June 9, 2022
[00:00:06] Gary Bisbee, Ph.D.: Amy Gallo is a thought leader on workplace relationships and conflict resolution. We sat down to discuss her forthcoming book, “Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone [Even Difficult People]”. Amy described situations where conflict tends to arise and advises us to not shy away from disagreements. Friction has benefits. Challenging and building off of each other’s ideas and assumptions results in better work outcomes and stronger relationships. When it comes to conflict, Amy lays out how we can handle it better. In general, try to think about the other person in an empathetic light and resist the urge to villainize them. Amy breaks down her advice further into eight archetypes of difficult people. We’ve dived into two of those archetypes, co-workers who are passive aggressive and those who know-it-all. For example, Amy notes, that overconfident know-it-alls tend to respect confidence in others. So it’s important to match their energy. And remember, their behavior is often a reflection of their own insecurities, not a judgment of you. Yes, Amy advises us to be the adult in the room, since that is the one thing we can control.
Well, good afternoon, Amy. And welcome.
[00:01:24] Amy E. Gallo: Thanks for having me, Gary.
[00:01:26] Dr. Gary Bisbee: We’re pleased to have you at this microphone. This show, as you know Amy, is about leadership and leaders and the decisions they make and how they set their priorities. Your work is also on leadership, focus on workplace, conflict, relationships. And we’ll get into all of that here in a moment. But as a backdrop, why don’t we get to know you a bit better? So what was your life like growing up, Amy?
[00:01:54] Amy E. Gallo: Well, I grew up outside Hartford, Connecticut, raised by a single mom and had an older brother. And it was an interesting upbringing, partly because my dad was a teacher and my mom was a lobbyist. She owned her own business. So neither were actually in what we consider traditional offices. So I really didn’t think much about leadership or management or even office dynamics growing up. It was just not something I observed. It was part of our lives.
[00:02:25] Dr. Gary Bisbee: You are a workplace exper,. So when did you pick up that interest? Amy?
[00:02:30] Amy E. Gallo: Yeah. So I started, right after college, went into my first full-time job working for a nonprofit that did HIV prevention work in Russia and in the US and it was a joint Russian-American organization. And as a sociology major in college, I was really interested about and how organizations work. And I saw right from the beginning, really the influence of a manager or a leader and their skillset on how well those teams and organizations functioned. And as a management consultant, which was the next step in my career, sort of a left turn, in my career, what I really saw was when we were working with clients, the clients and my colleagues were very interested in strategy and business models. And I was really intrigued by the dynamics in the room when people were discussing those things. So I got very curious about how these conversations were happening, how communication affected strategy and business models and outcomes. And in particular, what happened when people didn’t get along and how that influenced the outcomes they were hoping to achieve.
[00:03:44] Dr. Gary Bisbee: So you’re now a contributing editor to Harvard Business Review among other things that you do, some of which we’ll cover here in a moment. But what responsibilities do you have as a contributing editor?
[00:03:56] Amy E. Gallo: Oh, I do a whole bunch of things. That would be hard to summarize. But mostly I am acquiring and editing articles. I also do a lot of writing of articles. I participate in Harvard Business Review’s Women at Work podcast as a cohost. I get involved in video projects and audio projects. It’s a really fun portfolio of things I get to do in that role.
[00:04:19] Dr. Gary Bisbee: So among your authorships you wrote dealing with conflict, HBR guide, which is a classic, I would say. What got you interested in the actual conflict side of things?
[00:04:31] Amy E. Gallo: As You I was saying about my management consultant days, I was always very intrigued when people would have differences of opinion, tensions in a room, when people would conflict over where then organization should be going or how they should be carrying out priorities they had agreed upon. And when I started working with Harvard Business Review, I was really drawn to articles about those interpersonal dynamics and how people navigate them. And so the HBR guide series is ,we have the HBR guide to negotiating, to managing up and across. And there was some discussion about wanting to do one on conflict. And I quickly raised my hand because I said, this is something I’ve been looking at, researching. I’d love to dig further into the research and the advice that a lot of our HBR authors give. And so the guide really is, I did over 40 interviews with experts from a variety of fields, management, science, emotional intelligence, neuroscience, and took all of that and condensed it into what I consider a very straightforward, practical approach to dealing with conflict with coworkers.
[00:05:43] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Well, I’ll give you a compliment, among many compliments that we could or we’ll give you, but you definitely have a very practical approach to writing and it’s easy to read and it’s easy to apply. So congratulations there. What are the most common sources of conflict? You mentioned a couple, but what did you find the most common sources of conflict are?
[00:06:04] Amy E. Gallo: Well, there’s a couple of things. When you think about it, so much of what I see, especially now in this virtual world that we’re all, many of us, are operating in. A lot of it is about miscommunication and misunderstanding. So we’re just not connecting in the same way that we were previously. And then I will say being this little square on a screen makes me feel less human. And I know that’s true for others. So a lot of it is just about not giving one another the benefit of the doubt, not seeing each other as humans, not giving one another empathy. But when you think about the research on conflict and negotiation, we really think about four types of conflict. And I’ll just quickly mention what those are. There’s task conflicts. So that’s a disagreement over what you’re trying to achieve. What’s the objective? What’s the goal? Then there’s process conflict, which is, you may agree on the goal, and our goal is to increase that customer satisfaction. But we disagree about how we’re going to get there, right? Are we going to pilot a program in one market and then roll it out a refined version of it in all of our markets or are we just going to go out to all of our markets right away, right? So that’s process. There’s also status, which is the disagreement over who gets to make the call, who’s in charge. Very common one. And then lastly, there’s relationship conflicts. And that’s really a personality clash. When people say we just don’t get along or we’ve never seen eye to eye, a lot of that is about those relationship conflicts.
[00:07:37] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Are there any benefits to disagreement in the workplace?
[00:07:41] Amy E. Gallo: Oh, my gosh, so many. And I have to say, if your viewers and listeners don’t take anything away from this other than this one point, I will be fine, although they should take a lot away from it, which is that disagreeing is something we don’t do very well at work. In fact, many of us avoid disagreements, avoid conflicts, or, when we engage, we engage in unhealthy, unproductive ways. And there is just such room for improvement in terms of how we engage around disagreements. We know from research that we have better work outcomes when we’re willing to disagree with each other, higher job satisfaction, stronger relationships. And we create more inclusive environments because, if people feel like they can express their true views, they’re allowed to openly dissent and debate ideas, they’re much more likely to bring in their full selves and their identities and the experiences, different experiences, that they bring to the workplace.
[00:08:40] Dr. Gary Bisbee: I’ve found, at least in my world, that you just can’t take disagreements personally. And if you don’t, it really facilitates the kind of approach you’re talking about. Is that relatively common?
[00:08:52] Amy E. Gallo: Well, there’s two things I’ll say about that. One, I agree. There’s this common advice to separate the person from the problem. And I really do strongly believe that. That said, sometimes the person is the problem. And I do think it’s beneficial to not take it personally, especially when it’s a task conflict or a process conflict and it’s really about an underlying business issue. But sometimes it’s about the way you’ve interacted and you feel disrespected or you’ve disrespected someone else, in which case, it is personal. And then you have to have a rational, thoughtful conversation about, how do we want to treat one another going forward? And the second thing I’ll say about that is we are all ego-driven beings. That’s just the nature of being a human. And so, it’s one thing to say, don’t take it personally. But it’s another to really have to calm your ego in those moments and not feel like the conflict is a judgment on your expertise, or your worth at work, how much value you bring, or even just what a good person you are. And, as much as you can separate your ego, calm that down, take it out of the conversation, the better the conversation is likely to go. But I have to be realistic that’s just not always possible for people.
[00:10:14] Dr. Gary Bisbee: That definitely can be hard. What about creative friction?
[00:10:20] Amy E. Gallo: Hmm. Yeah, that’s a term, I first heard it, I’m not sure she coined it, but that Linda Hill, who’s a professor at Harvard Business School, uses to describe the innovation that comes from conflict. And she hae studied some of the most innovative companies in the world, Pixar, for example, and really notes how much they encourage conflict. They encourage challenging one another’s ideas, pushing back, building off each other’s ideas. And really the imperative in those environments is to not be attached to your ideas in a way that makes you not open to hearing others. And so that friction that comes from, I think we should do it this way, no, I think we should do it this way, is a positive. And they really encourage people to lay out their assumptions, make their arguments, and then really focus on what’s going to be best for the product that they’re trying to create. It’s a really important aspect of healthy conflict, is that creative friction.
[00:11:22] Dr. Gary Bisbee: You’ve covered this a bit, but let me ask the question directly. How can we be better at conflict?
[00:11:28] Amy E. Gallo: Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot. A lot of different ways we can be better at it. I’ll share a couple of points. I think one is, a lot of times, which is understandable, when we’re under stress, and conflict often feels stressful. It feels like a threat, which signals this stress response where cortisol, the hormone cortisol, runs through our system, we lose access to our prefrontal cortex, we go into that fight or flight mode, and we become naturally narcissistic. So we sort of lose sight of the other person, or we tell ourselves a story about the other person, right? Like, Gary is a passive aggressive jerk, and always has been, he’s doing it again, right? And you feel that story is so true. So I think one of the most important things you can do is try to think about the other person in an empathetic way. And I don’t mean that you have to be kind and generous to someone who’s being rude to you. It’s really a strategic move for you to get out of that rumination, get out of that self-focus, so that you can be in a more collaborative stance when you have the discussion that you need to have. So that’s one point I would say. The second is that, oftentimes we just sort of dive right into the conversation without doing a lot of prep. I was never sat down in a classroom or in my family or in college, or even in a job, and been told, here’s how you have a disagreement, right? And most of us think we should be instinctively good at it. So we just sort of treat it as a normal interaction, but it does require some care and thought to do it well. And so the second thing I’d say to people is, spend some time ahead of time really laying out, what do you know about the situation? What facts are true? What questions do you have? What might be an assumption on your part? And the question I like to ask myself as often as possible, which really requires putting your ego down is, what if I’m wrong, right? What would the scenario be like if I am incorrect about this and what would I do differently, because I think that really opens you up to having a productive conversation with the other person.
[00:13:42] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Super advice, Amy. Thank you. Well, let’s move to Women at Work. You’re the co-host of a very interesting podcast, very practically oriented, like your writing. What led to the creation of the podcast.
[00:13:58] Amy E. Gallo: So, yeah, the podcast was created two years before I joined. So I think it was now five years ago, four or five years ago. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, HBR was really trying to figure out, what can we do around gender equity at work? What can we do to sort of push the needle that hasn’t been done before? And in a very HBR way, we recognize there’s so many academics and consultants who are producing great content around gender equity. And how can we translate that for the average woman in the workplace and help them, women, also feel like they’re being seen in terms of the experiences they’re having, but also give them some, as you said, very practical advice, but evidence-based advice. So we really lean on the research there while also trying to give people, not just sort of paint the picture of what it’s like to be a woman at work, but also give them skills and opportunities and advice on how to transform their workplaces or their own career.
[00:15:04] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Listening to it, it sounds like you’re having fun with it. Are you having fun with it, Amy?
[00:15:10] Amy E. Gallo: Oh, it’s my favorite project to work on. We definitely have fun. I will say, when I look back on my career in thirty years, I think I will remember those moments in that studio. It’s a tiny little studio up in Brighton, Mass, but I will remember those moments in the studio with my co-hosts, with our producer, Amanda, who’s just brilliant, as some of the most fun and just sort of touching moments where we do bring ourselves to that podcast in a way where we talk about our own experiences, our current experiences, our past experiences, and we have, our listeners are just amazingly generous with their stories. They email us, they call us, we center episodes around them. Sometimes, I remember, we had this woman, Laura, who reached out to us, who said, I’m pretty senior in my career, but I don’t know if I’m really cut out to be a leader because I’m so shy. And that really resonated with my cohost, Emily, who wanted to interview her and then to hear about her hesitation. And then we brought in an academic who really thinks about personality types and leadership, and it’s those kinds of episodes and experiences that just, they’re fun to work on. They make a difference in at least one person’s life, but also, I think, in the rest of our listeners’ lives as well, which is so rewarding for me.
[00:16:35] Dr. Gary Bisbee: How do you develop your topical agendas? I mean, how do you develop the agenda, the topics that you deal with?
[00:16:41] Amy E. Gallo: Yeah it’s a very collaborative process. So as I said, we have three co-hosts. We also have a supervising editor and then there’s Amanda, who’s our producer. And at the beginning of each season, we’ve collected ideas. We have a Slack channel where we throw in ideas as they come to us, or articles that are catching our eye, or research papers. But we’ll sit down at the beginning of the season and say, okay, what do we want to touch on this season? What’s our theme and what are we hearing from our listeners? Oftentimes, like I said, it might be an email from a listener that sparks something. It might be a research paper from an academic who we follow or it might be, the Harvard Business School does this gender symposium every spring, it just happened a few weeks ago, where academics present new research on gender in the workplace. And we’ll attend that and look out for new ideas that might be relevant to our listeners. So it’s an evolving process. There’s a white board behind Amanda’s desk at HBR that has all the episodes and we’re constantly rejiggering them and rethinking them. But I would say at this point in particular, it’s very much listener driven in terms of what we’re hearing from our listeners about what they’re facing at work.
[00:17:53] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Well, that’s the best for sure. I’m sure you address this on the show in multiple ways, but how should women think about work-life balance, Amy?
[00:18:02] Amy E. Gallo: You know, we actually had an amazing interview with Stacey Abrams and she had just written a book with her co-author, Laura Hodgson, about scaling businesses. They were actually co-entrepreneurs, co-founders, of three different organizations, companies. And Stacey had this quote, I think I’m getting it right, when she said, the concept of work life balance is from the pits of Hell. And she was referring to being an entrepreneur, that the idea that there’s really no work-life balance because you’re on all the time.
[00:18:33] Dr. Gary Bisbee: It’s all work, no balance.
[00:18:36] Amy E. Gallo: Right. There you go. And I do think that we talk about it a lot, about how do you create a life, a full life, that allows you to do what you want to do, whether that’s spend time with your family, focus on your work. There’s so many ways that women are carving different paths. And I do think, I very much agree with Stacey, that the idea that there’s going to be a balance is sort of just really false at this point. It’s a matter of living the life you want to lead. And there will be many elements to that.
There will be friendships and there will be community work and there will be work and there will be family and there’ll be side gigs. And how each woman pieces that together in a way that allows her to also have wellbeing, strong wellbeing, I think is going to be individual and I think that working 12 hour days is not, at least for me, is not healthy, not what I want. Building those guardrails of, okay, I know I don’t want to overwork. I know I don’t want to burn out, so what do I want, right? Is it that I want eight hour days? Is it that I want long weekends? Like what is it you need? And then really considering, what can I fit within that structure and setting boundaries. One of the things. I still struggle with is just that you saying no in a workplace often means someone else has to do it. And that, I think, is really hard for a lot of people because it feels like your no is offensive or hurtful, or sometimes they feel like it’s even arrogant, right? Like this thing is beneath me. And I think a lot of it is just sort of putting that emotion aside and realizing we all have to have these boundaries, like we could we could take on everything someone asks us to at work. But we’re not going to be good at doing those things if we’re not being our best selves in the process.
[00:20:43] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Well, why don’t we turn to an exciting new book of yours, “Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone [Even Difficult People]”. And the book will be published in September. So we are very pleased that you came on early and can talk about it. I’ve read a early version of it. It’s just awesome. So again, congratulations. Can you tell us about the book?
[00:21:07] Amy E. Gallo: The idea for the book actually came from, I do a lot of talks and workshops and keynotes based on the previous book about conflict. And what would happen is I would share these frameworks, which I felt were very practical people. I always say, I want people to be able to walk out of a talk or a workshop I’ve led and be able to put that advice into practice immediately. I don’t want them to have to process and think about it. I want them to be able to just do it right away. But what I was finding is, there was like always one or two people after a talk, even in the virtual environment, who would reach out to me via email or stop me in the hall or the elevator and say, I have this one coworker. They’d say your advice is great, but it just doesn’t work with this person. And I realized there were a lot of exceptions to the general rules about how to deal with conflict. And I was hearing consistently about different types of people. Someone who’s overly pessimistic, the passive aggressive peer, the know-it-all. And I thought, okay, there’s gotta be advice about how to deal with these specific types of behavior. And so that’s really where the book’s origins came from. And the book is divided into eight archetypes of difficult people. And we should talk about that term, difficult people, a little bit because I have mixed feelings about it. But it’s divided into these archetypes. It talks a little bit about the research behind why people exhibit these behaviors. And then it’s really focused on the tactics that you can use to work better with this person. But the idea that they’re not likely to become your BFF at work, but if you can improve the relationship a little bit better, and if you can improve,what’s a tricky relationship, you can likely use what you learned from that experience to improve all your relationships. And my hope is not that the work becomes sort of this kumbaya, we’re all holding hands, but that we’re not feeling the stress and anxiety that negative, unhealthy relationships with our colleagues cause.
[00:23:11] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Early in the book, you asked the provocative question, why can’t we all just get along? Do people ask that kind of question. I mean, it seems obvious that we’re not all going to get along. On the other hand, you say, well, why not?
[00:23:26] Amy E. Gallo: Yeah. Well, and it’s, I mean, that question is a little bit facetious, because I know, I’m someone who believes in disagreements and conflict of work and the idea that you would just love all your coworkers is so misguided. But why can’t we actually work together in a productive way, I think is the real question. And of course we all bring all of our relational baggage to work, so it’s not that simple. But I do think that there are ways, especially if you’re someone who cares a lot about those relationships, there are research-based ways that you can improve those relationships so, not that you’re all seeing eye to eye, but that you’re all collaborating in a way that’s productive and hopefully efficient.
[00:24:16] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Sounds like you may have some reservation about the term, difficult people. Can you share that with us, Amy?
[00:24:22] Amy E. Gallo: Sure. Yeah. And obviously the term, difficult people, is in the title. I’ve made peace with it. My hesitation about it is that I think two things. One is, I don’t think it’s fair to label different people as difficult. We’ve all worked with someone who certainly fits those categories, but we’ve also all been in the scenario where we’ve been the person exhibiting the difficult behaviors. I’ve certainly acted passive aggressivlye. I’ve certainly behaved like a know-it-all at work. I’m sure I have previous colleagues who were like, yeah, I didn’t love working with you, right? I’m sure of that. They can email me and let me know now that the book is coming out. So I hesitate to label someone in that way. That said, I think it’s really a term that we all can relate to. And I am talking about archetypes in the book and there are people who exhibit those behaviors. So we need to figure out how to work better with them. My second hesitation is I think that’s a term that’s often used. We say that someone’s difficult oftentimes when they’re just not like us, right? And our bias comes into play, that, well, they don’t have the same work ethic as I do, or they don’t share the same identity factors. They’re from a different race or gender. And therefore I think of them as difficult even though they’re simply being human. And so like I said, I’ve made peace with it. But it’s a term I use carefully, I should say.
[00:25:51] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Yeah, that makes good sense. How did you develop the eight archetypes?
[00:25:57] Amy E. Gallo: They’re based on the most common archetypes of what I heard about from people, both the thousands of people who’ve attended keynotes or workshops that I’ve delivered. But also I’ve reached out to lots of people while I was developing the book proposal to ask, who are you dealing with at work, right? And these were sort of the most common ones that I heard about over and over. And so it’s not a mutually exclusive model. There’s certainly other archetypes. And I do have a chapter in the book for working with someone who defies categorization, right, who might not neatly fit into one of those types. I found the archetypes a useful way to structure some of the device. And of course you can have a colleague who’s a pessimist and a tormentor, which is another one of the archetypes, and passive aggressive, right? So you’d read all three of those chapters to help you. Again, they’re not mutually exclusive.
[00:26:59] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Is the balance between just personality type and the workplace and demands of the workplace, is that balance different for every one of the archetypes? Or can you tell that?
[00:27:11] Amy E. Gallo: Here’s the other hesitation I have, which is that I want people to be careful about diagnosing. So like the know-it-all archetype. A lot of people would call those people narcissistic. But that’s a psychological term that really actually doesn’t apply to as many people as we like to think it does. And so I think we have to be careful about deciding, well, this is just their personality. We behave under circumstances in very different ways. So when you’re under stress, you might behave very differently than you would if you were feeling like you have space to think and do your work. If you’re in an organization where there’s very limited resources or the senior leaders value people who are overconfident, right, you’re going to behave differently in those environments. So I think we have to really think about, there is an element of personality type, as you say, certainly influenced likely by how people grew up, how they were raised, their early work experiences. And then there’s also the factors on a team, the dynamics between the people who are working on the team. And then there’s of course the organizational culture. And, overlay that, there’s national, regional culture and expectations around gender and race that we have to, there’s so many factors that go into whether and how people exhibit the behaviors that I talk about in the book.
[00:28:38] Dr. Gary Bisbee: So the book is terrific in that, for these eight archetypes, you really explain the archetype, much like you’ve just done. And then you advance rules for how you work with that sort of person. I think we can’t go into all eight here. I guess my favorite would be two that you mentioned already, which is the passive aggressive worker and the know-it-all. Could you just give us a top-down review of each of those, Amy?
[00:29:05] Amy E. Gallo: Yeah. The passive aggressive, and this is the one I can guarantee, no matter when, where I’m speaking, what group I’m speaking to, I can guarantee someone is going to ask that question. How do I deal with someone who passive aggressive? What I found in the research for the book was really interesting, is that the term actually came from, it was the 1920s to describe men in the military, soldiers in the military, who would agree to orders from from a superior, but then not actually follow through. So it was sort of defying the orders. It became a psychological diagnosis. It was then removed from the DSM. So really it’s a description of behavior. If someone has told you that they’ve never behaved passive aggressively, they’re probably lying, right? We’ve all done it. That said, dealing with it at work, it’s one of the most difficult archetypes. It can feel a little bit like shadow boxing, right, because you’re trying to get them to be straightforward and honest with you. And for whatever reasons, and there’s lots of reasons, they feel incapable of being direct and straightforward about what they’re thinking or what they’re feeling. So my advice typically is to, and in the book, is to really try to focus on, while they’re not being straightforward and they’re using these sort of side jabs or side conversations or indirect methods to convey what they’re feeling, can you focus on the underlying message? And can you try to articulate that back to them? So what I hear you saying is this: is that correct? Ideally you’ll create a situation in which they feel seen and heard so they’ll feel comfortable sharing that. The other tactic, and again, I won’t go into all of them, but the other tactic that I have found to work really well is also to create group norms because oftentimes what happens is the passive aggressive person will say, oh yeah, I’ll do that, sure, sure, sure. And then they just go off and don’t do it or go off and do it their own way. And, if you can create group norms that sort of short circuit some of that behavior, so we write down at the end of what all of our agreements are, we circulate that, we check in at the next meeting, did we do those, right? Instead of saying, well, Gary, you never do what you say you’re going to do, you create a team, some sort of positive peer pressure, to get them to adhere to that. With all the archetypes, I do think it’s also possible, if you feel equipped to do, to call out the behavior and say, three times, you’ve agreed to do something, you haven’t done it. What’s going on? Right. And I think opening up that conversation with a passive aggressive person, sometimes it’s hard because they’ll be like nothing, right? Everything’s fine. It’s all in your head. Which is an incredibly infuriating response. But can you, again, put in some guard rails, put in some processes that ensure they actually do what they say they’re going to do? Even if they continue to sort of have some of this behavior that’s creating noise, can you at least get the things done you need to get done?
[00:32:07] Dr. Gary Bisbee: What about the know-it-all type?
[00:32:09] Amy E. Gallo: Yeah. This is my favorite chapter because, when I think about the archetype I sort of have the most affinity to, it is the know-it-all. I’ve been accused of being a know-it-all at points in my life. I think, to deal with these archetypes, you have to admit when you fit into them. And this is an interesting one too, because it has a gender aspect to it as well. We know from lots of research that men tend to be more overconfident about their performance than women do. And we’ve all probably heard the term by now of mansplaining and I do cover that in that chapter as well. And I think one of the key things is to really, with a know-it-all, to really focus on facts and data, because oftentimes they will proclaim things. And this is the part of the know-it-all I relate to, is they’ll proclaim something to be true. And they say it with the utmost confidence and no room to disagree with them. And you can say, okay, well let’s step back and just talk about how you know that, right, because what I’ve seen is X, Y, and Z, and sort of really try to encourage them to rely on facts and data, right? So they might say, well, that idea will never work. Our customers will never go for it. So you can propose, okay, that’s one hypothesis. Another hypothesis is that a segment of our customers will love it. Can we run a short experiment to see, right? Really focusing on actual reality rather than in their head what they think will be true. The other thing, I think also times is overconfident people tend to really respect confidence in others. So sometimes it’s a matter of meeting that confidence and saying, I respect your opinion. I have an equally strong opinion, and this is what it is. An that sometimes can earn the respect of the know-it-all and can help them sort of tone down their behavior as well. And I think this is where, go back to our earlier discussion about not taking it personally, oftentimes, it feels very demeaning, it feels condescending, but I really try to remind myself that that behavior is a reflection usually of their own insecurity and not their judgment of me. And I think that helps me sort of untangle a little bit of the dynamic and not have my ego be wounded.
[00:34:30] Dr. Gary Bisbee: How has working virtually played into our eight archetypes?
[00:34:36] Amy E. Gallo: As I mentioned earlier, we really do tend to feel less human in these environments. They can be awkward in terms of interrupting, or we think we’re having sort of high fidelity conversations because we can see people. But you’re missing so much context. So they tend to be really bad places to have difficult conversations, even if you have video and all of these things that we think mimic the real in-person interactions. So that means, one, we tend to be more hesitant to bring up conflict or have disagreements, which is a real hindrance to doing good work. We often delay it and we think, oh, especially if you’re in a hybrid environment, you think, oh, I’ll wait till we’re both in the office to solve that. So that can be a real challenge. And again, it’s just ripe for miscommunication, right? And I’ve heard an incredible story, I put this in this book, of someone who was on a Zoom call with someone and they kept looking up to the right while on the Zoom call. And the person who was on the receiving end said they felt like that person was rolling their eyes. But they were actually trying to just quickly check a clock that was on the wall because they were going to be late to pick up their kid. And it looked to the other person like eyerolling the other person got off the call so angry, so offended. And it was just simply a miscommunication. And I think the archetypes, we’re all in these environments, we’re often under stress under time crunch. We tend to resort to our worst behavior, which is what those archetypes are, is ourselves at are worse. So we really have to watch ourselves to make sure we’re not falling into those behaviors in these environments.
[00:36:19] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Well that actually was the next question. So how can we avoid being a difficult coworker?
[00:36:25] Amy E. Gallo: An earlier version of the book, which was way too long, actually had a section in each archetype of, if you are this archetype, here’s how to recognize the signs and here’s how to try to counter that behavior. We cut it out, partly because it was just simply too long, but also because we realized people who are these archetypes are not picking up a book about them. The self-awareness is not there. So I think, first and foremost, if you are concerned that you fit one of these archetypes, ask for feedback, whether that’s anonymous 360 degree feedback, whether that’s from trusted colleagues, people who really will be straightforward with you. You need to get a sense of how you’re perceived in the organization. And I think that’s an incredibly important thing for anyone in a workplace, but especially for leaders who tend to, as we know from research, as they move up the ladder, lose sight of themselves and how they’re perceived. So that’s one piece of it. The other is, I hesitate to tell people, just stop being passive aggressive because there’s often some underlying reason. So it’s helpful to understand, why am I behaving this way? In what circumstances do I behave in this way? And then what are small experiments I can conduct to try to behave differently? So for a week I’m going to not speak first in my Zoom meetings, right? If you’re the know-it-all, right, I’m not going to speak first. Or for a week, I’m not going to speak at all, right? I’m just going to hold my tongue and see what happens. Now, that will probably be an overcorrection, but you’ll learn a lot from that experiment of, okay, what worked, what didn’t. And then if you have asked for feedback, go back to those folks and say, do you have more feedback? I’ve been trying this. Has it worked? It takes a good deal of emotional self-control and self-awareness to do that, but the rewards are great.
[00:38:23] Dr. Gary Bisbee: One of the last bits of advice in the book is to have self-compassion. How do you think about that, Amy?
[00:38:30] Amy E. Gallo: Dealing with difficult people is hard and a couple of people who’ve read the book say you really put the onus on the reader, on the person who is dealing with the difficult person, to do a lot. And that’s true. I do. I do feel I’m calling on people to be the adult in the room, partly because that’s the only thing you have control over. Now could you report the person to your management? Could HR step in and recommend they change and put them on a performance improvement? Yes, that all could happen. But that’s not always going to change things. And so I really do believe that people have to step up and do the hard work. That said, I also think you need to have self compassion because you aren’t always going to behave as your best self. There are going to be moments where you’re going to say things that you regret that you wish you could take back, that you’re going to resort. Your passive aggressive coworker, you’re going to be passive aggressive right back to them. And so those are the moments where I really think you need to have self-compassion and that’s really saying it’s understandable that I acted this way. Other people would also act this way in this environment or under these circumstances. What do I need right now to feel okay? And I think that can help sort of build your resolve if you need to go back and have another difficult conversation with that co-worker or if you need to disengage. And that is a real key piece of the book, is the second to last chapter, which is, how do you protect yourself and your career when all of what I’ve suggested doesn’t work, which is a possibility. I’m not going to guarantee that the tactics are going to transform every relationship. And so you do need to think about ways to protect yourself and your career.
[00:40:26] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Amy, this has been a terrific interview and my prediction is “Getting Along” is going to be a very popular book. We do appreciate your being here today. I’ve got two more questions, if I could, more of a general sort. One of them is, what advice do you have for young women in the workplace, particularly if they’re up and coming leaders?
[00:40:47] Amy E. Gallo: One, listen to the Women at Work podcast. I hope that doesn’t come off as self promotional. Partly, I think what I love about the podcast, and you don’t have to listen to the podcast to get this, but it validates the experiences that women have. And I think one of the most popular articles we’ve published at HBR in the past few years is an article called, “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome”. And I think there’s really a phenomenon where we blame women for not succeeding in biased situations and situations where they’re really set up to fail. And so, finding people who you can talk to, a podcast you can listen to, a book you can read, articles you can share with friends and discuss, that really help you make sense of your own experiences, how bias is playing a factor just so you don’t feel so alone in it. I did spend, I would say, the 10 years of my career, thinking gender wasn’t a factor in how I was being treated, how I was being evaluated, the opportunities I was given. And I think if I had had that understanding earlier on, not in a way to sort of excuse things, but as a way just to understand it and make sense of it, would have been really helpful.
[00:42:03] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Yeah, I agree with that, given my observations. The final question then is along the same lines, but what advice would you have for young up and coming leaders, independent of gender or any other demographic?
[00:42:18] Amy E. Gallo: One of the favorite pieces of advice I got from a former boss, who was also a mentor, was I kept saying, I have so many different interests, I’m not sure where to focus. And rather than saying, okay, what are you most passionate about, or what do you think you’re best at, he said, well, why can’t you do them all? And it really helped me open my mind to having a portfolio career. So rather than having one industry, one role, one function that I focused on, it allowed me to think, okay, why can’t I do multiple things? And that of course comes with a little bit of stress because that means I’m a freelancer who manages my own business because I have all these other things that I like to do and want to do. But I think we too often push people into specific narrow paths when really we should be allowing them to pursue multiple at the same time, again, setting boundaries so you’re not overworking, but allowing people to have these portfolio careers I think is really important.
[00:43:26] Dr. Gary Bisbee: Amy, thank you so much for your time. Very well done interview today.
[00:43:31] Amy E. Gallo: Thank you, Gary. It has been such a pleasure talking with you. I feel like we could go on for much longer.