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Archive for the ‘colleagues’ Category

A few weeks ago, I presented my new webinar called “The Introvert’s Guide to Career Happiness & Productivity.” I was pretty sure it would generate interest, but it was still a little surprising to see just how many people attended.  The webinar discussed some of the challenges introverts face in the workplace, as well as strategies to make it a more positive experience.

One of these challenges deals with being talked over or drowned out by extroverts in a group meeting. Been there. I also tend to lose in “face-offs” with extroverts when we both begin speaking at the same time, allowing my colleague to have the floor. This challenge actually played out in my own job just a few days ago. We were having a small-group meeting to debrief on a recent work event and offer ideas on how to improve it for next year. Despite having several ideas to contribute, I found myself in the old familiar pattern of starting to talk, only to be talked over by one of my extroverted co-workers. I then fell into my usual stance that I would just remain quiet for the rest of the meeting. My colleagues are all lovely people, but I figured, what’s the point?

fishoutofwaterAs discussed in the webinar, introverts like to observe, take in information, maybe make some notes, think through a few ideas alone, and then present them to the group. This can often yield the same, or even better results in terms of viable ideas and solutions. But in this particular meeting, I knew that if I wanted to contribute ideas, it had to be right then and there. I also knew that saying nothing can be perceived as being a non-contributor. So I quickly changed my mindset and decided to keep trying, keep speaking up to get my ideas voiced. And by the end of the meeting, I did manage to get a couple thoughts out there to the group, which were well received, and I considered it a personal victory.

Introverts often have to walk a fine line. On the one hand, it’s important to stay true to who we are, recognize our strengths, and avoid putting on an extroverted facade just to fit in. On the other hand, it’s important to sometimes come out of our comfort zones despite feeling like a fish out of water, to see how far we can stretch ourselves! On this particular day, it paid off for me. But on any day, it’s a good strategy to follow for anyone!

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Accept the fact that there’s almost always going to be someone mad at you at work. It doesn’t matter how hard you try or if you’re the nicest, kindest, most respectful person/employee in the world who wouldn’t hurt a fly. There’s almost always someone that’s going to me mad at you, or at least disappointed in you. This is an especially difficult concept for people-pleasers to accept. And perfectionists for that matter. We’re all human… and oh what’s that expression? Too err is human, to forgive divine. It would be nice if we all lived by this, but we don’t.

So the trick is to just let it go when you find yourself the object of scorn in the workplace. If you work (and live) in integrity and do your very best all the time, that’s all anyone…co-workers, your boss, even clients…can really expect.

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I had this boss once who spoke mostly in jargon. For example, she would say things like, “make sure to close the loop with the client and then circle back with me so we can brainstorm some best practices. We need to think outside the box and create a paradigm shift.”  No exaggeration. The question that I was always dying to ask her was, “do you speak in jargon at home with your kids, with friends and family?”

I was both amused by and repelled by her style of speech. But admittedly, I also used jargon at work, I guess in an effort to conform. On the other hand, I rebelled at a certain point when I realized I wasn’t being authentic. I had asked myself the same question I had wanted to ask her: “Do I talk like this when I’m outside of work?” No.

It’s a fine line we sometimes have to walk between bringing our true personalities to work and the need to fit in with the organizational culture. Do you leave your authentic self behind when you’re on the job?

A great book I read on the subject, “Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide, provides a humorous but revealing look at the widespread use of jargon and other workplace communication styles that are in many instances convoluted and counterproductive.

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We’ve all had them. There’s no escaping it. Toxic co-workers are everywhere, no matter what industry, how big or small the organization, or the company’s culture. Everyone defines “toxic co-worker” in their own way. I define it as them withholding needed information, being uncooperative, overly sarcastic, derogatory, backstabbing, hypocritical, passive-aggressive, dysfunctional. I’m sure I’m forgetting some important ones, but you get the idea.

In just about every job I’ve held, it seemed that there was that one person whose mission was to make everyone else’s workday as miserable as possible. In one particular job, I had to work closely with this one colleague on various projects. Let’s just say that she wasn’t exactly the most cooperative person in the world, to put it mildly. I had to find a way to get along with her just enough to get these projects completed on time. Sure I could have had my boss intervene on my behalf, but I was determined to handle it myself.

I decided to try to connect with her, to search for clues around her office and find out what her interests were: hobbies, off-time activities, travel, etc… Once we shared some personal information about ourselves, it really helped to create a more relaxed interaction and break down some walls. From that point on, it was much easier to work together and get things done.

Here are a few other strategies to try in order to work well with toxic co-workers:

  • Don’t suffer in silence. Involve your boss or human resources if it gets to the point where you feel it’s necessary to have a third party mediate the conflict. If your co-worker has to be “forced” to work well with you, then so be it. You have to make yourself and your job the number one priority. difficultcoworkers-main_Full
  • The most important word: Document. Document every negative interaction you have with that particular individual immediately after it happens. And if there are witnesses to your conversations, ask them to back you up in the event the problem escalates and human resources gets involved. Again, you want to protect yourself any way you can.
  • Take the high road. Don’t stoop to their level no matter how tempting or seemingly justified it might be. You don’t want to give them any sort of ammunition to use against you.
  • Pick your battles. There’s enough stress at work without heaping more on top of it. If there are issues that don’t directly affect your job, perhaps it’s a good idea to turn a deaf ear sometimes. The important thing here is that you don’t want this person to dictate your mood, well-being, or how your day goes.
  • Try open communication. Before involving a third party, consider having a frank and open discussion with toxic coworkers book coverthe person to express how you’re feeling, to hear any concerns from the other person. Sometimes just putting it all out on the table in an honest and forthright way can help minimize tension and create an opening for a more productive and civil working relationship.

Check out a good book called Toxic Coworkers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job which offers some more tips and strategies on the subject.

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