SLOW DOWN, OR YOU WILL LOSE EVERYTHING

tired

SHOW DATE: JULY 3, 2013

It’s easy to tell yourself to slow down when you’re overloaded with work. You know that if you don’t take a deep breath and relax, you might get so overwhelmed that you’ll shut down, or explode, or (worse yet) dramatically decrease your level of productivity. But slowing down is easier said than done, and most of the time, the advice is dismissed. So let’s try something more drastic: slow down, or you will lose everything. Your job, your co-workers, your family, your friends. All gone. Did that catch your attention? Good, now let’s move on.

So you’re one of those people who wears their busyness as a badge of courage. When a friend approaches you and asks you to join them on a night out, a little martyr in your head jumps for joy as you say, “I’m too busy, I’ve got too much work tonight.” You’re proud to be constantly busy. After all, it’s a natural stamp of success. But what you’re not aware of is that you’re close to a tipping point where being very busy can quickly topple over into being overwhelmed.

Remember those times when your life job rapidly transformed from being pleasantly full of things to do, to engulfing you in its hideous jaws of anxiety and exhaustion? It’s those moments when you are neck-deep not only in your own work, but other people’s work, their problems, your problems, approaching deadlines, unhappy family and friends etc. It’s at those moments when you get awfully close to cashing in your chips, getting on a plane and flying off to Rio to teach island kids some English. But some time passes, urgent issues get resolved and in a day or two you’re back to your busy, buzzing self.

What you don’t realize here is that you’re in denial. You sit on your emotions until they blow like a volcano—you burn out. And that’s damaging (unproductive) to everybody around you, as well as your health. You are alienating those around you who can actually help you achieve balance. But here’s some good news: you can be busy, successful and calm. You don’t have to burn out. Here are a few pointers to get you on your way:

1)   Avoid bad advice: quit your job. Get a new career. Change your environment. Anyone who says this, IGNORE THEM. You love what you do, why should you give it up? This is not a geography problem, it’s a you problem.

2)   Acknowledge your problem and get organized: ok, who let the psychotherapist in? Seriously, though, accept that you have a problem—you don’t know when (or how) to relax. Organize your thoughts and write them down. Why can’t you take a break every once in a while? Why do you leave it up to fate to decide when that tipping point occurs? Why aren’t you preparing for the busy season? And now that your thoughts are organized, why aren’t you asking for help?

3)   Ask for help, don’t be afraid to be a cog: go ahead, ask. If you’re emotionally and physically drained from work and you’re having a meltdown, ask your friends and family for help—a fun night out, a family get-together, a simple dinner. That’s why they’re there. At work, allocate some tasks to your co-workers. You don’t have to be a one-man show. Are you afraid that if you don’t do everything yourself you will be a simple cog in the wheel? That you won’t be Superman? Let’s try taking out a small cog from a mechanical watch. What do you think will happen? Shift your perspective—without you, things will stop working. But that cog can’t function alone. Asking for help is the key to giving yourself time to cool down and move ahead.

4)   Moving ahead: you dream of being big like Gates. But what you have to keep in mind is that things will only get busier and more stressful as you grow, and time and stress management are only going to get more important. Ask for help, know your function (and when to go outside of it) and take a breather every now and then—you’re not Superman, but you can definitely perform at his level once you know that you have to slow down and take a deep breathe once in a while. (Try this as well.)

 

By Aleksandr Smechov

 

DEALING WITH THE PAULA DEEN IN YOUR OFFICE

angry-manager

SHOW DATE: JUNE 26, 2013

Do you have a Paula Dean in your office? Someone who constantly whines about others’ problems, crying “poor me, poor me,” while never even considering others’ feelings? Worse yet, is it possible that someone is you?

You’ve worked and lived with “victims” your whole life—and at some point you may have even played the part and been the Paula Deen. The Food Network star, who was recently ousted from her show after the exposure of racial slurs she made years ago, made a vital misstep that greatly impacted her chances at rebuilding her reputation: she let her apology breathe. She allowed herself to fall back on an old apology and then proceeded to complain about her problems.

What Paula didn’t take into account was that it’s the injured party that gets to decide how much apologizing is enough. It’s the same in the office—you don’t get to apologize and say, “I’ve done it, it’s over.” Glazing over the problem will only put the injured party into a higher state of agitation and halt their productivity even further. To avoid this, there are two important factors you need to always watch out for in your office: how to avoid being a victim and how to deal with one.

So how do you avoid being a big, thumb-sucking victim at work? Stop with excuses! Whatever your trump card—a grave illness, hard times at home, working too hard—by making it about yourself, you’re putting your troubles and feelings above everybody else’s. If you are responsible, take responsibility; don’t pen it down to personal issues or others’ insensitivity.

It’s easy to just tell yourself to take responsibility, but the actual process requires several necessary actions that not everybody is clear on. Here are three steps to get you started:

1)    Don’t be stubborn, apologize: the first step to avoiding victimizing yourself when you’ve done something wrong is saying two magic words (well, not really magic): “I’m sorry.” And once may not be enough. You may have to apologize multiple times before the injured party will feel understood. Paula Deen neglected the fact that her apology was not enough. This only further corroded her career and reputation. Neglect the injured party at work and you may end up the same.

2)    Don’t let your ego get in the way: Does pride get in your way? Are you the higher-up or fellow co-worker who never stoops so low as to say a simple “I’m sorry” to your lowly underlings? News flash: this mentality is a flaccid ego trip. It will only result in unsatisfied, frustrated co-workers, and make you look incompetent because you can’t take responsibility. In the words of Marcellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction: “F**k pride.” (You can fill in the blanks.) Pride is just another deflection, another facet of the “victim” mentality. Pride is one of the reasons Paula Deen is still in a hot mess for comments she made years ago. Who can respect someone who can’t even own up to their mistakes? Learn from Paula everybody.

3)    Hey, LISTEN: the most important step is to listen. Say “I’m sorry” and listen to the affected party. It doesn’t matter if you believe what they have to say is rubbish. Rushing headlong through the problem, burying it in the sand, bulldozing through the truth—these post-apology deflections will only cause more discomfort and will keep people from performing their best around you. An apology is not a one-way street, and thinking this way will lead you into a cul-de-sac. In case Paula Deen hasn’t been made an example of enough in this article, here’s another parable: Paula thought you just had to apologize and poof, all your racist comments would go up in smoke. But Paula neglected to listen—the other, more difficult half of the apology paradigm. Paula didn’t listen to how the people she affected felt about her comments. Thus Paula’s apology never formulized into anything concrete and genuine. The moral is, turn a blind eye to how the injured party feels, and your apologies will be for naught.   

But what if you are the injured party? Is your supervisor letting you and your co-workers take the heat for something he messed up because he is afraid of looking bad in front of the CEO? Is a co-worker not doing the job he’s supposed to because of personal issues he takes with him to the office? Dealing with victims can be a giant exercise in frustration. You confront them about their responsibility and they mark it off to working too hard or family troubles or whatever—as if their problems are worse than anyone else’s in the office.

Relax. There are ways to deal with an office victim other than bludgeoning them to death with a stapler. Here are two steps to start you off:

1)    Mind your setting: will you confront the victim in front of all your co-workers and call them out on their selfish ways, or will you be smart and approach them in private when there is no social pressure that would cause them to raise their defenses? Setting matters. A victim is much more likely to deflect your criticism when others are around. Approach them in a low-stress, quiet environment where the two of you can talk—they’re more likely to listen this way. On a slightly different note regarding setting, keep in mind that when talking to a victim, you don’t have to dismiss their problems—they might be really struggling at home or internally. You can even try and help your co-worker – just do it after work. Part of what makes an office victim a victim is his tendency to bring personal problems into a place of productivity, thus brining others down with him.

2)    Yeah, you’re right—so what… kill them with kindness: this is a big one, get ready. So you approach your office victim and they use their flurry of excuse cards to deflect any criticism you throw at them. This is where you have to stop and consider: “Am I doing this to prove that I’m right?” First off, let’s get something out of the way: You’re right, they’re wrong. It’s true. But so what? Being right won’t help you run an efficient office. This is the part when you take one for the team: kill the victim with kindness (remember what Marcellus Wallace said?). It’s easier for the victim to hear you out when you don’t sound like you’re being confrontational. Tell them how you were affected by their actions and then ask them to apologize. After all, you’re helping them save their reputation. If you’re coming into the fray with the intent to be right and to prove the victim wrong, not only will your argument flail, flounder and fall upon deaf ears, but you will be adopting the mindset of the victim himself—in other words, you’ll only be doing something for your self-benefit.

Remember, you’re in it for the team, not yourself. Paula Deen wasn’t thinking about the “team” when she apologized—she was out to protect her self-interest and retain her pride. And you can see how far that got her.

 

By Aleksandr Smechov

WHAT KIND OF MONSTER BOSS DO YOU HAVE?

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SHOW DATE: MAY 22, 2013

One of the biggest viral videos of 2013 is the episode of Kitchen Nightmares featuring Amy’s Baking Company. If you haven’t seen it, watch it NOW. We guarantee it will make you incredibly happy. Why? Because the restaurant’s owners, Amy and Samy, are the two worst bosses EVER. And why should that make you happy? Because you don’t work for them. And you never will. And you’ve just dodged the biggest bullet in the world when it comes to Monster Bosses.

But if you do have a Monster Boss—someone almost as bad as Amy and Samy (as hard as that is to imagine)—we want you to know what to do. Everyone has worked for a terrible manager at some point in their careers, but a real Monster Boss can have truly negative impact on your life. The stress you experience at work will begin to affect the rest of your life, jeopardizing your relationships, happiness, and health. And at the end of the day, a job isn’t worth all that.

But all Monster Bosses are not created equal, and how you handle a Monster Boss depends on what kind of Monster Boss you have. So, let’s look at the three kinds of Monster Bosses and how you should handle each:

1. The CRAZY YELLING AGGRESSIVE MONSTER BOSS. This is Amy from Amy’s Baking Company. This boss has a terrible temper, robust vocal chords, and will never be satisfied by your performance. She’s confrontational, lashes out at you constantly, and is probably regarded as “crazy” around the workplace.

What’s important to know about this Monster Boss is that it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. This Monster Boss is deeply insecure.  She’s stressed. She’s probably under great pressure from an outside source, whether her own Monster Boss or something unseen (financial or personal issues). In other words, this Monster Boss isn’t responding to anything you’re doing wrong, she’s coping with her own demons. And that means you can’t take it personally (even when she calls you a “moron”).

Once you understand that, you should see how to cope with this boss: Trying to fight back will be like throwing gasoline on the fire. So instead, take it down a notch. When the boss gets emotional, stay calm and cool.  When the boss makes it personal, keep it professional.  When the boss yells at you, don’t yell back. Simply apologize—even if it’s not your fault. These tactics will keep your boss grounded and feeling in control. And over time, she’ll stop yelling because she’ll realize how crazy she looks. Sure, this strategy might bruise your ego a bit (who wants to apologize when it wasn’t their fault), but so what—would you rather be right or be happy?

2. THE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE MONSTER BOSS. This is Samy. This boss won’t yell and scream. Instead, he will be manipulative and underhanded in ways you may not even see. Instead of confronting you, he will tell someone else about your flaws.  Instead of screaming, he will write you off and start ignoring you. And when you’ve crossed this person too many times, he will slowly and quietly do whatever he can to dismantle your career from the inside-out.

The best way to handle this boss is to earn his trust. Direct confrontation will not work; if he felt confortable with confrontation, he’d confront you. And avoidance will only lead him to think you don’t like him, which will make things worse. But by proving yourself to this boss and showing that you respect him, you can remain on his good side. While he’s not particularly loyal, he is petty—so as long as you don’t give him things to nitpick, you’ll stay in his good graces.

3. THE MONSTER YOU CREATE. Sometimes the boss is not a monster at all—you’ve just decided he is.  For example: if your boss yells at you for frequently being late (and you are late), your boss is not a monster. You are! It doesn’t matter if your boss is particularly nasty about it—he is within his rights if you are being negligent and repeating the same mistakes over and over.

If there is even a remote possibility that you’ve created a monster, you need to check in with yourself. Get real: Did you cause this? Are you working as hard as you can? Are you overly sensitive to criticism in general? If the answer is yes, then you need to adjust your behavior. You need to become more responsible at work and stop creating stories that are convenient for you but ultimately untrue.

If you follow the instructions above correctly, you should start to see a change in your relationship with your boss.  If not, then it’s possible that your situation is simply irreparable, and that you need to start looking for another job.  That may be a tough pill to swallow if you love your job (or if you’re terrified of being able to find a new one), but you owe it to yourself to have a job that doesn’t make you miserable.

 

ARE YOU A BLAMER OR AN EXCUSE MAKER?

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SHOW DATE: MAY 15, 2013

“It’s not my fault.”  Admit it: you’ve said these four words countless times.  Sure, sometimes you use this phrase as an excuse, but sometimes it’s true. After all, it’s not your fault that Brandy, the new admin assistant, forgot to get a confirmation from the client, right?!

Wrong. If you want to be truly successful in your career and get that promotion you’re convinced you deserve, then you need to be a real leader. And leaders are people who take on great responsibility—not just for what they do, but for what happens all around them. In other words, if you want to achieve success, you need to embrace a new mindset—one that requires you to be 100% responsible for everything.

Think this all sounds impossible? It’s not. Keep reading and we guarantee you’ll get it… and maybe even get that promotion, too.

First of all, let’s look for signs that you’re not being responsible enough in your career.  Do you ever say any of the following phrases?

  • “That’s not in my job description”
  • “Don’t blame me for that”
  • “I’m doing the best I can”
  • “That’s one of Sarah’s duties”

If you say any of the above, then you’re not being responsible enough at work. And chances are, you’re being one of two classic archetypes:

  1. The Blamer: The blamer always tries to shift responsibilities, obligations, and blame onto others.
  2. The Excuse-maker. This person always has a great reason why something didn’t happen, and it’s always a factor outside his/her control.

Bringing this mindset to work isn’t just unproductive; it’s also stopping you from being as great as you can.  Yes, it’s scary to take responsibility for everything around you. It feels like it’s a quick way to get in trouble and have your head on the chopping block.

But that’s not the way it works. If you really embrace the idea that you are 100% responsible for everything that happens—whether in your control or not—then you will become powerful.  You will stop creating excuses and start creating solutions.  And when you do that, the workplace improves, your team does better, you are recognized as the driving force behind positive change, and you get promoted into the position you deserve.

So here’s how the practice of being 100% responsible plays out in action. Here are three scenarios, each with a description of how the responsible worker responds:

Scenario 1: You’re late to work because of bad traffic.

Someone who is irresponsible says, “It’s not my fault it’s late.  The traffic was terrible.  I can’t do anything about that.” But if you’re 100% responsible, you recognize that you can do something about it:  Even if traffic is only bad once in a while, you decide to leave 10 minutes early every day just in case.  Sure, you’ll usually get to work 10 minutes early.  But that means you’ll be the first person in the office every day. And you’ll never be “the late guy.”  The boss will notice these facts, and you’ll be rewarded.

Scenario 2: Your teammate often misses deadlines, so the team is always in trouble

Think you can’t be responsible for your teammate’s work? Think again. You can start sending her friendly reminders. You can check in on her. If you’re worried about being one of those guys—the kind that is always too involved in other’s business—you can adjust your approach. For example, BCC people in emails so you’re not publicly humiliating the slacker teammate. Or you can start seeing her as a slacker and start seeing her as someone who is struggling, which will lead you to offer help. Showing that you care about the worker—not just the product—could lead her to open up and express what the real problem is. That will lead you to developing solutions instead of making excuses, and that’s what gets you promoted.

Scenario 3: A tornado wiped out every possible route to work.

OK, so there are some “acts of God” that you truly can’t control. But you can still respond to them as someone who is responsible. Instead of taking a “well I can’t help it when a tornado comes through” approach, show that you feel responsible and be proactive. Imagine getting a call from someone who apologized profusely for not being able to get to work because of a natural disaster. You wouldn’t blame them—you know it’s not their fault—but you would hold them in high regard for feeling bad about it instead of feeling like an entitled victim.

Finally, the other great thing about being 10% responsible is that it makes you irreplaceable.  Once people see that you re responsible fro everything—from always being on time to being the one who ensures the printer never runs out of toner—they will realize they can’t live without you. That’s the kind of job security everyone wants to have…and the kind of person who climbs the corporate ladder faster than everyone else.

ARE YOU A VICTIM OF WORKPLACE BULLYING?

kickme

SHOW DATE: May 8, 2013

Several recent articles suggest that there has been an alarming increase in workplace bullying over the past decade. A whopping 35% of Americans report being bullied at work.  And 64% of people who experience workplace bullying lose or quit their jobs.

But are you being bullied?  Even if your first instinct is to say “no,” it’s very possible that you are experiencing workplace bullying and don’t even know it—because you don’t really know what it is!  So let’s define it for you right now: Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence.  It’s an intentional campaign of personal destruction carried out by another person (or people) towards you. In other words, it is emotional abuse…and it frequently results in emotional harm.

Even if you have experienced some of the above behavior, chances are you think you can cope with it.  That’s because you’ve been raised to believe that it’s OK to get yelled at and demeaned as long as you get paid at the end of the day.  But that’s simply not the case. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and the right to be fulfilled by your job. You won’t love your career every day, but if your job haunts you and destroys your sense of self-worth, you need to do something about it.

The action you take depends on the nature of the person who is bullying you.  There are three different types of bullies, and each requires a different action:

1. Some bullies are merely insecure. These people bring you down because they are worried that you’ll outshine them. With people like this, you can often change your behavior to improve the situation (i.e., play to their egos, laud them publicly, become an ally, etc). While this might be a bitter pill to swallow at first, you can often transform an insecure person into a confident one over time.

2. Some bullies are just really bad managers. They’re not actually out to get you, they just don’t know how to manage people. If this is the case, you can work with HR to fix the issue.

3. Some people are simply mean and bully you for sport. If this is the case, you have to leave your job. You simply can’t work with or for this person.

It’s also important to determine something else: what is your responsibility in this matter? Many bullied employees stay in detrimental situations for the same reason victims of domestic abuse stay in marriages: they feel responsible to the well-being of the “family”. While this thinking is understandable, it is not acceptable. Your primary responsibility is to your own health and well-being. Don’t worry that you are “abandoning” your co-workers or clients; as great as you are, they can and will survive without you. It’s your own survival you need to be most concerned with.

Finally, if you decide that going to HR is the best path for you, make sure you follow these steps first:

  • Find an ally.  If you go to HR alone, it’s your word against the bully’s. If you know that others feel bullied, form an allegiance.  Your case will be much more powerful if others can corroborate the behavior.
  • Document the behavior. Begin writing down the offensive incidents when they occur. Just a brief paragraph explaining what happened, with the date. You may end up submitting these to HR, or you may only use them as notes when you approach HR. Either way, it’s important that you have specific incidents that you can refer to; otherwise, you risk sounding vague, which will not help your case.
  • Finally, when you go to HR, make a business case.  Don’t make a personal case (“my boss isn’t fair,” “he doesn’t deserve his job”). Instead, explain how the bully is bad for the business. Explain how the bully’s behavior has resulted in low morale, loss of productivity, increased turnover, dissatisfied clients, or a greater risk of the company getting sued, etc. Personal beefs sound like whining; a business case will show that you are the team player and belong at the job more than the bully.

Workplace bullying is a serious problem and a very difficult situation to navigate.  But if you follow the above advice and keep your own needs in mind, you will be able to make it through.