In the top right quadrant of the Johari Window is the area labeled, “blind spot.” The concept may be useful when considering colleague (and potential colleague) behavior. It ties into some of what co-author Jody Foster presents in her book, The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively With Difficult People at Work.
In an interview discussing ideas related to the book, Ms. Foster mentions individuals in our work places whom the majority views as disrupters. These are people who routinely demonstrate annoying habits: habits viewed negatively by the majority of work place inhabitants. Instead of opening an uncomfortable conversation with any said disrupter, the rest of the team puts up with those little annoyances. Or, we think we put up with them.
What’s likely really happening is that the majority of colleagues – the ones who find a disrupter’s habit annoying – remain silent, letting little annoyances build into frustration and even into major conflicts: office blow-ups that become the subject of workplace legend. Who wants that?
I’ll take a bit of a detour and introduce a related arena in which a similar phenomenon occurs: selecting potential employees. I’ve experienced situations in which an ideal candidate has been interviewed, and a manager would like to extend an offer. What holds him back is a difference in stated salary expectations. Early in the process, the candidate has stated a salary objective, and it’s a bit over what the manager has determined the job’s value to be. What to do? Is extending an offer to a different candidate the best response?
In both situations, a better answer is, Talk. Have a conversation. Build a relationship based on trust and integrity. Consider:
- The individual perceived by nearly everyone as a disrupter may not even be aware that he is a disrupter. The behavior he’s demonstrating may simply be in his blind spot.
- The rest of the team is guilty, then, of letting the irritation – the one little annoying thing – spiral out of control. Through silence, the team implies everything is okay and, so, why would the disrupter change the behavior?
- If you extend him the courtesy of a respectful confrontation, he may say, “I didn’t know; thanks for telling me.” And the behavior may stop. Ms. Foster shares this may be true in about 80% of cases.
- In the selection scenario, considerable personal experience is that in at least 80% of situations, a respectful – and sometimes creative – conversation may lead to a win for both the candidate and the hiring manager: a good hire who comes into the organization ready to build upon a beginning based on integrity and trust. For example:
- Hiring manager begins, “We’ve each learned a lot during this interview process, including information about our benefit and other employee programs. I think you’re a great fit for this position, and I’d like to talk more about compensation. I’d like to negotiate a mutually agreeable starting pay level within both your expectations and our goals.”
In how many situations – work, social, family, etc. – might your willingness to respectfully begin an uncomfortable conversation yield an improved relationship, not just for you but for many?