Earlier this week, I blogged about sacri-vesting, the combination of sacrificing and investing that we do for others that we care about, even when it creates a little discomfort and inconvenience for us to do so. I gave the example of how I sacri-vested for the little wrens that took up residence in my shed. I’m a sucker when it comes to helping out birds.
Unlikable Birds of Prey
But I don’t practice that same charity when it comes to any buzzard that comes into my life. Buzzards are opportunistic raptors that eat small mammals and carrion. Not known for forming flocks, buzzards are fiercely territorial and quite aggressive when challenged…even to humans. I read a report about a jogger in England who suffered three, six-inch cuts to his head in a buzzard attack.
Buzzards at Work
Human buzzards, equally opportunistic and aggressive, often catch us off guard at work.
You’re going about your day, and someone responds negatively and forcefully to you, unprovoked. Maybe you were like the jogger–in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If you’re like most people, you immediately apologize and backtrack as if you recognize the error of your way. And then later, it may occur to you, “Hey! What did I do? That person jumped down my throat for no good reason!”
Let’s define what happened. You did not choose to SACRI-VEST in the situation above; rather, you may have chosen to ACQUIESCE. What that means is that you decided in that moment of discomfort to accept that person’s toxic behavior, albeit reluctantly, without protest or argument.
Why Do We Acquiesce to Buzzards?
We acquiesce for a multitude of reasons. Find the one that best describes you:
- We don’t want to make waves;
- We desire harmony at any cost;
- We have a forgiving nature;
- We don’t know how to respond in the moment; or
- We have a high tolerance for intolerable behavior.
How to Deal with Buzzards
Let me offer two proven strategies when you encounter a bird of prey in the office:
Let It Go.
That’s right, if you can find it in your heart to let it go, do so. A friend of mine was mulled by a neighbor’s dog. Instead of harboring anger and hatred, my friend begged the city to not put the dog down for its behavior. That’s going above and beyond to let it go. When someone around you treats you poorly, even disrespectfully, you don’t have to let those unkind actions suck you in or pull you under.
If you go that route, be very intentional about what you doing and why you are doing it. Review what it means to “sacri-vest.” Consider your acts of kindness a most powerful gift to the other person. If you chose to let it go, don’t allow resentment to build up; otherwise, you’ll be like a pressure cooker mounting up explosive energy until you finally snap.
Call It Out.
Sometimes we enter into unspoken “agreements” with others whereby we allow them to mistreat us (talk down to us, show disrespect, interrupt us, snap at us, etc.). Perhaps the first time it happens, we viewed it as a one-time event, a situation-based episode. So we let it slide.
But over time, we find that we have entered unintentionally into an understanding with that person where that person believes his or her behavior is perfectly acceptable to us, and our role is to simply take it on the chin.
Here’s how you can stand up for yourself without blowing up or being a bully:
1. Ask to talk. Ask the person for a time to meet, perhaps saying, “I’d like to go over a few things that I hope will help us perform better here at work.”
2. Describe the current behavior. You’re not a mind-reader, and even if you were…trust me. You’re not. So don’t tell the other person why he’s acting the way he’s acting; just stick to what you’ve observed. And don’t go back to something that happened in 1987. Stay in the now. Start the conversation by using empathy, like–
You might not be aware of this, but the other day you interrupted me during our staff meeting. Sometimes I do it, too, I know…
3. State what to expect. This isn’t a threat; rather, it’s resetting the clock on the past. You want no surprises about what will happen if the situation continues:
Again, I’m sure you didn’t mean to interrupt, but if it were to happen again, I will ask you to wait until I’m done speaking before I let you jump in…
4. Apologize. That’s right, apologize. Not for saying addressing this issue, though. Apologize for not speaking up sooner. By letting the issue slide the first, second, and third time it happened, you were being charitable. But your silence indirectly rewarded the continued misbehavior.
I’m sorry I didn’t say something sooner. I value our relationship too much to let this go on so long before I say something. Next time, promise, I’ll say something right away.
5. Start again. Once you’ve spoken your mind, move on. If you tippy-toe around the office after this conversation like it was a huge deal, you’ll likely find yourself acquiescing again before too long. Instead, say,
Can we start over? Can we move forward from this point in time?
NOTE: While I wrote these steps in monologue form, treat it as a dialogue. This should be a conversation designed to clear the air and reset the relationship so there’s no lingering bad behavior or lingered hard feelings.
LET IT GO, or CALL IT OUT. Either way, you’re not entirely powerless should an office buzzard start pecking your way.