Work Relationships

When your job isn’t working out

Posted by on Jan 17, 2017 in Career Management, Work Relationships | 0 comments

Sometimes you know it on your very first day of work….. this job is not going to work out.

Sometimes your new job is great at first and you find out things aren’t quite what you thought they would be.

There are many reasons your job isn’t working out but the result is the same- it sucks.

So what do you do? How do you handle this situation like a pro?

Let me tell you a story from the other side. We’ll call this what NOT to do.

I hold a volunteer position for a women’s networking group. I brought in a consultant to our group and it seemed like a perfect situation for everyone involved! Until it wasn’t….

And that’s when things got ugly. The problem was how things were handled as soon as it became clear this opportunity wasn’t working out.

The consultant was understandably frustrated with the situation even though she had not been clear about her expectations and needs. She chose to complain to the executive director and ask the director to step in, causing no small amount of stress and emails flying on the day before our event, including an email in which this consultant called our organization “unprofessional” and dressed me down in no uncertain terms.

As the volunteer in charge, I wish she would have come directly to me with her concerns. I wish she had made her expectations clear from the beginning. I wish she’s been more understanding that everyone involved had good intentions.

Because of the way she handled the situation, I can tell you it’s unlikely I will work with this consultant again. Nor am I likely to recommend her for other jobs.

Dealing with this situation got me thinking about how I choose to handle situations when I am hired for a job that doesn’t work out.

When a job doesn’t work out I have legitimate complaints! But I learned years ago that complaining rarely benefits anyone, especially not me.

I’ve also learned that sometimes great opportunities immediately follow opportunities that just didn’t work out.

this job sucks

So, what can you do when your job isn’t working out? How can turn a bad situation into a better situation?

Be grateful, be gracious, and grow.

Be grateful

Okay, so your job isn’t working out. It sucks. But chances are, there is something to gain from the situation. You are most-likely benefiting in some way- how?

The benefit of gratitude is it improves your outlook and helps you approach the situation from a positive perspective. You’re more likely to find a workable solution or make the best of the situation if you adopt an attitude of gratitude.

Be gracious

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. That sucks, too. Here again  you have a choice- do you choose to take it out on others? Do you choose to complain?

A better choice is to be gracious. Sometimes it’s no one’s fault that things don’t work out. And, hey, even when it is someone’s fault, we all make mistakes. Being gracious shows you’re a professional, and you are far more likely to get a recommendation if you handle a difficult situation with grace.

Grow

When an opportunity isn’t what you wanted you have an opportunity to learn.

Maybe next time you’ll ask more questions about the job in the interview. Maybe next time you’ll make sure to express any special needs upfront. Maybe you’ve learned what types of jobs you want, and which you don’t want. How can you grow from this experience?

As frustrating as it is when a job doesn’t work out, you get to choose how to respond (instead of reacting). You can choose to handle the situation in a way that is in the best interest of everyone involved. You can choose to leave a good impression and improve your chances to get a recommendation or referral. You can choose to grow.

So maybe you’re reading this because your job isn’t working out. Besides being grateful, gracious, and growing, download the worksheet to get unstuck and uncover your next career move!

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What to do when someone pisses you off at work

Posted by on Sep 27, 2016 in Career Management, Work Relationships | 2 comments

Someone is bound to piss you off at some point in your career. Even the most rational and reasonable people get angry sometimes. I certainly do.

So, you get angry at your boss, a co-worker, or client. What do you do? How do you handle yourself professionally?

For years I didn’t get angry. Or, well, I suppose I did and I just held that anger back until it started to eat away at me. I was prone to depression. My health suffered. I tried to keep the peace by letting it go but what I thought was letting go was actually ignoring it. Obviously this is not a healthy way to address anger in the workplace!

I’ve worked with people who handle anger quite differently from me. They lash out in anger, raising their voice, making accusations, and blaming others. I can’t say what it’s like to be that person, but lashing out in anger doesn’t seem to benefit them and it certainly doesn’t benefit me to be on the receiving end. This response to conflict is no better than holding it back.

I recently got pissed off at someone I work with. In the moment, I shut down. Then I started to think about a better way to handle the situation and realized I already knew a better way! Here are 6 questions I asked myself to handle the situation professionally.

angry-at-work

6 Questions to Address Conflict at Work

01. How important is it?

Anger feels pretty significant in the moment, but it’s important to ask yourself, “how important is it?”

Is your ability to do your job affected? Did the situation cause irreparable harm to you or your career? Will this incident matter in a week? How about a month? How about next year?

Putting the conflict in perspective makes it easier to address.

02. What’s your part?

While someone else’s behavior may have been out-of-line, chances are so was yours. What’s your part in the conflict?

Did you communicate expectations clearly? Did you ask for more information? Did you give the other person a chance to talk? Did you treat the other person with respect?

Taking responsibility for your part in conflict builds confidence, authenticity, and authority. When you own your part of the problem, you can own your part of the solution. And, it’s easier to be compassionate with others when you acknowledge you screwed up, too.

03. What do you need?

When someone pisses you off, it’s important to take a time-out to attend to your needs.

Do you need a break? Do you need a glass of water, or to go for a walk?

Take care of yourself and you’ll be ready to approach the situation with a clear head.

04. What happened?

Instead of assuming you have all the facts, stay open and curious about what happened. Ask for more information.

What happened? Why? What is the other person’s perspective on the conflict?

Staying curious will help you understand the other person as well as the problem. Finding out what really happened leads to better relationships and better solutions.

05. What’s your motivation?

When you consider addressing the conflict, consider your motivation.

Do you want the other person to feel embarrassed or ashamed? Do you want to be heard? Do you want an apology? Do you want a mutually beneficial resolution?

Understand your motive before you try to address the conflict.

06. Can we talk about what happened?

When you’re ready to address the conflict, ask for permission to discuss it.

Is this a good time? Can we talk about what happened?

Getting permission puts you both on equal footing and starts the conversation with respect and courtesy.

The next time someone pisses you off at work, use these 6 questions to resolve conflict with self-assurance, confidence, and increase your chances for a positive resolution.

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A fun way to reconnect

Posted by on Aug 16, 2016 in Guest Posts, Work Relationships | 0 comments

Ever need to get back on the same page with someone or with a group of people?

Could be your coworker, your team, or your spouse or your family.

I get it- we’re all busy. And sometimes that busyness means losing touch with important people in our work and our lives. No matter who you work (or live) with we tend to fall out of sync with the people around us.

These are the factors that typically effect my own rate of “de-sync-ification”:

1. How much stress we’re each under separately

2. How big the task is that we are trying to accomplish

3. How much precise communication is required

ETC!

Basically, you just need to know that it’s normal, and (most of the time) it’s no one’s fault. It’s just a fact of life when working with other intelligent, autonomous, and creative people – they will have their own activities, interests, and agendas. That’s a good thing!

What doesn’t feel so good about it is when we are out of sync we are more likely to get upset or forget to give the benefit of the doubt, and we just miscommunicate more often.

If you have the opportunity for a big team-building retreat in the woods, or a trust fall seminar, well, I am a big fan of those! But sometimes, you just need a quickie activity that can take 10-20 minutes to reconnect with people in your work and your life.

It’s time for the Toothpick Game!

All you need for this activity is toothpicks – one set for each person. A set is one toothpick for every member of the team.

If you have 5 people on your team, you need 5 sets of 5 toothpicks.

If you have a very large team, divide them into groups of 4-7, depending on how much time you have (more people in the group will take more time).

Now, you’ll go around the circle and each person will lay down one toothpick at a time right in front of themselves. When you lay down a toothpick, you will point it out from you toward another person, and say something you appreciate about them.

You will also point one toothpick toward yourself, and say something you appreciate about yourself. You can choose whoever you’d like to appreciate 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. as the group will just keep going around until each person has set down all their toothpicks. Eventually, you all will have toothpicks pointing from you to each other person, and one to yourself.

Toothpick Game

Note: If you are just doing this with one other person, give each of you 6 toothpicks, and point 5 of them to the other person, and one to you.

It is shockingly powerful to physically see the energetic connection we have to each other. And once you have heard 4-7 appreciations from your team, your attitude and productivity often go through the roof!

I have found that small weekly exercises like this are necessary to fill in the spaces between big retreats and team-building events and parties. They smooth out the day-to-day friction, and allow minor infractions to be effortlessly forgiven, and teamwork to thrive.

AmandaFewell

Amanda’s passion is working with women who find themselves in higher levels of leadership than they planned – needing to speak, negotiate, or sell. She shares tools to help them stay in Joy & Authenticity as they lead. You can find out more at Everyday-Light.com.

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3 Phrases to Stop Conflict Before It Happens

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in Guest Posts, Work Relationships | 0 comments

Disagreements happen. Especially during an election year!

It’s normal that conflict makes you uncomfortable. I would estimate at least 90% of the population would prefer their workday be completely tension-free. Maybe some challenges within the work itself, but as for interpersonal tension, most prefer ZERO.

However, in close quarters, toes are bound to get stepped on. Sometimes opinions get shared by accident, such as when you ask your new office mate if she’s heard about timeshares. “Oh, those things are all a scam!” And you were about to say how excited you are about your next timeshare trip. Oops.

And sometimes, opinions are shared with you to provoke you into a debate or possible conflict, such as “I hope you’re not voting for who I think you’re voting for.” This was actually said to me this week- out of the blue, while this friend was driving me to an event. Yikes- if I had taken the bait, I may have had to walk home!

Luckily, I carry 3 powerful Tension-Defusing Phrases in my back pocket at all times. If someone drops a bomb, I can often quickly snip the red wire and no one gets hurt. My mom is the ultimate tension-defuser, so these are a tribute to her.

3 phrases that defuse conflict

3 Phrases to Stop Conflict Before It Happens

1. “Wow, you are really passionate about this!”

This one can be used at the first moment you realize someone has a point to prove. I like to say it with a smile to let the person know I am happy to see their strong emotion. I welcome it because emotion is authentic and real.

If you can follow up by asking why or how they became so passionate. Get them to tell you the story behind it. They will love sharing, appreciate you for listening, and you’ll often find connection where there almost was conflict.

2. “I see where you’re coming from.”

What a great phrase to use when you personally disagree with the conclusion they are drawing and you find they are not interested in hearing your side. (By the way, if someone has not explicitly asked for your opinion, they are probably not ready to consider its merits.)

If you can stay curious, you may start to hear the strongly held value behind what they are saying. Perhaps they are sharing a strong opinion about the break room fridge policy. You may be able to hear that they value fairness or cleanliness or autonomy. Sometimes, you may even be able to find common ground.

Seeing the value behind a belief may be enough to let them know you do see where they are coming from, even if you don’t share their idea of how to implement that value.

3. “I’d love to be wrong on this. / I truly hope you’re right.”

This is the one I used with my friend in the car the other day. He was ready to fight, and I knew that if we did, both of us would lose.

So, as he was beginning to convince me why his candidate would produce a better life for us all, I started to realize he was not open to any new info from me.

This difference in openness is what often creates the tension, by the way. In the conversation with my friend, we were not in our usual mutually-open role of friends. He had suddenly moved into “teacher” or “informer” without my agreement, like a dance partner switching from Salsa to Foxtrot without asking. It’s awkward!

Changing roles mid-conversation is more awkward for the person listening. It’s your job to decide what to do about it. I chose to keep tension low that day and just finish out the song dancing the Foxtrot.

In my situation I kept saying, “Man, I really hope you are right. If that person wins, I hope I am so wrong about this.” After about 6 or 7 phrases like that, I felt I had clearly stated that I did not agree, while completely validating that his vision of the world would be wonderful. And the rest of the drive was tension-free!

Now it’s your turn – 

Which phrase is most helpful for the tension you want to reduce?

Can you put your own spin on them?

What phrase have you used to defuse tension?

AmandaFewell

Amanda’s passion is working with women who find themselves in higher levels of leadership than they planned – needing to speak, negotiate, or sell. She shares tools to help them stay in Joy & Authenticity as they lead. You can find out more at Everyday-Light.com.

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How to deal with the office bully

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Career Management, Work Relationships | 0 comments

Every office has one- the office bully. That person who intimidates and manipulates those around him- disrupting work, destroying morale, and making everyone in the office as miserable as he is.

I’ve worked with bullies who were my co-workers, my employees, and my boss. It mattered little if I was the manager or the employee- an office bully bullies indiscriminately, and the effect is the same regardless of hierarchy.

Office bullies have a particularly powerful effect on introverts as we tend to internalize our experiences. In her book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, Laurie A. Helgoe wrote, “Introverts tend to internalize problems. In other words, we place the source of problems within and blame ourselves. Though introverts may also externalize and see others as the problem, it’s more convenient to keep the problem ‘in house’.” Many introverts struggle to detach from the behavior of the office bully and may find our job performance scrutinized when dealing with a bully at work.

Common traits of the office bully include gossiping, criticism disguised as concern, hoarding information, exaggerating or misrepresenting situations, and playing the victim.

The office bully may be respected and well-liked around the office as they position themselves as an authority at the expense of others.

Office bullies may show genuine compassion and kindness- virtues they aspire to but are often unable to maintain.

Office bullying is often overlooked as bullies make everyone uncomfortable yet manage to fly under the radar- avoiding responsibility and shifting blame to those around them.

Unfortunately, it is often those around the bully who pay the price for his bad behavior. Those of us who work with office bullies are likely to quit or worse, get fired. (Yes, it’s happened to me!)

Common traits of the office bully include gossiping, criticism disguised as concern, hoarding information, exaggerating or misrepresenting situations, and playing the victim.

I’ve observed office bullies up close and from afar. I’ve watched management handle them poorly and handle them well. I’ve been on the receiving end of their lies and misdirection and I’ve seen other good people take the fall. I don’t want it to happen to you (or me, again).

office bully

How to deal with the office bully

Keep it professional

Office bullies will use information to manipulate situations and people so avoid giving them more to work with. Keep your conversations and relationships professional. Avoid discussing personal topics and do not accept their friend request on Facebook!

Be pleasant

While you want to limit your personal contact with a bully you do want to maintain a friendly attitude, remaining kind and pleasant. For example, saying “good morning” and “good night”. A friendly attitude will minimize conflict with the bully and show you can handle yourself with grace and aplomb.

Process your emotions

The office bully benefits from getting you to react emotionally. They’ll show you their emotions in one-on-one interactions then play it cool around other people, making you appear unstable, irrational, or unreasonable. Be aware of your emotions dealing with the office bully and don’t let them control you. Notice what you’re feeling and express it in healthy ways such as working it out through exercise, journaling, or confiding in a trusted mentor or friend.

Don’t complain

Yes, working with an office bully sucks but complaining will only keep you in the pain of it, focused on the negative. If you find yourself repeating your complaints to anyone who will listen, it’s time to stop complaining and focus on something else instead.

Practice self-care

Working with a bully will drain your resources so this is a time to up your self-care. Get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat right, have fun- do whatever keeps you strong and healthy.

Keep good records

It’s always smart to keep track of your tasks and accomplishments at work. When dealing with an office bully, it’s even more important to document expectations, agreements, deadlines, and progress. Keeping a record of your good work will keep you motivated, help you focus on your work, and may defend your position if the bully makes a false accusation towards you.

Do good work

If you work with an office bully there’s a good chance you’ll start focusing on the behavior of the bully more than your own  work- don’t fall into this trap!  Do good work and continue to do your best every day. Focusing on your work can distract you from the bully, give you a sense of control over your situation, and keep you from taking the blame for reduced productivity.

While bullies may make a good impression initially, they will often reveal their true nature with time. If you find yourself working with an office bully be patient, focus on your work, and try to ride it out.

Sometimes work bullies are higher up in the organization and manage to stick around for years. In this situation, you may want to transfer out of the bully’s sphere of influence, or it may be in your best interest to find another job. In the meantime, do your best to be your best self and rise above a difficult situation.

Have you successfully dealt with an office bully? Please share your experience in the comments!

 

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How to have a difficult conversation at work

Posted by on Nov 3, 2015 in Work Relationships | 2 comments

Yesterday I attended a court hearing with my former employer regarding my employment. I’m the one who called the hearing but I wasn’t sure I was going to go through with it. The thought of having to have yet another difficult conversation with my former employer caused me no small amount of stress!

It’s always stressful to have a difficult conversation- especially with someone who has some control and authority over your employment! During my employment I’d had several tough talks with my employer where I tried to share my concerns, clarify expectations, and improve my relationship with my supervisor. I’m sure you can guess these conversations didn’t result in a mutually beneficial result! So when it came to the hearing part of me wondered if it was worth having the conversation at all.

In the end I chose to move forward with the hearing and and have one more difficult conversation with my former employer. Why? Because I believe employers hold a privileged position and have the responsibility of providing safe and fair work environments. I believe in speaking up when I see someone in authority taking advantage of those they have authority over. I believe in communication that is thoughtful, honest, intelligent, necessary, and kind.

Once I decided to go ahead with the hearing I gave some thought to what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I examined my motives. I considered what I wanted to get out of the hearing. This process of reflection gave me purpose, peace, and helped me be clear about my actions.

I would love to tell you that I didn’t react emotionally during the hearing but that isn’t true. When I heard my former employer give grossly exaggerated and untrue testimony I got angry. Oh well, I’m only human. I did my best in a really challenging situation and overall I’m proud of myself for speaking up and acting with integrity.

I learned a lot from this experience and I want to share what I learned with you. (And myself for future difficult conversations!) Not all of these tips applied directly to the hearing, but I’ve found each one of these tips to be helpful in my previous conversations with my former employer. (And, let’s be honest, I wish this was how my former employer approached difficult conversations with me.)

how to have difficult conversations

Photo by dalvenjah

How to have a difficult conversation at work

01. Before you speak, THINK

My go-to method of preparing for difficult conversations is to T.H.I.N.K. it through. Is what I want to say Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary, and Kind? If so, I know I’m on the right track.

02. Examine your motives

Why do I want to initiate this conversation? If my motive is to improve the situation then having a conversation may be appropriate. If my motive is to embarrass, shame, or one-up someone that I feel has wronged me then I need to stop and reconsider.

03. Consider your desired result

What result am I looking for? If I’m trying to change someone else’s behavior, the conversation probably won’t go so well. However, if I want to create a more positive relationship with true concern for another person then I just might have a chance. (Results not guaranteed!)

04. Ask questions

It’s easy to go into a difficult conversation loaded with assumptions and self-righteousness. (Ouch! That one’s hard to admit.) To avoid this approach, I start a difficult conversation by asking questions and challenging my assumptions.

05. Respond, don’t react

If someone says something that triggers an emotional reaction, this can change my motivation in the conversation. It’s important for me to pause and respond intelligently instead of reacting emotionally.

06. Take responsibility

All relationships and all conflicts are two-sided. What responsibility do I have in this situation? Did I do what I needed to do? What do I need to do differently?

07. Be specific

It’s always important to provide clear, direct, and specific examples in a difficult conversation. This includes specific examples of what went wrong as well as specific suggestions for resolution. If I’m not specific I may think I’m making my thoughts clear but the other person may be confused about what the problem really is and how to improve the situation.

08. Be open to resolution

If I go into a difficult conversation thinking I’m right, they’re wrong, it’s unlikely the conversation will end in a helpful resolution. I must be ready, willing, and able to resolve the situation to mutual benefit.

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