Today’s essay is directed mostly at the small-business owner who has employees, but its message is relevant to each and every one of us—employees or not.
I heard almost identical stories twice within a few months from two managers who have never met and for whom I have the utmost respect.
The first was from my friend and manager, Jack, from Nashville, TN. He told me about an employee coming into his office to complain about a co-worker.
“She is so annoying, Jack. She doesn’t get to work on time and leaves a messy desk for the rest of us to see and…”
Jack patiently waited for her to finish and then astonished her by saying, “Thanks for sharing that. Now, please sit down for a minute and I will ask her to come in and let Susie tell her side of the story.”
“But, uh, but…I don’t really want to do that, Jack.”
“Well,” he replied, “I do. No triangles in my shop. If you can tell me, you can tell her.”
His theory is that it’s merely a gossip when someone comes to him to rail on another person. Nothing positive can come of it. Also, by forcing a confrontation, in the future the complainer will either go to the source of the problem directly or keep it to herself.
In the situation that Jack relayed to me, there was actually a good result. A compromise was reached by the two parties and a new level of understanding came about after the awkward initial discussion.
The idea intrigued me because most of us would not show the same boldness and courage that Jack did.
Not too long after hearing Jack’s story, I was visiting with my friend Bill from Dallas, TX. Something came up about a situation in his office where an employee approached him about an issue with someone else.
“Hold it,” Bill said, “don’t say another word.”
He buzzed the other party and said, “No triangles. Tell him what your issue is and let’s get this sorted out right now.”
I didn’t ask Bill the outcome of that particular encounter but was amazed to hear the same idea from two different sources in such a short time.
It makes me wonder how often most of us do the easy thing by going to a third party to whine rather than face the personal or professional issue with integrity and work the problem out.
Bear in mind, I’m not preaching.
Rather, I’m challenging both you and myself to do the right thing next time the ‘triangle challenge’ develops.
If you’re the complainer—complain to the right person.
If someone comes to you to complain about someone else, call the third-party in to defend him/herself in front of the complainer.
Done correctly, there will be three winners at the end.
Bill Sheridan—SHERIDAN WRITES: bio under Guest Authors
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