A New Way to Work

Success and change without burnout by Dr. Geri Puleo

Archive for the category “Trust”

The Top 5 Listening Mistakes (What to Do Instead)

Listening - 2 Men ask question

It’s a proven fact:  listening is more than just the physical act of hearing.  So why do we sometimes “zone out” during conversations?  Even though we may be able to hear what is being said, it’s only through aggressive listening that we can really understand what is being said — on both denotative (definitions) and connotative (emotional) levels.

Listening requires concentrated effort.  It requires silencing our “monkey minds” that constantly flit between different visual, auditory, and sensory stimulation.  It requires being present in the moment — and quit worrying about the past or the future.

Maybe it’s our fast-paced world or maybe it’s these constant distractions that pummel us from every direction, but the art of listening has fallen to the wayside.

But without aggressive listening, mistakes are made.  Feelings are hurt.  Important information is overlooked.  And the levels of trust and respect between the communicating partners can be forever damaged.

So, how do you learn how to become an aggressive listener?

To start, here are what I consider to be the Top 5 irritating listening habits — plus some tips on how to overcome them.

  • Irritating Listening Habit #1 Interrupting the speaker.  No one likes to be interrupted!  Interruptions are often interpreted as signs that you are belittling the importance of what the speaker is saying.  Even though you might think that you know what the person is going to say next, take a breath and wait for them to pause before interjecting your thoughts.  And consider asking a question instead of judging what they have been saying!
  • Irritating Listening Habit #2:  Showing interest in something else.  This is a sure sign to the speaker that you aren’t interested in the conversation.  While some unexpected distractions can divert your attention (such as an alarm bell going off), showing interest in something other than the speaker is disrespectful.  Instead focus on understanding the nuances of what the speaker is saying:  how do they really feel about what they are saying?  Are they happy, sad, excited, fearful?  By understanding the emotions underlying their words (the connotative meaning), you can get much more insight into the true meaning and importance of what they are saying.
  • Irritating Listening Habit #3:  Saying “yeah, but…”  While it is not expected that you will necessarily agree with everything that the speaker is saying, responding (or interrupting) with “yeah, but…” indicates that you made your mind up about the topic — probably before you even listened to the speaker.  In other words, your role in the two-way conversation was focused on crafting your own response rather than trying to understand the speaker’s position.  Instead try agreeing (the “yeah” in the “yeah, but”) then following with a separate question focused on gaining clarification.  The key is to come from a place of interest, rather than confrontation or judgment.
  • Irritating Listening Habit #4:  Not responding to the speaker’s requests.  In other words, responding with a “huh” instead of a direct reply.  While it’s true that fatigue can compromise our ability to aggressively listen, most of the time it’s that the listener was not paying attention by focusing on something outside the conversation.  This lack of response can also happen when a speaker stops talking…but the listener doesn’t contribute to the continuation of the conversation.  It’s those awkward pauses.  If you find your mind drifting away from the conversation, try taking a break or adding some type of physical activity (not fidgeting!).  A brief coffee break or suggesting that you take a walk while you’re talking can often bring your focus back to the conversation.
  • Irritating Listening Habit #5:  Not looking at the speaker.  Although hearing might only require functioning ears, aggressive listening requires both auditory and visual cues.  Mehrabian’s 55-38-7 rule advises that 55% of the meaning that we receive during communication is the result of body language (visual cues), 38% from the tone of voice (auditory cues), and only 7% from the actual words spoken.  Be sure to observe the speaker’s movements and body language in order to fully comprehend what they are trying to communicate — don’t just rely on your ears for understanding!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, keynote speaker, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” in her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  For more tips and ideas, please subscribe to her weekly “Success @ Work” eNewsletter at https://drgeripuleo.lpages.co/success-work-opt-in-page.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

 

We Are The Stuff on Which Our Minds Are Set

User's Guide - How I will get it

Throughout the ages, sages have advised us to monitor our thoughts — because they determine what we do and how we respond, which in turn determines the life that we experience.

So, what are YOU thinking about today?

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, keynote speaker, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” in her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  For more tips and ideas, please subscribe to her weekly “Success @ Work” eNewsletter at https://drgeripuleo.lpages.co/success-work-opt-in-page.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Developing Charisma: Why It’s a Skill That Can Be Learned

Charisma in front of crowd

What IS charisma?  Is it an innate personality trait – or is it a skill that can be learned?  Does charisma require you to be an extrovert – or can “shy” people be charismatic, too?  Finally, is it really important in business today?

Although charisma can be difficult to define, this definition takes charisma out of the realm of personality traits:

Charisma is the ability to inspire and motivate people
to do MORE than they would normally do
DESPITE obstacles and personal sacrifice. 

Charisma, therefore, is more than simply motivating someone to do something that they would have done without your influence.

Charisma brings others out of their shells and builds their self-confidence.

Charisma addresses the head and the heart of other people so that they will perceive regardless of the obstacles they may face or the personal sacrifices that may be demanded of them.

The 8 Characteristics of Charismatic Leaders

In the modern workplace of flattened organizational hierarchies, cross-functional leadership with or without a formal title has become an important criteria for an organization to survive.  While it cannot be denied that some people may have a more innate talent to be charismatic, charisma can be learned.

Surprised that something as ineffable as “charisma” can be a learned skill?  Once you understand the 8 characteristics that define charismatic leaders, you’ll be better able to inspire others to commit wholeheartedly to your vision.

  1. Appeal to BOTH the heart and the mind.  One reason why leaders are often not perceived as being charismatic occurs when they focus exclusively on charts, graphs, and metrics.  While important, such quantitative items do not inspire creativity in others.  Story-telling has become a popular tool to entwine the quantitative outcomes with more esoteric and heartfelt reasons to achieve those outcomes.
  2. Have passion for the work. A leader will never be charismatic if they are lackadaisical about what they do and why they are doing it.  Passion does not necessarily mean emotional fits or grand verbosity; passion can also be equated with focus and commitment to an outcome as well as its overall importance.
  3. Create an atmosphere of change. Charismatic leaders rarely maintain the status quo.  They are visionaries who can see opportunities (often before others) and then have the courage to take the necessary actions to move forward toward their achievement.  This requires being comfortable with change – but remember that change does NOT have to be chaos.
  4. Communicate in a clear, compelling way. Once again, charismatic leaders inspire others by appealing to both their hearts and minds.  This requires the ability to describe complex ideas or goals in a way that is simple but still addresses the curiosity and creativity of others.  There’s nothing worse than a leader who appeals to the hearts of followers through a powerful vision – but then leaves them without the means or strategy to attain it.
  5. Have abiding faith in the vision. Closely aligned with passion, charismatic leaders will go over, under, or through obstacles in order to achieve their goals.  Obstacles are viewed as bumps in the road rather than derailing road blocks.  This level of certainty and confidence inspires others to also move outside their comfort zones and take risks.
  6. May be unconventional. Although not necessary, charismatic leaders usually have some type of mannerism or communication style that separates them from others.  While not absolutely essential, being somewhat unconventional is often equated with creative, outside the box thinking.  It doesn’t require charisma to have others do what they’ve always been doing.
  7. Foster trust by a willingness to incur personal risk. Charismatic leaders walk the talk.  In other words, they would never expect more from their followers than what they demand of themselves.  By confidently taking such risks, it inspires others to be a little more daring, too.
  8. Influence from personal power (not position power). Being promoted to the C-suite will not automatically create charisma in a leader.  In fact, a reliance on position power (or power that is attached to the job rather than the individual) is one of the best ways to lose charisma.  Personal power arises from being present in interactions with others and from confidently expressing and brainstorming ideas.  It’s more than just being liked by others:  it’s being viewed by others as someone whom they can trust.

So, do you still think that charisma is an innate personality trait – or are you now a little more open to the idea that charisma can be learned?  Just remember:  although inherently neutral, charisma is best used for noble and positive reasons – NOT as a method to sway people down nefarious routes.  (Think of Hitler’s passionate and charismatic speeches.)

But don’t be afraid of your own charisma in influencing others!  And remember that charismatic leaders are never “cookie cutter” clones.  Be brave in bringing your own exuberant uniqueness to the job!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, keynote speaker, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” in her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  For more tips and ideas, please subscribe to her weekly “Success @ Work” eNewsletter at https://drgeripuleo.lpages.co/success-work-opt-in-page.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

Workplace Compassion: What It Is, Why It’s Missing, and How It Contributes to Organizational Success

Compassion - Giving a hand up to another

Should we expect to find compassion in our workplaces – or should we check our emotions at the door in order to be more productive at work?   Is workplace compassion a “nice to have” bonus at work – or is it an organizational imperative for innovation and profitability?  According to recent research, compassion may be the key to innovation, learning, and adaptability in a constantly changing world.

Compassion:  What It Is (and Isn’t)

Compassion is defined as not only our caring response to another person’s suffering, but also to our attempts to help alleviate that suffering.  It is a hard-wired trait in humans – but one that many people feel is lacking in not only our personal relationships, but at work as well.

Workplace compassion is found in the interactions between employees.  It’s displayed in our willingness to help one another.  To understand that there might be reasons for a sudden change in performance.  To recognize that employees are human beings with lives outside of work.

In other words, compassion – whether it is in our personal or professional lives – is the resulting emotion of being conscious of another’s suffering or distress AND being willing to help them alleviate it.

Compassion is, therefore, not just a feeling but also an action.

And, according to many researchers, compassion can be learned.

Why Compassion Is Missing in Most Workplaces

In general, there are three causes that deter compassion in the workplace:

  1. The belief that professional and personal lives should be kept separate.
  2. The fear of appearing vulnerable and weak.
  3. The confusion surrounding how to offer support.

There is a long-held belief that emotions should be “left at the door” when we enter the workplace.  Whatever is going on in our personal lives should be compartmentalized in order to be “dealt with” when we leave work.

That may have worked when most of us worked a standard 40-hour work week and were essentially unreachable outside the office or work site.  But all that changed with the onset of technology.

While technology has been a great boon to many businesses and its workers, it has come with a price:  the 24/7 eLeash.  Today we are constantly accessible at any time of the day or night by email, text messaging, or even the “old-fashioned” phone call.  Workers often are unable to resist the technological call even if they are on vacation or celebrating a holiday with their families; some workers will “check in” even if they are hospitalized (but still conscious).

Because compassion requires the conscious acknowledgement of another person’s pain or suffering, it requires an emotional vulnerability that many workers are afraid to display in professional situations.

But this lack of compassion has deleterious consequences.  The employee who is attempting to balance a heavy workload with a family health crisis might be afraid to ask for help due to fears of being labeled as someone who “can’t handle” the demands of the job.  The resulting high stress levels negatively affect not only their performance, but also their emotional well-being and physical health.

Similarly, the manager who has excelled throughout his career may fear being labeled as “weak” if he responds compassionately (rather than autocratically or “by the book”) to a coworker’s need for some scheduling flexibility due to child demands from a recent divorce.  After all, wouldn’t this “softness” be transmitted through the office grapevine – with the result that he will be “taken advantage of” in the future?

If employees fear asking for some organizational help (or a little “slack”) when they are experiencing major challenges or changes, then they are more likely to become disengaged, unproductive, and burned out.

While the lack of workplace compassion is most frequently viewed as occurring between managers and their subordinates, it is also lacking in the interactions between colleagues and peers.

If the workplace culture is characterized by an obsessive compulsion to “win” and an aversion to “loss,” then employees tend to view providing any kind of compassionate assistance to their coworkers as an action that could undermine their personal ability to succeed.  In such an environment, even authentic offers to help may be viewed with suspicion:  what do they really want in exchange for this help?

Regardless of their formal structure of the workplace relationship, many people are uncomfortable when they are faced with someone who is hurting, in pain, or in desperate need.  How to offer support becomes a tricky undertaking:  would my offer to help make them feel that they are somehow inferior or then feel “bad” about themselves?

How Workplace Compassion Contributes to Organizational Success   

Displaying compassion to our fellow workers, subordinates, and managers requires an acceptance of our innate humanity.  In other words, compassion brings the “human” back into the workplace.

But compassion is not just a “feel good” workplace characteristic.  According to Worline and Dutton (2017), “compassion matters for competitive advantage.”

In an age in which innovation, collaboration, client customization, and adaptability are critical to organizational sustainability, there is an urgent demand for “bigger, better, and faster” – regardless of the goals’ reasonableness or achievability.  As burnout runs rampant in many organizations and employees choose to leave their employers (rather than continuously strive toward the achievement of these unreasonable demands), organizations must rethink their attitudes toward urgency.

Urgency was first touted as a way to create an adrenaline rush in employees so that they could work tirelessly toward the completion of tasks that were critical to organizational success.  But urgency and adrenaline are only healthy and sustainable in short doses; prolonged periods of urgent action that are not balanced with periods of respite and reward create not only burnout, but also emotional and physical health problem.

In other words, if everything is urgent…then nothing really is.

By instead rethinking organizational policies and processes in terms of their level of compassion toward workers, companies can reap the benefits of an engaged, energized, and loyal workforce.

I’m not kidding:  adding compassion as a criteria for policies and procedures has measurable benefits:

  • In a study by Jonathan Haidt of New York University, leaders who interacted with their subordinates in ways that were perceived as fair and self-sacrificing were rewarded with employees who were more loyal, committed, and collaborative in working to find solutions to problems.
  • Fowler and Christakis found that generous, compassionate, and kind actions created a chain reaction in workplaces – thus creating a cultural change toward compassion.
  • In a 2012 study published in BMC Public Health, compassionate acts built bonds between workers – which led to decreased stress levels and greater productivity.

Workplace compassion creates a culture of cooperation and trust.  Rather than a culture of competition, organizational cultures that exhibit and support compassion tend to have lower health care utilization rates, greater employee engagement, less turnover, and a culture of trust that supports learning and innovation.  (I told you I wasn’t kidding.)

5 Tips to Building Workplace Compassion

While I firmly believe that every employee desires to be treated compassionately at work, I also recognize that there are many hurdles to building a culture of compassion.

Based on my research, I have identified five simple ways that organizational leaders and individual employees can approach their work with a sense of compassion:

Tip #1:  Don’t respond based on implicit assumptions.  Bias is well-researched in the protected classes (e.g., gender, race, religion, etc.), but is infrequently acknowledged in the areas of human behavior.  While everyone has implicit biases through which we appraise the behaviors of others, it is important to step outside of these biases in order to see another’s perspective of the challenging situation.

Tip #2:  Be present and authentic.  Compassion should be given freely.  This is accomplished by becoming present in the moment – taking the time to see and listen to the people with whom you are engaged.  In other words, get out of your head and open your heart.

Tip #3:  Encourage employee conversations about non-work activities.  When employees are encouraged to socialize with one another, it provides greater insights into their motivations, fears, and aspirations.  When sharing such information, it can build trust and encourage a greater proclivity to help and support each other.  (NOTE:  Be patient with such sharing activities and NEVER force someone to share more than what they are comfortable with.)

Tip #4:  Create organizational initiatives that encourage employees helping each other.  Organizations that have a strong sense of community involvement may have an advantage in building a compassionate, collaborative culture – but don’t focus exclusively outside the organization.  Perhaps create an initiative that allows employees to provide assistance to other employees who might be in need.  For example, a fund which allows workers to donate their unused time off or make a financial donation to help a coworker.

Tip #5:  Recognize when employees act compassionately and help each other.  Formal recognition (e.g., awards, events) as well as informal “thank you’s” or even the offer to get an overworked colleague a much-needed cup of coffee are powerful ways to reinforce the importance that an organization places on compassionate activities in the workplace.

We humans are wired to empathize – which is an important aspect of compassion.  We’re wired to experience a visceral, emotional response to another’s suffering.  But compassion is more than empathy:  it is also the active response to help alleviate that suffering.

Additionally, compassionate action not only helps someone else who is in need but also makes us feel better and more hopeful.  Acting compassionately is a win-win.

So, even though pain may be an inevitable part of life, our feelings of suffering are not.  Compassion is what makes us human – and it’s a necessity in all of our lives.  Since we spend the majority of our time at work, we need compassion in our daily existence.  And it is through acts of compassion that companies can embrace the humanity of its workforce and harness the power of its only nondupulicatable competitive advantage:  its human resources.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, keynote speaker, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  For more tips and ideas, please subscribe to her weekly “Success @ Work” eNewsletter at https://drgeripuleo.lpages.co/success-work-opt-in-page.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

 

 

Do As I Say! How Poor Leadership Creates Burnout

This is video #5 in a 10-part series focusing on the 10 ways that organizations burn out employees.  I’ll discuss how poor leadership leads to employee burnout and give tips on how to build relationships with employees and increase engagement.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

The ROI of Engaged Employees: How Employee Engagement Affects the Bottom Line (Webinar Presented by Dr. Geri Puleo)

“Engagement” seems to be the new buzz word in the business community.  It’s often used as a way of determining an employee’s level of commitment to the job and the company because a fully engaged employee harnesses his or her physical, intellectual, and emotional resources in their work.

This 7-minute “mini” webinar looks at employee engagement from the perspective of quantifiable, bottom line financial results.  While it may take some time to develop, an engaged workforce is a powerful and non-duplicatable competitive advantage for any company — regardless of size, industry, or market.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Can We Be Happy at Work?

Happiness CartoonThe goal of “being happy” is an ingrained human desire – I’d even call it a hard-wired need.  Not only do we want to be happy in our lives, but we also need to be happy.

Yet happiness seems to elude many of us – even if we have the trappings of what others believe create happiness:  a nice home, a nice car, money in the bank, a good job, and (of course) love.

But as we all know, sometimes what we think will create happiness doesn’t necessarily reflect what actually makes us happy.

Even though we all want to be happy, many of us haven’t truly figured out what “happiness” means to us or the best path to achieve our definition of what it means to “be happy.”

Marketing professionals constantly bombard us with the outer, external, and “tangible” products that they promise will make us “happy.”  Whether it is the latest iPhone or the fanciest pair of shoes, the message is that if we buy these items, then we will finally “be happy.”

But it’s not just “stuff” that we’re told will make us happy.

I’ve recently discovered a fascinating phenomenon in companies that provide services to business owners.  Most of them promise that their product or service – no one else’s! – will finally help us to achieve the success (aka “happiness”) that we want – and deserve! – from our businesses.  What they offer is often a turnkey, “one size fits all” model that may actually conflict with what the business owner actually needs to be “happy” in their business.

I’ve never been a fan of such “cookie cutter” approaches.

Why?  Because I firmly believe that each of us is unique.  Even though we are all humans, our backgrounds, experiences, values, and preferences create very different expectations of what it means when we really are “happy.”

When it comes to happiness, one size doesn’t fit all.

In my research on burnout, I’ve discovered (not surprisingly) that burned out workers are also very unhappy workers.  In fact, burnout tends to turn off our sense of humor – nothing is funny any more and everything is frustrating.

According to George Sand (as quoted in the cartoon above), “There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.”  While we can understand and appreciate this in our personal lives, why does this fundamental insight fly out the window when we go to work?

In other words, why do we tend to manage others in a way that doesn’t address our human need to love and be loved?

Obviously I’m not recommending anything that even hints of sexual love in the workplace.  Sexual harassment and discrimination are not only illegal, but they also reflect anger, resentment, and degradation rather than love.

But healthy, nonsexual expressions of “love” can be shown in numerous ways in the workplace:

  • A simple “thank you” or “great job” for others’ efforts.  Genuine expressions and acts of appreciation are closely related to the positive feeling of love, which is closely associated with feelings of happiness.
  • Empathy and understanding for employees’ competing work-life demands.  The ability to understand and empathize with another’s struggles and joys not only creates positive bonds between people, but we also tend to be happier when we believe that we are understood.
  • Asking for someone’s expertise and input during the planning and implementation phases of a project.  Love and happiness cannot exist in a healthy way unless there is respect between the parties.

We spend the vast majority of our time at work, thinking about work, and actually working.  As a result, our work environment and on-the-job experiences play a huge role in our feelings of overall happiness.

Happy people are rarely burned out.  Perhaps this is because they enjoy the work that they do and they do the work in an environment in which they are appreciated, respected, and valued.

Happiness also rarely exists in a vacuum.  Toxic work situations characterized by politicking, mistrust, disrespect, and behaviors that don’t address the very real emotional needs of the workforce are rarely “happy” places to work.  As a result, those unhappy workers won’t be fully engaged and committed in helping the company achieve its goals.

When a star performer is also an unhappy and burned out worker, you can bet that he or she will soon leave the organization.  When they don’t “feel the love,” they’re destined to find it somewhere else – usually with your competitor.

Maybe it’s time that managers and human resources professionals begin to focus on employee happiness rather than on the nebulous and esoteric concept of “job satisfaction.”  After all, you can be technically “satisfied” at work, but still not really be happy to be there.

Happiness at work creates that added “oomph” that transforms and enhances the way in which we do our jobs.

If you want outstanding performance from your workers, then you need to provide a work environment and culture that constantly reinforce that they are appreciated, respected, and valued.  In this way, you can “show the love” for your workers – which is one step closer to helping them achieve the happiness that they want and need at work.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, keynote speaker, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” in her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  For more tips and ideas, please subscribe to her weekly “Success @ Work” eNewsletter at https://drgeripuleo.lpages.co/success-work-opt-in-page.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Have We Forgotten How to “Play Nice” at Work?

Teamwork - Bring on new memberWhen we were children, we were always admonished to “play nice.”  In other words, we should share our toys, be nice to other people, and help our friends.   In this way, we could enjoy our time together – and maybe even learn some valuable lessons about human behavior.

As adults, the equivalent to “playing nice” with playmates is to be respectful and helpful to our coworkers.  We should share our resources, respect our differences, and assist our colleagues when they run behind schedule or need a hand.

Like when we were children, we expect that there will be reciprocity:  if I “play nice” with you, then you will “play nice” with me.

While childhood was a much simpler time, these life lessons still ring true in the modern workplace.

However, I often wonder if we’ve really learned how to apply these childhood lessons of “playing nice.”  I have to ask:  have we forgotten how to “play nice” at work?

“Playing Nice” Is Inherently Reciprocal…or Is It? 

Just like no man is an island, no employee works alone.  We need to work with others in order to get the job done.

Ideally, teamwork enables us to get things done as the result of synergies arising from applying our individual KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) to the task at hand.  The whole of our efforts, therefore, is much greater than the sum of our individual parts.  By helping one another, no one is overburdened or stressed out.

The ability to effectively work in teams also reflects (to a large degree) our mastery of interpersonal communication skills.  The logic is that teams understand how to communicate, embrace differences, and share a single-minded focus on an ultimate, unifying goal.  By being on “the same page,” conflict is reduced or averted.

All of these mantras on teamwork reflect the idea of “playing nice.”

However, problems occur when some team members “play nice,”…but others don’t.  When this occurs, there are inevitable feelings of hurt, anger, and betrayal – feelings that ultimately affect organizational productivity and performance.

Consider these examples:

  • Stanley is an extroverted, dedicated employee who makes the time to lend a helping hand to his colleagues.  During his 360° performance review, he is shocked to learn that his coworkers said that he was difficult to work with and actually prevented them from doing their own work.
  • Samantha is a highly creative employee to whom colleagues frequently turn when “stuck” on problems that require outside the box thinking.  As a key partner in the development of a new program, she is startled to discover that her coworkers “forgot” to mention her as a crucial part of the development team when they were interviewed for an article.

How would you respond in these situations?

Stanley chose to become more “cool” or aloof in his interactions with the coworkers who he believed “threw him under the bus” – a behavior that is incongruent with what he believes is required to have a productive workplace.

In contrast, Samantha decided to begin asking for the recognition that she deserves – but fears that she will be labeled as “difficult” and not a “team player.”

In both instances, the employees were surprised by the action or inaction of their team members.  According to them, they had “no warning” that anything was wrong with their relationships.  They felt confused, angry, and betrayed.

They also believed that the best way to respond was to change their behaviors in order to better navigate the politics within their workplaces.

But perhaps more importantly, both workers changed their perceptions about the nature of their work environments.  In fact, both are considering leaving their companies.

The question, of course, is:  could these situations have been averted if all team members “played nice?”

Puleo’s Pointers:  How to “Play Nice” at Work

Even though a worker believes in sharing resources, respecting differences, and lending a hand, it is impossible to “play nice” in a vacuum.  A workplace in which all employees “play nice” requires a culture of trust.

To “play nice” in a corporate culture where workers don’t believe that their colleagues consider others’ best interests would be masochistic.  Adults will never “play nice” when “playing nice” ultimately hurts them professionally and emotionally.

  • If you want employees to “play nice” at work, then you need to establish an organizational foundation built on respect, transparency, leadership, support, and empathy.
  • Recruitment, selection, retention, performance appraisals, and development practices should be based upon and incorporate these fundamental values.
  • Corporate managers and senior leaders must also be appraised on whether their actions support or undermine a culture of trust.
  • “Playing nice” does not mean that there will be no disagreements between employees – accept that they are inevitable.  Remember:  it’s not the number of disagreements that indicates whether trust exists in an organization; rather it’s how you as a manager and/or an employee respond to conflict that reveals whether the culture is trusting or distrustful.

“Playing nice” is not an admonishment that should be given solely to children.  Given today’s chaotic, high stress workplaces, it may be the only way to achieve the natural synergies, enthusiasm, and innovation that result from people trusting each other.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, keynote speaker, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” in her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  For more tips and ideas, please subscribe to her weekly “Success @ Work” eNewsletter at https://drgeripuleo.lpages.co/success-work-opt-in-page.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #45: When someone shows you who they are, believe them!

Paradigm ShiftWhy do so many people’s actions take us off guard?  Why then do we hit ourselves on the head and ask, “How could I not have seen this coming?!?!”

We’ve all had situations where we’ve met someone and their actions or words initially surprised us.  The problem is that most of us tend to give others the “benefit of the doubt.”  We downplay our surprise at others’ words or actions through rationalization.

For example:

  • Lying:  “He told me that he’s a very honest person, but he also admitted that sometimes you’ve got to lie to get the job done; I’m sure that I won’t be one of the people he’d lie to…”
  • Incompetence:  “He wasn’t fully prepared for our meeting, but I guess that’s because he was busy with other clients; I’m sure that once I hire him, he’ll have more of an incentive to really work for me…”
  • Experience:  “He assured me that he has over 20 years experience and has won a lot of awards in his field; I wonder why he didn’t recommend any solutions to my problems and just offered to do whatever I told him to do…”
  • Inexperience:  “He said that he wasn’t really knowledgeable about my problem, but that he would work hard with me to solve it; I wonder why he didn’t do any of the preliminary research before our first meeting…”

Do any of these situations sound familiar?  Have you (like I have often done in the past) disregarded the disconnect when something just didn’t add up?  When you noticed the incongruity between words and actions, did you keep that in mind as you moved forward in the relationship?

I’ve talked about this issue before in Paradigm Shifters #30 – Believe what people do, not what they say.  Unfortunately, there seems to be an increase in the degree of disconnect between someone’s words, expressed priorities, and actions.  Trying to determine the cause is beyond the scope of this paradigm shifter; instead we need to focus on how we can best respond to these disconnects.

The burning question that must be addressed is:  “Is this person intentionally trying to deceive me OR does he/she really believe what it is that they are saying??  In other words, are they aware of the disconnect between their words and actions?

I admit that I tend to give the benefit of the doubt, so I believe that many people are unaware.  However, I have also learned to notice this disconnect and to refer back to it when interpreting events and situations in that relationship.

Disconnects between words and actions don’t exist when people are living authentically.

If someone is living authentically, then there a strong foundation built on core values that underline everything that he or she does.  These values are obvious.  We can see them in their actions.  And whether we agree with these values or not, we understand who that person is.

Whenever there is a disconnect between words and actions, we need to make conscious decisions in determining how to proceed:

#1:  Notice your feelings of surprise or confusion.  It’s not what people say that they’re going to do that matters; it truly is what they do that matters.

#2:  Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification – repeatedly.  If they are intentionally trying to deceive you, you’ll notice fidgeting and squirming – watch their body language.  Also watch their eyes:  if they can’t look at you, then they might be hiding something.  However, if they’re really good at deception, repeatedly ask for clarification until YOU are fully satisfied; we often quit asking questions if we believe that we are making the other person too “uncomfortable.”

#3:  Don’t forget your initial feelings as you move forward in the relationship.  Ironically, people tend to be the most forthcoming about who they are when you first meet them.  If their words or actions gave you pause, don’t just “pooh-pooh” your instincts.  Respect those instincts – they are often insights working more on the subconscious level that haven’t fully filtered up into conscious levels of critical thinking.

#4:  You have a choice in how (and if) the relationship progresses.  There is no need to get in heated arguments if the disconnect continues.  After all, you noticed the disconnect previously so you also play a role in how the relationship evolves.  What you decide to do often depends on the degree of the disconnect AND the importance of those underlying values to you.

People are the foundation of any relationship – whether it’s personal or professional.  Even in the age of B2B (business to business) marketing, we still have to create trusting relationships with the employees who represent the companies with whom we do business.

Trust your instincts, ask for clarification and proof, and, above all, believe people when they show you who they really are.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #30: Believe what people do (not what they say)

Paradigm Shift

We’ve all heard the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.”  However, I’ve found that many of us prefer to believe what people say, rather than what they actually do – depending upon our perceptions of the current or potential relationship with them.  (See Paradigm Shifter #52:  There is no such thing as reality, only perception.)

Consider the words used to “sell” both the candidate and the job in the typical hiring process:

  • The traditional job interview is a cauldron of self-serving words used by both the job candidate and the company to create an image of the future employment relationship.  This is because the interview is essentially a sales opportunity:  the candidate extols their benefits to the employer and the employer makes the job sufficiently attractive to entice a qualified candidate to accept the job offer.
  • Job candidates are coached to craft answers to common interview questions in a way that places the most positive “spin” on their KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) as well as the scope of their experience.  The extent of that “spin” ranges from conscious omissions of certain facts to outright lies about credentials.
  • Skilled recruiters and desperate hiring managers may enhance the “reality” of the job’s responsibilities, work environment, and political environment (often saying that there are no politics in their workplaces!).  Too many candidates accept this description as accurate – but many workers have experienced this “bait and switch” when the actual job was significantly different from what had been “promised” in the interview.

Deciding what’s “real” and what’s merely “spin” is, therefore, a challenge for both the company and the candidate.  Internet searches, background checks, in box exercises, role playing, and assessment centers are increasingly used to determine if what both the candidate and employer say is true.

Once hired, the decisions relating to whether to believe coworkers’ words or actions continue.

  • Both managers and coworkers complain when employees agree to certain project timelines or standards then fail to meet them.  Depending on our perceptions of both the situation and the employee, their reasons (or words) might be ignored in light of the results (or actions) OR exceptions for the lack of results might be granted if their reasons are perceived as “sufficiently compelling.”

Warning!  These personal relationships can lead to charges of bias or discriminatory practices when we accept excuses from one employee, but are inflexible with another – particularly if he or she is a member of a protected class.  Rationalization for these differences varies from justifiable patterns of past behaviors to intentional or unintentional discrimination.

The Continuum of Whether to Believe Words vs. Actions

The decision to rely on either words or actions depends upon numerous factors:  the level of authority vis-à-vis the employee, the effects that his or her actions have on our own productivity and success, as well as the quality and history of our personal relationship.

The extent to which we believe words vs. actions lies on a continuum.  On one end is the belief that all people lie, so you can’t trust anything that they say; this is abject cynicism.   Conversely, blindly believing anything that anyone tells us is dangerous naiveté.  Perceptions on either end of this continuum fail to build teamwork, trust, and productivity in the workplace.

Fortunately, most people are somewhere in the middle.  The critical factor in determining where we fall on this continuum is experience over time.  Our past experiences with others will generally be the framework for deciding whether to believe a new worker’s words or wait to see their actions.  In established relationships (manager/subordinate or coworker/coworker), past actions will generally be relied on as the “truth” in future situations.

Our actions reflect our priorities – even if they contradict what we say.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning company focused on techniques to eliminate the 5 workplace stressors that create and sustain burnout:  Job Change, Organizational Change, Work-Life Imbalance, Poor Leadership and Management, and Ineffective Human Resources.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, author, blogger, career coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: