Dr. Kathy Obear

Identify Your Hot Buttons to Effectively Navigate Workplace Conflict

– Posted in: Navigating triggers, workplace dynamics

identify your hot buttons | what makes you angryFinding yourself frustrated with coworkers, managers, or employees? If you feel that your ‘hot buttons’ are being pushed at work and you’re ready to take action and gain some tools to navigate these situations of office politics and workplace conflict, keep reading…

You’re leading an important meeting or making a presentation when someone interrupts you and takes over.

A key project deadline is missed when someone drops the ball and doesn’t follow through on what he promised to deliver.

While talking one-on-one with a direct report, she seems distracted – continually checking her phone and scrolling through messages.

Sound familiar? People often share these and similar challenging workplace situations with me, and I can definitely affirm I’ve encountered every one of them in my own career.

>>>Take the first step in knowing how to respond more effectively with my free quiz to help you identify your common hot buttons<<<

Not every frustrating situation is “negative.”

It’s easy to think of triggering situations that push our buttons as negative, like the examples I’ve shared above. While most are, we can also feel an intense rush of distracting emotions even in situations we deem “positive.”

overwhelmed at work | frustrated with coworkersConsider a setting where someone has just been assigned to lead a large project. She may feel a wave of excitement mixed with anxiety as she wonders if she’s competent enough to handle her new role. If she becomes overly focused on her new opportunity (and her ability to fulfill the new demands the role requires), she may become too distracted and overwhelmed to fully carry out her current job responsibilities.

Or, a triggering situation may start at home and essentially “spill over” into the workplace. One of my clients shared this story…she was enthusiastically preparing for a holiday gathering before heading out to work one morning. Everything was going well until the doorbell rang. She was in such a state of heightened excitement that she fell over the cat, overturned a casserole dish she’d worked hard to prepare, and sustained a sizable bruise in the process.

By the time she made it to the office, her early excitement quickly turned to overwhelm when she learned that one of her team leads failed to meet an important project deadline. Instead of approaching the situation the way she normally would, she found herself making accusations without taking the time to understand fully what had happened.

>>>Know your hot buttons – take my Quiz now to better understand what triggers you<<<

One of Your hot buttons has been pushed. Now what?

Almost without thinking, you react on automatic pilot when one of your hot buttons has been pushed. Maybe you freeze. Maybe you flee (or want to!). Or maybe you fight back with anger or frustration.

identify your hot buttons | what makes you angryWhen you react to a triggering situation in any of these ways, the consequences can be significant: escalating tensions, eroded working relationships, lost productivity…and the list goes on.

I like to say that triggers are “in the eye of the beholder,” meaning that the same situation will produce varying reactions among people. Think of it like this: you’re at a workshop when the presenter cracks what he apparently believes is a funny joke.

A few people laugh along with him. The person sitting next to you is half asleep and barely has any clue what was just said, and your colleague behind you has been too busy checking her phone to care.

You find the wisecrack offensive and are ready to bolt. While conversing with a friend who attended, she tells you that though she didn’t see the humor in the joke, she didn’t understand how you found it insulting.

Start journaling about your emotional triggers

Identifying your hot buttons is critical for two reasons:

  1. You’ll have a stronger understanding to help you better prepare for and recognize future triggering situations before you react unproductively.
  2. You’ll be able to respond more effectively as you develop a toolkit to help you navigate these triggers – in the workplace and beyond.

How can you get started? One of my favorite recommendations is to journal about your triggers.

You can use any method you want – a standard pen and paper works fine, or use your computer to jot down your thoughts. What’s most important is that you capture:

  • What specifically happened that resulted in you feeling triggered?
  • As it happened, how did you feel? What were you thinking?
  • If you had to rate your emotions on a scale of -10 to +10, where would they fall?
  • What was your reaction?
  • What impact did your reaction have on you and others?

We all face challenging workplace situations. Start by identifying what your hot buttons are, and get a detailed score with individualized next steps when you take my comprehensive, totally free Hot Buttons Quiz today!

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