Q. I have tried to use advice you give in this column to help me get more help at work. However, I keep getting feedback that I'm high maintenance. In every job I've had, people seem to like me at first. Then they start avoiding me. I make sure I give everyone a lot of information to be helpful. What am I doing wrong?
A. What you are doing is putting people in a position where they anticipate being overwhelmed by information to give you what you want.
Low maintenance: We are concise, clear about outcomes, patient, act in ways that don't ramp up others' anxiety, behave calmly, and are predictable.
High maintenance: We ramble, provide way too much information, talk in abstract and vague ways about outcomes, are impatient, make others anxious, seem agitated, and are unpredictable.
Once coworkers have decided we are high maintenance, they will attempt to limit exposure to us. Remember that most people are already overwhelmed at work. If they believe we will overwhelm them even more, they'll go to great lengths to avoid us.
Next time you have an interaction with someone at work, ask yourself if you are behaving in a low maintenance or high maintenance manner. If you see you are acting in high maintenance ways, realize you simply have a set of interpersonal bad habits you can change.
Seeing the truth about how we operate can liberate us, but in the short run it generally makes us feel offended. Attempt to keep in mind that seeing you need to change your patterns with other people isn't a comment on your self-worth or value of your soul.
The price of effective behavior at work is that we have to remember that we can be our own worst enemy. None of us plans to shoot himself in the foot, but most of us have some automatic interpersonal habits that are less than charming to other people.
The good news is that being able to tolerate our imperfections means we can fix them. Yes, you can stop waiting for other people to shape up and get a better workplace tomorrow because you changed what you were doing.
You may even start to look at coworkers who constantly complain about their circumstances and think to yourself, "Wow, if they could just see themselves objectively they would understand why people don't do what they want."
If you develop just one skill in 2013, make it the ability to tolerate seeing what you do that gets you into trouble. The more responsibility you take for your well-being at work, the more control you'll have.
My clients often tell me they are amazed that their customers haven't changed, their boss hasn't changed, and their coworkers haven't changed but by changing themselves everyone else seems to be acting so much better. Guess who had the real power all along?
The last word(s)
Q. I work with a guy who is underhanded, arrogant and openly rude. My friends tell me I should just give it right back to him. Would that work?
A. No. It has been wisely observed that you should never wrestle with a pig (in or out of the workplace). You'll both get dirty and the pig will have a good time.
(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)
The advantages of being low maintenance
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