Communication Conflict Resolutions

The Jerk at Work, Not Me

Hi everybody!

Well, today is one of my favorite subjects, “The Jerk at Work, Not Me”. It’s out there. It’s always out there. We’re never the jerks at work. Are we?

Well, you never know, but here’s what I’d like to do. I’m going to give you a sentence that you can use. Craft it any way of one I’m giving you the bare bones of it. So that, when you talk with that jerk at work, the one who’s driving you crazy, that person who every time you see them, your hair stands on end and your stomach starts to rumble, and you just want to either run away or fight with them or you freeze.

The three ways that we behave when we are in tough situations, we either fight it out, we run away, we flee or we freeze like the deer in the headlight. So, no more that. Let’s talk about very quickly what this sentence is now, but before that, I just want to tell you, this it’s very important. Usually, that person but jerk at work, I call them sometimes ‘the petty tyrant’ has a lesson for you, has something that is a part that you’re looking at out there, that you’ve got inside. Who knows, but it’s worth checking out.

So, there are two parts to this sentence and the first part is, the truth. You take a cup of coffee, some tea, some chai, some coke. You take whatever you want and you go and say to them, “Can we have a few minutes?” or you text them and say, “When do you have time?” However, you want to do it, you’ve got to meet someplace quietly just the two of you, and what you start with is, the truth. I know, we’ve had some difficulties and then the big word that comes in and not, “But I know we’ve had some difficulties, but blah blah blah” because when people hear that, the but stops them. I know we’ve had some difficulties and very important, and I’d like to find a way to become better colleagues or whatever you want to put there. So, let me start from, “Again, I know we’ve had some difficulties and I’d like to find a way for us to become better colleagues.”

Often, I’ll put in something like that, and then say an extra add. So, it’s not a run-on sentence, but it’s two ads in there, and who knows maybe we can become friends. The stories that have come out of people doing this have been spectacular. So, give it a shot! Remember, I said, I’m going to keep these short just a few words to it. I want you to get the but out of your yes. I want you to get the but out of your sentences. I want you to change it to and, and use the word, “Friend it takes us back to when we were little kids. We all wanted to have friends. Will you be my friend? You know, will you be my friend.” You may find that when the two of you start to talk, you will find some place, places and ways that you really can connect differently.

So, give it a shot!

Let me know how it works, and to your success.

Thanks so much.

Conflict Resolutions Growth Patterns

Letting Go of Behavior Patterns That We Developed During Childhood

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re having a glorious day even though everything seems overwhelmed and rushed, and we can’t move fast enough, and we can’t please everybody but nonetheless we just keep persevering, right? Except, sometimes we feel submissive compliant filled with self-doubt, create self-sabotage.

Those days, everybody does it and what happens is, it gets worse and worse during holidays and celebrations, because we have these mental images about the way things should be, and when the moments of life come in, and we can’t get everything done the way we want.

Well, we do a couple of things: one is, many of us go into the victim mode. It’s my fault, I can’t do it right, it’s not good enough, it’s never good enough.

So, what do we do about all this?

If you feel overwhelmed and have a lot of self-doubt, I have three suggestions for you now.

This is only the beginning, because what happens is, a lot of this started when we were kids, and you couldn’t meet your parents expectations or your teachers expectations or even your friends expectations.

So, you began to say something wrong with me. We don’t put it out there. We say, there’s something wrong with me. So, if you were judged as a kid, it shows up in these moments of overwhelm as a grownup.

What to do about it?

Well, number one is, stop complaining but life is unfair. It’s not meant to be fair. It’s not here to coddle you. It’s here to challenge you, and it’s here to help you grow an experience.

So, if life is unfair and you feel you’re judged, stop complaining and look for solutions. It’s interesting because the victim in the patterns that I work with, becomes the bluer and here’s where I learned about this. In the native cultures when you go before the tribe, the tribunal, if you will and you have a problem and you’re upset about something, they will not listen unless you come in with three, one, two, three solutions. Three different solutions to the problem.

So that’s one of the things you can do now. Stop complaining and look for solutions.

Good idea takes a little time. Sit quietly and do it.

The next thing you need to do, whoops… I have to look at my notes for a minute… is, stop saying it’s all my fault. Sure, some of, it’s your fault. That’s fine. Some of, it’s everybody’s fault, but it’s not all your fault. So, what you need to do is, be accountable for your poet in it. Speak it. Say it. Bring it out. Don’t sit with it. Don’t put the pillow over your head and begin to whine and moan.

Simply acknowledge. Yep, this is the part I played. This is what I’m doing and the third thing, which I’ve said over and over is, please remember to prioritize and in prioritizing, know that this
sentence has helped so many people including me.

Remember, no is a complete sentence. You can say no. You don’t have to defend, explain or justify. You simply say no. I can’t do this right now. No, I have to fill in the blank. I have to go take a bath. I have to go get my hair done. I have to go read a book.
I have to go sit quietly and have a cup of tea whatever it is, but if you follow these three rules and really begin to let them sink in, they will begin to change the patterns and the way your brain processes things, and your mindset will begin to change.

So, have beautiful times at all holidays and all celebrations and remember things do escalate them. So, take a deep breath and find a way to have fun with it and have a beautiful rest of the day.

Thank you so much.

Oh wait a minute. Before I go, one more thing as a gift to yourself for this holiday time, why don’t you consider getting. Don’t bring it to work. I have all the 13 patterns in there that you can look at in detail to see where each one came from. We’re talking about the victim right now, but there’s also the martyr. There’s also the bully, the procrastinator.

They’re all these patterns that we’ve developed, that we need to let go of. So, a gift to yourself or someone else. Don’t bring it to work.

Thank you so much. Happy days.

Communication Conflict Resolutions Leadership

Telling the Truth without Spilling Your Guts

Today, is about telling the truth without spilling your guts. So, let me tell you how this came about even that sentence I used to teach way back in the day telling the truth makes sense. We’re better when we tell the truths. We have less to remember. We have more credibility and we can sleep at night. Sounds good to me. So, I was at a meeting, facilitating a meeting with a group and a newly minted leader of the group and they were doing best practices and one of the things that happened was, somebody said, “Well, I have an idea.” And he said, “Whatever his idea was…” and this newly minted woman, who was in charge, who had been through some of my trainings said to him, “I don’t agree with you. I really think what you said is kind of stupid and furthermore, you know your ideas always seem to create more havoc than they do positive things to happen.”

Well, what do you think happened? The room got super silent and people literally started to slide under the conference table that we were sitting at, thinking I’m not going to open my mouth and say a word, and so, I did what is very clever for any facilitator out there or any leader. I said, “Why don’t we just take a quick break. We did, and I took this gal Diana, and I said, “Would you come in this other room with me?” And we walked in a room, and I closed the door and I said, “What were you thinking?” And she looked at me. Kind of like wide-eyed and she said, “But Sylvia, you teach to tell the truth.” And all of a sudden I took a deep breath and I thought at the end of that sentence has to be taught every time from here on, and that’s not about spilling your guts. Telling the truth is such a disciplined art form.

Truth sentences are short. They come from here, and here you have to connect them. You tell the truth from here. You get anger. You tell the truth from here. Without this and you get mush. They’re not strong enough. So, it’s the connection of heart and mind in telling the truth.

So, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about this, and one of them is, which words matter most. So, I’m going to give you what I think makes the biggest difference, and that is when you’re telling someone the truth, and you have finished your short sentence. It’s not a run-on sentence. It’s not a paragraph. I was really upset when that happened and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. That’s a short sentence.

The next one, the next words are the key ones, and now I’d like to hear from you because unless you create the dialogue, unless you create the connection, the truth will go the way it did. When we were little kids, and got yelled at, and we went and hid in a corner or wet now bedroom are walked outside, and thought, they don’t really know me. Most of us did that as kids.

So, here we go.

Telling the truth is not spilling your guts after you said it. You respond with, and now I’d like to hear from you, and the next one is, why is less always better than more, because once you begin to tell the truth, and you start to go on and on. What happens is, you lose the thread of the core of what you really wanted to say.

I’m going to give you an example. I’m working with a family business and two brothers who are arguing all the time, and one of them finally went to the other, and said,”Can we have some coffee? Can we just talk?” And he actually brought two containers of really good Starbucks coffee, and they sat down and the other brother surprised said, “Thanks for the coffee.” It was called a pattern interrupt. They didn’t do that very often, and the first brother said, “I really don’t know you very well, and we’re related and it makes me sad.” Those words had never been uttered from his mouth before. “I don’t know you very well.”

So, that’s all he said and he said. I wonder these are good words, wandering, curious are really good words to use. Also, when you’re talking about truth-telling, I wonder what your thoughts are about that. How do you feel about how we relate as brothers. The other brother looked at him and said, “Well, that’s never been said before.” And the first brother said, “I know, that’s why I said it.” And then he said those magic words, and now I’d like to hear from you.

The third is, how to find a best way to collaborate. Here’s another good sentence for truth-telling.

Now, it has to be this connection or at mind. Remember that, mind without heart is cruel and heart without mind is weak. It’s the combination that makes the difference, and the third is, it means a lot to me.

These are very simple sentences, but man, I’ll tell you or lady or woman or whoever they go in to the other person, and as we’re talking, and the truth is coming out, and you say, it means a lot to me. Finish the sentence. It means a lot to me that you’re sitting here and not leaving in anger. It means a lot to me that we’re finally getting a chance to talk. It means a lot to me.

So, that’s it for the today, and as we look around the world, right now, we are starving for truth. We’re starving for what’s real, we’re starving for integrity.

I’m waiting for Tom Hanks and Mr. Rodgers to show up around Christmas time, because I think that’s going to make a difference for us.

So, practice telling the truth without spilling your guts and have a beautiful rest of the day, and thank you for your time, and listening to this and watching it.

Thank you so much.

Business Communication Conflict Resolutions Gutsy Leadership Leadership Strategies

Being Able to Communicate for Clarity is Necessary

Being able to communicate for clarity is an art…even if we are speaking in the same language it’s often hard to get clear with another person.

My dear client Kellie called me, and I could tell she was choking back tears. I waited to see what the dilemma was. It was a big one. She was ready to quit the job because of an argument with her boss, that she said was ‘the last straw.’

I have also coached her boss, a gentleman who was almost always gracious and positive. So, I wondered, what could have set her over the edge.

Bottom line, it was a misunderstanding of choice of words and it really shook her to the core…and if she had just been able to communicate for clarity the drama could have been avoided.

Her boss was frustrated because she took time off without checking with him and no one knew where she was and could not get her on her cell phone. 

He challenged Kellie and told her he thought she was being irresponsible and yes, he was angry. It became a ‘he said, she said,’ since she had told HR she was leaving to take a sick friend to the emergency room.

HR simply noted this, assumed she had told her boss and thought the matter was closed. 

Kellie did the right thing and yet, was reprimanded. It was when her boss said she had been irresponsible that she flew off the handle. It was a word that had followed her throughout her teen years when she was caring for a sick mother and yet told no one when she left school early.

So, here she was, helping a friend and getting a sucker punch from her boss.

What could have been done differently?  Could have either one of them effectively communicate for clarity and avoid this mess?

Mr. Boss could have asked what happened before he launched his attack. He didn’t take the time to get clear. And Kellie could have stopped him right at the start of his angry outburst and clearly told him what course she had taken.

Why do we hold back? 

Why do so many of us crumble rather than go for deeper clarity? Why is there so much confusion when even just two people talk to each other, and often these are two people who want to get along?

More questions and less finger-pointing would work. AND sometimes we need to ask a question, listen to the answer and then…. Clarify that we are on the same page.

Kinda like the man who was stopped for driving a bit too fast:

  • A man was driving down the road when a policeman stopped him. The officer looked in the back of the man’s truck and said “Why are there penguins in your truck? 
  • The man replied, “These are my penguins, they belong to me.”
  • The policeman said, “You need to take them to the zoo.”
  • The next day, the officer saw the same guy driving down the road. He pulled him over again since he saw the penguins were still in the back of the truck, but they were wearing sunglasses this time.
  • “I thought I told you to take the penguins to the zoo.” The officer said.
  • “I did” the man replied. “And today I’m taking them to the beach!”

Clarity! Just one or two extra questions can save a lot of grief.

And Kellie with her boss? They have a new practice when they meet to make sure they are clear with each other by asking each other to repeat back what needs to be done, state their intentions, and offer responses that are short, to the point and yup.. very clear.

I will be covering, in detail,  how to communicate for clarity in my on-line GUTSY WOMEN LEADERS program. This may be a good time to set up a call with me for further details.


Conflict Resolutions Leadership Leadership Strategies Patterns Success

Is being a leader a good idea?

Have you ever wondered if being a leader is such a good idea? Or, if you are in a strong leadership position, have you ever wondered if you made the right choice.

Leadership sounds so great. However, it’s not the ‘piece of cake’ so many people think it is.

Recently I got an email from one of the graduates from our Total Leadership Connections Program who had a seemingly perfect promotion as the COO of a major company. All was good during the honeymoon phase and recently all hell has broken out.

“Sylvia, I made a dreadful mistake…

This job is high profile and pays well.  However, I am now learning it’s like living in a hornet’s nest. There is more in-fighting going on and office politics than I ever expected.


Instead of being able to step into the role of a leader, my life has morphed into simply being both the fire marshal and the fireman.

Every day there is scorched earth because of the backstabbing and nastiness. I didn’t know the person I replaced had left so much negativity and nastiness behind for me to clean up.

I don’t know if I can handle this crap.

My wife said I am sullen and introspective all the time and even the kids are asking why daddy is always in a bad mood.

I know we learned a ton about how teams operate when I was in TLC and that has helped. However, it’s the day in and day out fires that have me annoyed and frustrated. Question: How long will it take till I have a team of people who can collaborate and create together without the turmoil.


Hope to hear from you soon,


Here was my reply to this very capable and competent leader:

Dear Dan,

You are expressing the thoughts of so many leaders who must use the ‘ROTO-ROOTER’ method to clean out the ‘stuck plumbing.’

We can go into the details of office politics later.

For now, I really want you to take a really deep breath and think about the core of what it means to be a leader.  You can’t address the specifics until you rethink your personal mission statement and why you were so excited about taking this job in the first place, money, and prestige aside.

I hope you find this helpful.

Leading is not for the faint of heart. Leaders live dangerously, all the time. Frankly, it’s something you just need to get used to. Yes, it’s romantic and dramatic and exciting to be a leader. You are looked up to at work, in the community and hopefully at home also.

Leading can be inspirational and you can have a major impact on the lives of those who work with and for you. You can help to build fortunes and increase the bottom line.

Now, onto risk assessment.

You can and will take risks that may even jeopardize your career and impact your personal life. This is a tough place to be when most of us have been taught not to rock the boat.

Leaders need to learn how to meet resistance while disrupting the status quo. For, I promise you, there will be resistance to change. And when the resistance comes most leaders will revert to playing it safe and the old way.

I can tell you that as you sort through the office politics mess and decide you are ready to take the risk to plunge in and make the changes, you may get burned while attempting to put out the fires.

I want to suggest that there are ways to make a difference, strategies that can help with the turnaround.

You learned many of them when we talked about the 13 behavior patterns that come with us from our first organization, the family and into our present organization at work.

Now, you are ready for the advanced session of how to get your team to be more accountable, more productive and well….. just plain nicer with each other.

Please review Chapter 7 in Don’t Bring It To Work.

The title of the chapter is Talking Together. After reading we can reconnect. You just need a bit of a refresher on how to help your team surface the hidden conflict that has them so riled up.

Leadership is complex, challenging and creative. I know you have the core strength to make your job and your team spectacular.

Keep going and keep growing,



Communication Conflict Resolutions Leadership Leadership Strategies Success

Be a positive force in the workplace

What does it take to be a positive force in the workplace?  I’ve been getting so many calls about conflict at work and even in communities that got me wondering.

Are we becoming a more argumentative society or are we simply bringing to the surface what has been hidden way deep down and now is the time for more truth?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

Did you ever wonder why some people are extremely emotionally accident prone? They come to work with a dark cloud over their head dripping rain and constantly frowning while others are standing in the sunshine right next to them.

In my research about what makes some individuals so happy and positive and others so sullen and nasty I found that repetition of the positive has tons of merit. And yes, practice makes perfect.

I’ve made a checklist of 7 ways to make sure at least you can be a positive force in the workplace and not succumb to the negativity that is another pollutant in the world.

    • Use positive language: Words have energy. Use those that inspire rather than ones that can cause unnecessary fireworks. Words like hope, appreciate and care get situations moving past the log jam of words like impossible, alone and pessimistic.
    • Expect respect: Give what you want to get. The simple rule is to always say please, thank you and call people by their given names. These basic rules make a world of difference in talking with each other.
    • Don’t take the bait: Stay with facts, not personalities. If someone wants to derail a conversation and starts to gossip ask them “ What do you want me to do with this information” rather than adding to the mix.
    • Fly above the clouds: Hold yourself accountable and make sure you say what you mean and do what you say. Be clear and clean in your communication and use a sentence like “Here I what I commit to do.” And then DO IT.
    • Be authentic: Admit your vulnerability if you are not sure about a situation or what is being discussed. One moment of “Help me understand” will trump hours of clean up work.
    • Check your assumptions: Always ask questions to make sure you and others are on the same page. Simply say, “I would rather not assume, is this what you meant” and then ask for clarity. It will save a lot of grief.
    • Create change: You know you can’t change another person. However, you can change the direction of a conversation or change your perspective. You know its working if you or someone else says “Wow, I never thought of it that way before.”

Have a morning ritual of appreciation.  

Think of it this way…

Life is too short to spend your time in negative, destructive or wasteful ways of reacting.  It is far better to be a positive force in the workplace instead of being a destructive force.

Even if things start out badly you can turn your behavior to the positive by remembering the guidelines above to shape your responses.

Business Communication Conflict Resolutions Stress

Coping with stress and frustrations in the workplace

What do you do when you’ve had enough, and you just can’t look at one more project or help one more person solve an angry dispute at work?  Here’s 4 tips to coping with stress and frustrations in the workplace.

Some of us go outside to puff on a cigarette (you betcha there are lots of people still smoking). Maybe you call a friend and vent to them about the difficult folks you work with. Another coping mechanism can be found in comping down a chocolate bar or some other sugar-laden candy. And of course, there is beer or wine or vodka or scotch.

If you can’t talk about your frustrations maybe you stuff your emotions and just keep going, no matter how rotten you feel.

You know, the mantra that goes on and on in your head, “Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.” In the end, you then end up taking your annoyance home. That’s when you get extra pissy with your partner or feel the need to blame the kids for being too loud, too flippant, to disrespectful.

Look, not all stress is bad. Good stress can make you excel, pumping you with extra adrenaline before the speech or before the race.

However, stress that has no end in sight, stress that keeps the anger burning, stress that makes you feel worthless, stress that gives you brain fog, this stress can only lead from bad to worse to some form of disaster.

In an article by Jeffrey Pfeffer in The Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2019, he talks about the hidden costs of stressed out workers. One of the most important issues he addresses is the need for greater autonomy for workers.

The world is changing and as individuals develop, there is a yearning, a strong desire to make decisions for oneself. No longer do people want to punch a clock when they walk into work in the morning and punch out when they leave.

As Pfeffer states, “Decades of research show that worker who have more control over their jobs and are subject to less micromanagement, are more motivated and engaged in their work.” And that amazing outdoor apparel company, Patagonia, uses a flat organizational structure to ensure that each manager has too many people to oversee to micromanage them.

They call this “management by absence.”

I suggest that well- being at work comes about when everyone learns the core methods of healthy accountability and understands how they fit into the larger system.

In my book “Don’t Bring It To Work” I underline these key ways to keep stress from ruining your days and work and make sure they do not end up ruing your nights at home:

  • Tell the truth without spilling your guts
  • Say what you mean and do what you say
  • Create healthy boundaries on when to say NO
  • Ask for what you need before deciding “they won’t listen to you”

In every off-site I have facilitated around the world, there are certain basic similarities. There is a desire for more trust with colleagues, more authenticity, more creativity, and especially for more autonomy.

Finding new ways to communicate, search for truth, express healthy caring, finding new ways to see each other, hear each other, understand each other – these are what sets us free.

Then the heaviness of stress that leads to anxiety, depression, and physical illness can be alleviated. It’s costing us billions of dollars in absenteeism, lawsuits, ad lower productivity.

The companies that give more room for employee input and offer programs for better communication and conflict resolution will be the ones that lower the stress and have longer term, happier employees.



Communication Conflict Resolutions

Making Relationships Work

Making relationships work rather than putting them into an early grave takes thoughtfulness and intention. 

If you’ve ever found yourself entangled in a less than ideal relationship with someone in your personal or professional life this will help you make sense of it all rather than throwing it all away.

Let me share a recent story that perfectly illustrates this…

A client told me he was so mad at his boss he was thinking of quitting and leaving without any notice. “Yes,” he said, “The jerk doesn’t deserve even an extra day of my time.”

“And then what?” I asked.

He shrugged and said he didn’t care what happened next. He was fried and furious and just salivated at the thought of revenge.

It took me a bit of time to help him calm down and listen to my questions that were not about destroying, rather about salvaging.

“What would be a possible good ending to the anger and frustration?” only led to more whining and upset.

I finally sparked some real attention when I asked what his ultimate intention was.

Ah, intention.

That changed not only the subject in a positive direction, but it also led to a powerful discussion about intending to make relationships work rather than putting them into an early grave.

Here is some of the research we talked about as ‘Mr. Furious’ decided to look at his anger and his decision to leave his boss high and dry before making his final decision on what to do.

Science explains the power of intention using quantum physics and the idea of information entanglement.

Entanglement occurs when two particles (or people) are deeply linked (boss and employee) and one particle (employee) can instantaneously influence the other (boss). Subtle energies can travel faster than electromagnetic light.

Okay, enough about the science. Back to the two men.

I asked Mr. Furious to think about what he could do to help his boss. He would have none of it. That is until I asked him if he knew anything about his boss outside of work.

The only thing he had ever talked about with his boss, and it was a minimal conversation, was that the man he reported to has a disabled child who was causing a lot of stress and turmoil at home.

It was, he reported to me,  a short conversation that was quickly shoved to the back of the agenda and never discussed again.

I asked if he could keep an open mind and take a few minutes to look through his boss’s eyes. It was an uphill battle. However, soon he seemed to calm down and I watched as the vitriol lessened and he was ready for a new look at what made him so angry and yearning for revenge.

He took a big picture approach and did a deep dive into the possibility of staying at his job and changing the way he viewed his boss (who, he said reminded him of his very, very annoying grandfather). The direction of his thoughts began to change. He made a major shift and became clear about how he wanted his relationship with his boss to be.

He admitted he expected the other man to change and suddenly saw the arc of a possibility that if he changed, perhaps his boss could change also.

I don’t have the final answer to this. All I know is that Mr. Furious became Mr. Curious. He became willing to change his intention from the negative to the positive and see his boss as a human being with all the pains and fears and creativity and caring that he saw at that moment when he talked about his disabled son.

Today, he reported they had a long and successful conversation about job responsibilities. He decided to stay. And his comment right before we clicked off Zoom was, “I see my situation at work with a whole new sense of possibility. My intention changed the conversation and it was far better than I ever expected.”

Next time you think about throwing away instead of making relationships work…keep this in mind, it takes intention to make the choice to step out of entanglement and seeing things in a new way.

And I said to myself, “Now if I can only do the same with my ex-husband.”


Communication Conflict Resolutions Leadership Strategies

How to Get Along with Difficult People at Work, at Home, Everywhere

Dealing with and knowing how to get along with difficult people is an international problem.

Every workplace in the world has the same complaint about individuals who are procrastinators, avoiders, drama kings and queens, and the like.

Last week in a seminar I was talking about the fact that Work is NOT a Rehab Facility!

Three people in the audience of 80 stopped my talk by applauding so loud that I decided to find out why they had so much enthusiasm around this subject.

One woman said “I’m sick and tired of making excuses for some of the jerks I have to work with. You’re right, they should go to a rehab facility and leave us the heck alone.” Another called out “There should be a test for the nastiness gene.”

I had hit a nerve.

I veered from my speech to let the group vent. By the time I was ready to complete the afternoon we had made some strategic headway. Glad, those three had opened the door for a great discussion about difficult people at work and how conflict never seems to go away.

There was a shift to thinking about ‘difficult situations’ instead of only seeing ‘difficult people.’ Rather than lurching from upset to upset and applying Band-Aid solutions that do not change or improve anything, there was a willingness to hear me talk about what I absolutely know is core to conflict at work, in all relationships.

How a system operates:

  1. Everything is connected, and no one wins unless we all do: Each of us is part of the system and you must learn to look at your part, not just at ‘the other guy.’
  2. Patterns of behavior show the way out of conflict to collaboration: If a problem is solved, that’s great, you keep going. However, if the same problem keeps repeating and repeating, well then, you have a pattern and that’s where you need to look at how you respond to the situation at hand. Do you avoid, blame, attack, defend? These patterns need to be addressed, not just ‘the other guy.”
  3. Transformation comes from personal responsibility to change: In any system when even one person is willing to ‘own their part’ it causes the whole system to shift. Individual accountability is infectious and can become group accountability. Often the ‘culprit’ is the willingness to blame others and that’s when teams (and families) stay stuck. Remember, it’s not just ‘the other guy.

How to get along with difficult people – 4 questions to ask yourself

Here are some thoughts to ponder as you consider the move from conflict to collaboration:

  1. Why is conflict and upset with difficult people universal in workplaces?
  2. Why does conflict arise so quickly in work relationships, often before colleagues really have a chance to get to know each other?
  3. Why is there such a propensity for conflict to fester and worsen rather than just be a short annoyance that goes away on its own?
  4. Why do most HR interventions fail to reduce the level of conflict at work?

In the webinar “Transform Conflict to Collaboration,” you will learn about the underlying behavior patterns that get in the way of team cooperation. You will learn the way OUT of the continuous whirlpool of defending, blame and attack by Observing, Understanding and Transforming the way you see, hear and feel the unpleasant situation.

And if all else fails, well, rehab is still an option.

Here’s to knowing how to get along with difficult people…




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Is your work environment toxic with lots of “staff infections”?

Here is what many people have emailed me regarding toxic work environments, and they all sound like they work in the same company.

The only difference is the geographic location, the same toxic work environment seems to pop up everywhere.

These companies are scattered around the U.S., actually around the world from Pittsburgh to Paris, Long Island to London, and Milwaukee to Madrid.

Yet they are all infected with the same “staff infection”.

I will respond to all. Here is one of the ways a frustrated senior leader wrote to me:

Hi Dr Sylvia,

I am ready to quit!

Now, this is a big deal because I’m making good money, have great benefits, and I am even in line to be sent to your Total Leadership Connections program in the fall.

However, there is so much backbiting at my company I just don’t know if I can stay.

The toxicity is making it hard to breathe. My nemesis, a woman named Deb is the worst. She sits at her desk and moans so loudly it’s like a bomb going off right in front of us. She complains about everyone and everything.

Nothing satisfies her.

I really think she wants to be fired so she can claim a hostile work environment lawsuit. While we each report to the same Senior VP, he just brushes it off as “Well, that’s Downer Deb at it again.” He says this to himself, although once, he did admit me she is a pain in the butt.

This has been going on for so long I think he has normalized the abnormal.

Do you have any helpful suggestions before I call it quits and look for another job?


Disgusted with Downer Deb

Here is my answer to all who have a Deb or Don or David or a Belinda, or whoever at work that can never be happy no matter what.

In an office, just like in a family, everyone learns to deals with conflict and disappointments in their own way. At some point someone needs to find the courage to stand up to the craziness with decency and dignity.

Guess all of you who have written to me about the “staff infections” are the ones who can make the changes, or at least, give it your best shot before you decide to leave for greener pastures.

Leadership development is important for everyone and it’s up to YOU to help change the dynamics at work.

It’s not that different than speaking up about a difficult family situation. You can learn more about how why most people will bury their heads in the sand rather than speak out at work in my book Don’t Bring It To Work.

For starters, please take a few minutes and look at who you went to as a kid when there were troubles and unfairness at home (yes, we all experienced some form of negativity). Then look at how the issues were resolved.

If you were in a family that avoided or denied the tough stuff you will be more prone to walk away rather than find the courage to face the Debbie Downers.

Look, this situation is impacting YOU or you would not be writing to me.

Therefore, you need to talk to your boss and share your concerns. This will, I promise you, raise your self- esteem and give you the opportunity to be part of the change you want to see.

For all of you living with toxic co-workers.

The courage to dare is the beginning. Please contact me directly so I can help you before you decide to leave a company that is giving you so many perks and possibilities.