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When should you confront a co-worker?

Management, Organization, Rapport, Team buildingEdward KiledjianComment

The Rule of 3

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to participate in many interesting activities, from parachuting and bungee jumping to traveling and trying new exotic cuisines. A long time ago, I learned a simple trick called the rule of three. The basic breakdown is:

  • First time Just do the activity
  • Second time Learn how to do it properly
  • Third time Do it again to determine if you like or enjoy it

In a professional setting

This has served me well, and over the years I have started to use this for other aspects of my life. One good example is related to a question I get asked very often by colleagues and employees “When should I confront an annoying colleague?”

Obviously before you confront someone, you want to ensure the annoying habit is actually a habit and not just a one off incident. So think of it with the “Rule of three framework”.

  • First time This is the first time you notice this action or behavior
  • Second time This time you notice exactly what is being done and confirm that this was not a one off anomaly. Think of exactly what the other person is doing and why it bothers you. What is motivating the other person to do this?
  • Third time This is the time you confront the offender. You now know that this is a habit, it has happened multiple times and you now understand exactly why it troubles you.

Power in simplicity

In his book “Getting Things done”, David Allen uses imagery to explain the concept of being cool and in control: “Mind like water”. He explains that when you throw a pebble in a lake, water always reacts with the appropriate level of response; it never over or under reacts.

In our hectic lives, we sometime overreact when having a bad day and later regret our actions. Using the rule of three will force to you react calmly and only after having carefully considered the situation. Your cool confidence will be noticed and usually responded to more favorably than simply belching out what comes to mind the first time something happens.

Think of other aspects in your life that can benefit from this rule.