By Sayge Coach Rachel Garrett You know those days when you're firing on all cylinders. You've had three brilliant ideas before 9:30 am and you've executed on all of them. You're in the middle of patting yourself on the back when Bob walks over to your desk. Heart racing, palms sweating, expletives lining up in your brain for battle. Bob. Bob is the designated "difficult personality" at your place of business. He's not your boss, but he's confrontational, dismissive, and aggressive. He leaves you feeling like a pile of poo underfoot after each interaction. Sometimes Bob is a George or Julie or Mitch or Leslie, but no matter who this person is for you, it's important to realize that whether you're navigating one of these difficult personalities right now, or you have in the past, Bob will try to throw you off your game at some point in your future, too. Now is exactly the right time to learn how to confidently step up your game with Bob and his counterparts. Here are some of the ways I turn my Bob interactions into opportunities that make me a stronger, more resilient leader:
- Lead with empathy. Bob's way of being—which sometimes includes being a total jerk—stems from his life experiences and events. If he needs to resort to this kind of behavior during his daily interactions, it's safe to assume he may have gone through some hard things, or has not yet developed the self-awareness needed to nurture deep relationships.
- Get energized. If you planned a meeting with Bob, do whatever you do to get your energy up to peak performance. One of my coaching mentors, who helped me prep for a meeting with a Julie, said, "You need to do whatever you do to show up as a fierce athlete on the field." For me, this included a two mile sprint, listening to Sara Bareilles’s "Brave" at volume 9, and reminding myself of my badassness with a few powerful words.
- Boundary up! One of Bob's special tricks is the sneak attack. He comes over to your cube for an unannounced, unscheduled visit to discuss something that you don't currently have time to discuss. This is a dominating move that says, "My time is more important that yours" and "I need to have answers right now without giving you time to think, giving you little chance to succeed." He's standing and you're still sitting, thus continuing the power dynamic he's put in place. No time for a quick Power Posing session or even some jumping jacks before you step into the ring.
- Don't take it personally, but seize the opportunity to learn. You didn't install Bob's buttons or program his behavior. If you take a step back, you'll quickly notice that you're not the only target. Take comfort in the realization that his choices are not about you. You're confident in your professionalism and your ability to build relationships.
- Celebrate small wins. Just as you will have empathy for Bob in this process, have some compassion for yourself as well. You're learning to advocate for yourself. This takes practice and won't happen overnight. When you stand up during a cube sneak attack or set up a brief in-person meeting after his explosive email (with 20 VIP players cc'd), instead of engaging in global thermo-email war, give yourself a mental high five! With each new confident action, you build up a portfolio of boss-ness that stacks the evidence against your internal doubts and fears.