Confronting the Sniping Leads to Trust

Sometimes people get angry about how things are going in the work environment. And when people don’t know how to express that anger appropriately it comes out in very inappropriate behaviors and/or statements. If you have ever been seen by another person as the source of his or her anger because your actions interfered in getting something he or she wanted, then you might have been the target of some of this angry behavior or nasty comments. Dealing with this difficult behavior is not an easy task and can have a significant impact on the trust level.

In the book Dealing With People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, the authors, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr, Rick Kirschner, describe this inappropriate anger or frustration as the behavior of a sniper waiting to attack and destroy the opposition. This sniping behavior comes in the form of rudeness, sarcastic humor, nasty tones of voice, or simply the rolling of one’s eyes. A more sophisticated form of sniping includes the use of confusion thorough irrelevant comments that draw people off track. Whatever the behavior used, the strategy is to do whatever it takes to gain control of the situation and get things done according to the person doing the sniping.

However, not all sniping is meant to be harmful. Sometimes, individuals are just trying to get attention through their sniping behavior. These individuals will use teasing with the intent to make people laugh to draw attention. But, even this well intended behavior can go too far and create damage in the work environment.

So how do we address this sniping behavior and enhance the trust within the working environment? It is easy to get caught up in the competitive aspect of this behavior and want to “one-up” the person. However, this may only backfire and lead to a very destructive relationship with the other person. Therefore, the first line of defense against sniping is to accept that it happens and not let it sway you from your mission or task. By accepting sniping for what it is, an attempt to gain control or shift the attention, and not react to this attempt, you can cause the behavior to lose its power.

So don’t take the sniping personally. Instead focus your attention on the person doing the sniping and not on your immediate gut reaction to the sniping. Because sniping is a symptom of insecurity, you need to understand that you are dealing with a person who does not know how to appropriately address her or his anger or frustration. Therefore, this insecurity is hidden by the sniping behavior.

To deal with the sniping behavior and build the trust in the work environment, you must bring the sniping individual into the open and not allow the individual to hide behind the destructive behavior. Deal directly and firmly with the sniping behavior and take the sting or fun out of the situation. So when you hear the sniping comments stop whatever you are doing and focus on those comments and the individual making those comments. If it is not a comment, but a facial expression, do a quick imitation of the behavior. In either case, make certain the comments or expression are repeated for the individual, and others, to hear and see.

Once the comments are repeated you can now search for why the individual made those comments. Ask the person what he or she is really trying to say with the comments. If the comments are way off base, ask the individual what the comments have to do with what is being covered. But, be careful that you don’t use sniping behavior in your questioning. Ask the questions with the sincere intent to understand what it is that the sniping person is trying to say or express. Your calmness will exhibit a powerful and professional demeanor.

Once the sniping behavior is out in the open, you can now begin to work toward a common understanding of the situation and a mutual agreement as to how to proceed. With this approach you are demonstrating to the individual that there is a more productive manner to address problems and reach a resolution. In so doing, you have demonstrated to the individual that you can be trusted and you are not out to harm anyone, but that you will not be intimidated by the sniping behavior either. The result is an enhanced level of trust in the work environment.

Until next time, I hope your new year is one of learning and growing in your relationships with others and that your work environment is more productive for all.