The Crazy Ladies….
My marriage mentor writes about four alter egos that tend to take over women when our fears are triggered, to keep a serious topic light and fun she calls them “The Crazy Ladies”. (Don’t worry ladies, men have “The Crazy Dudes” too, but her book is for us not them.) The stupid thing about the crazy ladies is that when they show up, they tend to get exactly the opposite of what they need. For example, Depressa shows up because of a fear of abandonment. She acts clingy and needy, she’s the queen of guilt trips and she causes the people around her to want to run for the hills for fear of suffocation. What she really needs to make the crazy go away is some focused time and attention and reassurance that she matters. Stupidia comes around anytime a fear of disappointment is triggered. She’s my go to, and when she shows up I act superior, make hurtful jokes, and push people away. What I really need is to know that I can rely on you and that you’re here to help.
The crazy lady concept came up in a recent conversation when a friend of mine was asking for advice regarding a crucial conversation she was going to have with an employee, “Sally”. Sally recently claimed that a coworker, “Brenda”, didn’t deliver on a deadline. When my friend confronted Brenda she found text message evidence that Sally lied and completed the task herself before Brenda could do it. My friend wanted the girl to apologize for sabotaging her coworker.
I said, “That’s never going to happen.”
“Why?” she asked. “She obviously lied.”
“She doesn’t think she lied, Sally said she needed the task completed by 5:00pm. Brenda said she would do it by 4:30pm. Which Sally felt like was cutting it way too close, but instead of telling Brenda that, she just did it herself. Sally had a deadline time in mind and while none of us knew what it was, Brenda didn’t meet that deadline. So she isn’t lying, she’s just being Stupidia and she’s scared her coworkers will disappoint her.”
“Wow.” my friend said, “My approach was based on it being intentional.”
“No one does that intentionally, they do it because they’re on the defensive, scared, backed in to a corner, or broken.”
“Well I need to rethink my approach.”
As we talked we rehashed something we already know about “Sally”, she’s competitive and points out the flaws of other coworkers regularly. She warms up to and even mentors entry level employees, almost mothering them. Why the stark contrast? What’s behind her behavior? My friend’s theory after working with her for over five years, is that she is threatened by anyone who she perceives as her equal or could become her equal. She’s scared of losing her own source of confidence, which is being the go to person. I agree. The behavior above comes from a lack of self confidence. If you asked Brenda to see Sally as a person who lacked confidence, it would be so hard for her to believe. This person is an arrogant asshole in her opinion and probably subscribes to everyone of Robert Sutton’s “Dirty Dozen”. He has a list of actions that every “Asshole” uses:
- Personal insults
- Invading one’s “personal territory”
- Uninvited physical contact
- Threats and intimidation
- Sarcastic Jokes and teasing
- Withering email flames
- Status slaps intended to humiliate
- Public shaming
- Rude interruptions
- Two faced attacks
- Dirty looks
- Treating people as if they are invisible
Now I should note Mr. Sutton and I differ in one large way and I didn’t find a lot of useful information in either of his books other than feeling like someone understood the pain I was going through living with an asshole at work (misery loves company right). The biggest difference is that I have a lot of sympathy for “Assholes” because I don’t believe anyone is choosing to behave that way to intentionally hurt other people. If ever you build a strong enough relationship and you point it out to them in a constructive non-threatening way you either get a severe defensive reaction or deep shame and sadness. Neither of which come from someone who is happily walking around smashing people’s lives. That person doesn’t exist.
If you read the comments on my YouTube series “How to deal with Those people,” you’ll find that most people don’t want to take my advice. That’s because it’s harder, it focuses on what’s within your circle of influence, and it’s about personal accountability. They would encourage you to stand up, fight the bully, shut down the micromanager, or quit because you don’t deserve to be subjected to that type of behavior!
You don’t deserve to be subjected to that type of behavior, but we’re humans, and you will be. There is hurt, fear, and stress everywhere and that is what results in this type of behavior. If you can learn how to protect yourself, have empathy, and try to treat the hurt, fear, and stress you’ll be able to achieve the workplace of your dreams, or maybe adjust your dreams to fit reality. Some people get confused here and assume I’m telling you to tolerate harassment or abuse, that’s not what I’m saying, however I don’t think our current methods of addressing true harassment and abuse are effective. If you’ve ever reported a manager, tried to go to HR to resolve a problem, or even worked with an employment lawyer you likely know what I mean.
So let’s talk about “those people”, what they do, what drives that, what that makes you want to do, and what you need to do instead. Disclaimer: these are my opinions and a result of personal experience because I have had moments where I have been one or all of these types of people, by no means is this comprehensive or extensive. My youtube series get’s into the top six a little deeper if you’d like a deeper dive.
In order to be strong in the face of these types of coworkers you will need to take care of yourself. This means practicing gratitude, surrounding yourself with people who push you to be better and support you, and focus on the good. Head over to animalsamplified.com and just search “positivity” for some of those resources.
You’ll need patience. You’ll need to treat it like animal training where your expectations for behavior change are slow, steady, and gradual. Not overnight breakthroughs.
You will also likely need to have a crucial conversation but you can’t do that unless you’ve put some positive deposits into the trust account. So be kind, and notice the good.