Wednesday, December 28, 2016

When Career Pride Becomes Destructive

We're often told we need to show pride in our career, that we need to tout our accomplishments on social media or mention them during networking events.

But can that pride backfire?

Jessica Tracy, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia and author of "Take Pride: Why the Deadly Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success," says there is a "darker side to pride."

She says her research shows there are two kinds of pride: hubristic and authentic.

It's hubristic pride that causes problems because it's really more about a person's own arrogance and ego than just feeling good about working hard and achieving something.

"It’s more, 'I am the greatest. I’m better than others. I deserve more than others,'" she explains.

Many of us have come across someone like this in our careers -- we may even recognize it in ourselves. 

But as Tracy and other experts point out, hubristic pride often signals a lack of self confidence. and the person falls into the trap of finding it easier to just brag about what they do instead of actually accomplishing something.

"Then all of the sudden, instead of feeling the authentic pride and actually becoming the kind of person you want to become, what you’re feeling is this sort of inflated pride that’s based on other people’s’ recognition of you," Tracy says.

Leon F. Seltzer, a California psychologist, says that healthy pride is:

  • Finding satisfaction in the success that comes from working hard.
  • Often quiet, with a self-assured air that comes from knowing deep inside that the accomplishment was earned. There is no "personal superiority" that comes from putting other people down.
  • A genuine recognition of accomplishments, and not distorted claims of greatness.
  • Trying to help others succeed, to support of their efforts to reach their goals.
It can be difficult sometimes to know when it's time to brag about your work and when it's time to step back and let your accomplishments speak for themselves. While you want to promote your abilities in order to advance your career, think about whether you're building others up along the way -- or you spend more time focusing on me,me,me.

Monday, December 26, 2016

How to Cut Your Workload in 2017

Most of us take time off around the holidays, and it's a good time to reflect about what we do -- and do not -- want to do in the coming new year.

Be healthier? Yes.
Spend more time with family and friends? Yes.
Do better in our jobs? Yes.
Be taken advantage of by the boss? Nope.

None of us write "let the boss treat me like a doormat" on our list of new year's resolutions, but yet somehow it's the one thing we can count on fulfilling.

But how do you tell an ambitious boss -- who has no problem working weekends and after hours -- that you don't want to work 80-hour weeks? That you don't want to live and breath your job 24/7? That you would like to have a life?

On the one hand, you don't want to work so many hours. But on the other hand, you do want to get ahead in your job and don't want the boss to think you're a slacker.

If you're caught in such a situation, it's time to:

  • Assess your workload. Spend a week carefully noting your workload. Look at how much time you spend doing certain tasks, the time you're allotted to get it done, the time the work is assigned (are too many assignments coming in a 4:30 p.m. on Friday?) and how many tasks are given to you because someone else didn't get them done.
  • Present your case. Once you have a clear idea of your workload, then you're in a better position to negotiate for changes. Bosses don't want an "I think" argument -- they want to look at facts and have you tell them what you know. Explain how the workload is hurting your productivity -- you need more downtime to regenerate so you can deliver better results. Be prepared to point out bottlenecks that keep you at the office longer, meetings you don't really need to attend or emails that could wait to be answered during working hours.
  • Get to the bottom line. Rehearse your presentation to the boss so that it's concise and quickly points out the advantages, such as cutting overtime pay or leading to more creative or innovative solutions from you if you're not so exhausted. Suggest alternatives, such as letting an intern do some of the more mundane tasks or teaching a colleague how to use certain software.
  • Stay cool. The boss may push back on some of your ideas, so back off for a  bit and let her get used to the idea of changing your workload. Continue to be professional and upbeat, showing the boss that you're not abandoning her, and continue to be a team player. Once she doesn't feel threatened, she may be more open to your ideas and slowly start to ease your workload.
What are some ways you plan to improve your work/life balance in 2017?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why Some Workers Don't Like Young Bosses -- and How to Fix It

As more millennials rise through the ranks, companies may want to be ready for the backlash from older workers that could impact the bottom line.

Specifically, a study of 8,000 workers at 61 German companies found that employees who were older than their bosses reported more anger and fear than if they were working for someone older than themselves.

Reported in the Journal of Organizational Psychology, the study finds that in the companies where employees expressed such negative emotions, there was a 9% drop in financial performance and productivity as compared to those who employees didn't report such feelings.

"They contradict common career and status norms," says Florian Kunze, a co-author of the paper and a professor at the University of Konstanz in Germany.

Unfortunately, those negative feelings from such employees can spread to the rest of the workers, she says.

"When faced with being supervised by a younger person, older employees are forced to recognize their lack of progress," Kunze and his co-author wrote in the paper. "Working daily under a younger supervisor, older subordinates are constantly reminded that they have failed to keep pace."

So what's the solution if you're a younger manager trying to work with older subordinates? 

Jodi Glickman, writing in Harvard Business Review, suggests being confident and open-minded and soliciting feedback.

"Irrespective of specific deals or projects, let people know that you care about continuous improvement. If you message that you’re open to receiving feedback, people will be more likely to give it," she writes.

Kunze suggests younger bosses "create a professional distance with the older subordinate and provide autonomy to [them] by setting clear targets and goals."

Other tips from experts include:

  • Forget posturing. These older employees know you're the boss, so don't constantly say stupid things like "I want it done this way because I'm the boss." Acting as if you're superior to them is a sure way to alienate workers of all ages.
  • Seek input. Even if you were older, there is no way you can know everything. So, don't be afraid to ask questions of your team, especially if they have knowledge about long relationships with customers, or can identify key players at a competitor. They will have the "emotional intelligence" to help you navigate issues that you may not have encountered before.
  • Don't judge. Just because someone isn't a whiz with Instagram or doesn't know about Snapchat doesn't mean this employee is a dinosaur with no useful knowledge. For all you know, this person is very innovative and creative and sees solutions that can bring great success to the team and the company. If you don't want to be judged unfairly by older workers, then show them the same respect.
What else can a young boss do to develop a good working relationship with older employees?

Monday, December 19, 2016

4 Things You Must Do for Your Career in 2017

A lot of people say that New Year's resolutions are worthless, that they just make you feel like a failure when you don't stick with them (or even attempt to do them).

Still, even if you don't want to call them "resolutions," I think it's a good idea to drop some bad habits and begin thinking about new ways to improve your career.

Let's start with a list of things you need to STOP doing:

1. Writing childish and uncivil things on your social media accounts. I don't care if you think someone else should have won the election, that some pop star is a tramp or that a co-worker is a water-retaining sea cow. That's not something you put on social media because it will -- I guarantee it -- come back to haunt you. One day you might get laid off because of an economic nosedive (hello, 2007) or you have a change of heart. But that uncivil and judgmental stuff that came spewing out on Twitter and Instagram is there for all time. Honestly: Do you feel the same way about everything the way you did 10 years ago? No? Then think about how you would like a potential employer to drag up something you said on Facebook in 2004 and hold you accountable for it.

2.  Wearing your overwork like a hair shirt. In ancient times, an undershirt made of really coarse cloth -- or even animal hair or twigs -- was worn close to the body as a way to show repentance and atonement. But then Dan Brown took it to a whole new level in "The Da Vinci Code" with that crazy albino. So, my point is that some people moan and groan constantly about how they're overworked, like this is some selfless act and they should be admired for it. But I've interviewed enough experts and read enough research to know that many people are consumed with "busyness" and aren't really productive. It's time you stopped hiding behind your "busyness" and instead do a valid assessment of what you really spend your time doing. Try something like RescueTime to really get an accurate reading about how you spend your time.

Now, let's look at what you need to START doing:

3. Getting out of your chair. You may think I mean to start exercising, but that's not where I'm going with this. I think that too many people send an email to a colleague about 10 feet away, or even on another floor, when they could simply walk over to the person and have a conversation. I'm not saying you need to be jumping up and down like a Jack-in-the-Box, but if you are sending an email that is going to require some conversation, then go directly to that person. This will not only be more productive (you'll solve the issue faster and possibly come up with a better solution) but you also will practice your in-person skills and foster deeper connections. Can I mention 2007 again? The Great Recession? A lot of people were caught so unprepared because they hadn't fostered strong connections and they didn't even know where to start -- so they languished in a brutal job market without a position. In-person interactions are very important for your career, as they help you become more adept at reading body language, forging alliances and negotiating. Those skills are critical for any career -- take every opportunity to develop them and stop hiding behind your computer.

4. Learning a new skill. I know one manager who is in his 40s, and he often spends much of his time solving interpersonal disputes among his warehouse workers. He clearly has management and leadership and communication skills. But what he doesn't understand is statistics and data and coding. He knows those things are important to his company (he hears them mentioned a lot by his boss) and he's a bit intimidated when the subject comes up. But instead of grumbling about it, or ignoring it, he's begun taking online classes that are helping him understand those subjects. His goal is to be able to contribute to those conversations in a knowledgeable way -- or at least not look like a clueless fool. This is a great example of someone who knows his career cannot be stagnate -- he must constantly be re-tooling his skills set in order to stay relevant. He wants to add those skills to his LinkedIn profile, and attend some seminars in the future. It's time to think about areas where you feel less confident -- or downright clueless -- and begin taking action to learn more. Don't think of it as something that will lead directly to a promotion or pay raise right now, but rather as an investment in lifelong learning that is now required of every worker in every job.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to Become More Resilient Under Stress

The sometimes unrelenting stress of a job can keep both employees and leaders awake at night. They toss and turn as they ruminate about a variety of issues, such as whether an important customer will sign a new contract or if there will be layoffs after a merger.
But two workplace scientists say that there is a way to make teams more resilient so that they can handle whatever changes come their way without having sleepless nights. Even leaders can learn to let go of fruitless worrying and focus on finding new solutions or ideas, they say.
“The only thing that should legitimately keep you awake at night is a book you just can’t put down or a movie you just have to see through to the end. Rumination never solves anything. In fact, it has the opposite effect and may well be giving you a definitely more miserable and probably shorter life in the process,” says Derek Roger, a psychologist who has spent three decades researching the causes and effects of stress.
Roger, along with Nick Petrie, is author of “Work Without Stress: Building a Resilient Mindset for Lasting Success.” They say that rumination prolongs the “emotional misery” and isn’t just a by-product of stress. “It is stress. If there’s no rumination, there’s no stress,” they write.
Petrie, senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership, says that if teams don’t develop a more resilient approach to problems or challenges, then organizations will see an increase in stress, sick leave, disengagement and suffering. “It is hard to watch the way people who have no coping tools, and ruminate so much, are suffering in the workplaces,” he says. “It seems predictable but unnecessary.”
Roger and Petrie point out that rumination is primarily a conditioned habit, and it can be changed by individuals who practice doing it.
One way to do that, for example, is by an individual considering the last time he or she was up all night, fretting over an issue.
“What did it look like in the morning? The problem hasn’t disappeared, but the catastrophizing about it has generally dissolved, at least to an extent,” Roger explains. “This is not to suggest that ‘sleeping on it’ will solve (read more here)

Monday, December 12, 2016

3 ways to Handle a Deceitful Colleague

I recently read some research that revealed many workers in the study were distrustful of their colleagues. They believed given half a chance, these co-workers would steal customers and belittle others to the boss in order to get ahead.

I get it. I've worked in places like that, and it's not fun. You spend lots of energy trying to protect your turf, when that time would be better spent doing your actual work.

But we humans are geared for survival. We don't take kindly to others trying to encroach on what we believe to be our territory. We don't like feeling manipulated by someone else for their own gain.

While you don't want to accept such behavior (and you shouldn't), it can be a tricky to come up with a way to keep such colleagues in line without hurting your career. No boss wants to be brought into the middle of a turf war, so you've got to be proactive in handling the situation professionally without running to the boss with your complaints.

If you've got a colleague who is so intent on getting ahead and is willing to step on you in the process, you need to:

  • Stop being an enabler. I once had a new colleague who I was happy to bring up to speed on different projects. But after several weeks, I noticed that she continually came to my office, plopped down on a chair and said, "So, tell me about XYZ" or said, "Who can I call about this issue?" We had extensive databases on everything she wanted to know and I told her about them several times. But it obviously was much easier for her if I told her what she needed to know. So, wanting to be helpful, I complied. Finally, I said, "You know, I'm right in the middle of something. I think you need to go through our database. It has everything you need." Then I shut up. I had to do this a couple more times, but pretty soon she got the message. (She turned to a colleague in the office next door to mine and tried the same tactic -- he soon directed her to the database.) My point is that while you want to help when you can, you're not doing her any favors if you do her work. Your work will suffer, and her work will suffer. That's something the boss isn't going to appreciate.
  • Confront misinformation. The minute you hear that someone is subtly criticizing you to others, step up. It can be uncomfortable, of course, but it's going to be much more uncomfortable when this person ruins your reputation with the boss or the company leaders. Go directly to this person, and ask, "Barb, I heard that you said I was late in getting my report in, which jeopardized the whole project. If this is true, I'd really like you to explain to me what you meant." It could be that indeed, you were late, but that was because the client asked for a delay while more information was collected. Clear the air immediately when you hear such misinformation and let the person know you aren't going to let it continue. "I know you'll want to clear this up immediately and let others know you were misinformed," you say.
  • Expose the weasels. It can really take you off guard when you're attacked by a colleague who does it as a way to make you look weak or ineffective. Sometimes this can be done subtly ("Well, you know Jim has a tendency to mess things up! Ha, ha!") or more outright ("I think we need fresh eyes on this project and it's time that Jim worked on other things.") Don't let it slide, or you'll just empower the person. You can try: "I think I just misheard what you said. Would you like to rephrase that?" Or, "I think that was inappropriate and I know you're professional enough not to say it again." Or, simply eye roll at the person like you can't believe how childish he or she is being.
No one likes everyone in the workplace all the time. That's just a fact of life. But in order to get along with everyone -- and preserve your career -- you need to communicate openly with people so that you don't get involved in an unending turf battle.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How to Get Others to Embrace New Ideas

For leaders who want to persuade teams to accept new processes, the answer may be in the kitchen.
In a study last year of 200 kitchens, Cornell University researchers found that those who left snack food and soft drinks out in the open were an average of 20 pounds heavier than their neighbors who kept only fresh food openly available.
This what-you-see-is-what-you-eat diet shows that by changing circumstances, you can change behavior, which is key for getting teams to accept changes such as process improvement, says James C. Crimmins, author of “7 Secrets of Persuasion: Leading-Edge Neuromarketing Techniques to Influence Anyone.
“The lesson to executives is to think about the ways they can change the circumstances so that any new process for a team is the most natural – the easiest – thing to do,” he says.
Crimmins says it’s often easier to get people to change what they do rather than what they feel. So, if a team balks at new processes, don’t think, “How can I get them to change their minds?” but rather, “How can I get them to act differently?” he says.
“If you look at the kitchen experiment, these people probably all had the same attitude toward soft drinks – but they managed to change the behavior simply by changing the circumstances,” he says.
Adele Sweetwood is senior vice president of global marketing and shared services at SAS and author of “The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization.”
As someone who is well acquainted with change initiatives and trying to get employees to embrace new ideas and processes, she says that such efforts require a “guiding coalition” to be successful.
“If you bring those impacted into the conversation, identify what they will need to be successful, and empower them with the tools and training, they will be more likely to engage,” she says. “As leaders, we spend a lot of time identifying areas for improvement, defining the details and then devising the solution. By the time we share the solution or change, we (read more here)

Monday, December 5, 2016

How to Stop a Mooching Co-Worker

As the holiday season approaches, it can be much more fun around the office. People are wearing goofy sweaters and goodies are being brought to share.

It seems everyone is in a much more giving mood.

But then you think of Brad.

Brad is the guy in the office who never seems to have even a dollar on him to contribute to a colleague's birthday gift. So he asks if you can contribute a dollar for him, and he'll pay you back tomorrow.

Only he doesn't. He also has not paid you back for the lunch you paid for because he didn't have his credit card with him at the time. Now that you think of it, you've probably paid for 10 coffees at Starbucks for him, and he hasn't offered to buy you one -- ever.

What's the deal here? Is Brad broke? Is he gambling away all his money? Or, is he just one of those people who gets a free ride by asking everyone else to pay for him?

You may never really know why Brad does what he does unless he chooses to share the reason with you. In the meantime, you have to figure out a way to stop him from borrowing money from you even if it is the giving season.

Here are some ideas to break the habit of Brad using you as his personal ATM:

  •  Let go of your resentment. No one forced you to give Brad the money or forced you to buy him 10 cups of coffee. That was your decision, so stop blaming Brad. At the same time, stop being mad at yourself. That's water under the bridge.
  • Always ask for separate checks. If you go out with Brad for drinks or lunch, always ask the wait staff for separate checks. Do it with a smile and then simply continue your conversation. If the group is too big for separate checks, announce that you'll be dividing up the check to determine what everyone owes. (Most people will be extremely grateful you take on the task -- no one wants to pay more than their fair share.)
  • Refuse with sincerity. When Brad asks you to float him a loan, tell him you're sorry, but you're on a budget now. Don't elaborate. Once Brad sees your piggy bank is closed, he'll turn to someone else or learn to start a budget of his own.
While it can be difficult to stand up for yourself in such situations, remember that Brad's behavior shows a real disregard for you. You can maintain a professional and cordial relationship with him, just without the open wallet. At the same time, you may find that your resolve garners more respect from colleagues who may have wondered why you put up with Brad's mooching for so long.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Submariners Can Teach You About Doing the Job Right

A major flaw in our system of government, and even in industry, is the latitude allowed to do less than is necessary. – Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, father of the nuclear U.S. Navy
Most of us realize it takes a special kind of person to be a submariner, confined for months at a time deep beneath the ocean with about 140 other people. The up-close-and personal nature of living and working in such tight quarters is not the only challenge: every person’s life depends on the other crew members.
If work isn’t done right every single time, it could lead to dangers that someone in a cubicle might never face. That’s why the submarine environment provides such a good example of how to get things right, says Matthew Digeronimo, co-author of “Extreme Operational Excellence: Applying the U.S. Nuclear Submarine Culture to Your Organization.
Digeronimo and co-author Bob Koonce are both former submariners who now use their talents to help private industries succeed.
In their book, they quote Hyman G. Rickover in a 1981 speech at Columbia University. In that address, Rickover provided some insight into the “seeds” of the nuclear U.S. Navy’s “journey toward operational excellence,” they write.
Some insights from Rickover:
  • “Human experience shows that people, not organizations or management systems, get things done. For this reason, subordinates must be given authority and responsibility early in their careers.”
  • “Too often officials are willing to accept and adapt to situations they know to be wrong.”
  • “Unless the individual truly responsible can be identified when something goes wrong, no one has really been responsible.”
  • “When details are ignored, the project fails. No infusion of policy or lofty ideals can then correct the situation.”
  • Digeronimo says Rickover’s words need to be heeded by more companies, especially as businesses race to make changes they hope will make them more competitive.
    “I do think some unsuccessful businesses are changing just to change, and they really make things worse than before,” he says.  “The plan may look good on PowerPoint or in the boardroom, but it doesn’t translate well.”
    The authors say there are several ways that companies can adopt a submarine culture on dry land that will lead to operational excellence. Among their suggestions:
    Continuous learning
    The nuclear submarine community is comprised of those who volunteer for the duty. They have to meet tough academic standards, survive boot camp and then go through months and months of intense training. Even after graduating from Nuclear Power School, academic training continues and everyone on board a submarine is actively working on a qualification to prepare for the next level of responsibility.
    While civilian operations are not likely to need as robust of a training and education program, it does point to the need for knowledge to be the underpinning of operational excellence, the authors say. Training programs should prevent “knowledge decay” and “push the bounds of each member’s (read more here)

Monday, November 28, 2016

3 Ways to Nudge a Procrastinating Boss

It can be very frustrating when you work hard on a report or project, and then submit it to the boss where it will then languish until the next presidential election.

When the boss is the clog in the drain, the knot in the rope, the fence in the pasture (okay, I'm out of examples) it can be frustrating. The entire organization can get stuck when you have a boss that procrastinates. Maybe he or she comes up with multiple excuses as to why the project isn't moving forward, or why no decision can be made at this time.

If you're looking for a way to get a boss to get it in gear so you can also continue to make progress in your work and your career, here are some ideas:

1. Calm down. The more you think about the bottleneck, the angrier or more frustrated you may become. Instead of storming into the boss's office or firing off a snotty email demanding action, let the boss know you're open to suggestions. "Is there a concern you have about this project -- or some ways I can improve it before sending to the entire committee?" you can ask. It could be that there are factors you don't understand about the delay, and it would be a smart idea to learn about them before you jump to conclusions.

2. Listen.  Don't be confrontational, but ask questions that can help you understand specifically what the holdup might be. Listen carefully and look for signs about what may be concerning the boss and causing delays. For example, he may repeatedly mention delivery problems with another project. That may be a good time to say that you could research alternative delivery partners for your project, just to make sure all the bases are covered.

3. Discuss advantages. Of course it's clear to you why this project needs to move forward: You want to get it off your plate, you don't want the delay to make even more work for you in the future and you think it could garner you some real notice in the industry. But while it's clear what this project can do for you, have you made it clear what it can do for the boss? She is much more likely to give it the green light if it's going to help her solve a problem, make less work or attract more new customers.

Procrastination often is the result of fear or stress. Your job is to figure out what you can do to help alleviate that fear or stress by the boss so that your project can move forward.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Yes, Introverts Can Be Great Leaders

While research shows that more extraverts reach the C-suite, there is growing evidence that introverts can make effective leaders. How introverts can gain the confidence they need to lead their teams effectively and benefit any organization.
Techies are often used to laboring alone, and that suits them just fine. Their introverted personalities are geared toward communicating via email or texts and they don’t stress about presentations in front of big groups because they simply think they will never be in that position.
Until, of course, they’re tapped to fill a leadership role.
More engineering, science and technology employees are finding that their growing experience and skills have brought them to the notice of high-ups. With the increasing focus on using technology and data to meet strategic goals, it’s clear more of these introverts are going to find themselves thrust into the leadership arena.
If you’re one of those people, don’t worry. There are many ways you can thrive as a leader, even if you are an introvert. That’s why it’s time to gain some confidence in what you bring to the table, and help you see that while you may do things differently as an introvert, your leadership can be valuable.
For example, in her book, “Communication Toolkit for Introverts,” author Patricia Weber explains that the brains of introverts are hard-wired to be better at planning and more likely to identify potential problems. Introverts, she says, will always take steps to minimize risk, which can help teams become more trusting of such a leader.
The focus on planning by introverts also can lead to meetings that are more focused and relevant;  conflict resolution that is well thought-out and not based on not a knee-jerk reaction;  and well-prepared negotiation plans that lead to better outcomes, she says.
“With many parts of planning being mostly in the head, and being (read more here)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Are You Ignoring a Toxic Worker?

As we approach the holiday season, it's time to think about the Scrooge in your office.

Not just the person who is stingy, but the one who is grumpy. Unkind. Unwilling to help others. Flouts rules and regulations.


Why do these people keep their jobs? One reason may be because bosses don't like to deal with them, so they ignore them. Instead, they focus on superstar workers, telling themselves that the toxic worker is balanced out by all the great employees. Another reason is that toxic employees can often appear very productive, and no boss wants to mess with someone who appears to be churning out work and meeting deadlines. A study finds, however, that these workers aren't doing quality work and their bad behavior and its impact on the organization negates any gains.

The research shows that that it can actually pay off more for a company to get rid of a toxic worker -- it's even better for the bottom line than hiring a superstar.

That's because toxic employees impact not just the job they're supposed to be doing, but everyone around them. They demoralize coworkers, hurt customer relationships and impact stakeholder attitudes.

The study finds that toxic workers are like a bad case of office flu -- their bad attitudes and habits can infect others in the workplace, even those who previously have been good workers.

"Since we found some evidence that a toxic worker can have more impact on performance than a 'superstar' it may be that spending more time limiting negative impacts on an organization might improve everyone's outcome to a greater extent than only focusing on increasing positive impacts," researchers say.

In other words, bosses who ignore the problem with the belief that just hiring more superstars will make up for the toxic workers are in for a very unpleasant surprise. With that  mind, here are some things to consider when dealing with a toxic worker:

  • Take action. Once you get an inkling that a worker is behaving badly, immediately set up a session with the worker to analyze what's happening. Provide coaching or mentoring for the worker, and schedule regular check-ins to see how the worker is progressing. 
  • Document. It's best to have a written plan in place that both the worker and the boss agree to follow. This helps give the worker a clear plan of improvement.
  • Make ethics known. Many organizations think that employees should just know that they're not supposed to steal office supplies, gossip or write nasty tweets about customers. But unless an organization makes itself clear on where it stands, it can be difficult to enforce standards of behavior. Putting organizational ethics in writing -- and periodically reviewing them with all employees -- is a good chance to make clear the kind of behavior that is expected.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How to Negotiate Successfully With Anyone

There are often complaints that technology isolates people, but anyone working in IT may have a different opinion.
If anything, IT is being asked to work more and more with other departments, rather it’s marketing, customer experience or business strategy.
While all that interaction is necessary if businesses are going to fulfill their goals of digitally transforming their organizations, it’s not always a process that goes smoothly.
Namely, teams and individuals who have different backgrounds, skills – even nationalities and genders – can find it difficult to work together. Any attempts at finding common ground can be quickly defeated as those involved become more emotionally entrenched in their positions.
Is there a solution beyond a leader simply ordering people from IT to work with other teams and hoping for the best?
Yes, but it’s not always easy and organizations have to commit to a consistent strategy, says Daniel Shapiro, founder and director the Harvard International Negotiation Program.
Shapiro, who has spent 20 years studying the causes of human conflict, says that many times collaboration and cooperation fail because individuals and leaders don’t understand what’s coming into play when there is a conflict.
For example, in his new book, “Negotiating the Nonnegotiable,” Shapiro explains that the “tribes effect,” is when emotion and identity arise in a conflict, forcing individuals to consider who they are, what they deem important and the meaning of their life. Once they feel threatened, they can become so attached to their “tribe” that they’ll do anything to defend it.
So, IT may feel threatened by those outside the department if someone says technology is unhelpful or off base – or techies aren’t good at communications or understanding the customer experience. That causes IT workers to become less cooperative with the colleagues who are critical of them, no matter what idea is expressed.
The tribes effect spurs you to make a blanket devaluation of the other’s perspective simply because it is theirs,” he says.
While the tribes effect tries to protect your “identity” from harm, it usually backfires. You pull in psychologically and become more focused on your own short-term interest over any long-term (read more here

Monday, November 14, 2016

The One Word That Can Resolve Workplace Conflict


Anyone who has a toddler probably hears this no less than 1,400 times per day. (And don't tell me you don't resort to "Because I said so!" because everyone reaches that point on the 475th "why?")

While children are great at asking the question, they often grow out of asking "why" all the time.

Too bad.

We as adults could benefit greatly if we'd just add a few more "whys" to our days.

A recent lecture by Stanford Graduate School of Business organizational behavior professor Lindred Greer looked at problems with top-down team structures. Some of those problems included less participation, influence from the wrong people and not enough conflict.

Not enough conflict? Who wants conflict at work?

Well, it seems that conflict is good for us, she says. We need to be challenged by others who think differently than us.

The solution? More people asking "why."

Leaders need to ask "why" of team members to get them to reach deeper into their thinking. Colleagues need to ask "why" of one another so that they get to the heart of the matter and find out why people really think as they do.

Everyone needs to have a voice at work. In order to come up with more innovative ideas and better solutions, teams need to be more collaborative with other departments. That means IT needs to work with marketing. Sales needs to work with distribution. Customer service needs to work with operations.

There will be some conflict, for sure. Everyone is going to be coming from a different perspective and experience, but as long as they keeping asking "why" -- and listening carefully to the responses -- that conflict will become a positive driver of better bottom-line results and positive workplace relationships.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why Reorganizations Fail -- and How to Get Them Right

It’s a great feeling to get a brand-spanking new reorganization chart done and then present it in all its unsoiled glory to the entire company.
Unfortunately, that gleaming chart with all its little color-coded boxes lined up with precision has little to do with making a reorganization successful. In fact, putting so much effort and aspiration into that spruced-up chart could be one of the biggest mistakes a company makes when it comes to reorgs, says Stephen Heidari-Robinson.
That’s because too many companies believe that once they present the chart, then the reorg is done. The reason behind it goes to the heart of how reorgs are often undermined before they begin.
“Some managers think the number of people reporting to them is a sign of their power, so the org chart becomes their battle ground,” says Heidari-Robinson, co-author with Suzanne Heywood of “Reorg: How to Get It Right.” “Many managers also shy away from the human element of reorgs and org charts provide something solid that they can hang on to.”
No matter the reason, the result is that “they miss out on the essence of a reorg: getting people to work in a different way in order to create more value,” he says.
While outlining reporting lines and accountabilities is important in a reorganization, defining the different ways that people should work in the new process and the skills and capabilities the employees need are just as important, “and sometimes even more so,” he says.
“You are only really finished when people are working in the new way and the value you wanted has been delivered, not when you announce the new org chart,” Heidari-Robinson says.
Heidari-Robinson led McKinsey & Company’s Organization Practice for energy clients in addition to developing the firm’s thinking on implementing reorganizations. He also served as UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s advisor on energy and environment.
He says a McKinsey survey done by him and Heywood finds that more than 80% of reorgs fail to deliver the value companies desired, and 10% actually damage a company.
“More important, they can be damned miserable experiences for employees,” they say.
Heidari-Robinson says he believes that the pace of reorgs will pick up as all industries face accelerating changes because of innovation. “That is not to say that every business change requires the whole organization to flip (read more here)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Research Finds Stressed Employees More Likely to Misbehave

The U.S. election process has clearly demonstrated one thing: People are upset, mad and worried.

While we may hope that this will all disappear once the election is over, managers shouldn't believe that workers will once again become jolly little employees, content with the cubicle world around them.

By ignoring these feelings that many workers have expressed, managers may miss the clues that can help them build a more engaged, productive workforce.

Specifically, a study shows that when employees are nervous and upset, they disengage and start misbehaving. Further, those employees who feel insecure about their jobs will take their unhappiness and turn to doing things like stealing supplies, fudging expense reports and gossiping about others.

The behavior can grow worse if the employee has a bad relationship with a boss and has other job prospects, researchers say.

"That extra psychological step to justify immoral behavior happens when these things converge," says Sue Ashford, professor of management and organizations at the Ross School of Business. "There's job insecurity, you have a bad boss, and you see other job prospects. It can make you feel like you're not valued and that's how the rationalizations start. An implicit contract you had with the organization is broken and things you wouldn't normally do can feel right."

Still, there are ways that managers can prevent employees from disengaging and moving into destructive behavior. Among the suggestions:

  • Listen. Managers need to engage employees in conversations and get them to open up about their concerns. Managers should let workers know they understand the stress.
  • Provide positive feedback. Great employees often don't need a lot of supervision, and managers can forget to provide a pat on the back. While problem employees often take up a majority of a manager's time, managers can't neglect great employees or they risk driving them away.
Managers need to remember that ignoring the stress that workers feel isn't just a personal problem that workers need to deal with. It has bottom-line consequences, as well. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

FCC's CIO: Change Agents Need Employer Support

David Bray says the world is experiencing more turbulence, and he isn’t talking about a rough airplane ride or a nasty nor’easter.
Bray, senior executive and chief information officer for the Federal Communications Commission, says the turbulence is a result of the “increasing velocity” of worldwide transactions.
Despite such unsettled times, Bray believes there are exciting opportunities ahead for the more agile companies – while others may suffer.
He points out that while traditional top-down hierarchies are efficient and focused when dealing with a known or predictable environment, they are “very bad at being resilient and adaptive when an environment is rapidly changing or unpredictable.”
That’s why Bray says that the organizations that embrace and support change agents within their organizations “will gain agility and resilience.”
“There is no textbook for where our organizations or societies are going next with the rapid, exponential changes in technology and services possible as a result,” he says. “The next seven years will see more change than the last 20 years combined in terms of network devices, data on the planet and computational capabilities.”
But that scenario doesn’t panic Bray, a co-chair for an IEEE committee focused on artificial intelligence and innovative policies for the future.
“To me, this presents a degree of excitement,” he says. “How do we maintain those things we want to hold true to as individuals, as organizations, as a nation, and as a world and also adapt to such rapid change?”
One way that leaders can confront the challenges now and in the future is by tapping into diverse teams who can bring different tools and experiences to the table. Still, such groups will only work if they’re focused on the same goal or they may “splinter into factions and in-fighting,” he cautions.
Effective change agents as leaders will listen, learn and help craft shared goals and shared narratives to bring diverse groups of people together,” he says.
Bray says that the best leaders provide change agents with:
  • Autonomy to bring their ideas to fruition.
  • Measurable progress updates.
  • A worthy cause that adds value for the public.
“I do tell change agents that I’ll be their flak jacket. If change agents (read more here)

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Biggest Distraction in the Office May Be You

If you're tempted to yell "Shut the $#% up!" to a colleague in a nearby cubicle, you're not alone.

As it turns out, loud-talking co-workers are so annoying it has prompted researchers to study it.

Specifically, 74% of workers in a Cornell University study say they have to put up with lots of noisy disturbances and distractions, but the most annoying of the annoying is -- drum roll, please -- loud human beings.

One of the biggest problems prompting us stuff a dirty sock in the mouths of bothersome co-workers is the fact that more offices have moved to the "open" concept. This means that sound now travels across the open prairie of desks like a herd of bison.

So, instead of being able to put your head down and pound out that important report or even spend a few quiet minutes thinking, you're hammered by the debate over deep-fried turkeys for Thanksgiving or Marcia explaining how to use the phone system to a new employee.

Now let's add in the fact that Bob has seasonal allergies and honks like a wounded goose and Lori is talking on her cellphone to her nearly-deaf Nana, and it's enough to drive anyone bonkers.

Of course, more workers are turning to earphones as a way to drown out their co-workers, which pretty much turns off the idea that open concept working spaces will lead to more collaboration.

I'm open to new ideas about how to deal with noisy co-workers, and would love to get a discussion started here. In the meantime, let's all talk a little softer and be aware we may be the ones driving our co-workers crazy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Why EQ Matters More To Some Employers Than IQ

When emotional intelligence is mentioned, there may be agreement that it’s indeed a great thing for someone to be more relatable, more self- aware and better at controlling impulsive behavior.
But does the emotional intelligence of a team really have bottom-line consequences?
While a strong consensus may not have existed before, that is changing as more companies recognize the value of EQ. Many organizations are now hiring for emotional intelligence (EQ) and evidence is mounting that EQ pays off in higher sales and productivity, and lower turnover.
Consider, for example:
  • A large cosmetics company that now hires for EQ have on average sold $91,000 more than salespeople who were not hired before the new system was set up.
  • The International Journal of Organizational Analysis finds that EQ competencies were positively linked to team cohesiveness.
  • Manufacturing supervisors who received EQ training cut lost-time accidents by half and formal grievances by 20%. Plant productivity improved $250,000 over set goals.
  • Firms with high EQ managers found 34% higher growth profits.
Emotional intelligence really is the secret sauce,” says James A. Runde, author of “Unequaled: Tips for Building a Successful Career Through Emotional Intelligence,” and a special advisor and a former Vice-Chairman of Morgan Stanley.
Runde says that too many employees don’t realize that “brains and hard work are not enough” to give them a successful career, and too many leaders don’t understand how the lack of team EQ skills hurt performance for the team and for the organization.
“In the era of artificial intelligence and virtual reality and robots and drones – all those things are wonderful and productive, but for people trying to succeed in a solutions business, you’ve got to have people who can relate to other people,” he says.
According to psychologist Daniel Goldman, there are five elements that define EQ:
  1. Self-awareness. Those who are aware of their emotions don’t let them get out of control and are honest with themselves about their strengths and weaknesses. They work to improve and become better performers.
  2. Self-regulation. As they are aware of their emotions, these people don’t let themselves get too angry or jealous and don’t make impulsive decisions. They show thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity and the ability to say no.
  3. Motivation. Those with high EQ are very productive, love a challenge and are effective (read more here)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Trust Matters

About a month ago I visited a favorite local deli. 

It reminded me of that scene from "Animal House" when John Belushi yelled "food fight!"

While food wasn't flying across the room, it certainly looked like the aftermath. Food was on the floor, tables were overflowing with trash and employees looked harried.

After observing the chaos for a bit -- several tables of patrons were complaining that they had been waiting "forever" for their food -- I turned to my dining companion and said: "She's not here."

"Who?" my friend questioned.

"That woman manager who is a ball of energy. When she's here, this place runs like clockwork and she knows everything that's going on," I said. "This would never happen if she were here."

Just this weekend, I again visited the deli and saw the manager. I didn't know her name, but commented to her that the place really missed her a couple of weeks ago. She said it wasn't the first time she had heard the story.

"I don't know what it is," she said, sighing. "But no one seems to be able to get it together when I'm not here."

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was because we trusted her. As a customer, I knew when she was around that my order wasn't likely to be lost or late, and I was going to find plenty of clean tables and efficient employees.

Her team trusted her, as well. When she was around, they knew that they had a job to do and everyone was going to pull together.

The point of this deli story (other than making you hungry) is to underscore the importance of trust in your career. It's so critical to your success and those around you. You cannot build it overnight, but it matters a lot -- even down to the little things.

For example, if someone sees you goofing around on Facebook instead of working on an important report, then you erode your trust factor. Or, swiping that stapler from work may seem like no big deal, but studies have shown that if you can't be trusted to do the right thing on the small things, then you can't be trusted when it comes to bigger issues. In other words, it's a slippery slope when it comes to trust -- screw it up in the little ways and people will no longer want you on their team or you may even get fired.

The reason I went back to the deli after the Belushi moment was because this manager had built my trust in the business. My past experiences led me to trust that the ship would be righted. If that chaos had been my first experience with the place, I might never have gone back.

When it comes to your career -- or your business -- building that trust may just be the secret sauce that propels you to success even when you have a bump in the road. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How Anyone Can Be More Innovative Every Day

When a study was released earlier this year noting that procrastination can make you more creative, many people probably rejoiced.
Instead of being thought of as slackers by co-workers and bosses, they can now claim they’re not goofing off – they’re being “creative.”
To a certain extent, that’s true. The research the University of Wisconsin found that those who put off doing work by playing games like Solitaire for five minutes before offering ideas were 28% more creative – as rated by assessors – than those who started working on their ideas right away.
Part of the reason is because you may default to more conventional ideas when launching immediately into work and delaying your efforts may allow you to connect with something more creative. Still other studies have found that when you allow yourself to get bored, you’re more likely to get those creative juices flowing, which is why many people report having breakthrough ideas while stuck in traffic or washing the dishes.
But just delaying the start of your work or getting bored isn’t a guarantee that you’re going to pop up with an idea that will rival the invention of the telegraph or the iPhone.
So what is it that fuels some individuals and organizations to be so innovative? Why does it seem some people get an extra helping of creativity or some companies can churn out innovative ideas seemingly every week?
Moving the world forward
Robert F. Brands, author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation II,” says that it’s important to first understand that individuals and organizations may be their own worst enemies when it comes to creativity and often set up their own innovation roadblocks.
“You might only think you can be innovative in creating a new service or a new product. But there is lots of space in any job to be innovative,” he says. “Anyone can be innovative.”
Second, when you try to be innovative, you need to (read more here)