Get your head out of the sand

It’s no good avoiding difficult situations. Here are my tips for surviving, and thriving, awkward realities. POLLYANNA LENKIC

Pollyanna Lenkic

By Pollyanna Lenkic

I had coffee with someone recently who told me that they were working from home that day because a difficult decision had been reached in the company to let some of their people go.

At first I had some instant judgements about this decision, and then on reflection I could see that this person just didn’t know how to be with the situation, so it was easier to stay away.

I think to some degree we have all been guilty of avoiding difficult situations and conversations:

  • How often do you text or email when a phone or face-to-face conversation is required?
  • When have you avoided the office? And why?

What would my approach be if this person had come to me beforehand saying that they were thinking about working from home because they didn’t want to be in the office?

  • First, I would not make them feel wrong. This is very important; so often we make others and ourselves feel wrong for our thoughts and feelings. We feel the way we feel; it’s not right or wrong – it just is.
  • I would identify the source of their discomfort. What made them choose to be somewhere else?
  • I would then ask some questions to help them come to their own conclusions.

I would ask the following questions:

  • What are the good and bad things about being there?
  • What do you hope to achieve by staying away? And who do you hope to achieve that for?

I would give the person the following tips if they chose to be at the office:

  • Hold the people who are being let go as creative, resourceful and whole. There is nothing broken about them or that needs to be fixed. Trust that they will be able to deal/manage the situation.
  • Make it about them, not you! Saying “I feel bad” doesn’t help them, because that’s about you. Simply ask: “Are you OK? How are you?” Just be there with them. You do not need to fix or solve the situation for them.
  • Be available for them. If you have had a close working relationship then you may offer to meet up for coffee. If you haven’t had then it’s unlikely the person will contact you even if offered.
  • Think about how you would want your colleagues to respond, or be with you, if it was you that was being dismissed?

I would then ask a few tough questions:

  • What message are you sending by being absent about your leadership? To the people that are moving on (you never know when you will bump into them again professionally); to the people who are left behind?
  • Is this a one-off situation or is it a pattern of avoiding uncomfortable situations? If so, what’s that about?

I would end our conversation by asking the person the following question:

  • What skills or abilities do you currently have that would help with the situation at work? Maybe you are a good listener, have been told that you are trustworthy etc.
  • What experiences have you that you can draw on? For example, when a family member died maybe you were the pillar of strength for the family? What did you do? What made you the pillar of strength?

If you have had similar experiences you may find it useful to adapt and answer the questions above.


Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian based coaching and training company. She is an experienced facilitator, certified coach and a certified practitioner of NLP. In 1990 she co-founded a specialist IT recruitment consultancy in London, which grew to employ 18 people and turnover £11 million ($27 million). This blog is about the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned building a business the first time round and how to do it better second time round. For more information go to

 For more Second Time Around, click here.



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