Frankly Speaking – 3/31/14

Dear Frank,

      There are a couple of people that I work with that no one seems to get along with. One acts like he is above everyone else and the other tries to act overly friendly and gets on almost everyone’s nerves. What is the best way that we can deal with them on a daily basis?

On a previous segment of Frankly Speaking, I touched upon a somewhat related topic regarding making friends in the workplace. In that response I described how oftentimes the job itself is one of just a few things you might have in common with someone else. The truth is you certainly won’t be best friends with everyone you work with. Indeed there will be people toward whom you gravitate more than others.

Depending on your work environment and how much daily contact you must have with these individuals, you may simply choose to spend your time with someone else. Many people simply choose to distance themselves from anyone who has a negative impact on them. Find others whom you enjoy more and spend the majority of your time with them, if possible.

Your other option is to go the complete opposite direction and befriend your coworkers. Get to know them. Both of the people you described – the arrogant one and the overly friendly one – sound to me like individuals who are acting from a place of insecurity.

We are all insecure about different things, and we all handle those insecurities in different ways. You are seeing two of the latter manifested in these two individuals. What you don’t yet know is the “Why?”

If you’re willing and able, get to know these coworkers and eventually (likely without even having to ask directly), you’ll learn where they are coming from. Perhaps they’re nervous about being new to this job, or maybe their last position did not end well. Maybe they’re just following some bad advice about how to act in the workplace. Either way, once you understand where someone is coming from, you’re a little less likely to be as bothered by it.

An additional benefit of befriending these individuals is that you are then in position to offer feedback to them as a friend and a peer. It is obvious that both of these individuals want others’ approval. They are approaching this in a way that is not effective and actually turning others off, however. Telling this to them now, unsolicited, is likely to have a negative impact if any at all.

When genuine feedback comes from a caring person close to us, though, we are more likely to hear it and incorporate it. But remember, it is not your job (nor your right), to change anyone else. Offering feedback is one thing, but only if it comes from a place of concern for THAT person’s well-being, not your own.

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select some of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only requirement that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

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Frankly Speaking – 3/24/14

My boyfriend and I have been together for about 6 years, off and on. We have 4 kids (we each have one and two together). He is the financial provider of our house and I am a house mom; he wants me to get out and find a job to help, which I understand and am working on. He feels as though I do not support him in his attempts to own his own business and has told me he feels as though he is all alone. I’m also fairly certain that he has been cheating on me. Is our relationship too messy to be fixed?

There certainly do seem to be a lot of working parts to this but my answer, in short, to your question is “No, it is not too late.”

I don’t believe that it is ever too late to repair a relationship. Some individuals/couples identify past difficulties (cheating, frequent arguing, etc.) as “too much to overcome.” They may be right, only in that it might be too much for them to overcome. For every relationship that ends for a given reason, there is another couple out there somewhere that was able to work through the same issue(s).

There are a couple of keys to making it work, however. First, both of you need to be committed to wanting to make it work. What may be even more important, however, is being able to agree on the values that you each hold. This does include things such as who will work and who will stay home, views on parenting, financial decisions, etc. Even if two people love each other, differences in values will make it very difficult to work toward a common goal.

In your situation, it sounds like there are a number of things that need to be talked through with your boyfriend, not the least of which is your suspicion of his infidelity. Only by getting everything out in the open is there any chance that you can then work to decide what you want, and how to get there.

Without taking these steps, you may only continue to live parallel lives under the same roof, but never grow your intimacy and neither of you will be fully satisfied. If you find that it is too difficult to have these conversations on your own, you may enlist the help of a therapist to help facilitate those discussions. That person’s job is not to decide who is right, who is wrong, and what needs to change; he or she will merely help you and your boyfriend have those conversations together.

If this relationship is truly something that you want, don’t stop fighting for it. You can’t be the only one fighting, though.

 

My eighteen year old son has quite the case of narcissism. Everything is “all about him.” He interrupts conversations and changes the subject to get the focus back on him. I don’t know how to tell him in a way that will not hurt his feelings, but to make him see that people he encounters are annoyed by this character flaw. Thanks in advance for any help.

Actually, I think you may have answered your own question.

The concern you expressed is giving your son feedback “in a way that will not hurt his feelings.” My guess is this is not the first and only time you (or others) have tried to spare his feelings. Do that for too long, and you are left with someone who doesn’t understand others’ perspectives because he likely never hears them!

Although Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an official diagnosis from the DSM-5 (the guide used by all mental health professionals), let’s assume for a moment that he does not meet these criteria; it would be unprofessional of me to diagnosis someone that I have not interviewed and evaluated personally, anyway.

What may be happening instead is an exaggeration of a typical teenager who is self-centered and perhaps entitled. As we grow up and mature, we naturally begin to understand ourselves better, although some people develop this skill to a higher level than others. What does not occur as naturally, and instead must be TAUGHT, is how to understand other peoples’ perspectives.

You’re right, in that you can’t be mean and demeaning to him regarding this blind spot that he has. Of course he will interpret that as a shot to his ego and he will become defensive. But that doesn’t mean you have to sugar coat things, either.

Instead of telling him anything, try asking (very general) questions instead. For instance, you could ask “How do you think someone would feel if they weren’t being listened to in a conversation?” If he doesn’t know the answer, tell him. Then see if he can apply it to himself. “Remember when you were talking with X? It seemed like he was never able to finish the point he was making. How do you think he felt?”

If he’s able to at least repeat the answer that you spoon-fed him to the previous question just before that, we’re on the right track. If he becomes defensive and can only hear the insult of what he did wrong, there may be a more deeply ingrained issue, although this is likely his first attempts at trying to figure some of these things out.

Be patient and try this type of question and information sharing a couple of different times. If any headway seems to be made, keep at it. If not, you may begin to think about pursuing professional assistance from someone in your area who can get to know you and your family dynamics in much greater depth.

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select one or more of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only thing that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

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How Technology Hinders Workplace Productivity (and What Employers Can Do About It)

Technology offers us a myriad of psychological benefits. With its infinite abilities to constantly connect us with others, entertain us, inform us, and distract us, technology can fulfill virtually our every need. Each encounter with technology is positively reinforced: there is an immediate reward for engaging in this behavior, increasing our likelihood of doing it again.

But at what expense?

As one consequence of this behavior, many fear that this constant, tantalizing distraction will greatly hinder one’s productivity, particularly in the workplace.

They would be right.

Technological distractions are everywhere. Because we can use technology to seek exactly what it is that we want (be it entertainment, information, or connections to others), it will invariably be a more desirable option than the requirements bestowed upon us by others (read: work duties).

For instance, as an alternative to completing a work assignment, an employee may use his or her phone to text a partner or friend, use the internet to read the news or check sports scores, check or update social media pages, watch videos or listen to songs on various websites, and plenty more.

The options are limitless.

The first days of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March are widely believed to be among the least productive days across all employees. Technology has allowed us to not only keep tabs on the scores of those games, but also to watch them in real time. The sites making this possible have even included a “Boss Button” on the same page as the video feed. When clicked, the page instantly transforms into something that is vaguely productive-looking.

The fact that this button even exists is a testament to the understanding that, left to their own device, employees will often choose the distraction over the duty.

How does an employer circumvent this? What parameters can be put in place to increase the chances of productivity in the workplace and not succumb to the tempting distractions that are everywhere around us? Many employers will have internet restrictions in place so that common websites are blocked from one’s access. With cell phones being able to do basically as much as a computer can, however, this is largely ineffective.

Below are 3 ways that employers can increase employees’ productivity when it comes to technological distractions, without being punitive.

1.  SET STRICT BUT ATTAINABLE DEADLINES: Depending on the nature of the business, there may be open-ended deadlines for various projects to be completed. Or perhaps there are several different items being worked on simultaneously.

Whenever possible, limit the number of tasks on which one is concurrently working, and provide ambitious deadlines for completion. This will result in the employee recognizing that he or she does not have the opportunity for distraction because of an imminent deadline that must be reached. When faced with “crunch time,” most employees are able to put aside distractions temporarily to meet a deadline.

Be careful not to implement this strategy too often, however, as it can take on a flavor of being micromanaged.

2.  SET PRODUCTIVITY GOALS: Punishing an individual for not being productive, or putting childlike restrictions in place (such as blocking various website access), is not nearly as effective as rewarding someone who chooses to be productive. This reward need not, and indeed should not, be in the form of monetary compensation or other external benefit.

Instead, publicly (within your organization) recognize the individual(s) who attain a particular mark or reach a certain level of performance. As human beings, we can become accustomed to putting up with negative consequences of our actions (especially if those actions are at least providing short term rewards like entertainment and distraction). What we can’t do, at least not forever, is continue to thrive without feelings of accomplishment and some level of recognition for our positive performance and contribution.

Seeing others attain this motivates us to want to attain the same thing. If there are things in place within your organization to internally motivate people to perform to a certain level, it is more likely that individuals will choose the distractions less and work more toward being productive.

3.  RUN A CONTEST WITHIN YOUR OFFICE: We have all heard of the “game” dining patrons play whereby they each place their phone in the middle of the table and the first to touch theirs must foot the bill. There are also restaurants that will offer discounts to patrons for turning in their cell phone at the beginning of a meal.

Come up with ways to implement these practices in your office, especially if the use of a cell phone is not imperative to completing one’s work duties. Offer rewards or incentives to individuals for not using their phone throughout the day.

Remember, computers and internet access can be more tightly controlled than individuals’ phones. Getting an employee to give up his or her cell phone for some period of time will result in that individual having “nothing better to do” than work!

The harsh reality is that even the most well-intentioned employees will succumb to the temptation to check their e-mail, read the news, check a sports score, or watch an entertaining video (or 15) during work hours. Technology has made it possible for us to be constantly positively reinforced and rewarded for engaging in these distractions. The only way to “beat” technology is to set up environments in which it is more appealing to the individual to avoid technology than it would be to use it!

This is the third installment of the Psychological Effects of Technology series. Topics include how we have come to be so dependent on technology, the effects technology is having on us individually, the effects technology is having on our relationships with others, and what we can do about our reliance on technology. Help these conversations happen. Please post your comments and questions to my Facebook Fan Page or share this article on your own Facebook profile. Follow me and tweet at me on Twitter @Bevacqua_PhD, or simply print these articles and share them with loved ones. 

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Frankly Speaking – 3/17/14

How do I bond with my coworkers without getting sucked into office drama?

This is a very common question for many people. Gossiping is indeed one way to bond with others, but it is certainly not the only way. Regardless of your work environment, you probably want to stay away from the drama.

One of the most common fears of entrepreneurship is of social isolation. Of not having the regular human contact that accompanies a 9 to 5 job. What most of those that have taken the leap to self-employment have found, however, is that the connections they have built with others since have actually been much stronger.

Think about the last job you left. How many people did you keep in contact with once you left? How many people do you still keep in contact with now that you’re even further removed? Of those with whom you chose to continue a relationship, why did you do so? I would bet it was because those were the people you liked the most and with whom you had the most in common.

So why does this phenomenon happen? Why do we choose not to keep many of those acquaintances once we leave a job? Why do entrepreneurs find their new connections to be better than that of their traditional job?

When two people work at the same company, they immediately have something in common: their place of employment. Depending on the field, there may be other self-selection factors that people have in common as well. For instance in a hospital setting, multiple people (hopefully!) have a nurturing disposition and a desire to help others.

Once that common thread is removed, however, the differences between two people, even two people working right next to each other, can be striking. Whereas I would always advocate that it can be extremely enriching to have relationships with those that differ from us in some ways, the overwhelming likelihood is that we become closest to those that are most like us.

So to your question, I say look to form bonds with co-workers who are similar to you and talk about those similarities, not about the job. This does mean you will not be bonding equally with everyone, because the only commonality you will ALL have is the job!

While it can be convenient and commonplace to vent about your frustrations on the job with your coworkers, it does set up a slippery slope to begin gossiping about the boss, the new hire, or why Joe has been spending so much time in Susan’s office lately.

If you need someone to vent to about frustrations on the job (and who doesn’t?), look to your non-work friends or relationship partner for that. Together you can then bond over similar feelings of frustrations with your respective jobs without getting caught up in the content and drama of who did what to whom. You can also remind each other about good steps to take to minimize your own frustrations.

It is a way to get closer to the people who are already in your life while safeguarding your attempts at getting closer with coworkers.

Ultimately, as I often say, first decide what your long-term goal is; how do you want your life and, in this case, your work environment to be? Then work backwards. Only with knowing how you want to end up can you take the necessary and proper steps to get there.

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select one or more of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only thing that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

 

 

 

 

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Frankly Speaking – 3/10/14

I’ve already given my two weeks’ notice to my employer, who is now acting unprofessionally and is actively seeking retribution against me. I have done nothing wrong; it only took my resignation letter for him to throw me under the bus to my peers. I fear that I won’t be able to use him to verify my employment because he’s acting so vindictively. Is it worth sacrificing my mental health to stay until the end of my two weeks when he’s refused to give me a reference or letter of recommendation out of spite?

Unfortunately, not everyone likes to play by the rules, but that does not excuse your boss’ behavior; it is wrong for him to be acting unprofessionally. I can imagine the discomfort of having to show up to work each day in the face of this and I’m sure you’re counting down the days until your two weeks is up.

Reality is you are probably right that this employer will not be available for a reference in the future. Regarding your ability to verify your employment, most times your future employer will only be concerned with 1) Did you work at the place you said you worked for the amount of time you said you worked there, 2) Did you engage in the activities/duties which you reported, and 3) Did you earn the salary you reported.

If you do not list your employer as a reference (which of course you won’t at this point), it is unlikely your current boss will have any opportunity to comment on anything but these facts.

It may not even be your boss specifically that is the one who will share this information.

Regarding whether or not to leave your current position prior to the two weeks, my recommendation is to not. The exception to this would be if any of your boss’ actions crossed the line into harassment, at which time a report should be filed against him and your time there should end immediately.

My reasoning for saying not to leave early is simple: to this point, you have done nothing wrong.  Leaving prior to the required two weeks’ notice, however, could be considered as not fulfilling your job duties. This could potentially be very difficult to overcome in future job applications, interviews, and employment verification processes.

Despite the severity of the situation as you describe it, future employers might not know the extent to which your boss is making your day to day life uncomfortable (again, unless a formal complaint is filed). However unfairly, it may reflect poorly upon you. By sticking it out, knowing there is a finite end point, you can move forward with your future work endeavors knowing that you won’t have anything to hide or explain.

In the mean time, actively seek support of others at your job if you can, and especially from those outside of it. Don’t let the unfortunate and unfair actions of one person put you at a disadvantage for your future!

 

I have a male friend who was beaten daily as a child. He has emotional scars and he cycles between depression and outward rebellion. He is a good person but I am afraid he cannot love anyone, even himself. How might I help this man?

I think your understanding of your friend is very accurate. When we have emotional pain that we have not yet worked through, we deal with it in different ways. Some sink into depression while some rebel in various ways or self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Some, like your friend, may exhibit both.

I’m going to modify one of your statements slightly: you said that your friend “cannot love anyone, even himself.” Reality is, he likely “cannot love anyone, ESPECIALLY himself.”

When children experience abuse, whether it is one time or ongoing, it is common for feelings of worthlessness and blame to be internalized. Without a proper outlet or resolution, these thoughts and feelings swirl until that is the only identity they know.

Unfortunately the adage is true: you cannot love others until you love yourself, and you are absolutely correct that right now he is struggling to do so.

One of the most common things for people who care (like yourself) to do is to try to overcome this by showering the person with praise and compliments, consistently and constantly reminding him of how valuable you think he is.

The problem is we only accept that which we already believe about ourselves; he is not going to accept your positive statements as reality because they are not HIS reality.

The abuse he experienced needs to be explored with a trained professional, preferably one who specializes in early childhood trauma. It is a lengthy process, and things might even get harder for him before they get easier.

Encourage him to seek this help. As his friend, this is not something you can do yourself, even if you were a therapist. It will take the work of someone who is unbiased, not someone who has a previous relationship with him. He needs to start new right now.

In the mean time, continue to be his friend and only that. He is likely struggling with feeling responsible for the terrible things that happened to him, even though we know he is not. Don’t make a similar mistake by feeling responsible for having to “fix him.” Be a friend, point him in the direction of the help he needs, and support him on this journey.

“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select some of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only thing that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

 

 

 

 

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