Are You A Negative Boss?

Leadership or a boss’s impact — it can be positive (the energetic, charismatic leader who inspires and engages) or negative (someone who walks into a room, lights a fuse with words or behaviors and is often oblivious to the chaos he/she has created). An important part of self-awareness (and emotional intelligence) is understanding how your words and behaviors affect those around you.

Some areas to think about:

  • Sole attention to business task at the expense of workplace relationships. Research indicates high-performing teams spend as much time on relationship building (how to work together collaboratively/creatively) as they do on task functions. Accomplishing tasks at the expense of people’s feelings (barking orders or being condescending) is a costly and ineffective way to lead.
  • A high need to control. Although we are hardwired as human beings with a need to control, there needs to be a balance. Individuals with significant control issues often react “big” when someone challenges their authority or position.
  • Ongoing interpersonal ignorance. Being repeatedly blindsided by intense reactions of co-workers to your actions or words should be a warning sign. If not addressed, others may interpret it as insensitivity, arrogance or indifference on your part (all of which can come back to haunt you). Being perceived as “aloof” or uncaring is another danger zone.
  • Telling yourself the ends justify the means (Type A’s, beware). Are you a boss who drives the bottom line without concern about morale? It’s a slippery slope when your command-and-control drive for results leaves bodies in your wake. Passionate drivers of workplace change can be positive influences if they present their messages in a way that inspires and persuades versus flattens and demotivates. It’s all about the delivery and your sensitivity toward others.
  • Being overly critical or negative. Constantly looking for what’s wrong brings every one else down (and the bottom line). Leaders get more out of their people with a focus on strengths, positive solutions and an inspiring vision.
  • A “shoot the messenger” mentality. The impact of leaders who react in anger or retribution will likely result in employees who fear the wrath, withdraw and may withhold important information.
  • Overreacting. It’s easy to overreact when coming from a place of fear or anger. If you have an anger-management issue or experience continual anxiety, get help.

We all have hooks and triggers that can result in an impulsive or emotional reaction. The most common:

  • A challenge to your authority (hot button for people with control issues).
  • Threats to you, your job, your compensation or going “above your head” to senior management are sure bets for generating “big” reactions.
  • Integrity issues. People understandably get reactive when their core values are violated or challenged.
  • Criticism. Condemnation, judgments or blaming are a surefire way to generate defensiveness.

The good news is there is help. The first step is to get clear about what pushes your emotional buttons so you can make a different behavioral choice.

A common tool in today’s workplace is a 360-degree feedback survey (typically completed by workplace peers) to find out how others perceive you.  I offer this to my clients.  Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and coaching abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

New self-awareness allows us to make different choices. Understanding our impact allows us to make informed and intentional behavior choices.Not understanding the impact of our words and actions can be detrimental to career success and, ultimately, organizational performance.

Managing Work Stress

American workers are more stressed out than ever. The American Psychological Association poll and the findings aren’t surprising — half of Americans surveyed say they are increasingly stressed about their ability to provide for their family’s basic needs. Fifty-three percent report fatigue, 60 percent report feelings of irritability or anger, and 52 percent report difficulty sleeping as a result of stress.

All this stress obviously affects American workplaces, particularly morale and productivity. Short fuses dramatically increase the potential for problematic or dysfunctional behaviors that affect everyone from upper management and co-workers to customers.

Managing stress is vital to overall workplace and employee health. Here are some suggestions for what you can do to cope better:

  1. Pay attention to your body’s stress signals. Holding your breath, rapid heart rate, stomach in knots — muscle tension is your body’s way of trying to tell you something. Identify your best “self soothing” strategy when you recognize these signs.
  2. For many, deep conscious breathing (belly breathing) helps, not the shallow breathing most of us do when we are in pain or in stress. Your breath is always with you, so deep breathing is a technique you can always count on.
  3. Meditation or listening to relaxing music can help “ground” you.
  4. Take care of yourself, physically and mentally. Stay active. Exercise releases endorphins, which make us feel better, and is a proven way to reduce stress. Find ways to “chill” — yoga, watching a funny movie, etc. For those who can pull it off, taking a short catnap can do wonders.
  5. Surround yourself with positive people and reminders of the “what matters” in your life. Avoid those who are vexations to your spirit and cause you unnecessary stress.
  6. Disconnect from the stream of constant bad news. If you find yourself obsessively checking your devices — stop! Keep perspective; focus on what you can control and avoid fretting about what you can’t.
  7. Give up “perfectionism.” Ask your boss to prioritize your work load; if your boss drops additional work on you, ask what part of your normal work load you can give up to accomplish the new task.
  8. If saying no is a problem for you, hire me for coaching help. Trying to do it all is a never-ending hamster wheel. Life balance matters to your health, family and happiness.  Invest in it.
  9. Plan. Planning helps lessen being overwhelmed by providing focus and control in your workday. Start each work day by creating your “to do” list and prioritize those tasks that must get done. Knock these out when your energy is high (for most, this is in the morning).
  10. Fun is good for the workplace. Researchers from California State University Long Beach determined that people who have fun at work are more creative, more productive, work better with others and call in sick less often. Enjoyable activities are good for team building and effective stress relievers.
  11. Get enough sleep. Stress and fear release cortisol and adrenaline, which increase heart rate, making it difficult for many to sleep. Another good reason to exercise: it will help you sleep better.
  12. Find support. Friends, family or a therapist can provide emotional support to help you through the most difficult times. Industry and professional associates can provide community and shared experiences. Professional coaches can help you get unstuck, navigate through difficult times and provide unbiased perspective.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and work life balance abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Reactivity and Your Career

THE HOLIDAYS are stressful. Add in this year’s recession, with one in five workers worried about losing their jobs, and it’s not surprising that many workers are downright grumpy. Many companies have cut back on bonuses, even sacred holiday parties, while asking workers to “do more with less.” As a result, nerves get frayed and tempers can flare.

Tempers flare when the amygdala part of our brain gets triggered and sets off an alarm, firing powerful adrenaline stress hormones in response to perceived threats (like fear of losing your job). There are many ways we can perceive “danger” in our workplaces. For example, believing a co-worker is trying to make us look bad to the boss can be seen as a threat to our livelihood (and therefore our survival). Hearing a co-worker say something that we perceive is insulting or demeaning can be seen as a threat to our self-esteem. Scenarios where we perceive threats put us at risk for losing control of our emotions — otherwise known as an amygdala hijack.

Losing one’s temper or composure in the workplace puts jobs and careers at risk. Most companies won’t put up with it. Workers with anger management issues are seen as a serious risk.

Feeling angry isn’t the problem; the problem is inappropriate behavior. You may not be able to choose how you feel, but you can choose how you respond. Here are tips for responding appropriately:

  • If you feel out of control, take a timeout and remove yourself from the situation. Walk around the block or leave for the rest of the day (infinitely better than losing it in front of your boss or colleagues).
  • Calm down your body’s natural adrenaline response. Try deep breathing from the belly, visualizing your “happy place” or silently repeating a calming word. This will help decrease blood pressure and heart rate, which naturally increase with feeling angry.
  • Identify and acknowledge your emotion. Just naming it can be helpful. Take responsibility for your own feelings and share them directly to clear the air by using an “I” statement. (“I feel angry when …”) Unexpressed anger can result in passive-aggressive behavior (like getting back at someone indirectly with cynical or critical comments vs. confronting issues head on), which can harm relationships.
  • Identify what triggers your anger. Self-awareness is key to controlling how you respond. Working with a coach or therapist can help. A professional can help you connect the dots, increase your self-awareness and learn new behaviors — work you can do to hugely benefit your career.
  • Find a release for your emotions outside work: exercise, kickboxing, chopping wood, etc. Exercise is a powerful release for pent-up emotions.
  • Check your assumptions and perceptions. It’s our appraisal of the behaviors of others that often cause us to react with anger. Humans often jump to inaccurate conclusions. We often guess at the motives or intentions of our co-workers. Electronic communication is particularly fraught with danger for misinterpretation. Check in with the “offending” person to see if your perceptions are accurate. Ask clarifying questions. Be open to the idea that you might have it wrong.
  • Slow it down. Think before you speak. Saying the first thing that pops into your head is rarely a good thing when you’re upset. Rapid-fire responses are what get people escorted out of buildings. Before you speak or hit “send” on an e-mail, check in with yourself and ask: How could this be misunderstood? What is my intention here? Do I want to vent, blame or resolve this? When you speak, use “I” statements and avoid blaming; if you respond with “You …,” odds are you will trigger a defensive response from the other person.
  • Take time off over the holidays to rejuvenate and recharge your batteries. Spend time “disconnected” from the office (that means no compulsive checking devices!). Give yourself a break — you deserve it.

Inappropriate outbursts can define how you are viewed in the workplace. Many people are unaware of how poorly their behavior reflects on them (or affects co-workers). There is help available for those with challenges in this area of emotional intelligence.

Workplaces are filled with frustrations. You won’t succeed trying to eliminate feelings of anger. You are still human. What you can change is how you react and respond.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Defuse Loose Cannons

AS AN EXECUTIVE coach/consultant, I commonly get calls like the one I got last week from an HR professional who, along with the company CEO, was looking for help with a valued employee also considered a loose cannon. These “problem employees” can be a huge challenge and risk to companies. Why? Loose cannons can and do sink ships. Though often these individuals are uniquely qualified super “executors” who get results, many also leave a wake of disruption behind them in accomplishing their objectives. This leaves management with a tough decision, contemplating if the pain is worth the gain.

Many of these exceptional performers have extraordinary technical or execution skills, but are unfortunately significantly deficient in interpersonal or emotional intelligence. Many are blind to how they are perceived by others and often have no idea how close they are to losing their jobs.

According to the Collins dictionary, a loose cannon is “a person or thing, with the potential to cause considerable damage, that appears to be out of control.” Allowing loose cannons to run amuck is risky business. Unchecked, their erratic behavior can cause other valued employees (and clients/customers) to leave. They often negatively affect morale and the performance of others — all of which leaves senior executives evaluating options and desperate for help.

The good news is that these situations are frequently recoverable, but only with the right boss approach and the right help for the employee. A change in behavior is often required from both.

If you are the boss, what can be done to save your loose cannon from sinking your ship?

1. Deal with it. These scenarios have a tendency to only get worse, and their impact on the organization frequently runs deeper than is apparent. Develop an appropriate plan to address the problem employee.

2. Remain composed and calm. Loosing your cool will only inflame an already potentially explosive situation (modeling good behavior is important).

3. Give feedback that cannot be misunderstood. Focus on the behavior instead of making it “personal.” Avoid generalizations such as, “You are unprofessional.” There are many possible interpretations of a word like “unprofessional.” Specify acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Enlighten them about how their behavior is causing a problem for others.

4. Be prepared to follow through. As the boss, you are ultimately responsible for maintaining a safe work environment. You need to be able (and willing) to let go of any employee who is abusive or putting others (or your business) at risk. As the boss, if you can’t draw a line, you are likely part of the problem. Managers often have difficulty standing their ground or being assertive; however, most can’t afford not to deal with this. The decision to terminate a valued but troubled employee is a major decision. Get help to work on your ability to be assertive and increase your authority.

5. Get expert help for the loose cannon. It’s important for the employee to understand he is valued and you are willing to invest in him. Expert coaches who specialize in emotional intelligence can help individuals identify tendencies and problematic behaviors and learn new behaviors. They are trained to act as a mirror for their clients so they can become more self-aware. They provide continual focus, support, practice and feedback in a safe environment. Internal HR professionals are often ineffective in these scenarios because they can be viewed as the company stool pigeon or someone who can get the individual fired. In contrast, an outside coach is viewed as an impartial, nonthreatening partner to help them through a difficult situation.

The challenge in these scenarios is closing the gap between the loose cannon and the boss. It’s not uncommon for me to discover that bosses unwittingly have set up a systemic dynamic that is part of the problem. Often roles and expectations haven’t been clearly defined, which is a catalyst for blow-ups between the “problem” employee and others. The good news is there is help.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Anxiety in Workplace

In small doses, anxiety can be a useful emotion. It helps alert us to danger and can spark us into taking needed action. But when anxiety is chronic and hinders us (driving negative behavior or paralyzing us), it’s time to address it.

Wise leaders understand that emotions are contagious. Anxiety left unchecked can spread like wildfire in today’s environment. Companies and senior managers need to take a proactive approach to managing anxiety or risk it paralyzing their work force.

Here are a few coach’s tips to address and reduce workplace anxiety:

  • Discuss relevant matters openly and appropriately. Bring your team together to talk about their stress and emotions. Tell them what is going on; give as much information as possible. The worst thing senior leaders can do during these turbulent difficult times is to go silent. Communicate often. Discuss how the organization plans to get through the tough times ahead, letting individuals know how they can contribute.
  • Foster an environment that promotes fairness, compassion and transparency. People are in turmoil — to ignore this is ill advised. This is a time to be available if you are a leader; listen well and acknowledge the concerns of staff. Caring about the emotional health of employees is important. Leaders can’t afford to be oblivious to what is going on with their people emotionally — it results in collective distress, which leads to poor performance. Recognize when workers are “flooded” (overwhelmed by their emotions in a fight-or-flight reptilian brain response) and allow them time and space to recover.
  • Keep your people connected (and I don’t mean electronically). It’s not healthy for people to hide out in cubicles struggling to concentrate day after day. We need human-to-human contact. It helps soothe anxiety and fear. Research shows that positive human contact reduces stress hormones. People in pain are helped when others reach out to them (allowing them to function more effectively again). Allowing time for employees to share human emotions and feelings is not only good for business — it’s being a good human being.
  • Leaders’ emotions are particularly contagious, so managing anxiety is important. People look to their leaders for cues about how they should respond. How leaders “show up” emotionally can have a huge impact (positively or negatively) on an entire team or organization. Leaders can’t help their people manage their emotions unless they first manage their own behaviors.
  • Develop self-soothing methods. There are numerous techniques that can help — tightening and then relaxing muscles, awareness of breath (slowing it down), deep cleansing breaths, meditation, listening to classical music or talking a walk around the block. All can help you feel more centered and calm.
  • Dig yourself out. Reduce physical and electronic clutter — it adds to anxiety and drains energy. Find a workable system to track e-mails and filing. Clear time in your day to organize, prioritize and plan.
  • Learn to notice and track your anxiety. One in 10 people are prone to anxiety disorders (get professional help if this is you!). It can be helpful to track and record in a journal or matrix what triggers anxiety for you. See if by keeping track over time you notice any patterns. Identifying the negative internal tapes that accompany anxiety can be helpful in getting rid of them. Practice noticing the thought pattern and letting it go or “shooting” your automatic internal critic.

· Offer skill development, coaching support and training for your people. Given the extreme stress levels in today’s workplace, this is a prime time to offer staff or management conflict resolution, emotional intelligence and/or communication training. There are learnable skills, techniques and tools that will help people work through differences more effectively in today’s turbulent, uncertain environment.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com