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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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Last Updated on September 10, 2019

How to Master the Art of Prioritization

How to Master the Art of Prioritization

Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

Effective Prioritization

There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

My point is:

The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

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Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

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