Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Maturity Takes Time And Guidance

“These new kids!” Do you sometimes shake your head in frustration at the poor judgment and lack of maturity shown by newer employees, especially younger employees? Take heart, in a few years those employees will be shaking their heads too, and complaining about the “kids we hire nowadays.”

Not long ago I was teaching a group of new supervisors who had been working in their profession for only about six years, on average. One of them said, “These kids we’re hiring aren’t like the ones even a year ago. We’re getting them more immature all the time.” I suggested that perhaps he was getting more mature all the time. He vehemently said, “No, I’m not!”  (His coworkers said he was telling the truth!)

What were you like as a fledgling employee? Supervisors and managers are correct to hold even the newest employees to high standards. However, sometimes it is wise to recall how we were as fledgling employees. Can you recall something you said or did that embarrasses you even now, to think about it? Have you turned out pretty well, anyway? So will most new and young employees, if we train them, support them and guide them–and correct them when it is needed.

The best kind of supervisory guidance.  It is important to train employees in the competencies of the job, and to help them develop professionally by giving them opportunities for learning experiences. However, one of the best kinds of guidance we can provide is to help employees see how they can achieve much more personally and professionally–and how much more they can contribute to the organization and the team–if they work to attain emotional, mental and professional maturity.

In that context, some of the indicators are: Willing to take responsibility for one’s own success and for a role in the work environment, a desire to improve, adaptablity and flexibility, patience, perserverance and dependability, and expanding their thinking and perspectives.

Talk about that concept with each employee. Give them opportunities to gain and demonstrate maturity, and use the words that describe maturity when you praise them.

It took you a long time to mature–and you still are working at it. You still use poor judgment on occasion; you still behave inappropriately now and then; you still lose sight of the big picture and focus on your own personal needs at work. You also are always in the process of growing and maturing. That is true of every employee you supervise as well. Some mature more quickly than others and some never develop to full effectiveness. But, whatever their development, your age, tenure, experiences and job roles will probably always make you feel more mature than they are. In turn, they will view those with less tenure than them as the immature ones!

Your biggest reward. It can be very rewarding to watch employees get better at every aspect of their jobs and become more mature. What you will find even more rewarding is knowing you have helped in the process of development. That does not happen merely because you are a supervisor, it happens because you communicate about important things–and because you care.

Look around and identify those who need to mature so they can begin to achieve their potentials. See them as they can be, not neccessarily as they are. Then, help them become what you know is possible for them. Not all will live up to their potentials, but those who do will never forget you. Perhaps they will use your example to encourage them to guide others.

July 7th, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | one comment

Discourtesy And Contention At Work — Defining Terms

Defining terms: What is Bullying?

In keeping with the advice to not argue until we have defined terms, I want to clarify how I use the term bully, and my experiences with how others often use the term

Let me re-state that I acknowledge there are situations in which people suffer emotionally, mentally and sometime physically, because of the purposeful actions of coworkers and managers. I detest that kind of behavior and will take action to stop it. What I want to emphasize in this series is that using an emotional term like bully puts adult relationships at a juvenile or adolescent level and tends to reduce attempts to do anything positive about problems.

Another concern I have is that many people are amateur psychologists and lawyers at work, based on reading a few articles or watching TV. Whether they are discussing harassment, hostile work environments, stress, a toxic workplace, dinosaurs at work, or bullies, they embrace the workplace horror of the moment and swear they are dealing with it. It is similar to reading a list of symptoms and becoming certain that your cold is actually Zambalisian Swamp Fever.

Bullying behavior: A bully, by dictionary definition, is someone who is cruel to others who are powerless to stop the behavior. That is the definition I will use, rather than, as the author of an article on bullying wrote, “A bully is someone who makes you feel bullied.” Good grief!

Bullying behavior can include any number of tyrannical, mean or cruel actions:

  • Repeated taunting, ridiculing, threatening, destroying personal property, dirty tricks, creating serious work problems, malicious gossip, purposely creating stress, nervousness or tenseness, unrelenting criticism, yelling, accusing, unreasonable demands, and anything else that is cruel and done to exert power, out of spite or a sense of entitlement, or for the sheer enjoyment of it.

What is something other than bullying? On the Ask the Workplace Doctors site to which I contribute, we receive many, many letters from people who say they are being bullied. Sometimes when I read substantiating information I agree with the perspectives of the letter writer, even though I might not use that term. In many cases, follow-up information discloses a much different picture. I do not think the writers lied, but I do think they were using the phrase more as an insult than as an accurate descriptor.

  • The person being complained about is often unpleasant to deal with, but has no power over the person complaining and has never been personally intimidating.
  • The essence of the complaint about someone’s behavior is, “I don’t like it.”
  • There is a long-term feud in which both have taken part.
  • The person being complained about is a supervisor who has negatively critiqued the work of the person who is writing to us.
  • The writer has never asked the person to stop and never made a complaint to a supervisor or a manager.
  • The writer has been bullied in every job he or she has ever had and has never had a supervisor who was not a bully.
  • Frequently writers will use dramatic terms to describe something that has happened, but when I follow up with specific questions the facts are much less dramatic.

“My supervisor is a bully!” (He told me I had to get back to work instead of talking on my cell phone.)
“My coworker is a bully!” (She is snippy to me and responds rudely when I talk to her.)
“We have a group of office bullies!” (There are several gossips, but everyone listens to them and spreads what they say.)
“…screamed at me” becomes, “..talked in a louder tone than usual.”
“..berated me in front of everyone” becomes, “…corrected my mistake and people in other cubicles could hear  it.”
“Demeans everyone” means, “Tells me my work product has to improve.”
“…threatened me” becomes, “told me to mind my own business.”

Mental and emotional maturity. There is a level of mental and emotional maturity that is required to be effective at work. That maturity must extend to learning ways to deal with the wrong behavior of others. It seems to me that letting academicians or the media provide us with yet another inflammatory label will not help solve problems and will make bad situations worse. In further articles I will discuss a less dramatic way to view unpleasant behavior at work–a way that is more likely to result in positive actions.

April 8th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | no comments