Workplace Wisdom

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 […]

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 […]

05 Sep 2017

You’ll Want to Try This Surprising Twist When You Give Feedback

Standard guidelines for performance feedback call for content that’s specific, behavioral rather than personal, consistent, and delivered immediately after the triggering situation. But I’d like to suggest an alternative approach. If the behavior you’re trying to change occurs during an ongoing set of responsibilities, the feedback’s timing and positioning are the two most salient elements — although probably not in the way you were taught. What Feedback Is All About The point of performance feedback is to help the employee […]

22 Aug 2017

Warning! Coaching Won’t Improve these Employee Problems

Lately, more and more leadership development, employee feedback, and general management is being outsourced from actual business decision-makers to Human Resources business partners and professional coaches. But coaching isn’t necessarily the answer for every employee who’s not working out. Often the employees who need coaching the most are the ones who are the least likely to ask for help, take direction, or change their behavior. That’s because it’s hard for people to take in crucial guidance if they’re tin-eared, self-unaware, […]

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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