Boss Hating and Reader Baiting

Businessman sitting in office with laptop looking unhappy

Don’t mean to be a grump but I ran across a post on BNET that seemed to feature cheap “baiting” tactics — 10 Books Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Read. Horrors, the boss is holding back information that could change my life for the better? That no good…

I said to myself, “But it’s BNET, so how ‘baity’ could it be?”

Well, I found out.

The books turned out to be:

21 Dirty Tricks at Work
The Peter Principle
How to Lie With Statistics
Crazy Bosses
Cubicle Warfare
Made Poorly in China
The Good Old Days —They Were Terrible
Ask The Headhunter
The Gospels
The Dilbert Principle

So it’s obvious, read these books and you’ll instantly understand that you are the victim of a conspiracy and the only alternative is to gather strategies from the pages within and fight back against the evildoers!

The post states:

“Some of these books reveal the corporate underbelly or explain how to get ahead without your manager’s blessing. Others encourage behaviors that, while fun and profitiable for you, are guaranteed to drive your manager batty.

Click on the “NEXT” button above, to browse our library of highly subversive business books.”

Drive your manager “batty?” So, we need “highly subversive business books?”

I don’t know if the author, Geoffrey James, is serious or not, but the comments received on the post indicate that the rank and file folks who read it seem to be.

This is the wrong way to go
To me, this whole train of thought misdirects the attention from where it should be.

Dirty tricks, cubicle warfare, how to channel the misdeeds of “crazy bosses” into benefits for yourself? Is this the road you want to go down?

Yes, there are bad bosses and bad places to work. However, in the majority of cases, you’ll find decent human beings and average-to-good (or trying to be) workplaces across America, where people are trying to do the right thing but are facing challenges that they haven’t been adequately trained to handle. Thus, this kind of article really serves the interest of only a slight fraction of workers, and only perpetuates the mistrust of management.

People at all levels generally need work on their communication skills and have a desire to use them. Then we see good things happen.

Blogs run these kind of “bait” posts for their own purposes, to get “buzz” and drive traffic to their sites. Any possible value to the reader is a distant second in motivation.

In my opinion, the “battle” has always been between the ears — yours and mine. We are now, have always been and always will be in total control of our career and success. Only when we succumb to believing that the boss and the “system” is against us, do we give up that power.

A better approach
Here are five things any worker should do to create the best possible situation for themselves and their employer:

1. Learn to communicate effectively. Read books, take courses, and become a master of how to reach and be reached.

2. Be the best you can be in your job, your division, your unit, etc. Over-deliver for your employer. Don’t screw around and waste time. Be useful to others. Stretch your limits — a job description is a guideline, not a firm limitation of what you can do. Take on additional responsibilities — for YOUR growth and benefit, not to kiss up to the boss. You’ll be amazed at what opportunities are available in almost all organizations, if someone only asks.

3. Forget what peers think. They won’t pay your bills and most don’t give a hoot about you. Do the best you can because THAT’S WHO YOU ARE. Start building a track record of doing more. It will follow you from job to job, just like being a jerk will. It will result in higher pay and benefits, and increasing responsibility. Then, one day you can be the kind of manager or business owner who is a positive example and will never make a BNET list.

4. Network like a beast. I would advise attending fewer of the usual mixers, where it’s likely that you’ll be bored out of your skull by people who are touting their company or themselves. Instead, find groups that are doing something and have a purpose. Years ago, I volunteered for a Sunday pancake breakfast and met a couple of CEOs whom my boss had always wanted to connect with. Do you think it made a difference when one of them called to set up a lunch with me, and the boss took the message? Meeting new people who are accomplishing something gives you new perspectives and opens doors.

5. Take responsibility for your own career and situation. Jobs are tough to get, I understand. Some people are stuck in places they’d rather not be. Maybe your financial situation prevents you from leaving your job, but it doesn’t prevent you from planning. Start making yourself better TODAY, and then try to make your workplace better. If you can’t use your newfound communication skills to improve your situation, then start making plans to find a better one. Item four, the networking, will help.

Moaning about your boss, whether justified or not, gets you nowhere. Improve yourself and try to improve your work group. That will bring you satisfaction that you’re pulling your share of the load. If things get better, then you’ll have a situation you can live with. If they don’t, network and take your good track record somewhere else where you’ll be appreciated.

I hope you do.

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The Carrot Principle by Chester Elton — Book Brief

In The Carrot Principle (not an affiliate link, I get no commission), Chester Elton gives much useful information on how to inspire workers to do better, do more, and achieve their potential.

Elton has authored numerous books on this topic and works with organizations to set up internal programs for recognition, rewards, and motivation.

This is another highly produced vignette from BNet.

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Mindset (Part 2.5) How to Find Out Who You Are

woman holding sign that reads, "Who am I."photo by db*photography

Picking up on yesterday’s post and if we’ve done our homework assignments, we’re ready to get down to the task of figuring out what the market thinks of us, and how to make something good come from that.

If you didn’t get around to it yet, zip on over to either polldaddy.com or surveymonkey.com (or any other free survey site) to set up a free account.

Then, you need to break your target audience into two groups; one with the people who know you best and the other with more casual relationships, short-term, etc. There will be many more in the second group if you’re like most people.

Okay — remind me why we’re doing this

It’s simple. The way people think about us determines whether or not we are promoted, make a big sale, secure investors, and yes — get a date, a decent table at a restaurant, and the list goes on.

People who get that warm and fuzzy feeling every time they come into contact with us choose us over others. It’s not necessarily fair but it’s reality, and we can influence the outcome.

But it takes a little work and this survey will help.

We’re going to ask people how they feel about us, in a non-threatening way that will encourage participation from those who really are sincere in helping. The others, who couldn’t care less, aren’t going to respond or be in our corner anyway.

The e-mail that announces the survey

There’s no one way to do this but here’s a sample:

Hi Ed,

I need to ask you a big favor (don’t worry, it won’t cost you any money).

We’ve known each other a long time and I’ve always been grateful for that relationship. Now I need your help.

In a completely anonymous survey, I want to know what you REALLY think about me. It’s anonymous so you can express your true feelings.

— If there’s something I do that drives you crazy, I want to know about it.

— If you feel strongly that I need to make changes in how I deal with people or handle certain issues, that’s important for me to know.

— If something about me stands in the way of us successfully working together, I wish you would tell me what it is. I want to make improvements that will help me maximize opportunities and potential.

Maybe you fit in one or more of these categories or perhaps there’s something else you need to get off your chest — please, by all means, do so!

Again, it’s totally anonymous. Say what you really think.

I know this may seem like a silly idea to some people. However, think about it. If I can’t go to the people who know me best and get straight answers, who can I ask?

I promise the survey won’t take too much of your time — of course, that’s unless I really have more to be concerned about than I hope  :)

Please click on the following link to start the survey.

http://www…

I really appreciate your help. Thanks!

Best,

Jerry

This is a relatively light approach, and presents you as open and honest. Most people will feel comfortable with it, but you decide the tone needed for your message.

Of course, for the message aimed at people who don’t know you as well, you’ll adjust the content. The second line might read:

“We’ve had a friendly relationship for a while, hopefully long enough for you to develop some opinions about me. Now I need your help.”

Don’t agonize about the message. The recipient will understand what you’re after. The only thing you want is for him/her to click that link.

The questions

You can state the questions any way you like. Here are a few ideas:

  • Is there something I do that is a definite roadblock to you placing greater trust in me? Please explain.
  • In dealing with me, what situations could I handle better?
  • What habits do I have that are a turn-off?
  • If you could change one thing about me or how I do something, what is it and what changes would you make?
  • What areas could I make improvement in?

You can easily modify these or add to the list, just make sure that you select open-ended style questions. I recommend that you don’t use multiple choice options, giving all possible answers. You want to encourage people to write as much as possible.

I’ve worked on a lot of surveys and it’s in the middle of lengthy responses that you often find the gold you’re after.

Poll Daddy and Survey Monkey are easy to set up and you can knock out an attractive survey in no time. They also have good reporting tools. Of course, there are hundreds of survey options on the Web. Just pick one and run with it.

What I hope you get from this

If you send out say, 100-200 e-mail requests to participate in your survey, you should get a reasonable response and be able to draw some conclusions.

Obviously, if there is a recurring theme to the answers or you see the same issues discussed in many of them, your effort has produced the results you were after.

Look, none of us enjoys people telling us where we fall short. You don’t like that and neither do I. But if there are things that are holding us back and we have the power to correct them, then we’d be foolish not to try to identify them.

Best wishes in your efforts to discover who you are.

Comments are encouraged, even if they’re to tell me something that I need to improve upon.

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Mindset (part 2): How to Find Out Who You Are

man deep in thought

Strange title for a postHow to Find Out Who You Are? Maybe, but when you understand where I’m going with this, I think you’ll realize the relevance.

I led a training session for the Chamber of Commerce today that focused on streetsmart marketing strategies, guiding about 50 people through exercises to increase their awareness of their personal market standing. One of the questions was “Who are you?”

Put away your I.D.

I’m not sure that anyone was on the same page with me as I started, but they quickly picked it up. The answer lies in the minds of the people we market to — whether that marketing is external (customers and vendors) or internal (support staff and other coworkers).

Everybody has an opinion of us in both a personal and work-related sense and, like it or not, that’s who we are so far as the market is concerned. We don’t have to agree with how people see us but, as the saying goes, perception is reality.

Managing opinion — the why

And that reality determines whether or not you decide that I’m worth dealing with and how much effort you’ll invest into that relationship. If you’re a customer or prospect, that extends to how much money you’ll spend with me.

If I connect with 1,000 people in the pursuit of business, then there are 1,000 somewhat different opinions of me. As I worked with the group today I think that began to sink in.

Our success is determined by how people feel about us, and we’d better be aware of what they’re thinking about when our name pops up.

Hey, if they don’t like me they know what they can do…

Our ego will tell us that we’re okay as we are. If you think that nobody has issues with you and that you’re humming along just fine, I hope you’re right. But if you’re like most of us, you’re leaving some potential on the table because others have decided that they don’t want to deal with you, or will do so at a minimum.

It’s impossible to quantify what that potential represents in terms of dollars, but what if it meant an additional 20%, 30%, or 50% a year? Does that get your interest?

It’s so easy to blow off this whole idea, until you visualize that annual potential in dollars, multiplied by the number of years remaining in your career. All of a sudden we’re talking real money here; sales that aren’t made, promotions that go to others.

What to do

We can start to get a handle on how the market feels about us by doing one simple thing, which most of us will absolutely hate — ask people.

If I told you that your assignment after reading this post was to start asking your coworkers, vendors, and customers to tell you how they view you, how would you feel about that? How would you view me for asking you to do such a thing?

You might respond that people won’t be honest when confronted with such a request, or a large number would do anything possible to avoid complying with it. You’d be at least partially right on both counts.

I’ve gone through this exercise but did so by asking both in person and over the phone. Let me tell you, that was really uncomfortable for both parties — particularly in the case of employees. I thought I was giving them a chance to vent if necessary, but I was actually tossing unnecessary stress their way. They were nervous to answer. Some did, but I wasn’t happy with what I got. It was vanilla and didn’t provide much I could use.

Even clients didn’t want to do it. A few people I had known for over 20 years consented and I got some value from it, but most evaded the issue.

Getting the answers

Whatever you do the survey must be anonymous. If we want a good response people must be able to conceal their identity. This means using an online survey. Don’t even think about requiring them to list their name or e-mail address.

  • Step one, go to polldaddy.com or surveymonkey.com and set up a free account.
  • Then divide people into a couple of groups. One is those people with whom we have had a long relationship or consistent dealings over a considerable period of time. The other group is those we connect with less.
  • Next we devise a survey with questions that get at the heart of what we want to know, but which are slightly different for each group. The people who have had much experience in dealing with us ought to be able to provide us with considerably more information, so our questions to them will be more in depth.

Coming tomorrow: the questions to ask on the survey

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Hail the New Texting Champion!

young woman on bicycle, texting.

photo by moriza

There’s a contest for seemingly everything these days so I wasn’t surprised when I caught the news that we had crowned a new texting champion. That’s right, America has a new text message superstar, 15-year-old Kate Moore of Des Moines, Iowa.

Moore outpaced 20 finalists from around the country over two days of challenges such as texting blindfolded and texting while maneuvering through a moving obstacle course. Okay, there’s some creativity involved with that.

Let’s make it more meaningful

Maybe they should have added adult activities such as texting while trying to give the boss the impression that you’re actually working, or texting in a meeting because you’re bored out of your skull. How about texting in the drive-thru window while trying not to mess up orders?

C’mon, at least these are applications that Kate and millions of people her age will find useful when they enter the world of work.

What floored me was how much time she spends popping out text messages. She claims to send 400 to 470 texts each day, about 14,000 a month. I know people who send 10, 20, maybe 30 a day. We’re surprised when we hear of people who text 50 times per day.

But 470?

How long does the average text message take to pound out? A minute? Maybe 30 seconds for speedsters like Kate?

If only a half-minute each that would be at least four hours of texting per day.

Don’t look now…

Well, Kate and her friends are coming to a workplace near you and you’re going to have to deal with a group of young folks who never put the phone down. I know, I have a granddaughter who is 14 and I swear the thing is now a part of her hand.

“I’m sorry, doctor, but drawing blood requires the use of both hands and I’m just not prepared to put my phone down at this time, so I have to respectfully decline your request to help this patient.”

Yes, I’m playing around with this post, but there’s a real message here as well. There are a lot of Kates out there and they’ve got far different communication habits than the Gen Y crew we deal with now.

If we think it’s tough to get and keep young workers focused today, what’s it going to be like when their kid brothers and sisters start showing up?

Is there a 12-step program for texters?

Will Kate and her friends be able to curb their addiction during working hours? Are you willing to compromise and let your employees text their friends, say, an hour a day out of the eight you pay for? Seems fair. They can knock out 100-120 texts on your nickel, and do the heavy lifting once they’re off duty.

Is this exaggeration? I don’t know. Nobody knows.

We can say that we’re going to impose standard workplace rules on this new wave of workers and that they’ll adapt, as all previous generations have, but that’s not an entirely true picture. The workplace has also adapted and changed with each new group, and it will again.

I’m just not sure how.

But maybe I know some folks who can help me figure it out

Most of the people in my company are under 30 and almost all are wedded to some form of handheld device. They’re not anything like Kate, but I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to try to take their phones away.

At our next meeting I’m going to ask their opinions on this issue and how they would handle a new generation with different communication skills and expectations. I’ll let you know what they say.

I have to go now.

I’m 468 texts behind Kate for the day.

Gotta get busy!

If you’re reading this while texting, you’re the perfect person to comment on this post! Even if you did it the old fashioned way, while eating chips or downing a latté, go ahead and let me know what you think.

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Mindset (part 1): They’re Not Out to Get You

group shot of employees with bad attitude

It’s so easy to think that the people on our team must be screwing up on purpose. C’mon, admit it — you’ve had similar thoughts at least once.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve told him about ___________, and he still got it wrong. He’s got to be doing this intentionally.”

I’ve known a few people who have set out to mess with the boss, but it’s extremely rare. I still believe that most people want to do the right thing and will make their best effort if given the opportunity.

As I’ve written about managers, it’s the same with other staff members: About 5% are truly exceptional, another 5% worthless, with the “middle 90%” doing their best and just trying to get along. Some days are good and they get everything right, some days are bad when Chicken Little welcomes the sky as it crashes down, and most days are just average where we get from beginning to end with nothing major happening one way or the other.

But are they trying to ruin me?

I read where Joseph Heller’s book, Catch 22, is credited with the phrase, “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.”

A lot of us are just convinced that some workers want to see us fail, or enjoy our misery. As indicated in the percentages above I think the real answer is no, in almost all cases. Instead, I know that some people make the same mistake twice, if not over and over again; and a large segment of the workforce need a big boost in listening skills.

The fact is, most managers need to do a better job of explaining and delegating, too. Many of us tend to rush through instructions and don’t take the time to check if people understand what we want.

If we don’t ensure that we’re completely understood, is it the worker’s fault that a mistake is made — or ours?

So how can I be sure that they’re not out to get me?

If you need to know that your staff is just mistake prone and not diabolically planning the demise of your career, do the following:

  • When you hand out an assignment make sure the worker can explain to you exactly what you want them to accomplish. Don’t ask, “Do you understand?” They’ll just nod and that means nothing. Instead, say “So, George, give me the plan from start to finish.”
  • Send an e-mail to follow the conversation, with a brief outline of your instructions. Yes, this is extra work. So is doing it over after the job is botched.
  • Don’t necessarily wait for the job to end before you check in. If a particular worker has had a history of submitting faulty work on occasion, call her into your office in the middle of the project and ask for a progress report. If you can see the work is moving along nicely, you congratulate her. If it’s not going well you can step in to avoid trouble and use the experience as a coaching moment.

If the job still goes bad then you’ve got an employee who might have a better future in another line of work; or YES, he/she was indeed after you all along and their firing will rid you of this menace!

However, if all goes well and you’re happy with the results, both you and the worker should audit the project to determine what went right and what can be improved. Use the time for positive reinforcement.

Teach your people constantly and help them grow.

Eventually, and probably much sooner than you believe, it will pay off.

Comments are welcome.

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