“My coworker is scary” 2013 edition

scary_graphic256My coworker is scary. If you’ve been a loyal follower of this blog (of course you have. Pat yourself on the back for being AWESOME!), you may recognize this topic. This marks the first time I’ve decided to resurrect a monthly theme (get it… resurrect… I kill me…). Last October, in the spirit of Halloween, we took on some nasty workplace beasties. From emotional vampires to workplace zombies, we fought the good fight against some of workplace’s most vicious inhabitants. When the dust settled and November rolled around, I realized that October is not the only month out of the year when our workplace looks like a scene from a horror flick. In fact, having “scary” coworkers is such a messy and pervasive problem, that I’ve come to realize that I’ve only scratched the surface on this topic. But I can’t do it alone.

I Need Your Help

Here’s what I’m asking. I’m going to kick start our month in this post by summarizing the workplace creepies I tackled this time last year. Then it’s up to you. What workplace monsters am I missing? Ghosts? Goblins? Ghouls? You get the point. No one knows workplace monsters and scary coworkers better than you. After all, they are probably in the cube, workspace or office right next door.

Here’s the current list of “captured” workplace monsters and scary coworkers. If for some reason, you haven’t gotten a chance to read these posts, check ‘em out. They are poignant, thought-provoking, entertaining and moving. You’ll laugh and cry, never to be the same again:

  • The Office Zombies – Surviving their brain numbing existence is not for the faint of heart. This post made an appearance on The Today Show. #Famous.
  • The Workplace Werewolf – One minute, a mild-mannered colleague. The next, he/she is leaping over the cubicle and attempting to rip your face off.
  • The Emotional Vampire – Charming, they lure you into their presence and suck the life out of you until all that is left is an empty exhausted shell.

What’s missing?

Join the Fight

silverbulletThink you see something out of the ordinary or eerie at work? Got a workplace monster wreaking havoc at the office? Post a comment below. Comment on Twitter or LinkedIn. Shoot me a note directly (my e-mail is: Brandon[at]theworkplacetherapist.com). Write a note, stick a stamp on it and put it in the mail. Send smoke signals. One way or the other, get me your scary coworker example and I’ll take it on.

In the meantime, look sharp, eat lots of garlic, cover any exposed flesh, watch for full moons and don’t eat any apples lying about. Scary coworkers are not to be taken lightly.

 

“Senior management is dysfunctional”

mgmtdysfunction_graphic317Sometimes dysfunction at work isn’t obvious. Sometimes we just feel the dysfunction. We know in our gut that things are not right but we can’t exactly put our finger on it. It’s not our boss, at least not most of the time. Our coworkers definitely aren’t perfect, but that doesn’t make them dysfunctional. It’s not them. And our job is fine. In fact, if this other “thing” could be removed, we might actually really love what we do. Sometimes dysfunction is the result of the actions and behaviors that are performed at the top. Sometimes senior management is dysfunctional.

This month, I’m going to take on this challenge – dysfunction within the ranks of senior management. I wish I could say that this dysfunction is less common than ever. Unfortunately, my experience is that the opposite is true. Today, senior management dysfunction is more common than ever.

Are you curious if you are suffering from this all-too-common affliction? Here are some good back-of-the-envelope signs that senior management at your organization is dysfunctional (check off as many that apply to you and if you are senior management, take note if believe any of these apply to you):

  • You feel a general level of anxiety at work and you can’t quite place your finger on “why?”
  • Long periods of time lapse before you see or hear anything from senior management.
  • When senior management does communicate, it is either in business jargon or it seems out of touch with what’s really going on with the business .
  • You don’t know what the strategy for the organization is and neither does anyone else that you ask.
  • Senior management doesn’t seem interested in listening to other’s opinions.
  • Senior management micromanages their direct reports and doesn’t seem to trust anyone in the organization to deliver.
  • What senior management says are the values of the organization are very different from how they behave, operate and reward.
  • Mood swings from senior management are legendary. Senior management may need medication.

How’d you do? Half the battle is acknowledging there is a problem and identifying what it is. If you are a senior leader and some of the above are all-too-familiar, hold tight. Prescriptions are on the way for curing what ails you. If you find yourself working under a dysfunctional senior manager(s), there’s hope for you too. Regardless, we are going to do our very best to cure this dysfunction in 3 weeks or less. Ambitious? Why not…

Got a unique senior management dysfunction that you want me to tackle this month?

Simply shoot it to me via e-mail, comment below, text me, tweet me, leave me a voice mail, send up smoke signals, yell loudly, etc… One way or the other, get it to me and I’ll throw it in the mix!

 

“My boss doesn’t listen to me”

This month’s dysfunction is a subtle variation of one of the most challenging situations we experience in our careers: The Boss. Boss-related dysfunctions are not new and definitely aren’t new to our conversation. In past months we’ve discussed dysfunctions related to not trusting our boss as well as situations when we don’t think our boss likes us (click here for the all-time most read post). This month, we are going to take the theme of “boss” in different direction. Maybe you like your boss just fine and you trust him or her. However, no matter what you try, you can’t seem to get your boss to listen to you. Whether it’s getting your boss to hear your brilliant ideas or to listen to your needs, a boss that listens is a wonderful thing. A boss that doesn’t listen is, well… not.

This month we are talking about ways to get heard by your boss. Amongst other topics, we’ll be covering:

  • Signs your boss isn’t listening to you
  • How to get a busy boss to listen to you
  • How to get a new boss to listen to you
  • Your prescription for maximizing being heard

At the end of the month, if we haven’t got you fully heard, you should be on your way. And if you done everything you can and nothing seems to be working, then you may need to look at this past dysfunction of the month for the next step. But let’s don’t get too hasty. With a little work and a good plan, getting others to listen to us isn’t impossible.  Fun, no.  But possible?  Yes.

 

“How do I get others to change?”

Are you facing one of the most challenging tasks in the history of mankind – to get other people to change? Whether you need to get your employees, your colleagues, your client or your family members to change, getting others to change is just plain hard. Unfortunately, this challenging task is becoming more and more common place as the world around us is evolving at such an exponential rate. Industries that have traditionally attracted people who are “change averse” are facing huge mandates – change or die. Think of healthcare, education, government, retail, traditional publishing, television / radio, etc… Heck, you name it and the industry is likely facing some kind of huge paradigm shift… all right now.

How can you smile?

A few weeks ago I was having this very discussion as part of a class I was teaching for a group of Executive MBA students from Austria who were visiting the States. During the breaks, one of the participants came up to me with a very serious and distressed look on his face. He set his gaze on me and sternly asked, “With all of this change in the world, how can you be smiling?” Other than generally being a “smiley” guy, I did have a good reason for smiling at that moment. My response was simple. I said to him, “You are correct. The world is changing at a speed and pace that no one can predict or know, nor have we ever seen such a pace of change throughout history. So, as I see it, we have two options. We can let the change happen to us and react to it or resist it. Or we can be the authors of that change. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be the author of the world I want to live in rather than have someone else decide that for me.” His reaction? He smiled and walked off.

Authoring change

This month is about helping you to author that change and to persuade others to follow you. Amongst other things, we’ll be talking about some of the fundamental elements of getting anyone to change, from our most senior employee who is set in his / her ways to our eldest child who still lives at home well after they should. To that end, this month we’ll tackle:

  • How do you create a compelling vision for change?
  • What are the best ways to light a fire under others and create urgency?
  • What’s the best way and time to deliver an action plan for others to follow?
  • How and when do we support others while they take on change?

Change is hard. Change is even harder when we have no real control over the people we are trying to change. We have to cajole, persuade, convince and inspire to get others to face some of their greatest fears and make that leap of faith. In the end, we have to make such a compelling case that they see our path as the only one. Hold on for a crash course on people change 101.

My goal this month is simple: By the end of the month, I want you to come out prepared to author the future of the world in which we live. Ambitious enough for you?

 

“I Quit!”

Whether you are minutes away from quitting your job or you are just fantasizing about “sticking it to the man,” quitting is on our minds more often than we admit. And just like a break-up, there is a time and place for quitting one’s job. Sometimes circumstances are so extreme and abusive that quitting really is the best option. On the flip side, there are situations where a game plan needs to be put in place to make sure you’ve done everything you can do.

And then there’s the “how” of quitting. Texting “it’s not you, it’s me” just isn’t going to do the trick if we want to preserve our professional reputations. Quitting the right way matters.

This month, we’re talking about quitting. We’ll be covering the following as we plot our journey to the end:

  •  Is it time to quit?
  • What are the 3 things we need to be sure to do before we quit?
  • What are the top 5 worst ways to quit?
  • Prescription for quitting the “right way”

So, before you do anything hasty, hold on for one more month. And if it helps, you can live vicariously through George Costanza – the master of quitting the wrong way.

 

“Performance Reviews”

Performance reviews. Need I say more? There is nothing as dysfunctional and as predictable as the annual performance review. From vagueness to politics, from personal attacks to overall managerial disinterest, performance reviews are inherently nasty and rarely done well. Bob Sutton, a professor at Stanford University, has a wonderful perspective on performance reviews. To quote Bob, “if performance reviews were a drug, they would not be FDA approved… About half the time performance goes up after a performance review conversation and about half the time performance goes down.”

Whether you are a manager and have the responsibility to conduct performance reviews with your folks, or you are on the receiving end of a performance review conversation (or both), knowing how to manage that conversation is a tricky and critical task to both your effectiveness as well as your happiness. Amongst other topics, we’ll be covering:

  • What are some of the most dysfunctional ways that performance reviews are commonly delivered?
  • How do you deal with a performance review conversation that has turned unhealthy and unproductive?
  • If you are a manager, how can you ensure that you are doing all you can to make the performance review process healthy and productive?

Do you have a performance review story you are willing to share? Send me your stories of your experiences with “less than healthy” performance reviews and I promise to protect the innocent (and guilty).

And in case you want an additional teaser to the month, here’s a radio segment I did recently on performance reviews. Who knows, maybe at the end of the month when we’ve covered this dysfunction thoroughly we’ll rate each other on how we did and see if our ratings match up. Oh, I can’t wait…

Performance Reviews. Always Dysfunctional.

 

“My team member has a bad attitude”

“Bad attitude.” We all know what this means. We see it every day when we navigate traffic, call into customer service for help or simply try to get stuff done at work. In each case, the same thing is true – we are doing our best to get something accomplished despite someone else’s bad attitude. At best, those with a bad attitude are unhelpful and irritating obstacles in our daily lives. At worst, they actively try to sabotage anything that we may want to get accomplished. They’ve crossed the line from bad attitude into cancerous. So, what can you do?

This month we are going to take on this dysfunction: “My team member has a bad attitude.” Amongst other things, we’ll address the following:

  • My employee has a bad attitude. What do I do?
  • I’ve got a co-worker who has a bad attitude. What can I do?
  • I’ve got a bad attitude. How do I shake it?
  • What are the signs that their (or your) attitude is beyond repair?

In the end, attitude is all that really matters. Talent is overrated. Attitude isn’t. Keeping your attitude positive keeps you fast-tracking to the top. When attitude turns, it’s the beginning of the end.

So, where’s your attitude headed?

 

“I don’t think my boss likes me”

If you are like most people, you’ve had at least one new boss over the last several years. Heck, you may have had a revolving door of bosses – a veritable cornucopia of managers – and just when you get one you like, they are yanked from you like ripping a plush teddy bear from a toddler. I had a former student reach out to me several months ago with the complaint that she has had 5 different bosses over the last year! That’s practically a different boss every two months. Insanity. The real challenge comes in when you get stuck with a boss that you suspect doesn’t like you. Whether you think they secretly have plans to remove you or you believe that they simply don’t like your “style” (your attitude, your approach, or simply YOU), how do you cope?

This month is about dealing with “that boss.” Amongst other topics, we’ll be tackling the following important questions:

  • What are the signs your boss doesn’t like you?
  • Is your boss playing favorites? What can you do?
  • What are ways to get your boss to like you? What should you and what should you NOT do?
  • What’s your back-up plan if all else fails?

Getting stuck with a boss that doesn’t like you is no fun at all. The challenge is to figure out what’s going on, what you can do about it and getting yourself a back-up plan just in case you can’t sway his or her opinion of you.  If this dysfunction is hitting way too close to home for you, stay tuned.  Help is on its way.

And for a great example of what having a boss who doesn’t like you looks like, here is a wonderful clip from the greatest workplace movie of all time – Office Space.  Ah, the TPS report…

 

 

“I don’t trust my co-worker”

Have you ever had the experience of not trusting a co-worker? Maybe you thought he or she was out for your job, throwing you under the bus every chance he or she had. Or perhaps you simply thought they were behind your disappearing lunch from the break room. Either way, looking over our shoulder daily takes a mental and emotional toll that can have significant consequences. In best cases, it leads to added stress and burn-out. In worst cases, it promotes paranoia and soon we are plotting ways to either trap the culprit in the act or eat his or her lunch before they get to ours. Not a pretty sight.

This month we’ll be tackling this all-too-real dysfunction: “I don’t trust my co-worker.” We’ll be tackling the following questions throughout the month:

  • What are the signs that I can’t trust my co-worker?
  • What are the best ways to protect ourselves in these situations?
  • What is the role that bosses play in promoting distrust amongst co-workers and if we are the boss, what can we do to eliminate this dysfunction in the office?
  • What can we do to recognize distrustful co-workers and avoid those environments from the beginning before it’s too late?

Every week, I’ll kick off our conversation by addressing one of these big questions. Throughout the week I’ll collect and share stories, examples and other opinions as we dig in. By the end of the month, if we haven’t cured this dysfunction, we’ll do a darn good job treating it!

Write to me with your stories, examples or opinions on the subject. I promise to protect the innocent (and guilty!).

So, can you trust your co-workers? Before you plot your counter-terrorist strategies and booby trap your lunch, make sure there aren’t any easier (and more productive) approaches to stopping distrustful co-workers in their tracks.

Speaking of stolen lunches, I think this commercial sums it up nicely!

 

“I’m not getting noticed at work”

Can you relate to this experience I had with a client a few weeks ago? Paul crossed his arms and with a frustrated huff said to me, “I’m not going to play politics around here. If I do a good job and keep my head down, things will work out. I just know that eventually I’ll get noticed and rewarded for all of my hard work.”

We would all love to believe that if we just do good work, that’s all it really takes to get noticed. Of course, this is contingent on the idea that someone is “scouting talent” at your work 24/7, desperately looking to find someone just like YOU – the diamond in the rough, the next hall-of-famer. This perfect scenario reminds us of those great “discovery” stories like the waitress who would occasionally break out into song during her breaks until one day, a Hollywood agent happened to stumble into her diner. Or the rural farm boy who practiced throwing a baseball out back behind the barn until one day that major league scout’s car ran out of gas and there was a fortuitous knock on the door.

I don’t know about you, but “talent scouts” are few and far between in the world. People are too worried about their own “stuff” to notice what others are up to. There aren’t many fortuitous knocks on our doors. Simply put, if we want to get noticed, the burden is on us to make that happen.

This month we are tackling this career limiting dysfunction: “I’m not getting noticed at work.” We’ll take on, amongst other things, the following questions:

• Are you getting noticed at work?

• What is being overlooked costing you?

• What are the most common ways we prevent ourselves from being noticed?

• What can we do to get the recognition we want and deserve?

Every week, I’ll kick off our conversation by addressing one of these big questions. Throughout the week I’ll collect and share stories, examples and other opinions as we dig in. By the end of the month, if we haven’t cured this dysfunction, we’ll do a darn good job treating it!

Write to me with your stories, examples or opinions on the subject. I promise to protect the innocent (and guilty!).

So, are you getting noticed at work or do you just feel like wallpaper? Help is on the way!

 

“This is NOT the right corporate culture for me”

Ah, corporate cultures. We’ve all been there – stuck in a place that just wasn’t us. Whether it’s the overly bureaucratic company whose policies just drive us nuts or the small “mom & pop” family-owned company where we aren’t part of the family, company cultures can either make our lives wonderful or an absolute nightmare. So how about you? Are you stuck in a company culture that’s killing you slowly each and every day? And what can you do about it?

This month, we will tackle this dysfunction: “This is NOT the right corporate culture for me.” Throughout the month we’ll cover, amongst other things:

  • Are you in the wrong corporate culture?
  • What are the ways you can tell what the right culture is for you?
  • What can you do to change the culture you are in… and can you?
  • And if you are the leader, what can you do to change the company culture?

Every Monday, I’ll kick off our conversation for the week by addressing one of these big questions. Throughout the week I’ll collect and share stories, examples and other opinions as we dig in. By the end of the month, if we haven’t cured this dysfunction, we’ll do a darn good job treating it!

Write to me with your stories, examples or opinions on the subject. I promise to protect the innocent (and guilty!).

So, look around. Do you feel like a “fish in water” at work or are you flopping around, gasping for air and don’t know how much longer you can last? Help is coming.

 

“I don’t trust my boss”

I Don't Trust My BossDo you trust your boss?  More importantly, should you trust your boss?  And if you are the boss, do your people trust you?  What can you do?  All good questions that we will be tackling this month as we take on an all-too-common (and very dangerous) dysfunction – “I don’t trust my boss.”  So why does this matter?  Research has shown that in environments where trust is high – particularly with one’s boss, there is a strong correlation with high performance.  In addition, research has also shown that when trust is low at work, the toll taken on not only our performance, but our mental and emotional well-being is equally high.  And frankly, who wants to work in an environment where they believe they have to watch their back… particularly when the boss is around?

This month, we will tackle this dysfunction: “I don’t trust my boss.”  Throughout the month we’ll cover, amongst other things:

  • Should I trust my boss?
  • What are reasons why I may not trust my boss? … And could it be me?
  • If I am the boss, what can I do to build trust with my team?
  • If I don’t trust my boss, what can I do?

Every Monday, I’ll kick off our conversation for the week by addressing one of these big questions.  Throughout the week I’ll collect and share stories, examples and other opinions as we dig in.  By the end of the month, if we haven’t cured this dysfunction, we’ll do a darn good job treating it!

So, write to me with your stories, examples or opinions on the subject.  I promise to protect the innocent (and guilty!).

And off we go!

“I thought I was a rock star”

I thought I was a rock star...until they let me go.This month’s dysfunction deals with an all too common problem: not being told where you stand at work often resulting in being blind-sided with bad news. Do you know where you stand at work today? Are you seen as a rock star? A loose cannon? A future leader? No longer relevant to the organization? Too often, our position changes and we aren’t even aware of it. For many of us, there was a time when we were rock stars. We had a loyal fan base and sold out venues. But, as it happens with most rock stars, over time people stop coming to our shows until one day, to our surprise, our fans are gone. The worst part – no one bothered to tell us along the way.

This month, we will tackle this dysfunction: not being told where you stand at work often resulting in being blind-sided with bad news. Throughout the month we’ll cover, amongst other things:

  • What are the warning signs that I’m losing my fans?
  • What are the land mines I need to avoid?
  • What can I do proactively to get a read on where I stand today?
  • How can I “sell more tickets” and keep myself relevant?

Every Monday, I’ll kick off our conversation for the week by addressing one of these big questions. Throughout the week I’ll share stories, examples and other opinions as we dig in. By the end of the month, if we haven’t cured this dysfunction, we’ll do a darn good job treating it!

So, write to me with your stories, examples or opinions on the subject. I promise to protect the innocent (and guilty!).

…And off we go!