How can we build a practice of responding nicely when we’ve been confronted and triggered into a negative emotional space? CTI Executive Coach Karen O’Donnell, PCC, EQ-i shares some practices to use when those “mean” colleagues cross your path.
Have you ever dealt with a colleague who threw up roadblocks constantly, criticized your ideas, challenged your data, or just exuded meanness sometimes? How did you manage?
I recall my own interaction with a particularly mean individual. I remembered him after many years with a visceral reaction that was unpleasant. This colleague would make my customers his, counter most of my ideas or take them and call them his own. Bitter to the end, he entered my office on one of my last days (I’d been promoted to a new role in a different division) and spilled the beans, delightedly, about my surprise party! Jim offered challenges I’d never confronted before or since.
At that time in my career, my inclination was to fight. Initially, I entered the ring with him. With help from my manager, I learned to moderate my behavior, to not reciprocate in kind, and to probe around what triggered his behaviors toward me. By the time of my exit, I expected him to pull some trick … so learning ahead of time about my surprise sendoff was more amusing than disappointing. I’d risen above the encounters. I’d also taken actions to improve our mutual relationships. However, once I’d made reasonable effort and didn’t see any shift in behavior, I didn’t waste more time. He wasn’t going to change so I learned to manage through it.
Then I encountered another situation reminiscent of Jim. I found myself engaged with a client last year where meanness was taken to a new level. The senior staff appeared bent on calling each other out when I was brought in as a coach. This is a longer story, and there’s a great deal to unpack and work through at another time.
Let’s focus on what can be done in the short term, when encountering difficult colleagues or situations. It’s important to demonstrate control, embody effective practices and protect yourself from negative results. Actions you can take in the shorter term to take care of yourself and manage mean employees should be practices that are triggered almost unconsciously.
How can we build a practice of responding nicely when we’ve been confronted and triggered into a negative emotional space? Here are some practices to use in February when those “mean” colleagues cross your path:
1. First notice when you get triggered to join them in their unhappiness or respond in kind to their criticisms.
About the Author
Karen O’Donnell works with business and medical leaders and teams who aspire to uncommon levels of performance, growth and innovation. She recently completed a notable career with General Electric Corporation at the Jack Welch Leadership Center – Crotonville – Ossining, New York.
Karen is known for her expertise in change management and was one of the lead change agents at General Electric initiating change across all GE businesses. Karen has deep experience as a facilitator of strategic meetings, leadership and quality courses, and as a coach for individuals, teams and executives. She is also a student of the neuroscience of change and linguistics. She employs both areas of expertise as a medical and executive coach. Read more about Karen