Julie Thorson

There is a conversation lingering for us all right now. We have told ourselves elaborate stories to avoid the conversation all together. This is fascinating to me. In my experience, the most challenging aspect of any work relationship is the conversation that isn’t happening.

Last month I shared some big questions to tackle with yourself and with others. 

It got me thinking. Are we spending enough time on simple conversations? The big questions are developmental, necessary and hopefully will lead to leadership growth. However, the reality is tough conversations aren’t happening, and it’s preventing us from being our best.

The tougher conversations relate directly to your day-to-day work. What frustrates you day to day? Is it your work load? Is it a teammate? Is it the person you report to? Is it someone who reports to you? My guess is your No. 1 frustration with your day-to-day work isn’t related to your work load; it’s one of the following — a teammate, who you report to or someone who reports to you. Is this ringing a bell? If so, read on.

What should be simple becomes unbearable because of the stories we tell ourselves. More on that in a minute. These are the conversations you aren’t having that keep you up at night.

Why can’t she just …?

Why did she do that?

She doesn’t realize what she is doing to our team.

Why can’t he see my potential?

She doesn’t appreciate all I do, and she never will.

He isn’t carrying his own work load; we all have to clean up his mess.

She has no idea how we all feel about her and it makes me crazy.

Fill in the story. There is a thought or conversation out there that has been eating at you for weeks maybe even months. Yet you continue to avoid the conversation. Worse yet, you are spending time talking to other people about the person rather than talking to her/him directly. Maybe you’ve justified it because it’s someone you report to and others feel the same way. You’ve created a sort of a “let’s bitch about so and so” club.

You may not like what I’m about to say, but you need to hear it. Have the courage to have the conversation. Stop talking about them and talk to them. I’ve heard all the reasons why not to have the conversation. It won’t matter. Nothing changes. They get away with everything and are never held accountable. They are protected by (fill in the blank). It won’t do any good anyway; why bother? These are all excuses. Clever stories you tell yourself to avoid the discomfort of having a tough conversation. Get over it.

Muster up the courage to talk with the person who is on your mind and tell them how you feel. Work relationships are too important to avoid conversations like these. Sure, they get messy, they might hurt a bit, there may be some moments of being really comfortable, but things don’t just get better on their own. You have some skin in the game too. Have the conversation.

More so if this is something that is really bothering you, and it has been bothering you for a while and you choose to do nothing about it. If so, it’s no longer their issue, it’s yours. Stop being a victim and letting this happen to you. Have the conversation. Let me repeat it louder for the people in the back: have the conversation. Let them know how you feel. It might just be exactly what they need to hear and exactly what you need to do.

At the risk of upsetting every work culture out there, have the conversation with good intentions. Don’t just sit down and unload on someone; be willing to stick it out, pick up the pieces and acknowledge your role in getting to this place. The toxic energy you’ve been working in may just change to a climate of trust and mutual respect, but again, it won’t happen unless you are willing to take the first step.

Julie Thorson’s was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. Thorson is currently a coach for LeadingAge’s Larry Minnix Leadership Academy.  Her “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. President and CEO of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and recently completed LeadingAge’s Leadership Educator Program.