Consider the Notion, Not the Emotion
Well, it’s been quite an emotional few days. Words like “amazed,” “fresh start” and “is this the end of civilization as we know it?” have been bandied about.
Things are a little tense.
But our work must continue. There are marketing plans to complete. Ideas to be discovered and nurtured. Objectives to be agreed upon, and strategies to be approved.
Many of us may find ourselves today sitting at conference room tables where good vibes and supportive voices are in short supply. Folks seem tense. Distracted. Or annoyed. Which is really annoying.
But retail marketing life must go on.
This is not a perfect world. And the imperfections that surround us are what keep things interesting. A compelling thought in the abstract, but what we need right now is a plan to move forward as a team, because that Merchandising VP across the table is staring daggers.
Sometimes understanding the negative dynamic makes cooperation easier. And at other times, it seems irrelevant. What’s critical is to accept that many people in our lives won’t always be as considerate, as mindful, as prompt or as kind as we’d like.
It’s possible to talk with and work alongside people we don’t like; in fact, it’s a great learning experience for setting boundaries and being compassionate with both ourselves and with others. Here are five ideas for navigating those tricky relationships within your team while creating great work:
Remember that it’s OK not to like someone.
Many people feel intensely guilty for not liking or thinking negative thoughts about a certain person. But actually, it’s perfectly okay to dislike someone’s personality. It’s no different than not liking a particular shirt in a clothing store, a particular fragrance or a particular item on a menu.
But one must remember that having a feeling and acting on that feeling are two very different things. Privately not liking something or someone and thinking to yourself, “Nope, no thanks!” is not a problem. The problem arises if you act on your feelings in an outward, hurtful way. Like tossing red paint on that shirt you hated. Part of having your emotional act together is being able to feel a certain way without needing to act on that feeling.
Express yourself honestly – and professionally.
If your team member is doing something specific that upsets you, you can – and should – have a civil conversation about it. Ideally, it should happen sooner rather than later, before it blows up into something irreconcilable.
Be specific, reasonable and matter-of-fact when sharing your points. Model the kind of respectful communication and workplace conduct that you’d like to see.
Harness the power of the pause.
The moment someone says something offensive to me or acts with little or no consideration, I form an opinion. I try not to be judgmental of course, but sometimes my lizard brain takes over. When someone’s actions or words trigger me, I tend to fast forward: I’ll find myself imagining how a project to turn out poorly, how they’ll screw up a partnership or how they’ll offend clients.
Because of the very fact that there’s infinite potential to fast forward your thoughts into the negative, it pays to take a pause. Take a deep breath and one big step back. Before jumping to any conclusions, make the decision to put the judgment on hold – for even just a second.
From this pause, you’ll be better able to proceed with a mind and heart that are at least slightly more open.
Honor your ability to stay neutral.
Once we’ve decided we don’t like someone, it is insanely (and deliciously) easy to view every single thing he or she does through a lens of negativity: “Looks like someone thinks she’s too good to refill the coffee pot!”
Remember that the team member you don’t like is not an intrinsically bad human. She is someone’s child. He is probably someone’s spouse or parent. People truly love her and look forward to her emails.
You don’t have to love this person, but it is critical to realize the difference between “not connecting” with someone and actively nursing a grudge against her.
Ultimately, negativity feeds a vicious cycle and makes things worse. The ability to remain neutral is inside everyone (even me, though I had to dig quite a bit to hit pay dirt). So honor it.
Give people the benefit of the doubt (or at least pretend to).
This one’s simple (but not necessarily the easiest). For instance, if a team member removes the presentation boards, perhaps say, “Oh! You probably didn’t realize that we’re still looking at those. No worries, though.” This diffuses self-consciousness, and allows the board grabber a chance for redemption.
Of course, you needn’t do this every single time someone screws up, but extending a bit of grace and generosity to co-workers (whether it’s real or a result of corporate acting) is beneficial. Not only is it a better idea to assume first that someone simply didn’t realize you weren’t finished with the boards, but it will make you feel less stirred up and stressed out.