Being sucked into viewing this year’s I’m a Celebrity and in particular one person, reminds me that we all have to put up with nightmare colleagues, friends, family members, neighbours. Sometimes we have to grin and bear it, but we do have the power to change the situation.
Of course when we are watching “I’m a Celebrity”, we are engaging in entertainment, and some people would consider Lady C to be “TV Gold”. Reading connections’ posts on Facebook, her comments and treatment towards other contestants has been great entertainment. But I have felt very uncomfortable watching some of her comments and views. She is a nightmare and given that the TV cameras are rolling, I doubt if any other celeb wants to start a war of words on camera. They put up with the abuse.
Speaking to friends, a number of them have had to experience nightmare colleagues in difficult situations, where the management and culture of the organisation prevented a change in behaviour of the nightmare colleague:
Violinist: a violinist in a major arts organisation was expecting her first child. Another member of the organisation had been trying unsuccessfully for a baby and regularly had major tantrums and meltdowns. So no one mentioned or celebrated the violinist’s pregnancy and she was told not to tell anyone and even disguise her pregnancy to avoid the other person being offended. She was so stressed at this very happy personal time and felt her life was being dictated to by someone else. Of course she didn’t wish to cause offence to another person, however, she did have a right to celebrate her imminent arrival!
Event planner: a member of her team was going through an acrimonious divorce and would arrive at work in tears. My friend volunteered to take on additional work, despite this woman being thoroughly unpleasant to the whole team, suppliers and venues. When my friend discussed the event planner’s behaviour to senior management she was told to “Put up with it or go” because the woman was “Going through a tough time”. Only when my friend actually left the organisation, did she realise how stressed she had been by the organisation’s attitude as well as the treatment from the soon to be divorcee.
Teacher: this isn’t exclusively a female problem. A motivated, well respected male teacher was subjected to constant abuse from the head of his department. This included undermining him in front of the teacher’s pupils; in staff meetings and even in front of parents. When he discussed this with the senior management team, they made excuses for the head of department: saying he had a drink problem and was stressed because he’d lost his driving licence, and that allowances should be made for him. The abuse increased and eventually my friend left.
In all cases, someone else’s actions had impacted on my friends’ working lives. There is a common thread: namely that and unreasonable person gets away with unacceptable behaviour and senior management were making excuses for that person’s behaviour as well as not having the GUTS to challenge this person and the impact they were making in the team. However we all have a choice in dealing with these situations.
- It is really important to discuss this with senior management. They might not be aware of the problems you are encountering, and also the impact on the team and its productivity. It is their responsibility to manage this person. If you are asked to ‘Put up with it’ or excuses are made but no solutions, you need to realise what cowards the senior management are – or that their priority is their own jobs…..
- If it is possible, discuss this discreetly with your colleagues. You might not be the only person experiencing negative behaviour and ‘safety in numbers’ is a powerful way to support each other and if necessary address the problem.
- Confront the individual. If necessary have a colleague as a witness, or record the conversation on your phone. Tell the person that their behaviour is unacceptable. If the individual goes into meltdown try not to get sucked into their own anger, take deep breaths, open body language and let them finish without taking anything personally. Toddler tantrums in adults is pathetic; see them as a toddler.
- Keep a record of any unacceptable behaviour you either witness or experience. If necessary show this to senior management.
- If nothing changes, gets worse or only gets better temporarily, it is well within your powers to leave the situation. You aren’t a failure.