Taking Home a Pack of Paper? Yes, It’s Stealing

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0Dear Getting a Grip:

So, I take home a pack of paper from work every once in awhile. I work from home on weekends and print documents for work. Why should I use my own personal supplies for the company’s work product? They won’t miss it anyway. What’s the big deal?

Dear Paper:

With so many people at so many companies working remotely, working overtime, and going the extra mile – all at home – the divide between work and home barely exists. Many people use their own personal computers and laptops, mobile devices and office supplies just to get the job done so when they’re done, they can really be at home.

When employers and employees have clearly expressed expectations of who’s doing what where and for how long, clarity about whose stuff will be used to do the work is straightforward to determine or negotiate. When those expectations aren’t spelled out, or are unspoken, the work/home divide and the company property/personal property divide are ethics-challengingly blurry. Many employees feel overworked and underpaid and can feel they deserve more than they are receiving.

Getting a Grip:

Deserved or not, unless it’s in the contract that an employee is to be compensated with such, leaving the building with a package of paper, highlighters for the kids, or the change left over from a petty cash purchase is stealing.

***

Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work? Need workplace advice? E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland. Getting a Grip regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Anne's Giles Clelland's workplace advice column appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT. A version of this column appeared in the December 2010 issue.

Workplace Advice: My Client Won’t Listen to Me

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0Dear Getting a Grip:

I am a professional in residential real estate and I have a question that could apply to people in a number of professions where their advice and direction is sought. I have a client who simply will not listen to me. She is paying a lot of money for my advice to sell her home, but she goes for advice to her family, her friends, her employer, even the person next to her in the grocery line, then comes to me with it as if it were the final word in real estate. Usually it is illogical, illegal or simply stupid. How do I get control of a situation that has gone awry?

Dear Last in Line:

When our friends ask us for advice, we give it for free, tending to let go of the outcome.  When a client hires us for advice, we tend to attach ourselves to the client taking action on our advice because we believe our advice is important to the success of the client’s enterprise.  For our clients’ well-being, for our own professional ethics, and for the sake of our future business with clients or for the clients’ referrals, we want clients to do what we think is best for them.

Clients ultimately have the right to choose what they think is best for them, sometimes in accord with our advice, sometimes not.  Negotiating upfront that the value we provide in exchange for hire is the expertise behind the advice, not the outcome, can leave both parties satisfied with the give-and take of the transaction.  Attempting to give advice, then control a client’s choice, usually results in frustration and resentment on both sides.

When clients question or challenge our advice, it’s either personal or not personal.  If it’s personal, clients have doubts about the quality or value of the advice we provide.  That requires an upfront, right-now conversation.  “Your satisfaction is what’s most important.  If you’re satisfied with the value I’m providing you, let’s continue working together.  If not, may I refer you to one of our other agents that may better serve your needs?”

When clients consult others and then quote that advice to us, it’s usually not about us.  When people are uncertain about an action to take, they seek a “Yes, but…” from as many sources as they can find to justify waiting, even stalling.  That requires an invitational conversation.  “You seem to be gathering advice from lots of sources.  Are you concerned about proceeding?” 

And, frankly, bad clients happen, or bad fits between clients and advisors happen.  Time spent advising and re-advising one client doubtful of the value you offer could be time spent with two clients who appreciate your expertise.

Getting a Grip:

When an individual is hired by another individual to give advice, whether as an agent, attorney consultant, accountant, coach or counselor, the advisor’s job description is this:  Give advice.  This is not in an advisor’s job description:  Make the client take the advice.

***

Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work? Need workplace advice? E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland. Getting a Grip regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Anne's Giles Clelland's workplace advice column appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT. A version of this column appeared in the November 2010 issue.

Workplace Advice: You Should Not Say “You Should”

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0Dear Getting a Grip:

When I’m talking with individuals from other companies at networking events or conferences, someone invariably interjects, “You know, what you should do is…”

That person knows more about my business than I do? That person is privy to my corporate vision and knows the strategies I have used and plan to use to achieve it? Are you kidding me?! Unsolicited advice is getting so common in business conversations these days that I have thought about timing how long it takes for “You should…” to appear. Is there anything I can do to stop this irritating, tedious practice?

Dear You Should:  

Advice-giving is about power.  No matter the claim or intention – “I was just trying to help,” or “I thought you would want to do that better/right,” or “I know this, you don’t, you need to know it, what’s the problem?” – or even if the advice is correct: “You should get help with that drinking problem” – the advice-giver attempts to assume a position of one-up superiority and to move the advice receiver to a one-down position of inferiority.

Why?  When one person attempts to wield power over another person, whether with advice or a two-by-four, the act is usually based on what having power will mean to the person attempting to wield it, or fear of what the other person will feel, think, say or do if they don’t.

Needing power over others to feel personally and professionally valuable and effective is, frankly, a tragically precarious way to live.  What one seeks is power.  Ironically, what results is giving power to others to determine that very sense of power.  If people aren’t complying, then one’s value isn’t confirmed.  Increasing pressure on others to comply increases the distance they keep.  Advice-givers often end up like The Farmer in the Dell’s cheese – standing alone.

Getting a Grip

Given the power-based and hierarchical nature of most corporations and the competitive nature of capitalism, unsolicited advice-givers in business will always be with us.  Make a strategic decision about the advice-giver’s overall value to you and your business.  Limit contact if the value is limited.  Deflect unsolicited advice with a “Thanks” and change the subject.

If the person merits it, make a straightforward request:  “I’d like to work with you as colleagues.  I feel disrespected when you give me unsolicited advice.  I’d like to request that you give me advice when I ask for it, or, if you have a suggestion, please offer it as such.”  If they respond, great.  If not, you can choose the “limit contact” option, or you can choose to tolerate an advice-giver, knowing that the advice originates not from your need to receive it, but from their need to give it.

***

Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  Need workplace advice?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland. Getting a Grip  regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Anne's Giles Clelland's workplace advice column appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  A version of this column appeared in the October 2010 issue.

She’s Trying to Get Me Fired – Workplace Advice

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0Dear Getting a Grip:  She’s trying to get me fired. I know she is. Every single mistake I make, every oversight, every task that I didn’t think to do that way, but did this way, she points out to our boss. It’s incredible! My co-workers say they notice it, too. Why does she have it in for me?

Dear Points Out:  Any criticism in public, whether from a co-worker or boss, stings. That said, let’s see if we can get to the essence of this by starting with the reality of the situation. Could your co-worker actually get you fired? Does she have that power over your boss or over the company’s hiring and firing decisions?

And what’s the truth of her concerns? Are you making mistakes, missing details, doing tasks in ways that aren’t in accord with the company’s work flow? Is this co-worker simply the one who’s willing to speak out? If she weren’t there, might another co-worker be able to point out the same problems?

I ask because most people are quite focused on their own jobs, their own careers, and their own lives. They might care on some level whether or not someone gets fired, but the time and thought required to “get” someone fired costs time and thought they would rather spend on pursuing their own goals.

Getting a Grip:  Conflicts with co-workers are almost always best handled through a company’s mediation or conflict resolution process. Speak matter-of-factly with your H.R. manager or with your boss. Meetings will probably be called and, from there, concerns can be aired and, ideally, resolved.

Like that idea? Then proceed. In a well-run company, your good work will speak for itself. If you don’t like that idea, and envisioning a candid discussion about the quality of your work – whether solo with your boss or in a meeting with your co-worker – breaks you out in a cold sweat, she’s not trying to get you fired. You are. You need to ask yourself why.

***

Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  Need workplace advice?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland. Getting a Grip  regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Anne's Giles Clelland's workplace advice column appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  A version of this column appeared in the June 2010 issue.

Looking for a Job at 50 – Workplace Advice

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0Dear Getting a Grip:  How did this happen to me? I blinked and here I am at 50 with a mortgage, a bald spot, a beer gut, and a pink slip. I look in the mirror and think, “Who in the world would hire that guy?” The interviews are proving this out. I can get my foot in the door, but once they see the rest of me…

Dear That Guy:  Very little challenges our core belief in our personal value than getting laid off or fired. Once we pair our personal value with our value to our companies, a business decision by our companies becomes very personal indeed.

Believe it or not, a worse case than yours is created by the person who refuses to look in the mirror and to take a realistic inventory of assets and liabilities. With the median employee tenure at 4 years in the U.S., the more each of us sees ourselves as independent corporations partnering with a series of other corporations about every 4 years, the more likely we are to keep our assets maximized in anticipation of meeting our next client’s needs.

An unfortunately large number of people look in the mirror, eyes blinded by blaming the company, the economy, the government or their in-laws and can’t, or won’t, see personal liabilities that can present opportunities for transformation into assets. A frank look can be painful, but you’re to be commended for your courage to look yourself right in the eye.

Getting a Grip:  If you’re getting interviews but no jobs, the job market wants something you don’t have. In our technology-dependent economy, new skills are always required. It’s time for you to acquire a new skill. If what you can do can produce R.O.I. for your employer, the wise employer sees dollar signs, not bald heads. About the beer gut - you know what you have to do. You have to change. How auspicious that you’ll have to do that every four years or so anyway. You can start your change training now.

***

Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  Need workplace advice?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland. Getting a Grip  regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Anne's Giles Clelland's workplace advice column appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  A version of this column appeared in the May 2010 issue.

The Woman Boss – Workplace Advice

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0Dear Getting a Grip:  I’ve worked with women all my life, but I’ve never had a woman boss before now. I am having trouble with her style. Her credentials are good, her ideas are good, and she assigns our company’s heavy workloads in this tough economy pretty fairly. That’s one minute. The next minute, she’s worried if she’s qualified for the job, whether her ideas will work, and if everyone likes her. The temper tantrums and the crying jags are rare, but happen often enough to make me feel like a caretaker instead of a co-worker. I’m fine with having a woman lead our team. I just wish she’d do it. What do I do?

Dear Caretaker:  The ideal scenario for leaders, for both women and men, is to have peer groups of fellow leaders with whom to discuss doubts, frustrations, and fledgling ideas. Time with trusted colleagues, purposefully scheduled to take a break from the demands of leadership to discuss those demands, can free leaders to lead. And that frees workers to work. Yes, women and men may have different leadership styles. You seem to have not a “woman boss” problem, but a “boss in need of pals” problem. You could easily have described a male boss who varied in behavior from drill sergeant to best buddy, alternately leading wisely, managing poorly, and abusing power to get unmet needs met.

Getting a  Grip:  The stage of emotional and psychic development of your boss, regardless of sex, is beyond your control. What is in your control is how you respond to the behavior of your boss.

If at all possible, avoid being drawn into a too-intimate relationship. When a crisis passes, shared moments of familiarity breed contempt, not reward. And when cutbacks come, you’ll be fired by your best friend.

Whether a boss barks orders or weeps them, if you’re staying in the position, listen for the “what” of the message, not the “how.” Determine what the problems are, which of them are within your areas of strength, expertise and jurisdiction, and solve them. Implement, execute, and accumulate accomplishments and credentials. What your boss needs – a peer group of the like-minded – create for yourself. Wherever your boss may be stalled, you’ll be driving on your own leadership road.

***

Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  Need workplace advice?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland. Getting a Grip  regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Anne's Giles Clelland's workplace advice column appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  Versions of this column appeared in the April and July 2010 issues.

My Co-Worker Is an Entrepreneur – Workplace Advice

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0 Dear Getting a Grip:  I work at a high-tech company and everyone – they think on the down low – is inventing The Next New Thing. Our company’s wannabe entrepreneurs insist on telling me, at length, nostrils flaring, how big their Thing is going to be.  That Thing changes from day to day, if not from hour to hour.  On the one hand, I admire their spirit and the company that pays my salary was certainly founded by an entrepreneur.  On the other hand, “Shut up and do some work!”  Entrepreneurs may get a lot of glory in the press, but I’m sick of trying to work with them.

Dear Work:  Entrepreneurs are legendary for using up the people in their lives.  Through their parents’ love and loans, through their significant others’ love and lack, i.e. doing without during the development of The Thing, through their co-founders’ enthusiasm and can-do, through their workers’ stamina and spirits, entrepreneurs can pare away resources and goodwill until people cut them off to save themselves, or become just too depleted to give any more.

In addition to being fed up or used up, if your company’s policy states that what’s invented while an employee works for the company belongs to the company, or if the policy forbids employee entrepreneurship, you've got an ethical issue going as well.

Getting a  Grip:  Entrepreneurs can be so sharp, so visionary, so exciting to work with or for, that time spent with them is transformative.

But the impassioned cannot hear, whether they’re entrepreneurs, environmentalists, or eighth graders.  Trying to explain to your entrepreneurial co-workers how challenging it is to work with them, how scattered and inefficient you find the work flow, how resentful you might feel about doing all the listening and none of the talking, how unfair it is for them to talk with you about topics against corporate policy, eh, they can’t or won’t listen.  “It’s the idea, man!  Nothing else matters!”

To them, maybe, but not to you.  The only way to handle those who won’t listen is rather than to speak, act.  Put up a hand, walk away, draw a line in the sand.  Will entrepreneurs like you for this?  Nope.  Will they hold you in contempt for not appreciating their ideas?  Yep.  Will they probably increase their talk, lobbying, and insults before they desist?  Yep.  Eventually, in the silence, you can keep your integrity and get some work done.

***

Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  Need workplace advice?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland  Getting a Grip  regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Getting a Grip appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  A version of this column appeared in the March 2010 issue.

Greener Than Thou – Workplace Advice

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0 Dear Getting a Grip:  Hey, I recycle, I wash and reuse my plastic storage bags – I even compost!  So why at work does Miss Greener Than Thou have to constantly nag me with her passive aggressive, “You sure are making a lot of copies!” and “Do you really need that many paper napkins?”  She doesn’t seem to realize that her green evangelism isn’t converting me, but turning me into a resistance fighter.  I know it’s immature, but whenever she feeds me her born again greenisms, I feel like taking, horrors, two whole paper towels in the washroom instead of just one.  Who put her in charge of my conservation efforts?

Dear Compost:  While “going green, “ “conservation,” and “sustainability” are important to define and take action upon both at home and at work – and you and Miss Greener Than Thou seem to share this view – with regard to Miss GTT’s communication style, you seem to be seeing red rather than green.  Your frustration with her tactics makes sense.  Regardless of her purported intentions, she seems more interested in controlling your behavior than in inspiring you to join her cause.

Getting a  Grip: When people believe the actions of others have dire consequences – destruction of a soul, destruction of a planet, destruction of human rights – they can get minds as zealous and dogmatic as those they want to change.  As you point out, aggression, passive or otherwise, results in resistance.  Confrontation, especially in public, results in shaming, humiliation, and resentment.  Adopting a position of moral or behavioral superiority pushes people away.  By using force, those with the most humane messages can create deaf ears.

You have several choices.  You could leave a non-green printout of this column on her desk, but that’s passive-aggressive. (Still, I bet it shows up on the desks of a lot of eco-evangelists out there.)  You could share your frustrations with her and ask her directly to desist with monitoring your behavior, but zealots tend to want to harangue rather than listen.  Or you could take the high road, devise your own “green” initiative beyond Miss GTT’s paper-counting, and invite others to join you.  If they do, fine, if they don’t, fine.  Whether it’s a goal of yours or not, you’ll probably have more influence on others than does Miss GTT’s micromanagement.  Instead or reacting to someone else’s intrusions, you’ll be taking action on what you value – responsible, individual choice.

***

Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  Need workplace advice?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland  Getting a Grip  regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.***

Getting a Grip appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  A version of this column appeared in the February 2010 issue.

Low-Cut Blouses at Work – Workplace Advice

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0 Dear Getting a Grip:  The women at my office and their low-cut blouses…  What are they thinking wearing bar-hopping attire to work?  A guy’s gotta look, doesn’t he?  I’m not a creep, a stalker, or a predator.  I’m a healthy, heterosexual male.  Will you tell the ladies to at least button up one more button so I can get back to work?

Dear Not a Creep:  While I don’t have the power or interest to impose a dress code, I can see your point of view.  Literally and figuratively.  People select clothing for reasons ranging from indifference, to adornment, to tradition, to intent.  Should co-workers wear this and not that?  Unless a company dress code exists and management enforces it, the question doesn’t really matter.  Our particular morals or taste have no control over what, how much, or how little our co-workers wear.

A guy may think he’s gotta look, but it’s dangerous corporate territory.  Whether you look, joke about the desire to look with co-workers, or talk over the looking with a manager, you’re right that you can look like a creep.  You may also be accused of sexual harassment, which is legally actionable.

Getting a  Grip: What we give our attention to ultimately is a matter of choice, whether to an office mate’s cleavage, to the plumber’s half-exposed rump, or to a rose-tinted sunrise.  None of those “make” us look, although we may not be fully conscious of choosing.  When we feel like something outside of us is driving our choices, we’ve given our control to it and we’re no longer behind the wheel.  While it may feel natural to look, it’s natural to feel hunger and wait to eat.  Figure out what’s taking your sense of choice and power from you at work, and take back that wheel.  After work, places abound where it’s not only permissible, but expected, that you sit back and look and look and look.

***

Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  Need workplace advice?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column, is written by Anne Giles Clelland  Getting a Grip  regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Getting a Grip appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  A version of this column appeared in the January 2010 issue.

The Business of Feelings

As humans, we are thinking and feeling creatures, even when we’re doing business with each other. Awareness of both gives us strategic power.

  • Consciousness of my thoughts and feelings gives me the strength of both in my negotiations.
  • Attempting to force feelings out of my awareness takes energy I could otherwise focus on the transaction of business.
  • Even if I am successful at cutting myself off from perceiving my feelings, they’re operating at an unconscious level, perhaps in non-mission critical ways or even in anti-mission critical ways.
  • Cultivating empathy with myself – the ability to understand and relate to my own feelings, situation and motives – strengthens my ability to empathize with others. If I can emotionally and rationally put myself in my customer’s place, I’m much more likely to be able to offer a product or service from my company that truly meets the customer’s need.
  • If I am one of those who pooh-poohs the importance of feelings, and I’m negotiating deals with people who have the full power of awareness of their thoughts and feelings on their side, combined with an ability to empathize, they have a competitive advantage over me. In a negotiation, they may truly know me better than I know myself.

Many believe awareness of our feelings weakens us for business.  “Don’t take it personally,” we’re told repeatedly.  Translation:  “Don’t let feelings affect your actions.”

And that is the challenge with feelings.  Many of us are undone by feelings.  When we “let them out,” they tend to overwhelm us.  We feel, we act, then think “What were we thinking?!” We haven’t been taught how to use feelings to help us choose actions.

How to work with feelings can actually be depicted in a very rational formula:

A powerful formula for feelingsTranslation: “Ah, I’m having a feeling.  Let me pause to think about that.  Okay, I think I see options x, y, or z.  I’ll choose to take action on y.”

Using a feeling, thinking, acting order – FTA – rather than a feeling, action, what was I thinking order – FAT – gives me all the power of my humanity to make thoughtful, sometimes necessarily calculated transactions and negotiations. 

Thus, when someone says to me, “Don’t take it personally,” I say, “Oh, I take everything personally.  But I do it strategically.”

***

Anne Giles Clelland, M.A., M.S., has degrees in education and counseling.  She writes a workplace advice column for Valley Business FRONT.  She is the founder of Handshake 2.0.