Do you ever find yourself stumbling around your workplace wondering, “Where is the love?”
I’ve been in professional environments where the tension was so thick you could practically taste it. People literally hated one another. They actively worked against their teammates. The gossip and backstabbing and flat-out sabotage was almost comical. Like something out of a movie. Office Space with a really negative twist.
Anyway, if this sounds familiar, I just want you to know you’re not alone. And you’re also not powerless. The attitude you bring to the table can actually have an enormous impact. Much bigger than you probably realize.
When you bring the love—when you soak yourself in it and spread it around freely—it just continues to grow. Love, like herpes, is super contagious (with less social stigma). People can’t get close to you without feeling its powerful pull. And once they’ve caught it, they’re hooked. They become carriers.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again. The hardest part is getting the ball rolling. Starting that love chain reaction.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I want you to be the love instigator in your workplace. I want you to bring it, full force (no kissing required).
Here are a few simple ideas to help you bring the love back to your workplace:
Bring a treat to share with everyone. Put it in the break room with a note that says, “From Your Secret Admirer.”
Tell a team member who often gets overlooked how much you appreciate his or her work.
Ask an overworked teammate if you can help take something of his or her plate.
Think of a co-worker who has helped you in the recent past. Send an email to his or her boss and explain how much it meant to you.
What will YOU do to bring back the love? Please share in the comments!
Back when I worked in banking, as the Assistant Manager of a branch, I wore a mask. No, not literally, you silly goose. After all, banks and masks don’t go well together if you know what I mean…But I hid all the same.
I was hiding behind an image of who I thought I should be, who I thought others wanted me to be. I didn’t show the “real me” because I was scared. Something inside me said I didn’t belong there. If people knew who I was, deep down, they wouldn’t respect me, they wouldn’t trust me, they wouldn’t listen to me.
I was just a kid!! I had no idea what I was doing!! I cried at night when I was alone. I felt overwhelmed and lost and out-of-control. I never balanced my checkbook, I forgot birthdays, I obsessed about boys. Who was I to “manage” anything??
I wasn’t even certain of who the “real me” was…
So I faked it. I pretended to be someone else–someone who had her life together. Someone who didn’t make work personal. Someone who barked orders and never backed down and refused to get close to anyone.
And you know what happened? I became a person I hated.
I thought this was just what people did at work. They acted. They didn’t show themselves because that would be weak. They didn’t make real connections with people because they would never take you seriously again. They never, ever showed their human side.
In my next job, as an executive assistant, I wanted to be the REAL, no-holds-barred CHRISSY. I wanted to be friends with everyone. I wanted to make everyone love me.
Turns out, that too is the wrong way to go.
So, once again, I changed my strategy.
I’ve never claimed to be perfect—not by a long shot—but I’ve learned a thing or two over the years.
I know there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about creating relationships in the workplace. I know there’s a middle ground in there, where you can be authentic and true to yourself without going too far. And where you can be respected and trusted and listened to even if you’re not perfect. You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to hide.
You can create real, lasting authentic relationships in the workplace. I’m not talking about “friendships.” There’s a difference. Most people don’t really understand how to do this. And, like me, they end up with an inappropriate amount of distance—they’re too close to or too detached from their colleagues.
If this sounds all too familiar to you, I’d like to invite you to join me for a 4-part webinar series. During these four training sessions, I’m going to teach you the communication strategies and techniques you need to know in order to build and leverage the right kind of professional relationships—the kind that make you feel good about yourself and what you’re doing. The kind that allow others to respect you and, at the same time, enjoy being around you.
The best part? This series is very affordably priced. I know how important this topic is to your personal satisfaction at work and to your career success; I don’t want ANYONE to pass it up because of money issues.
In my work as a career coach, I find there are several helpful resources that very few people take advantage of. Mentorship definitely falls on this list. It’s really a shame. Having a mentor can elevate your professional capabilities exponentially. And—added bonus—mentors are amazing people. When you take the time to develop a strong mentorship relationship, you get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience, but you also end up with a lifelong friend and potential future business partner. In short, there’s no downside.
Of course, if you aren’t familiar with the concept, you may have questions about how it all works. Well, that’s what I’m here for!! Please allow me to offer some insights.
What Exactly Is a Mentor?
A mentor is a more experienced (typically older) professional in your field who offers you career guidance, advice and assistance from a real world point-of-view. Pretty simple, huh?
Why Should I Bother?
As mentioned above, mentorship offers a host of amazing benefits. A good mentor is wise and willing to share his or her knowledge and experiences in order to help you succeed. It’s like having a wonderful trusted ally to go to whenever you’re feeling unsure or in need of support. They can help you set and achieve career goals, make smart business decisions, overcome workplace challenges, learn new skills or simply offer an outside perspective when you’re facing frustrations at work. The benefits are truly endless.
When Should I Get a Mentor?
Mentors are helpful regardless of where you are in your career. Whether you’re fresh out of college or a few years from retirement, there are always others who have “been there, done that” from whom you can learn. So no matter who you are, I always say, “NOW is a great time to start.”
If/when you’re more experienced, you may want to BE a mentor. Please do so!! It’s an incredibly fulfilling experience and I believe that mentors learn just as much as those they assist. But I encourage everyone to also find a mentor of your own. As humans, we’re always learning and evolving, and even the most experienced professional doesn’t know everything.
More than likely, the mentorship relationships of experienced professionals will not look the same as those who are entry-level or mid-career. You may have a mentor who is closer in age and experience—or even someone who is your junior! As long as the person has qualities and knowledge you can learn from, it’s perfectly acceptable.
Who Should Be My Mentor?
This is a big question and I recommend you take some time to think it over carefully. The choice of person makes a big difference in the success of the relationship and, ultimately, in YOUR success. Look for someone you respect professionally and someone who has a career you’d like to emulate. That doesn’t mean you want to follow in their footsteps exactly; you’re just looking for a person who has had success in your field (or even a similar one) and someone who embodies the professional characteristics you’re working to achieve.
Of course, you also need to find someone who is willing to be a mentor, is eager to share knowledge, will be open and honest with you, will have time to dedicate to you (though how much is flexible) and is trustworthy. You’ll be potentially sharing a lot of sensitive information so this last point is essential.
Lastly, I recommend that you look for someone you like on a personal level, not just a professional one. You should look forward to spending time with your mentor. The conversations should be pleasant, engaging and inspiring.
How Does the Mentorship Relationship Work?
Establish specifics around your relationship in whatever way works best for both you and your mentor. It can be a formal arrangement, an informal one or something in the middle. No matter what, it has to work for both of you. To get started, I recommend that you, as the mentee, come up with your “ideal” relationship. Share the information with your mentor and make sure you leave it open for discussion. Find out how much time they are willing to invest and build a schedule based on that.
For example, my first mentorship relationship was rather informal. My mentor and I would meet via phone about once a month (usually for an hour) and in between these conversations, we would communicate via email. I would send work to him when I needed a quick critique. He would send me links of articles to read when he stumbled upon something I might learn from. When I was facing a challenge, I’d check in with him for a little guidance and reassurance that I was doing the right thing. A few times a year, he’d send me a book in the mail. It was an easy relationship for both of us to keep up with, but I got tremendous benefit from it.
The key to success is simply defining the relationship from the beginning. Make it an open dialogue. Ask for what you want and need from your mentor, be willing to compromise, and listen closely to make sure there is agreement. Be sure to clarify your expectations (specifically around things like confidentiality). You don’t want there to be any confusion.
Lastly, let your mentor know that you see this as an ongoing process. If, at any time, the relationship isn’t working for either one of you, the details can and should be reviewed and revised. This doesn’t have to be stressful like a contract negotiation. Remember, it’s supposed to be a fun, growth experience!
What’s In It For Them?
You’re probably reading all of this thinking, “I get why I should want a mentor. But what’s in it for the them?” Good question. And the answer is different for everyone.
Some mentors simply believe in the person they are helping and want to see him or her succeed, and that alone is worth the time and energy. Others look at mentorship as a way of leaving a legacy. As a mentor, you get to pass your wisdom down to the next generation. You have the power to make a huge difference in your industry, your company and even the world.
In truth, some mentors just like the challenge. They like to talk about what they know and their experiences. It’s fun when someone looks up to you. It kind of feeds the ego.
So there are all kinds of reasons mentors do what they do. It’s a win-win situation.
I hope I’ve inspired you to start a mentorship relationship today. And if I failed to address an important question, please post it in the comments below. I’ll be happy to continue chatting about this!!
A new resource…
I also wanted to share a quick note about a new resource that’s available for developing mentorship relationships. A friend of mine has created a new networking site called Why Do You Do? It’s centered around the idea that “why” you do your work is more important that what you do or how you do it. I love the concept and, though the site is still new and will continue to evolve in the future, I think it has a lot of promise. Sign up now for free and connect with other professionals just like you.
Photo Credit: Bernzilla (Flickr)
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, June 06th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
Recently, while leading a workshop on the topic of stress management, one attendee mentioned that her boss was a perfectionist and this was placing an added strain on her daily work experience. As a perfectionist myself, I completely understood the dilemma she was facing. All kinds of challenges come up when dealing with this character trait.
Working for or with a perfectionist is bound to cause some tension. In my experience, perfectionists may:
Be overly critical of others.
The drive to make things “perfect” means you have to live up to an unrealistic standard.
Be overly controlling.
Trust is hard to come by for most perfectionists. The only way they can know work is being done up to par is simply to do it themselves.
Have trouble with priorities.
Many perfectionists don’t distinguish between what’s really important and what’s not. It ALL has to be perfect. “Good enough” is never okay even for the small, trivial stuff.
Procrastinate or miss deadlines.
When you’re trying so hard to make things perfect, time often gets the better of you.
So, how do you function around someone like this? How do you manage your workload in an environment where “perfect” is the standard against which your performance is measured? Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.
Call It Like You See It
If someone—even your boss—is harping on insignificant details, wasting time trying to obtain an unnecessary or impossible level of perfection, it’s your responsibility to acknowledge it. Tell the person exactly what you’re seeing and how it’s impacting the goals of the team. Be respectful and professional, and provide an honest assessment.
Sometimes, perfectionists will get so wrapped up in the minute details, they’ll forget about the bigger picture. Giving them a heads up will sometimes break the spell and help them move forward.
Help Establish Priorities
The simple fact is that, in most daily business operations, there are only a small fraction of tasks that really matter, but perfectionists will often lump everything into one pile. This means that even the trivial, almost irrelevant work is being treated like it could make or break the company. Help establish priorities by discussing the broader impacts of the project at hand. Is it really worth the time and energy being used? Compare it to other opportunities and rank its importance.
For example, if one PowerPoint slide has a slightly fuzzy image, will the audience really even notice? And if so, what will be the consequence? In relation to the other tasks on the to-do list, is the time it takes to fix the image really worthwhile? Sometimes, the answer will clearly be, “Yes, it’s worth it.” Other times, it really won’t matter and you can move on, letting the slightly fuzzy image go by unnoticed.
Don’t Take It Personally
Working for or with a perfectionist means you may often feel like you’re being subjected to a special kind of torture. But keep in mind: It’s not you. It’s them. The critical eye with which they look at you and your work also points right back to them. They see everything as imperfect and that’s a painful way to live. Most perfectionists recognize it’s a problem, but still have a hard time setting aside those instincts. So just remind yourself that YOU (and your work) aren’t the problem.
Be Understanding…and Patient
At the end of the day, perfectionists only want to do their very best. And they want the same from everyone around them. Irritating as it may be, it’s still a noble cause. Cut the perfectionist in your life a little slack. It can be a slow road to recovery. Though of course, he or she may never get there.
A few years ago, I actually worked for a gentleman who made my perfectionist tendencies look microscopic. There were days when, after redoing a task multiple times to meet his ridiculous expectations, I thought I would simply explode. But we slowly figured out how to make it work. Sometimes, I would just bite my tongue and follow his lead. So he eventually learned that, if I was willing to battle it out, he was going too far.
There’s no easy way to work for or with a perfectionist. But with these tips, you’ll be better prepared for the inevitably difficult road ahead.