Another Day, Another outburst…

...annnd I'm done..!

…annnd I’m done..!

The title for today kind of speaks for itself.  10 days into the bully tracker and I’ve noted not only that the pattern of behavior does exist, but also that the rate of increase seems to indicate an exponential regression in the behavior of the worker.  To keep things equitable, I opted for the use of the performance tracker sheet, since it creates the appearance that I’m tracking the behavior of everyone equitably rather than singling out one specific person.  We’d had a similar regression in accountability since I elected to minimize my involvement in the management of the newest batch of senior level workers, and an increase in client complaints as a result.  It’s been a rather interesting development.

I can honestly say that I experience no joy from these regressions in performance behavior. Even though I now have evidence that there is a direct correlation between my level of involvement and the successful performance of our team, I am still perceived to be liable by our clients, so a lose for them also is my loss as well.  And probably even more so, not just due to the ethical conundrum harboring resentment would bring, but also because there are numerous occasion in which I am one of the couple (sometimes only) one in the building, so poor performance negates the efforts we’ve invested in building a competent and cohesive team.  Even though my workers and patrons know I have no REAL authority, I liked when they attributed our success to some of the contributions I bring. But once I lose that reputability, I lose their confidence in me.  I suppose for now I should be grateful that I do have a strong enough rapport with (the vast majority) my workers to persuade them assist others when those services are needed.  So you can imagine how distressing it can be to turn people away, and send them on a wild goose chase around the building or to refer them to the designated person within the facility who I know isn’t going to be accessible, because we can’t come to an agreement about how our workers should be managed, and it reflects poorly on all of us in the organization when we’re supposed to be sharing accountability as a team.

 

no REALLY; we're just wasting valuable time...

no REALLY; we’re just wasting valuable time…

I don’t want someone who refuses to learn our sales and insurance policies to be handling transactions or contracts when they can’t even learn how to follow basic instructions or feels entitled to ignore our policies.  Today’s outburst came after the worker asked me for assistance regarding pricing while working with some new clients.  Before I could even respond to her question she interrupted, so I went back to what I was doing.  Then she asked me for some other piece of information that she didn’t know, but is responsible for knowing, asked for my input and then snapped at me when I clarified the policy.  Exhausted from it all, I simply ignored the behavior with an apologetic glance and clarified the policy using the precautionary words, “it was my understanding that …” so that at the very least she could save face over her ignorance of our policies.  Then she processed the payment from one of the clients and I had to intervene this time to ask whether she had remembered to write out a receipt.  I knew she hadn’t because I was standing off to the side after I handed her the receipt book.

Then she just kind of shut down, got incredibly pissy and forcefully tried to reach through me, while exclaiming in a fairly aggressive tone “exCUSE ME…!” and I leapt out of the way as she put the receipt book back into the drawer, which was on the other side of me.  Oh I was livid.  And we had quite a bit of an audience.

Why is all of that even necessary?  You know what's at risk if I react? I mean it would be worth it, but it wouldn't correct the problem or anything...

Why is all of that even necessary? You know what’s at risk for all of us if I react. I mean it would be totally worth it, but it wouldn’t correct the problem or anything…

 

This is how I rationally responded to the situation (thank GOD that’s my go-to)!

 

This is how I WISH I could have responded, but it would probably get me fired and isn't really LIKE me...

Unh Uh, girl you got the WRONG ONE..!

 

This is how I WISH I could have responded, but it would probably get me fired and thankfully isn’t really even LIKE me…

I bit my tongue (honestly, it was hard); I took a deep breath and excused myself (Thank goodness for me I’ve been watching a lot of British television lately, so I don’t feel quite as ashamed of exercising restraint because I can now better visualize how to do so in a way that conveys grace and dignity).  Then I joined another group of workers and inquired about one of their shoes, which turned out to be new, to avoid escalating the situation any further.  A few moments later, the crabby worker disappeared.  She was gone for 10 minutes so I went back to my desk since our station had been abandoned.  She came back later asking me whether I’d seen her phone, which she immediately found among her personal belongings.  I asked her where she’d gotten her dress and I thought that was the end of it.  Then it happened again.  So I left her there.

 

I'm sorry, I just don't have the interest or energy in playing with CRAZY...!

I’m sorry, I just don’t have any interest in getting into a pissing contest with someone who is CLEARLY CRAZY…!

 

When I returned, another worker who had seen everything and I began a discussion about power differentials. It was one of those discussions that you have with a person when you’re trying to figure out a safe way to talk about it, but NOT talk about it.  I think she just wanted to make sure I was okay, and I have a lot of discussions with my workers about neuro-cognitive behavior and leadership dynamics, when we want to address issues publicly without singling any specific people out. It appeared that she and another worker who had witnessed what happened, had discussed the topic recently when they worked together over the weekend.  The feminine worker was standing at the bottom of a flight of stairs and the masculine worker stood a few stairs above her, which made her uncomfortable.  They were reminded of the discussion once I left my desk area and stood next to the worker I’d asked about her shoes, who had been sitting.

I was relieved to understand that she’d actually shifted the discussion to some other oversight of mine, of which I had the ability to recognize and correct.  I admitted that I hadn’t actually been sensitive to that.  I just was beginning to feel a little claustrophobic and for some reason I gravitated toward that person because we were from roughly the same area, so I must have subconsciously associated that person with home and safety.  Then when the grumpy worker returned, I left with the new worker, I regaled her with a story about a ridiculous article I had read and then found another task to complete somewhere else in the building.

Girl, have you read this article about this study where people who spend time around chronically angry people experience extensive deterioration in health?

Girl, have you read this article about this study that shows that people who spend time around chronically angry people are more likely to experience extensive deterioration in health?

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Chicken Soup for the Spiritually Afflicted

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Yesterday morning I received permission to adjust my work schedule one hour.  I decided it might be a good opportunity to start the day off right by taking an extra moment to de-clutter my mind. I happen to know that one of the things that clears my head and shifts my focus from inward to outward is to offer small tokens of affection.  This morning I stopped in and bought breakfast for one of my workers (for no other reason than to make her feel valued).  Turns out it was a good morning to do it.  She’d just been written up for being late for her shift, she’s responsible for opening the building at 6am, but she’s the ONLY supervisor who gets penalized from upper management for not clocking in early (mainly because she works with the only other manager who gets penalized when workers aren’t accountable during his shift.

So we had a nice calming moment, to disrupt the anxiety that she’d felt. Then I went and made some tea, and by the time I returned she’d been replaced by the supervisor who was actually supposed to be working the shift (who had also come to work late).  As I checked my email, I found a little blurb advertising the movie coming about about Noah from a Bible app that I subscribe to, and I thought rather than ruminate upon the inequities of the system that it might be nice to reflect upon the biblical justification for the need for sanctuary.  (Which became a prevalent them after the story about the covenant between God and Noah after the flood incident).

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We often look at the rainbow as a symbol of hope, but what we instantly learn after Noah makes this agreement, is that eradicating the world of unethical or disruptive behavior didn’t ensure that acts of wickedness could be completely eradicated from men.  Often the founders from the Bible were held in high esteem because they were outliers, and you can see the outcomes of how each chose to manage their position of moral rectitude to the degree to which they choose to behave with moral indignation.

These days we have to seek our  sanctuary in the fellowship of wise and ethical men. Thankfully there are quite a few more that exist these days than in Noah’s time. What we learn from Noah’s story after the covenant is that we also have a responsibility to extend a hand to those outside our fellowship of hospitality, but we’re not obligated to continue to extend it, when we see that to do so would only cause them to stumble.  As for those we’re accountable, we have more of a responsibility to work together to instill those values. We work to advance our own position through our efforts so that we can assist others in their own development and give back as we progress our way through this transition.

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The sanctuary is where we seek solace and guidance when we find that we are no longer in the position to influence the outcome or others decisions. It’s where we go to be reminded of what we’re working toward, where we can join in fellowship with others who share are values and to restore and support the weary or to become rekindled ourselves through the narratives of hope and who need support as they work to overcome great obstacles or work to heal from their brokenness.  Powerlessness doesn’t have to be a terrible thing, sometimes it is just a signal for us to let go until we can regain our own strength to help others, or the mechanism that gives us permission to let those who esteem us and recognize our struggles reach out and carry us for a little while.

In discovering that there was joy to be found in this new direction, it occurs to me that maybe my previous posts weren’t really about me learning how to cope with my ego or the folly of these young girls.  This is about me learning how to recognize and identify when it’s time for me to accept that despite my best intentions, my efforts depreciate when fail to recognize that I’m not as equipped as I’d like to be to solve this problem effectively.  As scary as it sounds, I think I’ve invested enough into trying to correct these issues. And though it seems that sometimes the design lends itself to poor returns not because the efforts weren’t ennobling, but because the efforts are directed toward a system that isn’t designed to benefit the right things.  So I need to learn how to trust my intuition  and make peace with the idea of drawing the line, surrendering and letting go.

A Millennial’s Perspective: Too Much Drama

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Hilariously enough, on my way back from lunch today near the local campus, I overheard a young woman on her cellphone today telling the person she was talking to that she was thinking of dropping her theater minor on the basis that she felt as if she knew enough about running a theater now that she’d taken a couple of classes and

“honestly, I can’t handle it, there’s just too much DRAMA.”

Don’t worry, I exercised restraint, and responded with a polite nod and sympathetic smile when she greeted me with a hello.  Internally I was torn between wanting to give myself a face palm and wanting to script what she’d said into my next satirical theater review.  If I permitted myself to think about it, I’d have enough material for about a 2 hour stand up rant.  But I leave the processing of that moment to you?

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Another chuckle-worthy moment today after work may have involved a tree planting involving a group of individuals, who had barely been outside, let alone had any experience using outdoor tools.  The hyperbolic reactions I witnessed when the participants were asked if volunteers would be interested in adding worms to the mulch from the compost stew were fairly amusing (and a bit startling).  Then they let one brave soul wield the pickaxe to break up the ground, which had grown pretty compacted on account of all of the “winter” we’d been having this spring. What really got me though, was while I was critically observing the congregation of people standing around watching one man work and more or less pose with shovels for the photo shoot, someone actually busted out a harmonica and started playing it… (rumor has it, he’s from Texas)…and he was actually pretty good…

not THIS good, but still pretty respectable… now enjoy. 🙂

No Rhyme nor Reason

Click image for brief anecdote.

Click image for brief anecdote.

 

Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict — alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.”
Dorothy Thompson

Yesterday I attended a conflict management workshop that I’d signed up for since I didn’t want to squander the opportunity to make use of the professional development resources that my workplace offers.  You know, I’ve booked our venue for that particular facilitator before and our management staff would always make snarky commentary about the fact that the facilitator would book the room to set up for the event on the night before. I eventually was able to steer to conversation back on topic by looking wide-eyed and really uncomfortable and then delicately following up with the comment, “I’m sure he means well…” and then those that encouraged the behavior would start to feel a little bit uncomfortable, the laughter would die down and that would sort of be the end of it.

After attending today’s training session, however, I can see where the extra planning went.  The facilitator did not just read off a bunch of slides to us or or even force us to talk about uncomfortable issues, he really took us through an artfully facilitated experience.  It was so well-executed in fact that I knew about 5 minutes into it that when I got home I was going to more than likely blog about it.

Healthy approaches to Conflict, and knowing when to use them, can provide a variety of benefits

Healthy approaches to Conflict, and knowing when to use them, can provide a variety of benefits.  Mindmap

One of the major emphases of this session that he wanted us to focus upon was upon understanding how our own personal conflict styles impacted our perception of the way others approached conflict.  So he took us through a Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory and then had us read over and discuss whether we noticed correlations within our behavior when we experienced what he referred to as “storm shifts” in behavior as we watched conflicts escalate.

I scored almost identically under the cooperative conflict style for my primary (calm) and secondary (storming) mechanisms for approaching conflict.  Some of the costs associated with over-using this particular style included

  • fatigue & time loss
  • distraction from more important tasks
  • analysis paralysis
  • exhaustion from fear of “too much processing”

particularly if the person using this framework is unskilled in dealing with conflict.  The benefits, however, include a high potential for increased creativity and personal growth, a better understanding of the situation, the opportunity to build team cohesion and self knowledge.

My particular pattern typically played out the following way: my first reaction to conflict is to tend and directly address the issue at hand to negotiate for the win-win, but if these attempts are rejected I respond to the shock I experience by withdrawing momentarily to gather relevant data and information, so that I can assess it in a calm and methodical way in order to comfortably enter negotiations and resolve them efficiently once things have calmed down.

I might look for relevant details, plans, options, weigh costs, check for policy compliance, and precedents from elsewhere before making that decision, and if the situation requires a directive, I either make it and do the best I can to explain what course of action I’ve taken, who’s involved in that process if they want to appeal and my basis for evidence that led me to the decision.  Occasionally those discussions may take place retroactively, but once I have better information it becomes easy to let the person I’m experiencing conflict with make a decision about how they are going to react to this conflict, what they stand to benefit and what’s at risk should they choose an action that doesn’t reflect everyone’s best interest.

Click this image for a lovely anecdote about trust and healthy conflict management

Click this image for a lovely anecdote about trust and healthy conflict management

What I also learned is that your previous experiences with a particular conflict style (e.g. I associate those who raise their voice or snap at others in order to be dismissive with prior associations in which those who used that style, often people who I cared about very deeply, resurfaced that conflict because of some previous form of conflict they hadn’t resolved previously that left them feeling un-affirmed, hurt and afraid of being abandoned when they encountered that previous conflict… and those patterns of behavior, that imprinting was passed on.  Often large, demonstrative expressions of anger reflect

  • accumulation of resentment due to needs that haven’t been acknowledged or met
  • a fear of being perceived as weak or threatened when approached to engage with someone they haven’t built trust with but have been approached by to engage in conflict
  • resistance out of the belief that one is being denied the right to be validated for simply being themselves
  • inability to articulate of boundaries

According to the book that was recommended to us to supplement the assessment: Style Matters, when dealing with those who have a more in-your-face conflict style or a history of abusing others, my best plan of action is to withdraw to safety but I need to express when I do so a clear intention to return and work on things once things cool off.  Otherwise it will escalate their anxiety and increase the likelihood of the behavior increasing.

Susan Wheelan states that:

“We know from our experience that it is easier to develop trust in another person or in a group if we believe that we can disagree, and we will not be abandoned or hurt for our differences. It is difficult to trust those who deny us the right to be ourselves.”
5 styles

 

Kraybill seemed to believe that a direct correlation existed between the way a person approached a particular conflict style and the importance we placed upon whether we valued our agendas more over our relationships.  I realize now that the emphasis I place upon how important the agenda I’d like to convey definitely determines the approach I display when working through conflict because I absolutely hate the idea of giving up on a relationship, especially if I find the relationship to be important.  But the moment that I realize that the other party places little value upon the relationship, the easier it is for me to divest and redirect my emphasis upon confirming my rationalization (coming up with evidence for whether/why I’m right in case I have to protect myself) rather than placating the other person in order to try and salvage that relationship.

So I suppose in a way, I can be a bit willful myself.  But I think having that self knowledge and understanding which considerations I need to make (e.g.

  • whether the circumstance requires that I place more importance upon the relationship or the issue,
  • the time and energy constraints for addressing the conflict,
  • weighing potential consequences,
  • and alternative approaches to mitigate any damaging effects).

 

We may be able to move forward and to develop more healthy and appropriate avenues for working through workplace conflict.

A bumpy ride…

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I’m really excited for you to read tomorrow’s post, but for now I want to reflect upon my experience tonight at the neighborhood gym.  Let’s just say that I ran into some coworkers that had deviated from their regular workout schedule (which sucks, because I like going at night because I don’t have to deal with all of the weird catty and hormonally charged social dynamics. Seriously, if I wanted to watch a bunch of toddlers exhibit bad peer influence, ruin reputations and congregate in the middle of the floor, I’d go to the mall, not the gym). One member of this group who had dropped in for social hour was the incumbent supervisor I mentioned in an earlier post. I suppose she saw me coming around the corner and made it a point to mention to the person that she was talking to how excited she was to be moving on to her Teach for America position in Indianapolis where she would FINALLY GET TO BE TREATED LIKE AN ADULT.  I didn’t know whether to chuckle at the folly of her passive aggressive gesture or cringe at her blatant attempt to be obnoxious.  But I did a quick mental assessment to remind myself that although it pained me to watch, I didn’t have anything at stake that would merit my investment in continuing to internalize it.  I only wish my kidneys had gotten the message.

I pretended as if I didn’t hear and was polite to her as I quickly greeted the group, making a special effort not to interrupt on my way to the locker room. Then I headed to the smith machine and cranked out 36 squats hoping that the physical exertion and the terrible performance of the Miami Heat against Indiana would be a good distraction.  But once the young woman positioned herself on the treadmill across from me, the thought occurred to me,”well if you have to tell people that you’re an adult in order to convince them, then you’re probably not demonstrating it well.”  That’s when I had to acknowledge that despite my best efforts to focus on something more constructive, I was hooked.

So I did what any good little fitness buff would do, and upped the intensity of my workout (no I didn’t do plyo, but I think it might be good to develop so I can move some of my workouts back outdoors).  When I finally got to dumbbell squats however, queen bee and a group of her buddies congregated to my corner of the weight room and I completely spaced on the positioning of my hands on the dumbbell.  I ended up using like 3 different hand positions until I decided to settle on the one that felt the most natural… which as it turns out, was not the version I wanted to use, but was fine enough to get me out of there.  Then I ducked back to the water fountain to hydrate, get my head together and I plugged my headphones into the av jack on a treadmill that wasn’t in view.

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Before I cranked up the pace to full gear, I turned the tv station on to nick-at-nite to watch the episode of Full house. It was the episode where Danny and Jessie find out that DJ is dating Viper, the mullet wearing man-child from Uncle Jessie’s band.  Danny kind of dresses DJ down about the guy because he’s offended that she’s sneaking around (which I thought was valid), but then he negates his position by belittling the guy, which only makes her want to be with him more (if only Danny had read Dan Ariely‘s book he’d have understood that the combination of frustration attraction and making the guy seem unattainable only increase his value).  Meanwhile, uncle Jessie had taken his family with him on tour only to discover that the raunchy hotel room that he used to have fun hanging out in when he hung out with groupies wasn’t really suitable for his new family and that maturity had changed his expectations A LOT.

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I could relate. I even dropped my pace a hair because I wanted to finish out the episode.  Then out of the corner of my eye, I notice the group begin to inch into view, so I went into a cool down about 15 minutes into my run and eventually fled the cardio room.  On my way out, I ran into someone I knew who just happened to be the ex-boyfriend of the incumbent’s roommate, of who she’d formally made a campaign to bully back in school.  To give a full context, the guy was a total jerk back then.  He used to be really arrogant and difficult to work with, and I tried to warn him about burning bridges before he got kicked out of school.  I hesitated for a moment and then greeted him, just out of sight and asked him how he’d been coping since he got out of school.  It appeared that life had not been so kind, but that he’d recently reapplied to school and I wished him luck.  Then I disclosed that I’d made a similar mistake when I was younger and how the consequences I’d experienced had taught me a lot about humility and had instilled a new-found sense of gratitude that when I finally went back to school that I got to look at all of the experiences afterward with a fresh new lens, and that I’d found a college willing to invest in me buy giving me a second chance (tuition free). He agreed. We also talked about how both of our siblings had suffered similar consequences and how they’d matured since then.

If I was being “stalked” or intimidated by the incumbent before, my anxiety dissipated once I saw her poke her head out of  the weight room. I guess she wasn’t too keen on the conversation, because she left me alone after that, although I did  overhear her mention to her roommate that she’d seen me talking to him in the stairwell of our apartment building (unfortunately she lives across the hall from me, so I won’t be able to escape her until she moves). But I don’t think that will escalate into conflict or anything.  Her roommate used to work for me, so she knows my character better than the incumbent does, and she’s the type that would ask me directly about it rather than escalate it or passive aggressively use it as an excuse to be cruel.

On my way home, I walked by the police station and apparently there’s something going down in town, because a bunch of squad cars raced down the road in the opposite direction of where I was headed.  I said a brief prayer for the safety and comfort of those involved and then realized how grateful I felt to be headed in the opposite direction of the danger, both physically and ideologically.  For the first time in a few weeks I genuinely felt grateful for this experience.  I was grateful that I didn’t have to repeat those lessons, grateful for the confirmation and reminder that failure and self-sabotaging behavior doesn’t have to be the end of the road, thus absolving me of the need to keep making an emotional investment that was inevitably (as I’d hesitantly predicted over and over again) with low returns.  Even though I feel as if it’s my responsibility to model and instill constructive behavior, if someone feels threatened because I’ve taken an interest in them, it doesn’t mean I’ve failed, it means they’ve got a bumpy road ahead, but sometimes those failures can lead us to better places… and this young person (who is eager to take on the responsibilities of being an adult) just signed with Teach for America for 2 YEARS (so if she sticks it out, she’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn humility and maturity from her peers and students … and TFA doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for attrition).

What I’ve learned and we discussed tonight, is that once you go back and make an effort to correct your mistakes, most people are pretty resilient and get along much better after they’ve matured a bit a few years after they’ve left college.  I met with one of my old college supervisors (who I hired as my replacement and then didn’t leave) who I clashed with because of ideological differences in regards to how to enforce policy in our office.  And we hung out last week for a few hours and regaled each other with tales of our bumpy transitions after college…

…”oh to be so full of certainty and sure of EVERYTHING… even when we were right we were wrong…”

 

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If you knew back then (before you embarked out into the “REAL WORLD,”) what you know now, what kinds of behaviors would you have avoided?

And I Have to Spend All Day with These People?

Suzy Welch (endorsed by Oprah) wrote an interesting article about how to deal with difficult co-workers or “un-teammates” as she referred to them.  In her article she gives tips for how to deal with:

 
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  • Boss Haters: Most Boss Haters persist, using every kind of subterfuge from eye-rolling to outright belligerence, until management loses patience and ousts them. Some Boss Haters are hard to extricate because of union rules or special skills.
  •  Stars: many key players are Stars largely because they are the best kind of employee, inclusive and inspiring, but some Stars can develop into real bullies. Sensing they are untouchable, they will bulldoze their ideas through the team process and ridicule anyone who dares to disagree. They may also passively disrupt discussions by not participating, their silence sending the message “This nonsense is beneath me.”
  • Sliders: former Stars, resting on their laurels and undermining their teams with apathy. Their unspoken excuse is “I’ve proven my worth around here; I don’t need to scramble anymore.”
  • Pity Partiers: un-teammates who have an excuse for every act of inaction.  The most expert Pity Parties concoct long-running sympathy stories: bad backs, bad marriages, bad childcare, and so on. I don’t want to sound harsh. Sometimes people really do need time off or special accommodations, but Pity Parties make an art form of wriggling out of responsibility, and you’re left wondering if you’re a heel for resenting them—or a dupe for helping them.
  • The Self-Promoter: like “Look at Me” Margaret (not her real name), who saw every team assignment as an opportunity for personal advancement. In their pursuit of fame and glory, Self-Promoters occasionally sabotage peers. I once had a co-worker who used staff meetings, with the boss in attendance, to vociferously attack every other writer’s work as “hackneyed” or, her favorite word, “superficial.” If we pushed back against her critiques, she accused us of being competitive with her. There was no way to win. Usually, that’s the case with Self-Promoters. They can drub you with their narcissistic “logic”—they’re right; you’re just defensive—and wear you down with their egocentric career campaign.

 

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If you’re curious about how Welch recommends dealing with these work-place offenders, be sure to check out her article.

 

While I find the article interesting, because I definitely recognize many  of these types, what I would have liked to have seen and will probably investigate more is suggestions for how to develop a culture of accountability if you aren’t in a position of authority so that you can eliminate the need for these behaviors.  One of the reasons that I opted to use the bully tracker is that it eventually eliminates the need to avoid conflict (which is the primary source of most of my anxiety — I’m used to being able to being able to address grievances directly and to ask for what I need).

 

I found an article from Harvard Business Review and was relieved to discover that I had followed the standard conflict resolution protocols before even reading these articles, but found that once I finally entertained that the person initiating the conflict might be unreachable that I might have begun to head into dangerous territory, which is why I keep compulsively trying to reject that idea.  The article shares:

 

When a colleague’s agenda is seemingly opposed to your own, it can be tempting to demonize him. Distorting other people is a common response to conflict, but not a particularly productive one. In fact, doing so undermines your ability to exert influence.

 

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Most of the time when insubordination (or in the way we’d define it within the framework of behavioral economics competing agendas or interests) emerges within the workplace, most people attribute the problem to ineffective management.  And considering the circumstances, I definitely see evidence that would support that.  But given that I am considered by our clients, patrons and stakeholders to be accountable for the successes and failings of management, you can see why I derive so much anxiety regarding now knowing how to work around this.

 

Surprisingly enough, I did find an article on performance management that recommended that I approach this challenge with the exact same methods that I’d previously intuited.  And as you can tell, I really like the performance management approach because it gives you the advantage of tangible metrics that you can accessibly work with.  I can’t imagine that Welch’s approaches to conflict management yield a very high rate of return upon her investment.

 

What you may also find interesting is that I am currently reading a book about predictably irrational behavior and have just finished the chapter about how marketers us anchors in imprinting, and it occurs to me that it might be valuable to reassess how this experience has realigned my own anchors so I can set concrete goals about what I’d like to achieve so that I can perform an assessment of how I can go about creating achievable goals for my problematic worker so that we can modify her  behavior through consistent peer modeling and habitual re-enforcement (especially since peer acceptance seems to be one of her motivational drivers).  At the very least, if I can focus upon equipping her subordinates to fill in the gaps in the areas which she lacks leadership, it will make the team much more resilient through these new cultural norms.

 

 

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And I feel pretty confident I can do that.  She isn’t well versed in management or leadership enough to feel threatened by me working with the other leaders.  We have an organizational Youtube channel that I trained my office workers with, so that might serve as an excellent vehicle to clarify our policies, strategies for securing buy in and communicate these institutional norms.  Sweet! 🙂

18 ways to be more positive at work

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Found this on Linkedin today.  Thought I’d include it with some of the coping strategies I keep listed on a post it I have hanging from my computer monitor at my desk.

Sizing me up

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So problematic worker surprisingly enough was in a good mood yesterday.  I spent the first part of her shift under the Martine’s protocol (only contributing to the conversations when I could add something pleasant, taking an interest in the other participants and politely excusing myself to work on another assignment when I began to feel myself become too anxious or hyper-vigilant). This worked well until the shift change when her clients and peers left and I found myself alone with her in the cubicle.

Thankfully we had a events occurring at our venue later this week and there was a day when they’d scheduled to turn the water off, so it allowed me to concentrate very intently on producing and distributing good signage around the building.  After I’d hung about 27 signs on each of the 3 stories, I came back to my desk to determine what other work I could do, but I suppose she was lonely or something, because she whipped her phone out and asked me whether or not I wanted to see a picture of her friend’s puppy (her friend had initially texted her to inform her that she’d planned on going out to get a tattoo and somehow came home with a puppy instead).  Then she told me about new phone cases she bought and some other stuff and I made an attempt to appear to be listening while I began to work on my next project because I didn’t expect her good mood to last long.

Then she did something surprising, she complimented me.

 

foxy

 

I forgot that I’d mentioned I’d bought this little bauble on ebay only it turned out to be much larger than I realized, so it felt kind of gaudy to wear daily, but I’d paired it with a sand colored shirt layered over a chambray top and topped with a brown quilted vest.

 

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She really liked the fox, to which my response was, “…what this little ole thing? well thank you.  It’s so big I wasn’t sure when I would have the occasion to wear it.” Then she complimented me again, but made sure to note specifically that she thought that I also looked “super cute” on Friday, the day of “the clipboard” incident.  Apparently she was a big fan of not only the scarf, which had generated a lot of buzz by lunchtime, but also the other accessories I’d paired with it — over my white long sleeve shirt and black trousers.

 

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So I felt pretty good about things, for awhile.  I’d overheard that one of the clients who happened to linger a little longer at her desk than usual had just asked her out, so I kind of hoped that would be a good enough distraction to keep her occupied and in good spirits for awhile.

I was just grateful to see that she was making an effort to be nice.

Things even went well into today for the first hour of her shift.  I kept up as many social graces and just focused upon rapport building with our clients.  She did mention that she didn’t have breakfast this morning and she thought it made her mean when she hadn’t eaten.

Then after awhile, when I redirected the conversation back toward work and opened up a discussion asking her how she made decisions about what she prioritized for cleaning, because we had a few areas that were time sensitive, she got really nasty with me, so I literally just rolled my chair back into the corner and went back to my computer.

Later she tried to joke with me about one of her peers who had given her a Snicker’s Bar last night because he’d told her that, “she got really mean when she was hungry” I responded by saying, “well yeah, I wasn’t really sure how to respond to it, so I just figured it was better for me to find something else to do.” Then she told me a story about how she unnecessarily berated one of her friends over something really petty hoping that I’d understand.  But I didn’t.  I simply replied, “I suppose we should probably look at keeping some food back here then” and went back to my work.

Consequently, our cubicle right now is dead silent.  I’d actually started this post last night because I was looking forward to acknowledging that something positive happened and that perhaps I was being hyper-sensitive.  But I suppose when you’re in a capacity where you’re responsible for teaching someone else but you don’t have any real authority over them, sometimes you have to recognize that some people just aren’t receptive to being helped no matter how much you try to take an interest in them.

I would like to be able to say that I have an excellent ability to build rapport with people, and for the most part that is honestly true.

But there are certain patterns of behavior that really hinder that process, and I don’t know how to convey that to any person who knows better but does not respect themselves enough to value their relationships. I know technically by drawing a nonverbal boundary and making it evident that her emotional outburst are not acceptable, goes contrary to the rules of establishing rapport:

Rapport is important in both our professional and personal lives; employers are more likely to employ somebody who they believe will get on well with their current staff.  Personal relationships are easier to make and develop when there is a closer connection and understanding between the parties involved – i.e. there is greater rapport.

 

But I don’t believe it’s wise to set a precedent where I condone that kind of behavior or reinforce it as a behavioral norm. From what was articulated to me, it either sounds as if her friends have either enabled her behavior our of fear that they won’t be accepted or they’ve given it right back to her, which is what I’d more than likely do if she didn’t work for me.

 

I’ve done it with my peers (and am hereby known as the preppy feminist one), but have mitigated the incidents of considerable bullying.  I just worry that if I do cross that line I run the risk of being perceived as a bully.  And as we all know, perception may not be reality, but it can definitely have similar impacts and can also escalate very quickly. So it isn’t my preferred method of conflict resolution unless I have the resources and support I need to address things directly and ethically.

 

So I’m hoping that once I am able to formally address her about her behavior, we can put a stop to this although it’s good that she’s starting to think about these things. What I don’t want to happen is that I move to soon and exacerbate the situation to where she increasingly recognizes that she does something wrong but feels entitled to make poor choices anyway (which is a variation of the unhealthy behavior I had been witnessing).

 

I’m reminded of a quote I read fairly recently from an article that mentioned that
Although these problems are serious, it is important for supervisors to see the difference between employees who don’t do their work properly because they choose not to and employees who don’t do their work because they need help.
This is one of those things that I already know, but when you don’t have the authority to do anything about, it can cause you to second guess yourself. Several weeks ago I had no problem acknowledging that this was a person who valued being accepted more than they did being led, and that her unwillingness to contribute was what made her an outlier more than her lack of expertise.
There’s always a fear that focusing too much upon these kinds of issues will create a pattern of damage or mis-align focus and energy that I could be using to be productive.  But I just read an article that shared

 

When our brain attempts to solve a problem, it wants to be energetically efficient. So it begins by searching for surface answers—those that are easy and obvious. When it’s addressing a question, the brain combs the data “files” of what popular culture thinks of as the “left hemisphere” to find out if it’s seen the problem before. It doesn’t want to invent a solution if one already exists.

 

If there is no familiar and readily available response, that’s when our brain dedicates more energy to draw on deeper resources. It invites the more intuitive and imaginative right hemisphere to participate in solving the problem, scanning remote but possibly relevant memories and abstractions that could provide it with a solution. This information would normally be tuned out by the left hemisphere but has become available in a time of need. (Read: When we’re in that corner.)

 

In other words, solving higher-order, creative problems, requires the types of people who can activate the entirety of their brain, the analytical and the insightful, in order to push, poke, prod, plumb their contents and experiment with that content in order to tease out alternate solutions.

 

So perhaps wrestling with this challenge for a little bit will direct me to some good information about how teachers use classroom management techniques and other administrators have been able to clarify boundaries and create breakthroughs to correct challenging behavior.  I believe it will ultimately come down to finding a way to reinforce acceptable norms so that the worker understands what is healthy and acceptable behavior.  I have a book on how to create a nurturing home environment for step children, but one of the things they emphasize is creating shared expectations and a partnership among both parents, which in this case, I’d have to really work to create leverage before I gain that level of support.  Standard protocols for these approaches that I’d have to develop strategies for include:
A Sample Protocol for Resolving Challenging Behaviors
1. Maintain ongoing observation and documentation of every child.
2. In reflective supervision, review these questions (Wittmer and Petersen, 2006):
a. What is the child experiencing? What is the child’s perspective on the situation?
b. What, when, where, how, and with whom is the behavior occurring?
c. What is the child communicating that he wants or needs? What is
the purpose of the child’s behavior? What is the meaning of the child’s
behavior?
d. What do I want the child to do?
3. Meet with the family to deepen and share understanding.
4. Determine a consistent plan for intervention.
5. Continue observation and documentation to provide data for evaluating improvement and ensuring the consistency of the intervention.
6. Consult with a mental health professional if the child is not responding and the persistence, frequency, and duration of the behavior is not improving.
7. Determine whether further referral to community resources is necessary through discussion with family, the supervisor, and the mental health consultant.

 

So what’s the lesson from all of this?

For millennials: I’d be sure to keep in mind that when you are in the workplace that people aren’t going to want to invest in you if you build a reputation of being hard to manage or difficult to get along with.
For employers: Please make sure that your organization has a mechanism for mediation, or that you train your management staff and hold them accountable for their workers so that conflicts don’t arise from poorly articulated  boundaries.
If you’re suffering from this problem: Give yourself permission to lighten up when you can, but don’t take on too much guilt if you find yourself compulsively working to find a solution to the problem.  Just be sure to take care of yourself (diet, exercise, rest, play, etc.) and don’t be afraid to seek out help.

We’re Going to be Alright

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Say to yourself, regardless of what you are facing…I’m going to be all right. Create an energy of peace, healing and hope around yourself. Whatever it is…finances, unexpected challenges, health concerns, job security, or long-term changes in your life situation.

Despite what you see, hear, and feel…say to yourself…I’m going to be all right. Calm your mind, speak to your body, rest your spirit. Allow yourself to relax so that you can sleep at night. With this mindset, you will be all right!! You Deserve!

—Les Brown

Sometimes when we’re under duress, we can become shell shocked by the challenges we face, become exhausted and deplete our inner reserves of oxytocin (trust) and dopamine (what we find rewarding). Since I never did make up a decision about what to give up for Lent this year, (last year it was negativity…. the outcome of which was AWESOME), I’ve decided that for the remainder of this Lent that I’m going to create a log of activities, experiences and people that I find replenish those reserves — which means that I’ll have to be intentional about creating experiences to discover these things. I have a pretty good list already that I keep at my desk, but I’m hoping that I can implement some of these into my daily practice so that I can anchor some of these behaviors in response to undesirable behaviors. Currently in real time my favorite go-tos are either talking it out (my first go-to) finding tasks that let me appear to be productive but more importantly remove me from the undesirable behavior (when I find that talking doesn’t seem to be effective), or finding another person (usually another person or client) I can take an interest in to change the vibe rather than focus upon the person being rude. A.k.a. modeling the behavior I’d like to see.

I like the idea of imprinting biochemical markers, because I think our first inclination is react (or in my case to withdraw since liability risk is a considerable anchor I have to factor in), so this acknowledges that feedback from those red flags and allows me to redirect my energies to the kind of behaviors that are designed to keep me emotionally and psychologically healthy too.