Have you ever come across a situation where you were not given the chance to express your views over a conflict at work and just talked down to?
Such a situation may arise when there has been a conscious or unconscious decision to either not really listen to you, or there is a one-sided judgement that has been arrived at. Be mindful that even friendly authority figures can get judgmental or listen through their own filters.
In such an exchange, you are not given space to put forward your views nor are you allowed to question the rationale behind a certain issue you would like addressed. Your questions are dismissed, misunderstood, ignored, or not answered.
Anything you try to say is rudely interrupted, dismissed, or worse, you are not even given room to respond. You may find that it is impossible to have a genuine and authentic exchange.
It is not possible to have a rational discussion nor hope for a solution-building exchange in such a situation because the intent is not to find a solution but to impose a powerplay of passive aggression or inflexible biases.
Everything you say is misinterpreted and meanings are assigned that may be completely different from your intentions. Your reality is denied.
Some bosses do not like being questioned or asked about the rationale behind a decision that concerns you. Perhaps orders have come from higher up that have a different perspective where the individual’s interests are overridden by management’s business goals.
What do you do in such a scenario?
The most skilled conflict resolution techniques are never about taking sides but separating the behaviour from the person and addressing the problem, not attacking, or disparaging, the person.
- Avoid getting into a ‘triangulating script’, becoming defensive, persecuting or escalating the situation.A triangulation script is a psychological term for drawing another person into the dyad. Those who have switched off in the meeting may either be conflict-avoidant and unwilling to get into details, or stay non-aligned, or want to appear neutral. Do not ‘pull in’ others into trying to get them to take sides that triangulation may backfire or temporarily ease tensions but leave matters unresolved. Remember that if you choose also to get aggressive, defensive, talk over the individuals, you are exercising the same insecurities as they are.
- Others may decide that they are going to exhibit their authority and choose to interject, talk over or shut you down. Stay above this. At this point in time, if you point this out, it is only going to result in more aggression as the person doing this is focussed on putting you down and not coming from a place of respect anyways.
- Even in such scenarios, sometimes you may be able to say just a few things even if you can’t get in more than two points out of ten that you would have liked to bring up. Take every opportunity to make your point without making it personal, defensive or aggressive.
- It is always better to address matters when things have cooled down. But remember that that option may not be available if the psychological agenda is to misunderstand your intentions about everything or you have been pre-judged because someone has been annoyed with you. Let it lie dormant.
- Facts may get distorted because of interpretations, contexts, timings, nuances and will be distilled against inflexible biases. You can see that your intentions are being misunderstood. Sadly some very frivolous matters may be escalated to disproportionate levels due to interpersonal conflicts or avoidance behaviours. Stay dignified. Do not resort to similar behaviour where you cut off, intimidate or put the other person in a situation where he feels disrespected. Do not compromise on your own calibre or character.
- If the message is ‘no further discussion, this is how it is’, my suggestion is for you to take some time to do some ‘inner work’. Take no immediate action because that will come from a place of reaction.
- Remember that the world isn’t a fair place, every individual has their own positives and negatives, not everyone has developed the confidence to take on being challenged and questioned. That may in fact be the very reason you have been faulted with.
- Offer yourself and others compassion.
- Keep documenting the facts. This time around, you may not have found the chance to present it as no one was in the mood to give you a listening ear. Things may change.
- Remember that the only person who is accountable for making wholesome choices and decisions is you regardless of your adversaries/unfortunate situation.
- Invest in your own strengths, resources. If your work is a cut above the rest, it will speak for itself and no one can really clip your wings in the longer term. If you feel that there were areas where you could have improved or learned some things from that unpleasant exchange, journal it. What would you do differently in future?
- If your worth is only your economic value and you are not allowed to voice your thoughts and question things, do you derive satisfaction from your role/clients and have other areas of fulfilment? Take all of this into account before making any decision.
- Do not give into manipulation if it surfaced. People fault bullies, but the system is as much to blame. If you cant address things directly with your leader, do not overstep the line to go beyond your boss. Be above ‘turning on the charm’, using manipulative tactics or using emotional drama. Our world is filled with people in higher positions because they are good followers, can turn on the charm with the right people or are able to manipulate others well. In the longer run, it is better to be able to live with your own conscience than stay in a race that doesn’t add to your happiness.
- Your boss has a lot to teach you about yourself. We often blame our parents, teachers, ‘difficult bosses’ for our predicaments. Turn the tables around, they would probably think the same way about you. The message here is to not escalate the matter and make your problems bigger than your contributions in life.
- Meditate, paint, do yoga, find a good support system, see a therapist to be able to at least bring your emotions out and connect with your inner resources and don’t give your problems more energy.
- Take full responsibility for your part of mistakes and oversights and examine your own narrative. Is there a pattern to this?
- No one can define your worth but your own character and contributions. Stand tall despite the people who chose to use disrespect, dressing down and humiliation as the only communication tools. Focus on the good you have done for others and your positives.
- Meditate, meditate and meditate. Learn the calming breath and celebrate the positives in your life. Do not resort to childish behaviours like not responding, being sarcastic, disrespectful, holding grudges or look for opportunities to get even. Go into work every day with a clean slate as much as possible.
- Exercise forgiveness. Forgiveness is never about the forgiven but the forgiver. Work off the frustration by engaging in physical activities and deep stretches.
- Lastly, remember that your work is only one dimension of your life and should be. Role identification is a big cause for grief. Are you not bigger than that one dimension?
- Ultimately if nothing works out, your work will open doors and other opportunities that may synchronize better with your energies and vision. But don’t throw in the towel easily, the conflicts you faced are universal across many other organisations. Try and ride the tide, most things ebb in cycles. Consider that someday the same individuals may turn a new leaf and start seeing beyond these annoyances and become your advocates.
Om Mane Padme Hum