Friday, October 31, 2008

Quote of the Day

"The last of the human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."

Victor Frankl: Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Annoyer, antagonizer, browbeater, bulldozer, coercer...

My thesaurus uses terms like annoyer, antagonizer, browbeater, bulldozer, coercer, insolent, intimidator, oppressor, persecutor, pest, rascal, ruffian, terrorizor and tormentor to describe the word bully.

Going to work can be very difficult when you know among the cubicle walls lurks an antagonistic, annoying, browbeating, coercive, ruffian of a pest co-worker. Feeling like a deer scared to tip toe down to the water in fear of the lion lurking in the tall grass, the trip to work can certainly cause anxiety. Once you get there, the depression and other negative feelings kick in. That dread can cause us to lose sight of things, and lose faith in ourselves.

But think about this. Every minute of every day we are thinking. Every second we are thinking about all kinds of things from what to cook for dinner to how to handle the bully at work. You never stop thinking, and therefore you never stop affirming for yourself that the goings on around you are in fact true reality. Every second of every day you are affirming beliefs in something. Even now you are agreeing or disagreeing with what you are reading, and thus affirming your belief (or disbelief) in the content of this blog.

“My child is doing really great on his baseball team.” There. You made it true in your mind. “That customer was rude.” There. Now it’s a reality. “The new marketing manager is kind of cute.” There. You affirmed something else. “That bully is hurting my feelings.” “My loyalty to management has just dropped off the chart altogether as a result of the way I am treated.” “It doesn’t matter what I do, that person will never respect me.” Oops, you did it again.

When you say those things to yourself you affirm they are true. You make them so. These thoughts affirm the bully is winning, and knocking you out cold. These thoughts take away your desire to succeed in the organization, or even in your career. They affirm that you have given up.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your reality was “I am the best out there at my job.” “I absolutely deserve respect from everyone I work with.” “I am a confident, dependable and important employee.” Aren’t these thoughts better?

You are in charge of your own reality. You write the story, not the bully.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Honest talk about bullying

A dear friend in the Bay Area clipped this article written by Gwen Minor and Margaret Lavin (Elementary, My Dears column: Honest talk about bullying) from the San Mateo Times, 9/15/08, and sent it to me in the mail. These days everyone I know sends me anything "bully" they come across.

The article offers tips for parents who's children may be getting bullied at school. But interestingly enough, it absolutely applies to bullies at work. So here you have it, 4 tips for dealing with bullies at work:

1: First and foremost, tell someone, preferably an adult (at work). If you get no help, tell someone else, and keep telling until the bullying stops.

2: Keep people around you. Bullies pick on (people) who are isolated... Remember, there is safety in numbers.

3: Help others who are in need. If you witness bullying, refuse to join in. Walk away and report the bullying. Speak out if you feel safe and, if possible, get a friend or two to help you.

Just standing beside the bully's target or inviting him to join your group can relieve the situation.

Chances are the bully who picks on you also attacks some of your peers. You may be able to prevent future suffering from happening.

4: Get active. (Competent and confident employees are safe from bullies. Continue to do your work and do it well. This will ensure no one can come down on you for that. You should also find ways to get more involved in work too (I'm not saying take on more work load). For example, your department might be seeking volunteers for a special project, or HR may be seeking event planning help for the company holiday party. Get to know as many people in the organization as you can in order to maximize your support system.)

With these strategies, (you) will be safe from the harm of bullies and may even help change the climate at (work).

The most important strategy for all of us is to be kind. Kindness, more than anything else, is the death of bullying. One act of kindness may be enough to lessen another person's pain or give someone hope.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Minimizing Workplace Negativity Podcast

In this podcast, human resources consultant Susan Heathfield discusses how managers can diagnose the problem, deal with individual and group negativity issues, and turn negativity into positive action.

Made available from one of my favorite eNewsletters, BNET. Click here to listen:

Susan cites the main causes of negativity at work:

1. excessive workload
2. concerns about management
3. confusion about the future
4. lack of challenges in workload
5. insufficient recoginition of work

And indicates the best solution is creating a culture of empowerment.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

5 Quick Solutions to Conflict

The CW San Diego 6 Morning News asked me to appear as a guest and discuss strategies for dealing with workplace conflict. You can check it out if you live in San Diego and are up at 7 am on Monday morning, Oct 13.

Here's what I came up with:

Determine what you need to gain from the conflict.

We often have conflict because our needs are not being met or there's some sort of power struggle. Are you having conflict because you're feelings were hurt and you need an apology? Did someone take an important responsibility away and you need to find something new to make yourself feel useful again? Are you just butting heads with someone and you need to find a way to work together anyway?

Think about:
o What you hope to gain out of this conflict
o What the ideal outcome of the conflict is and whether it is realistic
o What your plans are for getting what you need

Now put yourself in their shoes.

I know this seems awfully difficult and perhaps even unnecessary. Alas, it is very necessary and important in order for you to get anywhere in resolution.

You want this person to see your side. You want them to understand what your needs are in this, so you can feel understood and the problem can feel resolved. Then you can move on.

Well so does she (or he). She wants you to understand what her needs are in this, so the problem can be resolved. Then she can move on.

Try working together.

The first step here is to recognize part of the problem is your fault. You are half the conflict. It "takes two to tango" so to speak. Blaming the other person will not resolve anything, but understanding your role in the problem at hand will.

Approach collaboration with calmness and confidence. Getting emotional will not resolve anything. Remain calm and collected, choose your words carefully, and speak with confidence. Remember, there are two goals: to help the other person see your side, and to understand his or hers.

Finally, avoid battle phrases, or things like, "you always," "you never" and "you make me feel..." These phrases increase the other's defensiveness, and can result in emotions flying off the handle. No one likes to be accused of anything, let alone making you feel anything. You are in charge of your own emotions, so no one makes you anything except you.

Essentially, stick to the facts, and focus on the real problems and issues.


What are you willing to compromise on in order to resolve the conflict? What is the other party willing to compromise on? Can a compromise even be reached?

You won't know unless you ask. So man up, open your mind and your heart, and approach the person you are in conflict with. Is it possible you can come to an agreement?

Maintain professionalism.

First and foremost, continue to do your work, and do it well. Do not get distracted by your conflict, or swept away in gossip or emotions. It's easy to do this because if other's know about your conflict they will ask you about it. Everyone loves dirt. But, talking to co-workers about your issues doesn't make you look good should it come around to the boss that you were blabbing about it.

If you must, go to Human Resources. But make as much attempt as you can to resolve the problem on your own first. Take notes of these encounters and hang on to any emails, notes, memos or other items you collect in relation to the conflict. Then, if you do need to go to HR, you have a trail of your communication with the other party. If the other party is particularly mean during all this, or bullying you, then this documentation becomes even more necessary.

If you keep your cool, and attempt to show the other person an agreement is desired, your conflict should resolve itself.