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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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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