By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I have to work with another team and manager who treats me and my team badly. I keep trying to get him and his team members to see that the way they act is unprofessional. The manager gets huffy and his team members get hostile. How can I get them to behave appropriately?
A. You will get them to behave better if you realize your goal is future change and not admission of guilt for past wrongs.
When we are upset about other people's behavior it is common (but not effective) to focus on getting an apology. However, the more we try to point out another person's bad behavior, the more the other person will want to blame us or defend their actions.
When we use words like "inappropriate" or "unprofessional," the person who hears these "accusations" will fight to be right rather than change.
Consider carefully whether your goal is to make this manager and his team feel bad or whether you want collaboration in the future. Realize that you absolutely cannot have both.
You are completely normal in feeling injured. When we feel offended, we all want some kind of emotional validation or revenge. Unfortunately, if you let your feelings of victimhood run your behavior, you'll lose any shot at getting this manager to shape up.
A powerful tool in the workplace is to let people who have made mistakes save face. Let them defend their behavior, explain their mistakes, or even blame you without getting into a fight. Not attacking them back is emotionally very unsatisfying but it allows you can get the real prize - permanent better treatment in the future.
Be aware as well that the worse someone's behavior, the more likely it is that they will not want to take responsibility for screwing up. Little mistakes are pretty easy to own up to. Big mistakes make people feel guilty. Really guilty people will almost never want to admit they were completely inept or absolute jerks.
If this aspect of human nature seems unfair, think of the worst thing you have done in your life and then consider how much you would want to take public responsibility. You will now have a better understanding that the more deeply you have been done wrong, the less likely the other party will be eager to take accountability.
You may believe you'll need the patience of a saint and the personality of Buddha to focus on change rather than getting an apology. You will discover choosing to get what you want eventually becomes more satisfying than trying to extract admissions of guilt.
The last word(s)
Q. Is there a good reason that some people seem to obsess about unimportant details? I don't understand why my coworker is trying to control everything, including what I eat for lunch.
A. Yes, the more people feel out of control about the big issues in their life, the more they try to control the small issues with everyone around them.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.
This was printed in the November 4, 2012 - November 17, 2012 Edition