Home' Border Enterprise : Summer-Autumn 2011-2012 Contents enterprise
Vol 5. Summer/Autumn
IT'S tough enough having awkward
conversations with friends and family; it's
even trickier at work. Think of all the delicate
egos and overemotional basket cases. So, I
asked some workplace specialists to share
how they'd tackle the most awkward workplace
The gossiper: Loves talking about people
behind their back
Dr Sylvie Vanasse is the director of Parlure
Consulting. She believes the first step should be
to acknowledge the gossiper's frustration. Then,
ask if they've spoken with the person they're
gossiping about. For example: "Have you talked
to John about how you felt? You are talking to
me about it but your issue will not get resolved
until you address it directly with John."
If the gossiper continues, express your
discomfort: "I understand that you need to
share some frustrations with me but these types
of conversations, when third parties are involved
but absent from the conversation, make me
really uncomfortable. I also believe that they are
unproductive because the person is not here to
respond and defend themselves."
The loud talker: A shattering laugh, a booming
voice, and a lot of noise
Gary Ryan, director of Organisations That
Matter, suggests it's wise to create a set
of agreed behaviours in advance, with an
agreement among colleagues on what to do if
they're broken. That way, should anyone not
adhere to them, it's easier to address.
If those agreed behaviours aren't in place,
he recommends starting the conversation by
asking the loud talker if they're open to some
feedback. If the answer is 'yes', state the
problem clearly. If the answer is 'no', walk away.
The bad breather: The colleague with bad
Niall Kennedy, behaviourist at Preferred
Training Networks, advises managers to open
the conversation by discussing the value of
feedback and how "sometimes we may not
be aware of blind spots that we have and the
impact that our blind spots may have on our
relationships with our colleagues".
If you're not the manager, ask the person if he
(or she) wants to receive feedback. If they do,
Niall suggests this: "You probably don't realise
this, and I would hate to hurt your feelings or
offend you in any way, but I thought I better tell
you in case no one else has been kind enough
to tell you, but on the odd occasion I have
noticed that your breath is a little strong. Please
forgive me if this feedback is hurtful to hear, but
I couldn't bear you not being told."
The toucher: Loves body contact -- hugs,
kisses, pats, rubs, etc
Richard Kasperczyk, organisational
psychologist at ResolutionsRTK, recommends
a humorous approach first. For example, take
a step back when they get too close and subtly
say, "Whoa, that's a bit close for comfort. How
about if we just shake hands?"
If that doesn't work, Richard suggests inviting
the toucher to a meeting where you admit how
you feel. For example: "I would like to be open
and honest with you, so I need you to know
that I feel uncomfortable when you touch me.
It's just the way I am. I need to have a larger
personal space. Is that OK with you?"
The chatterer: Enjoys a chinwag -- a lot.
Probably too much
It's important to control your tone and leave
personality traits out of the conversation on
this subject, says Sam Galea, an emotional
intelligence coach at Coachability. Don't
apportion blame, and put yourself in your
colleague's place to understand the other point
Once you've had the conversation, he
suggests ending it by making the request
explicit. For example: "I understand your
reasons now but I have some real time
constraints and can't afford to talk as much
as you want -- so I would like us to agree that
talking at my desk is to be cut by 75 per cent."
The joker: The source of incessant jokes, most
of them not funny
Alan Sieler, coach at the Newfield Institute,
suggests pointing out to the joker that he
seems to enjoy making jokes, and then ask him
to share what responses he receives from other
people. If the joker says that people think he's
funny, ask him how he knows that to be true.
Continue the line of questioning to raise his
awareness of the truth.
Failing that, Alan recommends being blunt by
telling the joker that colleagues have reported
his jokes as "inappropriate, unwelcome and not
funny". Invite him to approach people directly to
see if that assessment is accurate.
The stinker: Usually a result of bad body odour,
this person reeks
Executive manager of teambuilding game
Conversations, Barry Auchettl, warns that you
shouldn't tell someone they have bad body
odour if no rapport exists between the two of
you. An existing relationship is essential.
He also cautions to be mindful of the words
you use and their impact. For example, when
describing the regularity of someone's body
odour, it's better to use words like "recently"
rather than words like "always".
The risqué dresser: Short skirts, lots of
cleavage, that kinda thing
A direct statement can be just the job here.
Lynne Lloyd, managing director of People
Results recommends this style of opening:
"Cheryl, I wanted to discuss the acceptable
dress code in our organisation. What I have
noticed is that even though you are always
well groomed, your choices of work clothes
are frequently not appropriate. For example,
Upon stating your case, Lynne recommends
this line: "I realise that you have your own
personal style and preferences. Let's see if we
can work out some guidelines together on what
is appropriate and what is not." Then, ask the
employee how she feels in response to what
you've said, and end the meeting with some
clear next steps.
- James Adonis
share how they'd tackle
the eight most awkward
conversations at work,
reports James Adonis
Ask the gossiper if they've spoken with the person they're gossiping about.
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