Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Don't Take the Bait

Sometimes personalities clash.

You can almost feel the tension floating like foreboding fog above the conference room table. The attendees—a few oblivious but most of them in tune—are preparing to fight their own mini-battles whilst appearing to tackle the larger issues on the agenda. Alliances are created around the coffee maker or vending machine, and the aggressor is ready to launch a slight, a jab or a subtlety-veiled insult at his adversary. Those on the tertiary of the battle duck while the recipient has a decision to make.

Will retaliating make him seem petty? Will not responding make the aggressor’s comment appear valid if left unchallenged?

Department battles and peer peeves are common in every company. You can have three employees or three hundred—it matters not—because the human dynamic will always keep the sales floor and conference rooms hopping.

I’ve witnessed this countless times and have been involved in a few of these skirmishes myself. Someone has something to prove. Maybe it’s a new employee who needs to demonstrate his technical prowess or a department head who wishes to command the respect of her team. This person feels compelled to show you how smart he is, even attempting to ‘one up’ you in your area of expertise. Sometimes a person comes in with a chip on his shoulder and is just looking for a patsy to knock it off for him.

Don’t be the patsy.

Every time that I’ve been prodded to refute someone’s snarky email or subtle dig, I’ve always regretted the action. I strive to be a low-drama person because, with three small kids, I get enough of that at home. I simply don’t have the desire to fight small battles that produce negligible rewards. That’s not to say I haven’t been tempted to let someone have it; I just remind myself that the price isn’t worth the prize.

Reading a little Lao Tzu helps, too.

The desire to ‘prove you’re right’ somehow becomes secondary to knowing it internally and simply pulling the barb out of your back and moving on unscathed. These ‘small-in-issue but largely personal’ skirmishes take far more mental time and energy than they’re worth.

If you’re on the defense, I advise you not to take the bait.

If you’re the fisherman, I ask you to drop the pole entirely. It’s not pointed at the right subject anyway.

1 comment:

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