How to Handle Negative Energy with Grace

How do you respond to negative energy and confrontational situations? Doug Hill tells us a beautiful story of how small gestures can have a great impact. Enjoy. – Laura

I walked into the office last week and as I turned the corner to my desk, I witnessed it.  It was the breaching of the dam, the beginning of the next world war, the straw that broke the elephant’s back (I’m not sure why we always say “camel”, I would assume an elephant has a stronger back than a camel?).  What I witnessed was a category manager refuting the numbers that he saw on his monthly sales report with the developer who coded the report.

In one corner you have a developer doesn’t possess the greatest of tact or personality skills and has a hair trigger temper.  In the other corner you have a category manager doesn’t possess the ability to talk “to” someone, rather “at” someone and has often shifted blame on to anything and everything for slumping sales numbers.  Thus the battle of the century was about to begin.

I continued past the title bout and took my seat at my cubical.  The bout didn’t last much after the bell.  Before I knew it, words colored with profanity began to elevate in volume.  Within minutes the C.I.O. broke up the heated exchange and sent them off to their corners.

So here I sat within 20 feet of a steaming developer who is grumbling word fragments under his breath like Yosemite Sam.  Considering my next move, I weighed my options.  My original plan was to discuss a project with that particular developer, however I wisely reconsidered and rescheduled our discussion for another day, citing I needed more time to do deeper analysis.  It’s usually there where my plan ends and I keep one eye on the emergency exit and the other eye on ol’ Yosemite Sam.  However that day was different.  That day I decided to become an ambassador of kindness.

I went out to the vending area and purchased a can of Coke.  Then I opened up Word and typed two simple characters, the colon and the right parenthesis creating the well overused emoticon smile along with the words, “I hope your day improves. :)”  I waited until he left his desk and quickly placed the can of Coke and the smiley face piece of paper like an office ninja.  He returned to his cubical and he immediately saw the note and the can.  I had to be careful and not turn around, giving my anonymity away.  I caught out of my peripheral sight a curious developer scanning the office looking for someone to make eye contact with. However due of my precision office ninja skills, I was able to get away with the act of kindness.

I didn’t know the impact of that simple gesture until many months later.  For months I escaped from entering his three-sided carpeted wall domain.  Any meeting I had with him was either at my desk, in a conference room or on the web. But months after the neuclear meltdown and the office ninja mission, I walked over to his desk to discuss a question he had on a functional design spec.  When I turned the corner, I was caught off guard.  There on his eye level metal shelf sat that very can of coke and the smiley face note.  It was at that moment that I realized this simple gesture was worth far more than the two quarters and the five minutes of my life it took to do it.

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Comments

  1. Imtiaz Ahmed says

    Doug, Excellent post. I must say this might be a small thing for most of us which we tend to ignore. Thanks for reminder. I know what to do when someone is my office is having a bad day.

  2. Doug, nice post. It is amazing… both how far a simple gesture can go and the fact that people do not understanding that… people do not believe something that simple can have a lasting impact and then talk themselves out of doing anything.

    – Jake

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