0 Are You Putting People Off?

Training Instructor and Conference Speaker Frank Newberry looks at how our interpersonal skills, or lack of, might be putting people off. Our off-putting behaviour might be limiting the potential of key working relationships, i.e. with colleagues, peers, and bosses.

In this article, Frank offers some advice on how we might reduce the risk of putting people off. This should then improve our prospects of inclusion, trust and recognition at work. Frank ends with five tips for supervisors and others; particularly those who want to prevent, reduce, or remedy conflict in the work team.

Your circumstances may have changed because of the Covid-19 crisis. You may be unemployed, happily back at work full-time, or part time, you may still be furloughed, or you may have another job altogether.

Whatever your current situation, we all surely need to ensure that our responses and reactions to people and events do not put people off. We need to be aware of behaviour that will cause us to be excluded, or not trusted, or not recognised for our qualities in the workplace and elsewhere.

Many of us are unaware of our impact on others

As you can imagine, self-awareness is an important issue here. In my experience, many of us do not know that our responses and reactions are putting people off. We are unaware of our impact on others and happily go through life not knowing that we are definitely a pain in the neck - at least sometimes!

We are often unaware because people in our culture find it hard to criticise other people - so we never find out! Others find it hard to be self-critical. There are some who know that they are putting people off - but try to make it a virtue. You may have heard people say something like: 'no one is perfect, my true friends accept me and my faults, warts and all'.

To these people it is hard not to say - 'your true friends would be honest with you about your faults. Your true friends care about how others perceive you'.

So, what is it that puts people off us?

I have asked people in the turfcare sector about this for over twenty years and nothing much has changed in that period. Most turfcare professionals, when confronted with a list of off-putting behaviours that research shows will make them unlikeable - own up to the same two things:

1. Inappropriate humour

2. Complaining and moaning

Inappropriate humour - this would include jokes, banter or comments that are sexist, racist, intimidating, or in any way offensive to the individual. So, if one person in a team finds something offensive, that is enough. We do not have to take a vote on it.

Complaining and moaning - this would include frequent negative reactions, maybe on social media (whining), even a negative tone in the voice when describing others like colleagues, employers, customers, e.g. end-users like footballers, cricketers, golfers etc. Complaining about others on social media, e.g. Facebook, can even have career limiting consequences.

I know for sure that prospective employers and their representatives check out each candidate's social media content. Dodgy pictures, swear words and negative responses online do not help our career prospects! I know a barrister who checks out people's Facebook content for his clients! He tells me that it saves him having to do a lot of research into a person's character.

Bullying and harassment

Using a mocking tone or being cynical or sarcastic might make us feel better for a moment - but it is a form of aggressive behaviour. It is a type of bullying


and harassment - sometimes described as 'indirect aggression' or 'passive-aggressive' behaviour. It is unpleasant for everyone and could lead to legal action being taken by victims of it in the workplace.

Supervisors would do well to check if, what started out as enjoyable teasing and workplace banter, has now gone too far. We need to ask if it has now become bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Five tips to try

1) Supervisors perhaps need to set a good example in the way that they respond to negativity in the workplace. If someone is teasing, then supervisors and others should stay cool and not read negative intent into what may be an ambiguous situation

2) We can also look for the positives in the negative comments being made at work and respond with a confident and constructive remark about the situation

3) If we cannot resist being sarcastic sometimes, then maybe we can add a little raised eyebrow, a nod or a wink that signals that we are just having fun

4) Part of being a positive example is to make sure that we take a moment to commend and praise the genuinely witty banter or comment - 'good one'

5) We might think it is necessary to condemn the unkind comment or negative reaction. If we have to do this, then we need to react in a low-key way. We should under-react (keep cool) rather than over-react. We do not want our reaction to become part of the problem!

So, good luck with not putting others off with inappropriate humour and complaining and moaning. Stay safe - until we meet again in these pages.

© 2020 Frank Newberry - info@franknewberry.com

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