Guest post by Dr. Rick Brinkman, co-author of Dealing With People You Can’t Stand.
Why, when under stress does one person whine, another attack, another withdraw, while others get passive aggressive?
In order to understand workplace behavior and what motivates it, one must observe coworkers actions through a Lens of Understanding, first reflecting upon these four influential factors in human behavior: Organizational culture, job function, the people around us, and personal programming.
Organizational culture consists of behaviors both good and bad, that are considered acceptable and forbidden.
When I presented seminars for IBM’s leadership series I talked about the grenade tantrum, when an employee has an out-of-control explosion with elements that have little or nothing to do with present circumstances. Consistently half the IBMers in the room would say I cant imagine somebody doing that at work. While the other half of the room would say, Oh yes they do!
The difference was their location. The half that said they, couldn’t imagine it, were IBMers who were always at IBM. The half that said Yes they do, were IBMers who get sent to someone else’s facility. They realized their corporate culture didnt tolerate grenade tantrums.
A second factor is job function. Professional nurses for example are often on the front line, knowing what needs to be done but trumped by doctor who are Tanks (someone who asserts control through aggression and a single-minded focus) or Know-it-alls (someone who is very controlling, with a low tolerance for correction and contradiction) and limited by a hospital bureaucracy. The result of that equation is a feeling of being helpless. Helpless is the root of whining, a negative behavior. (Hopeless the root of negativity.)
A third factor that influences behavior is the people around us. Whining, Negativity and Sniping are virulent and spread like the flu. Before you know it, everyone is doing it. Have you ever noticed how one department can have an ongoing sniping relationship with another department? Other difficult behaviors may not replicate but they still cause problems. Put a Know-it-all on a team of people and watch everyone turn into Nothing people who wont speak up or contribute at meetings.
Your relationship can also be a factor. If a colleague attacks, you may stand up for yourself. If your boss attacks, you may be more passive.
And of course each of us individually comes wired with some tendencies for where we believe we fit.
To prevent negative behaviors and move people into the Cooperation Zone, one must:
1. Recognize where people are behaviorally in the Lens of Understanding.
2. Recognize the factors influencing behavior of job function, organizational culture, and team members.
3. Know the strategy to transform their behavior. Communication is like a phone number. You need all of the digits and you need them in the correct order for your call to go through.