30 Years and NO progress! Or Drifting all alone…

driftingThis is the most difficult blog that I have written because it is so personal and evokes horrible feelings.  It started when Woz, a friend from college, messaged me for some help.  Her daughter, lets call her Karen, was having some problems in the workplace and Woz was a stay at home mom then worked in the family business, an orchard.  Woz has never worked in an office or in Human Resources and she was seeking some real life answers from someone who had lived what her daughter was now living.  So, I suggested that she call me so I can get all of the details.  The rest of the story resulted in a huge realization that after 30 years there has been little change in workforce civility.

Karen was an intern at a utilities company in a Michigan.  She did so well that her boss, Bob, offered her a job after she got her BA degree.  Karen was thrilled that she had a job right after college, different from most of her friends.  Bob told her that she was very intelligent, a go getter, very hard worker and a fast learner.  He was thrilled at how quickly she learned how to create a risk management document for this company.  She worked well with others in the company and collaborated to get the information she needed for the risk management assessment.

Bob retired and she was now supposed to report to Joe.  Karen was not happy to report to Joe because at the company Christmas party last year Joe was drunk and said some very inappropriate sexual comments to her and another female colleague. She was shocked but let it go because she never saw Joe in the workplace.  Now, she had to report to Joe and he had no idea what a risk management assessment was or why it was important.  Joe began to make comments about her being too young to be working at the company and he documented her to HR because he thought she misused a credit card (her old boss Bob approved the purchase – but he was retired) and was 2 minutes late for a meeting.  There were other comments about being fired.   Karen was getting stressed and went to the doctor who recommended drugs for anxiety.  Her new boss told her to write a letter documenting “how sorry she was” for not complying with the policy.

I suggested that Karen go to HR (they call it compliance) and get a champion.  Compliance told her to write a letter documenting that she read the policy (they also said that she did not misuse the policy).  Cut to the chase… she was told to take a “career day” to decided if she wanted to keep working for the company (paid leave – but everyone knew she was being disciplined).  She tried to get in contact with HR but no one would call her back.  She tried to document the sexual harassment, the comments Joe made to her each day threatening to fire her.  When I spoke to Karen she kept commenting, “why can’t he just let me do my work and stop threatening me?”  She felt like she was drifting all alone on the ocean.

In my 30 years in the working world I have been bullied by 4 different people and sexually harassed once.  For most of the jobs I put up with the bullying until I found a new job (which usually took 6 months to a year).  Listening to Karen’s story and hearing the frustration in her voice brought back that anxiety – those horrible feelings of being bullied and feeling unempowered, helpless and lost.  Drifting all alone on the ocean… no one to help me.  All that I wanted to do was to collaborate with people, do my work and help others.  I realized that negative and snide comments by my boss was not helping me do my job.  I needed helpful, supporting comments and resources that only a boss could provide.

Then I realized through supervising highly productive, intelligent people how to get the most from them!  I needed to provide resources that they request, be there to brainstorm or suggest options and to motivate and support them.  I needed to seek out what they were doing right and comment on that action.  Or give them a little treat or a card or email (I was known as santa claus by one group) when I saw them do something particularly wonderful.  I even had a “gold star” that I gave when they did something absolutely amazing that I would have never thought to do.  Literally I would give them a gold star sticker.  Those gold stars were only given out about 1 time every 3 months to someone.  People like Karen and other highly productive, intelligent employees do not need to be micromanaged.  They need support.

How do we give our managers that education?  How do we let them know that positive reinforcement is so much more effective than negative?  Sure, there are a million management programs out there – but why do some people NOT get the message?  I really did think that the workforce has become more positive in the last 30 years.  But, I am naive.  There are still those people out there who were bullies in school and that worked for them  – so they continue that behavior in the workforce.  I have worked with Dr. Laura Crawshaw the boss whisperer and Dr. Gary Namie Workplace Bully institute who are making progress one day at a time.  But this is still a huge problem in our workplaces.  There is only so much emotional intelligence and strengths training can do to help us deal with this harassment.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions.  I will look forward to your comments.

 

 

 

 

#civility  #bullying  #humanresources #emotionalintelligence #strengths

Best friend at work – is this good or bad or generational?

best-friend-at-workI was teaching a class today and this item came up in conversation.  Does having a “best” friend at work increase productivity?  Gallup’s research says “yes” – Having a best friend at work means workers are more likely to report that they are recognized, listened to and encouraged (I am paraphrasing).  But…my class was against having a best friend at work saying that they would socialize too much, take too many breaks and not get as much work done.  If their best friend did not work with them they could concentrate more.

Being intrigued, I did a bit of research.  After a while, Gallup changed the word “best” to “good” making it a different question because audiences were having a tough time with the word “best”.  Gallup article.  The question did not produce the same results.  It seems that having a “best”  – not just “good” friend at work produces more productive teams.  So, having a best friend creates the best workgroups (highly productive vs mediocre).

Next, I realized that most of these participants in the training today were either older Gen X or younger baby boomers.  People from about 40 – 58.  My train of thought went to Generations…are they different?  Maybe Gen Y and Z love the best friend but the earlier Generations were not too sure about this “fact”Forbes article.   I am a younger boomer – on the cusp of X (if you will) and I thought about having a best friend at work.  I agreed with my class that on days that I was not focused, it would seem easy to hang out and discuss all kinds of topics with my “best” friend.  However, if my “best friend” (and here I am thinking of my actual “bestie” Carol) were on my workgroup team and we were competing for the award of the most highly productive team (stay with me on this)… we would do great.

My best friend and I would be great together in a work group.  This is not big news but, Carol and I can read each other’s thoughts; I bet you can say the same about your “best” friend.   If we have a disagreement, we have navigated that path before and know how to compromise, compete, accommodate or any of the other Thomas-Kilman Model dimensions.  Been there – done that – we can communicate faster than with just anyone on any team.  We can encourage each other and call into memory a time when we did something great.  We know each other’s strengths.  We also have that dimension of Trust.  And as we know The Speed of Trust is real.  The more you trust the faster the interaction (or communication) will be – and with good results.

My class still did not agree with the research.  What do you think?

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Originally published at https://wordpress.com/post/largblog.wordpress.com/596

#bestfriendatwork #Gallup  #Strengths   #conflict

 

Five skills and attitudes Technical Professionals should invest in for the Future

keyboardjpgYears ago I worked for a SAN software (and hardware) Engineering company.  I taught SAN software engineers how to rack and stack the equipment, how to configure a switch and other equipment such as storage arrays and blade servers during a 5 day class. I also taught a 2 day class called “Consulting 101”.  In this class the engineers would learn how to talk to the client, how to escalate a situation that they could not handle and practice various situations through role plays.    One of the engineers stated in a very frustrated voice, “I’d rather take a month of technical classes than a day of this people stuff!”  All of the other engineers agreed with him.  WOW!!!  I had no idea that these “soft skills” were so difficult to learn.

I ran across an article by Lei Han Soft Skills List – 28 Skills to Working Smart that defined and listed soft skills that we all need in the work environment.  He grouped these skills into four groups that we all need in our work life.  These skills and attitudes mirrored Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence model and the 15 factors in EQ-i Bar-On model.  The 15 factors of the Bar-On model – – Reuven Bar-On .  I added the last group – gratitude attitude because I think this is lacking in most organizations.  It is a skill/attitude that we can learn and develop; it can make a true difference in our lives and the lives of our colleagues.

  1.  The ability for Self-Management.  We all know those people who “lose it” in the workplace.  Sure, all of us have our breaking points but usually we can manage our anger, behavior and emotions.  Being aware of and able to identify feelings is the first step to perceive and accept ourselves.  Knowing our strengths, personality and preferences helps us to get along with others in the workplace.
  2. People Skills include Communication Skills and the ability to get along with a team.  This is critical in any work environment but tech environments seem to be more team oriented these days.  Gone are the days when one person was in charge of all of the IT in a company.  Now there are customer service support teams, help-desk teams, server teams and teams to trouble shoot.  Leadership is also included in this area of people skills.
  3. Work Attitude is the willingness to learn and loyalty to the organization.  We all know people with great attitudes at work.  We want to work with them, to talk to them when we are having a rough day and wish we had their attitude.  These are the people who are not Polly-Ana and dream of rainbows and unicorns but realistically optimistic and helpful.
  4. Professional Attitude includes what we expect from people in the workforce each day.  Dressing professionally (for the work environment), getting to work and meetings on time, common courtesy.  Not, people who think that the workplace is an extension of their (dysfunctional) family where they are the “boss” and can do whatever they desire.
  5. Gratitude Attitude is the ability to appreciate all people in your workplace.  To appreciate your job, team, boss and organization.  This is not the rewards and formal recognition program that many organizations boast about but the ability of each person to sincerely look out for the other.  To help, support, encourage, uplift and inspire others.

This is a great list for technical professional who wish to advance in their careers.  Having the proper soft skills and attitudes can lead to leadership opportunities, leading a team or department.  It can also work for non-techs as well. I try to develop these skills and attitudes as I work with different groups and teams.  Not only for them but for myself.  So, instead of learning the next new tech app today, try on a new attitude or soft skill!

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Originally published at https://wordpress.com/post/largblog.wordpress.com/529

#softskills #tech  #Peopleskills   #emotionalintelligence