Okay, I don’t like to admit it, but I’ve had my mean moments. I can be short-tempered with people — both men and women. I can roll my eyes if someone says something that I think is ridiculous. And there’s a type of person that “brings out my mean.” It’s usually a nice person who is very insecure, and needs constant attention and/or reassurance from me. After the 5th interruption or knock on my door, I erupt. My voice takes on a sarcastic tone and I become dismissive.
Why am I telling you this? Because part of aiming for more professional behavior on my part requires owning the less-than-professional aspects of my behavior. I’ve learned that if I encounter a person who Brings Out My Mean, my job is to rein in the snarky attitude, and set better workplace boundaries.
How can I set boundaries with needy colleagues at work? I can do simple things like close my door, or tell the needy person that we can speak after I finish what I’m working on. I can also establish limits by saying “I can give you two minutes.” That’s better than giving my eager colleague ten minutes while grinding my teeth and resenting their presence.
What’s your “mean” look like? Do you know you express it? Do you know what brings it on? Do you know how to manage it in a way that keeps everyone around you in tact?
The challenge at work (and home for that matter) is to accept these darker sides of our own behavior, and find creative ways to manage them.