Our actions stem from our beliefs and attitudes. You and I operate according to our conscious and unconscious convictions.
Just because a person bravely stands up to a bully does not make her a brave person in all circumstances. She sure acted with courage in this instance. This strengthens her and others’ confidence that she could do so under even more challenging conditions too.
Similarly, someone who trips over his feet is not a klutz. He acts clumsy.
Who we are is more than how we act.
The purpose of this series on toxic behavior at work is to present solutions which foster lasting, constructive behavior.
We do so by addressing the beliefs behind the behaviors.
Fixed and Growth Mindsets
Dr. Carol Dweck, professor at Columbia University, identified two underlying attitudes towards growth. These attitudes either extend or constrain our view of ourselves and of others.
People with the Fixed Mindset believe that people have qualities and they reach a maximum capability level and cannot go further. Like our height. My brother, a longstanding adult, is 6’2”. He won’t grow taller.
Folk with a Growth Mindset consider that we can change throughout life. Like muscle. My brother joined a gym. His biceps are more pronounced than a few months ago!
Moving Between Mindsets
Through our interactions with people we can encourage either of these mindsets.
Labels move people towards the fixed mindset. This is true whether it’s a positive or negative label. Once identified as toxic, always problematic. Once considered high-potential, always more is expected of them.
I seek to orient people towards the growth mindset and do so through constructive communication tools that provide choices within clear limits. This approach to communication renders people responsible for their actions and invites collaboration and mutual respect.
These tools are founded on the psychological principles of Dr. Alfred Adler and have been confirmed by neuroscience. For example, Dweck describes that people with a fixed mindset focus on declarative statements. “This is the way it is. Period.” Growth mindset folk entertain questions. “What will it take to move from here to there?”
Dweck asserts that people can change mindsets. The realization that these two worldviews exist has helped many recognize their fixed mindset tendencies and to intentionally focus on developing more of a growth perspective.
Toxic behavior is often a symptom of a fixed mindset. The person believes his label is superior to another’s. They therefore deserve special treatment. (They can be a bigger victim too.)
The purpose of this series on toxic behavior at work is to present growth mindset solutions to
Avoid falling into a fixed mindset trap
Invite challenging employees to grow
… thanks to relationship tools that are simultaneously firm and kind
Be in expectation that the colleague can and will progress
Toxic Behaviors at Work
When a person spreads rumors, it’s poisoning the atmosphere.
When a boss misuses power, he is killing trust.
I have noticed two categories of particularly venomous behaviors: undermining colleagues and expecting favored treatment. These share a worldview of needing to be “superior to others.”
Here is how they might be expressed at work:
Stealing ideas and taking the credit for oneself
Spreading rumors “Too bad Stacey lacks confidence.”
Focusing on faults and publicizing them “Here comes Joe who makes spills coffee on his pants.”
Initiating power struggles, as in passive-aggression “Too bad you did not take into account this information before making the decision.” They then present data that would have been helpful earlier.
Expecting favored treatment
Abusing power, no matter the level of responsibility
Judging others for behaviors they consider acceptable for themselves “Sam is so irresponsible for being late. I, however, have a legitimate excuse.”
Requesting special favors “I should get two presents at the holiday party because …” (it happened)
These behaviors leave a sour taste in the mouth. The value of people has been sullied.
Creating an Environment where People Grow
People can change. Colleagues with toxic behavior can become collaborative team members (and visa versa). I have personally seen it happen on numerous occasions. The name SoSooper stands for becoming super through bloopers. By learning from our professional and personal mistakes, we prosper in making a living and in life.
THE EFFECTIVE WAY OF CHANGING OTHER PEOPLE IS TO FIRST CHANGE YOURSELF.
Imagine a tennis ball bouncing against a wall. When you throw it repeatedly the same way, the ball will bounce back in a predictable fashion. How to get the ball to bounce differently?
Change the ball
Change the way you throw
Change the wall
Changing other people is like trying to alter the shape of the ball. It means constraining it into another shape, like force-wrapping it in tape. It works AS LONG AS THE PRESSURE LASTS. It’s uncomfortable for the person being compacted (and they resist), and it’s a pain to continuously apply pressure.
Create growth opportunities
The relationship tools in this series (and throughout my blog and in my trainings) present ways to change the way we toss a ball. We act differently SO THAT the person with unacceptable behavior faces the responsibility and results of his acts. These tools create learning situations which invite a constructive response from the offending party.
In the previous post, we looked at addressing toxic behavior by acknowledging a rift in the relationship, admitting we could have a role in it, and having them recognize that they share a responsibility in it too. Those tools were not about telling them about their faults. “Something is wrong with our interactions (not with you). Tell me how you understand the situation.”
This approach demands, in a firm and kind manner, that the other person account for his behavior.
When we change our behavior, it impacts multiple relationships. When we stop complaining to other colleagues about someone else’s toxic behavior, we open up to creativity and become more productive with all our team members. The environment flourishes.
Consider this actual situation. One boss, in the guise of being helpful, would touch women inappropriately. When they were in private, he would say with concern, “You have a thingee on your sweater,” and reach over and pluck a crumb (real or imagined?) from her chest.
He’s the boss. It’s her bosom. That’s an abuse of power. It’s also difficult to react to.
How to respond to unacceptable behavior in a way that respects yourself (setting clear limits) and respects the other person (not stooping to shame and blame behavior)?
Fixed Mindset Responses
She wanted to exclaim, “You jerk!”
That labels him and more firmly instills him in a fixed mindset.
She could respond with a clear command, “Please keep your hands off my chest.”
He is surely prepared for such a reaction and, with assumed hurt, would assure that he only wanted to help. HE is the victim for having been misunderstood.
Toxin diffusers worm their way out of responsibility.
Take Responsibility & Render Responsible
Consider this way of addressing the delicate dilemma with an “I” Message, one of the constructive communication tools that effectively establishes limits and invites the offender to a more respectful behavior. (“I” Messages are the topic of the next post.) Here is how it could play out:
A few days later, when the woman has had time to gather her thoughts, she is ready to set limits and point to positive collaboration. “When you plucked that crumb off my sweater, I felt uncomfortable and perplexed because I consider my chest to be a private space and yet our relationship is professional.”
“I feel more comfortable when there is a clear distinction between the two.”
The disruptive behavior has been contained without judging the person as toxic.
She cannot control his response, and we will address this further next week. In the meantime, please leave questions or comments below.
For many of us reflection seems like a luxury in our over-packed schedules and high-efficiency mindset.
We feel a need to respond immediately.
In our world of disruptive innovation and fast change, don’t we really need to initiate?
Proactivity requires reflection. Overcoming recurring stumbling blocks demands new solutions. In the words of Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
Reflection gets us thinking at another level.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein
Here are five situations when deeper level thinking is vital.
1. When Faced with Failure
The deal you were about to close fell through at the last minute.
You expected a positive response from a colleague and met a very different reaction.
An employee left the company or is in burnout.
We could be too close to the problem.
Try stepping back using space. Using Post-It notes, write one element of your challenge on each note and place them in order on a wall. Step back and discover the pattern. Where is the breaking point?
Try stepping back or forward with time. Two weeks ago, what was the situation like? Two weeks from now, what would you like to happen?
2. When Your Body “Complains”
You cannot sleep at night.
You have gained or lost weight.
You get sick.
Your digestion has gone havoc; gurgling sounds interrupt your meetings (!)
“If I knew I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself.” – 90 year-old Al McDonald, previous Managing Director (CEO) of McKinsey & Company
Your and my energy is finite. With exercise, nutrition, self-care, and planning we can increase our productivity … to a limit.
Physical signs point to a need for change. It’s time to re-evaluate the distribution of work. Are you accepting too many projects? Is it difficult to say, “No”?
Seeking recognition is a common goal. All humans experience the fundamental need to belong and to contribute to a meaningful community. Colleagues and neighbors may admire superhumans from afar. It’s people we come alongside. It’s relationships with fellow humans that bring meaning to work and life.
Review your investments in time and energy to identify tasks to delegate… and offer others a chance to grow and contribute too.
3. When Bored or Feeling Blasé
When all you see is 10 000 shades of grey, mental fatigue may be blinding you to life in full color spectrum.
Consider these color images. The first lacks greens. The second is without red. Without these hues, one can miss out on the obvious.
When life appears color blind, it’s an invitation to reflect. Easier said than done when we are in the blues. Connecting with another person can add the clarity of perception we may have temporarily lost. (That’s what coaches like me do.)
We have been given life in technicolor. It’s urgent to re-assess when life appears monochromatic.
4. When Your Calendar is Always Full
I read of a foreigner learning English who integrated phrases she heard spoken around herShe learned to respond to, “How are you?” with, “I’m so busy.”
Many of us live with little margin. We plan flexibility out of our lives.
Think of Yourself
Have you travelled on an airplane recently? The flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen mask BEFORE we help others.
Many people postpone self-care, prioritize working for others over taking time for oneself. If you don’t invest in yourself, why should anyone else?
Self-care is a way to express your worth to your entourage. Again, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should your boss, colleague, spouse, or child?
5. When You are Bitter or Jealous
We all look at the world through a filter. The lens of envy focuses on faults … and since we are all humans, imperfections in each of us will be found.
Bitterness jettisons us into a vicious cycle of hurt and retaliation. It’s a lose-lose situation, and the one who harbors bitterness suffers most of all.
Lack of forgiveness is like drinking the poison you wish for someone else, reminds us Nelson Mandela. Riddled with venom we perish; our joy dies, our ability to contribute constructively dwindles, and our sense of belonging withers.
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” – Nelson Mandela
Focus on Long Term Benefits
Numerous studies report how the elderly look back on their life. Men and women lament the energy they wasted on insisting that they were right, even at the cost of a relationship. The wise in years wish for strong rapport with folk who know their imperfections AND respect them still.
You may not desire nor need to reconnect in a hurtful relationship. Do reconnect with yourself and your values. (Often this does imply some kind of gesture in relationship recovery.)
It takes some stepping back to recognize our own responsibility in a relationship rift.
The 10 additional critical words to make SURE the reprimand got across
The 10 additional decibels in our tone of voice so that the entire floor could hear the negative feedback
As we realize and express our responsibility in the conflict, we free ourselves from a victim mentality and from reactivity.
Do you use a mirror to pluck out an ingrown hair? Consider getting a coach or a sparring partner to bring to focus behaviors which could be aggravating an already delicate situation.
Reflection Becomes a Habit of the Mind
Reflection becomes a habit.
Try this activity from Positive Discipline that we do in my workshops:
Put your hands together and interlace your fingers
Straighten your fingers and move them down one notch. If your right index was on top before, the left one will be on top now.
How does it feel? What do you want to do?
One participant shared, “The new hand position felt weird. I wanted to go back to the previous way, and without thinking did so. Then I tried the new hand position again. It still felt unfamiliar, but less uncomfortable. I realized that with practice, I could do this.”
Neuroscience corroborates this phenomenon. When we activate our brain (as in through reflection) neurons create a pathway of connections from one part of the brain to another. As we rethink similar thoughts, those same pathways get utilized, like a path a well-worn path that becomes easier and easier to follow.
France just won the soccer World Cup. It happened last 20 years ago.
The World Cup was launched in 1930 and every four years (except during WWII) national soccer teams throughout the world compete for the champion’s prize. Of the 23 FIFA World Cups held over the years, nine countries experienced the glory of winning. Only two times did the same country win twice in a row.
Moss Kanter’s determines that winning stems from confidence and leaders deliver confidence. Learn how and apply her insights to your company or organization.
Success is a process.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter (RMK): “Failure and success are not episodes, they are trajectories.”
“Success is neither magic nor dumb luck; it stems from a great deal of hard work to perfect each detail. It is even a little mundane. Win, go back to work, win again.”
Moss Kanter also describes losing as a process and mindset: blaming and making excuses.
Food for thought:
What processes do you have in place to learn from winning?
How do you share this knowledge?
Confidence-building is the leader’s job.
RMK: “Confidence underlies the performance of individuals, teams, businesses, schools, economies, and nations. The fundamental task of leaders is to develop confidence in advance of victory, in order to attract the investments that make victory possible—money, talent, support, loyalty, attention, effort, or people’s best thinking.”
Food for thought:
What three resources does your team need most now?
Freedom to take risks and learn from mistakes
Consistency in management objectives
Trust to manage their own time and priorities
Appreciation of a job well done
Training to work more effectively as team
Confidence builds on past experiences and reactions to those experiences.
RMK: “But confidence is not an artificial mental construct, solely dependent on what people decide to believe; it reflects reasonable reactions to circumstances. People are caught in cycles, and they interpret events based on what they see happening, on how they are treated by others around them.”
Moss-Kanter refers to events occurring during the performance AND backstage. On the field AND in the locker room. In front of the client AND in the conference room.
Food for thought:
How do your actions “during practice times” contribute to your team’s confidence “in the limelight”?
For example, what are the impact of gossip, ridicule, selective information, and pleasing in your organization?
When and how does your team practice before “big performances”? Which of these apply to your team
Present challenges to the team for co-development
Identify worst-case scenarios and brainstorm potential solutions in anticipation
Role play critical meetings beforehand
Emotions are contagious.
RMK: “Good moods are both causes and effects. Winning puts people in a good mood and being in a good mood makes it easier to win. Positive emotions draw people together and negative emotions tend to push them apart.”
Food for thought:
What emotions do you express or allow at work? When did you last hear someone (including you) say
How proud they are of themselves
They are excited to come to work
It’s satisfying to learn
They enjoy the teamwork
They are bored and would like new challenges
They feel let down and seek ways to build mutual support
What impact does expressing or suppressing emotions have on your team?
Winners face facts and address problems.
RMK: “It builds confidence in leaders when they name problems that everyone knows are there and put facts on the table for everyone to see. It also helps other people get over their fear of exposure and humiliation to see leaders providing examples of accepting responsibility.”
“Accountability is the first cornerstone of confidence….Everyone said they knew what the problems were, but those problems were always some else’s fault.”
Food for thought:
Surprisingly, obvious challenges can be hard to pinpoint. Like the fish who asks, “What is water?”
How can you step back and gain a fresh perspective?
Request feedback from a junior member of your team
Meet with an independent sparring partner
Accept a speaking engagement or an invitation for an interview which challenges you to synthesize strategies and actions
Winners really do work harder. They track the specifics of their progress.
RMK: “(The CEO) was not looking for drama, he was looking for delivery. Delivery required attention to details.”
Moss-Kanter spoke of the boring part of winning: tracking the numbers and being disciplined. It also helps everyone be on the same page and data reveals what needs to improve right now.
RMK: “Data, details, metrics, measurement, analyses, charts, tests, assessments, performance, evaluations, report cards, grades—these are the tools of accountability, but they are neutral tools. The do not restore confidence by themselves. What matters is the culture that surrounds them. For losers, they are another sign that they are watched too closely, not trusted, about to be punished. For winners, they are useful, even vital, tools for understanding and improving performance.”
Food for thought:
On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how relevant are your metrics? How much do you rely on your KPI’s for decision-making?
What do metrics conjure up in your culture: blame or learning? What will you do about that?
Can there be Winners without Losers?
In the World Cup only one team receives the championship cup.
And yet, no one can categorize Croatia as “Losers” in the 2018. Their president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic set the example in recognizing great sportsmanship in the competition and in her own team. She embraced the championship cup holders as warmly as she embraced her own team. Following suit, the French president Emmanuel Macron also embraced each of the Croatian athletes.
The world witnessed a moment of connection as rain-soaked heads of states hugged sweat-soaked athletes, regardless of whether they held the prized cup or not.
Grabar-Kitarovic’s honorable stance at the award ceremony changed the way the French public views the Croatian team.
There is one world cup winner. AND, there are no loser. Everyone stands tall after the match.
What power-struggle in your life can we transform into a no-lose situation? Contact me to implement such a transition.
Even though diversity is a much talked about subject, many of us wonder how it impacts our work. Does it really matter?
This is the third article in a three-part series on diversity inspired by Steven Sels, the CEO of Primagaz. His first message addresses the bottom-line benefits of integrating 19 different nationalities in his Parisian offices.
Business took me to the Swiss Alps for an early morning meeting, so I chose to travel the night before and mix work with pleasure, decision-making with mountain hiking.
A light snow fell upon my arrival in the evening dampening both my body and my mood. Anger? No. Apprehension? Yes.
In Paris attire (albeit with walking shoes), I trudged one half hour through the wintry wet to settle in for the night. My plan: early to bed and early to rise. Hike three hours from my mountain village to the town in the valley in time for our 10:30 meeting.
Winter outside. Without Anger Management, winter lurks inside the soul too.
Winter magic clothed the trees in the morning. Gentle flakes transformed these grey giants into lace. Grey lace. The sun had yet to shine of these latent beauties…only to destroy their flaky glory.
Camera poised I set out to capture their beauty…and slid on the thin layer of black ice that paved the road. Immediately my focus was brought low, literally to the ground. From high and wondrous thoughts to fear and frustration…and annoyance multiplied over the loss of my moment of magic.
Isn’t that the same with our moods?
We can be flying high with soaring spirits and CRASH down to earth…or worse. Anger management, where are thou?!
How Sweet is Home?!
My kids’ behavior can do that to me. I think “Home Sweet Home” only to discover “Jungle Wild Jungle.” Strewn shoes, coats, and backpacks block my way to the front hall closet so that I no longer feel welcomed home. Next the sound of video games accost my ears…on a weekday when the children are supposed to be reading, writing, and “arithmetizing.” You probably get the picture.
Great mood. Yucky temper. In one second. Anger management, HELP!
[bctt tweet=”Great mood. Yucky temper. In one second. Anger management, HELP!“]
The Neuroscience of Anger Management
Neuroscience reveals that our brains are incapable of reasoning during moments of high stress. We’re stuck in emotional responses, subservient to fight or flight. It’s like the connections between our logic and our feelings has been interrupted. In order to find solutions, be creative, and even understand the folk speaking to us, we need to reconnect the upper and lower spheres of our brain (the cortex and pre-fontal cortex).
Anger management is a physical phenomenon whereby broken communication pathways rejoin. By calming down, a person allows this uniting process to reoccur in our brains. (FYI, full upper and lower sphere connectivity in the brain is capable as of 25 years of age. Kids and youth can nonetheless get close.)
Anger Management in Action…
Literally Walking into It 🙂
My hike down the mountain led me to Cozy Corners of my soul. Reconnecting my rational thinking with my disappointments of today (they’re not that huge, after all) and my hopes for tomorrow (they’re totally attainable still!!). Bye-bye vexation. Hello expectancy.
First I noticed the sun tinge the tips of the snow-frosted trees. Light and warmth will soon melt the ice below my feet. They will also melt the glaze on the trees. Tough moments also hold their magic. The glass is also half full.
Even anger holds its treasures. Consider frustration as a sign that something should change. Fury may even fill us with the energy to explore an alternative behavior.
Managed Anger Makes Room for Positive Emotions
My enthusiasm grew with the anticipation of a fear-less walk. So did my patience. Like Annie in the musical, I could bet my bottom dollar that the sun would come out…even sooner than tomorrow.
Hope heralds forbearance, a valuable resource for every parent and child. Is “now” always the best time? Think of when you last called the children to eat dinner. NOW! Remember when your precious one wanted admiration…while you were on the phone. NOT NOW!
With every step down the mountain, Spring grew and grew. Trees lost their white hue and adopted a green undertone until I reached places where plants paved the soil and petite bright green leaves fluttered above. The ground burst with lilies of the valley about to bloom. “Do they grow better in mountains?” I mused…
By now the sun poured through the branches and colorful flowers cheered my route.
Again, my thoughts soared to hopes and beauty and wonder. This time with additional thankfulness that I had passed through the icy uncertainty so that I could fully embrace the benefits of Now.
Anger Management Tips for Today & Every Day
“Apply this to your life,” thought I.
Here is what my winter-to-spring walk showed me about anger management:
It is O.K. to be frustrated. Annoyance is a sign that something should change.
Glum spirits hardly enable change to happen smoothly or effectively.
Calm down before seeking resolution to a problem. The perspective will be TOTALLY DIFFERENT and opportunities will be found.
A great way to calm down is to think of or do something that brings joy.
Challenge may not be enjoyable. Having overcome one does feel awesome!
P.S. On the train ride home, I regaled in the fluorescent yellow fields of “colza” (rapeseed for high in omega 3 oils!)