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Chapter 8. Parrying the Difficult Thrusts > Personal Attacks - Pg. 77

Parrying the Difficult Thrusts Returning responsibility means that you communicate to the employee that he or she is expected to be an active participant in problem solving. 77 Returning responsibility involves some other tactics. For example, in any setting, when I hear Paul complain, I'm going to ask him to suggest how to resolve the complaint. If Paul says he's overworked, I'm going to ask him how we can address that. If Paul says nobody pays attention to him, I'm going to ask him what he might do to change that, or why he thinks people might be ignoring him. What I need to do, both in the meeting and at every other instance of complaining or whining be- havior, is to send the message that I'm not going to be suckered into arguing or solving the problem alone, but that I expect him to come up with possible solutions. Then we negotiate. From the Manager's Desk When a difficult person doesn't respond to a gentle, less-forceful approach, you have the option of gradually becoming firmer and using your management power to set out guidelines and expectations. But save any ultimatums until you've tried other, usually more productive, approaches. Now, pay special attention. I've started really gently. I began by trying to show Paul I understand he may feel wronged but haven't agreed that his perception is accurate. When Paul denies the problem, we shift to talking about his behavior (which is really the issue). If he denies that part, then I will become firmer in the feedback cycle, explaining what I expect, and how I would like him to alter his behavior. We'll talk more about what happens if that doesn't work in a later chapter. What's important here is I start out with the least possible force. I also send the message, both in the meeting and later on, that I expect Paul to take some responsibility for fixing the problem. If that doesn't work, I still have the option of becoming firmer in stating my expectations and consequences if they're not met. Personal Attacks In-your-face attacks are obvious, open attacks on you, your competency, and your personal char- acteristics, or they are simply abusive. They include behavior like offensive language. In terms of a reality check, this is a no-brainer: It's not acceptable behavior. Let's look at two separate situations--when the verbal attack occurs in private and when it occurs in public. Before we do, let's also assume that the nasty person doesn't do this too often. If so, that's consid- ered venomous or more severe difficult behavior, and we will address this in a later section. Private Attacks Let's go back to Paul. Despite my best efforts to handle his situation, he loses his temper at the meeting. He makes some remarks that are personal. One thing he says is that the only reason I got my management job was because I knew someone upstairs. Then he throws in a few swear words. Not good.