The first step in change management: Become aware of your own BS.

In the workplace, it’s common to feel like you deal with a lot of BS (bulls**t – just in case you aren’t aware of what BS is!). Whether it’s from clients, coworkers, or your boss, we all, at times can give a little and take a little. With self-reflection, you may also realize that you’re guilty of it too. I know I can be.

When workplaces face significant change, you may notice more BS flying around than normal. Sensitive topics can sometimes create the feeling that we need to sugarcoat things or stretch the truth in order to get people to stop asking questions or to buy into the change. So, how do you deal with it and take ownership of your own actions?

What to do about your own BS?

During change at work, while we need to put the supports in place for others to change, we need to remember we can’t change others and to focus on ourselves first.

If you been feeling uncomfortable about a change at work, ask yourself: Why don’t I feel like I can be upfront about this issue? Why did I just say that, instead of sharing the truth? Maybe you’re unhappy with your role, or feel like you can’t talk to your manager. If you’re a leader, maybe you don’t feel like you’re in the know about company changes or you might not feel supported by your boss. These things can usually be fixed.

Once you realize your own BS, it’s time to make the changes. Model the behaviours you want from others as the starting point. If you’re the leader during times of change, be as open and honest with your staff as you can be without being dishonest. As a leader, you can’t be open about everything. It’s okay to say, “I don’t have all the information right now” and admit that you don’t know what’s going on. If you can’t share information, you may need to strategize with your boss and colleagues about how to handle the situation when asked – without lying! If people find out you’ve been dishonest, trust will be broken. Your employees will appreciate the truth in the short-term and in the long-term your honesty will build trust amongst your staff.

Whenever you feel the urge to BS, it’s better to say “let me get back to you on that” rather than blurting out a reply that may not be 100% truthful.

Should we call out each other’s BS?

This really depends. At the end of the day, we can only really control our own actions. However, in professional settings we can absolutely help guide our coworkers or staff to make better decisions. If you feel like someone has been giving you the runaround at work, you can choose to talk to them about it. Think about the issue at hand and see if you can articulate what you’re thinking in a way that is professional and unemotional. Get onto that person’s side of the bridge to see things from their point of view before having the discussion. If you’re unsure, bounce your idea off of a trusted colleague or peer.

Once you’re ready to discuss it with the person, do it somewhere private. While this may seem intuitive, when we are busy, we may think we don’t have the time to find a private space! Never do it in the moment or in front of people, no matter how much pressure you feel. Begin the discussion and ask a question as fairly as possible to avoid the person getting defensive. By asking questions in a compassionate tone, an employee or boss will be more open to discussing sensitive topics. BS is usually a cover up for someone feeling unhappy or threatened by the change, so create a space to have the dialogue to try to get to the root of the issue.

At the end of the day, if you feel like someone is constantly BSing you, even after you tried to bring it up, then you may just have to shift your relationship with that person. Only you get to choose how much BS you give or take, and if something doesn’t feel right then you get to make the choice on how to move forward!