86. Labor Left-Behinds + Addressing Bad Body Language

Episode 86: Labor Left-Behinds + Addressing Bad Body Language (Summary)

If you’ve had staff departures, leaving an exhausted few to pick up the slack, there are a handful of steps you must take, right now, to keep those labor left behinds from leaving. Plus, how to coach an employee who shuts down in the face of stress or frustration. That’s happening now on Boss Better Now.

Links:
To learn more about Joe Mull, visit his website ​Joemull.com​.
To learn more about Suzanne Malausky, visit her website Weinspiretalentsolutions.com.
To hear more from Joe Mull visit his YouTube channel​.
To learn how to invite Joe to speak at an event, visit ​Joemull.com/speaking​.
To check date availability or to get a quote for an event, email ​hello@joemull.com​.
For more information on the BossBetter Leadership Academy, visit Joemull.com/academy.
Email the show at bossbetternow@gmail.com.
To leave comments, ask questions, or to message us visit our Boss Better Now Podcast Facebook Page.
Connect with Joe on Instagram.
Connect with Joe on Twitter.
Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

*Full transcript under the comments below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Transcript – Episode 86: Labor Left-Behinds + Addressing Bad Body Language

Joe:
If you’ve had staff departures leaving an exhausted few to pick up the slack, there are a handful of steps you must take right now to keep those labor left-behinds from leaving. Plus, how to coach an employee who shuts down in the face of stress or frustration. That’s happening now on Boss Better Now.

Suzanne:
You’re listening to Boss Better Now. The show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Now, here’s your host, speaker, and author, Joe Mull.

Joe:
Welcome back, friends. We are gearing up to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, a holiday where we gather to acknowledge what we’re grateful for. So let me kick off this week by telling you how grateful we are to have you here with us, and how grateful I am for all the ways that you try to show up in the world as a BossHero. If you’re new to our show, a BossHero is someone who strives daily to create the conditions for people to thrive at work. That doesn’t mean you always know how, but you’re a BossHero if you’re trying, and this show is for you. I’m also grateful for my co-host here on Boss Better Now, executive coach, HR advisor, and Turkey Trotter, Suzanne Malausky. Hey, Suzanne.

Suzanne:
Hey, Joe. I’m grateful for you too –and all the bosses trying to be better out there, friend. Turkey Trotter…Right? Um, I’m not sure that was, but I, here’s what I have to say about that. <laugh>, I’m, I’m, I like to be fairly athletic. We’ve talked about, I think Zumba before, and I like to stay busy, but running, jogging, trotting of any kind, has never been in my wheelhouse. That’s right. So, we’re gonna have to say a no go on the Turkey Trotter.

Joe:
Okay. Gotcha. It’s always fun to see what, which one of these little introductions, uh, you know, ideas are true or false. I did a Turkey Trot a couple years ago when I had gotten into running and worked my way up to 5K level. Uh, and then it’s funny how that, how quickly that can fall away if you stop running and you no longer are capable of doing that. Uh, I have registered for a couple of Turkey Trots and said, I’m gonna work my way up to that so that when Thanksgiving Day comes, I’ll go out, do the run in the morning, feel good about, you know, being able to eat what I want that day. And then absolutely just not like — I have no-showed more Turkey Trots than I have completed <laugh>.

Suzanne:
I have been on the sidelines of a Turkey Bowl now and then, you know, after dinner or maybe the day after, probably depends. You go out and play a little football. So yes, that’s always exciting. Good time and weather for that. 

Joe:
That’s a good time. Looking forward to that. Absolutely. Well, there was a turn of phrase in the opening that I want to talk a little bit about here. Uh, labor left behind. And this was born out of an article that I encountered, uh, that was posted on Vox and the title was great. The title of the article was, Work Sucks When You’re the Only One Left. I think so many leaders can relate to that right now because in some cases they’re the folks who are left or they’ve got teams who used to be 3, 4, 8, 12 people. And now there’s a one, two, or three team that’s been left behind that are holding things together with bubblegum, prayer, and duct tape. Right. And, and this article, it’s funny, they actually refer to these folks as labor leftovers, and I didn’t like the term leftovers. I felt it just kept making me think of the things in my fridge that have been there for too long. Right? And I thought we can do better than that. So, I’m going with labor left-behinds. Have you heard or encountered organizations in your work, Suzanne, right now, who are struggling to support their labor left-behinds?

Suzanne:
I have. And what I, when I saw the compelling title <laugh>, um, I, I was thinking… my little head went, went to when you lay people off. Mm. So, we’ve worked, I’ve worked with people before or help leaders, you know, kind of address the, the guilt or the survivor’s remorse Right? That come — comes with being the chosen one left behind. So, there’s an emotional part of that. There’s also like, hey, congratulations you have more work. Yes. So that what was, that’s similar to the article that Emily put together and I loved her point of view because we forget how will the, the care and feeding of the people who stay with us, who are our steady eddies, or the ones we count on, we have to make sure we’re not taking advantage of them, um, or that we’re having the right conversations to make sure they’re okay as we work through this trying time. Absolutely.

Joe:
And I think what the article really got into was that employers of all shapes and sizes are not supporting these folks properly right now. Um, the, the article was filled with stories of bosses telling their direct reports, what do you want me to do about it? I can’t make people show up — just get it done. Right. Which, you know, doesn’t warm the cockles of the heart, right? When you hear it that way. And so, I want us to have a conversation about all of the things that bosses have to be doing right now to support those folks who are holding it together, who are picking up the slack, who are, who, who used to have two or three people around them to share in the work, but maybe it’s just them now. What do they need from us? What do they need from their employers, Suzanne, uh, in the midst of maybe the most challenging phase of their work history ever?

Suzanne:
Well, a couple things I think they need — it comes around everything that you’re trying to do is, is the commitment. I think it was a second or third paragraph, something about why are people staying — well because they’re committed. So, if they’re still there, there’s some level of commitment mm-hmm. Um, as you know, maybe you could find out. But the idea is how do, what’s the care and feeding that we need to do? What are we investing back in, um, into our teams? And it can be things like listening, um, letting people, sometimes people don’t need something to change. They need to be heard and understood and feel like someone can, I know we use the word empathy a lot, but someone who can sit in their seat and say, yep, I can see how this feels. Yeah. So, they need to listen to their teams. Yeah. The other thing, um, that I think is important is recognition. Always recognition. So, you started the show with the idea of gratitude. Um, you can never express sincere gratitude too often. Right. And even if it’s the drive-by thank you. If it’s the donuts on Friday mornings, if it’s, um, a little bit of a little ceremony, just recognizing what everyone is going through, um, I think is important. The third, and I think most powerful one because those are things, we should be doing all the time. But in a time like this, if you’re aware as a, as a boss and you’re looking around, it’s like, yeah, we’re trying to get as much or more work done with fewer, fewer people and resources. Hmm. Maybe there’s something I need to do. And the one thing I thought of, you ready for this, is be willing to negotiate the undone. So, if I’m working with some… if I’m working with someone who’s overwhelmed, I can’t get it all done. And she gave a couple examples, but the examples where, hey, boss, I can’t get this all done, or hey, I can only do three of those. They weren’t really at a place of a negotiation. So, if we can work with bosses and the team members to be willing to negotiate the undone, there may be a report that takes an hour every other the day, every other day that they realize no one’s reading. It just be this rote work or the things that if you prioritize them, put ’em in your, you know, Stephen Coveys Four Quadrants of what’s really most important. Can you negotiate away some things, even if it’s for the short-term things that aren’t going to take the legs out from under us as a team or an organization, but we’re willing as a boss to come to the table and listen, the answers are within your team. I know it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and, and work through those opportunities to do less.

Joe:
One of my keywords for this topic was trim. Where can we trim? There you go. Right. Can we trim things that are not absolutely essential? Or at the very least, can those leaders have conversations where we reprioritize? Okay. As you work through the things that all that vye for your attention, what are the, number one biggest priorities that we have to attend to? And then this, and then that. If we’re just turning around and saying, find a way to get it all done, that’s magical thinking. In some of these places where it’s one person who is standing in for four trim also refers to the business hours. Maybe. Uh, you know, I was just at a restaurant recently, my family and I walked in on a Sunday evening, and we asked to be seated and they said it’s gonna be about 25, 30 minutes. And it was clear that there were plenty of tables. Uh, you know, it was clear that this was a staffing issue. And I heard another customer complain to the hostess, and the hostess basically said, you know, we’re understaffed in the kitchen. I can, I could seat you, but you would end up waiting a very long time for your food. And I don’t wanna put you or the waitress through that. So, we’re just quoting this wait time. And so, they reduced the number of people they were putting in the dining room, they trimmed it right. So that they could accommodate the people who were working there. And so maybe we changed the, the, the hours by which we’re serving customers. Maybe were changing the volume of things that we say yes to as a department. I think that’s absolutely a spot on, big piece of supporting these folks. The other thing that I think we need to do right now, uh, in the midst of such a surge in work is to meet that surge with a surge in pay. If I am normally employing three or four people to do a job, and right now I’ve got one or two, I’m ahead on salary and I need to turn around and give that to the people who are still there. Because everybody has a breaking point, everybody. And if we don’t do something to help them overcome the mental fatigue that they’re dealing with, we’re just gonna accelerate each person toward that breaking point. But when you sit across from somebody and you say, listen, I’m gonna surge your pay cuz you’re experiencing a surge in work. I need us to both understand this is temporary. This is not sustainable for us as an organization. Okay. In the same way that this workload is not sustainable for you long term. But right now, hey, we’re in it together. I know you’re taking on a lot. We’re gonna take on a little more as far as pay goes as well. And I’m gonna shift some of, of that, uh, those wages that would’ve gone to the other people that I can’t find or that I don’t have. And I’m gonna try to put that in the bank account of the people who were there holding it together. So surging pay while also surging the praise that you talked about and surging the flexibility that you talked about. All absolutely important.

Suzanne:
And I think they might be surprised, the teams, the bosses, the companies involved. Two things if we’re doing the, the trimming of the work, I just came back from a manufacturing company who have surpassed their pre-pandemic numbers. Oh, super excited on production. Have

Joe:
Was that a celebratory whistle? Is that what that was?

Suzanne:
Yeah, that’s right.

Joe:
Oh, that was great. I was like, that was, that was interesting. All right. Oh, come. Sorry. Keep going.

Suzanne:
I’m glad you picked up on what it was though. So, my

Joe:
Goodness. Either that or a bird had just flown into the window, I just wanted to <laugh> get clear about what was happening there.

Suzanne:
Um, so yeah. So, celebrate greater levels of productivity in sales. Uh, but what he was talking about was, no one wants overtime. I’m like, well, sounds like you’re meeting your goals. You’re surpassing your sales. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you have fewer employees and you’re not paying a lot of overtime. What’s the problem? Yeah. Right. So, the team figured it out. They are committed to the work. He’s a, you know, we lead from the heart boss mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and they have these conversations, and he does take great care of them. So, if you create the right conditions, as you say, many times, that’s our job as bosses, they will overcome it. But as an employee, if I feel it’s being done unto me, I don’t have a say or I’m not being compensated, then why would they try to fix the problem?

Joe:
And I don’t have a say piece I think is huge, right? If it’s a top-down imposing of a massively accelerated workload because of the circumstances happening in that business, people cut and run that, that they just, they bail out fast. But if you pull people in and ask them for their advice, their guidance, their counsel, they end up shaping the response. I’m a little bit of a sports junkie. I use a lot of sports metaphors sometimes. So, if there are people listening who aren’t football fans, forgive me. And, and just try to hang in there with the analogy. 

Suzanne:
Try to follow along.

Joe:
Right. Right. <laugh>, uh, but in the NFL, there are a handful of players that are considered elite. Right? They’re the top of the top of the top. And one of the sort of cultural shifts that has taken place in recent years in the NFL is that if you end up becoming one of these elite players, it is not uncommon for the general manager of the team or the coach of the team to ask you for your insight on the, the next players they’re gonna draft or the, the, the new, uh, coordinator they’re gonna hire for the offense. Or maybe they’re, the team is doing a coaching search and they want that star player to weigh in on the kind of coach they wanna work with. When you pull people in as an advisor that way, it gives them more ownership, it gives them more buy-in, and then they experience more responsibility for seeing things through to success. And so, we have to surge. We have to trim, but we also have to pull people in from, from that advisory perspective and ask them, you know, you tell us how can we make this manageable for you? How can we support you? What do you need that you’re not getting? We know you need help. We know you need hands and bodies and other people working alongside you and let us tell you about all the things that we’re trying to do to make that happen. But in the meantime, give us some guidance. How can we navigate this together? You might be amazed at some of the ideas you get.

Suzanne:
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Well, the relief too, Joe, I can’t help but think. There are bosses out there who feeling this very same thing. And what they’re feeling is the burden or the weight of their sh on their shoulders. They may be very well aware that they’re asking too much of too little teams. And they’re like, what do I do about it? And feel that they have to have the answers. They have to sit around or, you know, with their legal pad or go to their whiteboard and figure it out. But bring the team in. Bring the team in. You’ve got people that are, are on the front line that have the expertise that are bought into having this work. And I would think there would be a great sense of relief when you find the right answers amongst, amongst your team.

Joe:
And those, those conversations are an act of empathy. It’s far more impactful, I think, to say, I don’t know how to fix this, but I’m trying. Then it is say, yeah, we know there’s a problem, but, and we’re doing the best we can. Right? Yeah. When, when you sit across from people and you say, I see you. I, I understand, and I don’t have the solutions yet, but I’m trying, and I want your input along the way. That’s us holding hands and we’re all in this together. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, if, if you have someone who doesn’t have a keen awareness of what the people on the front lines are dealing with, that disconnect becomes a golf. And that pushes people out the door as well. So even if, if you’re a leader who doesn’t know how to support these labor left behinds, at least go out and spend time with them and really get into the nitty gritty to, to see and understand the volume of what they’re dealing with and the challenges relating to juggling it all. Because that’s at least gonna endear you to them in a way that’s gonna buy, I think more understanding and more patience and more loyalty long term.

Suzanne:
Absolutely. Absolutely. I agree. I think we help some leftovers right there. <laugh> not getting thrown out with the Turkey stuffing.

Joe:
We don’t want the No; they’re not getting thrown out. Right. Cause that’s all they’ve got right now. Absolutely.

Joe:
Well, folks, we’d love to hear what you think. You can email the show at bossbetternow@gmail.com, and you can tell us what are the things that your organizations have been doing to support those folks who are still there and holding things together. Are there ideas or steps that have been taken that we didn’t name in our conversation just now? We’d love to hear from you. Just shoot us an email at bossbetternow@gmail.com.

Joe:
And that brings us Suzanne, to our Camaraderie Question of the Week. Bosses build camaraderie on teams by making it easier for people to find things in common with each other. That’s why here on our show every week, we give you a question that you can use at meetings to facilitate connection and build camaraderie. Our question this week, Suzanne, what is the most daring thing you have ever done? Now, maybe we need to put a disclaimer on this too, that this is a family show, and so we need PG-rated answers only. Please… not that you were gonna say anything risqué, and I mean, if you were, go ahead.

Suzanne:
We can always edit it out, but you won’t hear it.

Joe:
Yeah.

Joe:
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done. <laugh>?

Suzanne:
I, I picked two and I have to give, I wanna give a disclaimer here, Joe or anyone’s listening, I promise, I promise. If I’m at your morning huddle or I’m part of your team meeting and you ask a question like this, I swear I only come up with one answer and I won’t take everyone else’s time by, you know, waxing lyrical and what I think might be funny or poignant. But I, I did come up with two again. Uh,

Joe:
First, I don’t mind that you indulged the two answers on the question because we want a show that is both funny and poignant, so I’m here for it. You can bring the two answers. Okay.

Suzanne:
So, I’m going to go with the, uh, more on the personal side. So, I learned to ski snow ski at 40. Which wasn’t too long ago, but I felt that was pretty brave because it wasn’t here in our little foothills of Pennsylvania. Right. I went straight out to Colorado, took the gondola at the top of the hill, and four hours later made it to the bar at the bottom. <laugh>

Joe:
Not the bottom. That was the bar at the bottom.

Suzanne:
The bar at the bottom. I was, yeah, there was a, like, was the carrot, like, come on, you can do it. So, I had worked really hard. I had worked out on, you know, my legs strength thinking so I can stay up. What I failed to prepare for wasn’t the falling, I fell like a champ probably looked pretty graceful going down. It was the getting-up part that no one had prepared me for. I could not get my, get my, you know, Turkey Trot behind off the, off the mountain. It was hilarious. I was trying to bribe anyone, you know, with a, you know, hobie cat or on a hobie cat that’s at the beach with a four-wheeler or a motorized vehicle to take me down. I’m waving my American Express. That didn’t happen. I had to go down on my own skis. But, uh, that was brave.

Joe:
I like that you prepared that you like were doing strength workouts for your leg. Yeah. You didn’t just show up and think, I’ll just see what, what happens. You, you worked your way up to it. I’m…

Suzanne:
I’m, if it’s something that risky, I’m gonna prepare. Right? Yeah. I mean, I had the right outfits, the good skis, you know, everything. Yeah. Uh, but little did I know, but now I know. So, the second one, this is more on the professional, um, avenue, part of my life history. And this is something I did not once, not twice, not three times, but four times. So, I’m a repeat offender when it comes to this. I left four jobs or at four times over my career to start my own business.

Joe:
Interesting. I mean, I know this about you, but so you were gainfully employed by the man and then you left to start your own thing and did that for a while and then went back to working for the man, and you did that a couple of times?

Suzanne:
I did. I did. And now that I’m disclosing that and saying it out loud, no one would probably hire me back in <laugh> four-timer into a corporate or the man role, and that’s okay. I’m done. I’m staying on my own. Yeah. Um, till I can retire. But yeah, that was pretty brave. Yeah.

Joe:
Pretty brave. Okay. Scary. All right. Were, were the reasons different every time? Or was there a theme or a pattern that emerged every time you decided you wanted to go out and do that?

Suzanne:
Hmm. Great question. I think it was for in my heart, for the same reason. It’s what I always wanted to do. I wanted to be this entrepreneur. Yeah. The reason I went back in three times would be a little bit different for each situation. One of them being the financial crisis of 2009. Yeah. Um, but <laugh>, you know, some pragmatic, some whatever. But no, the reasons that I left was always, it’s, it’s in my blood. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Yeah. So, it was this step and start. I learned something each time that has brought me here.

Joe:
So good answers. I don’t mind the two. I like the two. Good stuff.

Suzanne:
Good, good, good.

Joe:
All right. But you, well, okay. So, I have two answers, and this is gonna sound like a total cop-out, but I can’t give you one of them yet. Um, I, we made a really big scary decision here, uh, in our little Joe Mull and Associates business world, um, about three weeks ago. And I am planning to share the story of that big scary decision that we made here on the podcast. And about three weeks. So, in December, you’re gonna see a podcast episode of Boss Better Now come up with the title about our big scary decision. And so, if you wanna hear the story about this, uh, something that we have decided to do, um, that is a, a big risk, but something that we believe is the right path, right step forward, I am gonna share that with you in about three weeks. And I’m not trying to be coy BossHeroes, it’s just a bit of a long and involved story. It would take longer than this segment allows. And I want to, I want to give you the detail that, that is worthy of you as the audience in sharing that story. So, when I saw this question, that was the first thing that popped into my mind because it, it’s timely. But my other answer for today is the, the most daring thing that I’ve done recently was the keynote I delivered on the main stage at the National Speakers Association’s Influence Convention in July. Uh, and I talked about this a little bit on the podcast, but the long and short of it is, it’s kind of a big honor to be asked to be a main stage speaker on at the largest conference for professional speakers. And I ended up giving a keynote about taking more risks and being brave and, uh, bringing your authentic self to your work.

Joe:
And I knew that if I was gonna bring that message to that audience, I had to do everything on that skate on that stage. That scared the hell out of me. And so, I did something I had long wanted to do as a keynote speaker. I mixed in singing. I have a, a bachelor’s degree in voice. And so, I, I did some singing in that program, and I involved my daughter, my, uh, 11-year-old daughter Lily, who also was very nervous and also was willing to try to be brave. And, and, and we pulled it off. And the video of this can be found on our BossBetter YouTube channel. We did share it not long ago. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you’ve heard the brave for One Minute Story, and that’s a big part of, of what Lilly did. Um, so, so, yeah. And as scary as it was Suzanne, there were like 11 million things that could have gone wrong with that program, and none of that did. And so, a lot of work, a lot of prep, a lot of luck, a lot of grace from a lot of people who were really supportive at the beginning and at the end. Um, I’m so glad I did it and I’m really glad it’s over

Suzanne:
<laugh>. Well, there was a lot of talent into that performance as well. It was lovely to see. And I, I am, you know, Lily now has the answer to this question for a long time coming. Yes. Right. She’s sitting with her classmates, and we asked that question. She’s got one right there. And she’s so brave. She did a fantastic job. And man, what a great opportunity that you gave her and something she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life. So good on you.

Joe:
Thank you. My favorite part of it, not just that piece for her, but we continue to get messages from people on Instagram, on LinkedIn, in email, uh, who were there that day, and who say, I keep thinking about this message and here’s how it’s transformed the decisions I’ve made For me, I, I got a, a blog post from a guy yesterday who says, I keep thinking about your daughter, and I keep thinking about this message that you shared. And, uh, so that’s really, really special stuff to hear that. So, so yeah, that was, that was fun.

Suzanne:
That’s awesome. Good for you.

Joe:
Thank you. Thank you. I like this question. Take this question to your team. See what comes out. Don’t forget, everybody gets an opt-out. If nobody wants to answer it, that’s fine. Uh, but I bet you hear some really great stories, and that’s the Camaraderie Question of the Week.

Joe:
All right, folks, we are just two weeks away from our Boss Better Virtual Summit. If you or the managers on your team could use a dose of inspiration, education, or motivation, then this event is for you on Tuesday, December 6th. Join us for this event, which features a series of 45-minute virtual keynotes from some incredible guest speakers. Now, there are breaks in between these sessions, so you’ll still be able to get other things done during the workday, but this is a program with a ton of incredible sessions. We’ve got a session ongoing from Stress to Resilient. We’ve got a session on coaching scripts for supporting exhausted or burned-out employees. And I’m gonna be closing the event with a keynote on Rehumanizing the Workplace to fix work and stop losing employees. So, whether you’re an experienced leader looking to level up your knowledge, a new manager who’s been recently promoted, or an exhausted leader, somewhere in between, this is a can’t miss learning and development experience for bosses everywhere.

Joe:
Just go to bossbettervirtualsummit.com to grab a ticket. And if you use the code PODCAST at checkout, you can get that ticket for half price. We only do this twice a year, so don’t wait. That’s bossbettervirtualsummit.com and use the code PODCAST at checkout to get your ticket for half price. I hope to see you there.

Joe:
All right, Suzanne, we are wrapping up today with an online question from one of our listeners. This was a question submitted at the bottom of one of the YouTube videos that we publish of these episodes, right? Uh, there are like 22 people a week who watch us on YouTube. No, I’m just kidding. It’s, it’s more than that. <laugh>. Uh, but we dress up for you and we wave to you from time to time here on the YouTube. Um, but we got an online question from Susan about addressing bad body language in employees. Here’s her question. I have an employee who, when frustrated or stressed goes stone-faced and refuses to speak, when I try to address it, she says, I’m reading her body communication incorrectly. And she’s threatening bringing HR into the discussion because a male boss would never say what I say. I said, her facial expressions and body indicates stress, anxiety, and frustration. What can I do? I need concrete ways to improve this. A lot going on in this question. Suzanne, where do you wanna start?

Suzanne:
I wanna start with a phenomenon called White Coat Syndrome. Do you know what that is?

Joe:
I do, but I don’t know that everybody else does. Go ahead.

Suzanne:
Well, my mom is kind of proud of herself. She goes, I was officially diagnosed with White Coat Syndrome. I’m like, oh, do tell, are you gonna be, okay? So, her blood pressure would be up. It’s what has to do with when she’s in front of the white coat, aka her doctor, or even the nurse in the doctor’s office, her blood pressure goes up. And she said, and you know, she’s been on medication for high blood pressure. And finally, she’s like, I just don’t think this is what I need. So, the, the good doctor put her on a monitor, and she tracked her blood pressure for a period of time so that she could show him like, I’m pretty good. It’s just when I come into your office. And so, you guys just stress me out.

Suzanne:
Something <laugh> right about the wallpaper here. I don’t know what it is, but it just, you know, so those things happen to people. And this was diagnosed, not that we’re in a position here to diagnose this, um, or nor is Susan to diagnose what was happening. But I think what I would like came to mind, and what I’d like to Susan to think about is, and this may sound a little crass, but how does it matter? How much does it matter, right? Can you, can we find a way to accept tolerate, forgive some of the little idiosyncrasies that we, we all have, right? The things we, we might try to work on personally. Um, so there’s that, there’s that tolerance of that. Also, be careful of your assumptions. Um, if this woman was able to express that you’re reading her incorrectly, then how do you open the channel in the dialogue and build a relationship so she can express herself about what’s happening?

Joe:
One of the things very tactical that you could do is let her know what’s going to be discussed before you have a meeting. Say, uh, I’d like you to be prepared to talk about this thus. And so, when we meet, so maybe she just gets maybe like, it feels like taking a test or a pop quiz in grade school. She just gets froze. You know, she freezes, I should say, can’t remember afraid. You’re not gonna have the answer. Allow her to prepare for different situations, um, is one thing that came to mind as well. Um, so I would ask her as well, Susan, I would ask the employee, is there anything you can do to make her more comfortable when having conversations cuz you’d love them to be open and you’d love for them to be, you know, collaborative and vibrant conversations. If we can find a way forward would be great.

Joe:
In that sense you and I are very much aligned on what kind of thoughts percolated to the surface, uh, in response to this question. I, I first went to what you went to right away, which was, is this actually doing harm? Is this a harmful behavior in some way? Or is this just a circumstance where I don’t like her response? Right? I maybe it’s doing harm to the person’s inability to navigate stress, or maybe it’s problematic for customers in some way. And if that’s the case, then yeah, let’s work on it. Let’s address it. But if this is just a quirk of personality, we may have to let it go. And so that’s the, that’s my first piece of, of counsel for Susan, is to sit down and actually give some thought and write out what are the ways in which this does harm. And if you can’t come up with much, then give yourself grace and give this person grace and let your mind and emotions be occupied by other things.

Joe:
Now the other piece of this is, uh, I think Susan might be stepping in it a little bit here when she gives this person the feedback that when I see this reaction, it indicates stress and anxiety and frustration. Um, we should not assume what people’s behavior means, especially because in most cases we’re not qualified. And to, to assert that the person across from me is having a behavioral reaction because they’re anxious. That is a little bit of an overstep if you ask me from a boss’s perspective. And so, what I would ask Susan to do is, when you have a conversation when you have to give feedback or ask people to show up differently, don’t try to get into the why is this happening with them as much as you get into describing the behavior that you’re concerned about and the impact of that behavior.

Joe:
So, if you do decide that this is harmful, we wanna sit with this person and we wanna say, here’s what I observe that in these circumstances where you need to communicate, you stop communicating, or you don’t communicate in a timely way. And the impact of this is, you know, it’s whatever it is, it’s, you don’t move the issue forward toward a resolution, or we’re getting customer complaints or, you know, it’s off-putting for teammates and people are walking on eggshells. Those are the kinds of, um, behaviors and the impact of behaviors that we would wanna zero in on in a feedback conversation. And then rather than dictating to her that she needs to stop it, we’re we wanna ask her for her suggestions on how to improve, what do you need… person that I’m talking to, uh, in order to better navigate the stress and the frustration that seems to trigger this response.

Joe:
Let’s talk about that. And if you can’t draw anything out, then as the supervisor, you might need to dictate some specific responses where you say, Hey, listen, in times when you’re feeling stressed or frustrated, I need you to say that you need a five-minute timeout just to gather your thoughts like that, to ask for that time or to go seek out a colleague to say, Hey, can you step in during this customer interaction? Right now, I’m at my wit’s end just to communicate your need at that time. And then if that employee fails to deliver, then we can address those consequences. Then those consequences are for not taking the steps we’ve asked them to, rather than just being stone-faced. So, so very much in line with your thinking on this, Suzanne, I’m not sure this is a huge problem, and if it is a huge problem, then address what it’s causing, not what we think is the root of it.

Suzanne:
Right? Right. And I, I can sit in Susan’s seat and feel how uncomfortable that might be. Yeah. So here you are trying to apply everything you learned from that Joe Mull guy and this woman’s turning red in the face. Or, you know, and I remember, I, I can picture this woman with detail when I would talk, I swear her eyebrow go up and her arms would cross and I remember the, the feelings of self-doubt or frustration or really, you’re gonna show up that way talking to me. And finally, over getting through to with a better kind of conversation, I understood that wasn’t what she was thinking at all. So be careful how we fill in the blanks when we get information that’s not complete.

Joe:
Yep. And, and even if you do think that there are psychological root causes for this person’s behavior, cuz there are, there are adults in the workplace who don’t have the coping skills, who were never given the support, who haven’t developed the emotional intelligence to navigate certain kinds of stress or frustration. That is, that may absolutely be what is happening here. And you still have to respond to the behavior mm-hmm. <affirmative> and still have to try to offer the support that this person might need in those moments to work through it. And that’s a we proposition. That’s not a you proposition, that’s me sitting and saying, how do we, how can we navigate this together? How can I help you? What, what are the things that would make these kinds of circumstances more manageable for you? What kind of support do you need that you’re not getting? It would be really interesting to find out, um, who are the people involved in the circumstances when this shutting down takes place? Is it her boss? Is it customers? Is it coworkers? Is it all of the above? Because you could almost by process of elimination, maybe get down to a better and clearer understanding of when these things happen so that you can equip this person with some of those steps that they can take to better navigate them again, if it’s actually doing harm.

Suzanne:
Love it. I’m with you, Joe.

Joe:
All right, Susan, thank you for posting the question. Really interesting circumstance. Thanks for letting us noodle around on that here this week on the show.

Joe:
And that’s the end of our show. If you like what we — you heard today… if you like what we’re doing here on this podcast, and we invite you to subscribe. When you subscribe to our show, you get a little notification. You get that little red circle with like a one in it or a dot that says, hey, you’ve got something new you might wanna take a look at. And that is us every Sunday when our show gets released. If you’re a subscriber, you will see a notification on whatever app you have subscribed to the show on. That’s how you make sure you don’t miss a thing here on Boss Better Now. In the meantime, thanks for listening, and thanks for all that you do to care for so many.

Suzanne:
This show is sponsored by Joe Mull & Associates. Remember, commitment comes from better bosses. Visit joemull.com today.

Related Posts

Previous
Next