4 Reasons Why Success and Happiness are as Fleeting as a Morning Dew

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Have you ever walked your lawn or wandered into the bush one early morning, when the air is still crispy cool and everything is quiet except the rustle of the leaves and the lilting songs of the birds?

If you had, chances are that you would have seen those droplets of water on the blades of the grass beneath your feet or clinging on spider webs, sparkling like diamonds, as they diffuse the creeping rays of the sun.

And you would have noticed how easy they vanish, leaving without a trace, at the touch of sunlight.

Before you can appreciate the beauty of their simplicity and purity, they are gone.

Very much like success and happiness.

But while a morning dew is easier to explain and understand, success and happiness are more unfathomable, imperceptible, and more difficult to feel, hold, smell and taste because they can only exist within the context of your values, of the things you consider important in life.

Except for a few gifted with appreciating the little things in life that come their way, success and happiness are simply confounding to most. They are as fleeting, even elusive to most.

And here is the first of four reasons why:

1.    We take success and happiness like Siamese twins:
How often have you heard of a friend saying, “I would be happy if I get that promotion,” or “I would be the happiest man on Earth if I marry my boss’s daughter?”

We take happiness and success as a pre-condition for the other; that one cannot be happy without being successful and vice-versa.

I am always amused to see some members of my tennis club changing racquets because “it can improve their volleys or ground strokes.” Until they find it doesn’t work as expected and buy another.

History is replete with people who have reached their pinnacle of success, yet are spending lonely and miserable lives. Sometimes we can just scratch our heads in bafflement to hear of a very “successful” guy having drug or marital problems, or even committing suicide.

Studies have shown that they don’t necessarily go together, and wishing for them to come in one package is as impossible as making a snowman in the middle of the Sahara.

That brings me to the second point,

2.    Decide which is more important, Success or Happiness:
Nobody wants to be taken to as old if they are “old,” as I am (67 this May). They find it condescending, if not patronizing. I sometimes find it complimentary.

It means that I have seen and experienced much of the world; that I have taken, and survived, the harshest the world has thrown at me and still say, “Is that all you’ve got?

It means that I know how difficult it is to make the choice of what is more important: Success or Happiness?

I have seen people driven to success at all cost, yet in the end lost everything: family, friends, career and everything that constitutes a happy life.

On the reverse, I have also seen people who are so engrossed with being “happy,” that they practically denied themselves of things that could make a marginally comfortable and decent life. All they care about is their happiness even if the world around them is falling to pieces

The bottomline? There is no clear cut answer because each has to be tempered to serve the other.

This brings me to the third point:

3.    You must be willing to Pay the Price:
We all want to succeed in life, but most of us want it to be served in a silver platter, complete with  the trimmings that come with fine dining.

Well, success is not free and if you want to succeed, you must be willing to pay the price. Tweet this!

Is “Happiness” free? No way, my friend.

Finding happiness means letting go of the things that make you unhappy and miserable – and that is a tall order if these have been ingrained in you through years of associating with people with similar dour outlook in life.

Happiness is not free. It comes with the price of changing a new leaf.

And that brings me to the last point:

4.    Nurture what You have:
We are all born unique in that nobody in this whole wide world is exactly like you. Nobody looks exactly like you, even your twin; nobody thinks like you and nobody has the same talents you were gifted with at birth – your signature talents.

If you want to succeed and be happy, look not on the outside for things that can help you achieve both, but inside.

Look deeply inside you to rediscover those things you are good at and happy in doing. Once you had, expand it. Read and learn as much as you can about your inherent gifts; expand your knowledge and hone your skills. Nobody will fault you for knowing too much, but you can be the subject of ridicule for being ignorant.

Emulate people who have achieved both, not copy. Nobody likes a copycat. Besides, you can never be someone else other than yourself, but you can be a better model by doing things your way.

In closing, if you want success and happiness that will last longer than an early morning dew, let them come from within, not an adaptation of someone else’s.

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How to make this Year better than Last Year: 7 Simple Ways

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It’s show time once again.

More than three weeks have passed since the Christmas holidays. By now you must have gotten out of the holiday stupor, must have run out of stories of the things you did during the holidays, the places you went to, the dinner you attended, the gifts you gave and received, the weight you have gained and, yes, your credit card balance – if you still have a balance.

You are again back to what most of us do the entire year – work for a living. It doesn’t matter whether you work for someone else or for yourself, dig ditches or manage a conglomerate, you are still working to earn your keep. Calling it names like artist, or brain surgeon, or CEO, makes no difference except for the level of authority, content and pay. It is still work.

And, if you are normal, you must have also written a New Year’s resolution, right? How is it going? Are you working on it or is it slowly being covered by other stuff in your desktop, like the obliteration of the past monuments of men over time?

Being normal, your resolution must be slipping away from your memory. Well, you are not alone. Roughly 92% of resolutions never get done. That’s the norm, like an insignificant life is the norm, being a non-achiever is the norm. The world is full of people living in the norm – they flow with the tide, too afraid to swim against the current, or walk the path never before trodden.

If you want to be one of them, then stop right here because nothing can take you out of your lackadaisical life. A mountain of motivational articles, tips and DIY info can’t make you think and do differently. Anyway you are normal.

But if you want, for a change, to be abnormal and make this year better than the previous, if you want to add a little “zing” to our life, then the following, culled through years of bungling around like normal people do, can help you.

You need no resolutions, in fact. You don’t have to write a 2-page gibberish that will just be forgotten before the end of this month. All you need is a deep desire to be different, to be abnormal. Here’s how:

1.    Don’t be Lazy:
“Failure is not only our punishment for laziness; there is also the success of others.” Jules Renard.

Among the unwholesome character traits of men, laziness is probably on top. A lazy person never gets anything done. He will stagnate in his career, if he has a career to keep; he is subject to ridicule by others, despised and avoided by his friends and family.

St Paul wrote “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” - 2Thessalonans 3:10.

2.    Do not Procrastinate:
This is the delaying or postponing doing something; it is a close relative of “laziness.”

We all procrastinate sometimes, for strategic reasons. But if it becomes too often to become a habit, expect your career aspirations to get set back or postponed to an indefinite date, as well.

In hindsight, it is better to deal with lazy people because they are predictable than one who procrastinates a lot. They can screw up the best and most detailed plans because you never know when they will fill their share of the work.

3.    Be Decisive:
Indecisiveness is a common trait among people for fear of being wrong.

Remember that it is always better to err in the side of caution than not to err at all. People who are afraid to make mistakes will never get things done, will never grow.

“The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.” – Maimonides

If you want to add excitement to your life this year, live on the periphery of caution. It is very exhilarating and motivating. It is raising the bar of your own limitations and expectations – which is necessary if only to see how far and high can you go.

4.    Keep in step with the times:
This does not necessarily mean being stylish and hip though it doesn’t hurt, provided you don’t make a fool of yourself.

What is meant is for you to keep your knowledge in step with the developments, to be well-informed and well-rounded, information wise.

We are in an age where the amount of information available to us is more than we can absorb and digest in a lifetime. And they change even as we sleep. What you know today will become obsolete tomorrow. In fact, before you have familiarized yourself with all the functions of your cell phone, another model is in the market.

It is impossible to know all these, but it is possible to have a talking knowledge about those that can help your career, you as a person.

You might as well be a hermit than not being able to get into a conversation with others during office breaks or in a party.

If you regularly go to the gym, you will surely notice what people do with dumbbells – they are thoughtlessly dropped to the floor.

5.    Have a Plan:
You must have a rough guide, a road map, how to make this year better than last.

It doesn’t have to be as intricate or complicated as the instruction sheet for putting together a toy car. It can be as simple as a single-sentence declaration of intent or desire.

But it must be clear and specific and can be accomplished by taking one step at a time, not a single leap.

Track your progress. Not through your smart phone, but by regularly ticking off the items in your daily “To Do” list.

Most people hate to make plans because it requires much thinking and writing; and plans can be so constricting in that they oblige people to make changes in their routines, in their lives.

But you must have one to know if you are making any progress at all.

6.    Join a network:
Nobody has ever succeeded in life without the help of others. That includes you.

Your desire to make this year a lot better than last will not make any headway if you go at it alone. So join a group, e.g., a same interest group, a critique group, or supportive group. You may even join the Boy’s or Girls’ Scouts for that matter.

A group can prop you up when things go bad, or a pat on the back for little successes. It can offer hints and live examples that can help you resolve the tiny little things that you will surely encounter along the way.

7.    Stay Healthy:
This does not necessarily mean refraining from enjoying the little pleasures in life, like drinking, staying late at night, splurging on your favorite high-calorie, high carbohydrate high fat foods and living near the limits of what is considered a safe lifestyle..

What it means is to regulate them; to be moderate in every aspect of your life.

Your body can only take so much abuse. Beyond that it starts grumbling and complaining until a part breaks down. If you give your car with much care, why not treat your body just as well? Remember that car parts can be repaired or replaced, while not all body parts can.

In a blog post in success.bz, Ray B. Williams wrote that, “Generation Xers appear to be unhappy in today’s workplace and it has much to do with employers and executives treating them like Baby Boomers, the current dominant generation.”

Mr. Williams certainly has some basis for his observations, but it would not do you any good to fall into the mould he is painting of your generation. Your happiness and career success are not the results of other people’s general opinions but of how focused and consistent are you applying yourself in achieving your goals.

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Are You Making ANOTHER New Year’s Resolution?

New Year's Resolutions

If you are planning to make a New Year’s resolution, don’t, – not until after you read this.

I was in grade one and it was the first day of school after the Christmas holidays. We have not shaken off the lethargy caused by two, long weeks of vacation, and the classroom was full of excitement over the things we did while away from school and the gifts we received from parents and god-parents.

Then our teacher glided in and everything fell into a hush. After greeting us all with the usual “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” she led the regulatory morning prayers.

Having dispensed with the usual start-of-class formalities, she instructed us to get a piece of paper and write our New Year’s resolutions.

A new year’s resolution? Were we shocked! What’s that?

For a grade one student who cannot even pin down the letters between A and Z, whose fingers rebelled against writing a simple sentence, and cannot understand why one plus one must be two, the words were completely alien, and scary.

As if on cue, everybody raised a hand to ask, “What is a new year’s resolution?”

With a smile, she told us what it is and why we must make one at the beginning of each year.

So we did it because our good Ma’am told us so; that if we did not do it, our class standing will be affected and that it was a way to instill in us a sense of ambition and self-improvement.

Though these did not strike a chord in our young minds, we dutifully did it – and at the beginning of each since then.

We went through it over and over again that it became a habit – a habit that has been carried over to our adult years. And since it is borne out of habit, we do it by reflex, without thinking.

Thus, new year’s resolutions are done without the meat, the seriousness or the substance we put into other things we really want to do as if our lives depend on it; things that are driven by a deep desire from within.

When we make New Year’s resolutions there is no driving force that answers the questions, “What is it we want to resolve?” Tweet this! and “Why must we resolve them?” to make them worth doing.

As a result, they are soon forgotten before January ends – buried beneath mountains of other issues and concerns we face each day.
The Power of Breathing

What do You want to Resolve?

Before hitting the keyboard to write your coming year’s resolution, take time to ponder above question.

If you are coasting along in life, and are happy and contented with it, your career aspirations are on track, your mortgage payments are current, no medical issues, you have a beautiful wife, home and your kids are doing great in school, what is there to make a resolution for?

Why fix it when it ain’t broke?

Life is seldom that perfect, however. Somehow there is always something that is keeping you awake at night, e.g., economic uncertainty, hidden relationships, unmet expectations, etc.

Or maybe you want to raise your current status to the next level? To keep up with the Joneses? And many other things you want to “fix” with your life.

But before you burn your midnight candle coming up with a 10-point list of things to do, determine which is most important, urgent, doable, and has the greatest impact in your life if achieved.

Don’t make a wish list. Only a genie grants wishes – and only three, maximum.

 

Why must You Resolve Them?

Do you know why most diet programs fail? Because people who take it don’t have a good enough reason to lose weight. Good looks? Too subjective. Long life? Nobody can be certain just how long he would live.

But wait until his blood sugar shoots beyond acceptable levels or that his cholesterol is blocking some arteries, then he goes on a voluntary diet without being told.

The warning signs on cigarette packs are good. It has made a lot of people stop smoking. But there are still holdovers that keep cigarette companies alive (I am one of them). Do you think they will ever stop smoking? You bet if they start having emphysema, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), or a suspicious shadow is detected in his chest x-ray.

Without the same kind of urgency or fear, New Year’s resolutions will fail. They will just be treated as one of those exercises we were told to do years and years ago.

To make it stick, you must feel a certain fear if it is not achieved, e.g., of losing your job if you are not going to resolve your management problems, or losing your wife if you don’t improve your relationship, or your home if you don’t keep up with your mortgage payments.

Fear is a great motivator. It can either make you flee or stand up and fight.

Treat the things you want to resolve with fear and I am sure they will loiter in your consciousness until you resolve them.

You will find the courage of steering away from bad company if they are interfering with your relationship, or career objectives, or change your lifestyle if you know your health and happiness hang in the balance.

A day from now, we will be bidding goodbye to this year and ushering in another. I am sure this time a lot of people are already done with their resolutions for the coming. I am sure, too, that these shall be forgotten before the first quarter is over.

Don’t fall into the same rut this year. This may be late, but, as the saying goes, “Better late than never.”

Have a wonderful New Year’s celebration. And please share if you like this article.

How to Be Liked in the Office: 7 Simple Ways

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Can you remember the day you reported to your first employment?

It was a day of nervous expectation, right? Oh, you were nervous, alright. But you didn’t know what to expect; where to be ushered in first, what is the company like, what will your assignment be, will you have a terror of a boss or someone more friendly?

Too sooth your nerves you talked to the first guy who seemed open to light conversation with a newcomer like you. Unwittingly, that initial effort of trying to fit in led to either of two things: you established the basis for a long lasting friendship or your future interaction with him.

The typical “first impression is always lasting,” syndrome.

Either way, it affected your career aspirations in ways you never expected a few years hence.

That first encounter either made smooth your going up the organizational ladder or made it tougher to climb.

Such is the nature of organizational dynamics – a term you never even heard of when you walked through that organization’s doors. Now you are in the thick of it and must learn how to play the game, not only to stay afloat, but to get ahead of the pack.

According to SuccessFactors.com, improving morale, creating loyalty and increasing overall productivity are the necessary keys for a corporation to clobber the competition.

In a micro level, your career success is dependent on very much the same factors corporations need. In short, you need to wiggle yourself into your co-workers hearts and minds to make them help you in your career goals – and you in theirs.

Even if you bungled it the first time, you can still catch up. But it requires the skill of a diplomat. Tweet this!

A typical corporation, small or big, is a microcosm of people whose character traits are as varied as the stars. Some have personalities only their mothers can love, while others would love to bury a dagger on your back just to test you. The majority wait on the sidelines, observing what stuff you are made of.

They are the ones you must try all you can to get to your side.

Don’t’ wait for them to reach their hands out for a shake. That may never come. Reach out to take them by surprise. That is what I call “gumption- filled” initiative. Call it chutzpah if you may.

Newcomers may find this tough because they think that to be timid or coy is more appropriate; that coming on too strong may be taken by the old-timers as being too presumptuous. Well, doors are never opened by a nudge of a finger, but with a slight push of the entire hand.

If you want to make a first impression, make a good one Tweet this!. Don’t wait to be invited to the party. Invite yourself in with open arms and the biggest smile you can give.

Once you have made a good landing, follow this 7-step formula to get your officemates to like you enough to help you, not sabotage your every effort:

1.    Don’t be judgmental:
We all tend to view the world through filters developed as we grew up. What we see and feel are filtered images of the real world around us.

While this may be useful in some way, like being true to your ideals and core values, you may miss out the bigger picture if you expect others to fit into the mould you made for yourself. Besides, that will never happen.

By being judgmental, you don’t get to know the real people you work with, e.g., their fears and motivations, their likes and dislikes, their hopes and ambitions, what turns them on or off, and many other things that make up a whole person.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned, forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

The Power of Breathing

2.    Focus on Others, not You:
You have more time than you need for yourself in any given 24-hr period. Make it a point to focus on “them” while you are in the office.

Minimize the use of, if at all, the words, “I,” “Me,” and “‘Myself.” Instead stuff your speech with “You,” “Us,” and “We.”

There is no way you can make your officemates work with you if you are so engrossed with yourself. Nobody ever succeeded alone, but by the help of others.

3.    Listen:
Nature gave us two ears, yet a lot of us are deaf because we are too busy listening to ourselves than the people we work with.

Listening is a skill that has to be developed. It is not simply being quiet while others say their piece. That is simply hearing.

Hearing and listening are two different things. Hearing is a sensation while listening is focused attention.

Hearing without digesting and understanding isn’t listening. Listening starts when you digest, process and understand what you hear.

It is an essential part of effective communication. In fact studies show that listening is one of the character traits of successful executives.

4.    Show empathy:
Empathy is the ability to see the world as another person, to share and understand another person’s feelings, needs, concerns and/or emotional state.

It is the Law of Reciprocity in action – if you want people to like you, show that you like them first.

“When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.” – Sarah Sarandon

5.    Do not Overstay Your Welcome:
There is nothing that turns people off faster than flicking a light switch than to take up much of their time with non work-related issues.

People in the office are busy; they want to make the best of their time so they can attend to their personal activities at the stroke of 5.

If you must discuss things with them, be specific and brief. Call ahead to see if they are available. Simply barging is impolite.

If calling is impossible and you need to drop in without prior notice, start your  visit by saying, “Excuse me, I know you are busy. But I need to bring this up with you. It will take only a few minutes of your time.”

Studies show that people are more receptive of impromptu visits if they know that it will only be for a short time.

So make it specific, to the point and brief.

6.    Smile:
A smile is cheap, is in abundant supply and so easy to give away. Yet, the world is full poker-faced people as if burdened with all the problems of the world.

A smile is certainly the only thing you can distribute daily in your office that costs
you nothing.

On the contrary, a winsome, sincere and warm smile, if done regularly, can leverage your career a lot better more than all the self-improvement and management seminars under your belt.

It is more effective in breaking the ice than an ice crusher, and a good exercise to make you look and feel younger.

7.    Be assertive:
To be assertive is to “insist, in a forthright and positive manner, the recognition of your rights.”

It is a way of communicating yourself to others that, in a nutshell, says, “Look guys, I want to be with you in a way that benefits us all. I know you have your ways of doing things, as I do have mine. But rather than lock horns, can we work together to make them better?”

To be assertive is to recognize that “…you’re going to have a different opinion or view on certain topics or issues. You need to stand your ground by sharing your view.” Michael Barbarulo

I have met and worked with a lot of people who struggled so hard to be liked by their officemates. I was one of them. We struggle because we are always torn between our own core values and idealism with those we work with.

Some people are born with the gift while others have to fight hard to get it. I am one of the latter and the above steps made my journey a lot easier.

They can help you, too.

4 Secrets of Handling Difficult People at Work

Backstabber

How do you handle difficult people at work?

They are the smiley types in your office who seem to be friends but, even on ordinary conversations, disagree with you on almost anything and do it with sarcasm.

In work matters, they question everything you say or do, and are always late for meetings. When they come, they make a big fuss out of small things, disagree with almost everybody, or stay mum the whole time as if saying, “I was not a part of it,” should things go wrong.

They rarely accept assignments. When they do, they do it with a long face. Characteristically, they will miss deadlines, if not screw things up all together. Then they blame you for their incompetence.Tweet: Tweet this!

If they are such a pain overtly, covertly, they are like pit vipers. They spread stories, rumors, innuendos about you, e.g., the stale bread you had for breakfast, that you are a bi-sexual, or you dated a neighbor’s wife, rarely change your underwear, and many more. As if that is not enough, they undermine you in your boss’s eyes.

The bright side is that they are very few in any office. But they can wreak havoc to your day, sap your energy to do something more productive, and drive you up the wall with frustration.

Their antics can range from plain mischief to pestering – like a boil on your butt. You cannot get rid of them, not directly, at least. But you can learn to deflect the darts they throw at you (and learn to throw some in return).

I’ve met so many of them in my entire work life. How I survived them, is what I am sharing with you. Here are my little secrets of how I did it:

The Power of Breathing

Secret #1 – Know if You are the Problem, not They:

I know it is difficult pill to swallow. But it is highly possible that they are negatively reacting to the vibrations (or odor) you emit. This is likely to happen if:

First: You are new to the organization and are too eager to show your marbles to the old-timers.

Second: You are suddenly given supervisory responsibilities over people who were your former peers and treating them like serfs.

In any case, step back a little bit to survey the horizon. Don’t try so hard to make an impression. Let things run through their normal course; give a little time to allow your new realities to settle down; establish a groove with them, and find you own fit.

Be one of them, speak their language and observe how they pull the organizational ropes. Don’t worry or fear of blending in and losing your individuality. If you are that good, you will shine, like sunlight puncturing through thick storm clouds.

If you are still getting some flak after doing this, then go to Secret #2.

 

Secret #2: Know what makes them Sour-pusses.

People in any organization are generally good (or are they?). Somehow however, a few will develop the hobby of throwing lemons at people not because they like to, but because their gut is full of the stuff that they need to unload before it spills all over the place. You just happen to be in the line of fire.

These “lemons” could be from personal, financial or relationship problems they could not express in a positive way. They may have some beef against the management or some people they work with; they may have been assigned jobs outside of their competencies.

Organizational dynamics is a complex and ugly monster and those who cannot effectively get hold of it will find a way of expressing their dissatisfaction or frustration in ways inimical to other people’s interests – very much like a brat putting up a tantrum for not having his way or given what he wants.

If you get to know these reasons, you get to know how to make them dance on your palm.

You may have to weather a hailstorm to do this, and, surely, you will not be able to help them rid all their demons. However, lending a sympathetic ear can open doors you never even knew existed.

Besides, what have you to lose?

“Ok, I’ve done that, but some guys are hard as granite, what’s next?” you may ask. Go to my next secret.

 

Secret #3: Make a pre-op plan:

Before undergoing an operation two years ago to remove cancerous cells from

my right cheek, my doctors prescribed a rigorous pre-op plan. Those who have gone under the knife know these.

You can do the same with the few remaining hostiles in your office; those who have frustrated your every move to reach out and be a friend.

Start ignoring them. Unless you must, say nothing, hear nothing or see nothing when in their presence.

Remember the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Being ignored hurts like a loud slap on the face.

Sadly, you cannot do this with the people under you. My last secret will – guaranteed.

 

Secret #4: Start Flexing Your Muscles:

Everything has a breaking point – even and especially your patience. Don’t go beyond that point, however.

When all of the above fail, flex your muscles by asserting yourself.Tweet: Tweet this!

Show them that you are no push-over; that you’ve got some marbles they don’t have; that you are as valuable to the organization as they, and that  you are here to stay whether they like it or not.

Impress upon them that you are who are you and could never be what they want you to be; that you can be their friend, but on your own terms, not theirs.

In an assertive manner, deliver your message in ways difficult to miss, impossible to ignore.

And the guys you supervise?

Use the “carrot and stick” approach. This tool was very effective in rural India to make their work assess behave properly. It is also very effective on assess within corporate walls.

This approach works so well because: First, people are inherently hungry for recognition; Second, people are afraid of failure, especially if it carries the possibility of losing their jobs.

Use it sparingly, but fairly. In due time, I am sure that even the worst of hard assess in your group will toe the line or hand in their resignations papers – if not walking out with a termination slip.

The above secrets are not bull. They are not taken from a retired office pen-pusher who has never stood in the line of inter-office fire. These are culled from my long years of working, from an ordinary techie to regional management for a large multinational corporation.

Whatever industry you are in, regardless where it is, you will always encounter a few people who will be difficult to work with. Bear in mind though, that more often than not, it is not personal. So don’t be so engrossed with how they behave towards you.

Find out why they are giving you a hard time. This is the most difficult task. After that everything will be rosy along the way. Trust me. I’ve been there.

 

 

 

7 Steps to Improve Your People Skills

tigers

Do you know how many needles or “quills” a porcupine has on its back?

Ouch, I just got stung by one. No, I don’t know how many, but I would have looked like a porcupine had my former associates stuck daggers on my back.

Why? It’s a long story. But to make it short, as a young and ambitious engineer, they practically put a post-it on my back with the words, “overly-aggressive and arrogant SOB.”

My people skills sucked! Tweet: Tweet this!

Oooppsss! Did I touch a raw nerve? Were you in the same rut, or are you still in it?

Then you must know how it feels.

-    You feel alone because people avoid you;
-    They talk behind your back just for the sheer fun of it;
-    Your subordinates scamper like scared rabbits when they see you coming;
-    You are not invited to some meetings because you make people uncomfortable;
-    No one sits with you at lunch, except when all seats are already taken;
-    You get nervous each time you are called to your boss’ office, for fear of a dressing down or given the pink slip.

I felt all those and many more. I hit a huge bump when two production supervisors requested my boss for a tête-à-tête because they cannot stand my “lording it over them” anymore.

Have you hit a similar bump or are you still in the primeval ways of managing your work, your relationships?

If you are still roaring like a tiger in your organization, start learning how to “meow,” before a bigger tiger drives you out of the herd, forcing you to wander aimlessly in the wilds – friendless, jobless, and leaving a bad legacy behind.

And in the office, nobody is a bigger tiger than your boss.

The Power of Breathing
The audacity of those supervisors, fed up with my aggressive behavior, was a blessing in disguise. Though it hit me in the gut with the force of a karate kick, but when the pain subsided, it made me realize the adverse effects I had on others.

It made me “re-engineer” myself – from being aggressive to assertive. I was forced to take my own bitter medicine.

I am essentially DIY (Do It Yourself) guy so I drew up a plan on getting down from my high perch to ramble it up with ordinary mortals.  You can draw up your plan, too, if you are like me (aggressive people normally are). But to kick-start your own program, you can use the following as your guide:

7 Steps to Make the Tiger Behave like a Pussycat:
Changing a reputation will not happen overnight. It is not like getting into work clothes from a business suit.

People will not take you seriously. They may even ridicule you, or even be suspicious of your motives.

No matter how smooth the ride, people will never take a tank for a car, nor will they call a hawk a dove just because it is cooing.

It is not going to be easy. It takes patience, courage and the skin of a rhinoceros to take the brick-brats thrown your way. But you just have to keep on going because staying aggressive, over the long haul, is not healthy for you, the people you work with and your career.

Here they are:

1.    Watch your language:
Nothing gives your character away faster than your language. So watch your gab before you blab.

This is going to be very difficult. You will bite your tongue so many times it will get calloused.  But healing a tongue is easier than healing a relationship.

So practice the following:

-    Refrain from dominating a discussion, no matter how heated it might be;
-    Don’t interrupt when others speak, no matter how senseless he/she might be;
-    When it is your turn, speak in a friendly voice. Should you be interrupted, simply   say,  “May I finish first?”
-    Stick to issues. Never be pulled into endless arguments that can take you away from the subject at hand;
-    Keep away from the word “I,” and use “We” more often;
-    Rephrase your words to sound like making a request, not giving an order;
-    Say “Thank you,” graciously if complimented or “I am sorry,” if wrong;
-    Develop an image of a team player, not a solo performer;
-    If you must disagree, disagree without being disagreeable.

2.    Avoid putting labels on people:
Only objects have labels, not people.

Labels are discriminatory, unfair and highly contentious. They cloud pertinent issues, such as performance, and can be traumatic.

Common labels in the workplace are: “this job is not for women,” or “he thinks like a woman.”

Just because a guy is poor does not make him mentally-impaired or a genius because he is rich. I have seen this the other way around so many times in all my years of working.

Regardless of creed, ethnicity, sexual preferences or affiliations, people are the same.
They have the same hopes and aspirations, the same ambitions. Any disparities between them can easily be rectified with proper training or motivation.

3.    Listen, listen and listen:
Listening is difficult. It is tedious sometimes. But it is one of the most important skills, if not the most important, all successful managers possess.

Listening is important in decision-making, as well as in relationship-building.

Not just listening, mind you, but active listening where all your senses are focused on the person listened to.

4.    Exercise humility:
It is impossible to exercise humility and behave aggressively at the same time.

If you want to sit well with you co-workers, you need to learn to broaden your focus. Learn at accept that, no matter how good you are, you could never do anything without the help of others. No one ever did. And neither will you.

Never fear that humility will rob you of your self-confidence, decisiveness, and your gung-ho spirit. On the contrary, humility will reinforce these qualities because it makes people gravitate around you, makes them embrace your ideas as you embrace theirs, and makes it easy to get them to help you in ways you never thought possible before.

Remember that a tiger is still a tiger even it is made to roll over, to stand on its hind legs or to leap through a ring of fire. It is just behaving like a pussycat.

5.    Apologize even if it is against your will:
Apologizing is difficult for most people. It is like an outright acceptance of being wrong. And nobody likes to be wrong – even if they are wrong.

It is like a lump of dirt forced down your throat, or a stinging slap on the face.

There are times, however, that we just have to take and bear it because it is the necessary thing to do at the moment. And when you do apologize, do it sincerely.

It requires courage, empathy, and a high dose of humility. But it resolves conflicts, heals relationships and allows you to go on with life. And it is a good learning experience.

6.    Take negative comments in a stride:
It’s said over and over again that the surest way to fail is to try to please everyone.

There will always be people who could never see anything good in whatever you do. What makes it worse is that they hit you from the back, when you have no way to defend yourself.

Never lose sleep over these things, and don’t let them push you into going back to your aggressive ways. That may just be what they want to happen – to see you fail.

They are always found in any office, or organization. The good news is that they are always the minority, the under-performers; they are parts of the problem, not the solution. They are not worth grossing over.

7.    Stay in the Middle Ground:
Assertive behavior seeks to arrive at “win-win” situations, which can be difficult if you take sides.

This is especially true where a career or reputation hangs in the balance. Issues for or against it spill over from the office or conference room to the corridors, cafeteria, locker rooms and even to the bar you normally hang out after office hours.

They may even become viral and find its way into Facebook or Instagram where it will be colored and twisted beyond recognition.

Don’t be drawn into this inter-office brawl. Listen to issues, weighing pros and cons based on merits, not on personalities, or biased perception of things.

Remember always to arrive at win-win situations Assertive behavior seeks consensus, not contentions.

Was I successful?

Yes and No.

The fact that I retired from the company after 18 years rather than be fired early on, and rising from being a mechanical technician to process engineering manager for Far East operations, can speak for itself.

But aggressiveness is a character trait which can be very difficult to change and when push comes to shove, I would rather push back than be shoved farther. When stumped with an intractable problem, I still resort to my mantra, “There has got to be a better way of doing it.” And proceed to find it – with or without the help of others.

No, my DIY way did not make me lose my aggressiveness. But it made me less abrasive to make my co-workers sought my help when a simple problem turned bad from worse, or if they wanted a frank, blunt and unbiased opinions of operational and people  issues.

Try it. It worked for me. It should work for you, too.

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Why He got that Promotion, Not You

NO sign on finger, shallow DOF,

Have you ever experienced this?

You came to the office one morning and saw practically everyone gathered in front of the bulletin board as if drawn by a sidewalk hawker peddling bottled love potions.

Your curiosity piqued, you joined the group, pushing and shoving, until you get to see what they were so interested about.

There, in the familiar company stationary was a memo saying, “Congratulations to the promotion of Mr. X, to the position of Department Head for Operations…The Management enjoins everyone to give Mr. X all the help and cooperation…”

You slapped your forehead hard enough to make you dizzy and, retreating back to your cubicle in a daze, muttered, “How could they? Why him, not I?”

You dropped onto your chair, your body tingling like having seen a ghost, your arms covered with goose bumps, wondering over and over again what happened; why the position you have coveted so much, and worked so hard for was given to someone else, not you…

Things like this are not rare. They are repeated over and over again in every organization, worldwide. In fact, right now, while you are moping over your big disappointment, someone somewhere is feeling as rotten as you.

And you know why? It’s not that you are dumb or will not dig in to work, if necessary. It’s just how the statistics of promotion work.

The 80/20 Rule:
The 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, states that 80% of the performance of an organization, any organization large or small, is from the efforts of 20% of its members. Well, not exactly 80/20 but very close to it. Hate it as much as you want, but rule is unerring, like one of the physical laws of Nature.

If you apply the same mathematical logic to the 20% star performers, then go down until you cannot break it down further, you will appreciate how tough the competition was for the position you were vying for.

The question is, “Where were you in the 80/20 rule?” If you are honest with yourself, you will probably know why it was given to him, not to you.

Nevertheless, to be by-passed is a tough pill to swallow. It is downright demotivating. Characteristically, setbacks like this determine whether you are a wimp or a man.

Wimps moan and complain and let others know how they feel. They talk bad of the Mr. X or their direct supervisor; they sabotage their own performance and careers. Some even leave, hoping to find better treatment somewhere else.

But that is not the solution to your woes.

The solution is to be a man and immediately seek an audience with your supervisor to know the real score; where you failed and where you stand concerning future opportunities in the organization.

When and if you do, don’t be confrontational Simple ask his thoughts on the matter.

If you have previously done this, you would know the drill. But if you haven’t, your heart-to-heart talk with your boss would come out like this (maybe not exactly, but close to it):

He would commend you of your performance, of having met your key areas, even surpassing some of them. He would give you credit for having solved some of the company’s problems, of your ability to work well vertically and horizontally.

As if on cue that the conversation is over, he would assure you that you are still a viable candidate for future promotion opportunities. As you rise to leave, he would say as an afterthought, “Work on your assertiveness more and you will surely get it next time..”

“Assertiveness? What’s that? Would I be here if I wasn’t assertive?” these questions churn in your mind.

Are You Assertive?
Sitting down with your boss was great, but that was far from being assertive.

To be assertive is to be able to “insist, in a forthright and positive manner, the recognition of your rights.”

In an organizational milieu, assertiveness is a very important personal and interpersonal skill. It can help you in all your interactions with other people because you can express yourself in a clear, open and reasonable way, without undermining or disregarding their rights.

It allows you to disagree without being disagreeable, facilitates forging win-win situations because no feathers are ruffled, no feelings hurt and everybody given the chance to be heard.

Being assertive does not guarantee success all the time, but on occasions that you are, people will thank you even if you made them dance on the palm of your hand.

Call it diplomacy in the workplace.

Assertiveness is not to be mistaken for aggressiveness, undermining and rolling over the rights of others, or passiveness, allowing others to undermine your rights.

As you start walking back to your cubicle, think of the occasions when you allowed your associates to talk you out of a potentially good idea because you were so timid to sell its merits.

On the flip side, were there occasions when you bowled over your associates, strongly insisting that your idea is the best, that they were wrong?

I am sure there have been more than once of either and they make you blush with embarrassment now that you think of them.

I once had an associate, an Indian industrial engineer based in the U.S., who was the paradigm of assertiveness.

You can sit down with him the entire day talking of the operational issues. He would never raise his voice, never disagrees, and just keeps on nodding his head in agreement, even smiles occasionally.   But at the end of the day, he still got his way. It was so exasperating dealing with him, not because of his stubbornness but because he always managed to make as see the other side of things in a clear, and positive manner.

Assertiveness, aggressiveness and passiveness are all character traits which, like habits, are very difficult to break.

But if diamonds break, so can they. It depends on how badly you want to advance in your career.

Look at it this way. Which is more difficult to swallow, to learn to be assertive or to report to the office one morning, see the same scenario as before, and see history repeating itself before your eyes?

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Fight Apathy around You in Six Easy Steps



What is one of the most difficult problems any manager can have?

Is it technical issues? No. No matter how difficult it is, there is always a solution somewhere. You may just have to kick around hundreds of ideas until you come up with the best option.

Is it operational problems? I never lost any sleep over operational problems during my entire working life because I had my subordinates handle them .

Is it boss/subordinate relationship? Maybe a little bit scary and de-motivating. Either way, it can make your working life very stressful: As a subordinate, your smallest mistake can look catastrophic to your boss; as a boss you will doubt your management skills, or, much worse, be wary of a mutiny in your hands.

In most cases, however, a boss/subordinate relationship can easily be ironed out by a good dialogue. If that fails, it can be raised to Personnel Department for arbitration.

Is it people problem? Well, ask any manager the most difficult problem he/she has faced and they will be one in saying – people problems.

And when it comes to people-related problems, apathy will be at the top of the list.

Apathy in the workplace can make a manager wish he isn’t a manager; it could make him wish to be somewhere else, basking in the sun in some remote island rather than deal with people he has to repeatedly give instructions to, and check on frequently.

It makes a manager lose much time doing productive work because he is constantly monitoring their performance, keeping his ears to the ground to see if they are infecting other members of the group, or cooking up something to sully his reputation or undermine his authority.

Apathy in the workplace is like flu. It is very debilitating and energy-sapping. And it is just as contagious.

Before your entire group gets down with it, and take you along the way, you must do a little doctoring to bring your people back to health.

Here is a kitchen brew that was effective for me (hopefully, it will work for you, too):

 

Identify them:

There should not be many of them in your group. You would have your hands full if they comprise the majority.

It is easy to know them. In case your naivety gets the better of you, they are those who:

-       Procrastinate. They do for tomorrow what could have been done today;

-       They wait for others to move before they do;

-       They have the “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” attitude;

-       “Maybe,” or “It depends,” are their favorite words when asked to make a decision or a commitment.

-       They never volunteer for a project or special assignments;

-       They “disappear” when they see you coming.

-       They keep their peace and quiet in group discussions.

 

Talk to them:

Talk to them either as a group or individually.

Be prepared when you call them to your office. Don’t talk about the weather, politics or how their children are faring in school or their love life. Though they make good ice-breakers, you would be perceived weak and wasting their time if you dwell on these longer than necessary.

Talk about organizational goals, your personal goals and that of your group. Explore their own goals and try to connect them with the bigger goals of the organization.

They will agree with you most of the time; they will not argue or raise any furor over these. Remember they are indifferent, and generally don’t care about goals. They have the “I don’t care, I just work here,” mindset.

 

Go on the offensive:

No, I don’t mean throwing the books at them or wringing their necks to do better.

By going on the offensive, you cite to them real examples where their performance were below par, vis-à-vis, organizational standards; why you think they are apathetic towards their work, to you or the organization as a whole. .

In a friendly manner, explore their reasons for such behavior.

This could be very uncomfortable because, more often than not, you could be the cause of their apathy. Like in a father and son dialogue, the former usually ends up like sitting on a pile of smoldering charcoal.

Do not interrupt except to ask for clarifications. Listen proactively, take notes if you may. They will be will be invaluable in the next step.

 

Establish working parameters:

When everything is said and done, establish working parameters to slowly bring them out of their apathy and start functioning the way they are expected to.

This is where you bargain and haggle; give or take. This is where your magnanimity as a person and firmness as a manager are displayed. You may have to do a bit of pride-eating. But that is a small price to pay for getting the results expected of your people.

This is where you and your subordinates start the journey of making changes within yourselves as persons and as members of a team.

Before you part ways, get their commitments and give them yours.

 

Give it a test drive:

With your working parameters established, give it a test drive to see how it is goes in the workplace.

It may not work on the first try. Habits and attitudes are not easy to change. A piece of an agreement cannot change them overnight. But abandoning them is not an option, either.

Keep on tweaking them until it is workable. Get back to the drawing board as often as necessary until you get rid of all the bugs – yours and theirs.

 

Drive it yourself:

There are management activities that are best delegated and there are those that need personal attention. Curing apathy is undelegatable.

Take charge. Be on the forefront of your subordinates to show them that you mean business; that your goals and that of the organization are nothing to be loafed about.

This is going to be very taxing and stressful, but it will show the kind of leader you are. People always appreciate a manger that is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and be a part of the team. Dig in and get dirty.

Don’t micromanage though. This will make your people over-dependent on you. In fact, this will even be counter-productive in the long run as they will not learn how to make decisions independently.

 

There is no better job in any business organization than to be a manager, not only for the  prestige, the pay and the perks, but of being able to affect every aspect of the organization’s thrust and a direction.

It can also be a real pain if you goof off. And apathy is, in most cases, a management failure.

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” don’t even let apathy develop in your group. If it does, the above suggestions can help you deal with it.

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Get Rid of Your Apathy before You are Rid Of



Do you feel this way in any given day?

After dragging yourself from bed, you go through your early morning rituals more asleep than awake; you drive to the office with a poker face, silently wishing of going the other way.

Then you get to the office and immediately head for the coffee machine where you take excessively slow and long sips from your cup as you drag your feet to your cubicle.

There you shuffle some papers; swipe a pile of documents from yesterday aside to give room for more that will come your way today. You cast a furtive look at the wall clock and silently curse for having to spend another dreary day in the office.

If you do, then apathy is slowly creeping into your working life.

This feeling is no strange for people who’ve been working at the same job for at least two years. Two hears is about the time, corporate world rule-of-thumb, for anyone to have mastered his/her job and start feeling a certain itch.

The itch for a lateral movement to broaden one’s skills, or move upward for more responsibilities, higher pay and better perks. If none is faintly visible in the horizon, they start feeling edgy; begin to have self-doubts, and their patience starts running thin. Others may lose their motivation to do better.

All these are normal, especially for ambitious people.

But if they become chronic, then your career aspiration is headed for a cul-de-sac.

Of course you wouldn’t want to be dead-ended, do you? You don’t want your career to be in a situation where there is no elbow room to wiggle yourself out of, would you?

I guess not.

So here are a few things to help you get out of your stupor:

1.    Identify what bugs you:
A bug is a slangy term used to tag anything that annoys us, or make us uncomfortable. We have the cold bug, the flu bug or the love bug (this can be annoying, too, if not handled well). And we blame them for the tiny and ugly insect bites that sometimes blemish our skin.

Characteristically they are very small; even microscopic. But the result of their bite can be disproportionately big.

So are the bugs that affect you at work. If you give them some thought, they are relatively small; certainly not big enough to make you feel apathy towards your work, you career. And they can be very annoying or even destructive to your career growth.

But you have to identify them, especially those that annoy you the most. The workplace can be as bug-infested as a junkies’ pad in a rundown tenement.

There is the boss bug, the work assignment bug, the lack-of-decision-making bug, the small-salary bug, boring job bug, the missed out promotion bug, the office politics bug. Or it could be a family-problem bug that goes with you to the office or a relationship-gone-sour bug.

If you look at them perceptively, they are very small but their bite can give you feelings of apathy towards your family, your work, the organization you belong to; or the whole word for that matter.

If you want to deal with them properly, properly identify them. It could be one bug or several bugs constantly and slowly eating at you.

2.    Do something with your bugs:
All my years in the corporate world tell me that getting rid of a flu or cold bug is easier than the workplace bug.

A flu or cold bug actually never leaves you. They stay with you. What stops them from affecting you is your healthy immune system. They will rear their debilitating heads if, for one reason or another, they will find a break in your body’s defensive system.

So are the bugs that make you apathetic. They will always be there. They are everywhere, regardless of company, size, industry or culture you are in. .

And they will always affect you if you allow them to.

So it is not so much as doing something about them but doing something about you – which means coming up with strategies to make your immune system effectively handle these bugs that are eating your career success and happiness away.

Is it an overbearing boss? Then talk to him directly about your problem rather than bottling it up inside you. Even if you don’t get the desired result, not only will it be a relieving experience, but, hopefully, it will make your boss realize that he is not as good as he thinks.

Is it your work schedule? Everybody in the office is in the same boat as you. Or you can arrange your personal schedules to fit with your work, not the other way around.

Is it a pay bug? Being apathetic will just make it worse. If you want to get a higher paycheck, then work for it. Be the best you can be to get a good performance appraisal.

By experience, I know that there is always a way of getting things done in an office, any office. It all depends on how strongly you feel for something; how determined you are in getting what you want – in a nice, but effective way.

And all these are within yourself.

3.    Change your mindset:
Have you ever solved a problem by thinking how difficult it is? No! Only by cranking up your brain for a solution.

Have you ever addressed a particularly irritating situation by complaining about it? No! Only by taking the bull by the horns and doing something about it.

Can you get out of your apathy by wallowing in self-pity, feeling aggrieved or discontented? No! Only by making yourself immune to the bugs that made you apathetic.

Once you have come up with strategies in dealing with them, stick with them until you have extricated yourself from your apathy; like getting out of a quicksand.

We all deserve to have a great life and only you can bring it into reality. You may have to make some changes in your outlook and perspective of life. And changes are always scary and difficult.

But the alternative is even more scary and difficult to accept.

You must get better or get beaten. There is no getting around that.

4.    Get involved:
It is easy to spot apathetic people in the office. They may not be overtly indifferent to the organization or with their co-workers. But they normally come later than most and are ready to go by knock-off time.

They don’t participate in company activities, never work longer hours and ready to make the dash at the sound of the buzzer.

They don’t get the breaks either, which, ironically, make them more apathetic.

If you want to be counted, stand up and be counted. The office environment has no room for fence-sitters and cheerers. But it has a lot of room for players, for people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and dig in to help achieve the company’s organizational goals.

Take part, not just be a part.

5.    Use your time and energy productively:
Procrastination and laziness are common traits of apathetic people.

They spend more time in front of their computers, take longer breaks, more trips to the comfort room than others, and sit on reports that upper management need for decision-making.

Some of these are probably dormant personal habits made worse by feelings of apathy.

Yes, it is difficult to break a habit, especially the bad ones. It is difficult to do things differently from what you are used to.

But is it more difficult than to fail in your career aspirations? Would you throw away a potentially good life for a habit or two you find difficult to break?

Smoking may be difficult to break if you know that you don’t have a suspicious spot in your lungs. But if your doctor tells you that you have, I bet you, you will stop without being told to.

Don’t wait for your boss to tell you that your procrastination and laziness are costing you your chances for promotion. It will be too late when he does.

6.    Enjoy your success, no matter how small:
Getting out of apathy, especially chronic apathy is not easy. It is not a single leap, but a series of steps; a process.

It is practically re-inventing yourself. You will need to change your mindset, your perspective of career development, in office inter-personal dynamics. You need to discard old habits and assume new ones. You may have to do a lot of compromises and probably even to confront issues head-on. You need to make hard decisions and difficult choices. But you have to make them.

You will need to be like a fluid – shape yourself to the container you are poured into, not to insist on having your own shape.

It is like resurrecting your career from the dead. And resurrections are always worth celebrating.

Give yourself a pat on the back or treat yourself to a good dinner for any progress you make, no matter how small. You deserve it.

A survey done by Gallup, a Washington-based polling organization, showed that practically half of the work force worldwide, hate their jobs They pretend to put in effort but tend to undermine the efforts of their boss and the people they work with.

In effect they represent a huge loss in the productive capacity and profitability of their organizations.

Are you one of them? Are you an asset or a liability to the company you work with? Do you wish to be such for the rest of your working life?

We are all brought into this world to make something worthwhile of ourselves; to achieve something significant for our families and the society we are members of.

Are you achieving those ends you are meant to achieve or undermining them?

The choice is yours.

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Are You Happy with Your Career



If you are typical of career people, chances are your answer is “No.”

According to a Gallup poll, a Washington D.C.-based polling organization, there are twice as many people who are not happy with their careers than those who are.

The study, released last year, involving 230,000 full-time and part-time workers in 142 countries, showed the following:

-    13% are actively engaged. They have a sense of passion for their work, a deep connection with their employers and spend the day driving innovation and moving the company forward;

-     24% are actively disengaged. They hate their jobs, act out and undermine what their co-workers accomplish;”

-    63% are simply “not engaged.” They are unhappy, but not drastically so. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work.”

For anyone who has spent half of his life working, like I, this is hardly surprising. What the poll did was to put specific figures on this common workplace problem and how widespread it is.

But I guess it’s been there since primitive man found it necessary to form hunting parties to bring down bigger, faster, fiercer and smarter preys. They may be safe and efficient, but I bet they had people problems, too.

Hunting parties have drastically evolved since then. They have become organizations which are bigger, more complex, more multi-tiered and spread out. But they are still composed of people, and where there are people, there will always be people-related problems.

Problems like apathy.

Apathy, a Manager’s Nightmare:
I have seen this so many times in my career:

A new graduate comes into the workforce – energetic, enthusiastic and ambitious. He wants to change the world overnight by himself. He is always on time, and works long hours. He accepts every assignment and finishes them too.

Then he hits a snag, i.e., the pay is not enough to support his life style, his proposals are always turned down, he doesn’t have autonomy, he is not getting any support from his boss or peers, and so many other things that will cause him to putter and slow down  to a crawl.

Then apathy sets in.

Apathy is the lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving and exciting.

It is a manager’s greatest nemesis. Apathetic people cannot be made to work extra hours, when necessary. They don’t contribute to the achievement of organizational goals. On the other hand, they undermine them. They don’t accept special assignments. Rather, they have a battery of reasons for saying “No,” and always find every possible solution to operational problems undoable.

They cannot be motivated and dealing with them sometimes involve moving them to less critical  positions or out of the organization.

None, however, is a viable solution because they do not answer the root cause of the problem inherent in every organization which, by and large, creates apathy in the work place.

Apathy can rise out the following factors (of varying degrees) common to all organizations:

-   Compensation:
This is always a ticklish issue. It is either not enough or the other guy is paid higher for the same work done. And organizations are often not honest enough with their people on the factors affecting salaries.

They assume, wrongly, that people cannot understand such things as labor supply, company profitability, competition, type of industry, inflationary forces, etc., that affect salaries in one way of the other.

More often than not, organizations are poor in making employees understand that salaries are a function of job descriptions, which in turn, are governed by salary matrices, which, in turn are dependent on economic factors.

-   No Room at the Top:
This is typical with old organizations where top management positions are already occupied by people who are so comfortable in their executive chairs that they would put up a fight at the slightest mention of a re-shuffle.

-   Boredom:
In contrast to above, boredom is common among young organizations where things are still a bit chaotic to formulate cross-training programs to expose employees to different functions within the organization, or succession planning to give them something to hope for in the immediate future.

-   Too much control:
This can range from having so many regulations to stifle imagination and creativity, to lack of leeway to make operational decisions.

Environments like this can be so stifling that people are reduced to nothing but unthinking automatons. It robs them of the desire to do better, to excel.

-   Conflicting management decisions:
This is very common among multi-layered and multi-functional organizations where responsibilities sometimes are so interlocked, intertwined, and inter-dependent with each other that communications can often be confusing and contradictory.

The situation is made worse when subordinates are caught in a petty turf war between managers.

-   Favoritism:
Having favorites is a human foible. We all have favorites, i.e., favorite child, favorite pair of shoes, favorite shirt, favorite restaurant, or favorite subordinate.

Ironically a lot of mangers abet their subordinates to kowtow to them, whisper little bits of information here and there, do things outside of their job descriptions or do just about anything to get into their good graces.

This is either to feed their ego or to help them “keep their ears to the ground” so they can pre-empt unfavorable situations before they occur.

There is nothing wrong with that until or unless these little pets become little pests or be given undue advantage over the others in terms of salary increases or opportunities for advancement.

When this happens, a rot starts to form within the organization affecting everybody, robbing them of any motivation to do better or contribute more.

-   Too much office politics:
I decided to retire from my job when I started having a frown on my face, instead of a smile, in driving to the office each morning.

If you think politics is confined in the halls of government, think again. It is found in every aspect of our lives, maybe of different form, but give the same debilitating effects on people who are not good at it or don’t want to play the game.

Ironically, the higher you get in the organization, the more intense and nihilistic it becomes. It is practically “survival of the fittest” up there with a difference – instead of bared fangs and menacing claws, it is done with innocuous smiles, hearty handshakes and pats on the back.

It is done so deftly and innocently that, more often than not, you wouldn’t even feel the stab on your back until you get called into your boss’ office and be met with an expression on his face that practically tells you that heaven is about to come crashing down on you.

How to get around these:
Getting into an organization to pursue a career is like getting married. Anything can happen once you sign the contract. And once you are wed, getting out is never easy. Even if do manage to get out, the experience will be nothing short of traumatic, forever scarring your career possibilities.

It is very important, then, to take note of these two bits of wisdom I learned through the years:

First, for those who are starting out it is very important to know the organization you are getting into, e.g., the organizational culture and structure, policies on promotion and people development, salaries and benefits, type of management, etc.

Second, for those who are already in, always remember that there are no perfect organizations and the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence. More often than not, everything is a matter of perception.

Achieving your career objectives is never easy. There will always be difficulties along the way that threaten to offset you or throw you down on your back. They will always be there wherever you go, whatever organization you are in.

If you feel so strongly about your career happiness and success, find a way around those organizational obstacles that stand in your way, rather than be like a rudderless ship that drifts aimlessly until you run aground and be scuttled by the organization.

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