Change Your Mindset:
Office Politics Isn’t a Dirty Word

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“When we win on an issue we call it leadership. When we lose, we call it politics. Practicing politics simply means increasing your options for effective results.”

~ John Eldred ~

When my client, Miles, heard the phrase “office politics,” it brought up negative associations (backstabbing, kissing up, gossip, who you know gets you to advance). One way to embrace and capitalize on office politics is to get rid of the actual words “office” and “politics” so you won’t feel so charged by these words. Instead think of it as “company culture” or “building relationships” or “how work is done.” When you have a better and more positive perspective, you’ll be able to embrace what is actually happening and leverage it to your benefit.

Once Miles changed his mindset, he was able to use these eight tips to harness the power office polit… er, “company culture, and you can do the the same:

1. Persuade others to your opinion.
Nobody exists in an environment where everybody agrees. You will work on projects and assignments in which many different approaches will be used by a variety of people. It’s important to understand where everyone is coming from and their different perspective. At the same time, you want to work on getting others to buy-in to your perspective. You can do this by providing factual information backed with logic. Also, strive to build a reputation that creates immediate respect. This will help you get the things accomplished you need to get done.

2. Don’t intimidate superiors. Try to avoid going over your superior’s head.
Most bosses feel a need to establish and maintain their authority. Often, based on their title and that they are a superior, they feel they can leverage and take advantage of their power and authority. It’s important for you to not intimidate them or go over their head because they will feel the threat of your actions and thus could undermine your career.

3. Make your boss look good.
Watch out for your tendency to avoid making your boss look good. Constantly look for opportunities in which you can help your boss shine. Making your boss look bad or saying something negative about him or her will come back and bite you.

4. Cultivate a positive, accurate and likable image.
The image you project can directly impact how well others trust you, like you and want to work with you. If you project a negative and unlikable image, it makes it easy for people to judge and question you.

5. Communicate accurate information.
If you constantly communicate accurate information, people will be less suspicious and less inclined to question your integrity. When the work politics start to get out of hand, others will rely on you because of the established honest and respectful image you have projected.

6. Be aligned to many groups – not just one.
It’s easy to be aligned to one specific group in your company. You either get drawn or exposed to a few people in one group and latch on to them. However, aligning yourself to many groups will help you when the influence of one group gets diminished or removed. You will want to rely on other groups and create a coalition to champion your ideas and projects.

7. Create allies who like you, support you and will go to bat for you.
Having a strong and wide network of allies is vital when the work politics start to disrupt and damage things around you. You’ll see how beneficial it is to have allies who can help mitigate negative situations.

8. If all else fails, move on.
After exhausting all your resources, talents and abilities in working the political system inside the company and getting nowhere, it might be time to move on. Sometimes the politics are so bad that you need to remove yourself from the toxic environment and make a fresh start in a new company.

If you need help navigating office politics to get ahead at work, Joel’s career advancement coaching could give you the competitive advantage you need. Sign up today!

Talkback: Have you ever gotten tripped up by office politics? What happened?

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How to Deal with Gossip at Work:
7 Steps to Dispel the Drama

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“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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Are You Annoying Your Co-Workers?
Employees Share Their Biggest Gripes

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“I’m aware that I can be annoying.”

~ Sandra Bullock ~

Client Eva Asks: As an HR professional, I hear a lot of petty complaints from various employees about their co-workers. Most of the time, the offending party has no idea that he or she is being annoying. How can I be sure that I am not inadvertently aggravating my own co-workers without realizing it?

Coach Joel Answers: Annoying co-workers are a common problem. Fortunately, most people realize that there are frustrating people everywhere, so unless the situation is severe, it is unlikely that they will leave over minor annoyances, especially if action is taken to correct the problem.

However, it is wise to be concerned about how your own behavior might be perceived. A survey conducted by Opinium Research asked people what annoyed them the most at work. Here are the top ten things that drive workers up the wall:

  • Grumpy or moody colleagues
  • Slow computers
  • Small talk or gossip
  • The use of office jargon or management-speak
  • People speaking loudly on the phone
  • Too much health and safety in the work place
  • Poor toilet etiquette
  • People not turning up for meetings on time or not at all
  • People not tidying up after themselves in the kitchen
  • Too cold, cold air conditioning

Now, you probably have little control over the speed of your computers, your office’s OSHA requirements or the setting of your thermostat, but you do have control – at least in terms of your own behavior – over seven of the top ten grievances.

How often are you guilty of these minor annoyances? Do you come to work with an attitude? Try being positive instead.Do you talk about others behind their backs? Stop! Do you use phrases like “think outside the box” or “get our ducks in a row”? Skip the jargon and strive for clear and effective communication. Are you tardy at meetings? Meetings can be a great way to increase your visibility, but you won’t make a good impression by showing up late. Do you neglect to refill the coffee pot when you take the last cup? Be considerate of your fellow employees.

By changing these small and seemingly insignificant behaviors, you can go a long way to make your work place more civil and enjoyable, as well as earning the respect and trust of your colleagues (and boss).

Do you have a habit that your co-workers might find off-putting? Identify the changes you need to make and implement an action plan to help you improve the way you are perceived by your co-workers through Joel’s 7-step executive coaching model.

Talkback: Have you ever had an annoying co-worker? Tell us about him or her, but don’t name names!

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What’s the Difference Between a Life Coach, A Personal Coach and an Executive Coach?

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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.

Executive coaching helps turn managers into leaders, increases job satisfaction and reduces job stress.  This coaching focuses on the relationship between the client and his or her work situation.

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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Have to Let Someone Go? Follow These Tips to Make it as Painless as Possible

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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.

Timing Matters

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.

Exit Interviews

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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