Eliminating Asshole behavior-Learn how to Frame Conflict and feedback for change

Recently, I re- read the enjoyable and insightful book on how to spot and deal with Assholes in the workplace. I highly recommend it if you are locked into constant battles with a difficult employees. Dr. Robert Sutton’s through analysis and honest inspection of the Asshole Personality provides tips on a problem solving framework for creating a mental “frame of reference” for dealing with the  “intent” behind their behavior. It establishes a context and tools within which specific information can be shared, understood and new approaches to restoring a workable and hopefully positive climate for communicating different views of the world can be developed.

A mind set is what you say at the beginning of the feedback process that tells the other person, in one sentence, what your expectations are, what you want to accomplish, what role  you perceive the other person plays in the stalemate and what you want to take away from the process and how we can agree on a solution that works for both of us . LASTLY, HOW WE ARE GOING TO EVALUATE OUR PROGRESS TOWARD RESOLUTION AND A NEW OF OPERATING TOGETHER.

This approach frames the specific behavioral feedback along with the impact of that behavior. When done well, it diminishes defensiveness and creates greater receptivity to solve the conflict and change the situation toward a win-win solution and an improved “quality of worklife”.

Shifting contexts is the skill of flexible-responsiveness that removes obstructions to listening or understanding information. It shifts the discussion to another frame or reference in order to break a logjam in understanding and change. An example, “We seem to be stuck here. What if we were to step back and talk about what our hopes are if we could create a better work experience where the union reps like yourself and management are not locked into win-lose attacks and arguments?

When the other person seems to be focusing on the negative and seems to be resistant to what is being said, it is often their frame of reference that need to be shifted.

Power Question formats are skill sets that engage the interest, curiosity and cooperation of others. Often, by asking a powerful question, we can help someone open up to hear what is being said.

Examples: “If you were in my shoes and I had engaged in this behavior, what would you have to say about it and how would you hope that I would respond?” “What is the best way for me to help you hear some feedback that points out how you could be performing better?”

This goes hand-in-hand with the skill of  Active Listening –to take the time to show someone we have heard and understood their reality–them through eye contact, summarizing their key points and asking follow-up questions to get more depth and understanding. It models how to receive input.

Constructing confrontational/appreciation messages has been written about in a prior column. In summary it is clarifying intent (mindset) for the feedback and communicating that at the beginning of the process. Then specifying specific behavior and following up with its impact on others, work, team, process or relationship.

Next you seek to understand by asking their intent and actively listening to them. You then summarize what you heard and review the behavior and the impact once again. Finally, you collobrate in creating an action plan and commitment to ask for their help in designing a path forward.

Designing action plans is the skill of outlining clear action items for process improvement. The secret to doing this well is to ensure that all actions are behaviorally specific, measurable and have some timeline attached to them. Follow-through is the skill of making sure that you reinforce the action plans by talking about progress or lack of progress in an on-going process.

Finally, setting up feedback loops is a skill set that helps identify formats, times and processes for ensuring that on-going feedback is occurring and that results of behaviors are communicated back to others in an on-going way.

If all this fails and you are in a position of power you may be forced to just fire the person.


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