Accommodating PD from partner organization

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Wilderhearts

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Accommodating PD from partner organization
« on: September 15, 2018, 12:08:24 AM »
So I work on a project and manage dealing with our main stakeholder.  She's shown a lot of PD traits - she seems to think that truth is malleable and will give me different versions of the truth, to the extent that she'll say one thing and then tell me the literal opposite some weeks later.   I probably let 70% of things slide and make a note to myself of things I can't take her word on.  It's necessary for our work to maintain a functional relationship. 

SO.  I was convening a big meeting for this project.  We've kept the stakeholder informed, out of sheer courtesy.  She started giving us her "approval" on attendees.  We made it clear these ARE the attendees - we're not asking for her approval, but we took her input on one additional attendee.  Fast forward a few months to this week.  I let everyone on our team and stakeholders know who's confirmed their attendance.  I clearly state that  *our team* has suggested and/or discussed the attendance of each person and *reached consensus* on the invitee list, just to make it clear this is not up for discussion/debate.  The two people invited from her organization had declined.  She responds - to everyone on the email - that a different individual from her organization is attending and instructs me to include him on all future emails. 

Well I saw red.  After clearly articulating this is *not* her meeting and she ultimately has no say, she goes over my head, publicly, so I can't address her crossing of this line without making an ordeal out of it and creating a very awkward situation with the person she's invited.  Without consulting us. 

On the positive - we do need alternative representation from their organization so they're not only getting her "version" of the meeting.  I sent the person she "invited" a polite email thanking him for standing in for the usual members from their organization.  I have not responded to her, even to let her know that I've contacted him, and I don't think I will.  I don't know if that's the best way to go, but I don't want to take the bait, or give her any kind of indication her behaviour was acceptable, because it absolutely is not.

I still have to work with this very conniving, deceitful person.  I've gone out of my way to be accommodating, so the organization would be comfortable working with us, after my predecessor (who has her own PD traits that I've experienced first hand) completely shat the bed with them.  I'm thinking now the accommodations need to stop.  immediately.  But how?  Where is the line between being too accommodating so that she can take advantage of that generosity, and maintaining a good working relationship? 

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Bloomie

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Re: Accommodating PD from partner organization
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2018, 12:46:17 PM »
Wilderhearts - What a gracious and kind way to handle a very difficult situation. I am wondering something as I read through this.... is it possible to give her less information ahead of time and read her in only at the very last minute and when absolutely necessary to give her less opportunity to do something like this?

Obviously, I know nothing more than what you have shared here, but I believe it is also possible to kindly and firmly address what she did with her privately. Sounds like you are recently in this position and this could be a shot across the bow on her part to see how far she can cross boundaries with Wilderhearts and what you will do in response.

Most likely something like this will happen again if this is a pattern of behavior. So, is this an opportunity to briefly, firmly, and in a friendly tone, approach this as if the person doesn't realize her actions do not work for your organization and going forward you will not be able to accommodate changes she makes like this.

Just some thoughts. Only you know best how to balance the flow of info and when to speak up and when to let it go. Good luck with this! It sounds like a sticky one all the way around. 

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Wilderhearts

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Re: Accommodating PD from partner organization
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2018, 10:39:07 PM »
Thanks Bloomie - those are kind words.  I think you're right in that I need to give her less information.  I can't withhold times and locations of meetings to the last minute, because she's still central to the process, and that would not work well.   I can limit her involvement in planning, however.

We had the meeting and it's become clear to me she can't respect boundaries - she kept derailing the meeting trying to push her agenda, despite multiple people reiterating the purpose of the meeting on multiple occasions.  The person she "invited" was almost as bad and was basically asking us to JADE our work.  I'm not surprised but I am disappointed.  (The rest of the meeting went well though!)  I thought that being accommodating would prevent this.  Looks like she's going to try and take control of things well outside of her control no matter what I do.  That quote you have about manipulation Bloomie is exactly the angle she took.   

I think you're right that this is a test of my boundaries.  Is it wise to speak directly to her about her behaviour?  Is that just an invitation to DARVO, even if I approach it in a friendly way that gives her the benefit of the doubt?  I thought I may just need to silently have firmer boundaries and give her fewer opportunities to manipulate.  I'm not well practiced using the toolbox tools so I'm just not sure what that conversation would look like if done well...I'm gonna go visit the toolbox.  Thanks for the suggestion.

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Bloomie

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Re: Accommodating PD from partner organization
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2018, 12:41:36 PM »
I am glad the meeting went well, but sorry the controlling power moves were an issue. There is a really great model for handling high conflict people that can be used in any setting, but that I have used particularly in the business setting when responding in writing especially, that may be helpful.

It was developed by a man named Bill Eddy and here is a link to some free articles that may be helpful found here:
https://www.highconflictinstitute.com/free-articles/

And tips and info on using Eddy's technique in responding to high conflict people which is BIFF (brief, informational, friendly, and firm) are found here: https://www.highconflictinstitute.com/blog/

There is even an article on the BIFF blog about how to establish civility in meetings which may offer some suggestions that will be helpful.

As you are establishing yourself with this person it may be a time when something like her crossing a boundary and inviting another person to a meeting arises again to kindly and firmly communicate that you accommodated this one time in the spirit of kindness as she had already included this other person, but going forward any additions of invitees to meetings you are hosting will be done by you or your team.

It is kind and civil to set boundaries. For example, redirecting someone who is taking over a meeting and pushing their agenda is effective leadership. If they persist, directly and kindly telling them the subject they are raising will have to be addressed another time as that is not the focus of this meeting is assertive and proper and fully within your purview as the one leading the project and running the meeting.

In my own experiences with similar behaviors in the workplace it almost begins to feel like I am in the presence of a provocateur so having some tools in my tool belt and empowering myself to speak up, redirect someone, become savvy in my communication has been a really good opportunity for growth for me.

Another person I have gleaned some tools from and particularly like because he is always coming from the place of kindness and civility is Dan O'Connor. His videos are short and he is high energy, but I have found he has some simple phrases and techniques that are easy to remember and helpful when we are learning how to assertively communicate.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5Zb02pmVD2VA7lnx8mV4gw

So, some things that have helped me that I hope offer a bit of help to you.  :)

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Wilderhearts

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Re: Accommodating PD from partner organization
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2018, 06:57:59 PM »
Bloomie, those are great resources.  Thank you so much for sharing.  I've read at least  four articles already, including writing BIFF responses (https://www.highconflictinstitute.com/free-articles/2018/3/11/responding-to-hostile-mail-biff?rq=BIFF) and civil meeting guidelines (https://www.highconflictinstitute.com/blog/a-respectful-meeting-policy).

I'll take the civil meeting guidelines to my team.  I think posting a policy on meeting conduct would be overkill, and ineffective because she does the opposite of whatever she's told is needed or acceptable.  We did have an agenda which was referenced repeatedly when multiple team members redirected the conversation to the original purpose of the meeting.  No one cut her off, however.  On the positive, this was modelling respectful behaviour.  But on the negative, she was able to eat up much too much airtime, despite not being able to suck anyone into the conversation she wanted to have (I am impressed with all attendees for not taking the bait).  She is in a powerful position, and I don't expect other attendees to shush her, so we can't place that burden on others. 

I think my options, once I consult with the team, are to have a BIFF conversation with her and then depending on the outcome give her very limited opportunities to...derail and sidetrack.  Meaning perhaps we have meetings without her.

Thanks again,
WH

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Wilderhearts

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Re: Accommodating PD from partner organization
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2018, 01:07:59 AM »
Just a follow-up to this -

I recently had another meeting that went very smoothly by comparison.  I brought along a junior associate to give her some experience (no pressure on her to respond - I was handing negotiations).  After our post-meeting meeting, she asked me if I knew the term 'gas lighting.'

We both cracked up.

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Bloomie

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Re: Accommodating PD from partner organization
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2018, 11:21:32 AM »
Wilderhearts - That is a wonderful update! These are strategies that I have found do help to ground me if nothing else. Thankful you have a colleague that is savvy about this being PD behaviors as well. :chickendance:

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Wilderhearts

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Re: Accommodating PD from partner organization
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2018, 11:46:43 PM »
Thanks Bloomie!