Seen as a Workplace Jerk

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being seen negatively: What do you recommend I do to improve my situation?

I’m seen as a jerk in the workplace, some of it deserved and some not. I’m seen as not a team player, sometimes because I used my initiative and it wasn’t welcome. I think I’m seen as abrasive. I want to change. I want to fit in better with my coworkers. What do you recommend I do to improve my situation? Thank you.

Signed, I’m Seen As A Jerk

Dear I’m Seen As A Jerk:

read more

Read More

Should I Leave If I Feel Left Out

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feeling excluded:

I have been at my job for four months now and have seen and heard it all. I know for a fact that my co-workers and supervisor talk about me behind my back. How do I know? An outsider who works for another company and who just comes in every two weeks to deliver items came and told me what they were saying about me. I don’t know why he told me because they have known him longer than I have. I told my supervisor about it and she took care of it.

read more

Read More

What Can Go Wrong In Teams

Question:

My universtiy class is called Communication in Small Groups and Teams. We were asked this question in class, and so I thought I would ask you. The question is, “What can go wrong in teams?”

Signed,

Wondering

Answer:

Dear Wondering:

You will probably gain better insight on that topic by finding a college level text or business text that discusses the question.

Some quick responses are these:

1. There is strong inequity in the amount contributed by each team member. 2. Some members feel more empowered than others. 3. The head of the team (coordinator) does a poor job, with the result that some team members feel unsupported or the team loses sight of their goal. 4. The team isn’t clear what their goal should be. There are undoubtedly many things that go wrong, but those are some of the most common things I have observed. Best wishes to you!

read more

Read More

How To Blend Personalities At Work

Question:

I would like to learn which personality types work best together. For example, some people seem like they consider the work world as an extension of high school and form groups, etc.

Others see work as just that…work, and want to come in, do their job, and go home as they see work as a way to pay bills and do not view their job as a social event. Some people want to say “good morning” and be pleasant, but want to keep things professional, while some other people seem to view work as a social event.

Then, there are the people that actually work (and may make less money), and there are the people that sit around reading romance novels on the clock (and may make more money than the people that are actually working at work). So, how do employers decide if their business is more similar to a frat party and hire only those people interested in socializing, or if their business is more similar to a well oiled machine that gets the job done and only hires people that just want to do the job they were hired to do?

I am hoping that maybe hiring like thinkers will make some workplaces better for all employees.

read more

Read More

How To Avoid Giving Personal Info to Coworkers?

Question:

How do I say no to providing information when a coworker asks me for information I don’t want to give, like my address, what I do in my time off, etc.? Is it considered impolite to ask people for their address at work, or is it just me that doesn’t wish to provide this information to a co-worker?

Signed,

Want Privacy

Answer:

Dear Want Privacy:

The issue of sharing personal information at work is one that like most things involves balance–not always easy to achieve.

We hear from many people who feel completely isolated and alone for eight hours or more a day because no one will talk to them or, if they do, it’s unpleasant. Some of those letters are tragic in their lonelineness and the feeling that no one thinks of them as a person, merely a worker.

We also hear from and about people who have been told they talk too much and waste too much time flitting from desk to desk. We hear from those who like to be friendly at work but do not want to establish close relationships. And, we hear complaints about people who aren’t just unsociable, they are reclusive and refuse to do much more than grunt now and then.

I’m assuming you aren’t in fear or feeling threatened by a stalker or a similar situation, which is also something we hear about now and then.

Fortunately, most personal questions are just efforts to establish some commonality of thinking and no one is rushing to write it down or memorize it. They may not even internalize it at the time, it’s merely something to ask as a way to connect for a better working environment or so they can talk about themselves next! One more general thought that will help you in your solution: In our society and culture most of us make tentative comments and actions, then we wait to see what happens. Communication is often a process of reach out, step back, wait and see, reach out again, etc.

If you don’t want to be asked about your personal life, you will need to courteously let that be known and I’ll bet the other people will stop asking. If you handle it courteously they won’t even consider that they have been shut down, they’ll just move on. They reached out, you didn’t reach back.

That brings us to some specific advice:

You have two options: You can either say up front that you don’t give out personal information or you can answer, but in a vague way that doesn’t provide anything personal.

The direct way would be to say, “Lisa, I appreciate you asking about my life away from work because I realize a lot of people share personal information. But, that’s something I don’t do. I keep my worklife and private life completely separate. I hope you understand.” If you say that in a friendly way and continue with work conversation, Lisa might think you are odd but she won’t resent it.

That is far better than, “I don’t give out personal information, Lisa.” That sounds like you’re accusing her of trying to weasel information from you for some nefarious purpose.

You can also try responding in a vague way. If someone asks where you live: “I live in the Highland subdivision.” “I live on the Westside.” “I have a place south of here.” If they ask if you live in a house or apartment, you can say something like, “Any place where I live is home to me and that’s all that matters.”

If they ask about family you can say, “I have enough family to keep me busy.”

If they ask what you do on your time off: “Oh, I just live a life, you know how that goes.” “I mostly just take care of things around the house.” If they push that a bit more, for example, by asking about hobbies or favorite things to do, you can just repeat the same general thing, “Really, I just enjoy being away from work.”

If the coworker continues, then you can be honest and friendly about your approach to that kind of thing. “I know that a lot of people talk about their personal life at work, but I don’t like to do that. I keep my private life completely private.” If you’re courteous and can even smile a bit, no one will be hurt or offended and you will have made your point.

Obviously, if they keep asking, that is something to bring up with a supervisor, because it’s not appropriate and it’s excessive and disruptive to work.

The thing to avoid is making your approach one of being angry that you were asked, acting like it’s rude to ask (because it isn’t in our society) and generally being anti-social as though you don’t like them and don’t care if they like you.

Work involves interacting with people and work is done better when there is an element of acceptance, openness, smiles and encouragement. That can’t be achieved without communication.

Shutting down communication isn’t the solution to any problem at work. Balance and appropriateness is what we should all be aiming for, within the culture of our workplaces. Many people keep their private lives private while still being considered friendly and approachable, so I’m confident you’ll be able to do that as well.

Best wishes to you!

read more

Read More

Not Treated With Respect Because of My Age

Question:

I am a qualified dental nurse at a very relaxed dental surgery. So relaxed in fact that the manager and the nurses are all best friends. Can I point out at this stage that I am the only qualified nurse at work. I am only 18 years old but I have worked very hard to get where I am today. The other nurses are much older than me, one is 21 and the other is 30 and both have failed their exams several times, whereas I passed mine on the first try.

My real issue is that despite being the only qualified nurse at work, nobody seems to register that I should have some respect with that. For example plenty of staff meetings have gone on in which, when I voice my concerns about serious issues such as malfunctioning equipment, I am ignored, my concerns are not written in the staff meeting notes and I am often talked over. This still makes me feel like an apprentice! The other example I have is that the hygienist I work with seems to have a particular issue with me. Okay, granted I am human and I make mistakes. But when I do make a genuine mistake she feels the need to verbally discipline me in front of patients that she is treating.

Not only does this make me feel extremely penalised as she doesn’t do this to other nurses (who make plenty more mistakes than I do!!) it almost belittles me as it makes me feel as if I’m not any good at my job.

I would like to point out that the hygienist is just my colleague and is no way superior to me and can not discipline me. I know a lot of people would advise that I speak to my manager, but considering how relaxed my work is, the practice manager doesn’t do anything. I have complained about the hygienists attitude towards me four times now, all to do with telling me off in front of patients. All my manager does is laugh and say that I shouldn’t be making the mistakes in the first place.

What can I do? I feel so helpless and realistically like I’m terrible at my job. I know that I’m a great and passionate nurse, it’s just I feel as if being 18 means that I have no respect from my colleagues and boss.

read more

Read More

How Important Is Friendship In the Workplace?

Question:

How important is friendship in the workplace? Do you have to befriend everyone? Is it okay to not be friends and just be co-workers?

Signed,

Finding a Balance

Answer:

Dear Finding a Balance:

Most people consider only one or two people at work as friends (and sometimes no one is considered as close as a personal friend would be). The rest are work colleagues, coworkers, fellow employees or mere acquaintances. The size of the business, type of business and the workplace culture makes a big difference in how emotionally close one gets to those in the business.

Sometimes a workplace is so friendly that work doesn’t get done! Instead of feeling focused on doing the work, the focus is on feeling good about each other. That can be a big problem.

On the other hand, sometimes people are so focused on work that the commonplace courtesies and efforts to smooth out conflict and communication issues are missing. That can be a big problem too. So, balance is very importance! I wonder if you are asking your questions because of a work situation in which you are involved. If so, the following thoughts might help you develop an answer for your specific situation.

How important is friendship in the workplace? It’s good feeling to have friends and often that adds to work environment for everyone. But, one can be an effective employee and not be as close to anyone as the term “friend” involves.

Do you have to befriend everyone? You have to make an effort to be friendly and courteous to everyone, with the goal of improving communications and being a good citizen in the workplace. But, you do not have to be a friend to everyone (and probably couldn’t be) nor should you spend time cultivating friendships to the exclusion of getting work done.

Is it okay to not be friends and just be coworkers? Certainly. In fact, it is very doubtful that everyone wants to be everyone else’s friends anyway. Most people want to work around those who are credible, knowledgeable, skillful, good communicators and who are able to have a variety of good interpersonal relationships—from friendship to internal customer to coworkers to work-acquaintance.

When someone is told they are not friendly at work, it usually doesn’t refer to them being friends with someone or with everyone. It refers to them being curt, isolated, not participating or acting strange to the point that others feel uncomfortable around them.

Most employees, as they mature, learn how to achieve a balance between being more concerned about friendships than work and being obsessively focused on work to the exclusion of even good communications. If you wonder about it for yourself, talk to your manager or boss and see if you have achieved the balance he or she wants for all employees–or if there is some other issue you need to consider and improve.

Best wishes to you with this issue!

read more

Read More

Where Should You Ask Someone For Approval?

Question:

Is it appropriate to ask someone to approve something as the person is in the vicinity of your area or should you wait until that person is at his/her desk (which is in another area)?

Signed,

Location Question

Answer:

Dear Location Question:

Your question seems to have a rather logical response: The time to ask for approval is when it is easiest for both people to consider an item, discuss it if needed, and get it approved according to procedures.

However, circumstances vary so much in workplace situations, that even a simple question can have several responses, unless one is right there to know the context.

For example,, if someone is standing next to you and you need their approval for a letter or report, does it not seem appropriate to just ask them for it while they are there? That seems to me to be the best way to handle it.

Carry it further. If they walk away and THEN you get up, leave your area, go to their area and ask them for approval, doesn’t it seem likely they would think it very foolish of you to have waited?

On the other hand, if they are standing by your desk but they have to consult with something on their own desk BEFORE they can give approval, doesn’t it seem logical to let them know what you need approval about and tell them that you’ll send it to them by email or will bring it over to them later, unless they want to take it with them?

Communication and understanding the situation is the key. So, the answer to your question requires context. What is the approval about? What have you or others been told to do in the past? What seems to be the best use of time and energy? It could be that you asked the question because a decision you made about getting approval turned out to be wrong. If that’s the case, perhaps seeing the situation from the other person’s viewpoint would help you understand why it was thought that your actions weren’t the best. Maybe it seemed obvious to them that you should have waited. Or, maybe they felt you shouldn’t have felt the need to get approval for something in the first place.

But, if you feel you did the right thing, maybe the matter isn’t important enough to worry about anyway. Next time you can think through it and do it differently.

Most of the time, work moves forward in spite of bumps in the road and minor misunderstandings. The secret to success is to not stop for too long wondering about the bump. Just keep moving along with the work! Best wishes with this issue.

read more

Read More

How To Converse With Supervisor?

Question:

How should I talk with my supervisor without sounding stuck-up, like a kiss-ass, or like an idiot?

Signed,

Speechless

Answer:

Dear Speechless:

The best way to talk to anyone, whatever his or her role in your life, is to talk with sincere interest in the message that you want to communicate. Sometimes our talk is serious, sometimes joking or light-hearted and sometimes, small-talk that doesn’t mean much (“Nice weather, huh?”) But, through it all there should be a sincere desire to build a relationship that is appropriate for the situation.

You can’t do any of those things if your main concern is how you DON’T want to sound. Be most concerned about being comfortable, honest, friendly and appropriate.

I often suggest the following conversational topics to young employees. If you have been working for some length of time for the same person, they might need to be adjusted.

1. Greetings and farewells. It’s always appropriate to say good morning and goodnight, with a smile and just those brief words. Most bosses don’t have the time to chat with each employee, so it’s easier for them to just look up and say hi or goodbye. But, those two times of the work day are important for showing friendliness and appropriateness. If they leave first, just glance up and smile and say, “Have a nice evening. See you tomorrow.” In the morning you can just say, “Hi, Jim.” Smile and keep moving.

2. Moving through the day comments. When you see someone repeatedly up and down an office or hallway, you don’t want to stop and talk all the time and it seems weird to say a big hello every time you pass someone. So, I suggest that people just make brief eye contact and barely say, “Hi.” Or, “Busy day.” Or even some comment that works for the situation, “183 copies and no jams. Yaaay!”

Those kind of remarks aren’t conversations, but they move things along and smooth relationships. 3. Small talk socializing. Balance in how much time is spent in non-work talk is important, but there is usually time for chatting about various things that make life and work fun. I often suggest to those who feel on the outside of the group that they acknowledge the group as a way to show there are no hard feelings about their closeness. “Hi you guys!” “Have any of you guys seen that movie about cowboys and aliens?” “See you guys tomorrow.” (I use the term “guys” because that has become fairly standard for addressing both genders.)

If you’re not talking to a group the easiest topics for individuals are to talk about his or her family, travel, car choices, vacation plans, etc., or about work topics.

I have found that it works best to limit small talk chit-chat with those who aren’t close friends. Usually it is awkward for everyone and tends to get boring quickly! Say a few things, smile graciously and get up and leave or let them do so.

4. Thank you and appreciation. There are many times to say thank you and we should look for those times. Someone holds the door or they help with something, or they pass along a report or bring a new item to work on. A brief thank you or word or two of appreciation is always appreciated. (“Oh, thanks. I could have gotten that but I appreciate you doing it for me.” “I saw the report on my desk. Thanks a lot, Anna.”) 5. Information about work. During every work day there is usually a need to keep people informed about something. Use those times as times to show appropriateness about conversation as well as to demonstrate dependability. (“I’m still working on that report but I’ll have it by 3 p.m.” “I sent that file over to Gretchen and she said she’d pass it along. I’ll let you know what I hear.”)

6. Requests for assistance. These times should be limited, but there are times when a manager or supervisor is the only one who can help us. Avoid making this a whining, excuse making, groveling moment! Instead, ask for what you need and wait for the answer. (“I can’t do this in the time allowed. I can do it by noon though. Would that be OK?” “I’ve looked at this form for an hour and still can’t figure out what to do with it. Could you look at it and tell me what you think?”)

7. Questions and comments about work and the workplace. A manager is interested in how work is going and probably is often thinking about the future of the office or the staff. Thus, that topic is one he or she is thinking about and has an opinion about. (“How long do you think this situation will last?” “Is this working out the way you want it?” “Why do you think this is causing more work than last year?” “Where do you see us in five years?” “What got you into this line of work anyway?”) There are a million things to talk about. The key is to really want to discuss it and really want to know the answer, not just talk to be talking.

Now, having said those 7 topic areas for conversation, I will also share what I tell young employees: None of that matters if you’re not doing good work. A manager isn’t interested in fun talk with someone who has let him or her down on the work. He or she will also not be very happy to talk if you are creating so many problems at work that you are more trouble than you’re worth. So, first, be a great employee, then put positive purpose behind your communication.

I hope these ideas are useful and that you can adapt them for your situation.

read more

Read More

My Boss Doesn’t Seem To Like Me!

Question:

I recently acquired this job a couple months ago and has been pretty good since. It’s a laid back place and I pretty much sit at a desk all day. My other coworkers are pretty cool and we chat and goof off sometimes. We tend to surf the web and slack off every now and then too. Recently I’ve been doing the same as them by going on the web and what not but there are times when my boss sees me doing so and I catch him sometimes staring at me doing it. He has caught me recently doing it often, so finally he took me aside and talked to me. I didn’t really think it was serious up until he started watching me more and more. And yes, I was being irresponsible by continuing this behavior, but I made sure my work was getting done. But when he pulled me aside that one day, he spoke to me about it. He told me that he is close to getting rid of me due to poor performance. I apologized for my actions and told him it won’t happen again. It has only been a few days since the talk but I have not done anything other than my work since. The problem is, and this was even before the incident, that whenever he would come in to the office or whenever the whole team was together conversing, he would act like I wasn’t there. Something like not being a part of the team is what I was feeling at that point. I don’t usually care about these things, but since the beginning, he has never showed any interest in building a relationship with me, as if I’m of no importance. I honestly don’t know if he’s not comfortable with me or if he just doesn’t like me or what. My birthday passed and he did not acknowledge it, even though everyone in the office knew. I feel tension between us, and I do not want it to be that way. He’s humorous and playful with the others, but he doesn’t even say hi to me. I hope he doesn’t have the wrong idea of me, but I’m willing to work at gaining his respect.

read more

Read More