Have you noticed a change in people lately? We aren’t post-COVID, but we are post-homebound and isolated. After the flurry of vaccines and excitement as death rates eased, I’m weary. One long-term effect of COVID is a delayed reaction to the COVID blues. Or perhaps it’s just trauma. Regardless, the pissed-off people impact everyone – at work and home.
The Mayo Clinic describes the science and impact of stress, plus adds some great suggestions on healthy ways to deal with ongoing tension in the workplace and our lives. I’m not alone in noticing the lack of patience and decreased collaboration and kindness.
We have to value mental health, or it will impair our performance at work and relationships at home. Before you can heal from trauma (benign or acute), it has to be identified and named. After the acknowledgment, processing begins and is an ongoing cycle. We NEED TO adopt methods to manage our emotions calmly and regroup when we hit one of life’s “speed bumps.”
Healing occurs when we recognize that trauma impacts how we see life in the present and how it could impact challenges in the future.
Thinking about appropriate responses to situations, I remember some coaching I received. Several dog trainers have come in for our various rescues over the years. We joke that the trainers should be more focused on the dogs’ behavior rather than on the behavior of humans who need to adopt different ways of managing their pets. It’s an intriguing idea. I encourage people to think about it as we build and lead teams.
I gained another insight from the dog training experience: aggressive animals are usually not mean but scared and want to protect themselves. Getting to the root of the fear is essential to creating an environment where they feel safe and can communicate with you. An animal can’t speak to tell you what is wrong, so all we can do is create an environment where they feel safe.
Humans can use our words, but we sometimes communicate poorly.
The challenge is to sort through or translate messages to resolve issues or accept that any following collaboration will be fraught with obstacles. It can be incredibly draining and discouraging. There can be minefields in conversations or collaborations based on miscommunication or pre-existing issues. Miscommunication isn’t unique to the workplace; it happens even more in personal interactions with volunteers or family where emotions run high.
Many people feel that if they ignore something or let it go, it will go away, but it is guaranteed to reappear if we don’t address the root cause. COVID weariness has made me feel more vulnerable than ever. It’s become harder to lean into tough conversations without emotions interfering. But this is imperative in the workplace, and I am always willing to adapt to change. Minor changes combined with resilience can lead to less volatile discussions, which will be more effective in the long run.
Can you lean into the issue and have those difficult conversations to deliver better outcomes?
When I’m emotional, I can’t express my feelings or describe the issues very well. It takes longer to explain the problem and get a resolution. It reminds me of what the dog trainer told us, if we don’t nip destructive behaviors in the bud, it can lead to worse issues down the road. We are human (the manager, leader, parent, etc.), and that can enable the (dog, colleague, child, etc.) to fill in the blank. Pissed-off people impact everyone!
This article on LinkedIn has a great model for complex conversations. I’ve used some of the steps, but there are others that I could add or do better. Plus, the pause and utilizing a model keep things professional to be more effective than purely emotional.
My husband always says to me when something happens: “[the] intention was probably not to offend or to hurt anyone’s feelings.” Remember that aggressive dog with the trainer? The dog didn’t start with the intent to harm; it’s a defense mechanism for protection. That pause is critical to remember previous experiences triggered the response, and we must dig into it.
Ironically I called this blog Pissed off People, and the author uses the term too, even though she was writing back before COVID started. I was particularly struck by the phrase “Radical Candor” after listening to the author, Kim Scott, describe it. How to use it as a tool during difficult conversations. I thought this was brilliant.
While the Mayo Clinic describes and diagnoses, there are things we can do in the workplace and at home to help ourselves and those around us more effectively deal with stress. Additionally, having various tools in your toolbox helps us respond to a crisis with the most appropriate method. As I was reading the blog, the “Radical Candor” concept jumped out at me. It could be effective when people feel pissed off and aren’t quite sure why.
Select your challenge, learn the method, and lean into that discussion you have been avoiding. You may find that just like that pound puppy who is making you crazy, with some firm, consistent work, together the problem “child” at work or home can become the superstar.