Archive for the ‘Dysfunctional Workplace’ Category

Learn to Say “No”

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

It happens every single day. Someone finds you out of nowhere and asks you to help them in some way or another. How do you say no?

First, realize that it is completely fine to say no. This alone is a big step for many people. But it should be obvious that when someone asks a yes/no question, there are (at least) two possible answers.

Suppose a client suggests that you come by her office for a conversation that would ordinarily take 10 minutes. But now, with the commute, you’re looking at an hour – and that’s an hour you cannot give up today.

Let the client know how eager you are to connect, and that you’re equally eager to help her avoid the required charge for out-of-office consulting. Suggest conducting this conversation over the webcam. Everybody wins.

Or perhaps Chris, from the cubicle next to yours, pokes his head around the corner in hopes that you can help him with a project he’s been assigned. If you can do it, great. But if you can’t, you really need to find a way to say that.

Make it clear that you appreciate his thinking of you, but that you will not be able to assist him until Tuesday, or whatever it may be. And if you can’t at all, just say that. With all due love, of course!

Commit yourself to tasks that are most profitable. Learn to say no to the rest.

When to leave your job

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Your job is imperfect. Your boss is imperfect. Your colleagues, boy, are THEY imperfect. None of this is news. The question is what you are doing about it.

If you’re accepting life’s little imperfections, that’s healthy. Giving constructive advice to improve things, good for you! But if you are complaining—aimlessly, pointlessly complaining—then it’s time for you to go. Your company is better without you. If you are taking checks from a company and then stabbing them in the back, you’ve got to think about your integrity. So off you go.

But wait! Before you go, let’s put things in perspective. Did you complain about your last job, too? Your last boss, your last colleagues? If so, you’re pretty likely to complain about the next ones as well. Then I guess you’ll have to cut and run from that one too.

Sounds like a pretty dismal future, don’t you think?

Instead, give yourself 24 hours to think about your situation. Focus on the things that are good, and come up with a strategy for improving the things that aren’t so good. But one way or another, promise yourself to turn off the pointless complaints for good.

Take responsibility

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Business management guru Patrick Lencioni knows something about dysfunctional behavior. In his classic book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni lays out the five behaviors that can bring any team to its knees.

The first is an absence of trust, which is fueled by a lack of accountability. The second is fear of conflict. Nobody confronts missed deadlines and outcomes because they don’t want conflict, and everything goes down in flames.

Third is a lack of commitment, and fourth is inattention to results.

But the fifth dysfunction is one of the worst—the avoidance of accountability. This includes ducking the responsibility to call peers on dysfunctional behavior AND refusing to hold yourself accountable for outcomes.

In a very real way, a lack of accountability leads to all four of the other Lencioni dysfunctions. It causes people to mistrust each other, to avoid conflict by “going along to get along,” to withhold commitment, and to let results slide.

It’s every person’s job to make sure that one person doesn’t blow the ship up for the rest. Realize that you are responsible for everything that goes on around you—don’t watch someone failing, then fail to step up to direct, assist, and speak up. And know your own critical drivers, and hold yourself 100 percent responsible to them no matter what.

Indecision IS a Decision

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The center snaps the ball. The quarterback drops back for the pass. How long does he have to decide what to do with that ball?

On average, he has three seconds to get the ball to the right receiver. Imagine that. After that, he’s likely to end up on the ground.

Now imagine the quarterback getting up and whining, “I didn’t have enough information to make a decision! Lemme do that over.”

Fat chance. He made a decision, all right. Indecision is a decision to do nothing. And the consequences can be huge.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in—business is about making decisions. But sometimes we find ourselves paralyzed, unable to make a decision for fear of making the wrong one. So we say we’re “waiting for more data” or “crunching the numbers” before we decide.

It’s important to be well informed. But there’s always more information to be had, and there comes a time when the lack of a decision begins to impact the outcome. At that point, indecision is a decision. It’s the decision to do nothing.

For every project, give yourself a timeline not just for the outcome, but for the decision making process that leads to that outcome. Say, “By November 14, the budget will be set. By November 21, all design specs will be in place.” Then hold yourself to those project benchmarks. Make a decision and keep things moving.

Be You

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

None of us are the same at home and at work. In some ways, that’s good. The way you are when you’re grilling burgers on the deck with friends isn’t necessarily the way you need to be to do your job well. But they also shouldn’t be complete strangers to each other.

It’s easy to lose sight of who you really are when you’re at the office, to become a person your home self wouldn’t even recognize—uptight, risk-averse, and too afraid to color just slightly outside of the lines:

“I’m not on track to reach quota, so I can’t waste my time engaging with other employees.”

“I can’t take it. Jared’s success is making me look bad.”

“Should I jump in and make that joke? What if they don’t laugh?”

This discontent, this frustration—it’s all driven by a lack of comfort in your own skin, a lack of confidence in who you’ve become.

By this point in your life, you probably have a pretty good sense of who you are. But you may have come to the conclusion that straying from the narrow path that you think defines you is cause for alarm. The tendency is to leap back onto that narrow path, to play it safe.

But this gets in the way of growth, and it can also limit your full potential as a person.

Here’s the thing: Your path has gotten you where you are, but y aren’t just defined by that path. You are also defined by the compass you’ve developed along the way, the judgment and values that are woven into who you are. And that judgment can tell you when it’s okay to diverge a bit from the path, to loosen up and just be who you are.

So choose comfort. Always think about what you say and do, but don’t overthink it to the point of paralysis. You know who you are, so don’t hesitate to be that person—to be you.

Everyone’s laughing at the lunch table, and a joke pops into your head. If your compass says no, hold off. But if your intuition says it’s fine, make the joke! Trust yourself to be yourself.

You feel that the company is underachieving, setting the standard of excellence beneath its capability…raise the standard! Trust yourself to know what’s right.

Be you, and have a great Monday.