If you supervise a difficult or toxic person, you know it holds a particular set of challenges. You are probably trying to walk the line between firmness and friendliness in your management and a challenging personality can easily knock your style off-kilter. Last month, we discussed suggestions for how to deal with a grumpy or negative coworker, this month, here are my suggestions for effective management styles for the dreaded office grouch.
- Pay Attention – Many times a person may act out because they feel helpless, bored or unheard. Listen to clues into how the person thinks, what problems he or she faces, and whether or not there is anything you can do about it. You may be able to adjust their responsibilities to keep them engaged and interested. Or they may just need someone to care enough to hear what they have to say.
- Be Firm – This means giving specific, constructive feedback when you see a performance or interpersonal problem that is affecting your company. Do not avoid conflict! Check out my blog from last year about how to effectively handle a confrontation.
- Set Consequences– Be clear about ramifications for destructive behavior and follow through. Avoid arbitrary punishments and inconsistent enforcement. Frame these conversations in a positive light, encouraging the employee to live up to the potential you see in them or they may miss out on certain privileges.
- Avoid Gossip – Talking to a fellow employee or subordinate about the difficult person will only create more strife in your office environment. Just. Don’t.
- Take Notes – Keep track of incidents and behaviors in your documentation. This will help you to be specific when you confront an employee. The notes will also be invaluable if you ever have the unfortunate task of letting a toxic employee go.
Every workplace has them. When I say “difficult coworker,” I bet a person immediately comes to mind. (If not… that difficult person may be you!) In this two part blog series, I will discuss different strategies for both employees and managers to handle toxic, negative, and irritable people. Next month, I’ll focus on managing a difficult people, but what if you are on the same level? Here are some strategies for dealing with an unpleasant co-worker:
- Manage your reaction. More than likely, you are not going to be able to change this person’s behavior, but you can control your own. A calm response, a pleasant disposition, an awareness of your thoughts and a peaceful attitude will neutralize an emotional, negative or mean actions by a coworker. You can easily take away their power by counteracting it with kindness.
- Establish boundaries. Negative thinkers, complainers and reactive people are usually determined to drag you down too. Be proactive, find healthy ways to keep your distance, like changing your lunch hour to avoid long interactions. Or set boundaries of what you will and will not discuss with that person, and clearly and kindly letting them know if the topic comes up.
- Be empathetic. Even if you disagree with the behavior of a co-worker, you are less likely to lose your cool if you try to imagine where they are coming from. They may have a difficult family situation, a traumatic past, or a current health problem that is producing stress. Understanding will help you be kind when kindness does not seem merited.
These are just a few of the ways you can make your work with a difficult person more manageable. In my role as an Executive Success Coach, I can train you and your employees to foster a great environment in your workplace. Email me to get started, email@example.com
Workplace issues require complex problem-solving skills because they involve multiple people, systems and ultimately a company’s bottom line. Here are my suggestions for effective problem solving in the workplace:
1. Meet. Find out who the problem and potential solutions will effect and include each party in the solution making process. Try to include the out-of-the box thinkers in your organization.
2. State. Before you begin to solve the problem, everyone involved in creating a solution needs to have a clear understanding of the issue and its ramifications for your company.
3. List. As a group, make a list of possible solutions. Be sure to include ideas that seem off the wall, they may open the door to innovation. Do not discuss the merits of each at this point just get them on the table.
4. Evaluate. This step may be the most crucial and laborious. It may require a second meeting to allow each party to research possible solutions, discuss ideas with experts or research case studies other companies with similar issues. For more complex problems, a consultant or research firm might be contacted.
5. Select, Document and Implement. Whether you put it to a vote or leave it up to a manager to decide, a good evaluation has already paved the way for a great decision. Be sure to put the decision in writing and give all parties access. After that, it is time to get to work!
6. Review. Your decision should include a timeline for evaluation and modification of the original goal. The best problem-solvers are the ones who can recognize when they have made a less favorable decision and are willing to go back and modify it.
If you have reached an impasse in your organization, my experience in executive coaching, group dynamics, and professional personnel training will be a valuable asset for your team problem-solving process. Contact me at 770-641-8726 to get started.
“Mindfulness” seems to be a buzzword in the media lately. It is given credit for everything from weight loss to stress reduction. It is the subject of numerous studies, including one released this month that indicates mindfulness has a positive effect on physical health. So, what is it?
It is simply the idea of observing the present, including your inner thoughts and your outer surroundings. As a spiritual and psychological concept – mindfulness is nothing new! People often plow through the day reacting to external stimuli or a mental hamster wheel. Awareness of this can be a tremendous help in personal growth, relationships, and stress reduction.
Here are a few ways to train your brain to be more mindful:
1. Develop a quiet discipline. Begin your day with a few minutes of silent meditation, journaling, or prayer. Go for a run, walk in the park, or just sit in your car on a lunch break. During these breaks, begin observing your thought patterns and triggers and mentally prepare for stressful stimuli.
2. Focus. Observe colors, flavors, sounds and surfaces. Try it tonight at the dinner table. Don’t just shovel in your food, take notice of every aspect of that steak and sweet potato I hope you are having for dinner– the juices, the aromas, the textures, the sweetness, the temperature. (Sorry… am I making you hungry?) Take notice how they influence your thoughts.
3. Count to Five. An important aspect of mindfulness is to be a conscious observer, instead of a participant, in your feelings. For example, if something makes you angry, instead of succumbing to the anger, take a moment to observe it. Notice your heart rate, your thoughts, or your clenched fist. I admit, this may not come easily at first, but if you begin this practice in simple situations, eventually you will advance.
While mindfulness is effective, it will not resolve major mental health problems or complicated family issues. If you would like to begin a deeper counseling or coaching journey, contact me for an appointment at (770) 641-8726.
Thanks for reading,
Steven D Brand
Psychotherapist and Life Coach
A Single Adjustment that can Change Your Family Dynamic
Life can move fast and sometimes even healthy families breeze past the time necessary to strengthen their relationships. There are so many complex issues in a family, but there is one simple change that can strengthen your family bond immediately: Eat dinner together. Research suggests that structured family meal times can improve grades, decrease obesity and even lower the risk of drug-abuse. Here are some suggestions for how to make dinnertime great.
- Set a Goal. You are probably busy with sports, homework and other extracurricular activities, so I recommend that you set a goal and a schedule for family meal time. You may start with just two set days a week. Inform your kids that those nights are off limits for friends or activities.
- Cook and Clean Together. Lower the stress by preparing simple meals and cleaning up together. This also encourages teamwork and gives your kids the chance to be creative and make memories. And the added benefit of teaching them how to cook and clean.
- Power Off. When it’s time to sit at the table, all electronics should be turned off or put in a different room. Parents, this includes you!
- Ask the Right Questions. Conversation does not need to be forced at the dinner table, but parents can keep in mind this principle when asking questions – be specific. If you ask “how was school today?” you’ll likely get a one word answer, “fine.” Try asking “What was your favorite activity you did at school today?” or “Who is the nicest (funniest, meanest) person in your class?” And of course, be an active listener!
While dinner may improve your family dynamics, it will not help you deal with difficult issues such as divorce, blended families, mental health problems, behavior issues and others. Contact me at (770) 641-8726 if you are seeking in-depth family counseling.
Steven D Brand, Psychotherapist Roswell, GA
How to Succeed with your New Year’s Resolutions
We all know the statistics about New Year’s Resolutions: Most people drop off of their self-improvement goals by the end of January. So, how can you be sure to hold on to your goals this year? Here are my four tips for successful goal-making – no matter what time of year it may be:
- Redefine Failure. Often, when you fail to meet a goal, you are not as likely to persist. That is because small failures often entice people to believe that they are incapable of reaching their goals. Instead of letting small failures stop you, build in to your resolutions the goal to be optimistic about your abilities and persist past small missteps.
- Reassess Periodically. It is a good idea to revisit your goals and meter your progress occasionally. I suggest that you make a note in your calendar to take a look back at your resolutions on (at least) a quarterly basis. This will keep your goals fresh in your mind and allow you to create short-term goals, instead of shooting for a lifetime improvement.
- Be Willing to Modify. Sometimes we are a bit too optimistic about our ability to change. If you are consistently falling short of your goals, include modifications into your quarterly reassessments. Success is a motivator! Once you meet these modified goals, you might consider a greater challenge in the next quarter.
- Find a Buddy. Your best bet for a successful change is finding someone else to do it with you. Resolutions are most rewarding when you have a friend or spouse challenge and motivate you when you miss your mark and to celebrate with you when you succeed.
The New Year is an amazing season for restoration and renewal. I wish you the best in your resolution-making and I hope you have a happy and successful New Year!
Steven D Brand
How to Thrive through the Holiday Season
‘Tis the season of holiday cheer… but for some people it can also be a difficult season. If you suffer from the winter blues between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, a few tweaks to your routine can help you thrive, not just survive this year.
- Stay Active and Outdoors. Sometimes the cold winter months can lead to bouts of depression. It is believed that this is caused by fewer daylight hours in the winter. This can be a mild annoyance or a diagnosable problem, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). To combat these symptoms, get moving outside. Take a winter hike in the mountains, a bike ride or a jog around the block. (For more serious symptoms, please seek professional help.)
- Be Thankful. With Black Friday on the horizon… enter the enticing trap of consumerism, comparison and all-out competition. These are toxic for your mental health. Instead of comparing your gifts, attire and activities with others, try to foster gratitude in your conversation and your mental discipline. A thankful journal is good, but telling a friend or family member about your gratitude is an even more powerful practice.
- Remain Flexible. You may have visions of a perfect turkey, uninterrupted football marathons and the new iPhone. But let’s face it. When Great Aunt Mable, Brother Bubba and all the kids get together, there is nothing predictable. Someone might burn the stuffing. It will probably be noisy. You could even get an Android. (Kidding.) Family-time is beautiful in its chaos, so let’s all agree that the holidays will not be perfect and enjoy the messiness of it all.
- Observe the Sacred. It is easy to breeze through the holidays without realizing the magnitude of what we are celebrating. I encourage you to take time to recognize what is sacred. Perhaps that means memorializing a lost loved one, attending a midnight service, or saying a prayer with your family.
I would like to wish you all a joyful kick-off to the Holiday Season. I believe this could be your best yet!
Please contact me if you would like to set up an appointment in my office, located in Historic Roswell.
Steven D Brand
12 Norcross St. #215
Roswell, GA 30075
Still want to read more, read my previous post about mentally rebooting for Fall.
How to Handle a Scary Confrontation
There is a misconception out there that workplace confrontation is a bad thing. I would disagree. Avoiding conflict or being combative is not good, but dealing with our differences in a healthy way? That is a great thing for an organization. Here are just a few of my suggestions for how to handle a “Scary” Confrontation:
- Be Aware of Differences – If a coworker confronts you, or you need to discuss a problem with a subordinate, try this mental exercise first: Imagine the person at home. Are they dealing with additional stress outside of work? Does their cultural or generational context cause them to see things differently? This exercise does not mean you should avoid a confrontation, but it will help you to be more diplomatic.
- Ask A Question – If someone is rude or confrontational when they approach you, try responding to their aggression with a question. Ask the person to clarify their statement or give more information. This allows them to reflect on what they are feeling and often opens a path to compromise.
- Reframe the Conversation – Many times, conflict escalates because of miscommunication. I suggest you first paraphrase a complaint in your own words. Use phrases like “What I hear you saying…. ” This gives a person time to rephrase their complaint and prevents you from giving a defensive, emotion-heightening response.
- State the Facts –Instead of accusing someone of wrongdoing, give specific examples about a coworker’s words or behavior that influenced the conflict. Avoid exaggerating words such as always or never.
- Shoot for Compromise – There should not be a winner and loser in conflict resolution. If there is, something probably did not go right. Workplace conflict should end with a solution that both parties can live with.
Unresolved conflict can lower productivity, decrease employee satisfaction and ultimately have a negative effect on your bottom line. Conflict Management is a big part of my role as an Executive Success Coach – contact me to help your Metro Atlanta organization reach its maximum potential.
The final quarter of the year is a great time to reflect on what you have accomplished and to refresh and regroup before the bustle of the holidays. Here are my suggestions for a Fall Reboot:
- Spend some time alone – Solitude is an important nutrient for your spiritual, emotional and psychological health. When you step away from your daily routine, you can better focus on deeper things, rest, and solve problems. It also allows your mind room for creativity. Solitude might be a leisurely walk on a crisp autumn morning or journaling in a park with your favorite warm beverage. Also, be sure leave electronic devices powered off!
- Review and revise your 2014 goals –Hopefully you have already had a chance to renew your New Year’s Resolutions. Now, begin revising them in preparation for 2015. Ask yourself:
- How did I do? Did I meet my goals?
- If not, was my goal too ambitious? How can I make it more achievable in 2015?
- If so, can I enhance my goals next year?
- What new goals might I have?
- Make mental preparations for the holidays – The holiday season is undoubtedly busy. It can also be difficult. Depression and anxiety are very common. Prepare now by becoming mindful of your anxiety and depression triggers and make a plan to minimize the impact. Depending on your triggers, you can plan quiet time alone, find a mantra or scripture that helps you refocus, start a gratitude journal, make a budget or ask a friend to check in on you.
- Take a walk with a trusted advisor – Autumn is a great time to discuss goals and difficulties with someone you respect. If you do not have someone – now is the time to do a mentor search!
As the season transitions, I encourage you to spend time in personal reflection, outdoor recreation, and a revision of your personal goals. If you want to go deeper in this process, contact Steven Brand for an appointment.
Steven Brand LCSW, ACSW, MSW/MPH, PC
The corporate landscape is ever changing. New generations are entering the workforce, while many lifetime employees prepare for retirement. Our economy has endured a seismic shift with The Great Recession in the rearview mirror and a growing dependency on technology. With these transformations – companies and managers must learn to adapt to maintain their success. And that is where I come in. As an Executive Success Coach, I work to empower individuals and organizations to reach their maximum potential. How? We work together to revitalize their commitment to a personal or organizational vision by:
- Group Discussions – Executive Success Coaching includes workshops for groups, where I facilitate activities and discussions to help a department or team discover their potential for growth and unity. One of the most important components of Executive Success Coaching is Awareness. Once a group becomes aware of the issues hindering its growth and aware of the solutions available to remedy the problem, change is inevitable.
- Team Building. In addition to discussion, specially designed group interactions are used to replicate real world problems and possible solutions. These activities help build comradery and solidarity amongst team members.
- Conflict Resolution. Unresolved conflict can be the downfall of an effective organization. I offer personalized coaching sessions for groups or individuals facing conflict within an organization.
- Private Sessions. With individuals, I assist in discovering new strategies for leadership and management within the corporate setting. We also discuss avenues for career growth and optimization of skills and resources.
Coaching sessions are a proven retention tool for companies – they give employees an opportunity to “buy in” to the mission and vision of the company. By being included in the process of improving the company, employees feel valued. Improved productivity, greater profits and customer satisfaction are often the result. Sessions are also important for individuals to maintain focus and make intentional decisions for the betterment of their career goals. Check out what others have said about my career coaching workshops or contact me for a consultation.