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Confront the ‘subtle snubs’ that can sap your morale

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Issue: Most people remain silent in the face of minor disrespectful incidents at work.

Risk: Your silence can be interpreted as acceptance of the other person's behavior, leading to major disrespect.

Action: Stand up to these subtle snubs with polite, but firm, interaction with the sources of disrespect.

How do you respond when your CEO asks you at 4:30 p.m. to crunch last year's payroll numbers in time for tomorrow's 9 a.m. meeting? Or when a chatty receptionist thinks nothing of interrupting you at any time of day (for any length of time)?

"The typical behavior is to say absolutely nothing," says leadership coach Brigid Moynahan of New Jersey-based The Next Level. "The reason people don't talk about this stuff is they don't know how."

Instead, you probably let things build up. When those disrespectful snubs, or "microinequities", occur regularly, they can sap your motivation and productivity, says Moynahan, who teaches a workshop on handling them.

The next time someone slings one at you, take these five steps:

1. Assume no harmful intentions. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is vital. Before uttering a word, let the snubber know that you value the relationship and/or the project.

Examples: To the boss who asks you to stay late: "I know the payroll project is very important, and I want to help you."

To the continuous interrupter: "I respect your comments and friendship and want this relationship to be as productive as possible."

2. Suggest a solution, but couch it as a question.

Example: "If you want me to tackle a project like this, would you let me know the day before, if possible, so I have time to generate the best numbers?"

3. Set a limit, but do it graciously. If your suggestion falls on deaf ears, you'll have to take it up a notch. Draw a boundary, and explain why you did.

Examples: "I need to pick up my daughter at softball by 7 p.m., so I'll do as much as I can before I leave."

4. Give objective feedback about the microinequity. This is the most dreaded step for most people, Moynahan says, although the formula is simple: State the offending behavior and your reaction to it, as objectively as possible.

Examples: "When you don't give me enough advance notice (behavior), I become frustrated, and it limits my ability to give you my best effort (reaction)." Or, to the interrupter: "When you interrupt me frequently (behavior), I'm unable to complete anything (reaction)."

5. Focus on the future. Don't even start the conversation unless you can take the relationship to a better place.

"Instead of making people feel guilty and defensive about something they've done in the past, specify what you want going forward," says Moynahan. "Then, share the positive consequences for both of you."

Example: "In the future, please provide me with a bit more time to complete this type of project. That way, you'll see much more complete work from me, and I'll feel more satisfied that I was able to provide it."

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