Thursday, April 9, 2009

Be Real, Take the High Road by Al Walsh

Dealing with the Clever Trouble-Maker

Keep the high ground.

A client of mine asked me to review a letter she wrote, and it prompted me to write this article.
She's dealing with a trouble-maker in a professional association who is trying to build political power for herself by exercising divide & conquer tactics. The woman's using her position & influence to divide people by ethnic, national, and professional lines so she can control them. It's causing problems for my client because she's being pressured to go along; and threatened if she doesn't.
We've all run across people like this. It's very immature behavior. Most people leave it behind on the playground when they grow out of childhood. A few never grow up.
I think my client knew her letter was wrong on some level because she asked me to review it. The letter was basically a mental dump of all her anger & frustrations - with wording and language that she would never normally use. She was planning to send it to the head of the organization. I'm glad she didn't.
So how does one deal with such people? They can be very aggravating and destructive. They appeal to the basest behaviors in others.
Fortunately, most people of this type self-implode at some point. They try to operate below the radar of management, but eventually they are found out. So the best way to deal with them is usually to just ignore them and let them self-destruct.
Then there are the rare situations where you just have to do something. I had one of those experiences. Another manager at the same level as me was trying to turn people against me in order to make himself look better. He wanted to run his department and mine. He resorted to devious tactics; including cruising my computer after-hours looking for ammunition to use against me.
The easy aspect of dealing with these people is that they're not hard to spot. Their arrogance and lack of scruples makes them stand out quickly. I even had other people coming to me and warning me (that's how I found out about him cruising my computer).
Most of the time, I ignored him and concentrated on my relationships with the other employees. By being real, and having integrity, I earned their respect. But this alone wasn't enough. He kept trying to make me look bad to my boss by sneaking in behind my back and presenting "evidence" that was taken out of context and left off critical info. I would find myself in the position of being called on the carpet to explain. I never got in trouble, but it got annoying and my boss was a little dense about what was going on. Finally I decided that something had to be said. I bided my time, chose my moment, and then presented my case as calmly & rationally as possible. My comments were received without response, and my boss then took some time to observe for himself. I just waited. It wasn't long before my antagonist boxed himself into a corner and became so paranoid that he quit for fear of being fired first. I ended up running my department and his.
Getting back to that letter. If you have a similar problem and just can't stop yourself from writing a letter (or email), do it in private, get all of your bitterness & anger out, read it several times to make yourself feel better, and then destroy it. Write several if you need to, but don't show them to anyone else and don't give them to your boss. If anything has to be said, do it in person, do it as calmly & rationally as possible, and don't lower yourself to the level of your antagonist.
Keep the high ground.
Good Luck,
Al Walsh, CEO
Walsh Enterprises, Business Advisors
Huntington Beach, Ca

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