Category: Employment

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Fact:  The more successful you are, the greater your risk of developing blind spots. Why?  Because we all suffer from Hubris to some various degrees.  If you have ever attended one of our workshops on Emotional Intelligence, you have undoubtedly heard Dr. Namin speak on Hubris and how the greatest Achilles for most CEOs is their inability to see that and other possible blind spots as they grow to be more successful.  The road from Good to Great means reinventing oneself and constantly discovering character defects and breaking bad habits that stand in our way.  One such habit, or what we like to call character defect, is perfectionism.  

 

Although it may seem that perfectionism may have served you well at certain points of life because it has pushed you to do your best, be more competitive, etc., in reality, it has not surmounted to you feeling more confident as a result of those wins, but has rather built you up to be more dependant on them. Complicated, we know. But what is not complicated is yet another fact. The fact, although seemingly counterintuitive, is that there is actually a very dangerous cycle; a Triad of psychological disorders that is given life and fed by perfectionism.

There’s a direct link between perfectionism, depression and anxiety; Crippling anxiety for that matter. The lowest level of the anxiety causes procrastination. One may think that perfectionists want everything done neatly, thoroughly and timely, which they do. However, more often than not, they feel such pressure to do things perfectly that they are overwhelmed before they even start. A soothing behavior is then to keep occupied with a million other tasks, so that they always have an excuse for why they’re unwilling to do; what actually needs to be done.

 

If you already know that are a perfectionist, you’ve probably already found it troublesome; possibly have even been majorly hurt by at some point in your life. Quick decision to write things or people off, disappointment in your own abilities and anguish in missed opportunities, not to mention impaired or lost interpersonal relationships.

 

In a recent coaching session, I was asked by a very well accomplished executive and perfectionist; “Based on what we’ve discussed and what you know about me, do you think I will be successful if I venture to doing….?”  I knew better than to say of course, or no you wouldn’t. You see, because I come from a school of thought that believes no one lives by the truth of others; even if they find that other person trustworthy and credible. Everyone lives by his or her own truth.

 

So, let’s get back. What is Perfectionism?

According to the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, it is “a pathological pursuit of usually unobtainable high standards that is strongly linked to anxiety, depression (2), and eating disorders (3)”.

In other words, perfectionism is the idea that a state of complete flawlessness can is the only acceptable way. Perfectionists believe that any outcome anything less than perfect is not good enough and completely unacceptable.

 

Anyone having ever worked with a perfectionist boss knows the pain and anguish we are talking about here. Nothing is ever good enough. Unrealistic expectations, micromanaging characteristics, attacks on the employee’s character which leads to bullying, belittlement and the demise of the overall morale of the department/organization not to mention legal ramifications. Furthermore, let’s not forget perfectionist project managers. They get so sidetracked by going for perfection, that they end up halting the progress of the project, causing conflict and frustration among others, undermining collaboration and bringing about missed deadlines instead.

Perfectionism not only causes the individual undue levels of stress, hopelessness, frustration and anxiety, but can make other’s lives miserable leading to ostracizing just to keep sanity.

 

So what? What is wrong with striving for perfection?

 

  1. An obsessive and pathological concern with wanting to ‘be perfect’ can lead to worry, regret, and fear of the future.

     2.  Perfectionists tend to procrastinate, because of their unwillingness to begin projects for enjoyment and     

         good outcomes. They know deep in their hearts that starting the project will cause overwhelmingly high  

         levels of stress and pressure for them, because it has to end in absolute perfection.

    3.   The irony of it all is that perfectionism makes for less effectiveness, when the initial goal was more

          effectiveness. Because perfectionists “throw out the baby, with the bathwater”. Translation: quitting,

          complaining, or uprooting the process out of anxiousness, because perfection was not immediately

          forthcoming.

 

Where does perfectionism come from?

Before action, there is thought, and before, thought, there is attitude. And attitudes can be viral and pandemic. The attitude to see the wrong rather than the right is what feeds perfectionism. When a child is raised in an environment of perfectionist attitudes, they begin to model that attitude as their way of life. Some examples include:

Hyper -critical or demanding parents, parents/caregivers who were quick to point out mistakes and slow to give praise.

  • Having to perform under huge expectations and feeling valued purely
  • through achievements.
  • The sad concept is that these parents and caregivers where most likely

victims themselves.

So where does it all stop?

One of the best ways to get a clear understanding of whether you are a Perfectionist is to gather a 360 Feedback.  You can do this with your personal circle (three close people) or at your work environment (boss, coworker, employee) this is best done professionally.  The Feedback can be a tremendous gift; a tool and an immense opportunity to become aware, adjust your unwanted behaviors and create the balance necessary for joy and a sense of accomplishment to enter your life. 

 

Some sure tell signs of perfectionism are:

 

1) You obsessively play and replay a mistake you made

2) You are intensely competitive and can’t stand negative feedback

3) You are overly critical of others

4) You are constantly striving for independence and won’t ask for help

5) You find yourself very angry or sad or both a lot of the time when your expectation are not met

 

Our Five Tips for Keeping your Perfectionist in Check:

 

  1. Find and replace your “natural role models” (parents/caregivers) and find new role models. It doesn’t mean you are abandoning those you love, but rather rewiring your thoughts. Below are some examples of great role models.

 

  1.  Look to the past, but just as a planning tool not a self-Assessment/ identifying tool

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank did not have success out of the gate. Shortly after college, he was at rock bottom and living in his grandmother’s basement. However, he worked hard and persevered, and now uses the methods of his football playing days to build his business for the future. His managerial style is not unlike that of a captain of a sports team, and his company culture enforces a team-focused mindset that breaks into huddles for meetings, instead of having the typical round table discussion. The idea is to grow from past struggles and use those struggles in a different way to make future goals obtainable. In other words, learn from your mistakes.

 

  1.  Surround yourself by free spirited individuals

If you can’t find anyone like that in your circle of friends, then read about them or watch movies about dreamers and risk-takers. There are many examples of people who have failed or made huge mistakes only to overcome them and create an even better life than they could have imagined.

Stories are a great way to get inspired. This is exactly why religious books, and mythology were used to help people transition from one phase of life to another in many cultures. There is power in story and identifying with a character that has gone through many trials only to re-emerge as the hero.

 

  1.  Defy “Normalcy” and Strive to be Different

Break the binds and the shell that is dictated by society, norms, ideals, religion, or beauracracy. Define who you want to be by defining your boundaries instead.

Google CEO, Larry Page. Clearly, he’s intelligent and creative. He’s also driven, ambitious, and collaborative. All of these traits lead to his appreciation of innovation and his desire for others to bring innovative ideas and new thinking to the table, as evidenced in his work philosophy—“We should be building great things that don’t exist.” That thinking propels the company to take on radical-seeming projects (called “moon shots”) that push the boundaries of whatever is currently the “norm.” And that thinking drives his rigorously pushing employees to do their best, to set their own expectations for the moon.

 

  1.  Start, Fail, Repeat, Repeat Repeat

Working for Jeff Bezos isn’t always a walk in the park. He has high expectations for his employees, and doesn’t apologize for it. In a Wall Street Journal article, there is a story from the early days of Amazon, when the company was only a bookseller.  It is said that in those days, the company was so underequipped that they didn’t even have packing tables to pack the books, and employees had to pack thousands of books, long hours at a time, on their knees.  

But by 1999, Amazon had 500 employees for the sole task of answering emails. They were each expected to answer 12 emails per minute, and could possibly be fired when that number dropped below 7. Without his penchant for continuously raising the standard for his employees, this would have never been achieved.  

You see, what many people don’t know about Jeff Bezos is that he came from a farming background, not an MBA, executive culture. Having been raised on his grandfather’s farm and working there through his adulthood like, he was in the business of running and fixing tractors. Hence he began to be well versed in loving the process not just the end.  He is keen to the art of perseverance.  His fortitude and ability to accept failure, as a byproduct of creation is what sets him apart from perfectionist creators.  

 

His idea for Amazon was not a genius one, but he had a vision, and the vision was to turn Amazon into a machine. Over the years, he was so attuned to his customers, that he was able to continuously improve the process of procurement and shipment.  What was initially a small system, became a massive enterprise.  Amazon’s functioning and customer service, came alive like a machine, not unlike the tractors he had built and took apart years before.  By having patience with the process, not fearing failture but taking in lessons it taught, Bezos has now created an incredibly efficient machine. A machine, which is now famous for being able to make same day deliveries in over a dozen US cities.

 

This thing called Life

Sun Tzu, the Chinese Author and Philosopher in the Art of War said:  “If the mind is willing, the flesh could go on and on without many things”.  We live in a culture of Win-Loose; a culture of immediate gratifications that tries to teach us and our children that what you have objectively is what and who you are.  Who we are is in our minds, and how we live our lives and touch those we come in contact with is what defines us.  Your life is not a snapshot bur rather a reel of film, with segments of many many trials and tribulations and that is why What you are is defined by the means and not by the end.

     Besides their good looks and the assortment of talents, what do Ryan Gosling, Woody Harrelson, Adam Levin, and Jim Caviezel have in common?

Well, although La La Land, the 2016 motion picture starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone delighted many audiences and brought home Oscar Awards in six categories, in our trivia quiz, it doesn’t get the cake. The answer is also not that they are all male actors, because in spite of his many talents, Adam Levin is a musician and not a Hollywood actor (yet). The answer is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.   Yes, all of the individuals listed above have received a formal diagnosis of ADHD or ADD at some point in their lives.

 

     In an era where psychological disorders are unfortunately still not a topic at the dinner table because of the various mental health care barriers such as limited availability and affordability of mental health care services, insufficient mental health care policies, lack of education about mental illness, and stigma, it is encouraging to know that successful public figures, are paving the way for this vicious trend to change. Mental disorders have been a true silent killer for decades also because they are not immediately fatal. Millions of people in the US alone are suffering in silence because our Individualistic society, encourages independence over asking for help. In developed countries, the treatment gap (the percentage of individuals who need mental health care but do not receive treatment) ranges from 44% to 70%). According to Unite for Sight, The World Health Organization cites a global lack of comprehensive mental health policies, which are crucial for implementing and coordinating mental health care services, as a key barrier to public access to mental health care. Among countries with mental health care policies in place, approximately 40% have not been revised since 1990 and do not address recent developments in mental health care. Furthermore, 22% of countries do not have laws that offer legal protection of the human and civil rights of people with mental illnesses. Let’s face it, if someone, especially an adult is already feeling helpless because their symptoms are inexplicable and are effecting their daily lives, including their employment, making them feel alone and different, they are already at odds with getting the attention they need. Now add to that the myriad of hurdles they are faced with as mentioned above and what you have is a lifetime of struggles, possible isolation and unmet potentials. Fortunately, in the U.S. there are a number of federal laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities, including mental health illnesses. The main one is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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     ADHD, one such psychological disorder is a common neurobiological condition, which is usually supposed to be diagnosed in childhood. Originally it was thought people would “outgrow” the condition as adults. However, 60% to 90% of adults continue to experience symptoms (Barkley et al; de Graaf et al). Both Emotion Management one of the four dimensions of Emotional Intelligence which aids in reading emotions in yourself and in others, and managing them effectively, as well as Executive Functioning (collectively referred to as executive function and cognitive control) are a set of cognitive processes, including attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, as well as reasoning, problem solving, and planning, that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior. The selection and successfully monitoring of behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals are thought to be functions impaired by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder both in children and in adults and there various severe consequences to deficits in EI and Executive Functioning that negatively impact individuals including those with ADD or ADHD.

     Diagnosis of ADHD or children’s Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are now certainly more frequently noted, due hugely in part to the role of government funding of school support programs, involved parenting and teacher education. However, this wasn’t always the case. In some children, now adults, especially those belonging to the Xer generation , this diagnosis was delayed or perhaps never given. There are several explanations for this. One explanation is that especially in Generation Xers (those born between 1965-1980), because there was an increase in dual income parents, the prevalence of Latch Key Kids, or children who were raised with less adult supervision than prior generations increased, which meant psychological disorder like ADHD in children 5-13 were less likely to be noticed by parents at that time. Then of course, in adulthood years, an ADD diagnosis can easily be missed due to gender, and or comorbid depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorders, and/or other psychiatric conditions.

     Although ADD is still thought of as something that affects only men and boys, women are just as likely as men to have ADD. In fact, the latest research suggests that ADD causes women even greater emotional turmoil than their male counterparts. Consequently, ADD women are more likely to go undiagnosed (or misdiagnosed), and hence less likely to receive the appropriate treatment.

     According to Dr. Fred Reimherr, M.D., director of the University of Utah Mood Disorders Clinic, ADD has a disproportionate impact on women. “The women had a much more frequent history of having been diagnosed with other emotionally based psychiatric illnesses, such as depression or anxiety. A woman might come in presenting emotional symptoms, and the ADD that’s underneath might be missed.”

     Under-diagnosis of ADD in women could be having its roots in social norms in childhood. Because girls generally tend to try harder than their male counterparts, if they have symptoms of ADD, they will try to compensate for and cover them up. To keep up their grades, girls are often more willing to put in extra hours to study or to turn to others for help.

In addition, girls are more likely to be “people pleasers,” doing all they can to fit in, even when they feel they are “different.”

 

     Overall, whether male or female, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults can be hard to spot and no single test can confirm the diagnosis”. Impulsivity, distractibility, disorganization, restlessness, emotional outbursts; in children, these symptoms would be recognized by a teacher, and the parents would be referred to a medical professional for an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) evaluation. However, in adults, these symptoms may lead to people getting fired, getting divorced, or simply being labeled as lazy or irrationally angry. Many people with ADHD struggle with controlling the outcome of their actions and then have to face the consequences.

     A recent World Health Organization (WHO) study estimated that 3% to 4% of adults worldwide have ADHD, with a rate of 4.5% in the United States (de Graaf et al, 2008). Of those, a large number—possibly 8 million to 10 million—are undiagnosed. Millions more do not receive appropriate treatment (Barkley, Murphy, & Fischer, 2008). The WHO study also reported that adults with ADHD miss an average of more than three weeks in workplace productivity yearly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009) has estimated the costs of such work loss to be at $3.7 billion.

     Problems associated with ADD most commonly occur during college years, at work, and in interpersonal relationships. ADHD usually interferes with the individual’s sense of self-control and sense of self-efficacy, thereby affecting his or her ability to establish and follow-through on reasonable goals, deadlines and promises.   Small tasks considered simple to others, could be a cause for problems in adults with ADD that can lead to bigger problems in various life domains. Examples include procrastination, poor time-management, disorganization with space, thought formation, and even speaking, distractibility, and poor emotional regulation.

     At the Center for Work Life Within Dr. Namin’s practice, many work-life issues are intertwined. An employee may be self-referred because he or she feels overwhelmed with stress, or burned-out, or because they don’t feel productive anymore. Or they may be referred by their employer, because in spite of their incredible knowledge, skills and proficiencies of their specific jobs, their co-workers or worst yet, their direct reports don’t feel they have the interpersonal skills necessary for leadership. During initial discussions, it usually becomes apparent, that they have s messy work area, trouble initiating tasks at home or starting and finishing projects at home and/or work, chronic lateness, underestimating the time needed to complete tasks, an inability to focus and listen during discussions whether at home or at work, and forgetting or missing deadlines or previous engagements.

     However, in addition to these common symptoms of distractibility and impulsivity, ADD symptoms may manifest as problems in impaired ability to plan and prioritize tasks and jumping from one task to another and not completing either. These are what’s called executive functioning abilities.

Employees with ADHD are rated lower on work performance, are more prone to receiving disciplinary notices from supervisors, are paid lower salaries, and produce lower quality work (Barkley et al; Ramsay, 2010). The truth is that Adult ADHD is rarely recognized in the workplace, and those with the condition may be labeled as anti-social, or poor performing employees or horrible bosses, that are at best tolerated, and at worst terminated, depending what their skill-sets are, making career advancement or even maintaining consistent employment difficult.  According to the BMJ Journal, ADHD was associated with a statistically significant 22.1 annual days of excess lost role performance compared to otherwise similar respondents without ADHD.

 

       Considering we spend so many of our days and waking hours at work, our perceptions of life are hugely related to not only our performance but also our relationships at work. In a study measuring the effects of ADHD on perceptions of life satisfaction, among males, poor social functioning was the best predictor of dissatisfaction with life, whereas among females it was poor emotional control. Both ADHD symptoms and associated problems are significantly related to poorer satisfaction with life.

 

     It may be interesting but not surprising, when a top-performing employee or C-level executive with a tenure of 8-10 years is referred to the Center for Work Life for Interpersonal disconnection, or lack of empathy, or following. It is ironic that some adults with undiagnosed ADD may be viewed as hard-working or top performing, due to what is called hyper-focusing. This is where the undiagnosed individual over the years, has built a coping mechanism for distraction by self-training to be so focused, that they become overly absorbed in one task, causing the individual to become oblivious to his or her surroundings, losing track of time and neglecting other duties or more importantly significant members of their lives, such as supervisors, spouses, co-workers, children, etc. Hyperfocus at work may be viewed as productivity but in the overall scheme of life, if left unmanaged, can lead to social isolation, being perceived as a workaholic and a self-centered, emotion-less individual. We will come back to this specific topic later.  

 

     So why are many ADHD diagnosis given to males than females? In a study published in the MBJ Journal, ADHD was found to be more common among males than females and less common among professionals than other workers. These findings of course are parallel to the disparity in how ADD is diagnosed as mentioned above. In short, because ADHD symptoms in adults, include low self-esteem, memory problems, lack of motivation, difficulties with emotion regulation which depending on personal background display differently in genders; they can manifest as agitation or a short temper, depression, or reckless and risk taking behaviors. In other words, adult ADD can cause a major havoc, silently in all realms and facets of a person’s life and in both genders.

 

 

     In our conflict resolution practice, we have noted many clients who are directly impacted by the pressures of ADD on their marriage or relationship with a partner. The complaint of the non-ADD partner, that at the dinner table, their partner is either “playing with their device” or is “somewhere in la la land”. A partner with ADD may be forgetful, disorganized and distracted, and failing to meet their everyday responsibilities or obligations. They may not be attentive to expressions of feelings, or not be able to communicate effectively because they missed signs of discomfort, or frustration from their surroundings. They may be having difficulties with coping with work stress and hence not able to separate their work and life. They may be the overreacting partner or, they may feel the other partner is overreacting because they don’t realize they have missed the cues the non-ADD partner has been giving them prior to the escalation. Worst yet, the ADD partner may seek risk-taking behaviors that could be considered a huge breach of trust in the relationship. Over time, the non-ADD partner may interpret the ADD partner’s failure to carry out commitments, or their poor communication, lack of empathy, or conversely emotional outbursts as evidence that the ADD partner doesn’t care or love them. Unfortunately, without treatment, all other attempts to resolve the issues may fail, because the ADD partner “keeps making the same mistakes”. Consequentially and eventually, the partner may burn out and the marriage may fail.

 

     In the a study which researched the ADHD and coping and stressor reactivity in University students, ADHD and ODD symptoms were significantly related to a number of stressors and different patterns of coping strategies. University students with symptoms of both ADHD and ODD display a different pattern of stressors and different patterns of coping than those with symptoms of ADHD only.

     In the article, The Impact of ADHD on Marriage, the authors describe several measures to help aid the diagnosis and interventions process.

Furthermore, in studying martial adjustment and perceptions of marital dysfunction, a study revealed that married adults with ADHD reported poorer overall marital adjustment on the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS; Spanier, 1989) and more family dysfunction on the Family Assessment Device (FAD; Eptein, Baldwin, & Bishop, 1983) than control adults.

Moreover, in yet another study, adults with ADHD displayed greater self-reported psychological maladjustment, more driving risks (speeding violations), and more frequent changes in employment. Significantly more ADHD adults had experienced a suspension of their driver license, had performed poorly, quit, or been fired from their job, and had a history of poorer educational performance and more frequent school disciplinary actions against them than adults without ADHD. Multiple marriages were more likely in the ADHD group as well.

     According to the Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, in studying The Nature of Executive Function (EF) Deficits in Daily Life Activities in Adults with ADHD and Their Relationship to Performance on EF Tests, It was found that the ADHD group had more severe EF ratings than did the Clinical group and Community control groups on all 5 scales using both self and other-reported versions. The EF ratings were more highly associated with measures of deviant behavior (antisocial acts, crime diversity, negative driving outcomes) than the EF tests, most of which were unrelated to such behavior.

     It is a very sad thought to imagine the potential of a human being is limited because of lack of information, or misinformation. There is a strong feeling of loss and despair while the individual is grappling with what seems like a strong hold on their ability to make strides. They are constantly remorseful, yet helpless when they are faced with tasks that seem so easy for others and their confidence ever so flighty. On the other hand, there is nothing more frustrating than a co-worker, parent, a teacher, a supervisor or a spouse feeling that they are at their rope’s end because they are at odds with what is to be done when there is the respect and/or love they feel for an individual, which otherwise is so full of promise.

     But it doesn’t have to be this way. Among many psychological disorders, ADD is among the ones highly researched and various forms of therapy are available. It is neither wise nor healthy for an individual whether a child or an adult to be just in therapy or just on medication for ADHD. It is instead, recommended that a structured pragmatic, psycho-educative approach combining medication and cognitive-behavioral approaches be utilized. The aim will be the development of specific self-management skills, within a cognitive behavioral framework. Career, team, family, marital and group therapies are also discussed. Life is the hope of living one’s dream each and everyday, but it doesn’t mean it has to be lived in La La Land.  Furthermore, the EEOC laws governing disabilities, aka ADA, employers are now bounded by law to provide reasonable accommadations to employees that make them aware of their ADD.  It is a big controversy to tell or not to tell.  But in an era where mobility, ambition, and individualism are the norm, one has to weight the cost and benefits of privacy vs. trust, growth vs. tolerance, etc. It is our hope that the  laws of our country become even more empowering for workers in the near future, so that individual talents can truly and completely color with rainbows the immense possibilities.   

 

images-8The unreliable economy and the changes in the job market have certainly impacted the hiring the process negatively. There are now more applicants applying for the same position and applicants are expanding their search to larger geographical distances. Needless to say, the hiring organizations are becoming more selective because they know there many more applicants available to them. The smart applicant has to not only spend the proper time to brush up their resume and cover letter, revamp their social media reach, and prepare for the interview, but they have to prepare for the 2nd, third and possibly fourth interview.

The first interview, is now mostly done by phone as a screening process. In order to save the recruiter time and effort. The good news is, if you make it past the first interview, it will probably mean you will be interviewing with the hiring manager who has better insight about the role for which you’re being considered. We are taught oftentimes that impression making is all about listening, but as someone that has been involved in the HR arena for over 15 years, I always advocate for two way interviewing. Just because the market is not as upward as we want it to be, we don’t have to settle. An individual who is asking the right questions during the interview can make a well-informed choice if and when they receive the job offer and if they don’t receive the offer, at least they know parts of the job that didn’t fit well within their schema of the right job. Job-hunting is an emotionally challenging task and we can’t possibly receive all yes’s. To stay feeling emotionally positive, and cognitively ready and up for the challenge it’s best to be in the pilot seat than the passenger. If you ask more questions now, rather than later, then the hiring manager will not wonder where your heart and intentions are and whether you were even paying attention.

Finding the ins and outs of the company and the job, doesn’t have to come after six months into the job. There are a lot of questions that can quickly get at the heart of the “True Side” of the job rather than what is portrayed as the “Perfect Side” .

Leader vs. Follower Role

Emotionally intelligent applicants know who they are; their personality, their work style and communication style. Before even applying to the position, the applicant would need to know that the position they are applying to is within the ream of their knowledge skills and abilities. Experience doesn’t necessarily guarantee ability, neither does education and training. Our genetic make-up generally defines our personality and knowing that make-up is very insightful in all aspects of life in dealing with others, but especially in career planning. If you’re interviewing for a leadership position, it is crucial to know you that, that interests you. Plenty of individuals are in follower positions and have less of a headache and more flexibility and their income is not necessarily capped either. On the other hand, a position could be posed as a leadership position, but once on-board, there is not a lot of latitude. If you enjoy and are good at understanding and withstanding subordinates and delegate work to them, you would want to ask that. Asking the right question regarding this in the 2nd interview will lead the hiring manager to explain where you stand in the company’s hierarchy as well as specifc decision-making capabilities of the role.

 

Norms, Expectations and Performance

The culture of an organization speaks volumes to how the everyday gets done. Walking in to an interview, the applicant needs to have already done their homework as to what type of culture the organization has. The 2nd interview will allow the applicant to ask questions pertaining to communication guidelines, work product reviews, valued actions, and rewarded behaviors. There are two sides to a job, the social aspects and hard skills. I always advocate that if the player doesn’t learn the rules governing the game early on, they are just throwing darts in the dark, hoping it will hit the board. The game is half branding, and reputation building, and half performance as generally defined by fulfilling the job description. All companies want their employees to meet their performance expectations. Its important to ask the hiring manager to explain to you through scenarios, “right” and “wrong” behaviors. Something as simple as resources (staff, copier, paper and ink) can cause conflict. Can you imagine miscommunications? Discussing scenarios and finding out how they are perceived or timelines are played, will not only speak to performance appraisals but also to the underlying rules that govern everyday actions before and after the reviews.

Career Path

I am always amazed to find out how many individuals fall in to the trap of taking a job that pays higher over a job that pays a little less but has a clearly defined path for growth. During the 2nd job interview, it is wise for the applicant to ask about the training and advancement process. Finding out what your role is and what the company’s role is, is very important. The employee contract is very employee driven now and if an applicant wants to succeed, he or she must clearly know what the unspoken rules of that contract are. A position may be on a basic tier level, meaning within a number of years or experiences the next position would be within access to the applicant. On the other hand, the position could be on a partnership track, meaning, a certain group would need to provide a positive evaluation for the individual to go up the ladder. So on and so forth. Asking that the hiring manager to simply provide examples of career advanacement within the company would be a great way to learn the process.

Network Building Opportunities

Social media has amazingly taken over the work culture. Employers not only use social media to make hiring decisions now, but also look at your network to see contacts that you will potentially bring with you. Furthermore, who you’ll be working with is just as important as what you will be working on. It is very typical for managers to invite you to take a tour of the office and meet some of the people with whom you’ll be working. Although this may be a good opener, it will not shed any light on the dynamics you may be walking into. Finding out names and doing a background search on the individuals would be a lot more useful. Again social media is great for that. You can also ask how the organization incorporates team work, how teams are formed, who and what determines which teams get what projects and how is the team evaluated. Knowing how messages are transmitted in an organization speaks volumes to how you will spend your day. The people you work with, ultimately become your second family. The difference is you have a chance at picking your second family.

 

All and all, finding the right position means whether there is a good fit within you and the organization. This goes far beyond pay, titles and perks. It means value alignment, and introspective knowledge about your individual goals, strengths and challenges as well as your cause. Your work is one of the various areas of your life and if the fit is right it will compliment the other aspects of your life. If it’s the wrong fit, it will take away from the other areas.

anigif_enhanced-15690-1394578851-1Who doesn’t like movies like Grease, Terms of Endearement, Tootsie, Clueless, or Men in Black? In fact these movies were the highest grossing movies in their category and are still the most highly rated clips in the media. However, the truth is that all these movies have one fact in common. They all make sexual harassment a joke.

Sexual harassment is, above all, a manifestation of power relations.  Treating sexual harassment is not a matter of one training course, but rather a fundamental shaking up of an individuals perceptions and attitudes about the target of their harassment.  For this reason,  sexual harassment training needs to be embodied within an overall communications training process supported by a ground-up process of inquiry, where the individual perpetrator can realize why they victimize. Without that piece of knowledge, the symptom rather than the actual disease is what gets treated and in fact even it doesn’t.  Because the individual perceives training as a punishment rather than an opportunity for growth.

The Legal Dictionary defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment. According to the Unites States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Regardless of the form of sexual harassment, it is illegal to purposefully harass someone at work in order to gain any type of sexual favor. However, many cases remain unreported because of fear of embarrassment or termination.k9563790

There are two types of sexual harassment, Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment. Quid Pro Quo Harassment occurs when a manager or supervisor withholds or awards job benefits on the basis of sexual favors. This includes work assignments, hiring, termination, promotions or demotions, positive or negative reviews, or any other job related benefit. On the other hand, if any rewards being withheld because the victim refuses to engage in the sexual favor, the company is would be considered guilty of sexual harassment. Both of these practices although very common in the work place, involve the risk of losing a job and with unemployment rate at a steady 7.4 percent, that isn’t something that most people consider a positive outlook.  Therefore, so many people keep quiet and remain victimized at their place of work.

 

So what is the root cause of sexual harassment, and why is it that it’s so common? From a social psychology perspective, the disconnect is in how people view hostility towards men and women. Research has indicated that stereotypes about socially appropriate gender roles for women and men are a driving factor, while the causes of sexual violence include socioeconomics, anger, power, sadism, sexual pleasure, psychopathology, ethical standards, laws, attitudes toward the victims and evolutionary pressures.

Traditional conceptualizations of sexism have focused almost entirely on overt hostility toward women. While historians, anthropologists, feminist scholars, and psychologists have previously suggested that sexism involves positive and negative evaluations of women.

Ambivalent sexism is a theoretical framework which posits that sexism has two sub-components: “hostile sexism” and “benevolent sexism”. Hostile sexism reflects overtly negative evaluations and stereotypes about a gender (e.g., the ideas that women are incompetent and inferior to men). Benevolent sexism represents evaluations of gender that may appear subjectively positive (subjective to the person who is evaluating), but are actually damaging to people and gender equity more broadly (e.g., the ideas that women need to be protected by men).

Besides Television programming, another cause and arena leading to the rise of sexual harassment is on-line and gaming. There is no shortage of examples of harassment online, a Pew Survey published this week is the first of its kind to drill down into the level and types of online harassment. The report, which polled almost 3,000 Internet users, brings to light that women for the most part have it worse off than men, while most people don’t realize it.  Although men are more likely to report they experience harassment on the Internet (44 percent of men compared to 37 percent of women), as a general rule, more women have been targeted on social media sites (73 percent women vs. 27% men). Women also tend to face the most severe types of harassment, like stalking and sexual harassment, while men generally face milder issues like name-calling and public embarrassment. Young women are the most likely to experience this severe targeting, with a quarter of women between the ages of 18 and 24 reporting having been stalked or sexually harassed online. Furthermore, the representation and coverage of the matter in the newspapers is certainly very biased. In He Said, She Said, Let’s Hear What the Data Say: Sexual Harassment in the Media, Courts, EEOC, and Social Science, Joni Hersch & Beverly Moran explore the coverage of sexual harassment in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and whether it is consistent with sexual harassment as it is reported in three other sources: a 1994 United States Merit Systems Protection Board (USMSPB) survey, charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from 2006-2010, and complaints filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPa) from 2010-2011. The review of the media coverage suggests that sexual harassment is covered in an intensely local and episodic manner, with little recognition that sexual harassment is a national phenomenon that could be connected to “a larger, social, economic or political trend.” (P. 778.) In comparing the media coverage and the data sets, the authors found that while the reporting of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal generally does not mislead regarding the demographics of sexual harassment claimants, particular stories may downplay the seriousness of the factual allegations made in complaints. The article suggests that differences between the media portrayal of sexual harassment and what can be found in the data may result from the media’s focus on litigation. The authors note that a focus on pre-litigation harassment claims may provide a fuller picture of sexual harassment. The authors end the article observing that the focus on litigation leads to reporting that tends to miss “a sense of what happens before litigation and what sexual harassment means to victims in terms of their economic, professional, and emotional lives.” (P. 781.)

One’s view of sexual harassment can be highly variable depending on their position as it relates. The victim, vs. the perpetrator, vs. the organization vs. the human resources don’t necessarily experience the matter the same nor do they have the same outcomes in mind although they should. Regardless as a work life advocate, we suggest a No Tolerance policy with specificity and clarity in describing anti-harassment policies and procedures. The following information from the EEOC will serve your organization well: http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/model_eeo_programs.cfm#possible

Courtesy of NBC Studios

Courtesy of NBC Studios

The most recent episode of America’s Got Talent was conducted in a different manner than usual and many attribute this difference to Howard Stern and his thinking out of the box mentality. In a nutshell and we will come back to this later, he referred to the delivery of results, but through engagement rather than the judgment. We all know them; the companies that thrive on the “threat factor”. This is when a highly beurocratic, top-down organization trains its executives and upper management to use the threat tactic in so called motivating their employees. Many such organization rely on a short-term satisfaction guarantee employee relations model. Which basically says, when it comes to front-line, Customer interface staff, be it sales, or customer service, the mantra of the company is not to keep its employees happy long-term. The company hopes to bank on short-term results. Getting the essence out of every employee in a short period of time, giving them the tools and training to do well but hit the ground running fast and furious, train others to do the same as fast as possible and then down the line, plan your exit. Some may believe, well how is this different than the old GE mentality. It may be at a glance that the two types of companies function under the same governance when it comes to talent development, except that in a very wicked, upside down way, the latter promises growth and success, while having no intentions on delivering it.

 

When Jack Welch introduced the concept of performance evaluations he would fire the bottom 10% of his managers, irrespective of absolute performance and rewarded those in the top 20% with bonuses and stock options. But At least we know with GE opportunities were ample. For example, Jack Welsh expanded the broadness of the stock options program at GE from just top executives to nearly one-third of all employees. His plan was never to have employees short-term but rather to create a clearly defined line for success. Understanding what criteria are necessary for success and creating trust for the employees to know that a certain applied behavior will get them the desired outcomes.

The companies aforementioned, have no interest in employee success. They are solely invested in the company’s success. The irony is that they don’t realize short-term success is the enemy of long-term success.   There is a great quote by Arthur Golden that says: “A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory”. The reason I love this quote is because it directly speaks to the power of psychology. Not only in a mind over matter way, but also from a spatial reasoning process. Our brain, by its make-up can only do one thing and one thing well at a given time. We can train ourselves to do more than one thing at a time, and we have done that. Nothing to be proud of because “multi-tasking” is actually not a good thing. But rather than a western concepts brought upon by our inability to respect the concept of here and now, and the quality of our achievements, rather than the quantity of our doings. The reason short-term success doesn’t work, is because people function based on virtues such as trust, loyalty, equity, and the internal need to achieve. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs precisely describes achievement as one of the higher needs, because security and our primary needs, need to be fulfilled first. Employees that are in constant defense mode, because they are constantly bombarded by negative feedback or more correctly names criticism, cannot be in a winning mindset, because they are too busy recovering their more basic needs, with the biggest being security. Insecurity, automatically pushes our brain in to fight or flight mode, and that is no place to be for achievement. From a spatial perspective also, for those that are more sensory thinkers, we cannot be in two places at the same time. If your mind is occupied by worry, it cannot be focused on your goal.

The concept of employee engagement goes much deeper than holding a red flag or bar over an employee and every time there is a little indiscretion or even a minor change in performance to dangle it and get a slap on the hand, followed by a verbal “score card” that basically yells, “you are doomed and can’t expect to get that raise, promotion, etc. that you had so dreamed of”. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, there was a specific large-scale study mentioned which discussed the concept of engagement . Bain & Company, in conjunction with Netsurvey, analyzed responses from 200,000 employees across 40 companies in 60 countries and found several troubling trends:

  • Engagement scores decline with employee tenure, meaning that employees with the deepest knowledge of the company typically are the least engaged.
  • Engagement scores decline as you go down the org chart, so highly engaged senior executives are likely to underestimate the discontent on the front lines.
  • Engagement levels are lowest among sales and service employees, who have the most interactions with customers.

Sometimes, it is encouragement, dialogue and problem solving that leads to the best results, rather than disciplinary action. I am not even referring to the concept of threat, because as discussed above, that is never a good strategy for success. As opposed to negative feedback, or judgment, employees sometimes are most receptive to a trusting, encouraging, and nurturing environment. I guess good old Howard Stern knows a bit more about business than we have given him credit for over the years. On America’s Got Talent he proclaimed that the judges didn’t have to be critics. They could be cheerleaders. How brilliant is that? Cheerleaders. Can you imagine the possibilities, if every organization could train its leaders and executives to lead with that voice and shape desired behaviors rather than trying to kill the spirit of employees who displayed performance troubles? There has to be a difference between intention of good performance and negligence and lack of motivation. What are we teaching our employees if we treat both the motivated and the unmotivated the same?

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