Workplace Wisdom

16 Jan 2018

Here Are the 3 Unexpected Things I Learned from Surviving a TEDx Talk

When a dear colleague emailed me last July to ask if I’d consider speaking at TEDxBaylorSchool, I was terrified. Not of speaking, per se, but of the combination of requirements that characterize a TEDx: the big-enough idea; the delivery of a memorized talk while standing inside a red dot; and, maybe the scariest thing of all, the permanent capture on video. The Gifts of the Struggle The gist of the story is that I said yes, and I survived the […]

02 Jan 2018

When a Good Thing Triggers a Surprisingly Bad Response

This holiday season I gave a small gift to a local supplier as a token thank you. It was clear from her immediate reaction that she’s not used to receiving client gifts. She started out by protesting, “Oh you shouldn’t have done that!” Then she turned excessively grateful: “It was so wonderful of you to do this!” But suddenly she shifted into a negative mode about everything that was wrong with people and the way holidays are celebrated today: “No […]

19 Dec 2017

How to Choose an Inspiring Theme for 2018

Do you know anyone who can’t wait for this year to end? I certainly do, and who can blame them? So many people have had enough of 2017 and its disruptions, from family and work troubles to political turmoil and natural disasters. Some of them are looking forward by making New Year’s resolutions or following the growing trend of designating a single “word for the year” as a way to express a desire or set an intention. Resolutions can be […]

28 Nov 2017

Have You Expressed Your Gratitude for Your Colleagues?

Most people like Thanksgiving for its relative lack of commercialism and its inclusivity. It’s all about food, friends, and family — an opportunity to be together in some semblance of comfort and caring. In many homes, the people gathered around the table talk about what they’re grateful for. Now that the leftovers are almost gone, and you’re back to work, you can extend the holiday’s good feelings into your work week. Maybe not the food. But if you haven’t ever […]

07 Nov 2017

How to Give Uncomfortable Personal Feedback, with Grace

Most people feel awkward raising personal issues with colleagues. That’s especially true when those issues concern the physical body, seem like an inherent expression of the person themselves, or are things we would feel mortified about if someone brought them up about us. Weird personal habits, physical issues, and behavioral quirks can be off-putting or disruptive to others, and create tricky, delicate situations that affect everything from teamwork to customer retention. Typically, the format for performance-based feedback relies on this […]

31 Oct 2017

How to Start Restoring Your Boss’s Faith, and Your Own

Most of us have made at least one big mistake at work, and had a hard time getting back on an even keel. But it doesn’t help to wallow in self-doubt. Luckily, there are usually ways we can pull ourselves out of the hole. A manager from a client company contacted me in distress last week: He had mishandled a personnel issue badly by conveying an inaccurate impression of a work situation to some subordinates. His boss had given him […]

10 Oct 2017

Please Don’t Do It That Way: How Not to Help

“This doesn’t make sense to me!” Halfway down the train car, a woman’s voice was rising. She was assisting one of her two daughters with homework, and her aggravated tone caught my attention. “This doesn’t make any sense!” the mother kept saying. “You’re not answering the question!” She probably believed she was helping, but I shuddered for the child’s sake at the frustration I could hear in her voice. “Not right now, honey,” she snapped at the younger sibling, who […]

15 Aug 2017

What Can You Do When a Customer Explodes?

I just watched a customer take offense in a situation where no one was actually in the wrong. She reached into an awkward — although salvageable — circumstance, and pulled out a negative experience for herself — and a terrible experience for the employee trying to help her. Round 1: The Customer Picks a Fight Over a Price I was finishing a cup of tea in my favorite frozen yogurt place when a customer came in and ordered two large […]

08 Aug 2017

What to Do When You Have Trouble Praising Employees

Practically every executive knows that praise is a crucial management tool. Gallup research shows that when managers recognize employees’ strengths and positive characteristics, rather than focusing on their weaknesses and negative characteristics, employee engagement goes up significantly. But what are your options if praising employees feels foreign and uncomfortable to you? Many executives feel awkward, if not downright resistant, about praising employees, no matter how successful they are otherwise. I’ve observed this situation particularly with individuals whose family or academic […]

18 Jul 2017

Are You Tired of Being Condescended To?

In the past 10 days, three people from different organizations have complained to me about a boss or colleague who’s behaved condescendingly toward them. Not one of the three is a slouch, or a junior person. They’re all smart, competent, hardworking — assets to their organizations. And yet, they’re condescended to with some frequency. The act of condescending involves looking down on, talking down to, and generally putting someone down. In all cases, the message is: “You are less than […]

 

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