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Five Toxic Employee Attitudes that should be Banned from the Work-Place – People Barriers to Operational Excellence

Five Toxic Employee Attitudes that should be Banned from the Work-Place – People Barriers to Operational Excellence

Do you sometimes look around you at work and think you are in the middle of a role play game with quite a few characters that play the same roles again and again? I do and not being a very patient person, it does take a lot of effort for me to keep my mouth shut and continue to stay in MY character and play the game. For that is what the corporate world is – a game. And even if you don’t want to play the game, you need to know the game and know the characters very well to achieve what you have set out to do. In my case, it is operational excellence. Your objective could be something else but you would agree with me that it would make our workplace much more pleasant and energetic and reaching business goals that much easier if some Toxic Employee Attitudes were left out at the door. So much of organizational success depends on the culture that is prevalent in the organization. I have written about the part that leaders should play or not play in the past and today’s post is for the rest of us. To be really effective at work, we have to know and understand the people we work with. Each one of us at work has a responsibility to ourselves and to others to not indulge in toxic attitudes and behaviors at the work place. Life would become so much simpler (albeit less dramatic) then.

Here are the five most common Toxic Employee Attitudes that I have seen block personal and professional growth at the work place – let me know if I have missed any:

Attitude #1: It’s not my job or Take No Initiative –

Such people specialize in advice. They can spend hours discussing how Mr. /Ms. So-and-So (especially those in management) are not doing their jobs and if they are, how they should actually be doing this much better. They are experts in their knowledge of who could or what could be better – and the more they know and discuss, the better they feel. And no, they don’t spend time debating on how they could contribute or help. Wouldn’t it be great if they actually used this knowledge to take initiative themselves to actually go and volunteer to DO some of these things, that they know so much about, themselves ?

Attitude #2: I know who is pulling the strings and why or the Conspiracy Theory –

The intelligence agents who think that there is a sinister agenda behind every move in the organization – they thrive on drama and love sharing their inside intelligence with people on their latest theories on how management is out to get them. This one is actually fallout of less than transparent communication from the leadership teams which provides fodder to some people to create stories and scare the living daylights out of people around them. Fear and confusion are not conducive to performance and productivity. Wouldn’t it be great if these people took this particular brand of creativity outside the workplace and wrote thriller novels that I am sure we would all love to read?

Attitude #3: What is the point or We can make No Difference –

Most commonly seen in people who are unhappy with their jobs for whatever reason, this attitude is a complete dampener for people around them who love their work and are passionate about what they do. They do not believe in positive outcomes and spend time curbing the enthusiasm of those that do. If you are unhappy and still choose to stay on, it is your choice. Now that you have made that choice, do you want to spend your time in doing mediocre work for work’s sake or try to inject a dose of excellence in whatever you do and become happier by the day? And let others do their best work in peace?

Attitude #4: I cannot/will not move forward and I will do my best to pull you back too or the Frog in the Well –

I don’t understand the reasons behind this attitude myself – on why someone would want the opposite of a win-win situation. But I see this very often, common symptoms are – share no credit, slander and back-stab at the first opportunity; sabotage any work that one does not directly own, etc. Why? Why? Why? Why would you want to pull down people when you can help push them up and maybe rise yourself too? Beats me but please stop doing this – you are sabotaging yourself in the long run.

Attitude #5:  Who me? I didn’t say/do anything or the Passive Aggressive behavior –

This is a very difficult attitude to identify or nail down as such people hide behind the smoke (And I am not being dramatic). Look for these people in meetings and conferences – no response to requests for question or feedback but the moment the meeting is over, you can find them with an audience around them near water coolers, coffee tables or whatever the organization version of that is. This is wrong, that is a bad plan, I know this will not work, we are doomed – you get the drift. Such people don’t speak up when they are given the opportunity to but are very vocal behind the scenes. And even more dangerous, sometimes very quietly block, hinder or just delay their part in the work flow. If you don’t like something or you don’t support a decision – can you please speak up? Chances are that your feedback could be very critical and help influence the decisions or change things the way you want.

We could do so much more if we learnt to respect ourselves and others at work.  Not see each other as adversaries but as fellow travelers – united to work for a common goal. As Howard Schultz, Founder & CEO of Starbucks says – Victory is much more meaningful when it comes not just from one person, but from the joint achievement of man.  The euphoria is lasting when all participants lead with their hearts, winning not just for themselves but for one another.

Do you think I am being very harsh or did you find yourself nodding your head along the post identifying the characters that you encounter in your organization? What do you think each of us can do make the corporate culture less toxic and stifling? What behavior’s do you think impede you in your journey to excellence at work? I would love to hear and learn from you.

Pic Courtesy : http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypic/3360561033/

Courtesy in the Virtual World – Small Things Matter!

Courtesy in the Virtual World – Small Things Matter!

Consider the following situation:

Peter is a freelance writer writes to an organization with a well known blog, requesting them to carry his blog on their website. The organization responds with enthusiasm, and wants to take the collaboration ahead. There is no response from Peter for a month. A month later, Peter writes back with an apology and requests the organization to carry his article on their blog. The organization says they will do so, and would let him know when the article is up. However, since posts are usually scheduled in advance, it might take a while. There is no response from Peter for ten days. After ten days, he writes back asking if the article has been published. The organization responds with the link to the published article. About two weeks pass by, and there is still no email of acknowledgment from Peter.

Why is the case in point a lesson in professionalism?

The situation illustrated above is only one of the several ways that simple courtesies, politeness and a basic humanitarian approach in the world of work is undermined. What is worse is that, Peter probably doesn’t even realize that he is not only being unprofessional, but also rude – may be unwittingly so.

One of the key principles of maintaining professionalism is being courteous and polite at all times. This aspect applies not only to the real time day-to-do situations in the ‘real’ world of work, but also in the virtual world. Today, so much of our business is transacted across virtual boundaries. While we may not be able to see or touch the person behind the emails and the black letters on our screen that inform our understanding of the person concerned and the situation at hand, we still know that there is a human being at the other end. What indeed makes our communication governed by machines less mechanical, and transactional is how we choose to communicate – courtesy in the virtual world matters more than you may think.

How might have Peter been a better communicator in the above scenario?

  • By making his communication appear less like a transaction, and more like a dialogue – i.e., by responding not just to get his work done and to follow up, but by being timely and more courteous in his responses. And most of all, by expressing gratitude once the work was done. The organization could have refused to publish the article by citing delay as a reason, and Peter/ or anyone else in his stead would have had no grounds to contest that.

It is especially important for young professionals to understand how these seemingly ‘small’ things make a big difference to one’s professional trajectory. While these aspects of professionalism may seem trivial to some, they by no means would fit under that adjective. Small things matter. Who you are as a person, comes across through how you communicate. Communication through virtual platforms has plenty of scope for misunderstandings. However, virtual platforms have become the base for much of what we do in the world of work today. Therefore, if one needs to be extra cautious while communicating in the virtual world – the effort is worth it.

Because, whatever the business is, whatever the transaction is, while machines enable, there are humans behind those machines. And if we cannot bring the human touch to our communication with each other, where does that leave us?

Five Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies for Managers

Five Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies for Managers

Learning how to effectively and efficiently resolve conflict is one of the most important skills for a leader, and a manager. The work place is representative of a stand alone universe in itself. In which case, it is only obvious that it will have people from diverse backgrounds, with diverse goals and objectives in their minds. While diversity is a bonus, it can also lead to making differences more obvious. Which in turn could lead to conflict. Conflict in work place is an unavoidable situation. Imagining the existence of a completely harmonious  work place is just an idyllic thought. While conflict is an unavoidable part of the day-to-day functioning at the workplace, there are tried and tested strategies to effectively diffuse conflict, and your role as the manager is crucial towards the methods adopted for resolution of the conflict. Have a look at some of the best and most effective Conflict Resolution Strategies.

Conflict Resolution Strategies #1 – Practice on Building Foresight

Prevention is better than cure. Most conflicts can be predicted, detected and prevented in an early stage. To avoid matters from escalating, watch out for situations which feel like they could blow up into a potential conflict. This is where your experience and acumen as a manager comes in handy. A stitch in time could save the day.

Conflict Resolution Strategies #2 – Be Objective

When called upon or intervening to resolve a conflict, it is important to review the matter in an objective manner. Being objective in situations of conflict helps you think clearly, and helps you move towards a fair, efficient and speedy resolution. It is easy to assume one party as the victim, and the other as the perpetrator when things are taken at face value. However, that is where your role as a manager is crucial. Look at the whole matter objectively, taking stock of, and recording facts wherever necessary before making a judgement or pronouncing any decision.

Conflict Resolution Strategies #3 – Call for a private meeting

Speaking to the concerned parties at the same time and place while the matter is still fresh, can only cause things to get worse. A process of reconciliation should definitely be initiated, however not at the very outset. Call for a private meeting with both parties concerned and hear them out individually. This will help you get a clearer picture of the issues, and will also function as a cooling period for both parties. In a way, they get to speak what’s on their mind and that in itself is a crucial part of conflict resolution.

Conflict Resolution Strategies #4 – Keep it professional

Once a conflict goes down the personal route, it is a very sticky and unpleasant situation to recover from. It may be very difficult to stop an escalation in that direction, because the base of no conflict is wholly professional, whereas the base of all conflicts are definitely to some extent ideological. Ideological conflicts in turn, can quickly turn into personal ones. Your intervention as the manager is what stops the conflict from turning into a personal one. As a manager, keep your treatment of the conflict as professional as possible and avert/ reject any personal stabs.

Conflict Resolution Strategies #5 – Not every conflict needs your intervention

Understanding that conflict is a natural part of the work space is a lesson you will learn over time as a manager. Not every conflict will need your intervention, and it is up to you to choose which ones need your intervention. Allow for a culture where conflicts can be resolved naturally and mutually. That is how it should work for most small-scale conflicts. Knowing just when to step in is a managerial art, one that comes with experience and practice. But having faith that your team can resolve a conflict on its own is also a managerial art.

Being in a leadership position is not easy because there will be situations you will have to deal with, which given a choice you’d choose not to deal with. That is where the challenge of being a good and efficient manager lies.  How you deal with these issues affect the environment in the organisation, and the productivity and vibe of your team. Never hesitate to reach out to senior colleagues or mentors for advice on a given situation related to conflict resolution – keeping in mind the confidentiality of the parties involved, of course.

Have a case study or personal experience on effective conflict resolution strategies? This is the right place to put them out! Comments invited.

The Glass Ceiling in India and What You Can Do to Shatter It

The Glass Ceiling in India and What You Can Do to Shatter It

What is the Glass Ceiling?

In an age and time where we are looking at India as a potential superpower, with a tremendously fast growing economy, with the population of the fairer sex at 48.1% [Census 2012], can we afford to deliberately leave women out of this race to develop into a superpower?

The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission describes the term ‘glass ceiling’ as “the unseen, yet unbreakable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.” The phenomenon is quite interesting to study the gender representation question in the professional arena in India. People dismiss the existence of a glass ceiling in India, or dissent it, but can one can really ignore it?

Sure, we have made progress since the first wave of feminism. Sure, some progress is better than no progress at all. However, the problem arises when we view this progress in a gendered perspective, which brings to the forefront the acute discrimination and disadvantages the female working population in India faces, in comparison to their male counterparts.

What is most disturbing is the fact that not even certain big organizations or companies, with a turnover of crores to boast of, are exempt from imposing a deliberate, yet intangible and unbreakable barrier on the progress of its female employees.

 “Women are excluded from informal organizational network and get no help from their colleagues in decision making process. Thus by restraining women from strategic decision making process male counterparts try to heckle intentionally and creates a barrier for promotion. So women are less popular in strategic decision maker role.” – Corporate Glass Ceiling: An Impact on Indian Women Employees, Sarmistha Nandy, et al.

Understanding the Glass Ceiling

The glass ceiling is most apparent when a female employee is one step below a managerial position, where female employees are deliberately left out of decision making processes.

According to the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission there are three classes of barriers for women in top level management. The foremost are the Societal Barriers, or the obstructions imposed on women by the norms of the society. The many ‘social conditions’ that make it difficult for a woman to progress in her career.

The next class of barriers is Internal Structural Barriers. These barriers include the corporate climates we are exposed to, today. Meaning, the many apparent, and disguised ways through which organisations restrict the growth of female employees.

The third class of barriers are the Government Barriers. These barriers would be the structural barriers imposed by the State itself, which hinder the progress of female employees. For example, lack of proper law enforcement on behalf of the government in case of discrimination against women at the workplace, ignorance and insufficient reporting on the existence of a glass ceiling.

How can You Help Shatter the Glass Ceiling in India?

The first shout out is to all the employers or prospective employers who are reading this post. Go out of your way to ensure you treat your employees equally, irrespective of their gender. Invest your trust in them, and reap a handsome Return On Investment. Recognize merit and celebrate it. Understand that basically, it all boils down to you, to a great extent. However, even if you are not an employer, your role as a female employee is no less significant. Here are five things you can do to help break the glass ceiling.

1.Plan Your Career Well

It is common knowledge and a widely used, (or hopefully misused) stereotype that in India, the priority for women is always marriage over a professional life. The social values only reinforce the stereotype. We know for a fact (all our employees at OBOlinx are women) that this is changing fast.

Understand that it is absolutely possible to balance both if you make the right choices (we will not get into any details about it, that in itself is a separate topic altogether). Employers usually entertain this bias because statistics is on their side as proof. They do have a mental block when it comes to hiring or promoting women who fall in the bracket of ‘marriageable’ category.

2. Work on your Skills

Groom yourself according to the profile you are looking to grow in. Acquire the required skill set, and keep working on yourself. Talent, grit and hard work are three things that have the potential to catapult you beyond that glass ceiling. Brush up your general knowledge and be aware about the affairs of the world, especially about the line you are working in. Without fail, read the newspaper every day.

We would also recommend spending some time in grooming yourself personally, and investing some time and resources for an appropriate wardrobe and a presentable appearance (don’t get us wrong, we do not mean ‘beauty’ in any way). The trick is to look the part you want to play, and it does work!

3. Manage your own finances

The glass ceiling was constructed not only by the professional realm, it was reinforced by the private social values which have long and strong roots embedded deeply in the Indian ‘culture’. Change happens a little bit at a time, and should always begin within you. Sarmistha Mazumder, in her article, Breaking the Glass Ceiling: The Indian Way, puts the importance of learning  how to manage your finances and budgeting, very succinctly.

She says,“Financial empowerment is an essential factor that contributes to women’s stand in family and society. This calls for a huge shift in social norms established over few centuries. Following the traditional norms, most women handover their salaries to their father or husbands to invest or spend. Often, it symbolizes the dependency in decision making. When you are trying to build an environment of equality, take equal responsibility to manage the financials for your family. Manage basics like tax calculation, tax exemptions, investments, loans or critical house hold expenses. It is not rocket science. There are several training programs available for the same. Also, in any leadership role, budget management is unavoidable.

4. Network

Networking is a prerequisite to be able to go higher on the corporate ladder. Break into all the “old boys/girls clubs”  or make a few of your own. Involve yourself in as many events as possible, talk and socialize. Get to know other people and talk about what you do and what your plans for the future are. This is also a great way to help you come out of your comfort zone if you have never been much of an extrovert. All the ice breaking you do is good practice for breaking the glass ceiling, we say!

5. Prioritize

There are many things you are ‘supposed’ to do, and many things that are ‘expected’ you will do, by dint of being a woman. However, understand that you can empower yourself to make choices and prioritize. Don’t let unreal or unimportant expectations be the death of your career ambitions. Ask for help from your family and friends if you think there is a personal task they can help you with. Do not hesitate to delegate. These changes may seem drastic if you haven’t ever been on this page, but believe us, you would be surprised to see all the help you receive – you just need to reach out!

Apart from these five tenets (if we may call them so!), another very important thing is to never shy away from speaking up if you feel you are being discriminated against, on the basis of your gender. If a colleague goes through it, motivate her to speak up and stand by her side. Remember this – glass can be shattered if one strikes at it hard enough and long enough!

Making the Glass Ceiling a Thing of the Past

The glass ceiling in India is a reality today, because of a culmination of factors – socio-cultural, legal, personal, and organizational, and cannot be attributed to any single factor. Hema Krishnan, in her interview at IIM – Bangalore on “Glass Ceiling in India : A Reality for Women?” speaks about how every woman is capable of accessing the top most rungs:

“Theoretically, every woman is capable of reaching the top of her organization. What sets women such as Indra Nooyi and Chanda Kochhar apart from the rest of the similarly talented women are: a high level of sustained self-confidence and emotional quotient, persistence and patience, the right mentors at various stages of their career, an extremely supportive family and a little bit of luck or opportunity.”

It is due to centuries of subjugation, discrimination and domination that the struggle to make one’s talent known and respected in the professional realm, is a big deal for women in India. It wouldn’t be untrue, neither would it be a fleeting statement if we said that it is not half as difficult for the men.
The carefully constructed social systems, which intended to keep women out of the public sphere and relegate them only to the private sphere, are dismantling – slowly, yet steadily. It is a process that cannot take place overnight. With persistence, the glass ceiling in India will disintegrate faster than we thought it would! There is hope.

How to Survive the Devious Divide and Rule Management Strategy

How to Survive the Devious Divide and Rule Management Strategy

In our previous post, we spoke about what the  divide and rule management strategy is, how it works and why it is anything but cool, or acceptable. But what do you do when you are at the receiving end of this strategy? It can be extremely stressful and limiting to work in an environment where you are being subjected to demeaning strategies of management such as this. But, know that this is not uncommon at all in the world of work.

Divide and Conquer – As long as some people have commanded the work of others, this has been management’s basic principle.
Peter Rachleff

In this post, we discuss the various survival techniques, or a list of options that you may think of using, depending on how dire the situation is, in order to overcome or survive a manager who chooses to divide and conquer.

1. Try not leaving any scope for complaints

Even though it doesn’t always work like that, the only way your boss or manager will try to play this card with you is when probably there are some concerns relating to the deliverables. At times though, you might be at the receiving end of this (the divide and rule management strategy) behavior when your boss has something personal against you – which needless to say is extremely unprofessional. Try and do your best in meeting your targets and goals, and leave little or no scope for complaints. It might be a little hard (even for the worst bosses) to nitpick when you are a good performer.

2. Learn the art of diplomacy

You don’t have to be extremely chummy with your colleagues; even then, with a bit of diplomacy and tact you should be able to find out if they are being subject to the same kind of treatment. If they are, well, your doubts will be confirmed and probably you will know what kind of action the situation warrants.

3. Patience and acceptance

At times, even all the knowledge and facts in the world won’t help a situation like this. In which case, you have to accept it for what it is. In the meanwhile, be patient and do your work the best you can, hoping for the situation to get better. Confrontation in cases like this can backfire harshly, which can’t be too good for you, especially if it’s a job you really love.

4. Seek out/ get in touch with a mentor

This can truly be therapy for you. If you don’t already have a mentor, seek one out. Speaking to your mentor about this can give you some clarity about how to tackle the situation. In all probability, they’ve been there, dealt with that. Who can be a mentor? Anyone you trust, and feel might have some guidance that will help you. Could be a senior at work (be careful though), or a friend, or a relative whose professional guidance you are likely to value.

5. You always have the option to quit, take a call

As a last resort, and if it really gets that far, understand that this isn’t the last job for you in the world. Don’t jump the gun just yet. But start looking out for, and applying to other jobs. If you wake up dreading going to office everyday, maybe it is time for a pleasant change. Accepting this might be a bit unsettling, so take your time to think it through. However, do be sure of your skills and the fact that with a bit of effort you can find a job which would be way more satisfying than your current one.

Working in an environment of divide and rule management can evoke the worst from you. And that is not what you want your manager to succeed in doing – he/she probably wants to push you to that extent so that they finally have an official reason to fire you. The moment you feel matters are heading that way, take a call and make a graceful exit while you have the option of doing so.

One of your other options could be to take this up with the HR, but you would need very substantial and tangible proof to support your claim. In the case of divide and rule strategies, it can be especially hard to garner that proof, so be extremely sure of what you’re saying if and when you do decide to take it to the HR.

Survived the divide and rule management strategy? Tell us how!

How to Make Your Way Through Office Politics as an Introvert

How to Make Your Way Through Office Politics as an Introvert

The one occupational hazard you will have to deal with, no matter what your occupation is, is – office politics. Some look forward to it, consciously or subconsciously, as a form of entertainment, while some prefer to stay miles away from it. This post comes as help for those who belong to the second category – the introvert. Being an introvert a lot of times is misconstrued as being someone who is unsocial. Whereas, an introvert is simply a personality type who is more self-reflective, and prefers to mind his/her business thoroughly – while expecting others to not interfere in their lives.

Getting embroiled in office politics, is probably the worst situation an introvert could find himself/herself in. While you take all the caution not to land yourself in these situations, once you find yourself in one, what do you do? You need to understand and know how to deal with office politics, even though you choose not to play the game yourself. Here are three possible ways you could make your way through office politics:

1. Office Politics – Shut it Out

If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter, and at times, ignorance can be bliss. If you believe you have better things to do, and the situation is unnecessarily complicated for you and one that can be sidestepped, move on without feeling overwhelmed. It might affect your peace of mind to some extent since it wasn’t something you had anything to do with, and even so the repercussions seem to be hitting you. That however, is something you can choose to not let affect you. Shut it all out, and focus on channeling all your energies into being your awesome, productive self.

2. Office Politics – Clarify

Then there are the kind of situations, which even if you may ideally want to ignore, you can’t, and shouldn’t. These might be the kind of situations where are a lack of response from you may not exactly work in your favor. The second possible way for you to deal with a sticky situation at your workplace is to clarify your role (or the lack of your role) in the matter which seems to be the cause. Of course, as an introvert, you’d love to withdraw into your shell, (and in this case, your cubicle), but it matters to clarify at times. Just so that things don’t get worse.

3. Office Politics – Take Action

There is no doubt about the fact that there will always be a troublemaker or two, around you. And many a times, people mistake introverts for being a pushover. As an introvert, you might have given off this impression if, for the sake of avoiding trouble, you have relented in the past. However, at no point should anyone be allowed to bully you. Recognize that your rights and your dignity should be firmly secure at your workplace – which means, if you feel like you are being dragged into trouble you don’t belong in – you can and should take a stand. If the situation has turned drastic, you need to rise to the occasion either by acting against it yourself, or, if the situation calls for it – by taking the issue to the management.
Work place politics can be quite stressful, and in the end, nobody has anything to gain from it – apart from unpleasantness and anxiety. As an introvert, it might be quite a nightmare for you to deal with it – but like we said, no matter what occupation you choose, this will be a hazard you might have to deal with sooner or later. In which case, you need to decide which of the above three action plans suit your situation most.

Ever been in a bad situation with regards to office politics at your workplace? Let us know how you dealt with it!