In our fair city, we tend to frequent the stores in a part of town where you see a sign like this one. My wife and I are encouraged to look out for other drivers along the way who may be driving too fast or recklessly to make a turn. However, as I am quick to point out, I am more concerned with the passive-agressive drivers who wait until they have been provoked by the agressive driver and then start to make poor choices in their driving. Those drivers may not be as safe or smart as the agressive driver and are more likely to cause an accident in my view.
Now picture your life and the people who make your life difficult. Whether it is a bad habit that gets on your nerves or an effort to mess you up from accomplishing a goal or completing a task, these people and their issues create difficult days for each of us. As a project manager, I am not a manager of any one person. I am responsible for different things to take place by leading others to do their job. Therefore, I cannot do anything resulting in official sanction in and of myself. However, in communicating the issues early and often, I can prevent a situation through standard escalation processes (going to a manager, human resources person, etc). Within my project work, my skill may allow me to proceed more “aggressively”. However, if I wait until things get really tough and I react poorly, I am like the passive-aggressive person who decides to cut off another person in a car. I am more likely to cause more damage than trying to adjust early and often to bad drivers.
As you consider your relationships both at work and home, I would strongly urge the following measures to improve relationships and maximize success even in the worst circumstances…
1) Communicate issues early and often. Don’t wait until you are ready to ask for someone to be fired or a heated conversation at Christmas to address problems.
2) Communicate about issues and feelings. Though the two are a little odd for the business world, perception is just as important in some cases as the real issues. In other words, talk with your “offender” about what issues are causing the problem, how it affects you, and what it communicates to you beyond the words.
3) Provide safe distance or time buffers in the process. Just as you would provide additional space to a driver in rain or snow, you need to provide distance and sometimes make additional provisions should someone not be helpful. Additional preparation on a project or other contacts may provide help when someone is unreliable or unable to do something.
4) Ask for help. Get help from a 3rd party. That person or persons may help break the logjam.
5) Accept that you may not solve the problem, but seek to work around it. You will not win many of these battles, but you show your creativity in managing the situation differently and keeping some kind of relationship in the midst of it.
Maybe then, you can navigate the aggressive driving zone more safely.