Friedman, my favorite leadership author, told his family, friends, and clients a simple truth regarding the process for dealing with unreasonable people. I love his virtuous counsel and give it out nearly everyday. I’m often asked how to deal with an unreasonable teammate who consistently talks about another behind his/her back. Simple. Not easy. Next time your teammate begins to talk to you about another, stop him/her. Ask them if what they’re about to tell you they’ve told to said teammate. If the answer is yes, you ask the reasonable followup question of what was resolved and why you’re being told. You see, if the answer is yes, it might be reasonable to talk about was learned. Act with reason, here.
However, if the answer to your question is no – they’ve not talked to teammate prior to talking to you, you tell them to hold their horses (old Kansas term) while you call your teammate in or get him/her on the phone. You don’t listen to his objections or rationalizations, you simply get busy connecting the two with tension. Unreasonable, huh. Once you’ve got your teammate on the phone or in your office, you inform them that your partner was starting to tell you something he hadn’t told them. You now give him the airtime to do just that. If he starts spinning, you stop him and ask him to speak more ccd, truth in love. You facilitate these two teammates talking.
Here’s my discovery from years of doing this. You won’t hear gossip coming your way from this teammate any longer. You just met an unreasonable request from a teammate with an unreasonable response. Good. The problem with so many leaders is they attempt to practice being reasonable with the unreasonable. Does not work. So, next time you face an unreasonable request from someone in your system, slow down. Push the tension back to them and don’t use reason. Reason does not work with the unreasonable. You and your system just reduced gossip and idle conversation. Idle conversation is the enemy to labor efficiency, isn’t it? Damn, that sounds so Harvard Business Reviewish doesn’t it. As you eliminate idle, empty chatter, you create trust. Your system just got better. Good. Remember, every team is limited by the conversations they have. Don’t have a failure of nerve, friend.
Reason does not work with the unreasonable. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it…