The other day I was talking to a friend whose birthday is coming up. ‘Not much fun in these isolated days,’ I started our conversation. The frown I saw appearing on her face seemed to split the screen in two.
‘I’m working day and night!’ There was a slight wobble in her voice. ‘Other colleagues appreciate what I do. They tell me they’re happy that finally somebody takes the lead. But my boss just simply blocks me. Whatever I say or do, it’s wrong in her eyes. I can’t decide whether to call in sick, or start looking for another job.’
‘For sure there is another option,’ I said. ‘You’ve been here before.’
‘Exactly!’ she exclaimed. ‘I don’t want to go through that same struggle again. I should be at the height of my career, contributing all my knowledge and experience instead of having to fight a know-it-all boss who, on top of it, came in after me!’
In her previous job my friend’s boss suddenly turned against her. His malicious manipulations for reasons she didn’t understand nearly destroyed her. I helped her analyse what had happened, at a pinch avoid burnout, and achieve an elegant exit-strategy. Now, I could sense how she felt cornered again.
Have you ever been in that situation?
My friend felt so wronged that she wanted to urgently do something to change the dynamic. In her mind she was composing a series of frank emails, exposing all the mistakes she had seen this new-comer boss make. She was playing with the thought of confronting her boss in front of both their superior, and other scenarios.
When people feel under attack, it makes them want to lash out. They can’t help it, it’s a subconscious survival response. When that is switched on, the area of the brain where self-control and overseeing the consequences of one’s actions are seated, may go offline. And even though a work-setting affects the extent of what you can do, the result can be damaging.
Do you recognise that feeling that you’re overflowing with good intentions, but they land on barren earth, no matter how hard you try? And that someone with more power than you has it in for you? If so, you may understand my friend’s frustration. But frustration is not a good advisor. I managed to convince my friend that she might be damaging herself more than the other by such actions. Together we thought of a different way to deal with the problem.
Over the years that I have been working with clients I’ve come to realise how true the expression is that it takes two to tango. By that I mean to say that even though we can’t immediately change the unpleasant behaviour of others, we can switch off our own subconscious triggers. When we take a different step in the dance, the other can’t help but do something else too.
So many clients have shared their surprise with me when all of a sudden that perceived opponent started behaving in a nice way.
My friend’s issues are being resolved as I write this. But work remains to be done. Maybe you recognised yourself in this story. If you would like to know the one essential secret about impact, and what you can do immediately to increase it, click on the picture to find out for free.