Brothers & Sisters,
I was having a conversation with a friend recently who expressed the dread of having to speak with his superior at work. The gist of it was that his superior was a royal pain the butt, know it all who valued his own opinion more than anyone else's on his team. Sounds tough right? I am sure we've all had this kind of person in our life at some point or another. It's not easy, probably makes our skin crawl when presented with the challenge of speaking with this person and I think our predisposition is to go headlong into the bear trap without stopping first.
I want to challenge you to start rethinking your approach in situations like this. I am a firm believer that if we all just slowed down for a few seconds, we could do some quick calculations on whether or not the conversation we're about to have is one that we need to have. Now I can hear you saying that you have to talk to this person on a daily basis, and they're your boss so you can't ignore them. I don't think you need to ignore them, nor am I advising you to do so. What I am going to do is recommend that you drastically cut down on the number of interactions you have with this person as much as you possibly can. I'll be the first to agree that this can be difficult given the fact that this person is in your life on a daily basis. However, it's entirely possible to achieve a much more muted relationship with this toxic human being than you are currently experiencing right now.
The first step is to stop and think about the interaction you're about to have. Ask yourself the following questions before you do anything:
- Can I answer this question on my own or with the help of a team member?
- Is your question going to receive an undesired response?
- Is it possible for me to keep this conversation quick, concise and on track with getting stuck in the weeds? I'd argue that the weeds are where the know-it-alls general hide and ambush us if we can avoid them we dodge the awful situations that we oft find ourselves within.
- What is my mood? Do I have the emotional currency to deal with this conversation today? Am I able to put off this chat until I can pay for it?
If you answered yes to any of these initial questions, then you're already on your way to a happier, healthier you. By asking yourself these questions you've made a mental checklist and set expectations for yourself and your next actions.
If you decided that you can answer the question with the assistance of another team member or on your own, then congratulations to you my friend! You've made some pretty substantial progress here, and you might not even realize it. You've mentally made a note that you are smart enough to figure these issues out on your own and if you do need help often a team member is a beautiful starting point and not your boss.
If you need to approach this person and have a conversation with them here are some tips for you to work through as the chat begins, progresses and ends.
- Take a deep breath and understand that you probably can't change the way this person acts and behaves (at least not on the outset, more about this later), so stop worrying about the way they operate and focus on you.
- Go into the conversation with a clear goal that you want out of the discussion. Not doing this one simple step will be detrimental to you being able to end the chat.
- Smile, be happy and compassionate. Don't get impatient with this person and if they decided to go off on a tangent don't interrupt them. List and wait politely for your break and real the conversation back in and back to the goal you outlined in step 2.
- Thank them for the quick chat, let them know you appreciate them and you're off.
- Once you're back in your office or at your desk mentally dissect what just happened, take the good parts that you need and flush the rest. You don't need it weighing you down, and neither does anyone else with whom you want to share in your pain.
My brothers and sisters once you understand that the vast majority of interactions are two-way streets and we're half of the approach on that street everything will start to change. Your stress will go down, and you'll smile and be happy in your job much more often. Who doesn't want any of that? One of the other great things that you should notice after doing this approach a few times with the same person is that they should slowly start to change (I hope!). Perhaps they'll begin to learn that you're all business and come to them for just the answers to issues you utterly can't beyond. Any boss would appreciate that and acknowledge the fact that you're independent in your career. The other side of the equation is that perhaps they never even knew what it was they were doing until they noticed that your interactions with them have drastically shifted and they as a human wonder if it was their fault. Unless they are wholly narcissistic and don't realize it could have been them, in that event, it might take a much longer amount of time for any changes to be observed.
My friends, I wish you the best of luck in redefining your approach with those problematic co-workers and bosses. Remember, a lot of it is within our control, and we should be making every effort that we can to keep ourselves at peace during a hectic work day.