Don’t Go Nuclear! Learn to respond, not react

from The Reactor Factor – Chapter 3 Responses – and yes you always want to respond!

by Marsha Petrie Sue –

wpe711. Your colleague presents a project that the two of you just completed. You keep waiting for him to mention your part in the project, because you know that you came up with the idea for the winning solution. However, he is nearing the end of the presentation – and still hasn’t said your name.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Interrupt your colleague before they complete the presentation and say, “Thank you so much John for presenting our project. It has been a real pleasure working with you and thanks to all of you to listening to our information!” Stay gracious and smiling. Easy? No way! But you are now responding not reacting.


2. As the team leader, you are responsible for ensuring that all members are prepared for the client presentation. One teammate named Jerry is not there, and you must begin without him. Halfway through your presentation, Jerry comes racing in makes a commotion that the client notices, and flops down without apology.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Acknowledge Jerry’s entrance by saying, “Apologizes for Jerry’s late arrival. He is working on a project with another team and as you know, we don’t always have control over other people (SMILE).” After the meeting, tell Jerry that if he is going to be late, please don’t show up at all. Text another team member and tell them you are not coming. Have a signal with this other team member, which will be your queue to apologize for Jerry’s absence with the same kind of excuse. Easy? No way! But you are now responding not reacting.


3. The media is buzzing about the recent changes in your company – and they are not positive. You are confused, and you have no idea how to go forward. Your boss is always in meetings, and information about the changes is not being shared.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Do your job without a flinch. Don’t get caught up in the gossip. Google the company, issue or story and read what you can. Check your company’s web site and read news releases. Anything that covers the gossip, print and attach a handwritten note, “Is there any truth to this? The gossip is rampant.” Easy? No way! But you are now responding not reacting.


4. You have an employee or colleague who constantly lies. These actions make you angry and because of your friendship, you believe that the behavior hurts your credibility and the trust others have in you.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: You can simply become ‘busy’ when they request your company. Or you may choose to call their behavior immediately when it happens. “I understand we all have an opinion and a point of view. Help me understand where you got your information because I do not believe it is true so I need to verify it. I’m working hard to build the respect and credibility other have in me. That is why I will never lie.  Easy? No way! But you are now responding not reacting.


5. You have a good job doing something you enjoy. The prospect of being promoted seems unlikely, but you have faith that something might change. Your competitor approaches and offers you a position, under the condition that you bring all of your current clients with you to the new company. The ethics of the situation cross your mind, but the competitor is willing to double your pay.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Ethics and core values first! If you have a non-compete clause with your current employer, the focus should be on that agreement. If you do not have a non-compete clause, let your conscience be your guide. Be careful not to react and go against your ethical values with a sane response.


6. You keep your desk organized and neat. Because of the type of position that you are in, other people need access to your desk and supplies. You can tell when your colleague Joan has been at your works area, because she leaves everything in disarray. You have approached her, and she always responds by telling you to “cool down.” You are quickly approaching the end of your rope with Joan.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Approach Joan face to face. Potential language to use: “Joan, I need your help. My manager has approached me and asked me why sometimes my desk is in disarray and not as neat as it usually is. You know what a stickler they are for tidiness. Could you please do me a favor and if you do need something from my desk could you please just make sure that the desk stays neat? I really appreciate your help and thanks so much.” This way you maintain the relationship with Joan, and hopefully this will work. Here’s the rub: you may have to do that kind of interaction several times so this becomes a response not a reaction! You are now responding not reacting.


7. Danny is an important member of your team, and an excellent producer, but he comes in late and leaves early. Others are questioning you as to why he gets away with this behavior. You don’t want to lose Danny as an employee, but you have to respond in some way, because the other team members have written you a fairly caustic joint letter on the topic.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Respond to Danny’s behavior by using this type of language: “Danny, I need your help. You are a wonderful team member and I know you are always looking for ways to help. I need everyone to be here at the same time, 8:00 and to leave at the appropriate time, not early. Of late, you are arriving late and leaving early. This is not the example I need for you to set. Is there any reason you can’t be on time and leave on time? The group looks at you as a role model and they follow suit. Can I count on you to make that change? You are now responding not reacting.


8. Your employee Bob does only what is expected of him: no more, and no less. He is always on time and never misses a day of work. However, the dynamics of your business, customers and projects demand that you have someone who is creative and takes initiative. Meanwhile, Bob approached you and asked to reduce his workload because he is overwhelmed. You don’t know what to do.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Look at Bob’s job description and make sure it has ‘soft’ skills included in it like creativity and initiative. Schedule a private meeting with Bob and review all of the elements on the job description. Ask him if he has any questions as to what the expectations are to his daily work schedule. Then ask him what the consequences should be if this job description and the expected outcomes are not achieved. Typically an employee will say, “I should be fired!” You can then say, “Well let’s get that in writing.” Ask them other consequences that should be included if the outcomes are not met. Review them, and have the employee agree that these are appropriate. You now have a document explaining what they should be doing and what the terms are for being written up or ultimately being terminated. You are now responding not reacting.


9. You lose your job without warning with three months severance pay. Though your current company has offered assistance in finding your next position, the grapevine is telling you that this is lip service – and that the company really doesn’t care what happens to you.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Every employee should always be ready for the unexpected. If you don’t have one, make sure your resume is current. Even if the company does come through and help with finding a new position, you should strike out on your own and post your resume in as many places as you possibly can. You should also be networking and growing the Contacts in your address book. Your social media networking is critical also. If you are not currently a member of LinkedIn, make sure you develop a page for yourself. This is a great place for people to find you and understand exactly what you do. Don’t be afraid to blow your own horn and explain what you have done well. Just don’t come across as being arrogant or egocentric. This way, you will always respond appropriately to corporate decisions.


10. Someone starts a rumor about you in the office that is not true. You know who has done it but are hesitant to approach him because you fear retribution. His actions have not always been in the best interest of the business, and you have proof of this.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: If the rumor does not affect your work outcome, drop it. If it does influence your work outcome, talk to the person privately and say, “I’ve been hearing something that really is disconcerting to me. If you happen to know who was saying this I sure would appreciate your letting me know because this really does have to come to an end. You and I know it is not true. Do you know who might be? If you do either let me know or if you could tell them to stop it that would be great. This really could be considered defamation of character. But I don’t really want to go there. Thanks so much for your help.” You are now responding not reacting.


11. Your raise is not what you expected and you are having a difficult time setting another meeting with your boss. Other employees have already complained to her about their raises.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Ask for a private meeting with your boss and don’t speak to anyone at work about this situation. Use language like. “I’m quite surprised that my pay increase is not keeping up with my work performance. Could you please help me understand why?” I would also recommend going into the meeting armed with data from your industry and for your particular position. Have some statistics and pay grades of people within either the company or outside of your group and what they are being paid.


12. You get blindsided by feedback during a public meeting. You know that the other attendees are wrong, and you need to straighten this out before it get’s any worse.


React or respond? What action and initiative do you take?

Consideration: Take a deep breath and don’t get upset. That is the worst thing that you can do. Asked the question, “That is an interesting perspective. It’s not my understanding. I’d be very interested to drill down on this and find out exactly why you believe in what you’re saying or data that backs it up. We can either address this right now, knowing we have a limited amount of time, or we can discuss it after the session.” You are now responding not reacting.


Additional questions?

Email Marsha Petrie Sue at

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