Working With Jerks

Nothing ruins a great job more than having to work with a “jerk”.

First, short of health issues emotionally or physical that may arise from this stress, there is no reason to let a difficult co-worker push you out of a great job.

A better plan, wait for them to self-destruct. 

It happens all the time, but unfortunately lots of good people leave careers they like just to get away from cynical, abusive, hurtful and undesirable people. 

The Harvard Business Review offers some advice:

  1. Focus on your own reactions. “If there is someone who is annoying or abrasive, don’t think about how the person acts, think about how you react. It’s far more productive to focus on your own behavior because you can control it.”
  2. Keep your distaste to yourself. Complaining can send a negative message about you and you might be perceived as “unprofessional or be labeled as the difficult one.” Communicate through a support network you trust – outside of work.  
  3. Consider whether it’s you, not them.  “Start with the hypothesis that the person is doing things you don’t like but is a good person,” says Stanford Business School professor Robert Sutton to HBR. “It’s reasonable to assume you’re part of the problem…If everywhere you go there’s someone you hate, it’s a bad sign.”
  4. Spend more time with the difficult co-worker.  Talk about taking bitter medicine! The idea is to try and build empathy.  However “If it’s someone who violates your sense of what’s moral, getting away [from him] isn’t a bad strategy,” says Sutton to HBR.
  5. Give the person you hate feedback.  “It may be that what bothers you is something that regularly gets in her way as a professional,” says HBR. Stick to the behavior that person can control and describe how they impact you and your work together.

“Difficult People are your key to self empowerment, you need to learn how to cope with them, not let them dominate and affect you.” — Janice Davies

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Reduce Stress in One Minute

I used to own a small card that I kept in my top desk drawer.  When I placed my thumb on it, I got a stress alert.

Red for lots of stress.  Green for cool.

Now I’ve discovered a new app from Huffington Post that instructs you to place your finger over the lens and flash of your iPhone to get an instant breaths-per-minute (BPM) reading.

In one minute, my breaths went down by 10 as I watched the face of my phone gather and display the information. The app is free and fun to try.  You can also attach stress reducers like music and pictures of loved ones to the app to help take the edge off.  You can get “GPS For the Soul” here.

Stress is the disrupter of all happiness.  A threat to our lives, well-being and relationships.  It’s worth fighting.

Whether it is an app, meditation or a walk, stress can be put in its proper place.

The key is mindfulness – being aware of the high price we pay for stress and the importance of interrupting that stress on a regular basis.  Also lifestyle changes, reassessments of values and goals and the greatest stress reducer of all – appreciation for that which we have and the people we have in our lives.

Lily Tomlin said, “For fast acting relief, try slowing down” and Ghandi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed”.

But I love the Chinese Proverb that reminds us “”Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”


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The Value of Compromise

Marriages cannot thrive or even survive without both sides agreeing to compromise.  Governments cannot get anything done and no matter what your politics both sides are to blame.

What is it with our growing unwillingness to let another person have “our” way?

Winning is seen as strength.

Giving away our power as a weakness.

It is the other way around.

I’m not talking about compromising on core values or ethics.  Nothing like that.  Just the willingness to say to another person, let’s meet half way.

Here’s a drill you can try.

For one day, focus on how many times you can empower another person in your life or career by meeting them half way.  Be cognizant of the reaction you get because it is going to be strong and positive.  In fact, you may like it so much that you keep looking for opportunities not to have everything all your way.

Washington isn’t the only thing that is  broken.  Society has placed more value on prevailing at all costs rather than compromising to win cooperation.

Polls show the country wants politicians to compromise and work together.

Ironically, the biggest tool for success in the future will be to have the ability to empower others not winning by doing all their thinking.

“If two men agree on everything, you may be sure that one of them is doing all the thinking” – Lyndon Johnson

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Getting Fired

When I went to Temple University, Professor Lew Klein on parents night (no less) told my communications class and our parents that if we were not fired several times in our careers, we were not working in communications.

What a buzz kill.

What a bunch of disappointed parents.

What a gift.

The fact is no matter what career you pursue, seeking success comes with risks. 

And benefits.

If you’ve ever been fired or fear it, consider this:

  1. Even at its worst, it is a gift.  A wakeup call.  A push, a nudge to dig deeper and ask what you want to do with your life and more importantly what you are willing to do to succeed.
  1. The most important thing is to not allow yourself to be shamed by ignorant people.  Shame kills self-esteem.  Put a stop-loss on the shame that you may feel or others may foist upon you. 
  1. When people are fired unjustly, it all rebounds back on the employer doing the firing.  After all, when an associate is dismissed, everyone else gets nervous.  Not a good place to be for the company.
  1. Best of all, the world is populated by millions – that’s right, millions of people who turned the adversity of being fired into success.  You don’t have to look far to stay encouraged.  No need to sugar coat anything. You just have to look.

I wish for all of you continued success in your present line of employment, but should the day come when you’re forced to move on, consider it a gift.

Oh, and here are 15 rich and famous people who were fired before they became successful – take a look and reflect.

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Better Than Multitasking

Once I asked my students at USC if they’d like to know a way that they could do only 20% of the things they have to do in their lives and still get 80% productivity.

The room fell silent until one student, feeling sorry for the professor, said “If you want to”.

Multitasking distracts us and forces us to sacrifice the quality of our attention but people refuse to give it up in our fast paced digital world.

And it also never ends meaning you never run out of things to do simultaneously.

Recently, a group of researchers at the University of Washington studied the effects of meditation training on multitasking.  According to a New York Times article, they formed one group of human resource professionals to do the simultaneous planning they were accustomed to doing.  They were given 20 minutes to complete their tasks.

Then they were divided into three groups – one for an 8-week meditation course immediately, another group took it later not initially and the third took an 8-week course in body relaxation.

Then, back to the original 20-minute multitasking test.

According to the article, “The only participants to show improvement were those who had received mindfulness training.  Not only did they report fewer negative emotions at the end of the assignment, but their ability to concentrate improved significantly”.

Being in the “now” is beneficial in lots of ways to significantly improving the future.

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  • An interesting relationship between multitasking & meditation via @JDelColliano #multitasking

The Awesome Power of Listening

In the idyllic Victorian shore community of Spring Lake, NJ ten teenagers have stepped in front of a train – sometimes at the very same spot – and committed suicide since 2008.

The same train that took many of their parents to high powered and well-paid jobs in the bustle of New York City every day.

The most recent victim died in February of last year.  He wasn’t depressed although some of the victims were.  He was said to be a great student being raised by his father after his mother’s death from cancer.

Ten students dead.  Many in the same high school.

To be sure, in some cases there were extenuating circumstances, but the mystery of what would bring someone who seems to be happy to this early end of life remains a mystery.  Perhaps they weren’t heard.

Most times life goes on and people suffer in silence.  So how is it possible that we can miss problems this obvious?

We must become better at listening. 

We all want to be heard.  In a world packed with communications tools from phones to texting, the secret is to begin practicing the awesome power of listening.


“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard.  It’s a sign of respect.  It makes people feel valued”. – Deborah Tannen

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Do, Don’t Stew

People complain a lot.

Me included. 

But a surefire way to change the things we complain about is to change the way we look at things. 

Motivational speaker Wayne Dyer says, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”

Have you ever heard someone say, “I can’t complain, no one will listen” after you said, “how are things?”

Instead of complaining, do something about that which rankles you. 

Take an action step.  Plan a way around the problem.  If the thing that irritates you is major, chip away at it.  For example, if you hate your job, consider devoting your time and energy to a well thought out plan to find a new one.  Complaining will just leave you wallowing in the job you dislike. 

In a relationship that is going nowhere?

Less stewing, more doing.  Come up with a plan with action steps to make the situation better.

“Doing nothing gets you nothing.” — Sean Reichle 

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Compliment vs. Flattery

Flattery: “You look great”.

Meaningful compliment:  “It was thoughtful of you to help me with the project.  The research you did on effective sales techniques made all the difference”.

One of the most potent tools to inspiring, motivating and appreciating people is to pay them a compliment that sticks to their ribs.

Here’s the formula:

  1. Recognize an outstanding quality in another
  2. Make a simple one or two sentence statement
  3. Then back it up with specific evidence to make the compliment memorable and meaningful.

Do it face to face if you want to see the great response you are going to get.  But the formula works on the telephone, email or Twitter.

Employees like it.  Employers love it because they rarely get meaningful appreciation.  Friends will value you more.  Children will boost their self-esteem as a result of hearing you appreciate them in this fashion.

Don’t get me wrong.  Flattery has its place.

But a compliment backed by specific evidence is a lasting gift.

“I will be generous with my love today. I will sprinkle compliments and uplifting words everywhere I go. I will do this knowing that my words are like seeds and when they fall on fertile soil, a reflection of those seeds will grow into something greater.”  — Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

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  • @rashke Thanks for the retweet!!

The Four Things That Matter Most

If you want to change your life for the better in 2013, you don’t have do anything more than master the following four things.

The things that matter most in life.

All you need to do is say them as much as possible. 

Please Forgive Me

I Forgive You

Thank You

I love You

(From “The Four Things That Matter Most” by Ira Brock, M.D.)

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5 Last Minute Gifts To Yourself

Since this is a record year for self-gifting, how about giving any or all of these gifts to ourselves.

  1. A pat on the back.  The one we rarely get but so deserve from others for all the good things we do all year long.  Better yet, create a long list of the things that deserve personal recognition and keep them handy on a mobile device or in a drawer for the next time a boost of confidence is needed.
  2. Forgiveness.  As hard as we may try, we are not perfect.  It isn’t perfection that should drive our existence, it’s the pursuit of perfection.  In the meantime, let’s take a moment to forgive ourselves for being human.
  3. Self-love.  Bluntly put, we cannot expect nor should we expect others to love us when we are unwilling to love ourselves.  Step one:  be grateful for the person we are.  Others will notice.
  4. Persistence.  As I point out in my book, Ted Williams was the last player to hit over .400 for a single season baseball batting average.  That means he failed 60% of the time.  In this way, life is like the game of baseball.  It’s not about hitting it out of the park.  It’s about times at bat.

As Ted Williams said, “baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer”.

Give these gifts to yourself and you will simultaneously also be giving them to those around you.

Please share this thought with your friends and family.

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