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Nixing Your Negative Traits


We all have negative traits that come out under certain circumstances at work. Whether it’s when we’re stressed, worried, overwhelmed, or, the new age old favorite, when Mercury is in retrograde. Right? Except, no matter what, no matter how warranted it feels in the moment, our bad behaviors never leave us proud of ourselves.

Righteous? Check. Justified? Check. Proud? No.

What would be possible, if by the end of 2016, you had your bad behaviors under new management? Wouldn’t you have a totally different experience at work? Wouldn’t you be more impressed with yourself? Wouldn’t it be worth it? Wouldn’t you be proud?

Check.

For over thirty years now, I’ve been coaching people and, as you can imagine, I’ve seen some impressively bad behaviors in the workplace. The first step to changing a trait gone rogue is to recognize it.

See if any of these popular negative traits sound hauntingly (or honestly) familiar.

1) The Critic
You are critical with others and yourself, which justifies you being short and sometimes loud publically with people. Many people seem scared of you, except for the ones you like and/or the ones who are like you. You rarely find the time to acknowledge yourself or a colleague/subordinate’s work.

2) The Micro Manager
You need what you need when you need it. You are constantly checking up on people to ensure they are  getting their job done. People don’t feel very empowered or trusted by you. Quite possibly, it’s because they are not.

3) The Lone Ranger
More than likely, you are the boss and you consider yourself the best at everything that has to get done in your department/division. You often say to yourself, let me do it, it’ll be quicker. Instead of training people, you get stuck over-working and doing the heavy lifting for others.

4) The Justified Defender
You are an explainer. Everything that doesn’t get done is because of circumstances to which you can readily point. You walk around feeling unappreciated and victimized.

5) The Gauge
You are always gauging the pecking order: who is better, equal to or worse than you. You can’t hide your attitude and it creates drama around you.

Do any of these sound like someone you know? Your colleagues? Your boss? Uh, you -ish? Even, if none of these examples sound exactly like the negative traits you’ve experienced first hand, I imagine you could name some others.

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Speaking of naming…

GIVE YOUR BAD-SELF A NICKNAME

At HG, we believe in having a sense of humor about your dark side. The more honest you are about it, the more you can do something a tad more useful than feeling guilty about it; you can actually put a gag order on it. In honor of taking down a negative trait, allow me to introduce you to one of mine, which I have nicknamed the “gangsta.” Apparently, whenever I’m worried or stressed or when someone does something I don’t like or I think is wrong, my gangsta, in the name of integrity and without any hesitation comes out, mouth a blazing, taking down whoever wronged me.

Do I know this about myself? Sure. But, mostly, this bad behavior of mine shows up more in the comfort of my own home (and teenage daughter) than at work. However, a few months ago, the gangsta came to work when I found out that one of my employees didn’t get her job done with a big client. And, what upset me most, was not so much that she made a mistake, obviously, that happens, but that I stumbled across it myself. She had hidden it from me. And, had she told me earlier, we could have fixed the situation. But, by the time I found out, there was nothing we could do.

A sure fire trigger for me. And, out came the justified gangsta.

Did I act with love and respect? Nope. Did I lose my composure and sound magically a lot like my mother back in the dark ages (my teens)? Yes. Did I come after my employee’s integrity, when, in all fairness, my trait also had no integrity for me? Yes. And, though any boss reading this would agree that yes, it was a big mistake, did my employee deserve a ‘shootout’ with my gangsta?

No.

Ridiculously early the next morning, I woke up talking to myself. Never a good sign. Or, possibly a great sign, if you have a commitment to be great over ghoulish, which I do. At a more reasonable hour, I called my employee and we both apologized and owned what we needed to: her hider and, my good reason for her hider to hide, my gangsta.

Besides apologizing, what I did next might surprise you.

I promised her and subsequently, my entire staff, that if I ever gangstered anyone ever again, I would owe them $100. Clearly, putting a much better “wanted sign” on my gangsta’s bad behavior than just guilt, embarrassment or shame.

Showing my very own gangsta that there was a new sheriff in town – me.

Look. There is no question that employees are going to make mistakes, even fireable ones, but isn’t how you and I handle the situation and who we are going to be about it with them up to us?

Check.

Okay. Now, I am thinking, it’s your turn to turn your “gangsta” in! Please know, I know none of this work is easy; except, isn’t it about time your new sheriff showed?

Check.

HOW TO CHANGE A BAD BEHAVIOR

  1. You may think you are hiding your negative traits, but you’re not. Interview your friends, spouse, boss, and co-workers about your bad behaviors, the ones they wished you’d leash. Ask each person how the behavior impacts them. Then make a list of all of your negative traits.
  2. Pick the first trait you are going to work on, the one that gets you into the most trouble; and, for the first two weeks, log it. For example, let’s say your bad behavior is that you are critical of people. Everyday set an alert on your phone that asks you “where was I critical today?” And, write it down. Get conscious of your negative trait. You are moving it from your subconscious to your conscious.
  3. After two weeks, you will be more conscious of your negative trait. Now, it’s time to make a promise about it which will have you stop the behavior. You can’t promise that you’ll never do the behavior again, because, sorry, you are human. But, what you can do is promise that if you ever do that behavior again, you owe a consequence to the person to whom you do it.
  4. A self-imposed consequence is not a punishment. It’s an incentive that has a person keep their promise. For example, owing a colleague lunch, an extra workout that week or losing your glass of wine at night would all be good consequences. Pick something that will have you keep your promise and stop the bad behavior. If feeling guilty about the trait would have worked as a consequence, it would have already!

Now, for the first month of taking down a negative trait, check in with yourself at the end of each day. Did you do your bad behavior with someone? If you did, you have 24 hours to get back to the person and apologize. If you don’t get to them, you have to pay a consequence for everyday you don’t clean it up. So, if your consequence is losing your glass of wine at night, you lose it every night until you apologize to the person.

That ought to do it, right? Or, at the very least, get you fighting for a better team than your negative trait’s team.

I promise if you take this on seriously and go to battle with it, you will not only change your behavior, you will change how you feel about yourself.

Have fun taking this on and down!

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love,
Beth