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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Turning discomfort to advantage.

Today we are going to examine the best methods of handling uncomfortable situations at work.  During the course of a busy day things are bound to happen, tense, confrontational moments that test the bounds of humanity, and the average person is ill prepared to handle.  You, of course, are way above average because you were smart enough to read this blog.  You are so smart, and many people say you are quite attractive as well, but that is another post.

We begin, obviously, with situation 1.

You head to the kitchen to refresh your coffee, it has been a productive morning so far, several unruly problems wrapped up into neat bundles and left politely in somebody else's inbox.  A fresh cup of coffee, and maybe a little treat are in order, you have earned the reward.  But, that person, the complainer, from customer service, follows you into the kitchen.  And, without fail, she wants to talk, to share her burdens, probably nonsense.  And things were going so brightly, too.

"Don't you hate it when people leave the sugar dispenser empty?"  She asks, seeking an ally in her battle against the kitchen gremlins.  This is a classic "no-win" situation.  Had you not prepared by reading this blog you would have been stuck, rolling the dice, and, either justifying the inaction of some lazy doofus who couldn't be bothered to re-fill the sugar dispenser.  Or vilifying some poor sap who was trying to get coffee for several senior vice presidents and, running short on time, only hoped to make it back to the meeting before they locked the door and he had to climb the outside of the building to deliver the coffee through the window before they decided to fire him.  But, my friend you are prepared, and have a variety of choices.  Assuredly you can find one to satisfy your muse.

Option 1, the Alfred Hitchcock.

I would kill for some sugar.
Turn, slowly away, and start speaking softly.  "Yes, I do hate it.  It fills me with a homicidal rage.  Starting deep in the pit of my stomach."  You will want to turn up the volume slightly here.  "I can feel the acrid, smoky anger, roiling, boiling, as it rises into my throat," now you will want to be embarrassingly loud, and pick up a knife, make sure it is a butter knife, no point in risking injury.  "The acidic taste of my helplessness, my impotence, in the face of an empty sugar dispenser leaves me blinded by fury and unable to control..."  Trail off in a fade to silence, drop the knife, into the sink, (nobody wants to pick up after you), and, walk slowly away.

Option 2, the Gandalf, the Gray.

Gaze sadly at the empty sugar dispenser, turning it slowly on the counter, to view it from every possible angle, then look the complainer in the eyes, try not to blink, it will add drama.  "These are dark times in which we live.  I am afraid that many sugar cellars are going to be empty before the storm has run its course. We need to stand, united in the face of the maelstrom.  It will not do for our enemy to see us weakened by this nefarious act.  Do not despair, brighter days are ahead, if we can only hold on through the gathering darkness.  Oh, by the way, we might be out of creamer, too."  Then pat them gently on the hand, and smile reassuringly.

Option 3, the Mom,

This is the most difficult, and requires the most sacrifice.  You need to actually summon a few tears, and bury your face in the crook of your elbow.  In a breaking voice, filled with shame, say "it was me, I used the last of the sugar.  I didn't think anybody would mind, I've been so busy, trying to make a nice place for people to work.  I wanted to make sure the copier and printer had paper and toner, and that the fax machine wasn't jammed, plus, the dishwasher was almost full, so I needed to run that, and there were no paper towels in the bathroom, and the furnace filter needed changed, and somebody's jacket fell on the floor, and I had to pick that up and brush the filth from the shell.  It never ends."  Then set down, head resting on the table, weeping noisily.

What makes these so wonderful is adaptability, they will work for all manner of work related blame, use them for anything from parking lot problems to windows left open.  It is my gift to you, my loyal readers.

Please, tune in to the next episode when we discuss email etiquette, telephone politeness and manners in meetings, and the best way to avoid all three.