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Are you walking on eggshells with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
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Walking on eggshells

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Walking on eggshells
By:Jeff Hough (Guest Opinion)

Recently I read an internet post by a person who lamented a work situation made stressful by a terrifying supervisor. The writer outlined the supervisor’s unprofessional, incompetent behavior, which was followed by angry outbursts from nowhere. Because of this unpredictable nature, the supervisor was able to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior and get away with it.
Another person wrote of a newly-hired co-worker who was sweet one minute and explosive the next. Management had been informed of the corrosive behavior, but had done nothing because the employee was considered too valuable to the organization. Now, the “timid” co-worker doesn’t feel safe and is afraid to go to work.

Erratic, unpredictable behavior is a characteristic of narcissism. Narcissists are like children who haven’t learned they are not the center of the universe and throw tantrums whenever their demands are not met. According to Sam Vaknin, author of “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited,” envy is at the core of every narcissist’s being. They envy other people’s happiness, possessions, accomplishments and status.

Narcissists aren’t the only ones causing problems at work. Tulsa-based Hogan Assessments recently surveyed 700 people and found that more than 80 percent of respondents reported being lied to, stolen from, cheated or treated dishonestly by a supervisor or coworker. Additionally, 50 percent used the term manipulative to describe their all-time worst boss.

People are forced to walk on eggshells because the people around them aren’t emotionally or morally consistent. This inconsistency causes unease because they never know what to expect when confronted with various situations. Fears arise when an individual doesn’t know if an innocent phrase will be twisted into a diabolical threat to be used against them at a later date or how a co-worker/boss will respond when presented with seemingly routine information. These fears lead to feelings of hopelessness and resentment.

Individuals who take advantage of the fears arising from these inconsistencies can be considered Emotional Bullies (EBs). These bullies use the emotional responses of those around them to get what they want or to satisfy their own emotional shortcomings, thus causing larger problems in the office.

Bob Sutton, management professor at Stanford and author of “The No A**hole Rule,” found that productivity declines as much as 40 percent in workplaces where EB occurs. A study done by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) estimated the financial costs to business to be between $6 and $13 billion per year due to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and staff turnover.

If you are experiencing an EB at work, the best solution is to leave (based on statistics from a 2013 Forbes article). Many EBs act the way they do because they have been allowed to for so long that the behavior has become a part of them. This unchecked behavior will not go away easily and may get worse if confronted. Look for a way out and take it as soon as possible.

However, if leaving isn’t an option, I offer the following:

1. Document everything. Regardless of whether it is a boss or a co-worker, documentation is your greatest ally. Keeping a detailed record of events provides concrete examples to use when confronting the EB or speaking with human resources. If it isn’t on paper, it didn’t happen.

2. Confront politely. Find a time when all is “quiet” to have the difficult conversation. During the conversation, use “I” statements rather than “You” statements. Often, EBs don’t realize the effect their behavior has and a non-confrontational discussion may be the first time it is brought to their attention.

3. Be emotionless. When dealing with someone who likes to push your buttons, your greatest asset can be the ability to remain calm. Remaining calm strips the EB of their power over you and shifts control of the situation back to you. The coolest head will prevail in these situations.

4. Stay healthy. If the timing isn’t right to leave the toxic environment, do things outside of work to maintain your health. Finding outlets for your stress, getting exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of rest all contribute to your ability to cope with your work environment.

Too many people spend time walking on eggshells, either avoiding the offensive person or reinforcing the behaviors causing the problem. A majority of executives think that EB is a serious problem, but few do anything about it. You owe it to yourself and your co-workers to try to stop it. If the suggestions above don’t work, legal action may be your best option. In the end, you need to decide what is best for you and what level of discomfort you are willing to tolerate.

Jeff Hough is director of the Idaho State University Workforce Training/Continuing Education program and can be reached at [sign in to see URL]@[sign in to see URL].

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Feb/25/2016, 10:34 am Link to this post  

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