Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Charge: Your Emotions – The Cost: Your Job

I was reading a blog today about how a boss and an employee got into a heated argument that started in a morning meeting and then escalated into the afternoon. In the argument the boss brought up the job performance of the employee and how he wasn't showing productivity. Apparently, that was the straw that broke the camel's back and the employee stormed out of the office saying that he was done!

How could this situation have been avoided? Even without knowing the explicit details and the relationship between the boss and the employee, I can conclude that this is NOT the way to handle a workplace disagreement. Why? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in April, the national unemployment rate is at 9.9 percent. Naturally, if unemployment is continuing to rise, so is the need for jobs. But of course, we don't think about these numbers as we are being coerced into a situation at work that could escalate our emotions and make us have regrets later. Here are some suggestions on how to halt the emotional train before it leaves the depot:

Take a breath and pause for an unlimited amount of time.
Again without knowing the specifics of the disagreement, we know that it started in a meeting. We have all attended meetings that have made us angry, maybe because it was a time waster, your boss took the credit for something that was clearly your idea, or because you don't get along with the attendees and you are uncomfortable. Whatever the reason, making a public statement of your disgust or allowing your body language to speak for you is inappropriate.

As difficult as it may be to sit in the meeting, JUST DO IT! If it is too difficult, be professional, politely excuse yourself, and go for a short walk and count from 50 (increase the number depending on your anger level) – backwards! By counting backwards and focusing on the numbers, it is more difficult to focus on the actual stress element and therefore, you become more relaxed.

Think before reacting.

Think about the ramifications if you react one way versus another. In your head, go over the different scenarios that could possibly occur based on your reactions. Nine times out of 10, overreacting would be a career killer and you will become a part of the Bureau of Labor's statistics.

Have a private conversation with the person who you have conflict with.

Take some time to "emotionally settle down." Just as you would not send an email when you are angry or upset, don't ask to meet with the individual until you have a clear, strategic plan of how you will approach the topic and express your thoughts. Leave feelings out of the equation!

Listen with an open mind to the opposition and be prepared to accept solutions that are not in your favor.
Not all resolutions will be in your favor. It is important to listen to the other person's views and take them into consideration. You may have to agree to disagree, but at least you will have expressed your thoughts in a professional manner and you will still have a job. Be assertive, state your case, and give and ask for solutions.

Truth Hurts. How will you deal with it?
When the supervisor in the above mentioned situation, started talking about the employee's job performance, it struck a nerve! Again, we don't know if this employee has been constantly informed of his job performance or if this was the first he had heard of it. When emotions are heightened, people begin to confess and "bring to light" many negative things that could further set off the emotional meter. The best way to deal with this is to ask for specific examples and then seek solutions on how to improve. Obviously, this supervisor is unhappy with this employee's work ethic, the employee should have inquired further to get more clarification- this is all a part of professional development and improving ourselves.

Learning how to diffuse a negative workplace situation can be difficult, but we need to start with ourselves. An attitude adjustment is just the beginning to conflict resolution and can be the means to a positive ending.