How to Handle Obnoxious People in Power

A reader recently asked if I would write an article about how to handle obnoxious people in power. So, to start, I wanted to find out what we mean when we call someone obnoxious. Is it a person who throws their weight around? Do they try to “one up” others? Are they arrogant or inconsiderate? (All the way from Colorado Springs, I can see your heads nodding now – yes, yes and yes.)

How to Deal with Obnoxious People in Power by Laura Benjamin

(Photo credit: Eric Schickler Photography)

Webster’s definition is this: behavior that is annoying or objectionable due to being a showoff or attracting undue attention to oneself.

I figured there may be more to it than that, so I asked the stylists in my hairdresser’s shop today. They see tons of people and have a common sense perspective on human behavior. (Of course, I’m a little ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air when I walk in there, but others, maybe not so much.)

They said, “People who talk too loud. It seems like they want everyone to hear what they’re saying and it makes it hard for us to have conversations with our clients.”

That got me started. So I came up with my own list of obnoxious behaviors, but it’s not exhaustive, so feel free to add your “favorites” in the comments at the bottom of this page.


People who…

    1. engage in the “cell yell” where they talk so loud on their phone that everyone around them gets to hear all the gory details of their conversation
    2. tell you they’re open for a meeting anytime in the coming week and then every date/time you offer won’t work for them
    3. don’t say thank you when you hold a door open for them
    4. take forever to order at a fast food place because they’re calculating how many pennies they’ll save from ordering a la carte versus getting the meal deal
    5. consistently say “maybe” when you ask if they’d like to do something or go somewhere and don’t offer any alternative to your suggestion
    6. squeeze into the revolving door space you’re in with their luggage rather than wait for the next opening
    7. splash water all over the restroom counter and don’t wipe it up so your shirt gets wet when you stand at the sink and have no place to put your purse down
    8. won’t move forward in line (either standing or in their car) and let a large gap exist when there are many people standing behind them – there’s something about seeing forward momentum that makes people happy
    9. throw trash out their car window
    10. pull out a million coupons at the grocery store (It’s always when you have ice cream in your cart)
    11. blast the bass through their car speakers so you can feel your heart vibrate
    12. wander onto the shoulder of the road and spit gravel into your windshield so it cracks
    13. drive slower than traffic in the passing lane when they should (and could) move over
    14. ignore the sign to merge two lanes into one, pass everyone who did merge and then expect someone to let them in at the last minute
    15. pull into the campground at 1am and make tons of noise setting up
    16. wait to complain about a meal until the last bite, then expect their dinner to be free
    17. ride bicycles side by side on a two lane road with no shoulder and heavy traffic
    18. consistently keep people waiting because their time is much more important than yours
    19. take your parking spot when you have your blinker on – here’s a classic scene of revenge in a video clip from the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes

Bet you’re wondering how I could come up with so many reasons to get bent out of shape. Okay, I’ll simmer down, but I think we should call ‘em as we see ‘em and get clear on what disrespectful behaviors cause us the most frustration. We should also try to understand the reasons why obnoxious people do the things they do.

Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us. ~Stephen Covey


People who are obnoxious often want to have power or influence over others. It can come from a deep-seated sense of insecurity. Maybe they grew up with few choices, were bullied or abused. So these behaviors are their way to get control over their life. They could also be people who…

  1. never learned how to show confidence and mistakenly feel that over-the-top assertiveness illustrates competence and self-worth
  2. are impulsive about most things and don’t realize their impulsivity may be interpreted as selfishness
  3. have been rejected, disappointed, overlooked or underestimated in the past and vow not to let it happen again
  4. find that bravado, a big show, flash, glitz and aggressiveness are often admired by others. They’ve seen people get rewarded for it and use that approach as their default.
  5. may have a physiological issue that impacts social skills. While most of us are not qualified to diagnose anyone’s medial condition, we should be aware that some behaviors are a result of genes or trauma. Through no fault of their own, they wage a daily battle to regain control over themselves. You may happen to be collateral damage.
  6. want to cause you harm – no bones about it, they ARE out to get you. You could have done or said something to provoke them or you look like a coach or teacher who wasn’t kind.

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi


It’s hard enough to deal with these behaviors, but when the person has power over us, it makes it doubly difficult to cope. They may control your paycheck or the quality of a product or project where your reputation is on the line. They may be a relative. No matter who they are, you need survival skills before you do or say something destructive. So take one or more of these action steps to cope and hopefully turn things around:

1. Ask for their advice. It can take them by surprise because most people will push them away, ignore them or retaliate. This approach may require all the self-control you can muster, but it can pay off big time when they realize you’re not a threat and they’ve not gotten under your skin. Instead of an adversary, they may start to see you as an ally. Here’s a great book by Bob Burg on how to turn adversaries into allies. 

2. Say, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to be X (hurtful, disrespectful, dismissive, etc.) when you said/did X.” Danger: don’t follow up that phrase with the word “but” because it’ll put them on the defensive. Your goal is to let them know the impact of what they’ve said or done while giving them the benefit of the doubt regarding their intent. By saying you understand they couldn’t have possibly meant their words or actions to have that affect, you’re letting them save face.

3. Say, “It would help me out a lot if you’d do/say X next time. That way I’ll be able to do Y.” By stating the preferable actions, words and behaviors you’d like to see and saying why it’s important, you give them a constructive approach to get better outcomes. Too often we know we don’t like what someone is saying or doing, but we we fail to be specific about better behaviors. And that leaves people knowing they did something wrong but without an example of what to do differently.


We’ve looked at examples of obnoxious behavior, reasons why people may do the things they do, and respectful strategies you can use with anyone, especially people in power. You can be assertive in a non-threatening way. And more importantly, you don’t have to ignore something that’s keeping you up at night. When we feel some control over circumstances, it can reduce our stress levels and improve our personal performance.


Stop Saying That’s Just the Way I Am

How to Recover When You Say Something Stupid

Does Your Difficult Boss Need a Jerk-o-Meter?

10 Things Top Communicators Do Differently – and you can too

Great communicators aren’t defined by whether they’re extroverts. They don’t have to have the gift of gab and be able to keep a non-stop patter going. But they do have one thing in common – they put effort into improving their interpersonal skills. It is important to them to build and maintain positive, constructive relationships and they do that through a focus on communication.

top 10 things good communicators do differently

The top 10 skills good communicators develop also include:

1. They are aspirational. They understand that what people need most is to be heard, appreciated and encouraged. Everything that comes out of their mouth or shows up in print is designed to make things better rather than tear events or people down. Since readers and listeners respond well to upbeat, optimistic news, they strive to focus on the good things as much as possible.

2. They ask questions. Too often, we believe people are stronger and more competent when they are directive, assertive and commanding in tone. But that can get old. The best communicators know how to strike a balance and ask more than they tell. Questions draw people out. They generate more and better information. And some studies show that leaders only get a small fraction of the information they need to effectively do their jobs.

3. They are sincerely interested in others. How do you take a sincere interest in others? (For some people this does not come naturally.) Back to #2 – you ask questions. You also make a point to remember key components of the person’s life, like what they do for a living, how many kids they have, whether they found a new place to live, etc. And you take the time to have a personal conversation with them now and then. We are usually “oh-so-busy” worrying about getting our own needs met that we often overlook the fact that we’re dealing with another human being. They deserve our attention too.

4. They avoid million dollar words. Nobody likes to feel dumb. So when we say “utilize” versus “use” or “compensate” versus “pay” we may think we’re flexing our language muscle. But we can come across like we’re putting on a show: Pretentious Language-itis. Let’s make communication easier for others. The fewer barriers we build, the smoother the process will go for everyone. 

5. They have a purpose. Good communicators have a goal for each interaction. It may be subtle, but it’s still there. The goal could be to make the other person feel more comfortable, understood or supported. The purpose might be to reach an agreement, make a decision, apologize. The more challenging the interaction, the more important it is to have that objective clearly defined, even if it’s just in your own mind. It’ll keep you on track and help you feel more confident.

6. They are consistent. People never have to wonder about who they are, what they stand for and how they’re going to behave. They don’t flip-flop. Change is not something they are afraid of, but they also realize that people like to know what they can count on. It’s important to them to give others a sense of security, knowing that uncertainty makes it hard to trust and can make communication difficult.

7. They are credible. They do what they say they’re going to do. They don’t lie through omission. People see them as an authority or resource. Credible communicators don’t inflate or overstate. If anything, they will under-promise and then over-deliver.

8. They see the big picture. They try to keep things in perspective. Good communicators don’t get wrapped around the axle over experiences that aren’t relevant to the bigger goal. They ask themselves, “What’s at risk?” and keep their eye on the ball. Roadblocks or speed bumps in life don’t slow them down from achieving what’s most important. 

9. They have a positive attitude. They are the epitome of Dr. Seligman’s learned optimism. They see bad things as temporary. They don’t apply negative events or experiences that impact one segment of their life to every segment. And they work to avoid taking things too personally by letting criticism roll off their back.

10. They listen with an appropriate style. Listening is the most important communication component. Good listeners are aware of the right style or approach that’s called for depending on the situation. The five listening styles are:

  • Appreciative: when someone is telling you a joke or a story.
  • Empathic: when people need understanding as they discuss a problem or concern.
  • Discerning: to gather complete information, like when you return from vacation and are debriefed on events that occurred in your absence.
  • Comprehensive: a big-picture approach where you’re trying to spot a trend or pattern, understand meaning or organize information.
  • Evaluative: to critique information, make a decision, decide if someone is right or wrong. (Source: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Personal Listening Assessment)

These are learned skills. Many of us must work on one or more of the above to improve our interpersonal communication. Don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you if they all don’t come naturally. It comes down to what you decide is most important at home, at work and in our community. Since organizations find that good communication skills lead to better relationships with customers, co-workers and constituents, isn’t it worth putting some effort into developing one or more of these traits? A little bit of focus is all it takes to move the needle and get noticeable results!

Read more about communication at:

How to Tell the Boss You Are Overwhelmed

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

Non-verbal Communication and How Our Truck Almost Fell in the River

20 Things Everyone Should Know for a Happier Career, Business and Life

You will sleep better, live happier, get more dates and become more good-looking if you follow these 20 tips for career, business and life!

20 tips for happier career, business, life

1. Purchase your name as a domain name via or so no one else can take it. You don’t have to publish a blog or website when you purchase a domain name. It will cost you less than $15.00 a year and you never know when you will become famous, decide to write a book, or run for public office. You’ll be glad you secured your name in advance, especially if it’s a popular or common name.

2. Create a Master List of Accomplishments. This is a growing list where you record all the great things you’ve achieved in all the jobs you’ve ever held. Try to quantify your accomplishments if possible. You will find this list very handy when you need a psychological lift, when you are updating your resume or if your manager needs to be reminded of what you did all year long before they write your performance review. Segment the accomplishments into functional categories, like: communication, leadership, operations, crisis management, project management, budgeting, etc.

3. Write Thank You notes. Keep a variety of blank Thank You notes handy at home and at work and use them often. Handwritten notes are rare and people are always impressed when someone takes the time to send one. If you give them to employees, volunteers, donors or co-workers, you may find them posted in their office for all to see. It’s a tangible reminder they have been recognized for doing something worthwhile.

4. Read one book a month. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, reading will improve your knowledge base, your writing and your conversational skills. If your time is limited, as it is for most people, carve out just 15 minutes a day (perhaps before bed or at lunch) to work your way through it. Not sure what to read? Ask friends, co-workers or a manager for recommendations.

5. Make promises you intend to keep. Many of us try to be the good guy and promise to do much more than we are realistically able to deliver. You will raise your credibility in the eyes of others if you are discriminating in the things you agree to do. Delivering on your promises, especially if it’s earlier than expected, will enhance your reputation.

6. Make recommendations without being asked. Obviously, make sure you only do this for those you can endorse without hesitation. If your company doesn’t have a policy against it, post positive comments on LinkedIn under the Recommendations Section. Be specific. You will make someone’s day a whole lot brighter and you could help boost their career.

7. Put as much as possible in your retirement account. If your employer will match your contribution or put X amount into your account as long as you contribute X, take advantage of it! In most cases, these are pre-tax dollars you are investing, which makes them more valuable. The younger you start, the more your investment will grow so you don’t have to play catch-up when you get older. And just because you don’t plan to stay with one employer for a long time is no reason not to take advantage of this benefit while you work there.

8. Form professional relationships with all age groups. Everyone has something to offer and age is not a predictor of someone’s value. We can all learn something new from those who are younger or older than ourselves. Mix it up!

9. Floss your teeth. Experts say it’s one of the best ways to keep from losing teeth and to protect your heart. Establish a time when you can get this done. Can you do it while watching TV?    

10. Wear sunscreen. If you want to look years younger as you age, wear it every day regardless of whether it’s sunny outside or not. This is one of the best things I learned from a former supervisor. (She wondered if this was the only thing I learned from her!)

11. Give yourself credit. You may have a talent or possess knowledge you are keeping to yourself. You might be thinking, “There are so many others who know far more than I or seem to be more accomplished. How can I ever compete?” Right? This way of thinking is a trap. It’ll keep you from giving the gift that only you can offer. You know enough to be able to help others. You can provide some level of service or support. There are always people who will value your level of expertise. Don’t lock it away simply because you have competition. Dare to do it anyway!

12. Clear the debris. When our house burned down in a wildfire, I learned (through no choice of my own) the value of starting fresh. Sometimes too much clutter – on our desks, in our offices, on our schedules – can keep us from thinking clearly and being creative. It’s sometimes easier to start from scratch rather than work around something (or someone) we’re reluctant to part with.

13. Start a “Breadcrumbs Book”. This is different than a journal. It is a chronological list of events and significant changes that happen in your life. It’s meant to just capture the highlights. You will find it helpful when you want an “at a glance” look back at what’s happened to you and what you’ve accomplished.

14. Leave a job only after you’ve found a new one. You are perceived as more valuable and marketable if you are employed – at something. It may be tempting to walk away when things get rough, especially if you have a hefty savings account. But if you don’t have a choice, set up a consulting practice or small business to do in the interim. It shows continuous employment.

15. Maximize LinkedIn. This social media tool is one of the best career development resources and an efficient way to stay connected with others. Update your profile and reach out to those from your past. You don’t have to be in management or a professional position to gain from it. Friends, colleagues and acquaintances will be able to learn more about your background and experience, which may make it easier for them to refer you for opportunities of many types.

16. Create a Contact Card. This is a personal card with all your contact information. People transition from one job to another, so business cards may quickly become outdated. It would be a shame for people to lose track of you, so give the right people something with your personal email, cell phone number, LinkedIn profile address, Twitter handle, etc. on it.

17. Build in “buffer”. Based on the book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson, add some “wiggle room” into your daily schedule, financial plans and emotional commitments. Avoid living on the edge. Build in an extra 10 minutes between appointments, keep a reserve in your checking account, reduce the time spent with people who drain you. Adding “margin” to your life will reduce stress and improve your quality of life.

18. Create a household inventory. You never know when there might be an emergency or disaster where you will have to document everything you owned to get reimbursement from your insurance company. Don’t try to do this all in one day. Focus on one room at a time. Note brand names, quantity and dates you acquired each item. Take pictures of antiques and get them appraised. Make sure you have a rider on your policy for jewelry or other expensive items. Keep this inventory with your “to go” box or “bug out” bag along with a copy of your insurance policy. Take it from me, it is no fun to have to create an inventory from memory. 

19. Make an emergency contact list. Post the names and contact info of people to call should there be an emergency. The top of the list should be 911. Add an ICE (in case of emergency) contact into your cell phone.

20. When you hear an alarm – get out! It’s amazing how many people will stand around and wait for someone to give them permission to leave. More lives are lost when people don’t take emergency sirens seriously.

Share this post with friends and family!


Additional Reading:

3 Ways to Change to a Positive Attitude

3 Steps to Find Purpose in Work and Life

How to be a Change Agent

Shreddies Story – How Funny Marketing Surprised and Engaged Customers

Think it’s tough to turn your reputation around or create new positioning? It’s never too late. Consider what Post Cereals’ ad agency did to breathe new life into a 60 year old product and the customer experience.

Shreddies was a breakfast cereal made of wheat squares and sold in Great Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Lagging sales and customers who didn’t want the cereal changed inspired the company to put their creative team to work.

The solution? They turned the cereal 45 degrees and introduced new and improved Diamond Shreddies! Customers would now have a “choice”.

Shreddies Funny Marketing Campaign

The company held hidden camera taste tests where customers said the Diamond Shreddies have more flavor!

They even created a Combo Pack for those who couldn’t make up their mind…

creative marketing

…and invited customers to vote at for the shape they preferred. Fans created 55 Facebook Groups, videos (see below) went viral and sales shot up 18 points in the first month of the campaign.

All because somebody risked being whacky and let customers in on the joke.

Yet decision-makers could easily have argued, “Harrumph! Shreddies is an established cereal with dignity. Why, it’s a tradition in generations of households. Making fun of our product is just NOT done! Customers wouldn’t take us seriously.”

And that’s just the point. We can’t always take ourselves so seriously. We should be able to:

1. Poke fun at ourselves once in a while. (Read a story where I did that) 

2. Use humor to combat unwarranted, bad reviews. While we don’t want to be disrespectful, there are times when customer requests are so bizarre, they just beg for a humorous response.

3. Overcome a reputation problem or disarm criticism. There are politicians who are very good at this.

4. Strengthen your brand (personal or professional). People with a good sense of humor tend to sleep better, get more promotions, the last piece of dessert and more dates.

5. Humanize a product, program or leadership team. Think of the company picnic dunk tank, employee baby picture contest, “Get Lucky” Trivago commercial or Geico gecko. (Did you know he’s written a book titled, You’re Only Human?)

People want a little levity in their lives, especially during these troubled times. We love humor! It surprises us, lightens our mood and helps us think more creatively. It can make us feel like we’re all in it together.

Read more about the Shreddies story.

7 Super Summertime Reads for Business Career and Life

I love books. When I was a kid, I’d go to the library and bring back a stack of ten at a time. Then I’d lay on the couch and read them one by one. My folks worried about my social skills.


That’s why losing all my books in the wildfire was such a blow. But I’m on a mission to replace them. In the process, I’ve discovered some great new reads to add to my list of old favorites.


So, for your summertime reading pleasure, here are seven super books – in my humble opinion and in no particular order. (I get no money for recommending them.)

Art Of Work by Jeff Goins

The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant To Do by Jeff Goins. I’ve been following Jeff Goins’ writing for years and he has been an inspiration. This book, on how to live a life that matters, explores six key concepts to help you think differently about what you do and how you do it. Insightful and honest. About Jeff…



Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I’ve mentioned this one before. What keeps capable, driven people from breaking through to the next level? Success. Focus on a few things leads to success which brings opportunities, but that often leads to the undisciplined pursuit of more. Here’s a video about the book:


First Break All The Rules

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham. If you are a supervisor, manager or frontline leader or hope to become one in the near future, this book is a must-have. The case studies reveal what matters most and motivates employees to better performance. I love it because it includes proof from Gallup Organization research. Read more…


Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. From Harvard Business Review Press, this book explores why “red ocean” competition among rivals is a zero sum game. Rather, success is achieved by creating “blue oceans” of uncontested market space, differentiation and value innovation. A must read for entrepreneurs, freelancers and marketing teams. Read more…



Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT by Paul L. Marciano. Dr. Marciano’s Respect Model is one of the reasons why I think this is one of the better employee engagement books. Based on the premise that relationships – both personal and professional – only work within the context of a respectful environment. Every supervisor should read this book! More about the RESPECT Model


Influence the Psychology of Persuasion

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. This book explores how we can have a bigger impact on one another. Based on research scientifically proven to make you more effective in human relations. Important concepts for managers, teachers, parents. Here’s a video describing the science of persuasion and the 6 Laws of Influence.


Take The Stairs

Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success by Rory Vaden. Why short cuts, quick fixes and distractions make it too easy to procrastinate, compromise and accept mediocrity. I found this book hugely motivating. Here’s a humorous video of this author describing why we shouldn’t take the easy way and why discipline is the key to success:

Hope you’re having a super summer! Please share this book list with colleagues and co-workers and on your favorite social media site.

The Number One Way to Be a Success

Barbara Corcoran is one of the feisty ladies on the Shark Tank TV Show. I like her because she’s smart, respectful and straightforward. She doesn’t pull punches, but she’s not demeaning either to those who make a poor pitch. She exudes confidence and personal power.

Success tip by Barbara Corcoran

I heard her on an interview recently and she said,

“In my experience, the one thing that distinguishes a successful salesperson from an unsuccessful one is that they all have something to prove.”

Does that mean they’re insecure or trying to get back at someone?

No, I don’t think so. I believe an “I’ll show you” attitude helps us overcome life’s most gnarly struggles.

Think about the last time you fell to your knees in shock or despair. Most likely it was due to a significant loss. It may have taken you days, months, years to get over it. Perhaps you’re still working on it.

You may have felt like giving up.

But at some point, I’ll bet you reached down deep inside your gut and drew from a storehouse of resolve. Then you said to yourself, “This is NOT going to get the best of me.”

You created an imaginary foe who taunted you, “C’mon. Prove it to me. Prove you can do this! Prove you can make it happen! Show me what you’re made of!”

And every time you got weak and stumbled, you remembered that challenge.

You BET we’ve got something to prove! We’re fast enough, strong enough, smart enough.

Revel in that feeling. Even if it makes you a little bit mad. (How dare they count me out!) It’s fuel to motivate and inspire us.

Time after time on The Biggest Loser TV show, we watch the coach urge a protege to stretch beyond their limits.

They don’t know how far they can go until they’ve been pushed.

Well, push back. Step right on up there and prove to the world you have staying power. Get a little mud on your tires. Ruffle a few feathers if you must.

Make sure they know you’ve got something to prove!

11 Lessons Learned on a Wild River Ride

We spent our family reunion last week on the banks of Colorado’s Arkansas River. Each time rafters passed by, we’d hoot and holler from our deck. My brother Eric, the photographer, captured the action. And there was lots of it. Water is flowing faster this year than it has in decades with thrills and spills aplenty.

Eric Schickler Photography Arkansas River Rafting

(Photo Credit: Eric Schickler Photography)

Yep, I’ve braved that mighty river before. As a member of a Mature Active Women’s group (MAW’s) we set off one day on a river rafting adventure. Lining up and signing in we asked for a Class 1 experience. (They called this the Granny Tour.)

It started quite tame. There’s nothing more beautiful than rafting calm water with picturesque canyons looming above you. There were seven of us snuggled together including a young teen and her Dad. That girl complained from start to finish – loudly and often.

But it didn’t take long before we were too busy to notice. Our calm float had quickly turned into a churning rapid. Our guide yelled commands. We plunged our paddles and battled the waves. It was thrilling. It was fast. We got wet.

Then everything changed. Our craft shoved itself up on the back of a boulder and the force of the water threatened to topple us.

“Get out on the rock,” yelled our guide. “One at a time. Hurry up!”

Considering the alternative, it seemed smarter to be stranded with a whiny teenager. So out we climbed as water pummeled the raft and our guide tried to keep it from flipping. We huddled close together on that rock and wondered, what now?

A passing raft saw our plight and shouted they could pick someone up. We all looked at the girl but she wouldn’t budge.

We attracted quite an audience. Passing cars tooted and waved. People gathered along the road. Fellow rafters promised to send help. It was humorous and a little humiliating. How would this play in the papers? “Mature Active Women Stranded in Class One Water. Rescue Required.”

Finally help arrived. They told us to keep our feet up and pointed downstream. Then they threw us a rope and advised, “Let the current carry you to the side.”

Guess who went first? Nope, she still wouldn’t budge.

That water was cold! And the current more forceful than I’d expected. But we powered on through it like mountain mamas in an episode of Extreme Outdoors.

In the end, we did lay claim to a successful ride back on the bus to our cars.

And we learned a lot from our unexpected adventure. In business or life:

  1. Sometimes it’s better to bail than be tossed in the drink
  2. Rapids look rougher from down in the boat than up on the road
  3. Skill and experience won’t prevent every mishap
  4. Negativity can ruin everyone’s ride
  5. When you’re in the rapids, you’re bound to get wet
  6. Few will ever raft the same water
  7. Don’t fight the current – let it lead you gradually to shore
  8. Wear a life vest and helmet no matter how calm things appear
  9. You can’t always see what lies beneath
  10. A guide will know when to abandon ship
  11. And finally, screen out whiners before you get in the boat!

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