Sticky Situations You Don’t Want to Go Bad at Work, Part 1

Sticky Situations You Don’t Want to Go Bad at Work, Part 1

Sticky Situations You Don’t Want to Go Bad at Work (Part 1)

When conflict happens, it may be subconscious, but it’s not an accident. That person wants…

  • power over you .. or
  • needs power over you
  • maybe needs to feel “right” (or righteous)
  • …or the “winner” in their own eyes, or the eyes of others

Growing up in a military family and having two younger brothers, one of whom truly wanted to be eldest & tried all kinds of silly, little-kid ways to pretend he was?, it’s something I learned early.

It was obvious how profound was his (unattainable) hunger to be “first” was … and how much life was better when I got a laugh out others … sometimes including him (Wow!)

That hunger is often easily turned (more on this soon, so read on!). Even so your ability to SPOT It is key … and the sooner the better.

Why? Power over presumes hierarchy. Hierarchy presumes some are “better” than others, “over” others. For those who’ve been bullied as kids, they’re often primed to gain power over any time the can. They’ll do ANYTHING to “get the upper hand,” “be on top” etc, even when it’s illegal, immoral and gets them in big trouble.

That’s a Sticky Situation Just Begging for a Bit of Flip-It Fun…

Think of your favorite comedy improv show. It might be…

  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • The League
  • Reno 911!
  • Wild ‘n Out … and more

I live near-ish Dallas, where after the the long & confusingly miserable marriage (clearly a topic for another post), I knew I needed to get some fun back in my life. I signed up for Improv Level 1.

What’s a big town near you? Improv is physical and while in-person is best, there are lots of reasons to do an online class. (Hmmm… I might offer one? I just might…!)

Showing up at the Dallas Comedy House, I’d soon be re-learning (in a new way) the essential things my two little brothers and decades of leading big tech projects had taught me to…

FLIP It (aka, do the unexpected)
& STICK the Landing*

Today we’re taking a deeper dive into the Spotting It part and asking ….

  • What’s a “threat”
  • What’s it intended to do?
  • What you get when you thwart that intension

Most often, a threat is a power play of the “power over” variety.

Meaning the perpetrator <queue the evil/silly laugh track> is doing or saying something that puts you down a notch. UGH..

In other words, it’s a setup to lower your social status in the context you’re both in, whether it be work, social, home … you get the idea.

WARNING: When it happens, Do NOT whine, cry, yell, shame or blame, no matter how much they “deserve it.” (This only reduces your status even more.)

You want to gain back your status and have others applaud you?

Spot It … Flip It .. Stick the Landing

So what about

Now I’m not talking about the kinds of threats my daddy-the-Navy-man and friends no longer attached to their former U.S. Marine & Army units faced … though threat-to-life-and-limb are certainly possible.

I’m not talking about my former neighbor who was part of the FBI’s Witness Protection Program after spilling the beans on his big city city mob-bosses


I’m talking about threats designed to de-status me and people like me.

Suffering a de-statussed is HARD to overcome. And I was having none of that.

The techniques I train speak right to the part of the most primitive part of the aggressor’s brain — the part of every human brain that processes just three things:

There’s something in front of me, am I gonna…

  • …eat it?
  • …kill it?
  • …mate* with it?

Note that “mate with it” isn’t always sexual. In fact, it’s most often social, professional or political.

ALWAYS and work taught  f you’ve ever experience a comedy improv show,  “Yes and”.. That’s “Flipping the Script”

Lots of reasons like avoiding being seen as being flat footed, caught off-guard, unprepared, not on your toes. Which while no sin, is perceived in negative ways — ignorant, dumb, naive, inexperienced and the like.

But don’t worry! Part of SPOTTING it is to size it up. Let’s break that down: The other person has..

  • identified you as a target, one to “take out,” “take down,” or “make irrelevant”
  • they’ve set the stage (or used an existing stage) to exert power over you, belittle you
  • and they’re betting you won’t have a comeback that sticks
  • which allows them (later) to belittle you, to sideline you, to gain allies against you

Compelling incentives, wouldn’t you say?

And while power-over can be used for good, it’s incredibly simple to use for ill. Incredibly useful in creating and perpetuating a caste system, a systemic class structure that pre-scribes the opportunities one have access to — depending on a variety of criteria including gender, geography, ability, education, culture and skin color — to name a few.

**********************  START AGAIN HERE It’s a term that’s been around since the 1500s. — not a phrase most western nations think of .

to use for ill.  As my Granny would say, “Let’s stop that mess.”


in three stories, each with a twist… PLUS, something special for YOU♥️

??At work… a healthy culture that’s a fit for you is golden. It provides room for you to learn, excel, grow and be promoted — and it’s a predictor of many good years to come.

… you can find a virtual cornucopia of conflict and often, more so when your employer is smaller. Why?

  • Some work cultures value competition over co-operation, thinking this drives productivity. It doesn’t. It’s like your favorite sports team, only the version where every player wants another player’s position. It’s bedlam, crazy-town … a scene of mad confusion. It breeds suspicion, distrust and petty tricks, makes people miserable and drives productivity into the ground.

If this is the situation where you work (or last worked), start looking for someplace else — and learn how to interview for the job and a healthy company culture. You’ll be glad you did.

  • this time interview with an eye to finding a cooperative culture, where .
  • Even in great cultures, there are some who think it’s just clean fun to “pull one over” on a colleague.


(anger hides hurt, hides pain)

EXERCISE: Make a point, tell a story, Make the point.
Generate IDEAs from @




#1, Changing the game


#3 See the threat, shut it down.


If you’re one of the billions (with a “b”) of people who’ve experienced that power over game. Probably more than once. It wasn’t much fun and you don’t like it. You may have even berated yourself later – with a snappy comeback or three that, in your mind would have “put them in their place” like so many, may have

Whatny what’s the backstory here?


Why? You can smile all the way to  that The Stone’s classic revenge song “Under My Thumb”

And you, dear reader, deserve better than to be under someone else’s thumb.  power over you… and just like almost any power game, that person is driven by fear. NOW. But if you don’t know the winning formula to turn ‘power over’ into connection right then, you’ve lost. Lost respect, lost status and worst of all, you’ve either lost reputation — or solidified a decidedly unhelpful-to-you reputation…

… But when you do these three steps, you win AND shift the power-play from “power over” to something far better: Power WITH — and with this you’ve shifted the aggressor’s perspective to surprise, To respect.

Because they know you’ve got game. You’re talented. Adept.

Think sports. Even when the Ref makes a bad call (it happens, no one’s perfect), no one respects a crybaby on the field. Or a blamer. Or screamer.

What they do respect is taking the ref’s call and coming back stronger on the next play.

Never played a sport? Hardly ever watched much sport? No worries, you’ve probably…

… seen or heard a comedian being interviewed, and laughed at the comic back-and-forth with the host
… enjoyed both comedian and host poke comic jabs at one another

But if one of them gets in a huff & storms off stage? If one of them goes crying to the show’s producer They’re…


Never to be seen again.

In every game, self-control is essential to good team play and truly, “no one likes a spoil sport.” (Did I mention how a good sense of humor sets you apart in virtually every setting? And even more so in challenging moments? It’s true.)

Step 1:  SPOT “IT” … the quip, the snide remark, the challenge, the dismissive gesture. The honest remark that might have had currency … 30 years ago. It’s almost always obvious.

And yes … there is the whole class of interactions where one group is “at the ready” for giving some innocent passer-by an irritating poke, ribbing or insult. A group that’s just WAITING for someone ‘nice’ to come along, pass by. Think the classic construction workers on break scenario that most women have wished they had an answer to. Psssst … help is here, ladies & Yep, I’m picking on those guys…?)

One good quip deserves another, and good team play DEPENDS upon you recognizing the OPPORTUNITY — for when you do, you can easily setup a one good play (theirs) deserves another (your play?) — especially if the initiator’s quip backhands someone in a different-from-them social grouping. Why?

#1 Rule of Humor: When you are making a joke or poking fun … people at your social status or above are always fair game. Making fun of lower-status social groups than yours? Nope. Nope. Nope. NO. Leave that to fools. It comes across humorless, petty and mean.

#2 Rule of Humor: Wit is essential (don’t worry, more on that soon, so read on!) That serves ONLY the aggressor, not you. And it’s why prevailing wisdom’s “cool off & talk it out” advise regularly fails — the “win” has already been had. You’ve been played. Your status? Diminished.  

And you don’t have to put up with that.

It just takes a bit of skill. And attitude.

So enjoy this deeper dive into my free gift What No One Told You About How to Handle Conflict, (so if you don’t have it already, Click here & Grab It!)

Step 2: FLIP That QUIP! (or as your “How to Handle Conflict” GIFT has it, “FLIP IT” … whatever the “it” is✨)

Think about the last funny joke you heard…

The thing that made if funny? The twist at the end. Something unexpected. Novel. Surprising.

That’s what I mean by “Flipping It” … a bit like a GREAT gymnastics move. Where the line of thinking was heading in one direction (aka: to play you or diminish you or people like you) … and your remark, your gesture, sent that line of thinking in a whole new direction — and with a bit of fun.

Why’s the funny part essential? When people laugh with you, they bond with you. Identify with you. They like you. Because you took a slight or off-color remark and did the unexpected.

Story time: Early in my professional life, when I was walking down the hall to a meeting. A long of a hall, with offices on each side. My then boss saw me and wanted my attention, calling out “Hey sweetheart”. I…

— walked on, straightening up my spine. Saying NOTHING.
Again he called out “Hey doll”
Then solidifying my determination
and walking more queenly. Saying NOTHING.
Finally he called out “Hey Dorothy”
(by this time heads were popping out offices to witness the showdown)
Slooowly I came to a stop
Turned slightly and slowly. Then just    two    slow    words
“Yesss, Romeo

The hall erupted in laughter and in that moment, I was the queen. Romeo the jester.

And yep, his name really was Romeo. Still is.

All that took was recognizing the opportunity he had made for me, and hoisting him by the collar of his own scheme. With all the royal bearing this country gal could bring. #PowerWITH

I never spoke of it again, until years later, and for the good aim of training others. In another state, far away.

It’s one thing to win. It’s quite another to rub their noses in it. Besides, I knew him well enough to stay clear of his taste for vengeance.

Step 3: STICK the Landing. Think the world-class gymnast, dismounting the pommel horse … and sticking that landing. Balanced. Feet together. Standing to full height, head slightly back, arms to the heavens in a “V” for victory.

Yours will be subtler, and this will be a good thing for you. In the “Yes, Romeo” scene, it was the phrase. The “Yes, Romeo.”

In other scenarios, it’s a simple redirect command you make, in a matter-of-fact voice. Such as “now show me what you’ve got on this..” It’s the necessary off-ramp from Step 2 and it does THREE critical things:

  • Gets their mind off of what just happened
  • Let’s them know the relationship is intact
  • .. and MOST important, slightly elevates their status << people you’ve just schooled will RESPECT YOU for this. They’ll be your allies.

And THAT’s a triple win.

Ready for more? Tell me about it in your Comment!

Cheers to YOU,
Dorothy “Have fun & make respect a 2-way street” Kuhn

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *