How to Stop Them From Saying That’s Just the Way I Am

Once upon a time there was an organization that held team conference calls. Each week the company owner would guide the group through key issues then ask for feedback. Without fail, one guy would pipe up with a comment that was disrespectful and targeted at the owner.

Interpersonal Communication Skills

It was embarrassing for everyone. But the boss never called him on it, either publicly or afterwards privately.

Not too far down the road was another organization. They were suffering with a woman who rampaged around the office like Godzilla. Everyone, including HR and her frontline manager was afraid of her. Nobody wanted to cross her for fear of her wrath and repercussions.

So, here’s what they both did. They called in a trainer to hold a class on courtesy and communication. (I wonder who that was.) Better to have the outside stranger lower the boom than those who worked closely with these folks.

After all, “That’s just the way he/she is.”

These stressed-out people were hoping the message would deliver a wake-up call to that one person who was driving everyone crazy. They’d sit through the class, nod knowingly and stare pointedly at the offender hoping he or she would “get it”. That way nobody would have to put up with their nonsense ever again and they wouldn’t have to personally put their life on the line.

Poof, the magic fix!

While situations like this tend to keep me in business, it’s not the most effective use of everyone’s time or energy. If you want things to change, co-workers as well as the boss need to take action. Merely modeling good behavior with one another may not be enough for this person to notice how inappropriate and destructive they are. But it’s a good start.

You can also try to:

Be a leader. Everyone is waiting around for the manager, owner, boss to take control of the situation. Don’t be a chicken. Don’t leave it up to someone else. People look up to you ‘cause you’re supposed to be in charge.

Create a workplace of respect. Here’s an acronym I made up to help get people focused on their behaviors.

R – regular reminders of standards and norms

E – effort to create constructive outcomes

S – speak to the person directly

P – personally responsible for our words and actions

E – empathy to understand how we impact one another

C – commitment to right any wrongs

T – timely action, privately when possible

Put them on a performance plan. Yes, you can do this for personal traits that seem hard to quantify. Hold them accountable to behaviors that fall under communication, leadership, internal/external customer service, teamwork. Give them a reasonable period of time to improve. Get them a book. Hire a coach. Be a mentor.

Congratulate them. They won’t go from 0 to 100 overnight, but make an effort to notice the small ways they get better. Do they listen to you? Will they acknowledge they might be impacting others? Are they willing to try and improve? Do they catch themselves “in the act” and adjust more quickly than before? Will they apologize? Can they be responsible for themselves in a self-deprecating way? If so, notice and acknowledge.

Banish the phrase, “That’s just how they are.” If you allow people to run amok and let them off the hook, things won’t improve and they could get worse. Then you might just blow a gasket when the behavior becomes too much to bear.

And finally, peer pressure is a wonderful thing. Culture is the way we do things around here. Create a culture of caring and sometimes these folks self-select themselves right out the door!

Additional Reading:

How to Have That Difficult Discussion

Why Your Biggest Embarrassment Makes You More of a Leader