You might relate to this experience. The other day, after scouring my databases for the phone number, I tried to call an old contact, only to be greeted with “You have reached a number that is no longer in service. Please check the number and try again.” I’d invested so much time in trying to connect, and now I was nowhere, faced with having to keep looking for a way to reach this person. And then I realized this happens all the time in our interactions, and simply because we don’t know how to reconnect, we lose the deal, the promotion, or even just our cool.
You ask your normally friendly boss if you can have a short extension on the bid you have to prepare, only to get a reply like “Damn it, weren’t you listening? If we don’t have that bid in by Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., we’re out of the process altogether. If we’re out of that process, heads will roll, and yours is first!”
Not only is your boss refusing to hear what you have to say, he’s jumping down your throat. Doesn’t feel good. The experience is very much like being unable to connect with someone on the phone. It results in the same frustration, but in this case, you have reached a person who is no longer in Learner/Researcher mode.
As I’ve discussed in previous posts, Knower/Judgers have a hard time connecting, since both K/Js are in possession of the absolute truth about the situation. In the workplace, these interactions rarely produce ongoing productivity or learning. In fact, they often result in downtime and lost productivity as the victims retreat to their desks and lick their wounds. In extreme cases, the victim may even get upset with the boss and engage in external ranting about the event.
The phone call metaphor works well here. Try checking the number and dialing again. See if you can make a real connection.
Three steps to connection
1. Don’t play the victim. Feeling sorry for yourself or angry at the boss just exacerbates the K/J vs. K/J engagement. Productivity and your well-being will be better served if you can stay in L/R mode, and cajole the boss into getting there too.
2. Read the data. First and foremost, pay attention to the information at hand. The boss’s filters are modified by the pressure he’s under to get this contract, so he’s not in the same place he was Tuesday night at bowling. He’s in K/J mode. “Don’t argue with me, just do it.” This is not personal; it’s data. It’s who he is right now. It’s up to you to stay in L/R, and bring him there too. In some circles, this is termed “managing up.”
3. Agree, agree, agree. Adjust the situation so that your boss doesn’t have to continue to attack to win. “Got it, boss!” may be an outright lie, but defending yourself and pointing out your issues with the deadline will only serve to impede the mission. What “Got it, boss!” does is diffuse his ire and neutralize his negative feelings toward you so you can explore some data together (in your L/R modes) to pursue and meet his goals. You might even be able to bring up your issue with meeting the deadline…if you open without any defense.
Check the number and dial again. Defending your position and engaging your K/J isn’t going to get you any further than screaming “It’s the only number I have” into the phone will. Checking the boss’s mode, and modifying yours, gives you the greatest chance of reaching your party and connecting in a way that generates results for everyone.