Workplace Violence: Is Someone Toxic to Your Leadership?
The following is an excerpt from Tough Talks® in Tough Times: What Bosses Need to Know to Deliver Bad News, Motivate Employees & Stay Sane. Author Jean Palmer Heck, an international conference speaker, offers advise for dealing with the bully in your business.
Is someone toxic to your leadership?
Angela F. was a people pleaser. Highly respected in her field, she was considered an amiable person who could also speak bluntly when necessary to shepherd projects through obstacles. Even when she was the lead worker on a job, she always made sure that others got their chance to shine.
Angela was asked to chair a committee overseeing a yearlong project for a professional accounting society. On the surface, this should have been a routine undertaking, but the people involved in the project put this confident, Ivy League graduate off her stride.
The project called for innovative thinking that would challenge the society to change its modus operandi. In tough economic times, its membership had dwindled, its resources were scarce, and many of the veteran members pined “for the good old days.” The leading proponent for the status quo, Jack, a former officer in the society, was very argumentative as a committee member.
During one conversation Angela had with the colleague-turned-adversary, everything turned ugly. She recalls it this way: “I knew Jack was capable of finding fault with others, but when he turned his venomous comments on me, I literally had an anxiety attack. I couldn’t speak. I could barely breathe.
“Out of nowhere, he blamed me for causing unnecessary turmoil by usurping his power,” she continues. “We’re a volunteer organization. Believe me, there is no glory in this work. But apparently there are politics, and I had no desire to play his kind.”
When he brought up “what other people thought of her leadership style,” Angela was devastated. She was ready to give in and allow the status quo to prevail. Fortunately, she sought the advice of a trusted advisor who knew the personalities of the key players and had experience working with difficult people. Although this advisor was willing to mediate the situation, Angela knew she needed to “buck up” and give a tough talk.
The advisor then role-played a tough talk scenario with her. “It turned out to be a real eye-opener for me,” Angela says. “My advisor was able to show me how I could easily be bullied into letting Jack have his way, which I knew was toxic to my leadership role and a step backward for the organization.”
So at her advisor’s suggestion, she wrote down the following points to prepare for her tough talk:
1. This is NOT about me. It is about Jack and his need for power.
2. When Jack bullies me, ask this question: “What’s in the best interests of the accounting society?” That takes the personalities out of the issue.
3. I value his service to the society in the past, but I am ultimately responsible for moving the group forward in the present.
4. If he offers to step down from participating, just say “Thank you” and quit talking.
“Knowing what to say and practicing how to address conflict did make the tough talk easier. And learning when to quit talking was golden.” Jack later decided to take a sabbatical from active leadership in the society and Angela is back in stride.
©Real-Impact Inc. and Jean Palmer Heck
Tough Talks® in Tough Times: What Bosses Need to Know to Deliver Bad News, Motivate Employees & Stay Sane is available in print and digital form from all major on-line bookstores and from the author directly. Please visit:www.toughtalks.biz.