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Category Archives: Tough Situation Tools

How to work with a narcissist

An “extreme” narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy for others. In the workplace, this manifests as someone who exaggerates their achievements, takes credit for others work, needs constant adoration, is self-entitled, and uses other people to further themselves.  If you happen to work with one, or even worse, for one, it can be a waking nightmare!

So can you stop these people from making your work life miserable?  Or is quitting your only option?  The good news is that most narcissists don’t stick around in a single job for very long.  So if you can find ways to achieve a working relationship that is at least tolerable, you just need to outlast them until they leave.

In my latest column in The Globe and Mail that published this morning, I offer several ideas to make your workday with a narcissist more bearable.

How to survive the ‘extreme’ narcissist and make your workday bearable

narcissist

If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column on page B9.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link: https://tgam.ca/33ZdMYB

What do you think?

Well, I’d love to hear about your experiences with narcissists in your workplace.  Have you been able to develop a tolerable working relationship?  What ideas do you have to share?  Please comment below. 

As frequent readers of the blog know, I write a monthly column for The Globe and Mail, under the broad banner of “Leadership Matters”.  My most recent columns are linked below:

Dealing with workplace gossip – Dogs don’t bark at parked cars

Unfortunately, workplace gossip is a reality.  Sometimes it’s fairly benign, but more often than not, it is hurtful to the person who is the subject of the workplace gossip.

workplace gossipA professional colleague told me about a situation that happened to him just recently.  He has been quite excited about certain business successes he has achieved.  However, he was deeply disappointed to find out that someone whom he considered to be a good friend publicly criticized and disparaged his recent accomplishments.   He believes that this gossip is driven by envy and spite.  He is, not surprisingly, frustrated and saddened by his so-called friend’s actions.

Dogs don’t bark at parked cars

I was immediately reminded of a phrase I heard from a Bahamian colleague over six years ago  — “Dogs don’t bark at parked cars.” I remember clearly when he said this, I turned to him with interest and had to ask him to explain.  “You never see a dog chasing a parked car, do you? The only reason you are a target for workplace gossip is because you are making giant strides and going to winning places! If you weren’t climbing to great heights, then there would be no reason for anyone to try and knock you down. Take any malicious workplace gossip as a compliment and as an affirmation of your success.” Those wise words have stuck with me, and I repeated them to my upset colleague.

So what about you?  How many times have you been upset or hurt by gossip and back-biting.  Perhaps this phrase is what you need to help put things in perspective. I’d love to hear what you think.  Please share by adding to the Comments link below.

If you’re looking for some more advice on how to handle workplace gossip, you may find this column I wrote for The Globe and Mail useful: Take the toxins out of office gossip

How to communicate sensitive messages

TimBreithauptSometimes you will have to make decisions that will not be liked by your staff; it’s one of the responsibilities of leadership.  While you can’t avoid making unpopular decisions, there are things that you can do to help your team understand and accept the new reality.  Which is why I am so pleased to welcome today’s guest blogger.

Tim Breithaupt is first and foremost my professional colleague and friend, but he is also the founder and president of Spectrum Training Solutions. As a leading expert in the area of sales development, Tim delivers real-world wisdom to foster a level of sales confidence that boosts sales results to exciting new levels.  Today he joins us on the blog with some specific advice on how to communicate sensitive messages.

Communication is fraught with challenges at the best of times. Ample research suggests that managers and leaders struggle with the task of communicating sensitive messages.  One such example: unexpected changes to job descriptions and responsibilities. By tweaking your delivery (or as I like to say, your bedside manner), you will experience a smoother flow to your message and elevate your communication confidence. To that end I share a proven four-step model that helps to mitigate stress and communicate with impact. Continue reading

Systematize how you handle failure; you will create a powerful tool for employee learning

In today’s blog post, I’m back with another idea in our ongoing series of specific things that leaders can do to encourage and support employee learning.  Today’s tip: systematize learning from failure.

Normalize failure and systematize how you learn from it

At some point or another, we all fail.  Sometimes it’s a new process that doesn’t work out quite the way we’d hoped or intended.  Other times it’s an idea we tried to sell to others but they weren’t buying.  And on occasion, it’s a calculated risk we took that crashed and burned.  Whatever it is, whenever it occurs, it happens to all of us, even the best of us.

So if we know that at some point or another, failure is inevitable, then it’s time to embrace it and learn from it.  What I’m really saying is that failure is a great teacher – it shows us what our strengths and weaknesses are while motivating us to correct them.  So it’s time to systematize learning from failure.  Make it normal and make it consistent!  Make it an acceptable and regular form of employee learning.

Consistency is key

You can do this in a variety of ways, Continue reading

Employee growth comes from allowing your people to struggle

For the past several months, I’ve been offering up specific ideas for employee growth, things that you, as a leader, can do to help your people develop and grow into leaders themselves.  So today I have strategy #17 in this series.  Today’s tip is to allow your people to struggle.  This may sound counter-intuitive, so let me explain.

Allow your people to struggle

Consider the process of how a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis.  You may not realize it, but this is a complex, highly-sequential, and intricately choreographed process.  First, the insect’s abdominal muscles contract to increase blood pressure in the head and thoracic area causing the pupal coat to split along a line of weakness.  Next, the flexible and still-folded adult butterfly crawls out.  The blood pressure then relocates to the wings, legs and other soft parts to expand the body into the final, familiar butterfly form.  For the next few hours, the adult butterfly remains at increased blood pressure levels until its coat gradually hardens into the new shape.

What may surprise you is that any attempt to “help” the butterfly leave its cocoon is doomed to certain failure.  Continue reading

Identify Triggers and Keep Your Cool

Picture of man pointing and yelling, showing loss of self control.

Have you ever come dangerously close to losing your composure?

We’ve all been there. Sometimes—if we can’t control ourselves—it can lead to disastrous situations and negative impacts on relationships, employees, and colleagues.

Whether it’s a frustrating employee, irritating colleague, or even an exasperating client, you know that as a leader it is crucial to stay calm, poised, and positive.

What do you do in these situations?
Continue reading

A problem employee must be dealt with promptly

problem employeeIf you don’t deal with a problem employee swiftly and firmly, you run the risk that a few rotting leaves will ruin the whole salad.  Let me explain.

Bagged salad from the grocery store is simple and convenient, so I often purchase it as an easy way to add more greens to our meals.  But every so often, despite the “Best before” date, I see a few leaves beginning to brown through the cellophane wrap.  When I notice some of the edges browning, I have learned that it is wise to open the bag, remove the offending pieces, and store the remaining greens in an airtight container for the next couple of days.  Experience has taught me that if I leave the bag unopened, the few darkening bits turn the entire contents into one big slimy mess, and then nothing is salvageable.

If you don’t deal with your problem employee …

This everyday situation offers a lesson in how important it is for leaders to manage, without delay, the problem employee on their team.  If you observe any of your employees exhibiting poor performance or inappropriate workplace behaviour, it’s essential that you deal with them promptly and firmly.  Because if you leave these individuals unchecked, they will most certainly spread discord and negativity throughout your team simply by being present.  Even worse, your lack of decisive action with a problem employee will actually be demoralizing for the rest of your team.  The few rotting leaves will quickly turn the entire bag into a horrid place to work. Continue reading

Employee performance = ability X motivation

employee performanceI often address the issue of problem employees on the blog.  In the past, I’ve talked about the difference between performance, behaviour and attitude issues, the importance of articulating the problem, and the single most important question to ask yourself before you ever raise the issue with your employee. It’s always worth stepping back and taking a big picture perspective.   Let’s focus on what makes up employee performance, both good and bad.

Employee performance consists of two components

Employee performance is a function of two things – ability and motivation.

Performance = ability X motivation

Ability is the physical, intellectual or emotional capability of your employee to get the job done. Is your employee even able to do what is required in the job?

Motivation however has to do with desire and commitment. Does the employee WANT to do the job at the level and competence that is required?

Why should you care?

Why does this matter? Because you need to assess both factors when trying to get at the root cause of a performance problem. Someone who is highly motivated but at a reduced level of ability can often achieve above-average performance. Unfortunately the opposite is not always true. But don’t be fooled into thinking that motivation can overcome ANY lack of ability – the two are still necessary requirements for exceptional (or even adequate) employee performance. In my experience, you can operate tolerably at 50% ability, but anything less than 75% motivation will get you nowhere.

So what do you think? What are the minimum required levels of ability and motivation to have an adequately performing employee?

How to work with someone you don’t respect

When you have little professional respect for a client, a co-worker, an employee, or even your boss, it can be difficult to stay motivated and get things done.  But the unfortunate reality is that sooner or later, you will have to work with or for someone you don’t respect — people whom you may find difficult, distasteful or downright unbearable.  While it’s certainly easier to work alongside those you like, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can only do a good job if you respect your workmates. In fact, you can function effectively with (almost) anyone if you keep just a few things in mind.

It is possible!

How to work with someone you don’t respect is exactly the subject I address in my latest column in The Globe and Mail which published this morning.

How to work with almost everyone — even those you don’t respect

If you get the print version of The Globe, you would have seen it on page B9.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link: https://tgam.ca/2B9JDKz

The reality is that sometimes you’re just going to have to work with people you don’t like and respect – it’s all part of being an adult in the world of work.  You’ve read my suggestions.  What is your advice to handle these kinds of situations with poise and equanimity?  I’d love to hear from you.  Please share by adding your Comments below.

Separating true leaders from narcissists

NarcissistLast year, I was a featured expert in a story about narcissists in the workplace, and how one can function effectively with (or despite) them, no matter whether they are your co-workers or your boss.  And certainly, if you follow American politics, there is a lot of conversation about whether a certain head of state is a prime example of a narcissist.  So it isn’t surprising that this topic continues to be front and centre in the news.  One question that often comes up in my leadership development practice is about how to separate leaders from narcissists, particularly during hiring, as the outcome of hiring one over the other can be enormous.  Ironically of course, on the surface, narcissists look suspiciously like leaders; it isn’t until later that the truth comes out.

Last week, CNN Business News put out an article titled How narcissistic CEOs put companies at risk, explaining how narcissist leaders create long-lasting negative consequences for their companies.  From a leadership perspective, a couple of points in particular caught my attention.   Continue reading