Communication is one of the most, important skills you can look to develop, and having good communication skills doesn’t only mean you can get your point across, it also gives you the ability to influence, get people on board, and help people see things in different ways. That’s powerful. But what about when communication goes wrong? There are lots of dangerous types of communication in the workplace and knowing what the most dangerous types of communication in the workplace are will help you avoid them so that you can avoid the headache and issues that come with them.
So, what are the most dangerous types of communication in the workplace, and more importantly, how can you avoid them?
Playing The Blame Game
Have you ever been in a situation when something went wrong at work- No doubt the answers yes. Since we’re all human, things will go wrong from time to time. The question is, what do you do in these situations?
One go-to for some people is to look to place blame. Rather than owning up to making a mistake, some people will instead look to blame other people, things, or circumstances as the reason for the error.
There are many reasons people choose to blame other people, things, or circumstances, let’s face it, no one likes to make mistakes. Most of these reasons center around not wanting to be seen in a bad light. Most of us want to be perceived in a certain way and if that doesn’t involve making mistakes, then you’re not likely to own up when you do.
But wanting to preserve a perfect image isn’t the only reason that someone might shift the blame to others.
Another reason for blaming others is the fear of repercussions. If a mistake you’ve made has caused everyone on a project time and set the team back, you might be worried about how your manager might respond, and what impact this could have for your job going forwards. For example, maybe you’re worried that you won’t get given any more opportunities.
But that’s not all, as Vanessa Hill, Founder of Braincraft explains in the video below:
How to avoid playing the blame game
- Put yourself in other’s shoes. If you’ve made a mistake, however big or small, one of the best things you can do is put yourself in others’ shoes. See it from their perspective. How does this mistake impact their project, their workload, and what ramifications does it have for them? People are just human, when you understand where they’re coming from you’ll likely understand why they might respond in a certain way and however that reaction might make you feel- by knowing the likely reason for it, you’ll be less likely to take it personally.
- Don’t take things personally. You can’t control how other people respond, but you can control how you respond. However someone reacts as a result of your mistake, try not to take it personally. Remembering point 1 might help with this.
- Be honest about the situation – If you have made a mistake, being honest is the best way ahead. Own up and then get on with resolving the issue. And of course, do apologize. It’s not ok to constantly apologize for no reason but when you make an error that’s fateful for your team then an apology is probably in order.
- Fix the issue; Most important of all is resolving the issue. Rather than spending tie obsessing over what went wrong- focus on how to make it right.
- Learn Lessons: Whatever happened, make sure you take a moment to understand how it happened so that you can avoid it happening again in the future.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Some people don’t think anything they’ve ever done is wrong. That’s not leadership, that’s a delusion. We all make mistakes. Resolve it, learn from it, and move on- don’t spend your time and energy beating yourself up over it.
- If you’re working on a project, focus on resolving the issue and any lessons learned.
In psychology, avoidance/avoidant coping or escape coping is a maladaptive coping mechanism characterized by the effort to avoid dealing with a stressor. Coping refers to behaviors that attempt to protect oneself from psychological damage. – Wikipedia
Basically, when you avoid things you are trying to prevent yourself from some kind of mental or emotional stress.
You might be wondering if this is really a form of communication. But remember, communication is more than just the words you say. It’s also about your non-verbal communication. Given this, if you’re avoiding someone – then you are definitely sending that person a message. You’re saying- you don’t want to do something or deal with something.
According to ADAA ( Anxiety and Depression Association of America), Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.
While you may not suffer from extreme levels of anxiety, avoidance will still increase cause anxiety levels to rise and if you do already suffer from high levels of anxiety, then the ramifications to your mental health are even worse.
How to stop avoidance – the conundrum
If you’re the type of person that tends to avoid those awkward conversations then it’s time to get out of your comfort zone.
Challenge yourself to face these things head-on, sooner rather than later. The sooner you have the conversation, or interaction the less opportunity you’ll give yourself to avoid the situation and the less time for your anxiety to build.
It’s easier said than done, but the more you do it, the more you’ll get used to doing it until it becomes your go-to response.
Perhaps you just don’t know what to say, or you worry about how the other person will react. Either way, rather than avoiding speaking to your colleague, instead, plan what you want to cover ahead of time, get some time booked in, and get the conversation over with.
And if you’re worried about how they might react, let them know what you want to talk about beforehand. If you know they know what you want to discuss then this might help alleviate that awkward start to the conversation.
Passive-aggressive Communication Style
Passive-aggressive communication involves indirectly making a point without actually openly addressing the issue head-on with the individual concerned. There are a million different ways people can communicate in a passive-aggressive way when it comes to the workplace.
Here are just a few examples of passive-aggressive communication in the workplace:
Saying you’re going to do something but then purposefully continuously not doing it, perhaps never even planning to do it
For example, your boss might say you’ve really surprised them with the quality of your work or- that this isn’t you! Saying something that on the surface of it seems harmless but when inspected closer- is barbed
Sabotaging a colleague’s work
This could include holding back important information, providing misinformation, doing anything else which threatens their work under the radar.
A colleague does something to upset you. But, rather than speaking to them about the situation, instead, you decide to ignore them from now on.
Going over people’s heads.
Something happens, rather than speaking to the individual involves and giving them a chance to explain themselves and resolve the issue, instead, you go over their head and straight to their manager without them knowing. Worse still- you might even go to their manager’s manager!
Embarrassing colleagues in public
For example, sharing something personal that a colleague shared with you in confidence when you know it will make them uncomfortable or asking questions of people that you know they can’t answer.
There are lots of ways people can resist change, Including not coming on board when it comes to new ways of working, resisting making an effort to work well with new colleagues or teams if they are unhappy with how the new set up came about.
Resisting change can lead to all sorts of issues because you won’t necessarily know that someone is resistant to a change since they may exercise this resistance under the radar.
It can stop things progressing and when done under the radar can be another form of sabotage.
How to overcome resistance to change
We get it, change can be hard. Even painful at times. Especially if you feel that the reasons for the changes aren’t justified. Often this happens when new processes are implemented. And while there is another side to this ( ie- those who are implementing changes should make sure they get people on board) when change happens, the best thing you do is try to adapt as best you can.
A few things that can help if you do feel resistant to change include:
Get clear on exactly what aspect of the change concerns you the most and try to get to the bottom of why.
If you can, share your concerns about the changes with your manager to see what flexibilities there are if any
Understand and accept that sometimes things will be outside of your control and remember that resisting change at work won’t stop the change from happening. If you’re serious about having a successful career, adaptability to change is a skill that you need to develop, so start working on developing yourself in this area.
Keep an open dialogue. The worst way change can happen is by surprise. If your the person in charge of managing change then the more time you can give people to get accustomed to the idea of it the better. This way everyone is more likely to be on board.
On the other hand, if you know you tend to struggle with change, then you need to be open about this. Let people know that you need time to let things sink in. If you’re worried that saying such a thing will not ingratiate you with your boss or put you at a disadvantage, then simply make sure you stay on top of things that are happening in your company, in your team and ask your boss as often as possible if any changes are in the pipeline.
The more you have open dialogue the earlier you’re like to know the more tie you have to get used to it.
Oh, and the better your relationship with your boss the more likely they are to share with you as much as they can.
There are lots of reasons why people use passive-aggressive behavior. For one thing, it can be easily denied and turned back on the other person and what’s more, it can be easier than being assertive.
But communicating in a passive-aggressive manner at work, or anywhere for that matter is toxic and does nothing for your relationships.
How to stop being passive-aggressive
- Understand why:
If you find yourself dealing with things in a passive-aggressive manner, it’s important to understand why you’re responding in this way. Maybe you don’t feel that you can speak up about what is upsetting you or making you angry, whether it’s because you don’t think you’ll be listened to based on past experience or some other reason. Or perhaps you don’t think that your colleagues will understand why your angry or upset about the situation, gIN LEvig you feeling unable to express yourself.
Whatever the reason, is, understanding it is a first step to changing your behavior and dealing with things differently.
- Be honest about how you feel
As well as taking the tie to consider why you might be behaving in a passive-aggressive way, give yourself permission to feel how you truly feel.
For example, if someone has asked you to do something that you think is totally unreasonable, then it’s ok to feel some way about this. Whether that’s angry, frustrated, upset. But what’s important is that you don’t push the feeling down and beat yourself up for feeling it. Accept it’s how you feel and then try to address the issue head-on. Let them know that you’ll do the thing on this occasion, but that you’re not happy with this and won’t be doing it again in the future.
- Consider what outcome you’re trying to get
As you’ve probably noticed, regardless of how you might be displaying passive-aggressive behavior, what lies at the heart of it is wanting a certain outcome, and ultimately you’re using this behavior to try and et what you want or avoid getting what you don’t want.
So, think about what you really want from the situation and try and figure out if there is any other way to get it. You might want to be considered for more opportunities, or you might have a different method of doing things that you think would be more efficient and work better for the team.
Remember, you attract more bees with honey- so start working on your persuasion skills.
- Model a mentor
Modeling, sometimes known as observational learning or social learning, is when you reproduce or Imitate the behavior of another person. The best models tend to be people who are similar to us and people who we like, respect, and hold in high regard.
If you want to stop behaving in a passive-aggressive manner, analyze how the most successful people that you highly respect conduct themselves. Specifically, see how they deal with challenges and how they deal with difficult situations. You’ll more than likely find that they face things head-on.
The mentor doesn’t have to be someone in your organization, in fact, it might be even more beneficial if they’re not.
We all know when we’re dealing with someone whose aggressive. If someone you work with has this style, more than likely, this style has got them what they wanted in the past and continues to do so. But there could be other reasons for this behavior.
Maybe they’re afraid of not being respected or perhaps they want to express their feelings of anger or show people they’re the boss.
Whatever the reasons, it’s never good to work with people who have an aggressive communication style.
But what if it’s you who communicates aggressively, how would you even know?
If you have an aggressive style and you’re in a senior position then it’s unlikely your team is going to let you know. Some of the ways to find out more about your personal style include: