Lynne Curry: Take steps to ensure that the office irritant isn't a pain for you

Lynne Curry

She's poison and a snake. He's a royal pain. She, or he, pushes every one of your buttons.

While nice people outnumber nasty people, nearly every good-sized organization employs one or two individuals who derail their co-workers' mental balance. Think back to your last conversation with the pain. Did you leave the interaction drained?

Bring to mind the last time the snake bit you or simply rattled her tail. Did you tense up? Or consider what happens to you after you spend an hour dealing with a series of frustrated, angry individuals. By the end of the hour, you're probably frustrated yourself.

The good news -- you can avoid these energy matches.

Energy match describes the phenomenon in which one person picks up on another person's emotions.

Energy matches can show up as identical or reverse matches. When working with controlling individuals, many of us get into control battles or contests of wills. Others feel like rebelling. When we're around "parental" people -- the ones who tell us what we "should" do -- we often tell them they "shouldn't" tell us what we should or shouldn't do, or we react childishly.

Occasionally, energy matches work to our advantage. When we're around cheerful employees, we find ourselves smiling. But more often, we encounter a negative energy match and walk away feeling mildly poisoned. Left unchecked, these encounters promote energy contamination and low morale.

If you want to avoid matching negative energy, realize that while button pushers may shove you off-balance initially, they can't control you without your permission. You control you.

Next, learn to stabilize yourself. When someone attacks you or sends a strong negative energy toward you, your body reacts physically. Adrenaline and other stress hormones flood your central nervous system. That physical reaction escalates your emotional reaction. Slow yourself down and moderate your reaction by taking a deep breath. Breathing processes adrenaline, giving you increased physical and mental control.

Then select how you'll act. You have options. You can say, "Let's have this conversation later" and leave the snake's line of fire. You can ask a question to turn the tables on the pain or find out what leads him to behave the way he does.

If the button pusher is a customer or employee, you can problem-solve. For example, assume you supervise a competent but lazy employee who didn't get the promotion he wanted and felt entitled to. To vent his anger, he makes life as difficult for you as he can. When you ask him, "What's the status of project R," he folds his arms and answers, "I'll give you a written memo on that."

He's trying to make you react by presenting a false dilemma: Either you pay him to write you a memo every time you ask him a question, or you fire him.

Act, don't react. Simply say, "Just give me a one-minute status report; I don't need a memo." If he persists, make his problematic communication the subject of a disciplinary meeting but don't carry the venter's angry residue with you -- it's his.

Want to avoid a negative energy match? Decide that you control you. Train yourself to take a breath and then to act, rather than react. The benefit? The pains, office snakes and button pushers in your life no longer derail your workday.

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at You can follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or through

Lynne Curry