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



Icksnay on the egativityNay

One of the greatest things I ever heard while working in an office was, “Don’t be drawn into the negativity”.

This is what this says to me: “We know we’ve done some reprehensible things to people in this department. Even though these people didn’t deserve to be treated so unfairly (and really, who does?), you should not feel sorry for them. As a matter of fact, you shouldn't feel anything at all. Come see us for pointers, we're experts at it.”

It’s one thing to say “Don’t gossip”. But it’s another when something shameful happens, rather publicly I might add, to an individual and you’re told to look the other way. This isn’t just about “keeping your nose clean”. This is like the German civilians looking the other way while the Nazis slaughtered millions of innocent people. Ok, so it’s not as dramatic – but you get my point, right? What would you think of your boss if you knew they screwed over an innocent co-worker or subordinate? Even if you kept quiet about it, I’m thinking you’d probably not have any nice thoughts about them in your mind.

So in this type of scenario: How would you stay away from the negativity? I mean, you could be next!




Self-Helpless Hits 100 Posts!!!

That's right folks, today marks the 100th post on this blog.

For the last eight months you've joined me on my journey to quit my last "corporate" job into self employment/entreprenership.

There have been idiot bossses that produced stupidity in mass quantities whether we needed it or not and we fought back as a result. Those of you who have, you know who you are. You continue to be my heroes, the wind beneath my wings.

For everyone else out there still in hell, I mean, working for bad management, there is a solution: Quit or get fired. Unless of course, there's a chance your boss will quit or get fired first.

Continue to visit and keep reading. I don't have any answers or nonviolent suggestions, but hopefully you'll enjoy my musings.

By the way, for those of you who aren't aware... Self-Helpless: The Book, is almost finished! Completion is scheduled for July 31st. If all goes well, I could have a book in print for the fall. Also... the book needs a title. So far nothing has grabbed me. If you have suggestions, please submit them - my only requirement is that they need to have SELF-HELPLESS in the title.

If any of you want me to include your stories, now is the time to speak up!!! My stories run parallel with yours, so they should be considered together.

Let me know. Until then, I thank you once again for support.




Your Knee-Jerk Reaction Might Be Kicking You

I just read this article on careerbuilder.com called “When You Love Your Job But Hate Your Boss”.

In it, it says that a recent Gallup poll of 1 million workers revealed that the most common reason employees leave a company relates to a stressful or problematic relationship with their immediate supervisors. No real surprise there, right?

(On a sidebar, most supervisors believe that employees leave because they don’t see themselves as adequately paid for their positions… not because it has anything to do with them… COME ON FOLKS!)

So anyway, this article goes on to say that MANY people that leave their job due to this type of situation end up REGRETTING their decision. Now, if you read the article it gets into the “things to do if you don’t want to leave your job”.

In my opinion, the most important thing to do is take a step back and really look at your situation. What’s really going on at the office? Everyone has rough times at work. There’s always times where you and the boss clash, or a problem comes up with a project, or a coworker or whatever, who knows. For the most part, people know when the job is no longer redeemable. And frankly, I can’t think of ONE person who regretted leaving their job because of a bad boss. Every person I know that left for that reason (and sadly, that’s a lot of people) is much better off in their new job.

The article needs to stress that it’s the knee-jerk reaction to quit the job that you should avoid. It would be silly to up and quit your job over one disagreement. If it’s possible, try other routes around the boss. Show how good you are to the boss’s boss and the company. This could help you. It might not, but if you like the job, you owe it to yourself to give it that shot.

Don’t do what Albert Breneman did in Hitch to score points with a woman. For those of you who didn't see it, he quit abruptly during a board meeting when his boss argued with him to stay in line. Funny movie, but don’t do that in real life. Remember that your actions have consequences.




What Are You Trying To Say?

One of the biggest reasons managers fail is because they’re lousy communicators. These people will never rise to the level of a true leader.

Good leaders are individuals who know how to communicate. They are able to work with their employees to drive results. Part of what makes them a leader is the ability to listen. A manager that listens will hear the “true” meaning behind comments and adapt to them appropriately. Just as subordinates need to know what kinds of managers they have in order to provide them with what they need, leaders need to do this for their employees. If the employees have what they need, whether that’s the necessary tools to do their job, motivation, or whatever, they will want to do that much more if they feel valued.

So stop and ask yourself if your message is conveyed clearly to your staff. Is what you’re saying the same as what your people are hearing? Are you listening to them? Step beyond the boundaries of your office walls and actually interact with your team. Be open to their ideas and suggestions.

In addition to communicating with your team, know how to communicate with other departments. Listen to them too. Succeeding in business is all about forging alliances. However, in order to do this, you need to know how to talk to people!

One time I sat in a meeting with my supervisor and a director from a different department. We sat in the director’s office waiting for members of his team to arrive. My supervisor charged forward on her mission. The other director asked her to wait another minute until the others arrived. She paused for him to speak and then continued right where she left off, completely ignoring his remark. So when 5 minutes later he ushered her out of his office she wondered why he was “so rude” to her. I mean, REALLY.

Communicate, folks. If you’re in a management position and you deal with people you’re going to need this skill, I promise.




Say "Thank You"

“Who raised you?” is a question I always wanted to ask my manager. After 12 years in corporate America I got tired of people being mean. There’s just no need for it.

I live in the New York City area. Yesterday I met two very nice ladies from Seattle, Washington. They commented on the number of friendly New Yorkers they encountered. It’s a misconception, I believe, that New Yorkers are nasty. We smile, we joke, and we help tourists on the subways. That's how we roll.

This is not the case in business. Once upon a time I had a nice career. Toward the end of my tenure things changed. The atmosphere went from kind and nurturing to back stabbing and nail biting.

One of the factors that contributed to this feeling was one of antipathy from upper powers-that-be. If I was expected to perform certain tasks and I did them, it would have been nice every so often to get a “Thank you”. Or if I developed a new system of doing things or a new report to track data. None of these were taken seriously. If anything it was, "mmm hmmm, that's nice".

I know I'm not alone in that. There are employees everywhere that feel unappreciated. Now let me tell you how much information is out there about motivation in the workplace. There are gazillions of books on the topic of how to jump-start the team and get them onboard to work that much harder. Here’s a free tip: SAY THANK YOU. It won’t cost the manager or the company anything to say this to their employees – particularly when warranted. If you want the behavior to continue, you have to reinforce it. How hard is that?

Didn’t your mother tell you to say “Thank you” when someone did something nice for you like help you on a project that made you look like a superstar? Or help you to sort files so you didn’t have to be in the office by yourself till 10 o’clock at night?

Make Mom proud. Just say “Thanks” to the people that help you do your job.





a.k.a. Being Cheeky

Of all the topics out there related to what I do, I’ve almost completely overlooked this one. Let’s take a look at insubordination.

What is it? "Insubordination may be described as resistance to or defiance of authority, disobedience, refusal or failure to obey reasonable and lawful instructions, insolence, cheekiness, rudeness, brining the employer’s name into disrepute, and rebellious or mutinous behavior resulting in an actual work stoppage." (As a sidebar, I really like their use of “cheekiness”… he was a rather “cheeky” fellow… c'mon, this definition was from a South African site)

So what is it really? Every instance I’ve read about maintains that it is an employee’s willful disregard of an employer’s directive. It is also suggested that “inappropriate” language may sometimes (ahem) accompany the insubordinate behavior.

At Itssimple.biz, they caution: In cases of abusive language, consider the context in which the incident occurred. An employee is more likely to be found to have engaged in insubordination if the abusive language:

- was not provoked by the supervisor
- was spoken in the presence of other employees or customers
- was not an example of shop talk in the workplace

So how is it OK for a supervisor to provoke an outburst in an employee but then write that employee up for insubordination? What I’m getting at here, bottom-line, is that something needs to be done about this. If employees need to watch their p’s and q’s with management, why is it ok for management to walk all over their employees? How very cheeky of them.

Then when the employees approach HR for support, HR hangs them out to dry and frankly, the employee has no other good option but to find a job elsewhere. Something needs to be done about this. I understand that life isn’t fair, but I just hear way too many instances of these things happening.




Researcher says bullied workers need outlet for workplace grievances

Cheers to another genius.

I have the perfect solution: the back of my hand meeting the side of my bat-$#@%-crazy manager's head. Repeatedly.

This does not mean in any way that I condone workplace violence. That would just create a nasty cycle. It's unnecessary.

I use the hand-smack as an example of a solution that would work for many people. It would work for people because there just aren't many other good solutions in place for the benefit of bullied workers. Inhuman Resources is not there for the employees (in many cases anyhow).

Let's see what other options there are... aside from filing a formal grievance with HR (which as I mentioned isn't likely to go over well), there aren't many choices that will alleviate the toxic situation for the employee. There's always the option to hire a lawyer and sue, although most people probably won't do that.

Then there's quitting the job, which seems to offer the best solution. It's the best solution because the bully boss will not likely change anytime in the foreseeable future. Also, it takes the bullied worker out of the dangerous environment. So now the stress-related health issues that developed during the last job can now be healed since going to the gym for stress-releasing workouts didn't offer Mace-Handling 101 as an aerobic activity.




Bullies Hurt Business

I mean really, you’d think that this was a no-brainer. However, I found this quote that says research shows how bullied employees are not engaged 100% in their work.

Additionally, they treat customers poorly and spend a lot of time complaining about their boss. Aside from the fact that people need to research things that we DON’T already know, this is just ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because WHAT DO YOU EXPECT? Who really expects positive results from bullying their employees?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m called worthless and incompetent it makes me take pride in my company and what I do. Duh.




Cheered by the Busload

It happened time and again that I would have terrifying dreams about work. Especially in my last job.

Last night however, I had a dream that I was sitting on a bench at a bus stop. It was a warm sunny day. There was someone to my right who I didn’t know. Then a woman approached and sat on the end of the bench next to this other person. It was Chief You’re Stupid from my last job (the bat-$#%@-crazy manager’s manager).

At that point a yellow school bus pulled up to the bus stop. The driver opened the door and people started to hang out of the bus and out of the windows. They were people I’d worked with over the past several years at my last job. It took me a moment to notice that they were cheering loudly. It took me another moment to realize that they were cheering for me. This busload of former colleagues was fully behind me and supportive. They were ecstatic.

It made me feel wonderful.

Then I looked to the right to see if the Chief was still there and she was… looking the other way. Not once did she acknowledge this boisterous crowd cheering me on. How typical. But you know, it was okay. Her opinion never mattered to me anyway. I just thought the dream was cool.




Advice for the College Grad

It's that time of year: Graduation.

To the grad: Congrats! You're on your way to the start of what will hopefully be a lucrative career. Before you go anywhere, there are some things you need to know. Actually, there are A LOT of things to know, but most of them you'll figure out along the way.

Finding your first job may seem like the biggest challenge you face, but it isn't. In some cases, even though it may take months before you land your first gig, the real test comes during your first few months at the office. The most obvious piece of advice I could offer is lay low. Do your job well, but keep a low profile until you know the lay of the land. Use this time to learn how things operate in a corporate environment. Even then, learning the job is just the basics.

It's unfortunate, but you'll run into lousy people along the way and face many trials that test your sanity. Yes, I'm cynical... but I'm also being realistic. Sometimes it's not enough (nor is it okay) to use common sense; there will be others (possibly your boss) who will not do so. So be prepared for this.

Work is not like school. If you're the best in your class at school you can literally come out on top. Work is the polar opposite: You can be the best at what you do and be despised and punished for your acumen. Tread carefully.

Even when you know the lay of the land, the terrain can shift at a moment's notice. It's important to be flexible enough to roll with the punches. It's also important to know when you've had enough and need to bail. When you're young you can move around a bit to find that good fit. As long as you know that that "good fit" is rare.




Return of the Workplace Bully: Thank you Mr. Expert

It’s interesting how the “experts” say that bullies at work project their shortcomings and inadequacies upon their victim. Each time a bully does this, they in short, reveal tidbits about themselves.

You know, this is all fine and good. However, if I’m getting ripped a “new one” by my boss (especially by my boss), I’m not allowing for a moment to celebrate the fact that I now know something about them that I probably already knew: THEY’RE BAT-$#@%-CRAZY!!! I don’t need some expert telling me that this person is incompetent, stupid, self-obsessed, a moron… whatever, you get the point.

Thank you Mr. Expert. Tell me something I DON’T already know.




Who's a Slacker?

I had dinner last night with 2 fellow alumni from my alma mater (good 'ol University of Scranton). The 3 of us graduated several years apart from each other. The conversation turned to experiences with coworkers, specifically with subordinates. The things my friends revealed really surprised me; I had lived so far on one end of the spectrum in corporate management hell, getting eaten alive by superiors that it never really occurred to me what it would be like to have really BAD employees.

I consider myself a seasoned manager. Over the course of my career I had hired - and fired - people. But the cases my friends presented were quite different. They both had experiences where individuals that reported to them either directly or indirectly were not even CLOSE to being in the same ballpark with self-starter-type people. Now I'm not sure they had a hand in hiring these underlings or not, but SOMEONE had to hire them.

There is a wave of "new meat" in the workforce who are not motivated to work. Sometimes a job is just a job, but if it's a job in an industry where you want to make a name for yourself you cannot sit on the internet and chat on IM all day (you may want to but it's really not a good idea - these are the people that my former bat-$#@%-crazy manager should be terrorizing!!!)! I can't begin to tell you how this distresses me. People will not do something unless they are told to - it's like they have no mind of their own and need to have their hand held.

So the big question is (that I hope someone will have a comment on): Are we being infiltrated by a generation of slackers?

This is kinda funny, check this article out: Sycophantus Maximus


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