Posts Tagged ‘negative coworkers’

Five Conflict Management Strategies

Friday, August 4th, 2017

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Kenneth Kaye once said, “Conflict is neither good nor bad. Properly managed, it is absolutely vital.”

Highly effective leaders identify, understand and develop swift and smart resolutions to workplace conflicts, most of which demand some level of confrontation. Yet I’ve found many coaching clients dread confrontation, shifting the focus toward diversionary topics or simply turning a blind eye to avoid tough conversations. But running from conflict will not serve anyone well. Ultimately, the elephant in the room only grows or becomes much more unwieldy.

The implications of shunning confrontation range from a breakdown of communication and damaged relationships to lowered organizational productivity and morale. Here are some questions to consider when evaluating your ability to effectively confront employees during times of conflict. Be sure to write down your answers:

• On a scale of 1-5, how comfortable are you with having tough conversations?

• What is your go-to method for handling conflict with employees? E-mail, phone, face-to-face or other?

• Is it hard for you to manage your emotions effectively when talking about a challenging or fear-inducing situation?

• How do you create an open dialogue with your team, regardless of difficult circumstances?

• How do you exhibit poise and self-control in the presence of confrontations?

• How comfortable are you with giving what might be perceived as negative feedback?

If your answers to the above are less than appealing, the following tips can guide you to build a healthy workplace culture that faces confrontation at the right time with courage and confidence:

1. Identify the opportunity. Shift the lens through which you view conflict. By adopting a positive outlook on confrontation, you’ll discover that every conflict is a new opportunity for both the other party and you to grow, develop and learn. After all, if you have tended to avoid conflict, the underlying topics and details are likely things that you have rarely, if ever, discussed, representing growth opportunities and innovative approaches you have yet to uncover.

2. Build a culture that encourages giving and receiving feedback. Ask your team for their frequent, healthy feedback, and you will begin to show boldness and encourage transparency through your example. Allowing unpleasant truths to trickle out gradually fosters a sense of camaraderie and understanding within your organization, in turn reducing the risk of future conflict. What’s more, creating honest dialogue lets your employees know their opinions are valued, raising their level of engagement. Finally, when confrontations do arise, they will feel far more inclined to receive your concerns with an open mind and an appreciation of your opinion instead of reflexively thinking the sky is falling.

3. Be proactive, but resist jumping to conclusions. Prevent problematic behavior from escalating beyond repair by taking swift action, but do not jump to conclusions before reaching a full understanding of the situation. Assume positive intent to immediately activate a spirit that diffuses the situation. Another way to be proactive is to measure your words to avoid being the source of conflict in the first place. Saying, “I need to see you in my office at 3 p.m.” has the potential to spiral reactions that “Can we prioritize the risks on your project in my office at 3 p.m.?” would otherwise sidestep.

4. Do not use e-mail for conflict. If e-mail is your go-to to manage conflict, it is time to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations. Let your level of fear be your compass. The more emotion you are feeling, the more the situation is likely to be faced in person. If you don’t, you are subjecting yourself to the gravitational forces that pull these types of situations southward. Effective conflict management will require real-time awareness of the facts and your undivided attention.

5. Engage productively using storytelling. Before any confrontation, consider that the other person may be right from the beginning and question your own opinion. When you do present your concerns, start with storytelling if you can, rather than headlining with any abrupt, premature summaries of your stance on the matter(s) at hand. We experience our lives through stories, which are entertaining and engaging. Make your case and then create space for the other person to process and respond to you, and truly listen to them.

Using Humor To Alleviate The Burden Of Confrontation

Here’s an example conflict of a peer ignoring your emails or requests. Say you have an eight-year-old named Janet.

You: “You know, it’s hilarious that lately when I call Janet in the other room, I can holler four or five times, and no answer.”

Peer: “You, too, huh? Yeah, no one is exempt.”

You: “But if I yell something like ‘Hey, it’s time for ice cream!’ she’ll break furniture and run over the dog to get to me.”

Peer: (laughing) “As I said, no one is exempt.”

You: “I think I’m going to start sending you e-mails about ice cream.”

Now it’s all in the delivery, and every relationship requires its own special touch, but humor and storytelling, like in the example above, are much more effective than just sending an instant message or e-mail. Wouldn’t that be ironic saying, “Why don’t you answer any of my e-mails?”

By being fully accountable to the demands of leadership, and committing yourself to the above steps, almost every confrontation you have can be redirected toward a productive outcome. Those former self-doubts and insecurities that hindered your ability to face conflict will be replaced with confident, courageous resolve and an understanding of the healthy dynamics that can move your business forward faster than you ever thought possible.


Article by, Laura Berger
Laura Berger is principal at the Berdeo Group

10 More Tips for Effective Conflict Resolution

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

We all experience conflict; whether we choose to master it or let it master us determines our destiny. Due to the popularity of my blog “10 Tips for Effective Conflict Resolution,” I decided to make a YouTube video and also provide you with 10 MORE tips to work through conflict:

1) Don’t react. While this is not easy to do because we are biologically primed to fight or flee, sometimes not reacting is incredibly effective. It takes two to play tug-of-war, and if you refuse to engage, there is no game to be played. An intentional pause serves as a mirror for the antagonizer, as their aggressive words reverberate in the silence and seem to hang in the air, hopefully inspiring reflection and awareness. If you refuse to sink to the same level, you can be the bigger person and anchor the conflict in a more civil place before it spirals downward. This requires strength, patience, groundedness and detachment from ego (for it is the ego that gets hooked during conflict and feels compelled to fight until proven the victor). Pause, count to 10, breathe deeply and see what happens from there.

2) Respond from a place of sadness, rather than anger. When we are angry, it is to protect our feelings of sadness. When we speak from our anger, we can scare people, make them defensive, and can negatively impact our relationships. When we speak from our hurt, we are sharing from a deeper and more vulnerable place of truth, and are not as threatening to others. If we teach others how to care for our wounds, rather than biting them back, we can expedite the healing process.

3) Do not triangulate. Triangulation is when you don’t speak directly to the person with whom you are having a conflict and involve somebody else. For example, speaking to your mother-in-law about your agitation at your wife. Or, throwing your BFF under the bus when you are mad at your boyfriend by saying she thinks he is a selfish ass as well. While it is very tempting to vent to others or to use them as allies, none of this is useful. Triangulation is counterproductive as it causes additional relational strain with others and takes the focus away from the primary issue at hand. Furthermore, it simply isn’t cool.

4) Understand conflict is neither bad, wrong nor a sign of failure. We are human: We all regress and act like babies sometime. Cut yourself some slack, don’t be afraid of your mistakes, make amends and forgive yourself and others. Chalk it up to growth and learning and forge ahead.

5) Before speaking, ask yourself, “Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?”
Take some advice from Shirdi Sai Baba and ask yourself these three questions before tossing verbal (or written) grenades. If the answer to even one of these questions is no, bite your lip and choose words that meet all of these criteria. The conflict will diffuse and your relationship will deepen.

6) Be specific about what you need. Sometimes we want people to magically know what we need in order to feel better. This is normal, yet irrational. Speed things along by being direct and specific for what you need (i.e. “I need for you to say you are sorry for calling me that name” or “I need for you to give me the rest of the weekend alone to reflect” or “I need for you to hold me and stop trying to make it better with words.”).

7) Be willing to let go and “reboot.”
My colleague Ross Rosenberg recommends a mental rebooting when at the point of stalemate in conflict resolution. This involves letting go of any mental energy that is keeping you fixated on the conflict. In a moment of quiet reflection, imagine you are dropping your sword and hitting the “refresh” button on your psychological browser, and revisit your relationship with renewed perspective and energy.

8) Be grateful for the wisdom the conflict brought you. Conflict can be emotionally exhausting and it is easy to be annoyed that it even took place. Look at the good part by reflecting on any lessons that could be learned about yourself, the other party, the relationship, or life in general. Give thanks for this wisdom so that the universe knows you have sufficiently learned this lesson and it isn’t presented for you again!

9) Enjoy the intimacy in making up and reconnecting. Conflict is like fire: While it can be destructive if left untended, it can promote warmth and heat if managed effectively. Resolving conflict promotes intimacy (the term, “make-up sex” didn’t come from nowhere…) Also, there is great reassurance knowing that loved ones can “stand a little shaky ground” and has “got the guts to stick around” (thank you, Bonnie Raitt).

10) Understand nobody is perfect and learning effective conflict resolution is a life-long process. Working on conflict resolution is an indication of maturity, integrity and character. We are all works in progress. Commit to these conflict resolution strategies in order to improve your relationships and become your best self.


Article by,


Joyce Marter
Psychotherapist
Follow Joyce Marter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Joyce_Marter

Top 10 ways to manage conflict in a business

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

When conflict arises in the workplace—as it inevitably does—many smaller organizations and family enterprises are not prepared to handle it. It takes some careful crafting of policies, as well as genuine self-reflection, to get the team back on track. These tips will get you started.

1. Understand and evaluate people’s emotional responses When employees have strong emotional reactions to a workplace dispute, their whole internal defence mechanism may resort to a fight or flight reaction, and their ability to think and reason will typically take second place. The best strategy is to communicate with those involved after the anger and upset has dissipated. Arguing with someone who is emotionally triggered usually leads nowhere.

2. Be self-aware Are you a conflict avoider or an aggressive leader? Be aware of who you are, how you deal with conflict, and the significant impact you are having on the situation. Not everyone may respond well to your style and there will be times where you may need to adapt and demonstrate better leadership.

3. Consider the views of all parties involved No one wants to be told they are wrong. In fact, dialogue is often halted when someone is made to be wrong. Are the leaders in your organization creating conflict by not allowing others to have a voice or make contributions? Are team members too righteous to foster team work? It’s important to always consider different points of view.

4. Get to the root of the issue Sometimes a conflict is a manifestation of a deeper issue, either at the management level or on the ground. A great resource is the 1981 classic bestselling book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury. It provides a simple step-by-step method for getting to the source of the issue and moving beyond it.

5. Accept people for who they are and who they are not People process information and make decisions differently. Knowing how your team members approach their work provides invaluable understanding, allowing them to draw on the strength of others rather than discredit their work styles or habits.

6. Implement regular feedback meetings Consider implementing weekly “open sessions” for the sole purpose of brainstorming what is working and what isn’t. This will allow you to address issues when they are small before they escalate.

7. Have the team create a conflict resolution protocol where everyone buys in People tend to accept what they helped to create. Investing the time to create a conflict resolution protocol will pay huge dividends in the long run.

8. Have the team adopt communication guidelines Not all forms of communications are acceptable in the workplace. Have your team recognize unacceptable and counterproductive manners of communication and create guidelines that they are willing to abide by. Include yourself in this exercise because you may be communicating in a way that is not fostering open dialogue, which in the long run may be the source of much conflict within the organization.

9. Be vigilant and enforce the measures that the team developed No one likes to deal with conflict or reprimand people. However, once there are clear conflict resolution and communication guidelines, they must be implemented in a strategic and consistent way.

10. Do you have the right people? If a team member is not functioning well or is creating conflict, evaluate if that person’s skills would be better suited for a different team or position, or whether that person fits in at your organization.

Article by, Nathalie Boutet

Toronto lawyer and family law expert Nathalie Boutet focuses on negotiating to keep disputes out of court. A pioneer in the field of neuro family law, which integrates brain science, psychology and legal negotiation, Ms. Boutet was nominated in 2015 to receive the prestigious Canada’s Top 25 Changemakers award by Canadian Lawyer.

As appeared on theglobeandmail.com

How to Deal With Difficult People at Work

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Why You Must Deal With Difficult People

Boxing glove punching hand

Dealing with difficult people is easier when the person is just generally obnoxious or when the behavior affects more than one person. Dealing with them is much tougher when they are attacking you or undermining your professional contribution.

Difficult people come in every conceivable variety. Some talk constantly and never listen. Others must always have the last word. Some coworkers fail to keep commitments. Others criticize anything that they did not create. Difficult coworkers compete with you for power, privilege, and the spotlight; some go way too far in courting the boss’s positive opinion – to your detriment.

Some coworkers attempt to undermine you and you constantly feel as if you need to watch your back. Your boss plays favorites and the favored party lords it over you; people form cliques and leave you out. Difficult people and situations exist in every workplace.

They all have one thing in common. You must address them. No matter the type of difficult situation in which you find yourself, dealing with difficult people or situations is a must.

Why You Must Deal With Difficult People

Trust me. Your situation won’t get better; left unaddressed, it usually gets worse. Unaddressed, necessary conflict simmers just below – and often erupts counter-productively above – the surface at work.

Initially, people go into shock when they are treated unprofessionally, so if you take some time to understand exactly what is happening to you, you are not alone. Once you are fully aware of what is happening, deciding to live with the situation long term is not an option.

You become so angry and feel so much pain that your efforts to address the situation become irrational.

It’s far better to address the difficult person while you can maintain some objectivity and emotional control.

Constant complaining about the coworker or situation can quickly earn you the title of whiner or complainer. Managers wonder why you are unable to solve your own problems – even if the manager’s tolerance or encouragement of the situation is part of the problem.

Worse Case Scenario If You Fail to Deal With Difficult People

Most importantly, if you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you may not only get blamed for being “unable to handle the situation like a mature professional,” you may be labeled as a “difficult” person, too. This label is hard to escape and can have devastating consequences for your career.

Finally, if the situation continues to deteriorate over time, the organization and your boss may tire of you. The boss may decide you are a “high maintenance” employee, easily replaced with a more professional or cooperative person, and you could lose your job.

Dealing With the Difficult Coworker

I’ve experienced workplaces in which all sorts of dysfunctional approaches to dealing with a difficult coworker have been tried. Putting an anonymous note in the person’s mailbox is not an option.

Placing a can of deodorant on a hygiene-challenged coworker’s desk is not a productive option either. Confronting the ​bully publicly can often lead to disaster. Putting dead bugs in his desk drawer can leave your boss no option other than to fire you. So, let’s look at more productive ways to address your difficult coworker.

Are you convinced that in almost all cases you need to productively deal with your difficult coworker? Good. Then, read on to find ten ways to approach dealing with difficult people.

These are ten productive ways to deal with your difficult coworker. Let’s start with the first five.

  • Start out by examining yourself. Are you sure that the other person is really the problem and that you’re not overreacting? Have you always experienced difficulty with the same type of person or actions?Does a pattern exist for you in your interaction with coworkers? Do you recognize that you have hot buttons that are easily pushed? (We all do, you know.) Always start with self-examination to determine that the object of your attention really is a difficult person’s actions.
  • Explore what you are experiencing with a trusted friend or colleague. Brainstorm ways to address the situation. When you are the object of an attack, or your boss appears to support the dysfunctional actions of a coworker, it is often difficult to objectively assess your options. Anger, pain, humiliation, fear, and concern about making the situation worse are legitimate emotions.Pay attention to the unspoken agreement you create when you solicit another’s assistance. You are committing to act unless you agree actions will only hurt the situation. Otherwise, you risk becoming a whiner or complainer in the eyes of your colleague.
  • Approach the person with whom you are having the problem for a private discussion.Talk to the coworker about what you are experiencing in “I” messages. (Using “I” messages is a communication approach that focuses on your experience of the situation rather than on attacking or accusing the other person.) You can also explain to your coworker the impact of their actions on you.Be pleasant and agreeable as you talk with the other person. They may not be aware of the impact of their words or actions on you. They may be learning about their impact on you for the first time. Or, they may have to consider and confront a pattern in their own interaction with people. Worst case?

    They may know their impact on you and deny it or try to explain it away. Unfortunately, some difficult people just don’t care. During the discussion, attempt to reach agreement about positive and supportive actions going forward.

  • Follow-up after the initial discussion. Has the behavior changed? Gotten better? Or worse? Determine whether a follow-up discussion is needed. Determine whether a follow-up discussion will have any impact. Decide if you want to continue to confront the difficult person by yourself.Become a peacemaker. (Decide how badly you want to make peace with the other person and how much you want your current job. Determine whether you have experienced a pattern of support from your boss.) If you answer, “yes,” to these questions, hold another discussion. If not, escalate and move to the next idea.
  • You can confront your difficult coworker’s behavior publicly. Deal with the person with gentle humor or slight sarcasm. Or, make an exaggerated physical gesture – no, not that one – such as a salute or place your hand over your heart to indicate a serious wounding.You can also tell the difficult person that you’d like them to consider important history in their decision making or similar words expressed positively, depending on the subject. Direct confrontation does work well for some people in some situations. I don’t think it works to ask the person to stop doing what they’re doing, publicly, but you can employ more positive confrontational tactics.

    Their success for you will depend on your ability to pull them off. Each of us is not spur-of-the-moment funny, but if you are, you can use the humor well with difficult coworkers.

Want five more tips? Fleeing is definitely an option.

  • If you have done what you can do and employed the first five recommended approaches with little or no success, it’s time to involve others – your boss or a manager. Note that you are escalating the situation. Prepare to talk with your boss.Take notes and address the issues, not as interpersonal problems, but as issues affecting your productivity, the work and your progress on projects. Tell your boss exactly what the difficult person does.

    Make a plan to address the issues. Perhaps involve your coworker’s boss. Recognize that a good boss is likely to bring your difficult coworker and his supervisor into a three or four-way discussion at this point. Expect to participate in follow-up over time.

  • Rally the other employees who might have an issue with the difficult person, too – carefully. Sometimes, a group approach convinces the boss that the impact of the behavior is wider and deeper than she had originally determined. Be careful with this approach, however. Know what works with your boss. You want to solve your problem, not make it look as if you are rabble-rousing and ganging up on another employee.
  • If these approaches fail to work, try to limit the difficult person’s access to you. Protect the needs of your business, but avoid working with the person when possible. Leave voluntary committees, Choose projects he or she does not impact. Don’t hurt your own career or your business, but avoidance is an option.
  • Transfer to a new job within your organization. Depending on the size of your company, you may never have to work with this difficult coworker again. Fleeing is definitely an option.
  • If all else fails, you can quit your job. What, flee, you ask? But, I wasn’t the employee with the problem. I was not the difficult coworker. All I tried to do was my job. You’re right. But, what price, in terms of your happiness and success, are you willing to pay to stay? You need to decide whether the good in your current situation outweighs the bad or whether the bad outweighs the good.If the good wins, stop complaining and get back to work. Backtrack on these recommended steps and retry some of them when appropriate. If the bad wins, redirect your energy to leaving your current employment. You’ll be glad you did. Check out the second part of this article to find out how to conduct a stealth job search and much more about job searching.

Article by, Susan M. Heathfield
As appeared on thebalance.com

How to Manage Conflict

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

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.

 

Article by, Gill Corkindale

As appeared on https://hbr.org/2007/11/how-to-manage-conflict

Overcome Your Fear of Confrontation and Conflict

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Build Your Conflict Resolution Skills

Multi-ethnic business people having a meaningful and appropriate confrontation.

A former colleague holds complete conversations in his head with people with whom he is angry. He rarely speaks directly with the other person. This anger in his mind continues to build because of his frustration, yet he never lets the other person know that he is frustrated and subsequently angry.

His conflict avoidance almost cost him his marriage because he didn’t let his wife into the conversations he was having with her but by himself.

It was almost too late by the time he did bring her into the real conversation.

His need to avoid confrontation is so strong that he has a safe confrontation in his mind and feels that he has dealt with the issue. As you can imagine, this doesn’t work – especially for the other person involved.

Are you guilty of holding mental conflicts and confrontations?

Many people are uncomfortable when it comes to confrontation. I understand the concept of having the conversation in your head; so you can plan out what you want to say and how you want to say it. Sometimes these mental conversations are enough to settle the issue, as you realize you are making too much out of a simple situation.

I know that I have spent hours lying in bed at night having conversations with people with whom I am angry and frustrated. Not only does this practice disrupt your sleep, your attitude, and your health, it never really resolves the issue, and is potentially damaging to your relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that you need to confront every action. If you have the conversation once in your head, don’t worry about it. If it comes back and you have it again, perhaps start thinking about holding a real conversation.

By the third in your head confrontation, you need to start planning how you will deal with the real confrontation because it looks as if you are going to need to do that.

How to Hold a Real, Necessary Conflict or Confrontation

Start by preparing yourself to confront the real issue. Be able to state the issue in one (or two), non-emotional, factual based sentences.

For example, assume you want to confront your coworker for taking all of the credit for the work that the two of you did together on a project. Instead of saying, “You took all the credit, blah, blah, blah…” and venting your frustration, which is what you might say in your mind, rephrase your approach using the above guidelines.

Say instead, “It looks as if I played no role in the Johnson account. My name does not appear anywhere on the document, nor I have been given credit anywhere that I can see.”

(I’ve used additional communication techniques such as I-language as well in this statement. Notice that I avoided using the words I feel because that is an emotional statement, without proof and facts. The facts in this statement cannot be disputed, but an I feel statement is easy for your coworker to refute.)

Make your initial statement and stop talking.

When the person you are confronting responds, allow them to respond. It’s a human tendency, but don’t make the mistake of adding to your initial statement, to further justify the statement.

Defending why you feel the way you do will generally just create an argument. Say what you want to say (the confrontation), then just allow the other person to respond.

Especially since you’ve probably held the conversation in your head a few times, you may think you know how the other person is going to respond. But, it’s a mistake to jump to that point before they have the opportunity to respond. Resist the temptation to say anything else at this point. Let them respond.

Avoid arguing during the confrontation.

Confrontation does not mean fight. It means that you need to state what you have say. Listen to what they have to say. Many times it actually ends right there.

Do you need to prove the other person right or wrong? Does someone have to take the blame? Get your frustration off your chest, and move on.

Figure out the conflict resolution you want before the confrontation.

If you approached your coworker with the initial statement, “You took all the credit, blah, blah, blah…” her response is likely going to be quite defensive. Perhaps she’ll say something like, “Yes, you have been given credit. I said both of our names to the boss just last week.”

If you already know what you are looking for in the confrontation, this is where you move the conversation. Don’t get into an argument about whether she did or didn’t mention anything to the boss last week – that isn’t really the issue and don’t let it distract you from accomplishing the goal of the confrontation.

Your response could be, “I would appreciate if in the future that we use both of our names on any documentation, and include each other in all of the correspondence about the project.”

Focus on the real issue of the confrontation.

The other party will either agree or disagree. Keep to the issue at this point, and avoid all temptation to get into an argument. Negotiate, but don’t fight.

The issue is you aren’t receiving credit, and you want your name on the documentation. That’s it. It isn’t about blame, about who is right or wrong or anything other than your desired resolution.

You will rarely look forward to confrontation; you may never become completely comfortable with, or even skilled in confrontation. However, it is important that you say something when you are frustrated and angry. If you can’t stand up for yourself, who will?

We Are All Mediators: How to Solve Conflict in the Workplace

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

business analyst Conflict HandshakeMost employees and managers have a story about a conflict in the workplace that got out of hand. Sometimes, the events remain in the past, but sometimes they take root and lead to rifts within an office. 

Cold exchanges are made in the breakroom, two employees avoid eye contact in meetings, and projects slow to a crawl because of a breakdown in communication.

This all can be avoided with solid conflict resolution techniques.

Next time a problem flares up in the office, follow this method to identify the problems, find solutions and work toward fostering a positive team environment.

Conflict Occurs in Every Workplace

Even the most congenial offices face workplace conflicts throughout the year.

A.J. O’Connor Associates reports that American employees spend an average of 2.8 hours per week managing conflict, which results in $435 billion in lost productivity annually. The differences between a cooperative and a toxic office lie in how long problems take to get solved.

However, the survey also shows that conflict can be an opportunity for growth. In fact, 75 percent of employees said they have experienced positive outcomes from a well-managed conflict that might not have occurred without the conflict in the first place.

The key phrase here is “well-managed conflict,” as so many problems within the workplace are handled poorly.

The Two Types of Workplace Conflict

Before you can start to solve conflicts in your office, you need to know the types of conflict you’re dealing with.

In a study of 2,100 UK employees, CIPD found that 38 percent of employees experienced some sort of interpersonal conflict at work in the past year, and 25 percent said conflict is a normal part of the workplace. The team at CIPD then divides these incidents into two types: isolated disputes and ongoing conflict relationships.

While an isolated dispute occurs because of an event and can may only last a few days, ongoing conflict relationships can last for months and build with every new problem.

The type of conflict you’re dealing with will dictate how you solve the problem, but understand that they aren’t mutually exclusive conflicts — an isolated dispute handled poorly can lead to an ongoing conflict.

Addressing Conflict is a Key Management Skill

Business Analyst Conflict Meeting

Regardless of the level or severity of the issue, conflict needs to be addressed. The question is how it should be addressed.

The leadership team doesn’t have to step into every disagreement, but they should be able to in order to prevent problems from growing out of control.

“Leaders and employees who are not trained in conflict resolution often do not understand that conflict can be resolved as quickly as it comes on,” Dr. Bill Howatt writes at The Globe and Mail. “But when they are not resolved in a collaborative way and instead are left to fester, then the conflict has the opportunity to escalate.”

Howatt writes that conflict is a natural part of the workplace and can lead to important changes and a better understanding through communication.

Glenn Llopis agrees with Howatt. He says the tension must be addressed head-on, and management shouldn’t assume that the employee’s frustration will subside over time.

“Adversity is very big when it is all you can see,” he writes. “But it is very small when in the presence of all else that surrounds you.”

Acknowledging your colleague’s or your employee’s perspective (even if they’re still not getting their way) can validate their feelings and help both of you move toward a solution.

Evaluating the Severity of the Conflict

Before you address the conflict, you should evaluate the working relationship between the two parties in question. This will help you decide whether you should get involved or step back.

“In all of these cases, leaders need to consider two basic questions,” Tom Fox writes at the Washington Post. “How important is the issue? And, how important is this relationship? Your answers will determine whether to let it slide or try to resolve it.”

Fox highlights the relationship between employees and managers as an example. This is a highly important relationship, as both parties will have to keep working together even after the issue is solved. In this case, a third-party mediator (like a co-worker or higher-level employee) could help create a platform for communication.

Five Steps to Mediate Workplace Conflict

When mediating between two parties, it helps to have an established framework to use in order to fairly evaluate both sides. By being fair and procedural, you reduce the risk of isolated incidents becoming ongoing relationship conflicts.

Dr. Beverly Flaxington has created a five-step sample model that you can apply to most conflicts:

  1. Specify the desired outcome: Let each party explain what they’re hoping to achieve.
  2. Highlight and categorize the obstacles: Let each side voice their problems with the other’s goals or solutions.
  3. Identify the stakeholders: Talk about who will be affected by the decision outside of this meeting.
  4. Brainstorm possible alternatives: Find ways to meet in the middle or use a third option to solve the conflict.
  5. Take action based on the solution: By taking immediate action, you show that the discussion is over and there’s no point fighting against the decision.

Again, by giving both parties a fair chance to lobby for their choices, you’re validating your team members and treating them with respect.

Emotion and Fact Are Often Hard to Separate

Business Analyst Conflict Argue

“Humans are creatures of emotion,” writesReuben Yonatan, CEO of GetVoIP. “If you haven’t already realized how combative people can become when they think their ideas are under attack, you’ll learn soon enough within a team setting.”

Most, if not all, conflict will be tied to some sort of emotion. Your goal as a leader is to separate the facts from the emotion and make the best possible decision.

For example, an employee might fight back against a new process because he says it’s too complex, but his real issue could be a fear of change or disengagement within the company. One incident is a symptom of a larger problem.

“When we are under stress, we revert to our primitive fight or flight response — the brain doesn’t appreciate that it’s not a lion attack but an irritable colleague,” Macarena Mata writes at HRZone.

“In very quick succession, effective communication becomes less effective, assumptions become ‘facts,’ psychological insecurities become our platform of communication and suddenly destructive workplace conflict erupts.”

Tapping Into Workplace Emotional Intelligence

The fact that conflict is so closely tied to emotion highlights the value of emotional intelligence in the workplace. Emotional intelligence is your ability to accurately track your emotions as they happen and evaluate the emotions of others. It is your ability to control how you react in certain situations while understanding why others might react differently.

Dr. Travis Bradberry reports that emotional intelligence (the foundation for traits like empathy, change tolerance and problem solving) is one of the most useful workplace skills and accounts for 58 percent of success in most positions.

He found that 90 percent of effective performers have high levels of emotional intelligence, but only 20 percent of the bottom performers do.

Learning to Recognize When You’re the Problem

In an article for She Owns It, Karen Doniere admits that it’s not a comfortable feeling to realize that there are emotional problems, cultural differences or generational rifts at the root of a problem — especially when it’s your own biases holding the team back.

However, if you’re mature enough to accept responsibility for the conflict and move forward, you can prevent the other parties from having a long-term personal conflict with you.

Identifying emotions can actually help managers resolve conflicts. By isolating the facts, they can focus on the core issues at hand instead of getting involved in personal disagreements.

Overcoming Your Fear of Conflict

The modern workplace has trained us to avoid conflict.

Employees worry about losing their jobs if they confront problems, and many managers are likewise scared to face issues and address their employees’ concerns. But the best managers know how to address conflicts in a productive manner.

“When you avoid conflict, you’re actually putting the focus squarely on yourself,” Amy Jen Suwrites at the Harvard Business Review.

Avoiding conflict means your fear motivates you — whether it’s the fear of having an idea shot down or the fear of causing tension in the workplace. This fear ultimately makes you an ineffective employee because the needs of the business will always be second to your own personal discomfort.

Creating a Conflict Discussion Roadmap

Rhonda Scharf has also seen fear paralyze her co-workers. She knew one man who almost lost his marriage because he wouldn’t communicate his problems to his wife. He would write entire conversations in his head addressing the issue but couldn’t bring himself to open his mouth!

To abate these fears, Scharf created a four-step process that people can follow when they want to address conflict in a way that opens the door for healthy discussion:

  1. State the issue in one or two non-emotional, fact-based sentences.
  2. Make your first statement, and then pause to let the other person address it.
  3. Figure out your ideal solution before the confrontation.
  4. Focus on the real issues of the confrontation.

Team members who fear conflict can mentally write out what they want to say following this process to temper the messiness of confrontation. In many ways, voicing your problems is a learning process. The more you do it, the better you will get.

The Dangers of Avoiding Office Conflict

Business Analyst Office Conflict

Even the best conflict-resolution managers avoid difficult conversations sometimes. However, difficult issues need to be addressed for the health of the company.

James Kerr notes that when management refuses to acknowledge conflict, the results are often diminished teamwork, reduced productivity and unresolved conflicts that ultimately can compel your top employees to leave.

“Those that can will move on to greener pastures when their current work environment becomes unbearable,” he writes. This often leaves management with just the people who benefit from the status quo. Companies constantly fight to recruit top talent, but a passive management style that doesn’t stop conflict could leave you with the worst people, not the best.  

Conflict Without Leadership Can Cause Bullying

The Trade Union Congress reports that 29 percent of workers have been bullied at work. Nearly half of these respondents said it has affected their performance along with their mental health.

By failing to address conflict in a fair and timely manner, you could be contributing to a culture of bullying within your office. Even if the bullies don’t realize the effects they have on their co-workers, your bullied employees will certainly see that you’re not doing anything to address the problem.

Ignoring Conflict Won’t Make it Go Away

Failing to address conflict doesn’t mean it isn’t there; it just means the conflict is occurring somewhere outside of your control.

“Organizations in which managers try to keep a lid on differences — of opinion, personal style, and cultural preferences — are usually riven with the undercurrents of unproductive conflict,”Muthu Subramanian writes.

When leaders encourage teams to address differences instead of suppressing, both parties can come up with opportunities to overcome and even embrace challenges.

Bullying, turnover, lost employees and a toxic workplace; is all of that worth giving into the fear of addressing conflict?

By improving your conflict-resolution skills, you will be able to solve more isolated problems and create a more positive work environment for your team. Furthermore, you will grow as a manager and continue to be an asset within your company.

Article Source: bobtheba.com

Conflict Management Styles: The Start of Effective Conflict Management

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Conflict is part of life. Conflict is any situation in which people have incompatible interests, goals, principles or feelings and experience.  In other words, conflict means that two people experience discomforting differences.

Despite our best efforts, we find ourselves in disagreements with other people in all aspects of our lives:  at work, in our relationships, in our volunteer activities.  How we respond to provocation can determine if conflict moves in a beneficial or a harmful direction.  The good news is that we can learn skills, strategies and processes to manage conflict.

The goal of  conflict management is to manage yourself and others so as to bring about the best possible resolution of a conflict situation in terms of the issue at hand, the relationship.  When handled effectively, conflict carries with it opportunity:

Better Relationships:
Conflict is a signal that changes might be necessary in the relationships or the situation so conflict management can build relationships. It also encourages listening and taking the perspective of the other person for greater rapport.

Better Outcomes:
Conflict stimulates problem-solving and open communication to arrive at better solutions.

Less Stress:
Conflict provides a means for expressing emotions which can ultimately clear the air and reduce tension.

Let us examine the first step in becoming an effective conflict manager:  knowing how to use the 5 conflict management styles and strategies.

Conflict Management Styles

The start of being an effective conflict manager is being aware of your style in conflict and the style of those that you deal with.  These styles were identified by two psychologists, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in the 1970’s to illustrate the options that we have in dealing with conflict.
There are 5 different styles for managing conflict.  These are tendencies and we may use any one of these styles at different times.  However, people tend to have one or two preferred or default waysof dealing with conflict.

1.    Avoid
A person who avoids conflict does not deal the issue at hand when it arises.  This means that neither his own concerns nor those of the other person are addressed. Avoiding might mean diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or withdrawing from a threatening situation.

2.    Accommodate
Someone who accommodates the other person in a conflict prefers to satisfy the concerns of the other person, thereby neglecting his own concerns.  Accommodation carries with it an element of self-sacrifice.  This mode might involve selfless generosity or charity or yielding to another’s point of view.

3.    Compromise
The individual who prefers to compromise wants to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution. Compromising addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but does not explore it in as much depth as collaborating. Compromising might mean splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground position.

4.    Collaborate
In collaboration, the individual prefers to work with the other person to find a solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both. This is the best way to achieve the win/win solution:  one where each party feels that he or she achieved his or her goals.  It involves exploring an issue to identify the underlying interests of the parties in order to arrive at an outcome that meets both sets of concerns. Collaborating might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights, or looking for a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.

5.    Compete
An individual who competes pursues his or her own interests without regard to the other person’s goals and seeking to impose his power in order to win his position. Competing might mean standing up for one’s rights, defending a position believed to be right, or simply trying to win.

Conflict Management Strategies

These styles translate into 5 different strategies for managing conflict which are based on 4 factors:

•    issues: the extent to which the conflict involves important priorities, principles or values are involved in the conflict;
•    relationship: the importance of maintaining a close, mutually supportive relationship with the other party;
•    relative power: the power balance between you and the other party;
•    available time:  how much time you have to resolve the issue.

By knowing when to use each strategy, you can begin to make choices about which is the most appropriate to the situation.

Let us take a closer look at when to use each strategy:

1.    Avoid

Avoiding is an appropriate strategy where there is a clear advantage to waiting to resolve the conflict.  When used as a choice, it helps to cool things down and reduce stress. Avoiding is appropriate when
•    the conflict is small and relationships are at stake
•    you are upset and need to time to cool off
•    there are more important issues to deal with
•    you have no power and you see no chance of getting your concerns met
•    you are too emotionally involved and others around you can solve the conflict more successfully.

However, if either the issue or the relationship between the parties is important, avoidance is a poor strategy because important decisions may be made by default and postponing resolution of the issue may make matters worse.

2.    Accommodate

Accommodate is a good strategy when you find yourself in conflict over a fairly unimportant issue and you would like to resolve the conflict without straining your relationship with the other party.  Someone who accommodates builds good will and can be perceived as reasonable. Collaborating is also an option, but it might not be worth the time.  The focus is on the relationship, as opposed to the outcome.
Accommodate is the right strategy when
•     an issue is not as important to you as it is to the other person
•    you realize you are wrong
•    the time is not right to resolve the issue and you would prefer to simply build credit for the future
•    harmony in the relationship is extremely important.

The downside is that your ideas do not get sufficient attention and may be neglected, causing you to feel resentful.  Moreover, you may lose credibility and influence if accommodation becomes a pattern.

3.    Compromise

When dealing with moderately important issues, compromising can often lead to quick solutions.  However, compromise does not completely satisfy either party, and compromise does not foster innovation the way that taking the time to collaborate can.  Compromise helps to get to solutions and is good for overcoming impasses. It works when:
•    people of relatively equal power are equally committed to goals
•    you can save time by reaching intermediate resolution of parts of complex issues
•    the goals are moderately important.

However, compromise can backfire if the parties overlook important principles and long-term goals for the sake of the details.  Moreover, it is not the best way to reach an optimal solution on important issues.  The parties also risk engaging in excessive “horse-trading” while losing sight of the big picture.

4.    Collaborate

Conflict management experts advocate collaboration as the best way to resolve a conflict over important issues.  The premise is that teamwork and cooperation help all parties to achieve their goals while also maintaining the relationships. The process of working through differences will lead to creative solutions that will satisfy both parties’ concerns.  Collaboration is the way to achieve the best outcome on important issues as well as build good relationships since it takes into account all of the parties’ underlying interests.
Collaboration works best when:
•     the parties trust each other
•    it is important for all sides to buy into the outcome
•    the people involved are willing to change their thinking as more information is found and new options are suggested
•    the parties need to work through animosity and hard feelings.

The downside is that the process requires a lot of time and energy.  If time is precious, compete or compromise might be a better solution.

5.    Compete

Compete is a useful strategy when the outcome is extremely important and an immediate decision needs to be taken.  It is efficient and effective when you need to take a stand. In that case, one must sometimes use power to win.  Compete is appropriate when
•    you know you are right
•    time is short and a quick decision is needed
•    you need to stand up for your rights.

However, when used too often, compete can escalate the conflict, breed resentment among others and damage relationships.

How to Use Conflict Management Strategies
The first step in managing your conflicts is to be aware of your default style.  Where has it worked for you?  Where did it let you down?  What were the consequences?

Once you know about the other styles and strategies, you can begin to apply them in the appropriate situation.  The good news is that this is a skill that you can practice and eventually master.

In addition, once you know the different styles, you can identify them in the people with whom you are in conflict.  This can help you to understand their perspective and frame the appropriate response.

By knowing the styles and how to use them effectively, you can begin to take charge of those uncomfortable conflict situations.

With these principles in mind, you are now ready for action. For more information, here is how  to prepare for a conflict meeting and conduct a conflict negotiation.

Article by,

© Astrid Baumgardner 2012

 

Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success.  In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and  Personal Branding and Networking.  She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success and blogs on career development and personal development for musicians creative professionals at www.astridbaumgardner.com/blog.

How Smart People Handle Difficult People

Friday, April 28th, 2017
Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negativity they spread, while others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos.
How Smart People Handle Difficult People

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 percent 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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

Keeping Your Cool: Dealing with Difficult People

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

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.

About the Author

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.

4 Easy Steps to Deal with Difficult People

Friday, March 24th, 2017

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” ~Don Miguel Ruiz

It seemed like a simple task. Please switch my gym membership from gold to silver level. I’m not cancelling, just switching.

That was now the third time I repeated my request, each time a little more calmly and a little more slowly, despite the beginnings of blood boiling feelings.

The person on the other end of the phone could not have been ruder. It was as if I was asking for a kidney instead of a membership change. A harsh tone and harsher words ensued. Why, I still have no idea.

You have undoubtedly met them. You have maybe been one, once or twice.

Why are some people continually difficult to deal with? What makes Joe easy to get along with and John such a struggle? Here are the major reasons and what can be done about it.

1. We feel triggered when our needs aren’t met.

We love it when we are acknowledged. We may not be crazy about when we are criticized, but it beats Option #3: being ignored.

Being ignored is a terrible feeling for humans and one that we avoid like the plague. When this occurs, some people revert to “problem child” mode. These are the set of behavioral responses that are so ingrained that it is a reflexive series of actions. It is the default mode.

When you find yourself in such a situation, ask the big question: What is my positive intention here? What am I trying to accomplish? (Or: What is the other person trying to accomplish?)

If you can leave enough of the heated emotions aside, clearing enough space for some patience and I dare say, compassion, the root cause of the behavior often becomes crystal clear.

What are you trying to accomplish? Great. Let’s find a way of getting what you want in a healthy fashion…

2. Fear can lead to confrontation.

If we could somehow, some way reduce fear, 99% of the world’s problems would be resolved. Fear causes more complications and melodramatic dilemmas than all other emotions combined.

Fear is typically at the root when dealing with difficult people. They want something and fear it is either not being heard and will never be heard, or they are not deserving of having their voices heard in the first place.

Are these true? Probably not. They are stories we tell ourselves and believe as fact. Spoken enough, cycled enough in our heads, we proceed to “know them as truth” and act based upon these fictional anecdotes. Our bodies react with—you guessed it—fear.

Fear is a root emotion that originates from the kidney energy. The kidney energy is the source of all energy. Knowingly or unknowingly, we try to protect this at all times. Fear is the prime, albeit most ineffective method. How ironic!

Steering the person away from this base emotion is the key here. By choosing your words carefully and speaking them kindly, you can help divert a person from fear into the more advantageous and effective emotions. Once this occurs, the rest is easy.

3. A feeling of powerlessness can make people combative.

One of the most misquoted and misunderstood martial arts is the popular art of Aikido. Most people state that in Aikido, one is using the attacker’s energy against them. Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, founder of Aikido stated something much differently. He said, “We use our opponents’ energy to protect them…”

When there is a feeling of powerlessness—real or imagined—there is a tendency to go on the attack, so to speak. If one engages, things begin to escalate. That feeling of lacking personal power is the underlying reason. “I have no power so I must go on the offensive to protect myself, to regain lost power.”

We cannot take power from anyone without their consent. When we recognize this and remind the other person with compassion, we’re better able to defuse hostility. The more we acknowledge personal power, the less conflict arises.

4. We argue because we don’t want to “lose.”

The late self-improvement master Alexander Everett used to set up situations in schools that were based on cooperation, not competition. For example, track events were not Person A running against Person B; rather, they were about whether or not the team had an improved (total) time this month versus last month.

If they improved in April compared to March, the team was considered victorious.

When a conversation (or argument) is set up whereby there is the illusion of a  “winner” and a “loser,” conflict is bound to continue. Ill feelings are the “award” and nothing productive is accomplished.

How can the situation be set up so that both people receive what they desire? Note that this is much different than compromise. Compromise is a situation where a third option is agreed upon and neither party is happy with it.

At the end of the day, people are people. There are no truly difficult people, only those who have unrefined communication skills. Given the opportunity, everyone eventually finds their pure voice.

Profile photo of David Orman

About David Orman

David Orman is the creator of the country’s foremost anti-aging formula, Hgh Plus found at www.hghplus.net. He is also the author of the blog DocWellness.wordpress.com.

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.

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.

3 Steps To Managing Workplace Conflict With Emotional Intelligence

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

No matter how great a corporate culture you create, no matter how good a role model you are, it’s inevitable that situations will arise that require you to mitigate emotional stress within the ranks. Personal conflicts, outside pressures, and job-related stress will eventually become a factor to be dealt with in any workplace setting. How well leaders handle those situations depends on their emotional intelligence.

Managers often make one of two common mistakes when dealing with an emotional situation.

  • The manager attempts to invalidate or downplay an emotional conflict and becomes a player in the emotional drama himself.
  • The manager simply ignores the job-affecting emotions, hoping they will resolve themselves.

When the manager or group leader tries to downplay or dismiss a worker’s emotions, he or she inevitably creates a bigger problem. Not only does this raise the emotional stakes, but it now creates a situation in which negative emotions are directed at the manager. Though this is very common and, arguably, a natural form of response from busy managers with plenty on their plates, it’s incumbent upon leaders to avoid leaving an employee feeling slighted in this way.

Likewise, ignoring the problem often creates a snowball effect, where resentment and negative emotions continue to grow, making the situation worse. It’s always better to address emotionally-wrought problems earlier rather than later.

There is a three-step formula, however, which comes naturally to emotionally intelligent leaders. It is one that can easily be employed by any manager to take the edge off an emotional situation. This formula does not attempt to solve the problem itself, but is geared toward addressing and neutralizing the emotions so that the problem can then be approached in a more objective and effective manner.

Step 1: Acknowledge

More than anything, people want their feelings to be acknowledged. It may seem overly simple at first, but a statement such as, “I want you to know, I understand you are feeling very stressed right now,” can go miles toward lowering the emotional stakes of a situation. Everyone wants to feel understood, and acknowledgment is not difficult or compromising to do. Further, it doesn’t concede agreement with the emotional state; only empathy.

Step 2: Positively substitute

There is great power in a positive outlook and almost any negative situation can be framed in a positive light. A manager with emotional wisdom may say something like, “I know you are under a lot of stress, and I know a great deal of it is because you are a great employee and want to do the very best job you can.” What the manager has done in this example is to mitigate a negative emotion with the positive emotion of personal pride in a job well done. This doesn’t alleviate the first emotion, but it adds a positive perspective into the conversation.

Step 3: Suggest, re-acknowledge and appreciate

Not all situations are within the control of the manager. An increased workload that has come down from above may not be able to be removed, for example. What the manager can do is suggest ways he or she might be able to help, re-acknowledge the emotions involved and offer appreciation for the employee. “I cannot promise anything, but I will try to see if there is any way to lighten your load. I understand you are feeling stressed and I want you to know I really appreciate your efforts.” By saying this, you have reassured the employee without making binding promises, and reinforced a sense of empathy and appreciation.

Article by, Scott Allen

Scott “Social Media” Allen is a 25-year veteran technology entrepreneur, executive and consultant. He’s coauthor of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, the first book on the business use of social media, and The Emergence of The Relationship Economy.

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

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.


Dealing with Difficult People

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Can you recall the last time you had to deal with a negative or difficult person? Or the last time someone said something with the intention of hurting you? How did you handle it? What was the result? What can you do in the future to get through these situations with peace and grace?

No matter where we go, we will face people who are negative, people who oppose our ideas, people who piss us off or people who simply do not like us. There are 6.4 billion people out there and conflict is a fact of life. This fact isn’t the cause of conflict but it is the trigger to our emotions and our emotions are what drive us back to our most basic survival instinct; react and attack back to defend ourselves.

In these instinctual moments, we may lose track of our higher selves and become the human animal with an urge to protect ourselves when attacked. This too is natural. However, we are the only animal blessed with intelligence and having the ability to control our responses. So how can we do that?

I regularly get asked “How do you deal with the negative comments about your articles? They are brutal. I don’t think I could handle them.” My answer is simple, “I don’t let it bother me to begin with.” It wasn’t always this simple, and took me some time before overcoming this natural urgency to protect myself and attack back.

I know it’s not easy, if it was easy, there wouldn’t be difficult or negative people to begin with.

Why Bother Controlling Our Responses?

1. Hurting Ourselves

One of my favorite sayings is “Holding a grudge against someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” The only person we hurt is ourselves. When we react to negativity, we are disturbing our inner space and mentally creating pain within ourselves.

2. It’s Not About You, It’s About Them

I’ve learned that when people initiate negativity, it is a reflection of their inner state expressed externally and you just happen to be in front of that expression. It’s not personal, so why do we take it personally? In short: Because our ego likes problems and conflict. People are often so bored and unhappy with their own lives that they want to take others down with them.

There have been many times when a random person has left a purposefully hurtful comment on TSN, and regularly checked back to see if anyone else responded to their comment, waiting eagerly to respond with more negativity.

3. Battle of the Ego

When we respond impulsively, it is a natural and honest response. However, is it the smart thing to do? What can be resolved by doing so? The answer: Nothing. It does however feed our ego’s need for conflict.

Have you noticed that when we fight back, it feels really satisfying in our heads? But it doesn’t feel very good in our soul? Our stomach becomes tight, and we start having violent thoughts?

When we do respond irrationally, it turns the conversation from a one-sided negative expression into a battle of two egos. It becomes an unnecessary and unproductive battle for Who is Right?

4. Anger Feeds Anger. Negativity Feeds Negativity.

Rarely can any good come out of reacting against someone who is in a negative state. It will only trigger anger and an additional reactive response from that person. If we do respond impulsively, we’ll have invested energy in the defending of ourselves and we’ll feel more psychologically compelled to defend ourselves going forward.

Have you noticed that the angrier our thoughts become, the angrier we become? It’s a negative downward spiral.

5. Waste of Energy

Where attention goes, energy flows. What we focus on tends to expand itself. Since we can only focus on one thing at a time, energy spent on negativity is energy that could have been spent on our personal wellbeing.

6. Negativity Spreads

I’ve found that once I allow negativity in one area of my life, it starts to subtly bleed into other areas as well. When we are in a negative state or holding a grudge against someone, we don’t feel very good. We carry that energy with us as we go about our day. When we don’t feel very good, we lose sight of clarity and may react unconsciously to matters in other areas of our lives, unnecessarily.

7. Freedom of Speech

People are as entitled to their opinions as you are. Allow them to express how they feel and let it be. Remember that it’s all relative and a matter of perspective. What we consider positive can be perceived by another as negative. When we react, it becomes me-versus-you, who is right?

Some people may have a less than eloquent way of expressing themselves – it may even be offensive, but they are still entitled to do so. They have the right to express their own opinions and we have the right and will power to choose our responses. We can choose peace or we can choose conflict.

15 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

While I’ve had a lot of practice dealing with negativity, it is something I find myself having to actively work on. When I’m caught off guard and end up resorting to a defensive position, the result rarely turns out well.

The point is, we are humans after all, and we have emotions and egos. However, by keeping our egos in-check and inserting emotional intelligence, we’ll not only be doing a favor for our health and mental space, but we’ll also have intercepted a situation that would have gone bad, unnecessarily.

Here are some tips for dealing with a difficult person or negative message:

1. Forgive

What would the Dali Lama do if he was in the situation? He would most likely forgive. Remember that at our very core, we are good, but our judgment becomes clouded and we may say hurtful things. Ask yourself, “What is it about this situation or person that I can seek to understand and forgive?

2. Wait it Out

Sometimes I feel compelled to instantly send an email defending myself. I’ve learned that emotionally charged emails never get us the result we want; they only add oil to the fire. What is helpful is inserting time to allow ourselves to cool off. You can write the emotionally charged email to the person, just don’t send it off. Wait until you’ve cooled off before responding, if you choose to respond at all.

3. “Does it really matter if I am right?

Sometimes we respond with the intention of defending the side we took a position on. If you find yourself arguing for the sake of being right, ask “Does it matter if I am right?” If yes, then ask “Why do I need to be right? What will I gain?

4. Don’t Respond

Many times when a person initiates a negative message or difficult attitude, they are trying to trigger a response from you. When we react, we are actually giving them what they want. Let’s stop the cycle of negative snowballing and sell them short on what they’re looking for; don’t bother responding.

5. Stop Talking About It

When you have a problem or a conflict in your life, don’t you find that people just love talking about it? We end up repeating the story to anyone who’ll listen. We express how much we hate the situation or person. What we fail to recognize in these moments is that the more we talk about something, the more of that thing we’ll notice.

Example, the more we talk about how much we dislike a person, the more hate we will feel towards them and the more we’ll notice things about them that we dislike. Stop giving it energy, stop thinking about it, and stop talking about it. Do your best to not repeat the story to others.

6. Be In Their Shoes

As cliché as this may sound, we tend to forget that we become blind-sided in the situation. Try putting yourself in their position and consider how you may have hurt their feelings. This understanding will give you a new perspective on becoming rational again, and may help you develop compassion for the other person.

7. Look for the Lessons

No situation is ever lost if we can take away from it some lessons that will help us grow and become a better person. Regardless of how negative a scenario may appear, there is always a hidden gift in the form of a lesson. Find the lesson(s).

8. Choose to Eliminate Negative People In Your Life

Negative people can be a source of energy drain. And deeply unhappy people will want to bring you down emotionally, so that they are not down there alone. Be aware of this. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands and do not mind the energy drain, I recommend that you cut them off from your life.

Cut them out by avoiding interactions with them as much as possible. Remember that you have the choice to commit to being surrounded by people who have the qualities you admire: optimistic, positive, peaceful and encouraging people. As Kathy Sierra said, “Be around the change you want to see in the world.”

9. Become the Observer

When we practice becoming the observer of our feelings, our thoughts and the situation, we separate ourselves away from the emotions. Instead of identifying with the emotions and letting them consume us, we observe them with clarity and detachment. When you find yourself identifying with emotions and thoughts, bring your focus on your breathe.

10. Go for a Run

… or a swim, or some other workout. Physical exercise can help to release the negative and excess energy in us. Use exercise as a tool to clear your mind and release built up negative energy.

11. Worst Case Scenario

Ask yourself two questions,

  1. If I do not respond, what is the worst thing that can result from it?
  2. If I do respond, what is the worst thing that can result from it?

Answering these questions often adds perspectives to the situation, and you’ll realize that nothing good will come out of reacting. Your energy will be wasted, and your inner space disturbed.

12. Avoid Heated Discussions

When we’re emotionally charged, we are so much in our heads that we argue out of an impulse to be right, to defend ourselves, for the sake of our egos. Rationality and resolution can rarely arise out of these discussions. If a discussion is necessary, wait until everyone has cooled off before diving into one.

13. Most Important

List out things in your life most important to you. Then ask yourself, “Will a reaction to this person contribute to the things that matter most to me?

14. Pour Honey

This doesn’t always work, but sometimes catches people off guard when they’re trying to “Pour Poison” on you. Compliment the other person for something they did well, tell them you’ve learned something new through interacting with them, and maybe offer to become friends. Remember to be genuine. You might have to dig deep to find something that you appreciate about this person.

15. Express It

Take out some scrap paper and dump all the random and negative thoughts out of you by writing freely without editing. Continue to do so until you have nothing else to say. Now, roll the paper up into a ball, close your eyes and visualize that all the negative energy is now inside that paper ball. Toss the paper ball in the trash. Let it go!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives.

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.

8 Tips For Dealing With Difficult People

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Like the old Saturday Night Live character, Debbie Downer, some people are only happy when they’re unhappy and bringing down everyone else around them too.

Here are eight tips for dealing with difficult people at work.

1.   Don’t get dragged down—The old saying is “Misery loves company.” The most important thing is to be aware of who the Debbie and David Downers are in your company and to make sure they don’t suck you into their world of negativity.  Keep your guard up!

2.   Listen—It’s tempting to just tune these people out, but this rarely stops them. If anything, they’ll talk and argue more forcefully because they’ll think nobody cares about them. The best thing to do is to use good, normal active listening techniques, as you would for anyone else.

3.   Use a time limit for venting—Remember that there is a difference between being a perpetual pessimist and having an occasional need to vent. Everybody has tough times, and sharing our feelings can make us feel better. Use the “5-minute rule” when it comes to this. Let your colleague vent for five minutes, but after that, assume that he’s entered Downer mode, and proceed with the next steps.

 4.   Don’t agree—It’s tempting to try to appease Debbie Downer to make him or her stop and go away. As the person complains about benefits or the boss or whatever, you might be inclined to give a little nod of your head or a quiet “yeah” or shrug a “what can we do?” Even though these responses seem harmless, they just throw fuel on the flames.

5.   Don’t stay silent—If you are clearly listening but say nothing, Debbie Downer will interpret your silence as agreement. Worse, if others are present, they too will assume that you agree. Whether the complaint is about the boss or the benefits or the client, silence means you agree with the complainer.

6.   Do switch extremes into facts—Negative people often speak in extreme terms that match their worldviews. They talk about “never” and “always.” Your first goal is to switch them to fact-based statements.

Negative Ned: Andy is such a slacker! He’s never on time for our morning meetings. How are we supposed to hit our deadlines when he’s never here?

      You: Ned, you’re clearly frustrated. I seem to remember that Andy was on time at our meetings on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of last week. He was late on Thursday and Friday. So you mean he’s late frequently, not always; right?

7.   Move to problem solving—People who whine a lot often feel powerless and believe that the situation is hopeless. Your only chance of ending their negativity is to help them to move into a problem solving mode. This doesn’t always work, but it’s the only antidote known.

8.   Cut them off—If, after all your efforts, you deem these people to be hopelessly negative, you need to cut them off. Make sure they aren’t just venting for a few minutes, make sure you weren’t previously encouraging them, make sure they can’t switch to problem solving, and then politely shut them down.

      You: Can we change the subject? You’re really bumming me out. If you want to vent for a couple minutes, fine. If you want me to help you solve the problem, fine. But life is too short to wallow. Let’s move on to something else, OK?

Creating a great workplace culture should be everyone’s job. Don’t let Debbie and David Downer harm your company or your own level of engagement at work.

________

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

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!

The upside to workplace conflict (by Victor Lipman)

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Two serious business womenWhile most people dislike and avoid conflict at work, it can also have tangible benefits. I was thinking about this subject lately, as I was being interviewed about “Managing Conflict at Work” for the Matt Townsend radio program – and I was consistently pushing toward the negative in our conversation, as he was consistently pushing toward the positive.

The discussion made me view workplace conflict in a slightly different light, and the more I began to consider it, the more I began to see certain beneficial aspects.

As most everyone who has worked knows, it’s a fertile breeding ground for conflict. Compensation, recognition, feelings of personal worth, team dynamics… all of these (and conservatively about a thousand more) are subjects that easily yield conflict. As a manager, I often used to feel: Conflict is the currency of management.

Though conflict is usually at least temporarily unpleasant, it’s by no means all bad; in fact it can also be the pathway to something better. In that spirit, here are four tangible upsides:

You learn not to be a conflict avoider – As a manager, this is a critical skill. There’s so darn much conflict, you can’t do your job effectively without confronting it directly. And there’s a useful carryover to life outside management. How many personal relationships founder on conflict that is unexpressed, ignored or outright destructive? Learning not to avoid conflict but to manage it constructively pays generous dividends – well beyond the business environment.

Dirty laundry gets aired and (at least sometimes) clean – Conflict among individuals and teams force contentious issues into the light of day. Rather than festering below the surface, where subtle grievances and badwill undermine both personal performance and group dynamics, conflict that is openly aired has at least a (fighting) chance of being resolved. Generally a better outcome for all parties than lingering resentment

It can spur innovation – Constructive resolutions of workplace conflict can become a pathway to improvement. A study I recently came across, conducted in 2008 by the organizational development firm CPP, concluded that “increased innovation and higher performance” can be a substantive benefit. This is not completely surprising, as open workplace conflict produces bursts of activity, and increased activity can yield innovative results.

Worst enemies can end up best friends (or at least colleagues who speak to each other) – The best way I can illustrate this is anecdotally. As a manager, I developed what I thought was a reasonably creative tactic: When personal conflicts between two individuals on my teams became too intense, I gave the two of them free lunch passes and forced them to have lunch together. No one else could be present, so all they could do was talk, face to face, and (hopefully) communicate. How did this work out? I only did it a few times (I came upon the idea in the latter stages of my management career), but the results were generally positive. In these situations conflicts were diminished, and the employees involved became civil colleagues if not exactly “bffs.”

Net-net, this is naturally not meant to conclude workplace conflict is mostly positive. It would be naïve not to acknowledge that it’s painful, destructive, disruptive and costly to individuals and organizations. But if we view conflict as an inevitable element of human interaction at work, and we attempt to constructively manage it rather than avoid or eliminate it, that’s a first step to making its considerable energy work for us rather than against us.

You can follow Victor on Twitter for management-related news, tips and articles.

 

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.

Do you work with a “Chatty Cathy”?

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Chatty Cathy

Do you work with chatty coworkers? Not just the friendly, conversational type, but the type that never stop talking? Ever? You are not alone! We have all encountered an overly talkative colleague who always seems to catch us just as we are leaving for lunch (or the bathroom)! Here are some good ways to deal with a “Chatty Cathy” in the workplace.

1.  Be consistent. It doesn’t make sense for one day for you to fully participate with Chatty Cathy, and the next day ignore her. If you are not consistent about needing to get back to work and limiting the amount of chatter you do participate in, you could be sending mixed messages. No wonder she wants to chat – she thinks that today you might want to as well.

2.  Be honest! If you are heading to the copier and your chit-chatter is stalking you to regale you with another story…be honest!  Let them know that you really do have a lot of work that needs to get done, and you need to concentrate on what you are doing. You may not be received with a smile, but the chatting offender will think twice before trying it again.

3.  Be patient. Try to remember that work is an environment where everyone has to function as a unit. Dealing with chatty coworkers can be as simple as being kindly patient and gently helping them understand you need to get to your work. This person may only be trying to befriend you and nervously chats to make conversation as a show of friendship.

4.  Be firm. If you have tried everything else and you still can’t seem to get work done because of the chatter, let them know that they really have to stop chatting so much. In today’s world, productivity is a great deal of your yearly evaluation. If a coworker is diminishing your productivity, that can lead to an unfavorable evaluation of your work. The majority of people will understand if it is phrased that you are concerned that you may not be as productive if chatting continues.

5. Be polite. You don’t need to imply that they clearly have no work to do, nor that your work is more important. Rudeness is not necessary, so remember to smile, say please and thank you and respect your Chatty Cathy while you are limiting the conversation. You don’t have to like her, but you do need to be polite.

And finally, be sure to evaluate your own actions. Perhaps you are approached by your chatty coworker, because generally you are chatty too. Be careful of labeling others of something you may be guilty of.

Tips for Managing Negative Coworkers

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

You know that one of  the most frustrating aspects of working in an office environment can be dealing with negative coworkers. These coworkers can cause a great deal of frustration without rea

Avoid Negativity

lizing they’re doing it. For them, it may just be venting but for you it becomes a constant stream of negativity that can make life miserable. What can you do when faced with this kind of distraction?
Walk Away

Negative coworkers can really sap your energy, leaving you feel like you’ve been beat up just because they couldn’t stop complaining all day! Even if you have an entire arsenal of tools with which

to combat the negativity, you really need to take time for yourself. Pepper your day with regular breaks that allow you to have some breathing room. Take a walk around the building or simply head off to the break room for a change of scenery. If possible, try to take your break outside so you can combine your need to get away with a little bit of sun and some fresh air. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these little breaks can be, and how much you start to depend on them. Treat yourself – you deserve it!
Turn It Around

Whenever possible, turn the negative comments or attitudes around with a positive version. For every negative bit of reasoning your coworker tosses out, counter with something positive. Every

situation, no matter how dire, has a thread of positive you can knit into a ray of light in the gloom. If your coworker specializes in complaints, help him by suggesting solutions. Sometimes people become so downtrodden by problems that they forget to resolve them.

Stay On the Move
When all else fails, keep moving. If your negative coworkers tend to find and corner you at your desk, this tip is especially important for you. A moving target is harder to hit. Keep files on hand that you need to copy or deliver to another coworker. when your negative friend shows up at your desk yet

again, take your mobile task and go. You can avoid sounding rude by letting him know that you simply must deliver the paperwork or make copies before you forget.

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!

Working with a Bully?

Monday, December 12th, 2011

You have enough to worry about at your job, and getting bullied by your coworkers should never be one of them. It is normal to fear retaliation by a workplace bully.  Running away and letting them continue to bully you is not the right approach (but you already know that!).

Write Everything Down

If you’ve been bullied, write down everything that you can about the event. Don’t forget the basics, like what day the event occurred, where it occurred, who was around and what was said.  Please be truthful and objective (black and white). Do not embellish or get emotional. Stick to the facts as best as you can remember them.  Keep in mind that your bully’s supervisor will need this information in order to be able to see a pattern if possible.

If the bully is harassing you via email, text messaging, fax, audit reports, time sheets, memos or by good old snail mail, then smile.  The work has been done for you.  Collect as many of these as you can before you go up the ladder. You can report to your boss, your bully’s boss, Human Resources, your union rep, or whoever you think will be able to best help you immediately..

Don’t Be Alone

Your bully will deny any and all of the accusations brought against him or her.  Expect that. Make it much harder for the bully by never being alone in a room with her. Make sure that someone else is always within earshot that can back you up. A bully is more likely to harass their victims when the victim is alone than even when just one other bystander is nearby.

If you can’t find a human witness, then carry a mechanical witness with you in the form of a cell phone camera or a small tape recorder.  Do a test run with your cell phone inside of a jacket pocket or lying on a table to hear how well voices record. Many cell phones have excellent audio. Carrying a tape recorder is much easier to do in the winter than in the summer, unless your blazer has an inside pocket.

Resist Revenge

This step is hard to do. You will constantly think up things you can say or do to get back at your bully.  Just think them – don’t actually do them. It’s never okay to act on these revenge fantasies, even if the bully really REALLY deserves it. They can easily backfire and cost you your job.

Whenever you do interact with your bully, keep a calm and even tone of voice. Don’t yell and don’t swear that you’ll get even. Don’t even bother to tell them you are documenting all of this. Pretend that you are being watched by the boss. If the bully tries to back you in a corner, move as quickly as possible to anyplace that would have other employees around.

Relax and Talk to Friends

You should not have to spend your off hours worrying about getting bullied again.  Since this is a problem that ís bothering you, you will need to let off some steam. Talk to your friends and loved ones.  They may have tips for you. They may also have been in a similar situation and can sympathize. Better to speak to friends that are not friends at work though.

Bullies try to make their victims feel as if they deserve to be bullied. Spending time with people who value you can not only get you to relax, but can wreck the bully’s plans.

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.

Meetings and your Difficult Person/Bully

Monday, March 14th, 2011

If you are attending a meeting this week, and your difficult person (or bully) is attending, make a point to sit BESIDE her, not across the table from her.

When you position yourself across the table you are placing yourself in a potentially adversarial position.  By putting yourself beside your difficult person you are in a position of equality, not competition.

This way you don’t even have to guess if she is talking about you. You know she isn’t, nor can she (you are much too close)! This will take some of the pressure off you (believe it or not), and hopefully you’ll be able to concentrate on your job more.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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 🙂


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