Whether you work for HP, a hospital, General Motors or a veterinary clinic, you have probably run into someone who likes to boss people around. And then, what do you say?
At The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho we dramatized one of the cases from our book. It was Case #15, “He Thinks He’s boss.” It describes that situation which every worker has faced in one way or another. In this case Martin, who has been working there for 20 years, caused problems for Corie, who had worked at the clinic for less than six months. She felt quite intimidated by Martin. Clearly, she was younger than Martin. This was her first job after college. Besides, as one of the participants noted, it is admittedly sometimes more difficult for a female to confront a male.
Martin lit into Corie for not wearing her name tag. She could let that ride, but then he began making taunting remarks about her work. She really had had enough when he carelessly left a mess for her to cleanup. She felt put upon and bossed around by someone who was not her boss.
After cleaning up one of those messes, Corie said to Martin, “You know, I cleaned up the mess in your exam room last night after you left.” Martin just blew her off saying, “Well, when you’ve cleaned up as many messes as I have, you’ll get used to it.”
The discussion among The Cat Doctor staff following the presentation of the case was lively. One member of the group noted that Corie tried to confront Martin, while another member of the group claimed that she didn’t really try or, at least, her effort wasn’t successful.
What could she have said that would have been move effective? Is Martin the type that won’t listen? Should Corie go, instead, to her manager?
Some staff members in the group were familiar with “I-statements” and thought that a carefully phrased “I-statement” would be appropriate and maybe more effective – whether confronting Martin or taking the issue to her manager. Others in the group were not familiar with the concept of the “I-statement.” The mix of experience in the group provided for a useful discussion.
Have you ever tried to use an “I-statement” to resolve conflict? At The Cat Doctor we defined the “I-statement” for those not familiar with the concept and talked about why it is useful:
By “owning” the issue (“I have a problem”), you have control.
- By declaring your feeling, you make a statement that the other person can’t refute. (“I feel demeaned when you….”)
- By describing the behavior that bothers you in a non-blameful way, you avoid a statement that might be offensive. “I feel…when you leave the clinic without cleaning up the mess in your exam room because….”)
- By outlining the problem and how it affects you, you give the other person an opportunity to come up with a solution.
Most of all, the “I-statement” enables you to avoid statements that can escalate bigger problem. Here are four statements to avoid:
- Ordering. Corie really wanted to give Martin an order like, “Stop it!” or Get out of my face!” Her “I-statement” avoided that: “Martin, I am really annoyed when you….”
- Threatening. Corie thought that a threat might have more power. She was tempted to say, “If you keep bossing me around, I’m going to talk to our practice manager!” Instead, an “I-statement” might win his attention without escalating the problem. “Martin, I want to do my job right here, but I feel put upon when you leave your work for me to do.”
- Namecalling or labeling. It was on the tip of her tongue to say, “Martin, you’re a jerk!” or “Martin, you are so bossy!” But she realized that those comments are “You-statements.” They are about Martin. She preferred to talk about herself: “I am worried, when you say…., that you don’t think I’m measuring up here.”
Have you tried using an “I-statement” as an alternative to one of the “You-statements” above? Tell us how it went.
Bye for now,
Carolyn and John
Sent from my iPad