Have you noticed that you are walking on eggshells around a certain individual in your workplace? If you are AND you are the business owner or a manager, this means that everyone else is probably taking your lead which doesn’t bode well.
There could be many reasons why we start tiptoeing around certain people. It is often easier in the short-term to avoid confrontation, taking a stand, or calling someone out for unacceptable behaviour. It’s even harder when that someone is a person you value for their skills or contribution to your business. You don’t want to risk upsetting them but end up disappointing everyone else instead.
Like many other things, large organisations can afford to tolerate idiosyncrasies in individuals. Smaller ones can’t. The impact is usually quite significant – reduction in morale, productivity, and of course your bottomline.
If you think that you’ve fallen into this trap, whatever the original rationale for doing so, the first thing to do is – stop.
Generally, the person you are tiptoeing around has gotten used to being tiptoed around and their behaviour has been reinforced by this lack of accountability. So it may be a shock to the system when the tiptoeing stops. You may even find that their behaviour worsens as a result. If this happens, it is an opportune time to tackle the issue.
How do I stop tiptoeing?
Identify the situations or scenarios where you find yourself tiptoeing. Catch yourself when you are doing it. That’s the first step. Because circumstances are often varied, it is impossible to provide a single formula to rectify your particular situation.
Keep in mind though that the tiptoeing doesn’t have to be replaced with aggression or pushing back. It’s about setting boundaries. It means behaving as a reasonable person would to another reasonable person. So one of the first questions to yourself when reflecting on a typical encounter should be:
If I were in the same scenario with another person, how would I have behaved and what would I do differently?
That’s usually enough to give you some insight. The other person’s behaviour is unpredictable. If you are dealing with a workplace psychopath, you can probably expect things to escalate. If you are dealing with a reasonable person who perhaps has some strong personality traits that have become habitual, there is a good chance that when everyone around them “shifts” how they interact (starting with you!), there will be a domino effect.
Other things to consider
Behavioural component in performance indicators
You may wish to include a behavioural component to all employees’ KPIs (key performance indicators). This formalises expectations about certain behaviours. While it can be difficult to objectively measure an area so subjective, I believe that when you “up the ante” and have these expectations in writing, it results in more accountability. At the very least, it provides an opportunity or forum for behavioural issues to be brought up.
Signs of deeper problems
Sometimes, what you see as “walking on eggshells” may, in fact, be a sign of deeper organisational issues and purely shifting behaviours isn’t necessarily going to be the remedy. If you find this to be the case, it may be time to consult with a professional.
If you have reached the end of this post, bravo! Most would prefer the “head in the sand” approach.
- Have you worked with a workplace psychopath?
- The workplace psychopath – a victim’s story
- Staffing in a small business – getting it right
- Toxic Bosses, Toxic Organisations and the Toxin Handlers who bear the brunt