Workplace misunderstandings are costly, stressful and potentially damaging to your career–especially if you created the communication snafu. Knowing how to handle communication blunders while keeping your composure can save a job, a reputation or a business relationship.
Sometimes even good intentions go bad. Early in my career I created a bad situation just because I was trying to do the right thing—serve a customer. If you’ve ever worked in commission sales perhaps you can relate.
While we were expected to help all customers, it apparently was not correct to be too helpful. (Yes, you’re reading a bit of disbelief on my part in that sentence. More years of experience tells me otherwise…but that’s another post.)
At the time, my helpfulness caused the customer to want to switch horses in mid-stream and work with me. That, of course, was not going to sit well Read more
Assertive communication means you have the right to stand up for yourself while still respecting the rights of others. Aggressive behavior is when you believe you have rights but no one else does. Passive behavior is the opposite. You believe you have no rights but others do.
Assertive behavior is finding the balance between the extremes. Obtaining that balance isn’t always easy especially with aggressive or abusive co-workers. Here are a few tips to help when a colleague slips into aggressive communication.
1. Recognize that your co-worker may be suffering from stress that isn’t visible to you. Problems in personal relationships, money woes, challenges with children, health issues or even the morning’s miserable traffic are examples of stressful events that can trigger abusive behavior.
2. Do nothing. Let your colleague vent as long as you are not in physical danger. If you sense an altercation is about to escalate remove yourself from situation–immediately. If you feel the need to say something try, “Bill, this is getting out of hand. I’m leaving now. I’ll check back in a short time and we can continue once we cool down. Avoid saying, “calm down.” Only a 911 operator should use that phrase.
3. Remember that the first wave of anger is probably not the last. Use the pause to clarify what you heard and understood. Calmly state, “If I understood you correctly…” Your co-worker’s rage is usually associated Read more
I’ve sought out coaching in every phase of my life. I think back to one of my very first coaches (when I was in my twenties) and can’t believe I actually did what she wanted me to do to get a raise. **
But I did it. Not only did I get a raise and a new title — I also got Read more
Every time I hear this term it makes my teeth hurt. What the heck does work-life balance mean anyway?
My work life and and life-life is all the same, BUT it doesn’t mean I allow others to intrude in my life willy-nilly. If that’s the issue you’re dealing with then you don’t need “work-life balance” you need a back-bone!
Seriously, if you choose to work for a person or organization where you know you’re giving your life away, frankly, I have no sympathy for you. But, if your understanding of privacy parameters at work doesn’t include “contact me during my nephew’s bris” then speak up. Have the conversation to confirm your understanding of when you are available and when you aren’t.
Now, if you work for yourself then you are in control even when you think you aren’t. But..but…but…yeah, yeah, I can hear it now. If I don’t take my customer’s call then I’ll miss their business. Really? Really? If that’s what you believe then that’s what you’ll get…customer’s that take you for granted and don’t see your value. You control this to the extent that you value yourself.
Think about it. If you set the example for the type of life you want to live then that’s the client you’ll attract. I bet if you think back to the last customer that canceled on you…it was the one that wanted to be “the exception to the rule.” You know, the one that always asked for an extra discount even after you’ve given them a special accommodation. It’s the client that seems to always have an excuse, or runs late, or calls you at all hours.
Grow a backbone. It will change your life. I know I’m going to hear comments on this one.
Learning to respond to emotionally charged conversations or misunderstandings in the workplace takes practice, patience and perspective. The key is to balance your assertiveness with constraint so you can walk away feeling good about yourself , while not leaving the other party feeling devastated.
Ask yourself the following questions before blurting out an emotional reaction during a challenging conversation. You just might gain a new perspective.
What’s the long term impact if you say everything you want to say?
What consequence or result will occur moments after your conversation if you do respond emotionally?
Will the result last more that those few moments?
What about the impact in a few hours, days, months or years from now?
Will this conversation matter at all or will it change the course of a relationship for better or worse?
If you ask yourself these questions before blundering ahead, you’ll discover that some conversations won’t need to happen at all, but don’t make that an excuse for not having the ones that do need to happen.
Thinking about the long term impact allows you to put things into perspective. Perspective goes a long way towards guiding your tone and words, and perhaps changing your intention from hurtful to respectful.
A small shift in your behavior now can go a long way into the future…in a good way.
Resistance to change is a common workplace challenge. Poor communication contributes to the push-back that comes with rolling out new procedures, a change in status, a physical move or launching a new project.
The dissension can come from a single voice or the collective whole.
Try these 5 steps for gaining cooperation:
1. Spell out and communicate both orally and in writing, exactly what the changes are and how they will affect individual positions.
2. If you choose to entertain objections set a time frame and stick to it. A never ending gripe session serves no one.
3. Listen to the emotions and the underlying fears that are often couched in vague complaints such as “this will take too much time.” The fear may be that the employee will have to stay later and miss picking up their child on time.
4. Check your interpretation of the complaints by reflecting back what you have heard.
5. Consider suggestions and set a follow-up date for the outcome. Not all changes have that kind of flexibility but you might be surprised at what can be adjusted for better buy-in.
Employees simply want to be a part of something bigger. Use this opportunity to communicate honestly and create a deeper connection and the odds for cooperation will increase.
It’s difficult to keep your cool in an emotionally-charged conversation without saying something you’ll regret.
Consider the long term impact of your words. What result will occur moments after your conversation? Will the results last more than a few moments? What about in a year from now? You’ll discover that some conversations didn’t need to happen at all–but don’t make that an excuse for not having the ones that do.
Thinking about the long term consequences allows you to put things into perspective. And, perspective goes a long way towards guiding the tone, words, and intention of your communication.
Copyright 2010 Allie Casey
Excerpt from the forthcoming book —Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say it and When to Shut-up
When giving negative feedback keep in mind the type of feedback you are providing:
* Is it to find a solution to a disagreement?
* Is it directions or information to shift a project that is going off course?
* Is it to express dissatisfaction concerning work, behavior, or productivity?
Asking these questions and making the distinction helps you keep focused on the response and behavior you are seeking. It’s easy to get distracted or go off course especially when your listener starts defending his position.
Try it. Leave your comments.
*This tip comes from my forthcoming book,“Misunderstood! The Fast Guide to Communicating at Work–What to Say, How to Say it and When to Shut-Up! Watch for it.