Listening is a form of recognition and respect. Not listening is, therefore, a form of disrespect. This form of disrespect generates a great deal of hostility from the person who believes he or she is not being listened to. Let’s take a look at the following examples.
Many years ago there was a very large soft drink manufacturing and bottling plant in the Midwestern United States which underwent a complete retooling. This totally mechanized all the plant’s operations and enabled the company to significantly expand its output. More buildings were added. The plant was now triple the size it had been. While no one lost his or her job, the employees were now very spread out. All that was necessary was for one employee to stand at each of the quality control stations to make sure that nothing went wrong with that section of operation. Those quality control stations were about one quarter of a mile from one another.
Several months into the new expanded, mechanized operation, a group of employees went to management and complained that:
●their jobs now held no challenge or variety;
●they missed working in teams which had been the hallmark of the operation prior to the retooling; and
●they were lonely
Management’s response was to laugh at the employees’ complaints. “Look, you guys, you’re getting the same pay for doing significantly less; your jobs are so easy even a trained monkey could do them; and lonely? You are here to do a job, not to involve yourselves in social activities.”
To have their concerns so trivialized angered the employees who then, meeting in secret in the break room, decided to plan a wholesale coordinated attack on the operation. One week, the bottling section discovered a sticky substance covering the entire bottling conveyer belt. The scientists in charge of product quality of the drink substance came into the bottling area with their eye droppers and pipettes and reagents. They tested the sticky substance. It turned out to be honey.
Scientists: Honey? Where the devil did that come from?
Employees: Must be bees.
The next week, somehow all the caps and tops on the drink cans and bottles were missing when they came out of the operation. However, the cans and bottles were boxed up for shipment anyway. What followed was a colossal mess inside the delivery trucks. An entire week’s product was lost. Customers did not receive their shipments and the trucks had to be steam cleaned.
Management: How the devil did this happen?
Employees: Don’t know. Must be a machine mal-function
The employees were excited by their success and the more successful they became at savaging the company’s operations, the happier they became. The employees even voted a monetary prize to the person who came up with the best idea for disrupting the operation. Soon work became all about savaging the company’s operations. Employees were even able to put olive oil and shampoo into the drink mixing machines.
Management tried every strategy they knew to correct the situation. Nothing worked. In frustration, the company closed the facility. All the employees were laid off. When the company reopened the facility six months later, a new group of employees were hired. People were assigned to work in teams at the various quality control stations but at a much lower salary than the previous staff received. In addition, an ombudsman was hired whose sole purpose was to listen to the concerns of the employees.
Mason Adelphi was a brilliant but docile high school student. He was also somewhat funny looking. He became the target of some serious bullying. Not only did his classmates tease him, they physically beat him, stole his lunch money, urinated on his book bag and broke his thick eye glasses.
His mother and father were busy with their own problems of working and looking after their younger children and didn’t want to hear about Mason’s problems. Their quick off-handed advice was:
Dad: Just fight back. Don’t sit there and take it. Be a man, not a wimp.
Mom: Just ignore them. Concentrate on getting good grades. Once you get to college, no one will bother you that way. You’ll be appreciated for your intelligence.
College was three years away – an eternity for Mason so he approached his school principal who told him, “Being bullied is just part of life in a city school. You’ll just have to learn to deal with it.”
Mason became more and more of a recluse and a loner. His anger, hostility and fear level swallowed up his whole personality. He purchased an assault weapon from a neighborhood tough. On a beautiful day in March, Mason brought his weapon to school and shot and killed four of his tormentors and the school principal.
Now Mason is in jail. All his potential wasted because no one would listen to his concerns.
Jim and Pete were assigned to work together on a project, splitting the workload equally. Jim is a smoker; Pete is not. Jim takes a 20 minute smoking break once every hour. This results in Pete doing most of the work. Pete has asked Jim to limit his smoking to the legitimate lunch and coffee breaks. Jim explains he cannot do that because he is addicted to cigarettes. Furious, Pete angrily demands his boss, Charlie, resolve the problem. Charlie reacts badly to Pete’s rage and tells him to solve the problem himself. In frustration, Pete files a discrimination complaint.
Those in the Personnel department recognize that Pete’s discrimination complaint is not a valid legal issue but they do not know how to make this legal challenge go away. Personnel’s solution is to pay Pete a monetary nuisance award. of $10,000.00. Obviously, this solves nothing because the smoking problem continues.
In frustration, Pete makes plans to destroy both Jim’s and Charlie’s career. Pete, because of the nature of his work, has access to everyone’s computer passwords. Whenever Jim was out having a smoke or Charlie was at a meeting, Pete logged into their computers and corrupted their information. He also changed the numbers in all of their reports. The result was that whatever piece of Charlie’s and Jim’s work was forwarded on to other departments, the data was always incorrect or incomplete. Pete also deleted any important E-mail they received. It took several months but finally Jim was let go for poor performance while Charlie was transferred out of management and into another area.
These stories illustrate that when someone brings you a concern or problem and you are the person who can help them resolve the issue:
●recognize that if they could have resolved the issue on their own they would have already done so;
●the fact that they have brought the problem to you means they cannot resolve the problem on their own;
●if you trivialize or marginalize their concern, you are letting yourself in fora very hostile reaction.
If you are a boss or a parent, listen to the person’s concern and together plan a strategy for addressing that concern. This lets the other person know that you respect them.
DeAnne’s Anger Tips
Rage is often a response to vulnerability. This is what happens when a person feels marginalized because their concerns have not been appropriately dealt with. Children are vulnerable with regard to their parents. Employees are vulnerable with regard to their bosses. Rage over being treated as if they were insignificant and irrelevant then becomes a valid and expected response. Such rage can also be a demand for boundaries to be reset so that a person’s importance (to the parent or to the boss – the people in charge) be acknowledged and recognized.
Last Week’s Scenarios
You have purchased some interesting gizmo over the internet. The advertised price was $35.95 but your credit card was charged $78.95.
Your first step is to call the company. Their phone number should be on your credit card bill. Get an explanation from them. If you are not satisfied, then call the credit card company and see if they will step in and put a “stop payment” on the charge and then deal with the company for you. Usually they will.
Your car needs some repair work. The estimate was $1,000 but the charge was
$2,875.00 with no prior phone call of explanation.
Speak to the owner of the repair shop and show him your written estimate. Explain there was no phone call telling you of the extra charges. Ask him to negotiate the charges down to approximately what was estimated. You will probably have to agree on a sum between the two figures – maybe $1, 900.00. You have a good legal standing here because you have a written estimate. The shop will tell you that “Once the guys got into it they found your wispy doodle had rotted out and your twiddle dee needed replacing so they just did it because you would not pass inspection unless….” You have to stick to your guns and say, “But they never called me first to get an okay for the additional work. Therefore I want to negotiate the charges down to approximately what was estimated.”
You have hired a renovation outfit to up-date your kitchen.
Write out a list of what you want redone and why. In addition, make a list of the materials that were used which do not meet specifications (hopefully, these are all visible and not behind a wall just waiting to fall apart). Give the lists to the contractor and tell him that the remaining half of his payment will not be paid until what was done meets your quality expectation and contract specifications.
Do not raise your voice or call him names. Just state what you want in plain objective language. By repeating what you want several times, if necessary, he will understand that unless he fixes things, he will not be paid.
These stories illustrate that when it is your money, stand up and fight for what you intended to purchase. Times are tough right now. It is all too common for others to try and squeeze a little more of your hard earned cash out of you. It is not right but it is happening.
This Week’s Scenarios
You and your spouse are having dinner at the home of some very close friends. During the hors d’oeuvres, the other couple begins to take pot shots at one another. By the time the main course is on the table, your hosts are into a full blown argument. You and your spouse are extremely uncomfortable, especially when you are invited to side with one or the other. You inhale the meal and depart as quickly as possible. On the way home, you ask each other if you should have done something other than run away. Perhaps you should have said something – but what? The situation has left you and your spouse feeling used, angry and deficient in some way because you could not figure out what to say and do at the moment. What are your ideas for handling this all too common situation?
You are a highly educated scientist at a high-tech company. You work on very difficult technical problems requiring long hours of intense concentration and many time-sensitive, complicated tests. Your goals are about making scientific advances and keeping the company well ahead of its competitors.
The dumb broad who works in Human Resources, Janet Dupree, often interrupts your critical work at the worst possible time to interview scientific candidates. This is part of her job, not yours. In her three years as a Human Resources Analyst, Janet has never bothered to learn what the company does. She doesn’t understand the science or the terminology. Moreover, she appears to have no respect for your time or that of the other scientists. Janet simply demands that you drop what you are doing to conduct employment interviews for her.
Your boss has asked that you assist Human Resources when you can but things are getting ridiculous. Janet says she is only supposed to handle the basic areas of the interview leaving the technical and scientific questions to the scientific staff. You and the scientific staff have a great deal of rage toward Janet. What do you think you should do?
You have an employee, Mark Destin, who thinks he is a fantastic performer when he actually is, by all measures, only mediocre. One of his most annoying habits is his predilection for spewing out esoteric computer terminology indiscriminately.
Mark has just turned in a technical report which is supposed to convey some very complicated information to a non-technical audience. What Mark has given you is a report that only a very knowledgeable technical person would understand. Unfortunately, Mark has given you this report at the very last minute. It is due to be printed up and distributed for a conference in less than two hours. You are furious with yourself for giving Mark this responsibility and angry at him for not following your instructions (for a non-technical audience). What should you do now?