By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. I work with a coworker who is fond of using negative labels with everyone he works with. People are incompetent, passive aggressive or stupid. The crazy thing is he actually thinks he is “communicating” when he is just calling people names. Most of the time neither I nor any of my coworkers know what upset him or what he wants. How can I get him to stop ruining morale with his enthusiastic name calling?
A. You can get him to change his habits if you gently educate him that negatively labeling human behavior just discourages the motivation to change. Most of us have never had a class called “Asking for What You Want 101.” We do what we saw in our family, what we see others do in the workplace or what feels good in the moment.
Obviously, calling people names works about as well in the workplace as it did on the playground. When we grow up, we give up calling people “poopy heads” and go for something more sophisticated like “passive-aggressive.” However, the negative effect remains the same.
Most people don’t realize there is one simple trick to quit calling others “poopy heads” at work. Just describe the behavior you don’t want, as if you are seeing it on a video screen. Then describe the behavior you want instead, also as if on a video screen. Hint: This works as well with spouses, family and friends as it does on the job.
Imagine you are called “passive-aggressive” by your coworker, and imagine you ask this critical question, “Can you give me an example?” Your coworker says you were five minutes late for an important meeting and he needed your report before the meeting started. Hey, we now have actual communication going on.
Little babies, when they are upset, don’t have words, so they often just cry loudly. Unfortunately, in the workplace even grown-ups have not learned to use their words so they complain loudly, vent or spout negative vague labels.
If you don’t see this is more a matter of poor skills than a personal attack, you’ll suffer unnecessarily. You’ll also not realize you can just ask for an example and stop whining or name calling from coworkers.
Also make sure when you want something that you provide a concrete behavioral example. Just imagine what the other person would do on a video screen and describe that behavior to the person in front of you. They will now know exactly what you need without being insulted by offensive labels. Remember, no one will want to give you anything if they feel insulted first.
Yes, you’ll have to give up the immediate emotional satisfaction of letting someone know you think they are bad or inadequate. Then again, you’ll start getting straight to the point of what you need to be successful because you have stopped irritating everyone.
Once your coworker sees the sweet result of getting what he needs when he provides requests rather than labels, he is likely to continue his new behavior. None of us likes to change, yet it is hard to resist a change that gets us exactly what we want.
The last word(s)
Q. I have a task at work I am avoiding. I know the more I put it off, the more I avoid it and the more difficult the project appears. Is there any trick to getting myself motivated to do unpleasant tasks at work?
A. Yes, stop trying to do the entire task. Just commit to doing one tiny part of the project and you’ll discover the rest of the task will flow from that first step.
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.
(c) 2017 INTERPERSONAL EDGE
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.
Printed in the April 30, 2017 - May 13, 2017 edition