A good friend – let’s call her Katy – shared with a group of us the other evening that there’s a woman she works with who is “awful”. She didn’t go into details, but said she was unwilling to even have a conversation with “Cruella” to clean up the bad vibes. And Katy said, “There’s a lot of other people at work who agree with me about her.” Uh oh.
So not only does she dislike this lady, but she is participating in gossip about her, gathering evidence about what a horrid person she is. I don’t know whether Cruella is incompetent, or wacko, or just plain mean, but I do know there is a cycle of misery in that workplace: Katy and the haters aren’t happy, and Cruella can’t be too pleased either. What can turn this cycle around?
Some of us suggested using one of the 4 ingredients in a Closure Conversation, i.e., one of the “4 A’s”:
- Acknowledge the facts of the matter;
- Appreciate them for what they have contributed;
- Apologize for any mistakes or misunderstandings; and/or
- Amend any broken agreements.
Katy could probably have used any one of these “A’s”, but I didn’t think she would. She seemed pretty dug into her position that this was a hopelessly unpleasant situation. In fact, she was hoping Cruella would lose her job soon. And she was working on a personal project to “take back her power”, and to get healthier (she had a nasty cough that night). So there.
Then a note landed in my email. It was addressed to everyone who was in the discussion the other night:
Today I took some ground in my “taking back my power” project. I acknowledged the co-worker I told you about for the success of the project she has been managing. Yes, I did go talk to her! I pointed out several specific accomplishments of the project – the number of people reached, the materials and services provided to our community, and the huge impact we are having by delivering on the promises of our mission.
She said, “I couldn’t have done it without my team.” But I wouldn’t let her deflect the acknowledgment. I said, “Yes, and you are the one who managed it.”
She was very guarded when I first approached her, as one would expect, but she was genuinely grateful for the acknowledgement. She said thank you. I will keep looking for other ways to acknowledge her.
Wow! That’s better than a Valentine, right? I’m betting this will change the atmosphere at work – for Katy, the other gossipers, and, especially, for Cruella. Plus, it probably also improved Katy’s health – is that cough is gone yet?
Gossip is a killer (see the 1/23/2017 blogpost) and damages workplace integrity along with reputations (everybody’s). It was great to see such a perfect example of someone who was swept up in a stab-fest take charge of the cleanup and rehabilitation of those involved. I predict good things here.
Last word from Katy: “Thank you for your much needed “gentle” nudge – aka – kick in the butt.” Last word from me: “That’s what friends are for.”