you want your organization to have? Are you having the right kind of arguments in general? Are your arguments illuminating the path forward or providing the organizations with even better rationalizations and excuses for inaction?

And if you’re not having the right kind of important arguments, then just how much is consensus and alignment really worth?

By, Michael Schrage


Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, is the author of the books Serious Play (HBR Press), Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? (HBR Press) and The Innovator’s Hypothesis (MIT Press).

How to Handle Difficult People

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

The path to success can be derailed by clashes with difficult people, and even if the clash isn’t disastrous, it can make your life very unpleasant. Everyone has a store of coping mechanisms that we resort to when we find ourselves in stressful situations.

Difficult people force us to fall back on our coping mechanisms. Some of us placate, others confront. Some balk, others become aggressive. When these first-response tactics don’t work, when a difficult person makes you tear your hair out in total frustration, you have to dig deeper into yourself and find a better strategy.

First of all, not every difficult person is the same. There are tyrants, curmudgeons, aggressors, the viciously competitive, and control freaks. A psychologist can outline how each beast might be tamed, but on a day-to-day basis, one can adopt a general approach that’s the same. It’s quite a simple strategy, actually, based on asking three questions.

1. Can I change the situation?

2. Do I have to put up with it instead?

3. Should I just walk away?

When you ask these questions in a rational frame of mind, you will be able to formulate a workable approach that is consistent and effective. Most people are prisoners of inconsistency. Think about the most difficult person in your life and how you have reacted to them over time. You’ll probably find that you sometimes put up with them, sometimes try to get them to change, and other times simply want to stay away. In other words, three tactics have merged in a messy way. You wind up sending mixed messages, and that’s never effective.

So let’s consider each of the three questions in turn.

1. Can I change the situation?

Not all difficult people are beyond change, even though they are stubborn and stuck in their behavior. But there’s a cardinal rule here that can’t be ignored. No one changes unless he wants to. Difficult people rarely want to. If you have a close rapport with the person, you might find a moment when you can sit down and have a candid discussion about the things that frustrate you. But be prepared with an exit strategy, because if your difficult person winds up resenting you for poking your nose where it doesn’t belong, trying to effect change can seriously backfire.

Your best chance of creating change occurs if the following things are present.

– You have a personal connection with the person.

– You have earned his respect.

– You’ve discreetly tested the waters and found her a bit open to change.

– You’ve received signals that he wants to change.

– You aren’t afraid or intimidated.

– The two of you are fairly equal in power. If the difficult person is in a dominant position, such as being your boss, your status is too imbalanced.

A final caveat. Difficult people aren’t going to change just to make you feel better. The worst chance of getting someone else to change occurs when you’re so angry, frustrated, and fed up that you lose your composure and demand change.

2. Do I have to put up with it instead?

When you can’t change a situation, only two options remain, either put up with it or walk away. Most of us aren’t very effective in getting someone else to change, so we adapt in various ways. We are experts at putting up with things. Adaptation isn’t bad per se; social life depends upon getting along with one another. It’s a reasonable assumption that if you have difficult people in your life right now – and who doesn’t? – you’ve learned to adapt. The real question is whether you are coping in a healthy or unhealthy way.

Look at the following lists and honestly ask yourself how well you are putting up with your difficult person.

Unhealthy:

– I keep quiet and let them have their way. It’s not worth fighting over.

– I complain behind their backs.

– I shut down emotionally.

– I don’t say what I really mean half the time, for fear of getting into trouble or losing control.

– I subtly signal my disapproval.

– I engage in endless arguments that no one wins.

– I have symptoms of stress (headache, knots in the stomach, insomnia, depression, and anxiety) but have decided to grin and bear it.

– I know i want to get out of this situation, but I keep convincing myself that I have to stick it out.

– I indulge in fantasies of revenge.

Healthy –

– I assess what works best for me and avoid what doesn’t.

– I approach the difficult person as rationally as possible.

– I don’t get into emotional drama with them.

– I make sure I am respected by them. I keep my dignity.

– I can see the insecurity that lies beneath the surface of their bad behavior.

– I don’t dwell on their behavior. I don’t complain behind their backs or lose sleep.

– I keep away from anyone who can’t handle the situation, the perpetual complainers, gossips, and connivers.

– My interaction with the difficult person has no hidden agenda, like revenge. We are here for mutual benefit, not psychodrama.

– I know I can walk away whenever I have to, so I don’t feel trapped.

– I can laugh behind this person’s back. I’m not intimidated or afraid.

– I feel genuine respect and admiration for what’s good in this person.

If your approach contains too many unhealthy ingredients, you shouldn’t stick around. You’re just rationalizing a hopeless situation. Your relationship with your difficult person isn’t productive for either of you.

3. Should I just walk away?

Difficult people generally wind up alone, embattled, and bitter. They create too much stress, and one by one, everyone in their lives walks away. But it can take an agonizingly long time to make this decision. The problem is attachment. The abused wife who can’t leave her violent husband, the worker who is afraid he can’t find another job, the underling who serves as a doormat for his boss – in almost every instance their reason for staying is emotional. Life isn’t meant to be clinically rational. Emotions are a rich part of our lives, and it’s mature to take the bitter with the sweet – up to a point.

Too many people stick around when they shouldn’t. The main exceptions are competitive types, who can’t bear to be dominated or made to look bad. They instinctively run away from situations that hurt their self-image. The other main personality types – dependent and controlling – will put up with a bad situation for a long time, far beyond what’s healthy. The point, in practical terms, is that you can’t wait until you’ve resolved all your issues with a difficult spouse, boss, boyfriend, buddy, colleague, or employee. Vacillation doesn’t make you a better or nicer person. You are treading water, hoping that the dreaded day will never come when you have to sever ties. The thought of separation causes you anxiety.

But as anxious as you feel, sometimes a rupture is the healthiest thing you can do. That’s the case if you have honestly confronted questions 1 and 2. If you know the difficult person isn’t going to change, and if you’ve examined the unhealthy and healthy choices involved in putting up with them, you have a good foundation for making the right choice: Do I stay or do I walk? I’m not promising that your decision will feel nice. It probably won’t. But it will be the right decision, the kind you will be able to look back on with a sigh of relief and recognition that moving on was healthy and productive.

Andrew Lepan

Written by,

 

Healthy Ways To Deal With Emotional Pain And Grief

Monday, June 13th, 2016

FRIGHTENED

How do you deal with emotional pain? The kind of pain that sits in your heart and occasionally (sometimes without warning) breaks your heart just a little bit, and you feel an overwhelming urge to cry. Many of us can relate to that.

Let’s consider the unfortunate events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001. I knew none of the people who died personally — but that does not stop the pain. I expect that had I known anyone on a more personal basis, my pain would be just a little more intense. During a time like that, it is hard to believe that it can be more intense. Yet, as we all know, life must go on for those of us who were left behind.

The question is, “How do we continue on when we are in pain?” Valid question, and here are a few of the solutions I offer to people:

It is OK to suffer from pain. Do not believe that you do not have the right. Perhaps you do have a family member who passed away or a beloved pet that died. As children we were embarrassed to cry in front of people, and we have carried on that belief into our adult lives.

It is OK to cry or hurt. So the first solution is to stop trying to cover or bury your emotions — instead, allow them their freedom at the appropriate time.

The reality is that your bully, or your difficult person can cause you an incredible amount of emotional pain. It isn’t the same as death, but emotionally it can be just as exhausting.

My grandfather passed away while I was in England working for some clients. I knew he was dying, and had made the decision to leave on the business trip anyway. I did say goodbye to him — and discussed my decision (with their full support) with my dad and family. I was hoping that he would wait a little longer (20 years might have been nice), but his time came just after I arrived in London. I found out the news during the lunch break of one of my all-day seminars.

Obviously, I had to continue on during the day and not let my emotions take control. I was allowed to feel pain — just not right then. I applied a little trick that I share in my stress management programs: I took the emotional feeling (in this case, sorrow) and put it into an imaginary “box” in my head. I closed the lid on the box and picked a time later on when I felt I could open the lid and deal with the emotion.

 

The mistake that some people make is to never open the box.”

 

I had to continue on with my job. I also needed to cry and deal with my own sorrow (and guilt, in this case). So I allowed the emotion to sit in the box, and I would deal with it when I was alone in my hotel room.

We can do the same thing with the emotional pain that our bully/difficult person causes us. Allow yourself to close it up sometimes, so that it is not affecting all areas of your life. Give yourself permission to be happy, even though you are dealing with an incredible amount of pain and emotional turmoil. Don’t let your bully/difficult person ruin every aspect of your life.

The mistake that some people make is to never open the box. As far as dealing with emotion in a healthy way, it is imperative that you go back to that box fairly soon after you closed the lid. You will notice that this technique works when you are dealing with the death of a member of your immediate family. It amazes me how well people stand up at the wake, and the funeral, and many don’t cry at all. They will, it will just be at a time of their choosing.

The next technique is used when the emotions are stronger than the lid on the box. Your tears just come anyway. I happen to be quite good at a silent cry. You know the kind — you are driving down the highway singing away to a song, and before you know the tears just start on their own. Of course, that works great for many of us (especially if we are in the car alone). But sometimes, those tears just start in a meeting, while working at your desk or while walking down the hall.

My solution is to let them come! While the tears are streaming down your face,take deep breaths (you need oxygen to steady your emotions). The next step is tocontinue doing what you were doing (and pretend that you are not crying). Honestly, just keep going! So what if you are in the middle of a conversation? Just keep going! Pretend you don’t notice.

Your voice will waiver, your hands will shake and the tears will fall. Keep going. This will probably only last for 15 to 30 seconds if you don’t call attention to it (really — it doesn’t take that long to get back into control — I dare you to try it!. The person you are speaking with will probably ask you if you need a minute — the answer is “no.” Keep going.

If you really do need to stop, do so. Don’t feel that you need to explain to your co-worker why you are crying. Just tell them you’ll be back in 10 minutes ready to continue. But try talking right through it — you can do it. Ever had to give eulogy? Of course we cry during that, but we have to keep going. And after a little while, our normal voice returns and we get control again.

To summarize:

1. It is OK to suffer from pain and to cry or hurt. Don’t apologize for being an emotional person. Take pride in yourself. You are a caring and loving individual. Why should we apologize for that?
2. Don’t try to cover or bury your emotions.
3. Take deep breaths, but let the tears come anyway.
4. Keep doing what you were doing before the tears started!

A book that helped me a lot is called Emotional Confidence by Gael Lindenfield (Harper Collins Publishers). I picked it up in London after my grandfather died, but you could get your bookstore to order it for you.


 

Rhonda Scharf Headshot

The Secret to Dealing With Difficult People: It’s About You

Friday, June 10th, 2016
Do you have someone at work who consistently triggers you? Doesn’t listen? Takes credit for work you’ve done? Wastes your time with trivial issues? Acts like a know-it-all? Can only talk about himself? Constantly criticizes?Our core emotional need is to feel valued and valuable. When we don’t, it’s deeply unsettling, a challenge to our sense of equilibrium, security, and well-being. At the most primal level, it can feel like a threat to our very survival.

This is especially true when the person you’re struggling with is your boss. The problem is that being in charge of other people rarely brings out the best in us.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton saidway back in 1887. “There is no worse heresy than the office that sanctifies the holder of it.”

The easy default when we feel devalued is to the role of victim, and it’s a seductive pull. Blaming others for how we’re feeling is a form of self-protection. Whatever is going wrong isn’t our fault. By off loading responsibility, we feel better in the short-term.

The problem with being a victim is that you cede the power to influence your circumstances. The painful truth when it comes to the people who trigger you is this: You’re not going to change them. The only person you have the possibility of changing is yourself.

Each of us has a default lens through which we see the world. We call it reality, but in fact it’s a selective filter. We have the power, to view the world through other lenses. There are three worth trying on when you find yourself defaulting to negative emotions.

The Lens of Realistic Optimism. Using this lens requires asking yourself two simple questions when you feel you’re being treated badly or unfairly. The first one is “What are the facts in this situation?” The second is, “What’s the story I’m telling myself about those facts?”

Making this distinction allows you to stand outside your experience, rather than simply reacting to it. It also opens the possibility that whatever story you’re currently telling yourself isn’t necessarily the only way to look at your situation.

Realistic optimism, a term coined by the psychologist Sandra Schneider, means telling yourself the most hopeful and empowering story about a given circumstance without subverting the facts. It’s about moving beyond your default reaction to feeling under attack, and exploring whether there is an alternative way of viewing the situation that would ultimately serve you better. Another way of discovering an alternative is to ask yourself “How would I act here at my best?”

The Reverse Lens. This lens requires viewing the world through the lens of the person who triggered you. It doesn’t mean sacrificing your own point of view but rather widening your perspective.

It’s nearly certain that the person you perceive as difficult views the situation differently than you do. With the reverse lens, you ask yourself, “What is this person feeling, and in what ways does that make sense?” Or put more starkly: “Where’s my responsibility in all this?”

Counterintuitively, one of the most powerful ways to reclaim your value, when it feels threatened, is to find a way to appreciate the perspective of the person you feel devalued by. It’s called empathy.

Just as you do, others tend to behave better when they feel seen and valued — especially since insecurity is what usually prompts them to act badly in the first place.

The Long Lens. Sometimes your worst fears about another person turn out to be true. He is someone who bullies you unreasonably and seeing it from his perspective doesn’t help. She does invariably take credit for your work.

When your current circumstances are incontrovertibly bad, the long lens provides a way of looking beyond the present to imagine a better future. Begin with this question: “Regardless of how I feel about what’s happening right now, how can I grow and learn from this experience?”

How many times has something that felt terrible to you in the moment turned out to be trivial several months later, or actually led you to an important opportunity or a positive new direction?

My last boss fired me. It felt awful at the time, but it also pushed me way out of my comfort zone, which is where it turned out I needed to go.

Looking back, the story I tell myself is that for all his deficiencies, I learned a lot from that boss, and it all serves me well today. I can understand, from his point of view, why he found me difficult as an employee, without feeling devalued. Most important, getting fired prompted me to make a decision — founding the company I now run — that has brought me more happiness than any other work I’ve ever done.


Tony Schwartz is the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything. Become a fan of The Energy Project on Facebookand connect with Tony at Twitter.com/TonySchwartz and Twitter.com/Energy_Project.

How to Manage Conflict at Work

Friday, May 27th, 2016

To succeed as a manager, you can’t be a conflict-avoider.

Effectively managing conflict is arguably the hardest thing a manager has to do. I was recently reminded of this by a comment from a reader in response to a post on Forbes.com (10 Things Successful Business People Aren’t Daunted By). Her observation? “I’ll be printing this off and putting it where I can read it every morning,” she wrote. “Dealing well with conflict (instead of running and hiding) has been one of my biggest challenges as a relatively new manager, so thank you for reminding me that conquering that fear of conflict is worth it!”

Actually she shouldn’t feel bad – she has lots of company. While now and then you’ll come across a manager who enjoys conflict, really relishes confrontation and dispute, the vast majority of people would much prefer not to deal with it, if given a choice.

Unfortunately, as a manager, if you’re going to do your job, you have no choice.

Looking back now over my own career I can recall conflicts with the many people I managed over just about everything: salaries, promotions, recognition, evaluations, other team members, being managed too much, not being managed enough, projects that were too tough, projects that were too boring… and once in a while someone who was just for no discernible reason downright insubordinate. I never liked conflict. But I realized early on that if I expected to be paid a reasonable amount of money for management, trying my best to deal with conflict fairly and directly was a crucial part of the job.

In that spirit, following are a few things I learned about it:

Accept the inevitability of conflict in management – As mentioned above, just recognize that addressing it is part of the job. Don’t waste energy ruminating about it, and don’t feel bad you feel bad about it. Just accept it for what it is: It comes with the managerial territory.

Don’t be a conflict-avoider – Difficult interpersonal workplace problems won’t disappear by ignoring them; they’ll only get worse. Chronic conflict-avoiders will end up losing the respect of their employees – and their own management.

Stay calm – Even when provoked, keep a close hold on your temper; stay as calm as you possibly can. There are some memorable lines from the famous Rudyard Kipling poem If:If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you/If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you/But make allowance for their doubting too… And after several verses the poem concludes: Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it/And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son. (Or a woman… Kipling wrote this in 1895.) Though it wasn’t written for business, I always felt there was management relevance in the message.

Maintain the moral high ground – A close cousin to the point directly above. You’remanagement. You’re the voice of reason. Don’t lose control or pull rank or cede the moral high ground – calm control is a much more advantageous position manage and negotiate from.

Partner with HR – Though Human Resources operatives have become joking stereotypeson TV and in movies… I’ll state this in bold letters: When I was in management, my colleagues in Human Resources were of inestimable valuable to me on many occasions. I never hesitated to call on them when I faced difficult employee conflicts. They were unfailingly an objective third party, a sounding board, a valuable source of reasonable counsel. My philosophy was always, In delicate situations, get all the help you can.

Document meticulously – When serious conflict occurs, as a manager you’ll need accurate records of it. During employee performance appraisals, you’ll need clear documentation to avoid discussions dissolving into “he said/she said” disputes. And when it’s necessary to terminate someone, you of course need detailed documentation (again, a time to work closely with HR) or you may well have legal exposure.

Don’t’ think in terms of “winning,” so much as constructively resolving – No point winning the battle but losing the war. Management‘s role is not to “defeat the enemy” (even though that may feel cathartic at times!), but to elicit optimal performance from the area you’re managing. Accordingly, best not to leave bodies in your wake but to get conflicts resolved fairly, expeditiously, and move forward as constructively as you can. Get closure and move ahead… the sooner, the better.

I don’t want to give the illusion any of this is easy.

It isn’t. It never is.

But if you can develop a consistent, rational approach to managing conflict, it can make your difficult job a lot less stressful than it would be without it.

Victor Lipman

Article by,
Victor Lipman

Victor is the author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World (Prentice Hall Press).

Keeping Your Cool: Dealing with Difficult People

Friday, May 20th, 2016

By: Dr. Rhonda Savage

People today have a short fuse – everyone is stressed.  And when people are stressed, they can become difficult to be around. Chances are, you’ve worked with at least one difficult person in your organization.  You recognize the behaviors of a difficult person, such as a bad attitude, apathy, difficulty handling change, and terrible customer service. Difficult people give you the silent treatment or worse–they can be verbally aggressive.Unfortunately, if you don’t address this kind of behavior, one of two things will happen:  Employees will become resentful and think less of you as a leader.

Employees will start modeling the behavior of the person who is not being corrected.

It’s important to understand that there’s only one reason anyone behaves in an unacceptable manner: the person gets away with it! So, who’s responsible for difficult people? The answer is anyone who tolerates them. Every time you give in to a difficult person, every time you choose not to confront him or her, you allow a difficult person to continue this rude behavior.

What does a difficult person in your office look like?  Often, he is the one who gets the better schedule. He may come in late or leave the office early, leaving his or her work for others to finish. The individual might take a longer lunch, hold long personal calls during work hours, or refuse to lend a co-worker a hand. Individuals in the office don’t ask the person to work with them because they don’t like the individual.

So, how can you change this situation? Confrontation is one answer. Unfortunately, it can be hard for anyone to address this issue. However, it’s important to understand that dealing with the issue will facilitate a more harmonious atmosphere in the office, leading to increased productivity, improved morale, and a healthier bottom line.

You’ll need to set boundaries, expectations and guidelines, and then hold the person accountable for his or her behaviors. Here are some tips, whether you are an employee dealing with a difficult supervisor, a worker dealing with a co-worker, or a manager dealing with a challenging employee:

Owner or Manager to Employee: Have you ever had an employee who was demanding, condescending, abrupt, tearful, insecure, and high maintenance—yet he or she did an excellent job? Were you worried about losing the person because of the great work? Just because someone does great work doesn’t make him or her a good employee. If you have a person whose behavior is affecting the morale and productivity in the office, and you’ve already coached the employee on the issue, this person needs a formal corrective review.

The employee should be given a copy of the corrective review; a signed copy is placed in his or her employee file. Let the employee know the specific behavior you need to have changed, your clearly defined expectations, and a time frame to work within. Have a follow-up meeting within a designated time period to give the employee the feedback needed. Be sure to provide clear oversight.

Employee to Manager:  What if the difficult person is your boss or manager? Approach your employer or supervisor first by asking: “I need to talk with you about something.  Is now a good time?” If not, schedule a time to talk. Begin by expressing your intention and your motives. Explain your concern about a loss of business and unhappy clients, and that your intentions are to help make the workplace not only productive but also satisfactory to clients.

Another approach is to talk about how certain behaviors in the office are decreasing efficiency. Explain that you’d like to talk about ways to improve the systems in the office. By first addressing the issues as though you’re tackling a problem or a system issue, your supervisor or employer will not be defensive. Always be tactful, professional, calm, and polite. Ask your employer or manager for his or her goals and offer to give suggestions to help meet those goals.

Use the “feel, felt, found” method: “Many of our customers feel uncomfortable when you speak to the other employees; they’ve expressed how they’ve felt when you left the room. I’ve found if I convey customer concerns to my supervisor that our sales have increased.”

Employee to Employee:  If you have a problem with a co-worker, the best course of action is to go to that person directly. Do not talk about the issues with your fellow co-workers behind the other person’s back! Go to the person privately and tell them about it.

There are three steps to this.

Let the person know you’d like to talk about something that’s been bothering you. Ask him or her, “Is this a good time?”

Describe the behavior with dates, names, and times. Be specific. Begin by saying:  “I’d like to talk with you about this. This is how I felt when….” Speak only for yourself and how the behavior affects you.

Describe what you would like to see changed. Try to resolve the issue first personally and privately. If the situation does not change, request a meeting between yourself, the other person and your employer.  Everyone can choose his or her attitude. Each day, when someone walks out the front door to go to work, that person has a choice in how his or her day will play out.  You can’t always choose the people who surround you but you can try to make them aware of their behaviors.  If you have a difficult person in your life, set the boundaries, explain your expectations, and then hold that person accountable.  Be calm when you’re doing this!  The person who is calm and asks the questions is the one in control.

Sign up for our webinar and learn how to create friction free relationships in an organization.

About the Author(s)
Dr. Rhonda Savage is an internationally acclaimed speaker and CEO for a well-known practice management and consulting business. As past President of the Washington State Dental Association, she is active in organized dentistry and has been in private practice for more than 16 years. Dr. Savage is a noted speaker on practice management, women’s issues, communication and leadership, and zoo dentistry. For more information on her speaking, visit www.DentalManagementU.com , or e-mail rhonda@dentalmanagementu.com.

How To Spot A Toxic Boss Before You Take The Job

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Our friend Yvonne quit her new job after six months. “I should have known my ex-boss was a psycho control freak,” she said.

“Were there signs of his tendencies during the interview process?” we asked.

“There was one sign, a huge one,” said Yvonne. “I can’t believe I missed it. He basically came right out and told me what it was going to be like working for him. I took the job anyway. I talked myself into it. I said, ‘I can make this work.’”

Of course we wanted to hear about the big sign that Yvonne missed during the interview process.

“My boss walked me out of the building to my car after my second interview,” said Yvonne. “When we got to my car he said, ‘You’re an average writer and a so-so editor, and I can make you much better at both writing and editing.’”

 “Whoa!” we exclaimed. “That’s what he said?”

“Yes, and I should have said ‘Gee, I’d hate for you to be stuck with someone who falls so far short of your requirements,’” said Yvonne. “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything. I got in my car and I went home.”

“People do tend to broadcast their baggage,” we said. “Don’t feel bad, Yvonne. It’s easy to miss those signs when you’re thinking ‘If I get this job I can pay off my credit cards!’”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking when I took the job,” said Yvonne.

If you can check in frequently with your body during your interview process, you won’t be as likely to take a job working for someone who is going to crush your mojo and leave you battered, mojo-depleted and doubting your own abilities.

You can say, “No thanks!” to a toxic manager and keep your job search going, but only if you tell your fearful brain to pipe down and listen to your body, instead.

That takes some effort. For starters, you have to process every interview in your head and on paper. You have to talk through your interviews with a friend — in the best case, a cynical friend who will stop you and say, “The manager said what?”

You have to think through every job interview and every other interaction you have with your possible next boss, because in your excitement about being in contention for a job offer, you can lose your bearings.

You have to be on guard or you are likely to fall into the Vortex. The Vortex is the whirling place we fall into when a company is obviously interested in us. We are excited to have a real, live job opportunity in front of us. Our judgment can fly out the window.

We’re flattered that they like us, even if we’re not sure if we like them!

Plenty of people, me included, have accepted job offers because we were so happy to get a job offer.

We forgot about our own needs. We fell  into the Vortex!

Watch for these 10 warning signs that your possible new boss will make your life a living hell if you sign up to work for him or her:

1. Your hiring manager spends a lot of your interview time together talking about himself or herself. Maybe you’re a great listener. Is that what the boss is looking for — someone who will patiently listen to him or her pontificate? If so, watch out!

2. Your hiring manager asks you detailed questions about how you accomplished tasks and projects at your past jobs, but shows no curiosity about you as a person. He or she couldn’t care less where you grew up, how you chose your career path or what your goals are. That’s a red flag!

photo by Liz Ryan

3. Your hiring manager uses your interview time to try to suck free consulting advice out of you. Once you get home from the interview, he or she has more demands — to write a free marketing plan, for instance. If the manager does this while you’re interviewing for the job, don’t expect things to get better once you have the job.

4. Your hiring manager tells you what’s wrong with you before even hiring you, the way Yvonne’s manager did.

5. Your hiring manager talks about employees he or she has fired in the past. That’s a terrible sign. Run away from a job opportunity where the boss regales you with tales of the terrible former employees he or she has had to put up with. You will hate the job if you get it.

6. Your hiring manager uses your interview time to fill you in on the corporate political scene. Our client Miranda met with her hiring manager after hours, when everyone in the office had gone home. Her prospective new boss asked her “Can you get me promoted to Director level within one year?” She said “I really couldn’t say”  and didn’t come back for a second interview when invited to.7. Your hiring manager spends half of your interview time talking about her problems with her boss. You want to say, “If I’m here to give you a counseling session, you’ll have to write me a check!” but you bite your lip and draw a big red X through this job opportunity in your mind. Life is too short to work for fearful weenies.

8. Your hiring manager uses your interview time to tell you how smart or accomplished he or she is. That’s a sure sign of insecurity. When people show you who they are, believe them!

9. Your hiring manager quizzes you about insignificant details in your resume instead of talking about the work you’d be doing in the new job. Gradually over the course of your interview it hits you that this person doesn’t know how to construct an intelligent question about your background, so they devolve into asking nit-picky questions, instead. Don’t take a job working for a person with no vision!

10. Your hiring manager reminds you over and over how many awesome people applied for this job and how lucky you are to have received an interview. Run away from a person like this. They are mired in fear and are checking in to make sure you are exactly the obedient, grateful, passive and docile sheep they are looking for!

The first time you say, “No thanks!” to a job interview, your fearful brain will beat you up for three to five days afterward. You’ll go back and forth in your mind: “Should I have told those people no? I still need a job. Maybe that was a bad decision.”

It wasn’t a bad decision. Your body is your best guide. Our species has been evolving for eons. Your gut knows which people are healthy for you and which people aren’t.

The relationship between you and your boss is a critical one not only for your career’s sake, but for your health as well. Choose your next boss wisely!

 

 Article by Liz Ryan ,
Bio: I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP for ten million years, but I was an opera singer before I ever heard the term HR. The higher I got in the corporate world, the more operatic the action became. I started writing about the workplace for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1997, but it took me ages to find my own voice. Now I write for the Huffington Post, Business Week, LinkedIn, the Harvard Business Review, the Denver Post and Forbes.com and lead the worldwide Human Workplace movement to reinvent work for people. Stop by and join us: http://www.humanworkplace.com

Arguing Is Pointless

Monday, April 4th, 2016

It was lunchtime and the seven of us — two kids and five adults — would be in the car for the next three hours as we drove from New York City to upstate Connecticut for the weekend.

We decided to get some takeout at a place on the corner of 88th and Broadway. I pulled along the curb and ran in to get everyone’s orders.

In no time, Isabelle, my eight year old, came running in the restaurant.

“Daddy! Come quick! The police are giving you a ticket!”

I ran outside.

“Wait, don’t write the ticket, I’ll move it right away,” I offered.

“Too late,” she said.

“Come on! I was in there for three minutes. Give me a break.”

“You’re parked in front of a bus stop.” She motioned halfway down the block.

“All the way down there?” I protested.

She said nothing.

“You can’t be serious!” I flapped my arms.

“Once I start writing the ticket, I can’t stop.” She handed me the ticket.

“But you didn’t even ask us to move! Why didn’t you ask us to move?” I continued to argue as she walked away.

And that’s when it hit me: arguing was a waste of my time.

Not just in that situation with that police officer. I’m talking about arguing with anyone, anywhere, any time. It’s a guaranteed losing move.

Think about it. You and someone have an opposing view and you argue. You pretend to listen to what she’s saying but what you’re really doing is thinking about the weakness in her argument so you can disprove it. Or perhaps, if she’s debunked a previous point, you’re thinking of new counter-arguments. Or, maybe, you’ve made it personal: it’s not just her argument that’s the problem. It’s her. And everyone who agrees with her.

In some rare cases, you might think the argument has merit. What then? Do you change your mind? Probably not. Instead, you make a mental note that you need to investigate the issue more to uncover the right argument to prove the person wrong.

When I think back to just about every argument I’ve ever participated in — political arguments, religious arguments, arguments with Eleanor or with my children or my parents or my employees, arguments about the news or about a business idea or about an article or a way of doing something — in the end, each person leaves the argument feeling, in many cases more strongly than before, that he or she was right to begin with.

How likely is it that you will change your position in the middle of fighting for it? Or accept someone else’s perspective when they’re trying to hit you over the head with it?

Arguing achieves a predictable outcome: it solidifies each person’s stance. Which, of course, is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve with the argument in the first place. It also wastes time and deteriorates relationships.

There’s only one solution: stop arguing.

Resist the temptation to start an argument in the first place. If you feel strongly about something in the moment, that’s probably a good sign that you need time to think before trying to communicate it.

If someone tries to draw you into an argument? Don’t take the bait. Change the subject or politely let the person know you don’t want to engage in a discussion about it.

And if it’s too late? If you’re in the middle of an argument and realize it’s going nowhere? Then you have no choice but to pull out your surprise weapon. The strongest possible defense, guaranteed to overcome any argument:

Listening.

Simply acknowledge the other and what he’s saying without any intention of refuting his position. If you’re interested, you can ask questions — not to prove him wrong — but to better understand him.

Because listening has the opposite effect of arguing. Arguing closes people down. Listening slows them down. And then it opens them up. When someone feels heard, he relaxes. He feels generous. And he becomes more interested in hearing you.

That’s when you have a shot of doing the impossible: changing that person’s mind. And maybe your own. Because listening, not arguing, is the best way to shift a perspective.

Then, when you want to leave the conversation, say something like,”Thanks for that perspective.” Or “I’ll have to think about that,” and walk away or change the subject.

I’m not saying you should let someone bully you. This weekend I was in a long line and someone cut in front of me. I told him it wasn’t okay and he started yelling, telling me — and the people around me — that he was there all the time, which was clearly not true. I began to argue with him which, of course, proved useless and only escalated the fight.

Eventually a woman in the line simply drew a boundary. She said, “No, it’s not okay to simply walk in here when the rest of us are waiting” and she stepped forward and ignored the bully. We all followed her lead and, eventually, he went to the back of the line. Arguments: 0. Boundaries: 1.

When I went online to pay the parking fine, I tried to dispute the ticket. Before arguing my case though, a screen popped up offering me a deal: pay the penalty with a 25% discount, or argue and, if I lose, pay the entire fine. I thought I had a good case so I argued and, a few weeks later, lost the case.

Next time, I’m taking the deal.

Peter Bregman is CEO of Bregman Partners, a company that strengthens leadership in people and in organizations through programs (including the Bregman Leadership Intensive), coaching, and as a consultant to CEOs and their leadership teams. Best-selling author of 18 Minutes, his most recent book is Four Seconds (February 2015). To receive an email when he posts, click here.

How to Manage Conflict

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Last November, Philippe, a 33-year-old French banker, left Paris for a new challenge in London. He thought that a new job in a fast-growing British investment bank would give him valuable international experience and develop some new skills. The bigger salary and bonus were also a draw.

One year on, Philippe has a different view of his move. When I met him last week, he explained that the year had been a disaster and his job was in danger as staff had made formal complaints about his management style. He had found it difficult to adjust to his new role, but he had not realised that his style had created such conflict within his team.

Philippe felt he had been acting appropriately, but his colleagues and team members felt he had been inconsistent, favouring some members of his team and undermining others. His line manager had recommended coaching to help him improve his communication skills, understand the culture and develop his people skills. Philippe had agreed to the coaching but felt aggrieved that the bank had not done more to prepare him for his role with training and a proper induction. The main problem, he said, was the bank’s matrix structure and its focus on profit-making, which encouraged managers to fight for territory and resources rather than building teams and developing people. In short, the bank deliberately created a culture of conflict rather than collaboration.

Of course, both sides have a point. Philippe needs to change, but so does the environment in which he is operating. I am often asked to work with individuals in a conflict situation, but rarely does the organisation ask for feedback on why the conflict occurred and what they might do to prevent it. In truth, little is done at the organisational level to mitigate conflict.

Organisational conflict is emerging as a key workplace issue among the people I coach. They tell me that there is a lack of will and/or skills to deal with conflict and have many theories as to why it occurs and what happens when it takes root. From being an unwelcome distraction, conflict in a team or department can quickly spread, to damage relationships, lower productivity and morale and in extreme cases lead absenteeism, sabotage, litigation and even strikes.

So why are so many people experiencing conflict at work? There are two key factors.

First, the matrix structure adopted by many organisations has resulted in unclear reporting lines, increased competition for resources and attention and general confusion as managers try to develop an appropriate management style.

Second, globalisation has caused change and restructuring so that businesses operate more flexibly. There has been a rapid growth in virtual teams, with people from different backgrounds and cultures working across vast regions and time zones. Email and electronic communication are the most practical ways to connect, but these can be anonymous and lead to misunderstanding.

In addition to matrix management styles and globalisation, there are a number of other sources of conflict, including:

• Different cultures and assumptions
• Differing values, opinions and beliefs
• Lack of sensitivity to race, gender, age, class, education and ability
• Poor people skills, especially communication
• Volatile, fast-changing workplaces
• Limits on resources, physical and psychological

So what are the ways to manage conflict? How can managers ensure that it does not escalate out of control? According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Instrument, there are five key styles for managing conflict:

• Forcing — using your formal authority or power to satisfy your concerns without regard to the other party’s concerns
• Accommodating — allowing the other party to satisfy their concerns while neglecting your own
• Avoiding — not paying attention to the conflict and not taking any action to resolve it
• Compromising — attempting to resolve the conflict by identifying a solution that is partially satisfactory to both parties but completely satisfactory to neither
• Collaborating — co-operating with the other party to understand their concerns in an effort to find a mutually satisfying solution

Another way to look at conflict is to decide the relative importance of the issue and to consider the extent to which priorities, principles, relationships or values are at stake. Power is also an important issue – how much power do you have relative to the other person?

As a rule, I would suggest collaboration is the way to deal with important issues, although forcing can sometimes be appropriate if time is an issue. For moderately important issues, compromising can lead to quick solutions but it doesn’t satisfy either side, nor does it foster innovation, so collaboration is probably better. Accommodating is the best approach for unimportant issues as it leads to quick resolution without straining the relationship.

And lest we forget, conflict does have a positive side: it can promote collaboration, improve performance, foster creativity and innovation and build deeper relationships. As Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great, “all the good-to-great companies had a penchant for intense dialogue. Phrases like ‘loud debate’, ‘heated discussions’ and ‘healthy conflict’ peppered the articles and transcripts from all companies.” The more skilled managers become in handling differences and change without creating or getting involved in conflict, the more successful their teams and companies will become.

 

Gill Corkindale is an executive coach and writer based in London, focusing on global management and leadership. She was formerly management editor of the Financial Times.

How to Handle Difficult People in Your Workplace

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

By Robbie Abed,
Independent IT Consultant, Author of Fire Me I Beg You
LinkedIn: http://LinkedIn.com/in/robbiejabed

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It took years to develop, but I was finally able to figure out how to handle difficult situations and how to work with difficult people.

I’ve worked with:

  • The decisive, smart and friendly executive type
  • The 9-to-5 do everything I’m asked with a smile and actually enjoy my work type
  • The let me know if I can help you with anything type
  • The we all know I’m the smartest one in the room type
  • The you cross me, and I promise you it will be the worst mistake of your entire career type
  • The please give me another day to make this decision type
  • The let’s be real, I don’t really give a damn, just tell me what you need me to do and I’ll do it type
  • The please don’t ask me to do anything for you because it’s not in my job description type
  • The OMG she’s walking near my cube, I better act like I’m doing something before I get fired type
  • The you used this word incorrectly in a PowerPoint, therefore I will call an all hands meeting to get this settled type
  • The I trust you Robbie to make any decision you see fit type
  • The if I don’t get a summary email at 8 p.m. every day I’m going to assume you didn’t do anything all day type
  • The I’m going to cry instead of making an important decision so please back off type
  • The I don’t really care what you think about me or my decisions, just do what I tell you type
  • The who the hell left an unclean spoon in the sink, your mother isn’t here to look after you so I’m going to leave a passive aggressive sign above the sink and another on the refrigerator in addition to an email blast to the entire office type
  • The give me your date of birth so we can celebrate your half birthday type
  • The I’m going to pretend like I didn’t hear you the first time so I can make this conversation as awkward as possible type
  • The I’m going to agree to everything said in the meeting then complain privately once the meeting is over type
  • The I literally, figuratively and hypothetically do not care what anybody thinks about me, so just keep paying me every 2 weeks and we’ll all be happy type
  • The if I hear one single piece of constructive criticism about my work I’m never going to open up my mouth again type
  • And finally my favorite: The holy crap lady I can hear your nails click clacking on your keyboard from across the office type

For the person who creates those passive aggressive, “If you’re leaning, you’re cleaning” signs above the sink, I purposely don’t clean dirty spoons and put them in the sink so they can be even more upset. I’m evil like that.

The uncomfortable truth is that not all of these types are easy to deal with. In fact, many of these types make it much harder to get anything accomplished.

Deal with difficult people before they deal with you

Difficult people are an interesting breed. They tend to be the last person in a workflow who has the authority to approve a particular process, purchase order or contract, so they’re the final decision maker. They are nitpicky, irrational, insanely busy people who don’t understand how many hours the team has put into completing an activity.

They ask questions at the last minute about verbiage in a contract when they could have asked the question when you first started on the project. They make you start all the way from the beginning negating all that time you and your team spent on it.

And yet instead of engaging this person right away, most people wait all the way until the end to get their approval, then are in complete shock when this person demands that additional edits be made.

Why?

Easy. People hate working with difficult people unless they absolutely have to. Instead of getting answers to their questions right away, they take the easy route and make assumptions hoping the difficult person won’t ask questions once they review it. Nobody likes awkward conversations and would rather show the decision maker a “finished product” so they don’t get negative feedback on something that isn’t finished.

Then when it comes time to review the finished product, the difficult person becomes well, difficult. Of course, this story isn’t complete without the standard everyone blaming each other for a missed deadline when the executive asks why that task was delayed.

Step up and deal with the decision makers even if they make you uncomfortable. Don’t do it to impress your boss or your teammates. Do it because you want to make the final approval process easier, and do it to learn how this decision maker operates.

Do it because no one else will.

Difficult people are often misunderstood. They’re difficult because their job requires them to be detail oriented and they have stake in the outcome of certain activities or projects. They don’t care how much time you spent on an activity. They care about the outcome.

If you can figure out what makes them tick through early difficult conversations, you’ll not only have better answers early on, but also a relationship with someone who others refuse to connect with — or can’t.

 

 

Working with Difficult People

Monday, February 24th, 2014

By Rhonda Scharf, CSP

Who is the most difficult person you work with? Does it feel to you like they spend each evening plotting and planning on how to ruin the next day for you? Does it drain your energy just thinking about this person? You’re not alone. It seems that every one of us has a ‘difficult to deal with’ person in our life. They take a lot of energy just to ignore, and many of us wish they would just go away. If you can identify with this scenario, finish the rest of this sentence: “I would be more effective working with my difficult person if…”

What is you ‘if’?

Now go back and look at what you wrote. Is your answer dependant on them doing something to change? Why do you think they would be willing to change to make your life easier? You’re right, they won’t. So how are we going to be more effective when working with this person? There are three things that you can change.

1-      The System. Perhaps this person is difficult because they are a ‘stick to the rules’ kind of person and you aren’t. It can be very frustrating to you and that this person is so stuck on the system you don’t agree with. If you could just change the system it would make your life a lot easier, don’t you think? Of course, changing the system is an extremely time intensive proposition with no guarantee of any success. There are people, like Erin Brockovich for example, who are able to change the system but most people decide that the effort does not equal the payoff. If this is your situation, you may choose to avoid trying to change the system. I’m not saying that it won’t work – I am saying that it will take a lot of your time and efforts before you see any dividends. It may be easier to take another approach with your difficult person.

2-      The Other Person. You’ve probably heard the old cliché, “If you plan on changing your spouse when you get married, it makes for a very interesting first marriage.” It’s not so easy to change the other person because there is no incentive for them to change. Why should they? What they are doing is currently working just fine, isn’t it? Consider a co-worker that listens to his music at a very loud volume. He likes I that loud, it helps him drown out all the other noise in the office. You despise the type of music he listens to, and it is far too loud for you to concentrate. You’ve asked your co-worker to turn it down every day for the past three months and it has now escalated into an all-out war between the two of you. You are trying to get your difficult person to see that his music is too loud and you cannot concentrate. You are trying to change his perspective on the volume. Why should he turn it down? He likes it just the way it is. Trying to change the other person is often like hitting your head against a brick wall; it just doesn’t work very well. There is no incentive for the other person to take your perspective.

3-      You. Of course, you do have one hundred percent control of what you do. You could try to change your perspective on the situation. Let’s assume that your difficult person is Mary, and Mary loves to complain about the company you work for. She says things like, “they don’t appreciate us”, “I’m doing all the work around here and never get any recognition”, and “this is an old boys club and women will never get in senior management positions”. Basic whining and moaning, all the time, day in and day out. At first, you agreed with some of the things she said, and occasionally got pulled into the negativity yourself. After a while you realized how destructive this was to your attitude and you tried to convince Mary that she was wrong. This, of course, just intensified the situation and the negativity seemed to get worse. You’ve probably moved into the same ‘zone’ that many of us do when confronted with Mary – saying “You’re right, this is a terrible place to work”, hoping that your agreement will make her go away faster.

Did it work? Not really. What Mary wants is attention and acknowledgment. You are giving her both of those things. We need to change what we are doing to get a different result.

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done,you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”

You’ve heard that before, and it is completely true. If we want to change the way Mary is acting, we need to change what we are doing, and not give her what she wants. People are difficult because they are getting something out of the deal. They may be getting attention, agreement or even success because of it (think of aggressive drivers). If we want them to do something different (remember the opening question?) then we need to DO something different.

The next time Mary says “I hate this company”, don’t argue with her or agree with her, give her what she doesn’t want (agreement, attention, etc.) and say something like “I LOVE working her!” Don’t worry about if you agree with what you are saying or not, give her something other than what she wants. She wants to complain. She wants to be negative. Don’t give her what she wants.

This will work! Sometimes a lot of work too, especially if you happen to be in a negative mood that day and agree with her. Don’t give into the temptation. Be 100% consistent in this approach. For two weeks this will be very difficult for you. I promise that if you are consistent and not give Mary what she wants, then she will change her behaviour.

The next time you are asked the question “I would be more effective working with my difficult person if…” the right answer lies within you. You can change what is happening with that person. It takes time, effort, persistence and patience.

The result is worth the effort!

Yes, Adults Can Be Cyberbullied. In the Workplace.

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

bullying at work

Has one of your coworkers posted a malicious comment about you on Twitter or threatened you on chat or in an email? You aren’t alone. Bullying is an epidemic affecting an estimated 54 million American workers, according to a study conducted by Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention. A Zogby International poll found that half of the American workforce has either experienced or witnessed bullying at work.

What is Cyberbullying

While workplace bullying can be defined as verbal abuse, conduct that threatens or intimidates an employee and sabotage, cyberbullying has potential to be even more hurtful. It’s easier, because the attacker doesn’t have to see the victim face to face; there are a variety of different attack methods, and it’s anonymous. Some forms of cyberbullying include hateful, threatening emails, offensive content like explicit images and jokes, copying electronic communications to a group to publicly shame an individual, sharing embarrassing photos of an individual and social media gossip.

Social Media

Facebook and Twitter often serve as platforms that allow cyberbullies to slander, demean and harass their coworkers outside of the office. For example, estranged partners often turn to social media to expose personal photos or sensitive emails between the two in order to gain the upper hand.

Prevention

Why is cyberbullying so prevalent? In this competitive workforce, demeaning others’ values, identity or work performance builds them up (in their eyes) to gain professional stature.

But there is no room for cyberbullying in the workplace. It demotivates employees, reduces productivity and causes absenteeism. If the victim feels safe enough, he should have a face-to-face conversation with the cyberbully. Sometimes, it could be that what he took offensively was not meant to be; we all work with people who are difficult, but mean no real harm.

Communication is a powerful tool that can easily save business relationships (and personal relationships too, of course). A fierce conversation sets the stage for change, promotes collaboration, improves decision making, deepens accountability and strengthens relationships while tackling tough issues.

If you can’t resolve the issue on your own, talk to someone from the human resources department or a manager. Most businesses have a code of conduct policy and hopefully, with the growing epidemic of bullying at the workplace, a specific section is dedicated to the problem in the employee handbook.

Don’t Suffer

If the bully is persistent, block his or her phone number (it’s usually free) and block them on your social networking sites. Speak to your work’s IT department, as well, to block incoming emails, or change your email address.

Cyberbullying can lead to other avenues of harassment. If your personal information is being broadcast online, it could get worse. With the smallest amount of information, identity thieves can get into your accounts and wipe you out before you know what hit you. Visit LifeLock on Facebook to see horror stories of data breaches and how an identity thief can ruin your life.

What is Workplace Bullying And How Does it Affect People?

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Workplace bullying is like bullying on the playground except that it occurs in the workplace.

It usually involves verbal comments and incidents that are intended to hurt, harass, isolate, intimidate, or humiliate a person. It is not new but has become what some have called a silent epidemic because it is happening frequently but isn’t always reported.

It is estimated that as many as one in every six workers is bullied at work and it occurs more frequently than sexual harassment. Bullying creates a horrible, hostile and poisonous work environment that leads to severe problems.

Bullying can be obvious and subtle and may take the form of any one or more of these behaviours:

  • spreading malicious, untrue rumours, gossip, or innuendoesTwo serious business women
  • excluding or isolating someone
  • intimidating a person
  • undermining or interfering with a person’s work
  • threatening
  • restricting former responsibilities
  • changing work requirements
  • setting impossible deadlines
  • withholding information
  • providing erroneous information
  • making offensive jokes
  • pestering, spying or stalking
  • not providing sufficient work
  • swearing, yelling or being rude
  • constant unwarranted criticism
  • blocking applications for training, leave, awards or promotion

It is very important to understand that the people who are bullied are not to blame. The victims or targets are usually highly competent, accomplished, experienced and popular. The reason why they have been singled out for this upsetting and unfair treatment is due to the needs and personalities of the persons who are doing the bullying.

Ken Westhues, a sociologist at the University of Waterloo is survivor of academic mobbing (bullying in universities) and has become a recognized expert. He has developed this checklist of indicators.

  1. By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.
  2. Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”
  3. The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.
  4. Collective focus on a critical incident that “shows what kind of person they really are”.
  5. Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, “to be taught a lesson”.
  6. Unusual timing of the decision to punish apart from the annual performance review.
  7. Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.
  8. Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target. A vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.
  9. High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the bullies.
  10. Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to speak up for or defend the target.
  11. Adding up the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.
  12. The target is seen as personally abhorrent with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.
  13. Disregard of established procedures as the bullies take matters into their own hands.
  14. Resistance to independent outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.
  15. Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.
  16. Bullies’ fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from bullies, or both.

How Does It Affect People?

The target of bullying may suffer from or experience a great number of symptoms all of which result from his or her treatment at work. The events taking place in the workplace are bad enough and very upsetting, but they can also lead to a number of physical, mental, emotional, social and financial problems.

Don’t be alarmed by the list that follows. Victims do not suffer from all of these things but they could encounter any of them.

  • Weight gain
  • Cancer
  • Heart attacks
  • A stress-induced illness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low motivation
  • Memory difficulties
  • Learning difficulty
  • Increased fear
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger
  • Desire for revenge
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Loss of confidence
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Career loss
  • Social difficulties
  • Social isolation
  • Separation
  • Divorce
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Suicide
  • Shock
  • Increased feelings of frustration
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • A sense of vulnerability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disorders
  • Headaches
  • Stomach upsets
  • Family tensions

 

AUTHOR INFO

John Towler is the author of How to Cope with Workplace Bullying which can be purchased online. Dr. Towler is a Senior Partner with Creative Organizational Design, a management consulting firm that specializes in employee testing and surveys. The firm has a test for everything and can test for salespeople, preselection, customer service, management skills etc. They design, administer and score a variety of surveys including attitude, customer service, marketing and web site popularity. Please send comments to Dr. Towler at jotowler@gmail.com. For more information call (519) 745 0142 or visit their web site at www.creativeorgdesign.com.

Back Stabbing CoWorker

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

It seems that unprofessional adults can be found in every workplace. Sometimes it is so outrageous that it must be deal with instead of just tolerated or ignored.

Imagine you had a coworker that was the type of person that pretended they were the boss’ friend. Your coworker was super nice to the boss when she was around, but the minute her back was turned, your coworker turned into the most negative, anti-boss supporter you’ve ever met. Constant criticism, blatant disrespect and very unprofessional.

What do you do?

Backstabbing is one of the most undesirable traits that anyone can possess. Fortunately, we were given the ability to decipher what is right from wrong and the choice to backstab or not to backstab is an easy one for most of us. But what to do when you just observe it?

To start, do not entertain any conversation that will lead to badmouthing about your boss. Don’t agree, don’t nod your head, don’t mmm mmm, don’t smile. Guilt by association is very real, so you want to make sure that you just don’t tolerate this.

Perhaps you need to walk away in the middle of the sentence, with a clear message that says you will not participate in this conversation at all.

Maybe you need to vocally defend your boss (regardless if you agree or not with what your coworker is saying, it is the right thing to do), by saying something like “I like working with her”  or “I don’t agree at all.”

If you really wanted to show your displeasure, say “Would you say this if she were here right now? Then why are you saying it now? It is unprofessional.”   You can expect that conversation will stop in a hurry. You can also expect that subsequent conversation will be about you too (but at least you are aware of it!).

Running and telling the boss is a tactic I wouldn’t recommend. You could look like a tattletale and take the brunt of the attack as well. Racing to Human Resources would offer the same advice from me.

Deal with the unprofessional coworker. Deal with it quickly, without a smile, and with a very clear message that you will not participate.

“I” Language

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

The importance of I language

It seems to me that rule 101 of any communication course is “Use I Language”.

That means instead of starting sentences with:

–       you should …

–       you need to  …

–       you have to …. etc

Sentences should start with:

–       I need…

–       I want….

–       I feel … etc

Sentences that start with the word You instantly cause defensiveness. I know that technically tone is more important than words in communication, but the word You is a dangerous word and causes an emotional reaction very quickly.

“You need to call me back” (even in a nice tone) sounds so different from “I need a call back.” Even in a less than nice tone it sounds better than the first sentence.

What we need to be careful about is the danger of  the “me, me, me” conversationalist (see http://on-the-right-track.com/are-you-a-me-me-me-conversationalist/ for a longer article on those dangers).

When dealing with a difficult person, a confrontation or a bully, words DO matter more than in regular conversation with friends. Emotions are higher. Triggers are closer to the surface and we tend to read far more info statements when there is tension in the relationship.

So today, watch all the sentences that start with You (even with those people where there is no tension). Make sure you start with “I” but don’t become a “me-me-me” conversationalist too.

Perhaps it removes a trigger on your difficult person’s radar, and it just might help keep those conversations neutral.

A relaxing Saturday on the links with Uncle Ron

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an angry tirade that made you feel threatened? That’s exactly what happened to me Saturday on the golf course.

Rhonda, Mom & Uncle Ron

I was on a mini-vacation with my mom, golfing on a beautiful Saturday with my Uncle Ron and my cousin, Debbie. My uncle is an average golfer. Some days he plays very well, and other days he isn’t so lucky.

Saturday was one of the best days he has ever had on the golf course; he was hitting the ball for miles. He had a big grin on his face to show his pleasure with his success, too. It was a great day.

Until the 4th hole.

Uncle Ron stepped up to the tee and shot a drive that looked like Bubba Watson had gotten hold of it. Probably the best drive of his life. Perfectly straight, almost on the green (it was a par four).

And, about 50 yards past the group of golfers in front of us.

If you are a golfer, you will recognize immediately what a major gaffe this was. You should never hit up to the golfers in front you, let alone past them. Someone could get seriously hurt with a flying golf ball.

Uncle Ron was 100 per cent at fault and immediately felt terrible for this amazing shot. Terrible for what could have happened. Fortunately he didn’t hit anyone (the shot was well over their heads, fortunately).

One of the people in the group in front of us was very upset by this (and rightfully so). He hopped in his golf cart, and came racing back to us.

When he got to us, before he said anything my Uncle Ron started to apologize. He took full responsibility and was very good about his apology.

But it wasn’t good enough for Mr. Golfer. He screamed and yelled. Uncle Ron said, “I apologize,” about four more times. And then stopped talking; clearly nothing he said was getting through to Mr. Golfer.

Then, Mr. Golfer threatened all of us. He said, “make sure you don’t play

golf here again,” and we understood his meaning to be “or something bad will happen to you.” It was a serious physical threat. I gave my uncle credit, though. Although he clarified, “Are you threatening me?” he didn’t take the bait, and didn’t get into it with Mr. Golfer. Clearly he knew that this would be a recipe for danger.

When we stopped responding, and Mr. Golfer finished screaming, he got in his cart and started to drive away. On his final look at my cousin Debbie, he wagged his finger and told her, “not to be smiling about this!”  In fact, she had a look of “holy cow!” on her face that was not a smile.

What would you have done in this situation?

I am guessing it was very difficult for my uncle not to defend himself, or us, as we were being threatened. It would have been very difficult not to yell back, “I’ve said I’m sorry four times – what else do you want me to do?” I’m sure it was very difficult for him not to take the bait.

But it was the right thing to do. Being threatened is way, way out of line. But the only way to make this guy go away was to stop talking. What would have been accomplished by arguing with him? Potential danger for sure.

Sometimes the right answer is to not respond at all. And many times that is the most difficult thing to do.

Difficult People Can Be Overcome

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

There are many types of difficult people. They come in all shapes and sizes. Difficult people hold many different social and economical status.  Difficult people make things…well…difficult.

If any one person seeks to alienate, divide, belittle, or in general make a hostile work environment, or makes you dread going to work, they may qualify as a difficult person. They could be a bully, or it could be just a personality clash. Regardless, there are certain things you must do.

First, take away the power they have over you.  At the moment, they have control, and you need to get back in charge (for you).

You need to document all paper, e-mails, or vocal exchanges.  Suffering, tolerating or ignoring any type of workplace bullying will get you nowhere except in a hospital.

One option you have is to rationally speak with the offender, keeping anger and reactionary response out of it.  Mull things over, sleep on it, and talk with co-workers, friends, and family to ensure you’re not being rash.

The difficult person in question will probably talk with others as well and possibly turn others against you. Take your concerns to a higher position, with facts and documentation, (proving you have integrity, respect, and genuine appreciation for your job and other people).

Difficult people can make us disgruntled and leave us feeling disposable.  Often times this particular difficult person has lashed out at others, (you are often not the only victim).

“Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men” General George S Patton, Jr

Customarily difficult people have issues of their own and for whatever reason makes them feel better to demean and chastise people that are weaker or are a threat to them. It is in you to regain the power to create your own quality of life.

Let your management know that you want to achieve the goals of your organization, for it is through teamwork and shared goals, principles, and values, that your organization will be able to succeed!

What are you afraid of?

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Emotions are not your friend when they rule your interactions with your difficult person.  You need to be black and white, focused on the facts, calm, cool and collected. You will have no problem dealing with issues that you are not emotional about (because you don’t care), but as soon as you “care” you will have a problem dealing with the situation.

It is in your best interest to NOT respond nor react when you are being ruled by your emotions.

Take time out.  Be sure to arrange a follow up with your difficult person when you can get some perspective, when you can be calm, focused and professional.

You are emotional for a reason.  Are you being ruled by fear? What are you afraid of? If so, figure out what is at the root of that fear, and see what you can do to work around it (are you afraid you’ll lose your job, the boss won’t like you, that you’ll look stupid?). Your fear will probably not be rational. But once you can identify the fear, then you can deal with it.

Your emotions will be easier to handle when there is understanding.

So, what are you afraid of?

After the confrontation

Monday, March 28th, 2011

After the confrontation
‘Pretending’ is a valid way to begin the healing process.

When we think about a confrontation, we think about handling the situation, and we tend not to think any further than that. We assume that once we work up the nerve to confront the other person, everything will return to normal. Unfortunately, that won’t necessarily ever happen, and certainly it won’t happen immediately.

“Karen” and I had a major disagreement professionally and a confrontation to go along with it. We both got very emotional and the situation actually got to the point where mediation was required.

In the years that followed, Karen became very good at avoiding me. She stopped attending events where she knew I would be. While our disagreement was technically over, she was unable to handle the tension that followed and preferred to avoid me altogether.

I can completely relate to her approach, and in fact I have done exactly the same thing recently. I had a confrontation in my personal life that ended up in a win-lose situation. I felt that I had lost; I had not gotten what I had wanted from the situation.

This resulted in residual anger within me which caused me to avoid “John” and his wife “Jennifer” at any events we would both be attending. I backed out of events, I went the long way around rooms, and I even showed up late so I wouldn’t have to chat with them. These dodges worked well for me, and I assumed it was the best way to deal with the situation until my emotion tapered off, taking the tension along with it.

Originally, my confrontation and tension were with John. However, since most people confide in others, creating camps, he naturally confided in his wife. The tension in the relationship was no longer between John and myself; Jennifer was now part of the awkward situation.

Although this happened some time ago, it created a very high level of tension in my life for quite some time. While I practiced avoidance, John and Jennifer were downright dismissive of me. If I was unable to avoid meeting them, they would look the other way, pretend to be speaking to someone else, or look right through me as if I wasn’t there. At one point, we all descended from opposite elevators at the same time, and I felt invisible. Even though I wasn’t ready to breach our relationship gap, I pretended everything was fine and said “Hello,” hoping to start a brief, yet friendly, conversation. They didn’t acknowledge me. Not surprisingly, this caused increased tension and downright anger on my part.

Pretending
Pretence, like avoidance and dismissal, is a way of dealing with interpersonal tension. Although pretending is not easy, it is useful to get your dysfunctional conflict to a place where you can pretend that everything is fine.

That’s where I am with one of my family members. Our disagreement has existed for years. However, once or twice a year, I am in a family situation where we both pretend that we get along. We never speak of the situation that caused our initial tension. We no longer feel the need to force each other to admit she was wrong. We are polite and friendly, and although it is completely superficial, it is the right way for us to handle the tension from our previous confrontation.

Back to Karen
After several years of avoiding me, my professional colleague, Karen, finally attended an event. I didn’t want our fractured relationship to spiral downward any further. Our confrontation was over, and it was time to move on. I found Karen and asked if we could have coffee to talk about things. She agreed. It was a risky move on my part, and I don’t regret it at all. I took the high road. Enough time had passed so that I no longer wanted Karen to avoid me. I needed to pretend initially in the conversation, to at least start the talking. Fortunately, she didn’t dismiss me the way John and Jennifer had.

The next time we have coffee, I am sure we will have the requisite ‘weather’ conversation (pretending) until we can comfortably speak about what happened, agree to no longer avoid, and move on to a new level in our relationship.

Avoidance
Avoidance is procrastination. Tension will not go away if it is forever avoided. You need to get to the point where you can move to ‘pretend’ mode.

Dismissal
Dismissal is continuing to fight. There will be no winners, only scars that last a lifetime and potentially escalate to a higher level of confrontation in the future. With the dismissal I felt from John and Jennifer the tension instantly built again. While I was willing (even if not ready) to ‘pretend’ that all was well, I was angry at the disrespect I felt from them.

I’ve moved back into avoidance mode with John and Jennifer until I feel I can move into pretend mode. Until John and Jennifer are ready to do the same thing, the residual tension will continue to exist and make pretending much harder in the future. Perhaps it will never happen, but since I don’t intend to live with this tension forever, I will continue to put myself on-the-right-track by dealing with this negative emotion.

Pretending is by definition artificial, but it is a valid first step to recovery.

It is never easy to repair relationships. There are times when it isn’t necessary, because you will never encounter that person again. There are other times when you must move yourself into pretend mode as you will consistently encounter this person. Although it is uncomfortable to pretend, at least pretence, unlike avoidance or dismissal, gets you to a place where you can attempt to repair the relationship.

Manage Your Stress

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Dealing with a difficult person, having an unexpected confrontation or working every day with a bully is going to take it’s toll on you physically.  Your stress levels will soar, and it is important to manage your stress so you can manage your situation.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute:

76% of people being bullied suffer from severe anxiety
71% have their sleep disrupted
71% suffer from lack of concentration
47% suffer from post traumatic stress disorder
39% suffer from clinical depression
32% have panic attacks

Even if it isn’t a bully that you are dealing with, you can see how seriously these types of situations affect your stress.  When your stress is high, your ability to deal with the regular demands of life is compromised.  The simple things often become too much to handle.

Make 2011 the year to get on-the-right-track when dealing with your difficult person/confrontation or bully.  Take care of yourself first before you worry about dealing with the other person.

Surf the internet for stress articles, check out my office advice blog: http://on-the-right-track.com/office-advice-blog/ for ongoing articles, and search this blog for previous postings as well.

Expect to be stressed.  Anticipate it so that you can deal with it as well.

We are having a Stress Strategies & Solutions webinar at 2pm on February 1st.  To sign up for it, email Krysia@on-the-right-track.com and use the code DWDP2011 for a $10 reduction (only $89).

Email + Difficult Person = Trouble!

Monday, December 13th, 2010

“Can you read this over to make sure it sounds okay?”  We’ve done that haven’t we?  Don’t.

If there is tension in a relationship, the desire to turn to email is overwhelming.  i realize that we want a paper trail, we want to avoid our difficult person, and we want to ensure that we are not part of the problem.

The problem is email itself.  You may have written an email that sounds perfect to you, but you aren’t the other person!  If there is a way to read it the wrong way, that is pretty much what is going to happen.

The tension in your relationship is causing the person to read your email with a “tone” of voice that you potentially weren’t intending to put in the message.  They heard it anyway.  It isn’t about right or wrong, it is about perception.  Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

If you can, go over and speak to your difficult person. be prepared and stick to your “script”.  Follow up the meeting with an email summary, but don’t have the conversation on email.

If a live conversation is just too much to expect, then have the conversation over the telephone.  Worst case scenario, call their voice mail and leave the message.

Email is guaranteed to make it worse.

Putting a stop to email bullying

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Don't have confrontations on email

Bullying has been getting a lot of press lately. In a recent Zogby International study, 54 million Americans say they have been attacked by bullies at work. That is an astounding number.

The definition of bullying is activity that is unfair, humiliating, malicious, vindictive and intended to harm the victim. It is persistent, prolonged and it happens over a period of time.

What we’ve seen is a change in the way people are handling confrontation. Many people are uncomfortable with face-to-face confrontation, so email confrontation is increasing astronomically. People are clearly not uncomfortable with email confrontation.

I’ve recently seen several cases of email bullying. I’m willing to bet that the person involved in the email confrontation was not aware that she was being unfair, humiliating, potentially malicious or vindictive. I’m willing to bet that these people thought they were handing the situation clearly and in a businesslike manner.

That was not the case.

To begin with, confrontation should not be handled via email.

I realize that given the choice, it’s easier to have a confrontation via email rather than face-to-face. It gives us the opportunity to choose our words carefully, and to be very clear and unemotional. It also gives us a valuable paper trail so we don’t have to rely on “he said–she said” afterthought.

So I realize that sometimes these tense conversations are held via email. As much as I advise you not to do that, it does sometimes still happen. If so, here’s what not to do: add someone else to the conversation.

If it is a conversation between you and another person, don’t include others; don’t add anyone to the cc: field. Especially don’t add anyone to the bcc: field, (which includes others in the conversation without the receiver being aware of it). If you are having an issue with one person, don’t bring others into it without permission. That is unfair and potentially humiliating.

A client I’ve been coaching was having an email dialogue with a contractor in another time zone. Things got heated and unexpectedly, several VPs and senior directors from my client’s firm were added to the conversation. My client felt ganged up on; he felt that adding his executives to the discussion was unfair to him. It was certainly humiliating and he felt that his contractor was trying to harm his professional reputation.

That is bullying. Would the bully do this again? Potentially, as it probably worked well for him.

The bully in my example would have defended his position by saying that the senior team needed to be brought into the conversation. While that justification might be accurate, shouldn’t the other party be aware, and agree to that? The bully gave my client no choice.

Be careful you’re not bullying someone on email without being aware of it. How would you feel if the situation were reversed? Would you feel that it was unfair, humiliating, malicious, vindictive and intended to hurt you?

If you’ve ever called a co-worker over to read an email to make sure it sounds okay, don’t send it. I guarantee the tone you are hoping it is read in is not the tone that it will be read in. Pick up the phone or go speak to the individual in person, but don’t handle the conversation via email if there is another option.

And if you are being bullied via email, stop the conversation immediately. Pick up the phone. Find a way to speak to the person using any medium other than email. Take control so your bully cannot continue to bully you.

Help Me Rhonda? Where to meet?

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Help Me Rhonda!

I’m finally ready to have a confrontation with my co-worker.  I just can’t take it anymore.  Is there a best place to have this meeting?

Help Me Rhonda!

Help Me Rhonda!

Ready-But-Nervous!

Dear Ready-But-Nervous!

Congratulations and being willing to have the confrontation/conversation.  As you know, most people talk themselves out of the final discussion.

There are a few things to keep in mind when scheduling your meeting:
–    Keep it neutral.  You want to meet where you both can be comfortable (as much as the situation allows anyway).  Your office would put you in the drivers seat, and your co-worker might be intimidated.  If you are comfortable with the idea, meeting in his/her office is not bad. If your Human Resources department is involved, the best place would be to meet in their office.  Neutral is important.
o    What you don’t want to do is meet in the office of a “friend/supervisor” who is attending the meeting to support you either. First of all, should they even be there?
– Keep it private. You also don’t want to meet in a public setting where others can overhear your conversation.  If you work in cubicles, this isn’t the place to have the confrontation.  Neither is the coffee room, lunchroom or washroom.

Be sure to close the door and keep your discussion private.  Don’t forget to give them a chance to respond either!

Good luck; sounds like you are on-the-right-track to solution.

Should You Walk Away?

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Last week Bill O’Reilly paid a visit to the set of The View.  In case you haven’t seen the clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25uyFwWPOZg.

Bill had a heated discussion with the ladies and said several very inflammatory comments.  Now lets be clear here, Bill O’Reilly enjoys pushing buttons and was probably well aware that his comments were inappropriate, but any publicity is good publicity for a guy like Bill right?

The View

The View

Both Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar stormed off the set.  They were unable to have an adult, logical discussion with Bill and were very upset by his comments.
Once they left Barbara Walters announced that we should be able to have discussions without washing our hands and walking away.

I completely disagree.

When you are dealing with a difficult person (as Bill O’Reillly was for Whoopie and Joy), and they are not willing to have an adult, logical discussion; why should you stay and keep trying?  Will anything be accomplished?

The ladies were emotional, upset and an adult, fair, logical discussion was not going to happen.  Walking away was smart on their part.

It would have been easy to say something that they would regret.  It would have been easy to call him an unprofessional name.  It would have been easy for them to destroy their own credibility.

It was smart to walk away in this situation.

I agree with Barbara that we “should” be able to have discussions without walking away in theory.  In reality, sometimes walking away is the smartest thing you can do.

Know when to have a discussion, and know when to walk away.

Dealing with Difficult People Fan Page

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Hi,

I just thought I’d send you a quick note to let you know that I’ve just set up a Facebook Fan Page.

And obviously I think you should join.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself why should I join a “Fan Page,” when I’m already buried in Farmville requests?

Well quite simply, Fan Page is not my term. If I had to choose a better one, it would be “Get Useful Information Via Facebook Page.”

Well maybe not that exact phrase – but you get the point.

So here are the benefits to you:

All my informational outlets (blogs, Twitter, Linkedin and newsletters) are automatically routed to Facebook. So whenever something changes or gets updated, you’ll see that change or update in your news feed when you next log in. You’ll also be able to share it with others or comment directly.

It’s really about bringing everything together in a place where most people already have an account, so that you can get valuable insights and information when it is most convenient to you.

So take a second and “Like” me at this link:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dealing-With-Difficult-People/166627780016958

What NOT to say during Confrontation!

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Don’t say it!

I was volunteering at water station a marathon recently.  The station was held on a residential street, so the street was closed off, all traffic diverted and the residents were asked to have their cars off the street no later than 8am.

Don't Swear!

Don't Swear!

At 8:15am a man walked out his front door.  One of other volunteers asked him if the vehicle still on the street was his and could he please remove it.

Clearly this guy was not a morning guy, nor was he in support of the marathon.  He was rude, abusive and stubborn and was not going to be moving his vehicle.

As he went back into the house, one of the volunteers shouted at him “A—hole!”

So wrong!

Regardless of the situation, regardless of who is right or wrong; do not resort to name-calling or profanity.

This is guaranteed to put the situation or relationship at a new level of tension.

I’m pretty sure that several of the volunteers that morning were thinking that exact thought, but that doesn’t make it OK to voice the thought.

Name-calling is never the right answer.  Bite your tongue.  Every time.

Our next webinar is on October 12th on Confrontation Skills

Click here for more information.

Only $99 per dial in line (unlimited attendance)

60 day recording to listen and share with others

To Register:  Email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.  She will send you the dial in information and password along with an invoice.

Silence can be golden

Friday, September 17th, 2010

When someone pushes your buttons, the best thing you can do is let their verbal attack hang in the air.  Say  nothing.  This doesn’t mean that you’ll ignore it forever.  It means that for now, the conversation is over.  You’ll continue the conversation later, when you are calmer and so are they.  Take a look at the confrontation between co-workers Mike and Steve:

Mike:  Steve, that isn’t the correct way to do that.  Here, let me show you how.

Steve:  I’m not listening to you.  You’re an idiot.  I can’t believe they haven’t fired you yet.  You’re constantly messing up and I don’t want your advice!

Mike: (holds extended, silent eye contact with Steve), says nothing, and walks away.

The attack seems to be uncalled for.  Clearly they have challenges together, and clearly Steve is completely out of line.  What will happen if Mike fights back?  More fighting.  Professionally (and personally) a very volatile and dangerous situation will occur.  Picking your battles is a sign of strength.  The next day Mike can approach Steve about this conversation, but now is not the time.

Take the high road in situations such as this one. It will save you from saying something you’ll regret.

Our next webinar on Dealing with Difficult People is Thursday, September 23rd at 2:00pm EDT.

To register, email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

Only $99 per dial in line – and comes complete with 30 days of free coaching!

What is a bully?

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Dear Rhonda:  I’m working with someone I think is a bully.  She is mean (like in the movie Mean Girls), she makes fun of me in front of others, and I feel like crying when she comes my way.  My co-workers tell me it is just a personality clash, but I think it is worse.  What is the difference?

Signed, “Back to Grade Three

Dear “Back to Grade Three

There is a difference between a personality clash and a bully, and it is important to look objectively at the situation to ensure it really is a bully you are dealing with.  Your approach to a bully requires a little more strategy than a simple confrontation.

Statistically 62% of employers ignore signs and complaints of bullying, stating they are personality issues and they don’t want  to get involved (Zogby study).  That number is far too high, so it is important that before you complain to HR or management, that you’ve done your homework as well.  If you are really dealing with a bully, lets be sure we do what we need to do so our company cannot dismiss it.

Personality clashes are communication style differences.  One person will be very direct, one will be passive.  One person is comfortable with confrontation, one is not.  One person likes attention, and one does not.  Personality differences are often frustrating, but they do not fall into the definition of bullying.  It is perfectly normal to have confrontations based on personality differences, and normally the company doesn’t need to get involved. The company does need to get involved with a bully.

A bully is:

What is a bully?

What is a bully?

–       unfair, humiliating, malicious and vindictive

–       someone who intends to harm the victim

–       is persistent, prolonged and happens over a period of time (and escalates)

–       will likely challenge your physical or mental health, safety and well-being

–       has the power to bully, whether that is real, perceived or sanctioned

Clearly it is more than just being different. The intent to harm is the major difference from my perspective.  What does the bully get from bullying you?  What is their payoff?  Are they trying to cause you harm (professionally, emotionally, or even physically)?  Why?

ON THE RIGHT TRACK has recently developed a brand new webinar that will help anyone in your situation deal with the bully at work:

Beat the Bully!  Keep ON THE RIGHT TRACK with strategies to deal with bullying in the workplace. December 9, 2010.  Only $99 per dial in line.  Stay tuned for more details!

To Register: email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register me for Beat the Bully”.  She will send you the webinar details, executive overview and invoice to you at that time.

For More Information, or to bring the workshop to you company:  Call toll free at 1877-213-8608 or email Rhonda@on-the-right-track.com for more information.

Emotions & Anger – Bad Combination!

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Anger and emotional situations are not a good combination.

When your emotions are high, your ability to think straight, your ability to follow a plan of action is in danger.

Recently I was in a personal situation where emotions were high. A difficult person in my life was sitting at the table, and she was unable to keep her emotions in check.  She lashed out in anger at me.  It was hurtful, uncalled for and surprised me.  It also instantly made me angry.

I wanted to deal with the situation right then and there. I wanted to be calm, I wanted to be able to say the right thing, and I wanted to hurt her back.

I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do all those things and feel good about it.

I said nothing in response.  I knew enough to keep quiet.  I knew that even if I did figure out the perfect thing to say, that Elizabeth wouldn’t have heard it, it wouldn’t have changed anything, and I might have completely regretted saying what I said.

When emotions are high, take 24 hours to respond.  Take the high road, which is incidentally not very busy.  In those 24 hours it gives you both a chance to cool down, to follow your strategy and to make sure that when you do respond you can feel good about what you do say.  If there are going to be regrets about what was said, it won’t be you.

Just because your difficult person isn’t playing by the rules doesn’t mean we need to stoop to that level too.

You know what they say about fighting pigs? Don’t do it – you both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.

Can you keep your mouth shut?

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
Christopher

Christopher

Some times the best thing to do is just keep your mouth shut, not to fight back and to take the high road.

Christopher is my 18-year-old son, and he has been working his past four summers at a local golf course. He knows what he is doing, has been doing it well (and training others), and the management at the golf course values Christopher.

Two weeks ago, Sam, an “older” gentleman was hired as a favour to the owner.  When I say older, I mean he is in his 60s.  To Christopher, this is the age of his grandfather and certainly someone worth respecting.

Chris was assigned the task of training Sam.  Unfortunately, Sam immediately tried to make changes; tell Chris that he was doing his job wrong, and basically cause quite a bit of tension in what should be a relaxing work environment.  Sam was very verbal, very negative and not at all respectful to his coworkers.  He felt that as the older person in the workplace, he knew better than the young kids he was working with.

Christopher has been keeping his mouth shut (which is hard for my 18-year-old outspoken son) while Sam has been complaining about Chris to everyone.  I’ve been coaching him to not say anything he will regret, and to take the high road.

Yesterday it all paid off for him.  Sam was blasting Chris in a public area (in front of other staff and customers) just when the wife of the owner walked in.  Needless to say, things are different at work today.

I would have been easy for Chris to give as good as Sam did. It certainly would have felt better.  It might have taken years instead of weeks for Sam’s true colours to show (if at all).  It may have caused Christopher a lot of stress in the interim.

It was still the right thing to do.  Chris can think of what he would have liked to say, but he doesn’t have to regret what he did say.  The other staff could see what Sam was doing, and Chris didn’t need to fight back in front of them.  He looks far more professional than the man three times his age.

Sam will be taken care of.  Christopher has no worries on his job.

Take the high road – do the right thing (even if it is difficult).  Plan your strategy, follow your plan, and be proud of your actions when dealing with your

difficult person.

If you need help with your ability to handle confrontations, then perhaps you should check out our upcoming webinar on Confrontation Skills.

Register with Caroline@on-the-right-track.com today!

Are you breathing?

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Many times we respond (or react) far too quickly when it comes to our Difficult Person.  The tension is high, it has become personal, and even though we often know better, we are quick to respond to a situation.

The next time you are dealing with difficult people, remind yourself to breathe!  Before you say anything, before you do anything, before you continue, take a deep cleansing breath.

It might not completely protect you from responding the wrong way, but it will buy you those precious few seconds where you can remember to bite your tongue, or follow your strategic action plan (and just might save you from saying something you will regret).

Our next webinar on Dealing with Difficult People will be on Tuesday June 15 2010 at 2pm EDT.  For only $99 (per dial in line) you can get an entire hour filled with strategy, tips, solutions and 30 days of free coaching to help keep you on-the-right-track!

To register, email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line, or complete the registration form on this site.

Are you venting or solution oriented?

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Many times we are more focused on the “Confrontation” than we are the solution.  Do you mistake a confrontation for a vent session?  Do you go into your confrontation (or conversation) with a solution in mind, or are you just trying to vent with your difficult person?

Lets assume the issue is your coworker who is constantly asking you to “cover” for them while they are away from the office.  You’ve done this in the past, but are now uncomfortable with this arrangement and want it to stop. You’ve spoke to your coworker before and told her that you don’t want to continue.  She says OK, but is still disappearing, leaving you to make up excuses or explanations.

You’ve had enough and won’t cover for her anymore as she has pushed you one time to many.  When you approach her to discuss the situation, are you planning on venting on how unprofessional, how unfair she is being to you?  Do you want to explain all the reasons that you shouldn’t be covering for her?  Are you focused on any solution at all?

Instead of venting (although I realize you want to do this), stay focused on the solution – or end result you want.  Tell her that you are uncomfortable (explanation and venting are two different things), and that in the future you will not make excuses, you will simply say you  have no idea where your coworker is.

The solution is where you should be focused, not the venting.  The venting will create more tension, more frustration and no solution.

Keep focused – it will be worth it!

Our next webinar is June 15th on Dealing with Difficult People.

Unlimited attendance (per line) for only $99, and it comes with 30 days of free coaching.

Register on this site, or email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

Words are permanent

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Words are dangerous.  Words hurt.  Words can leave scars.  Be very careful what you say when dealing with your difficult person.

It is easy to lash back. It is easy to say things that are meant to hurt in the middle of a confrontation, whether it is intentional or not.  When someone pushes our buttons we often strike back verbally without realizing the dangers of pushing back.  It is so tempting to want to hurt the other person the same way they are hurting us.

Don’t.

The best thing you can do is to let a verbal attack hang in the air.  Say nothing at the time.  This doesn’t mean that you’ll ignore it forever.  It means that for now, the conversation is over.

You’ll continue the confrontation/conversation at a later date.  At a date when you are calmer and so are they.

Have a look at a confrontation between co-workers Mike and Steve:

Mike:  Steve, that isn’t the correct way to do that.  Here, let me show you how.

Steve:  I’m not listening to you. You’re an idiot. I can’t believe they haven’t fired you yet.  You’re so stupid and constantly messing up, there is no way I want your advice!

Mike: (Holds extended “silent” eye contact with Steve), says nothing, and walks away.

Can you imagine if you were Mike?  The attack seemed to be uncalled for.  Clearly they have challenges together, and clearly Steve is completely out of line.  What will happen if Mike fights back?  More fighting.  Professionally (and personally) a very volatile and dangerous situation will occur.

Picking your battles is a sign of strength.  The next day Mike can approach Steve about this conversation, but now is not the time.

Try it. It will save you from saying something you regret. Take the high road in situations such as this one.

You need to calm down!

Monday, April 12th, 2010
Calm Down

Calm Down

Doesn’t it drive you around the bend when someone tells you to calm down? That is about the worst thing you could possibly say to a person who has lost their cool. So don’t say it.  Ever.

I can appreciate that sometimes people get out of hand. I can appreciate that in order for us to proceed they are going to need to calm down.  However, telling them to calm down is like throwing grease on the fire – it will just cause a big blow up.

Instead of telling the other person to calm down, perhaps we need to say “I need to take a breather before we continue.  Perhaps we could continue this conversation in 45 minutes.”

I realize that when you are dealing with a client that option is not always available and you must deal with the situation immediately. Continue to speak calmly and with extra care – but don’t tell the other person to calm down!

Keep your own cool, and remind yourself to calm down – but don’t give that advice to an angry and difficult person. It will make matters much worse.  Breathe deeply …. But bite your tongue!

Our next webinar on Confrontation Skills will be May 25th at 2:00pm EDT.  To register, email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.  Only $99 for unlimited attendance (per line) complete with 30 days of free coaching.  You can’t beat that value!

Your buttons

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Do you know where your buttons are?

You need to know what makes you jump.  You need to know what makes you react unprofessionally, and then you need to know how to keep your cool when one of those buttons are pushed.

I tested myself this weekend with my teenaged daughter.   For those of you who have teenagers, I’m sure you’ll agree that at times they absolutely fall into the “difficult people” category.

Victoria tried several times on Sunday to push my buttons.  She wanted to fight, and was getting very frustrated when I did not react the way she wanted me to.

That in itself was worth it.  She did however, manage to get under my skin, and I too, was frustrated.  I just didn’t give the reaction I normally give.  I did respond though.

A response is the thought-out version of a reaction.  I responded, meaning I didn’t ignore her; I didn’t let her get what she wanted (a fight).  I kept my cool, held firm, but didn’t allow her to push my buttons.

That felt nice for me.

That frustrated her.

That felt nice for me!

It isn’t about winning and losing, but it is about doing the right thing at the right time with your difficult person. I did the right thing by not letting Victoria push my buttons.  Can you do that today?

What can we learn from Conan and NBC?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

obrien-cp-getty-94025389It seems that hardly a day goes by without some type of news about all that is going on with The Tonight Show on NBC.  It amazes me that these are professionals who should know better, but they continue to make some very simple mistakes that come with a lot of consequence.

They both need to learn to SHUT UP!  When you have an argument with someone in your workplace, the worst thing you can do is tell everyone else what happened, who said what, who did what etc.

This seems to be the pattern for both Conan and NBC.  Both are thinking they are getting good press for what they are saying in the public.

Both are wrong.  Sadly, they both look juvenile, and I will have a hard time supporting either in the future.

Learn from the mistakes of others.  When something is going wrong, keep your mouth shut. If you need to discuss what is going on, be very careful about who you chat with (they likely will chat with someone else), and what you say.  Take your frustrations to your family, or someone in HR, but not to a coworker, or coworkers!

If either of them had taken the high road, I would have supported them.  In the workplace, I don’t need to take sides, but it would be hard to support someone who was so obviously childish and unprofessional.

Take my advice and keep the information out of the workplace setting.  You will make the situation far worse. I would rather regret that I didn’t say anything than regret telling everyone everything.

Avoidance

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Morgan is putting in our pool in our Florida vacation home.  He is a great guy, fun to chat with, does fantastic work, but he is very difficult to deal with because he is an avoider.

Morgan hates conflict, so he tells you what he thinks you want to hear, which isn’t always the truth.

Avoider

We’ve been having a major problem with final delivery date of the pool.  It was due weeks ago, and the pool is still not done.  Morgan won’t tell us exactly why (although we clearly see that his time management is the issue); instead he avoids the question.  When asked when we can see a completed pool, he will give me a date (like, “next Tuesday”), but when Tuesday arrives, he says, “Well, maybe Thursday.”

Avoider

He avoids saying the truth because he knows that I will be upset.  He avoids facing the issue because he is uncomfortable with confrontation.  He does everything he can to keep the waters calm, to keep me happy and to avoid talking about the why it is late and when it will be ready.

Initially it was very difficult to get angry with him because he was such a nice guy.  After missing the deadline by weeks, it was easier to be angry.

He doesn’t return phone calls.  He doesn’t tell the truth.  He doesn’t want to deal with the situation, which makes him a very difficult person in my eyes.

Is his behaviour intentional?  Partially.  I think he is deliberately not returning my calls because he doesn’t want to discuss the fact the pool is still not done.  When we see him in person, he changes the subject, dances around the issue, and avoids commitment.  Is that deliberate or innocent?  A bit of both.  He has “learned” to avoid conflict and he does it without realizing he is doing it.

The bad news is that there is no easy fix. I can’t force him to tell me the truth or return my phone calls.  What I can do is be very clear on what I want, without making it seem too confrontational.  I can call him every day, or every hour until he finally returns my call.  I can ask him to promise me it will be done.

But I can’t always win.  I can’t always get the truth, and I’m still not getting my pool delivered on time.

I can choose to never work with him again once the pool is finished though.  In a workplace, that isn’t so easy.  The best you can do is be aware you are dealing with an avoider, and be very clear on expectations.  You’ll still suffer from frustration, and they will still avoid uncomfortable situations and commitments.

Not everything that is faced can be easily changed, but by not facing an issue is guaranteeing that it won’t change.  Better to do something than nothing at all.

Taming your emotions

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Emotions

Lets face it, at this time of the year; emotions are closer to the surface.  It is easier to get upset, angry and much easier to lash out when we are operating from the heart and not the head.

Regardless, take your emotions out of the equation. Write down your issue on paper so you can see it in black and white.  Take away the word “feel” from the description of what is happening.  Think black and white and logical and stay away from emotional.  Try to imagine yourself giving advice to a friend instead of giving advice to yourself.

If you operate from a position of emotion, you run the risk of saying and doing the wrong thing.

Step back, take a deep breath, and look at the black and white.  This will allow you to say ON THE RIGHT TRACK with your difficult person this week.

Dealing with Negativity

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

I am nonegativityt a negative person by nature and find that negativity seems to knock the wind out of my sails.

There are several approaches to dealing with negativity, and while none of them are easy, they are simple to do without compromising your credibility at work.

I’ll share my favourite approach today.  Try to do this for the next 30 days.  It won’t be easy.

Turn every negative statement they say into a positive one.

Them: “It’s too cold outside”
You: “I love my sweater and I can’t wear it in the summer.  The cold allows me to wear it and I like that”

Them: “This company takes advantage of us all the time”
You: “I’m glad I have a job”

Them: “Bob the Boss is such a jerk don’t you think?”
You: “I’ve heard horror stories, so put into perspective,  I can deal with Bob”

You don’t actually have to believe what you are saying; you just have to say the positive version of what your difficult person is saying.  You may think that Bob the Boss is a jerk too, but if you agree with their negativity, you are actually encouraging them to be negative more often.

You must be 100% consistent with this approach though.  Always take their negativity and make it positive.  This will exhaust you. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.

This won’t make them a positive person.  It just makes them take their negativity elsewhere.

That’s OK with me :-)

Are you dealing with an “Avoider:

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I’m dealing with an avoider. I find it very frustrating.

An avoider is someone who hates confrontation. She would rather a situation sit and fester, than have to sit down and handle the issue with you directly.

In fairness, many of us probably prefer to avoid rather than have a confrontation. I mean, who really likes confrontation? Not me, that’s for sure. However, it is important to deal with some issues instead of avoiding them and having them potentially blow completely out of proportion.

When an issue occurs, you have 24 hours to start to deal with it. It might mean that you say to the other person that you want to talk about it, and you might even arrange a meeting, but you must do something within the first 24 hours to show that you’re willing to deal with the issue.

I called Mary and outlined the situation. I was careful to use “I” language instead of “you” language (so that I didn’t put her on the defensive), I was very aware of my tone of voice and I was well prepared to say what I wanted to say.

When I called Mary, I got her voice mail. My message was concise and outlined what the situation was. I avoided placing blame. I told her I was wanting to speak to her directly so we could reach a mutually acceptable solution. I was professional, clear and upbeat. I asked her to call me back at her convenience.

She sent an email to our office manager, Caroline (thereby avoiding me altogether) asking to be removed from our distribution list and saying that she wanted to avoid further contact with our office.

Not exactly the nice friendly, professional way in which I was hoping we could deal with our misunderstanding.

I called her again and left another voice mail asking if we could talk about things, as I wanted to circumvent any hard feelings. In my voice mail I did mention that I would follow up my call with an email with my proposed solution.

I hate dealing with sensitive issues via email. Email should be used as a confirmation tool, rather than a confrontation tool.

Long story short, I have had no direct contact whatsoever with Mary. She has only responded to Caroline via email, refusing to discuss anything with her or me.

I did everything I could do to deal with the situation professionally, but she has been unwilling to co-operate.

Sometimes you will meet people who are not as professional or courteous—or courageous—as you are. Sometimes you will have to deal with sensitive situations in a manner that makes you uncomfortable.

Remember to always take the high road. I regret nothing that I did in the encounter with Mary. I do regret that her need to avoid discussing the situation meant that there would be residual hard feelings.

When dealing with confrontation here are my simple rules:

–            use “I” language, instead of “you” language;

–            avoid blame, and focus on resolving the situation;

–            be prepared so you are not reacting to the situation, but rather are responding to it;

–            take the professional path (the high road), even in personal confrontations; and

–            know when to walk away.

I’m sorry that a simple misunderstanding has now become a major issue. I have learned that even the “right” approach doesn’t always work, and that you need to be flexible when dealing with confrontation.

I wonder what Mary learned from our encounter.

——

Join us for our next webinar on December 10th for Dealing with Difficult People.

Only $99 unlimited attendance (per dial in line)
2:00pm EST (New York/Toronto time zone) – lasts 60 minutes
30 day no charge coaching for all participants
Executive Overview delivered to all participants.
Recording of session to use at a later date (think of a lunch-and-learn for your team!)

Contact Caroline@on-the-right-track.com about reserving TODAY!

Sometimes NOT giving in is right!

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

The guy who cuts our grass is someone I would easily call a difficult person.  He is strongly opinionated.  He is right and anyone who even considers a different opinion is not only wrong, they are stupid.

That type of person is infuriating.  I sometimes feel it is my responsibility to get them to at least acknowledge a different point of view.  This is not smart on my part :-)

I listened to Alan yesterday.  Actually, I heard what he said, but I refused to be baited by his urge to get into a political discussion with me.  I wanted to get into this conversation; I wanted to get him to listen to what I had to say; I wanted him to see a potentially different, and not necessarily wrong, viewpoint.

I didn’t though, which was completely the right thing to do. I smiled and didn’t say too much. I refused to get baited, I refused to fight back.  Fighting is exactly what Alan wanted me to do.  He wanted to prove how smart he was.  By refusing to argue, I didn’t give him what he wanted.  He was well aware that I didn’t agree with him, but I wouldn’t rise to the bait.

He left the discussion a little frustrated, and I left it incredibly proud of me.

That is hard to do day in and day out when you work with your difficult person.  It is hard not to get baited, it is hard not to give your difficult person the response they are looking for.  Don’t give in to this style of difficult person.  Even if every second time you meet with them that you can hold yourself back it will be worth it.

I was proud of myself for not getting into a no-win argument. I was equally pleased that I had frustrated Alan.  Mature?  Maybe not.  The right thing to do?  Absolutely!

Take a step back

Monday, October 19th, 2009

There is always another perspective, always another way to look at things, always two sides to every story.

Force yourself to try to see the opposite point of view, even if it sounds ridiculous to you.

Whenever Warren, my husband, and I are driving and he starts to complain about the other drivers, I make a point to find some crazy, often silly, viewpoint which would explain why the other person was driving that way.

As much as it drives Warren crazy, it does get my point across, and sometimes calms the situation a bit.

Your difficult person still may be difficult, but taking the time to find another viewpoint is worth your time.  Sometimes it defuses your tension and sometimes it provides a moment of clarity, but taking a step back is always a good idea.

Keep ON THE RIGHT TRACK to dealing with your difficult person this week.

Our next webinar is scheduled for November 10th 2009.  Confrontation Skills is at 2:00pm EST (New York/Toronto time zone), and will last for one hour.  For only $99 you can get learn to confront someone while maintaining your control, confidence and composure.

To register, email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Register Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.  She will send you all the information you need for your office to join our webinar.

Try the “Broken Record” Technique

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

It’s OK to say to your difficult person “This isn’t a good time for me to finish this discussion” instead of getting into a confrontation that you aren’t prepared for.

When you are being railroaded into a confrontation to discuss and issue “here and now” you do not have to agree to their terms. You aren’t being difficult back, you are just taking some control over the circumstances.

Practice the “broken record” technique.

Calmly say “This isn’t a good time for me to finish this discussion” and refuse to baited into having the discussion now – especially when it isn’t a good time for you.

The best part of the broken record technique is that you don’t run out of things to say. You calmly repeat the same thing over and over again. Find a time to continue the discussion that works for both of you.

Good luck, and keep on-the-right-track this week!

Our next webinar in November 10th on Confrontation Skills.

Email Caroline@on-the-right-track.com with “Reserve me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line today.

1 hour to satisfaction for only $99 (unlimited attendance per line)

A lesson from Serena Williams – keep your cool!

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Serena Williams lost it at the US Open last weekend. Her temper got the best of her and she reacted emotionally, inappropriately and unprofessionally.

What gets lost in the story is the calmness with which the line judge held herself.

Had the line judge yelled and threatened back to Williams, then we would have all jumped to Williams’ defense.

How people feel about footfaults being called during high-level matches would be irrelevant if the line judge had fought back. She didn’t, which was the perfect response.  And that response put all the fault on Williams who, alone, will pay for her outburst. (Williams was fined $10,000, the maximum penalty allowed for unsportsmanlike conduct in tennis, not to mention the loss of an important match and the untold damage to her reputation.)

After being called on a footfault during her serve, Williams walked over to the line judge, making a threatening gesture with her racquet and reportedly told her, “If I could, I would take this ****  ball and shove it down your **** throat.”  It is also alleged she threatened to kill the line judge, although Williams vehemently denies it.

Read more and watch a six-minute video of the confrontation at http://tinyurl.com/m2p8ka

If you were the line judge, could you have kept your cool in that situation? Could you have received those comments without fighting back?

It is important to remember that when one person loses it, the other should do the complete opposite, and remain very calm.

Do not interrupt the other person. Imagine if the line judge had angrily responded, ‘Are you threatening me?’ Even though I know that type of retort would have been wrong, I can imagine myself responding that way.

An angry response would have escalated the argument to much higher levels and Williams could have charged that she had been provoked.

Let the other person have her tirade; let her finish. If appropriate, call a time-out by saying something along the lines of, ‘This is not a good time to finish this conversation. Let’s meet again this afternoon’ – then walk away. Do not continue the conversation when tempers are flaring.

The line judge didn’t respond to Williams, but instead quickly got the referee involved.  The line judge kept her cool, even though she felt physically threatened, believing that Williams was threatening her life. That is the calm, cool exterior we want to achieve when we are in a confrontation.

A lot can be learned from this episode. Williams should have done things differently, and I’m certainly hoping she regrets her inability to control her temper.

Learn from the line judge, the referee and even Williams, so you can avoid being the front page news story at your office.

What are your triggers?

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I admit it; condescension is one of my triggers.  I know that as soon as I “hear” condescension in someone else’s voice, I trigger a response.  That response is typically negative, potentially confrontational, and often unprofessional.

Our difficult people know where our triggers are, and you can be sure that they enjoy pushing them just to get a reaction from us.

Take this week to recognize what pushes your buttons, and what causes a negative reaction from you.  The more you are aware that these are potential danger spots, the more likely you are to avoid reacting negatively when they are pushed.

Pay close attention to your difficult person.  Where are your triggers with them?

The more in control you are, the easier it is to deal with your difficult person.

Wednesday July 29, 2009 at 2pm EST is our next teleseminar on Dealing with Difficult People.  Only $99 for unlimited attendance per line.

Find more details at: www.DealingWithDifficultPeople.org

To register email:  Rhonda@on-the-right-track.com with “Reserve Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.


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