Mindfulness Meditation


Mindfulness is something of a buzz word these days. And, proponents might have you think that mindfulness is good for every kind of situation out there. I’ve found that mindfulness activities can be helpful in certain circumstances, but mindfulness is not a cure-all. If you’re going to explore the usefulness of mindfulness, then you should first understand the basics. A simple meditation exercise helps form the foundation for other kinds of mindfulness activities. See the following video for more information.

Matthew Siegel, Ph.D. is an executive coach. He is the founder of Matthew Siegel Consulting LLC. He fosters active learning through collaborative and temporary relationships in which enhanced self-awareness and skill lead to desired behavior change. Connect with Matt:

Handling Difficult People at Work


Dealing with difficult people at work hinges upon your actions involving self-awareness, planning, toleration, and management. I’ll get to those actions later, but first, let’s look at hard situations that arise with other people on the job.


Problem Relationships at Work

No one is a stranger to arduous relationships at work. Colleagues, direct reports, managers, and contractors are among the people with whom you could have adversarial bouts. The problematical behaviors of others can manifest in myriad ways and are not limited to the following: non-verbal dismissiveness (e.g., eye rolling, sighing), bad mouthing (e.g., saying something mean about you to others), direct and unproductive conflict (e.g., arguing with you at a team meeting for the sake of being oppositional), passivity (e.g., failing to support your initiative out of spite) and outright sabotage (e.g., acting against one of your projects). The reasons for these problems come in many stripes.

Perhaps a colleague is envious of the positive relationship that you have with a higher-up. Maybe a direct report simply has an attitude with any authority figure. Your manager may feel threatened by your excellent performance. And, a contractor might perceive you as too controlling. Whatever the reason for the unpleasant actions toward you, you need to get ahold of the situation and fast.


The How-To

The following are several approaches to handling difficult people on the job.

·      Know what’s bothering you, and why.  Whenever people tell me about difficult workplace relationships, I want to know how well do they understand what’s bothering them. Who gets under their skin? What is it about that person? Is it their behaviors? Is it who they are? Identifying the “what” or “who” as the problem is pretty easy to figure out. But, it’s much harder to figure out “why” the person is bothersome. For instance, if it’s colleague who asks you too many questions about your project, then you want to figure out why that irks you. Typically, introspection is needed to get near the root of your frustration. When you know who and what causes your frustration and why, then you’re in a better position to predict when those situations are likely to arise.

·      Predict the next frustration. You want to anticipate when frustrations are likely to arise during your workday. For instance, if a bothersome man works with you on a current project, then take note of when you’ll interact with him. You can look ahead and see when you have a meeting with him or when you’ll need to give him a call. By predicting bothersome situations, you can steel yourself for the unpleasant emotions and thoughts that you’re going to have. You can also prepare by equipping yourself with two other strategies: toleration and management.

·      Toleration. You have to tolerate the difficult person, because it may be impossible to make the individual go away. A great way to try and tolerate an annoying person is to use your self-awareness. There’s a decent chance that the person bothers you, because of personal meaning their behavior has to you. In other words, what most bothers you about others, may have something to do with who you. So, you need to reflect on how you see a bit of yourself in them, a bit of you that you are not comfortable with, that is. If you can become more comfortable with what is uncomfortable about yourself, then you’ll learn to be less bothered by the behavior of others.

·      Management. You can also try to actively manage the annoying person. There are lots of ways to do it. Here are a few examples. You can rearrange the environment so that the person is not seated near you. You can try to playfully tease the person, so long as you’re okay with the person teasing you in return. You can, of course, try direct communication. Direct communication will probably bode well if the following parameters are present: (1) you’re working together on a team and have shared goals, (2) you’re guided by an, at least somewhat, impartial third party who can help foster productive communication, and (3) there are sufficient rules of conduct that help ensure a sense of acceptance, respect, and compassion.



I pointed-out several actions that you can employ in dealing with difficult interpersonal situations at work. Self-awareness is your biggest potential asset, because if you can figure out why someone is bothering you, then you may cease to unthinkingly react and begin to consciously see solutions. By predicting the next time you might see the annoying person, you’ll be able to prepare your responses and you won’t get caught off-guard. Once you’re ready, you should consider tolerating and managing the difficult individual. In fact, you’ll probably need to do both, that is, quietly tolerate the antics of the troublesome person and take some measures to make the individual less annoying. As a final thought, trite though it may be, acknowledge that learning to handle difficult people is a good professional lesson.  

Matthew Siegel, Ph.D. is an executive coach. He is the founder of Matthew Siegel Consulting LLC. He fosters active learning through collaborative and temporary relationships in which enhanced self-awareness and skill lead to desired behavior change. Connect with Matt:

Stay Calm to Make Better Decisions


You’re going to perform better in the next hectic situation at work, if you stay calm and clear headed. Yet creating more inner peace is hard to do. I’ll go over a handful of approaches that you can use that will help you stay at ease. But first, let’s look at why it’s important to stay calm.


Cluttered Mind

When you’re assailed by a barrage of distractions it makes your mind cluttered and clumsy. On the other hand, you’ll employ more reasoned thinking by creating a sense of calm in your head. Don’t know what I mean? Do a quick mental experiment. First, recall two or three times when you were very harried at work or at home and you had to make correct responses to complex problems. Then, recall two or three times when you were calm, at rest, and had to handle complex problems. In your experiment, weren’t you better at making decisions when you were calm and free from bothersome distractions? Keep your mind clear and calm, and you’ll process information with more efficiency.


The How-To

Here are five approaches to use during stressful moments when you want to come-up with effective work solutions:

·      Reduce external noise. If you can manage the right amount of visual and audio distractions in your environment, then you’ll be able to hear yourself think better and keep your eyes more trained on the task. There are some people who prefer background ambient noise, because it helps them concentrate. Others, however, need absolute quiet. Consider moving your work station to the right place to optimize the amount of noise. I know people who wear headphones while they work, because it prevents the intrusion of unwanted noise and signals colleagues to not bother them. If there’s too much visual noise, then look for a place that gives you blinders on either side to enhance your perception of being in a tunnel. Also, my hunch is that if you can maintain sufficient focus on an interesting task, then you’ll create your own tunnel vision without the need of physical props.  

·      Take a break. Any student who is successful at studying will tell you that taking regular breaks from work is key to improving performance. Play around with periods of sustained work. See for how long you can work before feeling fatigued, falling into an unhelpful pattern of circular thinking, or becoming frustrated. Then, experiment with breaks from work that consist of different periods of time and various activities. Figure out the work – break formula that functions best for you.

·      Re-focus using stimulation. An effect of becoming stressed and besieged by distractions is to lose focus on the task at hand. The loss of focus can result from having fragmented thoughts, circular thinking, and frustration. But, an interesting thing happens when you give yourself some reasonable amount of physiological stimulation. The physical sensation will snap you out of your mental fog by immediately focusing your mental sight toward the physical sensation. And then you can reset your thinking back onto task.

Here’s a step-by-step:

  1. While seated at your desk, use your hand to grasp a metal object (e.g., side of chair, ballpoint pen, leg of desk).

  2. Focus on the cool sensation of the metal on your warmer skin.

  3. Concentrate on the gradual change in perceived temperature of the metal object as the temperature sensation approaches equilibrium with your skin temperature.

·      Practice proper breathing. Admittedly, mindfulness breathing has become something of a trope. Yet careful and practiced breathing is, in fact, very helpful in calming down your central nervous system. The result is an immediate sense of peace in your mind. It’s not a magic bullet, but it takes the edge off of your amount of stress.

Here’s a step-by-step:

  1. While seated, plant your feet firmly on the ground.

  2. Sit with good posture.

  3. Rest one hand on your abdomen.

  4. Now, focus on breathing with normal sized breaths. Don’t worry about deep breathing. Inhale through your nose and make sure that the air goes into your belly region. Your hand rests on your abdomen so that you can make sure that your stomach distends with air.

  5. Then, exhale via your mouth, while feeling your stomach flatten like an inflated beach ball that is being decompressed.

  6. Repeat several times or more.

  7. One last thing. Practice with your eyes open. If you close your eyes, your co-workers might think that you’re sleeping and the breathing exercise might actually induce unwanted sleep.

·      Chunk. It’s easy to become frustrated with a task, if you don’t know where to start or if it seems like you’re not making any headway. Chunking is a simple way to alleviate those problems. To chunk, break-up a complex tasks into multiple, manageable pieces. Chip away piece by piece. You’re bound to make objective progress and get the subjective feeling of success (with the side benefits of increasing how good you feel about yourself and how much you believe you can do). Another way to think about chunking is to make the distinction between goals and objectives. Goals are overall targets and are usually somewhat vague. In relationship to goals, objectives are specific, quantifiable, and measurable targets that lead to goals. So, your goal might be to complete some complex project, but the objectives are the chunks.


I just offered five different ways to create more calmness in your mind so that you can set the stage to use more reasonable thinking in addressing your decisions. Those five approaches are: reducing external noise, taking a break, re-focusing by using stimulation, practicing proper breathing, and chunking. There are plenty of other ways to stay calm, but I think that starting with only a handful ideas is a good place to start.

Remember: No one can make effective decisions, if their minds are a mess.


Matthew Siegel, Ph.D. is an executive coach. He is the founder of Matthew Siegel Consulting LLC. He fosters active learning through collaborative and temporary relationships in which enhanced self-awareness and skill lead to desired behavior change. Connect with Matt: