As many of you know, I talk a lot about professional passion. I believe it IS possible to love your job and really feel a fire in your belly when you think about the contribution you’re making at work everyday.
I’m always careful to note though that work passion is very different from passion passion…you know, the kind that gets you all hot and bothered…? Professional passion is NOT the same as romantic passion.
However, as odd as it sounds, the two actually do have a lot in common. Some things about passion are the same whether at the office or in the bedroom. Crazy? Nope.
To see what I mean, read on.
Work at It
Relationships are easy and fun in the beginning. The passion often comes quite naturally…for a while. But, as any of you who are married or in long-term relationships know, at some point, it becomes harder to keep that passion alive. You have to actually put some effort in. If you aren’t willing to exert some energy, the passion will eventually fizzle out.
The same is true for your relationship with work. At first, it’s exciting. The passion is there and you can’t imagine it ever going away. But then, the day-to-day routine sets in, and you slowly become complacent.
This kind of fizzle-out isn’t necessarily a given. It doesn’t have to happen. But passion doesn’t stick around on its own. You have to buy some sexy lingerie* every now and again. In work terms, you have to take some risks and try new things. Put yourself out there. Get out of your comfort zone and see what happens.
Don’t Rely on Your Partner to Make You Happy
Your romantic partner isn’t responsible for your happiness. YOU, and you alone, are the only one who controls how you feel about yourself and your life. Sure, it’s nice to hear that you’re pretty and loved, but your partner can’t give you confidence you don’t have. Others can influence you, but ultimately, your feelings are totally within your control.
The same is true about work. Having a great job that pays well and has endless opportunity is certainly helpful. But your employer doesn’t determine whether or not you’re happy doing what you do. You choose how you respond to the situations in your life. If you choose to stay at your job, choose to see the good in it and don’t dwell on the bad. If you choose to stay with your romantic partner, do the same.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to improve the things you don’t like (whether at home or in the office) and here’s what I mean by that…
Ask for What You Want
Your partner can’t read your mind and neither can your employer. If there’s something that isn’t working for you and it’s reasonable enough to change, ask for it. But be specific and 100% straightforward. If you try to be coy and beat around the bush, it’s easy for your signals to get crossed, and miscommunication is a sure-fire way to kill the passion.
If you want your partner to open the car door for you, tell him. If it really matters to you, I’m sure he’d rather know so he can do something about it. It’s easy enough! He might still forget to do it, of course, and at that point you can re-evaluate how much it really matters.
Likewise, if your employer can resolve some underlying irritation you have, in many cases (though admittedly not all), it’s worthwhile doing so. They’ve already invested in you so simple things—like a new office chair or a slight shift in schedule—might make sense if it keeps you happy and working hard. Again, it won’t always work, but at least you’ve made an honest effort. And, as I said before, you can re-evaluate at that point.
Stay Mentally Engaged
Presence isn’t just about physically being there—at work or at home. It’s about being truly mentally engaged. It’s about caring, inquiring, listening and connecting.
We’ve all seen those couples at restaurants who barely make eye contact and spend most of their time looking at their cell phones or gazing longingly at the couple on their first date next to them. They’re there, but not really. Part of them is somewhere else.
This same thing happens all the time in workplaces around the world. People are there, but not really.
When you’re at work, you have to be there 100%. Otherwise, it shows and you feel it. Time drags by. You leave the office wondering what the heck you just accomplished…if anything. You feel like a zombie walking through the week holding out hope that the weekend will bring some kind of excitement.
All you have to do is engage your brain and work will become exciting again. Believe me on this. Everyone enjoys feeling mentally stimulated, but again, you sometimes have to work at it. Find the challenge again. Seek out new information. Learn new skills.
Know When to Leave
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the passion just can’t be reignited. There’s no sense sticking around forever trying to fix something that’s irreparably broken. Get out while you can, but leave with dignity and grace. Remember that the time you shared together was, at least for a while, a good thing. It probably wasn’t perfect, but then, you probably weren’t either.
Bring Yourself to It
This last one might sound odd but here’s what I mean: YOU are in this relationship. Whether with work or with a romantic partner, YOU are half the equation. That means you have to share who you really are and what you’re really capable of. You can’t hide or pretend to be something you’re not. Authenticity is the most attractive quality in people, professionally and personally. Be real and you’ll have more to offer your employer and your partner.
That doesn’t mean you should toss all social decorum out the window though! If your “real” self wants to throw a temper tantrum, rein it in and consider whether that’s the right move for the relationship. Remember that it’s also about respect. Tact and diplomacy go a long way. Adapt to the needs of others from time to time and they’ll do the same for you.
I know you questioned my take on this topic when you first started reading this article…so what do you think? Do you see the correlation now between professional passion and personal passion? Or have I just been reading too many romance novels?
*Note: Sexy lingerie should not to be worn at work. Unless you have some kind of…”nontraditional”…workplace. In which case, good for you.
Your “stamp of approval” is precious. When you recommend someone for a job—whether a friend, family member, colleague or anyone else—your professional reputation is on the line.
Your contacts trust you and you’re essentially asking them to transfer that trust to another person. If that person loses their trust for any reason, it transfers right back to you. So your recommendation creates a bond between all of you. Don’t take the decision lightly.
Before you stick your neck out for someone, consider these five questions:
1. Does this person really want the job? Are you pushing your friend/colleague/family member to do something he or she isn’t really interested in doing? Would this person still want the job if not for your (potential) recommendation?
You don’t want this person to feel like they’re doing you a favor by taking the job. YOU are the one doing the favor. If they don’t really want it, they won’t put in the effort needed to represent you well. Make sure you aren’t putting yourself out on a limb for someone who doesn’t really care one way or another.
2. Do you know this person professionally, not just personally?
Unfortunately, people are different at work than they are at home. We have different standards for what we expect from people at work than we do in our personal lives. If this person is just a friend or even a family member, you may be sadly disappointed by their work ethic.
That doesn’t mean you can’t still recommend someone you haven’t worked with directly, but do your due diligence. What do you know about this person’s career history? Do you consider this person reliable and trustworthy? Is he or she polite and respectful? If you don’t see these traits in your personal interactions, you probably won’t see them in the workplace either.
3. Is this person really the right fit for the role and the organization?
It’s not enough to just LIKE the person you’re recommending. He or she should have the skills and character traits needed to succeed in the role and the organization. Your job is to pre-screen the person.
If he or she is missing an essential qualification, you might still make the recommendation. But you’d be smart to share that information early. The faith you have in this person could be more valuable, but you don’t want to misrepresent the facts. If this person truly isn’t the right match, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
4. Is your relationship with this person strong enough to endure the potential challenges?
If this person gets the job, you’re now heavily invested in seeing him or her thrive in the role. Alternatively, if he or she doesn’t get the job, they may see you as a part of the problem. If either of these scenarios causes concern, think twice about your recommendation.
5. Are you willing to put your name and reputation on the line for this person?
This person is a direct reflection of you. Make sure you have absolute faith that he or she will represent you as well as you’d represent yourself—if not even better. You will be inextricably tied to this person’s professional successes and failures…at least at the very beginning. Eventually, hopefully, the person you recommend will make a name for himself and your connection will become a thing of the past. But right up front, it’s on your shoulders. Immediate problems will come back to haunt you.
Some people try to stipulate as they recommend someone that they only know them casually, hoping that the “connection” between them isn’t too strong. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. The message doesn’t typically travel. If you’re making the recommendation, it’s assumed that you’ve done your due diligence and you’ve decided it’s a safe risk to take.
It might not be “fair”, but that’s the reality.
How to Decline Giving a Recommendation Request
So, you’ve asked yourself these questions and you’re just not ready to recommend this person. But how do you do that without hurting feelings and damaging the relationship? You have a few options:
“I don’t think I’d be the best person for this.”
I like this response because it’s non-confrontational. It puts the blame on YOU, not them. You’re basically saying that you don’t have the right pull, or authority, or reputation, or influence, or whatever to get the job done effectively. You don’t need to elaborate.
“I don’t feel I know you well enough (or have enough experience working with you, etc.) to provide a strong recommendation.”
This one requires a little more courage because you’re definitely telling the person something they don’t want to hear. Clearly they think you DO have the experience it takes to give them the recommendation they need. If you can, be honest with the person. Let him or her know the hesitations you’re feeling and why it’s important for you to practice integrity here. Perhaps you can provide this person with some helpful insight and coaching. Obviously they respect you enough to have asked for this favor. You might be able to offer some valuable professional advice, if they’re willing to hear it.
“I’m sorry but I don’t typically make recommendations like that.”
This one is straightforward and simply tells the person that you have a standard rule against doing what they’ve asked for. It subtly implies that you’ve (perhaps) been burned in this kind of situation in the past. The word “typically” provides you with flexibility should this person find out in the future that you recommended someone else.
We’ve all heard it a million times: “It’s not WHAT you know; it’s WHO you know.”
While I don’t believe this entirely (to me, it’s both what you know and who you know), I definitely agree that having a strong professional network is a critically important part of creating career success.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t think about expanding their network until they need something—like a job. But I encourage you to be proactive. Building a strong professional network doesn’t happen overnight, and these relationships are useful for more than just job search assistance. Your network can provide much needed guidance, support and wisdom—from a professional perspective of course.
One of the most common challenges I hear from my coaching clients is that they don’t know how to make new connections. They know it’s important, but they wonder: “Where do you go to expand your professional network?”
Here are three of my favorite ways to go about doing this. I’ve used these strategies personally with great success, as have my clients. They’re all “easy” but you have to be willing to commit your time and energy (and occasionally a few bucks as well). Don’t let that deter you. The power of a strong professional network makes it worthwhile. Put another way: The “return on your investment” is enormous!
1. Join a Professional Association
I know I sound like a broken record with this one since I say it ALL THE TIME, but clearly, I believe in its power. Associations are a great way of meeting new people with whom you have something (professionally) in common.
You’ll be amazed by the number of options available. Associations exist for almost every position and every industry. There are also various groups based around other identifying characteristics—for example: young professionals, women in business, minority groups, etc. Do your research and you’ll find a hefty handful that might work for you.
I always recommend attending a few meetings before committing to membership. You want to make sure the group is for you. Also, if you’re using this primarily for networking purposes, make sure it’s big enough to really give you a wide array of folks to get to know. If it’s too small, or the people aren’t what you’re looking for, it’s not worth the investment.
Once you’ve found an association that works for you, be sure to regularly attend meetings and participate. Don’t be a wallflower or an observer. Get involved. Join a committee or run for a leadership position. Like most things in life, the more you put into your experience, the more you’ll get out of it.
2. Attend Networking Events
This one almost goes without saying and yet, a lot of people don’t take advantage of it. If you’re looking to expand your network, there are tons of events (organized by various groups) specifically for this purpose. Most are very reasonably priced (under $30) and they’re often centered around a fun event like happy hour at a local pub.
In my experience, networking events can be hit or miss. I’ve definitely attended some that weren’t worth the time or energy. But once you’ve been to a few, you’ll start to recognize the ones that attract big groups of high-quality people. In my area, for example, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce hosts some great events. In your area, it might be the chamber or some other local organization. Ask around and start exploring. You really won’t know what works best for your needs until you try it for yourself.
Make a commitment to attend a specific number of networking events each month, and set a goal for the number of new connections you’ll make. Remember though: It’s quality over quantity. Don’t blanket the room with your business card. Focus on having authentic conversations.
3. Volunteer In Your Community
This is yet another recommendation I seem to make over and over again. The great thing about volunteering is that it offers a lot of positive benefits. Besides making you feel good, regularly volunteering in your community is an excellent way to grow your network.
Once again, I suggest that you do your research first. Different organizations attract different kinds of people. If you’re a young professional, you don’t necessarily want to spend your time volunteering with retired folks.
Personally, I volunteer with Colorado Youth at Risk, in a program called Steps Ahead. This program pairs adult mentors with teens who need a little extra support and guidance to finish high school. My group has 40 adults and 40 teens, and the larger organization has hundreds of people involved throughout the state. It took me a long time to find the organization that really spoke to me and matched my personal values. I did a lot of exploration before making the commitment and I know it was the right choice for a variety of reasons. My fellow mentors are all amazing people who share my values and have similar personal goals. I’ve made great business contacts and a lot of friends through this process. And the relationships are built on a meaningful, shared life experience—there’s nothing more powerful than that.
A Final Thought…
You’ll notice that all of these recommendations require face-to-face contact. That’s because I truly believe that in-person networking is the most effective for building relationships. It’s not always the easiest—staying home in front of your computer and jumping on LinkedIn is much more convenient. And of course, there’s a place for online networking as well. But nothing makes a more lasting impression than a handshake and a good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. Need proof? Give it a try and see for yourself.
Your office is probably full of different personalities—some easier to get along with than others. No matter where you work, or what you do, respecting your co-workers is an essential part of being a high-quality professional. Your team is there to support and guide you. But if you don’t treat others with the respect they deserve, you’ll end up struggling all alone. Believe me – a little bit of respect goes a long way! You don’t have to be a pushover. You just need to be considerate and appreciative of those around you.
Think about it: Would you want to work with yourself? If you’re not quite sure of the answer, take this quiz and see if you’re a respectful co-worker.
Read each statement and select an answer that best describes what you would do in the situation. You may not find one that describes you perfectly – so just choose the one that works best.
1. You’re having a hectic morning at home and you know you’re going to be late. Your co-workers will have to pick up the slack until you get there.
a) You call as soon as you realize you’ll be late. You apologize sincerely and let them know when to expect you.
b) In all the chaos, you forget to call, which you know has probably upset your co-workers. You decide to stop and pick up some donuts on the way in – who can stay mad when you’re arriving with treats?
c) You know you’re co-workers are going to give you a hard time about being late so you don’t bother calling. When you arrive, you tell them every detail of your crazy morning – just so they know it was beyond your control.
2. Because of a mistake you made, your entire department has to stay late reworking a project. You…
a) Make an effort to apologize to everyone directly, and then work especially hard to get the project completed quickly.
b) Laugh it off – mistakes happen. It’s best to keep the mood light and positive.
c) Explain how the mistake was not really your fault. Why should you take all the blame for this?
3. Your office shares one supply closet that is always messy and disorganized. When you go to pick up some Post-its, you…
a) Take a few minutes to tidy up and make sure you’re not contributing to the problem.
b) Ask one of the interns clean it up – after all, they’re supposed to be learning all angles of business!
c) Grab what you need and go. It’s not your problem. Maybe later you’ll post a note that says something like, “Your mom doesn’t work here! Pick up after yourself!”
4. Your sister is going through a difficult break up. She is calling you at work looking for support and guidance, which is very distracting to your co-workers. You…
a) Talk with her for a minute and then acknowledge that you are at work and not available to chat. You make arrangements to call her on your break.
b) Whisper quietly at your desk. Your co-workers will never know.
c) Chat as long as your sister needs. This is family after all. Your co-workers should understand.
5. One of your co-workers is overwhelmed and stressed out. She ends up snapping at you one day, which is completely out of character. You…
a) Acknowledge that you know she is stressed and let it go.
b) Wait for her to apologize – snapping at you was uncalled for.
c) Snap right back. Sure, she’s stressed. But that doesn’t mean she can take it out on you!
Count the number of A’s, B’s and C’s on your list.
If A’s appeared most on your list:
Congratulations! You seem to have struck a nice balance at work. You’re respectful, without being a pushover. You offer assistance when needed and pull your weight. You’re able to admit mistakes and move on. You’re considerate of your co-workers’ time and their feelings. The relationships you are building will serve you well in your professional career. Keep up the good work!
If B’s appeared most on your list:
Unfortunately, you might think you’re a respectful co-worker, but I have some bad news: You’re not. You probably have some good intentions but you’re just not hitting the right note. In fact, you might not be taking it as seriously as you should. Remember that your co-workers are not your buddies. This is a professional relationship, not a friendship. You need to consider the feelings of your co-workers before you make decisions.
Treat them as equals – this doesn’t mean you have to let them walk on you. You can be respectful and strong at the same time. It’s a delicate balance, but one that can be achieved by taking a step back and considering their points-of-view.
If C’s appeared most on your list:
You probably know the results already: You’re not a respectful co-worker. This can’t be a surprise to you. From your answers above, we can guess that you don’t often consider the time or feelings of your co-workers. You simply do what you want to and you fail to take responsibility for your own actions. Perhaps you think this makes you assertive. Maybe it makes you feel powerful to be disrespectful. Unfortunately, you’re only hurting yourself. No one wants to hear your excuses. Respect is all about teamwork and communication. Take a step back and focus on your skills in these areas. Are you really putting your best foot forward?
I’ve heard from a lot of people lately who are all suffering with the same problem: An overly critical boss.
There’s nothing worse than working for someone who only sees the negative. When you do great work, it’s ignored. But when you make a mistake or somehow fall short of expectations (even completely unreasonable ones), you’re criticized. It feels so unfair.
Of course, life isn’t fair—and neither is the workplace. So we have to learn to deal with these kinds of difficult personalities.
Control Your Response
The hard fact of life is that you can’t change or control anyone’s behavior except your own. The good news is that you have 100% control of your response to the behaviors of others. You can choose to let someone ruin your day, or you can choose to let it roll off your back. You have the power. Take responsibility for your own attitude and don’t be a victim.
Consider It a Learning Experience
Dealing with difficult people is an invaluable skill for the workplace–and life! Think of it this way: You’re getting amazing experience. Take notes for the future, my friend. This probably isn’t the first time you’ve encountered a difficult person and it certainly won’t be the last. You’ll be an expert in no time.
Find a Sanctuary
Make your office or workspace a peaceful place that helps you create a mental barrier between you and your boss. Put up photos of your family and things that make you feel loved and happy. This will help you stay positive even in the face of relentless criticism.
Being surrounded by negativity all day makes life painful. Your world can grow smaller and smaller if that’s all you see day in and day out. Take regular breaks to get away from it all–go on walks, eat lunch outside of the office, etc. This just helps you keep perspective.
Here’s the deal: You’re getting a lot of criticism from your boss and, like it or not, your boss is someone you need to please. So, it’s important that you get some clarification. Is your boss truly being overly critical? Or are you underperforming? Either way, it’s best to get it out in the open.
Here’s one way to address it:
I recognize that I’m falling short of your expectations quite a bit lately. What guidance can you give me to better meet—and even exceed—your expectations in the future?
Perhaps you need to ask for better communication regarding those expectations. Maybe you need to help establish more realistic expectations. Whatever the case may be, you need to start the conversation.
You may find that your boss is just the type of person who harps on the negative and forgets to mention the positive. He may think you’re spectacular—but he just gets too busy and distracted to mention it. If that’s the case, it doesn’t hurt to give him some feedback. Let your boss know that you’re motivated by recognition. You can even be completely transparent and tell him when and how you want praise for a job well done. I used to send my boss a regular “I’m Awesome” list letting him know all the great things I had done. It was a cheap ploy for recognition, but he got the point. It wasn’t in his nature to point these things out and he often got so focused on his own work he didn’t even notice all I had done. But, when he saw everything listed out like that, he couldn’t help but feel appreciative. And for me, that’s all I needed.