How Not To Handle a Request at Work You Don’t Agree With

I once overheard half of a kind of nuts phone conversation that I could tell was NOT going well. (PS: I don’t make it a point to listen to others’ conversations- we were in the same cubicle, and she was screaming.) The person in question clearly did not agree with a request given to her by her manager and what started as a semi-rational, “I don’t think this is a good idea”, devolved into screaming about how stressed she was and how she ‘understood how her manager had to play office politics.”

Yikes, man.

The above is an extreme cast of how not to handle a request from a superior or a manager, but there are lessons we can take from this on how NOT to deal with this type of situation:

Don’t Be Reactionary: This person got the request via email, let out a huge sigh, yelled “how can they expect me to do this?!” and then picked up the phone to call the requestor. Now, I’m a huge fan of the phone to discuss this topic and many others, but doing that boom-bang-boom (official term) of immediately picking up the phone when you’re heated doesn’t bode well for the ol’ outcome. Instead, take deep breaths, remind yourself that you can give yourself 5, 10, 15 or more minutes to respond, and that the world will not implode if you don’t respond right away. I remember back in the olden days receiving emails so infuriating that I’d actually feel a jolt of anger go through my body or I’d turn red. I learned that those were precisely NOT the times to reply to something. Just because you receive an email you don’t like doesn’t mean you need to react immediately.

If it’s an in person request or in front of a group in a meeting, politely say that you’d like to think about the request and get back to them by <insert time here>. This is the bona fide number one step to avoiding a debacle of a conversation

Don’t Rely on Histrionics: Blaming stress, office politics, Mercury in Retrograde, whatever, for not wanting to do this task or not thinking it’s a good idea will not get you anywhere. That’s the honest truth right there. Everyone is overstretched and busy. Everyone tires from time to time of the office politics game. Not sure about Mercury, but calling out that you’re stressed in a stressed out frazzled tone of voice is absolutely NOT going to win your case for why you don’t believe the task or project should be prioritized in the first place. Remember, it was because it wasn’t good for the strategy of the company?

Instead, before you respond or pick up the phone or head back to her office to state your case, lay out the reasons why you don’t think this is a good idea. Make sure they are based in fact alone and tied to the overall strategy of the company. Maybe the ask will take X days of your workweek which you think would be better suited to reaching the company year end sales goal, which would mean working on another work stream, for example. If you’re clearly stating that what you think is best to work on will more directly serve the company goals, your manager will likely praise you for your vision and prioritization skills, rather than think you’re a frazzled spazball of negative energy.

Don’t Be Hypocritical. Unless you have sound, based in reality facts, of course. I’ve seen people repeatedly resist requests because they say they don’t have time to do that AND make the company’s mid-year goal,  for example, but then they’re coming into the office at 10 or 11am and taking a full lunch everyday.

Instead, be mindful of your behavior and patterns and remember that people, for better or for worse, pay attention to those things. So when you push back on a request, you’re more likely to get this inner monologue from the other person: “Right and I see him online shopping all day on his computer, so I TOTALLY don’t believe it” versus “Maybe Sally has a point here and we need to consider alternatives.”

Don’t Carry The Torch: Sometimes decisions are out of our worker bee collective control. Once you calmly state your reasoning in a non-reactionary way, your manager may still ask you to do it. Maybe the reason is still not good, but maybe there’s something you don’t know. Whatever the case, spending more time having angst over it IS taking away from the goal you WANT to reach (in our example here, meeting the sales goal) and you’re not doing anything and wasting more time and energy on it! So after standing your ground and stating your case for the record, just go do it.

What other tips have you used to handle a request at work with grace and poise and what results did you achieve? Leave comments in the area below!

 

What If You’re The Difficult Co-Worker?

We often see really helpful articles and advice for dealing with difficult co-workers. You know, the person whose actions (or maybe more aptly, inactions) lead to stagnation on a particular project. Or the colleague who is in enough of a position of influence that she’s able to take all of the good sales leads, leaving the rest of you high and dry. Many of us who can be difficult at work don’t MEAN to be, of course. It could be something else going on at home that’s being projected into the workplace, for example. Whatever the case may be,  it’s safe to say that in the majority of office environments, your co-workers aren’t going to come to you and say, “Sally, you’re our difficult co-worker,” what are some ways of finding out if you are?

Adopt a Sense of Mindfulness: Yes, I’m all about it recently. It can be tough in many of the work environments I hear about, where it’s all about go-go-go and ABC (Always Be Closing),but with practice and boundaries, it IS possible to cultivate a sense of awareness of the environment around you. Take a moment in meetings to read body language, facial expressions and tone.  Sometimes hostility or frustration can be overt, and sometimes it’s much more nuanced. If any of it seems directed at you specifically, take note of that.

Take a Look at Your Plate: No, I don’t mean that delicious Mediterranean Chickpea Chili you made in the slow cooker for lunch this week. Instead, take a look at what projects you’re involved in and more meaningfully, not involved in that you should be given your job description, responsibilities and level of seniority at the company. Obviously, I’m not insinuating that because you’re not involved in one project that that means you’re difficult. But taking this factor in the confluence of others can be a helpful barometer of whether or not you’re being a taddddd difficult. If you notice you’re light on tasks that absolutely SHOULD be your domain, speak with the project lead about it and come prepared with what you’d do if such tasks were given to you. Or, ask the project lead or your co-workers with those tasks if you could take a part of the task off their plate to help them out. Be prepared to say that you will have your part done by a certain time so they are not held up or tripped up by your actions.

Ask! Like I said before, ain’t nobody gonna tell you (most likely) that you’re being difficult. Ask a trusted advisor or mentor or former colleague if that makes you more comfortable.  I also recommend going to the source. Remember the mindfulness I asked you to adopt in meetings? If you sense anger/frustration aimed at you, approach the person directly in a one-on-one setting later that day. (Don’t let too much time lapse!) A simple, “I couldn’t help but notice some of your frustration about the project’s progress was directed at me, and I’d like to clear the air so I can make sure I’m doing my part moving forward – can we talk?” can be good. Or, if you’re not sure it’s you, you can say, “I noticed your frustration back there- anything I can do to help alleviate the issues with the project so it can go more smoothly?” Both scripts give the person the ability to speak their mind more freely, and will improve your relationship in the process.

And if you get feedback that is less than rosy, make note of it and try to accept it, hard as it might be. Ask a mentor outside the office or someone you trust for advice on how to turn this perception around. Include it in your self-review for your annual review (and make sure you include suggestions for how to improve!). A good manager will appreciate the self-awareness and candor, and the fact that you’re working on this without her needing to hold your hand as much will bring her a sigh of relief and gratitude.

*Disclaimer: If you suddenly realize you’re the difficult co-worker, don’t worry. Everyone, even the Mother Teresas of the workforce, have the capability to be difficult sometimes. I’ve seen some of the coolest, nicest people turn on their Devil Wears Prada hat in the office (heck, that was me back in the day- I lived it!). The good news is that you can start TODAY to be more collaborative and helpful and less road-blocky. What’s done is done, but by using some of the tips above, you can begin to rebuild your reputation in the office as a dependable, hard working, easy-to-work-with maniac.

4 Steps To Overcome Snap Judgments Made About You On The Job

I was talking to a friend the other day about tension in her workplace. When I suggested the new director of sales speak directly to the CEO about the particular project, she said, “Oh, he can’t do that. The CEO doesn’t respect him, so he won’t get any time with him.” Wait, why not, I asked.  He’s been working at the company for 3 weeks! How is a bad judgment even possible?! That’s just how the CEO is, was the response.

We all can think of at least one “Snap- Judgmenter” (official term) in our work life. Maybe most of the time we avoid their judgment-y wrath, but what happens if we’re the target of such ‘attention’?

  1. Evaluate the perception and importance of the snap judgment. Is the person actively saying things about you that aren’t true? How persuasive and entrenched in the organization is this person? Yes, this is an acknowledgment that office politics unfortunately exist. Learning how influential this person is in influencing other members of your team or manager or anyone else you’d regularly interact with will help you deal with it and understand how important working to undo the judgment is for your career at the company.
  2. Approach the “Snap-Judgmenter” directly. Yes, address it. Soon.I don’t mean have a direct confrontation about it that turns into an Office Space-esque meltdown in the office. Asking the person out for a coffee (neutral ground) at the local shop around the corner is a good place to start. Having the conversation without other colleague around is another good idea. Make sure to make a neutral and non-argumentative observation to begin (“I couldn’t help but notice we might have gotten off on the wrong foot.”). A little flattery (if appropriate) doesn’t hurt either (“I’ve seen how well you do XYZ and I want to be able to learn from you and vice versa.”) I took this approach once and learned that the person made a snap judgment me because of a mutual contact we had that she disliked and thought I was ‘just like that person.” Things were absolutely fine from that point on. The point here is to NOT attack or alternatively be defensive despite every fiber of your being saying to either go on the offensive or defensive. A neutral, come-from-a-place-of-curiosity approach is the way to go here.
  3. Lead By Example: Maybe the person doesn’t want to sit down with you or maybe they have a tepid response to your attempt to clear the air. Hey- you tried. Now, it’s time to lead by example. Don’t go do the same thing- talk about Snap-Judgmenter to other colleagues. Go about your week, you do you, etc. If the judgment is that you’re flaky, for example, make sure you demonstrate that you follow through on your work, submit things on time, keep colleagues updated through clear communication on your status, and whatever else it will take to show other colleagues (and the one making the judgment) that you’re not whatever-they-say-you-are.
  4. Put On Your Empathy Hat: What might be going on with this person that they are behaving this way? Chances are, it’s something going on with him/her and has little or nothing to do with you. Also make sure you ask yourself if there is anything you could have done to provoke such a judgment. Back to the flakiness example- was your first project late for some totally reasonable reason? In other words, did anything you did provoke the judgment? Oftentimes, there’s a lot of gray area in these types of situations and to go light on the person can open up the dialogue for future harmony.

 

The 5 Things To Do In Order To Leverage Your Internship Into a Full Time Gig

You’ve done it: you’ve scored an internship or volunteer gig at a company you adore or in a field you’re jonesin’ to break into. Woo hoo! Smooth sailing ahead, right? All you gotta do is do a good job and people will notice and suggest you for the position of your dreams when the internship is over, right?

Well…..not quite.

Ostensibly, you want this internship to open new doors and put you on the path to a no holds barred, amazing career, so how do you go about making sure you stand out in a pool of talented and enthusiastic interns?

Network within the workplace: There are going to be a collective hundreds of hours of experience and know how within the organization. Don’t shy away from treating a colleague to coffee and asking them about their career path, how they got where they are today and what missteps they think that may have made along the way. I’m not saying that their path necessarily will be your path, but it’s a fabulous idea to collect data points and anecdotes to begin to paint a full picture of the business you’re looking to get into- good, bad or neutral.

Be aware of other projects going on around you: While they may not fall directly under your internship description, ask to sit in on project meetings about other things going on within the organization. Where else are you going to get to see how a bunch of different job descriptions/functions operate within an organization and see what you and do and don’t like? Take notes and make note of your impressions about other positions and types of work within the company. What do you like about that type of position? What might you not like? What additional information do you need?  Who can you ask to bridge the gap between what you do and don’t know or what other resources can you employ?

Be Honest and transparent with your bosses: This goes along with the idea of taking as much advantage of the internship from a learning perspective as you can. Talk to your boss(es) about your interests, strengths, weaknesses, and ask them for feedback on your work as well. Take notes and think about the feedback and how you might improve or augment your work. Connect with them via Linked In and once the internship is over, send them a thank you note or take them out for coffee and macaroons (first thing that popped in my head) to thank them. You never know- they might think of you for a position at their friend/brother’s/cat’s mom’s brother’s company someday!

Don’t play the ‘who can stay latest’ game: Lead with your enthusiasm, eagerness, and willingness to take on additional tasks, but leave the ‘who can stay longest’ game out of it.  Get in on time or early, ask if there’s anything else you can do before you go, but don’t camp out in the office til 11pm. Why? Well, 1) if you’re looking to get noticed, that’s not really the best way to do it (Read: it’s either not noticed, not important or taken for granted at many companies) and 2) I’m all about the balance, baby. Starting with good practices now when you’re just starting out in a new field primes and preps you for taking those good practices into the next part of your career, ie. Less likely to burn out, be stressed and all those other fun things that come along with it (weight loss or gain, frequent illness, skin problems, relationship strife, etc). Trusssssst me, this one’s important. And let me qualify: I’m not saying close your laptop lid at 4:59.59 every day, but be cognizant of how late you’re staying and how much that really matters.

No Job Is Too Small/Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate!: To me, these two things go in tandem. Say yes to jobs that may seems small or menial to you- you don’t know how much you may be helping AND you’re also there to learn. Additionally, COLLABORATE with other interns and don’t look at them as the competition. They, like you, are there to learn, and may decide their interests lie elsewhere, but in the meantime collaborating could lead to a new innovation for the company (and make you all look good) and could also open new doors for you in terms of a future business contact or friend. You never know!

There are TONS more tips we could talk about for making the most of an internship, but the above ones are some of my faves. What else has worked for you in an internship? Or, how about- what hasn’t worked? Comment in the section below!

 

 

The Surefire Way to Get Your Day Back on Track after Something Derails You

Frustration and Annoyance: it’s a tale as old as time. As long as people with varying roles, attitude and personalities have been interacting with each other, there have been misunderstandings, buttons pushed, et al. Maybe something that happened in a meeting jarred you out of productivity mode. Maybe your mom called mid morning and ‘got on your last nerve’ with something and now you’re seeing red. Maybe you felt a co-worker ‘wasn’t hearing you’ when he or she was dismissing your ideas. The bottom line is that you can’t concentrate, you’re lacking energy and don’t know what to do about it.

I recently had to make a choice about how I wanted the rest of my day to go down regarding a situation that fits the above bill. Earlier in the morning, I was faced with a situation that really irritated me. I definitely let it affect part of my day, and it reminded me of my time in my past life when pretty much everything irritated me and I was living a life that was not for me.  After some time being unproductive, rather than continue to be annoyed at myself for being annoyed (which was…annoying), I came up with the some of the below tactics to get me back on track, so that I could leave my workday feeling that I had contributed to something and that I felt fulfilled.

  1. Don’t judge your emotions. Sitting there being annoyed at yourself for being annoyed at a situation does no one any good. Instead, it adds an additional layer of emotion on top of the original emotion. As they say in every meditation class ever, try not to judge your emotions. Instead, acknowledge them as ‘emotions that exist’ and things that are neither good nor bad. I swear, having a meditation app like Calm.com on my phone has helped for situations that may come up. We may live in an immediate NOW culture, so you may think you need to get back to being productive NOW, but take a 5 minute pause and re-calibrate yourself.
  2. It’s not about what someone ‘did’. Instead it’s what the incident says about you. Let me explain. We tend to view things as what someone ‘did’ to us or what ‘happened’ to us. But really, it’s all about how we interpreted it. To put it in simplistic terms, someone who ‘interrupted us’ at a meeting may initially get the “I can’t believe he did that. How dare he interrupt me while I’m explaining something important?” treatment. However, it could be that what’s really going on in this example that you value being able to get your thoughts out in your own time and manner, and this person challenged that value when he interrupted you.” Next time your patience is tested, ask yourself what your reaction says about you and what you value. It may help take the pressure off the other person and make it more into a learning experience.
  3. Ask yourself a pivotal question: If some of the suggestions in numbers one and two seem a little ‘woo-woo’ to you, I understand. They work, but it took me awhile to get used to that way of thinking. If that’s not your MO, how about this more tactical approach? Ask yourself how you’ll feel hours later, when you’re falling asleep or later in the week when you’re taking stock of the week, if you continue  riding this derailing train. How will you feel about what you’ve accomplished and how your mind feels? Alternatively, can you conjure up a time you’ve felt this way before? When I was back in my ‘getting through the week’ days, I used this tactic to turn myself around. It wasn’t a total mind shift, but it helped.
  4. Come up with new interpretations. What might have been other reasons why your colleague interrupted you, from our example earlier? Maybe you think it’s to ‘one-up’ you, but other reasons could include a) excitement for his own idea that he just blurted it out or b) he wasn’t listening so wasn’t even aware you were on a roll or c) he was thinking about the burrito he was going to have for lunch and just wanted the get the meeting over with. I worked with someone many years ago who seemed very disconnected and disengaged whenever we spoke. I thought she sounded bored. I later learned she had seizures at a very young age and it forever impacted her ability to formulate thoughts as quickly as many of us do. That was a big mind shift for me and pushed me to incorporate this tactic whenever I was in this zone of ‘annoyed’.
  5. Shut it dowwnnnn. We live in a seemingly NOW and IMMEDIATE world where everything is urgent, but seriously, most things rarely are. Close as many windows as possible, leave your mobile in your bag and check it at lunch, and overall, limit those things that are distracting to you. One big trick that tends to work for me is to turn off the Outlook bubble that enables new emails to pop up in a bubble at the bottom of my screen. That way, I’m doing work and not able to see things that might potentially derail me until I’m in a good stopping place (and thus feeling productive) to check emails.

The point here is to do what works for you. These are tricks I employ and are often ones that clients have used. What other tips and tricks are out there? Please share your favorites for the group below!