Have you ever had an issue with a co-worker that just bothered you, but you didn’t know how to bring it up? Perhaps you were worried about backlash or what others would think of you, or that it would make the situation worse.
TRUE STORY: Debbie was an excellent sales person, but many on her team found her abrasive and sometimes downright nasty. She would go on the war path about the smallest things: “Who moved my stapler?” “Hey sorry I borrowed it and returned it to your desk to the right, there.” This would cause a full 5-minute rant in a raised voice. Debbie’s co-workers were complaining about her to their manager, who repeatedly asked Debbie to just “play nice,” to no avail. She had no idea how her co-workers felt about her “style of communication;” she believed she was just trying to be a communicative leader in her department. How would you deal with this if you had the misfortune of working with Debbie?
You could open the lines of communication using the 3 Steps below. This works with the small nagging issues that aren’t big enough to bother with (until they repeat enough to become a problem), on up to larger deal-breaking issues. This applies in your personal and professional life:
Step 1: Name the BEHAVIOR. We tend to name our opinion if we bring something up at all; “You’re being mean” vs. naming the behavior: “You are yelling.”
Step 2: Claim a REASON. Many, if not most times, people who encroach your boundaries will stop at at the first step. If they don’t see WHY something is a problem, they may not understand the importance of the matter. This step can be as simple as “I find yelling offensive.” Let them know why it’s a problem.
Step 3: Offer Choices/Ask for Solutions. Now if this is a safety issue, particularly with someone you don’t know, we can treat them like they’re two and give them direct, matter-of-fact instructions (“Back away from me, now”). We need more finesse in the office and with others who hold rank in our lives, so we offer choices, or ask for solutions (“How can we move forward? What do you want to do?”). Be clear that you’re not complaining- offer and/or ask for solutions and come up with a way to move forward together.
Practice using these 3 Steps. Try it out. The more you use this tool, the more comfortable and natural it will be for you to assertively communicate what you want and need, and offer others the chance to be aware and be part of the solution, instead of a nagging annoyance and/or productivity drag.
Michele Maupin specializes in workplace incivility, bullying, and violence prevention through communication and de-escalation workshops. Contact us for a free consultation- we’d love to Empower your team!