Workplace Wisdom

10 Apr 2018

How to Manage an Employee Who Cries Easily

This article originally appeared on Most managers feel uncomfortable when employees cry during business conversations. Many of us may recall a time we’ve cried at work, but for some people it’s not a rare occurrence. Some individuals seem to react excessively to disappointment or challenge, with repeated bouts of apparent sadness or fear accompanied by tears, shaking, or reddening. If you manage someone who tears up easily, you may find yourself leaving important topics or issues unaddressed to avoid […]

15 Aug 2017

What Can You Do When a Customer Explodes?

I just watched a customer take offense in a situation where no one was actually in the wrong. She reached into an awkward — although salvageable — circumstance, and pulled out a negative experience for herself — and a terrible experience for the employee trying to help her. Round 1: The Customer Picks a Fight Over a Price I was finishing a cup of tea in my favorite frozen yogurt place when a customer came in and ordered two large […]

11 Apr 2017

Sorry, Leaders Aren’t Entitled to Be Opinionated

“But I’m entitled to my opinion!” a vice president insisted. I was facilitating a work session with a client’s leadership team. Our goal was to resolve a longstanding business problem, with the full participation of dueling factions within the group. If you’ve ever been part of a management team that’s going in circles on a crucial issue, you know the process can cause great offense, and fuel anger and resentment. That’s why a facilitator can be useful: to help participants […]

26 May 2015

Don’t Let Urgent Employees Cut Corners

Although it’s aggravating and distracting to work with a passive-aggressive colleague (see Do You Work with Someone Who Rolls Over and Plays Dead?), it can be just as frustrating to work with someone who’s too active, too intense, and yet has too little to show for it. Some employees are so zealous that they just have to get things closed, handled, resolved, and OFF THEIR DESKS. They tend to oversimplify because they can’t tolerate having decisions hanging open or problems […]

15 Jul 2014

How to Cope When Difficult Colleagues Won’t Cooperate

It’s frustrating to try to get through your own work or to help your team make progress when you can’t get your colleagues to cooperate. Last week’s post covered some of the reasons that you might be hesitant to address this lack of support directly. Whether you prefer to avoid conflict and confrontation or you’re worried about being perceived negatively by peers or management, here are three ways to reassure yourself that you’re doing the right thing: Make the commitment […]

08 Jul 2014

How to Confront Your Fears with Difficult Colleagues

Some midlevel and senior executives are perfectly comfortable holding their staff members accountable for their responsibilities, but they get flummoxed when a peer is unenthusiastic, uncooperative, or downright obstructionist. These execs may not perceive it as their job to correct or manage a colleague. They wonder, in disbelief, “Isn’t everyone supposed to know how to behave both responsibly and collegially?” But that stance is unrealistic. The higher in the organization you go, the more likely it is that you’ll need […]

03 Jun 2014

How to Get Out from “Under the Bus”

“They threw me under the bus” is one of the most common expressions of complaint among employees who see themselves as the victims of intra- or inter-team sniping. Whenever I hear it, I picture tire tracks — big, wide ones — across somebody’s back. People tend to say they’ve been thrown under the bus when they want to convey: Anger about feeling attacked during a presentation; Confusion or distress that people who previously pledged support didn’t back them up in […]

25 Feb 2014

This Is How to Find a Happier Ending to Workplace Dramas

The last few blogs have covered various kinds of typical workplace dramas and their instigators: The eager beaver type who’s “overwhelmed and overreacting;” The intelligent, intense, easily triggered “conspiracy theorist;” The “perfect victim,” who’s always right and always suffering; and The “workplace scold,” who gains self-importance by speaking for others. Of course there are other types, like the Firebomber who storms the barricades with the clear goal of blowing people up when she feels she’s been neglected for too long. […]

18 Feb 2014

What to Do About a Workplace Scold

Many workplaces have a person like Ermengarde, who’s an excellent worker and a dedicated employee in her own right, but often takes it upon herself to bring to management the concerns and complaints of other individuals and groups. Often someone like Ermengarde gets started down this road because she really does have a good relationship with her boss, and the head of HR, and other execs, all of whom appreciate her intelligence, astuteness, and credibility. Whenever an exec responds positively […]

11 Feb 2014

How to Handle an Employee Who Plays the Perfect Victim

“I’m a victim! I’m a victim!” Have you dealt with someone who sounds like that — maybe not as clearly, but just as dramatically? For Perfect Victims, everything that goes wrong is the result of someone else being unhelpful or too demanding or getting in their way. Every suggested alternative only creates new difficulties for these types. No matter what you do, the PV complains, “Why aren’t you helping me more?” Perfect Victims are convinced they’re always right, and they’re […]


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