Friday, 30 December 2016

Break Free from your Prison

Though it may sound strange, but fear is a common emotion which plays at workplace. 

Fear of losing your job. 
Fear of letting go of the knowledge to others. 
Fear of someone overtaking you in the office hierarchy.  
Fear of your boss 
Fear of your  peers.  
Fear of change 
Fear of losing a valuable team member.  
Fear of a smart subordinate. 
Fear of losing power ….

Fear changes how we see the world and how we treat others

Fear creeps in a gradual, subtle way, but with very very harmful effects.

Fear should have  no place in our workplaces or our families.
First and foremost, fear is harmful for our health. Both mental and physical. It generates a hormone named adrenalin , which acts as a chemical messenger which says “RUN” ! Adrenalin makes blood pressure go up and heart rate increase so that you can deliver more blood to your brain, muscles, and the other parts of the body important to survival. If this happens too frequently or over a continuous stretch of time, the body and mind become weak.

Secondly, fear creates a dampening field that blocks positive interpersonal behavior. Respect and care gets replaced with fear and sometimes hatred. When we become fearful, we narrow the scope of the respect and care we offer to only those around us who do not elicit our fear response. 

Third,  When we are fearful, we spend time trying to protect ourselves rather than reaching for our potential, and that reduces job satisfaction and productivity.  The damaged job satisfaction and productivity that are common in fear-based relationships translate into damaged organizational results

Fourth, fear leads to unethical choices . Fear is the toxic ingredient in many failed leadership strategies. When we are  fearful, we’re not at our best. We’re not thinking clearly. When we’re just trying to protect ourselves, we may quickly “rule out” positive strategies that would help us solve collective problems – including dialogue, cooperation, long-term thinking and listening to understand.

If we think someone or some group is “dangerous” or “harmful,” we do not want to get close enough to understand them.

Great leaders respect others AND differences.  If they begin to become fearful of a person or group, they recognize the signs, step back to examine their motives, and shift their thinking.

If ever fear creeps in, you become a slave of the situation or the person  whom you are fearing. 

The control of your life and emotions then goes in their hands. You become a prisoner of your fears.

Face your fears and erase them.

Never compromise on respect.

Never ever be dominated by fear.   Only you can set yourself free ....

Cheers and a Happy New 2017 !!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

How to deal with Negative Feedback

A few weeks ago, I experienced an extreme case of an employee not being able to take negative feedback. He had been performing poorly for quite some time and he was given feedback by his manager time and again. As is usual with a person who cannot take feedback, he did not improve at all.  After a few months,  his boss then involved his senior manager to have a conversation with the employee. For anonymity I will call him Offendix. 

This is how the conversation went : 

"Offendix,  you have been given feedback a multiple times about not performing well , but we see no improvement "

"I HAVE performed well. It seems everybody is out to get me !"

"No. We have shown you the data , Offendix ! It clearly proves the point !"

Offendix is silent for a moment . 

"But, the data may be incorrect . I have done well on dates blah, blah m blah and for tasks blah blah, blah .. "

"You have not improved !"

"There is nothing to improve ! There is politics in the situation. No one else is being treated like this!"

All of us have experienced the situation when negative feedback is dished out to us.  It is how we deal with it . Almost like looking at a glass and thinking it to be half full or half empty. 

No one likes negative feedback. 

And it takes a lot of maturity, positivity and experience to handle these situations. The most common reaction is of denial , just like Offendix.  We might have read so many articles on how not to react, but this feeling comes almost involuntarily.  We think we cannot go wrong and the other person is just showing his power and position to put us down. 

But usually that is not the case

In most of the cases, feedback is given so that we can improve. 

We might not like it but the key is to listen. And, usually, when we listen, at the back of our mind we are defending ourselves and preparing for the rebuttal.  We should try to listen with an open mind. Listen to what is being said . It is also a good idea to separate out facts from opinion.  Offendix had been given the data from the project plan when he could not meet the deadline. He was also given the data where numerous bugs were detected in in code . These are facts !  And there can be opinions - for example - "I did not like the way you conducted the meeting " .

Another way to conduct yourself, if possible ,  is not to provide justification on the spot. It is always a good idea to take a bit of time and then talk to your supervisor about it . It is perfectly justified to say " I get your point . But maybe, I am getting a bit defensive. I have noted down the points. Can I talk to you tomorrow ?This will show your maturity and it will be an indicator that you have listened to the feedback and are considering it important.  

Here is where the facts and opinion data will come in handy.  

You can frame questions like ,"In your opinion , I did not conduct the meeting properly . I think I started blaming Mr X . Is there anything else you can point out ? " Or " The bugs which have been marked against me, two of them were due to my negligence but the other two were due to the other changes being made  " . 

You will be more prepared and yes, you will be able to justify and clarify your points as well. 

In my experience, mostly, it depends a lot on how the feedback is given.  Most of the times , I hear things like "It is not about the feedback , but the way it was told to me ... " . 

Yes, there are people in all organizations  who of are egoistical and take advantage of their position, but when the feedback is being given, you should listen and not interrupt. But yes, in that case, take it with a pinch of salt or sugar ! Remember, you are a professional ! Behave like a pro !

Another point -  do not take it personally.  It is like if you fall sick and you go to a doctor who advises you to quit smoking.  You will not like it. But you know that it is for your good.  

Having said all this, one last word of caution

Know that  these only apply to constructive, well-meant criticism

Unfair and overly negative feedback is also used as a tool by bad managers and workplace bullies to demean and control others. Though not always possible, do not put up with personal and unfair attacks at workplace

Mind you, I have said "attacks" and not "feedback". .

We all desperately need feedback – both positive and negative. 

Tell me what I do well AND tell me what I can do better. 

Cheers !

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Dilemma of the inexperienced Daughter-in-law

I am writing the dilemma series after a long time . 

This case is a real one and I need your help on this .... 

Recently I attended a four day workshop on Developing leadership potential among women professionals in one of the most premier institutes of the world. In the workshop we had an "inside-out" session. It was an emotional experience where the participants spoke about their innermost feelings and recounted a few of their life changing event and problems. 

This was narrated by one of the participants and I found it really unique and wanted to share it with my readers. I have changed the names to keep anonymity. 

Alpana , an engineering graduate was wed in a business family. They owned a multi-specialty hospital . It was run by her Mother-in-law, her husband and her elder brother-in-law.  Alpana was also inducted into the organization as a Technical Director.  She was young and inexperienced but had a lot of enthusiasm and zeal. When she took over the post, she was very motivated and gave several new ideas and suggestions . She was modern and technical and hence her thought process was also technically inclined. But after a few days, she was dismayed to find that none of her suggestions had been taken seriously and there seemed no plans to implement the same. 

Her mother-in-law ruled the administration of the hospital. 

Her decision was the last word.  Whenever Alpana said something, she was dismissed very subtly , indicating that she did not have the adequate experience and the knowledge. Her husband looked after the sales and marketing and was out on tour most of the times. So, he was unable to empathise with her dissatisfaction and said that she should learn from his mother !

At her  brother-in-law's suggestion, she enrolled herself in a Executive MBA course and came out with flying colours . But this too did not change the situation and neither did the attitude of her family changed.  

She became so frustrated that she contemplated quitting her post and sit at home !  At that very juncture, Alpana's mother-in-law became severely ill and the doctors suggested her bed rest for 4-6 months. 

It was March - financial year end and lots of work needed to be done. Alpana rolled up her sleeves and dived into the work. She worked very hard , went through each and every file meticulously. She herself was surprised when she was able to take tough decisions . She guided the staff and the staff started respecting her. She implemented automation in the accounts, purchase and a few other departments. Within the next two months,  some of the cumbersome processes became smoother and faster.  Customer satisfaction improved. Alpana spent time with the staff and talked to the customers so that she knew what was happening on the floor. 

Within 3 months, she was being consulted for important decisions by the senior members of the hospital. The function heads started looking at her as their boss.  

Alpana was glad that she was doing a good job. She was satisfied that she could hold the business together in the time of crisis. 

But ... 

After 6 months, her mother-in-law was back at work ...

She did not like Alpana being treated as the boss and started removing her from important emails.  She made sure that the function heads reported to her and not to Alpana. 

Things were back to square one !!

Now, here is the dilemma ... what should Alpana do ? 

Should she fight for her position ... if yes , how ? Remember, she is not just an employee ... her family life is also associated with her work life ... 

Should she quit and work somewhere else ?

What should Alpana do ? 

Dear Readers, help in the decision making and put your remarks in the comments !