What If It’s You?


A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on dealing with Jerks. But, what about when that Jerk is, well . . . yikes, you.

But seriously. What about it? What happens when things are absolutely not all right in your world, like when a child or a parent is ill, you’ve had a fight with your beloved, childcare is closed, you didn’t sleep well, or just woke up on the wrong side of the bed and are under-caffeinated? What if the person who is ripe to show up at work all edgy with their face fixed in a perma-frown, the person who is the very ticking time bomb source of walking-on-eggshells-it-is, is YOU?

Remember the truth bomb I shared in that previous post and others? The only one you can control is yourself. Another truth: Being grumpy or just generally trying to managing all the parts of your life can be a real challenge. Especially when things are not going super smoothly.

Here’s another thing to remember: You are human. You are not meant to be perfect, to get everything right at all times, or to wake up every day with all things handled. Yes, it’s important to manage your emotions and your problems and to not plaster them all over your co-workers by exploding at them unexpectedly and at any moment. AND it’s also important to recognize that part of the human experience is having difficult challenges, so challenging in fact, that it may be difficult to keep it from spilling over into the workplace. This is normal.

To be clear, this is not my way of giving you permission to lose both your mind and your sh*t all over your co-workers. I’m not. I’m also not giving you permission to opt out of showing up completely. Sure, sometimes a day off is necessary, but can often be impossible to fit in. And frankly, some difficult situations persist for a long time; trying to avoiding them is not a sustainable option.

Here’s the middle way strategy I have for you: Let people in. Got a team, or group, or project meeting coming up? A one-on-one? A supervision session? Let the people you work with closely day to day know where you’re at: “I want you to know that I’m struggling with some challenges outside of the office. I’m going to be a bit quieter than normal today, and wanted to let you know what was going on with me.”

Again, this is not to give you a pass for bad behavior, this is to help others interpret the way you’re managing what’s happening in other parts of your life. Whether it’s you being quieter, or having a worried/frowny/scowl-y/other-easily-misinterpreted expression on your face, your clear communication clues them in to not taking it personally or puzzling unnecessarily about it.

Essentially, you’re being your own traffic cop by managing whether or not YOU become the reason your co-workers are walking on eggshells.

The other positive outcome? This simple action can turn down the volume of your stress and even relieve some of the pressure you are feeling inside. It’s actually kind of a triple win. By letting others in about where you are at–especially those you spend a good amount of time with at work–you will not only have helped managed both their expectations of and reactivity towards you, but you will have given yourself a well-needed intensity adjustment.

Needs some more support on how to articulate where you’re at to others when things are hard? Please get in touch – I can help.

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