The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™
MAR 03, Sec. I
Fight when you can
Take flight when you
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Dealing with a Provocative Employee
Main Essay: Jumping
Into a High Stakes Audition: Part III (stand alone essay)
"Top Ten" Strategies for Surviving and Winning
Training Kit & Book; AOL Chat
Main Essay: Jumping Into a High Stakes
Audition: Part 1 (Sec. II)
Taking the PESI Challenge
Medical Office Humor
Essay: Jumping Into a High Stakes Audition: Part II
Where the Hired Mouth Meets the Road Show
Top Bumper Stickers of 2003
Q & A:
Dealing with a Provocative Employee:
A Young Supervisor's Challenge
Hi Mr. Gorkin!
I discovered your website during a "panic"
phonecall from my daughter, the new manager of an upscale clothing store in Florida. While she was
relating her last few days at work I booted up my HP pc and keyed into Google, "managing
difficult people." And there you were, thank you.
I read aloud your categories and also made a few
suggestions as to tactics my daughter might try. May I briefly describe her plight and humbly ask
you for a suggestion to handle this matter?
Daughter: 25 years, BFA, has worked in a plethora of situations and
locations from Banana Republic to a publisher in Florence to the U.S. Senate. She is outgoing,
intelligent, hard-working, and what can I say--an absolutely beautiful person.
The Problem: 19 year old public school
dropout (at 15 years) employee at shop in Florida. She actually MAKES UP stories about Daughter and
tells them to the few other very young sales people, e.g., "She said I dress like a slut."
"She said I look like a slut." She has sabotaged sales by going over to my daughter and
saying rude things, bumping into her, messing merchandise and other anti social behavior.
When the store owner confronted my daughter
with the "slut" story she could not believe her ears. She told him that she actually
thinks the girl looks very cute but besides that it is not her own personality to be disrespectful
or nasty to others. The owner told the girl she had better pay attention to her work.
Which she doesn't. The owner also asked Daughter if she's certain she can manage.
Daughter likes owner and his wife. She
likes the shop as well as managing. My suggestion to her is to bring the Miss Trouble a
Coke/candy and have a little talk: how can we create a cheery environment for our customers? How can
we work better together? And blah blah blah. I'm only a mother, after all, and fear
violence and feel danger from the young girl.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I'm looking forward to
hearing from you.
Thanks for the note.
your daughter may try the "make nice" approach, my biggest fear is you are trying to bribe
off a bully and I'm not sure that will work. This disturbed/angry woman may well be jealous of
your daughter, e.g., of her accomplishments, life experience, etc. (On some level she may well
feel like "a slut." We often accuse with what lurks inside.) She may have a
sister with whom she is competitive or angry. She may be having a crisis in her own life. (She
also might have some kind of drinking or drug issue.)
But this is what disturbs me the most:
told the girl she had better pay attention to her work, which she still doesn't do. The owner then
asked your daughter if she's certain she can manage.
This owner is the one who doesn't know
how to manage. He's basically minimizing the antisocial behavior; sounds like he doesn't want
to have to hear/think about personnel issues. The real key is whether your daughter finds out
if he can change his behavior, even more important than if the girl changes hers, as he's the one
with the power and decision-making authority.
Assuming the buying her a cup of coffee and
chatting approach doesn't work, I would have your daughter first go to the owner and say the problem
is continuing. Tell the owner the constructive conversation she (daughter) will be having with
the girl, outlining the problematic behavior that your daughter is witnessing/experiencing.
Hopefully, the owner will support your daughter having this constructive conversation. Your
daughter explains how she wants to clarify possible disciplinary steps if this girl does not change
her behavior. Actually, your daughter should be documenting in writing this woman's behavior.
Hopefully, she and the owner will now be on the same page.
Now, your daughter should talk to
the girl in a concerned and very frank way. Have your daughter ask the girl if she sees a
problem in her behavior. Does she deny her actions? Have your daughter ask the girl if
she is frustrated with any of the daughter's actions as supervisor? She can carefully question
the girl if there are any issues in the girl's life -- inside or outside work -- troubling her right
now. (But she should not try to play Miss Junior Psychologist; your daughter needs to stay in
her supervisor role.) Eventually, your daughter has to let the girl know she will be
evaluating her performance; she will be recognized and rewarded for good performance (using
Organizational IRAs: Incentives, Rewards and Recognition and Advancement Opportunities);
documented and experience consequences for unsatisfactory performance; including being placed on
Being a manager means periodically having to deal with "difficult
people." Your daughter needs to understand this; if she (or you) are feeling why should
she have to be dealing with such a (fill in the b-word)...that's the life of a supervisor.
the girl's behavior doesn't change (or even if it does), then your daughter (having established this
plan with the owner) will go back to the owner and update him on the course of events since her
frank talk with the girl.
If the owner doesn't really support any or all of the above, I
think your daughter, no matter how much she likes the job, should be looking to work elsewhere.
This owner is the real problem and his dysfunctional manner will only guarantee more serious
problems in the future. Basically, it says he tolerates this girl's bullying behavior and does
not support his good managers/employees. And, yes, this indifference by an owner or manager
are how problems can and do escalate into dangerous interpersonal situations.
If the company
has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which means the company provides a few counseling services
free as a company benefit, I would suggest your daughter avail herself of these services. She
will get help in how to have these assertive interactions with both owner and problematic employee.
(In her constructive engagement with the employee, she might even suggest the girl make use of EAP
If there is no EAP, this would be an excellent time for your daughter to take
initiative, seek out some short term counseling from a therapist knowledgeable about authority
dynamics and workplace issues. In a relatively short time I bet your daughter can strengthen
her assertiveness skills; a great investment if she wishes to continue in the managerial role at
this store or elsewhere. Actually, strengthening our assertiveness skills is just a great gift
we all deserve to give ourselves.
[Ed. Note: While the last segment of a three-part
series, this is a strategic synthesis and can be read as a stand alone essay.]
The Stress Doc
pulls togethers psychological and technical concepts and skills gleaned from a recent, parts
powerful and parts painful learning curve. These strategic tips just might help you conquer
that next high stakes audition.
Jumping Into the High Stakes Audition: Part III
Strategies for Surviving and Winning
You don't have to lead three one-day seminars in
three cities over five days. You don't have to prove your self a training expert in
"Anger, Conflict Resolution & Difficult People." Nor do you have to face the
challenge of an intense startup-learning curve, i.e., prove you can capture high evaluation numbers
or go home. And you don't have to be extremely motivated to want to be hired as a consultant
for a nationally visible company.
But when financial pressure, publishing and marketing
dreams as well as self-esteem fantasies and fears are added to audition angst…we're talking about
one potentially hyper-combustible performance mix. And there's surely a fine line between
being ablaze and being burnt out. (And believe me, I've gone over the edge more than once.)
Yet, ironically, sometimes the latter (burnout) sets the stage for the former (a new flame):
the Phoenix to rise from the ashes
One must know the pain
To transform the fire to burning
The critical question: Will my performance overall burn steady as red-hot
charcoals emitting nurturing heat, interspersed with unpredictable keen crackling, while being
captivatingly luminous? Will others gather round, add their own fuel or help fan dying embers,
thus building and sustaining mutual, symbiotic and synergistic ebb and flow amongst performance
parts and the whole?
Or being so absorbed in my passionate enlightenment, will I fervidly
consume my own resources while ignoring my needs and the needs of those around me? Will
I deprive myself of replenishing fuel and inexorably implode? Now the only remnant of the once
fiery, all-powerful (or was it hypomanic) performer is a mere smoldering shell. His final
epitaph: Bunt out at the (high) stake!
Of course, when it comes to facing that
exciting, red-hot audition many back away. The flame or the fame does not mesmerize all; not
all are energized by the performance challenge of breathing both fire and focus. Some
are afraid of heat exhaustion; others are fearful of being shamefully scarred or burned. It is
long, hard work to understand, let alone achieve, the capacities to blaze brightly and gently glow.
if you seek the fire mostly to inflate an ego or fuel egoal-driven fantasies and are hooked on a
high-risk quick fix, then akin to a flaming meteor you will quickly extinguish and likely be lost in
that starry night. But if you understand that it is the path of mastery, more ideal than goal,
that exceptional performance is an unending commitment, an infinite learning curve, and a lifelong
quest then you are ready to "know the pain; to transform the fire to burning desire."
Consider this hard-earned and humble offering: "The Stress Doc's 'Top Ten' Strategies
for Surviving and Winning the High Stakes Audition."
[Rest of the article/newsletter is
Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a psychotherapist, an
international speaker and syndicated writer, was recently interviewed on BBC radio. The Doc is
now a "Motivational Humorist" for The DC Improv Comedy Club as well as America Online's
"Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" on
AOL/Digital City. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" --
www.stressdoc.com (recently cited as a workplace resource in a National Public Radio feature on
"Bad Bosses"). Mark is also an advisor to The Bright Side -- www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award-winning mental health
resource. Email for his monthly newsletter recently showcased on List-a-Day.com. For
more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs, email email@example.com or
(c) Mark Gorkin 2003