Workplace Wisdom

05 Aug 2014

How to Improve Your Routine When a Manager’s Like a Bad Joke

Last week’s post began with the Critic, the Control Freak, and the Micromanager walking into a conference room. (You’ll find their characteristics here.) Unfortunately, it can be very challenging to change these tendencies. After all, these individuals may have behaved this way as early as middle school when they had to work together on group projects as kids. But that doesn’t mean you should give up! If you know you’re one of these folks, try the suggestions below. And if […]

01 Jul 2014

What’s the Business Equivalent of Making the Bed?

The right ritual can get your day off to a productive start. For me, the best mornings begin in a quiet house, making and drinking my coffee just the way I like it. Everybody’s got their own way to meet the day. Some people believe in heading outside immediately to stand for a moment in natural light, no matter the season or weather. Others like to make the bed the minute they’re out of it. Neither of these options ever […]

06 May 2014

Why Being Clear Is Even More Important Than Being Nice

It’s always risky for employees when managers are “too nice” and don’t give clear feedback about expectations, preferences, or necessary improvements. In effect, these managers stand by as employees go off the track rather than helping them stay on. Below are some typical scenarios: Some managers don’t want to upset a good employee over something that’s not really a big deal. This view is particularly common when “good” managers in “toxic” environments try to buffer their people from difficult or […]

08 Apr 2014

How to Stay Tenacious in the Face of Ongoing Change

No matter how hard you’re working to give your team a sense of direction or to help them cope with the realities of change, it can be a little draining to see how much more remains to be done. And that’s true even if you’re an optimist. Or maybe particularly if you’re an optimist, since surely you expected things to feel better by now! 1. Listen Like You’ve Never Listened Before Listen to your team’s feedback as if you’re still […]

01 Apr 2014

How to Minimize the Natural Resistance to Change

Declaring the need for change is not enough. And implementing a “change program” may not even be enough to get you the change you want. No matter what changes you’re considering or attempting — whether you’re trying to shift personal health habits or organizational tone and values — the last things you’ll want to hear are: “We don’t do it that way,” “I tried that before and it didn’t work,” or “You know that’s not our focus!” The other charge […]

18 Mar 2014

How to Cope with a Colleague Who Can’t Cope

Is it really possible to do good work with managers who are unwilling to accept and absorb bad news? What can you do if you’re the subordinate, colleague, or boss of someone who’s avoidant at best, and downright passive-aggressive when things are going badly? I’ve worked with overwhelmed, deflective, and (just a few) downright destructive managers at multiple levels in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations of all sizes. To be successful with them, you must be exceedingly concrete and specific, […]

11 Mar 2014

How to Stop Suppressing Your Staff’s Potential

In last week’s post, Don’t Threaten Me with the Truth, I suggested that managers make themselves ineffectual when they try to avoid the bad news that is part of all organizational and business life. Executives who censor or silence the day-to-day challenges, the customer problems, the border skirmishes, the legal constraints — whatever is real and messy — do damage to their people and their organizations. These execs create an artificial environment that ignores the real needs of customers and […]

04 Mar 2014

Don’t Threaten Me With the Truth

On a recent trip through yet another airport, I passed a man whining into his phone: “I cannot take any more bad news! I cannot!” It’s possible that he was having a terrible conversation about a personal tragedy. But it seemed much more likely that he had just hit his quota of annoyances and frustrations for the day. This particular call probably put him right over his limit, and he couldn’t think of a more creative response than kvetching. Some […]

14 Jan 2014

3 Selfs You Need to Know: Awareness, Disclosure, Management

You know this bit of slapstick comedy: A guy carrying a long plank on his shoulder spins around and without realizing it, whacks another guy in the head. Sometimes the second guy ducks, only to be hit later. And you might know this more realistic, much less funny scenario too: High school students with enormous, overloaded backpacks are travelling on a New York City subway train. A few of the kids are beautifully apologetic when their loads accidentally graze other […]

08 Oct 2013

You Can Show 52 People a Year That They Matter

One of the most straightforward ways to show people that they really matter is to maintain contact with them when they’ve had a hard time, are going through a rough patch, or have suffered a setback. You don’t need to do anything particular; you just need to be in touch. Say someone you know — a longstanding customer, a colleague, or even a pleasant acquaintance from the neighborhood or your daily commute — is going through some difficulties. Instead of […]


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