Have you ever had to deal with someone who’s just making your job more difficult? Or worse, someone whose behavior is affecting your company’s reputation and performance? Today, Elizabeth Bachman is joined by emotional intelligence consultant Joie Seldon and trusted advisor and speaker Jacqueline Wales as they discuss the importance of seeing what’s right and wrong when it comes to workplace behaviors. Join us and learn some of the most common behaviors at work, how they affect a business’s performance, environment, and reputation, and how you can prevent the worst from happening to your company.
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Taming Bad Behavior In The Workplace With Joie Seldon And Jacqueline Wales
In this episode, I am so excited because I have two of my best favorite people here as my guests. We have Jacqueline Wales and Joie Seldon to help us to make some sense of bad behavior in the workplace and taming bad behavior in the workplace. I’ve done an episode with Shiran Weitzman who talks about helping manage misconduct with remote workers, and then also with Dr. Mitch Kusy about dealing with bad behavior in the workplace. I thought, “I want to talk to people who are good at this.”
I’m going to be talking to both of them, and I’m going to make sure that I’ve got the right introduction for each person. Let me start with Joie Seldon, whose mission is to teach easy-to-use techniques to master emotions, build healthy relationships, and handle life’s challenges successfully. She draws from her background as an entrepreneur, professional actor, acting teacher, and somatic counselor. She has developed a keen understanding of human motivation and behavior.
Joie’s decades of experience, education, and experimentation resulted in the creation of a practical and highly effective training called the Joie Method, which is a system for harnessing emotions as a tool for success. In her in-person and instructor-led online course, Emotions At Work, she has helped thousands of executives and professionals successfully navigate challenging situations and advance their careers.
Jacqueline, for many years, has explored human behavior and asked tough questions to discover hard truths. She believes in the power of fearlessness to create the career and life you want. Jacqueline, I’m asking you about fear because that’s such a big deal with bad behavior at work. She is a motivational speaker, professional coach, and author of The Fearless Factor and other books. She has helped countless people become more empowered, confident, and resilient.
Her work focuses on leaders who will dig into self-discovery, take accountability for their actions, and responsibility for their decisions. Her programs include the Transformational Strategies for Success, which is a self-directed online coaching program, which provides a framework for strategy and accountability to grow career and life success.
Welcome to both of you. Jacqueline, let me start with you. When we were talking about this, you mentioned the concept of not having safety in the workplace and what that does to people. Can you expand on the word safety?
We’re talking about psychological safety here. We’re talking about being able to express oneself without fear of judgment and humiliation. Also, without that sense of criticism or not fitting in. There is openness and transparency that is honored within the workplace. That doesn’t happen too often frankly. Most people feel constrained by their work environment because they cannot be honest and can’t show up authentically.
Psychological safety is speaking to the issue of how we can create a workplace where people truly show up as themselves and not with a mask on the company or the environment the company may demand of them. That is a major issue. There’s a book called The Fearless Organization, which was written by Amy Edmondson, who is an expert on psychological safety.
If anyone is interested in this topic, check out The Fearless Organization. Joie probably knows this book quite well too. That is the book on understanding what psychological safety truly means. The bottom line and safety piece is, “Am I safe to express myself? Am I safe that I won’t lose my job because I tell somebody that this isn’t working for me?”
What I always say is rule number one for speakers or presenters is to make it about them. Use strategic empathy to put yourself in their shoes, which means that you, as a leader, need to be paying attention to your emotions and where you aren’t triggered because things that we might take for granted are not the same experience for others, especially if they look different.
I’ve gotten some interesting feedback which I may mention later on about why for some people working from home is easier and for some people, they would rather be in the office and how that pertains to their ethnic backgrounds. We’ll get to that later if I get a chance. Joie, can you comment a little bit about how you think about your emotions and what’s going to be safe for your people?
I agree with what you said. It is about safety. It’s how you approach someone or how you speak to them. You can completely disagree with someone. If you speak and show somebody respect, you let them know that you are hearing them and hear what they have to say, and you’re open to what they have to say, people feel relaxed.
That defensiveness that we have is an automatic response of protection. When you can show someone respect and one little tiny thing can be, “There’s something I’d like to say. Is that alright with you?” It’s asking permission. It’s like, “Can I tell you the truth?” In some way or another, it shows them that I am not here to power over them or put my opinions on them and you have to agree or not agree with me.
What if they are your superior? What if there is lack of safety?
That’s a big one. I often work with people who are in that lower-level leadership roles. They are senior managers, but they’re not the big honcho. How do you manage up? It’s the same thing because, in the end, we’re all human beings. When you can say, “There’s something I’d like to talk about. There are some issues or challenges I’m having. Can we have an honest conversation?” I don’t think it’s all that different when you manage up, as long as you slow down and learn how to manage your own energy so that you’re not coming across as overly aggressive or a mouse either because leaders respect people who have a sense of confidence in themselves.
Jacqueline, do you have comments about that, including managing up?
I think it comes down to communication. That’s what Joie is speaking to. It’s how we communicate what we’d like to share and how we not only bring out, “This is us working together,” as opposed to, “Let’s take feedback,” for instance. We know that many times people start with a negative before they go to the positive and what would happen if you were to start with, “This is what’s working and here are some of the stuff that could be done better.”
The framing of it and the conversation around it is the issue. For a lot of people, they don’t know how to listen, number one, and number two, the phraseology that people get to use. Something I do regularly with my middle-level managers is teach them the phraseology that gets them better results. One of the favorite words or phrases is, “Help me understand,” because that one elicits, “We’re in a conversation,” as opposed to, “We are in the sharing of information.” Whilst that is exactly what’s happening, you mentioned that the building of empathy becomes a big piece here.
The shared stories of the experiences are what build the bonds of trust, and another big piece in the psychological safety piece is trust. Do I trust you to do what’s right? Do I trust you to handle whatever it is that I have to give you? That brings up the fear piece right there. The fear piece is tied to our limiting beliefs and the behaviors that we allow to run our lives. It’s also tied into a very strategic thing of, “Am I good enough?” When we get involved in that conversation, especially with seniors if you go in Uriah Heep with your cap in hand, but being ever so humble.
Uriah Heep is like a sucking-up person. It’s a character from Charles Dickens.
I always think of that when someone is over-humble with a little too much humility in it. We need a certain amount of assertiveness to have the conversation in the first place, but there’s an edge there. Joie would probably talk to that better than me, where the assertiveness has to be tempered with, “We are in this conversation together for a reason and it’s to make things better.”
Let’s talk about this for a minute. This also brings up one of the things that I talk about all the time, which is how women can get men to listen. It’s how multi-focused people can get single-focused people to listen. If you are a multi-focused thinker and you’re a person who sees all sorts of connections and things, but the person you need to speak with is single-focused, make an appointment so that you’re not interrupting and you have their full attention.
If they’re single-focused, they only have one thing in their head at a time. Also, be concise and respectful about that. That’s another piece that practically then do it, and then practice if you need to. If you’re scared, have a friend or your coach. You could call any one of us and practice saying what you need to say. Sometimes only muscle memory gets me through that kind of conversation.
That’s a very important point. I had a client who had to go to her boss. It’s a small company. She works directly with the CEO. It’s the first time somebody else has been working with him. She was very unhappy and she had to talk to him. We looked at the protocol of how to have the conversation and did a role play and practiced that. She went in, talked to him, and had fantastic results from it because of the way she approached which was not about blaming or you made me feel this or you do this. It’s when this happens, “I have this experience.” You’re never putting it onto the other person that they’re making you feel anything because ultimately, they don’t. Your feeling and what you’re feeling comes from you, your own thoughts, and what’s going on inside of you.Ultimately, what you feel comes from your own thoughts and what's happening inside you. Click To Tweet
That’s a very important piece right there because I’ve also had clients the same way where I role-played with them on the conversation that’s going to take place between them and their bosses. It takes me back to communication 101 in relationships. When you do the finger-pointing stuff, you’ll get people being defensive right away but when you say, “When this happens, I feel,” that becomes a very different kind of conversation.
I can say for my own life, if we’re looking at shared stories, many years of marriage, we’ve had a lot of those conversations and that’s a big piece in the workplace too. You have to be able to keep that line open and show respect. Humility comes into it as well. It’s not about, “I’m better than you.” It’s simply about, “We’re here to do something that together, we want the results. How can we make it better?”
One thing that both of you have said to me and is something that I think about a lot is awareness is everything. It’s being aware of how you respond. I have been with people, whose the way they survive in childhood was to attack first. In plenty of families, if you don’t attack first or if you feel threatened, you will be eaten up and spat out by the lions. Also, families where the only way you survive is to disappear like the Cheshire cat or to freeze. It’s the fight, flight, or freeze. If you are aware of what your response is likely to be, then you can recognize it, hopefully.
Self-awareness is the foundation for emotional intelligence. That’s the first step.
Jacqueline, I know you were saying something about that.
Joie is the expert on somatic body experiences and you can feel stuff coming on. You can feel it in your belly, sweaty palms, your shortness of breath, or dry mouth. There are all kinds of bodily activities going on.
It is a message.
It is signaling that you’re ready to go into some kind of situation where previously you’ve been damned uncomfortable. How many people hate difficult conversations or confrontations? I hear it all the time. “I can’t go talk to them because,” and to your point, it’s about the history. If you grew up in a family where your opinions were not respected, where you were shut down constantly, it’s very hard to open up but that self-awareness piece is number one. It’s certainly what my work is all about, and I know it’s Joie’s as well. Before anything starts, get to know yourself.
Joie, I love your book. It’s called EMOTIONS: An Owner’s Manual. Expand on this a little bit and then I have some very specific questions for you both.
Whenever I speak or I’m teaching a workshop or whatever, one of the first questions I ask is, “What are emotions?” Often, there’s this silence and then somebody says feelings like, “What are feelings?” My premise is that we need to be educated about what emotions are, and how they function, and to stop all of the judgment and labeling. A lot of the issues around emotions are because we have so much judgment against emotions.
I say there are no negative emotions. There’s only the repression-suppression or being overwhelmed and led by your emotions, which creates negative results. Emotions are a biological information system. They’re bringing you information and each primary emotion is bringing you a specific signature piece of information like sadness is about loss. Fear is about protection. When you can be viscerally aware of, as Jacqueline was saying, in your body to feel that and understand, “This particular sensation of.”
My client thought she was just angry and she realized there was fear. There was a lot of fear and fear can be very subtle. It can be under the carpet. It can be there without us being conscious of it. The Owner’s Manual is to understand what are these primary emotions and how they function in the body and how they influence our behavior and what we can do to clean up our system in a way and become more emotionally fluid.Fear could be very subtle. It can be there without us being conscious of it. Click To Tweet
One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is when we did our preliminary conversations about this. I have a dear friend, a young friend, who is the victim of a manager in a small company. The manager was promoted into something that she couldn’t handle, and so she took it out on him. Everything became his fault. We’re talking about bad behavior in the workplace. If you’ve got someone who is being toxic, blaming everybody else, micromanaging, and all of that, instead of quitting, which is what so many people are doing these days, how can that be addressed, changed, or helped? We can’t tell somebody you’re a terrible manager, but what can we do to help? “I have a young friend who is reading this. Help.”
I would start with the person who’s giving out that particular set of affairs with blame, bullying, micromanaging, and so forth, is a very insecure person, number one. It is being projected onto someone else. Now, on the receiving end of that, how do we want to handle it? Again, if we go back to the conversation, it’s, “How’s this working for you?” Sometimes, it’s very hard to break through those barriers that a person has created because a lot of their behavior is very defensive. It’s defensive, but it comes out as, “I’m going inflict it on you.”
When you start to address that and how can we do that differently, you’re more than likely to be met with a defensive response, which makes you feel like you’re getting nowhere fast. The idea for that would be either, “I need to be transferred out of that department or I need to be gone.” It’s a very tricky situation. Joie is the expert on emotions. I would say she’s probably got a little bit more insight maybe than I do at this moment, but I feel that sometimes, you’re banging up against a brick wall and going nowhere fast.
Joie, I want you to weigh in. The thing is that if you quit or leave, it doesn’t solve their problem, which is not necessarily your job, but it only means that the next person is going to be dealing with it.
I agree but even if you kick it upstairs and you want to talk to somebody more senior than the person who’s behaving badly, they may not be willing to do anything about it because that person is valuable to the organization and so they put up with it. I hear these stories over and over again.
Absolutely, that happens. Joie, what can my friend do?
I do have an example. I had a client who was transferred to the San Francisco office. Her boss was exactly what you’re describing. She’d never been treated that way in her life. She was having panic attacks because of the way she was being treated. The first thing is to learn how to create space for yourself. I tell people with energetic boundaries. It’s to create space for yourself so that you can, first of all, be aware and be in the dominion of your own emotions so that trigger the fear or the anger that comes up. It is your responsibility not to control it, but to be in dominion so that you’re present with it. You run the energy and you understand it.
Also, I do teach how to be working with energetic boundaries. She started with that, and then she told her boss that she wanted to have a conversation with her. She invited her to lunch so they were not in the office, but in neutral territory. When the boss said, “What do you want to talk to me about?” She explained very calmly in that language, “I feel like you dislike me. You seem to be critical of everything I do, and I don’t understand it. I’ve never experienced this before.”
The conversation was pursued and it turns out her boss was under a huge amount of pressure from her boss. The whole company was pretty toxic and in the end, that boss woman became the mentor of my client and might help my client get a job in a different company. She did ultimately leave but she had the experience of being able to manage that relationship that got a result that was much greater than just quitting.
This makes me think on a global scale. Let’s fix the world, the three of us. This is such a common situation. I have another client who has taken a new job because of the people. She had offers from three different companies, and she said the company that treated its people best was where she goes. This is what is happening to companies, but it’s awfully slow. Say the board realizes that they’re losing all their good people and the problem starts at the top. How could a board member put something into place to maybe turn things around?
I have a story on that one. I do behavioral assessments where we measure the specific behaviors that are getting in the way of people’s careers. I was called in to do an executive team. When I did all the individual debriefs, we eventually did a team meeting. What I saw in the team meeting are all C-Suite individuals. The man who was the CEO was not invested in running the company with what I call the “we” attitude. It was all about the “us.” For him, it was all about “me.”
There was one member of that team who had been brought on to turn the company around and he very clearly, during this conversation, said, “If you guys don’t manage to figure this part out, learn how to communicate more effectively, and understand how to work with people, then I’m out and you can basically all go screw yourself.” That wasn’t an option.
What happened was three weeks later, the CEO, the president, and the senior HR person was gone because they were not willing to figure out how to make this team work. The one who said, “I will leave if you guys don’t manage to,” was very floral in his language, but that was his bottom line. He was like, “You guys need to go if you want this company to run effectively.”
To your point about a board member who’s willing to speak up, there’s a fear issue there. It’s like, “I lose my respect, so on and so forth.” If this is what you believe in, you believe it’s important. To the point that you made earlier too, there are far more toxic workplaces than there are great places to work. I think people put up. They tolerate toxic communications, disrespect, and a lack of trust. That’s the big piece that I certainly know all three of us. If we want to change the world, we are invested in helping individuals to understand that we need to do something.There are far more toxic workplaces than there are great places to work. Click To Tweet
This is where we’re going as a business system. We are all speaking from West Coast America so it may take a while. The three of us have known each other for several years and our backgrounds are affecting us. Let me ask if you find yourself in a toxic position, and maybe you don’t want to be six months out of work right away, or you can’t afford to be, what’s the first thing to do?
What comes to mind first is the term healthy detachment. It’s not about being indifferent or being passive or shutting down, but it’s about recognizing that you are in the situation for now. Something needs to change and it will change. Also, you don’t have to be in a state of constant stress or tension in the meantime and you can come into yourself. One little exercise I had people do is to go get that place that’s in the center of the brain. It’s a line where they meet in the center of your brain to look from that point of view. It’s like stepping back and becoming an observer of the situation.
When you step back, you are also aware of your own emotions. Sometimes, you have to find a way to vent a little at times whether that’s writing it out or talking to a friend. It’s to step back and be an observer. You have so much more available to you in terms of your options and the choices that you can make at the moment. How are you going to get out of that situation? Where are you going to go?
It is being able to recognize that you are in charge of your own destiny and your choices. Sometimes you have to slow things down, take a breath, be patient and then look at what your options are so that you can make a more conscious choice. Ultimately, the idea of emotional intelligence is that you make more conscious choices that are more beneficial for you. When they’re beneficial for you in that kind of conscientious way, they’re more beneficial for the people around you. You impact other people more positively.
Jacqueline, I’ll get to you in a while, but it reminds me of the time it takes. If you take a little time to detach from the emotions of the moment and to breathe and calm down. Meditate for five minutes. Turn off your phone so that you’re able to detach it. I have a colleague who’s in his mid-40s who’s working in a tech company where everyone else is in their 20s and there are crises every day.
He said his job is to take his coffee cup in hand, walk around and calm down. People say, “How can you be so calm?” He said, “I have been through this kind of crisis. We will come out the other end.” When everyone around you is panicking because it’s the first time they’ve seen a crisis, it’s easy to get caught up in that mob mentality. Jacqueline, would you have one way to start? What’s the one thing we could leave people with?
One thing that I would leave people with is you have to practice the conversations and the ways in which you are going to engage. All of the things that you’ve all mentioned are great, but we know that doesn’t come automatically. That’s why we hire fire coaches too because they help you to frame and get focused on what it is you need to do.
I would say to pay attention to the signals that are coming your way and if you’re looking at the detachment, practice. Put some energy into that detachment that Joie talks about. We can only do that after we’ve been burned a few times and then we learn how to step back. It’s not an instant fix. It’s not like, “I can offer one thing. Go do that and you’ll be fine.” Practice the conversation, how you’re dealing with your feelings, and how you can create boundaries around yourself. That becomes a key issue in a toxic workplace. Otherwise, I’m going somewhere else.
This is what I’m going to be talking about on our next episode. You might quit, go somewhere else, and find the same situation unless you have the tools to recognize what’s your part and what’s going on. Otherwise, you repeat it over and over again from job to job until eventually and hopefully, you learn the lesson. You’ve got to know what your tools are as well.
You’ve got to know that and you’ve got to take the time for it. That’s what all our work does. Joie has got that with her emotions. To understand your emotions. Mine is all about understanding your thinking and your behavior. Yours is almost the same. That’s where we operate. Joie, do you have something that you wanted to add to that?
I agree with you and your emotions start with your thinking. You experience everything from inside of yourself. That’s why self-awareness and turning to yourself and then practicing. Practice a physical skill, a dance move, or how to play tennis. We’ll practice and practice to get better, but we don’t practice the thing that is most essential for our well-being, happiness, health, and success in life, which is how we are who we are, how we think, how that impacts our feelings, and the choices that we make. It’s all interrelated.
I agree with you, Jacqueline. I love being with other women who were on the same plane. We approach it a little bit differently, but that fundamental truth is the foundation of what we’re all doing. Also, it does help to have a coach.
It helps to have a coach. I pay a lot of money to my coaches to help me see where I’m caught in my emotions and where I’m not paying attention. Thank you, Joie Seldon and Jacqueline Wales, so much for being my guests in this episode. This was fun and informative. I’ll see you at the next one.
- Jacqueline Wales
- Joie Seldon
- Shiran Weitzman – previous episode
- Dr. Mitch Kusy – previous episode
- Emotions At Work
- The Fearless Factor
- Transformational Strategies for Success
- The Fearless Organization
- EMOTIONS: An Owner’s Manual
About Joie Seldon
Forty years ago, Joie Seldon dreamed of becoming a movie star. Her struggle for that dream, and ultimately falling short of it, led to decades of the exploration and study of human behavior and emotions.
Drawing from her unique background as an actor and acting teacher, somatic psychologist, entrepreneur, and innovator in Emotional Intelligence, Joie teaches students and clients how to use their emotional state as a creative tool for success. She is the author of Emotions, An Owner’s Manual and her course, Emotions At Work, teaches business professionals how to navigate difficult relationships and the complexities of being human at work.
A leadership and presentation skills coach, she has worked with clients at AT&T, Blue Shield, Wells Fargo, Project Management Institute, Dolby and more.
Joie is a dynamic speaker who has presented to worldwide audiences in person and online.
About Jacqueline Wales
Today, the neighborhood of Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland, is a bustling coastal hub of commerce and artistry.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Once, Leith was the impoverished hometown where, as a child, Jacqueline Wales dreamed of a rich, wonderful life—a life that even her own family told her she would never, ever have.
At the age of 16, “the lassie fae Leith.” She fled first to London, then to America and beyond in a desperate search for a better life – and for her true self. From Leith, to London; from the California coast to Paris, Amsterdam, New York, and Bali, Jacqueline has spent her life learning that being fearless is not the absence of fear, but the courage to take the next step.
And Jacqueline’s journey truly has been defined by thousands and thousands of “next steps.”
Today, Jacqueline is a passionate champion for being fearless. An author, speaker, and trusted advisor to successful women, Jacqueline helps women around the world transform their lives and achieve their goals.