Insensitive, Divisive, or Self-Serving? Taking on Problem Behaviors | “You” Power

You experience them. You may even mention them–things that are done and said at work that aren’t right.513020382_756c859892_m

We don’t do our jobs in a vacuum. We have to interact with others. The attitudes and behaviors of our bosses, coworkers, and customers contribute to the culture of the workplace. They make it  consistently positive, negative, or a bit of both.

So what happens when you see and hear insensitive, divisive, or self-serving words and actions that don’t sit well with you? Do you:

  • Keep silent (a signal of consensus)?
  • Report it to the boss or HR for action?
  • Complain to coworkers who feel as you do?
  • Take action in your own way?

The power to affect change comes from within you. It takes a plan and committed, sustained action. The power of “you” can be formidable.

“You” Power

We often think that only management can fix what’s wrong with a company’s culture, even  when they’re a part of the problem.

We may think that sexism, bullying, antagonism between labor and management, and an everyone-for-themselves performance mentality are behaviors we have to learn to live with.

Sadly, that’s why these behaviors continue and escalate.

We all have positive role models we try to emulate. Now it’s our turn to be that positive example at work,  one day at a time.

We can each contribute to turning negative behaviors around by:

  • Becoming a conscience for what is right
  • Setting an example by what we say and do

It’s not for us to get on a soapbox necessarily, but simply to intervene, one-on-one in most cases, to call attention to a more positive way to communicate and act.

Consider personal objectives like these:

1. ) Increase awareness of language and actions that have overtones

When you hear language that’s sexist or ethnically insensitive, suggest a more appropriate  choice of words to the individual speaking or writing. Suggest that certain assignments be balanced between women and men.

In the hurry of the workplace, some coworkers may not be aware of the stereotypes they are promoting through their speech and assignments. Serving as a conscience has real power.

2.) Refuse to gossip

There’s always news that spreads throughout the workplace, but much of it can be hearsay, personal, undermining, and counterproductive. When we listen to or contribute to gossip, we become its agent.

Each time we decline to participate and offer our rationale for why, we influence one or more coworkers. That may lead to some to gossip about us, but it sets the right example, furthers your cause, and may also counteract some bullying.

3.) Discourage “us” v. “them” attitudes

Blaming can become rampant in organizations. It can target employees (us) versus management (them), employees in one group versus those in another, or you versus someone who, you believe, has made you look bad. Nothing good comes from blaming.

If you  believe in personal accountability, as I do, then you can wield personal power by always owning the outcomes of your work, being unwilling to enter into the blame game, and expecting others to also own their work. When they don’t, that’s an opportunity for you to raise their awareness.

4.) Quell complaining and venting

If coworkers know you will listen to their complaints, they will continue to unload on you. If, when they start, you say you’re too pressed for time to listen or call attention to what they did to create the issue, they will likely stop.

A great many complainers fill their days dumping their load on anyone who will listen. If you reduce their audience by one, others may follow suit.

A matter of time

 Making a difference takes time. The more ingrained the insensitive, divisive, and self-serving behavior, the more difficult it is to change. You have it in your power to influence other people. Whether it’s one or many, it just matters that you do what you can to have an affect.

Every action you take has the potential to inspire someone else to follow your lead or tap into their own “you” power. What could be better?

Photo from F-2 via Flickr


The Power of an “I Think I Can” Attitude | An Interview with Donna Hosfeld

I met Donna Hosfeld on Facebook. Her contagious enthusiasm for, of all things, insurance, struck me each time I read her posts. I have long been curious about what got Donna into the insurance business and why it matters so much to her. Her story is inspiring.

DL:  You’re a woman entrepreneur with an insurance agency. How did all this get started?    

DH: My career path is something I never could have predicted. No one in my family had gone to college, so my goal was to be an executive secretary in a big company. I developed award-winning secretarial skills and had a head for numbers which came in handy while working for a CPA during high school. That’s when things started to change. 

DL: What happened?  

DH: The CPA I worked for encouraged me to go to college, even though I hadn’t taken any college prep courses. I did, though, get strong SAT scores which got me accepted to Kutztown University. With the help of my high school guidance counselor, I earned seven cash scholarships and suddenly, I was on my way to a B.S. in business administration. Once graduated, I had what I thought was the ticket to a great job—a college degree. I was wrong. 

DL: The situation you were in sounds like conditions today for new grads. What were your next steps?   

DH:  After 100+ rejected job applications, I was really down but wasn’t going to give up. My neighbor hired me for a radio station commission-sales job that wasn’t right for me. Then a friend’s dad told me about Prudential’s management training program. I applied and was hired, working in a Claims office near Philly. I liked insurance work but not being so far from home. 

It all started to happen for me when I got a central office claims job with Erie Insurance in Allentown, PA. The management team had created a family-like working atmosphere. I worked there for eight years as an adjuster. I was again ready to advance. 

I applied and was rejected for an Erie home office position which would have included interstate travel to do claims auditing. I was crushed because I felt I was the most qualified. My branch manager, though, saw the job as the wrong fit for me. Instead he suggested I become an independent agent. Now, that was the real “see if I can” challenge. 

DL: Was that the first step to becoming an entrepreneur? 

DH: It sure was. Being an agent meant setting up my own office and making it profitable. I had to obtain a license to sell, find and outfit an office location, create a business plan, and build a book of policyholders. To get started, I had to invest my own money, just like any another other small business start up. 

My first office was in a basement. Over the years, I’ve literally come up in the world, adding space and employees. I participated in a merger with a large agency group for a time, but soon realized that I missed the advantages only a small, personally run agency can deliver. So I went back to sole ownership. Now, after 13 years as an agent, I am happier than I’ve ever been and writing more business than ever before. The business is in a great location and has a terrific staff. 

DL: What have all these experiences taught you about yourself? 

DH: If I thought I could achieve something in my life, I realized that I was usually right. I only wish I would have known that ahead of time to quiet the “doubter thoughts” that often plagued me.   

The most important discovery, though, was how much I care about my clients, about serving them, and about helping them stay safe. My clients are like my family; I feel protective of them. Insurance is my product but service is my passion. I’m where I am today because I believed in myself and others believed in me too. I try to pay that forward every day. 

DL: You really show how self-motivating it can be to want to prove yourself to yourself, thinking you can achieve something and then succeeding. Each time you tried something new, you overcame your fears by being fearless. There’s real power in that, something that we all need to put to work for ourselves.

Donna Hosfeld AIC, CPIW has over thirteen years experience as an Independent Agent. Her partnership with Erie Insurance extends over 20 years. She also offers coverage through Progressive and several other leading carriers. Her agency sells home, auto, business and life insurance products. You can follow Donna on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, her blog, and on her website.