Tag Archives: Cube Life

Are You Too Nice to Your Co-workers?

When never saying “no” turns into a problem.

It’s a question they ask. Every. Single. Interview.

“Are you a team player?”

There’s only one right answer: “Yes.” Followed by examples of how great you are at working with a team.

And it’s true—if you can’t work well with others, you’re probably going to have trouble in any workplace.

However, there’s a limit. If you accommodate every single person’s request, from picking up lunch for a group meeting to taking notes, you become everybody’s “go-to guy (or gal).” It’s flattering to be thought of as the co-worker who can get any task done. But that can take a toll on you, both mentally and physically.

Here’s a few ways to tell it might be time to start embracing the word “no” (or a suitably polite equivalent).

You Say Yes. A Lot.

As noted by the Wall Street Journal, many employees now spend 85% of their time working with other team member in emails, meetings, conference calls, or instant messaging. That’s why it becomes a problem when you tell everyone you can handle anything.

You want to do a great job. So, you email a friend in a different department that you’ll send their request to your manager, help every customer (via phone or in-person) with any requests they have, and tell the front office coordinator you can cover the desk while they’re on lunch break. You like being reliable.

But before you know it, it’s two hours before you’re supposed to go home and you haven’t even started your own projects for the day.

You’re (Too) Stressed

When you say you can do several things for several different people, even if they’re all small, it all adds up. And saying “yes” makes you accountable. You said you’d do it, and don’t want to let everyone down.

But now you’re juggling too many things. You almost forget what you’re working on, who requested it, and when it’s due. And even if you can keep all those things straight, you still have your own responsibilities as well.

You’re Becoming Bitter

Eventually, initial feelings of pride over being the reliable person can turn sour. You don’t even remember why you started doing these things that aren’t in your job description in the first place! Why did people even ask you to handle responsibilities that aren’t yours? Why don’t they do it themselves! But now it’s too late to say no. You’re buried with no way out.

Or are you?

You’ve Accepted You’re A Yes (Wo)Man; Now What?

First off: you’re not alone. Being overwhelmed is a real problem, all across North America.

According to Robert Cross, lead author of an eight-year, 28 employer study on collaborative demands, “The volume and diversity of collaborative demands on employees have risen 50% in the past decade.”

But not all hope is lost. The article goes on to note that “changing just a few behaviors can regain 18% to 24% of the time spent collaborating.

These include:

  • Taking time to focus, whether through meditation or whatever else relaxes you.
  • Not answering every email. It’s okay, not everything is meant for you to respond to. If you’re addressed directly, feel free to forward it to the appropriate person.
  • Having hard discussions. Sitting down with your boss or a particularly demanding co-worker to let them know you’re a bit overwhelmed. If you’re handling odd jobs for multiple people, it’s likely each person doesn’t know the full extent of everything you do.

And if you’re resolved to continue doing everything for everybody? At least try to schedule your workload down to the minute. Once you go past your scheduled time on a task, stop it and move to the next one. Prioritize your own projects and let people know you’ll be handling those responsibilities first.

 

Have you ever ended up as the workplace go-to person for basically everything? If it became overwhelming, how did you handle it? Let us know in the comments section below!

Navigating Complex Workplace Situations; Or: My Coworker Smells Bad—How Do I Tell Him?

We’ve all been there. Maybe someone in your cubicle row breathes loudly. Or someone on the assembly line just won’t stop talking. And then there’s the case of the coworker that smells … less than good.

These are all real problems, but you’re working with this person every day. How can you politely let them know that their behavior is negatively affecting your performance?

Honestly, it’s really a three-step process.

  1. Calm Down and Think Rationally

It’s easy for issues like these to fester and become bigger in your mind than they actually are. After behavior like this goes on for months on end, it can seem like they’re personally targeting you.

But in all honesty, they probably have no idea they’re doing whatever it is that annoys you so much. People aren’t going to have a reason to change their behavior if they don’t know it’s causing problems for other people.

Also, take time to consider the facts. Is this something that the person is even capable of changing?

Human behavior is complex. Most people aren’t setting out to bother the rest of the workplace every day. Perhaps they keep talking because they’re nervous and want to impress you. Maybe they just breathe oddly because that’s how they’re built.

  1. Don’t Speak to Them Directly

But don’t gossip about them either. Take their manager aside and talk to them about the issue. Don’t be accusatory. Let them know that it’s totally possible there is a cultural or behavioral reason for the offending behavior. You don’t want the coworker to feel called out for something they didn’t know was wrong! Put yourself in their shoes. Of course this tactic helps you as well; you don’t want to look like your complaining about what looks like a relatively small problem.

  1. Observe and Adjust

Okay, you’ve done all that you can do. You’ve let their manager know. If the behavior continues, consider changing your own behavior to block it out. If they talk to much, let them know when you have to work and put headphones on. If they emit an offensive odor, grab a scented oil dispenser or some scented spray. Though it may be annoying to change in a bid to adapt to someone else’s behavior, it’s far better than telling them they stink and dealing with the ensuing awkwardness for years.

Have you ever had to deal with an awkward work situation? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments section below!

What Type of Boss Do You Have?

And what does that mean for you, as an employee?

Throughout our lives, we’ve all worked for a variety of bosses. Some are compassionate and inspire us to excel in a number of ways. Others are independent leaders who have a tendency to be more assertive.

Daniel Goleman, of the Harvard Business School Press, outlines six basic boss types, illustrated below in an infographic by the Quid Corner, an online financial resource center. Although we all have our own ideal management type, the graphic also outlines the optimal ways to get along with each type of boss. So even if your manager isn’t naturally compatible with you, you’ll have some idea of how best to get along with them.

 

Do Millennials Spend Too Much Time on Screens?

Being a Team PlayerTV screens, computer screens, phone screens, and more. It’s practically impossible to escape them. Technology is everywhere, including the office. Which isn’t a problem, until it’s abused.

Millennials are often seen as the worst offenders. They’re constantly on their phone scrolling through Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram. This isn’t a problem with older generations!

Or is it?

As noted by Forbes, Ralph Jacobson, a global retail industry marketing analyst at IBM, said in an online discussion that “people of all ages are constantly distracted by phone alerts for social media, texting, promotional emails, etc. Ensuring that employees have daily work assignments with short-term, tangible goals that have deadlines, is a way to keep people focused on their work. If there is too much uncertainty in project deadlines without defined daily milestones, peoples’ attention will wander.”

So if it’s a problem we all suffer from, what can we do to fix it? Not all employees know what proper screen etiquette in the office looks like. Although it varies depending on your manager and place of business, below are a few tips to keep in mind.

Life is a Series of First Impressions

“You only get one first impression.” Odds are you’ve heard that, or some variation of it, more than a few times. And it’s true. Especially in the workplace, where, depending on your position, you might have multiple first impressions with new clients or customers every day. When talking to someone, talk to them. Actively participate in the conversation.

You don’t want to ruin those impressions because of something as silly as your phone. So don’t keep your eyes glued to it! It was rude in school and it’s rude now. Especially during a meeting or presentation. And steer clear of attempting to hide your phone under the desk—the boss knows what that blue screen glow means.

Of course, depending on the position, it’s possible you might need to check your phone during meetings. Maybe there’s a client that won’t stop calling, or a minor emergency that needs to be taken care of. In those cases, discreetly access your phone and take care of the matter quickly. If the issue requires all of your attention, ask to step out to take care of it.

Keep Off of Social Media

This next one will vary depending on where you work and what the position entails, but it’s usually a good idea to stay off social media until you get a better idea of what the workplace culture looks like.

If you’re liking Aunt Gertrude’s garden pics, you aren’t being productive. Although it might just be a quick break for you, others could think it represents some sort of trend. You don’t want to be seen as the office slacker, so avoid it.

It’s important to note that there are plenty of valid reasons to be on social media—checking the company’s social media page, connecting with potential clients, etc. You’ll need to make some of your own judgment calls on what is and is not acceptable for your workplace.

Get Your Work Done

In the end, what really matters is that you’re doing what you’re paid to do.

As mentioned by Professor Gene Detroyer in the same online discussion referenced earlier, “How about instead of looking at the hours, we look at the accomplishment? I am all for, ‘If you get the job done, take the rest of the day off.’”

Obviously, not all employers are going to be as lax as Professor Detroyer, but you know if you’re getting the work done and meeting deadlines. Don’t do anything, on screens or otherwise, that jeopardizes your work ethic.

But does your job end at deadlines? Nope. So instead of spending time on screens, brainstorm new projects ideas or create new responsibilities that go above and beyond your job description.

Are there any issues with technology useage in your office? Let us know in the comments below!