Maybe you can identify with what I’m going to talk about here today, which is that moment when someone you are talking with appears to be talking about the behaviour or attitude of other people and you suddenly realize that, (gasp!) they are actually talking about you!
For example, you’re at team meeting and everybody is discussing pitching in and pulling in the same direction, following some new initiative that the group had decided on two months ago, and yet some people appear to mavericks and doing their own thing instead. You find the whole item tediously boring and a waste of time on the agenda but you just do a slow burn waiting for the next item to come up. Then the Team Leader asks you directly for your thoughts and all eyes are on you. That’s when it hits you that everybody is talking about you but none of them want to confront you directly and individually.
I have found many situations over the years where individual people failed to recognize that their own behaviour, words, actions, and attitudes were what needed attention and change, and the majority of co-workers were constantly trying to get the person to see themselves with a problem to address. So why not just come out and tell somebody they’ve got to change? Well maybe it’s concern over not hurting someone’s feelings, or not wanting to stir up a bigger problem. After all, you have to work with this person on a daily basis.
Being self-aware is the key to addressing these kind of problems. Think for example of a sailboat sailing from Point A to Point B. If the winds are favourable, it may be quite possible to move in a fairly direct line. However, when the winds don’t blow your way, the sailboat has to tack, going a little left, then a little right, all the time moving forward but not in a direct line. Working with people is sometimes like that. To get where you want to be, the best approach is to tack; to gauge moods of others, policy changes, new directives, and make some adjustments to your way of doing things.
I wrote once in a previous blog about attitude and the need to have a positive one; and one person I won’t name responded with what was exactly what I’m talking about here today. Their response was to talk about the negative opinion of other people, but the words used revealed more about the writer than those whom they were writing about. Over time, I have received many such comments from this person responding to the various blogs I’ve written, and sad to say I think the person has failed to see themselves much of the time.
Now it’s not like I work with this person, and I’ve never met them in person, so is it fair to make a judgement on the complete person based on the limited interaction I’ve had and continue to have? You bet it is. You see you and I make those kind of judgements and hold opinions about others all the time. Have you never looked at a photo of someone’s Linkedin Avatar and made all kinds of assumptions about their character, their drive, their self-esteem, their confidence, their enthusiasm, etc. based on nothing more than their picture? And if there’s no photo at all, don’t you find yourself wishing there was one so you could form a truer image of who the person is?
My advice for what it’s worth, is that when other people are talking with you, do your very best to listen with an open mind, and be receptive to feedback. If others see you as receptive, they’ll be more comfortable being honest with you and it may be that the feedback you get will initially sting but eventually move you forward.
If you yourself have ever taken the first step to talk to someone else about something personal in them that you would like changed, you’ve probably stressed a little or a lot about how to go about it and approach the subject without hurting the person. This is predominately because of your care and concern for the person; hoping to alter the behaviour and seperate the person from the behaviour. So thinking of this stress you felt, empathize with someone reaching out to you and the energy they have taken to try to discuss something with you. It’s not easy to say or hear things that are personal when there’s an issue.
Recognize too that if some issue is brought up at a team meeting or with a gathering of your co-workers, the issue goes well beyond a single person, and is impacting on many others around you. Best in these situations to hear what’s being said, then give yourself time to reflect and consider prior to becoming defensive and saying things you might soon regret.
And a word to those who take the initiative to speak to a co-worker with an issue; deliver your message with care, empathy and compassion. These kind of things may be hard to receive and therefore finding the right setting and time is essential.
All the best.