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I Can't Work With You When You're Like This ...

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

In my corporate workshops I often talk to participants about taking early proactive management action when they first notice an issue arise with a team member. At this early stage there is a choice to make, do I live with the situation or deal with it?

This is a theme my co-author Ken Cameron talk about in our recently published book 'I Need To F***ing Talk To You - The Art Of Navigating Difficult Workplace Conversations'

What follows is an extract from our book where we consider this specific point....

'When dealing with the Sun Hat and the Viking Helmet, the first two hats on our spectrum, many leaders will dedicate their energies to coaching these individuals by offering empathy or logic.

This is a fool’s errand.

A Sun Hat and a Viking Helmet can’t simply be coached on how to work effectively with change. From the perspective of the Sun Hat and Viking Helmet, change isn’t necessary and may even be counterproductive. A standard coaching approach won’t work with someone who can’t or won’t admit they need to adjust their behaviour.

As we’ll see in the first half of this book, initially you must make Sun Hats and Viking Helmets aware of their behaviour and its effect on others. Only once they accept these facts and embrace the need for change, will they be in a position for your coaching to have a positive impact.

These are the things we’re not saying in difficult workplace conversations. There are ways we can say it better, and with greater clarity, so that the message sinks in and your employees are more likely to remove their hats and get to work.

The decision to have a conversation is the first and most important decision you need to make. Already after reading the prologue, you’ve learned you need to successfully

separate the behaviour from the person. You’ve identified what style of hat they’re wearing and by extension, what kind of behaviour the person is exhibiting. You’ve determined the kind of conversation you need to have.'

I hope you're finding this blog useful. As you continue your leadership journey, don't forget that here at Bluegem Learning we are always here to assist you.

Back to the book ...

'Now you need to decide if you’re going to live with this behaviour or if you’re going to fix it. There may be good reasons to live with it. The individual may be going through a

difficult time for personal reasons, such as a divorce or the declining health of a loved one. The individual may be adjusting to a reorganization or a new way of working. An

exciting project may have been shelved or defunded or put on hiatus. All of these may be good reasons to cut your employee some slack.

If you’re going to live with this behaviour, then commit to that decision. Be intentional about it and stop complaining about this individual to your colleagues, friends and family. By doing so, you’re transferring your own inability or unwillingness to address the issue onto them and once again unfairly demonizing them and positioning yourself as a martyr.

Keep in mind that each of the circumstances we’ve outlined is, or should be, temporary. It’s perfectly ok for any one of us to put on a Viking Helmet or a Sun Hat for a short period of time. We all have bad days so the key words here are “days” and “temporary”. You’ll want to keep an eye on this individual and their behaviour, and if it doesn’t clear up in short order and if isn’t resolving itself, then you may need to address it.

The fact is not addressing the behaviour isn’t really doing anyone any favours. Sometimes we can fool ourselves into thinking that the problem will go away on its own accord, or that their fellow employees will apply peer pressure to change them, or that they’ll figure it out on their own because it’s so fxxxing obvious that they’re behaving inappropriately.

This approach never works. Instead, the opposite happens; usually questionable behaviour starts out as a small irritant but when left unchecked, becomes a major issue that leads to discipline or dismissal. How then, have we supported the employee by not addressing the matter early on? Instead, they would be quite justified in saying they had been blindsided because no one ever told them they were doing anything wrong.

Transferring the person to another department isn’t resolving the situation either. In this instance, you’re just taking your basket of snakes and handing it to another leader and suggesting that they deal with it. Except for the fact that you’re not even giving them the courtesy of telling them that you’re handing them a basket of snakes. Which means, you’re guaranteeing that they’ll get bitten as soon as they open the lid. A manager who decides that it isn’t their role to address a problem behaviour, is just letting the responsibility slide off their shoulders as if their suit were made of Teflon.

Which means you have a choice to make. You can fix it but the only way to fix behaviour is to challenge it.'

If you enjoyed the extract, why not check out my new book, co-written with Ken Cameron.

You can now order copies of our book here.

"Sometimes conversations suck, but you need to have them, and this book lays out how. Russell and Ken have put together and road-tested simple, up-front, and thoughtful approaches to awkward and difficult workplace conversations."

Andrew Phung, CBC's Kim's Convenience

Check out our podcast here, new episodes bi-weekly ...

Well that's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the blog and I'll be back next week with more, until then ... be a leader not just a boss!

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