Corporate Grub Worms can devastate your company. Stop them!

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Corporate Grub Worms: 
What to Do When Issues 
Bubble Below the Surface

By Dan Coughlin


This summer I had grub worms in my yard. Never really knew what grub worms were until now. So, when a small corner of my front yard turned brown, I thought a neighborís dog had syringed my yard. Then I went away for a business trip for a week, and when I came home the spot was bigger. I made a note to do something about it but of course forgot, and the next time I noticed the yard on the side of my house was dead -- not dying, dead. Turns out it was the work of grub worms. Luckily, I bought some grub worm control stuff and that was the end of them.

Corporate grub worms -- those problems that simmer just below the surface and arenít talked about until they eventually boil over into a much bigger, unnecessary problem -- can be a bit trickier to deal with.

Confronting the Work Grub Worms

You might not believe it, but there could be grub worms lurking in your organization right now. You might even be spreading grub worms yourself without even knowing it! Grub worm spreaders in organizations are those people who smile at meetings, and then rip you apart behind closed doors. They usually do it with a smile, and it all seems so polite. Before you know it, issues you didnít even know were being discussed are the reason why you arenít getting the opportunities you used to get.

Rather than ignoring the grub worms in your organization or just making a note to address them, I encourage you to get busy and eliminate them before your "career yard" is dead and you have to put down massive amounts of grub control to get the issues resolved.

Whether itís at work or home, there arenít many things in life more thorny than having a difficult conversation. These are the conversations where you have to discuss an issue with someone you live with or work with that neither of you really want to discuss. But, if you donít deal with them, you could end up with a much more serious problem on your hands.

Problems with Avoiding Difficult Conversations


The issues fester, and you grow more frustrated.


What youíre not discussing actually becomes bigger and inevitably worse than the actual issue.


A lack of trust builds up between you and the other person, and that lack of trust spreads to other people, especially if one of the participants is talking about the issue with other people.

Benefits of Having Difficult Conversations


You get to clear the air between the two of you.


You uncover what the other personís perspective really is.


You have a chance to build a stronger relationship in the future.

Most likely, this conversation isnít going to be easy. So here are a few tips to help guide you through a potentially difficult encounter to a successful outcome.

1. Genuine Caring and Respect

Your face canít fake what your mind is thinking and your heart is feeling. If you donít respect the other person and you donít care about him or her, then donít try to have a difficult conversation. It will only make things worse. So, before you decide to approach this person to have a conversation, youíll have to identify in your mind why you care about this person and why you respect him or her enough to be truly honest during your discussion.

2. Timing

In the midst of a crisis is not the time to have a difficult conversation, even if you had a scheduled meeting with the person. Be sensitive to the factors swirling around the potential conversation. If the person is clearly worn out, then reschedule for a better time.

3. Privacy

Never have a difficult conversation in front of other people. Go to a private space where the two of you can talk without anyone seeing your facial expressions or overhearing your comments.

4. Two-Way Tact

Lack of tact is a game killer in these situations -- for both individuals. If the person shares how he or she felt, and you say, "Youíre being too sensitive," youíve just ruined the moment. Donít tell people they are "too anything" -- thatís your opinion, not a fact. Stick to facts or theyíre bound to get upset.

5. Honesty Based on Observed Behaviors

Now that youíve properly prepared yourself for the conversation, youíre ready to start it. Take this approach: say, "This is what I saw happen, and this is what I felt. I saw ___, and consequently I felt ____. What are your thoughts on that situation?" Or if you didnít see it, but youíve heard what happened several times, you could say, "I did not see you say this. However, several people have now relayed these comments to me. So rather than wondering whether theyíre true or not, I just want to talk with you about the situation. Is that what you said?"

And then listen. Moreover, make sure your words and your non-verbals demonstrate that you really are listening.

If the person says it is correct, then you could say, "Ok, based on those comments, this is how I felt. What are your thoughts?" Now youíve initiated the difficult conversation, and the two of you can begin to work toward resolving the underlying issues. Notice how this approach is far more effective than letting the situation grow larger and larger in your mind.

6. Clarity

Avoid the temptation to talk in vague terms. Instead, be very clear about what you saw or what youíve heard, and how it made you feel. Thatís it. Donít tell the other person he or she is wrong. Simply state your point of view, and then let the other person respond.

7. Time Frame

You want an opportunity to have a relaxed, candid, and open conversation, not a rushed, in-your-face-and-out-the-door conversation. Establish a large enough time frame for your conversation so you can get your ideas on the table and the other person can get his or her ideas and feelings on the table. And then build in a little extra time so you two can wind down the conversation in a relaxed mode. Rushing these conversations can ruin not only your day, but also the day of the other person and the day of all the people you two will interact with.

8. Openness to Response

When you open up and let another person know about a situation that bothered you, be genuinely open to listening while the other person shares a situation that bothered him or her. Donít become defensive. Simply listen to what the other person has to say, and consider it. Donít run off and talk about it with other people. Just consider it.

9. Follow-Up Conversation

At the end of the difficult conversation, schedule a time to meet with the person again within two weeks to discuss the issues once more. Having one difficult conversation is not going to resolve the issue, or the feelings you both have. Get together again and discuss how you both feel now. Guaranteed, after youíve both had time to think it over, it wonít be nearly as difficult as the first conversation.  

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This page last updated on

08/01/08 17:31











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