Interpersonal Edge: Don't get even at work; think about ways to get ahead
Saturday, February 23, 2013
By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I get angry at work because people rarely do what they should. I end up picking up the pieces. My boss recently told me my coworkers think I'm creating a hostile workplace. Well, I think they are not doing the job they're paid for. Am I right?
  A. Yes, you have a point, but expecting colleagues to admit you are right will only alienate them. We all enjoy the emotional satisfaction of gloating, but no one else likes that quality in others.
  What your boss is trying to tell you is that your tone of voice, body language and word selection are broadcasting your attitude that people around you are incompetent. You probably can't and don't need to change your thoughts. You can and do need to change your body language, voice tone and choice of words.
  Unfortunately, when you are angry, you may punish people around you for "making" you angry. When people around you feel punished, the last person they want to help is you. Thus, you end up still not getting the exact assistance you originally thought you deserved.
  The price you will pay to get what you want is not punishing people for failing to give it to you in the first place. 
If you focus on attacking the problem and make it clear you are not attacking the person, then you can get what you want. The tough part is giving up getting even with people who disappoint or hurt you.
  To be effective, first silently validate your anger. Point out to yourself that others may actually be ignorant or unaware of the bad effect they are having on you. Write a nasty note in your head expressing all your huffiness about the behavior of your coworkers.
  Then start problem solving. Imagine you're living on Planet You, and all your colleagues are doing exactly what you want. Next - and this is the tough part - brainstorm what you could do or say to make it rewarding for others to do what you want.
  Notice that, in the problem solving section of this formula, you are working to reward the people you are mad at. Notice that this is the exact opposite of our normal and natural responses to people who anger us.
  In many ways effective communication at work is like training to be a master in martial arts. If you study martial arts, you discover that many of the moves and techniques are the exact opposite of our automatic reactions when we are attacked.
  The rules behind advanced interpersonal skills are very similar to training in self-defense. You have to develop automatic responses that are the exact of what feels natural. Defensiveness, counterattacks and paralysis only give your opponents the upper hand.
  Remember that you are trying to get ahead - not even - at work. Don't let your coworkers' incompetency make you lose sight of your long-term priorities.
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 or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. 
This was printed in the February 24, 2013 - March 9, 2013 Edition

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