Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for November, 2017

Someone driving you crazy at work? Ask yourself these questions.

Many of you will relate to this next sentence. One of the most significant causes of workplace frustration is unresolved conflict between two people. Two leaders don’t see eye-to-eye, and as time goes on, their teams begin feeling the impact of the lack of alignment at the helm. Two co-workers who find each other’s work styles frustrating fail to talk through it, and while unspoken frustrations increase, productivity decreases. Passive-aggressive behavior between two people on a team, begins impacting open dialogue among the larger group during team meetings.

There are numerous resources, tools, and approaches that an individual can use to generate a professional, candid, and collaborative resolution with someone. But today, I just want to share this quick exercise that may help to provide a shift in your thinking about how you might be contributing to the very dynamic between you and the other person who is driving you crazy.

Here’s the exercise . . .

1. Write down these two sentences:

They are ___________.

What in me is ___________?

2. Think of someone who consistently frustrates you, or someone you find difficult. (You can use a person at work, or a family member if that’s easier to think of at the moment 🙂 Think about what you hear yourself saying about this person, whether you tend to say it to yourself or to others. Take a look at the first sentence above, ask yourself the question about that particular person, and fill in the blank with a word or phrase that comes to mind. Examples might include: judgmental; not listening; stubborn; selfish; negative; arrogant; curt; etc.

3. Now simply drop the same phrase or word you placed in the first sentence into the second sentence. Considering the examples offered above, as you complete the second sentence your first reaction may naturally be…I’m not a judgmental person. I’m an excellent listener. Or, I’m not a stubborn person—I tend to be very flexible! Perhaps you’re right about your self-assessment as it relates to your tendencies or general behavior. The more focused question to ask yourself is: What in me is judging, not listening, or stubborn, when it comes to dealing with this specific individual? Explore if there’s any truth to the second completed sentence, as it relates to your specific internal thoughts or external behaviors before, during, or after you interact with them.

Our human nature has us sometimes acting in a way that mirrors behaviors of the people who are frustrating us. If someone stops listening, the odds of us eventually not listening to them, in return, are high. If someone is stubborn, it’s natural that we may become less flexible when we’re working with them. Let’s face it, when we’re upset with someone either overtly or covertly, it’s easy to slip into a judgmental state of mind. Are we bringing negative energy or apprehension into a conversation or situation simply because we’re dreading or anticipating negative behavior or energy from the other person(s)? Are we failing to address concerns directly with the individuals we’re challenged by, and then wondering why they’re not aware of the impact of their own behaviors?

The key point is that if we take just a few minutes to explore how we might be contributing to the dynamics that are widening the gap between ourselves and others, perhaps we can shift our participation, and positively impact the relationship. Maybe we can approach the person with an acknowledgement that it’s been tough. Maybe we can enter the conversation with the intent to suspend judgment or assumptions, ask questions and listen, with the hope of agreeing to some flexibility on both parts.

Hey, you never know….With a slight positive shift in your efforts, you may be contributing to a resolution you both can live with and benefit from.