Tag Archives: Career Management

Don’t Let a Colleague Get You Down

Red Sox fans will recall a talented baseball player called Manny Ramirez who could hit the cover off the ball and win the big games. They’ll also recall how Manny pulled antics that drove us nuts and almost got him traded. The phrase “Manny being Manny” lost its allure after awhile and even his teammates grew fed up with his jogging to first base instead of running out a ground ball.

I saw Manny as a detriment to my beloved Red Sox—not worth the hits he produced and home runs that seemed to come at the right time. He was bad for the team’s morale, in my mind. How could he not be? I honestly wouldn’t want to play with him no matter how outstanding he was. Although only a few of his teammates spoke poorly about him, I’ll bet many others thought he was bad for company morale.

At a previous company I worked with someone who was bad for company morale. I’ll call him Ted (not to be confused with the great Ted Williams). When I met Ted, I tried befriending him, despite his crude behavior and total indifference for the job. I joked with him at lunch and listen to his incessant stories about things unrelated to work. “No wait, Bob, there’s a point to my story,” he would say as I was backpedaling.

At first he seemed like a pleasant man, despite his overtly loquaciousness, but I soon came to see him for who he really was, a saboteur. (In all fairness, I don’t know if he realized what he was doing to me and others.)

At times I would come to him during lunch to discuss an issue of a customer he and I shared in common. In response he would tell me that he never talked business at lunch. I’d have to wait before we could talk about our customer. “No seriously, Ted,” I told him. “I want to run something by you.”

“No seriously, Bob,” he would say, concentrating on his sandwich, “I’m eating. I don’t talk business during lunch.” At first I thought he was joking; I only needed a few seconds of his precious time.

Ted was also a clock watcher; he was someone who came in a minute before work started and left a minute before work ended. None of this went unnoticed by the entire staff; they would merely shake their heads in resignation. But he didn’t care. It was as if he were mocking those of us who were trying to work hard. He more than once asked me why I was still at work half an hour after the “official” quitting time, and acted as if I were breaking a rule.

One time I saw one of Ted’s customers sitting in his office alone, hands between his knees and looking around anxiously waiting. I asked the customer where Ted was. He said Ted was smoking a cigarette and had told him to wait five minutes. The customer shook his head, as if he knew Ted had given up on the job. This customer was perceptive.

Ted’s attendance at company meetings epitomized the total disregard he had for work. He would come in late, often moaning and rolling his eyes, and frequently leave to visit the restroom. I considered that he was ill because he looked and sounded like a 100-year-old man; but it so happened that meetings were the only time he arrived late and left often. He just didn’t like meetings, I guess.

The advice we always give people when they’re in the presence of someone like Ted is to disengage and avoid contact. Rather, surround yourself with positive colleagues who inspire you and want to work in a cooperative environment.

This is precisely what I did after months of trying to be a supportive colleague to Ted. I felt more alive and less stressed when I avoided this guy. When I saw him in the hallways, I would duck into another room, or I would simply ignore him. Or if I needed information, I would try to seek it from someone other than him.

As Ted would count down the days till retirement, I would secretly count them as well. When 65 days were left, they couldn’t come too soon. “How many days left, Ted?” I asked in an expectant tone.

“Sixty,” he said. “I can’t wait.”

I couldn’t wait either. I was five days off and floating on air.

The sad thing about finally seeing Ted go was that he was a humorous man. He often provided me with wisdom and worldly advice. He loved to talk about fishing while floating on a lake in his canoe. One of his missions in life was to study all religions and become an expert on them. I don’t doubt he can do it. Ted coached youth lacrosse and talked about his laidback coaching style, smiling as he spoke of his players. There were many endearing qualities to Ted. But they were overshadowed by his total distain for work.

Something had gone wrong, something in his past life he was reluctant to discuss with me. I think we have an easier time accepting poor behavior when we know the reasons for it. So maybe I would have had an easier time accepting Ted for who he was if I knew what was wrong. Others accepted him, but they also kept their distance. They, like me, knew what kind of bad affect he had on those around him. No one hears from Ted because he wants it that way.

I’m not sad that Ted is gone, even as I remember the things I liked about him. I just hope he finds peace where he goes. I also hope that people who inexplicably hate work know when it’s time to jump ship and seek a more amiable work environment.

Can your job be done by a monkey? 4 ways to think about approaching your boss

I’m not talking about stacking blocks or putting round objects in round holes or pealing bananas and feeding them to their young or anything monkeys can do. I’m talking about  complex duties that have become so routine you’re starting to feel like a…monkey.

Has your job become so mundane that you no longer get challenged to do your best? Do you feel stagnated? Do you dread coming to work instead of looking forward to the workweek? Are you among the approximate 70%,  according to an article in  Forbes.com, who hate their job? If so, this is not good. When your job no longer offers you a challenge, it might be time to move on. Or it might be time to address this issue with your boss.

The latter of the two options would be preferable given that moving on to a new job brings with it complications, such as starting over in a new work environment, adjusting to new management or new subordinates, or actually relocating to a far destination; not to mention trying to find another job.

The positive thing about bringing this issue to your boss’ attention is that you’re in a better position to enact some change than if you had just started a job (if you just started the job, you’re in the wrong place.) But to enact change, you need to approach the situation carefully. It has to be about the organization, not you.

Making the organization stronger is one approach you can take with your boss. Example: You’re the marketing communications pro, the best at what you do. Your approach: The sales and marketing teams could benefit from your help with marketing analysis. Of course, you’d excel at your responsibilities and any additional work would be performed on your own time.

Other staff could benefit from learning new roles. Cross-training is a great concept that allows others to learn more about what their counterparts do. You may hear rumblings from others, like you, who are unsatisfied with the monotony and repetition of their jobs. Assuming some of your colleagues’ responsibilities and visa versa, providing it’s feasible, can add spice to the workplace. This can help the organization if “key” players are absent for an extended period of time or quit unexpectedly.

Your boss will be better for allowing you to take on varied duties and ultimately making you, and others, happier. One thing that separates a great boss from the ordinary is his willingness to empower his employees. One of my favorite bosses was one who gave me assignments, such as representing the organization from soup to nuts, providing little guidance but standing by when I had questions. She remains the most influential person in my career.

Happy workers make better workers. Although this approach may seem self-serving, remind your boss that an organizations best resource are its employees. Self-fulfilled workers are likely to perform and accomplish more than those who feel as though they’re a hamster on a wheel. Or someone doing a job a monkey could do.

There’s a great book I recommend to people which is about what truly motivates us to succeed. It’s called Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. In the book Daniel Pink talks about autonomy, mastery, and purpose as the motivating forces behind happiness at work; how intrinsic rewards are more satisfying than extrinsic ones, e.g., money and punishment. All three elements are necessary to achieve happiness at work; to make you feel like it takes more than a monkey to do your job.

It’s unanimous; volunteer

Recently I wrote an article on the virtues of volunteering. I know the thought is unsettling to some because they’d be working without pay and, erroneously thinking, it would take away from their job search, but the benefits of volunteering far outweigh the drawbacks, e.g. working without pay.

I read a recent article by James Alexander on CareerRocketeer.com that further enforces the power of volunteering. Titled How Volunteering Can Land You a Job, it elaborates on how you can effectively network, possibly move up in the organization, and land strong recommendations—something I hadn’t thought of.

Another proponent of volunteering is Dawn Bugni who wrote an article called Volunteer to Network. She is so pumped about volunteering that she’s written many articles on this subject. Dawn is a Master Resume Writer (MRW), Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and has been published in countless books.

When you decide to volunteer, be sure it’s the ideal situation, whether it’s at a non-profit organization or a for-profit business. Volunteering is particularly useful if you’re thinking about changing your career. This will give you the opportunity to 1) get into the industry and learn the skills necessary, and 2) determine if your career change is the right thing for you.

As one of my customers told me during a workshop, volunteering led her to her last job; and it was the best decision she made. I hope she repeats her latest success.

The secret to success; it’s in the touch

Much to my son’s and my pleasure, the Dallas Mavericks are leading the Miami Heat three games to two. We’re both Celtics fans, but we hate the Heat because they eliminated our team with their Big Three of Bosh, James, and Wade.

I have been hearing about the Maverick’s success on NPR and other news outlets, which attribute it to…touching. That’s right, the team from Dallas touches each other with high-fives and butt taps. This proves that constant congratulations, even when their teammates miss a free throw, have a positive effect.

The same holds true in the workplace. Attaboys and attagirls raise morale and increases productivity. I know this to be the case because three years ago the management team surprised the employees with a round of appreciation for all of us. They awarded us with praise during a staff meeting. My manager told the staff “Bob will fight for every one of his customers.” I was flattered and the high from her comment lasted at least a week.

So why doesn’t this happen at more companies? It’s a known fact that employees feel more appreciated with a pat on the back than with a raise. We enjoy being complimented for a job well done, and this encourages us to try harder, do better. Money doesn’t have the same effect.

When people contemplate how teachers, for instance, can increase their performance, it’s not raises that do the trick. Teachers argue that their creativity being taken from them for the sake of raising test scores, larger and unmanageable classes, and lack of administrative and parental support, are the reasons for decreased performance.

Professionals in other fields talk about harsh management and even bullying as major reasons for wanting to move on or quit. Members of the LinkedIn community constantly bring up questions about effective management. The answers they receive include vision, fairness, consistency, empowerment, et cetera. In other words, what our children look for in their parents.

It comes to no surprise that the Dallas Mavericks are prevailing over the Big Three due to their touchy-feely approach to the games. We are fortunate when the people who rely on us to do our jobs show us appreciation, so why wouldn’t a professional basketball team raise its performance when they have the support from each other.

I’m fortunate to work with positive colleagues who are encouraged by fair and consistent management. But I think I’ll refrain from touching my co-workers’ butt.