Monday, March 28, 2016

Worse Than a Workplace Bully

If you have ever had to endure a workplace bully it is no small thing. When we’re children most of us learn you have to stand up and learn to deal with them head-on. But the workplace is different and it is not as simple. However, it is the same in that most bullies or, in this case abusive co-workers, are those with more insecurities and hang-ups than everyone else in the office combined. And oddly, they wield power and influence against others and somehow get away with it. How is it that these kinds of jerks are able to exist in a modern workplace with so many legal protections for employees and rules of conduct?
I see it often and this is a major reason as to why some companies lose good employees, which isn’t often discussed. In my part of the world, I see it at its most prevalent in the retail sector, manufacturing environments and within gov’t / state institutions.
The most disenfranchising and frustrating aspect of these kinds of situations is the responsibility lies not with the workplace bullies but rather the blame rests squarely on inept and/or derelict middle and upper management that does nothing about it. Such inaction translates into support of poor behavior. I make no secret of my rather low opinion of many less than impressive company managers I encounter; most are mediocre at best and woefully lacking in communication and people skills, almost devoid of leadership skills and qualities. The issue of bullies in the workplace should be relatively easy to remedy – yet too often nothing is done, allowing the circumstance to fester with corrosive effect on the company itself. But what can you do if you find yourself working with or for just such an offending personality?
Keep detailed journals of events, noting actions taken, or not taken, by management. Get a digital voice recorder, there are lots of them that are affordable, small and even wearable as pens or in other configurations; even Smart Phones can record. You can ask for other witnesses to back up your claim but this is unreliable as most people and even close friends  will shrink from their pledge of support when it’s crunch time. Without real evidence if or when the time comes, you have nothing but your word against theirs and the kind of people I am describing lie convincingly with a straight face. Accumulate your evidence - and don’t tell or reveal what you are doing to co-workers; you’re not doing it for them, but for yourself. If you reach a point at which you need the information, recognize you likely will not be able to continue in your current job; that’s just the way it goes. But at least you have something to protect yourself from being scapegoated by the very person who will twist events to bolster their hold on their position. I don’t believe in frivolous lawsuits but if need be, find an attorney. Especially in the U.S. there are plenty of liability lawyers who might have interest in helping as they are motivated by money, which is sometimes the only way to truly affect change among the selectively unresponsive, deaf and blind. 
If you don’t have the stomach to engage in the measures I suggest, then your only other option is to find another job and leave. Increasingly during the last few years I’ve heard really disturbing stories of good employees who, instead of being supported and believed, experience mental breakdowns and/or resort to medications to cope – and this is happening in an age when there are supposed to be protections from this sort of thing. No job, regardless of what it is or what it pays is worthy of that kind of treatment. Your dignity is yours and nobody can take it from you – unless you allow it.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What to Avoid When You Resign

During the actual resignation meeting, as I already suggested, you should avoid getting sucked into a debate or conversation about your decision to leave your current employer. Even if you are on good personal terms, this isn’t a family meeting with members judging the sensibility or wisdom of your choice. Here are a few things to avoid to ensure a smooth and least stressful encounter: 

·         Don’t tell - They shouldn’t ask and you shouldn’t tell them where you’re going. You have no obligation to tell your current boss about your new plans, it’s simply none of their business – at that moment you are delivering / communicating your resignation. I know this may sound harsh, however, if you do tell them it will provide ammunition or fodder to use against you in order to create doubts in your mind about your decision. Regardless of what they may have to say, they’ll rarely have your best interests at heart. Typically, they are more concerned about the company or their own status and how your resignation might affect them.  

·         Don’t be an activist - Sometimes when someone resigns, there are others who are also unhappy. When you resign you are not some kind of a labor leader or a rebel who will speak on behalf of your co-workers, voicing their grievances. Indeed, others may wish, hope or suggest that you speak on their behalf, but when the moment comes for them to step up, they more often will not, leaving you standing solitary and alone, looking foolish. Just resign and be on your way because the whole point is to be able to exit and move onward to a new and hopefully more promising job opportunity. 

·         Don’t delay your decision – a common tactic among managers is to convince you to delay your resignation, perhaps just a few days so they can talk with other managers to see what they can do to convince you to stay, and then they’ll get back to you. If you have decided to leave and your decision is, in fact, final, thank them politely and stick to your original purpose, that is, to submit your resignation. Besides, you didn’t set an appointment to negotiate or have a group discussion about your intent. (if you do choose to engage in discussion, I would surmise you are not sure about your resignation and, if this is the case,  proceed at your own risk) 

·         Don’t complain, don’t explain – Keep your resignation short. If you do want to share with them the reasons for your departure, don’t do it now. For the moment, resign and seek their recognition and acceptance of your decision. Then, if you want to have a discussion with them at a separate meeting, do so – after the cord has been cut.  

·         Keep it short - if you want to give a long-winded speech, save it for your farewell gathering at the local watering hole with your co-workers. 

·         Don’t play games – I have seen people actually use a job offer as a wedge, with no true intention of leaving their current job, but rather using it to leverage for themselves a better condition, or more money. I think people who do this are dirtbags, cowards who couldn’t simply address their boss like an adult with integrity. Not to mention the fact they’ve jerked around another company and possibly caused the person who was supposed to become their new manager grief with their boss – actions such as these have consequences. 

Don’t forget that you have your resignation letter printed and signed, stating your decision is final. If you feel under pressure, it is your shield, use it as such.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Another Gotcha Question

Have you ever attended an interview and felt as if the interviewer was playing games with you? As perhaps they participate in the process only to mess with people for the sole reason that they can – and evaluating your suitability and skills is secondary. Sometimes they are crass, unprofessional or even detached and yet, they are there to evaluate you, now that’s quite funny, albeit ironic. But seriously, there are many occasions when the interviewee is a lot sharper than the interviewer although, under the circumstances, there isn’t much you can do about it. 
I like to prepare people for as many what-ifs as possible, for how to react to any number of situations that can unexpectedly occur during the interview process. The more surprises you prepare for, the less surprised you’ll be. During the last few months I’ve written about some of the stupid interview questions you may encounter, such as, “If you could be any kind of an animal what would you choose to be?” Yeah, that’s a real question with many variations and it is a dumb one. Or, the common but just as stupid, “Can you tell me / describe one of your weaknesses?” This is clearly a question asked by someone who doesn’t know how to interview but they have convinced themselves that they do. Well, there is another one I want to share with you, in order to be prepared. Although it may not be intentionally presented with the intent of throwing you off your game, it can be off-putting. It is also not as clever as the person posing it thinks it to be.  
You walk into an interview, an event that you were invited to attend; you introduce yourself and sit down. Then they say with a Cheshire Cat-like grin, “So what can I do for you?” Whoa…, what is that about? It sounds like a not-so-veiled insinuation, that they are doing you a great favor by meeting with you. Perhaps they are a jerk who wants to let you know who’s in charge of the meeting, or it’s a lame attempt at being clever, or, it could be purposefully to knock you off-balance. Don’t let it. It is an opening question that is intended to throw people off their game; which can, in turn, sap a little of your self-confidence right from the get-go.
If you ever experience this kind of introductory question just let it roll off and stay calm, in essence ignoring it and respond with your opening statement, which should be something to the effect of, “I’m here to interview for the position of …” And then, await their response and next question, which, if the first introductory question is any indication of how it might proceed, is likely to be just as direct, like, “Why should we consider you for this position?” Once again, stay cool and assuming you’ve prepared for your interview, proceed to tell the why.
I have witnessed interviewers and managers who behave in this way and occasionally it is a tough guy (or girl) act, intended to shake you up and see how you react to a little bit of pressure. I don’t agree with these kinds of theatrics and I think it is bad form, nonetheless maintain your composure, stay focused and continue forward and you’ll do okay. After you’ve performed your best to win the chance to proceed to the next interview step, you can self-evaluate and reflect upon whether or not you want to continue. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Take a Balanced Approach

When it comes to interviewing, presenting and, yes, promoting oneself, your talents and accomplishments are what sets you apart from others and not some gimmick on your resume or online profile. In my long recruiting experience, I find that on average people either talk too much, or too little, about their own abilities and accomplishments. Sometimes it’s merely a symptom of being nervous. It’s understandable, because most of us interview only when we must, it’s not the kind of activity normal people enjoy engaging in; I don’t know anyone who interviews as a hobby, out of enjoyment. However, nervousness is an excuse and not a reason to fail because, fact is, an interview is your moment to shine – or not.  
There is also a cultural component to consider. Living abroad, outside the U.S. for already fifteen years I recognize that many Continental European and Asian professionals are more reserved and reticent about discussing their accomplishments for fear of being seen as braggadocios. The result is that they tend to underwhelm hiring managers. North Americans, on the other hand, as well as peoples from the United Kingdom have less reluctance about this and are quick to share what they can do and have done. Depending on a person’s viewpoint one extreme is too timid and the other too verbose. In my experience, having witnessed both sides, I find a balance between the two is just about right. 
So here’s some advice, for those on each end of the spectrum: 

·         If you are softer spoken and tend to say too little, yet you know you are qualified and indeed you think you’re the right person, if you think talking about yourself will be viewed as bragging or egotistical, you need to get over it. It’s not enough to have a short sentence fragment on your resume, if you don’t tell them and with some detail – how else, will they know?

·         If you are one to be a little verbose, maybe you do in fact have a lot of accomplishments and a lot to say – but you’d better have facts and figures, testimonials and references at your fingertips to back up the claims. If there is something you don’t have at the time, you’d better be able to produce it within 24 hours of any interview, perhaps added to your follow-up Thank You Note. It might be wise to tone it down a bit and remember the old sales adage that suggests that one should under-sell and over-deliver. 

Your goal should, in fact, be to strike a balance between the two extremes.