b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: March 2006



Today I resigned

March 31, 2006

TO: Chief Clueless

FROM: Pied Piper

CC: Miss Understand, Miss Manager

RE: Resignation / 2 Week Notice

Dear Chief,

Please accept this letter as my official resignation from Company X.

As a courtesy, I will stay for 2 more weeks. Friday, April 14th will be my last day with the company.

Kind Regards,

Pied Piper

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




The EXIT Interview, Pt I

This was too long, so I decided to share a piece of it. This is the first question (and my response) in the exit interview:

If you were the head of your department, what would you do differently to make everyone more productive? How would you run the business?

Motivated employees are a key part to any company’s success. If people are properly motivated, companies stand to gain enormous results from almost nothing. Company X has the resources and capabilities to provide this to their employees. One way I have seen this is through enrichment programs implemented in Department 1 and neighboring departments. Another good motivational tool that was brought up recently is the “cross-training” available to those employees that request it. Although I don’t believe that Department 1 fosters a warm or social environment, I think this effort does allow anyone interested to know what the department is about and explore all aspects of it. Bravo on that point.

Employees should also expect to be motivated by their managers. My manager, Miss Manager, could benefit from learning how to properly motivate her staff. There is no quicker way to de-motivate people than by micro-managing. Specifically, I mean things like nit-picking about how to structure an email subject header, which font to use and the like. Another thing that deflates a person’s self-esteem is to repeatedly point the finger and throw blame – whether rightfully so or not. Miss Manager manages this way and it shows. Look at her team in recent years: I.M.Happytobegone – my predecessor in my final role at Company X – made it very clear upon her departure what the conditions were like when she reported to Miss manager. I.M. left the company because of these conditions. Subordinate A and Subordinate B were both fairly new when they reported to Miss Manager as well. Due to the massive breakdown in communication and lack of positive reinforcement they should have received from her, they became disillusioned and their performances reflected exactly how they felt: Lackluster. Their poor work was then blamed on I.M. who had no manager and no direction for the first few months of her employment (which only lasted a year anyway). Subordinate A and B trained I.M. because there was no one else available to do so. Yet Miss Manager and her boss scratched their heads and wondered what happened.

Why is that?

photo courtesy of jobschmob.com

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting





The resignation letter is complete and poised for submission Friday morning.

My, how time flies.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




The Commandments of Good Management

These are based on the principles of “All I really need I learned in kindergarten". Remember this little nugget? It’s a fundamental yet comprehensive list that really encompasses the important things. It really relates to more than just Kindergarten. These “commandments” can also serve you well in the workplace. Read on:

Share everything. Don’t keep your people in the dark. The more they know, the more they can contribute. If you hired them, you should be able to trust them. C’mon, we’re all adults here.

Play fair. Don’t allocate a ridiculous amount of work and then derail your staff or set them up for failure. Additionally, don’t ask your subordinates to do that which you yourself are not willing to do.

Don't hit people. Can you say lawsuit???

Put things back where you found them. Or better yet, when talking about things like confidence and self-esteem, don’t take those at all! Do what you can to build these things in the people that report to you; they’ll respect you for it!

Clean up your own mess. Don’t expect others to correct your mistakes or take the heat for it; act your age and take responsibility.

Don't take things that aren't yours. If your subordinate has a great idea, promote it! You’ll be praised for fostering bright and motivated workers.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. If you’re wrong, admit it. Trying to cover up mistakes only leads to lying and looking like a big jerk. Don’t let anyone else take the fall for it. Think of the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Wash your hands before you eat. This is basic hygiene, folks. Remember when you’re sick to take a sick day – no one wants your germs. Don’t be a martyr.

Flush. See “Clean up your own mess”.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. So is respect and positive reinforcement. Show respect where due and give positive reinforcement to foster a healthy team environment. People will thank you for it later.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. There’s more to life than work. Don’t expect your staff to be at the office till all hours every day. They deserve down-time. Burnt-out employees bring down productivity.

Take a nap every afternoon. If you can’t allow an afternoon siesta, at least be sure that your people have the opportunity to walk away for lunch. They should not be expected to work through it. There comes a time when you just need to step away in order to gain a fresh perspective. Enforce this.

When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Don’t throw your employees under the bus. Do for them and they’ll do for you. At least give them the benefit of the doubt.

Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Your people are only as good as you train them. Spend the time to mentor your staff and guide them along on their career. When they’re superstars, they’ll have you to thank.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. Like money, you can’t take your knowledge and experience to the grave, so share it!

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK. Appreciate and support the people that work for you. If they know you’re there for them and see what you do for them, you will gain immeasurable results from them.

photo courtesy of the nice folks at jobschmob.com

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Got Motivation?

This was part of my newsletter, but I thought I'd include it here (unfortunately without the cute guinea pig picture - which is viewable in the .pdf version of the newsletter).

Be what you want to see. In other words, lead by example. Don't ask your subordinates or colleagues that which you are not willing to do yourself.

Don't criticize management. Definitely not a way to motivate others.
People need to believe they're doing something for a bigger cause. If they see that cause as pointless, they will do less and morale will plummet.

Be present (do the one thing). This will at least give the illusion that you have things in order. Also, if subordinates see you spinning out of control, they will feel that you a: don't have time for them and/or b: cannot fully back them.

Know your people's strengths. Knowing what they're good at and capitalizing on it will not only make you look good, but will boost the team's morale.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Working Stiffs

A colleague of mine said to me today that our work environment is like a fraternity; the seniors haze the freshmen. When the freshmen move up, it’s then their turn to haze the new folks.

I’m not really sure why this occurs. But my friend was right – at least about our department. Fraternity cultures only breed more frat boys. It’s a shame. Management fails to see how this kills motivation and creativity.

Let me clarify when I say “haze”: I don’t mean that anyone gets whacked by a wooden paddle (or worse). The newcomers don’t even realize that they’re “pledges”. They think they’re just there to work – and they’re legitimately trying to make a good impression. However, by succumbing to the stupidity lent by their superiors, they’re allowing themselves in essence, to be hazed.

People need to realize when this happens to them so they can put a stop to it. Go back to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done to you.


photo used w/permission from the nice folks at jobschmob.com

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Every Second Counts

It’s a given that employees are paid for working an agreed-upon amount of time. The work hours are typically established before one begins a new job.

It’s a given as well that any time missed should be made up. If you come in a little late, stay a little late after hours. You guys know the drill. Do your best to be at work on time and work the allotted time. It also shows some amount of respect for your co-workers who show up and work when expected.

Now on the other hand, this monitoring of time can get out of hand very easily. If, for instance, your supervisor is the micromanager from hell (aka: Miss Manager) it will already be out of control.

You can only do your best with these people. Your (micro)manager’s ways are theirs, not yours. Don’t get nuts over it.

Be smart about your work time– do what you’re hired to do and give it everything you can.

*big thanks to the nice folks at jobschmob.com for letting me use their picture!

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




My Toastmasters Ice Breaker Speech

(Be warned - it's on the long side)

Many years ago when I was still in high school, my parents asked me what I wanted to do with my future. It’s a funny thing to ask any 16 yr-old as they don’t usually think much farther out than their Saturday night plans. But since I’d soon be looking at colleges and deciding on a course of study, it really wasn’t such an outrageous question.

So I thought about it. I turned to my mom and said, “Well, I don’t want to be a secretary.” That was her profession back in the days when they were still called secretaries. I thought about what my father did and I liked that idea better.

Dad was an advertising executive for Martin Paint (for those of you who remember the commercials, my dad wrote them). But more importantly, I liked the idea of what he did. Although he worked out of an office, he wasn’t chained to his desk most of the time. He went out to store openings, flew out of town to visit printers, went to fancy lunches with salespeople, wrote commercial copy and designed weekly circulars. How fun.

So my answer, however vague, encompassed some very definite points: I didn’t want to be chained to a desk. I didn’t want to work “conventional” hours like 9-5. I didn’t want to wear a suit – ever, and I really didn’t want to be told what to do.

It didn’t really help with the career choices, but as it got closer to my high school graduation date, I had to choose some kind of future for myself. So I chose to study Communications. It’s a broad enough area that you could really go in so many different directions with.

I started college and continued throughout my time there studying in the field of Communications. I learned various aspects of radio, television, PR, film, advertising and communication dynamics. As an English minor I covered as many writing disciplines as I could: fiction writing, screenwriting, playwriting and business writing.

When I graduated I still had no clear idea of what it was I’d do out in “the real world”. I worked in retail as I went on a number of interviews at a variety of companies.

After 9 months of searching, I finally found a job. I started at the bottom as an assistant. Then I moved on to other companies and gradually moved myself up the ladder. I did this for a good long while.

Then almost 2 years ago I woke up one day and realized I was increasingly unhappy with my job. I mean – Unhappy. So I decided to look for another job. 18 months and 200 resumes later I was still in the same place. It was pretty disheartening and I felt my situation getting desperate.

I did all the things I was supposed to when looking for a job. I networked my tail off in hopes of getting in the door somewhere else. It gained me a rolodex full of contacts. While it did get me the interviews, the craziest things were happening which prevented me from getting the offers. Most times companies wanted to hire from within. One time, I had an offer but I couldn’t take it (didn't pay enough) and another time I had an offer and then my future boss got “laid off”.

It was during this time that I got my real estate salesperson license in an effort to really just get out and do something else. I knew that I had to make the change happen.

But it was also during this job hunt period that I did some serious soul-searching. I asked myself what it was that I was really looking for – and would I find it elsewhere. The more I thought about it, the more I realized after 12 years of working in my industry, I didn’t want to sell my soul in order to continue my climb up the ladder. As it was, I saw so much that was wrong with management practices in general and I realized that I was no longer interested in being a part of it. What do you do with that?

When I stopped and asked myself that if there was anything that I could do with my future what it would be, I realized it contained the same criteria that I gave my parents back when I was 16 yrs old: I didn’t want to be chained to a desk, I didn’t want to work “conventional” hours, and while Ann Taylor changed my perspective on the suit-wearing thing, I didn’t want to dress corporate on a regular basis, and I knew for certain that I no longer wanted to be told what to do.

So it was around this time that I got involved with my college alumni society. My alma mater invited me to speak to Communication students about being in business. So I went. I spoke to the students and I realized something: Not only did I enjoy speaking and that I was good at it, but that I actually had something of value to say to someone else.

I left the event and had hundreds of ideas swimming around in my head. One of them was the idea of putting a seminar together for college students that would help answer their questions about their futures and the things they needed to do to move themselves forward. I developed a program and went back to the school with it. They enthusiastically embraced the idea and set a date for me to conduct this seminar.

Then I started thinking of all the other things I could do with this one idea and I knew that I was on to something bigger. As a matter of fact, I was on to a whole new career. For the last year now I’ve been developing this new business and bringing my ideas to fruition. I have a new company and a new direction. I’m even working on a book to go hand in hand with this idea.

So it’s funny that I never viewed myself as the entrepreneurial type, because as it happens, that’s exactly what I am – and it meets all my criteria for the perfect job.

So now if you asked me what it was I wanted to be when I grew up I’d tell you it’s this. I am who I wanted to be when I was 16.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Working for an Idiot Boss: In Pictures

This is your brain:

This is your brain after 8 hours of working for an Idiot Boss:

Any questions?

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Lead By Example

Just what exactly would happen if employees performed their job responsibilities based on their managers’ examples?

Let’s see…

If your Idiot Boss lacks self-confidence:
- Chances are you’d gang up on subordinates and coworkers then beat them to a pulp so that you could make yourself feel better.
- You’d find something wrong with anything/everything that anyone else did.

If your Idiot Boss doesn’t care:
- No amount of pleas from others will make you stop. As a matter of fact, you will probably have the support of your Idiot Manager and they will want you to continue this way.

If your Idiot Boss doesn’t experience negative consequences:
- As long as you have the backing of your Bully Boss, chances are that Inhuman Resources will back you too. After all, wolves travel in packs, right?

If your Idiot Boss is arrogant:
- Then you will only have them to battle with for the title of Worst Boss Ever.

If your Idiot Boss has psychological problems:
- Well, I suppose some of these can be learned from enough exposure in the “right” surroundings.

If your Idiot Boss is a micromanager:
- Then you too will scrutinize every email for correct comma placement, use of bullet points and font size.
- Status reports will become the norm so that you can know every move your subordinates make, even in and out of the restroom.

Come on, doesn’t this sound like the kind of manager you’d want to be? The good news is, there are plenty of mentors like this out in the corporate world. One only has to open their eyes to witness it firsthand at every turn. So sleep tight, following their examples could very easily get you promoted… just you wait and see!

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




The Age of IM

In an age of email, cell phones, Blackberrys and Instant Messaging, staying “connected” is paramount, particularly in business.

But let’s talk about Instant Messaging. IM is one of those neat little technological advances that helps keep people in touch with one another. When merely calling someone on the phone isn’t quick enough, one can count on IM. It’s easy enough to access, you can respond at your leisure, and it’s easy to end the conversations.

Many people and businesses rely heavily it. Of course, not everyone needs it. Many times it’s an easy way to say “hi” to a friend during the work day without the interruption of a phone call. It’s easy to use IM during business hours and makes it appear as though you’re working. But that’s neither here nor there.

The long and short of it is that everyone’s using it. While during the work day personal use should be kept to a minimum, it does help to get work done.

What I think is interesting is that in my department, IM is frowned upon. While everyone else in the company uses it as much as email, we poor schlubs get the beat-down for being caught on it. As a matter of fact, one of our goals is to be “mindful of the fact that Instant Messaging… be used only during pre-work, lunch or post-work hours.” Yeah.

Then the company goes and rolls out its own intra-office IM. What’s interesting about that is that those in power use it probably more than the rest of us. Hmmm…

So is IM the enemy or were the powers-that-be just looking to wield their might over those beneath them? I don’t get it.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




(Yet) Another Bad Boss Story

Several weeks ago, I asked for story submissions for Self-Helpless. Since everyone has a horror story, I asked my readers to share. This was one of the responses I had:

Dear Pied Piper,

My friend, IP Freely, asked me to forward these notes to you. Mind you, these are from IP's experience, not mine.

IP Freely Wrote: "My boss is a negative guy... but when I say Negative, I really mean Negative AND Malignant. For instance, one day he calls the I.R.-FREAKING-S. (yes, those guys who steal all that money from your paycheck). A woman answers the phone with what is clearly an African-American dialect. He asks for a specific department. The woman asks for his identifying information before transferring him, to log the call. He replies out of the blue, "Ma'am, I don't need your black attitude" and hangs up.

Separate incident: Boss announces to me a week before Thanksgiving that I'm leaving for Taiwan to babysit HIS customer (Note: I don't make any commission of this project, but he'll make a $40,000 profit from it next year), on December 3. I'm in Taiwan from the 3rd to the 7th.

While I'm on this trip, he bitches at me that I need to make travel plans for the following week to "start seeing some customers". He also tells me that I'm going to Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania at the end of February.

Now, courtesy to someone who is currently babysitting your customer might be to split the commission in some fashion, or to at least wait until he returns to the U.S. before pushing him into another exhausting week of international travel. Not from Skippy the Wonder Heeb.

So, to recap: Week of 11/28 - 12/2, I'm in Michigan and Ohio for 3 days. Get back Thursday night, spend Friday in the office. Fly out on Saturday, babysit his customer for a week and fly back the following Saturday. Get to the office for Monday and Tuesday, fly to Chicago for a trip Wednesday through Friday. Then, I STILL get the, "You-need-to-be-on-the-road-more-meeting-customers-otherwise-you'll-never-make-any-money" routine.

Cynical Employee IP Freely says: "Hmmm... don't you think if I wasn't wasting a week babysitting your customer and NOT making any money on that, might bear an opportunity cost that keeps me from meeting new customers and growing my business?" Oh, and I get treated like a cheap whore of a secretary at the same time.

While he's sitting on the phone chatting with his buddies about town politics, an email will come in from his 2nd biggest customer. "IP Freely, forward that email to this guy, this guy, this guy and this guy. Then enter it in the quote log." (Incidentally, he doesn't know how to use the quotelog, so I generally skip that step.)

So when IP Freely finds a new job (he has), his boss will consider it the ultimate betrayal (which may or may not be the case, I don't know - Pied Piper).

Anyway, that's IP's thoughts. Talk to you later, good luck sticking it to the Man.


Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Don't Kill Creativity!!!

When I leave my job next month, I'll be leaving behind all the nonsense, anger, hurt and stomach acid that this placed caused me. Additionally, I'll be leaving behind 2 very bright individuals who will need to take the wheel and steer the ship. Both were hired (almost on the same day) because of their backgrounds and experience and because they both struck me as smart tacks that could get this job done. Granted, the job isn't rocket science, but - as with most jobs, there needs to be a certain amount of ambition and drive to go beyond what is expected. This is how people succeed and move forward in their careers. At least it's one way to do that.

Since the time my 2 underlings began 3 short months ago, they have demonstrated a strong ability to pick things up quickly and execute them. I trained them and gave them highly detailed "How-To" sheets and let them run with them. Now that they've got the basics down, they're looking to "step up to the plate" and pick up some more responsibilities. I'm very proud of them.

They will do well when I go and I have every reason to believe that they will succeed... provided Miss Manager allows them to. This gets me to what I want to talk about today: Letting Go.

Although what happens when I go is completely beyond my control, I still hope that my bat-$#@%-crazy manager trusts them to do their jobs and stays out of their way. Of course, given her track record I don't think this is likely.

Good managers allow their staff a certain amount of freedom to go about fulfilling their responsibilities. For starters, it's empowering and builds self-esteem. When people feel good about their jobs they become motivated. Just a note: YOU WANT MOTIVATED EMPLOYEES!!!

Aside from that, if you allow your staff that freedom it gives them the chance to be creative. Suppose they come up with a better, more effecient way of doing something? In my book, if your staff can accomplish tasks like this, it's going to make YOU, the manager, look like a superstar.

Another note: Mistakes are not the enemy! Sometimes mistakes can be good - smart people learn from them. But again, doing things "differently" keeps the creativity alive and can keep business thriving. You have to allow some room for it.

Getting back to Miss Manager, this is my prediction: She's going to:

- Stifle any and all motivation and creativity my employees currently bring to the table

- Correct their emails for punctuation

- Nit-pick about formatting issues on reports ("No, I want it in BOLD and 10point Verdana!!!")

- Belittle them for any/every little mistake

- Watch their comings-and-goings while keeping a keen eye on the clock ("You were 5 minutes late today, I want to know how you're going to make that up.")

- Set them up for failure

- Falsely accuse of them of performing poorly

- Make their lives a living hell

This is not "Good Manager" behavior. This is (Very) "Bad Manager" behavior. This is Miss Manager behavior.

Don't be a Miss Manager.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Vicious Cycle

Some people say the way to appease a micromanager is to keep them informed of all goings-on at all times.

Let me tell you what happens with Miss Manager:

I copy her on all email correspondences. I do this in an effort to keep her "informed". You know what happens then? Two minutes after I send any email out (and this happens ALOT), she'll call and say, "Well what you should have said was this..." OR "you should have said it this way", OR "I would have said...".

So THEN I get into a cycle of telling her what I'm going to send and then sending it to HER first so that she can "proof" it (or format the hell out of it, put bullet points in it, bold/color font, etc).

Then that STILL does not guarantee that she won't call with "suggestions". As a matter of fact, it gives her an opportunity to judge me further, pick my CORRECT work apart and trample all over my self-esteem.

And then on the rare occasion that I do answer an email and don't copy her - like if it's a ridiculous question that doesn't warrant cc'ing the whole planet - she has a way of finding out and then ripping me a new one about it.

The moral to this story is - you CANNOT cure a micromanager, nor can you appease them. Telling them everything that you do only starts a vicious cycle.

So stop the insanity and back away from the email! They need to get over themselves and grab some self-esteem... THEIR OWN!!!

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Your Life or Your Career?

It’s a given that starting out in any professional career means having to pay your dues in order to move up the ladder. But how high are those dues now?

After working for 12 years in my industry, I’m expected to work longer hours (and consistently so) than before. It goes without saying that you need to be willing and flexible when your sights are on that nice promotion. Even still, if there’s no promotion in your immediate future, of course it would probably help to work a little extra here and there. Maybe volunteer for a new project in addition to your daily workload.

But it gets to a point where you need to stop and ask yourself what you’re really doing it for. In my situation – and I hardly think I’m alone on this one – I’ve gone almost 6 whole years without a promotion and yet my hours got longer and longer and steadily so for a good chunk of that time.

So I took a look at my situation and asked myself just what exactly it was that I was doing. And I had no good answer. I was wasting what I saw as valuable time – and my partying years. Partying aside, I had no life during the work week. Just what would I have done if I had a family? I realized that I was losing time to do things for myself that I wanted to do. It wasn’t the life that I envisioned for myself.

I’m not a doctor or a lawyer or an investment banker where the money is rolling in. I’m your average working Jane, working for a decent salary, but I’m far from wealthy.

So folks, I’m more or less throwing this question out into the cosmos; Why do we have to do this? How many out there are happy slaving at the offices for ridiculous amounts of time that they will probably never get back?

I heard something recently that I thought was interesting. I wish I could remember where it was that I heard it. Back in the earlier part of the 20th century, people speculated that because of all the technological advances occurring, it would cut production time/work time into a fraction of what it was then (and they were basing that on an 8-hour work day). They said that in another 80 years or something people would only have a 2-hour workday (or something silly like that). So why is it that with all of these wonderful advances we’re working longer and harder rather than smarter?

Just something I’m tossing out there.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Performance Review Etiquette

The whole point of the review is to sum up your job performance from the previous year. Sounds like a simple idea, but for some reason it gets turned inside-out so easily.

This is a good opportunity for our supervisors to make or break us. Unfortunately, there are just so many of those individuals out there that are out to cut others down. I never understood why treating others this way makes these people feel better. If that was me, I’d have night terrors over it until I reconciled the wrongs.

I certainly don’t think I’m naïve and I certainly don’t think I’m “righteous”. In this situation I’m just “right”.

Yesterday I had my yearly review. While it was an improvement over last year’s, it still contained unwarranted and incorrect comments about my performance. Many of the remarks were just not based in reality. Sadly, though I can prove I’m right, Inhuman Resources will just not accept it. So I have to live with more marks against my good name in this business.

In a way it’s amazing. I was discussing my review with my significant other and commenting that while my bat-$#@%-crazy manager’s remarks started off “positive”, they all ended up with an under-handed insult. Each one of them. It’s almost an art; a lot of thought had to go into that.

It was my LAST review in corporate America. I may bring it up again in another post for humorous impact, but I’ve otherwise let the insults go. It’s just not worth it, I’m better than that.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Who Doesn't Love a Quitter?

A friend of mine at my company tendered his resignation on Monday after 10 years of employment. He gave them 1 week's notice saying that he couldn't stomach another 2. He stated plainly, but briefly, his reasons for leaving. My hero. *sigh*

Since yesterday's blog was lengthy, I figured I'd keep this one short. Before you folks leave, be sure to check out this article on Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know . I read it earlier. Interesting stuff.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?