Friday, October 30, 2015
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Does it pay to be nice at work?
In the "Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness," authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval contend that it does. They worked their way to the top of the advertising industry by being nice, and shunned the dog-eats-dog mentality many of us associate with rising in the ranks, they say.
Of course, one of the ironies is that in a review of the book on Amazon, Donald Trump is quoted: "For my money, I would always rather make a deal with people I like who treat me well. If you want to discover the surprising power of nice, read this book. Memorize it. Use it. You’ll be glad you did.”
No matter your politics, there is often much disagreement about whether it pays to be nice at work. Some say that if you're nice, others will take advantage of you and you'll never get ahead. Others argue that being nice is what will get you ahead, and nice people always finish first.
I think probably the key to striking the right balance between being a doormat at work and being a close cousin to Attila the Hun is follow the Golden Rule. It may sound trite, but it often works wonders in your career.
Want some ideas of how to be nice in the workplace without others taking advantage of you?
- Having a one-on-one face-to-face conversation. Go to lunch or to coffee, or even chat with someone in the breakroom. But put down your smartphone and distance yourself from technology to simply ask someone how they're doing. Then, listen. Really listen to what the person says. Don't interrupt or try to offer some silly platitude if they reveal themselves to be vulnerable. Think about how you would like someone to respond.
- Treating everyone as an individual. What works with one person won't work with the next, and trying to shove a conversation down someone's throat will never be received well. If the person is an introvert, then try for an email or text with a friendly note: "How was your weekend?" Someone else may need to be invited for a walk outside when you notice the person is carrying a lot of stress. Niceness needs to be genuine, and any false attempts are can be seen as, well, mean.
- Being nice to yourself. If someone rebuffs your efforts for conversation, don't tell yourself it's because you've done something wrong. Any attempt to be nice should make you feel good about yourself. Don't go overboard in being nice ("Can I pick up your dry cleaning? Wash your car?"), or you'll end up feeling bad about the whole experience. Again, simply think about how you would like to be treated.
Do you think "niceness" has a place at work and do you practice it?
Monday, October 19, 2015
Have you ever had someone steal your idea?
If you've been in the workplace for any amount of time, the answer may be "yes."
But as Daniel Solis points out, there really isn't a way to steal an idea, because someone else has probably thought of it first.
The world of work is rapidly changing, and ideas often are zipping around the workplace like a squirrel after drinking a case of Mountain Dew. There are bound to be ideas that sound similar, so it's easy to believe that Marty or Janet stole your idea.
What's important is that you don't stew in your own juices and a)pout about it like a 2-year-old denied a cookie b) cry or whine to your co-workers c) get angry and vow never to propose anything ever again. Ever. Again.
Those strategies will only damage your career, and eventually everyone will see you about as relevant as a rotary telephone.
So how can you pitch an idea and make sure everyone knows it came from you first? (Or at least you're the first to propose it in your company or department.)
Here are some ideas:
- Stand tall. If you propose an idea in a meeting, make sure you don't drop it like a dead rat and then scurry away. Solicit feedback such as "Does anyone have any problem with what I've proposed? I'd like to start on it right away." This shows you're ready to stand behind your idea and hear any objections -- or supportive comments. It forces others to acknowledge your idea.
- Don't fade into the woodwork. Sometimes days or weeks may go by without much fanfare about your idea, and then a colleague proposes nearly the same thing you did -- and it's greeted like the greatest idea since the light bulb. Respond with, "I'm so glad you were able to build on my idea from several weeks ago." Then, jump in with some comments such as "When I was researching this idea months ago, I found that younger customers will respond the best to such a marketing tactic."
- Follow up. When you've proposed an idea in a meeting -- or even to a boss in the elevator -- then follow up with the idea in writing so that there's a clear record of when you proposed it. This helps remind everyone where the idea came from, and a clearly dated document can keep anyone from later crowding you out when you clearly initiated the idea.
Finally, never rest on your laurels. Always keep pitching ideas, even though some may never get far. Organizations today are under intense competitive pressure, and companies like Amazon and Google have shown that there is no such thing as a crazy idea -- just employers who are crazy to ignore any idea. As long as you keep your creative juices flowing, your career will be headed in the right direction.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Monday, October 12, 2015
It's often advised that those seeking to make their mark at work should be willing to stick up their hand and volunteer for a project, lend a helping hand to others when it's needed and generally be the person who is willing to do what it takes to help the team succeed.
The reason, of course, is that by taking such action you will garner the notice of higher-ups. They will realize what a great employee you are, and then promote you and give you great projects.
There is a fine line that you must walk when taking such an approach. You don't want to be seen as the person who is "such a good helper." The person who can be called upon to work late nights and weekends, who will pitch in to do the most trivial work without complaint.
If you take on that role, be prepared to never move beyond the "helper" role. Why? Because when you're a helper, others don't see you as a leader. As John Kotter in the Harvard Business Review wrote about more than a decade ago, leaders are a different breed. They are the ones who help an organization cope with change -- and you're certainly never going to have the time to do that if you're organizing a PowerPoint for someone else.
Let me stress that there's nothing wrong with helping. By helping, you establish yourself as someone who is a team player, and you can learn a lot by assisting others.
Just make sure you don't go overboard. When you offer your help, also consider what you're getting out of it. Will making a Starbucks run really help you learn a new skill or make important alliances? Or, would it be better to offer to help a top team member who is working on a key project that is expected to make the company a lot of money?
If you can't make that distinction -- or you have difficulty saying "no" -- then you may need to re-evaluate your career path.
Thursday, October 8, 2015
When we think of "sabotage" we may envision stealthy bad people trying to take down an organization. We may think of malware inserted into a company's system, or someone tinkering with machinery so that it will break down and disrupt operations.
But a new book, "Simple Sabotage" points out that it's often the simplest acts -- that many of us do every day -- that can undermine a workplace.
Authors Robert M. Galford, Bob Frische and Cary Greene use unclassified World War II documents from the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the CIA) to reveal how European resistance movement members were advised how they could muck up the internal works of an organization.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Insist on doing everything through channels. Never permit shortcuts to speed up decision-making.
- Make speeches. Lots of speeches. Let loose your inner motormouth and gab at length whenever you can. Tell lots of stories, personal anecdotes, etc.
- Bring up irrelevant topics as much as possible.
- Nitpick and haggle over precise wording of communications, meeting minutes and resolutions.
- In a meeting, attempt to reopen old issues and question their viability.
- Push for caution. Urge colleagues to be "reasonable" and avoid doing anything too quickly or possibly face embarrassments or hassles in the future.
- Question whether any decision may not be within the group's jurisdiction and may conflict with policy of senior leaders.
You're probably very familiar with such behaviors at work, and can even identify those who do them most often. The authors point out that while such actions may seem innocent on the surface, they can cause real harm if left unchecked. They offer solutions such as remembering to clarify goals continually to keep people on topic, and curtailing people who haggle so much they derail progress.
But the real question you may need to ask yourself is this: Are you the one guilty of such sabotage?