How self-aware are you?
What should you do when you’re verbally attacked in a group situation? What should you do to control your physiology? How should you behave in those situations?
These were questions that a former client of mine posed yesterday when she relayed the story of how she felt humiliated in front of her colleagues and peers at work in a meeting, when she was told by the leader of that team that the team and stakeholders no longer wanted her to be part of their team. That nobody wanted her there.
She was devastated and in shock. Physically and emotionally traumatised she recalled the event that happened 2 weeks previous and a subsequent meeting with her line manager to resolve the situation, which hadn’t gone much better.
Hearing her story, I felt compassion and heartache for her misery. She was dammed if she did take action and dammed if she didn’t. She had a strong case for constructive dismissal but being that she works in the NHS she decided that going down the legal road would be commercial suicide if she ever wanted to work in the NHS ever again. They had her over a barrel.
My words to her were still ringing in my head when today low and behold, the same situation happened to me. There I was, co-facilitating a team event to enable a team to be more open, honest and transparent, when within the first hour the leader verbally attacked me in front of the whole team. (even though we had agreed some ground rules up front on how we’d like to be treated and what we wanted from the session) It became about him and me. We had got into what in TA (Transactional Analysis) terms they call a “game”. The tensions rose as he started to criticise me directly. The atmosphere was now extremely tense and you could cut it with a knife.
Doing my best to stay in Adult mode, and give options and choices for how we could resolve this situation, all of which were deflected, finally he agreed that we could move on.
Within an hour he was full of smiles, and at the break wanted a hug!
He encouraged others within his team to be accommodating and submissive. He exerted total control over the mood and direction of the team and although he feels that he is open and self-aware, in my opinion he is far from that. He was closed and not open to feedback or observations from me or other people in his team.
We continued throughout the day and at another point in the day when I called him up on his behaviour with another member of his team, once again his response was to attack. It was acknowledged by the group that this is what he does at work. It was dropped again and later in the day when he asked me to facilitate a one on one with one of his team and himself, he had his final stab. Personally criticising me and being a bully. Demonstrating threatening, dismissive behaviour and being extremely personal.
So the words that I shared with my former client the previous day came back to me: ‘people are doing the best they can with what they have.’ And ‘all human behaviour is purposeful.’ Not everyone is aware of their actions and the impact that they have on other people.
We had each been part of this dynamic which for whatever reason didn’t work. I’m up for exploring what that might be about. Time will tell as to whether he would like to use this as a learning experience or see it as ‘someone else has a problem and they need to change!’