The following blog post is excerpted from my new book Head On: How to Approach Difficult Conversations Directly.
Martin loved his new FitBit. And everyone in the office knew it. Co-workers adored Martin. He was friendly and outgoing and a dependable colleague. And in the past 12 months, Martin lost over 50 pounds and became very focused on his health. He had another 30 pounds to go to reach his goal weight and he was very motivated. The whole office was incredibly proud of him. And then he got a FitBit and began tracking his steps.
In his role as an account manager, he spent most of his workday on conference calls with clients and colleagues in other locations. Once he began wearing his FitBit, he became obsessed with getting as many steps in each day as he possibly could. He began taking his conference calls on his headset while walking around. If his work area had been all offices with closed doors, that might have been fine. But Martin worked in a sea of cubicles. As he walked up and down the cubicle hallways on his conference calls, he talked. Loudly. Coworkers were distracted as they tried to focus on their own work, amidst the sound of Martin’s roving voice.
While complaining to others and ruminating about the situation are tempting, neither one will change the situation for the better. In fact, both can do damage. Ruminating reinforces the frustration and anger you feel about the situation, causing you to unnecessarily relive it and reinforce it in your brain. Not helpful. Complaining to others not only marks you as a complainer, there’s also a good chance your negative comments will get back to Martin and do damage to the relationship.
What should one do, rather than ruminate or complain to others? Approach the situation head on, of course. Let’s start with how you might use the head on approach with Martin, the walking, talking FitBit fitness fanatic:
“Martin, I know your health is extremely important to you and you must be very proud of the progress you’ve made in taking better care of your body. Your FitBit is a new addition to the mix . . . and as you take your “walk and talk” meetings, you come by my desk frequently talking rather loudly. It’s distracting to me and is interfering with my work. Can we schedule some time to talk about it and come up with another solution that works for both of us?”
What situations with colleagues drive you nuts?
Check out my new book Head On: How to Approach Difficult Conversations Directly for more case studies and specific techniques for addressing difficult situations.