Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Stop It.

What are you doing at work that could get you in trouble? 
Someone else at work probably knows.

Most people who get caught at work in an unethical action or a violation of a policy, rule or procedure, never thought they would be reported, complained about or found out. They gamble with their reputations, jobs, professional status, income and families because, even though they know the risks, they think they will be the one person who doesn’t get caught.  When the inevitable happens they apologize, offer to make amends and often cry over the bad results of their decisions and actions. You’ve seen it or heard about it far too many times. 

I think most people who accept responsibility for their actions sincerely do regret the poor decisions that led to the bad results. They probably all wish they could turn back time and get a do-over.  One person told me on the day of his demotion, which was also the day his wife filed for divorce about a work situation,  “I worried about it the first few times I did it, then I guess I just thought I had it figured out so no one would ever know. I’d give everything I possess to get the chance to do it over.” 

There are no do overs, there is only don’t do.

One reason I feel so strongly about supervisory intervention is because I think we could save our organizations from a lot of problems and embarrassment and save employees from themselves if we intervene before the harm or at the very first indicator of a problem. 

All it requires is that supervisors and managers monitor work behavior and performance appropriately for the job and talk to employees about potential problems as well as observable problems. Supervisors and managers often need to be the stop sign.

What is going to happen when you are found out?

Ultimately the best intervention is that which is done by our personal ethical and moral characters and our fears of what will happen if we are caught. That latter is just as valid as the former and it sometimes has a much stronger effect on our decisions! 

Any time you consider doing something you know isn’t quite right or is blatantly wrong,  picture  being confronted about it down the line when your involvement is known. Think about the worse case scenario of what could happen to your job, your family, your income, your future and your reputation.  Don’t think if  you are found out,  think, when you are found out. Then, ask yourself if what you’re considering doing is worth that result. Think about how you will feel when you wish you could have a do-over. Then, make the right decision right then.

If you’re doing something now that could spell disaster if it were known, stop it. If you need help to conquer an addiction, a psychological problem or a destructive habit, get that help right away. Get legal advice if you need it. Stay away from temptation from now on and resist it when you feel it. You know that is what you would say to others, so take the advice yourself.

The bottom line: You’re living in a fool’s paradise if you think no one knows or will never find out about the secret thing you’ve been doing or that they don’t care about the problem behavior or performance you’ve been showing. 

*If you’ve been doing something wrong that involves someone else, they probably have talked about it already or they will when you’re not friends anymore or if they start feeling guilty.
*If it involves company resources, someone is probably tracking it or will be.
*If it involves technology, someone probably has the evidence.
*If  your actions have made work life unpleasant for others, they’re already documenting it and will complain at some point if you continue.
*If you’re cutting corners on your time, attendance or work, someone is probably keeping a record.
*If you have active enemies, they are watching for something to report.
*Even if what you are doing is not a crime or a huge ethical violation or severe problem, remember that the truth probably will come out at some point–maybe at the worst possible time when you will wish you didn’t have to deal with it.

Read the news of the latest scandal, crime, shameful misdeeds or organizational shake-ups and realize none of those people thought they would be caught or that anyone would complain. Think about the people who have been fired from your work or who were demoted or lost their influence and reputations. They didn’t think they’d be found out or reported either. Let those events remind you of what can happen, often to otherwise decent people–like you.

You should feel afraid of what might happen and I hope you are–afraid enough to stop it.

December 26th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 5 comments

Enjoy The Spirit Of The Holidays

Starting around Thanksgiving you can find articles, cable shows and in-store demos about Christmas recipes, decorations and parties and tips for make-up, clothes and hair–all focused on the first 25 days of December, with a few things that can hang around through New Year’s Eve. There are also an abundance of articles about Holiday Hassles, Holiday Depression, Post-Holiday Depression, Holiday Debt and Holiday Stress.  December is also National Stress-Free Family Holiday Month, which is an optimistic effort by the Boy Scouts of America to counteract the rest of it by encouraging people to do a good turn daily, especially during December.

Workplaces vary too much for me to attempt (or presume) to give advice about how to avoid National Reduced Work Month.  However, that is a valid concern in many businesses and organizations.  Managers, supervisors and employees need to find ways to ensure that good work continues and customer, client and organizational needs are met, even though there are interruptions and increased social activities.

One of the best ways to make the month of December stress-free and hassle-free at work–and increase the fun of it for you and everyone else–is to accept it, participate in it appropriately and smile with good cheer. Don’t grumble, sigh heavily or hide in your work area to show how dedicated you are. It makes you look petty, judgmental and dull, whether that is fair or not.  

  • Whatever the policy is about gifts, food, decorations or parties, take part in the season in appropriate ways for you and your work.
  • When people are decorating, offer to help. Admire the decorations and comment on them more then once.
  • Get a soda or coffee for the main decorators as a way to say thanks.
  • Suggest simple rather than elaborate food or parties and offer to assist.
  • If people are allowed to bring desk-top decorations or items for a cubicle, workspace or office, sincerely compliment the festive effect.  
  • If someone brings cookies or other food, eat something or take it to save for later (whether you eat it or not.)  Compliment the person who went to the trouble of bringing the food.
  • Offer to help take down decorations. Get a soda or coffee for those who have done the work. End the season with a thank you.
  • Apply these concepts at home as well. Order delivery food on the day your family puts up decorations. Play Christmas music. Talk and act like Christmas is special, in whatever way it is special to you.

The bottom line: Don’t spend December griping about the holidays or talking about how depressing or stressful they are. The more you do that the less joy you’ll be able to find, even if it’s right in front of you. Enjoy each Christmas season from  now on–and help others enjoy the holidays, too.

December 1st, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 11 comments

Email, Phone Or In-Person Communication?




There are plenty of reasons to communicate about inter-office business in person, rather than sending an email or calling on the phone–especially if the recipient is down the hall or only a floor away. There are also plenty of reasons to stay at your own desk and send a message or make a phone call. Rather than being dogmatic about it, be situational–just as you probably are with many work issues.

  • If you are communicating upwardly, find out if your manager or others at that level have a preference for communicating about matters that don’t require in-person conversation. Or, call or send an email and ask if he or she would prefer that kind of contact or should you come by to see them in person.
  • Let others know your preference about communication. In your email about a situation say, “Just email me the results, that way I’ll have a copy.”  Or, “Email me the results but call me ahead of time so I’ll be looking for it.”  Or, don’t worry about emailing me the results. Let’s get together and talk about it. What time?”
  • If you communicate in person, be respectful of the time of others. Don’t use every visit to someones office, cubicle or workplace as an opportunity to take a break and take them with you mentally!
  • If you communicate by email or phone, be aware of the frustrations of unnecessary messages or ringing phones. Don’t cc people unnecessarily, just as you would not pull all of those people into a room to talk about it. Also save up messages if you think you will need to get advice or input several times.
  • Even if you talk to someone in person or on the phone, email crucial information as a way to document what you have done.
  • If what you are talking about is not something you would ever want disclosed or reviewed in hard copy, talk instead of emailing.

The bottom line is to have a reason for your choices about communicating. There are times when communicating by email is by far the best choice.  Other times, a phone call is the right call to make. And, sometimes it’s better to walk or drive to the location and be able to talk to someone face to face.  The choice depends upon you, the other person, the setting, the topic and the time required.

Do you have a preference about workplace communication? How do you handle it when someone else wants to communicate differently?

October 20th, 2010 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 11 comments

Be Dependable. For Sure.

Do you do and follow through?

Of all the traits that can help us gain respect, influence and success, positive dependability is right at the top of the list. It’s not the most significant trait–you could be dependable while needing to be more productive. However, without it your other positive qualities lose some of their value.

Being dependable can mean being trustworthy, constant, consistent, steady, accurate, loyal, responsible and timely.  There is also the component of following through and making sure managers, supervisors, clients and customers received the work or service they were promised or that the  problem or need was resolved. 

The old adage that we judge ourselves by our intentions and others judge us by our actions also applies to our dependability. We tend to judge ourselves based on what we could have done, would like to have done, thought about doing or might have done if things had worked just right or if we hadn’t been so busy. Others judge us on: Did you do what you said you would do?

Your self-check for dependability:

  1. When you promise to do something can the person to whom you promised it feel confident? (Or, are you required to give many assurances because of past problems?) 
  2.  Do you turn work in on time (Or, do you often have to ask for more time?)
  3. If several people and you are asked to do something are you an example of doing work the right way? (Or, are you often the one who has to be asked and asked and asked again–and everyone else knows it.)
  4. Do you turn in nearly all your work exactly as requested or directed? (Or do you often have to explain why it’s not exactly what was expected?)
  5. Are most people very satisfied with your work? (Or, have they often expressed disappointment about the final product?)
  6. Are you consistently dependable? (Or do people have to catch you at a good time, less busy time or some other time, to be sure you’ll do good work?)
  7. Is there something someone thinks you are working on today–but you probably won’t start until tomorrow or the next day or the next?
  8. Do you have a large menu of excuses?
  9. Can you be relied upon to do what is needed if it is your responsibility? (Or, do you often respond to requests with excuse making, complaining or reasons why you can’t fulfill a request or do a task?)
  10. Do you do your work without needing to be supervised closely? (Or, do people have to go to your supervisor or manager quite often to resolve a problem or get something done, going around you in the process?)

You may think you are dependable but you know someone else who isn’t.  (Our egos are very protective of us that way!)  Ask others–especially the person who evaluates you–what he or she thinks about it. Look at the work you have waiting right now. Consider the work you’ve been asked to do in the last month. If you are a dependable person, congratulations! You will be valued more, respected more and will have more influence than most others.

If you come to the conclusion that you’re not as dependable as you should be or would like to be,  it’s relatively easy to fix it: Use your calendar, clock and mental strength to help you break the procrastination habit; challenge yourself to stay ahead in your work not behind all the time (that might help you stay even); and, let your supervisor or manager know you’re working at it. That will gain their appreciation while you’re trying–and will be good motivation for you to keep at it. 

Do and follow through.

What if you have failed in the past? So, at one time, did every man we recognize as a towering success. They called it “temporary defeat.”  Napoleon Hill

 Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

If I were dropped out of a plane and told that the nearest land was a thousand miles away I’d still swim. Abraham Maslow.




October 14th, 2010 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 4 comments

Being Busy Is Not Always Effective

Part Two of the SueJanTina Ant Eradictor Story

Remember the ant in my last article? The one who worked and worked on an impossible task and finally had to stop? I ended that article by asking if you know someone like that. I heard from many people who do–and a few who admitted to being that way. This post adds to the first article.

 Being Very, Very Busy About The Wrong Things

Someone with whom I used to work was like that ant in many ways. She was busy, busy all the time and we couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t getting her work done. That is when we discovered she was taking on tasks she wasn’t supposed to do, because she liked those better. Volunteerism and creative initiative can’t take the place of doing one’s real job.

Many offices have one or more employees who seem to be involved in Heculean labors. They sigh heavily, talk about how early they arrive and how late they stay.  Often they try to drag others into the drama of their work by asking for excessive help, making every request a rush job and generally being a pain in the neck. 

Ironically, often the work being done by those employees isn’t vital work anyway. It’s a big crumb that didn’t need to be moved in the first place and won’t be useful when it is moved.  Many managers and supervisors allow that to continue because it’s difficult to tell someone who seems to be working hard that their efforts are resented and ridiculed more than appreciated. 

Are you that kind of employee? If you are the kind of employee who feels you are doing far, far more than anyone else because of the hours you work , the way you rush around or because you’re over your head with busyness all the time, consider how you might appear to others.

Instead of seeming to be dedicated and hard working, you may just appear to be showing off, disorganized or foolish. Are you doing your real work to the degree needed or are you creating work so you can impress others?

Do you  manage or supervise the work of an employee like that? If you are a manager or supervisor with an employee who has become a joke for his or her excessiveness about work or attempts to seem like the only one working, take action to bring that back into balance.

*If you evaluate the situation and decide the employee is truly inundated with work, see about realigning it to be more equitable.

*If you think the employee’s heart is in the right place but he or she simply isn’t managing time well, do some one-on-one training about that and consider reassigning work.

*Stop work that is requiring far more staff and resources than the end result justifies–and don’t reward attempted martyrdom. 

*Be direct about the ineffectiveness of the employee’s work and the negative effect it is having on others.

*Provide guidelines, set parameters and discuss what the employee should be doing more of and less of and what they should not do again.

That is the manager’s kinder and more gentle version of SueJanTina, the miracle ant eradicator.

September 29th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | no comments

Ant Lesson–Sometimes Hard Work Is A Waste Of Time

Want to buy some SueJanTina Ant Eradicator?

The summer I was ten, my friends Cheryl Sue Glaze and Janet Ross and I would spend the afternoons at Cheryl’s house making a concoction to kill ants–especially the ones near the swings where we liked to play at Frances Willard School in Arkansas City, Kansas.  We thought the huge ant hill there was unsafe and should be eradicated, so we decided to invent a liquid ant killer.  Also, mixing chemicals seemed like a fun thing to do.

Cheryl’s Dad told us we could mix everything he gave us but we couldn’t touch anything else.  We agreed (and it wouldn’t have occurred to us to disobey) and I would rush over to Cheryl’s house every afternoon so we could experiment with water,  tea, sugar, salt, soda, lemon juice, liquid soap and vinegar. 

When we had mixed a new varation of those ingredients, we’d take it to the school yard and dump about a quart on the ant hill. We were nearly always gratified to see that we did away with some of them. (I know, I know, that  sounds mean, but at the time it seemed like a fascinating scientific experiment.

We named our product SueJanTina and half-seriously thought we might be able to sell it. Looking back on it that experience was prophetic about what the three of us might do when we grew up.

Janet Ross English: Janet kept careful records of everything  and had a whole notebook of our various mixtures. (Her mother was a pharmacist, which probably contributed to her tidy approach.) As an adult Janet worked as an administrator in a school district.  She also was elected to the city council and served as the mayor of Arkansas City.  She passed away two years ago, after fighting  cancer for several years.

Cheryl Glaze Geske: Cheryl mixed the ingredients carefully, put the finished miracle formula in jars and kept the counter tidy. She was precise about measuring and telling Janet exactly what to put in the records. Cheryl became a nurse.

Tina Lewis Rowe: I never mixed anything or kept any records. Instead I stood on the picnic table in the backyard and yelled, “Come one, come all! Buy the amazing SueJanTina Ant Killer! Available now at a store near you!”  I had a complete spiel about the product and why everyone should buy it.

We never found the perfect formula for SueJanTina and the next summer we were interested in other things. However, in Janet’s last conversation with me she mentioned the fun of those times and said she remembered it every time she drove by Frances Willard School. 

Not all ants are effective in their work

I thought of SueJanTina the other day when I saw an ant in my kitchen struggling with a big bread crumb ten times his size. I often have a few ants in the house this time of year and generally sweep them up and put them outside in the dirt (I’ve become much more humane as I’ve matured!) This one was so valiant in his efforts I decided to watch him and see how long it took for him to get to the door where the ants emerged and disappeared all day.

The ant staggered and dropped the bread crumb but eventually picked it up and moved forward. He dropped it again and climbed all over it trying to get a better grip. He toiled, he worked, he worked overtime and probably through his lunch hour. Finally he got to the door. I was thinking how industrious he was and what a lesson there was for all of us in his refusal to give up, even though he was almost overwhelmed with his task.

That is when I realized the crumb was far too big to go under the door–and the ant realized it too.  He spent the next hour trying to get the bread crumb under the door, to no avail. He left twice and brought back other ants to help. Each time the helpers would give a half-hearted try but soon leave and go back to their own work.

Finally the ant went under the door without anything to show for his exertions. I purposely left the crumb where it was, to see if it would be nibbled into smaller pieces. Nope. It was still there a day later so I vacuumed it up. 

The ant showed perserverence by trying to move such a big crumb for so long. Unfortunately, he didn’t show good judgment about what crumb to move.  

Do you know someone who stays very busy doing work that shouldn’t be done? What about you?

Part Two of this saga is in the next post!

September 29th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 6 comments

Strategic Thinking or Tactical Thinking? What About Getting Something Done?

Strategic Thinking and Tactical Thinking

The semantic and actual differences between strategic thinking and tactical thinking are discussed in thousands of  websites, books and magazine articles.  If you look at the overviews on search engines, you’d almost think one article had been copied 483,672 times. The essence of most of them is this:

Strategic thinking is about what should be done. Tactical thinking is about how to do it.

Organizations Need People Who Will Do Something

In the last few decades there has been a tremendous emphasis on the components and by-products of strategic and tactical thinking: leadership, creativity, analysis, judgment, innovation, courage, vision, persistence, insight and inspiration. As a result, many employees are much more concerned about being considered a thinker than they are concerned or even interested in being a doer.  However, in the real-world of work there are no job descriptions that say,

“Job only requires thinking brilliantly and making plans. No grunt work, administrative work or plain old work involved, ever. Once the big thinking is finished, employee can pick and choose what tasks seem most impressive and dump everything else on others. An infinite amount of time is available for thinking about, meeting about and talking about every project.”

Doing Is Important But Getting Work Done Is Even More Important.

In an effective workplace, work comes in, gets done, goes out and another task–or several–takes its place. In many ways, all work involves an assembly line and a conveyor belt.  However, there is a tendency to think that when an employee is very, very busy, working furiously on task, it is an indicator that he or she is being productive. 

That overlooks the fact that some employees stretch every task to the maximum time allowed and beyond. Some employees create such havoc over routine work that more time is required. Some employees generate extra steps or they need more input, more time, more everything, than is reasonable. Just working at work isn’t enough. In most workplaces, getting done with a task and moving on is what builds the business or the organization. 

 When Strategizing And Planning Are Out Of Balance With Getting Work Done:

  • You hear, “Let’s meet about this again tomorrow” almost every day.  
  • There are large visions without immediate plans of action and a timeline for achieving them.
  • It seems that being asked to strategize or plan is considered a compliment but being asked to do something is irritating or demeaning.
  • Some employees act as though their work is done after they have planned work for others.
  • Tasks and projects are backlogged. Picture a clogged drain pipe with a cup of water being poured in every day but only half a cup draining out. 
  • Time lines are extended repeatedly.
  • There are many times of “back to the drawing board” because of obsessive concerns or a failure to make decisions and get going with the work.
  • A task becomes all-consuming and other employees are expected to make it a priority, no matter how much it disrupts their own work.  
  • Coworkers and clients make “joking” remarks or come right out and complain. 
  • Forward progress has slowed or stopped and daily work has become painfully and unreasonably laborious.

The bottom line: Conceptual, strategic and tactical thinking is needed in every workplace and it should be valued. However, there is a time when the talking and planning needs to stop and work needs to be done–on time, efficiently and effectively.

September 3rd, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 8 comments

How Long Are You Going To Feed The Baby Birds?

Baby birds have to be fed every 15 to 20 minutes from sunrise to sunset. Mother and father birds spend their time getting food, returning to the cheep-cheep-cheep of their babies, popping food in the tiny open beaks, flying out again and repeating that all day long.

This goes on for two or three weeks, at which time feeding is reduced to every one or two hours, then four hours, then after seven or eight weeks the birds are weaned and they are pushed out of the nest and taught to fly. It’s not uncommon to see a relatively large juvenile bird following its mother around hoping to be fed–but she doesn’t do it and the baby has to grow up and feed itself.

Do you have baby birds in your workplace? Many workplaces have one or more people who are like perpetual baby birds. They never have learned to provide for themselves and they don’t seem to care about the effect that has on everyone else. For all practical purposes they are in a nest that looks like a work space and they spend their work hours demanding to be fed.

Unfortunately, many supervisors and managers not only cater to them, they make everyone else do it too.

“Just go along with her. You know how she is.”
“Don’t let him upset you. You know how he is.”
“Do it the way she wants this time. You know how she is.”
“I’m going to stop that very soon, but for now try to deal with it. Otherwise, you know how she’ll be.”

Empowering Not Enabling

When employees are trained effectively and expected and required to be effective in their performance and behavior, they are more likely to become empowered. They can do what needs to be done and help others too. They appreciate support and encouragement but they also have the ability to draw from their own sense of worth and personal responsibility.  They self-initiate work and are self-motivated and self-disciplined. They have a strong sense of personal responsibility and are willing to be held accountable. What a pleasure! Supervisors need to be careful that they don’t take those employees for granted.

Baby bird employees are different. They are in the habit of  working with their little beaks open all the time–and whatever you give them is never enough. You can hear their cheeping in one or more of these ways–it varies according to the personality, interests and ego of the individual:

  • Self-promotion at every opportunity–or creating the opportunity. 
  • Unreasonable demands.
  • Making everything they do a major event.
  • Inappropriate actions or disruptive behavior.
  • Complaining, sulking, whining or pouting about many matters, big or small.
  • Taking the role of a victim–especially a saintly victim.
  • Wanting to be in charge or wanting to be considered the expert.
  • Angling to be thanked and thanked and thanked again.
  • Being hypersensitive to their own feelings and insensitive to the feelings of others.
  • Often being in the middle of a major emotional upheaval over minor issues.
  • Asking for excessive help, encouragement or support, even after learning a task.
  • Taking up more supervisory or managerial time than others but not getting more done.

How To Stop Enabling The Baby Bird Behavior

1. Accept your responsility and the need for a change in your own behavior.  If you have allowed the inappropriate behavior even a few times, it will be difficult for you to change your responses. It may seem easier to buy a little peace and quiet by catering to the employee just one more time. Resist the urge. Talk to other supervisors or managers and report back now and then. You’ll be less likely to give-in when you have to admit it to someone you respect.

2. Support the behavior and performance you want to see continue.  Thank the employee when he or she handles something the right way. Support other employees fully and let it be seen what you value and what the rest of the organization values. This also helps the mature, self-responsible employee who has been carrying the load but not getting the praise because the squeaky beak got it.

3. Stop the behavior and performance that is creating problems or that you do not want to see continue. You don’t need to do a closed door counseling session–unless you want to and think it is needed. Just tell the employee to stop. If you’ve never done that, you’ll be amazed at how effective it is! There are many ways to say you want someone to stop doing one thing and do something else instead–you’ll figure them out. The important thing is to stick with it like a broken record. It’s your way of saying, “We’re not feeding you any more.”

4. Keep the focus on good work. If you’re not careful you’ll replace the time you spent catering to the employee with an equal amount of time noticing whether or not he or she is still being a problem. Instead, focus on what must be done or could be done or on being more efficient and effective. One really good thing about work: It fills the empty time between arriving and leaving the workplace. When everyone is appropriately busy, there is little time for personal agendas and self-centered behavior. The moment you see time being wasted by the neediness of one or more employees, stop it and get the focus back on turning out a work product, whatever that may be in your business or organization.

When someone has been accustomed to only needing to chirp a few times to get attention, it isn’t easy to change things–but it can be done. Like other professional training and development, it’s for his or her own good and for the good of the organization and everyone else–including you.

August 17th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 9 comments

Monitoring The Nail Supply

...a kingdom was lost, all for the want of a horseshoe nail. For Want Of A Nail
For want of a nail, a shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost,
For want of a horse, a rider was lost,
For want of a rider, a message was lost,
For want of a message, a battle was lost,
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost,
All for the want of a horseshoe nail.



Advice about workplace motivation often suggests purposely assigning a challenging task as a way to  help an employee become more enthusiastic.  It will probably be more useful to the employee and the organization to help him or her see that the regular work they were hired to do is worth doing and worth doing well.

When employees only feel energized when they are engaged in new, unique or special projects, there is a tendency to feel let-down when those projects are completed. Routine tasks then seem even less significant than before. Make it as worthwhile and satisfying for employees to do routine tasks well, as it is for them to accept and fulfill a great challenge.

While you are at it, remember that observing and acknowledging dependable, daily task accomplishment is part of your routine work–and just as valuable as a project that tests your abilities in a dramatic way.

You may never be responsible for leading the battle that saves the kingdom, or riding with the message that saves the battle, or even shoeing the horse that carries the rider. Nevertheless, do not underestimate the value of being the one who monitors the supply of nails.

July 15th, 2010 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 6 comments

Spite and Malice–Only Fun As A Card Game

Spite and Malice card game by Milton BradleySpite and malice harms everyone and should be stopped.

Whether you are a manager, supervisor, employee, parent, sibling, friend or just want to be a decent human being, be on the alert for indicators of mean-spirited, petty, maliciously vile behavior. Don’t do it yourself and don’t ignore it in others.

The card game, Spite and Malice, has been around for a long time under a variety of names. It can be fun to play when played in the spirit of fun, even though it certainly appeals to the competitive spririt as well. It’s described on one site as “a game with attitude.”  One reviewer commented on the fun of playing the “Stop anyone” card, when you see someone is on a winning streak. Another said, “This is a cutthroat game where you do what it takes to keep someone from winning, then they do it back to you.”  The Hasboro card box says, “If you can’t beat’em, annoy’em.” It sounds like some workplaces I’ve heard about!

At  work, these are often the indicators of spiteful, malicious behavior:

  • Sarcastic, snide remarks to diminish someone or their work.
  • Behavior or comments designed to make it difficult for someone to do their work effectively.
  • Waiting until others are around to point out a mistake or problem.
  • Doing something you know will result in a bad situation for someone else.
  • Facial expressions, gestures, comments or actions that cause someone else to feel unwanted, disliked, or demeaned.
  • Frequently ridiculing or mocking someone rather than talking to them directly about a problem or issue.
  • Being an obstructionist and stubbornly resisting someone else, just to avoid complying or just to create a problem for them.  (This is also a description of passive-aggressive behavior.)
  • Stabbing someone in the back and twisting the knife. (That’s a high-level psychological phrase.)

Spiteful, malicious behavior is a clear indicator of ongoing contention that harms everyone, even those who are not the direct target. It uses time ineffectively and often results in long, long meetings or frequent cross-purpose conversations that get no positive results. It creates tension and ill-will. It’s nasty. Even if there is someone who seems to be deserving of a slap-down or a put-down or a straightening-up, it isn’t the appropriate way to improve things.

If you are a manger or supervisor and you hear or observe something that seems malicious or spiteful: Stop the behavior immediately, investigate it further and if you were correct in your observations, direct the employee to never do it again. Make it clear that the behavior was not useful, not professional and not acceptable. If there was provocation, deal with that as well. But, make sure the petty, vengeful behavior stops.

If you are the target of spite and malice: Don’t respond with more of it. Get it out in the open and let the other person know you heard it or felt it. See if you can deal with the underlying problem. Find out if you have created part of the problem. If that doesn’t help, document what happened and the effect it had on you and others and ask for assistance in getting it stopped. Don’t drop hints, act like a long-suffering victim or gossip about the other person, just ask for help in a reasonable way.

Some good comments when confronting directly:
“You say that as though you’re joking, but I don’t think you mean it that way. How do you mean it?”

“It seems as though you are purposely resisting this. Is it because of me or because of the idea or both?”

“It seems like there is some hidden message in what you’re saying. If you talk to me directly maybe we can get things in the open and deal with it.”

If you are tempted to be malicious or spiteful: One indicator of spite and malice is sneaky, behind the scenes, manipulative behavior designed to harm someone else. But you can also be nasty and mean right out in the open. A good test is this: What results are you trying to get?

If you are trying to make life difficult for someone else or trying to harm them or their work in some way, stop yourself before someone else has to stop you. Find the root cause for your feelings of anger or agression and deal with those issues.

The bottom line: No one ever looked more professional after showing spite or malice. No one has ever brought about positive changes through malicious or spiteful behavior. Stop it when you observe it and don’t do it yourself.

In card games it can be fun to block other players in every hand they play, while chortling to yourself or openly about it. At work, the stakes are too high to play those kind of games.


July 7th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 9 comments

« Previous PageNext Page »