How to Deal with Unacceptable Behaviour – at work and at home
(Time to read: ~5 minutes)
All names have been changed to protect privacy
Georgia glanced at the clock as her direct report Andrea arrived for work. 10:30. An hour later than they had agreed. Again.
Georgia knew she would have to say something to Andrea. But what? She had spoken to Andrea repeatedly about her lateness, but nothing had changed.
Should she let Andrea go? Georgia shuddered as she thought about going through the whole recruitment, hiring and orientation process again. Besides Andrea was so good at so many aspects of her job.
Should she just accept Andrea’s lateness? But clients needed to be able to count on reaching Andrea during published business hours. Besides, it set such a bad example for all the other staff. Georgia was noticing a creeping lateness in the whole office, and slackness seeping into other aspects of their work too. She had to address this.
“Get away from me!” Peter shouted, shoving Maria way. “You asked for my help, now leave me alone and let me handle it my own way!”
Maria was scared – and angry. She knew Peter was strong enough to really hurt her, although he’d never done that.
At the same time, use of physical force between them was not okay with her.
She’d watched a TV show where the female lead had called the police and kicked her husband out of the house when he had hit her. Was that what she was supposed to do?
But there was lots that was good about their relationship. Peter did lots around the house, in addition to working full-time and contributing the majority of the income to their family. He was fun to be with and made her laugh. And she knew he loved her, just as she loved him.
How could she address the incident and prevent it from happening again, without throwing away all the goodness they had?
What It Takes to Deal Effectively with Unacceptable Behavior
Anything anyone ever says, does, or thinks is designed to meet a natural, beautiful need that we all share.
So Andrea’s lateness, Peter’s shove, and the reactions in Georgia and Maria to those behaviors – all of these things are attempts to meet natural, beautiful needs.
That doesn’t mean that the behaviors are acceptable. It just means that the motivation behind the behaviors is understandable, which is great news.
Because it is possible to understand the motivation, that means that it becomes possible to find a different way to satisfy the motivation using behaviors that work better for everyone involved.
How to Do It – Step by Step
- The first step is to understand your own motivation, your own needs.
What isn’t working for you about what’s happening? What needs are you wanting better met?
- The next step is to understand the motivation of the other person. What needs are they trying to meet by the behavior that’s not acceptable to you?
So why is Andrea so consistently late? What’s going on in her life – and her mind – that is resulting in that choice?
And what’s going on in Peter that’s leading him to push Maria away? What need is he trying to meet?
- Help the other person understand what’s important to you.
Not in a way that overrides what’s important to the other person, but in a way that accepts that both sets of needs are important, and that all these needs have to be met in order for both of you to get what you want.
- Find solutions that work for everyone.
Find a new way to handle situations like these when they arise, a way that everyone feels will work for them.
Then try it out. And check in to see how well it’s working. If it’s not working for anyone, then incorporate that learning into the search for a new solution that everyone feels will work for them.
Rinse and repeat until you reach a stable solution that works for everyone.
Sound simple? Sound like a tall order?
The process is simple, and it involves learning new skills – skills that most of us have never been taught.
The skills that I helped Georgia and Maria learn include how to:
- Recognize your own needs in any situation – separate from what you want to happen.
- Recognize other people’s needs “inside” their unacceptable behaviours. Because they probably are not clear about what their needs are.
- Find solutions that work for everyone – even when it initially seems impossible.
- Talk about all this in a way that feels comfortable and natural for everyone.
- Find the energy to keep working at it until you find a permanent solution. Because it is so amazing when you do!
How Georgia and Maria Handled Their Situations
Georgia learned that Andrea found it hard to concentrate on the creative part of her role in the busy bustle and interruptions of the office. And she discovered that others in the office had the same challenge.
There are many ways to address this challenge. The one their office has adopted is to arrange for each manager who reports to Georgia to work at home one morning a week, with another manager fielding all calls and requests until 1 pm.
Everyone is delighted with the results. Managers are getting the “think time” they need to do a better job in their roles. And automatic cross-training is happening, so they all have fuller and deeper understanding of each other’s departments, which is making Management Team decision-making easier and producing better decisions.
Maria & Peter
Maria learned that Peter felt crowded and overwhelmed when she was both physically close and speaking loudly. Just having this information is helping them both make choices that are working better.
In addition, they agreed that when she asked for his help, she would share all the information she wanted him to know, and he would repeat it back so that she was confident he had heard her. Then she would walk away and leave him to work on the task in his own way until either the job was done, or he had a question for her.
And if he was starting to feel overwhelmed at any time, he would say “Please stand back!” or “Stay back!” (when he couldn’t manage the “please”). And she’d know this was an important early-warning sign.
In addition to not having any repeats of the shoving incident, they are both feeling happier, more cared about and more supported by one another.
Would you like support to learn the skills they have?
Knowing how to deal successfully with situations we’re not happy about is the most important thing we need in order to enjoy and be successful in life.
But it’s not easy. Our bodies are programmed to make us want to do exactly the wrong things – to argue with the other person, or to avoid dealing with the situation and just hope things will magically get better. When instead they just tend to get worse.
So it takes consciously learning and practicing different ways of responding – until they become habits – to have the lives and relationships we want.
You could “go it alone” – reading what other people have written about how to do this, and experimenting with various approaches on your own to see what works and what doesn’t.
Or you could choose to benefit from the 15+ years of experience I’ve had in doing that – and in discovering what works to help people like you gain these skills quickly, easily and comfortably.
Interested in having support?