Generally, when working with clients, it’s often easier to distinguish right person if the client has done a great job at creating meaningful Core Values than it is to distinguish right seat due to the complex nature of performance.

Let’s consider the following scenario:

You have been dreading, for a week now, the conversation that you need to have with Tom. It’s for the good of the organization and needed as a part of your EOS commitment to be “open and honest”.

It should be a simple process and Tom absolutely fits the culture most of the time. Yet, you know from experience, that having any performance or “seat” discussion with Tom is going to trigger… (fill in the blanks) tears, yelling, the silent treatment for a week, or so many questions and excuses about other’s performances (including yours), that it becomes torturous.

Welcome to the world of Controlling Techniques! In her book, “Why Not You?”, Mary Blakely eloquently lays out why some people are so difficult to address issues with, no matter how seemingly fixable the issue may be.

According to Blakely, it boils down to this. Every positive emotion – love, happiness, connectedness, etc., comes from a mental framing of love or more precisely, “I’m Enough”. Every negative emotion -anger, sadness, jealousy, etc., comes from a mental framing of fear or “I’m Not Enough”.

The challenge is that no matter how one tries to address an issue, the person receiving the message has a propensity for mental framing that could go either way. To the extent that one hears in their own mind “I’m Not Enough”, it triggers the reptilian part of our brains that creates a physiological Fight, Flight or Freeze response. This reaction cuts one away from processing the intent of the message. The person is literally consumed with how to gain control and be “safe” again. Very appropriate response for physical threats, but not so much for a positive and productive conversation.

Let’s get back to the conversation with Tom. Due to experience and your hesitancy, let’s assume that Tom tends to frame things from a fear-based reaction. He’s going to react in one of four ways to gain control of the situation. People have their favorites but the basic controlling techniques are:

  1. The Aggressor: He gets big, loud, and intimidating. Tom tries to make you back off by making you afraid of him in some way.
  2. The Inquisitor: Tom asks so many questions about the situation, others’ influence on the negative outcome, your biases, etc. He tries to make you back off by getting you to doubt yourself and the conclusion you’ve drawn that Tom is the problem.
  3. The Insulator: Tom shuts down and gives you the silent treatment or the modern version of Freeze. Tom tries to get you to go away and as Robert De Niro says, “Forget about it”.
  4. Pity Me: He starts to tear up or even wail. Tom is heartbroken that you’ve lost faith in him or don’t “like” him anymore. He tries to get you to back off by making you feel bad and get you to provide care for the hurt that you’ve caused.

Your conversation with Tom has now morphed from a simple “right seat” correction discussion to a larger “right person” issue. You cannot help Tom recalibrate to approach the issue from an “I’m Enough” perspective. If, or when, this becomes a pattern, Tom may need to depart the bus at the next stop because now he may not meet the organization’s values.

One last tip: We all do this! Next time you’re feeling angry, frustrated, anxious, etc., ask yourself, “What am I afraid of and what am I trying to control?” See what happens when you actively reframe your fears to “I’m Enough”!

Next Steps