Feeling Left Out and Don’t Know Why? Turn Things Around. | Reaching Out

It can’t be avoided but we don’t want it to last.

It’s that feeling of being disconnected, conspicuous, and self-conscious whenever we’re plunked in workplace situations with people who don’t know us. It can happen when we:

  • join a new work group
  • participate in a cross-functional meeting
  • attend an industry conference
  • go to our first company party
  • become part of a new project team

The sooner we feel accepted the better. For some it’s easy but not for others. Feeling excluded  can drag us down and stall our careers.

The “why” of it

We can usually sense that we’re being left out by theses clues:

  • Blatant exclusion — being uninvited to meetings, ignored, ostracized, bypassed
  • Disregard– repeated rejection of input, unacknowledged communication, impolite treatment
  • Avoidance–unwillingness of colleagues to interact, collaborate, or talk with us

The reasons for being left out are many, so it helps to figure out enough so we can try to turn things around.

Generally, exclusion (temporary or permanent) may be the result of some discomfort  our colleagues feel because of our:

  • physical appearance (size, shape, gait, dress, race)
  • sound (accent, tone of voice, pace of speaking)
  • background (ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic group)
  • career specialty (techie, scientist, writer, hands-on worker)
  • reputation (climber, flirt, trouble-maker, boaster, truth-bender)

When  colleagues make us feel left out, their reasons are as much a commentary about them as us. The difference is that we’re the ones who feel the pain.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, especially at work, since company culture, work demands, and personalities create unique pressures.

Whether what others think about us is fair or correct isn’t the focus. It’s what we’re going to do to correct misconceptions and build positive perceptions that make us an accepted and valued part of the team.

What to do.

Once we have an inkling about the barriers to our being included, we need to shrink them.

It’s easy to be resentful and have a chip on your shoulder. When you do, it makes matters worse.

The reality is that we’re all capable of being excluders, even when while we’re being excluded.  It happens when:

  • We don’t know how to include someone we don’t know well; our tongues get tied and our feet stuck.
  • No one else in the work group has yet made a move, so the ice is not yet broken for us.
  • We’re uncertain about how connecting will affect us one-on-one and as part of the team.
  • There is a fear that our overture will be rejected, misread, or misused.

Inclusion at work is an investment in a relationship. When it’s positive, everyone wins; if not, then the price can be dear. That’s why coworkers are often careful or unwilling to step forward.

Take the pledge.

Healthy, productive organizations need everyone to feel valued. Anyone who feels left out is likely to perform below par, lack motivation to grow, and experience career disappointment.

Supervisors who fail to create inclusive work groups risk escalation of unwanted behaviors that slowly poison the operation.

Each of us is responsible for contributing to a fully inclusive work environment, even when we’re feeling excluded. That’s the big challenge.

We all need to pledge that we’ll extend a hand to a coworker who may feel left out. It’s about doing simple things:

  • Greet him warmly when your paths cross
  • Invite her to join in a discussion, meeting, or event
  • Talk with him about his work
  • Share news that she might have missed
  • Volunteer to work with him on an assignment
  • Commit to kindness

If you are feeling excluded now or if you have been excluded in the past, please pledge to take these small steps. They are a path to inclusion over time that will also benefit you.

Our career success is a product of what we do and how we do it. Remember those who reached out to you along the way and please pay it forward where you work.

Ready to Tackle Drama, Change, Fear, and Accountability? Follow 5 Reality-Based Rules.

Wakeman 9781118413685_p0_v3_s260x420I love a straight-shooter, someone who cuts through the fluff and excuses to expose the unvarnished realities of the workplace. That’s what I discovered with Cy Wakeman when I was invited to blog about the insights in her new book, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace. We may not like to see the sides of ourselves revealed in her pages, but the insights will makes us better, happier, and more successful.

A lot goes on around us at work. It’s easy to become oblivious to much of it until we get caught in the crossfire.

Too often our own naiveté about what our companies and bosses expect of us causes us to adopt attitudes and behaviors that are detrimental. To succeed we need to understand the realities that drive business and the often unspoken  rules that, when followed, will propel us in the right direction.

Face yourself.                                    

In her new book, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace, business consultant and speaker, Cy Wakeman, cuts to the chase on the behaviors that will make or break your success.

She gets it about why we are lured down the paths of wrong thinking and provides clear steps to get us back on track. She never deviates from the point that success is about how you and I choose to think and act.

Wakeman reminds us that:  cy wakeman b03fcc37bdbc0a7f02356f_L__V396196531_SX200_

When you feel vulnerable, even defensive, it’s all too easy to blame the economy, political leaders, your boss–everyone except the one person you can control: yourself.

…no one is born accountable, self-reliant, self-mastered, and resilient, yet these are the qualities that count, the ones that will fill you with confidence….

To become what she calls  “happy high-performers,” we need to take stock of ourselves. Through her self-rating checklists and strategies to increase your rating score, you can assess:

  • Your current performance
  • Your future potential
  • Your emotional expensiveness (the cost of being a high maintenance employee)

To assess emotional expensiveness she asks if:

  • “You are dramatic….
  • You come to work in a bad mood.
  • You share a lot of personal information with coworkers….
  • You complain a lot, or judge others.
  • You have an entitled or victim mind-set….”

With your answers in mind, she adds a positive perspective:

…good things come to those who are Emotionally Inexpensive. They are magnets for jobs, promotions, raises, and opportunities of all kinds.

Wakeman makes a strong point about the importance of determining where we stand in the context of our workplace, so we can build a career sustaining strategy.

She writes:

Meeting performance expectations is now the price of keeping your job. But it isn’t enough to guarantee you anything extra–recognition, benefits, or job security.

5 reality-based rules

It’s not uncommon for us to struggle to understand what’s really going on around us at work.

It’s also not uncommon to need help understanding the reality of our own behaviors: what’s driving us, who do we let influence our thinking, how do we overcome our fears, and what are we doing to enable our own happiness.

Wakeman’s five reality-based rules help you sort through the maze. Here are the rules and a peek at Wakeman’s insights about them:

1. Accountability determines happiness

You will get results when you stop…focusing on what is happening “to” you, and focus on…what you can do …to compete, to deliver, and to succeed.

2. Ditch the drama.

Without drama weighing you down , you will be free to make accountable choices, free of your stories and excuses, free of your and other people’s drama.

3. Action adds value.

If your motive is to stop the course of action or question a decision, change your focus from why it won’t work to how you can help make it work. Get willing, buy in, and use your expertise to mitigate the risks you see.

4. See change as opportunity.

Be ready for what’s next….Don’t let fear of failure stop you from trying.

5. Face extenuating circumstances and succeed anyway.

Confront conflicts early, calmly, and in a spirit of teamwork…Ask, ‘How can I help?’ Get clear on goals, roles, and procedures.

Aha moments

The road to career success is paved with aha moments and Wakeman provides a plethora of them in her book. You will find yourself, your boss, your coworkers, and many people outside of work there.

Understanding how your attitudes, behaviors, and self-deception can create toxicity is a powerful realization. Realizing and practicing a new and more savvy perspective enables you to see things with the clarity you need

The Employee Development Bait and Switch—Perpetrator or Victim?

It is a downer when we discover that there are few growth opportunities offered at our jobs. 

When we’re hired, there’s usually someone who talks about how the company is committed to developing employees. For sure there will be a fine orientation program and skills training. Then there may be tuition refund offerings, a chance to go to conferences, those wonderful stretch assignments, and mentoring. 

So we eagerly dig into our jobs to discover that: 

  • Work demands leave no time for development
  • Orientation and training are sporadic and informal at best
  • There are major restrictions on tuition refund
  • No one really mentors or even supervises, for that matter 

In other words, when it comes to our development, we’re often on our own. 

Who’s to blame? 

There’s plenty of blame to go around, and the blame game rarely fixes anything. The problem is: 

  • Many supervisors don’t have the will, ability, and/or time to develop anyone because day-to-day demands don’t enable it
  • Human resource personnel/departments are stretched and employee development initiatives are a low company priority
  • The company’s business strategy doesn’t recognize the bottom-line value of increasing employee capabilities
  • Employees aren’t taking the initiative to develop their capabilities on their own 

In a business setting, growth is about expanding our knowledge, skills, and experiences so we can: 

  • Perform in broader arenas and take on more responsibility
  • Contribute new and better ideas to increase product/service value
  • Be ready to rise in the organization 

Employee development is an advantage to the company and to us personally. 

What to do? 

The economy today is a major challenge to most businesses. The chances of our bosses, HR, or the company looking out for our development are slim, in spite of what’s said. 

So we can sit around and complain or we can take our development into our own hands. 

Your development starts with an awareness of what you want from your career: So, 

  • Write one-sentence describing your career aspirations. (If you can’t write it in one sentence, you’re not truly clear about what you want.)
  • Then write a list of the skills, knowledge or experiences that you want to add or expand.
  • Identify no or low cost actions that you can initiate and manage. List other development activities that you will propose to your boss.
  • Put together your own development plan for the next year, stating which activities you will complete each quarter and their value to the company. 

Coming up with initiatives is the challenging part, so here are some suggestions: 

In-house book club: Offer to organize and lead a book club of coworkers around specific books on topics like leadership, project management, and communication that will meet at specific times on or off the clock.

Free on-line webinars: Identify well-known experts on the behaviors you need for career success, attend their free on-line webinars, or ask your boss if the company will cover the cost.

Twitter chats: Find opportunities on Twitter to participate in topical chats at places like #careerchat, #hrchat, or #leadershipchat. Capture key ideas and input; summarize them and share/discuss them with your boss.

Mentors: Seek out mentors within and outside your company. Be clear about the kind of advice and feedback you’re seeking. Maintain a positive relationship.

Blogs: Follow expert bloggers in the growth areas important to you. Comment, ask questions, and build connections with them.

Courses and conferences: Identify coursework or conferences that are relevant to your work and your growth. Ask to attend and offer to share your knowledge when you return through a staff meeting report, white paper, training session, or presentation. 

Add value. 

Your development has the greatest value when it serves both the company and your career. The more you do to expand what you learn to bring better results, teach others, and add to the capabilities of the company, the more support you’ll get for your initiatives. Please don’t wait to be developed. It’s your career, so own it

Photo from opensourceway via Flickr

Taking Vacation? Its Career Value Is In Your Sound Bite

Nothing is more glorious than time off. When we get hired, our burning question after salary is usually about vacation days. 

That said, it’s been written that Americans often don’t take all their vacation time. In some cases it’s because we: 

  • Don’t want to fall behind
  • Worry that things will go wrong in our absence
  • Are reluctant to delegate
  • Lack confidence in our job security
  • Haven’t developed motivating interests outside of work 

Truth is: We need to take time off. Most of us are exhausted. We need downtime to build ourselves up. 

Vacations as differentiators 

Too often we fail to see how vacations enhance our personal brands at work. If we’re smart, we can use time off to build our image while refreshing ourselves. 

There are all kinds of vacations: 

  • Fun family trips that tighten our bonds with people we love
  • Stay-cations to catch up on domestic chores or launch new projects
  • Tours to historical, cultural, and scenic places here and abroad
  • Adventures to explore new places and challenge ourselves
  • Learning experiences—academic immersion programs, reading vacations, and skill building (gourmet cooking, painting, writing)
  • Hobby pursuits like antiquing, music, and sports
  • Volunteering in the community, for specific causes, and for global impact 

What you say about what you do on vacation contributes to the way your boss and colleagues see you. 

Be selective 

Today’s reality is that our boss and coworkers form opinions about us on the fly based on what we say and do and what others say about us. These bits and pieces of perception impact our brand. 

When it comes to vacations, it’s pretty standard that we’ll be asked these questions: 

  • Where are you going on vacation? (Before)
  • How was your vacation? (After) 

Your best answer is a sound bite. That’s what your coworkers want—a nugget that sums up your time off—something they’ll remember and/or pass along to their colleagues as a “did you know.” 

Each vacation highlight you share builds perceptions about what drives you.

Your vacation “reports” are cumulative. The more they are the same, the less interest and value they command. The more diverse they are, the more fascinating you become. 

Here’s the trick: You don’t have to take amazing, over-the-top vacations to create the buzz you want. You just need to do one thing that’s unique each time that sparks interest, even if it only takes a day or an hour. 

  1. I once worked with a VP who diligently took vacation every year with his young family which was a positive, for sure. However, for 14 consecutive years he took them to Disney World. When asked, “Where are you going on vacation?” he’d always answer, “To see Mickey.” He had an “I resist change” brand which his vacation pattern reinforced. Ulitmately, his career flat-lined. 
  2. I was a commercial horse breeder while I was a corporate manager. I used some of my company vacation time to buy or sell young thoroughbreds or broodmares. When asked about my vacations, I would mention the sales auctions and/or tracks I was going to and how I made out. The fact that I was involved in the horse industry added to my brand as a businesswoman willing to put myself out there. 
  3. A former colleague, deeply committed to animal rescue, spends part of her yearly vacation at the Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary in Utah as a volunteer. Her career continues to rise as someone with great talent willing to give back. 

Parlay your fun 

Vacations are opportunities to enrich ourselves, so we need to extract from them the experiences that fill us out. That’s the part of vacation that becomes the snippets we share at work. 

Vacations give us experiences that broaden our perspectives, make us happy, and remind us what really matters in life. When it’s your time, please take it. 

Photo from jonycunha via Flickr

Sizing You Up | Dependability Ratings Matter

Being there when expected. Stepping up when needed. Always delivering the goods. Dependability counts big time for getting a  job, a good performance appraisal, and a promotion.  So, are you? 

The way we perform is a measure of the standards we bring. 

Dependability showcases commitment. Are we as good as our word? When we agree to do job, will we give it our best no matter what the circumstances? This can be a big test. It sure was for me. 

A farmer friend of mine was in a pinch. He had about ten acres of alfalfa hay that needed to be baled one Saturday afternoon but had no help available. So I agreed to fill in even though I was no farm hand. 

At that time, I co-owned a three-year-old thoroughbred gelding that was being trained as a show horse. My partner, who trained him, came over that same morning to give him a light ride.

 It was a muggy, buggy, 90-degree day. The horse performed so nicely that the trainer suggested I hop on to get a feel for his easy gait. 

He was a big horse so I needed a leg up to mount. When I was in air, he shifted suddenly because the bugs were annoying him. Instead of landing in the saddle, I came down his rump. He bucked, flipped me in the air, and I landed face first on the ground. 

Although I was wearing a helmet, that didn’t cover my jaw or the rest of me. I heard my neck and back crunch at landing and knew I’d loosened some teeth. I lay there for about 15 long minutes before I could get up. 

My trainer friend was relieved when I was upright. So was I. But all I could think of was that hay laying.

After resting a bit, although I was unbelievably sore, off to the fields I went.

The farmer couldn’t understand at first why I was limping toward the tractor and baler. When I told him, I don’t think it registered. Ten acres of alfalfa that, if not baled at exactly the right time, are worthless. That was his priority.

 His job was to drive the machinery (there’s an art to that) and mine was to hook each bale off the chute and stack it five rows high on the wagon. It was a terribly hard and hot job for me, especially under the circumstances! But we got that crop baled at its peak, ensuring its market value. 

Dependability builds our brand and makes our value visible. 

Lots of people heard that story. It validated me among the hard working, career farmers whose world I was coming to know. It also taught me a lot about how important my “word” was to me. 

Everyone sees or hears about what we do, especially against difficult odds. It can become lore, dubbing some people heroic, angelic, or mythic.   

Think of the people you’ve heard of who: 

  • Never miss a day of work
  • Take assignments that are difficult or high risk
  • Speak up when there’s an injustice
  • Lend a hand to a colleague or customer who is struggling
  • Give up free time to cover a shift
  • Set personal challenges aside to get the job done   

If we can’t be counted on, we’ll soon be counted out. 

The backbone of any career strategy is to build a reputation of dependability. It can come with positive brand labels like selfless, dedicated, and team player. 

Being indispensable is a by-product of dependability, especially when you step forward to solve problems, create remedies, and anticipate issues before they become nightmares. 

When our resumes looks like we’re running from the law, our time off records like we’re a magnet for germs, or our performance appraisals like we’re asleep at our desks, it’s time to reexamine what we’re really committed to.

Business fitness is about being prepared and ready to move forward. Being ready is about being committed—dependable, reliable, trustworthy, and responsible. High standards are good reasons for you to feel proud. 

Have you ever had your dependability tested? How did it go? What did you learn? These moments can be eye-opening.