“From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. . . Take control and choose to focus on what is important.”
~ Anais Nin ~
Mary Ann is caught in a downward spiral. She manages a department for a mid-sized manufacturing company and the atmosphere at work has gotten so negative lately that she hates going to work—at a job she used to love.
Office politics leads to negative behavior. Left unchecked, this can have dangerous consequences. According to Gordon Davidson, writing in the Kamloops Daily News, “Workplace politics is a broad term for many events at work such as passive-aggressive sabotage, gossip, turf wars, scapegoating, power struggles, sibling rivalries, office romances, favoritism, dysfunctional decision making: all kinds of things that cause stress, burnout and eventually depression,” says Davidson. “It’s one of the leading causes for disability claims, absenteeism and family distress.”
Exactly what Mary Ann has been experiencing. She could just shrug it off or blame it on a bad economy or bad weather. Instead she decides it’s up to her to turn things around. She embarks on a mission to figure out what’s happening and why. If you’re experiencing a similar syndrome, you may want to follow these three simple steps:
• Isolate trouble spots
• Take it public
• Accentuate the positive
1. Isolate trouble spots. Mary Ann began to observe her environment more closely so she could see where the negative sentiments were coming from. If you’re in a similar situation, ask yourself: Is top management modeling this negative vibe? Are people only focusing on what hasn’t been done, instead of appreciating what has? Is the negative sentiment coming from a single source or multiple sources? Mary Ann determined that hers was a departmental issue, based on demands of a fast-growing business, plus the volume and pace of work.
2. Take it public. Mary Ann’s next move was to bring the problem out in the open. She first discussed what she was experiencing with her boss. If trouble is brewing, management needs to be aware and know that you’re working on the problem. Next, call an all-hands meeting. Share your observations and ask people to express their feelings. Whatever is bringing people down, whether it’s a disagreement between two team members or a mini-rebellion against work overload, a frank discussion of the situation is the first step toward resolving it.
3. Accentuate the positive. To quote Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Your team may not experience an overnight attitude adjustment, but you can. Every person you meet with, from one-on-ones to team meetings, find out what’s going well. Focus on that. Every time you share about the company or your situation with others, focus on the positive first. Notice what the team and individuals are doing well and talk it up. Most importantly, take five minutes a day and write down all the things that you personally are doing well, all the areas that feel positive to you. When you begin to feel positive, you’ll act positive and the feeling will spread.
Mary Ann’s department didn’t change overnight and yours won’t either. The negative attitudes brought on by office politics can spread faster than the common cold. The sooner you start treatment, the sooner you, and everyone else, will begin to feel better.
If office politics is creating a bad environment in your workplace, Joel has some suggestions for you. Email him and start solving your problem today.
Talkback: What’s your office politics story? Share your problems and solutions here.
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“The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”
~ Socrates ~
Do you ever feel like your boss simply doesn’t appreciate you? Are you stuck in the same job, unable to advance, with your salary frozen at the same miserable rate? You could be a victim of your own bad habits—habits that may have earned you a shoddy reputation.
And it doesn’t take a dramatic faux pas—like swinging from the chandelier and calling your boss an idiot during a staff party—to slaughter your reputation. Sometimes, it is the little things that earn us a bad rap.
Here are a few of the little things you might be doing that could be ruining your career.
1. Exuding sloppiness. Does your workspace look like the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust? A disorganized, cluttered desk creates the impression that you have sloppy work habits and can’t keep on top of things.
Do your clothes look like you’ve slept in them? An unkempt appearance sends the message that you are either too lazy to pick up an iron or you simply don’t care.
Maintaining a tidy and organized work area and a professional appearance will do wonders to clean up your damaged reputation.
2. Doing the bare minimum. Every office has its clock-watchers—the ones who can never be found before starting time and leave at five o’clock sharp. No matter how busy the office is, their breaks are a top priority. They are unavailable to work overtime or take extra shifts. And they avoid tasks that are not part of their job description.
Technically, these individuals aren’t doing anything wrong. They are working during their assigned working hours—but they are unwilling to go the proverbial extra mile. And amongst their bosses and co-workers they are creating a lasting, negative impression—one that will greatly hamper their career.
Do you find yourself staring at the clock, getting ready to leave five minutes before quitting time, and dropping everything to take your coffee break? These seemingly benign actions may be earning you a shoddy reputation.
3. Moaning. Perpetually complaining, badmouthing co-workers, or having a negative attitude can kill staff morale and poison an office’s atmosphere. These employees are likely to require removal—and this equates to either a dead-end position or the end of the unemployment line.
Employers appreciate staff members who are enthusiastic about making a positive contribution to the company—and they reward them accordingly. Ensure that your interactions have a positive impact on those around you.
4. Having a bad online reputation. Have you repeatedly been turned down for promotions or new employment and don’t understand why? Perhaps you need to examine your internet reputation.
You can bet that prospective employers and clientele will check you out online. That is why it is imperative that you ensure that your photos and comments on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, and other social media are appropriate. Make sure you delete anything that you wouldn’t want your future boss to see—because it can never be “unseen.” And the damage to your reputation cannot be undone.
5. Clinging to “old school.” Yes, maybe you have done it that way for the past twenty years. And, yes, your boss has heard the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to change with the times. Being inflexible and unwilling to adapt will quickly earn you a bad reputation and make employers wonder why they keep you around.
If new technologies intimidate you, ask for help, take a course, or buy yourself a Dummies Guide. Never simply refuse to learn.
It doesn’t take a grandiose display of stupidity to annihilate your professional reputation—sometimes it’s just the accumulation of little things. By simply ceasing to engage in these easy-to-fix behaviors, you can greatly enhance how others perceive you—and greatly improve your career path.
Talkback: What are the little things you might be doing that could be impacting your career success negatively? What are you doing to fix this?
Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, novelist, and avid blogger who loves to use words to entertain and educate.
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Conflict among staff can occur because of the things we say or how we act. It can also occur when our body language communicates things we might not be aware of. To increase harmony in the office, consider training employees to develop a recognition of the importance of body language and give them skills to master it.
When we listen to people, we also read their body language to see if it is in sync with their words. Most people recognize the body language that says: I’m interested, I’m not interested, I’m busy, please listen to me.
But some people are less aware of body language. When they ignore these messages or misread them, tension and irritation occurs. Training employees to develop awareness of other people’s body language and the unspoken messages they send can create more trust and harmony in the work place. It’s worth the effort.
1. Give Voice to Body Language. If you find that meetings are disrupted by annoying fidgeting or conversations are distracted by the listener staring off into space, it may be time to talk about and train your staff on this topic. Consider role playing to show the messages sent so even the less sensitive workers recognize the language of the body. Video tape staff speaking or listening so they can see their own body language.
Often people are highly critical when they see themselves on screen. Balance their views with supportive staff who point out the messages they see in their coworker’s body language. When body language is addressed head on and out in the open, employees develop more sensitivity to their physical actions as well as being in tune with others.
2. Body language that shows more than you want. The key effectiveness of body language is that it helps others discern a person’s true feelings. While you might think you are talking pleasantly to someone you’re angry with, your body language will tell a different story. Help employees develop coping strategies.
- Check your emotions. Before you talk with a person or enter a meeting, evaluate how you feel about the people you will see. If you feel angry, frustrated, or condescending toward anyone there, watch out! Be very careful your body is not exhibiting your emotions.
- Be honest. The easiest way to gain great body language is to have good emotions and communication skills. If you are interested, if you are paying attention, if you are respectful to your co workers, your body will automatically broadcast those emotions.
3. Body Language that lies. As you train and develop your employees, help them recognize the internal and external reasons body language may not represent the “truth.”
- If a person is hungry or needs to relieve him or herself, the stresses of the body will be reflected in actions. The fidgeting, hunching the body, or glancing at the clock might be misinterpreted as disinterest, when the causes are biological. Help your employees avoid sending these incorrect messages by planning ahead and not going into meetings or events hungry or stressed. A chilly room may cause crossed arms.
- Illness—either temporary or long-running can affect our body language. Help employees be aware of others who have ADHD or Tourette’s or any of a host of other medical problems that may cause them to act differently.
Offices run smoother when conflicts are kept to a minimum through understanding and respect. One effective way to make this happen is through training employees to be aware of their own body language and to not misunderstand the body language of those around them.
Email Joel to find out more about training and developing employees.
Talkback: What annoying body language have you faced? Was there ever a time when you thought you understood someone’s body language and discovered you were mistaken?
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~ Colin Powell ~
Increase your personal development and career potential as you master these areas of communication with your boss. Great communication demonstrates growth and maturity. Poor communication sabotages your advancement. Eliminate these words and the values they illustrate and see your influence and recognition rise.
1. “It was nothing.” “No big deal.” When you can’t accept a compliment, you show a lack of confidence in yourself. After all, if you don’t think it’s a good job, why should anyone else? When your boss compliments you, don’t denigrate yourself. He is praising your skills and accomplishments. Own them. Sometimes people down-play their achievements due to a false sense of modesty. If you want to move your career forward, accept these compliments with graciousness. Say “Thank you.” Smile.
2. “Well, I emailed you about that a week ago.” This statement tells your boss you think that once it’s off your desk, it’s no longer your responsibility. It also suggests criticism of her for not finding it and reading it. Taking personal responsibility for your career development means you follow up. If you need feedback, send a gentle reminder. Remember, email is not the only form of communication. Pick up the phone and call… or walk down the hall and talk to the boss in person. It takes more effort, but this stretch shows you take responsibility.
3. Sigh. You might deny it, but both you and your boss know that sighs can say 50 different things… most of them not good. It might mean frustration, a feeling of over work, disgust that you’re forced to work with someone, do something, be somewhere you don’t like. Because you’re focused on improving yourself, watch how many times you sigh and ask yourself what caused them. If necessary, use positive communication to express your thoughts.
4. “Not my problem.” People looking to improve their careers can’t be perceived as lazy or uncaring. In reality, if it’s your boss’s problem, it becomes your problem. Your job description includes a range of flexibility and your willingness to go the extra mile will go a long way in impressing the boss.
5. “That’s not the way we did it last time.” Traditions and ruts may indicate to your superiors that you’re not ready to take on different or innovative tasks. In this changing economy, companies seek new ways to improve the bottom line. They look for employees willing to come on board with that.
6. “I just bought a Ferrari.” Your boss is not all that concerned with your personal life. Nor is he likely to be impressed if you have something bigger and better than he does. Keep personal things out of the office. When conversations focus on business tasks, you’re more likely to be perceived as advancement material.
7. “Is this the best they could do?” Whether it’s the new copy machine or the holiday bonus, criticizing the company’s policy or decisions will not make a good impression. You might be viewed as feeling entitled. If you can’t influence a decision or solve a problem, save your breath and focus on what will help you add value to the company…and your career.
Good communications require personal development and increasing maturity. Think before you speak. Make sure what you say reflects your best values and you will increase your chances to grow your career to greater heights.
Joel Garfinkle helps up and coming leaders understand specific steps to increase their personal development and advance their career potential. . E-mail Joel now to learn how he can move your career forward. Or check out his newest book Getting Ahead.
Talkback: What phrases have you heard that are career killers? Have you seen the results of bad communication, or do you have an example of masterful communication?
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“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”
~ Ralph Marston ~
Bill was a middle manager with a large financial institution. He had always felt secure in his job and felt he was making a real contribution to his department. But his last performance review was disappointing. His boss pretty much told him he’d better “kick it up a notch” if he wanted to keep his job.
Now what? Bill felt frustrated and more than a little insecure. Rather than react defensively, Bill decided on the spot to see this as an opportunity. He decided there were three steps he could take immediately to put his career back on track.
- Ask the right questions
- Develop a visibility plan
- Maintain continuous course correction
Step 1: Ask the right questions. Although he was surprised and frustrated, Bill was smart enough to save the emotions for another time and place. Most bosses would probably even anticipate that Bill could be defensive and confrontational. Andy may have been prepared for an adversarial conversation. Instead, Bill used this situation to make an immediate u-turn in his career path.
Questions Bill asked:
- How could I have avoided this situation?
- Give me an example of something I could have done differently.
- What actions should I take now to improve my performance?
Bill listened to Andy’s answers and took careful notes. This accomplished two things—he let Andy know that he heard him and understood his point of view. And he took the first step in creating an action plan for performance improvement.
Step 2: Develop a visibility plan. Based on his conversation with Andy, Bill already had the framework in place for an action plan. Rather than settling for the status quo, Bill realized that he needed to find ways to exceed (rather than just meet) Andy’s expectations. His first move was to clean up the unfinished business that Andy highlighted. Unfinished projects and unmet deadlines should always come first in a situation like this.
Once that was done, Bill volunteered to take on a department analysis project that he knew Andy and been putting off and really didn’t enjoy doing. He became more visible in staff meetings, looking for ways to step up to the plate as a problem solver and a team player. He also looked for ways to enhance his profile outside his department by attending meetings and asking questions of other leaders and managers in the company.
Step 3: Maintain continuous course correction. Bill knew that the secret to his success would come from open and positive communication with Andy. He followed up their initial meeting with a written summary that included what he heard Andy say, as well as the action steps he planned to take. He asked Andy for a weekly five-minute “How am I doing?” meeting, and scheduled a more formal performance review for three months later. Needless to say, it was a good one.
Do you know the right questions to ask in your situation? If you need help developing a visibility plan and monitoring your progress to maintain course, e-mail Joel Garfinkle today to find out how he can help.
Have you had a negative performance review? Are you looking for ways to increase your visibility and move ahead in your organization? Try some of Bill’s ideas and share your story in the comments below.