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 […]

19 Sep 2017

4 Ways to Ease the Pain of Interdepartmental Conflict

When departments operate in silos — say operations wants to streamline processes while sales seeks to please customers by customizing — the result can be repeated misunderstanding and extreme mistrust. Even otherwise reasonable employees can appear to be locked in perpetual battle for authority, resources, status, or the pure triumphant joy of being able to one-up the other. Senior leaders often treat ongoing conflicts as just the cost of doing business in complex organizations. But the actual expense attributable to […]

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 […]

19 May 2017

Being the Boss’s Favorite Is Great, Until It’s Not

This article originally appeared on hbr.org. We’ve all been in situations where the boss has a favorite. It’s frustrating to feel underresourced and underrecognized while someone else is getting all the attention. Ironically, though, it can be just as challenging to realize that you’re the boss’s new “pet.” While it’s great to get extra attention and have your work recognized, there’s often a price to pay for being the favorite. You could find yourself at risk in four ways. First, […]

07 Mar 2017

Want More Engaged Employees? Help Your Leaders Improve

Do an online search for “employee engagement” and you’ll get 10.6 million hits. Search for “employee attrition” and you’ll come up with 1.38 million hits. The old line is that employees don’t leave companies, they leave their manager. In fact, Gallup’s 2015 study, The State of the American Manager, found that fully 50 percent of employees left their jobs “to get away from their manager,” and that “managers account for up to 70 percent of variance in engagement.” So, if […]

24 Jan 2017

How to Find Agreement When You Come from Opposite Sides

I’m very lucky to experience much less disagreement or outright conflict on the job than most people. Although my clients’ views may differ from mine in many ways, it’s implicit in our relationship that we’re mutually committed to figuring things out together and coming to the strongest possible joint solutions. But some of the folks I work with have dozens of crucial disagreements every week as if they are explicitly job responsibilities! In fact, I often coach or counsel people […]

 

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