Is someone at work on your last nerve?

Feb 06, 2024

Do you work with someone who is on your last nerve? 
Do you turn in the other direction when you pass this person in the hallway?
Is there someone at work who always talks over you at meetings?
Is there someone at work who dismisses your ideas, all the time?
Is there someone who challenges everything you say?
Is there someone who mocks you?
Do you supervise someone who continually underwhelms? 
Do you have a colleague who simply can't be satisfied... never enough money, lead time, vacation days...

Yeah. It sucks eh? 

So, here's my idea I share with my clients when they have no supervisory role for this person:

When they open their mouth, roll their eyes, sigh... just note the facts.
X just said these words, "That is not my responsibility."
X just moved their eyes back and forth. 
X just let out a heavy breath in the meeting. 

And, resist interpreting the words or action. 

I know this is hard, but often when they sigh, then you may sigh -- equally emotionally immature. 
They roll their eyes and then you under the table text your work BFF with "As if..." - emotionally immature.
They say words and your nervous system gets activated and you roll your eyes or sigh or respond angrily. Emotionally immature.

None of this is productive. 

I've even challenged clients to just count every time the person sighs, rolls their eyes, interrupts... instead of engaging, make it a game. There she goes - number 4. Hmmm... usually he interrupts 3 times, but today it was just 1. 
Don't get pulled in. 
Stay an emotional adult.

If the person is someone you supervise you can do something similar.
When you call them into your office to privately speak to them (praise in public, criticize in private) simply state what you saw, not what you think their action means. If you do the latter you are leading with an assumption, a story, a thought, an opinion --- not a fact. 

So, X I noticed that when I asked you to take on the Y project you rolled your eyes and sighed. Help me understand what your message was to me in that moment.

So, Y I heard you clearly say, "This is not responsibility." Expand on that please. Share what you do consider to be your responsibility. Where does your responsibility begin and end? etc... 

Not defensive. 
Not lecturing them.
Getting curious.
Not judging.
Help me understand ---- three powerful sentence starters.

Often, the employee/colleague isn't even aware of how others are interpreting their actions. They may be legitimately overwhelmed and tired of being tapped to pick up others'  slack. Or, they may be rigid with boundaries. Or they may be lazy. Or, they may not feel qualified. You don't know until you ask. 

So -- note the facts.
Then ask them the meaning of the facts.
Then begin an exploratory conversation. 

And if this is happening over and over and you've never discussed it with them (as their boss or their peer), start now. Do not go to another person to complain about them. Go to them directly and privately and ask for the full story. Then, and only then can you properly address if something has been unprofessional or is an SOS from them. And then you can solve for that armed with facts. (or if you are their peer, brainstorm with them).

This is the type of work I do with my clients - whether they are the boss or the peer. And, I promise you, if you master this approach you free up so much mental space, create far more trust, and contribute to a constructive culture. If you want to build this skill through coaching, I'd love to help you.

Help me understand how their actions are negatively impacting you...