Dealing with Critics

Nov 1st, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, application, aptitude, Career advice, career choice, challenges, negativity, office problems, skills, strategy, success, tactics

This week there were several questions on Yahoo Answers related to working under adverse conditions. There were several categories, bad boss, nasty co-workers, critical adversaries, and the list goes on. Although the scenarios differ the common thread is a toxic situation with no apparent remedy.

The most common answer posted in response to these questions was to find another job. The standard career advice in these situations is, we should be happy and enjoy out work, and one should have to work in an environment they do not like. In short find another job in an ideal environment. I agree with this advice, but it easier said than done. While there are some people who truly like everything about their jobs, they are the lucky few. Most of us have a least a few flies in the ointment to irritate us and make our workday unpleasant. This is unfortunate, for we spend more time at wok than anywhere else,

It seems to be human nature for most groups to become functional if not happy. Usually there is a leader that emerges from the pack and the others fall into some sort of pecking order. Think grade school or even high school. In most schools there were several groups to accommodate the difference interests. It is still the same and maybe even worse. Although not perfect this scheme provides social interaction and friends with common interests. This apparent grouping enables the schools to function with the appearance of harmony. However, there is often animosity and rivalry among the different groups and there is also rivalry within the groups. This makes for some very distressing and stressful environments for some students. The recent news items on bullying and picking on certain students to the point where they commit suicide is really telling of the peer pressures that exist in our schools. Unfortunately school teaches us our social skills as well as academics. Colleges and universities pride themselves on helping students grow past their high school social patterns, but as we have seen in the news lately in some cases it intensifies them. These are the social skills that are brought to the workplace.

In general most of the coping skills learned in high school are adaptable to the workplace. Dealing with difficult people is an art and must be developed. Avoidance, which works really well in high school, may not be as effective in the office, epically if your work requires you interact with a toxic person. For example, if you share the same office space, work on the same team or projects, or participate in the same meetings, avoidance may be detrimental to your career and professional creditability. It takes some practice, but you can develop techniques to handle most difficult personalities in the workplace. It is my observation that most difficult people use criticism as their main weapon. An important part of any tactic to deal with difficult people is not to show anger or irritation. If at all possible try to smile or portray a placid expression. Never agree with criticism, but do not openly argue over the accusations. This just gives the toxic person an audience and increases the potential damage. Instead thank them for their input and tell them you will look into it. If they challenge your facts, go to a recognized source for the answer. For example, I was once challenged on the operational characteristics of a satellite system at an opened meeting. Once the person made his statement that my report contained erroneous information it was matter of creditability to defend my work. I stated that the paper was based on a reference satellite textbook and gave the name and author. When the person persisted, rather than debate I requested the paper be tabled, and creditable sources be presented in further discussion concerning the satellite system referred to in the paper. At the next meeting I had a stack of books in front of me, and when the paper came to up on the agenda there was no further criticism of its contents. If you are not sure of your facts, you can always suggest taking it off line, and discussing the criticism in private. This short circuits the attack and puts in a private setting. Then if necessary you can agree to make necessary changes. This deprives your attacker of the publicity and attention, and saves you from public humiliation. After a few times, most difficult people will seek out easier targets. Good luck

The PracticaL Mentor

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