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



Once In a While, You Need to LOOK at Your Employees

Maintaining good eye contact is key to building trust and confidence with those you speak to. Communication is not done merely with words. People speak largely through non-verbal ways such as with their eyes.

One time I had a manager who almost never made eye contact. This particular individual was so visibly uncomfortable around other people it became laughable. At the same time, it was not easy to be around this person. Others, myself included, began to think that there was something really wrong with this guy. You know, there may be, it’s not for me to judge. However, my instincts were correct to question this individual’s motives.

When you hear that a person lying will avoid making eye contact, believe it because it’s definitely true. There’s also the belief that making little eye contact can say that the other person doesn’t like you. With this particular boss I had, that was definitely the case… although he probably didn’t like anyone else either because he rarely acknowledged others with his eyes. Weirdo. How does someone like this get to be in charge of people???

Wanna hear something good? Persistent eye contact is seen as an aggressive act. Funny, when I got written up by this manager, I looked directly at him and questioned the (false) charges. Although he refused to look at me, I continued to stare at him in hopes of getting his attention. Interesting… you write me up on a bull**** (read: made up) offense and then you proceed to ignore me during the meeting with Inhuman Resources. So, was he lying, being antisocial, or just an ill-mannered jerk?

You know, researchers also say that people that have trouble making eye contact also have problems making friends. Well I hope this guy is happy sitting home alone at nights and painting his Civil War miniature soldiers.

Good riddance!




A Hard Act to Follow

My father used to tell me that bosses sometimes did ridiculous things because of their egos. My general feeling on that is it’s OK to “act up” on occasion if the genius juices are flowing and the individual truly is great at what they do. Plus, as far as my experience goes, many of these people still keep an eye on their employees and take care of them. These are generally the people that preach – and live – the “work hard, play hard” motto.

However, to this day I have yet to bear witness to the rhyme and reason behind a manager’s antics. I’ve seen lots of acting up, but little evidence of brains behind the act. Poor me, I know.

I worked for several years in a sales capacity. As I’m sure you’re aware, different organizations take different approaches to sell their product or brand. One of the most interesting acts I caught along the way was one by a very bright (and well dressed) man who managed a group of account executives.

What I witnessed was no less than the most appalling display of ego imaginable. What’s even more amazing is that I was present, as was everyone else from the office, in a weekly sales meeting where the manager proceeding to pick on an account executive. He picked and picked so brutally that it was embarrassing for me to sit and watch. I know others were uncomfortable, however less sensitive to it since they had been exposed to this person’s behavior for some time. Eventually, the victim of the abuse broke down and cried. Right there, in the middle of the conference room.

I’m certainly not suggesting that this kind of behavior is acceptable, but really, if you need to admonish a subordinate – or anyone – please be sure to do so behind closed doors with only the applicable party present. Nobody needs to witness that, let alone deserves being on the receiving end of that.




Management is a People-Based Liberal Art

Peter Drucker, who is known as the “father of modern management”, commented on his long life before he passed away at the age of 95. Summing it up, he said that he “looked at people, not buildings or machines.” The man was an innovator and widely respected as the authority on management.

So how is it that corporate practices have strayed so far from his idea? In theory, more rules and laws and company handbooks scrutinize every angle by which people are accountable to the company they work for and in turn, the things the company may and may not do to the employee. But this is hardly the case. Companies don't really look at employees, they look at bottom lines.

There are many aspects to business that remind me of days years back, when I contemplated pursuing a career in the music industry. I was a hardcore music fanatic and worked at my college radio station as Music Director for almost four years. At the very end when I needed to make up my mind I decided against taking an offer to work at a record label because the business struck me as unseemly. If I only knew what I was getting into on the “proper” end by accepting an office, a suit and a determination to survive.

Well let me tell you something: “proper” boils down to what each individual’s threshold for pain is. One man’s poison is another man’s fodder. At this point I’ll never know what would have been working at a label. I do know that what may seem the “proper” path to take, may not be proper at all.

Just an observation.




When the Boss Trashes Their Employees

It's one thing for a manager to feel that a member of their team is not ready for a promotion. It's quite another to for that manager to laugh at that same employee's desire to try. Yet I've witnessed this. I'm not quite sure why it happens or even why the manager thinks it's okay to do this in front of other subordinates, but there you go.

This is one of those many instances where you scratch your head in wonder over how such an individual has gotten to where they are. It was probably a combination of being in the right place at the right time and they actually did their job well enough to be noticed. Of course, neither scenario takes into consideration whether or not that person actually possesses people skills and can lead others into battle, or well, just help them on their climb up the ladder.




When the Boss is a Coward

There are many unpleasant things we endure when we work for someone else. Of course, there is the rare occasion where we actually like our jobs and our bosses, but for the most part, people either simply put up with it or are flat-out miserable.

Most times, you know what kind of person you’re dealing with when it comes to your boss. If you’ve been in your job long enough, you know who your boss is and the things that make them tick.

If you’re lucky, your boss is a good, intelligent, and wise leader. They’ll be upfront about your strengths and weaknesses and let you know where you stand almost all of the time.

If you’re unlucky you won’t see any of that. You’ll constantly be in the dark about what’s happening, what your boss is doing and even what it is you’re supposed to be doing.

But the *truly* unlucky are people such as myself, who have had bosses that possess a natural look of a deer in headlights. If there is such a thing as a “natural” look as this, these people have it.

Here’s an example of what I mean by this: you were given a project that’s been changed over and over so that you no longer have any idea what the objective is. On top of that, you’re being criticized and you don’t know why since you’re only following the last set of orders given. Then, to rub salt in the wound, when the boss berates you and you ask why, they say NOTHING.

A good boss will tell you the answer. A bad boss will lie to your face. The ultimate in Idiot Bosses will simply stare at you. No words, no nothing. Just a blank stare. There’s no other way to send the signal of “we don’t want you here” than by not giving any response when one is requested.

In my book, this is cowardice. If you don’t like the job that I’m doing, it is your responsibility as my manager to tell me so that I can fix it. If you tell me nothing it makes you a bad boss with no spine.

Go find a book. Read it to get a clue then steal the spine and attach it to your back. It may be temporary, but you’ll get the feel for what having one is really like.




Why We Don't Like Our Bosses

Here’s another article I found on Careerbuilder.com. It’s called Top 10 Reasons Why They Don't Like You at Work. The same reasons that Kate Lorenz gives here for not liking a coworker are the same reasons that many people don’t like their bosses. So bosses: Pay Attention.

"The sky isn't really blue -- it's actually cyan" Yeah, nobody cares what font your emails are in or what size or what color. Granted, messages should be conveyed in a clear manner, but they also need to be done concisely. If you write a 5 page diatribe on a new procedure instructing people to merely hit “reply”, they’ll never read it. Or if they read it, they’ll print up copies and poke fun at your use of BOLD, ITALICS, CAPS, and color. Trust me, people do this.

Chains of Love. Well, it certainly isn’t love for your employees, that much I can tell you. Your chains of love bind yourself so tightly that you will take down anyone that you find oin the least bit threatening or talented. Let the love flow… hug it out.

Workaholic Wannabe. You know how to work hard, but you don’t know how to work smart. In turn, you expect your employees to be the same way. It doesn’t have to be this way… there is usually a better, SMARTER, way of doing things. Learn them.

People Magazine Office Edition. You fall very easily into the trap of office politics. Since you have no mind of your own, you let others decide the fate of those that are under your wing. You sacrifice them up like lambs for the slaughter whether they deserve it or not. It’s nice that you’re so giving and selfless that way. Bravo. Not.

Devil's Advocate. You will find something wrong with every idea that someone approaches you with. It could be because, “It’s always been done this way” is why. I mean, who needs any other reason, right?

Yadda-yadda-yadda. Do you have to explain things several times to others before they understand what you’re telling them? Yeah, learn how to speak clearly so that others know what you want. It’s great that you understand your instructions, but if others don’t, you will never get what you need.

You gotta see the ba-a-aby! Yeah, hearing about your personal life is great, but for the most part, we don’t care. If you were good at anything else, we might care, but that’s not the case, so we don’t.

What's that on your nose? We get it, you’re an a**-kisser. But just once we’d like to see you make a decision on your own. Stop running to someone else to get permission for the most trivial issues that you should have the answers to. It makes you look weak to your staff. Trust me.

These are just some of the reasons that your staff might not look up to you the way you’d like. Think twice about how you are in the office and how others might perceive you. Because of office politics, it DOES matter what others think of you. It doesn’t make it right, but, if you’re in a position of even SOME power, make sure you’re using it the right way.




One Man’s Poison is Another Man’s Boon?

I love Careerbuilder.com. They inspire me. For instance, They published an article titled, “10 Ways to Poison Your Career”. When I read this I thought that these were the exact reasons I didn’t like my former bosses. Let’s see...

1. Possessing Poor People Skills. Yup, they had none.

2. Not Being a Team Player. You mean they were actually ON a team???

3. Missing Deadlines. This one should read, “Changing deadlines as we see fit, with no rhyme or reason”.

4. Conducting Personal Business on Company Time. Hell-o? Devil Wears Prada…

5. Isolating Yourself. Again, see #2. These people are about themselves only.

6. Starting an Office Romance. This one isn’t applicable. In order to have a romance, one would have to have a heart, which I never saw evidence of.

7. Fearing Risk or Failure. Yes, the insecure ones will do what they can to hold their talented employees back and damage their reputation.

8. Having No Goals. Sure, they have goals. Terrorizing their staff is a big job, you know.

9. Neglecting Your Image. They don’t have to worry about their image, these people are usually the most protected ones at a company.

10. Being Indiscreet. Yeah, when information gets back to employees about trash the boss was saying about them… I’d say that was indiscreet.

So, while these are things you should avoid when working in an office environment, beware that this kind of behavior not only exists in management, it is many times rewarded.

One of these days I’ll actually figure out WHY.




You Know You’re a Micromanager if…

You quibble over the use of parentheses in a document.

If the work is correct and looks presentable, that is all that should matter. Be happy that you have employees that can do the job right.

Let me tell you what happens when you nit-pick over ridiculous issues like the placement of parentheses: It DE-MOTIVATES your staff!!! Ask yourself how truly important it is where commas and other punctuation marks go. Especially if you’ve hand-picked your people, you should know if they have half a brain. Give them the benefit of the doubt. If you need parentheses in a document, tell them ONCE where they belong and let it go. Give your people the opportunity to do it that way the next time.

Unless you work in the publishing field where correct grammar is paramount, these little things should never make or break a person. In this fast-paced business environment, people seek information in a concise, neat little package. NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE DAMN PARENTHESES. Let it go.

Stop and ask yourself another question: WHY do you manage this way? Go out on a limb and foster bright and motivated workers. If for nothing else, put yourself in their shoes: Would you want to be treated like a child? How would you react if this was done to you? Even if it is happening to you, it does NOT make it okay to do to someone else.

True, you need to be respected and need to be tough in some circumstances, but be human too.




The Boss Can Do No Wrong

People that have double standards are weak.

“Do as I say, not as I do” is bollocks. To be credible, you need to put your money where your mouth is. Employees that mimic your behavior are in a way trying to emulate you; good, bad, or indifferent. If you do something, people get the message that it’s OK for them to do it too.

Apparently this isn’t the case when it comes to gossip. I don’t mean just office gossip, I mean personal gossip. Some managers I once knew whispered things about a certain employee’s personal life. Personal life, meaning - LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE OFFICE.

No good deed goes unpunished. One of these managers caught wind of something said about their personal life. I don’t know whether it was true or not, but they had closed-door meetings with those suspected of spreading the gossip. I don’t know whether those suspected were guilty or not either. I just know that the employee originally gossiped about was rendered powerless against management’s attacks.

It’s interesting how it was okay for this person to mouth off about their employees, but they get all shocked and shaken when someone talks about them. Seems only right to me.

Hey, what comes ‘round, goes ‘round, no? Everyone gets a turn.


Time and Again, Idiocy is Rewarded

It never ceases to amaze me how the biggest dolts get promoted over the hardest workers. It just goes to show that politics is everything in Corporate America. The funny thing is (and I don't mean funny ha-ha, but more like cosmically ha-ha), there is a specific case I just heard of someone getting promoted. This is an individual who is a known troublemaker. In the process of this person getting promoted, someone lower on the food chain got duped.

In certain organizations where there appear to be so many "good" things in place, these seemingly uncharacteristic moves happen. I'm not sure I'll ever understand why this is, or how this is good for business. This couldn't be good for business. It certainly couldn't be good for morale.

I hang my head and shake it in disgust.


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