Prickly or Pleasant? What Style Gets You. | Simple Gifts

How you look at work is one thing. How you appear is quite another.

Almost on a daily basis you can find a TV program touting the latest fashions for men and women, some programs even  providing “make overs” for audience members.

The problem is: new clothes, hair styles, or accessories can’t remake the way you  come across to others. Looking nice isn’t the same as being nice.

Your interpersonal style, the way you interact with coworkers, contributes to how they approach working with you.

Style points

We generally prefer to work with people who lighten our load, physically and psychically. Just for fun, run through the names of the people you work with and describe their interpersonal styles in one word like:

  • Prickly or warm
  • Standoffish or engaging
  • Negative or positive
  • Supportive or critical

How would your coworkers describe you? If you don’t know, ask them. How would you describe yourself? Is there are difference?

 I’m not going to tell you that all the nice guys and gals are zooming to the top of the corporate ladder, because there are plenty of unpleasant people who get ahead. However, there is more to gain by being pleasant in the workplace than by being a prickly cactus.

Your boss, coworkers or direct reports are powerful word-of-mouth agents for your at-work brand. They’re the ones extolling your style and your effectiveness at building and sustaining relationships essential to getting  work done. You can be pleasant and still:

  • Be a demanding boss
  • Speak up for yourself
  • Present concerns about a project
  • Register a complaint

To be pleasant is to be agreeable but not necessarily agreeing. It means adopting a style that creates an environment where others feel respected, never shut down or out.

I can remember being at company meetings when there were hot issues being discussed. While there were caustic voices in the mix, it was those steady and pleasant-sounding ones that were generally heard and heeded by the majority.

Why? Pleasantness is an indicator of approachability, openness, inclusiveness, and warmth. It generally creates an environment where it’s easier for people to share what’s on their minds, even when it’s awkward or uncomfortable.

Pleasantness begets pleasantness. As our work places become more competitive and as technology changes the way we interact, it’s easy to forget the importance of treating each other with kindness and patience. When your prevailing style is to be pleasant, it:

  • Makes working with you easier and less stressful
  • Frees up the flow of new ideas
  • Creates a sense of team, mutual support, and respect
  • Makes it easier to accept disappointments

Pleasantness is a simple gift.

The art of pleasantries

We often forget the value of warmth and kindness when we’re being sucked into the vortex of deadlines, meetings, projects, and endless emails. Work can disconnect us from the people who are the hands performing the work.

Recently Tyler Perry, famed American actor, director, an screenwriter, perhaps best known for his in-drag movie role, Madea, was asked on Live with Kelly & Michael (12/09/2013) about the kinds of Christmas presents he gives to his dear friend, the famed Oprah Winfrey.

He answered: “We don’t exchange gifts. We exchange pleasantries.” Specifically, he gives personal letters, written in his own hand, and he likes to get them in return. It’s the human touch and the fact that letters can be saved and savored for years to come that means most to him.

We can exchange pleasantries at work every day, powerful gifts of our own making for our coworkers, in the form of:

  • A warm greeting at the beginning of each day
  • Expressed interest in their work, family, and/or hobbies
  • An acknowledgement (a nod or smile) at a meeting when they make a point
  • A written thank you note or email to express gratitude for their help

Our behavior is the mark of our interpersonal style. The more effectively we interact face-to-face, voice-to-voice, and heart-to-heart, the richer our relationships at work and the more value we bring to the job and to our careers.

 

Respect, Recognition, and Appreciation Matter. | Assessing Your Give and Take

Self-esteem can be pretty fragile.appreciation 4759535950_7bca6684c8_m

Each of us has the ability to pump up another person’s self-esteem or scar it.

A lot goes into developing and maintaining pride in ourselves, especially considering our personal and situational obstacles.

So we need to be caring.

Make others matter.

Most of us crave positive feedback. We want to know in concrete ways that our bosses and coworkers:

  • respect our talents, good intentions, and integrity
  • recognize the contributions we make to the success of the team and company
  • appreciate our efforts, kindnesses, and selflessness

Others want what we want. The question is: “Are we giving it?”

  • To everyone?
  • Just to people we like or who are like us?
  • To those we feel we need to “repay”?

The esteem we show to others is good for us. It’s how we create a bond that:

  • builds dependable relationships
  • helps coworkers try harder
  • develops confidence to overcome challenges
  • buoys up courage to take risks
  • creates community

In all likelihood, the esteem we show to others comes back to us in subtle and sometimes surprising ways.

Respect, recognition, and appreciation are equalizers. They say to the recipient, “I value you” for your:

  • skills and work quality
  • honesty and integrity
  • kindness and generosity
  • dependability and decency

Value is personal not positional.

None of us can do every job that needs to be done. Just look around where you live and count the number of things you can’t build, fix, or solve.

Then look around your company and count the number of jobs you aren’t qualified to do from the top of the organization chart to the bottom.

The only way all of us can live the lives we want is for everyone around us to do their jobs well. For that we all need to express our gratitude.

Assess yourself.

Consider the way you engage with craftsmen you hire at work or at home. Assess the amount of effort you put into expressing respect for their expertise, recognition of the challenges of the work, and appreciation for the outcome.

In my experience, a unique alliance forms, a strategic partnership, and shared engagement in the work where the results exceed the expectations of you both.

I recently accumulated a pretty long list of big and small jobs long overdue at my farm where the buildings were built from 1780 to 1900. The jobs ranged from releasing a frozen pocket door in the house to replacing light fixtures in the barn; from painting and repairing a large shed to replacing slates with shingles in the back of the house. There was other “little” stuff too.

Kirk, the expert in charge, is a one-time home builder, an inventor, and one of the most well-read people know. He took on my work solo because I was his last client in PA before moving to the mid-west.

There was nothing about this work that was easy. At every turn there were problem-solving challenges and surprises. It required:

  • electrical work and some plumbing
  • remodeling and construction
  • roofing, painting, and repair

Kirk says what he thinks, never sugar-coating anything. And he’s not a big giver or receiver of compliments. But he accepted my communicated regard for his expertise and willingness to help when needed.

I had been his customer before, so he knew that I respected him. Ultimately, he told me that he wouldn’t have taken on this wild array of jobs for anyone else. That was a gift for my self-esteem.

It was not about what I was paying him: It was about my respect, recognition, and appreciation.

 As you sow…

Treating people well is about recognizing their value and making that known. At work it’s easy to see our coworkers as just another pair of hands. Any time you treat others in a way that says, “You matter,” you are giving them a priceless gift which will, in time, come back to you.

Photo by woodleywonderworks via Photoree

 

 

 

8 Ways to Boost Likeability at Work. Who’s Clicking on Your Button?

Like it or not, we’re living in a world of “like, ” or sometimes the dreaded “unlike.”like 4301042126_5c1c4ac6c4_m

“Liking” on social media, company websites, and blogs has become an obsession by many to:

  • Feel affirmed by people known or unknown
  • Become part of a community of other “likers”
  • Support “like” requestors, whether we really do or not

Most people want to be liked. I know I do. The reality, though, is that not all the people like us all the time, particularly at work. There’s no “like” button to click there, only our behavior, to create and sustain our likeability.

Likeability counts.

It’s a behavior that affects your ability to do your job well. When coworkers like you, they want to:

  • Serve on a team with you
  • Help you out on an assignment
  • Tip you off when there’s trouble ahead
  • Cover your workload when you’re out

When your boss likes you, s/he may:

  • Communicate with you easily (and there are a host of benefits in that)
  • Cut you slack when you’re struggling
  • See your work through a positive lens
  • Consider you for advancement or plum assignments

The challenge is to earn our likeability stripes in the right way. It’s a big mistake to confuse likeability with popularity.

So avoid:

  • Trying to be the office fashion plate or iron man
  • Spreading gossip or engaging in too much social conversation
  • Being the office comedian, socialite, or center of attention
  • Schmoozing the boss with your cleverness and charm

To be likeable at work means bringing a positive spirit to the job you and your coworkers are doing together.

What it takes

We aren’t all liked for the same attributes. Just look around and you’ll see coworkers with very different approaches and personalities,most of whom you like in varying degrees. I suspect they look at you in the same way.

Our likeability is not about cloning; it’s about connecting.  Our careers are built and grown through behaviors that attract a following of colleagues at every level. That’s one of the smart moves of business fitness.

These eight likeability behavior groups matter at work. They become part of your brand. Start by assessing how many you already demonstrate daily. Then consider embracing them all:

  1. A positive, optimistic, upside-seeing attitude every day, especially during tough times
  2. Emotional balance and steadiness; a total avoidance of drama
  3. Courtesy, respectfulness, and kindness, even when you’re angry or upset
  4. Trustworthiness, honesty, and accountability, particularly when you’ve erred
  5. A communicative, pleasant tone of voice and body language during disagreements, explanations, and feedback
  6. Expressed gratitude for support , recognition, and kindness
  7. Good humor, acknowledgement of others, and appreciation
  8. Value-added contributions that help coworkers and the team perform effectively

Not everyone at work will like you, but you can make it difficult for them to dislike you if you demonstrate these eight behaviors.

It’s important for you to see yourself in the grand scheme of things. You have multiple audiences who are watching you:

  • Your boss and his/her bosses
  • Your cube mates, crew members, or shift team
  • The support staff
  • Contacts in other departments
  • Customers and suppliers

These audiences have different backgrounds and expectations. Trying to fit in is often untenable and/or exhausting. Spare yourself the agony.

Be the likeable you.

It’s important to bring your best self to work every day, consistently and predictably. Being liked is about how you connect with others around you. There’s no reason to make it complicated. Instead zero in on the eight behavior groups and nurture the most likeable you.

Photo by Babbletrish via Photoree

 

 

 

Would You Do Me a Favor? | Gratitude for WordPress.com Staff

wordpress2 imagesCAH55A5X

Taking my own advice is a lot harder than giving it. That’s an embarrassing truth.

Like a lot of people, I don’t like change that makes me feel helpless. I need to feel that when things start going awry, I have the ability to take the reins and keep things on course.

So you can imagine how it felt for non-tech me when I took the plunge last week to switch to a self-hosted WordPress site.

Now I know what a cold sweat feels like.

Support is magic.

 I’ve known for a while that I needed to expand what I could do on my blog, but, because I dreaded the change-over, I made lots of excuses for putting it off.

It took some straight-talk from my friend, Pam, to cut through my resistance. I finally got the ball rolling with the help of my consulting practice website host.

During my corporate management days, I’d been through a number of IT changes, big and small. I was fully aware that there is a potential nightmare lurking in every one.

I’ve also come to know that technology today is complex to the nth degree. No one can know  fully how everything fits together, since the piece parts often take on a life of their own.

Even so, I was still caught off guard when things got stuck so close to the finish line.

WordPress.com staff to the rescue

 It was crucial for me to be sure that my subscribers and three years of statistics were transferred from the free WordPress site to the now self-hosted one.

Luckily, I learned that WordPress.com staff could do this for me. But again I felt helpless, not really knowing how to access the right person. I’d followed forums before, but I really needed to find someone to partner with me to make things right.

And I did!

I’m a bit old school, being more comfortable in live conversation when I’m in a pinch than sending notes. The challenge is knowing how to explain the problem, so that no one ends up down a rabbit hole or going in circles.

I submitted my issue as “transferring subscribers” to WordPress and then was assigned a WordPress.com staff member  to assist me in a private forum.  That was the start of a great experience.

The response and customer care that I receive from this expert staff was exemplary. He knew exactly what he needed to do and directed me with clarity and calm to complete  inputs required on my end.

He helped me understand what was needed to make the changes, answered my questions patiently, took on the stats transfer issue, and conveyed a genuine sense of caring. He made me feel that my needs really mattered to him.

In every way, he was the consummate professional. My gratitude is enormous, and I told him so many times.

A favor request

It looks to me like my blog is working fine. I have noticed that there are some search wrinkles where you might find an old post on a search engine, but when you click on it, you’ll get a “page not found” notice. But that seems to be clearing itself up. I’m also taking some other steps to help mitigate that.

But because I hate that old helpless feeling, I would appreciate it if you could do this for me:

Please click on the “Like” button at the end of this post.

If you are a subscriber, I’ll know you were notified. If you found me by googling an issue, it’ll confirm that too. And if you just liked this post, I’ll get the message.

Please write a comment if you’ve had any problems or to share your thoughts.

That way I can do more troubleshooting.

Thanks so much for continuing to support my blog. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share my perspectives with you.

Photo from WordPress

Feeling Thankful or Resentful? 5 Attitudes to Fuel Job Happiness

thanksful 4093883697_ae2b8d84e2_mA job is a relationship. When we sign on, we marry its requirements and the family that comes with it–a boss, coworkers, and customers.

A job can bring bliss or frustration on any given day. The only constant in our jobs is us. The skills we bring, our attitudes, and the actions we take make an indelible impact on our job happiness.

So, what’s your take?

Call it chemistry or culture, every workplace has a vibe. It may be upbeat, sour, defensive, or exciting. Whatever the tone, we are prone to be affected by it.

For some reason, it’s easier to see the bleak side of things, especially when those around us are harping about the:

  • unfair workload
  • self-serving boss
  • crumby equipment
  • frustrating customer complaints

Where we work isn’t supposed to be paradise. A workplace is more like a laboratory where we experiment and test new ideas, applications, and improvements. It’s a place where change, challenge, and disruption are the rule rather than the exception.

This realization can help us recalibrate our expectations about the swirl of things around us. Instead of resenting them, there’s reason to be thankful.

The gratitude edge

Getting happy at work means reconfiguring the way we see things and recognizing the asset value of the challenges and personalities that make up our surroundings. Gratitude for the opportunity to be in the mix is actually good for us.

Mary MacVean of the Tribune Newspapers, wrote in a December 31, 2012 article:

…if we developed the discipline [of gratitude] on a regular basis, year-round, research shows we’d be happier and suffer less depression and stress. We’d sleep better and be better able to face our problems.”

Then she quotes Robert Emmons, a University of California at Davis professor who has been studying gratitude since 1998:

…it’s one of the few things that ‘can measurably change people’s lives. Gratitude implies humility–a recognition that we could not be who we are or where we are in life without the contributions of others.’

The issue of humility is a big one: It’s about recognizing that we have the job we’re in because, along the way and even now, other people:

  • encouraged us
  • gave us training
  • attested to our abilities
  • had our backs
  • gave us opportunity
  • lent a hand

Our successes are not just about us–our deeds, our smarts, and our promise. They also comes through others.

5 Strategies

We all have down days at work, days when we’re not sure we’re in the right job. That’s just reality.

In total, though, our progress comes from the series of tests that we overcome with the help of bosses and colleagues who give us a shot, promote our capabilities, and help us move forward.

Attitudes of gratefulness need to be practiced. To increase your job happiness, you can start by being thankful for:

  1. The comfort of a paycheck, even if it’s less than what you may need or want. It’s predictability is a secure foundation for the financial and career choices you make going forward.
  2. Essential job duties that help you master or expand your skills while learning how they impact the business and insights that can position you for another job within or outside your company
  3. A difficult boss who requires you to become more assertive, a better negotiator, more thick skinned, a better performer, or a more strategic thinker
  4. Trusted workmates who encourage you, teach you tricks of the trade, help you get out of your shell, walk you through disappointments, offer friendship
  5. Good working conditions with current technologies, safe equipment, comfortable facilities, and benefits

Seek thankfulness

Every job doesn’t meet our every need, but there are always good features we can be thankful for. The grass is not always greener, so we need to feed and water the grass we have under our feet.

The more you can grasp and internalize the reasons you have to be grateful in your job, the happier you will be. Smile…that helps too!

Photo from from Ateupamateur via Flickr

(No) Thanks for (Not) Giving at the Office | Selflessness at Work

“I gave at the office! ” That’s the put-off line used by many when asked for yet another donation to a charity, special cause, or fund-raiser. It’s a kind of cop out to stop the asking, whether we gave or not.

The reality is: There are many truly compelling reasons why we’re asked to contribute time and money to help people in dire trouble, some we may know and many we don’t.

We witnessed it in the 2012 devastation and loss of life caused by:

  • Hurricane Sandy on the east coast
  • Raging forest fires out west
  • Tornados in the mid-west
  • Relentless drought across the country

The news coverage connects us with the human misery, the disruption to people’s lives, and the unfathomable monetary and material loss. “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” we say to ourselves.

Many of us look for some way to help. We may send money through organizations like the American Red Cross or Salvation Army. We may hop on buses or get in our cars and go to lend a hand.

In a dramatic crisis, something in our hearts motivates us to help however we can.

Pain at the office

Our jobs can become increasingly demanding, so it’s easy to become absorbed in our own daily grind. We’re engrossed in meeting performance expectations, dealing the boss’s idiosyncrasies, struggling with changing work methods, and managing our time.

The truth is: Crises find their way into our offices. They may affect your work unit, the department, the company, or simply the coworker you sit next to.

It’s things like:

  • A new employee who 1.) no one talks to; 2.) is mistreated, 3.) makes mistakes, or 4.) struggles to master the work
  • A persistent conflict among coworkers who can’t find common ground on a work issue
  • A boss who alienates certain team members because s/he doesn’t understand how the work is done
  • A failed work process that caused customer outrage
  • A workplace accident resulting in the serious injury of several employees
  • An unexpected workload that must be completed asap to meet customer deadlines

The big question is: What are you prepared to do?

  • Will you wait until someone asks you to pitch in?
  • Will you lay low because you “don’t want to get your hands dirty?”
  • Will you  step up and offer your ideas, expertise, time, and/or leadership?

When trouble comes to your office, there’s an opportunity to “give” of yourself because it’s the right thing to do.

Selflessness is part courage.

Crises are relative. A crisis to you may or may not be a crisis to me. It just matters that when people feel that the situations they’re in are more than they can handle, you have an opportunity to offer help.

Crises manifest confusion. Leadership promises to restore order. Your selfless entry into a crisis of any dimension is a willingness to address that confusion and quell some of it.

As with any disaster, we need to give what we know we can. It’s not about over-extending or over-reaching.

At work you can:

  • Help that struggling coworker by showing them how to avoid errors or helping them build friendships
  • Offer an idea that will help conflicting parties reach a compromise
  • Talk to the boss about his/her work knowledge if you have the right kind of relationship with him/her
  • Provide an idea that will help fix that failed customer process
  • Suggest a change in safety procedures
  • Work extra hours to meet that surprise workload

That’s how you “give at the office” when things get dicey. It’s about you thinking more about someone else than about yourself.

Thanks giving

Getting in the habit of giving selflessly at work and in the community enriches us. It’s a habit that builds on itself. The more we do, the easier it gets.

When we recognize the value of those opportunities to give, the “thanks giving” comes from within us. In many cases, “ thanks getting” will follow.

Photo from paperbacklou via Flickr

Who Are You When Things Go Wrong? | Tapping Into Gratitude

2358995244_f6f385d0cf_mWe don’t always get what we think we deserve. Situations can take a downturn in a blink. Promises made aren’t always kept. That’s just the way life is and has always been.

There are times when we may expect things to go wrong. Usually that means we’re prepared for it physically and mentally. We still may not like it, but those situations go down easier than stunning surprises.

We learn a lot about ourselves when our stress level is exceeded–and so does everyone around us.

Keep an eye on yourself

All kinds of things at work can tax you:

  • Coworkers who don’t pull their weight and dump assignments on you
  • Bosses who break their promises to you
  • Job loss, reassignment, and/or poor ratings out of the blue
  • Customers or colleagues who make false statements about you

When you’re pushed to the brink, what do you do?

  • Pick a fight, go on the defensive, or play the blame game
  • Curl up in a ball, seek sympathy, or start looking for a way out
  • Look for solutions, ask for information, or seek help from your network
  • Take a deep breath, assess what’s really going on, and develop a workable plan

I like things to be under control, predictable, and within my ability to influence. So it’s also a test for me when a crisis creates excessive turmoil.

Accept what you can’t control. Be grateful for what you can.

When you’re having a bad day, someone else is having a worse one. The news this past week was proof of that.

Thomas “TJ” Lane shot five fellow students at Chardon High School in Ohio, killing three of them. The parents of those students and the entire community were forced to deal with a chaotic situation never expected. Each was forced to look outwardly and inwardly to hold it together.

Phyllis Ferguson, mother of slain Demetrius Hewlin, had a plan that worked for her. She told ABC News:

I forgive him [Lane] because, a lot of times, they don’t know what they’re doing. That’s all I’d say.

I taught Demetrius not to live in the past, to live in today and forgiveness is divine.

I heard her say in several TV clips that to keep hatred for the shooter in her heart would mar her memory of her son.

When decisions, situations, or coworkers upset you at work, what drives your next steps?

Then there’s this:Julie Hays from CNN reports how

Severe storms tore through the Midwest and South Friday into Saturday, killing at least 39 people.

The National Weather Service confirms 42 tornadoes hit 10 states, stretching from Alabama to Ohio.

This comes only days after another deadly line of storms spawned multiple tornadoes, damaging hundreds of homes and businesses across seven states.

Think of what it must be like to be going along at work, at school, or at home and in less than a minute:

  • People you love have been killed by a twister
  • Your home and your car are flattened, your belongs lost
  •  The place where you worked is destroyed along with your job
  • You have no neighbors, no place to go, no records, electricity, or communication
  • Your plans and dreams have disappeared and you’re left to start over

This is when we come to grips with what really matter to us. It’s when we see who we are and what we’re made of.

Who do you become?

When a project goes bad or your appraisal isn’t what you wanted, do you look for solutions? Are you grateful for the resources you have to draw on? Do you have the grit to go forward?

When the chips are down, people are watching us, something which can give us purpose.

Each of us can become a source of strength, a clear-minded leader, and problem-solver when there’s trouble. Gratitude for our inner strength and the connection to others is often a source of the empowering brightness we need. Shine on!