Our environment is so dynamic today that we do not have enough time to build meaningful relationships with the people around us. Someone we may think is our friend may turn against us and show ambidextrous behavior, while others who may have looked far from us may be our closest ally in hard times. And if we stop and look, we can easily recognize positive and negative people around us. Many of us try to find a meaningful reason why a person may be ambidextrous, but in most cases, the answer is simple – the environment has allowed that person to show their true face. The roles played, like the nice person, the person to go to, the one always listening, and the helpful colleague, may have been the only masks the person was wearing. At the same time, its true identity may have been toxic and not answer your and the company’s values and standards. And it becomes even more complex when this person has been assigned to a leadership role, impacting part of the company’s business. Sounds familiar? Well, you are not alone. According to research conducted back in 2019, eighty-four percent of the companies in this research have had challenging moments dealing with ambidextrous behavior at any level in the company. Fifty-two percent reported having people with such behavior in their leadership teams.
While these statistics look scary, many people ask themselves how to deal with ambidextrous colleagues. Yet, at the same time, people struggle while working with someone who plays against the rules and the norms set in the company.
I have had several cases of ambidextrous colleagues and even bosses. Likewise, as a consultant, I have had clients who struggled with such behavior in their organizations. From the experience I have gained, I have formulated simple rules for dealing with ambidextrous people. This set proved to work with twelve companies during the last four years.
Step 1: Analyze your environment
Starting with the big picture is always a good choice. Analyzing the whole environment in the company, with the rules set, the values communicated, and the behaviors shown, is the starting point where anyone should start. If the analysis shows ambidextrous behavior, but the whole structure behaves like this, then it is not wise to continue. That will mean that ambidextrous behavior has become the norm in the company, and you will need to search for a different approach. But suppose the ambidextrous behavior deviates from the culture and environment(only a small group of people demonstrate it). In that case, it is worth the effort to find a way to minimize that behavior.
Step 2: Define where ambidextrous behavior shows
Understanding where the ambidextrous behavior shows is crucial because this is the foundation you will step on to create the change. For example, when you experience ambidextrous behavior on the lower hierarchical level, you may act hard and with the help of only one or two leadership layers above. Still, suppose this behavior is shown in the senior leadership team. In that case, you need to act carefully and involve as many allies as possible that are on the same or even higher level in the structure.
Step 3: Act with evidence and personally
Many people do when finding an inappropriate behavior to announce it publicly and hope that anyone else will support them in dealing with this behavior. But doing that may create space for negativity and aggression and unlock a series of conflicts that may destroy the whole structure. No matter that you see unethical and ambidextrous behavior publicly shown assume that part of this behavior may not be seen as such by the person. You will need to get first to the person and create a conversation space to understand why it behaves like that.
Step 4: Have everything documented
You had probably heard this before but did not want to believe that some people can turn down a promise or an engagement. Recently I have had such a case where the person was talking about one thing in our meeting, then turned to execute a completely different set of actions. When asked why it is not sticking to what we discussed, he answered that he never understood my expectations in how I have put them on the table. Fortunately, I recorded the meeting and played it again to the person and our CEO on my laptop. After doing that, the person got frustrated but saw that there wouldn’t be any escape from what was promised. So documenting meetings is a powerful tool to point out accountability and, at the same time, ensure that you can defend yourself if an unpleasant situation arises.
Step 5: Use only proven information
Ambidextrous people rely on people’s emotional instability to achieve what they want. Saying one thing and doing the opposite is a strategy to destabilize the other person and use their emotional disbalance to manage the situation with a positive outcome for them. Often when we see ambidextrous behavior, we tend to become emotional and add elements to what has been said or done during a meeting or after that with an ambidextrous person. Before you act, you will need to prove that the information you share is the only truth, and there won’t be any elements that may cause your position to be seen as inappropriate or even a lie. Checking records from meetings, notes, and talking to people who have participated in meetings with you and the ambidextrous person or just have been around at this time and heard about what you have discussed is always a good option and can save many nerves.
Step 6: Turn off/lower emotions
Ambidextrous people rely on emotions to win, but they are almost powerless if you switch emotions to logic and strong business acumen. Emotions can be interpreted in different ways. They may be seen as something positive, but at the same time can be seen as something that lowers your power of authority and makes you weak. When dealing with an ambidextrous person, you will need to look as much as you can confident and sure in what you say or do. Putting emotions back and building a wall from logical thinking is always a good start. It may cause the ambidextrous person to rethink their strategy and let down some of the actions they have thought to show while trying to become winners from the situation with you.
Step 7: Search for experience
Our EGO often disallows us to show that we need help. In many situations we fall in, we try to solve them ourselves to prove that we can do it. At the same time, many people around you can always find someone with experience in a similar situation or with similar behavior, etc. The wise move that will save you time and nerves is to show vulnerability and weakness and ask for help. Even only a piece of advice can help you with your plan. There is no need to request an experienced person to do your job, but as much as it can help, your case’s proven knowledge and experience is always a better option.
Step 8: Search for allies
In some cases, the ambidextrous person can be someone with power and authority. So it won’t be wise to stand alone against that person. But building an alliance with people who have a similar issue with a person like you can support your efforts in dealing quickly with your case. That does not mean starting a war in the office or in your friendship circle, but you can always build a network of supporters to be around you. Involving some or all of them in your interaction with the ambidextrous person lowers its level of impact and makes you a winner in an elegant and not confronting direct way.
Ambidextrous people are among us. They are part of our environment. Anyone has met them and has experienced some hard-to-balance moments with them. Dealing with such people is always challenging because they use things we do not think of so often as their weapons. But with good preparation and balanced communication and action plan, these people are manageable and can even contribute to every strategy execution. You will only need to find the right way to push back gently and use your knowledge and skills to achieve results or build more meaningful relationships. It is not up to them but up to you to succeed. What are you waiting for – GO and transform your relationship with an ambidextrous person from a black hole into a winning strike.