It is a rare workplace where people never experience any unhelpful behaviour from others; and as a coach, you will inevitably work with a client who will ask for strategies for how to deal with a difficult employee. You will of course advise them to speak to the person, but it isn’t quite that easy is it?
When difficult behaviour does start affecting us, or the people around us, the fear of approaching someone often stops us from doing anything about it. Research* has shown that this fear is often grounded in a lack of confidence in their ability to handle such a situation, a fear of damaging the relationship with the offending person, or making the situation worse, with 22% of US workers choosing to avoid approaching someone for these reasons.
Even if you have mustered the courage to talk to them, there is a challenge of knowing how to have the right conversation in the right way:
The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. – Dorothy Nevill
When affected by unhelpful behaviour it can be easy to let emotions take over and reprimand a person, rather than seek the cause behind the behaviour. What is most needed is a way to have a deep, but anxiety-free conversation with someone that encourages dialogue between parties to understand the behaviour and seek change.
The approach we recommend for this type of conversation is based on the principles of Non-Violent Communication, a technique first developed by Marshall Rosenberg as a peace-making tool during civil rights movement in the 1960s. It offers a structured process for requesting change through the honest expression of feelings and needs and is based on three principles:
• Self-empathy: Developing and acknowledging your own inner feelings
• Empathy: Listening to your colleague and supporting them
• Honest self-expression: Expressing your own feelings and acknowledging the feelings of others