A number of people have come to me talking about difficult work environments, and asking for help with coping strategies.

The first thing I do is ask them to explain what’s going on. This usually involves some venting of emotions (the topic I addressed yesterday), along with the explanation of certain facts. As Dawn and Tracey mentioned, I keep the venting to a fairly short amount of time.

Then I begin asking questions. Asking questions is a powerful coaching tool. By asking questions, I help the person understand better what they are bringing to the situation – their attitudes, fears, anxieties, ego. That moves them immediately into more objectivity and problem-solving mode. At that point, we can come up with strategies for successfully managing their own behavior and approach to make the work situation more productive and happier.

Here’s an example: a client came to me very angry because her boss was not inviting her to key outside meetings. She felt disrespected and devalued. After working with me for a while, she understood that it would not be useful for her to get angry with her boss, so she turned to me for help.

Through asking questions, I helped my client discover what was behind the anger. It turned out that she believed she could do a better job and provide more value to her employer by going to meetings with potential partners.

My client was able to articulate to her boss that she thought she could add value by going to these meetings, and why – in a charge-neutral way. And because my client was no longer so angry, she was able to be vulnerable and say she felt a little left out.

It turned out that her boss completely understood her reasoning and apologized for not bringing her. And she sees now how including my client will help the company be even more effective.

It was a huge step forward for their relationship, and another example for me of the power of questions.