By Susan Begeman Steiner
Maureen really liked her job except for one thing -- her colleague, Patrick, was not doing his job to the standards Maureen needed. His shoddy work was having a negative effect on her ability to accomplish her goals.
Patrick was a business partner and not on Maureen’s team or reporting to her. Maureen had tried correcting his work and sending it back to him, talking to her boss about him and sending him emails with timelines and quality standards. But nothing changed and she felt that the situation had become impossible.
Circle of Influence
When you are in an impossible situation beyond your control, what can you do?
Take a look at the Circle of Influence. In the innermost circle are the things you can control, the next circle out is what you can influence and in the outermost circle are things you can be concerned about, but otherwise need to let go of.
Here are some questions to answer when you are faced with an impossible situation.
What is actually within your control?
Look to see if there is a direct action you can take that will clear up the situation. In Maureen’s case, she did not have authority over her colleague, so her direct actions were limited to asking him specifically for what she needed and making agreements with him.
Maureen had tried this and the working relationship did improve. Patrick started to get things to her in a more timely manner. However, the quality of his work did not improve. Maureen was not in control of the quality of his work.
For the aspects you cannot control, ask yourself what influence you can have?
What can you do to influence the situation? In Maureen’s case, she had a direct conversation with Patrick where they discovered that they had a shared goal. They also admitted what they had been doing to each other out of frustration and actually forged a bond with each other. However, Patrick's standards still did not match Maureen's and she felt that, even though they now got along a lot better, the quality of his work would probably never improve.
When you have tried everything you can think of, what can you do?
If you have tried everything, then what is left is to develop your skill of acceptance in order to cope with the situation as it is. However, it is important to register your concerns, keep your eye on the situation and take action when you can. For Maureen this meant continuing to improve her relationship with Patrick and taking extra time to change his work when needed to meet her standards. She had to accept that she needed to do some extra work to keep standards high and then all that was left was to be as patient as possible.
In difficult situations, how you react says more about you than about the other person. In these situations, there is potential for growth and learning. The alternative to a satisfactory outcome is patience, trust and staying in integrity.