It's All Your Fault At Work: Author Interview Part 1
© 2014 By Georgi DiStefano
[An Interview with It’s All Your Fault at Work! co-authors, Bill Eddy and Georgi DiStefano]
Q: Although you have many years’ experience working with and training companies to deal with high-conflict employees, this is your first book on the topic. What prompted you to work with your co-author, Bill Eddy, to produce this book?
A. After retiring from my position as Executive Director of a large university program I expanded my private practice engaging again in Employee Assistance Program (EAP) work. It served as a reminder of just how many people suffer with work related difficulties. Bill and I have discussed these workplace issues for years. One evening we were engrossed in this topic and he invited me to write this book with him. I thought I had something to contribute so I agreed. Bill’s “High Conflict Personality” theory is at the heart of this work.
Q: How does this book best help people in Human Resources (HR) and EAP programs?
A. I think human resource departments will find this book valuable because it provides easy to remember techniques and an effective method to apply immediately to deescalate conflict. Employee Assistance counselors will have a valuable tool to assist their clients in navigating the intricacies of workplace conflict. Clients need to evaluate their options and the CARS Method outlined in this book can help them make important workplace decisions.
Q: Can your book be beneficial for small businesses as well as large corporations? If so, how?
A. Many small businesses have limited HR and/or EAP resources. Having copies of this book available to loan employees or managers can go a long way in providing needed resources and materials. In addition, small businesses cannot afford to miss a step. Many function on very small profit margins. A disgruntled worker or manager can negatively impact the workplace and create serious problems to a company’s bottom line. Dealing effectively with High Conflict Personalities can save a company considerable expense and loss of productivity. Large corporations often become increasingly dysfunctional due to HCP’s in the workplace. Managers become reluctant to deal with these personnel issues as HCP’s cannot tolerate feedback and managers learn from experience that these discussions tend to make the situation worse. The book provides alternative strategies that are designed to engage the HCP in constructive dialogue and the resolution of problems.
Q: Why is it important for leaders to have this information?
A. Leaders influence the culture of an organization. This method and the techniques of the process are easy to teach and remember. More importantly they work to deescalate conflict and manage individuals with High Conflict Personalities. Leaders recognize the skills and resources their organizations need to succeed. Sometimes it is the HCP employee that has the essential knowledge or technical skill necessary for the growth and development of a company. Leaders will utilize these resources to get the most from these employees while protecting the culture of the organization. It is often a balancing act and the book provides tools that could be useful in this endeavor.
Q: Can this information be helpful during the hiring process?
A. Yes – it is often helpful to ask a candidate what they learned from a situation they did not handle particularly well and what the most useful feedback they have ever received was. HCPs have difficulty reflecting on their behavior and in receiving feedback. Another interesting and useful question is to ask them how they would deal with conflict with a peer or subordinate. These questions help to give you a window into their thinking process. Nevertheless it should be pointed out that HCPs often interview brilliantly. It is often only when they meet resistance or a challenge that they unravel and demonstrate HCP traits. It is always interesting to learn how someone functioned in an organization from co-workers and subordinates.
Q: What was the most surprising thing you learned in your research for this book?
A. Being a therapist and EAP I have worked with individuals diagnosed with personality disorders for years but I have to admit I was surprised to learn how high the percentages were in the workplace. I was also saddened to learn how extensive and pervasive bullying is in the adult work world. Bill Eddy, the coauthor of this book, did quite a bit of research on the brain. It is truly amazing how reactive HCPs can become when their right brain defenses become activated.
Q: What makes this book different from other books about difficult employees?
A. This book is useful and different in that it presents a continuum and introduces to business a mental health explanation for these difficult types of employees. The continuum ranges from individuals who have a normal range of responses to conflict and can benefit from standard conflict management techniques, to individuals who have traits associated with High Conflict Personalities, to individuals who have actual personality disorders (i.e. Borderline, Narcissistic). You do not have to know an individual’s diagnosis to utilize this method. The method is useful with anyone but particularly effective with HCPs who have all or nothing thinking, cannot tolerate feedback, nor reflect on their contribution to a problem. The method focuses on calming the escalated emotions of HCPs so that they can restore critical thinking skills. This must occur before you will be able to explore mutually beneficial solutions.
Q: What is the most important thing that people DON'T know about your subject, that they need to know?
A. There is always the element of violence that must be considered when dealing with conflict. We cannot take for granted that people will respond rationally or reasonably. We have far too many examples in our culture of conflict escalating into tragedy. Our method focuses on providing attention, empathy and respect. These elements go a long way to deescalate highly charged emotions and create a climate that increases safety.
It’s All Your Fault at Work! Managing Narcissists and Other High-Conflict People at Work (January 2015).
L.Georgi DiStefano is a licensed clinical social worker with extensive experience as a therapist, Employee Assistance provider, management consultant, and a popular speaker on workplace conflict resolution. She has authored several books and articles, and has directed mental health and substance abuse programs. She lives in San Diego, California.