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"I'm not sure."

Meetings for the Day- 3

Calls Scheduled- 4

Unread E-mails- 25

Unanswered Voicemails- 5

Items on To-Do List- 10

Phones Ringing- 2

Calls Scheduled- 4

Just a typical Monday morning for Juliet. However, if you ask her, you’d learn that she actually loves the fast pace of her office and the fact that there is never a dull moment. Juliet is the picture of perfection when it comes to time management, organization, and prioritizing- really, she has never missed a deadline or left an email unread. You could imagine though, with the influx of information coming across her desk each day, it’s impossible for her to remember every single detail that she reads. Juliet may be an organizational guru, but she’s still human!

However, there is one problem. Juliet has developed a habit that when a client asks a question, she provides an immediate response, even if she knows the response could be incorrect. Then, following the call or meeting, Juliet will check her documents and write an apology e-mail to clarify any misinformation. After Juliet's boss Dan received her last apology e-mail, he requested that if Juliet isn’t sure how to respond in the moment, he wants her to say so! Dan believes that it’s better for Juliet to give a correct answer later, rather than give an immediate answer that could be incorrect- BUT, Dan’s tone of voice during meetings still suggests that he wants an immediate response. During these interactions, Juliet’s anxiety peaks because she believes that, “I must answer the client’s question right away, because it is my job to know the answer!” If Juliet continues to believe that she must answer the client’s question right away, there is no way she will be able to talk herself into handling these situations differently.

Let’s start by tackling Juliet’s unhelpful belief that she must answer the client’s question right away. As we discussed in previous blogs, there is no reason that Juliet MUST answer the question right away! If Juliet doesn’t know the correct answer to the question, then how could she possibly answer correctly?! As much as Juliet wants to avoid the potential of her client or boss feeling aggravated about her not knowing the answer, there is no way for her to know everything (…did you see how much she has on her plate!). More often than not, it is better to take your time and give the right answer, rather than knowingly provide a wrong answer. Yes, it’s Juliet’s job to know the answer to her client’s questions, but it’s also her job to manage client relationships. If Juliet continues to provide misinformation to her clients, this could lead to major problems down the road.

The first step to changing this pattern of behavior is for Juliet is to stop demanding. Rather than Juliet making unrealistic demands, it would be much more helpful for Juliet to think, “As much as I wish that I knew the answer, I don’t, and I can’t change that in this moment.” Next, Juliet can take responsibility and put a plan in place. Dan and the client may not be pleased, but Juliet can’t control their reactions. All she can do is to try and follow Dan’s feedback, find the information ASAP, and think about ways she could be better prepared in the future.

Trying to shape your response to “make other people happy” is an impossible feat. We can’t make other people feel a certain way. We just don’t have that kind of control over other people’s reactions- that would make us crazy powerful, no? Even if we try to control situations to minimize the chance of others responding in an unpleasant way, this typically comes at our expense (it’s exhausting) and is not always possible (like in Juliet’s case)! All we can do is to handle our responses to the best of our abilities, brace ourselves for the unexpected, and keep in mind that coping with other people’s negative reactions is an uncomfortable (but inevitable) part of life.

If you feel that you are always fielding difficult conversations and requests, the workdays are dragging, and burnout could be a reality- it may be time to consider a change in jobs. While negative situations and interactions are inevitable, we also have the power to walk away or seek new opportunities… but that’s a topic for next week’s blog. See you back here next week to discuss the difference between dealing, coping, and thriving in the workplace.

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