Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Guard Against Professional Attacks And Don’t Be An Attacker

Watch out!You probably have had an experience where someone you trusted or thought was an ally, attacked you. Often it happens when you are fighting dragons and had depended upon that person to watch your back not stab you in it. That seems to be one of those life events that, if it hasn’t happened yet, it probably will.

Most of us are somewhat prepared for an attack when we know there has been  a long-standing conflict. What rocks our world is when we never expected it from that person or about that thing.

The result often is that we learn to be more cautious about our conversations and actions, even with those we would like to trust completely. The harsh truth is that the employee with whom you have shared many personal opinions may use those conversations against you. Or, the employee you have cut corners to help will resent not being helped again and will use your past actions as a weapon.  (“No good deed…etc.”)

The second part of these thoughts about being attacked is to remind you to not be the attacker. If you have a complaint to make, make it and do it openly. But, be very, very certain that the situation is so extreme you must use personal conversations or actions that were meant to be helpful to you or others, against someone. Even if you win you lose and so does everyone else.

When you drag in long ago grievances, remarks made in trust and confidence to you, or the actions of someone who clearly meant to do well by you or others, you show yourself to be untrustworthy and unappreciative and you make the other person sorry they were ever open or helpful. Oh yes, you can probably justify it to yourself  and even get a few others to agree with you. However, you can bet you will never be viewed in the same way again.

I’m not saying you should tolerate wrongdoing, just that how you handle it should be based on the whole picture of your relationship with someone and how they have acted with you and others over time. One ill-judged statement or action should not overturn years of sincere efforts to be a decent manager. One or a few times of being denied something you wanted does not merit reviewing everything you know to see what can be used as pay-back.

None of us are perched so high we can’t be attacked–and all of us can attack someone–for a reason or for no reason. Never assume you’re completely safe and never give people reason to watch their backs when you’re around.

September 6th, 2009 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 12 comments

When Have You Had The Most Fun At Work?

"It's dirty work but we have fun!"Have you ever had a job where it was simply fun to be at work? Where you caught yourself looking forward to getting there and almost dreaded days off because you had to go home? What was the attraction?

I asked that question as an afterthought in a class a few weeks ago and was bombarded with reactions! Some of the people started smiling at memories, others looked at me as if I was crazy, one person said he had felt that way about every place he worked but his current job was his all-time favorite.  (I think his boss was in the room.)

I rephrased to get a better response: When have you had the most fun at work? That was the right question! Everyone had stories of times when work was the best it’s ever been. In the process of talking about those they made lists of common themes or situations that caused work to go past tolerable and even enjoyable, all the way to fun, fun, fun!!

  1. Working with close friends.
  2. Having a romantic relationship with someone at work. (I didn’t put restrictions on what they could list!)
  3. Having a close team in which everyone had a strong role.
  4. When the boss was also a friend, at least at work.
  5. Having enough work to stay busy but not so much as to be overwhelmed.
  6. Right after getting a promotion or going to a choice assignment. (That often didn’t last long!)
  7. Accomplishing something significant.
  8. Getting a lot of valid recognition for work.
  9. When everyone seemed to get along and there was no conflict.
  10. When there was a special project and everything came together easily.

If you’ll notice, there was no mention of a nice office or the most current technology, making a lot of money, or goofing off but still getting paid. Mostly, having fun at work involved relationships in one way or another and getting something positive accomplished. 

Ask yourself the question. When have you had the most fun at work? Who was part of it? Enjoy those memories! Consider contacting the people you worked with at the time to tell them how much fun you had with them and that you appreciate their part in it.

Can you make your work more fun? Is there any way to recreate some of that fun in your current work, if you aren’t having fun now? You may not be able to create a situation in which you look forward to work and don’t want to leave, but you might be able to add fun, great relationships and memories to carry with you after this assignment or job is over. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

August 6th, 2009 Posted by | Life and Work | 11 comments

Unrealistic Expectations = Asking For Frustration

The sounds of frustration: Have you had these thoughts when someone hasn’t done what you wanted or expected, or has not responded as you hoped?

“I should have known…”
“I don’t know why I tried….”
“I thought if I gave him one more chance….”
“Well, he did it again.”
“I wish just once, she would…..”
“Was that too much to ask?”

The value of Get real! At work and in personal relationships, we often add to our frustration and disappointment by expecting something from someone that experience and intuition clearly indicates is not likely to happen. Think about your last frustration, disappointment or irritation with someone you know well, work with or supervise. Was it completely unexpected? In fact, have you caught yourself fishing for a response that you know is not likely, so you can say, at least to yourself, “See the way she is?”

  • If a friend or coworker has nearly always been uninterested in one or more topics that seem important to you, you will probably be hurt and frustrated if you try once again to get them to show some excitement about it.
  • If an employee has repeatedly done work that is barely standard, you are setting both of you up for problems if you expect things to change dramatically for the new task you assign him or her. Unless you have done something to intervene and make a difference, you will probably not get different performance.
  • If you have a boss who has rarely if ever said one word of appreciation for even your best work, you should plan on only a nod of the head when you get the big project done early–and be prepared to shrug away not even getting that.
  • If you have never enjoyed collaborating with someone, don’t volunteer to work with that person in the hopes he or she will have changed. You haven’t, so why would he or she?

Few people are so attuned to you, and you to them, that they can be everything you need and want. You probably have friends who are great for one activity, but you call someone else for another activity. You work with someone who is the guru about one thing but not as knowledgeable about something else as another coworker. You supervise someone who is strong in one area but needs help in another–and you get them the help they need to improve. You don’t have it all, either!

The key point is this: You and I are being unrealistic to keep trying to get something from others that they are either unable or unwilling to provide. If we cannot tolerate the way they are, we should stop the relationship. But if we keep the relationship we must accept that the person will always essentially be the same as they are now. Without being fatalistic about it, we should try to keep the attitude that our friends and loved ones are as they are, just as we are as we are. There is no point in putting them to the test one more time to see if they are different today than they have been for the last ten years.

Far too many supervisors do nothing to help or require employees to improve, but continue to supervise as though every employee is able and willing to do every task. This is an unrealistic expectation that is doomed to problems. A supervisor’s main job is to provide the guidance, support, directions and clearly stated expectations, that will ensure good work. It also means you must provide enough oversight to ensure that behavior and performance are at the correct level. There is no point in merely observing so you can say with disgust, “See? He just can’t get his act together!”

Don’t set yourself up for frustration. There are some aspects of friendships and work that will probably never change. Employees can learn new knowledge and skills through training, but they will always have the same traits and personality. Friends may change some behaviors in order to show their caring for us, but they probably will always have the same intrinsic attitudes they do now–and will occasionally revert back to what is more comfortable behavior for them.

Use the team concept, even in your friendships. The value of a team is that each person has strengths that, when combined with the strengths of others, makes for the most effective work. Apply that concept even in your friendships. You know which of your friends can provide the different elements you need–do not expect them to be completely interchangeable. Also realize that the reason they have friends other than you is that you are not all they need either!

Do you know someone who has it all, all the time? If know someone who has it all, and thinks you do too–you are indeed fortunate! Express and show your appreciation every chance you get, be the best possible family member, friend, coworker, employee or supervisor you can, and don’t burn them out or use them up! One way to keep such great relationships going is to keep finding new things to share.

July 21st, 2008 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 4 comments

Friends At Work Are Special!

Friends at work can make work fun!Who have been your best friends at work? If you think back on your work history or consider work now, you probably can smile about conversations, lunches or coffee breaks with friends who made work more fun.

My first work friends were Robert Shaugnessy, Roger Kasperson, Rand Hendrickson and Steve Kern. In another assignment I worked with Art Hutchison and Gary Gosage, and I could hardly wait to get to work just to pal around with them. We did a lot of work, but we sure had a good time! Later I worked with Tom Coogan and Rudy Phannenstiel. Bruce Chesy and Joe Goff were great friends, too. John Thompson and Danny O’Hayre were subordinates of mine, but we had a work friendship. The same was true of Larry Amman and Pat Flynn. Larry Homenick was the chief deputy when I was the U.S. Marshal for Colorado, and he and I established a friendship that is still strong. I also knew I could count on the friendship of Pat Mangravito, Sharon Ladd and Sharon Buck, among others.

I would hate to think of what work would have been like without the fun, assistance, support and encouragement those friends offered over the years. In fact, the worst times of my career have been when I have felt I did not have a friend at work and that I was surrounded by people I could not smile with, ask advice from, or even trust most of the time. Have you ever been in a situation like that?

However, as with most good things, there are some warnings and reminders about work friendships (These apply to people at any level of the organization, including supervisors and managers.)

  • Do not be part of an exclusive clique. Being in a group that does everything together and excludes others, much like a snooty sorority or fraternity, may be fun for you and them, but appears very unprofessional to others, including managers. You will not present yourself as a mature person with a strong team approach if you are seen as needing to be part of a club to be happy and productive.

Talk with everyone in a friendly way. Occasionally invite someone else to lunch with you and your best friend at work. Show through your actions that, while you have close friends, you are supportive of everyone who is professionally effective. You may find you enjoy getting outside the same circle of conversation and interests. Linking with others is also a way to gain knowledge and perspectives we might never have otherwise.

  • Carefully choose close friends while being friendly to everyone. Some coworkers will add to your work life and professional development and others will not. You can be friendly and supportive of everyone, without linking with someone who is creating problems for themselves through their work or actions. Being friends with someone you feel sorry for is not a good idea!
  • If someone you do not want to be close to is obviously trying to establish you as a friend at work, be courteous–but find reasons to limit time together. When you do join that person for lunch or breaks, invite someone else. (Have you noticed that figuring out how to distance yourself from someone at work is like saying no when someone asks you for a date and you don’t want to make them feel badly?)

  •  Let your friendships support you in your good work, not detract you from work. Most complaints by managers about work friendships involve excessive conversation, extended breaks, ganging up on others, or covering for each other inappropriately. Among the worst situations are when everyone else has to hear you and your friend discuss your favorite topic, hobby, sport or family concerns every day, while others are working. Your friend is your friend, but your friend doesn’t pay your salary or prepare your evaluation.
  • Think twice about extending friendships away from work. That is especially true if your work friend is of a higher or lower level than you in your organization. In addition, the aspects of your personalities that make you friends at work often do not translate well into activities that include spouses and children. Another problem is that conflicts in your social friendships will almost always affect work. Some people find it easy to be friends in both worlds–just be aware of the pitfalls. 

For most of us, memories of friends are our primary good memories of work. It is people who most enrich our lives and make it fun. Tell your work friends how much you appreciate them. Send a note to work friends from the past and remind them of some of the fun things you enjoyed about working with them. If you are a supervisor or manager, develop friends in other sections so you do not end up feeling isolated. Encourage productive friendships between employees in your workgroup. Everyone works better when they have friend nearby!  

If you want to really smile about your best friend at work, let Mr. Rogers remind you of why that person is special. Click here to listen!

June 15th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 5 comments