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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.

Is Your Job Killing Your Soul? January 20, 2014

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in workplace success.
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Are you feeling depleted every time you think of going to work? Do you dread Monday mornings? Find yourself having a hard time getting up in the morning? Your job is probably the culprit. From relationships that make you feel beaten, to too much work in too little time, sometimes it can feel like you’re selling your soul for a paycheck.

As a veteran of Corporate America myself and a longtime executive coach, I’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand how difficult jobs can be. And if you’re in that situation it can seem like an uphill battle to find any enjoyment in the 8-10 hours a day you spend at your job.

Interested in some suggestions that might help you get out from under?

OK—here goes.

1. Surround yourself with people whom you enjoy and work well with.

Yes, I know that sometimes this is easier said than done. There are always the difficult relationships to contend with. However, make a conscious effort whenever possible to work and socialize with people who are compatible with your view on life. Even if it’s just that one particular buddy that you have, that’s often enough to give you some comic relief and something to look forward to while you’re at work.

2. Cultivate doing work that you like.

While you can’t always do only the parts of your job that like, you can certainly become good at them, perhaps known for that particular skill. Then you’re more likely to get requests/opportunities to do that work as time goes on.

3. If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work that you have, take breaks every two hours or so.

This might seem counterintuitive , however, when you’re in the state of overwhelm it’s easy to get ‘foggy brain,’ a state of muddled thinking, because you’ve got so much coming at you. Taking more frequent breaks gives you a chance to refresh your mental state and can actually lead to getting more done.

4. Make sure you have an interesting/enjoyable life outside of work.

Cultivate some interests or hobbies. Plan to take your kids on a special outing. Have a date with your spouse during the week. Go away for a weekend trip. Or go to the gym after work. Almost anything that you can do to have some enjoyment outside of work will do. Just be sure that you do it.

5. If your attitude about your job is really beyond repair, start looking around for  other options.

If it’s your job or boss, not the company, look at other departments to see if you might find a happier home in one of them. If you’re just out of sync with the culture of the company you work for—and this is not an unusual occurrence—time to start looking outside the company for a new position. It’s best to start this exploration sooner rather than later, in case you need to acquire some new training or schooling. Give some serious thought to your ideal job and work environment. Write it down and then make yourself a deadline for getting another job. If you really want to get wild and crazy, make a vision board. (A collage that you create with words and pictures that show what you want in your future life—lots of fun.)

It doesn’t have to be tomorrow—it may be a year or two down the road. But at least you’ll have a plan that will sustain you when the going gets tough.

You spend about 2080 hours a year at your job. It’s up to you to do what you can to make sure your soul is singing—or at least humming—during those hours.

What To Do When You Hate Your Job January 7, 2014

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in career development.
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hate-your-job.gif.pagespeed.ce.2rhR1mmd6vAs I was considering the topic of this post, I decided to do a little research on how many people are unhappy in their jobs. And boy, was I in for a shock. The statistics say that 70% of Americans are unhappy with their jobs. (If you’re reading from another country, that statistic is probably lower. It’s a well-established fact that Americans (U.S.) have to work longer hours and get less vacation than employees in other countries.)

So a lot of people in the U. S. hate their jobs—or at the very least don’t love them. If you think about that, it’s pretty sad, since we spend about 2000 hours (or more) every year working at said jobs.

If you’re one of those people, then you know that every day at a job you don’t like can feel like a Monday, every night before feels like a Sunday night. Not only are you not enjoying the job, you’re losing valuable hours of your life dreading it when you’re not even there.

Is there a way to cope with not having the job of your dreams? Having had jobs in various stages of my life that I did not love, I say the answer is ‘yes.’ It is possible to cope with a job that doesn’t ring your bells. What follows are some suggestions about how to do that.

Cultivate a life outside of work.

Yes, that’s right. Get a life—and live it. If you currently have a hobby or interest that you absolutely love, make sure you are allotting time in your life to pursue that interest. It’s easy to become a drudge, taking work home because you think you ‘should.’ Screw the should’s . Of course do your best at your job but set boundaries on its intrusion into your personal time.

Personal time should be—well, personal. So,for example, if you like to ski, make sure you plan a trip or a weekend or even an afternoon at the slopes. It you love to read novels, then have a good one going at all times—and maybe even join a book club so that you can be inspired by others. If you have children, spend time with them as they are growing up rather than holing yourself up with work files while you’re at home in the evening. Get the drift? There is a life outside of work, honest!

Find ways to enjoy your job while you’re there.

Is that possible?  Of course it is. Cultivate the best possible relationships that you can with your co-workers and your boss. The things that most often make people hate their jobs usually relate to relationship break-downs. These break-downs make you tense or paranoid at work, sap your energy, and keep you up at night. So the more you can do to intentionally build good relationships at work, the happier you will be.

A number of years ago I was part of a small, rather dysfunctional work team. My colleagues and I did not like each other very much and no matter what we tried we couldn’t seem to become a cohesive team. This made me very unhappy since a lot of the angst was directed my way. However, when I look back on that time I remember it as being one of the most satisfying work times of my life. Why? Because rather than continuing to muck around with relationships that sapped my energy, I intentionally cultivated broader relationships in the company. This resulted in my getting some interesting and rewarding assignments. Yes, I was still unhappy with my team but I was able to focus on the productive relationships I had outside the team and the very cool work I got to do as a result. Life got a lot better –and ultimately the team was disbanded.

Do something about it!

If you really hate your job, you can change it. It may not be an easy thing to do but you get to decide if you’re up for it. And just deciding can be an empowering thing. It could sound something like, “Yeah, I hate this job but it’s paying the bills and I’m willing to find fulfillment in other areas of my life.” To make a conscious decision to stay in a job that doesn’t ring your bells makes you the author of your life rather than the victim who’s living it.

And if you really can’t bear to stay in the job, then start making some moves to change it.

Here are some questions to explore

What would my ideal job be? Do I currently have the skills to do that job? If not, am I interested in doing what it takes to obtain the skills? Is it time to start putting out some feelers for another position?

Would I like to start my own business? What would that entail? How could I get myself in a position to leave this job? How much would I need to have in the bank? Is my spouse on board?

What is my passion? Could I make a paying job out of following that passion? There are plenty of people in the world who have.

If you are well and truly miserable and know you just can’t live out your life in your present job, the most self-caring thing you can do is to figure out how to move on. Give yourself time to do this. Make a plan about what you’re going to explore, who you’re going to talk to, and then start working the plan. Having a dream and a future to plan can make a not-so-happy present more bearable.

Whatever you do—do something!

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?

Know Who You’re Really Having the Conversation With… November 7, 2013

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Uncategorized.
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I just finished typing the title to this post and the former English teacher in me(many, many jobs ago) cringed at at a sentence ending with a preposition. So if you’re one of those proper grammar types, we can go with “Know With Whom You’re Really Having the Conversation.” It sounds stodgy but it is grammatically sound. ( I think I need to get out more—I’m starting to have conversations with myself.)

Conversations With Others Grow Relationships—Or Not

But I digress…Back to conversations with OTHERS. It is through conversations that we either grow our relationship with another or diminish it. Of course, we mostly want to have better relationships with others. And if we don’t we’re probably not going to have conversations with them anyway. I’ve been thinking about how sometimes we end up in the middle of a conversation and realize that we’re really talking to someone from our past.

A wonderfully illustrative example… You have a co-worker who is Wendy Whiner—always complaining, awfulizing, seeing the worst possible outcomes for a situation. And it’s that tone of voice that reminds you of running your fingernails on a blackboard…eeek. And she just gets on your very last nerve.

Ever wonder why that is? She doesn’t seem to affect everyone in the way she affects you. So gee, it must be something about you. Could it be that she reminds you of your whiny baby sister who always got her way, never did her chores, and was spoiled rotten by your parents (your story)?  And who to this day you really don’t like being around?

You’re Not Talking to the Right Person

Ding, ding, ding…so when you hear your whiny co-worker you are really hearing your sister. You’re not talking to Wendy Whiner, you’re talking to your sister…

Snap Out of It

So what’s to be done about it? Well, first—snap out of it! Be present to the conversation that’s going on in front of you, not the one that is playing in your head. Take deep breaths and be conscious that Wendy is not baby sister.

A lot of us have voices from the past that we allow to make us feel guilty, unattractive, fat, stupid, or any number of undesirable qualities. When I was a kid, I was not very good in math. My dad was a chemist so he was very good in math. He couldn’t understand why I didn’t get it. So he would sit down with me and have ‘coaching’ sessions to help me with my math. However these sessions always ended up with him yelling at me when I couldn’t get the right answer. Needless to say, I grew up with a bit of a math block. (Aside: my dad was a great dad, just not a great math teacher.)

Fast forward twenty years…I decided to go for my MBA and of course had to take a number of courses that involved math. ( I still shiver when I think about the statistics course) I knew that I couldn’t finish my MBA work unless I did the math.  I wanted to get my MBA. So I made a conscious declaration to silence that voice in my head that said I couldn’t do math—And I did.

Moral of the Story?

Yes, it took something to do it but I was determined. The moral of the story? If you’ve got a difficult relationship in your life(or a bunch of them), get to work and figure out who you might be hearing when they speak to you. Then tell that voice to be quiet and go sit in the corner. You’ll probably have to repeat yourself numerous times but just the self-awareness you bring to the process will make a change for the better…Honest!

 

If you’ve got a difficult someone at work (or anywhere) and would like to look into getting coaching about how to create a more productive relationship with him or her, contact me to schedule a coaching information session. Click on this link to schedule: My Calendar

 

A Sure Fire Way to Improve Difficult Work Relationships–Part 2 October 29, 2013

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Self-Development, Uncategorized.
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