IT Employment

Communication is not a four-letter word

Feeling disgruntled with a boss or a co-worker? Here are a couple of reasons why staying silent won't solve anything, as well as some suggestions for how to open the lines of communication.

I get a lot of email from people who are having workplace issues with co-workers or bosses. Although I am glad to help in any way I can, I think it's ironic that people will communicate with me rather than doing what could maybe solve the problem in the first place -- directly communicating with the person they're actually having the problem with. (For more on this, see the video below.)

I realize that it's difficult to communicate sometimes, especially with a person that is displaying a major attitude problem in the first place. But there are a couple of problems with staying silent.

First of all, you wouldn't believe how many times someone projects an attitude without even realizing it. Many of us tend to take certain behaviors personally when they're not intended for us. I remember one time a co-worker confessed that when he was hired he was scared to death of me. It was because, throughout the day, I would frequently make these (what he interpreted as) impatient sighs. In actuality, I was about 412 months pregnant and extremely uncomfortable all the time.

So you might be feeling hostility from a co-worker when, in fact, the behavior has nothing to do with you, and you've stressed over nothing.

A second reason for speaking up is this: The modern workplace is awash with passive-aggressive warfare. Almost everyone has to deal with a Machiavellian boss or co-worker at some time or another. You can spend your days munching Rolaids and worrying about the next step in your own covert defense tactic, or you can speak to the person you're having a problem with. By bringing a topic into the light of a conversation in a non-confrontational manner, you can diffuse the passive-aggressive power.

Now, of course, there are people out there who do not respond to civil conversation or constructive criticism; those people are a little trickier, and the appropriate response is determined on a case-by-case basis. But do try simple communication first.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

16 comments
trish.johnson
trish.johnson

What do you mean by passive-aggressive warfare exactly and maybe you need an article on how to deal with that?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

That's you don't volunteer information that would help your enemy. For instance your boss orders you to make a major screw up, so you do it, and say he told you to. Got to be careful with that one though. Delayed action ones are best, that way, they've told all their peers how clever they've been before the wheels come off. The best way to deal with it is not to get in that situation in the first place. Once it's started 99.99999% of the time, someone has to go. Most of the time that won't be the boss, RHIP as it were. It's bloody funny though.

prateek.narang
prateek.narang

When we know that somebody is going to display major attitude, we start the conversation with prenotion. Rather concentrating on the point to be discussed, we concentrate on the other person personality. I believe, this thing is under our control. By showing tolerance to the attitude and focusing on the point of conversation, we can have good enough results. Prateek Narang http://prateeknarang.blogspot.com

partnersph_2
partnersph_2

I am a college student who's being trained for the corporate world. As such, I am assigned to a "development team" and is fortunate enough to be destined to a leader who hates me for personal reasons. On our recent project, I worked on a business letter to be submitted to our "boss" (professor). In an attempt to steal the spotlight, our leader replaced my business letter, including all my work (at least those that he knows of), and submitted his own version. How should I deal with it?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

head, ram it into his desk repeatedly. Figuratively of course. :D (at least those he knows of) implies there's one more lying about just in case. "You show wisdom beyond your years" Whether you publically or private;y hmiliate this person depends on whether you think they are of any further use to you. Whatever you do though, don't just take it, that's an easily formed bad habit.

partnersph_2
partnersph_2

I walked out... Turns out that other "development teams" want me. Too bad for this leader, I'm one of the few in the group who actually do their job... Thank you for the advice sir!

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

call this "leader" out. You did say you are assigned to a development TEAM. The team must also call out the leader.

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

and receiver. If you think your communicating with someone who is only a transmitter, your messeage will never be received and you will never know. (Commuication has failed) I have worked with this type of "Communicator". It will be a challange if one of the two parties in any type of communicating is limited to just one of these functions. In the workplace, this is fatal.

michael.brodock
michael.brodock

basically if they don't give me an acknowledgment of what I said, then I ask them to repeat what I said. Once I get an acknowledgment, then I tell them what they said to me and look for an ACK back to be sure we understand one another. Another point that I learned from one of my teachers is "tell 'em what you are going to say, then say it, the tell 'em what you said" of course that works best if you use 3 different methods in doing so, like say an analogy, a real world experience and theoretical stipulation... not necessarily in that order. :)

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

my children growing up. When they got be in their twenties it became less necessary. Trained at last!

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

You must use the historical proven method of having someone they don't know fly out and smack 'em around a little. Then, you can innocently claim a total lack of knowledge. It's worked for royalty, government, religious leaders and criminal organizations for ages! Remember ladies do not smack the evil doers. They get an old testament all the time kinda person to do it for them! Seriously, good advice on directly asking the person with whom you are experiencing the issue. Even if you can't resolve the issue and someone in a position of power has to become a referee, you at least made the attempt to resolve the conflict yourself. And all the women I know sigh at me. You mean they might have been impatient with my demented happy court jester self? Nah can't be that... :)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

anyone irritable. :D This may come as a surprise ( :p ) but I've been told to go the other way and not rush into confronting (I mean communicating with) the person I have a problem with. I'm a bit of a juggernaut when I get going.

Viperfriends12
Viperfriends12

If I found out someone where I just started working was pregnant for 34 years even if it was my first day at the company on the job whatever, I would about have walk straight up to them and and say the famous line from the movie "Friday"....D**MMmmmmmmm. :) sorry, I know, but I needed a laugh right now. Just got out of one of those 3hr board meetings where it sounds like a bunch of 1st graders trying to talk over the other one. Uuugh.

Dave Keays
Dave Keays

It appears to me that both approaches are a tool that can be used or abused. Sometimes it is wise to pick your fights well and let the small stuff slide. And sometimes you want to get down to the bones of the matter and talk to the other. If she was 412 months pregnant then it would have probably been rather obvious to the co-worker who chose to ignore the situation. Maybe a diplomatic confrontation would have been justifiable in that situation.

catpro-54
catpro-54

and I know that people take it the wrong way sometimes. But how does one consciously NOT sigh? Dilemma....