Setting Boundaries at Work with Your Boss         

How important is it to set boundaries at work with your boss? Do feel like you are being taken advantage of instead of feeling appreciated? Think about if any of these situations sound familiar:

  • 24865304_sYour personal and work cell phones are intertwined. It is difficult to ignore messages you receive after work hours. You find yourself answering the messages at all hours of the night, just so you can feel like you have a head start in the morning.
  • While on vacation, your boss calls your or emails you with urgent questions that need to be answered NOW.
  • Your boss sponsors your attendance at a certification or training session and is aware it runs from 8-5 each day. Nonetheless, he sends you messages throughout the day and expects you to spend your 10 minutes stretch breaks responding to non-crisis issues.

In each of these situations, your boss is setting the boundaries at work instead of you. While it may seem inappropriate to tell your boss “no”, it becomes a necessity if you want to keep your sanity and productivity while you are at work.

Telling your boss that you need to set boundaries at work requires you to be tactful and cool headed. It is not the time to approach your boss when you are angry because you feel used, abused or taken for granted.

The next time a situation like this happens, take a deep breath, let some time pass (preferably to the next day) and schedule some time with him to discuss the situation. It is important that you communicate the following:

  1. What was the situation that occurred?
  2. How did the situation affect you? Talk about the impact on your overall productivity.
  3. Why is it important for you to have breathing space or decompression time?
  4. Discuss strategies and boundaries for both parties to respect.
  5. Ask your boss for permission to push back if you find the situation re-occurring.

Changing behavior is difficult. Even if you boss agrees to the new boundaries at work, you may find him breaking them. The excuse will be…this is important or urgent. It is easy to get caught into the trap of those words – everything seems important. You may have to have this conversation a few times before your boss realizes how serious you are about setting boundaries at work.

Employee Coaching Forms are NOT Disciplinary Action Forms

We are in real trouble if we blur the line of what coaching is and what it is not when talking about discipline.

293746_sLast week someone shared with me that they might be receiving a report of employee coaching form. “What’s a report of coaching form?” I asked. I had never heard of one before being given in the circumstance she was describing. Well, it seems that her company uses an employee coaching form as a disciplinary write-up.

My first reaction – you have got to be kidding me. How wrong is that?

Let’s be clear – coaching is:

  • A supportive environment where people can explore options, test new capabilities without the fear of reprisal or judgment
  • An investment in personal and professional development

Now let’s look at what a disciplinary action is:

  • A corrective action
  • A process for communicating with an employee that their behaviors or performance is unacceptable
  • Written warnings, sometimes accompanied with suspensions

It seems pretty clear to me that the two activities – coaching and disciplinary action are very far apart in what they represent and how employees would perceive being apart of each process. Why blur the line? To be honest, it reflects a cowardly organization.

Here’s the danger about blurring the line on coaching and disciplinary actions in your organization:

  • Employees are confused – be clear about what is a positive moving forward action vs. a corrective action.
  • Most managers do not know how to use coaching skills effectively. Coaching skills are different from management or supervision skills.
  • Coaching will not be viewed as a development opportunity – they will think they have done something wrong.

It is impossible to soften what disciplinary action means and if you do soften it, the employee will not receive a clear message that they need to turn things around. Instead of trying to soften the action by using the coaching form term, invest and teach your managers how to handle disciplinary actions more effectively.

Informational Interviews as a Job-hunting Strategy

A secret weapon for any job-hunter or job explorer is the informational interview. It is different from a job interview. Informational interviews can be very effective – with a caveat I learned last week.

istock_000006916716xsmallFirst, let’s explore what an informational interview is and what it is not.

Informational interviews are opportunities:

  1. To learn from someone in a field that you would like to explore or want to work in. There are many paths to getting the career you want – find out what worked for them.
  2. To be curious about how someone got to where they are in their career. Why did they choose the company they are working for today? What were some of the most valuable lessons they learned along the way? Interviews that are focused on the other person – not you.
  3. To learn about an organization that you are interested in – the structure, the management style, the mission etc.
  4. To grow your professional network. Perhaps in the future, this person may remember your selfless approach and throw a lead or suggestion your way. Remember to follow-up with a Thank You card.

Here’s what informational interviews are not:

  1. Job interviews. This is not the place to ask someone if they have a job opening or to sell your job qualifications. If the conversation heads in that direction because the other person initiated it, then by all means express your interest.
  2. Long in duration. The typical informational interview is about 15-30 minutes in length. It is short enough not to impose on someone and long enough for you to develop rapport and learn something about the person that is helpful to your job search efforts.
  3. Always welcomed. Know if the area you are looking at is receptive to informational interviews. There are wide differences to what is acceptable and not acceptable in different parts of the country.

As an example, I recently moved from Rochester NY to Charlotte NC. In Rochester, informational interviews are a well-accepted networking strategy. However, it appears in Charlotte, there is less acceptance for this type of networking. A friend recently asked a local job coach and they confirmed that the approach in Charlotte is more task vs. relationship driven when agreeing to a day meeting. The best place to meet people is through established networking groups found on Meetup.com or through other established job search groups.

If you are new to an area or are new to the job-hunting process, there are some places where you can ask about what is acceptable and what is not before trying to engage someone in an informational interview. Check out the local job groups, city unemployment services and career coaches for advice.

What Getting Defensive Means

The other day I was having lunch with a friend who is looking for a job and as I said something she started getting defensive. To be honest, it took me by surprise.

24398770_sI did not back down about what I was saying. I told her – “This is what I see, this is the behavior that is being shown to me.” I gave her specific examples of how I came to my conclusion.

She was not listening to what I had to say, instead she started to talk very fast about how it not what she meant and I was not interpreting it correctly.

What she failed to understand is that what I see or perceive is based on how she says things or behaves. She has the power to change how I or someone else might see her.

So what do you do when you are getting defensive – when someone says something that you don’t like?

The first step is to explore if what the person is saying has a kernel of truth – after all – why would you get defensive? If someone speaks the truth – whether it is positive or negative, there is no reason to get defensive. You might get mad, but then again, why not own it?

The second step is to be curious about what someone is saying. Seek to understand why they feel the way they do and not trying to shut down the dialogue.

Is the person sharing their observations being well-intentioned? If so, listen deeply to what they have to say and try to figure out how you might be able to affect some changes, if that is important to you.

Finally, realize if one person thinks this way, there are likely other people in your life who may think the same way. Consider reaching out to them and ask them what they think. When you open up the conversation yourself, you are already in the mindset to receive feedback.

So the next time you feel yourself getting defensive – stop, listen and learn.

Is it Time to Leave Your Job?

While traveling from Charlotte NC to Rochester NY, I met a woman in the seat next to me and we talked about her career. It turns out she has been working for the same organization for 35 years, most of that in the same job. She has six more years until she wants to retire. The question she is pondering is “Is it time to leave my job? Do I stay even though something is missing?”

She has not gotten a raise in years because she is at the top of her range or pay scale. With the economy, many organizations have had little to no movement in their salary ranges for jobs in years.

It is clear she is torn about what to do. The lack of financial rewards (pay increases) in her job troubles her. A few years back she contemplated leaving the organization to do something else, but decided the economy was too shaky to take such a bold step. Now she believes she should ride it out – every additional dollar she makes will help boost her pension.

She shared that she could take a promotional job opportunity in the organization at one of the other locations – one that is closer to home. She currently commutes 40 minutes to work. I asked her why she had not done that. She said:

  1. The person who would be her boss at the other location was someone she did not want to work for because they often disagreed with one another. The boss she currently has is easier to work for even though he has not stepped up to support her efforts to be recognized and rewarded for her work.
  2. She did not want to leave her co-workers because there was a family camaraderie and that was important to her.

I commended her for looking at the situation from all angles. The reasons people leave jobs are most often because of a poor relationship with their manager and a bad fit culturally. The company either lets them go or a little voice inside them asks – “Is it time leave?” – and they do so on their own.

Money is not the key motivator for leaving a job, which is why she is still there. While she may want more compensation/pay, ultimately the reason people stay is because of their relationship with their boss and positive work environment work environment.

If either of these too factors are not working well for you, think about how you can either improve them or perhaps it is time to leave your job and find a place for your remaining work life and make it enjoyable.

Angry People Say Stupid Stuff

OK, I said it and I will say it again – angry people say stupid stuff. It happens in the office, at home and online in blog comments. Today was the first day I unapproved a thread of comments on one of my posts because angry people were saying stupid stuff.

At first I thought about a leaving it because everyone can form his or her own opinion. However, the commenters were throwing around language that to be honest was a personal attack. I don’t mind differences of opinion, however, I do mind it when angry people say stupid stuff.

I get it that you may not like my advice. There is a big wide world out there to get lots of opinions. Not everyone will tell it like it is and sometimes someone will tell things you don’t want to hear and deep down you know it is the truth.

Too often people want to find others to confirm what they want to hear or confirm that what they are doing is right when in fact, it is not. The sad truth is that many of your friends and family will not tell you what they really think because they are afraid of how you will react. You may shut down, get vengeful or mean. That’s right angry people say and do stupid stuff.

That’s not how it is here on Elephants at Work.

You may not like what I say. Sometimes I ask the question you do not want to face.  Take it as an opinion or a personal challenge — one you can agree with, one that can question what you thought or one that you may absolutely disagree with. What you decide to do with it is what matters — just make sure it is a positive step for yourself and others.

I want to hear your opinion, however, I will not allow anyone to make things personal on here — whether it is about me or anyone else.

Three Pitfalls a New Manager Should Avoid

Congratulations, you have been promoted to a new manager role within your organization. With that new manager title comes some responsibilities to yourself, your staff and the organization. How you handle your transition into the new manager role will set the stage for how your direct reports, peers and boss evaluate your potential.

istock_000006404981xsmallThese three pitfalls new managers face are common. It may take a little maneuvering to avoid doing them because the company culture or the outgoing manager believes they are doing you a favor, when in reality they are not.

Making Assumptions on Expectations and Goals

It is very important to get clear goals when you first move into the new manager role. What you were told during the interview may not be what is really going on in the organization.

Develop your goals with your manager and get things in writing. Make sure the goals or outcomes have clear measurements and timelines associated with them. Inquire what resources you may need to be successful and engage your new boss in how to best go about it.

Avoid Getting an Initial Debrief on Your New Staff

Every new manager is faced with this well-intentioned helpfulness that frankly sets you up for more work and sometimes – poor decision-making.

It is not imperative that you know the history of every direct report with the previous manager because they had their own opinions and filters on performance and engagement.

Just think, how many times you have in the past had a manager you did not gel with and when someone came along and believed in you that things changed and you flourished. Give your new direct reports an opportunity to show you what they can do and not having them start in the hole.

You are being brought in to make a change or to bring a new perspective to a department. Demonstrate managerial courage and strength by making your first assessment independently.

Build Peer Relationships Early

As a new manager, you will be stretched in many directions. Some new managers forget to build peer relationships and alliances early in their new role. These advocates can make or break you. They will serve as a resource to understanding the organization’s culture and norms.

A word of caution about relationship building – avoid fueling any gossip or water cooler information. Listen and ask questions. Be curious about the new organization and use judgment on what you share.

By avoiding these three pitfalls that new managers face, you will set yourself up for a more successful integration. If you want more information on some of these pitfalls consider getting my eBook: The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding.

 

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