Too Much Rocky Road

It’s interesting how themes come up in your life.  

Over the last few months I have been coaching a variety of business people from all walks of life and sadly the theme of dealing with toxic people has become a regular topic.

Just two weeks ago, a person mentioned to me that she was working closely with someone and something felt off.  She couldn’t quite articulate it. Then over the coming weeks she came to realise how toxic this person’s behaviour was.  It wasn’t that obvious nasty behaviour, but rather below the radar insidious acts that she noticed over time.

Then one day she walked away from an encounter and decided enough was enough. She felt like she had eaten “Too much Rocky Road”.

There are various types of “Rocky Roaders” in the workplace. There are manipulators, bullies, gossips, negative people, sabotagers, spotlight stealers and those who just want to rain on everybody’s picnic while sucking the energy out of the room.

Dealing with toxic people is difficult and stressful.

Studies have found the effects of even just one toxic person in the workplace causes higher turnover rates, lower productivity, sleep problems, poor mental health and of course stress.

In investigating the effects of the toxic worker, a Harvard study co-authored by Michael Housman, reviewed more than 50,000 workers across 11 firms. He said “The cost turnover, which includes finding and training a new worker, is well tracked by the 11 companies we studied. These figures allowed us to estimate the annual cost of a toxic worker, just through increased turnover, as more than $16,980 ($US12,000) a year.”

Googling “toxic people in the workplace” brought up over 32 million hits.

Whether you’re a boss, a worker or a business owner, these people can ruin your workplace, life or company.

While this news may seem grim, the fact that people are opening up about their toxic encounters, means that others experiencing the same behaviours won’t feel alone. 

So with so many people encountering these “Rocky Roaders in the workplace, here are six ways to help manage the situation –

1.  Stand back from the drama

Don’t inadvertently sanction the Rocky Roader’s power over you. It is their toxicity, not yours. As Larry Kim wrote in Inc., you have to get emotional distance from toxic people. “Stop giving toxic people your head space”

Remember this statement when the toxic person’s behaviours starts infiltrating your psyche “Their Stuff. Your Stuff”.  Don’t blend the two.

2. Take a break

Take a break by having a laugh with a trusted colleague. Make every attempt to get a few steps removed. When you feel you are about to overheat or lose your cool, grab a mate and go for lunch or a walk. You may even want to phone a friend.

3. Establish clear boundaries.

In Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Boundaries, he discusses how boundaries are essential to a healthy, balanced lifestyle. “Boundaries impact all areas of our lives: Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances — Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions — Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others.”

At work, we often feel we have little or no control over the chaos that comes from toxic people, but that is simply not true.  We can have some control over the boundaries we set.

At some point, you have to decide what you will and won’t tolerate. This is best to do when you are in a strong frame of mind.

4.  Remember  – you are not the problem.

Rocky Road manipulators can cause feelings of inadequacy and self-blame to surface. In these situations, Preston Ni writes in Psychology Today, “It’s important to remember that you are not the problem; you’re simply being manipulated to feel bad about yourself, so that you’re more likely to surrender your power and rights.” Ni says we should assess the health of our relationship with the manipulator by asking ourselves:

Am I being treated with genuine respect?

Are this person’s expectations and demands of me reasonable?

Is the giving in this relationship primarily one way or two ways?

Ultimately, do I feel good about myself in this relationship?

“Your answers to these questions,” writes Ni, “give you important clues about whether the ‘problem’ in the relationship is with you or the other person.

5.  Focus on the solution

Often toxic people aren’t looking for solutions, they revel in bringing up the problems.  Too often when adversity strikes, the first reaction is to focus on the negatives.  Toxic people will want you to reside with them.  Instead, take the time to fully analyse the situation whether in a group setting or in solitude.  Focusing on solutions instead of problems, can revitalize your mind and help you focus on the future.  

According to Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, drawing a line, with complainers in particular, is crucial. He writes “If the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.”

6. Avoid the Gossip Trap 

Rocky Roaders love to spend their time talking poorly of other people.  It makes them feel better about themselves and they believe it can elevate them in the eyes of the person they are spreading this poison to.  There are few things in this world that are more destructive than gossip. When someone comes to you with gossip, cut them off quickly and let them know that you will not participate in or have gossip spewed in your presence.  End of conversation.  

Famous actress Goldie Hawn created a safe house, a gossip-free home as part of her work with Words Can Heal, a national campaign to end verbal violence. Goldie asked her family to exchange words that belittle with words that uplift and encourage. 

This same message can be brought into the workforce.

By managers and leaders ignoring the impact of Rocky Roaders, they are harming their businesses from a cultural, branding and business perspective.

Your Small Act that is sure to have a Major Impact in your life and business, is to buy a packet of Rocky Road and have it sit on your desk.  Every time you see the packet, let it act as a trigger to remind you that you have the tools to manage your reaction to toxic people and create a culture without Rocky Roads.

Just don’t eat too much.

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