How Not To Be a Really Rotten Co-Worker

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You know them — really rotten co-workers. It’s unclear clear how they have developed into what they are, or progressed this far, but they are here. They could be the person who sits in the cubicle next to you. (Yes, that close.) They may serve on a team with you. Unfortunately, they just may be your boss. During the course of work and career, it’s likely you’ll meet more than one of these individuals — some of us sooner, rather than later. I’m sorry. They are out there.

They don’t fully cross the line professionally (or legally). But, they are awful…rotten to the core. You know this. Somehow they have managed to miss every message concerning a healthy culture and camaraderie. The worst part? They couldn’t care less. They are likely clueless to their egregious behavior. Getting ahead is all that matters.

I know — you sometimes fantasize about getting even. You might replace their Power Point presentation with something ridiculously embarrassing, or offer the wrong start time for an important meeting. But you know that deep in our heart, your daydreaming is just that…daydreaming.  Because, you are not that person. (Their comeuppance will arrive, rest assured.)

The best thing you can do is to inoculate yourself against “rotten” — and never, ever fall into that category.

Some ideas for that:

  • Lend a helping hand. Have you noticed that someone appears stressed or uncharacteristically frazzled? Step in and offer to help. We all have 5 minutes to help someone prepare for a presentation or sort through ideas. Step up. Rotten co-workers turn a blind eye to others in distress.
  • Be the link. We all want to be a success — but it’s not a “zero sum” game. Rotten co-workers wouldn’t think to help anyone, but themselves, to move forward. Do you know someone that would be a great link for one of your colleagues? Make that introduction. It’s fuel for the “workplace soul”.
  • Be transparent. We’ve all met that person who presents as one person — but is really another. Be upfront with your needs and motives. It just doesn’t pay in the longer term to be deceitful.
  • Don’t be that jerk. Leaders remain our co-workers. However, sometimes that undeniable fact is ignored. If you hold a leadership position, don’t “lord” position power or the hierarchy over others. If you land a great promotion, keep this in mind. It’s gross. Really.
  • Be someone’s champion. Changing attitudes and powering real change is difficult. If you see someone you really “has something”, join the crusade. Help them develop their idea and take it to the next level. Everyone wins.
  • Above all — value the contribution of others. You know that guy who changed your slide without telling you? He missed the orientation memo concerning respecting the work of others. That kind of behavior is a no – no, if you want to stay out of “rotten” territory.

Have a rotten co-worker? Share your story here.

Photo Credit: Dailymobile.net

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and workplace strategist . She also writes at Linkedin.

10 Communication Hacks to Boost Your Effectiveness

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Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash

We all want to be heard. But do you have the skills to ensure that you are making an impact? Here’s a plan — learn how to communicate. Really communicate. Master the art of expressing an idea fully. Know your audience and how to receive the critical messages sent your way.

Here are 10 strategies to put you on the right road:

  • Curate. Yep, less is more. You are your own brand — and this extends to the content that you share with others. In our communication rich world, we are essentially vying for the attention of others. Are you worth their time? We communicate frequently, but with little forethought concerning purpose and outcome. Have a plan. Edit what you bring to the table.
  • Learn to handle difficult conversations. Let’s face it, the topic we’d most like to avoid, often has the potential to make the greatest impact. Research shows that we spend a significant amount of time handling conflict in our work lives (debate, disagreements, handling egos). So, learn how to openly address underlying tension before it affects your productivity.
  • Tell a great story. Great stories not only capture our attention — they help a message endure. The best thing? There are great tools to help you develop and explain the power behind your next great idea.
  • Get real. How are your communication skills playing out in real life? There is only one way to find out — see a video of yourself. Start with a short interview on Skype and work your way up to capturing an entire presentation. (There may be”cringe-worthy” moments. However, you cannot fix what you are not aware of.)
  • Study. Communication skills simply do not emerge spontaneously — as this is a skill set that requires focused practice to develop. Firstly, what are your “communication” strengths and weaknesses? Devote needed time and energy, by securing the training you need. By the way, you don’t have to wait for your organization to offer — check out some great ideas at Udemy. (I’d say it’s worth $49.00).
  • Create a “Vine”. A message is a message. A message that’s communicated powerfully and succinctly, can start a movement. Don’t rule out the newest methods to communicate. It’s always wise to fully stock your arsenal of techniques.
  • Study your own body. Sit in a lot of meetings? (I know that I do). What does your body language communicate? Boredom? Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Body language matters.
  • Create a powerful presentation deck. Want your next big idea implemented? There isn’t a more critical moment, than a start-up team in front of venture capitalists — so take a page out of their playbook. Can you communicate the strength of your next big project in 10 slides or less? I dare you to try.
  • Match it. Take the time to match the message with the communication vehicle. Will an e-mail suffice? Will your chosen method actually deliver your message effectively? The options should be weighed with the message in mind.
  • Meet face-to-face. The “mother lode” of communication tools is to meet in person, if at all possible. It’s the simplest and most brilliant “hack” of all — and of course, don’t forget to really listen.

Have another suggestion? Share it here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She also writes at LinkedIn. You can also find her on Twitter.

Learning to Say “No”

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We’ve all made our share of solid career moves. But, as far as time management goes — many if us freely admit our struggles. Last year I published The Ugly Truth About Time Management, partially based on my own flawed relationship with time. (Interestingly, it has been a very well read here at The Office Blend). We all grapple with decisions concerning time. Ultimately, time — and our relationship with it — is critical.

I thought we could probe the topic a little further. Possibly scratch a bit further beneath the surface. (Examine the underbelly of time management and see what is lurking there). Which leads me to an important time management issue: Learning to say “no”.

I find this difficult at times, as most of us do — even though I’ve had years of practice. Many of us feel a deep sense of anxiety with the prospect of saying “no”, for various reasons. But, saying “no” is quite vital to our long-term success. If we don’t treat our own time as a precious resource, we can find ourselves without adequate “bandwidth” when we need it most. This sets the stage for a myriad of work life problems.

We’d all like to think that “all in” when it comes to helping others — and developing healthy workplace relationships should be a priority. However you’ll find the need to draw the line in some situations. Setting boundaries is simply required, setting the stage for healthy “Give and take”.

The truth is, learning to say “no” does become easier with practice. (You can rehearse a set of diplomatic responses, so they become second nature.) The trick is recognizing the situations that clearly deserve that response. So, let’s start the “No” motor going, and discuss the biases we bring to the table and the types of individuals we might come across.

You’ll likely recognize some of these:

The Preconceptions:

  • The “Angel” Trap. I get it, you want to be nice. Nice people are…well nice. People who say no, not so nice. The flaw here? It’s just not true. Savvy business people say no quite a bit, and many of them are great people. Why? They want to stay in business. You are the only one who suffers, if you don’t make it clear that your time is valuable. You have to get over this.
  • Every “yes” is equal. Nope. Not even close. You have to really consider what the “yes” implies. Is your “yes” a quick “here you go” or more likened to a life-long commitment. Think on this.
  • The “I’m missing out” Trap. It can be in our best interest to say “yes” to opportunities — however, you’ll need to weight the time investment against the potential outcomes. If you never say no, you’ll likely become over-committed in a hurry. That is a serious problem.
  • The “Bad things will happen if” trap. Many of us live in fear that if we say “no” our careers will suffer. The wrong person might be angered,and this may lead to dire consequences. But, in some cases we can say “no”, we just have not explored the option. Obviously, consider who is doing the asking, but don’t say “yes”, instinctively. If you do comply to a request from a superior, that you really cannot deliver — a whole new set of problems can arise.

The “Time Offenders”:

  • The Greedy. You know this individual. They only contact you when they want a favor, and the relationship is not even close to being considered reciprocal. Enough said. This one should be easy. Run the other way.
  • The Narcissists. Wow, they are “so, so busy” — so could you complete this entirely worthless task for them? Ok, offer a little rope. Offer your help as long as you feel comfortable, then see if the favor can be returned in some small way. If they don’t ever give back, you’ll feel justified to saying “no” the next time around.
  • The Pilferers. They’ll steal you blind time-wise, if you let them. They’d like to “pick your brain” and hear your best thoughts on a topic or challenge. The problem is this: as soon as they accomplish this they are gone. It’s shocking. Be mindful. These individuals are both smooth and savvy.
  • The Thankless. The group comprises the absolute worst of the worst. They will ask for your valuable time (which you freely give), and never, ever says “thanks”. It hurts doesn’t it? Remember this the next time around.

When all is said and done, if you would like to help someone and are offered a sincere “Thank you” — don’t say “You’re welcome” in response. Take the advice offered here and respond with the following,

“I know you would do the same for me.”

Anything to add to the conversation? Share your thoughts.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She also writes at LinkedIn.

A Little Laughter Doesn’t Hurt: The Most Read Posts of 2013

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The close of another year always brings a moment of reflection. So many things come to mind — the challenge of workplace engagement, the need for truly inspiring managers, how loving our work drives us forward. This year there was a good deal of attention focused upon accepting ourselves for who we really are, and learning to transact those strengths into fulfillment at work. I feel hopeful that we have reached an inflection point — where individual differences will be embraced and valued. When we have the opportunity to share the best of ourselves at work, great things can happen. Engagement can soar and we feel a much needed sense of connection.

Transparency continued to be a guiding theme. Whether we were considering how we manage our time or developing our own personal brand, honesty seems to be the policy of choice. As such, we should feel free to not only embrace who we really are —  but our mistakes, as well.  On a final note, humor is still, and should always remain a priority —  as #5  illustrates. It seems that the option for a good laugh, is still a very handy workplace tool.

Below are the 5 posts that received the most activity (views + shares) at The Office Blend during 2013.  I’ve also included a second “Top 5” list — my favorite posts from around the web.

I’d like to thank all of you for supporting The Office Blend, with your time (and shares) in 2013. Happy New Year to you and yours!

Top 5 posts:

  1. How Not to Manage an Introvert
  2. Brand Yourself as a High Potential
  3. The Ugly Truth About Time Management
  4. Why We Should Still Practice the “70-20-10” Rule
  5. 5 of the Funniest Workplace Commercials of All Time

Some remarkable posts from around the web:

  1. Three Tips for Overcoming Your Blind Spots, John Dame and Jeffrey Gedmin, HBR.
  2. What Losing My Job Taught Me About Leading, Douglas Conant, HBR
  3. Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss, Adam Bryant, The New York Times
  4. How to Sell Ideas Like Gladwell, Jonah Berger, LinkedIn.
  5. Always, Always, Always Show Up, Whitney Johnson, HBR.

What are you striving for at work in 2014? Share your hopes and goals.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and coach.  Read more of her posts at LinkedIn.

The Gift of Focus

alfonso-reyes-712273-unsplashI’ve been stuck on the word “focus” for the past couple of weeks.

Focus, or rather the lack of it — appears to be a growing problem in our work lives. At work, our attention has become infinitely divided; calls, e-mails, meetings, devices. We all need become acutely aware of the need for focus or I fear the quality of our work will slowly diminish.

The reasons to allow time for focus are many. However the core justification really rests deep within our brains.

While we possess the ability to switch between tasks, we simply do not have the ability to attend to all of them effectively. (Research at Stanford has shown that heavy multi-taskers have trouble mastering even the simplest of tasks.) So, I’d like to pose the question: How are you doing focus-wise? Are you taking control of the issue?

Here are a few practical suggestions to help you bring more focus into your work life. It all starts with one small step.

Strategies to consider:

  • Tame those e-mails. Seriously, e-mails are going to be the death of us — as they insidiously rob us of focus each and every day. (Do you feel like you are falling down the rabbit hole?) Forward thinking organizations are beginning to ban e-mails during designated time periods or specific days, to allow employees the opportunity to focus on their work. First rule to tame this problem, courtesy of LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Wiener — if you want fewer e-mails, send less of them!
  • Segment meetings. Many meetings lack direction and become the antithesis of focus. One method to solve this, is to use a targeted agenda to thoughtfully segment the time spent in the meeting. For example, if you plan to meet for 60 minutes, segment time to allow for no more than 2-3 topics. Devote 20 minutes to each — enough time to review information, discuss and gain some closure. Identify a “time-keeper” to keep things on track and record topics to be addressed later.
  • Control your calendar. Only you can take the steps to make your spent time count. Review your schedule for the past week and ask yourself the following question: What you can eliminate to make room to focus on the tasks that matter? Then offer that gift to yourself.
  • Look around you. If your work environment doesn’t allow time (or a bona fide quiet space) to really focus, start making waves, While offices are designed for efficiency, open floor plans can become an enemy of focus (How about a few well placed walls?) Discuss options with your manager to provide an appropriate space to collect your thoughts.
  • Set a routine that works for you. Be sure set the right scenario to allow for focus. Consider elements such as the time of day that you seem sharpest, and the physical elements most conducive for you to think deeply (Personally, I require music). Aim for a 30-minutes of focus each day, to start. Of course, remember to build in breaks, as this allows your thoughts to coalesce.

How do you build focus into your day? Share your strategies here.

Additional reading:

Tame the E-mail Beast, Entrepreneur.com
Make Time for the Work That Matters, Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen, Harvard Business Review
Control Your Workday, Gina Trapani, Geek to Live

Music = Inspiration

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From time to time, we all experience our own form of “writers block”. The words (and work) stop flowing, as we find ourselves faced with that invisible, impervious “wall”. We might be working too hard or lingered too long solving a specific problem. Whatever the scenario — inspiration is absent.

As we know, changing gears completely can lead to a breakthrough (Read more about the Eureka Phenonmena here.) Listening to a great piece of music, can affect this gridlock — setting our minds in motion, in an entirely different direction.

Here are six pieces of music that might take you away from the pressure, and lead your mind toward a more productive, fluid space. I happen to find these selections helpful. However, I would love to know what you queue up when energy is running low. Share them with us here.

A little extra inspiration never hurt.

Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve:

______

What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong:

_______

Clocks by Coldplay:

_______

The Best is Yet to Come by Frank Sinatra:

______

Nessun Dorma by The 3 Tenors:

______

Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap:

______

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and US News & World Report.

Finding Career Chutzpah: Why We Don’t Ask for What We Need at Work

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Photo by Damiano Baschiera on Unsplash

It is difficult to ask for what we need career-wise.

But, that hesitation doesn’t make us less deserving. We all have something we need, whether it is guidance, a more flexible schedule, increased challenge or exposure.

But we are fearful. We hesitate. We role-play the potential outcome of the conversations in our minds.

To progress in today’s world of work, mastering “the ask” is an absolute necessity. Wherever you find yourself in your career journey — asking for what we need is simply a challenge we must overcome. If not we begin to “whither on the vine”.

How do we address this common problem? Rather than examining the “hows” of asking for what we need — let’s examine the “whys” behind our hesitation.

A few things that hold us back:

  • We’re in the dark about our performance. In some cases, we are simply unsure of our actual worth. Why? Because we don’t seek honest feedback. Asking your boss, clients or colleagues, “How did you feel about the work I completed?” is a fair and reasonable question. So — ask away. We need to know where we stand to feel we are in any position of power. Gathering the facts is really the only way.
  • A couple of “hard knocks”. In part, this is all a confidence game, and we have all experienced setbacks at work. Because of these experiences, we can develop a bit of a “blind spot” concerning our true value. We become guarded and hesitate to take risks. In the end, we have to look at failures as learning experiences — then commit to looking forward. Just remember, you are in good company.
  • We hate to brag. This is really tough one. Most of us feel we shouldn’t “toot our own horn” or play up our strengths. However, to secure that needed “leg up” — we need to ensure that others are noticing our work. A little well-placed “Marketing” is a necessity. Mention skills and accomplishments as “data points” that directly relate to the opportunities that are being discussed.
  • We don’t like to ask for anything. You may not like to depend on anyone to help secure your future. You may even think this would cause you to appear needy or less competent. Remember that no one is an island. It actually takes many people to build a meaningful career.  So open yourself up to reach out.
  • We’ve made unreasonable comparisons. Sometimes we feel unworthy because we are drawing unhealthy comparisons in relation to the careers of others (and judging ourselves harshly). We feel we don’t measure up and don’t have any claim to valuable outcomes. The imposter syndrome can also be at play — so be sure to face your doubts, as they are likely unreasonable.
  • We are afraid of the word “No”. The prospect of being rejected is never a pleasant — and hearing a negative response is a possibility. However, remember that we have the ability to recover.

This dynamic takes time to overcome. Simply start small and work your way forward. Asking for what you want or deserve might be difficult the first time around — but the process will get easier.

Just remember this: If you ask —  you just may get.

Have you been faced with this dilemma? What happened?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Getting Over the Hump of “Hump Day”

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Wednesdays — the grumpy “middle child” of the work week.

If only Wednesday could magically turn into a Friday, or dare I say transform into Saturday.

While you might have breezed through Monday and Tuesday — somehow Wednesday just seems to “snag”. Our refreshed feeling from the weekend has definitely faded. You may find that you struggle through meetings and “zone out” while others are speaking.

If you aren’t having a particularly exciting week or already feel overwhelmed, you may wonder if you’ll get through to Friday.

I’ve actually held a grudge against Wednesdays for years — and I don’t think I’m alone. It’s really a bit unfair. So, it’s time to change our tune.

Wednesday’s don’t need to be the day that we just “get through”.

In this vein, here are a few strategies that might help make Wednesdays your favorite day of the work week:

  • Save the best for Wednesdays. Hoard something you enjoy work-wise for mid-week. For example, a project that really interests you. Even if the time increment is modest (say 20 minutes) — you’ll feel more energized.
  • Get out of the building. Anoint Wednesdays as the day you make plans to leave the office (and yes, your computer) for lunch. Invite someone new to join you each week — someone that has an interesting role or personality.
  • Start the day with a boost. Do you have a favorite colleague or business contact? Allow yourself time to reach out to them first thing on a Wednesday — a great way to boost both perspective and mood.
  • Laugh a little. Start out Wednesdays with a workplace humor. Read a few New Yorker cartoons or listen to a clip from your favorite workplace inspired movie. (I love clips from Office Space.)
  • Improve you. Make Wednesdays, the day of change. Disallow a workplace behavior that probably isn’t doing you any favors — and revise the “status quo”. For example, aim to go the entire day without contradicting someone. Listen without interrupting. Refrain from sending e-mails that could replaced by a walk down the hall. You get the idea.
  • Be nice. Show a little gratitude. Make Wednesdays the day that you thank as many people as possible for adding something positive to your work life. Bring your “stars” a coffee or a danish and vow to stop taking people for granted.
  • Build on a success. Review the events of last week and tease out at least one success. Write down 2 or 3 actions that would build on that progress — and keep the forward momentum going. Now follow through.

How do you get through “Hump Day”? Share your strategies.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. She also writes at liveworkthinkplay.com.

The Untold Resume Story

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Last week, I attended a client meeting discussing the merits of candidates for a key position. At one point, the conversation turned to a current freelance contributor with whom they had developed a long relationship . The conversation went something like this:

Company Executive A: “What about bringing in Erin on this one? Her work is beautiful.”

Company Executive B: “We should think about the required progress on this project — we need to keep things moving along quickly.”

Company Executive C: “I’d like to see Erin here, but I worry about her ability to handle the schedule when the pressure heats up.”

Hmmmm. That information was certainly never mentioned before — and it certainly was not on her resume. This individual had completed multiple projects with the company quite successfully. Her work was described as “inspired” and she usually hit budget targets. However, it appeared that a portion of her “invisible” or “unwritten” resume was affecting her chances with the current opportunity.

This brings us to an interesting inflection point. We all have an alternative or unwritten resume —  which effectively captures what is not included in the more formal version. (See a great discussion of the topic in this classic HBR post.) This unwritten version, might include aspects of our work life including attitude, performance under pressure and our overall ability to collaborate.

We all have a side to our career story that we may be overlooking — and its elements may have a significant impact on our future. We all need to ascertain the complete story. The sooner the better.

So what do you think might be included in your “invisible resume”?

Time to think about that.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and US News & World Report.