Stop Pissing Me Off What to Do When the People You Work with Drive You Crazy

BOOK: Stop Pissing Me Off What to Do When the People You Work with Drive You Crazy
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STOP

Pissing me off!

what to do when the people you

work with drive you crazy

Lynne Eisaguirre

avon, Massachusetts

Copyright © 2007 by Lynne Eisaguirre

All rights reserved.

This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher; exceptions are made for brief excerpts used in published reviews.

Published by Adams Business

An imprint of Adams Media, an F+W Publications Company 57 Littlefield Street

Avon, MA 02322

www.adamsmedia.com

ISBN-10: 1-59337-548-4

ISBN-13: 978-1-59337-548-5 (paperback)

ISBN-13: 978-1-44050-092-3 (EPUB)

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

is available from the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America.

J I H G F E D C B A

The author acknowledges kind permission to reprint material appearing on

pages 46–48
, reprinted from
Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human
Relationships
by Daniel Goleman, Copyright © 2006 by Daniel Goleman. Used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc.; and on
page 196,
reprinted from
In Control
by Redford Williams, MD, and Virginia Williams, PhD. Copyright © 2006 by Redford Williams, MD, and Virginia Williams, PhD. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information with regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.

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Declaration of Principles
jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a

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CONTENTS

Acknowledgments  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi

Introduction . 
how to Move from pissed off to powerful
. . . ix

Hint: Accept that difficult people work

everywhere.

01 . 
what’s with all the Bitching and Moaning?
  . . . . . . . . . . . .1

How to understand workplace stress.

02 . 
what the hell is your problem? (Maybe it’s you)
. . . . . .11

How to identify who is the problem.

03 . 
your workers’ Bill of rights
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

You do know that bra-snapping is not

okay, right?

04 . 
how to connect even when you don’t want to
. . . . . . . . 43

Get by with a little help from your friends.

05 . 
are they doing it Just to piss you off?
  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

How to understand how people are hardwired.

|  iii  |

06 . 
have i told you lately that you Bug Me?
  . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85

How to have difficult conversations with

difficult people.

07 . 
the Bozo Boss from hell
  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  101

How to go around that clown.

08 . 
the Managers’ Bill of rights
  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113

How to outflank the difficult employee.

09 . 
how to avoid killing outrageous clients
  . . . . . . . . . . . . 121

Serving a royal pain in the ass.

10 . 
how to navigate road ragers, slackers,

and whiners
  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135

You talkin’ to me?

11 . 
chill out
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149

How to cope when you want to slap someone.

12 . 
Fun is not a Four letter word . . . But work is
  . . . . . . 161

How to stay sane and happy on the job.

13 . 
Be charming even if it kills you
  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171

How to adjust and harness your own attitude.

14 . 
how to shine at any Job and why you should
  . . . . . . . 177

Great expectations.

15 . 
take this Job and love it
  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185

How to enjoy everything at work.

|  iv  |

16 . 
if all else Fails, pull the Fire alarm
  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201

How to get their attention.

17 . 
when you can’t “love the one you’re with”
. . . . . . . . . 215

How to create a plan to move on.

Conclusion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229

Appendix A . 
additional resources
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230

Appendix B . 
Bibliography
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232

Index  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235

|  v  |

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Books are written by authors, but actually delivering a copy into a reader’s hands takes much more than one person’s work. I’m indebted to my agent, Michael Snell, who came to me with the proposal for this book. Jill Alexander at Adams Media created the original concept, and helped me shape and refocus the content, while remaining cheerful and optimistic—everything a writer wants an editor to be. Meredith O’Hayre added her expert editorial eye to the final manuscript.

My hard-working and upbeat assistant, Shannon Duran, typed and proofed endless versions of this book without complaint. O. C. O’Connell offered last-minute editing and research. I’m thankful to many clients who trusted me with their personal stories. Their names and identities have been changed in many situations to protect the innocent.

Friends Bill Cahal, Peter Clarke, Susan Hazaleus, and Val Moses helped shore up my attitude. My fellow “villagers,”

residents of my co-housing community in Golden, Colorado, offered in-the-trenches training on the realities of dealing with different personalities, thorny conflicts, and the consensus process.

|  vi  |

I’m grateful to neuropsychologist Dr. Debra Holden and psychiatrist Dr. Ron Rabin for patiently explaining brain function. Any mistakes in this area, however, are my own. My parents, Joe and Wilma Eisaguirre, and siblings, Kim Jones and Lew Eisaguirre, provided moral support and their usual unflagging belief in my abilities—as well as teaching me much of what I know about difficult people! (That’s a joke, guys!)

On the home front, Allison King helped care for my children with devoted attention so that I would have the time and energy to work. John Evans provided moral support as well as extra child care. And of course my kids, Elizabeth and Nicholas, worked cheerfully on their own books so that I would have the time to write mine. I love you more than any writer’s words can ever express.

|  vii  |

introduction

HOW TO MOvE frOM PiSSED Off

TO POWErfuL

Hint: Accept that difficult people work

everywhere.

Even on a good day, you can name at least one difficult person at the office. On a bad day you can probably rattle off four or five without even pausing. Be they slackers, sneaks, liars, tyrants, boors, bullies, wimps, whiners, workaholics, or everyday incompetents, you’ve got your hands full with people who are making it difficult for you to do your job well and stay sane. I know this because my entire work life revolves around helping people deal with difficult people and workplace conflict. Nonetheless, I do love my work. I love making a difference in how organizations function, how people collaborate, and I get a charge out of how improving those skills improves workplace performance. It’s a direct boost to the bottom line. Understanding each other, one person at a time, finding common ground in everyday interactions, and negotiating differences is essential at every workplace in every corner of the globe. Why? Your personal happiness is at stake. Your company’s future is at stake. Every department within your company needs to enhance performance. Collaboration, creative problem-solving, and negotiating conflict is the golden ticket.

|  ix  |

stop
 Pissing Me Off!

Everybody wants to talk about creating high-performance teams, hardwiring organizational excellence, and improving emotional intelligence. However, all of these require the ability to deal with conflict. You must be able to negotiate with people who may not look or sound anything like you. You’ve got to be able to bridge differences. That’s where
Stop Pissing Me Off!
comes in.
they’re everywhere

I regularly do keynote addresses, seminars, and consulting engagements on this subject. Invariably, after every program, people swarm the podium to confirm that our corporations are overflowing with difficult people. I listen to a litany of horror stories in which the storyteller is victimized by some difficult person. The puzzling part is that
no one
ever claims to be the difficult one. What’s up with that? What’s up is that people almost always find a way to shift accountability, to believe that
they
are being wronged by difficult coworkers. They believe that if only those difficult people would shape up, their work lives would be better. That’s true. Too bad it doesn’t work that way all the time.
take control

The thing is, it doesn’t matter if the rascals don’t take the initiative to shape up. You can still change the way interactions with those difficult people play out. Regardless of whether we’re talking about a bully or whiner, your fate is not determined by the whims of your colleagues. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a little-known truth that you can change the entire dynamic that exists between you and those difficult people who routinely annoy you. It’s not rocket science, nor is

|  x  |

introduction.
  How to Move From Pissed Off to Powerful there some quick cure-all. It is simply a matter of adding some rather ordinary, but effective tools to your relationship tool box. To help make this easier, you’ll find a handy list of such tools at the end of every chapter.

Every workplace has difficult people; yours is no exception. Perhaps
you
are even the difficult person in your workplace. Either way—whether you’re the difficult person or a saint—

you can transform your workplace into a place where you actually enjoy working. If you’re thinking, “Huh, she doesn’t know how bad it is at my job,” I beg to differ. I’ve been to thousands of offices, assembly lines, R & D labs, quality control departments, executive team meetings, employee town hall gatherings, boiler rooms, back offices, frontline service operations, support areas, management retreats, call centers, break rooms, and board meetings. You don’t know the trouble I’ve seen. I’ve helped organizations in the middle of ugly mergers, during massive layoffs, and when multimillion-dollar projects have blown up. I’ve worked with organizations that have swallowed up and spit out their best people and churned through CEOs by the second. I’ve seen plenty of outrageous ugliness and helped many an employee, manager, and executive turn around seemingly impossible situations.

Don’t be cynical—change can happen. In fact, change happens one person at a time. Negotiating differences is a oneon-one exercise requiring a skill set that many people don’t have and haven’t known how to obtain. This book will get you there. I have been teaching these tactics and techniques for more than twenty years. They work. You’ll get results. There’s no gimmick; it’s about using commonsense, tried-and-true communication techniques. It’s about skills. It’s about strategies. These are learned behaviors. If you’re still reading this, you’ve demonstrated your capacity to learn, so you can rest easy; you’re going to succeed at this.

|  xi  |

stop
 Pissing Me Off!

what you’ll learn in this Book

This book is your emergency survive and
thrive
guide. As Juliet B. Schor writes in
The Overworked American: The Unexpected
Decline of Leisure
, most of us spend more time at work than we do with our families. About 25 percent of that time is spent negotiating with others. Despite that statistic, we actually spend very little time learning how to resolve disputes skillfully. This practical and hard-hitting book will help you: n Understand why so many people get crabby at work

n Put the brakes on a bad day

n Learn how to have difficult and successful conversations with difficult people

n Manage bozo bosses, crusty colleagues, and cranky customers n Realize the benefits of sending yourself to time-out n Survive and thrive in any workplace

the consequences of not resolving difficulties

One of my client scenarios, for example, involved a guy named Michael Tucker who was on the fast track at an upstart technology company. He was chosen to participate in that company’s Management Development Program, and that opportunity came with some big-ticket benefits—an impressive promotion, a hefty salary, stock options, and plenty of perks after he successfully completed the training. Michael was a thoughtful, introspective person who pondered issues before responding to questions. He liked to plan and weigh options before taking action. He avoided conflict whenever possible, fleeing from the fray like a roadrunner. He took a low profile until the coast was clear. He was a good guy.

|  xii  |

introduction.
  How to Move From Pissed Off to Powerful The problem is that Michael couldn’t seem to work with Grace Oberman, the office manager. Grace was well known for her unorthodox but productive ways. In fact, Grace’s nickname was “GO” because of her initials and efficiency. She thrived on action. She constantly asked Michael to “cut to the chase” and harassed him when she thought he was dawdling in making decisions. No hemming and hawing for her.

Grace relished the back-and-forth of debates and she usually triumphed in most arguments through force and ferociousness. She was a classic pit bull; Michael’s cautious, thoughtful process incensed her. Both Michael and Grace whined to their coworkers, spouses, and therapists that the other party was so

“difficult” to work with. After eighteen months of stop and go, neither Michael nor Grace was with the company any more. Their inability to resolve their differences cost them their job satisfaction and cost the company two great employees. This happens every week in companies just like yours all over the country. Small businesses, multinational corporations, nonprofits, family-owned enterprises—they all have employees who suffer from an inability to negotiate differences.
dealing with diFFerences

The workforce is more diverse than at any time in history. Organizations are a patchwork of people whose backgrounds vary widely—it is no longer a bastion of Caucasian males with a similar view of the world. Baby boomers, Gen X’ers, women, senior citizens, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, gays, lesbians, single parents, and dual-income families are some of the people creating our eclectic work environment. The divide among some—whether it’s age, education, gender, position, values, socioeconomic background, political beliefs, or religion—

|  xiii  |

stop
 Pissing Me Off!

is a stumbling block to a productive work relationship. These differences frequently lead people to label others as “difficult.”

Learning how to work with different coworkers is no longer optional. It’s essential; you can’t have functional work teams without knowing how to deal with a wide variety of people effectively. It’s a basic skill set that’s as vital as computer literacy. Moreover, diversity is a gift because it allows your department, work team, or company to look at business challenges from a multitude of perspectives, and that creates new solutions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment has hovered around 4 percent for more than two years now, with little sign of change. Even with the recent layoffs, there still aren’t nearly enough qualified workers available for the jobs that are open. In fact, organizations that have suffered recent layoffs, mergers, acquisitions, or other transitions face even more conflict, created by the stress of change and uncertainty. The bottom line: Organizations can’t afford to have their ranks riddled with dissatisfaction and tension. They will lose star performers to their competitors if they don’t foster an environment that appropriately deals with difficult people and cultivates a culture of tolerance, creativity, and collaboration.
the value of a proactive approach

It used to be that I often got called just
after
a company had lost someone due to conflict. I’d fly in after the fact and assess the damage and help sort out the whole mess. There is a big shift that’s occurring now. These days, I often get called
before
there’s irreversible damage. People are starting to see that they can be proactive. The good news is that you don’t have to depend upon your boss or your budget to learn these skills. You’ve now got
Stop Pissing Me Off!

|  xiv  |

introduction.
  How to Move From Pissed Off to Powerful This book is unlike anything currently on the shelves. Sure, there are books on relationship conflicts, but there is no business book that deals with workplace woes resulting from the difficult people that populate your corridors. This is the only book that singularly tackles the issue of embracing difficult people in the workplace and offers the possibility of transforming those relationships. The tools in this book can transform your work life faster than any other change you can make. Not bad return on investment (ROI) on a book that is only slightly more than the price of a few designer cups of coffee!

This is not an academic tome—it’s a field guide for people in the trenches at all levels of business who need to understand the underlying reasons for difficult people, manage those difficulties, work productively with a diverse work force, and transform work misery into work joy!

Had Michael and Grace read this book, they’d probably be happily ensconced in their respective offices, loving their jobs.
why you and your organization need this Book

Research from the American Management Association (AMA) shows that the staggering cost of replacing an employee can range from 30 percent of the employee’s annual salary to 1.5

times that much. Moreover, the AMA also reports that turnover in the United States shot to its highest level in nearly two decades, reaching a record 19 percent in 2006. To put that in context, suppose a financial services firm employs 1,000 people at an average pay rate of $14 per hour. If that company has only a 10 percent turnover rate, the annual impact on its profits conservatively ranges from $875,000 to a whopping $1.2 million. Reducing turnover is a mandate for organizations that wish to be successful. The top reason that employees leave is

|  xv  |

stop
 Pissing Me Off!

conflict with bosses and colleagues. The Gallup Organization interviewed two million employees at 700 different companies and found that employees’ relationships with their supervisors affect how long they stay at a company as well as employee productivity. Marcus Buckingham, a senior management consultant at Gallup and the primary analyst for the study says,

“People join companies and leave managers.”

These results are corroborated by another recent survey about workplace stress. A Wright Management survey this year found that two-thirds of workers feel burned out. The highest source of stress? Difficult coworkers. Likewise, in my experience as a workplace consultant, the biggest reason people give for leaving their job is because they are disconnected from their bosses or work situation. Good people simply won’t continue to work for jerks or toil under unfavorable daily conditions. An interview of
Fortune
500 senior executives reveals a statistic that can cripple businesses: Executives spend a significant amount of time wrestling with the difficult people at work who create unproductive conflict. In fact, 20 percent of their time is devoted to conflict-related activities. Think about that time in terms of money: 20 percent of their salary is wasted on unproductive conflict. Where’s the ROI there? When you add up the costs of conflicts with difficult people, it’s readily apparent that it can close the doors of organizations. There are the direct costs, productivity costs, opportunity costs, and the emotional costs that cause people to misdirect their energy to their own detriment.

Employees, supervisors, managers, and top executives all can use
Stop Pissing Me Off!
to gain the understanding, attitude, and skills they need to reduce turnover, create exceptional teams, and improve productivity. This book is full of practical examples and proven methods that represent some of the best practices for a productive workplace.

|  xvi  |

introduction.
  How to Move From Pissed Off to Powerful The power of this book is that it illuminates a productive path through conflicts with difficult people. It teaches you how to improve your own skills and become more successful, regardless of how others act or what relationship styles they use. You’ll be a better individual contributor or leader, and a more skilled negotiator capable of facilitating resolutions in a business environment that is fraught with continuous change. Because of my experience in diverse workplaces, I can relate to many different kinds of people, from truck drivers to technology experts. I’ve toiled as an attorney and intern for the U.S. Congress and federal government, and in law firms as an associate, contract attorney, and partner. I grew up working on a ranch and worked my way through college and law school by teaching swimming, cleaning restrooms, waiting tables, and washing dishes. I also worked as a dorm counselor and secretary. Trust me: Difficult people populated all those diverse work situations, so I had at least thirty years of working experience to draw on while writing this book. If you travel the yellow brick road of this book, I guarantee you’ll have better work days ahead, and who knows? You might even get in to see the wizard.

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