Keeping your cool means keeping your job

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Intriguing heading for a thread? Maybe not, but it sure is accurate.

Every once in a while I get an email advertisement for a "career seminar" from some outfit that charges relatively low fees for helping some folks learn stuff about improving chances to get employed, stay employed, or get promoted. A lot of our readers already know this stuff, but I see enough posts and private messages from other folks who don't have a clue to realize we can help everyone by reinforcing the knowledge for those who know or think they know and especially for those who don't even suspect all the things they do or don't do on the job that imperils their longevity on the job.

Here's the deal:
From time to time, I'll start a thread that lays out the basic outline of one of these "improvement seminars" and then folks can ask questions in the thread or send me private messages for me to post the questions for them so they can remain anonymous. It will be like a slow motion seminar, except it will be FREE, not $100 or $500 like the ones offered via email.

Today's theme: "Keeping your cool means keeping your job"

When we finish with this thread (not just the first post), whether in a social or work situation, each reader will have the tools and techniques to

  • Respond with a level head — even if you're ready to "blow a fuse"
  • Adapt to workplace or lifestyle changes — even those that are tough to swallow
  • Stick with difficult challenges when solutions don't come easily
  • Follow through on plans ... turn "good intentions" into reality ... and meet more goals
  • Develop the steady self-control it takes to stand up for yourself and deal with conflicts positively
  • Break social and on-the-job habits that hurt you, like procrastination, disorganization, and others
  • Bring more discipline into your personal life — creating healthier routines and relationships

Before we begin, make an honest comparison of your present life with the items on the list - do one or more of those points seem to be missing from your life? Ask yourself if adding one or more of those attributes and characteristics to YOUR public persona would have prevented some nastiness in the past or might improve your chances for success in the future? If the answer is yes, read on. If not, you're already perfect, so don't waste your time - move on to another thread!

My credentials for this thread:
I was a high ranking executive for more than 40 years. I absolutely know what characteristics and attributes will damage a worker's chance of remaining employed or getting promoted. Consequently, I know what will get some one employed or considered for promotion. I have been running such seminars for my own employees for years and often ran them for our investment banking clients and their employees to "spruce them up" prior to a merger, buyout, or Initial Public Offering. The same attributes and characteristics which contribute to success or failure in the workplace are equally applicable to one's social life.
Why do the negative displays of these items have such a negative impact on the people who matter to your success in business or social situations?

Here's one at random:
Respond with a level head — even if you're ready to "blow a fuse"
There is a large contingent of folks in the world who think they are successful because they are bullies and intimidate others by shouting, threats of economic or physical harm, or by throwing tantrums which frighten their victims. Essentially, a tantrum is the natural province of a two year toddler who wants his own way. What may be cute once or twice wears on the soul when it is repeated in every situation. Worse, in a business situation, it takes up time and time is always money. No boss wants to waste money dealing with someone who wastes his time or coworkers' time by disrupting the workplace by acting like a two-year old. They reason: if the guy acts like a two-year-old in this situation, he probably doesn't reason too well on other things important to the job. I probably should either fire him or stick him off in a dead end corner where he won't disrupt things too much, at least until I can find someone to replace him.

Throw a tantrum with a would-be girlfriend and she'll decide to move on to someone else. Throw a tantrum with a rich aunt and she'll leave you out of her will.

If you look through the list and can't determine the negative impacts of doing the opposite of the good characteristics and attributes of each one, tell us and we'll help you understand.

I often use the stale phrase, "Knowledge is power!" simply because it is true and conveys the message succinctly. If one has knowledge of the ramifications of an action, one can shape the outcome of a situation by crafting the actions to produce the desired outcome. It's true in manufacturing processes and just as true in interpersonal relationships with bosses, colleagues, subordinates, suppliers, customers, family, friends, and neighbors. For this "seminar" to work for you, you have to believe that a desired outcome is the natural result of applying certain actions to affect a situation. The more you learn and practice these actions, the more likely you will apply them instinctively to each new situation which arises.

Steps to knowledge
So the first step to knowledge is to understand and believe that every action has ramifications. The second step is to identify the general range of ramifications that will accompany each action. The third step is to match the actions with the situations to produce the desired outcome.

Implementing the knowledge
Let's take another random item and examine the kinds of situations where it might apply and how it might be beneficial to exhibit or display such characteristic.
Bring more discipline into your personal life — creating healthier routines and relationships
(This is an item I spent 30 years preaching and not following. For the middle 30 years of my life (after being a high school and college jock), the only thing I exercised was my imagination.)
In my own case, I got the health and exercise bug back when I was in my middle 50s. Now I am an instructor in a water aquacize class five mornings a week. I also do two hours a week of land-based aerobics and weight training. I find I have more energy and stamina than I had ten years ago.

That extra energy pays off in maintaining mental alertness in crucial business and social situations. (Nobody wants a date, a spouse, or an employee who can't stay alert during the task at hand.) Same thing goes if you have an abusive spouse or partner at home - folks may have sympathy, but they get apprehensive with each lie told to explain a bruise, a black eye, or a broken arm. That apprehension leads to wanting to separate from that unpleasantness - which explains why so many abused spouses seem to have difficulties holding a job. Similarly, if you hang out with lowlifes who get into trouble with the law or other lowlifes, their troubles can often spill over into your life.

Enough with the downsides and the "whys" - give us some "hows!"
Right! If you don't understand WHY on any item, just ask!

  • Respond with a level head — even if you're ready to "blow a fuse"
    The key is to take a deep breath (count to 10, if you like) and say to yourself, "What action do I need to take to turn this situation to my advantage instead of merely venting my anger and frustration?" (If you have a plan, much of the frustration will disappear.)
  • Adapt to workplace or lifestyle changes — even those that are tough to swallow
    Most folks misunderstand Darwin's Theory of Evolution and wrongly cite it as "Survival of the strongest" when, in fact, the most adaptable species are the ones that proliferate and expand into every available niche (especially dandelions, rats, cockroaches,
    and humans!) Keep thinking - "Adapt or die!" (Remember, sometimes adaptability means inventing a tool to facilitate the adaptation - clothes, air conditioning, houses, furnaces, etc., not just evolving a physical change in body type.)
  • Stick with difficult challenges when solutions don't come easily
    Nobody wants a quitter as a leader - if it was easy, every one would do it. Learn problem solving techniques and apply them. don't hesitate to collaborate with others who can contribute to your success - loners don't rise to the top and they sure don't have successful social relations!
  • Follow through on plans ... turn "good intentions" into reality ... and meet more goals
    Probably the most pitiful phrases in the human lexicon begin, "If I would've . . . OR "I could've . . . " The worst one, of course, begins, "I should've . . ."
  • Develop the steady self-control it takes to stand up for yourself and deal with conflicts positively
    Being a bully is a no-no, but so is being a patsy or a pushover. Not many people find themselves in this category, but if you recognize yourself as a continual patsy, always being taken advantage of, you may need some professional counseling in "Assertiveness Training." I once developed an entire curriculum for Assertiveness Training, but the college and I dumped the course after one semester because we found the truly timid were too timid to put themselves in a public class and really needed one-on-one guidance. Psychologists do that much better than seminar leaders. We did have success, albeit small, with bullies, whom we helped steer to a more middle ground of assertiveness from aggressiveness.
  • Break social and on-the-job habits that hurt you, like procrastination, disorganization, and others
    There may be thousands of books, courses, and tip sheets on how to organize your time and your things. The key to success in all of those sources is that first you have to recognize that such bad habits affect you negatively. Secondly, you have to WANT to change (all bad habits have the same stumbling block - smoking, drinking, gambling, messiness, etc. have high recidivism rates simply because many of those
    people who return to the habit never really wanted to stop because they liked the high of the habit. Finally, you have to realize it is an ongoing process, not "once and done!" Often, there are outside factors which are contributing factors to the habit and barriers to quitting. It's pretty tough to quit smoking if your spouse lights up across the breakfast table. Part of getting released from the habit means identifying those contributing factors and eliminating or neutralizing them.
  • Bring more discipline into your personal life — creating healthier routines and relationships
    The one thing I discovered for myself and may not be true for everyone is that being part of a group where members give each other moral support makes it much easier to continue an improvement program for a longer period than working by oneself in isolation. At the gym where I work out, we often talk about the narcissists and the obsessive-compulsive disorder victims who avoid any personal interaction with other folks, but only seem to show for a month or two before they are no longer seen, whereas the social ones come for years and have smiles on their faces as they work out instead of gritted teeth. So, part of the healthier routine is developing and maintaining friendly and healthy relationships. Knowing how to be friendly in a social situation goes a long way toward learning how to be friendly and sociable in a work situation and thus contributes to successful collaborations.
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
I just recalled one of the comments I got from an audience member about a year ago when I covered this topic of synergy between one's work skills and one's social skills. I had just finished some terribly convoluted comparison about how the skills and techniques used by a quality professional were the same tools and techniques used by folks in successful interpersonal relations. This young woman stood up and shouted, "I get it! Life is just a series of root cause investigations and solutions!" We gave her a standing ovation!
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
If you've been working for a few years, I bet you've run across a quality nerd who routinely excels at root cause investigations, does SPC charts in his sleep, and handles all the measuring instruments with consummate skill, but has been trapped in a dead-end job, never up for a promotion, and rarely joins in the break room conversations unless they happen to center around a work-related issue.

If you look in the mirror and recognize yourself as that quality nerd, it's time to consider a change. It's a fact - technical skill alone is NOT the path to promotion and leadership roles. As the thread progresses, we'll discuss the Change Management techniques you can apply to yourself to initiate the change and to bosses, colleagues, friends, and family to implement and maintain the change.

The long term goal is to be a happy, successful person in your work and personal life. It is a goal achievable by almost everyone.
 

Chennaiite

Never-say-die
Trusted Information Resource
I have also believed in 'if you have it, flirt it' kind of concept. That has helped me(or let down) so many times in my relatively short career.:tg:
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
I think that it's true that technical skill alone is not enough; in most cases it must be combined with dedicated sycophancy.
Gosh, I pity the person who works in an environment where sycophancy (sucking up) is the primary criterion for survival. I certainly do not believe sycophancy is the rule in MOST situations.

Let's review: Deming's theory of a System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) is the diametric opposite of sycophancy - it posits that an informed and aware workforce makes suggestions for the good of the organization, NOT to soothe the ego of some petty satrap who happened to follow Peter's Principle to a position of power.

I admit there ARE bullies in the business world who enjoy making life miserable for underlings. On the other hand, there are strategies to evade their wrath besides being a suck up. In my past, I was even part of conspiracies to rid the organization of individuals who disrupted the workforce by such bullying toward their subordinates. These bullies were not my bosses, they were peers and I did not have direct power to eliminate them so I had to gather (rally) and convince allies to join me in the putsch. (putsch = overthrow or coup d'etat - putsches are often more violent)

First, though, someone has to find a sympathetic ear where a calm discourse, not mere whining and crying about how "unfair" the bully is, can start the ball rolling.

This thread is about deciding actions to take which will better your situation. It is not about crying how unfair the world is to you. Frankly, bosses have little sympathy for crybabies and may consider them more disruptive than the bully. In that case, who do you think is terminated first?

Obviously, if you try strategies to neutralize or eliminate a bully and they don't work, it may be better to switch over to reading or re-reading these threads:
Thinking about a New Job for New Year?

Resume and cover letter - How good are yours?

The Job Hunt - Care and feeding of references

Tips to get past the "gatekeeper" when job hunting

Consulting – Is it in YOUR Career Future?

Contracting/Temping - Viable Alternates in Tough Times

Good luck!
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Yep, I know folks that got there by kissing a lot of people's asses! ;)

Stijloor.
Care to quantify that? How many compared to folks who got to the top without kissing ass?

Corollary question:
How many who got "there" (wherever "there" is) are still there? Change of regime usually means the ass kissers get swept out with the old regime.

I have also believed in 'if you have it, flirt it' kind of concept. That has helped me(or let down) so many times in my relatively short career.:tg:
I'd like to hear how flirting let you down!

The point is one or two cases of successful butt kissing do not represent the entire business universe. Folks who notice (and envy the success of) ass kissers are really those who aren't knowledgeable enough to figure out alternate paths to success - paths which are NOT dependent on the whim of some jerk who likes his ego inflated even more than it is.

:topic:
I'm taking these comments from readers about sycophancy, flirting, and "ass kissing" seriously, whether the posters are or not (I suspect some think they are being "cute" by making a joke out of the topic), simply because I know one does NOT have to suck up to get ahead. There are strategies to achieve success without debasing oneself in that manner. I can help folks learn those strategies.

Alas, there are folks who have such a personality of self-defeat, they refuse to even consider such strategies and prefer to wallow in a mud puddle of despair. Those folks need psychiatrists, not a mere business consultant such as I.
 
E

EWHome1

Mr. Bucey, thank you very much for being willing to share this knowledge. This is a tough one to come to terms with for many of us; maybe we don't recognize ourselves as the root of the problem by allowing others to bully us into submission out of fear. Or perhaps being too trusting of others, without understanding how one can be manipulated. Being able to constructively deal with adversaries and still maintain self-respect is a learned habit. And it is a real challenge for those of us who deal with the day-to-day struggle of fighting depression. I look forward to more guidance from the pro.:agree1:
 
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Chennaiite

Never-say-die
Trusted Information Resource
I'd like to hear how flirting let you down!

Not sure if there is a Mis-Communication. Absence of Flirting has let me down on so many occasion. I have had the experience of losing it to the peers who apparently used it(flirting) to their advantage.

The point is one or two cases of successful butt kissing do not represent the entire business universe. Folks who notice (and envy the success of) ass kissers are really those who aren't knowledgeable enough to figure out alternate paths to success - paths which are NOT dependent on the whim of some jerk who likes his ego inflated even more than it is.

:topic:
I'm taking these comments from readers about sycophancy, flirting, and "ass kissing" seriously, whether the posters are or not (I suspect some think they are being "cute" by making a joke out of the topic), simply because I know one does NOT have to suck up to get ahead. There are strategies to achieve success without debasing oneself in that manner. I can help folks learn those strategies.

Alas, there are folks who have such a personality of self-defeat, they refuse to even consider such strategies and prefer to wallow in a mud puddle of despair. Those folks need psychiatrists, not a mere business consultant such as I.

I am serious that Flirting would contribute significantly to one's success. I don't see it something in the lines of ass-kissing.

Note: By *Flirting*, what I mean is expressing one's potential/strength (even if there doesn't exist a necessity), to have the edge over the peers. Unlike ass-kissing, I don't see anything wrong with the technique.
 
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