Neutralizing The Toxic Dumper

by Francie Dalton on November 23, 2010

doves in flightThis is Part II of a two-part series

Last week in Part One, we established five solid reasons why you should take action immediately to nuke the toxic dumper in your workplace.

This week, you’ll learn specific techniques for neutralizing your toxic dumper – whether that person is your boss, a peer, or your subordinate.

If the toxic dumper is your superior

Technique #1: the moment you notice this toxic dumper headed your way, stand up and start gathering your things as though you’re heading off to a meeting. As the person enters your office, look up and smile, saying, “I’m almost late for a meeting; we’ll have to catch up later. How about lunch tomorrow?”

Technique #2, and this next idea works well if the buttons of your phone are not visible to entrants:

When you see this toxic dumper coming, look at your phone and say, “Sure I’ll be happy to hold.” As the dumper enters your office, say, “I’m on hold – we’ll have to talk later. How about lunch tomorrow?”

Technique #3: As the dumper enters your office, simply say, “I’m on an impossible deadline for an urgent project for my boss. Can we talk later? How about lunch tomorrow?”

The good news is that these three approaches don’t require you to confront the issue directly. Instead, you can skirt the actual issue, while simultaneously establishing a pattern of busy-ness that may be adequate to dissuade further similar interruptions.

Perhaps most importantly, these tips begin to set the expectation that such interactions be limited to lunchtime.

Remember: you’ll need to follow-up on that offer for lunch!

If the toxic dumper is your peer

If your peer dumper is a friend, or if you’re uncomfortable with confrontation, one of these two fairly benevolent approaches may be helpful:

(a) “You know, you’ve been struggling with this issue for a long time. How about if you take the issue up with the relevant parties and talk it out with them; or

(b) “I empathize with your issues, but talking with you about them during work hours is causing me to get behind in my work. Could we take these conversations offline? I’d be happy to meet you for breakfast or lunch…”

If you’d rather play hard-ball with your peer dumper, consider some variation of the following:

(a) “You know, at your level you really need to be identifying solutions to problems – not just talking about them. Why not figure out how to solve the problem, and then go implement that solution, instead of complaining to me about it?”

Or, even harder ball: “Look – it’s not that I don’t like you – it’s just that I can’t afford and frankly don’t want to spend time giving succor to your complaints. If you wanted help solving problems, that’s one thing; I’d be willing to carve out time to be helpful.  But you seem only to want to complain – and I’m just not up for that.”

If the toxic dumper is your subordinate

Technique #1: Require that your subordinate identify at least two possible solutions to every problem before bringing the problem to you.

Technique #2: Use the Socratic method. When your subordinate complains about something, don’t respond with advice or solutions.

Instead, ask the specific, successive questions that lead your subordinate through the reasoning process, revealing what you already know to be the appropriate conclusion.

Given the volume of work for which most of us are responsible, we simply must be willing to issue “cease and desist” orders to our toxic dumpers. Using the tips provided in this article should get you off to a good start!

More from Women Grow Business:

Image: Temari 09 via Flickr, Creative Commons

Francie Dalton, CMC, is founder and president of Dalton Alliances, Inc. and author of the recently published book Versatility. Her Washington, DC based consultancy helps the C-Suite solve business nightmares. Francie equips clients to deal with what they didn’t see coming (and shows them there’s always another way to win!). She welcomes a chance to meet you via Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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