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Dealing With a Chronic Complainer

There is nothing worse than having to listen to someone who constantly complains, whether your spouse, a relative, or friend. But, to me, it’s worse when you encounter someone in the workplace who can’t seem to find anything good in …. anything.

Workplace complainers can be dangerous as their negativity can pervade all spaces in the walls of the organization and they will suck the emotional breath out of those they work with daily. Their greatest pleasure is to get others on their side and be as miserable as they are, even though they may not be as unhappy as they say they are (ironic, isn’t it).

These types of people see themselves good workers and nice people, but feel shocked when their negativity is pointed out. They’re good at deflecting their part, blaming it on an extraneous factor – the boss not being clear, the coworker, who was slow in getting them needed info, the process was too slow for me to access the data I needed, the dog ate my homework – oh, not that one but it seems as if they’ll place the blame on everyone or everything else.

These individuals don’t take responsibility for their part in what happened – they are victims. And you can’t argue with one as they will get angry, pout, and deflect back to you with the hope that you will now feel as bad as they do. Misery loves company, as they say.

How do you deal with a complainer/victim? Here are some tips to help you navigate these choppy waters:

  • listen – try to really ‘hear’ what the other person is saying; they will say words that can indicate where their hurt comes from.  To illustrate, say that John is negative about the boss and the work, making the comment that he wasn’t asked to help, and then going on with a litany of reasons why the workplace is terrible; if you listen to his words, he feels left-out and insignificant, hence his complaining nature
  • use empathy – try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, but don’t wear them, meaning don’t take their pain on which is when we can go down the negative slope. Empathy is a skill that can be honed and helps to soften the other person when they feel understood
  • erect your boundaries, and ensure they are firmly in the ground – boundaries set the limit for behaviors or words you will and will not accept from others, as well as how far we will go. If ‘Negative John’ starts to go on complaining, then you must stop them from going on but in an assertive manner (using “I” statements). Not allowing these conversations to go on will redirect a complainer and you will feel free
  • be inclusive – complainers often feel left out or that their voice doesn’t matter, so by including them in conversations or with work tasks to be completed, this often elevates their mood and stops complaints that go beyond normal
  • put on your shield – just like a Power Ranger puts on their suit, you have to put your shield and determine you will not allow the negativity of others to affect you. It will be hard at first but, with consistency, it will become second nature. Smiling and being positive does have the opposite affect so it can spread and squelch any complaints or negativity
  • focus on solutions – when Negative John starts with a complaint, redirect by asking him how the issue can be resolved as this will create a new way of thinking  lessening further negative views; a bonus is that this will bring up some new ideas that can make a difference in the work being done

Of course, if none of these work (and they won’t with everyone), then you must decide to not interact with them, or on an ‘as needed’ basis (after all, they are coworkers); it might mean asking to sit at another work station or, worst case scenario, speaking with the boss. It certainly is no fun to listen to someone who seems to love to complain (do they love it?) but dealing with it is within your control. Keep ‘in your own lane’ and focus on your own work – you will be happier (and can lead John to want some of the water you’re drinking).

If you’re having trouble dealing with negativity, or it has invaded your workplace, let’s talk; contact us today to create happier and more productive workers at http://www.cyscoaching.com

How to Deal When You Feel Like Throwing In the Towel at Work

I received another question today from a potential career coaching client who stated “I give up, I can’t do this anymore – HELP!” I see this request often, which is sad to say. As much as we want to believe that things have improved, I would say they have not when we look at workplace unhappiness. As I’ve reported before, the levels of engagement have only risen 1% in three year (Gallop, 2015); while hiring has picked up and jobs are becoming more available, workplace behavior seems to have ‘stalled.’

Some responsibility lies on employers while the other half lies on employees to monitor their own behaviors, to be more empathetic, and not come from an “I” framework at all times. Feeling as if you want to give up is not a fun space to be in and there are ways to effectively deal with the situation when you feel like throwing in the proverbial towel:

  • First off, do nothing right away. Making any types of decisions or taking actions when under stress and pressure can lead to them being irrational and could cause the situation to be worse
  • Next, breathe and deeply; this will help to calm both your mind and your body so now you can ..
  • Take stock of the situation, looking at it not just from your perspective but from those involved. This is not as difficult and, while we can’t know what is in someone else s head, we can look from an outsider’s viewpoint. You can take the slant as if you were being asked by a friend to give your opinion on the situation. Being fully aware of the events that occurred, and the parts each ‘actor’ played, helps to resolve the emotions that can get in the way.
  • Assess your emotions and how they may be leading you to feeling so defeated; look at what other situations you might be facing (i.e. sick parent, dog, child, etc). that might be heightening your emotions. I see people who are dealing with multiple issues, leaving them with little left to face their battles.
  • Mind-map options and solutions for dealing with what’s on your plate, giving each a priority listing for what needs to get done first, second, etc. Having adequate information is critical to making good decisions. Remember to keep breathing as you do this.
  • Practice self-care – do some form of exercise daily, meditate for two minutes, color, garden. journal, take time to do nothing; any and all, or more, will help you to have more energy, be happier, and take the control back in your life.

So remember when you feel your work has taken control over your life, and you want to ‘throw in the towel,’ that YOU are the one in control and not the other way around. Changing your attitude and actions can positively affect the situation; following the steps above can give you a variety of options (not often realized when under intense stress) to decide on how you want to handle your work and feel happier. Only you can decide on which path to follow.

Problems at Work? Your Face Might Be the Reason

Without fail, Julie (not her real name) makes sure she gets to work on time and is ready to get going on her job tasks. If you were to ask Julie, she would tell you that she loves her job and loves focusing on ensuring her customers are satisfied. However, Julie will also tell you that her work and ethics are not recognized by either her supervisor or her coworkers; in fact, she feels that she is often ignored or criticized by them. Julie is confused and frustrated. She also feels her job is in jeopardy.

Julie is right. But it’s not for the reasons she may believe. It really comes down to her face, particularly her facial expressions. For Julie, it’s her lack of expression that is putting people off. Julie has been told that she is ‘unapproachable’ and that she is not a ‘team player.’ This has led to problems at work for her that she does not know how to deal with. So Julie keeps to herself all day, focusing only on her work.

Something Julie wants to consider is that her face is leading to her problems at work mainly because she is not being open and inviting in her facial expressions; everything today is how you make me feel. So if her coworkers don’t feel that Julie wants to interact and be a part of the team, or her boss feels she isn’t open to direction or is creating an adversarial workplace, Julie’s troubles will continue until she leaves, either by her own volition or not.

I have seen this over and over with really high-level performers who are having difficulty in getting hired, getting a promotion, or are now a target of criticism. Our facial expressions say so much without us even being aware of what we are conveying. Some people are very intent listeners while others need time to process what’s in front of them; some people fear others anger or criticism or may be having personal problems. These are parts of one’s personality and, while they may be difficult to change, the situation is not hopeless.

One step I encourage my clients to do is to become more aware of their own behaviors; asking friends or family members to observe how their expressions come across leads to that awareness and working to change any adverse behaviors. The act of awareness can help to slow down and think of how you can come across in a more open manner. Smiling is another step to take; practice smiling in a mirror, think of something funny or pleasant, or put a pencil in your mouth – all of these will lead to a smile and create that openness to draw others in.

Another way to turn this around is to have more interactions with your coworkers – ask about their weekend or their kids, have lunch with them, or ask their opinion on something. We all want to know we’re important so finding something interesting about your coworker makes them want to interact more and they think more highly of you. The  mood of the workplace lightens and it feels more cohesive. Soon, coworkers will seek you out in a positive way.

Julie began to follow these steps; one she implemented immediately was putting a smile on her face. She reported that she smiled at her boss, whom she said did not expect it from the look on his face, but that he later did smile back as he passed by her desk. Julie truly did smile now and she can begin to turn things around to her benefit.

So, if you’re having problems at work, take stock of how you’re coming across to others and follow Julie’s lead to turn your situation around starting today.

When Do You Feel Most Prepared – Friday or Monday?

Happy TGIF – it’s Friday! This is the day that most people look forward to as it’s almost time for the weekend. Time to rest, relax, catch up on chores you didn’t get to do during the week. But is Friday the day you leave everything at work and wait till Monday to get ready for the week or do you have your week already planned out?

I don’t know if there is a right or wrong way to be more productive at work as far as planning goes, but you can either be ready when Monday comes to hit the ground running or you can spend that time once you get in to work. I don’t know about you, but planning the new week at the end of it sounds better to me – it allows me to review the week to see what I got accomplished and what I didn’t so that I can take those unfinished tasks and schedule them out.

Being prepared is the key to getting into action-mode and goal-accomplishment. In his “Stages of Change,” psychologist James Prochaska (1995) found that people pass through six phases before they reach a goal:

  1. Pre-contemplation – recognize a problem may exist but not fully aware of the magnitude; think of getting dressed and your pants feel tighter – you may think they shrunk in the dryer and not because you gained weight
  2. Contemplation – you are now aware of the actual problem and what you’re going to do to resolve it; going on the example above, you stepped on the scale and realized that you weigh 5lbs more (eeks!) and then start to decide how you’re going to lose them so you begin searching for diets and/or exercise programs
  3. Preparation – this is the most important step as you begin to put your plans in place and gather necessary resources; once you’ve decided as to how you’ll lose the weight, you can get resources together to get and keep you motivated. For you diet plan, this might include buying certain foods, a scale to weigh the food, or a food diary to track your calorie intake; if you are exercising, this might include planning out your walking route or gym time, buying new shoes or a new workout outfit
  4. Action – now that you’re fully prepared and know the what, why, where, when and how, you can dig in on the goals you developed
  5. Maintenance/Support – in this step you are continuing on your goals and making progress; if not, you can always seek out resources or people to support you to keep working on your goals. Going back to our example, you began to exercise but found yourself getting discouraged so you might seek out a trainer at the gym to give you accountability
  6. Termination/Relapse – this is the time where you either have reached your goal or you ‘slipped.’ You can always go back and rework the steps. According to Prochaska (1995), some people might need to go through these phases several times before they are successful.

As you can see, preparation is the stage that leads you to goal-achievement and feeling accomplished. I guess you have to ask yourself if you want to start your new work-week as one you look forward to starting and knowing what you need to get done or do you want to spend time at the start of your day – delaying your work – in planning mode. If you want to end your week – so you can have less worry and can enjoy the weekend – try to end the week reviewing, planning and preparing. Which do you prefer?

If you want more help with your career, business or life, we’d love to help you – contact us today at http://www.cyscoaching.com.

Dealing with Vindictive Coworkers

I was chatting with a client the other day as to how things were going in their job – the good, the bad, the ugly. Overall, they were feeling ownership of their work as well as accomplished (the good). This person then expressed uncertainty over learning that their supervisor was leaving at the end of the week; they weren’t exactly sure the circumstances or reason for the departure but it was creating some anxiety and worry over the changes that would result (the bad).

As she discussed her concerns, she mentioned that this supervisor was not effective, more in the way she lead – controlling, demanding, uncertain at times. Then, she related that the resignation was probably due to one – or more – of her fellow coworkers who did not like this supervisor so they probably had something to do with this (the ugly).

As I explored this issue, my client felt appalled, no – downright disgusted – at the behaviors of these few individuals and their level of ‘meanness’ in going behind this person’s back and doing things that put them in a bad light. Have you ever faced a situation like this? How did it affect you and your work performance? Did you know how to handle it?

We don’t control other people or their actions – we only control ours. Dealing with vindictive coworkers can be challenging at best if you are around it as often they assume a power role in some way. They take risks to challenge and do it arrogantly; if the target is not confident or doesn’t like conflict then they are more likely to take a fall at the hands of these bullies. Watching this occur can impact you in ways you might not be aware of: worry it will happen to you, anxiety, feeling unfocused, or finding yourself aligning with them (so they don’t attack you).

The only way to deal with this is to not give in to the drama. Instead, place your focus on your work and your actions; by doing so, you will feel less stress while feeling more empowered by the good work you are doing. When these types of people find that they don’t have an ‘audience’ they tend to stop their bad behavior or they leave. Whatever they do is theirs to own not yours, so don’t allow a vindictive coworker to invade your space – be true to who you are and what you value. The other stuff tends to work out as it should.

Bad Behavior in the Workplace – It Might Be Time to Check Your Own

When I see the level of disengagement in the workforce – 70%  – I must reflect as to what is actually going on.  Can it really be that this pervasive level of unhappiness can only be attributed to displeasure or boredom with the tasks of the job?   I must conclude that it is due to a relationship issue, either with a boss, a coworker, a vendor or a customer.  Being out-of-line with one, or more, of these individuals can elicit feelings that can lead to conflict or feelings of stress and anger if not properly addressed.  Some of these bad behaviors can include:

  • working too slow
  • working too fast
  • making demand, and not respectfully
  • no appreciation or acknowdgement
  • yelling/wise-cracks
  • no response or just walking away
  • gossiping
  • ‘ratting’ to the boss
  • taking credit for others work
  • absenteeism
  • hoarding information or resources

I really can come up with a lot more but the point is that others behaviors can  greatly influence our level of satisfaction with the job.  Bad behavior will exist in one form or fashion when people who are different are brought together in one location; when these differing styles and behaviors join for the purpose of carrying out tasks there will be ‘differences’ that emerge.

But when dealing with bad behaviors, one must also address their own behavior as it may not just be the other person.  Perhaps you are the one who is withholding information when you are angry with someone or you want to get noticed for having that knowledge; it could be that you ‘get’ the job task but become impatient with a coworker who doesn’t.

Relationships are complicated and conflict can arise when we see things from our own ‘eyes.’  Taking time to slow down and tapping into the thoughts that are leading to the conflicted state (feeling disrespected or unworthy) will help you to deal with them and decide on how to handle them and the issue.  Fully knowing how to modify your emotions, ala emotional intelligence, will help you to take any situation less personally which then allows you to be more in control.  Checking your own behavior is key.  So the next time you are upset with someone at work, you need to look at your own behavior to see if the problem is you or at least how you contributed to the situation.  Rather than point the finger as someone else, you may need it to point back at you.

Which is Your Thinking Error?

In working with clients, I am keenly aware of  the themes or ‘issues’ they are seeking help and guidance for.  Most times, these issues are preventing them from doing and having more, such as negative thinking or lack of self-esteem.  Their growing frustration and perceived inability to deal with their situation leads to a host of physical and emotional issues which affects them personally as well as their interpersonal relationships.

These “issues’ are actually errors in our thinking, or distortions.  Without getting too clinical or in-depth, when we look at our personal development we all pass through various stages or phases throughout our lives; in each of these phases we are developing habits and patterns that help us to move through each phase and shape us to who we are.  But these behaviors and habits are not always positive ones.  We can develop errors in our thinking about how we see and perceive situations we are faced with.

These thinking errors include:

  • all-or-nothing thinking – you see things as black or white (if not perfect, then see it as a total failure)
  • overgeneralizing – seeing a single event as a never-ending pattern
  • mental filter – picking out a single event and then dwelling on the negative aspect while not seeing any positives
  • disqualifying any positives – rejecting any good while maintaining negative beliefs
  • jumping to conclusions – making negative interpretations with no facts to base them on
  • mind reading – concluding that you know what someone is thinking without checking to see if it’s correct
  • fortune telling – predicting an outcome as a predetermined fact
  • catastrophizing – expecting the absolute worst outcome as a fact
  • magnifying or minimizing – either overly exaggerating or making things less small
  • emotional reasoning – “I feel it so it must be true”
  • “Should” – use as a motivator but leads to feeling punished and justified for not doing something
  • labeling – attaching a negative label to yourself or others
  • personalization – seeing negative events or characteristics as part of yourself or others when not your doing
  • maladaptive thinking – focusing on a thought that you have no control over which can seem self-critical or distracting

Overcoming these thinking errors can often be difficult – and the longer these habits are festered it will take longer to let them go.

But there is good news – it is totally possible to reverse any thinking errors and develop healthy positive ones which will then lead you to feeling more positive, more confident and that will get you into action mode.  First, it takes identifying which thinking error(s) you may have and in which situations you use them.  Next, it takes challenging your thoughts – how do you know these to be true?  Lastly, it takes validating your positive thoughts and behaviors so they become implanted.

Don’t let your thinking errors hold you back from having the career, the business, or the life you desire.  Make the decision to stop and honor yourself by relearning new habits today!

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