Interpersonal EDGE: Stopping Epidemic of Huffiness at Work
Saturday, September 10, 2011
By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I've been a union steward for years. During conflict, I've noticed people sometimes make accusations because they are losing. One worker claimed another worker was "crossing her out" because he had his arms crossed and then refused to work with him. How do you keep a conversation focused on solutions not blame?
A. In the workplace many folks are not comfortable with intense emotional outbursts. Employees with poor emotional impulse control can end up manipulating everybody. 
People at work expect rationality and logic to be the main motivator. The reality that emotions drive much business behavior is confusing. Most people don't handle their own emotions well much less the emotions of others.
Your employee that believed a coworker was "crossing her out" needed to be held accountable to do more than blame. Employees have every right to get huffy; they also need to find a way to work with people who make them huffy or lose their jobs. 
There is no way for groups of people to work together without irritating each other. People who pitch fits are more interested in drama and attention than doing a job. 
If only our human technologies were on par with our computer technology, productivity would soar in American businesses. Unfortunately, we don't currently have great conflict resolution technologies. Conflict is either ignored or allowed to run wild. Organizations would be more effective and harmonious if we stopped pretending emotions aren't part of the workplace.
The employee who focused on being "crossed out" needed to be given a choice. Did she want to find a tolerable solution to her conflict with her coworker or look for other employment? Realize that some people who are constantly huffy obtain quite a bit of power by making other people afraid of their outbursts.
Working together doesn't mean we like everyone we work with. It does mean we are responsible for dealing with each other in a way that gets tasks accomplished. In coaching problem employees, I find employees who won't take responsibility for their behavior are mostly likely to generate ineffectiveness and misery on the job.
Emotions will be a central part of work as long as people, not robots, compose the workforce. Recognizing emotions, developing emotional technologies and holding people accountable to deal effectively with emotions would improve both the productivity and enjoyment of work. As a union steward, you can contribute to a solution by holding employees to work together to find solutions rather than being divisive by assigning blame!
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. Contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies. 
This was printed in the September 11, 2011 - September 24, 2011 Edition.

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