Conflict Resolutions Leadership Strategies

Leadership Strategies: Let the jerks at work be your teachers

 My advice to those of you dealing with less than ideal personalities at work:  Let the jerks at work be your teachers.

Here’s an email that I think belongs to all of us as we search for meaning at work, I think we all want more than just a paycheck. We want a place to grow and reach full potential.

This is what John, a client of mine wrote to me about the frustration of dealing with work jerks.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

Why are there so many jerks at work, actually so many jerks in the world in general and how do we make the shift to let the jerks at work be your teachers?

I struggle with how to keep calm and cool when these folks start to annoy me. Sometimes I wonder if maybe, I’m the real jerk and I just don’t want to admit it.

I tell myself that I’m OK, that I’m good and smart and kind, and fun. It’s them, damn it. They are the ones who ruffle my feathers because they are irresponsible, dumb, and ornery.

I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and look the other way when these jerks annoy me. I don’t confront them. I just make nasty comments to myself and gt on with my work.

Question, how do you handle the jerks in your life?

I was impressed when you talked about the guy who had sociopath written on his forehead and you still ignored what you felt and knew and decided to have him do some marketing work for you. Yet, you kept telling yourself he was a true jerk to work with.

That was, until you looked at a part of your ego that was still in need of being appreciated, even though the relationship was built on lack of character, built of pure baloney.

I’d appreciate some insights so I can, as you say so often, get at observation of why these irresponsible, dumb, and ornery people bother me.




Dear John,

Your question shows that you are a searcher, one of the aspects of developing powerful character traits. Once you do battle with your ego (something we all have to do) it’s a sign you’re moving to a higher level of maturity.

Just know, that building a strong character is a lifelong process.

Here’s what I see and hear from what you wrote. You want healthy relationships at work, everywhere. And work is a great place to do deep research and look at who rubs you the wrong way and figure out why.

You see, personal family relationships are more complex and multi-layered, therefore more difficult to observe. So, let’s stay with the jerks at work for now.

If someone bugs you who is irresponsible, dumb, or ornery it could possibly because you are the opposite. Question, do you think you are always the responsible one, the smart, one the agreeable one?

Often being the upstanding individual may become exhausting. And, just maybe you would love to slack off, not have all the answers, and maybe be nasty at times.

It’s not fun to look at what is called “the dark side.” However, shedding light here is really enlightening.

In my upcoming webinar, I will discuss ways to develop strong character and look at those who bother you as a gift for future development.

Life is full of ways to grow and develop. Let the jerks at work be your teachers.

Business Business and Life Patterns Conflict Resolutions Leadership Leadership Styles Patterns

Are you an avoider or initiator at work?

Are you (or someone you know) an avoider?  You know…when there is conflict, contention, carrying-on in a nasty way that doesn’t stop, do you ever think “I gotta get outta here?”

We all have that feeling at some time. However, when it happens over and over it’s a powerful behavior pattern…the avoider.

Avoiders often grew up in families where dissension and disagreement never got resolved. In worst case situations, it became violent with physical or verbal abuse, hitting with hands or with words. In other cases (actually, equally as bad) it was the silent treatment with icicles and frozen one word meaningless responses.

Those I coach who wear the avoider jacket tell of hiding from the unpleasantness of the adults by going to a vacant room and closing the door and putting their hands over their ears or getting out of the house just to get some quiet.

Think for a minute about how your family handled conflict.

                                         Was it a continuous blame game?

                                         Was it pushed under the rug?

                                         Wat it resolved by negotiation?

                                         Was it ended by agreeing to disagree?

                                         Was it left hanging in the air?

                                         Was it handled with respect or dissing?

There is a gender issue here also. More often than not, guys want to get the hell away from an angry woman. And women want resolution, or at least want to be heard and acknowledged.

At work avoiders are absolutely aware of contentious issues, they just don’t want to face them. So you will hear “I’ll get back to you,” or “Let me think about it,” or “Let’s let it work itself out.”

Want to know how to talk with an avoider? Watch the video here:

The good news about transformed avoiders is they are amazing at flipping that run-away energy into becoming initiators. They start the dialogue to have difficult conversations and they stay with it to resolution with out judgement, blame or attack. They become the go-to individuals when stuff gets out of hand. They make amazing leaders who are admired and revered.


Business and Life Patterns Conflict Resolutions Leadership Leadership Styles Patterns

How to harness the drama queen and turn it into story telling

One of the main behavior patterns that is showing up strong these days is the Drama King/Queen.

So many people have emailed me, just this week, asking how to harness the excess noise that comes with drama people at work and home. And the most frustrated are those who see how social media can become a disturbing force and make the drama even more intense.

First, I’d like to disclose that this pattern is one I know all too well. I know how to have Academy Award hissy fits when I don’t get my way. Actually, I USED to have noisy, disruptive blow-outs on a regular basis until….

That’s what I want to discuss. For each of the patterns, 13 in all, that I believe are the key ones that show up in every workplace as well as in every family. There’s really good news that with a bit of strength training they can be transformed to their healthy and positive opposite. You want to find your primary pattern?

Take the quiz. Better yet, take the quiz >>HERE<< and then contact us.

The Drama King/Queen was often pushed to the side as a kid. There may have been other siblings that got more attention (my brother in my case) and the main way to be heard and seen was to create a fuss, a loud fuss.

It usually works (it did for me) and I became an expert at getting my way, just to “shut me up.” This lasted into adulthood until I started to get feedback that I was “acting lik a child.” (more like acting like an ass).

Here’s what I found and those of you out there with the drama-thing, pay attention. I learned to transform my bragging, sobbing, demanding, and annoying behavior into being a really good storyteller.

That way, I can still get attention, in a positive way. I’ve learned to tell stories that have meaning and yet, still let me be front and center and keep the adrenaline rushing through my system.

I promise, when you harness the drama and turn it into story telling everyone you know at work and at home will hear you better and love you more.

Communication Conflict Resolutions Leadership Leadership Styles

3 Ways To Be On Top Of The Frustration Caused by Stress and Conflict At Work

Do you have a stupid boss?

Well, maybe not stupid, just indecisive, or slow in answering?

Or perhaps you have an incompetent colleague.

You know, one who always messes up the report and you must fix everything?

And then there is the passive-aggressive direct report.  

That’s the one who says “yes” and does “no” and then stares at you with that awful deer in the headlights look of innocence.

How do you respond to them? You know deep inside you have a choice. However, in the moment of exasperation, it often feels hopeless.

And then that voice in your head, the one that sounds like your conscience says gently, “You know the only one you can change is you.”

When I hear that pleasant, kindly voice, all I want to say is “Zip it!”

Yet, that’s where the truth resides. Therefore, when it comes to conflict resolution in the workplace ya gotta start by looking inside yourself.

I know, I know, it’s so much easier to point the finger of blame out there. It’s less painful and even, I must admit, more enjoyable.

I looked and looked and didn’t find any credible research from neuro-science that blaming others makes you feel good. Maybe it’s just like eating sugary foods, good for the moment but not really healthy long term.

I do know that in my early career, I have really felt better using conflict management strategies that placed the reason for the mess on someone else’s shoulders.

Think about it.

If you can manage conflict in the workplace by saying “It’s not me, it’s him or her or them, don’t you feel the burden lifted from your back?

Also, we don’t really have to blame another person. We can blame the economy, the government, or even the weather.

Or we can call in the stress card. “It’s my hormones or my stomach, or my gall bladder that got me so mad or sad. And that’s why I can’t figure out how to resolve conflict. I’m at the mercy of my bodily functions.”

Here’s the short cut to go from mad or sad to glad

Good news…it only takes a few minutes of concentrated time:

  1. Count and breathe: Take a few deep breaths for practice. Then breath in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. That’s a full breath. Do these seven times. That helps you get more oxygen to your brain and most of the time has a calming effect.
  2. Ask the BIG question: ask yourself, what do you want as an outcome from all this upset. Do you want an apology or do you need to apologize? Do you want acknowledgement or do you need acknowledgement? Do you want an answer or do you need to give an answer?
  3. Think relationships: when it comes to managing conflict in the workplace think in terms of on-going of how you and others interact. Yes, the basic aspect of conflict lies in the realm of relationships. And please remember, just a few kind words can go a long way, like healing salve on a wound.

I’d love to hear how you handle stress and conflict at work. What can you add to this?

The first people to respond will get a fun surprise…Just send your answers to

Business Conflict Resolutions Leadership

Leadership Development: Putting Blame In All The Wrong Places

The patterns of the past are haunting us these days.  Good leadership development requires us to read the signs of the times and lead people to a better and more positive place.

How to lead in uncertain times is the highest form of leadership.

The question is how to create an atmosphere where there can be a dialogue rather than resort to fist fighting?

How do we move from pistols to peace-tools? Figuratively with words or physically with objects.

When there are those who choose to “Not See” any point of view but their own, who condemn and disparage others, the natural tendency is to go to the other extreme. The desire is to prove how wrong they are. Then we stay lost in the realm of right and wrong, good and bad, yes and no.

Before you get upset and stop reading, please hear me: Understanding is NOT excusing.

If we are to make progress in the time of social media where information leaps around the world in minutes we are going to require a better way of communicating with each other.

“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing more difficult than understanding him.” A quote from Russian author Dostoevsky gives us pause to ask, “Why bother?”

Isn’t it easier to put someone in jail, or fire them at work and simply move on?

Here’s the challenge.

What other ways we can look at difficult situations and develop methods of discussion, to include those we see as “the enemy” at work, in our communities, on our planet? What’s in the way of retooling our thinking to go upstream for more effective answers?

It’s called a paradigm shift.

The temptation is to attack the symptoms rather than to create change at a more fundamental level.

A Story “Saving Drowning Kids.”

                  The fishermen at the river’s edge heard a little boy calling for help in the rushing water. Someone jumped in to save him. In a few minutes, there were two more children calling for help. And soon there followed more youngsters.One man left the group and there were taunts of disdain, how could he leave when they could save the children.

                An hour later he returned and when the anger finally abated he said “Someone had to find out why the children were in the river in the first place. Yes, we saved a dozen, who knows if this would have continued day after day.”

           “So, I went upstream and found the kids crossing an old rickety bridge with rotting planks that were falling out. I stopped the children and had someone from town come to replace the planks.”

Going up river means looking at pre-existing conditions and leading in a way that will inspire rather than inflame.

There has been a great deal of research about the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and many factors were involved. One that has always haunted me is that so many of the thugs, yes thugs (I said that understanding is not excusing) who brutalized others came from families where they were either physically or verbally abused as children, or there was a trauma such as a suicide or other type of abandonment by parents.

What would make someone hate others “just because?”

Go upriver by researching what you can about the naysayers in your midst. Learn about their lives, their stories and then begin to help find better ways of resolving the tough issues

Here is a list of important questions for you to ask as you take the reins of leadership to help find more effective ways to solve difficult work and community problems.

  1. Who said it? It is someone you know, a person in authority or some amorphous “he said, they said.”
  2. What did they say? What are the facts or is it just a strong of slogans and empty rhetoric.
  3. Where did they say it? Was this a public or private meeting. Who else was in the room.
  4. When did they say it? Was the discussion with you before, during or after a difficult meeting.
  5. Why did they say it? Was this said to provoke you, make them look good, become your ally.
  6. How did they say it? What was the tonality? Was it friendly, argumentative, secretive? Loud or quiet.

In my experience and in my book “UNIQUE: How Story Sparks Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement” I give examples of what can happen to teams and to individuals when they take the time to ask the questions and  learn about each other.

Effective leadership development requires you and you and you and me, all of us, to reframe the way we think and take that trip up river.

Coaching Conflict Resolutions Leadership

Intuition, Science and Truth-Telling Form a Powerful Trio in the Workplace

This is about how to rid yourself of a toxic employee or boss.

Did you ever have an employee who scored high on those personality tests that determine if they would make a good fit for your organization?

How about sitting in an interview and ‘just knowing’ this is the absolutely, positively, right person for the job?

Or, you are being interviewed and enthralled by the possibility of working for this most amazing boss.

And then something happens…

There is a disconnect between what looked good on paper (and even in your heart and mind) and what is really happening day-to-day.

“What the heck happened?” you ask yourself.

Conflict Resolutions Growth Leadership Patterns

Father’s Day Gift Suggestions (Hint: Not a Necktie!)


Every Father’s Day, I bet just about everyone thinks about their dad. Some with warm feelings, others with hurt and anger, others wondering who the man is, or where he is.

My story is a tough one to discuss; however, over the years, I’ve learned that talking is better than ignoring and stuffing things way down under.

You see, I killed my father.

Coaching Conflict Resolutions Growth Patterns

The Power of Shifting (Make Sure You Hear That Word Clearly)


Funny story: I was working on getting my negative thinking under control and asked someone to help me.  You see, it’s hard to do anything totally alone and I know the power of relationships can make a tremendous difference.

I found my power person to help and I found my power word.

I asked my dearest, best friend, who also happens to be my husband, to support me in this not-so-easy task of changing outdated behavior patterns.  I asked him to simply say my power word whenever he caught me reverting to the victim behavior, that I must say, I really can get into sometimes.

I asked Herb to use my power word to remind me to stop my blaming, judging or attacking another and find a more positive way to handle my upset.  I want to give up the “poor me” and “life’s not fair” attitude.

Now, I don’t go there often; however, I want to have this behind me totally.

I teach others to be better leaders and to stop whining and get going.  Yet, there are times when my old survival responses seem to take over and I sound lame and ineffective.

Herb and I made the agreement.  He would use my power word, and nothing more, when I would start up with a sob story.

So, one afternoon, someone who had promised to complete a project for me, called with tons of excuses.  It was going to set me back several weeks and that meant promises I made to others would get caught in the back water.

I was pissed.

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Join the Fun on International Day of Happiness

Let’s imagine together.

Imagine all the people living for today.  Imagine all the people living life in peace.

You may say I’m a dreamer.  But I’m not the only one.

I hope today you’ll join us.  Its International Day of Happiness!

How will you celebrate?

Think about it this way:

What if…. you called someone you have not spoken to for a long time to find out how they are?

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I hear this plaintive cry from executives and middle managers all the time. I hear it from superintendents to elementary school teachers for at least ten months out of the year.

Getting along is what we all want. Right? So, why does it seem almost impossible to get through even a few days without feeling that blood boiling moment of “Not THAT again!” or “Can’t they just zip it?”

I would like to boil this down to some basics for you to think about.

Relationships are hard work.

You can’t learn how to be your best you by reading something that gives you 5 quick tips for happiness.

It’s just not that simple.