Blog

Owls

When being the boss’ favourite can hurt your career

OwlsMachiavelli once ruminated on whether, as a leader, it was better to be loved or feared. While he concluded that it is “safer” to be feared than loved, as humans we crave community and recognition from those we respect or who are in a position of leadership.

Our natural instinct in the workplace is to try to curry favor with the boss so we can be influential in the decision making process, know that our ideas are heard first or bend the ear of our leader when promotion opportunities arise. While all of this might sound great for you personally, it can actually work to your detriment in very important ways.

Envy brings out the worst in people

When you are seen as the “chosen one” in the office, your teammates and coworkers will inevitably begin to envy you. While it may appear inconsequential at first, your proximity to your boss’s power may present some challenges in doing your job. Coworkers will gradually shut you out of important interpersonal office relationships. Even those who eschew workplace friendships recognise the need for connectedness in sharing crucial work-related information and team communication. If you are seen as the boss’s favorite, you may be left out of the loop, intentionally or not.

Hitching your wagon to your boss’s horse may work against you

Currying your boss’s favor is nice while it lasts. However, bosses who tend to play favorites are also fickle in their affection. You may be the heir apparent to their job one week and at the rear of the pack the next thanks to a manager’s changing whims or perceptions. It is also unwise to attach your merit within an organization to anyone else’s. Sure, your boss is influential today, but should they lose their position or credibility, you will likely lose yours as well unless you are associated with something other than your boss.

You begin to lose your objectivity

The idea of “groupthink” was first introduced by Irving Janis in 1972. He theorised that groups who are insulated from outside opinions are subject to faulty reasoning, a deterioration of mental capacity and a lack of moral judgment. Whether that group consists of 2 or 20, the concept remains the same. The longer you spend in the shadow of your boss, the more likely you are to insulate yourself from the differing opinions of your coworkers. Without that difference, you lose the ability to make an objective decision. This, coupled with a growing sense of invulnerability inevitably leads to carelessness and negative consequences.

So what should you do instead?

As humans we tend to want to be recognised for our accomplishments. We want to feel as though we are in positions of power to affect change for the better. In order to do this without sacrificing personal integrity or career trajectory, it is important to act decisively and methodically in your relationship with your boss.

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Do not oversell your influence with your peers or your boss. Give credit where credit is due. Never claim success that is not yours.
  2. Honour the workplace team. As tempting as it may be to let favoritism work for you, remember that your work team is where the majority of your tasks are accomplished. If relationships are strained, productivity plummets and your credibility dwindles.
  3. Be impeccable with your word. If something is shared in confidence with you by your boss, do not tell your coworkers until your boss shares the information. If something is shared in confidence by a teammate, do not tell your boss but rather encourage your coworker to build that relationship.
  4. Get to know other executives. Many people who are seen as parrots of their boss can combat this by interacting with other executives and learning from their insights. While some bosses become paranoid about losing their sidekick, most will see your desire to learn as a way to leverage your talents with other areas of the organization.

As nice as it may be to have the favour of your manager, you might find that it leads to greater stress and career hindrance rather than help.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Office files

How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work

Office files

4 reasons why you can’t say no to too much work

Let’s say you find yourself tasked with leading a new project – say it’s the rollout of a company-wide performance management system.

In your first strategy meeting your team determines that you need to conduct interviews with managers, create and validate metrics for making hiring and promotion decisions, and work with senior leaders to ensure the system is in keeping with corporate culture. As you begin to divide tasks, you volunteer to conduct the interviews because you are the project manager and you want to lead from the front. Then, you offer to take a second look at the metrics to give them a “second set of eyes”. Then, since you are leading the team, you begin meeting with senior leaders too. Before long you start to struggle to meet your commitments, and feel a growing resentment toward the rest of the team for not pulling their weight.

Does this pattern sound familiar to you? Outside of the specifics of the performance management project example, many of us take on too much work and this leads to resentment.

We often give a hundred reasons why we do take on so much work, to the point of not being able to do any of it well. However, they can generally be distilled into three categories.

We want to please

Regardless of whether you classify yourself as a “people pleaser” or not, everyone loves to feel needed and appreciated. However, typically people who struggle to say, “No” to a request have an intense fear of rejection or a fear of failure. Our early life experiences with especially harsh or critical parents can often result in the feeling that your inaction will result in the disappointment of your friends or colleagues. The desire to please is also deeply connected with anxiety, resentment, passive aggressive behavior, stress, and depression.

We have a lack of self-awareness

Self-awareness is one of those terms that everyone loves to throw around but few will do the difficult work to acquire. When we don’t have a good handle on our own capacity or ability level, it is easy to underestimate how much effort a certain task will require from us. If you continuously make work decisions with a lack of self-awareness, you will often find yourself buried under a mountain of tasks you do not have the ability to complete in a timely and efficient manner.

We don’t think we have a choice

The idea that you do not have a choice whether to take on a task is partly connected to a need to please and often connected to feelings of insecurity or anxiety. Once you begin making work decisions based on feelings of helplessness, resentment and anger soon follow. Before long, you are left feeling “stuck” or “trapped” in your job, even if it is something you previously enjoyed.

What to do instead

Fortunately, there are a few easy strategies to avoid taking on too much at work. First, learn how to wait. Often times people who take on too much do not wait for others to volunteer. Unless the task is something you are excited about, count to 20 and really consider the task before agreeing to it. Second, when faced with a person asking you to do something, ask three questions.

1. What is the specific task that is being requested? Many people love to make requests without completely formulating the task in question. When you ask a requester this question, it forces them to list out the particulars of the task at hand and allow you to determine if it is within your skill set and timeline or not.

2. Will I need to learn a new skill to complete this task? There are times in our careers when we are ready and able to learn a new skill that will benefit us in the long run. If your current workload allows for the time and effort it would require to learn a new skill and if you are interested in the new skill, go for it. If not, politely decline.

3. How does this task fit into my overall workload? If you have to juggle your existing schedule for anything other than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it’s okay to say “no” instead.

As difficult as it may be to say “no” at work, consider it a long-term investment in your career. Not only will you be perceived as an honest individual, you will be able to reliably meet the deadlines and demands placed on you. Feelings of anger and resentment will melt away and you may even find yourself with more time to pursue career advancement or skill development.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Are you playing the right position

High performing teams are great, but are you playing the right position?

Are you playing the right positionHave you ever wondered why certain teams seem to work effortlessly, while others lumber along, seemingly moments away from self-imploding? What gives?

One of the most interesting theories is that of team roles: the idea that teams that work together effectively have a balance of team roles. Each member understands their strengths and how they contribute to the team’s skill set. Too many of the same role and there’s destructive competition, and if roles are missing, the team just doesn’t seem to fire.

 

Team Roles Defined

According to Belbin Associates, effective teams have a balance of nine different characteristics.

  1. Resource Investigator – Inquisitive, outgoing, and enthusiastic, the resource investigator explores opportunities. But they may lose enthusiasm once the initial excitement has passed. They may even forget to follow up on a lead or assignment.
  1. Teamworker – Helps the team to gel and complete the work required of them. While noted for their cooperative and diplomatic nature, teamworkers can also seem indecisive and avoid confrontations that may be necessary to achieving their goals.
  1. Coordinator – Coordinators are master delegators. Mature and confident, they identify talent and leverage it for the betterment of the group. But taken too far, they can be seen as manipulative and may even over-delegate the work, leaving themselves little or nothing to do.
  1. Plant­ – Highly creative free-thinkers, plants are good at problem solving in unconventional ways. However, they may even be so concerned with creativity that they forget incidentals and do not communicate effectively.
  1. Monitor Evaluator – Logical and impartial, the monitor evaluator approaches work in a dispassionate way while seeing all options accurately. As great as they are at evaluating the options, the monitor evaluator may be seen as an overly critical employee who is slow to come to a decision. This is generally because they are continuously weighing the options for every decision.
  1. Specialist – Specialists, as their name implies, are experts in their field. Dedicated, single-minded self-starters, they tend to contribute in a very narrow manner, sometimes getting hung up on technicalities. They may also overload you with information that is not necessarily pertinent to the matter at hand.
  1. Shaper – Shapers provide the drive the team needs to keep moving forward without losing focus or momentum. Challenging and dynamic, shapers thrive on pressure but can sometimes offend other people’s feelings. They may even risk becoming aggressive or ill-tempered in an attempt to complete a task or meet a goal or deadline.
  1. Implementer – Able to plan a workable strategy and carry it out with efficiency, implementers are practical and reliable. They are experts at turning ideas into action items but may be slow to respond to new possibilities that lie outside of their plans, even when the new ideas promote positive changes.
  1. Completer Finisher – Most effective at the ends of tasks, completer finishers work to polish the final product and ensure all of the quality standards are met. They are painstakingly conscientious about their work, searching out and correcting errors. However, they may be inclined to undue concern and are reluctant to delegate. Some even may be accused of extremism in their perfectionism.

 

Balance Is The Goal

Even though Belbin has identified nine different characteristics in effective teams, these groups do not need to consist of nine people. Rather, all nine characteristics are represented by the team’s members. In many cases, one person may naturally gravitate toward two or three roles, fill one or two more and prefer to avoid the rest. This allows for smaller teams to work with maximum efficiency as long as all nine characteristics are represented. The goal then becomes balance. If a team is comprised of teamworkers, who tend to be indecisive, it may be difficult for a team to make swift decisions about the direction of their work. Similarly, if a team lacks a completer finisher, the group’s work may lack polish and fail quality control measures.

What role do you find yourself naturally playing on work teams? Is there a characteristic that is missing on your current team?

Do you find yourself playing one or more roles? Are there any that are particularly distasteful to you? By asking these questions first of yourself, then of your teammates, it will quickly become apparent which characteristics are solidly in place, which are missing and which are over-represented in your team dynamic.

You may begin to see why your team is functional or dysfunctional, but moreover it can give you a language to improve and build on your successes.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Unemployment

What Will The Rise Of The Unemployable And Useless Class Mean For You?

Workplace unemployment issuesIf you are at all up to date about what’s happening in the world of technology, you know AI (that’s Artificial Intelligence) is here and about to take over a large proportion of jobs that to date, only humans have been able to do. This is not future stuff, this is NOW stuff.

Über has already deployed driverless cars and trucks with success. Google has been experimenting with driverless cars for years. So, it begs the question: What will happen to all our Über drivers, truck drivers and taxi drivers? And this is only the beginning. Just recently, the first robo-lawyer was deployed also. Now you can get legal advice from a machine. Google, Microsoft and others are spending billions in AI. And this is only what we are aware of.

If drivers, and lawyers, can be replaced by machines with highly sophisticated algorithms, and photographic memory, very similar to what has already happened to toll booth operators, who else can, and will, be replaced?

As Elon Musk recently said,

“humans need to adapt or risk becoming house cats for highly intelligent robots”

The common questions, are – what will happen to all these people looking for jobs? What will happen to the economy? etc…But, I ask another question, ‘What’s going to happen to humanity as we enter a world void of enough work? What will this new class of unemployable and useless people do? Traditionally, ‘idle hands’ has meant an existential crisis in and of its own. But as we enter a new way of interacting and being in the world, we can safely predict that this state of affairs will precipitate an existential crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Yes, some people point to the industrial revolution, but our looming revolution will make that pale in comparison.

Remember: distressed people are dominated by fear. They are negative, create conflict, lash out, get depressed & suicidal and try to control everyone else as a way to get control over their own lives.

“When one of us is distressed, we all pay for it. It’s not a problem you can shift somewhere else.”

We can’t avoid it. So, what can we do to face, and survive, this pending crisis? Most people are not well equipped for change and neither are the businesses they work in. But, for those of you listening and paying attention, there are some things we can get started to minimise the impact:

1 – Ensure the AI conversation includes the existential conversation. So far, the many directors and CEOs I’ve talked to, have recoiled shyly, confused, at the introduction of a topic they are ill prepared to handle both personally and as business leaders

2 – Start introducing ethical long term approaches to downsizing knowing that downsizing is coming. This includes preparing people, as much as possible, for the coming change. Talk to your people about AI and new technologies and their impact on business and how you can face it together. This will give you the chance to come up with some lateral creative solutions.

3 – Take responsibility and take action. Bring in experts to help you with the transition. Be smart and allocate significant resources to it. This is a problem that’s not going away, but that you CAN prepare for.

“By the way, this is a good time to shine as leaders and do the right thing – both for your business and your people”

 

Good luck ?

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

generation-x-1

Are Gen Xers the key to staying sane while managing a multi-generational workforce?

generation-x-1‘The problem with Millennials is that…’ is an expression often heard. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to manage a generation that is more in contact with technology than with people. At least that’s a common opinion. There is often talk about the contribution of Millennials to the workplace and the frustrations many members of other generations experience when working with them.

At the same time, many managers are puzzled by how Generation Xers have merged
seamlessly into a workforce dominated by Baby Boomers.

 

How did they do that?

 

The answer may well prove to be the key to keeping you and your team sane as more
generations join the workforce.

On Millennials

 

In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that Millennials surpassed Baby Boomers as the
largest living generation (in the US). While there is some controversy surrounding the definition of Millennials by the year they were born, one factor in what defines a Millennial remains constant. These are the children who were raised in the current technological age. They do not remember a time without Google, mobile phones, or YouTube. They do not recall a time when they had to rely on books, card catalogs, or encyclopedias for information, but instead feel as though their ability to leverage technology for information gives them a competitive advantage over their older peers.

Baby Boomers, who are more likely to be employed by a company long-term often bemoan the Millennial’s lack of employer loyalty, feeling as though their perpetual need for mobility and purpose work to the disadvantage of an employer who invests training time and capital into their experience.

 

Meet Generation X

 

Generation X, on the other hand is much more defined by the years in which this population was born. Often considered the generation born from the 1960’s through the late 1970’s, Generation X currently comprises 32 percent of the workforce, only recently surpassed by Millennials, according to Pew Research Center. Generation X came of age along with the advent of the internet, making them old enough to remember life before we carried minicomputers in our pockets. This singular characteristic makes them more relatable to Boomers while being able to speak the language of technology with Millennials.

As the “sandwich generation”, Gen Xers often find themselves as the go-between for their Millennial and Boomer coworkers.

 

Baby Boomers

 

Making up just under 30 percent of the workforce, Baby Boomers are defined as those born after World War II up until 1960. While this sector of the working population are beginning to retire, and are expected to continue to decline in their employment participation, they are working far past traditional retirement years, often in conflict with their Millennial subordinates.

Boomers tend to prefer in person contact and telephone calls rather than electronic means of communication. These are the employees who value loyalty, honesty and work ethic above all else yet they are the group that most often struggles with work/life balance, sometimes neglecting their personal life out of duty to the organisation.

 

Cross-Generational Friction

 

If Millennials are defined by their use and reliance on technology and their perceived lack of loyalty, and Boomers are defined by their reliance on tradition and loyalty, it is easy to see why these two groups often find themselves in conflict with each other.

The key to building a cross-generational team that honors the experience of the Boomer while capitalising on the innovation of the Millennial may well lie in the intentional inclusion of the Generation Xer.

Experienced enough to appreciate tradition while young enough to value the usefulness of technology, the Generation X employee is able to bridge the seemingly cavernous gap between the other two generations.

Regardless of the makeup of the cross-generational team, leaders need to invest time in communicating the company’s vision, purpose and strategies to their employees. Understanding how their work contributes to the “big picture” appeals to the typical Millennial’s need to find meaning and value in their work. Understanding the strategic plan allows the Boomer and Generation Xer to capitalise on their experience to put these strategies into effect. And having a common vision helps all members of the cross-generational team to work together for a shared goal.

But bear in mind that this type of communication is not something that can be done once during an annual performance review. It must be infused into all of the leader’s communications, from informal performance reviews to regular staff meetings to corporate electronic communications.

Constant reinforcement of the shared vision allows the team to reconvene under a common
purpose should it be derailed by generational misunderstandings. It also makes room for sanity and growth.

[dt_gap height=”20″ /]

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Workplace Mental Health Institute