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Communicate to Win Over the Office Jerks

February 28th, 2011 · 3 Comments

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office jerksDid you know research indicates that up to two hours in a day are spent in either interpersonal conflict or thinking about how to get back at that annoying guy or gal across the room?

What a waste of time, and even more what a waste of energy! Often there is a quiet setting and it looks like lots of work is getting done. Not happening. There are e-mail wars going on and more recently texting has become the name of the game.

Recently I was working with a company that could not get their new product up to speed for launch date. Almost everything was in place except the sales team kept changing their plans. Time, as they say is money and it was hemorrhaging away.

I sat next to a smart, congenial very enthusiastic sales guy who said all the right things. Then I just happened to catch a glimpse of his Blackberry when he went to get some coffee. He had started to text someone sitting on the other side of the table saying “what a jerk Steve is…..can’t wait to get out of here.”

You know what I mean; this goes on everywhere. We will say it behind closed doors, behind someone’s back, text it, phone it, yet never to the person who is annoying us.

Why not?

Because as kids we were told stuff like “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything” or “Just be polite and keep your thoughts to yourself”. Or if we did say what we thought was the truth more than likely we would get punished. So, most of us have become avoiders. We will do just about anything to keep stuff to ourselves, or only talk about rather than to someone who we disagree with.

It just does not work.

Effective communication is vital to our own career success and to the success of an organization. So, right here, right now, all you avoiders out there, I will offer some tips and tools to help you get with the communication thing and make a difference at work.

Here are some simple tips to keep with you all the time. First, avoiders can turn that fearful energy to become initiators. That means YOU start the tough conversation. Yes, You. That means learning to tell the truth in short sentences. Remember this rule: telling the truth is not spilling your guts! Put that somewhere on your desk. Truth sentences are rarely more than twenty words max. Here is the next thought to remember. When you tell the truth you do not need to defend, explain or justify; you just tell the truth.

Some examples: “What do you want as an outcome if your part of the project is never on time?” Here is another “What am I to do when I have to lead the meeting and you have the opening part?” One more, “How do you want me to participate when you keep knocking everything I say?”

Get the idea? You ask ACCOUNTABILITY questions. They are open ended and they require that the person on the other side of the conversation has to answer.

If you begin to ask these kinds of questions and then stay quiet to get an answer, there will be a shift in the interpersonal relationship and you know what, that jerk who used to bother you may even become a friend. Worth a shot!

This is a guest post. About the author:

Sylvia Lafair, Ph.D., author of the award winning book, “Don’t Bring It to Work” and “Pattern Aware Success Guide”, is President of CEO, Creative Energy Options, Inc., a global consulting company focused on optimizing workplace relationships through extratordinary leadership. Dr. Lafair’s unique model has revolutionized the way teams cooperate, relate and innovate.

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Tags: Office Politcs

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  • Spiteful Badger

    Sounds like a good strategy. I always try to change the battlefield to one that I can win. This seems like a similar strategy.

  • zamboni

    I’m sorry but your idea may sound good in theory, but often will not work in practice. I have been up front with an asshole secretary where I work—and it did not work: she dug in and basically blamed me for following manager directives.  I’m very embittered and jaded about people in general: people are ASSHOLES.  And most offices are filled with assholes.  Its a power struggle with lots of pent up anger and frustration. Even worse, is being an ESL teacher like me:  my students are vindictive ASSHOLES, and the school admin staff are ASSHOLES.  ESL schools in a nutshell: the ranking goes like this:  student on top (since they’re paying the money; next the school; and at the bottom the teacher, who is kicked around like a soccer ball.  Just fucking awful.  I don’t believe any of this “feel good” corporate pop psychology.  Let’s face it: as long as we have the “chain of command” workplace power structure, where you work for someone for money, and they can dick you around and lay you off and fire you, you will have a stressful, ugly workplace experience. People are aggressive, selfish assholes. That’s my experience of 35 years of struggling to make ends meet, pleasing some fucking corporate asshole. I wasn’t like this when I was young.  But being treated like shit by so many ASSHOLES can be an embittering experience. In short, I think human beings are ASSHOLES.  And there’s no changing it with “feel good” pop psychology for the workplace that tries to gloss over deep rooted power struggles between ASSHOLES.