Leading with Trust

Stop Walking on Eggshells – 4 Tips for Dealing with Temperamental People

Walking on EggshellsHunting for hidden eggs is one of the great traditions of celebrating Easter. The fun and excitement of finding eggs can be tempered by the prospect of accidentally stepping on and breaking those delicate treasures. As a result, you end up cautiously tip-toeing through the hunt, afraid to move too fast or take any chances. After a while it takes the fun out of the whole experience.

Walking on eggshells around temperamental people at work takes all the fun out of your job. We’ve all probably had the experience of knowing or working with someone who blows up without any warning or at the slightest provocation. It can be intimidating to work with someone like this, and if you aren’t careful, it’s easy to get trapped in relating to this person in unhealthy ways. You can find yourself constantly bowing to this person’s wishes, avoiding the person, or actually believing you’re at fault for this person’s reactions.

Here are four suggestions to help you deal with this kind of situation:

1. Realize it’s not you – Your behavior isn’t the problem. The problem is the emotional instability of the other person. You are not responsible for how another person reacts, even if they blame you for their behavior (e.g., “You make me so mad!”). The truth is that each of us has to take responsibility for our own behavior, not that of other people.

2. Don’t cater to their demands – There is a reason the U.S. government has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists and it should also be your policy with the office tyrant. Negotiating or catering to the demands of someone does nothing to change their behavior over the long-term and only works against you. They get what they want by having you modify your behavior to suit their needs and you get nothing…except walking on eggshells.

3. Set and maintain boundaries – Healthy boundaries are the key to relating to difficult people at work. Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect, but that doesn’t mean you should be a doormat for them. It’s completely appropriate for you to set boundaries with difficult people, and most importantly, consistently maintain those boundaries. It will likely mean some uncomfortable, yet necessary conversations with the offending party.

4. Seek help if needed – Handling this kind of situation directly with the other person will often solve the issue, but sometimes you may need to call in reinforcements. Don’t hesitate to ask your manager to help address the problem. Reaching out for help doesn’t make you weak and sometimes the offending party won’t change his/her ways until the boss addresses the problem.

Six Ways You’re a Workplace Bully Without Even Realizing It

Mike RiceBullying has been on primetime display this week as basketball coach Mike Rice was fired from his head coaching job at Rutgers after a leaked practice video showed him pushing, grabbing, throwing balls at players, and cursing them with gay slurs. As a youth sports coach for over 15 years and the father of a 20 year-old college student, I was sickened at Rice’s conduct. There is absolutely no room for that kind of behavior in sports, school, or the workplace. Leaders have to be held to a higher standard.

Bullying is not just verbal or physical intimidation of someone. Especially in the workplace, bullying can manifest itself in many subtle ways. Any behavior you use to intimidate, dominate, embarrass, harass, or purposely make someone feel inferior could be considered bullying.

Here are six subtle ways you may be acting like a workplace bully without even realizing it:

1. You are condescending – When you act in a condescending manner, whether it’s patronizing someone, being dismissive of a person’s contributions, or minimizing someone’s accomplishments in order to highlight yours, you are sending a message that you believe you are superior to the other person.

2. Wounding with sarcasm – I like sarcastic humor as much as the next guy, but there is a huge difference between sarcasm that highlights the irony of a situation and is self-deprecating, versus sarcasm that is intended to belittle and injure another person. Next time you’re ready to drop that witty, sarcastic joke, pause and consider if it will build up the other person or tear her down.

3. Being cliquish – Cliques aren’t only for high school. Unfortunately, many adults carry that same behavior into the workplace. Purposely excluding people from activities is a bullying behavior intended to send the message that “you’re not one of us” and “we’re better than you are.” Trusted leaders look for opportunities to include people so they feel valued and appreciated.

4. Thinking you know it all – Have you ever worked with a person who thinks she knows it all? How annoying is that?! Much like behaving in a condescending manner, acting like you are the all-knowing expert is a way to intimidate others to go along with your ideas or wishes. Just stop it! No one really believes you anyway.

5. Being passive-aggressive – Perhaps one of the most subtle forms of bullying and manipulation, passive-aggressive behavior poisons teams, departments, and organizations. A common trait of bullies is expressing aggression in order to intimidate another person. Passive-aggressive people are bullies who express aggression in indirect ways such as disguising hostility in jokes, stubbornness, procrastination, resentment, or giving just the minimum effort required. I perceive passive-aggressive people as double-agent bullies disguised as victims. Watch out for them!

6. Gossipping – Have you ever considered gossipping as a form of bullying? Probably not, but it easily could be considered bullying, and some experts even consider it a form of workplace violence because it’s intended to harm another individual or group. Why do people gossip? It’s to make themselves feel powerful. The gossipper believes she knows something that other people don’t and she uses that information as leverage to elevate herself above others.

Leaders are charged with bringing out the best in their people and I don’t understand how some leaders, particularly sports coaches, believe that bullying is an acceptable form of motivation. It’s not. It’s belittling, destructive, demeaning, dehumanizing, and does nothing but feed the power-hungry ego of the bullying leader.

If you’re a leader in the workplace, whether it’s in an office, factory, warehouse, construction site, or any other place, make sure you’re not being a bully without even realizing it. You’re better than that and your people deserve your best.

Lack of Self-Control Erodes Trust – 5 Ways to Bolster Trust and Self-Control

Self ControlI lack self-control around donuts. Donuts are to me what kryptonite is to Superman. They render me weak, helpless, and virtually incapable of escaping their mesmerizing powers. Once I bite into the soft and fluffy baked goodness, all of my self-control goes out the window. On a Friday morning just a few weeks ago I used my expert leadership skills to organize a donut acquisition initiative (basically scrounging up money around the office and sending our gopher…errr…newest team member, to run to the local donut shop). After devouring half the box, I spent the rest of the afternoon in a donut coma, glazed and confused.

Recent research shows that our lack of self-control influences people’s perceptions of our trustworthiness. Researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam conducted four different experiments to gauge the relationship between a person’s self-control and perceptions of his/her trustworthiness. In the first experiment, subjects read a story about a student with money problems who either resisted the urge to spend money for music CD’s or splurged on purchasing a whole stack. In rating the self-control and trustworthiness of the student, the subjects gave the cost-conscious student significantly higher scores on both self-control and trustworthiness than the free-spender.

In the second experiment, couples rated their partner on trustworthiness and specific behaviors related to self-control: goal achievement, reliability, and forgiveness. The most forgiving, reliable, and successful partners were rated the most trustworthy. The third and fourth experiments focused on the factors of temporary depletion of self-control and its influence on trustworthiness. Subjects were less likely to trust someone when he/she had just completed 15 minutes of a strenuous task than someone who had only spent 2 minutes on the task (measured through an economic game involving the subject).

I’m sure I’m not the only one that battles with a lack of self-control. Whether it’s eating too many donuts, losing our temper, running late for appointments, or failing to deliver on commitments, we all have our challenges. Here’s five steps to improve our trustworthiness through better self-control:

1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep — Being a dad has taught me the value of this lesson. If you’re a parent, how many times have you heard your child say “But Mom/Dad, you promised!” I only promise to do something that I know I’ll be able to do, otherwise I try to set clear expectations of what I’m committing to do so that I’ll be able to follow through. It’s a cliché but it’s true and effective—under-promise and over-deliver.

2. Admit your weaknesses — My team knows that I love donuts and they are a particular weakness of mine. So when I occasionally fall off the wagon and go on a donut binge, they are more forgiving and less judgmental of my actions than if I pretended to be a health food junkie and looked down on those who eat donuts. Admit your weaknesses and ask for others to help you follow-through on your good intentions.

3. Forgive yourself and others — People who forgive themselves and others are perceived as more trustworthy than those who don’t. Forgiveness reveals a vulnerable and authentic side of your self that draws people to you. Forgiveness communicates a message of understanding and empathy for someone, oftentimes because the one granting forgiveness has faced the same or similar challenges and has been granted forgiveness from others in the past.

4. Don’t react in the HEAT of the moment — It’s incredibly tempting and easy to lose self-control when you are Hungry, Emotional, Angry, or Tired. If you are experiencing any of those factors, it’s best to pause, assess the circumstances, and choose a course of action that will affirm your self-control and maintain your trustworthiness.

5. Take baby steps — In many ways self-control is like a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it becomes. Research has shown that taking small steps to enhance your self-control can help you resist the more tempting situations in your life. Just like trying to run a marathon without sufficient training is a recipe for failure, trying to tackle the big self-control problems you face without adequate preparation will only lead to additional failures that erode trust with yourself and the people around you.

Have you ever lost trust with someone who exhibited a lack of self-control? Feel free to leave a comment so we can learn from your experiences.

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