The Easiest Way to Deal With a Difficult Person

January 19th, 2016

When I was little, I had a controversial grandmother. She was the woman my grandfather remarried after my father’s mom’s premature death. We pretty much only saw her twice a year: once for a family reunion, and once for a Christmas party. I adored her (except that she always smelled like cigarettes and had a lot of rules). But my parents and aunt and uncle were very tense around her.

Fights rarely broke out at the parties — I think my grandma was too dignified for that — but I do remember a lot of stress surrounding this difficult person in our lives. She knew how to push people’s buttons.

Do you have someone difficult to deal with this holiday season? Here are three strategies that work well for me.

  1. Make sure the difficult person has a job to do, and then let them do it their own way. Things were always better when my grandma had a job in the kitchen. For a lot of people, conflict is born from an unfulfilled desire to feel useful and to be a part of something larger than themselves. Start by giving the difficult person a way to focus on something besides themselves.Tip: When you ask someone for his or her help, provide a rationale — any rationale — for the favor. One study showed that the word “because” tends to trigger automatic compliance. For instance, you might say brightly, “It would be great if you could peel the carrots, because we need the carrots peeled for dinner.” As bizarrely repetitive as that may sound, it should work better than, “Would you peel the carrots for me?”
  2. Take care of your own needs first. This one is about taking precautions to keep yourself balanced and prevent your fight-or-flight response from kicking in. It’s harder to regulate your emotions when you’re tired, for example, so if you’re at a party with the difficult person and you start to feel spent, consider leaving early, lest you get sucked into a confrontation. You might risk insulting your host, but that’s generally better than ruining the party by making a scene.Similarly, research shows that keeping your blood sugar stable will make you less aggressive if you get angry, so don’t skip a meal if you are headed into a difficult situation. If you need to leave the room and do some deep breathing, do it — even if the difficult person needs you to talk about politics right now. If we can stay calm, we are more likely to engage the brain circuits that make us better problem-solvers in challenging situations. (Also, we have more fun.)Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson’s advice can help us take this even further:

    Also see how taking care of yourself has good ripple effects for others. Deliberately do a small thing that feeds you — a little rest, some exercise, some time for yourself — and then notice how this affects your relationships. Notice how healthy boundaries in relationships helps prevent you from getting used up or angry and eventually needing to withdraw.

    The exception: When our “need” is to be right. Often we feel a strong desire to show the difficult person the error in his or her ways. But this won’t make the situation easier, and it won’t make us feel better in the long run. Find a different (and more positive) way to feel powerful; for example, turn your attention to helping someone in need, perhaps even the difficult person him — or herself.

  3. Give up on trying to fix him or her. This means accepting the difficult person for who he or she is, including the discomfort (or even pain) that they are creating.Practicing this sort of acceptance is about dropping the fantasy of how we think things ought to be. You might have a fantasy of a sweet, close relationship with your daughter-in-law, for example, and so you feel angry and disappointed every time she does something that doesn’t live up to this fantasy.But be aware that she likely feels your disappointment, and feels judged. She knows you are trying to change or “fix” her, and that doesn’t feel good — it hurts her, in fact, and hurting someone, however unintentionally, does not make her easier to deal with.

An alternate approach is one of empathy. Rather than judging what the person does or says, just try to listen and understand where he or she is coming from. This doesn’t mean that you need to agree with the person, just that you’re showing him or her a basic level of respect as a human being. Research suggests that engaging with a person this way — acknowledging his or her point of view without judging it — can make him or her feel more understood… and, as a result, less defensive or difficult.

Here’s how to practice acceptance and empathy: Take a deep breath.Look at the difficult person with kindness and compassion, and say to yourself, I see you, and I see that you are suffering. I accept that you are anxious and scared, even if I don’t understand why. I accept that you are making all of us anxious, too. I accept that your trouble has become my trouble for the time being. When we acknowledge and accept difficulty as something that just is, we let go of the resistance that creates stress and tension. There is a lot of truth to the adage that “What we resists, persists.”

When this person is speaking, try not to interrupt with counter-arguments or even with attempts to try to get him or her to see things from a different, perhaps more positive point of view. Instead, try to paraphrase back to the person the points you think he or she is making, and acknowledge the emotions he or she seems to be expressing. For instance, if he seems ticked off about something, you might say, “It sounds like that really makes you angry.” In this way, you let them know that their experience matters.

We are all just looking for love and approval. This holiday season, the greatest gift we can give a difficult person — and ourselves — is to accept them fully, with love.

Article By, Christine Carter, PhD
Sociologist, productivity and happiness expert, author of The
Sweet Spot and Raising Happiness

Five Strategies for Dealing With Difficult People

December 1st, 2015

Is it just me or has there been a recent surge in people being particularly difficult lately? And it’s not just around those wild and whacky full-moon days!

It seems that every other person I’ve talked to lately has also had a recent encounter of some kind with someone saying and doing things — in their work and personal lives — that creates some big and unpleasant fireworks. It’s a bona fide pandemic.

That said, sometimes it’s we who are the difficult people. We’ve all had our moments, haven’t we? I’m just saying…

When it comes to communication between humans (to ensure that there’s no confusion around the species in question), there are two key things that we’re all apt to forget from time to time, myself included:

a) Each of us is 100% responsible for what comes out of our own mouths.

b) Communication happens at the receiver’s end, not at the sender’s.

That is, you have no real way of knowing how what and how you say something is going to land on the other person.

It could land positively if you’ve done your best to be responsible for your delivery. Or it could land like a Molotov cocktail and completely blow up regardless of your efforts, simply because of the negativity and emotional garbage that is being triggered for the other person, independent of you.

It’s their “stuff” that’s being triggered. And there’s little you can do about it.

Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that when they get triggered and react, we respond in kind. And it gets ugly. Welcome to the human race.

In an ideal world, we all strive to staying rational when confronting, or confronted by, a difficult person, especially in the workplace.

Here are five strategies that come in handy especially if your boss “goes medieval” on you.

1. Don’t take it personally.
This can feel like the hardest thing in the world to do, and it often is, particularly when it’s the very individual who has power over your paycheque that is being difficult and right there in your face.

Three things: Stop. Re-focus. Ground yourself.
Respond from that place, and remember it’s not about you. It’s really about them, and in that moment they just don’t have the self-awareness, presence of mind or coping mechanisms to deal with their own reactions and “stuff” in a positive way.

2. Inquire.
If you’re in a position that you have to respond to an irrational attack (in this case, by your boss who’s freaking out), ask him/her what exactly he/she is upset about.

And take a deep breath before doing so to dig into your well of compassion, so that your question doesn’t come across as antagonistic or sarcastic. Remember, you want to show that you are interested in communicating rather than in arguing.

3. Agree. Sort of.
Hopefully your boss has communicated what’s going at his/her end and has calmed down slightly by now, so go ahead and agree with a kernel of truth in their complaint.

Plus, you’ll overcome your own knee-jerk/taking-it-personally impulse to reactively look at that one small fact about which the other person is critical.

For instance, if your boss calls you a screw-up, ask, “In what way did I screw up?” If he/she says, “You’re just a screw up,” agree with one discreet example (providing it’s true!), but correct his/her overgeneralization and sensationalizing.

4. Stand up for yourself effectively.
It’s easier to have a rational conversation and defend yourself, as warranted, once the emotional fireworks have abated.

Staying with the angry, blaming boss example, you can defend without being defensive: “Yes, you’re right. I made a mistake. It wasn’t intentional and I appreciate your constructive feedback to minimize mistakes and errors in the future.”

Here’s the thing. You can stand up for yourself by standing in your personal power and without adding fuel to the raging fire. You can take ownership for your part by re-iterating the specific error, but refuse to be incorrectly labeled a “screw-up”, or anything else for that matter.

5. Resist the urge to fight to win the argument.
We all want to be right. And we each get to choose the appropriate battles for us. One of the best and smartest things you can say in this situation is: “It sounds like you’re angry right now, and I’m sorry about that.” This demonstrates compassion and a willingness to understand the difficult person’s/your angry boss’ frustration without blame or defensiveness.

The key takeaway when dealing with a difficult person is that listening with all the calm and compassion you can muster in the moment, and asking questions leads the other person to their own better conclusions….and a better overall outcome for you as well as the situation at large.

Article By, Tanya Raheel
Founder, Email

Follow Tanya Raheel on Twitter:
Article Source:

3 Secrets to Managing a Boss Who Yells

November 23rd, 2015

Larry was a bully boss. With only three employees in this office, he had burned through two secretaries and one office manager in one year. During our interview, he told me he came from a passionate culture and that his previous employees just didn’t “get him.”

Lucie, who was leaving, described his temper tantrums. Dramatic, impatient and erratic are not so much cultural traits as symptoms of a personality disorder. I was a single mom, running out of savings and employment insurance. Desperate for a job, I accepted. I was determined not to let my anxiety around further unemployment take over.

On my second day at work, Larry shouted at me for a file. He was neither polite nor was his volume appropriate. I calmly and deliberately brought him the wrong file. He had a temper tantrum. Yup, just like a three-year-old.

I let him rage and when he stopped for a breath, I calmly and firmly said, “I cannot hear what you need when you scream at me like that.”

My controlled reaction caught him completely off guard. He looked confused so I said it again, quietly. In a somewhat calm manner, he stated the name of the file again.

I walked out of his office to get the right file (which was waiting for me on the corner of my desk) and promptly gave it to him saying, “I am happy to help when you don’t yell.” Looking surprised, Larry said “Thank you.”

I had Established Boundaries.

Returning to my desk, Lucie looked at me and said, “I wish I had done that when I started.” Although my heart was in my mouth, I smiled as though I knew what I was doing.

I soon replaced the recently hired office manager (yes, she left, too) and protected my staff from his tantrums over the next two years. People who had known him for years told me they had never seen him so well-managed. Even his wife kept telling me how great I was for her husband’s business and that I should never take his threats seriously.

How I Changed the “Power Dynamics” the First Time Larry Fired Me

He actually fired me four times in those two years. And every time he fired me, I would calmly go back to my desk and resume my day. When he would come to my desk, I would tell him not to worry; I was just tidying up before I left.

In a panic, Larry would politely call me into his office and I would negotiate a raise to stay. When I left, I was earning 40 per cent more than my initial salary.

The first firing is the most memorable because it set the dynamics for the next two years. In a fit of rage, while I was still on probation, he yelled that I was fired. I left his office and went to my desk to think of my next move. I could not afford to lose this steady income but the abuse had to stop.

Larry called me back into his office and said to me, “I had no idea you were so easily intimidated.” I smiled, laughed and said, “You do not intimidate me.”

Sounding as serene as possible, I explained to him that I was unemployed before I accepted this job and that I would not be in any worse position than the day before I started. I would just go look for another job since this was obviously not a good fit. He looked quite shocked when he heard me explain that I had nothing to lose by leaving.

I had already established excellent relationships with people at all the head offices he dealt with. After losing three employees in a very short time, I was banking on his bark being worse than his bite. His bravado of untouchable power seemed to vanish before me.

You need to know the bully’s hot button concern. They need to believe in the possibility of pain. Larry’s hot button was the stress of another new hire.

My 3 Secrets to Success

1- While training dogs, I learned that growling and biting were signs of insecurity. The sooner you set boundaries and consistently stick to them, the dog calms down and modifies to his environment. Boundaries will be tested along the way, which is why Larry kept firing me and would give me a raise so I wouldn’t leave.

2 – I used to work with children and I have an ex who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Larry’s was not the first temper tantrum I had encountered. Even if it is upsetting, staying calm and pointing out the advantages to different behaviours can help. I would remind him that I can’t hear what he needs when he yells. As soon as he stopped yelling, he got what he wanted.

3 – One of the first things we teach parents in parenting classes is to look for natural consequences. Larry was the type of person where the consequences should either bring a great deal of pleasure or a great deal of pain. He had created his own consequence. When it looked like I might leave, he would contain himself for many months after dodging that bullet.

Is it Time to Leave?

If the abusive behaviour has been long-standing, you will have a harder time as difficult people rely on the history you have already shared as their behavioural guide. Some people cannot contain their dysfunctions unless you firmly start from day one.

A job is replaceable. So is a spouse or any abusive relationship. We cannot choose to change another person’s behaviours. They have to make that choice. The only thing we can do is give them a reason to consider doing so.

Find a painful natural consequence and be prepared to follow through. If that doesn’t work or you can’t follow through, then leave! Bullies have more stamina and you are ultimately responsible for protecting your mental well-being.

PS: Larry’s name has been changed as he liked to sue people.

Article By, Monique Caissie
Educational Speaker, Consultant and Executive Coach

Follow Monique Caissie on Twitter:


Are You a Small Business Boss Who Stands up to Bullies?

November 17th, 2015


If you’re an entrepreneur trying to get a small business off the ground , you’re most likely going to be employing staff at some point. You may think that how these people interact isn’t your concern, but if you want your business to succeed, you have to pay attention to the interpersonal dynamics in your small business.

You need to ask yourself, what kind of boss are you? Are you hands-on, laissez-faire or a micro-manager? Do you have your finger on the pulse of your workforce, or do you occupy yourself with what you consider to be “more important,” business-related issues?

Are you a boss who’s aware of the bullying that may be happening in your workplace right now? Do you realize the toll it could be taking on workplace morale and productivity?

I’ve noticed that often, bosses themselves are intimidated by the bullies in their workforce. They fail to protect those being bullied for fear of how the bully will react. They don’t want to get on the bad side of such an aggressive, unreasonable person.

Sometimes, the boss is very busy, and feels that they just don’t have the time or energy to put into dealing with interpersonal conflicts. They figure that the individuals involved will sort it out on their own, or they delegate the issue to a more junior manager. But this attitude is incorrect.

Here’s the deal. Once you started your small business, you became responsible for creating a work environment that’s conducive to productivity. When you sit by and do nothing, or allow others to resolve these problems, you’re not doing your job as a boss.

A small business is more dependent on a good leader, as there’s more of a direct connection between each employee and the boss. In a small business, everyone looks to you as a role-model and as the person who inspires them to do their very best.

The problem with not dealing with a bully is that such a person creates an environment of fear that undermines productivity. People are far more likely to perform sub-optimally, call in sick more frequently or quit altogether, and I’m not only talking about those on the receiving end of the bullying.

Workers who witness bullying find it highly disturbing, almost as much as if they were experiencing it themselves. It can’t help but affect the quality of their work, and the emotional investment they have in your business.

A boss who allows bullying to continue unchecked appears disinterested, weak or uncaring, and loses the confidence and trust of all their workers, which further lowers productivity.

It would be far better for the morale of the team if you were to deal with the bullying rather than avoiding confrontation. If you’re uncomfortable interacting with such individuals or unsure as to how to approach them, there are many useful resources available today. If you’re extremely busy, delegate other tasks and prioritize this issue.

Perhaps your HR department can help you; maybe you can call on a business coach. However you go about it, it’s essential that you face the problem and stop the bullying before it has an even more negative impact on your workforce.

A good boss is a strong leader. A strong leader doesn’t allow one member of the team to bully another, or one small group of people to terrorize another individual or group. When these things happen, a toxic workplace is created and your business suffers.

It’s the responsibility of every boss to eliminate all instances of workplace bullying. If you want to be respected as a leader, and if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you must demonstrate your leadership skills by dealing appropriately with any bullying that happens at your place of work.

Article By, Author, speaker, coach and MD

Follow Marcia Sirota on Twitter:




5 Tips to Avoid Having an Argument Escalate

October 20th, 2015

You’ve had an argument and it got completely out of hand. It escalated into something personal, and then something hurtful.

It’s a good way to ruin relationships, and all the hurtful things that were said can be very hard to recover from.

Here are some tips to help you avoid having an argument escalate:

1. Force yourself to stay as calm as possible. Don’t take any bait to react negatively, or explosively. Take deep breaths (repeat: Breathe in, breathe out in your head). One of the reactive responses we take when we are upset is to hold our breath. Bad idea — as this is the precise time we need oxygen in our head and we are holding back oxygen when we hold our breath.

Remind yourself NEVER to say “Calm Down” to the other person. That is the equivalent of pouring gasoline on the fire. Even telling yourself to “calm down” is potentially causing a negative reaction. Repeat: Breathe in, breathe out.

2. Maintain eye contact and open body posture. This is not the time to look at the ceiling (rolling eyes), or look at the floor (chastised). We know that arms crossed across the chest mean many things, but in a tension-filled situation it will be interpreted as defensive and aggressive. Arms down, open body (don’t close your stance).

However, it is incredibly hard to maintain eye contact in a tension-filled discussion as well. So here is my little (yet strange) trick:

– When making eye contact with your partner, instead of looking into their eyes, look at the space where their eyebrows connect. We all do know that person that has that unibrow and that is where you should be looking. It gives the illusion of eye contact, yet it is distanced enough that we can maintain our composure during the conversation.

It may make you laugh inside, but it helps you look like you are maintaining eye contact and that is important.

3. Bite your tongue. Avoid interrupting the other person if at all possible. The average explosion will last about 45 seconds – which is a huge amount of time to listen to someone yelling at you (repeat: Breathe in, breathe out during the explosion). However, if you interrupt them, they will get even angrier and we’ve caused the situation to escalate. Remember what it was like when you were a child and you said “But Mom…” It just got worse.

Avoid responding to comments, even if they are wrong. Stay away from defensive behaviour. Let them vent. They are not reasonable at this point of the discussion and you are only wasting time and escalating the conversation further by responding or reacting to their comments.

4. Ask for a time out when they are finished. You can say, “This conversation is important to me, but right now I’m too emotional to finish it. I’m afraid that one of us will say something we can’t take back. Let’s talk about this in an hour after I gather my thoughts (or you can say after I calm down).

Be firm. If they want to have the discussion now (and they will), be firm and repeat that “Now is not a good time for me. I need to gather my thoughts. Let’s talk about this in an hour”. Repeat this phrase as often as necessary without getting pulled into the argument again.

5. Focus on a solution. Don’t focus on what they said, or on what you disagree with. Focus on how you can fix whatever is wrong. When you go back in an hour or so, hopefully, the situation has calmed down and is not nearly as escalated as before. Take the time to think about your solution, or what you want to say.

The most important reason for this time out break is to ensure that you don’t allow the argument to escalate into a discussion that is personal and hurtful.

Arguments and discussions are two very different things. Arguments focus on who is right, and discussions focus on what is right.

We don’t want an argument; we need a discussion. Keeping the discussion from escalating is your primary goal.


August 7th, 2015


Conflict and the ego’s need to be right are ubiquitous in our environment.

At work, it creates toxic environments which destroy productivity and profit. At home, it eats away at love, connection and happiness.

• We need to win at all costs.
• We need to make them wrong.
• We can explain and justify our actions.

Allowing things to escalate, and even pouring gas onto the fire with the above behaviors, is a recipe for disaster.

When maturity kicks in, de-escalation becomes a part of our lives.
• We start looking for common ground.
• We see the bigger picture and have a more inclusive vision.
• We know how to apologize in a way that builds trust and respect.

Making de-escalation our focus when in conflict opens up avenues of helpful conversations. It creates a collaborative environment. Whether at work or at home, we work at relating with each other with more compassion and respect. We become open to possibilities.

Let’s stop thinking about how “right” we are and start respectfully listening to the other person’s pain/point of view and work to de-escalate the situation before trying to find corrective solutions.

When trouble rears its ugly head, decide to de-escalate and watch things improve.
What do you think?
Written by Monique Caissie


Monique Caissie is an Educator and Collaboration Expert who draws from her background in crisis intervention and as a mental health worker, to help managers, leaders and other smart professionals have better conversations. Even if they drive you crazy! Check her out and get free resources at:

How Successful People Overcome Toxic Bosses

July 16th, 2015

Bad bosses contaminate the workplace. Some do so obliviously, while others smugly manipulate their employees, using them as instruments of their own success. Regardless of their methods, bad bosses cause irrevocable damage to their companies and employees by hindering performance and creating unnecessary stress.

The stress your boss causes is bad for your health. Multiple studies have found that working for a bad boss increases your chance of having a heart attack by as much as 50%.

Even more troubling is the number of bad bosses out there. Gallup research found that 60% of government workers are miserable because of bad bosses. In another study 69% of US workers compared bosses with too much power to toddlers with too much power.

The comparisons don’t stop there. Significant percentages of US workers describe their bosses as follows:

• Self-oriented (60%)
• Stubborn (49%)
• Overly demanding (43%)
• Impulsive (41%)
• Interruptive (39%)

Most bosses aren’t surprised by these statistics. A DDI study found that 64% of managers admit that they need to work on their management skills. When asked where they should focus their efforts, managers overwhelmingly say, “Bringing in the numbers”; yet, they are most often fired for poor people skills.

TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralize toxic people–even those they report to. This is no easy task. It requires a great deal of emotional intelligence, a skill that top performers rely on.

While the best option when you have a bad boss is to seek other employment, this isn’t always possible. Successful people know how to make the most of a bad situation. A bad boss doesn’t deter them because they understand that success is simply the product of how well you can play the hand you’ve been dealt. When that “hand” is a bad boss, successful people identify the type of bad boss they are working for and then use this information to neutralize their boss’ behavior. What follows are six of the most common types of bad bosses and the strategies that successful people employ to work effectively with them.

The Inappropriate Buddy

This is the boss who’s too friendly, and not in the fun, team-building sort of way. He is constantly inviting you to hang out outside of work and engages in unnecessary office gossip. He uses his influence to make friends at the expense of his work. He chooses favorites and creates divisions among employees, who become frustrated by the imbalance in attention and respect. He can’t make tough decisions involving employees or even fire those who need to be fired (unless he doesn’t like them). His office quickly becomes The Office.

How to neutralize an inappropriate buddy: The most important thing to do with this type of boss is to learn to set firm boundaries. Don’t allow his position to intimidate you. By consciously and proactively establishing a boundary, you can take control of the situation. For example, you can remain friendly with your boss throughout the day but still not be afraid to say no to drinks after work. The difficult part here is maintaining consistency with your boundaries, even if your boss is persistent. By distancing yourself from his behaviors that you deem inappropriate, you will still be able to succeed and even have a healthy relationship with your boss.

It’s important you don’t put up unnecessary boundaries that stop you from being seen as friendly (ideally, a friend). Instead of trying to change the crowd-pleaser and force him to be something he’s not, having him see you as an ally will put you in a stronger position than you could have anticipated.

The Micromanager

This is the boss who makes you feel as if you are under constant surveillance. She thought your handwriting could use improvement, so she waited until you left work at 7:00 p.m. to throw away your pencils and replace them with the .9 lead mechanical pencils that have the “proper grip.” She has even handed back your 20-page report because you used a binder clip instead of a staple. The micromanager pays too much attention to small details, and her constant hovering makes employees feel discouraged, frustrated, and even uncomfortable.

How to neutralize a micromanager: Successful people appeal to micromanagers by proving themselves to be flexible, competent, and disciplined while staying in constant communication. A micromanager is naturally drawn to the employee who produces work the way she envisions. The challenge with the micromanager is grasping the “envisioned way.” To do this, try asking specific questions about your project, check in frequently, and look for trends in the micromanager’s feedback.

Of course, this will not always work. Some micromanagers will never stop searching for something to over-analyze and micromanage. When this is the case, you must learn to derive your sense of satisfaction from within. Don’t allow your boss’ obsession with details to create feelings of inadequacy as this will only lead to further stress and underperformance. Remember, a good report without a staple is still a good report. Despite your boss’ fixation on detail, she appreciates your work; she just doesn’t know how to show it.

The Tyrant

The tyrant resorts to Machiavellian tactics and constantly makes decisions that feed his ego. His primary concern is maintaining power, and he will coerce and intimidate others to do so. The tyrant thinks of his employees as a criminal gang aboard his ship. He classifies people in his mind and treats them accordingly: High achievers who challenge his thinking are treated as mutinous. Those who support their achievements with gestures of loyalty find themselves in the position of first mate. Those who perform poorly are stuck cleaning the latrines and swabbing the decks.

How to neutralize a tyrant: A painful but effective strategy with the tyrant is to present your ideas in a way that allows him to take partial credit. The tyrant can then maintain his ego without having to shut down your idea. Always be quick to give him some credit, even though he is unlikely to reciprocate, because this will inevitably put you on his good side. Also, to survive a tyrant, you must choose your battles wisely. If you practice self-awareness and manage your emotions, you can rationally choose which battles are worth fighting and which ones you should just let go. This way, you won’t find yourself on latrine duty.

The Incompetent

This boss was promoted hastily or hired haphazardly and holds a position that is beyond her capabilities. Most likely, she is not completely incompetent, but she has people who report to her that have been at the company a lot longer and have information and skills that she lacks.

How to neutralize an incompetent: If you find yourself frustrated with this type of boss, it is likely because you have experience that she lacks. It is important to swallow your pride and share your experience and knowledge, without rubbing it in her face. Share the information that this boss needs to grow into her role, and you’ll become her ally and confidant.

The Robot

In the mind of the robot, you are employee number 72 with a production yield of 84 percent and experience level 91. This boss makes decisions based on the numbers, and when he’s forced to reach a conclusion without the proper data, he self-destructs. He makes little or no effort to connect with his employees, and instead, looks solely to the numbers to decide who is invaluable and who needs to go.

How to neutralize a robot: To succeed with a robot, you need to speak his language. When you have an idea, make certain you have the data to back it up. The same goes with your performance–you need to know what he values and be able to show it to him if you want to prove your worth. Once you’ve accomplished this, you can begin trying to nudge him out of his antisocial comfort zone. The trick is to find ways to connect with him directly, without being pushy or rude. Schedule face-to-face meetings and respond to some of his e-mails by knocking on his door. Forcing him to connect with you as a person, however so slightly, will make you more than a list of numbers and put a face to your name. Just because he’s all about the numbers, it doesn’t mean you can’t make yourself the exception. Do so in small doses, however, because he’s unlikely to respond well to the overbearing social type.

The Visionary

Her strength lies in her ideas and innovations. However, this entrepreneurial approach becomes dangerous when a plan or solution needs to be implemented, and she can’t bring herself to focus on the task at hand. When the time comes to execute her vision, she’s already off onto the next idea, and you’re left to figure things out on your own.

How to neutralize a visionary: To best deal with this type, reverse her train of thought. She naturally takes a broad perspective, so be quick to funnel things down into something smaller and more practical. To do so, ask a lot of specific questions that force her to rationally approach the issue and to consider potential obstacles to executing her broad ideas. Don’t refute her ideas directly, or she will feel criticized; instead, focus her attention on what it will take to realistically implement her plan. Oftentimes, your questions will diffuse her plan, and when they don’t, they’ll get her to understand–and commit to–the effort it’s going to take on her part to help make it happen.

The Seagull

We’ve all been there–sitting in the shadow of a seagull manager who decided it was time to roll up his sleeves, swoop in, and squawk up a storm. Instead of taking the time to get the facts straight and work alongside the team to realize a viable solution, the seagull deposits steaming piles of formulaic advice and then abruptly takes off, leaving everyone else behind to clean up the mess. Seagulls interact with their employees only when there’s a fire to put out. Even then, they move in and out so hastily–and put so little thought into their approach–that they make bad situations worse by frustrating and alienating those who need them the most.

How to neutralize a seagull: A group approach works best with seagulls. If you can get the entire team to sit down with him and explain that his abrupt approach to solving problems makes it extremely difficult for everyone to perform at their best, this message is likely to be heard. If the entire group bands together and provides constructive, non-threatening feedback, the seagull will more often than not find a better way to work with his team. It’s easy to spot a seagull when you’re on the receiving end of their airborne dumps, but the manager doing the squawking is often unaware of the negative impact of his behavior. Have the group give him a little nudge, and things are bound to change for the better.

Bringing It All Together

If you think these strategies might help others, please share this article with your network. Research suggests that roughly half of them are currently working for a bad boss.

Written by… (As seen in the Huffington Post)

How to manage conflicts in the workplace

June 1st, 2015

Research shows that co-workers are the number one reason people love their jobs, and it’s no secret that who you work with is just as, if not more, significant than who you work for. But when employees don’t enjoy the people they work with, the results can be just as negative.

  •     74% of employees report experiencing conflict at work (FindEmployment, 2014)
  •     20% of those who experienced conflict said it was ‘very serious’
  •     46% of those who experienced conflict said it was with a co-worker

Ensure employees know what channels are available

While most companies do offer conflict resolution services though HR, not all companies communicate that to staff. By reassuring people that you are listening, and that inquiries are confidential, you will be able to solve conflicts sooner rather than later.

Consider generational differences in communication

A survey by the ASTD Workforce Development Community found that 1 in 4 workers avoid conflict with colleagues of a different generation. This can lead to poor communication, exacerbating the issue at hand, said study author Joseph Grenny. “We were struck by the irony in the stories we collected,” he said. “Some insisted that ‘She’s lazy because she’s old’ while others said ‘She’s lazy because she’s young!'”

Equip managers with specific guidelines

When the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution examined 1,000 UK workers, they found that 46% of managers did not have confidence in their own ability to resolve the disputes of their staff. By providing direct supervisors with the right tools and procedures, you can improve efficiency, and prevent nasty legal complications if a manager makes a wrong step.

For Article Resource click here


Why I Am Taking a Stand Against an Adult Bully

April 30th, 2015

I have been hiding a secret for the past year. It’s a secret I’m not proud of. The time has come for me to stop hiding. I have been the target of adult bullying for the past year.

One year ago, I took decisive action to exercise my personal power and stand up for myself and my business. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming. I had attempted to say “no” to this person for years, and every time they would push back about why I was wrong. Their perseverance in arguing with me would eventually result in me giving in and allowing them to move forward despite my opinions. Doing this was taking precious time and resources from my business and diverting my focus away from what was really important. I took a stand once and for all with a definitive “no” that terminated the relationship and ignited a year long series of emails, texts, and passive aggressive social media posts.

As an outspoken and empowered woman that does not hesitate to share her opinion, I feel like I should have stood up and said something sooner. That I shouldn’t have allowed the behavior to happen in the first place, much less for an additional year. But instead, I have sat back and allowed myself to be on the receiving end of an adult bully.

For about a minute, part of me honestly wondered if the bully was right. Maybe I was the terrible person they made me out to be. Maybe I did abuse the relationships in my life to take more than give, as they alleged. Except then stepped back to look at the situation that inspired the abuse, and the people whose lives I touch on a daily basis, and how I live by my mission to change the world for women. That was when I realized, the attacks had nothing to do with me.

For another quick minute, I actually thought I could reason with this person. I responded to the attacks and asked that we behave like adults using appropriate communication and conflict resolution skills. I indicated that my decision to stand up for my beliefs wasn’t personal. But this only led to accusations of my manipulating the situation to my benefit.

I had no idea how to deal with any of this, so I took to the Internet to research adult bullying. What I found was that the majority of the resources online that address adult bullying specifically target workplace bullying. They recommended relying on established structures to deal with the problem. But what about when you’re bullied as an adult by someone in your general life? When you don’t have any structures to protect you or to fall back on for support?

“It is important to note, though, that there is little you can do about an adult bully, other than ignore and try to avoid, after reporting the abuse to a supervisor. This is because adult bullies are often in a set pattern. They are not interested in working things out and they are not interested in compromise. Rather, adult bullies are more interested in power and domination. They want to feel as though they are important and preferred, and they accomplish this by bringing others down. There is very little you can do to change an adult bully, beyond working within the confines of laws and company regulations that are set up. The good news is that, if you can document the bullying, there are legal and civil remedies for harassment, abuse and other forms of bullying. But you have to be able to document the case.” (Information courtesy of

So I kept my mouth shut and pretended it wasn’t happening, because included in the attacks were threats that this person would “tell everyone” what a terrible person I was. It was just better to stay silent. I seriously hoped that this person would just go away. And they did. For about six months. Until it started again out of the blue.

While the avoidance tactic is probably the main recommendation of how to deal with adult bullies, it clearly wasn’t working. Plus, I just didn’t understand why I was supposed to look the other way and allow the behavior to perpetuate, when I absolutely do not deserve this abuse. And why should I be responsible for taking the time and energy into documenting the situation to take someone to court, when I’d rather be focused on changing the world?

There were actually two online recommendations that resonated with me: 1. Find a confidante and 2. Ask for people to support and observe. I’ve chosen to combine these two into this article. I am confiding in all of you and concurrently amassing a collective witness.

This article is my public declaration that I will no longer stand for the bullying of myself or anyone else. I choose to not be a victim and will not be staying silent any longer. The mean girl mentality is not ok as children, in high school, and certainly not as adults.

As an aside, this experience has led me to wonder how the current bullying epidemic among school-aged children will continue as they mature into adults. We assume that people will grow out of these behaviors, but that clearly isn’t the case. Bullies don’t just emerge overnight. The bullies of childhood are growing into bullies of adulthood.

This pattern is just not going to disappear if it’s continually ignored. I encourage all of you to join me in examining and opening a conversation of what can we do individually and collectively to affect change to the culture of bullying.

By Bri Seeley ~ Bri Seeley is an entrepreneurial sensation that is passionate about sharing her story, and the stories of other amazing women. Her training and passion as a fashion designer led her to create a fashion label dedicated to femininity and helping women connect with their true selves. She recognized how intensely women search outside of themselves for happiness and validation, losing touch with what makes them women and conforming to external pressures of how women should show up in the world. Seeley’s interactions with women have been the catalyst for her to create The Inspirational Woman Project, a movement aimed at inspiring women and the exploring what it means to be a WOMAN.

Follow Bri Seeley on Twitter:

3 Phrases That Will Instantly Calm Angry or Emotional People

February 9th, 2015

By Jessica Stillman of Inc.,


If only the world were populated exclusively by the sane and rational, your job as a business owner would certainly be a lot easier. But as we all know, some people spend much of their lives over-agitated or spoiling for a fight, and even the most level-headed of us sometimes let our emotions get the best of us.

You can’t always avoid having to deal with overly emotional people, but while these difficult conversations are simply part of life, there are ways to make them less painful and more constructive. That’s the message of a useful post that recently appeared on blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

The piece features an interview with Dr. Albert J. Bernstein, a clinical psychologist who, while treating the truly psychotic, perfected his techniques for bringing out-of-control conversations back down to Earth. His advice includes tips like, “If you feel like a preschool teacher, you’re probably doing it right,” and suggestions for soothing outraged folks on the phone, as well as these phrases to help turn down the emotional dial on your most challenging conversations.

1. “Please Speak More Slowly. I’d Like to Help.”

The problem may not be that they’re speaking too quickly; the problem may be they’re screaming their head off or sobbing uncontrollably. Nonetheless, this phrase can work its magic, according to Bernstein.

“Why does this work? It breaks the pattern in their head,” the post explains. “They’re expecting you to resist them but you’re not. You’re asking them to clarify. You’re interested. This makes them shift more out of ‘dinosaur brain’ and into thinking. And that’s good.”

2. “What Would You Like Me to Do?”

This one works on similar principles to phrase number one. It knocks the over-emotional person out of using their “dinosaur brain”—the primitive, emotional part that only knows flight or fight—and forces them to start using move evolved thinking skills.

3. Any Question at All

It doesn’t matter how loony the other party is being; if you want to get the conversation back on any sort of sane track, telling them they’re insane or explaining how your viewpoint is more sensible isn’t going to help. Why?
“Explaining is almost always a disguised form of fighting back,” says Bernstein. The other party will sense that and just get more aggressive and emotional.

So even if they’re raving that they’re Elvis back from the dead, you’re better off asking where they’ve stashed their sequined jumpsuit than you are explaining that, in truth, they appear to be an extremely unwell psychiatric patient. “The act of listening is reflecting back the person’s emotional state, not necessarily the content of what they’re saying,” according to Bernstein, and doing that by asking relevant questions is more likely to calm people down and lead the conversation onto firmer ground than any attempt to inject level-headed good sense.

The Top 5 Ways to Handle Your Demanding Boss

January 28th, 2015

Not everybody has the misfortune of having a boss like Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, but most people have, from time to time, experienced the pressure brought on by having a boss with wildly high expectations. We all want to impress and preform well in our workplace, but some requests can push us a little too far.


Here’s how to keep your cool and come out on top

1. Breathe

When we’re frustrated, the first thing we tend to do is tense up and rant. But, as you’ve probably noticed, this doesn’t get us very far. The first thing you absolutely must do when dealing with a difficult boss is to simply breathe. Taking three deep, diaphragmatic breaths after reading that long list of superhuman to-do’s that they just dropped in your inbox will help you both calm your nerves, and centre yourself. A centered approach means a rational response.

2. Listen

The second most important thing you can do when dealing with a demanding boss is to listen. You may feel like they are repeating themselves, pushing you too hard, or on you like a hawk, but oftentimes these highly strung behaviours stem from feeling like they aren’t heard. Simply stop what you’re doing and listen. Repeating what they’ve said back to them, will let them know you have heard and understood them.

Say hello to a much happier work life.

3. Go the extra mile

One of the simplest ways that you can appeal to a highly demanding boss is by rising to the challenge. Do those extra reports, call that extra client, bend where necessary and push the boat out. Sometimes leaders push to get the results they need. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but give them those results and they’ll reward you by backing off.

If you just can’t follow through, be sure to let them know using these 5 simple tips.

4. Stand your ground

If spinning thirty plates all at once while riding a unicycle through a ring of fire just isn’t good enough for your demanding supervisor, stop what you’re doing and stand your ground. Personality clashes and pressure to meet targets is one thing, but working yourself to the bone is another.

Know your limits and be firm if your boundaries are being crossed. Your emotional and mental wellbeing are just as important as your physical health – if you’re being overworked, say so. Over the holidays we took some much needed R&R, but these tips will see you through almost any stressful work period.

5. Intervention

If all else fails, ask for help. Sometimes difficult and demanding bosses are too much to handle alone and feeling like you’re working for a ticking time bomb is no way to work. Talk to a colleague you trust or take the issue higher if you’re not being heard and confront the situation with grace and discretion. Be careful to avoid gossiping and moaning around the office, you’ll only make your life harder in the long run. Keeping your grievances as private as possible allow for everyone to save face. Just remember, it’s never too late to ask for help if you really need it.

Sage Words

Of course, nothing trumps good, honest communication. We all like to say our piece and we all need to be heard. If you’re both intentionally and mindfully listening to the other, you’ll be able to get through any difficult patch.

4 Tips For Avoiding Conflict In The Workplace

January 27th, 2015

Author: Emily Bennington

Sometimes, avoiding conflict in the workplace can be difficult. However, it’s extremely doable.

Here’s a personal example:

While at work one day, I received an instant message from a colleague.

It read, “Do you have a minute to chat?”

“Of course,” I responded.

Instantly, the phone rang.

To be honest, I assumed this would be a routine call pertaining to a joint proposal this co-worker and I were collaborating on, and so I was a bit blindsided by what followed.

“I came across a post you wrote recently about rolling your eyes in a meeting,” she said. “And I just wanted to ask if you were writing about me.”

Awkward silence.

The truth is, I did write a post about a meeting where I had behaved uber-immaturely and, yes, she was the voice on the phone.

I explained the situation: I was rolling my eyes at the characteristically bureaucratic nature of corporate decision-making and the post was about my mistake and not her.

She listened politely, seemed genuinely interested in the root cause of my ire, and we hung up the phone. But here’s the catch: rather than feel defensive or put on the spot, I felt fine.

No drama. No hurt feelings. No lingering doubts or suspicions.

Now, let’s contrast this to how she could have handled the situation, shall we? Upon reading my post, she could have…

  • Silently sulked, but not said a word. (Of course, every time she saw me from that point on she would secretly have negative blog flashbacks.)
  •  Publicly sulked by trashing me to everyone BUT me.
  •  Forwarded the post to a few mutual colleagues with colorful commentary such as, “Who does this *$&^ think she is?”

To her credit, she didn’t choose any of the above (all-too-common) options.

In fact, I wanted to use this post to highlight exactly what she did right, so you’ll know how to handle it if you ever find yourself in a similarly sticky situation.


Most people don’t like conflict, and so they avoid it at all costs. Therefore, it takes an incredible amount of maturity to go to the person who has “offended” you and clear the air in person. (It’s obviously FAR easier to talk about them behind their back, and that’s why the majority go that route.)


Since this could have been an emotional conversation (remember: she didn’t know how I would react), it was smart to make sure I wasn’t under a deadline or otherwise distracted.


(“I wasn’t sure if you were talking about me”) versus accusation (“I can’t believe you said that about me.”) This subtle distinction made all the difference, i.e. rather than feel attacked, I felt camaraderie and we actually hung up the phone closer as team members than before.


Can you imagine? Here she thought I was visibly disrespecting her (in front of her boss, mind you) and she ends the call by asking if there’s anything she can do to help make my life easier. Whoa!

In our reality-TV driven culture, where we are all so immersed in conflict, short fuses, and a general lack of civility, it’s nice to see some people still value and respect maturity. You would be wise to follow my colleague’s example. (And I’m not just saying that because I know she reads my blog now.)


How to handle a workplace stalker

November 20th, 2014

by Caitlin Nobes

Workplace romance is a common headache for HR, especially when it ends badly. However, what about when feelings are unrequited, sometimes with extreme results?

A recent US case shows just how bad it can get. A New York judge has extended a cease and desist order and restraining order against Ling Chan, an oversight examiner at Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) fell for co-worker Dan Small. In 2011 Small turned down her romantic advances, which resulted in constant emails, social media requests and small gifts.

Unfortunately Chan refused to take no for an answer and the situation escalated. She continued to ask Small out, while harassing co-workers for his mobile number and details of his relationship status.

Small asked someone in the HR department for help. The HR rep talked to Chan about her unacceptable behaviour, but her response was to ask him if he could pass on a love letter to Small. Eventually Chan was fired and attempted to file a claim against the HR department and her boss.

Since then Chan has applied 574 times to 82 different positions at FINRA, using a number of aliases. John Braut, an HR manager at FIRA, was harassed by Chan by being signed up to a number of adult magazines using his work email. According to court documents, Chan then slandered him and made threats online.

While this is an extreme example, workplace stalking is not uncommon. According to the experts at Stalking Risk Profile it can have negative outcomes including increased sick leave, decrease productivity and deteriorating job performance. The affects can also extend to coworkers, family members and other third parties. So what can HR do about it?

HR Takeaways

Safe environment:
It is up to the employer to create an environment where victims feel safe to report stalking behaviour. “Central to this is making it clear that stalking victims are not to blame for their predicament, even if the victim was previously in a relationship with the stalker,” psychologist Dr Rachel MacKenzie. “Employers should also ensure that other employees are made aware of stalking situations when they have a role in managing the risks.”

Educate management and employees about bullying and stalking behaviours and what they need to do if such a situation arises. “It is crucial that employees do not feel that they will be judged as overreacting if they report something that they think might be trivial,” MacKenzie said. “It is better to praise the individual for being alert, rather than try to repair the damage that may arise if incidents are not reported.”

Develop and enforce strong policies on what constitutes inappropriate contact and harassment at work, either by clients or co-workers. Detail the process for dealing with aggressive or agitated individuals and for reporting complaints, suspicious behaviour and critical incidents.

Safety first:
Put safety procedures in place so the victim is safe coming to and from work, including a safe parking spot. If possible, allow the victim to work flexible hours so that they can vary the time that they arrive and leave work. Ensure that no one gives out any information about days or hours of work, phone numbers or other personal details.

Caitlin Nobes:

Caitlin Nobes

Responsibilities at KMI Publishing include writing news articles and features, assisting with editorial process and managing social media for HRM Online and HR Director Magazine.

Follow on: Google+ | Twitter | LinkedIn


Body Odor, Bad Breath and Business

November 13th, 2014

Body Odor

Have you found yourself in an awkward position of having to tell someone his or her bad breath or body odor is no longer acceptable? Do others complain to you but they don’t have the nerve to broach the problem directly?

Try this approach and you will be pleasantly surprised how easily the issue can be addressed. Here are four ideas on how to approach this delicate situation. Do you have something to add?

  1. “I have something of a personal nature to discuss with you.  Is this a good time for you?”
  2. “Under most circumstances this wouldn’t be my business, but because we work in close quarters (work with the public, etc) I need your help. It seems that your body odor (or bad breath) has become an issue and others (clients, colleagues, customers) have complained. How can I help you address this because something needs to change?”
  3. “Under most circumstances this wouldn’t be my business, but because we work in close quarters (work with the public, etc) I need your help. It seems that your body odor has become an issue and others (clients, colleagues, customers) have complained. What do you think you can do to address this?” (Notice it is similar to #2 but with a twist at the end.)
  4. “There are some things even your best friend is too embarrassed to tell you, but I know I would want someone to tell me.  You have a body (or breath) odor and it needs to be addressed.  I’m bringing this up primarily for you because this can be an indicator that you have something medically going on that is not good.  What can I do to help?”
  5. “As an employee you are perceived AS the company and have a reflection on how people see our team. This isn’t an attempt to humiliate or intimidate you.   I’m simply asking you to address it and take care of it.  OK?”

Give them a deadline on when this needs to be resolved. Keep yourself open as a resource. Addressing issues in with your team, peers and superiors is your responsibility. Learning how to confidently address every issue through polished communication places you ahead of most other people. This important skill will spill over into your personal life too. Let me know what ideas you have!

Cheers, Marsha

p.s. Let me know if you need to further build your group by helping them improve communications, reduce conflict, polish platform skills, or listen more skillfully. The benefit is helping people embrace change, save time and build bottom line.

Marsha Petrie Sue
Professional Speaker, Executive Coach and Best Selling Author

Cell 602 418-1991 or Marcia

How Successful People Handle Toxic People

October 28th, 2014

Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress.

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus—an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success—when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.

Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. If your non-profit is working to land a grant that your organization needs to function, you’re bound to feel stress and likely know how to manage it. It’s the unexpected sources of stress that take you by surprise and harm you the most.

Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralize toxic people. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ to keep toxic people at bay.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when dealing with toxic people, what follows are twelve of the best. To deal with toxic people effectively, you need an approach that enables you, across the board, to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize.

They Set Limits (Especially with Complainers)

Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.

You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

They Don’t Die in the Fight

Successful people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

They Rise Above

Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. So why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?

The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.

They Stay Aware of Their Emotions

Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.

Think of it this way—if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he’s John F. Kennedy, you’re unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.

They Establish Boundaries

This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve found your way to Rise Above a person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn’t mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members.

You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

They Don’t Focus on Problems—Only Solutions

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.

They Don’t Forget

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Successful people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

They Squash Negative Self-Talk

Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re surprised in the hallway by an angry coworker.

They Get Some Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present.

A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.

They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. 

Bringing It All Together

Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you’re going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people.Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.

I always love to hear new strategies for dealing with toxic people, so please feel free to share yours in the comments section below!


Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence testsemotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

If you’d like more strategies for dealing with difficult people and managing your emotions in times of stress, consider taking the Emotional Intelligence Appraisaltest that’s included with the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 book. Your test results will pinpoint which of the book’s 66 emotional intelligence strategies will increase your EQ the most.


Four ways to deal with a bad boss

September 25th, 2014

A recent Gallup survey reported that 25 per cent of people would like to fire their boss, if they had the power. Interestingly, the majority of those 25 per cent were reported as the “highly disengaged” cohort.

On the other hand, those who enjoyed a healthy relationship with their managers were reported as “highly engaged” in their work and consequently had no desire to oust the boss.

The reasons for disengagement, however, aren’t necessarily a one-way street. Poor leadership plays a significant role in the engagement equation and it is a fact that managers and employees alike become disenchanted and disconnected due to the negative impact of mediocre leadership at the highest level.

Recently, I spoke to three senior managers who shared their deep-seated resentment regarding the top echelons of their leadership. The managers opened up a Pandora’s box, describing their C-suite as an inept, self-serving group who, for the most part, were buying time until retirement. The managers felt trapped, fearful that if they addressed their leaders directly, they would risk losing their jobs. The office politics and dysfunction was rampant, yet no one was prepared to take action.

As the discussion progressed, it became clear to me that high levels of distrust and disrespect were the core issues at every level of their organization. How does one take action to ameliorate management concerns and improve workplace relationships when the fingers are consistently being pointed upward? What does one do when “head honchos” have no plans to vacate their position; oblivious to the tension and frustration felt by many below their ranks?

If this describes your current situation, you may take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. The unfortunate reality is that we cannot make bad leaders disappear. We can, however, make choices in order to advance our own careers and shift our perspective regarding the relationships we have with such leaders. The decision is ultimately ours to exercise one of the following four courses of action:

1. Accept it.

Acceptance has different interpretations. For some, it may mean “endure,” or “tolerate.” In effect, “put up and shut up.” Adopting a posture of acquiescence is not helpful. Instead, consciously choose to detach and recognize the impact of resentment and frustration on your well-being. If bad leaders have already retired on the job, you don’t have to follow suit. If they are uncaring, uncompromising, unrelenting, or unjust, it does not mean that you should respond in kind. They are who they are, through whatever lens you choose to see them.

2. Leave it.

You may have reached a point were staying in your current job has become impossible and it is time to move on. To the degree where you are compromising your own sanity, being obsessed with the injustice of it all isn’t healthy. Numerous individuals have taken this step, recognizing that the situation is not going to change. Taking the high road may be your best option. Realize, however, that you may once again find yourself in an imperfect workplace, with ineffectual leadership, at some level of an organization. Learning what is acceptable or unacceptable in terms of your employers or managers is a good thing in the grand scheme of your career.

3. Change it.

The adage “nothing changes if nothing changes” definitely applies when it comes to your relationship with your leader. Taking this step requires adopting a proactive mindset. As unfair as it seems, the onus is on you to create change. For example, while venting with your colleagues about your bad boss may provide temporary relief, the real concerns remain unaddressed by choosing not to confront the person directly. Unless you are prepared to change your approach, overcome your fears and communicate your concerns, the situation will remain the same, or more likely, will get worse.

4. Own it.

Overcoming your mental roadblocks is the first step in having a conversation with your leader. Establishing a meaningful dialogue requires planning on your part. Improvising won’t work if you are serious about delivering your message with impact. It also requires skill and conviction. When it comes to the crunch, these two areas present the greatest challenge for most people who are unhappy with their leaders. Invest in honing these attributes and you will change the result for yourself. Do you wish to give your leader a piece of your mind, or is your objective to positively express your concerns? Consider the intent behind your words and actions. There are consequences for staying silent or speaking up. If you choose the former, you may have to pay a high emotional price. However, if you engage your leader in a constructive discussion, you may be pleasantly surprised.

The time will come for you to decide what the best course of action will be. Will you:

a. Accept the status quo?

b. Leave your job?

c. Change your perspective?

d. Approach your boss?

You need to resolve to do things differently in order to achieve a different outcome. Being proactive is the only way to affect a positive change. Ultimately, you will be better served by focusing on what is within your control, rather than what is not.

~ By, Michelle Ray

5 Ways to Tell You’re a Bully

August 18th, 2014

In the few short weeks since January 1, here are just two of the headlines that have appeared in respected business publications: “Is Your Boss a Psychopath?” and “A Survivor’s Guide to Bullies, Backstabbers and Bastards.” Words like “toxic, destructive, revenge, screaming, crying, and storming” fill the paragraphs. Books on the subject include “Snakes in Suits” and “Sociopaths at Work.” And of course there are the films, “The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” which depict these not-so-fictional antisocial behaviors that are epidemic in today’s workplace.

There is a plethora of information about what to do if you work for one of these tyrants, but how about if you are the bully inflicting all this pain and suffering?

This blog post is for you.

Answer these 5 questions to determine if you are a bully.

  1.  Have you yelled at someone today and on most days?
  2.  Do you slam doors when you are angry?
  3.  Have you publicly humiliated and demoralized your staffers by calling them morons, idiots, and other disparaging epithets?
  4.  Do you throw things, stamp your feet, and pound your fist on the table to make your point?
  5.  Do you make fun of your staff with mean-spirited insults?

Recent Stats: 35% of the American workforce has been bullied

7 out 10 employees leave their jobs because of a bully

Stat Source:

If 3 out of 5 answers were “Yes,” here are the 5 reasons to alter your behavior right now.

  1.  Because you lead by intimidation and fear, most everyone is afraid of speaking with you at all, never mind telling you important truths about your business. There is a lot that you are not being told about what is going on. No one seeks to be the dead messenger. Instead, your staffers are reading books like “Taming the Abrasive Manager” by Laura Crawshaw.
  2.  Staff who are respected and valued produce better work, are loyal, and go above and beyond when problems arise. The converse is true for staff who are disrespected, demeaned, and not acknowledged for the experience and talents that they were hired for in the first place. Your employees may be physically there, but not really there. The term is “presenteeism.”
  3.  Your staff may be at their desks but many of them are busy looking for the exit – and they are doing it on your dime.
  4.  Perhaps you are bullying only one person? It is true that bullying takes the biggest toll on the victim but the witnesses of bullying also pay a high price, and they too will also look to quit. Have you heard of survivor’s guilt?
  5.  Costs for employee sick time, litigation, and replacing staff are skyrocketing. The word has gone around about how you treat people, so new staffers receive “combat pay” just to take the job. Plus, your bottom line profits are directly impacted by the job satisfaction levels of your staff. Bullying is very expensive.

Convinced to turn things around? Here are 5 things to do about it.

  1.  Hire a counsellor or coach who specializes in bullying behaviors.
  2.  Have one on ones with your most valuable staff and give them permission to tell you the truth. Really. Take notes.
  3.  Apologize to those you have hurt. Sincerity counts.
  4.  Speak with your HR Department to set realistic and actionable policies regarding bullying. Involve your staff in the creation of these policies and then post them on your website.
  5.  Encourage your staff to openly communicate with you as often as needed. Emphasize that they will not receive retribution.

The bad news is that you have been a bully. The good news is that you made it to the end of this blog post in the hopes of finding the reasons to make a change. If you are still in doubt about whether you are a bully, just ask your staff. Their eyes will say it all.


– By Bonnie Low-Kramen


Conflict Management & Resolution for Your Partnering Success

July 23rd, 2014

By Ed Rigsbee, CSP, CAE

In times of conflict you can take one of two positions. First the position is that of having your heels dug in and believing you are RIGHT. The second position is where you care enough to understand what is motivating the other person’s behavior. My recommendation, as you might have guessed, is the second.

Just to make a point, I’d like you to think back to the last argument you had with your spouse, parent, child, a friend or in a business situation. Do you see yourself in the argument? Now, I ask you which position did you take?“ The first,” you say? I thought so. If you had taken the position of trying to understand the other’s position, there most likely would not have been an argument. We humans are not perfect. As such, we sometimes we fall into our stuff. At these times we are not the best people we could be. But, it is the person who recognizes that they are in their stuff and makes a new behavior decision that makes a good partner.

You might be thinking, “Thanks for the info, Ed, but why do I have to always be the person who makes the change, the person who makes it works? Why can’t it be the other guy once in a while?” My answer to you is simply that you are the one who figured it out first. Get out of your stuff and, as Nike says, JUST DO IT®.Listed below are some additional tactics to help you resolve conflict.

  • Evaluate your, and your partner’s, conflict management styles. Understanding each other is a great start.
  • Identify and plan strategies to deal with non-productive behaviors before they crop up.
  • Give positive feedback as often as possible so the relationship does not take on a negative tone through only fire fighting interactions.
  • Confront problem situations at once rather than waiting for the situation to escalate.
  • Invite comments from all stakeholders early in every project, especially your alliance partners.
  • Consider using humor and maybe even humility in certain situations.
  • Encourage dissent at a time and place that serves all involved.
  • Review the value of the alliance relationship. Determine how much your circles of interest overlap. Ask if winning this battle will get you closer to an OSR, or further away from it.
  • When you hear something you don’t like, repeat it back in an informational way. See if the message you received was the same as it was intended. Misunderstanding is the root of much conflict.
  • Know your buttons and don’t allow them to be pushed. You have control in this area.
  • Completely listen to what the other guy has to say before you open your mouth. Remember the adage, Listen twice before speaking once. That’s why God gave you two ears and only one mouth.
  • Remember the principle of saving face. In some societies, it is a matter of life or death. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, this is not usually the situation in North America.
  • Keep your ego in check. Be clear on the difference between high self-esteem and high ego. One serves and one does not. Need I say more?
  • Appoint a devil’s advocate and allow them to be involved in projects from the start, all the way through completion. Their job is to be a pain in the neck. It’s not that they are just picking on a certain person or position. This keeps people from taking a dissenting opinion personally.
  • Keep the consequences of your decisions in mind.
  • Value the opinion of others. Focus on the clarity of the water, not the spring from which it flows.

I understand that building Outrageously Successful Relationships can be difficult at times. My best advise for you: Know the value of your relationships. Know where you want the relationships to go and stay on course. Accept that quality Partnering just takes time and effort. Accept that there isn’t any magic–just dedicated implementation.

How to Handle Difficult People in Your Workplace

July 16th, 2014

By Robbie Abed,
Independent IT Consultant, Author of Fire Me I Beg You














It took years to develop, but I was finally able to figure out how to handle difficult situations and how to work with difficult people.

I’ve worked with:

  • The decisive, smart and friendly executive type
  • The 9-to-5 do everything I’m asked with a smile and actually enjoy my work type
  • The let me know if I can help you with anything type
  • The we all know I’m the smartest one in the room type
  • The you cross me, and I promise you it will be the worst mistake of your entire career type
  • The please give me another day to make this decision type
  • The let’s be real, I don’t really give a damn, just tell me what you need me to do and I’ll do it type
  • The please don’t ask me to do anything for you because it’s not in my job description type
  • The OMG she’s walking near my cube, I better act like I’m doing something before I get fired type
  • The you used this word incorrectly in a PowerPoint, therefore I will call an all hands meeting to get this settled type
  • The I trust you Robbie to make any decision you see fit type
  • The if I don’t get a summary email at 8 p.m. every day I’m going to assume you didn’t do anything all day type
  • The I’m going to cry instead of making an important decision so please back off type
  • The I don’t really care what you think about me or my decisions, just do what I tell you type
  • The who the hell left an unclean spoon in the sink, your mother isn’t here to look after you so I’m going to leave a passive aggressive sign above the sink and another on the refrigerator in addition to an email blast to the entire office type
  • The give me your date of birth so we can celebrate your half birthday type
  • The I’m going to pretend like I didn’t hear you the first time so I can make this conversation as awkward as possible type
  • The I’m going to agree to everything said in the meeting then complain privately once the meeting is over type
  • The I literally, figuratively and hypothetically do not care what anybody thinks about me, so just keep paying me every 2 weeks and we’ll all be happy type
  • The if I hear one single piece of constructive criticism about my work I’m never going to open up my mouth again type
  • And finally my favorite: The holy crap lady I can hear your nails click clacking on your keyboard from across the office type

For the person who creates those passive aggressive, “If you’re leaning, you’re cleaning” signs above the sink, I purposely don’t clean dirty spoons and put them in the sink so they can be even more upset. I’m evil like that.

The uncomfortable truth is that not all of these types are easy to deal with. In fact, many of these types make it much harder to get anything accomplished.

Deal with difficult people before they deal with you

Difficult people are an interesting breed. They tend to be the last person in a workflow who has the authority to approve a particular process, purchase order or contract, so they’re the final decision maker. They are nitpicky, irrational, insanely busy people who don’t understand how many hours the team has put into completing an activity.

They ask questions at the last minute about verbiage in a contract when they could have asked the question when you first started on the project. They make you start all the way from the beginning negating all that time you and your team spent on it.

And yet instead of engaging this person right away, most people wait all the way until the end to get their approval, then are in complete shock when this person demands that additional edits be made.


Easy. People hate working with difficult people unless they absolutely have to. Instead of getting answers to their questions right away, they take the easy route and make assumptions hoping the difficult person won’t ask questions once they review it. Nobody likes awkward conversations and would rather show the decision maker a “finished product” so they don’t get negative feedback on something that isn’t finished.

Then when it comes time to review the finished product, the difficult person becomes well, difficult. Of course, this story isn’t complete without the standard everyone blaming each other for a missed deadline when the executive asks why that task was delayed.

Step up and deal with the decision makers even if they make you uncomfortable. Don’t do it to impress your boss or your teammates. Do it because you want to make the final approval process easier, and do it to learn how this decision maker operates.

Do it because no one else will.

Difficult people are often misunderstood. They’re difficult because their job requires them to be detail oriented and they have stake in the outcome of certain activities or projects. They don’t care how much time you spent on an activity. They care about the outcome.

If you can figure out what makes them tick through early difficult conversations, you’ll not only have better answers early on, but also a relationship with someone who others refuse to connect with — or can’t.



5 Times Will Tell

May 8th, 2014

By Rhonda Scharf, CSP

When you are dealing with your difficult person, you can expect that their behaviour will get worse before it gets better. This is a good sign. This means that they are noticing that something has changed, and are digging in their heels to get what it is that they need.

We are all familiar with the old saying “If you keep on doing what you always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” We know that with our difficult person, we have to do something different. We know that we want to move from their normal/regular response to do something different (and hopefully less difficult).

You can expect that as you practice different responses, or different strategies, that you will confuse your difficult person. That confusion (or lack of a payoff on their part) will require them to do something different.

When you decide what your strategy is, keep with that strategy (don’t change it) for a minimum of five times. If after keeping consistent with this approach you find that it isn’t working, or they are becoming much more difficult, then you can change your approach.

Initially they will be surprised, and then they will get more difficult. After five consecutive times of you implementing your strategy you will notice that they are either getting easier to do deal with, or more difficult. You decide if you want to be a little more firm (or stubborn) with your approach, or it makes sense to try something different.

After five times you will notice a change. Be consistent though and good luck.

Dealing with Emotional Pain

April 7th, 2014

By Rhonda Scharf, CSP

How do you deal with emotional pain? The kind of pain that sits in your heart and occasionally (sometimes without warning) breaks your heart just a little bit and you feel an overwhelming urge to cry. Many of us can relate to that.

Let’s consider the unfortunate events that took place on September 11, 2001. I knew none of the people who died personally – but that does not stop the pain. I expect that had I known anyone on a more personal basis, my pain would be just a little more intense. During a time like that, it is hard to believe that it can be more intense. Yet, as we all know, life must go on for those of us who were left behind.

The question is “How do we continue on when we are in pain?” Valid question, and here are a few of the solutions I offer to people:

It is OK to suffer from pain. Do not believe that you do not have the right. Perhaps you do have a family member who passed away, or a beloved pet that died. As children we were embarrassed to cry in front of people, and we have carried on that belief into our adult lives.

It is OK to cry or hurt. So the first solution – don’t try to cover or bury the emotions – but allow them their freedom at the appropriate time.

The reality is that your bully, or your difficult person can cause you an incredible amount of emotional pain. It isn’t the same as death, but emotionally it can be just as exhausting.

My grandfather passed away while I was in England working for some clients. I knew he was dying, and had made the decision to leave on the business trip anyway. I did say goodbye to him – and discussed my decision (with their full support) with my dad and family. I was hoping that he would wait a little longer (20 years might have been nice) – but his time came just after I arrived in London. I found out the news during the lunch break of one of my all day seminars. Obviously, I had to continue on during the day and not let my emotions take control. I was allowed to feel pain – just not right then. So I applied a little trick that I share in my Stress Management programs. Take the emotional feeling (in this case, sorrow) and put it into an imaginary “box” in your head. Close the lid on the box. Pick a time later on when you can open the lid and deal with the emotion. So in this case, I had to continue on with my job. I also needed to cry and deal with my own sorrow (and guilt in this case). So, I allowed the emotion to sit in the box, and I would deal with it when I was alone in my hotel room.

We can do the same thing with the emotional pain that our bully/difficult person causes us. Allow yourself to close it up sometimes, so that it is not affecting all areas of your life. Give yourself permission to be happy sometimes, even though you are dealing with an incredible amount of pain and emotional turmoil. Don’t let your bully/difficult person ruin every aspect of your life.

The mistake that some people make is to never open the box. As far as dealing with emotion in a healthy way, it is imperative that you go back to that box fairly soon after you closed the lid. You will notice that this technique works when you are dealing with the death of a member of your immediate family. It amazes me how well people stand up at the wake, and the funeral, and many don’t cry at all. They will, it will just be at a time of their choosing.

The next technique is used when the emotions are stronger than the lid on the box. Your tears just come anyway. I happen to be quite good at a silent cry. You know the kind, you are driving down the highway singing away to a song, and before you know the tears just start on their own. Of course, that works great for many of us (especially if we are in the car alone). But sometimes, those tears just start in a meeting, while working at your desk or while walking down the hall. My solution is to let them come! While the tears are streaming down your face, take deep breaths (you need oxygen to steady your emotions). The next step is to continue doing what you were doing (and pretend that you are not crying). Honestly, just keep going! So what if you are in the middle of a conversation – just keep going! Pretend you don’t notice. Your voice will waiver, your hands will shake, and the tears will fall. Keep going. This will probably only last for 15-30 seconds if you don’t call attention to it (Really – it doesn’t take that long to get back into control – I dare you to try it!). The person you are speaking with will probably ask you if you need a minute – the answer is “No”. Keep going. If you really do need to stop, do so. Don’t feel that you need to explain to your co-worker why you are crying. Just tell them you’ll be back in 10 minutes ready to continue. But, try talking right through it – you can do it. Ever had to give eulogy? Of course we cry during that, but we have to keep going. And after a little while, our normal voice returns and we get control again.

So, to summarize:

1- It is OK to suffer from pain and to cry or hurt. Don’t apologize for being an emotional person – take pride in yourself. You are a caring and loving individual. Why should we apologize for that?

2- Don’t try to cover or bury your emotions.

3- Take deep breaths, but let the tears come anyway.

4 – Keep doing what you were doing before the tears started!

A book that helped me a lot is called Emotional Confidence by Gael Lindenfield (Harper Collins Publishers). I picked it up in London after my grandfather died, but you could get your bookstore to order it for you.

Let your frustration go

March 24th, 2014

By Rhonda Scharf, CSP

Recently, my 18 month old computer died. It had a hardware failure that my computer technicians called “irreparable”.

I am totally frustrated at not having a computer, at the expense, and most importantly, with the time I am having to spend to get a new system up and running.

Do you ever get frustrated at work? Have you ever gotten annoyed because someone else in the office wasn’t doing what you want her to do? Do you get frustrated with red tape? What do you do about it?

There are a few different ways you can deal (or not deal) with frustration.

Focus on the frustration
The first options is something we’ve all done from time to time: allow circumstances to take control. You’ve seen it happen to others, too. It’s what happens when you just whine and complain but do nothing about it. You allow it or her to wreck your day, your week, and your month. If you complain about something long enough it even starts to control the way you think. For instance if you say “all lawyers are crooks” often enough, you will start to believe it is true. You and I both know that it isn’t true. If your lawyer is frustrating you for whatever reason, and you choose to allow the frustration to control you, you will never get over being frustrated by your lawyer. Every time you think about needing a lawyer your temperature will rise, your anger will re-appear and you will be frustrated.

Avoid the situation
The second option is to avoid the situation or person who is frustrating you. I could have said that I was fed up with computers and refused to use another one again. That is a perfect example of biting off my nose to spite my face. Who am I hurting in this situation? Me. I know of people who get very frustrated driving on major highways, so their response is to never drive on them. They must take much longer to get anywhere because they are avoiding the frustration of the highway. Others have quit their jobs because they didn’t like the frustration of certain aspects of it. That’s pretty drastic, and life-altering, solution to the problem of frustration.

A Better Option
The third option is to understand the situation and let it go. Don’t allow it to control you. When I ordered my new computer, I was told it would take two to four business days until it was delivered. A week later, it still isn’t here. Yes, I could obsess about it not being here, or I could just say “that’s too bad, I could really use it now.”

I am choosing to just let it go. There is nothing I can do to get my computer here more quickly. If there was something I could do, I would, and that would be another excellent option. But since there isn’t, I will let go of what I cannot control.

I also need to let go of the fact that the computer didn’t last as long as I thought it should. I need to change my expectations for the next time.

The same thing applies with co-workers. If you have a co-worker who is continually late, and who drives you crazy each morning with frustration, what are you going to do about it? Well, realistically, what can you do? Can you go to her house each morning and get her out of bed? I doubt it. Can you just let it go and not obsess over her being late? Yes you can. If you are in a supervisory position, you have a few more choices, but being frustrated does not have to be the one you choose.

Frustration is something that occurs in many aspects of life. We can let frustration control us, or we can decide not to let it. It’s a choice.

As for me, I will wait for my computer and ensure that frustration doesn’t dictate my feelings or how I live each day while I’m waiting. And when a co-worker does things a little differently than I expect her to, I will choose not to let it ruin my day. I will choose to let me frustration go.

Working with Difficult People

February 24th, 2014

By Rhonda Scharf, CSP

Who is the most difficult person you work with? Does it feel to you like they spend each evening plotting and planning on how to ruin the next day for you? Does it drain your energy just thinking about this person? You’re not alone. It seems that every one of us has a ‘difficult to deal with’ person in our life. They take a lot of energy just to ignore, and many of us wish they would just go away. If you can identify with this scenario, finish the rest of this sentence: “I would be more effective working with my difficult person if…”

What is you ‘if’?

Now go back and look at what you wrote. Is your answer dependant on them doing something to change? Why do you think they would be willing to change to make your life easier? You’re right, they won’t. So how are we going to be more effective when working with this person? There are three things that you can change.

1-      The System. Perhaps this person is difficult because they are a ‘stick to the rules’ kind of person and you aren’t. It can be very frustrating to you and that this person is so stuck on the system you don’t agree with. If you could just change the system it would make your life a lot easier, don’t you think? Of course, changing the system is an extremely time intensive proposition with no guarantee of any success. There are people, like Erin Brockovich for example, who are able to change the system but most people decide that the effort does not equal the payoff. If this is your situation, you may choose to avoid trying to change the system. I’m not saying that it won’t work – I am saying that it will take a lot of your time and efforts before you see any dividends. It may be easier to take another approach with your difficult person.

2-      The Other Person. You’ve probably heard the old cliché, “If you plan on changing your spouse when you get married, it makes for a very interesting first marriage.” It’s not so easy to change the other person because there is no incentive for them to change. Why should they? What they are doing is currently working just fine, isn’t it? Consider a co-worker that listens to his music at a very loud volume. He likes I that loud, it helps him drown out all the other noise in the office. You despise the type of music he listens to, and it is far too loud for you to concentrate. You’ve asked your co-worker to turn it down every day for the past three months and it has now escalated into an all-out war between the two of you. You are trying to get your difficult person to see that his music is too loud and you cannot concentrate. You are trying to change his perspective on the volume. Why should he turn it down? He likes it just the way it is. Trying to change the other person is often like hitting your head against a brick wall; it just doesn’t work very well. There is no incentive for the other person to take your perspective.

3-      You. Of course, you do have one hundred percent control of what you do. You could try to change your perspective on the situation. Let’s assume that your difficult person is Mary, and Mary loves to complain about the company you work for. She says things like, “they don’t appreciate us”, “I’m doing all the work around here and never get any recognition”, and “this is an old boys club and women will never get in senior management positions”. Basic whining and moaning, all the time, day in and day out. At first, you agreed with some of the things she said, and occasionally got pulled into the negativity yourself. After a while you realized how destructive this was to your attitude and you tried to convince Mary that she was wrong. This, of course, just intensified the situation and the negativity seemed to get worse. You’ve probably moved into the same ‘zone’ that many of us do when confronted with Mary – saying “You’re right, this is a terrible place to work”, hoping that your agreement will make her go away faster.

Did it work? Not really. What Mary wants is attention and acknowledgment. You are giving her both of those things. We need to change what we are doing to get a different result.

“If you keep on doing what you’ve always done,you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”

You’ve heard that before, and it is completely true. If we want to change the way Mary is acting, we need to change what we are doing, and not give her what she wants. People are difficult because they are getting something out of the deal. They may be getting attention, agreement or even success because of it (think of aggressive drivers). If we want them to do something different (remember the opening question?) then we need to DO something different.

The next time Mary says “I hate this company”, don’t argue with her or agree with her, give her what she doesn’t want (agreement, attention, etc.) and say something like “I LOVE working her!” Don’t worry about if you agree with what you are saying or not, give her something other than what she wants. She wants to complain. She wants to be negative. Don’t give her what she wants.

This will work! Sometimes a lot of work too, especially if you happen to be in a negative mood that day and agree with her. Don’t give into the temptation. Be 100% consistent in this approach. For two weeks this will be very difficult for you. I promise that if you are consistent and not give Mary what she wants, then she will change her behaviour.

The next time you are asked the question “I would be more effective working with my difficult person if…” the right answer lies within you. You can change what is happening with that person. It takes time, effort, persistence and patience.

The result is worth the effort!

Defusing Hostile People – Part 2/2

February 7th, 2014

Principles of Defusing Hostility

Follow these principles when dealing with an angry person to succeed! (see BOTH parts)

If You Lose Control, You Lose, Period!

Manipulative nasty behaviour is designed to affect you emotionally so that you will become aggressive or defensive. When we lose our cool and defend ourselves or become aggressive we actually end up doing what the other nasty person wants us to do…and we lose because we enter into an ugly game where nobody can win. Self-control is critical, and that has a particular meaning. It means that we control our behaviour. You are entitled to be angry or upset if you choose but you can learn to control your behaviour and the way you express that anger or upset so something good comes from it. Here are some tips:

• When dealing with someone who is attempting to provoke a confrontation, make a conscious attempt to slow down your responses. Do NOT reply immediately since your first gut level response is likely to be an angry or defensive response. Before you respond, ask yourself the questions: “How can I deal with this situation so I create LESS anger and upset on both sides?”. Then respond.

• Pay special attention to the speed and loudness of your speech. When people get excited they tend to talk more quickly and loudly and that causes the other person to escalate also…as the conversation increases in speed there is less and less thought and more chance that people will say things that are destructive. Take your time.

• If you are really triggered, (“pi*sed off”) at what is being said to you, it is a good idea to take a time-out. A time-out is not avoidance–it differs in terms of what one says. For example, if you say: “I’m not talking about this with you” that is an avoidance response and a brush-off and likely to make the situation worse. If you say: “It isn’t a good time for me to talk about this, but I would like to discuss it with you tomorrow. Can we set up a time to meet?, that’s different because it is expressing a commitment to work with the person and does so without characterizing the conversation as negative.

What You Focus On You Get More Of

There is a general principle in life that the things you focus on you get more of. Practically speaking, that means that when someone used confrontation-provoking behaviour you have a choice as to whether you talk about the “junk” or “bait” or whether you talk about something constructive. If you focus on side-issues, personal attacks, negativity, past-centred comments, etc., THAT is what the conversation will be about. If you turn the conversation to something constructive, and do not focus on the confrontation-focusing comments, you don’t allow the attacking person a forum to continue the attacks. (see also Avoid Taking The Bait)

Avoid High Risk, High Gain Behaviour

Some reactions to nasty attacking behaviour have some chance of succeeding, but are called high risk, high gain behaviour. That is, when they work, they work well, but when they fail, they increase the level of emotion, aggression and even violence. Two examples: a verbal blunt smack upside the head, and humour. Both will work sometimes (probably rarely), and when they work they can be very effective in turning a destructive conversation around. The problem is when they don’t work, they increase the escalation of the conflict situation.

We tend to remember the few times when high risk, high gain actions succeed, and make the mistake of assuming that they will work again. This is usually not the case. In conflict situations it is a better bet to stay away from those kinds of actions because more often than not they backfire.

Don’t Take The Bait

We’ve left this principle to last because it is probably the most important. It ties in with several other principles we have talked about.

The term verbal bait refers to the many confrontation provoking behaviours that have a single purpose; to control and manipulate you into responding in emotional ways. When you take the bait, the “fisherperson” basically reels you in, since you have given up control of the conversation. Worse, you have given up control of the conversation to someone who probably doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Let the bait go by. In most cases the bait has little or nothing to do with whatever is being discussed but is a conversational control ploy. As such it is best ignored. One tactic is to acknowledge the other person’s feelings, then refocus or move on to the issue you need to deal with. For example:

Vlad The Impaler: I don’t think you are competent to even have an opinion on whether we should change our filing system. Let’s face it you are one of the most unorganized people here…

Fred: “Vlad, I know you are frustrated about this. But let’s move back to the merits of the two systems we are discussing. We have the flingengaus system and the tragingf system, and need to look at the pluses and minuses…

In this example Fred has slipped the personal attacks (basically ignored them) and refocuses back to the file systems.

Some Other Comments

The process of dealing with abusive, aggressive people in the workplace can range from the simple to the very complex. We have outlined a few basic principles but there are a number of verbal techniques that can be used to defuse angry situations, prevent escalation and turn destructive conversations around. For those interested in additional resources we suggest books by Suzette Haden Elgin (Verbal Self-Defense series) or George Thompson (Verbal Judo).

Robert Bacal is a noted author, keynote speaker, and management consultant. His most recent books include If It Wasn’t For The Customers I’d Really Like This Job: Stop Angry, Hostile Customers COLD While Remaining Professional, Stress Free, Efficient and Cool As A Cucumber, and Building Bridges Between Home And School: The Educator’s/Teacher’s Guide To Dealing With Emotional And Upset Parents

The Work911 Supersite contains many more free articles and tips on a number of workplace topics. Access it at . Robert can be contacted via e-mail at

This excerpt is from Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook For The Public Sector.

Defusing Hostile People – Part 1/2

January 24th, 2014

Principles of Defusing Hostility

Follow these principles when dealing with an angry person to succeed! (see BOTH parts)

Deal With Person’s Feelings First

An angry person needs to have the issue AND their feelings addressed in order to start interacting constructively. The angrier the person, the more important it is to acknowledge their anger through the use of empathy statements and listening responses FIRST, before moving on to the issue. Problem solving with angry people often results in wasted time unless they are ready to participate calmly.

Begin To Defuse Early

Angry and frustrated people usually indicate their mood prior to opening their mouths and beginning a hostile attack. One way to address or pre-empt the attack is to begin the defusing process before the other person gets on an abusive rant. For example, in the dialogue with Mary and Peter, Mary might have noticed Peter standing in her doorway looking rather irate and angry, and spoken first using an empathy type response like: “Hi, Peter, you look like you are really upset with something. What’s up?” Something as simple as that might have made a huge difference in setting a more respectful tone for the interaction.

Be Assertive, Not Manipulative, Passive or Aggressive

You have a right to take action, or impose consequences in situations where someone has stepped over the line in their comments or behaviours. In fact, if you don’t speak up for yourself in these situations bully-type people will perceive you as an acceptable victim for their poor behaviour. When using assertive type statements or setting up consequences, do not dwell on the way the person is communicating any more than necessary. Make your statement, then refocus the conversation back to the issue. With respect to Mary and Peter this is one way Mary might have responded.

Peter, I will help you sort this out so you have what you need. In order to help you I need you to slow down, and answer a few questions so we can get this done.

Notice that the above is firm, clear and assertive. If Peter persists in being nasty or personal Mary is within her rights to say:

Peter, if you can answer my questions so we can get you those letters, I can help you. If you continue to raise your voice I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Which would you prefer?

The Critical Message: “It Isn’t Going To Work With Me

Aggressive, abusive and manipulative people look for victims they can control, using a variety of confrontation-provoking behaviour. When dealing with such people the important message to send is “What you are doing isn’t going to work with me..I will not be bullied, suckered into stupid arguments, insulted or give you the satisfaction of reacting to the abuse”. In short, it isn’t going to work with me. Once aggressive people realize that they aren’t going to be able to control you (make you angry or upset), they are more likely to aim their nasty behaviour at someone who is a better victim.

Many conflicts occur because one or both parties uses certain words or phrases that are “hot”. Usually conflict that happens this way is destructive to relationships. It’s easy to learn the kinds of words that start fights, and replace them with better phrasing. Here’s a summary of these “fightin words” you can avoid.

Robert Bacal is a noted author, keynote speaker, and management consultant. His most recent books include If It Wasn’t For The Customers I’d Really Like This Job: Stop Angry, Hostile Customers COLD While Remaining Professional, Stress Free, Efficient and Cool As A Cucumber, and Building Bridges Between Home And School: The Educator’s/Teacher’s Guide To Dealing With Emotional And Upset Parents

The Work911 Supersite contains many more free articles and tips on a number of workplace topics. Access it at . Robert can be contacted via e-mail at

This excerpt is from Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook For The Public Sector.


How to Handle a Difficult Ex-Coworker Who’s Threatening You

December 2nd, 2013

According to the Attitudes in America Workplace VII study, 15 percent of workers said that a coworker had made them so mad they felt like slapping them. If you’re experiencing threats of abuse or retaliation and are unable or unwilling to quit your job, use these tips to defuse the situation.

Understand the Angry Coworker Dynamic

An estimated 53.5 million Americans are bullied at work, reports the Workplace Bullying Institute. An angry coworker might feel entitled to yell at you in the office, either alone or in front of other people. Unfortunately, many bullied employees get little support from their boss or HR department, as most of the bullies’ actions are legal.

Making complaints may lead the workplace bully to retaliate or to employee privileges being taken away. If the workplace bully quits or gets fired, he may blame and try to retaliate against you. At this point, HR can refuse to take any action because the bully no longer works for the company.

Protect Yourself From Retaliation

If an ex-coworker makes physical threats against you, protect yourself. Park right by the door and ask a coworker to walk you out at night, so you aren’t left alone in the parking lot.

If you’re concerned about a coworker slandering you, read up on your legal rights. If that former coworker tells you off in the parking lot, you don’t have legal recourse. Yet if he tells you off in a client meeting, an email to the whole staff or online, and you can prove his actions damaged your ability to make a living, you can sue. Save any evidence of threatening communication or personal attacks, either by printing them off or taking a screen shot of an online attack.

Ask an attorney to write a cease and desist letter that acknowledges the potential for legal recourse and warns him to knock it off. This may get the ex-coworker to stop. In extreme cases, an order of protection may be necessary.

Monitor Your Online Reputation

Your social standing is vital to your reputation, and an ex-coworker who attacks your social profile can damage your credibility. A former coworker might upload questionable or compromising pictures of you, make disparaging statements or email your clients and lie about your performance.

Don’t give your coworker any fuel for the fire. Tweak your social settings to maximize privacy and remove your ex-coworker from your connections. Consider using areputation monitoring service to monitor what people say about you online and correct any lies. This gives you the upper hand when it comes to false information spread online.

Be honest with clients and colleagues about the situation. Simply say that so-and-so was very angry to be let go, blames you for it and has made disparaging remarks about you, and that you want them to know in case he comes to them. If you remain calm and stick to the facts, you’ll come off as mature and reasonable.

5 Signs You Might Be A Bully

November 4th, 2013

Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town. –  George Carlin

In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn’t. “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asks Linus.

“These five fingers,” says Lucy. “Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this in a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.”

“Which channel do you want?” asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”

While good organization is needed and commended in your office and place of business – bullying isn’t.

In trying to understand the rise in workplace bullying Shana Lebowitz wrote a piece in USA Today ( and pointed out that according to a 2011 survey half of the employees said they were treated rudely at least once a week. Many said the experience of bullying had caused them to develop health issues such as anxiety and depression. Some had even left their jobs.

Bullying is a serious concern on many levels. Much has been written about being a victim of bullying, but not enough about or to the bullies. Bullying is an unfortunate issue that leaders must recognize and deal with.

Some people may pass off their bullying behavior with “it’s just my personality” not realizing that the person on the other end sees it quite different. What are some of the common bullying behaviors? What are some of the warning signs to look for? Here are five for your consideration.

You are oblivious to your meanness.

It may not be overtly intentional (although it might) but the words you choose and the way you vocalize them can rub others the wrong way. While you may feel you are only expressing the truth as you understand it, it’s not what you say but how you say it that leaves the lasting impression. Choose your words carefully and verbalize them with discretion.

You are a master manipulator.

You work behind the scenes and attempt to orchestrate things in your favor or desired outcome. It may be to freeze someone else out or get what you want by pitting one person or group against another. This type of behavior drives wedges and destroys trust. The philosophy is driven by a jealousy that says if you can’t get what you want then neither will the other person.

You are a gossip and a busybody.

While you may think you are just keeping up with the latest office news you might want to stop and consider the consequences. There is no virtue in gossiping about others and being up in everyone else’s business. If you can’t be trusted not to interfere with other people’s personal business what gives you the right to believe you can be trusted with company business?

You are a control freak.

Similar in style to the manipulator your objective is not so much about the performance of others as it is control. You are overbearing with expectations and demands and it’s simply a way to throw your weight around. If you are a leader who is displaying this type of behavior you only have a following because of your title and nothing more.

You are two-faced.

This is a common characteristic of a bully. You pretend to be one thing in public but are something else in private. You confide to a colleague in private and cut their legs out from under them in public. The end game is that it’s all about you and people are pawns.

Now that a few bullying behaviors have been identified it’s time for some honest evaluation. Have you in the past or are you now displaying any of the above mentioned behaviors? Do you notice that people tend to avoid you at work? Have you taken stock of how you treat others and look for ways to improve your people skills? Would you consider asking for help in identifying areas that need improvement?

Until you take ownership of a bullying past or present then being a bully will likely be a part of your future. Take steps now to stop it. You have a lot to lose if you don’t and everything to gain if you get it right.

What do you say?


© 2013 Doug Dickerson

If you enjoy reading Doug’s leadership insights you will especially enjoy reading his books, Leaders Without Borders & Great Leaders Wanted. Visit Doug’s website at to order your copies today!

Drama at the desk – how to professionally deal with employees

October 1st, 2013

Unhappy young couple having an argument

The chronically late, the anger management candidate, the person who questions your every decision — these employees could possess all the skills in the world and still would make life difficult for you. According to Microsoft, U.S. businesses lose about $600 billion each year from unproductive employees. The fact is, if your other employees are doing their work on NetSuite or whatever their software of choice, and the problem employee constantly disrupts their day, your bottom line is going to suffer. Rather than losing your temper and feeding into their emotional struggles, treat these employees in a professional manner while getting them to change their destructive behavior.

Document Details

If all you can offer is vague statements about how the employee is behaving, he has the ability to argue it all day long. Denial and belittling the behavior are his defenses of choice. Avoid this before it even starts by keeping a detailed record of his behavior. On September 12, you were 17 minutes late, clocking in at 8:17. On September 16, you were 22 minutes late, clocking in at 8:52. When faced with such detailed evidence, he’ll have no way to argue around the facts, and will have to face his behavior.

Have a System in Place

Unruly employees love to make excuses for their behavior, and one of their favorites is often that they aren’t being treated fairly. Eliminate the possibility of this happening by setting up a detailed plan for dealing with company infractions and set it down in writing. Give it to every employee on the first day on the job, so they will have been informed ahead of time. Follow the procedures exactly when disciplining this employee.

Avoid the Drama

No one likes to be criticized, especially when they know they’re in the wrong. Difficult employees can argue for hours about their behavior and the excuses behind it, escalating the emotion into anger or tears. Do not fall into this pit, or you’ll have a hard time digging yourself out. Keep all your discussions calm and unemotional. State the facts, and keep all mention of feelings out of the room. It doesn’t matter if his behavior makes Tania frustrated or Jamal angry — what matters is that it’s inappropriate and needs to stop.

Have a Plan

Before you even invite the employee into your office, have a plan in place for correcting his behavior and turning him into a better team member. Document every scenario, and give him alternate ways to cope or react with problems. Give him clear and achievable goals, and set them into a timetable. Make it very clear to him you will be monitoring his behavior, and describe exactly what the consequences will be if he doesn’t follow the plan.

Follow Up

No one will think you’re serious about change if you don’t follow through on your own rules and decisions. Sure, it takes extra time that could be better spent elsewhere, but set those follow-up dates in your calendar right away, and document the behavior you see. Have a short meeting with the employee to discuss his progress or lack thereof, and remind him of the perks or consequences of continuing on in his current manner.

The upside to workplace conflict (by Victor Lipman)

September 4th, 2013

Two serious business womenWhile most people dislike and avoid conflict at work, it can also have tangible benefits. I was thinking about this subject lately, as I was being interviewed about “Managing Conflict at Work” for the Matt Townsend radio program – and I was consistently pushing toward the negative in our conversation, as he was consistently pushing toward the positive.

The discussion made me view workplace conflict in a slightly different light, and the more I began to consider it, the more I began to see certain beneficial aspects.

As most everyone who has worked knows, it’s a fertile breeding ground for conflict. Compensation, recognition, feelings of personal worth, team dynamics… all of these (and conservatively about a thousand more) are subjects that easily yield conflict. As a manager, I often used to feel: Conflict is the currency of management.

Though conflict is usually at least temporarily unpleasant, it’s by no means all bad; in fact it can also be the pathway to something better. In that spirit, here are four tangible upsides:

You learn not to be a conflict avoider – As a manager, this is a critical skill. There’s so darn much conflict, you can’t do your job effectively without confronting it directly. And there’s a useful carryover to life outside management. How many personal relationships founder on conflict that is unexpressed, ignored or outright destructive? Learning not to avoid conflict but to manage it constructively pays generous dividends – well beyond the business environment.

Dirty laundry gets aired and (at least sometimes) clean – Conflict among individuals and teams force contentious issues into the light of day. Rather than festering below the surface, where subtle grievances and badwill undermine both personal performance and group dynamics, conflict that is openly aired has at least a (fighting) chance of being resolved. Generally a better outcome for all parties than lingering resentment

It can spur innovation – Constructive resolutions of workplace conflict can become a pathway to improvement. A study I recently came across, conducted in 2008 by the organizational development firm CPP, concluded that “increased innovation and higher performance” can be a substantive benefit. This is not completely surprising, as open workplace conflict produces bursts of activity, and increased activity can yield innovative results.

Worst enemies can end up best friends (or at least colleagues who speak to each other) – The best way I can illustrate this is anecdotally. As a manager, I developed what I thought was a reasonably creative tactic: When personal conflicts between two individuals on my teams became too intense, I gave the two of them free lunch passes and forced them to have lunch together. No one else could be present, so all they could do was talk, face to face, and (hopefully) communicate. How did this work out? I only did it a few times (I came upon the idea in the latter stages of my management career), but the results were generally positive. In these situations conflicts were diminished, and the employees involved became civil colleagues if not exactly “bffs.”

Net-net, this is naturally not meant to conclude workplace conflict is mostly positive. It would be naïve not to acknowledge that it’s painful, destructive, disruptive and costly to individuals and organizations. But if we view conflict as an inevitable element of human interaction at work, and we attempt to constructively manage it rather than avoid or eliminate it, that’s a first step to making its considerable energy work for us rather than against us.

You can follow Victor on Twitter for management-related news, tips and articles.


Yes, Adults Can Be Cyberbullied. In the Workplace.

August 6th, 2013

bullying at work

Has one of your coworkers posted a malicious comment about you on Twitter or threatened you on chat or in an email? You aren’t alone. Bullying is an epidemic affecting an estimated 54 million American workers, according to a study conducted by Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention. A Zogby International poll found that half of the American workforce has either experienced or witnessed bullying at work.

What is Cyberbullying

While workplace bullying can be defined as verbal abuse, conduct that threatens or intimidates an employee and sabotage, cyberbullying has potential to be even more hurtful. It’s easier, because the attacker doesn’t have to see the victim face to face; there are a variety of different attack methods, and it’s anonymous. Some forms of cyberbullying include hateful, threatening emails, offensive content like explicit images and jokes, copying electronic communications to a group to publicly shame an individual, sharing embarrassing photos of an individual and social media gossip.

Social Media

Facebook and Twitter often serve as platforms that allow cyberbullies to slander, demean and harass their coworkers outside of the office. For example, estranged partners often turn to social media to expose personal photos or sensitive emails between the two in order to gain the upper hand.


Why is cyberbullying so prevalent? In this competitive workforce, demeaning others’ values, identity or work performance builds them up (in their eyes) to gain professional stature.

But there is no room for cyberbullying in the workplace. It demotivates employees, reduces productivity and causes absenteeism. If the victim feels safe enough, he should have a face-to-face conversation with the cyberbully. Sometimes, it could be that what he took offensively was not meant to be; we all work with people who are difficult, but mean no real harm.

Communication is a powerful tool that can easily save business relationships (and personal relationships too, of course). A fierce conversation sets the stage for change, promotes collaboration, improves decision making, deepens accountability and strengthens relationships while tackling tough issues.

If you can’t resolve the issue on your own, talk to someone from the human resources department or a manager. Most businesses have a code of conduct policy and hopefully, with the growing epidemic of bullying at the workplace, a specific section is dedicated to the problem in the employee handbook.

Don’t Suffer

If the bully is persistent, block his or her phone number (it’s usually free) and block them on your social networking sites. Speak to your work’s IT department, as well, to block incoming emails, or change your email address.

Cyberbullying can lead to other avenues of harassment. If your personal information is being broadcast online, it could get worse. With the smallest amount of information, identity thieves can get into your accounts and wipe you out before you know what hit you. Visit LifeLock on Facebook to see horror stories of data breaches and how an identity thief can ruin your life.

What is Workplace Bullying And How Does it Affect People?

July 11th, 2013

Workplace bullying is like bullying on the playground except that it occurs in the workplace.

It usually involves verbal comments and incidents that are intended to hurt, harass, isolate, intimidate, or humiliate a person. It is not new but has become what some have called a silent epidemic because it is happening frequently but isn’t always reported.

It is estimated that as many as one in every six workers is bullied at work and it occurs more frequently than sexual harassment. Bullying creates a horrible, hostile and poisonous work environment that leads to severe problems.

Bullying can be obvious and subtle and may take the form of any one or more of these behaviours:

  • spreading malicious, untrue rumours, gossip, or innuendoesTwo serious business women
  • excluding or isolating someone
  • intimidating a person
  • undermining or interfering with a person’s work
  • threatening
  • restricting former responsibilities
  • changing work requirements
  • setting impossible deadlines
  • withholding information
  • providing erroneous information
  • making offensive jokes
  • pestering, spying or stalking
  • not providing sufficient work
  • swearing, yelling or being rude
  • constant unwarranted criticism
  • blocking applications for training, leave, awards or promotion

It is very important to understand that the people who are bullied are not to blame. The victims or targets are usually highly competent, accomplished, experienced and popular. The reason why they have been singled out for this upsetting and unfair treatment is due to the needs and personalities of the persons who are doing the bullying.

Ken Westhues, a sociologist at the University of Waterloo is survivor of academic mobbing (bullying in universities) and has become a recognized expert. He has developed this checklist of indicators.

  1. By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.
  2. Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”
  3. The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.
  4. Collective focus on a critical incident that “shows what kind of person they really are”.
  5. Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, “to be taught a lesson”.
  6. Unusual timing of the decision to punish apart from the annual performance review.
  7. Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.
  8. Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target. A vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.
  9. High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the bullies.
  10. Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to speak up for or defend the target.
  11. Adding up the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.
  12. The target is seen as personally abhorrent with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.
  13. Disregard of established procedures as the bullies take matters into their own hands.
  14. Resistance to independent outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.
  15. Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.
  16. Bullies’ fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from bullies, or both.

How Does It Affect People?

The target of bullying may suffer from or experience a great number of symptoms all of which result from his or her treatment at work. The events taking place in the workplace are bad enough and very upsetting, but they can also lead to a number of physical, mental, emotional, social and financial problems.

Don’t be alarmed by the list that follows. Victims do not suffer from all of these things but they could encounter any of them.

  • Weight gain
  • Cancer
  • Heart attacks
  • A stress-induced illness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low motivation
  • Memory difficulties
  • Learning difficulty
  • Increased fear
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger
  • Desire for revenge
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Loss of confidence
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Career loss
  • Social difficulties
  • Social isolation
  • Separation
  • Divorce
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Suicide
  • Shock
  • Increased feelings of frustration
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • A sense of vulnerability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleep disorders
  • Headaches
  • Stomach upsets
  • Family tensions



John Towler is the author of How to Cope with Workplace Bullying which can be purchased online. Dr. Towler is a Senior Partner with Creative Organizational Design, a management consulting firm that specializes in employee testing and surveys. The firm has a test for everything and can test for salespeople, preselection, customer service, management skills etc. They design, administer and score a variety of surveys including attitude, customer service, marketing and web site popularity. Please send comments to Dr. Towler at For more information call (519) 745 0142 or visit their web site at

Do you work with difficult people?

July 10th, 2013
Dealing with Difficult People

Here’s what our “Dealing With Difficult People” webinar will cover: 

* 5 strategies for improving communication with difficult people – so you can end your frustration! 
* How to diffuse people who are angry, upset or just plain rude, and how to calm tense situations. 
* How these strategies will improve your reputation as a professional and reduce your stress. 
* What motivates theattitudes and behaviors of difficult people (knowledge is power for future interactions!). 
* Techniques for giving feedback to difficult people to help correct or even improve their behavior (make it easy for you). 
* How to face life confidently, knowing you’re up to any challenge (stop getting kicked around and increase your self-esteem). 

To Register
: with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line. 
Date: Thursday July 11 2013 
Time: 2:00pm ET
 (New York/Toronto time zone) 
Cost: Only $99! per dial in line (unlimited attendance)

Your Registration Includes: 

  • Toll Free access
  • Invitation (and link) to my private virtual meeting room (you attend in front of your computer)
  • Executive overview (workbook) sent prior to your session
  • Post event handout (filled with extra information)
  • Q&A during session
  • Recording of your entire session to listen to or share with others after the session (or even if you were unable to attend the live session, you can still get all the information)
  • 30 days of free email coaching and support

Attention Managers: Do you want an educational session for a Lunch-and-Learn for your team? Register for the session and present it live (or at your convenience) in your training room. You can send the download link to those employees who aren’t able to attend to ensure that everyone gets this great information (all for just $99!) 

Save time and money and register today!

Dealing With Difficult People.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? 

When you do it right, Dealing With Difficult People drastically improves your life as you improve your working relationships with people who challenge you to the limits of your patience (yes, even the ones who make you tear your hair out – literally!). 

What will our Dealing With Difficult People webinar do for you? 

It will: 
* Give you back control. 
* Give you the tools you need. You’ll have an easy-to-follow strategy you can use in any situation – designed to be realistic solutions to real problems you face in the workplace and at home. 
* Give you immediate actions to take. 

So how do you do it? 

I know it’s not easy. If Dealing With Difficult People were easy, everyone would get along, all the time. No one would be manipulative, and no one would feel bullied or belittled. But as you know, tense situations arise constantly. 

You may think you’ve tried before to figure out how best to Deal With Difficult People. Maybe you read some books. Maybe you tried talking to your Difficult Person under different circumstances. Maybe you even invited him to coffee to talk it out. 

Maybe you have tried – but have you tried Dealing With Difficult People MY way? 

There are some very specific, very crucial components to Dealing With Difficult People effectively – and you may be overlooking some of them either because you don’t know about them or because you don’t realize their importance. 

It’s not your fault you haven’t had success in the past, or that the situation at work has spiraled out of control. Very few people teach what I teach, which is a proven, working strategy you can apply immediately in any relationship or situation to handle the difficult people in your work life. 

Do you work with 
Difficult People? 
Next Webinar July 11th
Hi Rhonda 

Is this really how you imagined your job would be? 

When you made the decision to enter into your specific field, at the level you’ve chosen, – you probably envisioned playing a certain role in keeping an office, a department or even an entire company running smoothly. 

Whether you imagined scheduling appointments, greeting visitors, planning and executing marketing plans or hitting the streets raising money for your company’s charity, you probably envisioned an office in which everyone worked together – each person playing his or her essential part in working toward a common goal – in harmony. 

But then, you realized that as a member of an office staff comprising a variety of personalities, you deal with difficult people – daily. And you realized that these interactions can turn a dream job into a nightmare. 

Does any of this sound familiar? 
* You feel like you’re constantly falling victim to customers who shout at you for doing your job, team members who take credit for your ideas, or a boss who blames you if he misses an appointment (even though you entered it into his calendar a month ago). What if you could learn to maintain control of each confrontation so that you didn’t get railroaded? 
* When confrontations or difficult situations arise, you freeze. You may think of the proper response hours later, but in the moment, you’re rendered unable to think, move or . What if you could learn real, working strategies for saying the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, every time? 
* You definitely don’t want to quit your job, but that one difficult person you work with is really affecting you – and you’re not sure how much longer you can take it. What if you could STOP feeling trapped and scared, and START feeling empowered to act in precisely the right way to stand up for yourself and end the bullying. 
* You know you should respond differently in difficult situations, but you are afraid of the consequences if you actually speak your mind. What if you could learn to effectively diffuse tense situations, without losing your cool?? 

I have some good news: you are in the right place. 

I’m Rhonda Scharf, CSP, North America’s Workplace Efficiency Expert. I’m a highly experienced professional speaker with Certified Speaking Professional designation, who has spoken in 10 different countries to literally tens of thousands of people. I was the 2004 National President of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, and I sat on the board of the International Federation of Professional Speakers. I’ve consulted with some of the world’s most recognized companies including Sony, Mercedes-Benz, the US Coast Guard, Exxon Mobil, Bank of Canada, all levels of government in Canada and the US. Plus, a CSP is the highest speaking designation in the world. 

Equally important, I have three young adult kids, am divorced and remarried, and live in a blended family, and have divorced parents. What does this mean? I experience all the same dysfunctional relationships that you do! 

I’m not telling you all this to make myself sound good; rather, I want you to know that I’ve been there and done that. I am a real person, with real problems, who has generally figured life out – I’m like a friend who wants you to succeed – to create a working environment that nurtures effective communication so everyone is on the same page – a page that leads to an efficient workplace. 

So what’s my secret? 

That’s why I’m inviting you to join me as I reveal my system for taking back control of draining relationships at work – relationships that turn your dream job into a nightmare and put a rough cog in your otherwise well-oiled machine. 
“Dealing With Difficult People” 

You are about to discover a system it has taken me years to develop – and you’re about to gain all the information you need to create the work environment you REALLY want, so that you can get back to orchestrating that seamless office symphony! 

Whether you’ve read other books and bought other materials, without success, or are trying this for the first time, you’ll discover strategies and techniques you can use in any relationship, whether it’s at work or at home. 

PLUS, if you’re an IAAP member, the content of this webinar qualifies for recertification points. If you are an AAA member is pre-certified for one point (be sure to ask David for your certificate when the webinar is over for your files). You don’t have to be a member of either organization to attend. 

Wondering how we’re going to get all this done? 

Here’s how: 
* “Dealing With Difficult People” is a live, 1-hour webinar you’ll call into, while following along on an online presentation. 
* Before the session, I’ll send you an Executive Overview, which is the workbook you’ll use to follow along. 
* During the session, I’ll host a live Q&A call, in which you can remain anonymous. 
* After the session, I’ll send you the link to download a recording, which will be available for you to share with anyone you like for 60 days. 
* For 30 days following the session, you’ll get unlimited email coaching with me. 

Below, I’ve included a couple of my most frequently asked questions, and their answers:
Q: I’m not sure I have the time to spend an hour on the phone in the middle of the day. How can I make time for this? 
A: You’ll spend just one hour during your workday listening in on this seminar – and you’ll reap the rewards – timewise – forever! Once you learn the strategies and techniques in this course, you will save hours of time that you previously would have spent diffusing situations inefficiently. Whereas you previously may have gotten into a long argument with a rude customer or team member, you now will be properly equipped to quickly and efficiently end the situation so you can get back to work – time saved! Consider this one hour a time investment that will pay off long-term – exponentially. 
Q: I’m afraid to tell my boss – my “Difficult Person” – that I need this course. How can I approach this with her? 
A: Present this course to your boss as a way to improve your efficiency in the workplace – as a way to meet more of her needs, more efficiently. Explain that you’d like some tools for communicating and working more effectively with customers and team members. Essentially, this tool works for you and for your boss. 

So, now are you ready to sign up? with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line. 

Isn’t it time you learned what to say and how to say it, while maintaining your composure and your reputation when faced with challenging individuals (and let’s face it, front line staff members face them all the time!)? 

Learn NOW how to deal with conflict, problems and manipulation, rather than spending your life as a victim. You can take control – and you can have your dream job back! 

Here’s to your dream job, 

Email with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line. 

Contact Info: 

Rhonda ScharfThanks, 


Rhonda Scharf, CSP 
Certified Speaking Professional, Trainer & Author 

ON THE RIGHT TRACK – Training & Consulting Inc. 
(613) 244-9444 
Toll Free: 1 877 213- 8608



If you no longer wish to receive our emails, click the link below:


On The Right Track 74 Decona Terrace Ottawa, Ontario K2J 0G1 Canada (613) 244-9444

Confrontation Skills

April 4th, 2013

Attend our next live Confrontation Skills webinar on Tuesday April 9, 2013 at 2pm ET. Only $99 to register!

Women “work harder” after being bullied

March 21st, 2013

Here is an excellent article to ponder about how women respond to workplace bullying!

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Dealing with Difficult People Webinar – March 12 2013

March 11th, 2013

Here’s what our “Dealing With Difficult People” webinar will cover: 

* 5 strategies for improving communication with difficult people – so you can end your frustration! 
* How to diffuse people who are angry, upset or just plain rude, and how to calm tense situations. 
* How these strategies will improve your reputation as a professional and reduce your stress. 
* What motivates theattitudes and behaviors of difficult people (knowledge is power for future interactions!). 
* Techniques for giving feedback to difficult people to help correct or even improve their behavior (make it easy for you). 
* How to face life confidently, knowing you’re up to any challenge (stop getting kicked around and increase your self-esteem). 

To Register
: EmailDavid@on-the-right-track.comwith “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

Date: Tues March 12, 2013 
Time: 2:00pm ET
(New York/Toronto time zone)
Cost: Only $99! per dial in line (unlimited attendance)

Your Registration Includes:


  • Toll Free access
  • Invitation (and link) to my private virtual meeting room (you attend in front of your computer)
  • Executive overview (workbook) sent prior to your session
  • Q&A during session
  • Recording of your entire session to listen to or share with others after the session (or even if you were unable to attend the live session, you can still get all the information)
  • 30 days of free email coaching and support

Attention Managers: Do you want an educational session for a Lunch-and-Learn for your team? Register for the session and present it live (or at your convenience) in your training room. You can send the download link to those employees who aren’t able to attend to ensure that everyone gets this great information (all for just $99!) 

Save time and money and register today!

It will get worse – hang in there!

December 17th, 2012

When you are dealing with your difficult person, you can expect that they will get worse before they get better.  This is a good sign.

We are all familiar with the old saying “If you keep on doing what you always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”  We know that with our difficult person, we have to do something different.  We know that we want to “push” them out of their normal/regular response to do something different (and hopefully less difficult).

You can expect that as you practice different responses, or different strategies, that you will confuse your difficult person.  That confusion (or lack of a payoff on their part) will require them to do something different.

Expect that what they do will be to increase their “difficultness” (I realize that isn’t a real word).  This means that what you are doing is actually working, don’t give in, keep on-the-right-track.

Are you able to stay calm?

October 25th, 2012

My cousin Danielle works in a bank here in Ottawa.  Just last week she was robbed (again)!

She tells the story as calmly as you would tell me about your weekend.

When I asked how she remained so calm, she looked at me as if I was crazy and said “It wasn’t my money.  As long as I gave them money, they were happy and they were going away.  I didn’t get worried about it because I knew I could give them what they wanted.”

She put it all in perspective, and remained calm.

Do you stay calm when dealing with your difficult person? Are you aware that virtually all the time, it really isn’t about you, it really is about them?

When you’ve got that co-worker that insists in pointing our your every mistake, mentioning it to your co-workers and boss, making you feel incompetent, that it really isn’t about you making a mistake, it is much more about them feeling better about themselves (because it wasn’t them that messed up!)

When you’ve got that co-worker that talks incessantly? That just never shuts up? It isn’t about you at all, it is about them liking the sound of their own voice, and feeling important.

It is a little easier to take when we look at this way isn’t it?

Here are some tips to staying calm in a stressful situation:

–       take five deep breaths. The kind of breath that goes from your toes to the tip of your head

–       slow down. If you are walking, slow it down. If you are driving, try driving the speed limit for a while. If you are sitting around a board room table, pay attention to your “fidgeting” and try to sit still

–       de-personalize the situation. Ask yourself if it was anyone else in your shoes, would the same situation happen. Sometimes it is personal, but most times it is not.

–       Imagine you were giving your friend advice in the same situation. What would you say to her?

Don’t be quick to respond, bite back or react to your difficult person. Take a minute to figure out what is that this is really about. Is it about you, or really about them?

Dealing with Difficult People Webinar

October 11th, 2012

Did you know that we offer webinars on all the topics presented on this website? Dealing with Difficult People will be held next on October 18th. Confrontation Skills will be held on November 20th and Beat the Bully on December 6th 2012. They are each just $99 per dial in line, so gather up everyone around the boardroom table, and listen together. Great information – always live (so it is timely) and everyone gets 30 days worth of no-cost coaching with Rhonda Scharf.
A great way to keep the information fresh! Register today by emailing

Are you being difficult too?

July 10th, 2012

In my Dealing with Difficult People workshops, I try to get everyone to realize that they are usually being difficult to someone else. Most people who attend my workshops are looking for skills to learn to deal with their difficult person, their bully, or handle a confrontation.

I need to make them realize they are part of the problem, and in order to find the solution, we need to change that. Most participants are surprised to find out that what they are doing is contributing to the difficult person’s continued behavior. They don’t see themselves as part of the problem; they see themselves as trying to fix the problem.

Imagine the following activity:

Are you pushing?

Are you pushing?

–       Everyone is put together in pairs. One person is person “A” and the other is “B”

–       They stand facing each other, about three feet apart

–       Each partner puts their hands up (chest level), towards (and touching) their partner, palms facing out, as if they are going to play the child hood game “Patty-Cake”

–       When I say Go, partner A is instructed to push as hard as they can on partner B’s hands

–       1-2-3 Go! I let this happen for about 5 seconds before I say stop

It seems that the response is almost always the same. Partner A follows the instructions, pushes on B, but B pushes back (although they were not told to do that).


It is an instinctive reaction. When one person pushes (either literally or figuratively), the other pushes back. When B pushes back on A, it stops A from being able to follow the instructions and instinctively A pushes even harder. Before you know it, partner A&B are having a bit of a pushing match.

In this situation, partner A considers that partner B is being difficult because they are pushing back (that wasn’t part of the instructions, and it stops them from doing what they are trying to do). Partner B considers that partner A is being difficult because they assume that A is trying to knock them over (although that wasn’t part of the instructions either).

This little exercise illustrates exactly what happens in other situations. Each person considers the other to be difficult.

Are you pushing?

Are you pushing?

So you are part of the problem right? Have you considered perhaps not pushing back and seeing what happens?

Is bullying part of growing up?

June 4th, 2012

“A little bullying never hurt anyone. It makes you learn to stand up for yourself, be a man if you will.”

Bullying good for you? NO WAY!

That’s exactly what I heard sitting the restaurant the other day. It was a conversation between three senior gentlemen, in reference to a news story that was playing on the television being broadcast in the restaurant.

I couldn’t help but listen once I heard that. The three men proceeded to talk about in “their day” bullying was normal. It was part of growing up, and all the kids enjoyed it. One went on to say that he bullied all the time as a young boy, including his own best friend, and that the kids that were being bullied enjoyed it too.


I will be the first to say that there are many interpretations of what bullying means, and that many people who accuse of bullying are incorrect. Bullying is the new racist label. When something bad happens, people call out that they were bullied.

The local politician who claimed the reporter interviewing her was bullying her? No. The interviewer was trying to get the politician to answer a specific question, and not to redirect the interview to her own agenda. That’s not bullying by the reporter at all. That’s a tenacious reporter.

The parent who accused the teacher of bullying her child at school? No, the teacher sent the child to detention because they refused to do the homework assigned. That’s consequence, and part of the teacher’s job to teach responsibility. The teacher is not being a bully.

Bullying is persistent unwelcome behaviour, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding, also exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring, having verbal and written warnings imposed, and much more. In the workplace, bullying usually focuses on distorted or fabricated allegations of underperformance.

The coworker that is systematically trying to destroy your reputation so that she can get your job? That’s bullying. The kids in the playground that beat you up when you were a kid until you give them your lunch money? That’s bullying.

I’m hoping what the senior gentleman were speaking of was a little more along the lines of friendly teasing. I hope it wasn’t the true definition of bullying, because I’m pretty sure that no one enjoys that at all.

I used to hide on my brother and try to scare him. While he didn’t like it, I wasn’t bullying him. When my son starts to tell us a story and says “I have a friend who…” and we jump in with “You have no friends”. We are playing a game that we all know the rules to, and everyone is having fun. It isn’t bullying either. When someone in the office gets me a coffee, it isn’t because I forced her to in order to avoid the consequences. Maybe she wanted to get me a coffee.

Don’t lose sight of what bullying really is. Don’t allow it to continue, but don’t assume that bullying “helps make a man” either.

The gentlemen in the restaurant were wrong with their perception of bullying. Their opinions could be very hurtful to someone that is truly being bullied.

Back Stabbing CoWorker

April 3rd, 2012

It seems that unprofessional adults can be found in every workplace. Sometimes it is so outrageous that it must be deal with instead of just tolerated or ignored.

Imagine you had a coworker that was the type of person that pretended they were the boss’ friend. Your coworker was super nice to the boss when she was around, but the minute her back was turned, your coworker turned into the most negative, anti-boss supporter you’ve ever met. Constant criticism, blatant disrespect and very unprofessional.

What do you do?

Backstabbing is one of the most undesirable traits that anyone can possess. Fortunately, we were given the ability to decipher what is right from wrong and the choice to backstab or not to backstab is an easy one for most of us. But what to do when you just observe it?

To start, do not entertain any conversation that will lead to badmouthing about your boss. Don’t agree, don’t nod your head, don’t mmm mmm, don’t smile. Guilt by association is very real, so you want to make sure that you just don’t tolerate this.

Perhaps you need to walk away in the middle of the sentence, with a clear message that says you will not participate in this conversation at all.

Maybe you need to vocally defend your boss (regardless if you agree or not with what your coworker is saying, it is the right thing to do), by saying something like “I like working with her”  or “I don’t agree at all.”

If you really wanted to show your displeasure, say “Would you say this if she were here right now? Then why are you saying it now? It is unprofessional.”   You can expect that conversation will stop in a hurry. You can also expect that subsequent conversation will be about you too (but at least you are aware of it!).

Running and telling the boss is a tactic I wouldn’t recommend. You could look like a tattletale and take the brunt of the attack as well. Racing to Human Resources would offer the same advice from me.

Deal with the unprofessional coworker. Deal with it quickly, without a smile, and with a very clear message that you will not participate.

“I” Language

March 8th, 2012

The importance of I language

It seems to me that rule 101 of any communication course is “Use I Language”.

That means instead of starting sentences with:

–       you should …

–       you need to  …

–       you have to …. etc

Sentences should start with:

–       I need…

–       I want….

–       I feel … etc

Sentences that start with the word You instantly cause defensiveness. I know that technically tone is more important than words in communication, but the word You is a dangerous word and causes an emotional reaction very quickly.

“You need to call me back” (even in a nice tone) sounds so different from “I need a call back.” Even in a less than nice tone it sounds better than the first sentence.

What we need to be careful about is the danger of  the “me, me, me” conversationalist (see for a longer article on those dangers).

When dealing with a difficult person, a confrontation or a bully, words DO matter more than in regular conversation with friends. Emotions are higher. Triggers are closer to the surface and we tend to read far more info statements when there is tension in the relationship.

So today, watch all the sentences that start with You (even with those people where there is no tension). Make sure you start with “I” but don’t become a “me-me-me” conversationalist too.

Perhaps it removes a trigger on your difficult person’s radar, and it just might help keep those conversations neutral.

A relaxing Saturday on the links with Uncle Ron

February 23rd, 2012

Have you ever been on the receiving end of an angry tirade that made you feel threatened? That’s exactly what happened to me Saturday on the golf course.

Rhonda, Mom & Uncle Ron

I was on a mini-vacation with my mom, golfing on a beautiful Saturday with my Uncle Ron and my cousin, Debbie. My uncle is an average golfer. Some days he plays very well, and other days he isn’t so lucky.

Saturday was one of the best days he has ever had on the golf course; he was hitting the ball for miles. He had a big grin on his face to show his pleasure with his success, too. It was a great day.

Until the 4th hole.

Uncle Ron stepped up to the tee and shot a drive that looked like Bubba Watson had gotten hold of it. Probably the best drive of his life. Perfectly straight, almost on the green (it was a par four).

And, about 50 yards past the group of golfers in front of us.

If you are a golfer, you will recognize immediately what a major gaffe this was. You should never hit up to the golfers in front you, let alone past them. Someone could get seriously hurt with a flying golf ball.

Uncle Ron was 100 per cent at fault and immediately felt terrible for this amazing shot. Terrible for what could have happened. Fortunately he didn’t hit anyone (the shot was well over their heads, fortunately).

One of the people in the group in front of us was very upset by this (and rightfully so). He hopped in his golf cart, and came racing back to us.

When he got to us, before he said anything my Uncle Ron started to apologize. He took full responsibility and was very good about his apology.

But it wasn’t good enough for Mr. Golfer. He screamed and yelled. Uncle Ron said, “I apologize,” about four more times. And then stopped talking; clearly nothing he said was getting through to Mr. Golfer.

Then, Mr. Golfer threatened all of us. He said, “make sure you don’t play

golf here again,” and we understood his meaning to be “or something bad will happen to you.” It was a serious physical threat. I gave my uncle credit, though. Although he clarified, “Are you threatening me?” he didn’t take the bait, and didn’t get into it with Mr. Golfer. Clearly he knew that this would be a recipe for danger.

When we stopped responding, and Mr. Golfer finished screaming, he got in his cart and started to drive away. On his final look at my cousin Debbie, he wagged his finger and told her, “not to be smiling about this!”  In fact, she had a look of “holy cow!” on her face that was not a smile.

What would you have done in this situation?

I am guessing it was very difficult for my uncle not to defend himself, or us, as we were being threatened. It would have been very difficult not to yell back, “I’ve said I’m sorry four times – what else do you want me to do?” I’m sure it was very difficult for him not to take the bait.

But it was the right thing to do. Being threatened is way, way out of line. But the only way to make this guy go away was to stop talking. What would have been accomplished by arguing with him? Potential danger for sure.

Sometimes the right answer is to not respond at all. And many times that is the most difficult thing to do.

Do you work with a “Chatty Cathy”?

February 9th, 2012

Chatty Cathy

Do you work with chatty coworkers? Not just the friendly, conversational type, but the type that never stop talking? Ever? You are not alone! We have all encountered an overly talkative colleague who always seems to catch us just as we are leaving for lunch (or the bathroom)! Here are some good ways to deal with a “Chatty Cathy” in the workplace.

1.  Be consistent. It doesn’t make sense for one day for you to fully participate with Chatty Cathy, and the next day ignore her. If you are not consistent about needing to get back to work and limiting the amount of chatter you do participate in, you could be sending mixed messages. No wonder she wants to chat – she thinks that today you might want to as well.

2.  Be honest! If you are heading to the copier and your chit-chatter is stalking you to regale you with another story…be honest!  Let them know that you really do have a lot of work that needs to get done, and you need to concentrate on what you are doing. You may not be received with a smile, but the chatting offender will think twice before trying it again.

3.  Be patient. Try to remember that work is an environment where everyone has to function as a unit. Dealing with chatty coworkers can be as simple as being kindly patient and gently helping them understand you need to get to your work. This person may only be trying to befriend you and nervously chats to make conversation as a show of friendship.

4.  Be firm. If you have tried everything else and you still can’t seem to get work done because of the chatter, let them know that they really have to stop chatting so much. In today’s world, productivity is a great deal of your yearly evaluation. If a coworker is diminishing your productivity, that can lead to an unfavorable evaluation of your work. The majority of people will understand if it is phrased that you are concerned that you may not be as productive if chatting continues.

5. Be polite. You don’t need to imply that they clearly have no work to do, nor that your work is more important. Rudeness is not necessary, so remember to smile, say please and thank you and respect your Chatty Cathy while you are limiting the conversation. You don’t have to like her, but you do need to be polite.

And finally, be sure to evaluate your own actions. Perhaps you are approached by your chatty coworker, because generally you are chatty too. Be careful of labeling others of something you may be guilty of.

Tips for Managing Negative Coworkers

January 18th, 2012

You know that one of  the most frustrating aspects of working in an office environment can be dealing with negative coworkers. These coworkers can cause a great deal of frustration without rea

Avoid Negativity

lizing they’re doing it. For them, it may just be venting but for you it becomes a constant stream of negativity that can make life miserable. What can you do when faced with this kind of distraction?
Walk Away

Negative coworkers can really sap your energy, leaving you feel like you’ve been beat up just because they couldn’t stop complaining all day! Even if you have an entire arsenal of tools with which

to combat the negativity, you really need to take time for yourself. Pepper your day with regular breaks that allow you to have some breathing room. Take a walk around the building or simply head off to the break room for a change of scenery. If possible, try to take your break outside so you can combine your need to get away with a little bit of sun and some fresh air. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these little breaks can be, and how much you start to depend on them. Treat yourself – you deserve it!
Turn It Around

Whenever possible, turn the negative comments or attitudes around with a positive version. For every negative bit of reasoning your coworker tosses out, counter with something positive. Every

situation, no matter how dire, has a thread of positive you can knit into a ray of light in the gloom. If your coworker specializes in complaints, help him by suggesting solutions. Sometimes people become so downtrodden by problems that they forget to resolve them.

Stay On the Move
When all else fails, keep moving. If your negative coworkers tend to find and corner you at your desk, this tip is especially important for you. A moving target is harder to hit. Keep files on hand that you need to copy or deliver to another coworker. when your negative friend shows up at your desk yet

again, take your mobile task and go. You can avoid sounding rude by letting him know that you simply must deliver the paperwork or make copies before you forget.

Difficult People Can Be Overcome

December 21st, 2011

There are many types of difficult people. They come in all shapes and sizes. Difficult people hold many different social and economical status.  Difficult people make things…well…difficult.

If any one person seeks to alienate, divide, belittle, or in general make a hostile work environment, or makes you dread going to work, they may qualify as a difficult person. They could be a bully, or it could be just a personality clash. Regardless, there are certain things you must do.

First, take away the power they have over you.  At the moment, they have control, and you need to get back in charge (for you).

You need to document all paper, e-mails, or vocal exchanges.  Suffering, tolerating or ignoring any type of workplace bullying will get you nowhere except in a hospital.

One option you have is to rationally speak with the offender, keeping anger and reactionary response out of it.  Mull things over, sleep on it, and talk with co-workers, friends, and family to ensure you’re not being rash.

The difficult person in question will probably talk with others as well and possibly turn others against you. Take your concerns to a higher position, with facts and documentation, (proving you have integrity, respect, and genuine appreciation for your job and other people).

Difficult people can make us disgruntled and leave us feeling disposable.  Often times this particular difficult person has lashed out at others, (you are often not the only victim).

“Moral courage is the most valuable and usually the most absent characteristic in men” General George S Patton, Jr

Customarily difficult people have issues of their own and for whatever reason makes them feel better to demean and chastise people that are weaker or are a threat to them. It is in you to regain the power to create your own quality of life.

Let your management know that you want to achieve the goals of your organization, for it is through teamwork and shared goals, principles, and values, that your organization will be able to succeed!

Working with a Bully?

December 12th, 2011

You have enough to worry about at your job, and getting bullied by your coworkers should never be one of them. It is normal to fear retaliation by a workplace bully.  Running away and letting them continue to bully you is not the right approach (but you already know that!).

Write Everything Down

If you’ve been bullied, write down everything that you can about the event. Don’t forget the basics, like what day the event occurred, where it occurred, who was around and what was said.  Please be truthful and objective (black and white). Do not embellish or get emotional. Stick to the facts as best as you can remember them.  Keep in mind that your bully’s supervisor will need this information in order to be able to see a pattern if possible.

If the bully is harassing you via email, text messaging, fax, audit reports, time sheets, memos or by good old snail mail, then smile.  The work has been done for you.  Collect as many of these as you can before you go up the ladder. You can report to your boss, your bully’s boss, Human Resources, your union rep, or whoever you think will be able to best help you immediately..

Don’t Be Alone

Your bully will deny any and all of the accusations brought against him or her.  Expect that. Make it much harder for the bully by never being alone in a room with her. Make sure that someone else is always within earshot that can back you up. A bully is more likely to harass their victims when the victim is alone than even when just one other bystander is nearby.

If you can’t find a human witness, then carry a mechanical witness with you in the form of a cell phone camera or a small tape recorder.  Do a test run with your cell phone inside of a jacket pocket or lying on a table to hear how well voices record. Many cell phones have excellent audio. Carrying a tape recorder is much easier to do in the winter than in the summer, unless your blazer has an inside pocket.

Resist Revenge

This step is hard to do. You will constantly think up things you can say or do to get back at your bully.  Just think them – don’t actually do them. It’s never okay to act on these revenge fantasies, even if the bully really REALLY deserves it. They can easily backfire and cost you your job.

Whenever you do interact with your bully, keep a calm and even tone of voice. Don’t yell and don’t swear that you’ll get even. Don’t even bother to tell them you are documenting all of this. Pretend that you are being watched by the boss. If the bully tries to back you in a corner, move as quickly as possible to anyplace that would have other employees around.

Relax and Talk to Friends

You should not have to spend your off hours worrying about getting bullied again.  Since this is a problem that ís bothering you, you will need to let off some steam. Talk to your friends and loved ones.  They may have tips for you. They may also have been in a similar situation and can sympathize. Better to speak to friends that are not friends at work though.

Bullies try to make their victims feel as if they deserve to be bullied. Spending time with people who value you can not only get you to relax, but can wreck the bully’s plans.

What are you afraid of?

April 7th, 2011

Emotions are not your friend when they rule your interactions with your difficult person.  You need to be black and white, focused on the facts, calm, cool and collected. You will have no problem dealing with issues that you are not emotional about (because you don’t care), but as soon as you “care” you will have a problem dealing with the situation.

It is in your best interest to NOT respond nor react when you are being ruled by your emotions.

Take time out.  Be sure to arrange a follow up with your difficult person when you can get some perspective, when you can be calm, focused and professional.

You are emotional for a reason.  Are you being ruled by fear? What are you afraid of? If so, figure out what is at the root of that fear, and see what you can do to work around it (are you afraid you’ll lose your job, the boss won’t like you, that you’ll look stupid?). Your fear will probably not be rational. But once you can identify the fear, then you can deal with it.

Your emotions will be easier to handle when there is understanding.

So, what are you afraid of?

After the confrontation

March 28th, 2011

After the confrontation
‘Pretending’ is a valid way to begin the healing process.

When we think about a confrontation, we think about handling the situation, and we tend not to think any further than that. We assume that once we work up the nerve to confront the other person, everything will return to normal. Unfortunately, that won’t necessarily ever happen, and certainly it won’t happen immediately.

“Karen” and I had a major disagreement professionally and a confrontation to go along with it. We both got very emotional and the situation actually got to the point where mediation was required.

In the years that followed, Karen became very good at avoiding me. She stopped attending events where she knew I would be. While our disagreement was technically over, she was unable to handle the tension that followed and preferred to avoid me altogether.

I can completely relate to her approach, and in fact I have done exactly the same thing recently. I had a confrontation in my personal life that ended up in a win-lose situation. I felt that I had lost; I had not gotten what I had wanted from the situation.

This resulted in residual anger within me which caused me to avoid “John” and his wife “Jennifer” at any events we would both be attending. I backed out of events, I went the long way around rooms, and I even showed up late so I wouldn’t have to chat with them. These dodges worked well for me, and I assumed it was the best way to deal with the situation until my emotion tapered off, taking the tension along with it.

Originally, my confrontation and tension were with John. However, since most people confide in others, creating camps, he naturally confided in his wife. The tension in the relationship was no longer between John and myself; Jennifer was now part of the awkward situation.

Although this happened some time ago, it created a very high level of tension in my life for quite some time. While I practiced avoidance, John and Jennifer were downright dismissive of me. If I was unable to avoid meeting them, they would look the other way, pretend to be speaking to someone else, or look right through me as if I wasn’t there. At one point, we all descended from opposite elevators at the same time, and I felt invisible. Even though I wasn’t ready to breach our relationship gap, I pretended everything was fine and said “Hello,” hoping to start a brief, yet friendly, conversation. They didn’t acknowledge me. Not surprisingly, this caused increased tension and downright anger on my part.

Pretence, like avoidance and dismissal, is a way of dealing with interpersonal tension. Although pretending is not easy, it is useful to get your dysfunctional conflict to a place where you can pretend that everything is fine.

That’s where I am with one of my family members. Our disagreement has existed for years. However, once or twice a year, I am in a family situation where we both pretend that we get along. We never speak of the situation that caused our initial tension. We no longer feel the need to force each other to admit she was wrong. We are polite and friendly, and although it is completely superficial, it is the right way for us to handle the tension from our previous confrontation.

Back to Karen
After several years of avoiding me, my professional colleague, Karen, finally attended an event. I didn’t want our fractured relationship to spiral downward any further. Our confrontation was over, and it was time to move on. I found Karen and asked if we could have coffee to talk about things. She agreed. It was a risky move on my part, and I don’t regret it at all. I took the high road. Enough time had passed so that I no longer wanted Karen to avoid me. I needed to pretend initially in the conversation, to at least start the talking. Fortunately, she didn’t dismiss me the way John and Jennifer had.

The next time we have coffee, I am sure we will have the requisite ‘weather’ conversation (pretending) until we can comfortably speak about what happened, agree to no longer avoid, and move on to a new level in our relationship.

Avoidance is procrastination. Tension will not go away if it is forever avoided. You need to get to the point where you can move to ‘pretend’ mode.

Dismissal is continuing to fight. There will be no winners, only scars that last a lifetime and potentially escalate to a higher level of confrontation in the future. With the dismissal I felt from John and Jennifer the tension instantly built again. While I was willing (even if not ready) to ‘pretend’ that all was well, I was angry at the disrespect I felt from them.

I’ve moved back into avoidance mode with John and Jennifer until I feel I can move into pretend mode. Until John and Jennifer are ready to do the same thing, the residual tension will continue to exist and make pretending much harder in the future. Perhaps it will never happen, but since I don’t intend to live with this tension forever, I will continue to put myself on-the-right-track by dealing with this negative emotion.

Pretending is by definition artificial, but it is a valid first step to recovery.

It is never easy to repair relationships. There are times when it isn’t necessary, because you will never encounter that person again. There are other times when you must move yourself into pretend mode as you will consistently encounter this person. Although it is uncomfortable to pretend, at least pretence, unlike avoidance or dismissal, gets you to a place where you can attempt to repair the relationship.

Meetings and your Difficult Person/Bully

March 14th, 2011

If you are attending a meeting this week, and your difficult person (or bully) is attending, make a point to sit BESIDE her, not across the table from her.

When you position yourself across the table you are placing yourself in a potentially adversarial position.  By putting yourself beside your difficult person you are in a position of equality, not competition.

This way you don’t even have to guess if she is talking about you. You know she isn’t, nor can she (you are much too close)! This will take some of the pressure off you (believe it or not), and hopefully you’ll be able to concentrate on your job more.

I survived

January 24th, 2011

You will survive

I’ve watched the TLC program I Survived a few times lately. Amazing stories of survival, amazing people in life-threatening situations.

People can survive the most amazing things. As I watch the show, I am amazed at people’s will to survive, their will to overcome, their determination to not let their attacker (whether that be another person, an animal or nature) take them down.

At the end of the show, they always explain how they survived. Sometimes it is their faith, sometimes it is their children and sometimes it is simply in their nature to fight against what is trying to end their life.

How much will do you have to “survive” at work? How much determination, how much perseverance and how much desire do you have to survive the things that get thrown at you professionally?

We’ve all had to deal with difficult people at work. We often work with people we don’t like and sometimes we work with people who don’t like us. Whether it is jealousy, insecurity or personality differences, there are people in the workplace who take the fun out of our jobs.

Statistically, two out of three adults do not like their jobs. We stay in jobs we don’t love because we need the money, we need the benefits or it suits our lifestyle. We sometimes leave jobs we do love because of the people. (Fifty-four million Americans have been bullied at work.)

Sometimes we feel trapped and are unable to leave our job—perhaps due to the economy or other factors. We may be unable to find comparable employment elsewhere.

Very few people feel that if they lost their current job, they would be able to get similar employment at the same salary. Is that you? Do you feel trapped in your current role or company? Are you in a situation in which you feel you need to survive?

So how can you do it? How can you make your will to endure stronger than that of the bully? How can you continue to work in a job where the people make your life miserable? How can you go to work each day where you are treated without respect? How can you survive?

1.     Don’t Give Up. In I Survived, the common element of all the stories is the focus on survival. The people never give up. They refuse to let their circumstances get the better of them.

  • So maybe we need to focus on surviving whatever crisis we are in. Maybe we are keeping the job we don’t love because we need the benefits for right now. It doesn’t have to be a life sentence. It is just for right now. We often tend to look too far into the future and say, “I can’t do this for the rest of my life.” Okay, so let’s not worry about the rest of your life, and say “I can do this for this week,” and so on.

2.     Stay in Control. When you let others control you, you’re writing your own death sentence. You need to continue to make the choices that keep you in control.

  • Each situation in life presents you with choices. You can choose to accept that this is the way things are, you can choose to give up (see #1), you can leave the situation, or you can choose to change the situation.
  • Accepting it means it no longer causes you stress; you emotionally detach yourself from the situation. You stop caring. Once you have disengaged emotionally from the situation, it no longer has control over you. That’s easy to say, but hard to do.
  • You can leave the situation. Leave the job, leave the relationship. It will likely come at a cost to you, but once you have decided that you’re willing to pay the cost, you can be in control. You survived by leaving the job, relationship or situation.
  • You can change the situation. Create a strategy (see #4) wherein you can continue to keep your job and still be in control.

3.     Don’t Become a Victim. Maybe the person has the authority to fire you, to ruin your reputation or to make your life much, much worse than it is now. That doesn’t mean you need to be their victim. Don’t allow your difficult person that much space in your life. Refuse to become their victim. Be aware of what they can or cannot do, but stop yourself from the negativity that becoming a victim perpetuates.

4.     Change the situation. Create a strategy that will allow you to keep your job, keep your sanity and allow you to survive the situation. Plan your actions one day at a time (one hour at a time if appropriate). Let your strategy be your secret weapon to survival.

As I watch I Survived I am riveted to the television, wondering how on earth the person was able to overcome his experiences. I am sure that during his ordeal he also wondered how he was going to survive, but because he wanted to or needed to, he was able to overcome what seemed like insurmountable odds.

I hope you are thinking that this information doesn’t apply to you. I am hoping you will never need to go back into the archives to read about survival strategies.

But if this article is speaking directly to you, keep the faith that in the end, you too will survive.

Keep on-the-right-track with your fight and be a survivor, too.

Manage Your Stress

January 4th, 2011

Dealing with a difficult person, having an unexpected confrontation or working every day with a bully is going to take it’s toll on you physically.  Your stress levels will soar, and it is important to manage your stress so you can manage your situation.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute:

76% of people being bullied suffer from severe anxiety
71% have their sleep disrupted
71% suffer from lack of concentration
47% suffer from post traumatic stress disorder
39% suffer from clinical depression
32% have panic attacks

Even if it isn’t a bully that you are dealing with, you can see how seriously these types of situations affect your stress.  When your stress is high, your ability to deal with the regular demands of life is compromised.  The simple things often become too much to handle.

Make 2011 the year to get on-the-right-track when dealing with your difficult person/confrontation or bully.  Take care of yourself first before you worry about dealing with the other person.

Surf the internet for stress articles, check out my office advice blog: for ongoing articles, and search this blog for previous postings as well.

Expect to be stressed.  Anticipate it so that you can deal with it as well.

We are having a Stress Strategies & Solutions webinar at 2pm on February 1st.  To sign up for it, email and use the code DWDP2011 for a $10 reduction (only $89).

Email + Difficult Person = Trouble!

December 13th, 2010

“Can you read this over to make sure it sounds okay?”  We’ve done that haven’t we?  Don’t.

If there is tension in a relationship, the desire to turn to email is overwhelming.  i realize that we want a paper trail, we want to avoid our difficult person, and we want to ensure that we are not part of the problem.

The problem is email itself.  You may have written an email that sounds perfect to you, but you aren’t the other person!  If there is a way to read it the wrong way, that is pretty much what is going to happen.

The tension in your relationship is causing the person to read your email with a “tone” of voice that you potentially weren’t intending to put in the message.  They heard it anyway.  It isn’t about right or wrong, it is about perception.  Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

If you can, go over and speak to your difficult person. be prepared and stick to your “script”.  Follow up the meeting with an email summary, but don’t have the conversation on email.

If a live conversation is just too much to expect, then have the conversation over the telephone.  Worst case scenario, call their voice mail and leave the message.

Email is guaranteed to make it worse.

Putting a stop to email bullying

November 5th, 2010

Don't have confrontations on email

Bullying has been getting a lot of press lately. In a recent Zogby International study, 54 million Americans say they have been attacked by bullies at work. That is an astounding number.

The definition of bullying is activity that is unfair, humiliating, malicious, vindictive and intended to harm the victim. It is persistent, prolonged and it happens over a period of time.

What we’ve seen is a change in the way people are handling confrontation. Many people are uncomfortable with face-to-face confrontation, so email confrontation is increasing astronomically. People are clearly not uncomfortable with email confrontation.

I’ve recently seen several cases of email bullying. I’m willing to bet that the person involved in the email confrontation was not aware that she was being unfair, humiliating, potentially malicious or vindictive. I’m willing to bet that these people thought they were handing the situation clearly and in a businesslike manner.

That was not the case.

To begin with, confrontation should not be handled via email.

I realize that given the choice, it’s easier to have a confrontation via email rather than face-to-face. It gives us the opportunity to choose our words carefully, and to be very clear and unemotional. It also gives us a valuable paper trail so we don’t have to rely on “he said–she said” afterthought.

So I realize that sometimes these tense conversations are held via email. As much as I advise you not to do that, it does sometimes still happen. If so, here’s what not to do: add someone else to the conversation.

If it is a conversation between you and another person, don’t include others; don’t add anyone to the cc: field. Especially don’t add anyone to the bcc: field, (which includes others in the conversation without the receiver being aware of it). If you are having an issue with one person, don’t bring others into it without permission. That is unfair and potentially humiliating.

A client I’ve been coaching was having an email dialogue with a contractor in another time zone. Things got heated and unexpectedly, several VPs and senior directors from my client’s firm were added to the conversation. My client felt ganged up on; he felt that adding his executives to the discussion was unfair to him. It was certainly humiliating and he felt that his contractor was trying to harm his professional reputation.

That is bullying. Would the bully do this again? Potentially, as it probably worked well for him.

The bully in my example would have defended his position by saying that the senior team needed to be brought into the conversation. While that justification might be accurate, shouldn’t the other party be aware, and agree to that? The bully gave my client no choice.

Be careful you’re not bullying someone on email without being aware of it. How would you feel if the situation were reversed? Would you feel that it was unfair, humiliating, malicious, vindictive and intended to hurt you?

If you’ve ever called a co-worker over to read an email to make sure it sounds okay, don’t send it. I guarantee the tone you are hoping it is read in is not the tone that it will be read in. Pick up the phone or go speak to the individual in person, but don’t handle the conversation via email if there is another option.

And if you are being bullied via email, stop the conversation immediately. Pick up the phone. Find a way to speak to the person using any medium other than email. Take control so your bully cannot continue to bully you.

Help Me Rhonda? Where to meet?

October 22nd, 2010

Help Me Rhonda!

I’m finally ready to have a confrontation with my co-worker.  I just can’t take it anymore.  Is there a best place to have this meeting?

Help Me Rhonda!

Help Me Rhonda!


Dear Ready-But-Nervous!

Congratulations and being willing to have the confrontation/conversation.  As you know, most people talk themselves out of the final discussion.

There are a few things to keep in mind when scheduling your meeting:
–    Keep it neutral.  You want to meet where you both can be comfortable (as much as the situation allows anyway).  Your office would put you in the drivers seat, and your co-worker might be intimidated.  If you are comfortable with the idea, meeting in his/her office is not bad. If your Human Resources department is involved, the best place would be to meet in their office.  Neutral is important.
o    What you don’t want to do is meet in the office of a “friend/supervisor” who is attending the meeting to support you either. First of all, should they even be there?
– Keep it private. You also don’t want to meet in a public setting where others can overhear your conversation.  If you work in cubicles, this isn’t the place to have the confrontation.  Neither is the coffee room, lunchroom or washroom.

Be sure to close the door and keep your discussion private.  Don’t forget to give them a chance to respond either!

Good luck; sounds like you are on-the-right-track to solution.

Should You Walk Away?

October 18th, 2010

Last week Bill O’Reilly paid a visit to the set of The View.  In case you haven’t seen the clip:

Bill had a heated discussion with the ladies and said several very inflammatory comments.  Now lets be clear here, Bill O’Reilly enjoys pushing buttons and was probably well aware that his comments were inappropriate, but any publicity is good publicity for a guy like Bill right?

The View

The View

Both Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar stormed off the set.  They were unable to have an adult, logical discussion with Bill and were very upset by his comments.
Once they left Barbara Walters announced that we should be able to have discussions without washing our hands and walking away.

I completely disagree.

When you are dealing with a difficult person (as Bill O’Reillly was for Whoopie and Joy), and they are not willing to have an adult, logical discussion; why should you stay and keep trying?  Will anything be accomplished?

The ladies were emotional, upset and an adult, fair, logical discussion was not going to happen.  Walking away was smart on their part.

It would have been easy to say something that they would regret.  It would have been easy to call him an unprofessional name.  It would have been easy for them to destroy their own credibility.

It was smart to walk away in this situation.

I agree with Barbara that we “should” be able to have discussions without walking away in theory.  In reality, sometimes walking away is the smartest thing you can do.

Know when to have a discussion, and know when to walk away.

Dealing with Difficult People Fan Page

October 13th, 2010


I just thought I’d send you a quick note to let you know that I’ve just set up a Facebook Fan Page.

And obviously I think you should join.

I’m sure you’re asking yourself why should I join a “Fan Page,” when I’m already buried in Farmville requests?

Well quite simply, Fan Page is not my term. If I had to choose a better one, it would be “Get Useful Information Via Facebook Page.”

Well maybe not that exact phrase – but you get the point.

So here are the benefits to you:

All my informational outlets (blogs, Twitter, Linkedin and newsletters) are automatically routed to Facebook. So whenever something changes or gets updated, you’ll see that change or update in your news feed when you next log in. You’ll also be able to share it with others or comment directly.

It’s really about bringing everything together in a place where most people already have an account, so that you can get valuable insights and information when it is most convenient to you.

So take a second and “Like” me at this link:

What NOT to say during Confrontation!

October 4th, 2010

Don’t say it!

I was volunteering at water station a marathon recently.  The station was held on a residential street, so the street was closed off, all traffic diverted and the residents were asked to have their cars off the street no later than 8am.

Don't Swear!

Don't Swear!

At 8:15am a man walked out his front door.  One of other volunteers asked him if the vehicle still on the street was his and could he please remove it.

Clearly this guy was not a morning guy, nor was he in support of the marathon.  He was rude, abusive and stubborn and was not going to be moving his vehicle.

As he went back into the house, one of the volunteers shouted at him “A—hole!”

So wrong!

Regardless of the situation, regardless of who is right or wrong; do not resort to name-calling or profanity.

This is guaranteed to put the situation or relationship at a new level of tension.

I’m pretty sure that several of the volunteers that morning were thinking that exact thought, but that doesn’t make it OK to voice the thought.

Name-calling is never the right answer.  Bite your tongue.  Every time.

Our next webinar is on October 12th on Confrontation Skills

Click here for more information.

Only $99 per dial in line (unlimited attendance)

60 day recording to listen and share with others

To Register:  Email with “Register Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.  She will send you the dial in information and password along with an invoice.

Silence can be golden

September 17th, 2010

When someone pushes your buttons, the best thing you can do is let their verbal attack hang in the air.  Say  nothing.  This doesn’t mean that you’ll ignore it forever.  It means that for now, the conversation is over.  You’ll continue the conversation later, when you are calmer and so are they.  Take a look at the confrontation between co-workers Mike and Steve:

Mike:  Steve, that isn’t the correct way to do that.  Here, let me show you how.

Steve:  I’m not listening to you.  You’re an idiot.  I can’t believe they haven’t fired you yet.  You’re constantly messing up and I don’t want your advice!

Mike: (holds extended, silent eye contact with Steve), says nothing, and walks away.

The attack seems to be uncalled for.  Clearly they have challenges together, and clearly Steve is completely out of line.  What will happen if Mike fights back?  More fighting.  Professionally (and personally) a very volatile and dangerous situation will occur.  Picking your battles is a sign of strength.  The next day Mike can approach Steve about this conversation, but now is not the time.

Take the high road in situations such as this one. It will save you from saying something you’ll regret.

Our next webinar on Dealing with Difficult People is Thursday, September 23rd at 2:00pm EDT.

To register, email with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

Only $99 per dial in line – and comes complete with 30 days of free coaching!

What is a bully?

September 1st, 2010

Dear Rhonda:  I’m working with someone I think is a bully.  She is mean (like in the movie Mean Girls), she makes fun of me in front of others, and I feel like crying when she comes my way.  My co-workers tell me it is just a personality clash, but I think it is worse.  What is the difference?

Signed, “Back to Grade Three

Dear “Back to Grade Three

There is a difference between a personality clash and a bully, and it is important to look objectively at the situation to ensure it really is a bully you are dealing with.  Your approach to a bully requires a little more strategy than a simple confrontation.

Statistically 62% of employers ignore signs and complaints of bullying, stating they are personality issues and they don’t want  to get involved (Zogby study).  That number is far too high, so it is important that before you complain to HR or management, that you’ve done your homework as well.  If you are really dealing with a bully, lets be sure we do what we need to do so our company cannot dismiss it.

Personality clashes are communication style differences.  One person will be very direct, one will be passive.  One person is comfortable with confrontation, one is not.  One person likes attention, and one does not.  Personality differences are often frustrating, but they do not fall into the definition of bullying.  It is perfectly normal to have confrontations based on personality differences, and normally the company doesn’t need to get involved. The company does need to get involved with a bully.

A bully is:

What is a bully?

What is a bully?

–       unfair, humiliating, malicious and vindictive

–       someone who intends to harm the victim

–       is persistent, prolonged and happens over a period of time (and escalates)

–       will likely challenge your physical or mental health, safety and well-being

–       has the power to bully, whether that is real, perceived or sanctioned

Clearly it is more than just being different. The intent to harm is the major difference from my perspective.  What does the bully get from bullying you?  What is their payoff?  Are they trying to cause you harm (professionally, emotionally, or even physically)?  Why?

ON THE RIGHT TRACK has recently developed a brand new webinar that will help anyone in your situation deal with the bully at work:

Beat the Bully!  Keep ON THE RIGHT TRACK with strategies to deal with bullying in the workplace. December 9, 2010.  Only $99 per dial in line.  Stay tuned for more details!

To Register: email with “Register me for Beat the Bully”.  She will send you the webinar details, executive overview and invoice to you at that time.

For More Information, or to bring the workshop to you company:  Call toll free at 1877-213-8608 or email for more information.

Emotions & Anger – Bad Combination!

August 23rd, 2010

Anger and emotional situations are not a good combination.

When your emotions are high, your ability to think straight, your ability to follow a plan of action is in danger.

Recently I was in a personal situation where emotions were high. A difficult person in my life was sitting at the table, and she was unable to keep her emotions in check.  She lashed out in anger at me.  It was hurtful, uncalled for and surprised me.  It also instantly made me angry.

I wanted to deal with the situation right then and there. I wanted to be calm, I wanted to be able to say the right thing, and I wanted to hurt her back.

I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do all those things and feel good about it.

I said nothing in response.  I knew enough to keep quiet.  I knew that even if I did figure out the perfect thing to say, that Elizabeth wouldn’t have heard it, it wouldn’t have changed anything, and I might have completely regretted saying what I said.

When emotions are high, take 24 hours to respond.  Take the high road, which is incidentally not very busy.  In those 24 hours it gives you both a chance to cool down, to follow your strategy and to make sure that when you do respond you can feel good about what you do say.  If there are going to be regrets about what was said, it won’t be you.

Just because your difficult person isn’t playing by the rules doesn’t mean we need to stoop to that level too.

You know what they say about fighting pigs? Don’t do it – you both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.

Can you keep your mouth shut?

August 10th, 2010


Some times the best thing to do is just keep your mouth shut, not to fight back and to take the high road.

Christopher is my 18-year-old son, and he has been working his past four summers at a local golf course. He knows what he is doing, has been doing it well (and training others), and the management at the golf course values Christopher.

Two weeks ago, Sam, an “older” gentleman was hired as a favour to the owner.  When I say older, I mean he is in his 60s.  To Christopher, this is the age of his grandfather and certainly someone worth respecting.

Chris was assigned the task of training Sam.  Unfortunately, Sam immediately tried to make changes; tell Chris that he was doing his job wrong, and basically cause quite a bit of tension in what should be a relaxing work environment.  Sam was very verbal, very negative and not at all respectful to his coworkers.  He felt that as the older person in the workplace, he knew better than the young kids he was working with.

Christopher has been keeping his mouth shut (which is hard for my 18-year-old outspoken son) while Sam has been complaining about Chris to everyone.  I’ve been coaching him to not say anything he will regret, and to take the high road.

Yesterday it all paid off for him.  Sam was blasting Chris in a public area (in front of other staff and customers) just when the wife of the owner walked in.  Needless to say, things are different at work today.

I would have been easy for Chris to give as good as Sam did. It certainly would have felt better.  It might have taken years instead of weeks for Sam’s true colours to show (if at all).  It may have caused Christopher a lot of stress in the interim.

It was still the right thing to do.  Chris can think of what he would have liked to say, but he doesn’t have to regret what he did say.  The other staff could see what Sam was doing, and Chris didn’t need to fight back in front of them.  He looks far more professional than the man three times his age.

Sam will be taken care of.  Christopher has no worries on his job.

Take the high road – do the right thing (even if it is difficult).  Plan your strategy, follow your plan, and be proud of your actions when dealing with your

difficult person.

If you need help with your ability to handle confrontations, then perhaps you should check out our upcoming webinar on Confrontation Skills.

Register with today!

Are you breathing?

June 14th, 2010

Many times we respond (or react) far too quickly when it comes to our Difficult Person.  The tension is high, it has become personal, and even though we often know better, we are quick to respond to a situation.

The next time you are dealing with difficult people, remind yourself to breathe!  Before you say anything, before you do anything, before you continue, take a deep cleansing breath.

It might not completely protect you from responding the wrong way, but it will buy you those precious few seconds where you can remember to bite your tongue, or follow your strategic action plan (and just might save you from saying something you will regret).

Our next webinar on Dealing with Difficult People will be on Tuesday June 15 2010 at 2pm EDT.  For only $99 (per dial in line) you can get an entire hour filled with strategy, tips, solutions and 30 days of free coaching to help keep you on-the-right-track!

To register, email with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line, or complete the registration form on this site.

Are you venting or solution oriented?

May 26th, 2010

Many times we are more focused on the “Confrontation” than we are the solution.  Do you mistake a confrontation for a vent session?  Do you go into your confrontation (or conversation) with a solution in mind, or are you just trying to vent with your difficult person?

Lets assume the issue is your coworker who is constantly asking you to “cover” for them while they are away from the office.  You’ve done this in the past, but are now uncomfortable with this arrangement and want it to stop. You’ve spoke to your coworker before and told her that you don’t want to continue.  She says OK, but is still disappearing, leaving you to make up excuses or explanations.

You’ve had enough and won’t cover for her anymore as she has pushed you one time to many.  When you approach her to discuss the situation, are you planning on venting on how unprofessional, how unfair she is being to you?  Do you want to explain all the reasons that you shouldn’t be covering for her?  Are you focused on any solution at all?

Instead of venting (although I realize you want to do this), stay focused on the solution – or end result you want.  Tell her that you are uncomfortable (explanation and venting are two different things), and that in the future you will not make excuses, you will simply say you  have no idea where your coworker is.

The solution is where you should be focused, not the venting.  The venting will create more tension, more frustration and no solution.

Keep focused – it will be worth it!

Our next webinar is June 15th on Dealing with Difficult People.

Unlimited attendance (per line) for only $99, and it comes with 30 days of free coaching.

Register on this site, or email with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

Words are permanent

May 4th, 2010

Words are dangerous.  Words hurt.  Words can leave scars.  Be very careful what you say when dealing with your difficult person.

It is easy to lash back. It is easy to say things that are meant to hurt in the middle of a confrontation, whether it is intentional or not.  When someone pushes our buttons we often strike back verbally without realizing the dangers of pushing back.  It is so tempting to want to hurt the other person the same way they are hurting us.


The best thing you can do is to let a verbal attack hang in the air.  Say nothing at the time.  This doesn’t mean that you’ll ignore it forever.  It means that for now, the conversation is over.

You’ll continue the confrontation/conversation at a later date.  At a date when you are calmer and so are they.

Have a look at a confrontation between co-workers Mike and Steve:

Mike:  Steve, that isn’t the correct way to do that.  Here, let me show you how.

Steve:  I’m not listening to you. You’re an idiot. I can’t believe they haven’t fired you yet.  You’re so stupid and constantly messing up, there is no way I want your advice!

Mike: (Holds extended “silent” eye contact with Steve), says nothing, and walks away.

Can you imagine if you were Mike?  The attack seemed to be uncalled for.  Clearly they have challenges together, and clearly Steve is completely out of line.  What will happen if Mike fights back?  More fighting.  Professionally (and personally) a very volatile and dangerous situation will occur.

Picking your battles is a sign of strength.  The next day Mike can approach Steve about this conversation, but now is not the time.

Try it. It will save you from saying something you regret. Take the high road in situations such as this one.

You need to calm down!

April 12th, 2010
Calm Down

Calm Down

Doesn’t it drive you around the bend when someone tells you to calm down? That is about the worst thing you could possibly say to a person who has lost their cool. So don’t say it.  Ever.

I can appreciate that sometimes people get out of hand. I can appreciate that in order for us to proceed they are going to need to calm down.  However, telling them to calm down is like throwing grease on the fire – it will just cause a big blow up.

Instead of telling the other person to calm down, perhaps we need to say “I need to take a breather before we continue.  Perhaps we could continue this conversation in 45 minutes.”

I realize that when you are dealing with a client that option is not always available and you must deal with the situation immediately. Continue to speak calmly and with extra care – but don’t tell the other person to calm down!

Keep your own cool, and remind yourself to calm down – but don’t give that advice to an angry and difficult person. It will make matters much worse.  Breathe deeply …. But bite your tongue!

Our next webinar on Confrontation Skills will be May 25th at 2:00pm EDT.  To register, email with “Register Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.  Only $99 for unlimited attendance (per line) complete with 30 days of free coaching.  You can’t beat that value!

Is it OK to give up on your difficult person?

March 8th, 2010

Is it OK to give up on your difficult person?

There may come a time in your relationship with your difficult person when you realize it is never going to work out. You are never going to reach a middle ground. You are never going to change their behaviour.

Is it OK to give up? Absolutely!

We have choices to make in life. Times when you have to decide to accept a situation, change it, or leave it.

Accept the situation the way it is. Emotionally detach yourself from it (thereby removing all of the stress the situation causes). This is the “let go of it” approach to dealing with your difficult person. Just let it go. Accept that it is what it is, and decide you aren’t going to worry about it anymore. I have accepted that it snows in January in Ottawa, and I don’t give it another moment of thought. I have accepted that politicians don’t always do what they say they are going to do. I have accepted that my teenaged daughter is not ever going to clean the way I want her to.

Try to change the situation so it works better for you. You’ve probably already tried to do this. Tried to make the situation tolerable or to deal with it in some way. You attended a seminar on dealing with difficult people, you read books, you searched the Internet for advice. You formed an action plan, a strategy and had an end result in mind.

Walk away from the situation entirely. In the case of a difficult person, this means leaving the relationship. Quit your job, change departments,  no longer work with this person ever again. It means leaving the relationship and the family that goes with it. You can say hello when you see the person in the future, but the relationship will be similar to what you would have with a stranger. You leave the relationship emotionally.

When you give up, you choose to either accept the situation or leave the situation.

Accepting and leaving are not the same as quitting. By choosing to accept or leave, you are making a choice that is right for you. That isn’t quitting. Quitting implies a lack of choice. When you choose to accept or leave, you are making a choice. You have chosen what is right for you.

I ended a friendship I had with someone who became too high-maintenance for me. She moved into the category of difficult person because it seemed that I could never be the friend she wanted me to be. It didn’t matter what I did, it wasn’t enough, or it wasn’t right.

I tried for a very long time to find the middle ground in our friendship. I was never successful. I thought about accepting her the way she was, giving her what she needed and not worrying about what I needed. I was unable to do that stress-free (because I couldn’t emotionally detach myself). I tried to find middle ground (change things), and wasn’t being successful. So I left the friendship. I gave up on it, and I’m OK with that.

What I didn’t do was continue the friendship, complain about her high-maintenance personality and continue to be stressed during our time together. It wasn’t worth it to me.

I decided to walk away. That was the right solution for me.

Go ahead and give up on your difficult relationship if that is the right decision for you. It’s a smart person who knows when to stop pushing forward and try another path.

Our next Dealing with Difficult Person webinar is April 1 2010 at 2pm EST.  Only $99.  To register, email

Your buttons

February 11th, 2010

Do you know where your buttons are?

You need to know what makes you jump.  You need to know what makes you react unprofessionally, and then you need to know how to keep your cool when one of those buttons are pushed.

I tested myself this weekend with my teenaged daughter.   For those of you who have teenagers, I’m sure you’ll agree that at times they absolutely fall into the “difficult people” category.

Victoria tried several times on Sunday to push my buttons.  She wanted to fight, and was getting very frustrated when I did not react the way she wanted me to.

That in itself was worth it.  She did however, manage to get under my skin, and I too, was frustrated.  I just didn’t give the reaction I normally give.  I did respond though.

A response is the thought-out version of a reaction.  I responded, meaning I didn’t ignore her; I didn’t let her get what she wanted (a fight).  I kept my cool, held firm, but didn’t allow her to push my buttons.

That felt nice for me.

That frustrated her.

That felt nice for me!

It isn’t about winning and losing, but it is about doing the right thing at the right time with your difficult person. I did the right thing by not letting Victoria push my buttons.  Can you do that today?

What can we learn from Conan and NBC?

January 21st, 2010

obrien-cp-getty-94025389It seems that hardly a day goes by without some type of news about all that is going on with The Tonight Show on NBC.  It amazes me that these are professionals who should know better, but they continue to make some very simple mistakes that come with a lot of consequence.

They both need to learn to SHUT UP!  When you have an argument with someone in your workplace, the worst thing you can do is tell everyone else what happened, who said what, who did what etc.

This seems to be the pattern for both Conan and NBC.  Both are thinking they are getting good press for what they are saying in the public.

Both are wrong.  Sadly, they both look juvenile, and I will have a hard time supporting either in the future.

Learn from the mistakes of others.  When something is going wrong, keep your mouth shut. If you need to discuss what is going on, be very careful about who you chat with (they likely will chat with someone else), and what you say.  Take your frustrations to your family, or someone in HR, but not to a coworker, or coworkers!

If either of them had taken the high road, I would have supported them.  In the workplace, I don’t need to take sides, but it would be hard to support someone who was so obviously childish and unprofessional.

Take my advice and keep the information out of the workplace setting.  You will make the situation far worse. I would rather regret that I didn’t say anything than regret telling everyone everything.


January 14th, 2010

Morgan is putting in our pool in our Florida vacation home.  He is a great guy, fun to chat with, does fantastic work, but he is very difficult to deal with because he is an avoider.

Morgan hates conflict, so he tells you what he thinks you want to hear, which isn’t always the truth.


We’ve been having a major problem with final delivery date of the pool.  It was due weeks ago, and the pool is still not done.  Morgan won’t tell us exactly why (although we clearly see that his time management is the issue); instead he avoids the question.  When asked when we can see a completed pool, he will give me a date (like, “next Tuesday”), but when Tuesday arrives, he says, “Well, maybe Thursday.”


He avoids saying the truth because he knows that I will be upset.  He avoids facing the issue because he is uncomfortable with confrontation.  He does everything he can to keep the waters calm, to keep me happy and to avoid talking about the why it is late and when it will be ready.

Initially it was very difficult to get angry with him because he was such a nice guy.  After missing the deadline by weeks, it was easier to be angry.

He doesn’t return phone calls.  He doesn’t tell the truth.  He doesn’t want to deal with the situation, which makes him a very difficult person in my eyes.

Is his behaviour intentional?  Partially.  I think he is deliberately not returning my calls because he doesn’t want to discuss the fact the pool is still not done.  When we see him in person, he changes the subject, dances around the issue, and avoids commitment.  Is that deliberate or innocent?  A bit of both.  He has “learned” to avoid conflict and he does it without realizing he is doing it.

The bad news is that there is no easy fix. I can’t force him to tell me the truth or return my phone calls.  What I can do is be very clear on what I want, without making it seem too confrontational.  I can call him every day, or every hour until he finally returns my call.  I can ask him to promise me it will be done.

But I can’t always win.  I can’t always get the truth, and I’m still not getting my pool delivered on time.

I can choose to never work with him again once the pool is finished though.  In a workplace, that isn’t so easy.  The best you can do is be aware you are dealing with an avoider, and be very clear on expectations.  You’ll still suffer from frustration, and they will still avoid uncomfortable situations and commitments.

Not everything that is faced can be easily changed, but by not facing an issue is guaranteeing that it won’t change.  Better to do something than nothing at all.

Taming your emotions

December 28th, 2009


Lets face it, at this time of the year; emotions are closer to the surface.  It is easier to get upset, angry and much easier to lash out when we are operating from the heart and not the head.

Regardless, take your emotions out of the equation. Write down your issue on paper so you can see it in black and white.  Take away the word “feel” from the description of what is happening.  Think black and white and logical and stay away from emotional.  Try to imagine yourself giving advice to a friend instead of giving advice to yourself.

If you operate from a position of emotion, you run the risk of saying and doing the wrong thing.

Step back, take a deep breath, and look at the black and white.  This will allow you to say ON THE RIGHT TRACK with your difficult person this week.

Dealing with Negativity

December 10th, 2009

I am nonegativityt a negative person by nature and find that negativity seems to knock the wind out of my sails.

There are several approaches to dealing with negativity, and while none of them are easy, they are simple to do without compromising your credibility at work.

I’ll share my favourite approach today.  Try to do this for the next 30 days.  It won’t be easy.

Turn every negative statement they say into a positive one.

Them: “It’s too cold outside”
You: “I love my sweater and I can’t wear it in the summer.  The cold allows me to wear it and I like that”

Them: “This company takes advantage of us all the time”
You: “I’m glad I have a job”

Them: “Bob the Boss is such a jerk don’t you think?”
You: “I’ve heard horror stories, so put into perspective,  I can deal with Bob”

You don’t actually have to believe what you are saying; you just have to say the positive version of what your difficult person is saying.  You may think that Bob the Boss is a jerk too, but if you agree with their negativity, you are actually encouraging them to be negative more often.

You must be 100% consistent with this approach though.  Always take their negativity and make it positive.  This will exhaust you. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.

This won’t make them a positive person.  It just makes them take their negativity elsewhere.

That’s OK with me :-)

Are you dealing with an “Avoider:

November 30th, 2009

I’m dealing with an avoider. I find it very frustrating.

An avoider is someone who hates confrontation. She would rather a situation sit and fester, than have to sit down and handle the issue with you directly.

In fairness, many of us probably prefer to avoid rather than have a confrontation. I mean, who really likes confrontation? Not me, that’s for sure. However, it is important to deal with some issues instead of avoiding them and having them potentially blow completely out of proportion.

When an issue occurs, you have 24 hours to start to deal with it. It might mean that you say to the other person that you want to talk about it, and you might even arrange a meeting, but you must do something within the first 24 hours to show that you’re willing to deal with the issue.

I called Mary and outlined the situation. I was careful to use “I” language instead of “you” language (so that I didn’t put her on the defensive), I was very aware of my tone of voice and I was well prepared to say what I wanted to say.

When I called Mary, I got her voice mail. My message was concise and outlined what the situation was. I avoided placing blame. I told her I was wanting to speak to her directly so we could reach a mutually acceptable solution. I was professional, clear and upbeat. I asked her to call me back at her convenience.

She sent an email to our office manager, Caroline (thereby avoiding me altogether) asking to be removed from our distribution list and saying that she wanted to avoid further contact with our office.

Not exactly the nice friendly, professional way in which I was hoping we could deal with our misunderstanding.

I called her again and left another voice mail asking if we could talk about things, as I wanted to circumvent any hard feelings. In my voice mail I did mention that I would follow up my call with an email with my proposed solution.

I hate dealing with sensitive issues via email. Email should be used as a confirmation tool, rather than a confrontation tool.

Long story short, I have had no direct contact whatsoever with Mary. She has only responded to Caroline via email, refusing to discuss anything with her or me.

I did everything I could do to deal with the situation professionally, but she has been unwilling to co-operate.

Sometimes you will meet people who are not as professional or courteous—or courageous—as you are. Sometimes you will have to deal with sensitive situations in a manner that makes you uncomfortable.

Remember to always take the high road. I regret nothing that I did in the encounter with Mary. I do regret that her need to avoid discussing the situation meant that there would be residual hard feelings.

When dealing with confrontation here are my simple rules:

–            use “I” language, instead of “you” language;

–            avoid blame, and focus on resolving the situation;

–            be prepared so you are not reacting to the situation, but rather are responding to it;

–            take the professional path (the high road), even in personal confrontations; and

–            know when to walk away.

I’m sorry that a simple misunderstanding has now become a major issue. I have learned that even the “right” approach doesn’t always work, and that you need to be flexible when dealing with confrontation.

I wonder what Mary learned from our encounter.


Join us for our next webinar on December 10th for Dealing with Difficult People.

Only $99 unlimited attendance (per dial in line)
2:00pm EST (New York/Toronto time zone) – lasts 60 minutes
30 day no charge coaching for all participants
Executive Overview delivered to all participants.
Recording of session to use at a later date (think of a lunch-and-learn for your team!)

Contact about reserving TODAY!

Take the “High Road Less Travelled”

November 18th, 2009

It is important to never give in to your desire to lash out, fight back, or hurt your difficult person.  Tempting, but don’t do it.

I would rather regret something I didn’t say than regret something I did say.

This week, be sure that you are the consummate professional.  Be the one to take that high road.  You’ll find that the traffic up there is much lighter than the traffic on the unprofessional road.

Our next session on “Dealing with Difficult People” will be held on December 10th at 2pm EST.  The holiday season is quickly approaching and your company needs to ensure your staff is prepared to handle all the difficult people that climb out of the woodwork!

Only $99 per dial in line.  Great training for a lunch-and-learn session.

Register with with “Register Me for Dealing with Difficult People” in the subject line.

Sometimes NOT giving in is right!

November 1st, 2009

The guy who cuts our grass is someone I would easily call a difficult person.  He is strongly opinionated.  He is right and anyone who even considers a different opinion is not only wrong, they are stupid.

That type of person is infuriating.  I sometimes feel it is my responsibility to get them to at least acknowledge a different point of view.  This is not smart on my part :-)

I listened to Alan yesterday.  Actually, I heard what he said, but I refused to be baited by his urge to get into a political discussion with me.  I wanted to get into this conversation; I wanted to get him to listen to what I had to say; I wanted him to see a potentially different, and not necessarily wrong, viewpoint.

I didn’t though, which was completely the right thing to do. I smiled and didn’t say too much. I refused to get baited, I refused to fight back.  Fighting is exactly what Alan wanted me to do.  He wanted to prove how smart he was.  By refusing to argue, I didn’t give him what he wanted.  He was well aware that I didn’t agree with him, but I wouldn’t rise to the bait.

He left the discussion a little frustrated, and I left it incredibly proud of me.

That is hard to do day in and day out when you work with your difficult person.  It is hard not to get baited, it is hard not to give your difficult person the response they are looking for.  Don’t give in to this style of difficult person.  Even if every second time you meet with them that you can hold yourself back it will be worth it.

I was proud of myself for not getting into a no-win argument. I was equally pleased that I had frustrated Alan.  Mature?  Maybe not.  The right thing to do?  Absolutely!

Take a step back

October 19th, 2009

There is always another perspective, always another way to look at things, always two sides to every story.

Force yourself to try to see the opposite point of view, even if it sounds ridiculous to you.

Whenever Warren, my husband, and I are driving and he starts to complain about the other drivers, I make a point to find some crazy, often silly, viewpoint which would explain why the other person was driving that way.

As much as it drives Warren crazy, it does get my point across, and sometimes calms the situation a bit.

Your difficult person still may be difficult, but taking the time to find another viewpoint is worth your time.  Sometimes it defuses your tension and sometimes it provides a moment of clarity, but taking a step back is always a good idea.

Keep ON THE RIGHT TRACK to dealing with your difficult person this week.

Our next webinar is scheduled for November 10th 2009.  Confrontation Skills is at 2:00pm EST (New York/Toronto time zone), and will last for one hour.  For only $99 you can get learn to confront someone while maintaining your control, confidence and composure.

To register, email with “Register Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.  She will send you all the information you need for your office to join our webinar.

Try the “Broken Record” Technique

October 7th, 2009

It’s OK to say to your difficult person “This isn’t a good time for me to finish this discussion” instead of getting into a confrontation that you aren’t prepared for.

When you are being railroaded into a confrontation to discuss and issue “here and now” you do not have to agree to their terms. You aren’t being difficult back, you are just taking some control over the circumstances.

Practice the “broken record” technique.

Calmly say “This isn’t a good time for me to finish this discussion” and refuse to baited into having the discussion now – especially when it isn’t a good time for you.

The best part of the broken record technique is that you don’t run out of things to say. You calmly repeat the same thing over and over again. Find a time to continue the discussion that works for both of you.

Good luck, and keep on-the-right-track this week!

Our next webinar in November 10th on Confrontation Skills.

Email with “Reserve me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line today.

1 hour to satisfaction for only $99 (unlimited attendance per line)

Would a little compassion help?

September 29th, 2009

Is your person just difficult, or are they operating in fear mode? We are in a fear-based economy and health crises right now, and people are flat out afraid of the unknown.

What if H1N1 hits my family? What if my investments are worth nothing when I retire? What if Iose my job? What if my health care isn’t as good as I have now?

If you are working in any of those fear-based industries, you are probably dealing with a lot of difficult clients right now. Makes sense doesn’t it? Fear makes people act without thinking.

Empathy and compassion will go a long way. Put yourself in their shoes. They don’t have the information that you have, and they are in panic mode.

Does that help you keep your calm demeanor and not get as riled up about their poor behaviour?

I thought so. The next time one of your clients is demanding, unreasonable, and operating in an unprofessional manner, put yourself in their shoes. It doesn’t change that they are in the wrong, but you’ll be amazed at how your viewpoint changes and you are in a better position to deal with their behaviour.

Keep yourself ON THE RIGHT TRACK to dealing with your difficult person this week.

Our next webinar, Confrontation Skills, is on October 28that 2:00pm EDT.

Sign up at today!

A lesson from Serena Williams – keep your cool!

September 14th, 2009

Serena Williams lost it at the US Open last weekend. Her temper got the best of her and she reacted emotionally, inappropriately and unprofessionally.

What gets lost in the story is the calmness with which the line judge held herself.

Had the line judge yelled and threatened back to Williams, then we would have all jumped to Williams’ defense.

How people feel about footfaults being called during high-level matches would be irrelevant if the line judge had fought back. She didn’t, which was the perfect response.  And that response put all the fault on Williams who, alone, will pay for her outburst. (Williams was fined $10,000, the maximum penalty allowed for unsportsmanlike conduct in tennis, not to mention the loss of an important match and the untold damage to her reputation.)

After being called on a footfault during her serve, Williams walked over to the line judge, making a threatening gesture with her racquet and reportedly told her, “If I could, I would take this ****  ball and shove it down your **** throat.”  It is also alleged she threatened to kill the line judge, although Williams vehemently denies it.

Read more and watch a six-minute video of the confrontation at

If you were the line judge, could you have kept your cool in that situation? Could you have received those comments without fighting back?

It is important to remember that when one person loses it, the other should do the complete opposite, and remain very calm.

Do not interrupt the other person. Imagine if the line judge had angrily responded, ‘Are you threatening me?’ Even though I know that type of retort would have been wrong, I can imagine myself responding that way.

An angry response would have escalated the argument to much higher levels and Williams could have charged that she had been provoked.

Let the other person have her tirade; let her finish. If appropriate, call a time-out by saying something along the lines of, ‘This is not a good time to finish this conversation. Let’s meet again this afternoon’ – then walk away. Do not continue the conversation when tempers are flaring.

The line judge didn’t respond to Williams, but instead quickly got the referee involved.  The line judge kept her cool, even though she felt physically threatened, believing that Williams was threatening her life. That is the calm, cool exterior we want to achieve when we are in a confrontation.

A lot can be learned from this episode. Williams should have done things differently, and I’m certainly hoping she regrets her inability to control her temper.

Learn from the line judge, the referee and even Williams, so you can avoid being the front page news story at your office.

I would be more effective working with you if…..?

September 1st, 2009

If I asked you the question, “I would be more effective work with “X” if…. (fill in the blank)”, how would you finish that question?

I would be more effective working with Rhonda if she worked somewhere else?

I would be more effective working with Mike if he had a better attitude, listened to what I was saying, didn’t go over my head at work etc etc?

That is a natural way to answer that question, but if you look at what you’ve said, you are asking your difficult person to change their behaviour.

That is not going to happen.

Every morning they get up and answer the above question about you:

I would be more effective working with Susan if she just left me alone!

You can’t make your difficult person change. What you can do is do something different so you get a different response/reaction from them.

Dealing with your difficult person isn’t about getting others to do what you want them to do (that makes you a difficult person). Dealing with difficult people is about learning to create the circumstances where you get what you need.

You don’t make another person be more positive, to listen better or arrive at work on time. You learn to create the circumstances where you are able to get what you need.

I would be more effective working with Rhonda if I didn’t let her complaining bother me.

I would be more effective working with John if I had more compassion for his personal life.

Not easy is it?

Have you ever heard the expression “If you marry your spouse planning to change them after the wedding, it makes for a very interesting first marriage”?

You can’t make people do what you want. They can’t make you do what they want.

You learn to adapt to the circumstances to get what you need (and not necessarily at the expense of the other person either).

You can learn more tips and solutions at our upcoming Webinar.

September 15th, 2pm EST is our new launch of Dealing with Difficult People Webinars.

Register by sending an email to with “Register Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

Only $99! Register today!

How do you respond to inappropriate statements?

August 20th, 2009

Congressman Barney Frank (Mass) became a bit of a celebrity this week by answering what many would consider an inappropriate question with an attack back: “Mam, what planet do you spend most of your time on?”

While it made for an entertaining news clip, it was not the correct way to handle this lady. He followed it up by saying “Having a conversation with you is like having a conversation with the dining room table, and I have no interest. Again, he blew it. He looks immature, irresponsible and completely unprofessional.

It is tempting to resort to sarcastic low blows, to embarrass or fight back, but in a professional environment, you risk your own reputation and credibility by doing so. If you watch the above clip, he looks like the difficult person at the end of it, and I almost felt sorry for the woman.

Don’t do this regardless of how tempting it is.

Mr. Frank should have taken the “camouflage” technique to deal with this woman. To camouflage means to disguise the question/statement. I describe it as being deliberately naive when responding to it.

What should have happened:

Lady: “Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy…

Mr. Frank: “I support this policy because….”

He should have deliberately left out the Nazi comment and continued.

This way the situation would not have escalated the way it did.

If we want to “take the high road” and we want to appear as the professional in any situation, we have to strategize our approach. Refuse to be baited by your difficult person, or difficult situations.

I bet that later that evening Mr. Frank regretted how he handled this woman. I also bet that if he had used the camouflage technique he would have been proud of himself.

Are YOU the problem?

August 12th, 2009

Yesterday, I received an email from Sue that made me chuckle. She realized that she was the difficult person at work.

I laughed and advised Sue not to worry, as we are all someone’s difficult person.

Whoever you have labeled your difficult person has likely labeled you as their difficult person.

Why? Because at the moment, your difficult person is blocking you from getting what you want. You react to their negativity, their laziness … whatever it is they are doing that bothers you. You do everything you can to make them stop this behaviour.

For instance, lets say your difficult person is chronically negative. Every day they complain about something (the weather, the economy, the boss etc). You don’t like this and try to change your difficult person into a more positive person. So, they say “I can’t believe its raining again! I’m going to start building the ark.” You are annoyed that they let the weather bother them, so your response (to be positive) is “I love summer rain. It makes everything so green and lush and everything smells so nice. How can you complain about something so beautiful?” … and you put a big smile on your face.

Your difficult person (because they are chronically negative) labels you as difficult because you constantly disagree with them (they see you as someone who is telling them they are always wrong).

Naturally, they don’t like this behaviour and therefore label you as difficult.

If you don’t want to be difficult, then stop letting their behaviour bother you, and stop getting in their way!

Not so easy is it?

You need to do something different in order to get your needs filled. Don’t fall into the trap that if you are stronger than they are, you will win. You might – and you might not, but either way, you are being difficult.

I assume that you don’t want to be difficult (I certainly don’t), so start evaluating how you are hurting your own efforts and start taking some creative (and different) approaches to getting your difficult person to change.

If you are at the point that you need to have a conversation or a confrontation with your difficult person, you may want to attend our next teleseminar. Wednesday, August 19, 2009 at 2:00pm EST is the start time for this one hour session.

$99 – unlimited attendance
Toll free phone number provided
MP3 recording of session for continued learning
30 days email coaching provided to all participants
60 minutes of your time

Email with “Reserve Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line.

Can you detach?

August 5th, 2009

Do you take the actions of your difficult person personally?  Do you think that they sit at home at night and plot how to ruin your next day?  Do you feel that they have it in for you (and are trying to get you fired, look bad or worse)?  Of course you do.

One of the best things that you can do when dealing with your difficult person is to detach from the situation.  You have become emotionally involved and it is affecting your ability to deal with them.

OK, maybe they do have something against you.  Maybe they really are trying to get you fired, and maybe it is about you.  Realistically that rarely happens and it really isn’t about you (perhaps your position, your name, your status), but it doesn’t feel that way, so we take everything personally and get emotionally involved.  Admit it, you have lain awake at night trying to figure out why they do this to you right?

Here’s a few quick tips on how to detach from this situation:

–    Realize that they would behave this way to someone.  Remember – they act this way because there is a payoff for them. There is a reason.  The payoff for their behaviour is such that they will act like this with someone – it just happens to be you

–    Place a barrier between you and your difficult person.  Imagine it is an invisible shield that you put up whenever they enter the room, or whenever their name is brought into conversation.  Protect yourself from taking it personally

–    Watch how they treat others, and realize they do this to others as well (it is not just you)

–    Play a game with yourself.  Predict what their response, or action will be, and if you are correct, offer yourself a reward. For example, every time they speak in a condescending tone to you, you can stop at Dairy Queen.  Once it becomes a game to you, you almost look forward to their bad behaviour as you get a reward

–    Practice ‘letting go’ of your emotional reaction with them

I realize it is all easier than it sounds, but in order for you to deal with your difficult person professionally, respectfully and consistently, you will need to become detached.

Go ahead, practice, and start counting points for your team!

Our next teleseminar on “Confrontation Skills” will be held on August 29th at 2pm EST. Register today at

What are your triggers?

July 27th, 2009

I admit it; condescension is one of my triggers.  I know that as soon as I “hear” condescension in someone else’s voice, I trigger a response.  That response is typically negative, potentially confrontational, and often unprofessional.

Our difficult people know where our triggers are, and you can be sure that they enjoy pushing them just to get a reaction from us.

Take this week to recognize what pushes your buttons, and what causes a negative reaction from you.  The more you are aware that these are potential danger spots, the more likely you are to avoid reacting negatively when they are pushed.

Pay close attention to your difficult person.  Where are your triggers with them?

The more in control you are, the easier it is to deal with your difficult person.

Wednesday July 29, 2009 at 2pm EST is our next teleseminar on Dealing with Difficult People.  Only $99 for unlimited attendance per line.

Find more details at:

To register email: with “Reserve Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.

This is just about you

June 22nd, 2009

Don’t bring others into your confrontations/conversations.  It doesn’t matter that you aren’t the only one who feels this way, or that others agree with you.

Confrontation (and conversations about difficult situations) are between you and your difficult person only.

If you say “Julie feels the same way” then you have guaranteed to derail the conversation to no longer be about the issue, but about that Julie and others feel that way as well.  Your difficult person will become fixated on Julie and others instead of the issue at hand.

Besides, you have potentially created a disaster for Julie as well.

Learn to deal professionally with your difficult person at our next teleseminar on July 29th at 2pm EDT.  Only one hour for $99 which includes unlimited attendance (per line), an executive overview prior to the session, 30 days of no cost coaching, support and advice, a toll free number and a recording of your session.

Sign up today at or email with Register Me in the subject line.

Keep on-the-right-track this week!

Scars last forever

June 15th, 2009

Forgive; sounds good

Forget; I don’t think I could

They say time heals everything, I’m still waiting.

Those are the lyrics to one of my favourite songs by the Dixie Chicks, and they directly apply to dealing with difficult people.

If you have someone who truly is a diffiult person, and if you have one of those “dreaded” confrontations, there is likely to be some type of scar.  Perhaps it will scare you away from confrontation in the future, perhaps it will make you jump faster when someone crosses the line the next time.  Whatever the result, dealing with difficult people and confrontations will leave it’s mark on you.

Make sure you are prepared before you have your confrontation.  Make sure you are prepared before you say anything.  This means to plan what you are going to say instead of relying on your instinct to say the right thing (that is not likely to happen).  Make an appointment, schedule a time to talk, but avoid saying what is on your mind as it is happening (bite your tongue!).

You may be able to forgive, you may not be able to forget, but it is up to you what you say, how you say it, and when you say it.  Take control so that you can heal from the situation.

If you need to learn exactly what to say, how to say it and when to say it, perhaps you need to attend next weeks teleseminar on Confrontation Skills.

Monday June 22, 2009 @ 2pm EDT (Toronto, NYC time zone)
60 minutes
Executive Overview sent prior to session
MP3 download for continued learning
30 days free coaching to ensure you are on-the-right-track to success!

Only $99 per dial in line (unlimited attendance).

Email or go directly to
Looking forward to helping you minimize your scars.

Is there a lot of conflict in your office?

June 9th, 2009

According to Your Workplace magazine (June 2009) in a study of 5,00 full-time employees in Europe and the Americas found that only 12% of them had received formal training in conflict management.

The three work sectors where frequent conflict is most common is government (42.7%), eduation (41.8%) and not-for-profit (41.3%)

What are you doing to ensure you are part of the solution and not part of the problem?

Are you reading these weekly tips and then not doing anything with them?  When was the last time you actively ensured that you were resolving conflict and not just ignoring it?

Ensure you are ON THE RIGHT TRACK to conflict resolution!  Build your skills by re-reading some of our past tips, have a look in the mirror and truly reflect on what you’ve been doing to fix the problem, and register for our next session!

If you want to ensure that you are helping and not hurting, be sure to attend out next Confrontation Skills teleseminar.

Date:  Monday, June 22, 2009

Time:  2:00 pm EDT (NYC and Toronto time)

Length:  60 minutes

Cost: Only $99 per dial in line (unlimited attendance)

You will receive a toll free phone number and dial in instructions along with an Executive Overview to follow along with.  There will be a Q&A session, as well each attendee will receive 30 days of complimentary consulting to help you deal individually with your difficult person and confrontation skills.  Finally you will receive an MP3 download of the session for continued (and shared) learning.

Email with “Reserve Me for Confrontation Skills” in the subject line to register.

What is the difference?

June 1st, 2009

We typically label anyone that is difficult as a difficult person.  The actual definition of a difficult person is:

Those people who continually and chronically get in your way of you doing your job and living your life effectively (Websters)

Statistically that is only about two percent of the population.  I realize that some days it feels like we meet about a month’s worth of two percent in one shot!

What most of us are actually experiencing is conflict.  According to Websters conflict is:

A state of being that occurs over a prolonged period during which issues are not addressed, thereby adding to dissonance.

Basically it is tension.

It might make it a little easier to decide if you are dealing with conflict/tension or if you are truly dealing with a difficult person.  Sometimes it makes it easier to separate from the problem by diagnosing it correctly.

Truly difficult people are rare, and it is easy to emotionally step back from the problem because it isn’t personal.  They are just like that.

Conflict is personal and we need to realize that we are typically part of the tension that is created.  Do something different to defuse some of the tension.

To defuse you can read through some of the past tips below, or you can sign up for either of our upcoming sessions.

June 22nd – 2pm EDT – Confrontation Skills
July 29 – 2pm EDT – Dealing with Difficult People

Sign up today to ensure you get on-the-right-track!

Dealing with a Sniper

May 25th, 2009

We’ve all been on the receiving end of an inappropriate comment in a public setting.  Your co-worker embarrasses you with a snide remark meant to be funny, but you weren’t laughing.  They are a sniper – and just like the name implies, you were the victim of a sniper attack.

We want to fight back, we want to say something equally as hurtful, and hopefully deflect the humour from you to someone else.  It isn’t funny when it happens to you, and a funny response is not the correct approach to take.

Say nothing.  Make sure you make eye contact that lasts about three seconds too long.  You know “the look” that tells your sniper you heard the comment, and you choose not to respond do it.

Don’t smile, don’t laugh, don’t look for support from others.  Just “look

You’ll walk away knowing that you were on-the-right-track and didn’t stoop to their level.

Our next Dealing with Difficult People teleseminar is scheduled for May 26 2009 at 2pm EDT (New York/Toronto time zone).  Only $99 and you and all your coworkers can listen in together for one low price.  Everyone in attendance gets 30 days free coaching as well as an MP3 download of the session for continued learning.  Only 1 hour of your time and you’ll be feeling much better about Dealing with your Difficult Person.

Email to register, with “Reserve Me for Difficult People” in the subject line.  She will send you the dial in information and invoice for Tuesday’s session.

For more information, or to register and pay directly, go to


May 4th, 2009

Stop fooling yourself in thinking that you just need to do or say just one little thing and then BAM! everything will be better.

It won’t.

It takes a strategy and a planned course of action to deal with your difficult person.  It isn’t just one thing, it is a series of things that you do, and things that you say.  What works today, may not work tomorrow – what will you do then?

Don’t give up –  have many steps on your strategy and don’t get frustrated when it doesn’t immediately fix your problem.


April 27th, 2009

Our final style of conflict management is “Compromise.”  If you missed last week’s summary for “Obliging” be sure to to take a look at that post.

The final style has an equal balance for “Concern for Self” with “Concern for Others.”  As you can tell by it’s name, it is about compromise.  Keep in mind that BOTH sides must be willing to compromise (which isn’t always the case is it?)

This style is powerful when both sides are right, and very dangerous when one side is wrong (what message would compromise send to the side that is wrong?)  If there is a balance of power it is effective and if both sides are willing to give something up.  This is very popular in politics, negotiations between union and management as well as departmentally.

The danger for most of us is when we think we are compromising but the other party isn’t compromising.  We end up giving in (see last week’s message).

Make sure that if you are willing to compromise that your partner is equally concerned with solving the issue amicably.

Are you actually compromising or are you giving in to someone who isn’t giving back?


April 20th, 2009

We continue our discussion of conflict management styles with the fourth of five different options.  Last week we discussed “Avoiding” and when and how we should be taking that style as our choice. 

This week we discuss “Obliging” which sounds exactly the way it is.  This style is about giving in to others.  It places a very high value on others and a very low value on you.  You can imagine that this would not be a good conflict management style in every situation, as you would always be giving in to the other person.  A very frustrating way to operate I’m sure.

Obliging or placating implies that you are giving up something important.  This is used when you need to preserve relationships, such as in your personal life.  Your spouse may love eating sushi, and you may hate it. That means that sometimes you go to a sushi place anyway.  In the workplace you may choose the obliging style if you have made a mistake and want to offer amends.  Perhaps you lost your temper with a co-worker or said something you regret.

You are going to give more than you are going to get.  It may calm the waters in your relationship, it may show that you are flexible and it also may show goodwill.  If you always take this style of conflict management, it may show that you are afraid of conflict, are too passive, or are a wimp.

So, are you using this style strategically, or because you don’t know how to handle conflict?


April 14th, 2009

Last week we visited the second of five styles of conflict management – Dominating.  This week, we move to a style that is practiced by many, and sadly, not usually very effectively: “Avoiding.”

The “don’t rock the boat” style of conflict management relies on others to handle the situation as the person (you) tend to just withdraw or disappear. Are you practicing a strategic style of conflict management, or are you avoiding conflict?  There is a distinct difference between the two styles of avoidance.

There are times when avoiding the issue is the correct choice.  Perhaps it is during board meeting where others are present.  Perhaps your anger has spilled over and you will not be able to be professional. However, you have only 24 hours to have a planned confrontation or discussion with this person.  You choose to avoid so that you can walk away to get prepared, calm down and to stay professional.  If you decide that it just isn’t worth having that follow up conversation, you’ve not dealt with the situation at all.  Actually, you’ve done the opposite and taught your difficult person that their behaviour was acceptable because you did nothing about it.  Behaviour unconfronted will not change.

If used strategically, the avoiding style of conflict management allows you to buy time for a cooling off period.  It allows us to plan our comments to a better place or a better time.

As stated above, very few people actually follow through within 24 hours and address the situation. If something has happened at work, chose to walk away (avoid) but don’t allow yourself to avoid the situation entirely by not having a follow up discussion about what happened.

This week we will go into further details of all five styles of conflict management as well as additional information as our next delivery of our teleseminar “Confrontation Skills” will be held.


April 4th, 2009

Last week we visited the first of the five styles of conflict management (Collaborating). This week, we change the parameters for our end goal and discuss “Dominating.”

For many of us we naturally default to the dominating style of conflict management when frustrated.  I push and you push back.  Unfortunately, it is rarely the correct response.

When the concern for self is high and concern for others is low, dominating can be the correct choice.  As you can imagine, this isn’t the case professionally very often (I hope your concern for others in the workplace is not low).  This is the bully approach, and should be used sparingly, and only when you have the authority.  This is often perceived as an “old” style of management.  Intimidation, bully and bossy.  Not the words I want used to describe me.

However, in high cost (such as life and legality) situations as well as parenting style situations, this can be used.  Use it when you don’t have the time (panic) to explain, but will explain later, once the “emergency” is over.

Be careful that this not your default setting (otherwise your staff will be attending my sessions to find out how to deal with you!).


March 30th, 2009

There are five styles of conflict management.  Each has its own purpose and reason for choosing it.

This week we are going to focus on the “Collaborating” style of conflict management.  This style is high on the “concern for self” scale and also high on the “concern for others” scale.

Collaborating is a win/win style of conflict managment where each side of the issue is willing to “seek an exchange of information and to reach an acceptable solution to everyone.”  Clearly this is the “friendly” style of conflict.

This style is not effective when one party lacks commitment or your time is limited. It works best in “Stage 1” of conflict (see previous messages for definition of different stages

To use this style you are probably dealing with departmental issues, your family and basic problem solving.


March 23rd, 2009

Are you willing to compromise?  When you are dealing with your difficult person, your back is probably against the wall and you are angry and frustrated.  Are you flexible at all, or have you dug in your heels and become just as difficult (if not more so) than the person you are dealing with?  Is it all your way, or no way?

We must be willing to compromise.  This doesn’t mean you must give in, nor does it mean we must dominate the situation either.  Negotiation, flexibility and compromise is probably what is in order to move your discussion/situation to the next level.

Must you always give in?  No.  But pushing back and dominating will likely make your situation worse, not better.  Be sure to pick your battles and be willing to compromise or even walk away on some situations.


March 16th, 2009

Take your time. Strategize.  Don’t rush into dealing with your difficult person.  You are probably really great at figuring out what to do at 2:00am (I certainly am!), so take the time to figure out what the “right” answer is rather than the quick answer.

You won’t regret it!

Pick your Battles

March 9th, 2009

Are you sure you have the energy to “fix” your difficult person?  Most people decide to deal with their difficult person the same way they decide to get in shape – and go way overboard!  Have you ever decided today was the day you were going to get in shape and went out and ran 10 miles?  Or planned to go to the gym seven days this week?  Exactly what we shouldn’t be doing with our difficult person.

Choose one issue you want to deal with, and deal with that one only.  Leave the others on the side for a while.  Don’t try to attack everything about them – there are consequences.

And remember, you still have to deal with them the next day.  To remind you of that important message, read a past article about “After the Confrontation” here


March 2nd, 2009

When dealing with your difficult person, or in the middle of a confrontation, always give the other person your 100% focus… even if you are on the telephone or the other cannot see you. 

Avoid looking at your watch or notes, avoid responding to email or smiling/waving at anyone else walking by.  Often the reason we distract ourselves is to detach from the situation or emotion of the moment.  Keep your focus.  Whenever you switch your focus you are telling your difficult person that you are also difficult and are unintentionally (or intentionally?) pushing their buttons even more.


February 22nd, 2009

Keep you voice volume low.  You don’t want to appear as if you are angry or shouting when having a confrontation or dealing with difficult person, so keep it low…. and a little too low is perfectly acceptable.

When your voice is quite low, people actually listen more closely.  Use this to your advantage and be sure that you aren’t yelling, speaking in a louder than normal voice, or even the voice that has the “edge” to it.  Speak very softly.

It works!


February 16th, 2009

For the past several weeks we’ve been discussing the different stages of conflict and what to do in each stage.  The second (and most critical stage) is “More Significant Challenges.”  As we know from previous tips, there are important steps to follow at each stage.  For this stage, it is important that you do have a conversation or confrontation about this issue (before it becomes a stage three issue).

This stage of conflict is all about competition.  Someone feels the need to win (well, you both do actually) and that winning seems to imply that someone should lose (which doesn’t necessarily need to happen).  Control, saving face or reputation is important and participants certainly participate in the CYA approach to conflict – which means a lot of the talking happens on email (don’t use email PLEASE!).  This level is hostile, but typically not dangerous (until it starts to progress to level three).

Solutions?  Say something.  Keep it black and white, focused on one issue and don’t bring others into it.  Stay away from sarcasm, public jabs or responses. Make an appointment with your difficult person to see if you can find that middle ground.  Be sure to read some of other tips already published on what to do, or (better yet), attend our next teleseminar on Confrontation Skills on April 16th, at 2:00pm EST.  Only $99 per dial in line (where can you buy such inexpensive and good training?).

Everyday Concerns

February 9th, 2009

As mentioned in our last tip,, there are three stages of conflict in any difficult relationship.  The first stage is called “Everyday Concerns and Disputes” (or Stage 1).  This stages covers those day-to-day irritations that we all experience.  For the most part, we ignore them.  However, they could contine to build  and create tension and potentially escalate to Stage 2 or 3 with time.

To avoid having these simple Stage 1 annoyances create a bigger problem down the road, a well-timed comment or request is often all that is needed.  If it bothers  you that someone in the office is constantly leaving the kitchen a mess, perhaps all that is required is a note in the kitchen, a comment at a meeting, or a conversation with the person responsible for the mess.  A conversation is much easier than a confrontation.

Don’t address every annoyance, but those that you see starting to “get on that one nerve” left.  Deal with it early and hopefully you won’t need a confrontation in the future.

The Fight!

February 2nd, 2009

There are three stages of conflict in any difficult relationship.  The final stage is known as “The Fight is On!” (or Stage 3).  If you, or your difficult person, perceives your conflict to be in the final stage, it is important to realize that a calm, cool and logical discussion will not work.  The other person (or you) are far too emotional to participate in a calm, cool and logical manner.  Intervention, arbitration or an impartial third person will be required.

Don’t hesitate to suggest that a third person join your discussion.  If you are truly interested in getting through this conflict, it is necessary to have that impartial voice in the conversation.  Keep your job, keep your relationships and keep your reputation and invite someone if that is needed.  Don’t let pride or stubbornness get in the way.


January 5th, 2009

Make 2009 your year for action.  Stop complaining about your difficult person or you difficult situation and do something about it!

The problem that many of us face is the “fear” of what will happen/not happen.  I can assure you that if you don’t do anything, nothing will change (it might even begin to get worse) and you will continue to be frustrated by the situation.  Complaining about it does NOT make it go away – you must take ACTION!

If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got (and you’ve already identified that this isn’t working for you!)… so do something!  Take action.  Make a plan, and get ON-THE-RIGHT-TRACK by dealing with your difficult person.


December 29th, 2008

Begin with the end in mind.  If you are going to have a conversation or confrontation with your difficult person about what the problem is, you had better enter this discussion with a solution in mind.

You will get nowhere if you just vent your frustrations.  You MUST have a solution in mind to the problem.  This does not ensure you will get your desired solution, however, just venting your frustration or anger is guaranteed to backfire.

As “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” teaches us, “Begin with the end in mind.”  Have your solution prepared. Know what you want and be able to clearly identify that to your difficult person.

Just saying “You are constantly interrupting me” is not a solution.  Asking them to stop interrupting you is a solution.

Shake it Up

December 22nd, 2008

If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.  So this week, do something completely different!

Try “the look” without making any comment.  Perhaps completely ignoring the comment or the situation is what is in order.  Or, for those of you that do typically avoid any confrontation with your difficult person, maybe you just need to say “I don’t agree with you” or something do that isn’t avoidance. (rolling your eyes does not count!)

I won’t guarantee that this will make your difficult person less difficult.  I can guarantee that it will confuse them.

Don’t expect things to get better by doing the same thing over and over again.


December 15th, 2008

According to the dictionary, difficult people are those people who continually and chronically get in your way of you doing your job and living your life effectively.

Statistically, this is only 2% of the population.

Are you really dealing with a difficult person, or is it just conflict?  Conflict is tension in a relationship.  It isn’t quite the same as working with a difficult person.

Identify your person accurately.  If they really are difficult, then you must be 100% consistent with your approaches.  If it is conflict, there are times when everything appears fine, and you can relax a little more.

There is a big difference between the two – be sure you have labelled them correctly, and then take the appropriate approach.

Keep your Cool!

December 8th, 2008

Emotions are not your friend when they rule your interactions with your difficult person.  You need to be black and white, focused on the facts, calm, cool and collected.

It is in your best interest to NOT respond nor react when you are being ruled by your emotions.

Take time out.  Be sure to arrange a follow up with your difficult person when you can get some perspective, when you can be calm, focused and professional.

For my Canadian readers, our current political confusion has been ruled primarily by emotions.  Need I say more? 

Be professional, take time out, stay focused and keep your cool.

Strange techniques to help you keep emotions in check

December 4th, 2008

I’m a pretty private person. The ‘Rhonda’ I take to work is not the same ‘Rhonda I let my friends and family see. At work, I prefer not to show my emotions. I may be a big marshmallow in my personal life, but at work I don’t want those tears to flow. I don’t want to lose my cool and I never want to look nervous.

In discussing this with seminar participants, I’ve realized that I’m not alone, and that many people would prefer to keep control of their emotions in professional (and other) situations.

These tips may seem a bit odd. They do, however, work. I’ve tried them all and give them my personal stamp of approval.


When I get very angry or frustrated I will often be on the brink of tears. This frustrates me even more because the last thing that I want to do is cry at work. Try taking your pointing finger and pushing upwards against the base of the septum (the divider) in your nose. It will look like you are trying to squash a sneeze, and it does work. It even works in highly emotional situations. Recently I was at a funeral where I wanted to hold it together. I know that it’s perfectly acceptable to cry at funerals, but I didn’t even know the deceased, so I wanted to stop those tears from falling. I took my finger and pushed upwards on my nose. It worked.


There is nothing worse than your heart beating at 100 miles an hour, your mouth going dry, and the look of a deer in the headlights on your face. We’ve all been there. You can reduce your body’s natural ‘flight-or-flight’ reaction by getting control of your breathing. When panic sets in, we tend to hold our breath. When that happens, concentrate on breathing through your left nostril and then (on the next breath) through your right nostril. This won’t be noticeable to someone looking at you, but it will work.

Throat tickle
Just when you want to disappear into the wallpaper, isn’t that when your throat gets a tickle? Short of clearing your throat (and drawing unwanted attention to yourself), there seems to be nothing you can do about it. Until now! Do the Carol Burnett ear pull. Pull downward on your lobe. If you are wearing earrings, this is easy enough to conceal. Not only does it take your attention away from your throat tickle, it clears your throat. And no, I don’t know why.

Keeping your cool

When someone is pushing your buttons, it can be hard to stay in control. One way to keep your cool is to not look directly into the person’s eyes. Try looking at the space between their eyes, instead. This allows you to remain focused. This technique also works when speaking to someone who is wearing mirrored sunglasses, or who has a wandering eye.

Nighttime problem-solving

I had one of these nights recently. You’re up for hours solving all the problems of the world. It usually starts with the thought that, “If I had only…”. Sometimes it is incredibly hard to fall back to sleep after you’ve relived a horrible moment you had in the office during the day. When this happens, try wiggling your toes. Most people cannot wiggle their toes without thinking about it. When you are thinking about wiggling your toes, you can’t worry about your co-worker or anything else for that matter, and you will fall asleep.

Toe-wiggling also works in other places and situations – and it really is effective. At the funeral I was telling you about, I also wiggled my toes so I could focus on what was being said, rather than on my brain saying, “Don’t cry!” Combined with the nose raise, it worked quite well. It also works when you are trying to keep your cool with a co-worker and not tell her what is really on your mind. Listen to what your co-worker is saying and concentrate on wiggling your toes. You won’t have any brain power left to worry about what you are going to say.

If you have something a little strange that I haven’t listed here, I would love to hear it. Please send an e-mail to my attention and if we get enough of them we’ll include them in a future e-mail with more strange techniques on keeping our emotions under control.


December 1st, 2008

It will get worse

When you are dealing with your difficult person, you can expect that they will get worse before they get better.  This is a good sign.

We are all familiar with the old saying “If you keep on doing what you always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.”  We know that with our difficult person, we have to do something different.  We know that we want to “push” them out of their normal/regular response to do something different (and hopefully less difficult). 

You can expect that as you practice different responses, or different strategies, that you will confuse your difficult person.  That confusion (or lack of a payoff on their part) will require them to do something different. 

Expect that what they do will be to increase their “difficultness” (I realize that isn’t a real word).  This means that what you are doing is actually working, don’t give in, keep on-the-right-track.

I Language

November 24th, 2008

Any time you can avoid creating tension in your conversations with your difficult person, the better!

Take responsibility for what you need, want, have, hear etc.  Instead of saying “You need to….” say instead “I need…”

I’m not telling you that you will get what you need, but I am decreasing a defensive reaction by using “I” language.  “You” at the start of any sentence increases the odds that the tension will increase.  I promise you will see I’m correct! (which sounds much better than “You will see that I am correct!”)

There is tension in your dealings with your difficult person.  Don’t make it worse.

Sniper Attacks

November 17th, 2008

Sniper attacks are those public displays disguided as “I was just joking” attacks that hurt.  Typically they happen in very public places (like office meetings) where the goal is to embarrass you in front of your peers.

“Ooohhhh, Rhonda is all dressed up today.  Are you leaving us Rhonda, do you have a job interview?”

On the outside, these attacks are meant to be funny, but you know that they are designed to embarrass you.  How do you react?

It is tempting (and very easy) to snipe back.  Don’t.  It is tempting to laugh it off. Don’t.  It is tempting to try to be funny back and embarrass them.  Don’t.

Calmly make eye contact, address the sniper and the comment.

“Actually, this is a new suit.  Glad you like it.”

Keep the sarcasm out of your voice.

Don’t fight difficult behaviour with difficult behaviour.  You look more childish, and less professional when you fight back in these public situations.


November 10th, 2008

You’ve all heard the expression “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”


If every morning you wake up and hope that your difficult person is going to “get it” today, you aren’t doing anything different.

Try a new behavior pattern (something different) three times. If it is working (ie they are not being so difficult) then keep on taking that approach until it isn’t working anymore!  If you are not getting what you want after you’ve tried a new approach three times, change the approach.  Try again.

Keep doing something different.

Good luck and stay on-the-right-track this week.

Do you avoid Confrontation?

November 4th, 2008

A former colleague of mine has complete conversations in his head with people that he is angry with, and rarely directly with the other person. This anger in his head continues to build because of his frustration, yet he never lets the other person know that he is frustrated and subsequently angry. It got so bad that he almost lost his marriage because he didn’t let his wife into these conversations he was having with her; but by himself. It was almost too late by the time he did bring her into the real conversation. His need to avoid confrontation is so strong that he has a safe confrontation in his mind and feels that he has dealt with the issue. As you can imagine, this doesn’t work (especially for the other person involved).

Are you guilty of this?

Many of us are very uncomfortable when it comes to confrontation. I understand the concept of having the conversation in your head; so you can plan out what you want to say and how you want to say it. Sometimes these conversations by ourselves are enough to settle the issue, and realize we are making too much out of a simple situation. I know that I have spent hours lying in bed at night having conversations with people I am angry and frustrated with. Not only does it disrupt your sleep, your attitude and your health, it never really resolves the issue either, and potentially is damaging to your relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that we need to confront every action either.

If you have the conversation once in your head, don’t worry about it. If it comes back and you have it again, perhaps start thinking about making it into a real conversation. By the third “in your head” confrontation, you need to start planning how you will deal with the real confrontation, because it looks like you are going to need to do that.


Start with preparing yourself for what the issue really is. Be able to state the issue in one (or two), non-emotional, factual based sentences.

For example: Let’s assume you want to confront your coworker about her taking all the credit for the work that the two of you did together. Instead of saying “You are taking all the credit blah blah blah… (and venting your frustration)” (which is what we might say in our head), rephrase it using the above guidelines.

“It looks as if I had no part in the Johnson account. My name does not appear anywhere on the document, nor I have been given credit anywhere.”

We’ve used some other communication techniques such as “I” language as well here. I avoided using the words “I feel” because that is an emotional statement, without proof and facts. The facts in this statement cannot be refuted, yet an “I feel” can be refuted easily.

Shut up.

When the person you are confronting responds, LET THEM RESPOND. Most of us tend to want to justify further what we are saying, defend why we feel that way, and generally prepare ourselves for an argument.

Say what you want to say (the confrontation), then just let them respond.

Since most of us have had this conversation in our head a few times, we “know” how they are going to respond and jump to that point before they even get there. Resist temptation to say anything else at this point. Let them respond.

Avoid arguing.

Confrontation does not mean fight. It means: state what you have say. Listen to what they have to say. Many times it actually ends right here. Do we need to prove someone right or wrong? Does someone have to take blame? Get your frustration off your chest, and move on.

Figure out what resolution you want before the confrontation.

If you approached your coworker with the above initial statement, her response is likely going to be quite defensive. Perhaps something like: “Yes you have been given credit. I said both our names to the boss just last week.”

If you already know what you are looking for, this is where you move the conversation. Don’t get into an argument about whether she did or didn’t mention anything to the boss last week .. that isn’t really the issue and don’t let it distract you.

Your response could be “I would appreciate if in the future if we could use both our names on any documentation, and include each other in all the correspondence about the project.”

Focus on the issue.

They will either agree or disagree. Keep to the issue at this point, and avoid all temptation to get into an argument. Negotiate, but don’t fight. The issue is you aren’t receiving credit, and you want your name on the documentation. That’s it. It isn’t about blame, about who is right or wrong or anything other than the resolution you are looking for.

Confrontation will rarely be something you are looking forward to, comfortable or even good at. However, it is important that we say something when we are frustrated and angry. If you can’t stand up for yourself, who will?


November 3rd, 2008

Be sure to always evaluate your interactions with difficult people.  You won’t learn new skills if you are not evaluating how you are doing.

Use the “liked best” and “next time” approach this week.

After you’ve had any contact with your DP, ask yourself “What did I like best about how I handled myself with X?” and then “What could I do different the next time this happens?”

You will learn what you need to continue and what you can change for the next time. Remember that if you keep on doing what you’ve always done you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got. Sometimes what you are doing is giving you the correct result, and sometimes it is not.  Evaluate what is working.

It works.  Try it and keep on-the-right-track this week.


October 27th, 2008

Don’t be a bully when you are confronting your difficult person.

It is tempting to want to have our say and then end the conversation.  That makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Be willing to have a two-sided conversation, not a one-sided lecture.

Think through what you want to say, say it and then wait for their response.  Not easy, but certainly better than lecturing (or appearing to lecture) and compounding the problem.

So, the last time you confronted someone – were you a bully?


October 20th, 2008

Don’t interrupt. When someone is ‘exploding’ on you (having a verbal
outburst that feels like an attack), bite your tongue.  The average angry
explosion last 45 seconds.  That is a long time when someone is yelling at
you.  Concentrate on not interrupting them.  Let them finish.

Quite frankly, even if you do interrupt, they won’t hear you – they are
still focused on their anger and unable to process what you say.

Take that time to hear what they are saying (without absorbing the anger) and
to prepare your response.


October 13th, 2008

When you are having a confrontation or difficult conversation, never bring “others” into it.  Stay away from saying “Mary has the same problem with you” or “I’m not the only one who feels this way.”

When others are brought into the conversation it takes away the focus from your intent and will distract from the confrontation/conversation.  The person you are speaking with is now thinking about Mary or other people instead of focusing on the issue at hand.  Your intent is lost, and so is the conversation.


October 6th, 2008

If you are dealing with your difficult person (or having your confrontation) over the telephone, have your conversation standing (instead of sitting).

While standing, our voice is deeper, thereby projecting more confidence.  While seated, your voice is not nearly as effective.

Practice by recording your voice mail standing tomorrow morning.  Listen to the difference!


September 29th, 2008

When dealing with your difficult person it is important to remember the
importance of body language.  Your words, tone and body language must match.

Experts tell us that crossed arms indicate we are defensive or not
listening.  This may or may not be true.  When dealing with your difficult
person we would not want to send the incorrect message to them.  They will interpret
what they see, not necessarily what you intend.  You may be crossing your arms
because you are cold – they may interpret that you are being aggressive.  There is no
right or wrong, just different perspectives.

Put your hands at your side, in your pockets (keep them still), or behind
your back, but remember not to cross your arms.

You may be doing this because you are cold or comfortable.  Unfortunately
your difficult person may read your actions completely different.

Eye Contact

September 23rd, 2008

Maintain eye contact while dealing with your difficult person.  It won’t be easy, but you will want to ensure you don’t look down (looks like you are being chastised), nor do you want to look up (looks like you are rolling your eyes), nor do you want to look uncomfortable (even though you may be).

It is important for you to maintain eye contact, or the illusion of eye contact.  You want the “playing field” to be level.  Hold your own.  Maintain eye contact (but don’t stare) :-)

If you have a challenge with eye contact, focus instead at eyebrow level between the eyes (where the “unibrow” would be).

The other person cannot tell that you are not making eye contact, and it allows you the separation from the emotions that direct eye contact cannot give you.  You stay calm(er) and you give the illusion of eye contact (which is important).


September 15th, 2008

Each person behaves in a certain way because there is a payoff to that behaviour.

A child misbehaves in a grocery store because the payoff is that her mommy will buy her a candy bar to keep her quiet.
A co-worker deliberately does a poor job at work when delegated to so that he is never delegated to again.
A supervisor intimidates her employees because fear is a great way to maintain control over employees.

None of these behaviours make sense when you look at it black and white; but looking at the potential payoff help explains the behaviour of your difficult person

Ask yourself what the payoff is for your difficult person’s behaviour?  Why do they do what they do?  Why does it bother you so much?  Is it the behaviour you have a problem with, or the person’s payoff?

Make sure that your response to the behaviour is the correct reponse.  Are you reacting to the fact that the child is misbehaving or being rewarded for it?  Are you upset that slackers continue to do nothing in the office, or are you upset that they get away with it?

Be sure to evaluate your own responses/reactions to difficult behavior and ensure your strategy will work for you – and not against you.


September 8th, 2008

If you are attending a meeting this week, and your difficult person is attending, make a point to sit BESIDE her, not across the table from her.

When you position yourself across the table you are placing yourself in a potentially adversarial position.  By putting yourself beside your difficult person you are in a position of equality, not competition.


September 2nd, 2008

Difficult behaviour is usually “learned” behaviour (as opposed to deliberate).  Somewhere along the way your difficult person “learned” that when they do “x” they get “y.”  What that means to you:  They aren’t necessarily targeting you, but are repeating a technique that has worked for years.  Don’t take it personally, it probably isn’t about you.

For instance:  A child learns at a very young age that when they make noise they get attention.  As they grow, they learn the crying gets them attention.  At a certain age, that crying turns to yelling, or saying inappropriate things.  Your difficult person wants attention, and they have learned that by doing “something” they get that attention. That isn’t about you, it is about attention for your difficult person.

Don’t wait

June 7th, 2008

When someone does or says something that is inappropriate, you have 24 hours to address the situation. If you wait longer than 24 hours, you have ‘allowed’ that behavior to continue.