What do you do when your workplace is infested with unreasonable jerks? You complain, of course! Your mentor (parent) offers an arcane example that seems to say, “Just deal with it,” which is not helpful. You really don’t want to go through the quagmire of bringing it to HR (really, really, no). You tell your friends and they tell you to do something that will get you fired or jailed—funny, but again, not helpful. BUT THERE IS HELP!
Dealing with jerks? Here’s help!
It had come to the point that Rebecca dreaded going to work. Her small office was occupied by smaller minds. The leadership preferred that she handle all inter-office conflict. A reality that they failed to fully communicate to her co-workers. Most of the people in the office kept their heads down and tried to do their jobs, but were often sidetracked by the two longest-term workers—we shall call them The Twins.
The Twins ganged up on Rebecca at every opportunity. They whispered derogatory names as she passed by, then lied about it when confronted. More than once, Rebecca suspected them of working behind her back to limit her success. They openly ridiculed every new idea she brought forth. The few times that her ideas won out, The Twins’ passive aggression undermined any chance at effective implementation.
Rebecca was ready to quit.
These 7 steps will work.
Working late one night, Rebecca ran into James, the old gentleman who cleaned their offices. She’d met James before and always found his measured wisdom comforting. She told him she was thinking of finding a new job and why. He told her he understood, “You know, you can’t please anybody for long when your job is cleaning up after them. But I have a method.”
James went on to explain the steps he’d developed for dealing with impossible people.
Try to reframe it. Your perspective on the issue as a negative reality may be correct or it may be off. Look at things from another angle to see if there’s a blessing in disguise. Yes, they’re nasty acting people, but is their nastiness just the kind of bold feedback you need to snap you out of a bad habit? Before going to war, make sure you’ve looked at the issue from other angles.
Avoid the temptation to avoid the conversation. Once you know it’s worth the hassle, don’t wilt—things like this never get better on their own. Bonus 2.5 Don’t think technology will help. Texting and email make things worse—this is face-to-face stuff.
Check yourself. Make sure that your behavior has reflected professionalism and decorum. If not, still have the conversation, but start with an apology for your behavior and give the other person room to clean up their mess. Some jerks are quite reasonable when given the chance. Some are not.
Courage! Somebody had faith in you and gave you a job to do. You can do it. Hard conversations are prerequisite to advancement in every area of life. This is your time to do the right thing.
Plan ahead. Schedule time and plan what you want to say. Be direct and clear, but not harsh. Use open-ended questions to ward off defensiveness and get to a solution. Try something like, “You know, we both have a pretty good job here. How can we work together to make it even better?” Give specific examples of behavior to change. Make it clear that working together is your goal.
Listen. Say everything you need to say in 30-45 seconds and then shut up. You are not obligated to answer whatever they say. As a leader, you are obligated to listen.
Make the tough call. Unreasonable people can remain unreasonable. That may mean you just walk away and do your job. At least you’ve tried to clear the air, right? If you have the authority, however, this type of passive aggressive bullying requires some force to stop. If they won’t change their behavior, fire them.
You’ll advance the overall health of the organization. If you don’t have the authority to let someone go, bring someone with authority into the conversation. Ask her or him to observe but to let you run the meeting.
Bonus 7.5 Commit to go the extra mile. If you want to be the hero, you have to act heroically. Be the first to extend an olive branch when conflict starts. Offer the first positive solution to reframe a problem. Be the first to apologize even when it’s not your fault. Be gracious and kind. It won’t pay off every time, but it will pay off more than acting common, argumentative, negative, defensive, or mean. The country has plenty of brats. You be a role model.
Dynamic Coaching works with leaders to help them discover, balance, and achieve their dreams. Specialization includes developing emerging leaders in business environments. As a result, clients maximize engagement and performance, reduce stress, improve communication, and develop people faster. My goal is to help you become preferred in your field.