Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Know How To Pick Your Battles

Early on in my Recruitment career my boss at the time provided me with a piece of advice that sincerely changed my life, he said: "You have to know how to pick your battles".  At the time I was very frustrated by some changes that had been made in the workplace and I'm sure I was ready to take up arms and do battle with whomever I could to "fix" what I considered was broken.  What my boss was trying to tell me was to slow-my-roll, take time to assess the situation with a clear head and then determine how important it was to go into battle.  Going into any situation guns blazing without a clear head and enough information is a recipe for disaster, especially in business.

Learning to diplomatically state your opinion after carefully reviewing a situation is a talent some people have never developed and that is unfortunate.  We've all at one point or another worked with a hot-headed person that will ream you out first and ask questions later or rampage about things that are not, in the larger scheme of things, all that important.  Not only is it uncomfortable, but it makes for a hostile work environment and no one wants to work with a person like that.

Some people come by the ability to pick their battles wisely, for others (like myself) it is a learned skill.  Not that I was ever a combative or aggressive person, I just had a tendency to get up in arms about things and voice my opinion before I took time to fully consider the situation.  Thanks to my prior boss - I developed the 24 Hour Rule and I use it in all aspects of my life.  If something tweaks me the wrong way, I wait for 24 hours to give myself time to mull it over and try to understand the opposing side.  If I'm still up in arms a day later I will diplomatically and thoughtfully state my concerns.

During my years in recruitment I've interviewed all personality types.  I've been in situations where I've had to tell someone they didn't get the job only to have them scream at me and dismiss me as an idiot that clearly doesn't know what I'm talking about, and I've received emails that advise me to go screw myself because I just lost out on the opportunity to work with the best in the business.  The only outcome to that type of behavior is to be fast tracked to the DNU (do not use) pile.  No one wants to work with someone like that.  These folks could've benefited from knowing how to pick their battles.

The next time you find yourself frustrated and ready to vent your opinions, take a deep breath, then give yourself 24 hours to assess the situation and if you decide its a worthwhile battle - go in armed and ready with a cool head.  Dr. Phil loves to pose the following question: "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?".  Some battles just aren't worth the effort, even if you're right.  The only way to realize that is to take the time to think about each situation before you react. 

Food For Thought:
  • Anger and bitterness and other negative emotions come from a place of fear.  Always remember when dealing with an angry person they are fearful of something (losing their job, change, etc).  By remembering this you can sometimes get to the bottom of the situation and dispel their fears before things escalate.
  • You teach people how to treat you.  It is OK to tell someone that their behavior is unacceptable.  If someone is acting negatively, explain to them calmly that you will not carry on a conversation until they're composed.
  • Crap rolls down hill - if you are being treated poorly by your boss, your boss is often being treated poorly by his/her boss etc. Don't be the next in line to continue that lineage.
  • Learning to meditate or even something as simple as setting alarms on your phone at specific times during the day to remind you to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths can surprisingly go a long way in improving your mood.


  1. From LinkedIn: Felicia M Baxter MD

    The type D presonality need to read, reread and create a tattoo of this advice on our right arms NOW. Thanks for the advice!

  2. From LinkedIn: Adrienne Gingras

    Excellent Advice..a characteristic to refine everyday :-) Another interesting aspect is that unless one is or has been a recruiter, I don't think folks realize how recruiters have to deal with the angry candidate scenario. You all are the messenger, not the decision maker. Candidates need to understand it's the manager who makes the decision to or not to hire, not the recruiter.

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