By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. I am overwhelmed in my job and often don't have time to deal with people who are incompetent, huffy or wasting my time. When I try to get other people to focus on the job, they often look upset and I still don't get them to be productive. How can I quit wasting so much time on things that have nothing to do with my work?
A. You have two choices on how to spend time at work. You can either repeatedly fail to get what you want because something irrational has been triggered between you and a coworker, or you can take some time to dig into the issue and fix it.
When you are tired, overworked and stressed, it's truly difficult to slow down and be curious about why someone you work with is incompetent, huffy or not giving you what you need. Your level of curiosity might be limited to something like, "What the heck is wrong with you, village idiot?"
Obviously, an attitude of contempt makes it unlikely you will figure out the irrational issue blocking your effectiveness with this person. You have to find some way of taking a deep breath and sincerely asking your coworker what they think you are doing and what they want.
You'll be amazed at how powerful curiosity can be when you are ready to bite a coworker. People sense when you are mad at them. They don't know why, so they make up negative stuff that is usually worse then what you really think. When you can look at them with curiosity rather than fury, there will be a positive shift you can feel.
Ironically, when you slow yourself down, it may occur to you that you may be making up some inaccurate negative stuff about your coworker, too. You may even get curious about gathering data about what they are doing rather than jumping to conclusions about how they are out to get you.
You'll discover it takes serious impulse control to breathe deeply, stop glaring and become inquisitive. The important payoff is that one conversation can solve your problem. You won't waste years of time having the same problem with the same person repeatedly.
When you have these conversations, be aware that no one really likes to admit that other people make them emotional in the workplace. We would rather be soldiers in the battle of business who buck up and are stoic and completely independent. The truth is that success in business requires us to be dependent on others.
Think of these daily conflicts as thousands of mosquitoes sucking the lifeblood you need to succeed. If every day you have one thorough and difficult conversation with one person, at the end of the year imagine how many fewer mosquitoes will be buzzing around your head.
Yes, each of these conversations will "waste" your time talking about the irrational reactions of you and your coworker. But the alternative - what you are doing now - will simply keep recycling the same problems with no change. Feel free to recycle your water bottles in the workplace, but don't keep recycling your office conflicts.
The last word(s)
Q. I work with someone who thinks it is important spiritually to turn the other cheek when someone trashes her (or my) trust at work. Do you think there is any benefit in giving someone more than one chance to behave really badly?
A. No, the first time someone acts badly you may be surprised, but the second time you should expect to get smacked. I've never read spiritual advice that says volunteering to be smacked is good for your soul!
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This column was printed in the October 5, 2014 - October 18, 2014 edition