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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Frankly Speaking – 3/3/14

Frank,

     I just got a new job and I want to start out making clear boundaries with my co-workers and supervisors. I want a fresh start from my previous experience with my former employer. How do I show initiative and prove myself without becoming a doormat?

This is a very common concern that many people have and a problem many people do not attempt to address until they’re on the wrong side of the line. That you are aware of this possibility at the start of a new job gives you a great advantage.

Depending on the nature of your job, this balance can become particularly tricky. For instance advancement, raises, bonuses and other types of perks may be based not only on the quality of your performance, but on your ability to go “above and beyond.” This is where most people experience difficulty because we find ourselves doing things or acting in a way that we would not normally want or choose ourselves.

In general, never do anything one time that you’re not willing to do every time. As soon as a “favor” is completed, it becomes an expectation whether you think it will or not. For instance, if you are a salaried employee and you agree to stay late one night without additional compensation, expect that you will be asked to do so again in the future.

Saying “No,” is probably the most difficult and uncomfortable part, even if you know that’s the answer you wish to give.  At the same time, trying to skirt around the issue by saying things like “I’m working on something else right now,” or “I can’t stay late tonight,” opens yourself up to be asked those things again. Saying “No,” is not wrong. It only feels that way to most of us because we are not used to saying it. Any employer that is not willing to accept your boundaries, assuming your job duties are being fulfilled, is not an employer I would want to work for, anyway.

Ultimately, you need to decide what it is that you want out of your job. Even if there are potential perks to going above and beyond, be purposefully selective with which of them you choose to do. Maybe you are willing to do extra tasks during the day, but not stay after hours. If you set your long-term goals ahead of time, decide the purposeful actions you will take (and more importantly, NOT take!) to get there and stick to them, you will find yourself on the healthy side of the line!

 

Frank,

     My sister-in-law got into a bad car accident several years back, before I met my husband. From what I have heard she is a completely different person. She has severed many ties with the family. Her mom (my mother-in-law) tries to keep the peace with the family despite the fact that my sister-in-law and my husband have not spoken in 4 years. I feel very conflicted because some family members keep giving her chances because of her injury, however I also feel like she is an adult and has made choices she should live with. Sometimes I just can’t get past how much they enable her. Please help!

There are multiple layers to this, so let’s try to take a quick look at each of them.

Let’s put the car accident aside for a moment. In general, people ascribe to one of two theories when it comes to family members. Either A) family is family no matter what, or B) respect and consideration are a requirement for someone to be in your life, family or not.

Neither one is more right than the other. It sounds like those involved may be split as to which side of this fence they come down on. This may be why some members continue to give her chances, or enable her, while others may choose not to.

From your description of the situation, it sounds like the car accident may have resulted in a Traumatic Brain Injury. A TBI can result in impairment in cognitive functioning and affect things like language and memory. It can also affect an individual’s personality, including their decision-making, impulsivity, and mood. A common change in TBI patients is to go from mild-mannered to more angry, irritable, and aggressive.

The hardest part is understanding that she does not have the level of control over her abilities and actions as we might expect. She might not even be aware of the changes that have occurred within her. This can be particularly frustrating for everyone.

Despite not knowing which of the above possibilities apply to your sister-in-law, the likelihood is that she is now a very different person in some important way. The old version of her is gone. Loss occurs in many different ways in our lives. Sometimes it is an actual death of a loved one. Sometimes it is the end of a relationship, or a friendship. Sometimes a friendship changes when one of the members gets a new job and moves across the country.

Whatever the logistical reason, what exists now is not what existed before, and mourning that loss is crucial to moving forward. In the case of your in-laws, they may be struggling with accepting this notion as they are still holding on to the way things were. The way she was.

Having met her after her accident, you only know who she is now and don’t have the same basis of comparison and the same level of conflicting information. The conflict that exists for you now, however, is more about protecting your new family unit (including yourself, your husband, and whoever else has or will come along).

Ultimately, as a unit, you need to decide what is best given the current set of circumstances. Once that occurs, it becomes a matter of setting up those boundaries with the rest of the family. As I wrote in my above response, remember that what is an exception one time becomes an expectation the next time.

Between you and your husband, decide what is and is not acceptable regarding your relationship with your sister-in-law. Perhaps more importantly (and more difficult), decide how this will affect your relationship with the rest of your in-laws. For example, there might be a boundary set that this topic is not to be discussed at family gatherings.

Whatever boundaries are set, first make sure that you and your husband agree. Then implement them. Change those boundaries in the future only if you both decide to, not if someone outside your family unit pressures you to do so.

 

“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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