As promised, here is an example from Bill Eddy’s ““BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People“ that shows an employee responding to a high conflict manager.
Email sent to an employee who missed a single day of work due to illness:
“Well, Princess Lea, I hope you’re proud of yourself for taking off on the day the rest of us had the most work to do all year. We had to get that presentation prepared and you knew it! I will expect to see a note from the doctor first thing tomorrow morning to confirm that you were sick! You think you’re so special sometimes and this is not the time or the place to stop pulling your weight in the office. If this happens again, there will be certain consequences. Perhaps someone else would be better in your position.
Cynthia Jones, Unit Manager “
This is the example response that follows the BIFF model (not engaging in any sparring).
“Dear Cynthia, Thanks for letting me know your concerns about my absence yesterday. I was sick with stomach flu from something I ate. My daughter had the same illness and was pretty miserable herself. Fortunately, I was able to keep it to one day of missed work and pushed myself to get back to work today, even though I wasn’t feeling 100% better, because I knew how important this presentation is to our unit. I don’t have a doctor’s note and I was unaware that one was required for a single day’s absence. I only missed one other day of work in the past year and was not informed that I needed a note last time. If this is a requirement, please let all of us know. I look forward to assisting with this presentation, as I know it will make our unit shine.
As Bill Eddy points out in the book, this response is slightly longer than necessary but does so to fulfill the Friendly requirement of the BIFF response. Part of the effectiveness of this response is the reference to company policy, which puts to rest the threat made by the manager.
While this is a more extreme example of a high conflict workplace situation, it clearly shows how not to engage in personal attacks, which de-escalate the issue.