This topic comes from a situation where we are working with a person who, although a good person, has over the years displayed a kind of bipolar professional behavioral pattern. I am not suggesting that this person is bipolar. Instead, I am suggesting that their professional behavior appears to be a dichotomy; that is to say hot or cold, and without any warning signs that we have been able to read which way the person is going to go.
For many years this was a workable situation, but now the person is in a position that appears to be amplifying this behavior, and the behavior has implications for the work our group does.
So the first question is:
How Do We Work in This Environment?
By “this environment,” I mean any environment that appears to be less than optimal. We have tried multiple meetings to address the issues, but it appears these meetings go nowhere. The person in question agrees to a particular course of action, but then the action that follows is contrary to what was agreed upon—sometimes. This, of course, confuses us, and we do not know how to proceed.
Worse, the actions taken by this other person reflect upon us, and we have to then negotiate the fallout with our other partners.
The goal is to create a strategy that allows us to work effectively in this environment because we cannot or are unable to make any effective change.
What Strategy Can Work?
This is the big question. Figuring out a strategy to work in an environment that is less than optimal, particularly an environment where unsuccessful attempts have been made to change, is very difficult to figure out. A challenge to figuring out the correct path forward is that no path is going to be optimal. Rather, the path to use is the one that mitigates the negative effects as much as possible. In our situation, mitigation is the strategy. The reason for this strategy is there are many complex layers and other entities involved that need to be considered. Recognizing that mitigation is the strategy gets us past continually attempting to change the environment with no success.
We will continue to attempt to address the issues, but we no longer expect this to be the strategy. Any fallout that may occur, with this individual or our other partners, we will have to mitigate at that point.
Why Is Mitigation an Acceptable Strategy?
This is a good question. This situation is made up of many and continually moving parts. Because of this, we do not have a simple answer that would work other than to manage the issues as they occur.
We have thought through many scenarios, and we have planned for how we may handle those different scenarios. Even then, we may run into a scenario that we had not anticipated. This is a case where we must recognize the situation in front of us, and alter our reactions as the situation unfolds. This requires us to rely upon our interpersonal skills—something that is critical for many jobs.
Although this approach is not optimal, it does provide a path to move forward. I wish life were more direct and more simple. The reality is it is not.