We Are All Adults: The Ultimate Red Flag

“We’re all adults here!” That statement is always a big red flag that drama is right around the corner. You can’t rely on good behavior, good decision-making, or good ideas just because people are a certain age and are considered to be “adults.”

Adults hold grudges, make promises they don’t keep, manipulate, pout, and play games. Here are three Skills you can model and teach to those of a certain age to make sure they do indeed act like adults:

  • Separate fact from feeling
  • Go to the source
  • Ask for what you want

Separate fact from feeling Talking about what you think happened is not the same as stating the facts about what actually happened. It’s easy to interpret, assume and make up stories in order to have closure, however stories are based on emotion and feelings, not on fact.

A leader who uses emotion only to make decisions, as well as a leader who uses assumptions to fill in the unknown, sets a poor example for effective, results-based communication.

It’s important to process emotions, however the key to effective decision-making is to distinguish fact from feeling. Knowing your feelings won’t change the facts, but knowing the facts can change your feelings.

Once you master and model the skill of separating fact from feeling you won’t get pulled into story-time with others. You can facilitate the conversation to uncover the facts so you can make right decision rapidly instead of wasting time on the irrelevant. In addition you can coach others to think critically by separating fact from feeling.

Go to the Source As a leader modeling “adult” behavior, you should never talk about an individual’s shortcomings to someone else. Go directly to the source—the one who can either agree or disagree to make the change you seek. As a leader, don’t let Sally come to you to complain about John. The question you want to ask is, “Have you talked to John about this?” (Of course if the other person’s name isn’t John, this may not work.) But seriously, if you want to teach personal responsibility rather than tattling, ask Sally to go straight to John before you intervene. Saves lots of time, and keeps you out of manipulation and game-playing.

Ask for What You Want Complaining is one of the biggest time and energy drains in the workplace. Example #1: An employee complaining about a situation rather than collaborating to facilitate change. Example #2: A leader talking about how bad the employees are instead of asking for the behavior change.

No matter what the position, anyone who constantly complains is one who either does not know what he wants, or does not know how to ask for what he wants.

As a leader, learn how to reinterpret complaining as an opportunity to help clarify the desire and make the request. A statement like, “You never…” is the opportunity to turn the conversation around to “What I’d like from you,” or “It would benefit me if you would…” rather than hinting, complaining or confiding in someone who can’t help make the change.

Proclaiming that things will work out because we are all adults, is almost always a red flag for pending drama. Instead, enlightened leaders view communication as a strategy. They know how to distinguish fact from feeling; instead of complaining they go straight to the source, and they get what they want, not through manipulation, or hinting, but by asking for what they want.

Marlene-Blk4Marlene Chism is an executive educator, consultant, and author of Stop Workplace Drama, (Wiley 2011) and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). She works with executives, and high-performing leaders who want to transform culture in the workplace.