What Happens When I Don’t Get Along With the People at Work?

Getting Along with Coworkers - Barracuda Staffing

When we hire a new employee, we want them to be excited to be here, ready to hit the ground running, and dedicated to doing the best job possible. Many people at many companies start off at a new job feeling ready to do exactly that, and then either quickly or gradually, different feelings begin to set in; complacency, de-motivation, and even outright dissatisfaction. These feelings can lead to negativity in the workplace which can spill over onto other employees and even lead to departures.

A common excuse for both employees and employers alike is to correlate these feelings of dissatisfaction with pay rates, but in reality, there is so much more happening underneath the surface. We also tend to blame the people who leave, fooling ourselves into imagining the problems will leave with them, rather than taking an honest look inside of our own behavior or company status quo to find the root causes and then truly change the game. Several major studies explore the reason good employees leave, and the bottom line is that it all too often comes down to irreconcilable relationships between employees and/or bosses; specifically, something that is sometimes identified as “The Drama Triangle”.

Like every company, Barracuda struggled with the same cycle of turnover and dissatisfaction, until we chose to focus on leadership and empowerment at all levels of the organization. Every week, our entire team spends time together focusing on communication, conflict resolution, and personal development skills, and it has had a dramatic effect on every aspect of our business. We attend seminars, luncheons, and we even have a policy that the company will buy any book recommended on leadership or personal development to share with the rest of the team. We do this to improve our level of service to others and our relationships, both at work and at home, which translate to greater personal satisfaction in our day-to-day lives.

Whether you are an employee or a manager, there are plenty of resources at your fingertips to help you manage conflict in your life. The beauty of the principle I’m about to share with you is that it doesn’t require anyone else’s participation; this is something you can quietly learn more about on your own, without expecting participation from anyone else in your life, yet it can dramatically change the course of events in any situation.

Identifying The Drama Triangle

We were introduced to a book called The Empowerment Dynamic™, by David Emerald, at a recent luncheon: in his book he explores something called “The Drama Triangle”, a concept originally put forth by psychologist Stephen Karpman. Karpman believed that when people are involved in any conflict, they take on one of three roles; the Victim, the Rescuer, or the Persecutor. A single person can shift tactics/roles in the course of a conflict, for example, a supervisor going from angry Persecutor to hounded Victim once the anger backfires, a deadline is missed, and others start Persecuting the supervisor instead.

The first challenge is to identify when a Drama Triangle is happening between you and another member of your organization or group, then name the role(s) that you tend to adopt as well as the roles of other people involved. The next step is to learn to diffuse the behavior simply by changing your own response to the situation (as opposed to expecting others to modify their behavior), and this is the concept of “The Empowerment Dynamic™” that David Emerald presents in his book (also called “TED™”. When the Victim becomes the Creator, the Persecutor becomes the Challenger, and the Rescuer becomes the Coach, everyone becomes more empowered and your team becomes stronger.

David Emerald has provided a brief introductory video to these principles on YouTube here.

“FISBE” – Making the Shift Happen

According to Emerald, the way to make this shift is to Focus, explore your Inner State, and then examine your Behavior in a manner that creates a “Virtuous Cycle” instead of a vicious one (Emerald calls this method “FISBE”). In this manner, the Victim shifts from reacting to events to choosing a particular outcome (Creator) by asking “What do I really Want?” This shifts their perspective from focusing on what they DON’T want to focusing on the desired outcome instead. If you tend to focus on a perpetual state of not having enough money, or frustration at living paycheck to paycheck, for example, you are pouring your energy into a stressful reaction to events. If you think about the desired outcome, that you want to make $3 more per hour by December of next year (it helps to be specific whenever possible), then the next logical step is to say, “how will I get there?” instead of “I can never seem to pay my bills”. Because you shifted your focus, your inner state can shift from one of frustration to determination as you contemplate how you need to change your behavior to create a new and positive outcome. When you shift to a Creator viewpoint, you begin to look at what might be possible instead of allowing hopelessness to keep you boxed in. Even if you don’t know the answer right away, the very fact that you begin focusing on the desired outcome instead of what you don’t want causes a subtle change to happen.

The Persecutor shifts from tearing people down to building people up (Challenger) by asking “What is my real intention?”. If you feel superior to others because you feel know how to do something better and you want to make sure someone else knows they know they messed up, you may be acting as a Persecutor, and it’s important to stop and ask yourself, what is your real intention? It is likely your real intention is to instruct someone in some way so they perform a specific task more efficiently in the future instead of doing it incorrectly/inharmoniously. That being the case, once you focus on the primary goal instead of giving in to the need to feel superior or needing to be “right” while framing someone else as being “wrong”, you may realize that if you improved your method of communicating, Focusing on the goal with a calm Inner State, your behavior can shift toward that of persecuting to that of a teacher, or one who challenges people to rise instead of expecting them to fall (and then saying “I told you so”).

Finally, the Rescuer shifts from fixing it for you to asking questions that inspire (Coach) by wondering “How am I seeing the other person?”, i.e., “Am I seeing them as a Victim and reinforcing their helplessness by my own response, or am I seeing them as a fellow Creator and helping them solve their own problems?”. The rescuer often becomes the Victim or the martyr by taking on other people’s problems to the detriment of their own lives. Taking the time to perform this introspection and believing in other people’s abilities can have a profound impact, not just on a person’s professional life, but on their personal lives as well. This tweak in perspective can be the simple difference between saying “You don’t seem to be getting this, just let me do it” to “I know you can do better than this. Have you tried…or, what if you did this instead?”.

How Can We Stay Happy On the Job?

The most important change that results from adopting TED™ is an understanding that blaming the folks around us for our own disappointments in life ultimately won’t help us achieve our goals, and reinforces the concept that we are Victims whose lives are lived at the mercy of the decisions and behaviors of others around us. It isn’t until we step forward into the role of Creator, understanding that our behaviors and decisions led us down our present path, and if we don’t like that path, the power lies within us to change it. Then as we look out into the world, we begin to recognize that everyone around us is also a Creator, whether they realize it or not, and we can stop feeding energy into the Drama Triangle by responding to people and situations in a more constructive and beneficial manner to all involved.

Using the TED™ technique can help you either stop moving from job to job (or relationship to relationship), or stop high levels of turnover at your organization, because it gives you an alternative to the “go where the grass is greener” mindset that often lands us in exactly the same situations, just with new faces and new places. While there are indeed situations that may be physically dangerous or emotionally overwhelming that require us to remove ourselves from trouble, once we begin looking at life as Creators, we begin to see hope in what used to be “hopeless” situations, and we find that sometimes, even the worst of relationships can be salvaged by a change in behavior – our own!

Help is Everywhere!

These days, we are lucky to have so much information at our fingertips. From world class podcasts, online books, informative websites, audiobooks, online videos, and much more, we can draw a wealth of inspiration from the people around us. At Barracuda, we have many mentors in our day-to-day activities, and in the coming months we will freely share what we have found in the hopes it will benefit you or your organization as well.

If you want a chuckle or two to lighten the mood (until one of the scenarios strikes a nerve), you can check out Dr. Karpman’s webpage. He provides samples of his book, “A Game Free Life”, in which he identifies several common games people play with each other when they are operating within the Drama Triangle.

For More about TED™, or The Empowerment Dynamic™.

Barracuda Staffing, Inc. cares about your success: check back next week for more tips on increasing your satisfaction in the workplace, and remember that you have the power to bring more peace into your life today, right where you are now; however, if you are looking for a new place to spread your wings and grow into a leader, we invite you to browse our current openings in Tulsa and surrounding areas, call to talk to a Recruiter, or simply submit your resume online today!