Posts Tagged ‘Behavior’

Positive NegativeI realized something yesterday regarding the types of blog posts that gain the most views.  When there are pairs of posts on related topics with one having a more positive title and one more negative, the one with the more negative title gets more views.

Here are the numbers for two pairs of posts published in the last couple of months:

From early February, the post about The Worst Mistakes I’ve Made As An Employee has had 942 views, while The Best Behaviors I’ve Shown As An Employee has only received 296 views – less than one-third the number of the one about worst mistakes.  Then last week I published What I Appreciate Most in Coworkers which has received 175 views in a week, while yesterday’s What Annoys Me the Most About Coworkers has received 217 views in one day.

I’m not sure what to make of those numbers.  Are the posts with the more negative sounding titles more sensational?  Do they sound juicier?  Are we drawn to posts that point out the faults of others in order to feel better about ourselves? Or did these two just happen to strike a chord with readers and fellow workers?  The content itself in the more popular posts is not presented from a negative point of view since that isn’t how I think, live or write.  They just tell an honest story or make honest observations about negative behaviors.

What do you think?  Why would a post about my worst mistakes get more than three times the views of a post on things I’ve done well?  Why would a post about annoying coworker behavior get more views in one day than a post about behaviors I appreciate gets in a week?

Annoying CoworkersLast week I wrote a post about what I appreciate most in coworkers.  Thanks to all who made it one of my most read posts for the year to date.  This post addresses the flip side of the issue by discussing those things that really get under my skin about coworkers.  Of course, I’m writing a summary post from 40 years or working and am not airing a bunch of dirty laundry regarding my current team – a team I am incredibly impressed with and glad to be part of.

Here are the things that most annoy me in no particular order of importance:

1. Negativity.  As someone who prefers optimism over pessimism, I find it draining and depressing to be around Negative Nellies all the time.  Whether this is in the form of constantly complaining about one’s work environment, other people, personal matters at home, management, work to be done, one’s health, opinions concerning project plans, or a host of other possibilities, please don’t pollute the office and the daily experience of those around you by bringing more negativity than positivity to the office.  If you’re that miserable at work, then find something else somewhere else.  If you’re like this wherever you work, then the problem is you – not others or the work environment.

2. Excessive absenteeism.  I realize people take vacations, get sick and have family emergencies that take them away from work from time to time.  Heck, I’m writing this in the middle of such a few days myself helping to take care of my wife after an accident Sunday and in anticipation of her having surgery tomorrow.  But I have worked with some people who have more weeks per year with days away than weeks with all five days in the office.  With these folks, there always seems to be some crisis du jour that causes them to come in late, leave early, take another day off, etc.  It leaves me wondering just how many days a year these people take off and how that all reconciles with limits the company places on paid time off.  Is anyone holding them accountable?

3. Not delivering results.  I don’t care how many lofty plans you think up or what good intentions you announced at the last staff meeting.  I want to see work completed and done so in a timely manner.  I could line my cube wall with the empty promises of what others said they would do and never got around to finishing.  I’d rather line the walls with lists of amazing things accomplished by the team.

4. Managers who don’t hold people accountable.  This relates to the previous one, but focuses on the manager rather than the coworker.  I have been on teams where  managers inconceivably let slide month after month and year after year the lack of deliverables from some people on the team while others consistently churn out work at an incredible pace.  Is it because the manager doesn’t see it?  Does he not care?  Is he clueless about how to hold people accountable for performance results?  Doesn’t he realize what this disparity in apparent expectations does to the morale and potential performance of the rest of the team, not to mention the toll it takes on interpersonal dynamics?  It may be easy to convince oneself that letting people self-manage and requiring team members to hold each other accountable is the emotionally mature way to go, but doing so sure smells a lot like abdicating one’s management responsibilities when individual performance issues never get addressed.

5. Backstabbing.  I prefer to trust people until they give me a reason not to.  One way to quickly and permanently lose that trust is to stab me (or others I trust) in the back.  If you think doing so makes you look good, you’re wrong.  If you’re doing it to climb up the corporate ladder via the bleeding backs of others, then you will ultimately fail.  If you have something to say about the work I do, how I do it, or about any quality or capability I bring to the table, then do so to my face.  If you would hesitate to say it to me, then that ought to be a clue that you shouldn’t say it to others either.  Word gets around sooner or later, and a pattern of backstabbing others will get you a reputation that does you far more harm than good.  Build others up; don’t tear them down.

6. Jumping to conclusions.  I have to chuckle at times at the swift speed at which we go from very limited information to unfounded and inaccurate conclusions.  Learn to ask more questions and find out more facts about a situation before you take off on some rant or devise some unnecessary solution for a misdiagnosed problem.  I see this on our company’s internal social network all the time when someone will have one little piece of info or limited experience and then take off on some speculative discussion path rather than take the time to first inquire and understand the whole picture.

7. Failing to involve others in decision making.  It is the style of some “leaders” to think they need to make decisions in a vacuum or only with the involvement of very few people impacted, and then announce that major decision to others impacted by it.  That is a mistake.  With today’s ease of communication in organizations via internal social media, and especially if all impacted are easily gathered together for discussion prior to decisions, we are far better off tapping the collective wisdom of the entire stakeholder community before decisions are made.  This results in a far greater likelihood that the best decisions will be made and that broad buy-in from the ranks will be there from the start.  Leaders who get this right will find an appreciative workforce who provides valuable feedback, feels like they are partners in the enterprise, and who are strong advocates of final decisions made.  Leaders who continue to make major decisions behind locked doors, making some big announcement after everything is set in stone, only foster distrust about what will be handed down next.

8. Policy and process guardians with no common sense.  People who want to respond to every bad thing that ever happens with another policy or unbending process written in stone need to lighten up.  You can’t have an agile, creative, innovative, effective workplace that responds to today’s business needs and climate realities if every attempt to get work done is stifled or significantly delayed by people enforcing extremely conservative policies and complex processes that may be even prohibit the very actions they are presumably established to guide.  The business does not exist to enforce its policies and processes.  The policies and processes exist to help the business accomplish its objectives, and when they impede that progress, they need to be called out and changed by those empowered to do so.  That seems like common sense to me, but as I’ve heard others say, “If common sense was common, more people would have it.”

9. Making it hard for others to reach you.  This comes in a few different forms.  For example, when I read an email, I expect a signature block to contain basic contact info, even if you are from within my own company, but especially if you are from another company.  Unless you’re sitting within earshot of me, include your phone and any other relevant contact info in your signature block.  I don’t want to waste time having to look you up in the company directory or in previous emails or notes every time we need to talk.  If the company provides an instant messaging platform, then set up your PC to log in to it automatically every day for those quick exchanges that don’t warrant an email or phone call.  If you’re out of the office for a time, update your voice mail and email to note that so I don’t think you’re just ignoring me and so I can direct my questions to others while you are away.  If your area is responsible for some process that others must go through, then make clear on your website or somewhere who to actually contact if there is a need to talk to a real, live person instead of some generic email address.  Go out of your way to make it easy for others to reach you.

10.  Passing the buck.  How many times have you been sent from one person or department to another when trying to track down information or assistance with some matter?  I understand that not everyone is responsible for everything, especially in a large company.  Certain business areas own certain processes and aspects of the business and need to take pride in that ownership, making the areas for which they have responsibility run as smoothly as possible.  That means owning up to failures without pointing fingers to others who may have influenced failure in some way.  The kind of person who most impresses me in this regard is the one who will take ownership and initiative in finding answers, information and solutions even though it most certainly is not their actual job responsibility to do so.  That kind of customer and problem-solving focus is greatly appreciated by anyone who has ever experienced the exasperation of a string of people unwilling to take responsibility or to help.

So there you have the ten things that most annoy me about coworkers – a list compiled from reflecting on many years of work across many teams and under many different managers.

What about you?  What annoys you the most about coworkers?

Good WorkerLast month I wrote a couple of posts about The Best Behaviors I’ve Shown As An Employee and The Worst Mistakes I’ve Made As An Employee. They were very well received with the post on worst mistakes being the most viewed post on this blog in the two years the blog has existed. Having examined myself first in those posts, I now turn my attention to what I appreciate most and what annoys me the most in coworkers. I’ll split the topics into two posts. I’ve worked at a number of places over 40 years, so don’t make any assumptions about particular places, teams or individuals referenced. I would never name names in a negative comment.

Since many working adults spend more waking hours with coworkers than with their families weekly, how we get along with others at work is important. When relationships are good and healthy, when work is fun and fulfilling, life is good. Most of us, though, have experienced those jobs or coworkers from time to time where interpersonal conflict and other issues cause stress and dissatisfaction. This post focuses on the characteristics and behaviors that I most appreciate in coworkers. My next post will deal with the flip side.

Here they are, not in any particular order of importance:

1. Strong work ethic. I don’t necessarily expect everyone to willingly and consistently put in the 50-55 hours per week I typically give, but I do expect people to work hard and to go above and beyond when needed. It turns me off if someone is so tied to a clock that they don’t consider putting in more than the minimum required. I love working with people who are driven to give their best and to put in the time necessary to put out quality work.

2. Sense of humor. It’s amazing how much quicker a day goes by when it is sprinkled with laughter and good-natured fun along the way. The presence of humor makes me want to be with the sources of that humor.

3. Creativity. I don’t claim to be very creative, but I appreciate others who can look at issues and tasks in new ways, present solutions I would never think of, and turn something otherwise mundane and bland into something that meets a need in an appealing, attractive, and unique way. There are almost always better ways to accomplish things, and being surrounded by creative minds increases the likelihood of coming up with remarkable solutions to business needs.

4. Willingness to help. When coworkers notice that a colleague is sinking under a heavy workload and needs help, it is encouraging to see them offer to share the load even if they already have a full plate themselves. Sometimes we all need a helping hand, and having colleagues you can turn to in a pinch or who initiate offering help is a godsend.

5. Emotional maturity. It is not helpful in an office when people wear their emotions on their sleeves and don’t know how to stay professional. I like working with others who can address matters calmly, reasonably, and with a common purpose of solving problems, moving forward, and getting things done. It is nice when people can receive constructive criticism and suggestions willingly. It’s helpful when others do not take things too personally when the intent of the conversation is to do what is in the best interests of the company and the work to be done.

6. Integrity. I like working with people who do what they say they they will do. I respect people who are honest in all situations. I expect that of myself and of others. Without it, I just can’t trust you, and that will negatively impact our ability to work together.

7. Initiative. It is invigorating to work on a team where individuals constantly think of new things that can be done as well as new and better ways to do what has been done in the past. When colleagues act on those inclinations, you have a scenario where the workers are fully engaged and enthusiastic about what they bring to the table, and the company ultimately benefits. It’s a win-win for the worker and the business.

8. Willingness to bend or break the rules. This one may get me in trouble. While it is important to live within corporate policies, it is also important to put faith in trusted, proven individuals and give them some leeway to act on their knowledge, experience, and instincts, even if some rules get bent in the process. Most of us don’t have to think too long and hard to come up with frustrating examples of corporate practices and policies that have been allowed to morph into some giant, life-sucking, time-consuming albatross around the necks of people who simply want to get their jobs done in the most efficient and effective manner possible. The rebel in me loves people willing to break rules in order to do a better job at something, asking forgiveness rather than permission.

9. Managers who give me a job to do and turn me loose to do it. I have been blessed with more managers than not who have trusted me to get my work done without them breathing down my neck and trying to micromanage everything I do. If I need help, I’ll ask for it. Otherwise, they can know that all is well. Check in with me every week or two to hold me accountable, but otherwise give me space and I’ll do you proud. Those who understand that and give me that freedom get my best work. Those who do not are now former managers.

10. Friendship. I don’t have to be best friends with anyone at work, but I do like thinking of several as genuine friends – people with whom I would be glad to hang out outside of work from time to time. That requires common interests, liking each other, and someone taking the initiative to get together outside of work occasionally. There is much to be gained from simply going out for a meal together or joining in some fun activity just for the heck of it.

So there you have my top ten characteristics or behaviors I most appreciate in coworkers. Some of my roles and teams have aligned better with those expectations than others. I am incredibly fortunate to be on a stellar team now that lives up to all of these.

What about you? What do you appreciate most in a coworker?

For Such A Time As ThisAt my company, we have many discussions and activities related to the subject of well-being.  Most of these are related to the health dimension of well-being, but we still acknowledge and work toward improving well-being in other areas as well, such as security, belonging, and purpose.  This post addresses a little about the purpose dimension of well-being.

If someone asks you “What is your purpose in life?”, how will you respond?  Will the answer today be different than a few years ago?  Does one’s purpose remain relatively constant throughout adult life, or do you think it’s subject to periodic change?

For a few decades, when I have heard the question, I have immediately thought of the first part of the Westminster Shorter Catechism created in 1647:

“What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”

I’m not telling anyone else what their purpose should be by posting the above – just stating that such a clear, concise understanding has helped guide me for many years and continues to do so.  But what does that mean?  It’s a rather broad statement and certainly open to interpretation at the level of implementation detail.  For me, the overall purpose remains constant, but how that fleshes out from one year to the next or even one day to the next is up for grabs.  I certainly have some consistent beliefs, practices and commitments related to that purpose, but there is flexibility that can make what I do today a little different that what I did yesterday, and there’s even a little wiggle room in some peripheral beliefs.  A sense of purpose may provide wide guidelines and boundaries within which we operate, while still being open to momentary, unexpected events that tie to the purpose, yet could never be planned in advance.

I believe each of us is uniquely positioned in this world to do something and to be someone unlike any other.  Nobody else has the exact experiences, motivations, passions, trials, and opportunities as you.  Nobody.  So it seems that each of us has the opportunity to live out our purpose in a wonderfully unique way that has not existed before and will not be repeated again, even if we share the same overall purpose.  It is as though we are actors in a tremendous drama where we get to write part of the script as we go, making the most of each moment.

This unique fleshing out of one’s purpose recalls to mind an insightful thought from one of the main characters in the grand story from the Old Testament book of Esther in the 5th century B.C.  As scenes change from one queen losing favor with the king, and a young Jewish Esther becoming queen, evil Haman plots to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire.  Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, in discussing her risky option of approaching the king to help save the Jews, tells her “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).  Being in that place at that time for those actions was central to Esther’s purpose in life.  I wonder how many little things along the way not recorded in the book contributed to the unfolding of events as they played out.  She, and only she, was in a unique position to make a difference in that situation for all time.

Decisions may be seemingly small, random and passing (such as to help that needy person on the street), or large and obviously consequential (e.g., career choices, relationship decisions, and leaps of faith).  It’s possible that coincidence is involved in the timing of some things, but it is just as likely (more so in my opinion) that there is more at work than mere coincidence, even in the daily unexpected moments that bring meaning to our days and that relate to our purpose.

My takeaways from thinking about this: Know the broad overarching purpose that gives your life meaning and significance.  Plan your days and work hard, but always be open to unexpected opportunities uniquely presented just to you at just that moment.  You will respond to them either in accordance with or contrary to your perceived purpose.

Who knows whether you have come for such a time as this?

Stooping To HelpHave you ever seen a child instinctively help another child up when he falls? Do you recall a time when you immediately went to someone’s aid without having to stop and think about it simply because there was a need and you wanted to help? It seems like such a simple matter, but it appears that as we “mature” and find ourselves in different positions and roles in life, that willingness to stoop to help others lives in constant danger of being suppressed.

The attention of the world in recent days has been given to the new Pope Francis and especially his lifestyle of service, simplicity and humility through the years. Against the backdrop of world leaders often living in splendor while their countrymen suffer, such an attitude is, indeed, refreshing. Nobody is too good or too important to serve others.

While reading Nehemiah the last couple of days about the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall in the 5th century B.C., Nehemiah 3:5 jumped out at me. In the midst of a passage talking about the various groups that shared in the responsibility of rebuilding and repairing, we read: “And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.”

Who would not stoop? The nobles. The work was being done by a vast number of people eager to do the work, to be part of a cause greater than themselves. Yet here was a group of people who considered themselves greater than the work. They considered it beneath them, yet it was the most significant work of that century for that people.

The problem with considering yourself too good to stoop to help others is that those who hold such an attitude are completely inaccurate in their self-assessment. They aren’t really too good or lofty to serve or help others – they just think they are. They are mistaken.

I am thankful for the example of everyday men and women, boys and girls, who care more about helping others than about maintaining some off-base inflated self-assessment of their importance. I am grateful for leaders who understand and practice servant leadership. I am humbled by people who are not afraid to get their hands dirty and to live life in the trenches if that is where the need is found.

“But whoever must be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” – Jesus, Mark 10:43-45.