Strategies For Dealing With Difficult Situations In The Work Place
The following strategies are for dealing with some of the most difficult situations that arise in the workplace. One note before we dive in: I wince every time I hear the term “dealing with difficult people.” We deal with situations, not people.
SITUATION: You work for someone who doesn’t provide enough feedback.
Managers are frequently promoted into management because they’re good at their jobs. But doing something well and coaching someone else to do it are not the same thing. If all you hear from your boss is that you’re doing a good job, and if you’ve tried the techniques for getting more feedback and that hasn’t worked, get feedback from a different source.
Simply ask your colleagues for specific feedback, and give coworkers permission to tell you. If the feedback isn’t specific enough or you doubt its validity, ask someone else until you either get useful information or can validate the feedback you’re questioning. While you deserve a boss who provides regular and specific feed- back, you won’t always have one.
SITUATION: You were promoted and now your former coworkers and friends work for you.
When you get promoted above coworkers and friends, I suggest having a one-on-one conversation with each new direct report and saying, “We were peers and friends, and now I’m your boss. It’s awkward for me, and I have to assume it’s awkward for you as well. I want us to have a good working relationship. The nature of our relationship will have to change. Before we go there, I want to give us both a chance to talk about how we’re feeling. Want to start? What’s this like for you?”
Choose your own words. The more transparent and willing you are to speak candidly about things people are thinking but not saying, the more respect you’ll earn and the more solid your relationships will be.
SITUATION: Someone tells you about a problem but asks you not to say anything. Or someone gives you permission to pass the feedback on but doesn’t want to be identified as the source of the information.
Being told something in confidence and then asked not to take action puts you in a very awkward position. When this happens, ask the person why he told you. Request that he not do it again unless he wants you to do something with the information.
There are times you simply cannot keep confidences. If this is the case, go back to the person who confided in you and tell her what you’re going to do. Don’t let her hear about it from someone else. The conversation could go something like this:
“Mary, I appreciate you telling me about the client’s complaint. I know you asked me not to share it, and I want to respect your confidentiality. But it’s a big deal and I have to pass on the feedback. How can I share the information so that you’re comfortable? Do you want to talk to the director of sales yourself? I’m sure he’ll be receptive. Or do you want me to talk to him?”
SITUATION: Every time you give feedback to a certain person on your team, she cries.
Giving a crier feedback is uncomfortable. Some people say people cry to manipulate and get out of a situation. I don’t think that’s true. I think we have a natural reaction to feedback and stress. Some of us clam up and say nothing, some of us get angry, and some of us cry. You are not responsible for how the recipient feels or reacts. When the person is calm, resume the conversation.
Related post: 16 difficult office situations and how to deal with them