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Confrontation is the Big Brother of Productivity

Confrontation is the Big Brother of Productivity
Confrontation

No. I repeat this simple word many times each day, in a variety of volumes and with relative efficacy. My three young children are used to me saying no but are keen to keep me in line in case I abuse the word or just get in the habit of saying no under the banner of being a “good parent”. When I’m at home, no is easy. At work, it’s another story altogether.

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“No may be the word we need most in today’s times,” said negotiator William Ury, author of The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes. When you consider the consequences of confronting a coworker and the very real possibility of fallout in the days that follow, saying no is serious business indeed. I once confronted a colleague for his verbal abuse of a secretary and the result was predictable- he denied the whole thing and resented the fact that I called him out on it. What follow are some pointers when it comes to confronting the person who is way out of line.

Step back and “Go to the Balcony”. Ury uses this phrase as a way of encouraging poise under pressure. Someone has just offended you or said something completely out of line so how should you respond? Step back, take a breath and respond with calm and composure. Going “to the balcony” indicates a need to get away from the situation, if even for a moment. Maybe it’s taking a deep breath or putting your fingers to your temples. It might require you to leave the room and walk down the hall. The key is to avoid an emotional reaction and choose instead a rational response.

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Trust Your Gut. In the situation that I described earlier, I went with my gut which told me that a secretary had just been chewed out for no apparent reason. Instead of sweeping it under the rug as just a “bad day” for the offender, I marched right up to his room and spoke directly to him. Remember this: if it seems like a situation of abuse, neglect or outright workplace arrogance, it probably is. How to respond is the real question.
Give Him/Her a Chance to Speak. You’ve just witnessed a colleague get trashed in a public meeting so what do you do? You could walk right up to your boss and let her have it, launching verbal hand grenades and mincing no words. On the other hand, you could also request a meeting behind closed doors, outline what you witnessed and then give her a chance to respond. I’ve found that the simple stating of your case opens the other person to their case, ultimately leading to a better conversation.

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Respond Truthfully. Confronting someone at work takes tact and confidence and you may choose to forgo that difficult conversation this time in favor of a better time or place at another time. Without getting into “confrontation procrastination”, speak truthfully when the time is right. If you have a reservoir of respect with your boss or colleague, they’ll listen to your perspective 9 out of 10 times. Sometimes we’re tempted to backtrack because we want to be nice but it’s truth that ultimately teaches us best, not just being nice.

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Follow-through is Key. Holding grudges is absolutely off limits when it comes to moving on and following through. You’ve made your case, now move on. Don’t worry about how well it went or how much they empathized with you. Should they choose to ignore your perspective, they’ll only find themselves in hot water down the road.
Standing up for “the little guy” is hard work, especially if that guy is you. Sure, life would be easier if we all got along but saying no might be just the ticket for you and your organization. It’s often the uncomfortably truthful conversation that leads to a deeper level of growth and productivity.

Mike St. Pierre blogs about productivity and life balance at www.thedailysaint.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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