“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
Client Jonathan Asks: Several of my co-workers like to spread stories without checking to make sure they are true. Recently, someone shared an inaccurate and favorable story about me. What can I do to mitigate the damage?
Coach Joel Answers: Everyone is susceptible to gossip stories at work. But what if the stories are about you? And, even more disturbing, what if they are erroneous and could harm your reputation? Chances are, this won’t happen to you. But, if it does, it’s important to take action.
Once unfavorable stories get created they often get cemented in as a permanent perspective of who you are. This perception becomes their reality and everything else you do reinforces how others see you.
You can have 50 examples of trustworthiness and one false representation and this one malicious example undermines everything else.
During your constant interactions at work it’s possible that things you do might get misinterpreted in a way that is not accurate.
For example, you might be seen as unreliable because you didn’t get something done ontime or be viewed as a loose cannon because you speak up and say things at client meetings that are not appropriate. Some of these stories might be true, but often they aren’t reflective of who you really are at work. The problem is one or two negative stories can cement a perception of you that is actually inaccurate.
Here is a seven-step process to help you deal with workplace gossip and change negative misperceptions into positive (or neutral) ones:
Step 1: Gather information about the unfavorable story.
Without getting emotional or defensive gather as much information as you can about the unfavorable story. This fact-gathering stage is key. You don’t want to fly off the handle, confront someone and make matters even worse.
Step 2: Dispel the unfavorable story.
Go to the source of the story – the person who believes or is communicating the misperception – and explain your situation. Discuss your perspective and what you felt actually happened. Provide enough information so the person understands exactly the truth from your perspective. You could say, “Hi, Carla. I hear you may have some concerns about what I said at the client meeting. Could you tell me about them?” And then, after hearing the other person out, provide your perspective of why you spoke out like you did.
Step 3: Ask about other misperceived stories.
Ask the person if they have any other stories that they would like to share. When you hear the new stories, explain what actually happened versus what was perceived. Provide greater understanding of how these stories could have been misinterpreted.
Step 4: Take responsibility for what you did.
Even though you may not agree with the misperception, you most likely can find some things that you can be accountable for. Show that you have learned a lesson and what you take from this situation. Come up with some examples of what you’ll do differently based on what you have learned.
Step 5: Share favorable stories.
When a person observes something unfavorable, this image gets stuck in their mind. Counter the negative perception by coming up with ways and examples of how you haven’t been that which they think you are. If they think you are untrustworthy, come up with three or four stories illustrating your trustworthiness. These other stories help balance out a one-sided and limited perspective.
Step 6: Ask the person to give you another chance.
Explain how you don’t want to be stuck in their view of something that happened in the past. You sincerely desire to be given another chance to prove yourself. It’s not fair for you to be punished by something that happened only once or it occurred years ago. Get the person to take a risk on you and let you try again. The risk is minimal with tremendous potential upside.
Step 7: Thank the person for their honesty and willingness to help you.
This is one of the best ways to enhance your reputation and clear up any misunderstandings.
Since your career advancement depends on other people’s perceptions of you, it’s important to take action quickly when negative stories about you surface. Get valuable feeback about the way you are perceived at work by completing the perception evaluation here.
Talkback: Have you ever been the subject of unfavorable gossip at work? How did you deal with it?
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“I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.”
~Bob Nardelli, former CEO, Home Depot.~
Elizabeth asks: How can I tell if I need a life coach, a personal coach, or an executive coach? Is there a difference?
Joel answers: The kind of coach you need depends on the area in your life you want to focus on. As I explain the differences between life, personal and executive coaches, you’ll see what I mean.
- Executive coaching focuses on helping the person achieve more at work. It may deal with peer relationships or communication. It might help the worker advance in his or her career or understand how to add value to the company.
For example, Nathan felt like he was ready to take on more responsibility at work, but felt “stuck.” He had always avoided what he called “office politics” and just did his job. He didn’t know how to position himself to get promoted.
When Nathan hired an executive coach, the coach helped Nathan to verbalize his goals. Together they set up a strategy so Nathan could broaden his visibility and increase his influence.
He looked for places he could add value to the company and was soon in line for a promotion.
Executive coaching is about personal discovery, goal setting, planning, and achieving. This benefits both the individual and the organization.
- Life coaching views the person as a whole. It includes work and may cover stress and overworking, but it also covers family and personal goals.
The goals set for a person working with a life coach may be internal- feeling better, better relationships or dealing with bad habits.
Karen was shouldering all the responsibility of caring for her elderly parents. While there were other siblings close by, they chose to let Karen handle it all since she worked from home and could be “flexible.”
Karen chose a life coach to help her balance her work and family responsibilities and also deal with the emotional burden of resentment toward her siblings.
The life coach helped Karen see options and choices. Through her support, Karen was able to call a meeting with the siblings, establish responsibilities, and share her burden.
- Personal coaching is much the same as life coaching. While the goals of an executive coach are specific, measurable, and focused on improvement and success in the work environment, personal coaching is based on empathy.
It is more reflective, allowing for introspection and for the person to grow in self-understanding. Personal coaches can be used as a sounding board and a cheering section.
However, some personal coaches also work with clients on their business, financial, or spiritual concerns.
As you examine your primary goal you’ll be able to determine the kind of coach you need. If you are looking for measurable action to conquer work challenges, choose an executive coach. If you have personal, family, or life concerns with internal or less measurable goals, you may find a personal or life coach will support your needs better.
To learn more about executive coaching and see if this is a good fit for your concern, email Joel and he’ll be happy to talk to you about it.
Talkback: How have different coaches helped you resolve your concerns? Which kind of coaching has been most effective for you?
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“Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.”
~ Alexander Graham Bell ~
Letting an employee go is not a task to be taken lightly. If done in the wrong way, there can be unpleasant and long-lasting complications. This can include everything from expressions of unhappiness and stress from remaining employees to dealing with a negative reputation for the company, and even legal ramifications.
Don’t Be the Villain
In today’s world, disgruntled employees and former employees can easily spread the word about a company and what an employee considers to be unfair practices. This can result in a company that once appeared stellar suddenly looking like a villain in the eyes of hundreds or even thousands of online readers.
In many instances, the only way to repair this type of damage is with the help of online reputation management professionals like those at Reputation.com. Obviously, rather than dealing with such a frustrating situation at all, it is much wiser to let employees go in a way that will be as painless as possible for everyone concerned.
Who Needs to Know?
Letting an employee go is a very delicate subject. After all, the employee has a lot riding on that decision.
From the time the decision to let an employee go to the time the employee is actually told about the decision, privacy is top priority.
When it is decided that an employee should be let go, the decision should be kept quiet. To eliminate concerns about gossip or discussions about the decision, only the employee’s direct supervisors should be told about the decision in advance.
Clearly, the employee should be told about the decision in a private setting. Ideally it should be done in the manager’s office, and the door should be shut. The next best option is in a neutral setting that offers privacy, such as a break room or conference room.
Until recently, it was accepted practice that separations be handled at the end of the day on Friday. However, that has recently changed. Nowadays it is becoming increasingly common to deliver such news earlier in the day, or even earlier in the week.
Rationales for this include the fact that if the employee finds out about the separation earlier in the week, he/she can immediately begin a job search. Plus, a separation at the end of the day on Friday could leave the employee with no choice but to sit around all weekend worrying about his/her situation.
This can result in increased stress and anxiety. In some cases, anger can build or the individual can become extremely distraught.
Professionalism with a Personal Touch
Being let go from a company hurts. Employees in this position deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. A manager should take the time to explain the reason for the decision. If employees feel they are treated unfairly – as in, they are let go without cause – the company’s reputation may be at risk.
It is common for the employee to have questions. The manager should answer those to the best of his/her ability. These questions may relate to things like severance pay, any 401K plans, insurance, COBRA, retirement, or other benefits/compensation offered by the company.
Offering parting resources such as information about unemployment, job training, employment counseling, and local small business development organizations can be especially helpful at this stressful time.
Being let go is upsetting. It’s emotionally disturbing, to say the least. Many people appreciate having a chance to vent after such a traumatic event. Exit interviews provide that opportunity. In some cases, the tools provided during these interviews can help people find closure after a job separation.
Debbie Allen, founder of TheThingsWomenWant.com, is a professional writer and blogger who specializes in topics of interest to women and online marketing strategies.
Talkback: What are your experiences with letting employees go? Do you typically handle separations early in the week, or do you wait until Friday? Have you ever thought about creating a termination resource packet to be used when handling separations?
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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 bad 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 or bad 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 bad 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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