Positive behavior models at work

Question posed: Sure, these are tough times in lots of different contexts. But some of my colleagues are letting their personal anxiety make them testy and hard to get along with at work, which makes me wonder if they want to be fired for bad behaviour. How do I cope with them?

Answer: Yes, difficult colleagues create an atmosphere that’s hard to breathe. It sounds like you understand reactions to tough times vary, and some people act out their fears and anxieties. Your compassion for what they are experiencing is a great start. I read into your question that it isn’t your job to fix other people’s long-term job prospects, resolve their personal issues, and lead your organization to a healthier economy. You can still make your corner of the workplace better in your own way. Here’s ideas for coping with a situation in which you need to both deal with difficult people and be able to do your own job:Your everyday conduct models behavior for others

Behavior seems to be following the worsening economic indicators, which is viewed by some as a justifiable response to stress. This behavior can be everything from being faster to lose one’s temper to outright violence. Once this starts in the workplace or at home, it damages relationships and creates toxic conditions, unless it is dealt with immediately and well. You have decided to not participate in the drama while still actively and positively engaging with the team, for which you deserve congratulations.

What is the corporate culture?

Many times, policies and structures support the behavior that occurs. The culture supports behavior by ignoring what’s going on, failing to have policies that let people know what is/is not acceptable behavor, inaction when problems are raised, or inappropriate or disproportionate actions. The structures support bad behavior by having policies that aren’t enforced, putting in place poorly designed and inadequately staffed conflict management systems, or not giving the appropriate conflict management systems the resources needed to work well. This is not a complete list of the ways corporate culture fosters stress.

Dealing with others’ behavior 

Ideally, everyone will feel fairly treated and respected. That would be a good foundation for peaceful relationships. Since we all have different definitions of what this might mean or look like or how it might be achieved, we also need skills for dealing with our feelings when we believe we are unfairly treated and disrespected.

What resources exist in your workplace to help people have more internal strategies than just acting out their frustrations and anger at matters beyond their control? For example, some workplaces have “zero tolerance” and other policies that attempt to enforce good behavior. Is there more that can be done to relieve the stress contributing to the acting out? What will create more peaceful environments at work?

Skills that everyone can master

Personal skills don’t require corporate approval, policies or resources to use when needed. For you to cope with difficult people in order to do your job, you can communicate in conflict competent ways.

Check meaning: Start right away by checking meaning when someone communicates. It’s easy to react to assumed meaning in a message, without checking on whether our assumption about his or her intended meaning is correct.

Take responsibility: Taking responsibility for our reactions is another good practice. When something happens, it may not be “done to us” and we need not react as if it were personally aimed in our direction.

Deal with uncertainty: Uncertainty makes us feel insecure and shaky, which can cause us to behave differently than if we had more information to guide us. Dealing well with uncertainty is a skill that can be developed.

Think beyond either/or options: Learning to generate options and create “what if”scenarios so that we feel better prepared for more eventualities will help us create our own sense of security instead of just reacting to what we think others should be giving us.

Grow resilient: Fostering a sense of resiliency and belief in our capacity to be okay is another useful skill for feeling peaceful in our relationships. Resilient people take adversity and uncertainty in better humor because they work with the situation as it arises, rather than catastrophizing about what awful things will come out of the situation.

Become Conflict Competent

Yes, many situations are very difficult right now. how we deal with those adverse conditions is the measure of who we want to be and how we value the relationships we are able to enjoy.

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