The Desk

March 9, 2016

Taking Charge

One thing that can lead to marginalization is turning the human into a non-thinking, uncreative entity (as compared with a sentient being who is capable of making meaningful contributions). There is very little to nothing that’s rewarding and motivating about existing in PVS (persistent vegetative state), except perhaps the appreciation that the speed at which activities are successfully executed is at a stellar rate that can be matched by few, if any.

Some grow weary of the monotony. They see the value is automation and encourage use of robotics so that the opportunity to challenge their minds is more available. Even those with the most minimal level of intelligence delight is being able to conquer a new task. Having that reasonable task put before them is exciting.

There are some people who have been conditioned to believe they will be punished for attempting to stretch their role in an organization beyond being PVS. They fear the unknown realm of persecution and retribution for daring to do more than the repetitious. They have experimented with new endeavors and found success nearly every time they’ve done so. Having been exposed to the sweet taste of adventure and new challenges, they want to emerge into the areas where their friends and colleagues are similarly nudged into more involvement – and recognition.

Use Your Skills

Use Your Skills

That fear of retribution is the inhibiting factor. It needs to be overcome. The only way to do that is to take charge of the situation. If the path of asking permission to be included in the next endeavor doesn’t work out, there are other ways to get from Point A to Point B. Some of them take a little (and some a lot) more effort.

The supervisor or manager seems to have favorites for the project. Sometimes it’s because the manager has been watching the progress of their workers and knows what to expect. They know the quality of the work that will be produced, the amount of attention to detail, the speed at which the work will be done, how well the worker interacts with others, how smoothly things blend. Sounds like networking to me.

How much of a challenge is that task compared to today’s mashed potatoes same as? If it’s the equivalent of going from boiling an egg to preparing a nine-course meal overnight, this may not be the time to experiment. If this is merely turning a boiled egg into an Easter egg (or a deviled egg), this may be an opportunity waiting to happen. How to broach that stupid roadblock of being allowed to get involved is the issue.

Perhaps a facsimile is the answer. “Hey, Boss. I’ve been watching the others working on the [deviled egg] and I’ve been experimenting with making them on my own time. Here’s a sample of what I did on my own. I’d like to do it with the others so I can be involved in doing it in the company style.” Mind you, this is the prime sample that’s being put forth. The BETA version is just not the version that should be used as an example of what’s your best.

Was it accepted? Great! It wasn’t? Get permission to work with the others to learn their technique. Better yet, sidle up to one of those who’s a “friend” and ask them to show you how to make yours better. Sidle up to another chum so that they’ll ask to have you included in their group for the next batch of [deviled eggs]. Or just go to an outside group and make some [deviled eggs] they way they do so that you have practice doing it and an audience that benefits from the fact that you were involved in making [deviled eggs]. No matter which way you go – direct or indirect – you have at least one new skill to append to your resume accomplishments.

It’s one thing to aimlessly drift from one boring and uninspiring situation to the next while waiting (and that’s the critical concept here – waiting) for something better to come along and take you with it. Having a mentor who can push you forward at Opportunity’s knock is great. But sometimes it’s necessary to take charge of your situation and do something to spur your opportunities to open to you.

There will be times when taking charge means quietly looking elsewhere for what’s going to be better in terms of many things you desire and have long-term positive payoffs. There will also be times when taking charge simply means becoming more assertive. Mind you, I said “assertive,” not “aggressive,” that is, demanding what you want instead of stating your case about why you are a great option.

Wait! What was that I heard? Was it Opportunity knocking at your door?

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November 28, 2014

Attitude Adjustment

It takes a lot of nerve to be controlling and to marginalize another. But it happens. Those measures are used to discourage what could be perceived as competition or merely one who has a better edge that will result in dampening the esteem of the controller.

Controlled Identity

Controlled Identity

On closer inspection, the lack of control and authority will be discovered. The control, manipulation, and threats of various types are simply masks used to play on one’s vulnerabilities that were discovered during harmless interaction. When the source of the discouragement is discovered, it’s easily overcome. There are several effective techniques. A few will be discussed today.

A simple objection to the impediment will result in attempting to create guilt. The goal is to shame one into accepting the pressure. Ignoring the pressure is not an effective way to handle it. It’s important to acknowledge the subterfuge in a very subtle way. To do more would be overkill. Tactfully brushing aside the attempt to plant fear or doubt by talking about the ineffectiveness of cowering in fear or avoidance tactics doesn’t help one reach the goal.

Avoid making accusations of attempted harm. The result will be aggravation of an already negative situation. However, do not cave to accepting the abuse. Speak softly; be assertive. Say “no” in an indirect way, such as, “That doesn’t seem like a good option. I think I’ll try something else.” It isn’t necessary to define what “something else” is. In fact, being abstract can work as well; simply say you haven’t thought of an alternative you want to use just yet. It will take a little more consideration of the circumstances.

Getting upset and losing control is a sign of weakness. It also lowers one’s professional image (unless, of course, you’re in a drama). If you’re not delivering an emotion-packed motivational speech or not in a dramatic play, losing your temper is not effective for talking through the sticking point. Point out what is unacceptable and refuse to accept it as your normal.

These are just a few ways to avert being stopped or have your growth retarded while others pass you in attaining a similar goal. Get an attitude adjustment. Assert yourself. Then be glad of yet another opportunity to rise to being yourself.

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May 18, 2014

Career Tip: Overcoming Recent Knowledge Objections

For whatever reason, you’ve been out of the formal employment situation for quite a while. You’ve also been out of school for more than two or three years. (Try approaching a decade or so.) All of those stellar accomplishments that happened while you were in the work world are becoming stale. One recruiter was tactless enough to tell you your skills aren’t sufficiently up to date to qualify for a temp assignment.

Have you been sitting in a dark room and doing absolutely nothing all this time or have you been active in all manner of activities that are being dismissed, even taken for granted? The only reason I would accept that excuse is if you were in a coma and on life support for an extended period of time. And even if that were true, your doctor probably prescribed occupational rehabilitative support so that you can get back into current practices. So you weren’t in a coma but maybe you were undergoing some type of traumatic illness that took you out of mainstream Life for a while. Start your own retraining regimen. (Maybe you already have but weren’t aware.)

It’s important to read everyday. Even the simple postings on social media are forcing you to read content, analyze it, and draw conclusions. Make certain real news is included in your diet of reading. Make certain you’re reading includes recreational content. Make certain your reading includes industry news that helps you recognize names of individuals as well as know which company merged with another – and which moved out of the state. Read.

Okay, so you haven’t been in school for a while. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to bury yourself in academic halls for another four to six years. There are continuing education classes offered that rely on not only being in a physical class room. There are online classes that can help you refresh your knowledge, remind you of techniques and tactics, and make you aware of innovations since you earned your degree. Maybe an online class or continuing education class of one hour in duration is the answer.

While we’re talking about school, there are some online universities that would like to add people who can teach a class. Investigate what their criteria for a course is. Since you have some time on your hands, you have time to research and outline your own course and present it – after you’ve done research on which universities are accepting new classes and what their terms are.

You’re blogging about your boring life and the travails of not finding things that are a match for what you have to offer. You’re taking your blogging skills for granted. Which platforms are you using? There are companies that need people who are skilled at using certain types of blogging platforms.

Then there’s technology. In addition to blogging, you may be capable of using software and applications with great ease. Maybe you’re even developing your own apps. Your cell phone is either an I-Phone or an Android, both of which use the tap and swipe methodology. You’ve probably ditched your stand alone and are now using a laptop. In fact, you’ve probably ditched your laptop and are now using a tablet (with wi-fi and double-sided camera). Are you getting some ideas yet about things you’ve been overlooking?

But we’re talking about actualizing new technology. We haven’t been talking about reinforcing existing knowledge. That’s fine. While you were “laid up”, situations arose wherein you could get involved in volunteer projects. Sure, they didn’t pay you dollars and cents for seeing your duties through to completion. But you were in charge of some aspect of the project or put your energies into fulfilling your duties. Volunteer projects can count toward maintaining skills and work experience.

In fact, that reminds me of a blog post that my colleague, Steve Levy, wrote about his being hospitalized. It was a time when hospitals didn’t allow patients to have access to the Internet. So Steve charmed one person after another and networked until he got permission to talk with the IT Department. They allowed him to have access to the Internet. His recruiting endeavors continued after a one day lapse. He gained new contacts at every rung of the hierarchy. I think he even picked up some candidates for some of his unfilled job orders. That post resonated with me in many ways.

There are many examples of unofficial things that are done that could be counted as applicable experience without straining to legitimize it. Too often we take situations for granted and miss the fact that they could be considered work experience. Too often we forget that what was done could have been a form of consulting. Just make certain you verify that interpretation before putting it forth without substantiation.

As for those continuing education classes, get your certificate that verifies your attendance and that you earned your credits. Then do some things in order to apply that refreshed, renewed knowledge. And then get out there and start networking so you can effectively market yourself.

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March 27, 2010

Facing Situations

Relationships have peaks and valleys as they form. In some situations, there are struggles for dominance that resolve into one (Alpha person) taking the lead in most situations. There are other situations where the struggle for dominance turns into Alpha’s total domination.

The latter is primed by the fact that the less powerful (Beta) person is more submissive and not as assertive as they could be. It’s driven by the fact that the more Beta person looks to others for validation and support. They rely on others to put forth their argument and either do not know their own “voice” or never learn how to use it. We tend to find youthful, inexperienced people in the Beta position as well as women. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all people with one (or all) of these profiles is actually youthful, naive, inexperienced, or female. It simply means that particular person is less assertive.

There is a danger in putting these two types of people together, especially when they are extreme polar opposites. The Alpha can easily become not only the dominant party but also a bully. Even worse, the Alpha could easily become abusive.

There are methods to avoid these undesirable consequences. One of them is to not put the pair together. We already realize the combination will be like putting dynamite in a nursery. The management costs in terms of labor hours lost in managing the situations that come up between the pair will be enormous, not to mention health insurance costs from depression and other psychosomatic ailments. But the Beta person has value and their talents are beneficial. To lose them is to lose some unique skills, talents, knowledge, and work attitude. It’s better to simply sidestep that can of worms.

There’s another reason for not putting the pair together. You avoid being in the way of a potential law suit for negligent hiring or allowing an unsafe work environment or a workers’ compensation claim for work related injury (in the form of depression and related psychosomatic ailments).

This pair requires a vigilant managerial style and frequent coaching on communication and work styles. There will be days when it seems like simply doing the work of the two yourself will be less intensive, less headache, and just plain ole easier. But that’s a cop-out and we shouldn’t go that route.

The far better alternative is to establish the workplace ground rules immediately. Outlining what are each allowed to do and defining their limits as well as overlap areas is a prudent option. Also wise is to allow the Beta person to speak up when it appears they are deferring to the Alpha. Ask them for their input with regard to the work. Make certain their opinion is solicited in front of the Alpha. Make doubly certain both offer their input publicly so that the pall of clandestine favoritism is abated.

The alternative of having the Beta voice their input rather than allowing them to be a shrinking violet who defers to the Alpha’s input all of the time is another way of providing assertiveness coaching while still remaining productive.

What also helps with building confidence and assertiveness is allowing the Beta to feel it is all right to voice their objection to something. After they have given voice to their position, ask for feedback from the Alpha. Ascertain where they see the benefits of the proffered input. Ask both whether they have experience with the same or a similar situation or project so that expertise can be established by both. This will allow the Beta to start building their internal confidence; they’ll have the opportunity to talk, without boasting, about their success stories. Eventually they’ll see the benefit of including those success stories on their resume.

The Alpha partner will want the opportunity to share their input and success stories as well. Make certain the sharings don’t become a competition for who’s better. Instead, let those situations become times when they can reveal their knowledge in order to establish where they have strengths and how they can contribute to the overall project as a team member.

But the critical factor for the Beta personality is that they gain skills in assertiveness. No, you do not need to go into hand holding all of the time and being the parent figure who constantly covers for one while holding the other at bay. You hired this oil and water combination because of the unique benefits they bring to the workplace. Rather than allow them to become a combustible, let them be the salad dressing (please forgive the allegory) applied in just the right amounts.

It’s important to recognize the friction that can evolve if Alphas and Betas simply go along their career highways doing what they do best — dominate others and subordinate themselves. Far better is to show them how to play up their best traits while respecting the esteem and benefits of having the team member on board.

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