Category Archives: Blog

3 Ways to Say “No” to your Boss Using the Word “Yes”

business-man-modified-1241003For most of us, it’s hard to say “no”—if not all of the time, at least in some situations. One such situation is when you think it might harm your career.  Ironically, sometimes, not saying “no” might actually hurt your career more.

For example, it’s important to say no when you are being asked to do something illegal or immoral or something that you are not likely to succeed at.  You might not succeed at a task because you are too busy to do it well or because you aren’t skilled enough to do it well.  In either case, it will reflect badly on you when you fail.

When I tell people they need to be able to say ”no,” they often balk and say that they can’t say “no” to their boss.  Then I say, “How about if you say ‘yes’ to your boss?”  Their eyes light up when I tell them it’s possible to say “yes” and “no” at the same time.  Try the models below.

Model 1: “Yes…  If I do this then I won’t be able to do that…  Which do you think is more important?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you take on the budget proposal for the new product we’re developing?”

You: “Yes, absolutely.  I’m currently working on the financial analysis of the old product though.  If I take on the budget for the new product, I won’t be able to finish the analysis as quickly and I had originally estimated.  Which do you think is more important to do first?”

Model 2: “Yes…  If I do it in that time frame, however, it won’t be my best work.  I could offer to do this instead…  What do you think would be best?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you write up the 40-page report by tomorrow morning?”

You: “Yes, I’d be happy to.  If I write 40 pages in one day, though, it won’t be polished.  If I had till the end of the week, I’d have time to go over it a second time and proofread it.  What do you think would be best?”

Model 3: “Yes…  Would it be okay to delegate that to …?”

Example:

Boss: “Could you manage the offsite planning?”

You: “Yes, I’d be happy to be responsible for it.  Would it be okay to delegate the work to Marnie?  She’s looking for more leadership opportunities and is good with logistics.”

These exact phrases may not fit with your style, but you get the idea.  You accept the work with full disclosure of the sacrifice (not completing other work, not your best quality work, or not you actually doing the work) and give your boss the opportunity to decide what is more important.  If your boss says, for example, that she doesn’t need your best quality on a 40-page report, just a rough draft, or maybe even an outline, then you’ve brought it down to a reasonable task in a short time frame.  If your boss says he needs it to be top quality and would rather wait, then you have turned it into a reasonable time frame to complete the task.

Bosses don’t want their people to fail.  It reflects badly on them too when you fail.  They want the work done and done well and done on time.  You need to speak up when you won’t be able to deliver.  A positive way to do that is to help the boss find solutions, rather than raise obstacles.  Bosses like solutions.  And the bosses who don’t like to hear “no” like to be able to decide what is more important.  If you give them that opportunity using the models above, then you will be able to keep your head above water too.

Are you hiring the job candidate or their parent?

parent-at-interviewIncreasingly, parents are getting involved in the job hiring process.  This presents a challenge for employers because you don’t know how much of the candidate you’re getting vs. their parents.

Things parents do for their adult children today:

  • Go to job fairs and open houses.
  • Write resumes and cover letters.
  • Fill out job applications and send them in.
  • Call employers to set up interviews and follow up.
  • Attend lunches and interviews.
  • Negotiate salaries with employers.
  • Decide which job to take.

Too much parental involvement in the job hiring process is detrimental to both the candidate and the employer.  The employer needs to assess whether the candidate is qualified and is a good fit for the job.  The applicant needs to assess whether the organization and job are a good fit for them.  When parents take over, neither side gets an accurate picture of the other.

What can employers do to move parents to the sidelines?

  • Make it a policy not to talk to parents during the hiring process.
  • Discourage candidates from involving their parents.
  • Politely but firmly refuse to speak to parents when they call or show up.
  • Put your no-parents-during-hiring policy on the website for all to read.

A bad hire is detrimental to both the employer and the employee.  Too many times I’ve heard employers complain that the person they hired “looked great on paper” and had “all the right things to say” in the interview, but wasn’t able to perform once hired.  This is a bad situation for the employer but an awful situation to be in for an employee.  Failing at your job, especially your first job, has long lasting effects on self-esteem.  It’s better for everyone involved—including parents—if the employee is hired for a job they can and want to do.

How can employers tell parents to back off?

Pushing parents away can be touchy for both the parents and the candidates.  How do you do it without losing good candidates?  Here are some suggestions from College Recruiter: How Employers Should Deal with Helicopter Parents.  One of the suggestions is mine.

 

Like It or Not, Trump Is Your Kids’ Role Model

young-male-face-2-1428084-639x514An eighth grade girl had a concussion and dropped her books at school.  An eighth grade boy walked by her and laughed at her in front of his friends.  Did any of them stop to help her?  No.

As parents, we’re mortified to know our sons and daughters are going to school with people like this.  Yet, we turn on the TV and see Trump mocking Clinton for stumbling when she’s ill.

How are we supposed to instill the value of treating people with dignity into our children when they see high profile leaders behaving like bad kindergartners?

Role Models

Indeed, “the Trump effect” has been identified as a cause of bad behavior at school, but mean behavior is much more pervasive than that.  Reality TV is the archetypal example of mean behavior in the popular media, with Trump as one of the meanest television hosts. But the contestants themselves are goaded on to be mean too.

Even seemingly benign kids’ shows on the Disney Channel turn mean behavior into fodder for sitcoms.  Jessie is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, presenting comedy in the form of a 12-year-old rich girl belittling her nanny for wearing inexpensive clothes.

Albert Bandura’s famous 1960s Bobo doll experiment illustrated how children learn aggressive behavior by observing adults behaving aggressively.  In the experiment, children tended to imitate an adult who was praised for beating up an inflatable Bobo doll.

Whether fiction or reality, on TV or at home, kids pick up aggressive behavior from the adults they see modeling it.  Therefore, it’s up to us, as adults, to model respect and dignity if we want children to learn it.  We cannot rely on schools to teach it to them; we must show it to them.

This means we have to check our own behavior.  What are we saying?  How are we treating others?  What are we watching and laughing at?  Are we calling others on it when they disrespect someone?

Dignity

Donna Hicks wrote the book on dignity, with that very name.  She defines “dignity” as “our inherent value and worth as human beings; everyone is born with it.”  She contrasts dignity with respect, saying respect is earned through one’s actions.  In other words, people don’t have to earn dignity; it’s inherent in being human.

“The desire for dignity is universal and powerful. It is a motivating force behind all human interaction—in families, in communities, in the business world, and in relationships at the international level. When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, even violence, hatred, and vengeance.” –Donna Hicks, Ph.D.

It doesn’t have to be an “us vs. them” world out there.  If we honor that inherent desire for dignity as we interact with people, we will likely get it back.  Even if we don’t, we’ll be teaching the next generation of leaders how to treat others with dignity for the future safety of our world.  If we don’t start, bad things are likely to happen.

The Quarter Life Crisis

puppy-2-1379050I saw the play Tiger Style! last night.  The story is about two seemingly successful 20-something Harvard grads who are actually falling apart inside.  As a doctor and a computer programmer, they both have achieved success in their parents’ and society’s eyes, but they are in crisis because they don’t know who they are.

They blame their parents for promising them success and assuming happiness came along with it if they dedicated their lives to achievement.  But when they are finally in these high-status, well-paid jobs, they realize they never stopped to figure out if this is what they wanted along the way.  Indeed, these empty careers mean nothing to them.

Who am I?  Where does love fit in?  Where’s the fun?  What’s this all for?  These are the questions of the “quarter life crisis.” 

The quarter life crisis is a newly coined phenomenon, an accelerated form of the midlife crisis.  Why is it happening?  Why are so many 25-year-olds having identity crises that there’s a new name for it?  Because this generation of kids was never allowed to explore their identities during adolescence.  Instead, they were directed (and often pushed) into the singular path of going to the best college they could get into.

The fallacy of the college dream is that it assumes this path leads to happiness and success in life.  Sadly, it’s taken a generation of 20-somethings in crisis to show us the error in our thinking.

College is one path to success and happiness in life.  It is not the path.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution to success and happiness in life.  Each person has to figure it out along the way.

Probably one of the biggest disappointments in life is when your child wants to do something different from what you want them to do.  Face it: there is a good chance that will happen to you, no matter how much your force your dreams down their throat.  They are their own people and they have to figure it out for themselves.

The Quest for Comfort is Killing our Ability to Adapt

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”  –Viktor F. Frankl

geometric-chair-1425313-639x619The principal of a school was concerned about a complaint from a parent regarding the size of the desks in the third grade classroom.  “Some of the children are this tall [pointing low] and others are that tall [pointing high], but the desks are all made for kids of this [average] height.”  “Therefore,” she continued, “some of the kids will be uncomfortable. Are you okay with the kids being uncomfortable?”  Feeling trapped, the principal wondered if he needed to go out and buy new desks of varying height.

school-1465744-640x480If I were the principal, my answer would be very simple: “Yes, I am okay with them being uncomfortable.”  Yes, it is important for kids to learn how to adapt to their environment.  If we keep customizing the environment to make each person comfortable, not only will we go bankrupt, but we’ll also keep them from being able to adjust to the world around them. Continue reading The Quest for Comfort is Killing our Ability to Adapt

The Truth Inside the Fluff: Catching Lies on College and Job Applications

resume-2-1616792-640x480Have you noticed that people today will stop at nothing to get your attention?  It’s hard to know where the truth is inside all the fluff!

How do you know if you should hire someone, for example?  It takes a lot of work to sift through the marketing spiels people manufacture for their resumes.  On paper, it looks like the person can save the world in a single bound.  You hire them and find out they can’t even save an Excel file.

How many people lie on job applications?

I did a search to look for statistics about lying on resumes and guess what I found instead?  A plethora of articles on how to not get caught lying on your resume.  Wow, lying has become so commonplace that people offer public advice on how to do it better.  The little  research I did find is consistent with these observations.  “A new survey from CareerBuilder of more than 2,500 hiring managers found that 56% have caught job candidates lying on their resumes.Continue reading The Truth Inside the Fluff: Catching Lies on College and Job Applications

Protect Yourself from Sociopaths at Work

charisma-Recent events have increased my curiosity about sociopaths—terrorists, mass shootings, politicians, The Big Short, and non-criminal business people who use others to get what they want.  I’d like to share what I’ve found.*

Who’s a sociopath?

Sociopaths (or psychopaths or people with antisocial personality disorder) make up about 4 percent of the population.  That’s actually quite high.  Think about 25 people you know personally.  One of them is likely to be a sociopath—a person without a conscience, a person who knows right from wrong but doesn’t care.  Did I get your attention? Continue reading Protect Yourself from Sociopaths at Work