Thursday, November 14, 2013

Abnormal Behavior Works in the Workplace

Will a normal person please stand up? I asked this question during a presentation once in a crowded room of 125 attendees and everyone stood up. I was not surprised. We all think we are ‘normal.’ But what does ‘normal’ really mean? The Webster Dictionary defines normal as average, a typical state or condition; the usual. Would you like to rethink your answer now? Think about the context which ‘normal’ is used. Yes, we want a normal heart rate. Of course, we want a normal weight; but do you really want to behave as an average or usual person?

I was watching a scene on a television show of two co-workers having a private chat that turned into a heated conversation. They were friends as well as colleagues; one of them noticed that the other had become distant and less conversational and decided to confront him about his behavior. She started by saying, “I’m worried about you.”

“Why are you worried? I come to work, do my job, and go home. I give appropriate emotional responses and take social cues from behavior. I am being normal. Why are you worried?” Replied the slightly agitated co-worker.

I was halted by the idea that her co-worker thought that he was being ‘normal’ by performing those specific tasks. Here’s a question: Do you give appropriate emotional responses and take social cues from behavior? Be honest. These will help… 

When was the last time you overreacted to a situation at work that almost cost you your job, or at least a reprimand?

How did you react during your last performance review when your supervisor told you the areas you needed improvement in?

What did you do when your supervisor showed disapproval or yelled at you in front of other employees? 

Get the idea? Were you being ‘normal’ in any of those situations according to the agitated co-worker? In today’s society, it is not normal to give appropriate emotional responses and take social cues from behavior because so few people know how to do it! It’s actually abnormal.  It’s irregular, odd, and even strange. In fact, people view negative behavior as the norm. Is that a shocker? Why else is there so much poor leadership and these people still have jobs? Maybe that’s why the co-worker was worried, because he wasn't acting normal? Hmm….

It’s time to start behaving abnormally. Don’t live up to people’s expectations – be irregular! Here’s how:
1. Use a QTIP – Quit Taking It Personal. Here’s an interesting concept: It is not always about you. I know you’re disappointed, but don’t let that bother you- it’s a good thing. We all have things going on outside of work: relationships, family, friends, negative self-talk, and the list goes on. Stop letting others' behavior dictate yours; you are in control and once you let go of the “reins of control,” you have fallen off the chariot. Now look at you- bruised, scarred, and hurt. 

2. Trump a Negative with a Double Positive. Every time a colleague approaches you with negativity, come up with two positives either about the topic or off topic. Change the subject if you must, and smile while you say it. In other words, remain positive. Did you know you can have conversations about negative situations that result in positive outcomes? That’s another blog, stay tuned.

3. Observe Non-Verbal Cues. Study your co-workers. Like bird watchers sitting on a bench in a park, or walking along a path and observing the accentuation of a bird, do the same with your colleagues. In the next meeting, casually take a look around the room, who is sitting up straight,  slouching, yawning, or checking text messages, you will understand them more if you know their body language. Body language tells the real story. Be aware of your own as well. 

4. Ask questions. As if you really wanted to hear more negativity, right? The concept is two-fold. Asking questions will allow you to gather your thoughts as the other person is spouting off responses to your inquiries. We love to talk; it’s a way of getting things off our chests. The second benefit is to identify their thought processes. Don’t act like you don’t care. These people make-up your “work family,” many of you spend more time with them than your own family. Some of us take our co-workers home in our minds and rant to our significant others or anybody who will listen about how these people pushed our buttons today. So, if you are carrying these people around with you mentally, it’s only fair to get in their heads too.

In the previous questions I asked about reactions not feelings. Because it is ‘normal’ to feel whatever the first emotion was that made you react in a manner that was probably unpleasant. The abnormality is when you react differently and not the usual or average response which would have been any emotion related to anger, sadness, frustration, or embarrassment. These are just a few of the first emotional responses to surface. 

So ask yourself, do you want to stay in control or be controlled? You will step out of the “normal realm” when you decide to act instead of react. Practice the four methods mentioned to stay “emotionally in check.” 

If you need assistance, or have a specific situation you need to deal with, email me at for free guidance to becoming a successful, abnormal person.

1 comment:

Michelle Courtney DeFiore said...

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