Breaking Bad at Work... Managing People
with Love and Logic
When an employee has just tested positive for drugs or alcohol on the job do we feel sorry for them, send them home, tell them not to do it again, and hope their hangover doesn’t keep them
out tomorrow too? After all, they promised they’ll never let this happen again and it was just an accident.
When they've been caught behaving badly and it comes out that, through no fault of their own, they've been through hell at home and it's carried over to the workplace we want to have some compassion. But is compassion the best response?
Human Resources professionals and supervisors can’t get emotionally involved; but if we could we would call it “tough love”. Of course, we still need to show compassion but we can’t manage people with emotions because we would end up feeling sorry for everybody and not disciplining, for the most part? We’d be acting like a "rescuing parent" who comes to the rescue every time their child does something wrong. Those parents are referred to in the book "Parenting Teens with Love and Logic" as helicopter parents, hovering over their child to pick them up each time they fall. The opposite parental behavior (also unhealthy) is the drill sergeant parent, who does as the title implies.
A quote from an unknown author says “You can’t talk yourself out of a problem you behaved yourself into; You can restore trust through credibility and behavior.” I’ve used this quote in supervisory training when supervisors are debating a dilemma about poor behavior by a subordinate. I’ve also used it on my teens, who seem to think they can just make up for their poor behavior by being nice or doing chores. I’ve had to explain it like this…”your effort to do extra chores without being told does not make up for the behavior you’ve displayed. Your trust will be earned back over time of acting more responsibly… (and) no, I don’t know how long that will take” (another quote I love to use sometimes is "failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part").
As I learned from the book, by Foster Cline, MD and Jim Fay, titled "Parenting Teens with Love and Logic" the emotions control us. Reacting with emotions can hand control over to the other party or, in my case, my teens and for goodness sake, I do not want to give them control for at least a few more years. The recommended rule of thumb of counting to ten, or leaving the situation to deal with until later, makes sense. While teaching supervisors, I always stress the urgency of taking care of a behavior matter as soon as possible, but there may need to be that cooling down period if our emotions come into play. By all means keep your emotions in check and allow yourself time to reflect on what has taken place.
Keep Your Words Tactical
As in the Verbal Judo training, by renowned expert Dr. George Thompson, your words should be “tactical.” Verbal Judo is well known for its law enforcement applications in dealing with irate individuals during arrests or traffic stops. If your response is not tactical, you hand control over to your adversary by reacting emotionally with anger or disbelief. You are then at their mercy. You are no longer in control of the situation. That's why we always hear how we must remain calm to keep control. Just remember to think before you speak, there’s no hurry. It always comes out better in the end when your words are tactical; always! If you can master (remain calm for) the first 30 seconds it is usually downhill from there.
The many years I spent in sales we often referred to the ability to keep calm and remain assertive as being "politely persistent". "Stay calm" are also the words of advice I have used many times while teaching employees how to deal with workplace violence. If you don't [stay calm], your actions could escalate the situation, depending on how large your reaction is. Again, it hands control over to the other party who in turn gets more worked up over the situation. Then things can escalate out of control.
Manage Your Time, Stay Out of Crisis Mode
Since you are reading this article you probably already understand that in order to improve your own performance and extend your own knowledge base you need to be managing your time efficiently. That translates to making an effort to spend more time in Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix “quadrant II”, from his book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People". That is the place where we are spending time doing the things that are important, but not urgent. We are then taking the preventative measures to manage the amount of time we are spending in crisis mode, putting out fires. We are also limiting our time spent on time-wasters such as pet projects, personal emails and phone calls or just chatting too much. This is the only way we can afford to spend more time in quadrant II. We take the time from somewhere else. And if we're staying out of crisis mode we're heading off the majority of those emotional challenges. We're also reducing our own stress which, we've learned, can lead to earlier onset of stress disorders and disease.
Control Emotions for Work and Home
The more control we have over our emotions the more we can avoid the time-wasters and making poor decisions in regard to employee behavior or performance. Conversely, the less we control our emotions the less we have control over those situations. This can carry over into our home life as well.
Those of us in human resources realize that we must be assertive with all employees. This carries over to many other professions and into the home as well. The alternatives are passiveness or aggressiveness. When we are not assertive we also get caught up in the Rescuer-Persecutor-Victim emotional triangle and lose control. While it is important for us to keep control of our emotions it is also extremely helpful for everyone around us to keep that same emotional control. Then we would all get along better, and wouldn't that be great. I highly recommend reading any of the books I have mentioned herewith and taking some assertiveness training or reading the book "Asserting Yourself: A Practical Guide to Positive Change" by Sharon Anthony Bower and Gordon H. Bower. I also highly recommend getting some Verbal Judo training, and not just for those of us in human resources, but for everyone.