The workplace is a melting pot of people with different personalities, personal values, past experiences and levels of maturity in self awareness and emotional intelligence. This means that each colleague will react to situations in different ways according to their fears and subconscious protection mechanisms.
Unfortunately this means that some of your colleagues will react inappropriately and this will be demonstrated in various ways. Some reactionary behaviours can be very subtle (but none the less quite devastating) and some can be very evident. No matter how evidentiary this inappropriate behaviour is, if the culture of the workplace or your team is not to constructively address and resolve these situations, you and others will find methods of coping which in the long run will not be healthy for you and does nothing to change the situation you find yourself in.
Being treated inappropriately at work usually makes our blood boil. This may occur when a colleague or your manager takes credit for your work or your idea, when you are interrupted and talked over or ignored like you don’t exist. You may feel played off or set up by other staff or the scapegoat for everything that seems to go wrong. Being the topic of gossip is very hurtful and often we put up with being sworn at or continually spoken to in raised volumes or sarcastic tones.
You may be wired with a ‘rapid boil’ trip switch or a ‘slow boil’ one – but either way, you feel the hurt of another’s actions or comments and when you finally hit boiling point you are highly likely to react inappropriately yourself.
Whatever you do, don’t lower your standards in retaliation and behave inappropriately towards anyone at work (or at home either). Behaving in this manner means you are only betraying yourself by not staying true to your own values. Not only will you feel disappointed in yourself later on (even if you momentarily feel some relief) but you may in fact be the one who faces disciplinary action.
Reaching boiling point is not just about feeling hurt or wanting retaliation. It also has a lot to do with our internal angst at not being able to manage the situation in a mature manner – in the way we know we should step up and respond. Perhaps it’s because we don’t feel skilled or confident to address the person ‘in the moment’. Perhaps it is because we believe we will be victimised for speaking out. Maybe we have become a product of a culture that avoids difficult conversations or believes situations are resolved by yelling at the other person and then leaving it behind.
Here are four tips to help you at work if you have decided you don’t want to compromise your values:
- Take 20 minutes to write down the ten values you won’t be compromised on. Don’t just name your most important values but add a short description about what those values mean to you and what they look like in action.
- Reflect on the ways in which you have reacted to situations in the past. Decide if such reactions breach your values or not. If they do, move to step 3.
- Determine an action plan to ensure you will never again react in ways that breach your values. For each different reaction, write an action plan that will act like the electrical wiring trip switch and ‘re-earth’ or ground you again. Of highest importance is that every step in your action plan must demonstrate that you are a calm and respectful person. Find ways to speak up for yourself early and often. For example if a colleague is praised for your work, in an appropriate forum that doesn’t steal their thunder, let them and others know you are genuinely pleased your contributions brought them recognition or success. If a colleague swears at you, be ready with a pre-rehearsed statement that immediately ‘in the moment’ expresses your appreciation for being spoken to in a respectful manner.
- If a colleague continues to behave inappropriately towards you, follow the workplace grievance procedure and enlist support from a more senior manager to assist you in the resolution process. Persist in seeking a higher level manager who will navigate a successful resolution process or is prepared to engage expert external support to achieve this. If no one in the organisation can or will ensure appropriate and fair outcomes are achieved, look outside the organisation for advice and/or intervention.
You are welcome to contact Workplace Harmony Solutions for a copy of our ‘Effective Communications’ series or to provide support for external interventions that achieve successful resolution of complex situations and can repair damaged relationships. We are specialists in working with teams and organisations around cultural change.