Originally published in Utah Business.
We’ve all experienced it: a boss, a coworker, a friend, a family member, or some other person who grinds you down. They use their negative energy to thwart, hurt, offend, or stand in the way of your peace and progress. In extreme cases, you may even struggle to pick up the pieces and stand your ground.
Many names exist for these types of people. In a work setting, it may be a control freak, a jealous coworker, or a power monger. In a family setting, it may be a sibling or uncle who always says something critical or tries to manipulate you. Among friends, it may be the person who never pays back a debt, always seems to criticize, or lets their jealousy or insecurities derail or detract from a healthy relationship. In some (extreme) cases, it can be a full-blown narcissist who targets you, someone who has an exaggerated sense of importance and an inability to recognize your needs and feelings.
I’m fond of a saying coined by Silicon Valley marketing expert and author Guy Kawasaki. Writing to entrepreneurs he coined the phrase, “Don’t let the bozos grind you down.” Mr. Kawasaki’s message was directed towards business startups, but I like to apply the phrase to everyday life. Too often we let people who don’t have our best interests at heart bring us down. I call these people “bozos.”
ENERGY VAMPIRES AT WORK
Note the use of the verb “grind” in the phrase “don’t let the bozos grind you down.” The people I’m talking about wear you down inch-by-inch and moment-by-moment. It’s not a one and done deal, but rather a long, milling process. You feel yourself being ground through a millstone, often not realizing what’s happening or how best to stop. By the time you reach the other end, you are nothing like the way you started. Now, you are worn, used, and compromised. Your aspirations have not been reached, despite your best efforts and you’re left asking “why?”with a nagging feeling that something went wrong. Life should be different.
I know what you’re thinking: so what’s the business connection? I can think of several. We know culture makes a huge difference in the health and success of organizations. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella feels so strongly about this point that he wrote about it in his recent book Hit Refresh. He said the “C” in CEO should stand for culture. It’s difficult to create a great culture with a bunch of bozos running around.
We also know our experiences with friends and family can impact our business and work success. It’s difficult to be at our best in sales, customer service, a strategy session, or leadership position when we feel anger, abuse, or heartache in our personal life. Bozos can wreak havoc with our professional productivity and effectiveness.
HOW TO HANDLE THEM
So what do we do? Bad people exist and we aren’t going to change that. What we can change is how we deal with them. I’d like to offer two suggestions for coping with the bozos in our lives.
First, practice the wisdom of bless and release. The “bless” part of this couplet comes from your goodness; the release part comes from your intelligence. Bless all people with the ability to change, become better, and find peace and happiness in life. But don’t feel like you have to invite these people into your inner circle. Put your intelligence to work and release them. Let them go.
The second suggestion involves perspective, a word and concept I treasure. In this usage, perspective means taking a more comprehensive view of the world and human life. Perspective requires two things when dealing with difficult personalities.
People who grate on you, target you, torment you, or otherwise make your life difficult, have problems of their own. Give them that space. It would be wonderful if all people were caring, compassionate, empathetic, and filled with integrity. They are not. Manage your expectations.
Next, be gentle with yourself, but remember the benefit of trials. Every single challenge I have had in life has made me a better person. Every single one. While you can’t know it while suffering, it is true. Hard things can make great people. Don’t experience the pain without reaping the benefit. Use this experience to improve.
When a bozo stands in the way of your business, personal happiness or progress as a human being, bless and release them, rekindle perspective about how people are complex and imperfect, and remember: you are better for your trials. The saying, “no mud, no lotus” is as true as it’s ever been.