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Do You Have the Boss From Hell? June 19, 2014

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in career development, Coaching, workplace success.
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Having hierarchical levels has pretty much become necessary in most companies. If you happen to work in a company that has no levels and no real bosses, then read no further unless you want to help out your buddy who does have the boss from hell.

Most bosses are people who have been promoted because they showed leadership promise and were interested in supervising and leading others. However, like the rest of the population, there are the occasional ‘bad actors’ who for whatever reason make life miserable to those who report to them.

Strategies to Stay Sane

if you’re in the difficult position of working for the boss from hell, you have probably tried your own strategies for staying sane in the face of arrogance, incompetence, lack of compassion, or whatever flavor of craziness your boss demonstrates. However, I’d like to add a few strategies that you may find helpful to tide you over until the situation eases or end.

  1. Spend some time listening to what your boss says—in meetings, in relaxed moments, in conversation with his/her cronies. And while you are listening, turn off that critic in your head that provides a running commentary on how awful, unreasonable, or incompetent your boss is. Why do this? Because you want to learn as much as you can about what is important to your boss. By learning this you can be in a position to take care of those concerns without being asked to, thereby building trust with the boss. So if you determine that your boss is very interested in looking good to his boss (and who isn’t?), you can make sure to add to that positive picture whenever you can. And if you can leave behind your negative judgments about your boss while doing it, the better it will go. Remember, the better the boss looks the quicker that promotion will come his way, leaving you with a sigh of relief.
  2. Suck it up. Sometimes we get caught in a being critical of the boss because he or she does not do things the way our old boss did, or the way we’d like them done. In a perfect world, we’d work the way we want to all of the time. But in case you haven’t noticed, it’s not a perfect world. So take a deep breath, and give your boss a break. Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s not your boss—it’s you. (Read this blog post for some less than successful types at work:  5 People Who Probably Won’t be Successful at Work
  3. Don’t add fuel to the fire. If your boss’ particular misbehavior is screaming and carrying on, your response should be dead calm. For you to respond in kind will lead to escalation of emotions- –not a pretty picture. ‘Stay calm and carry on,’ to quote the Brits.
  4. Avoid being a doormat. You may think that this advice flies in the face of the one above but not really. You are an employee, not an indentured servant. If your boss consistently asks you to do things that are clearly out of your job responsibilities AND not something that adds to your job knowledge or development, you are perfectly within your rights to protest. Yes, I know it can be hard to stand up to your boss, scary in fact. And that’s why we have HR departments. And if you are being sexually harassed or in any other way threatened…don’t think for a moment. Go report it.
  5. Make the hard decision. If you have a truly abusive, incompetent, or otherwise impossible boss, and the prospect of it getting better does not look promising, it may be time to move on. If your crazy boss is driving you crazy, looking for and securing a new job is a small price to pay for peace of mind. Look here for a post on soul-killing jobs.

I hope these strategies have given you some ideas for new actions you can take to thrive at your job, even if you have a crazy-making boss. And if you find that you need some help, let me remind you that I am a workplace success coach. Follow this link to find out how to work with me: Work With Me

Good luck with that boss…

Leave a comment if you’ve got a great story about a boss from hell!

Will Job Success Make You Happy or Will Being Happy Bring You Job Success? May 28, 2014

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Coaching, workplace success, Self-Development, workplace success.
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How often have you thought to yourself something like, “If only I could get that promotion I’d be really happy in life.” Then lo and behold, you get the promotion and you’re just not as happy as you thought you’d be. The reason for this is that when we link our happiness to an external event or thing, we keep raising the bar for happiness.

Shawn Achor is a well-known author who writes about the nature of happiness. His book is called The Happiness Advantage. In a TED talk, he talks about how job success is directly linked to how happy we are. If you’d like to watch the video use this link:  Shawn Achor Ted Talk

Only 25 % of Job Success is Linked to IQ

As I watched the video I was intrigued and excited by a different twist on achieving success in the workplace. Achor’s research shows that only 25% of our success at work can be attributed to our IQ. This made sense to me. I’ve worked with some people in my career who, while very intelligent, were not a huge success at their job because their interpersonal skills and/or their moods were problematic. Instead, he says that the remaining 75% success factor is determined by a person’s optimism, their social support, and how they relate to the stress in their job.

We Become More Successful when We’re Happy

But perhaps the most interesting part of the talk is that research shows that when we are happy and we then get more successful. We are much more likely to be successful if we are functioning from our ‘happy place’ rather than from a stressed, depressed or otherwise unhappy state. Salespeople have better sales results, doctors make better diagnoses, your intelligence and creativity rises. Hmmm, I don’t know about you but I’m going to make sure my doctor is very happy the next time I visit him with a problem.

So what does this mean for you? I’m sure you’re reading this blog because you want to be more successful at work, right? The implication is that if we can train our brains to be happy, we’ll find more success at work (and other areas of our life.)

How Do You Train Yourself to be Happy?

So how do we do that? How do we ‘accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.’ (That’s a really old song and if you’re in your 20’s or 30’s you’ve probably never heard of it but if you’ve got extra time on your hands or you’re avoiding an unpleasant task here’s a link to hear it: Accentuate the Positive)

3 Gratitudes

But I digress…I was talking about how you train your brain to be positive. Shawn Achor mentions a number of strategies in his talk. However, I have two favorites to suggest. The first is ‘3 Gratitudes’ which is the practice of writing down three different things that you are grateful for every day for 21 days. You may remember that conventional wisdom states that it takes 21 days to establish a new habit. I’ve been using this practice for a number of years off and on and I have found that I feel happier when I’m reflecting on what’s good about my life rather than a laundry list of things that aren’t working.

Meditation

The second practice is that of meditation. Meditation helps me to focus my mind rather than hopping around from thought to thought. That’s not to say that when I meditate I have a still mind…nope. But the practice of applying the intention of stilling the mind ultimately does still the mind and makes me more centered and content. And it’s a practice, rather than an achievement—some days are better than others…

So what do you think? Are you willing to try a little experiment? Try either one of the strategies I’ve listed or any of the others from Achor’s video—or even one of your own. See if you get more positive and then notice how that transfers to your success at work. Bet you’ll see something interesting.

If you’d like to explore the possibility of receiving job success coaching, take a look at my programs here.  Work With Me

Being Kinder Than Necessary April 28, 2014

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Coaching, workplace success.
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I was dusting the top of my TV yesterday (something I do fairly regularly, honest). I moved a wooden decoration that I keep on top of the TV which says “Be kinder than necessary.” And since I was thinking about my next blog post, I put two and two together and thought that sentence would make a great theme for a blog post—hence the words that follow.

People are not always thrilled to be at work.

People get cranky at work. It happens to the best of us. We are often working when we’d rather be playing. Or we’re under a lot of stress to do more with less. Or we just don’t like the people we are forced to work with. Or our boss is a real shit….and the list goes on. So since we do get cranky, work relationships can get strained and stay that way.

Working with a good community of people makes for high job satisfaction.

That said, I recently did a little research on what makes for high work satisfaction and guess what. A good community of people to work with ranks right up there—often number 2 or 3 on the list. This leads me to the startling conclusion that to be happier at work it’s best to get along with those with whom we work. (Notice I refrained from putting ‘with’ at the end of that sentence?)

That’s where the advice, “Be kinder than necessary” comes in. Here are some of my suggestions about bringing it to your work life. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t use it in your personal life; it’s just that my suggestions pertain to work. Remember I’m a workplace success coach (shameless self-promotion)

So here goes…

· Refuse to engage in negative third party conversations about anyone. There is nothing that destroys trust faster than when someone finds out you’ve been criticizing them behind their back. And while we’re on that subject, how do you think the people you are talking to feel about that? They are maybe thinking that you’ll be bad-mouthing them behind their backs the next time you get the chance. Make it a policy to keep your opinion to yourself unless you are specifically asked to give feedback or unless withholding your assessment would have disastrous results.

· While we’re on the subject of feedback, when you are asked for feedback, try engaging your brain before you speak. What is the most useful feedback you can give? What has precipitated the request for your feedback? How much negative feedback is helpful?

And don’t just pile on the negative stuff, try being encouraging and supportive about something the person has done—even if you have to dig very, very deep. Give feedback about something that the person can hope to change. If their voice is scratchy and annoying on the phone, perhaps you could mention something else. It’s a little hard to change the voice you were born with. And rather than a punch list of a hundred improvements, stick with the most important. Above all, give feedback the way you’d like someone to give it to you—unless you are very thick-skinned and nothing bothers you. In that case, just dial it back until you see how it’s being received.

· When you have to do something that’s ‘not your job’ do it gracefully and without editorializing. Maybe the person you are standing in for is a real screw-up or just maybe he or she is having a bad day because their elderly parent is dying. Before you rush to judgment about someone who is not measuring up to your standards, take a deep breath and be kinder than necessary about the situation.

· And on to standards. One of the things that causes us to criticize others is that they don’t measure up to our set of standards. How could they? Stop yourself for a moment or two when you’re ready to open your mouth to criticize someone. Is your way really the only ‘right’ way or is it just your way? Who made you master of the universe? Leave room for the styles and problem-solving practices of others and you may find a new and even better way of attacking a problem.

There is a whole load of ways that you can be kinder than necessary to others at work. I’ll leave it to you to figure out what they are in your particular workplace. The important thing is not what you actually do but how you do it. If you hold the intention that you are going to be kinder than necessary at work, you may (read ‘should’) find that your workplace becomes a kinder, gentler place for you too.

And after all, you deserve that.

What To Do When Your Co-Worker is Driving You Nuts December 11, 2013

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Coaching, workplace success.
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I’ve been coaching people in the workplace for 14 years now. And as a workplace coach I get the opportunity to listen to a lot of stories of frustration and woe. Invariably these stories are about conflict that my client is having with another person they work with. And of course, it’s always the fault of the other insensitive, inconsiderate, incompetent—or any other in-word that you’d prefer. Of course as a good coach should do, I always listen carefully to the story. And then comes the expectant pause in which I am expected to utter pearls of wisdom. And I do—naturally.

You have a style difference

The pearl that often escapes my lips is this: You and your nemesis have a style difference. You’re not wrong and he’s not wrong—you just have a different style based on your personality type.

Most of my clients are conversant with the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and I go on to explain my comment in those terms. But even if you’re not familiar with the MBTI, you can probably benefit from taking a look at this idea. So here goes…

We each have our own particular set of preferences based on our personality. And because of our personality we have a preferred style of action.

An example of a style difference

Let’s look at an example. You are a very organized person. You place a lot of value on timetables and schedules. You like to map out project steps before you begin the project. You also like to make a decision and get on with it, preferring not to go back and re-visit it once it’s made. Surprises tend to upset your plans.

Your co-worker (the one that’s driving you crazy) likes to leave room in the schedule for late-breaking changes. She doesn’t want to map out each step, knowing that there will always be a need for changing based on the situations that come up. She likes to search for all the options before making a decision and likes to maintain flexibility throughout the project—so nothing is ever ‘cast in stone.’

As you can tell, the two of you have a style difference. You like to work a project in different ways. You may both come up with the same finished project but you get there using different paths. But her methods drive you crazy and vice versa.

So what can you do about that?

First of all remember that she is not trying to drive you crazy (even though she may be), she is simply working from her view of the world. She probably spends time wondering why you do the things that you do too. If you can appreciate that there may be something valuable in the way she works and actively look for that, you’ll probably have an easier time of it—and so will your co-worker.

Here are some things to try:

· Share your perspective about a new project and how you’d like to proceed. Then ask for her perspective. Have an open discussion about where you feel uncomfortable with her approach and get that same information from your co-worker.

· Understand that these are style differences—there’s no real right or wrong. If you can remember that more than likely there is no malice intended, it will probably be easier to work successfully together.

· Try adopting your co-worker’s style for a day and, if your relationship is close enough, ask her to adopt yours.

· When a conflict arises, explain why you are taking the course of action that you are.

· Be sincerely open to the idea that your way may not be the best way in all circumstances. Give the other method a try once in a while.

· Think about this: Behaviors that annoy you in others may be a clue to areas that you need to pay attention to for your own self-development. So if you are annoyed that your co-worker can’t seem to make a decision, maybe you are jumping to a decision too soon and need to practice more information-gathering before finalizing your decisions.

It’s been my experience that these small (or large) style differences lead to a lot of conflict in the workplace. And while conflict is inevitable, why not stop sweating the small stuff?