Thursday, June 28, 2012

Disle's Saga

Warning: The video you are about to see contains graphic images of a good friend dying a slow and painful death.

Since 2003 Disle has been a faithful friend. I've worked her too hard, asked her to do things I should not have done, run her out of oil and antifreeze, limped her back home after all the belts had broken, filled her with lumber, mud, manure, saw dust to the point her bottom was dragging, abused her, treated her ill - and yet she has always stood beside me, waiting for the next job.

Recently Patt and I went back to the farm to drive Disle back so I could start treating her right. I had her front suspension rebuilt, did some work on the engine, stopped a few oil leaks, new tires and brakes. Got her parking brake working, cleaned her up, lubed the window cranks, fixed her cigarette lighter, recarpeted her. I replaced her bulbs, taillights, restored the hood release so she wouldn't be embarrassed every time I need to open her hood. I had to pull a piece of baling wire that was hanging out of the front grill to pop the latch. I installed a new black tool box in the bed to keep all the fluids, tools, and spare parts I had collected to keep her running. I repaired the speedometer cable, replaced the PCV valve, air filters, and secondary intake air cleaner, repaired the windshield wiper bearings that had long since given out.

I had one more thing to do though. She had an oil leak around the oil drain pan. I dropped her off at a local garage to have the pan and gasket replaced while Patt and I were on vacation. It took two weeks and I started getting nervous. Well last night they called and said Disle was ready to go. I couldn't wait to get there to pick her up. About half way through the 2 mile trip back home, Disle almost caught fire. Oil is every where. I limped her back to the garage.

I think what happened was, the mechanic cleaned the oil pickup filter when he had the drain pan off. The subsequent increase in oil pressure Disle experienced put too much pressure on all those gaskets and parts she has, that are designed to keep oil in the engine.

Please pray for Disle. I am not ready to say good bye...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Up In the Air

Due to an unfortunate series of events beyond our control we are thinking about selling Shamrock and Thistle Farm.

Still nothing firm yet but we are weighing options - including buying land in Kentucky. Just went out to look at a property - 10 acres, double wide home. 5 acres cleared pasture (supposedly) 5 acres wooded (supposedly) 41 minutes from my place of employment (supposedly), great views (supposedly), creek running through the property (supposedly).

The 41 minute trip seemed like it took 2 hours. Winding roads, some only one vehicle wide, replete with what we call "pukey-hills", no way out if it snows, out in the middle of nowhere (supposedly).

When we got there, finally, we saw a little strip of bush-hogged grass along the one lane road (gravel driveway), the double wide, no trees anywhere around the house, but woods behind it steeply descending into a ravine. We did not get out to look, but something tells me the creek that is supposed to be on the property is at the bottom of the ravine. Land unusable for what we would want it for.

It has occurred to me that the greatest skill a realtor can possess is that of photography. A picture at just the right angle, with the right description (regardless of its veracity) is plenty to get someone to drive out to take a look, but not quite enough to avoid disappointment.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A List of my Favorite Quotes

No real reason for this, well I guess it helps me memorize them by reading them, writing them, and then typing them.

"To embark in death is sometimes the means of escaping a shipwreck; and the coffin lid becomes a plank of safety" - Victor Hugo, Les Miserable

"The universe is a tease. It is like children. Those that want it, haven't it. Those that don't want it, have it." Victor Hugo, Les Miserable.

"I make little account of victory. Nothing is so stupid as to vanquish; the real glory is to convince." Grantaire in Les Miserable by Victor Hugo.

"Really sir", he observed, "I see that in spite of the reputation which you have acquired as a superior man, you contemplate everything from the material and vulgar viewpoint of society, beginning with man, and ending with man - that is to say, in the most restricted, most narrow view which it is possible for human understanding to embrace...I say sir, that with the eyes fixed on the social organization of nations, you see only the springs of the machine, and lose sight of The Sublime Workman who makes them act: I say that you do not recognize before you and around you any but careerists appointed by the minister or the king; and that the men whom God has put above those careerists, ministers, and kings, by giving them a mission to carry out, instead of a post to fill - I say that they escape your narrow limited ken. It is thus that human weakness fails from its debilitated and imperfect organs. Tobias visited the angel who restored him to light for an ordinary young man. The nations mistook Attila, who was doomed to destroy them, for a conqueror like other conquerors, and it was necessary for both to reveal their missions, that they might be known and acknowledged; one was compelled to say, " I am the angel of the Lord", and the other, "I am the hammer of God," so that the Divine Essence in both might be revealed. - Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

"The trouble with making yourself stupider than you are is that you all too often succeed." C.S. Lewis The Magicians Nephew

"The mother of democracies is once more revealed as a lying hypocrite, preaching liberty and human rights for all, except where she hopes to make a buck." - John Le Carre, The Constant Gardener

"...they hit the conspiracy button. Easiest thing in the world. Cherry-pick a few facts, cobble them together, listen to a couple of disgruntled alarmists with an axe to grind, throw in a household name or two, you can put together any bloody story you want." - John Le Carre, The Constant Gardener

"These beggars are...of very high descent and swollen with the most baseless vanity; they have lived for some generations in a growing isolation, drawing away, on either hand, from the rich who had now become too high for them, and from the poor, whom they still regarded as too low; and even today, when poverty forces them to unlock their doors to a guest, they cannot do so without a most ungracious stipulation. You are to remain, they say, a stranger; they will give you attendance, but they refuse, from the first, the idea of the smallest intimacy." - Robert Louis Stevenson, Olalla
"From behind a desk is a dangerous place to watch the world" - John Le Carre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 
"One of the purposes of objectivity in practice, is to avoid coming to a moral conclusion." - Wendell Berry, The Way of Ignorance

Friday, June 22, 2012

Good Employee Afterword


As I was writing this I would, many times, try to change the direct nature of the narrative. For instance, in paragraphs where things are going badly I refer to the reader as ‘you’ and I considered changing the perspective to the 3rd person ‘he’ or to the even less personal ‘the employee’. I had these second thoughts because employee – manager relationships are intensely personal and I felt that the direct and oftentimes, hard to hear, approach would be insulting or make the reader uncomfortable. But, in the end, I decided to make this book more of a conversation, as if I, an experienced manager, was talking directly to you, an employee on shaky footing. I decided to shoot straight in the book, so I could be more honest with you. If you are any of the employees I have described, the conversation you will have with your manager is going to be much more uncomfortable than reading this book in the privacy of your own home.

I sincerely hope, that you can turn it around and be the awesome employee you deserve to be and the great coworker your team deserves.

Good Employee Ch 12 - How to Get Fired With Grace and Dignity

Chapter 12

How to Get Fired with Grace and Dignity

So if you’ve turned your work life around once making it through Chapter 11, this final chapter will not be a high priority for you right now. However, things change, so read it soon just so you know what to expect.

If you’ve not turned your work life around, either because the concepts you’ve read are just too hard for you to put into action or you think this book is just a load of rubbish, this chapter will prepare you for what is coming next in your life. Termination.

I’ve never been fired. I’m not bragging. I merely bring it up because I wanted you to be aware that a man who has never been fired is closing his book with a chapter attempting to teach you how act when you get fired. Though I’ve never been terminated, I have had the misfortune of terminating only 10 people in the 25 years I’ve been in some management capacity. And I have determined, by observing their actions, the best way to get terminated to preserve the possibility of rehire. In fact, of the 10 people I have terminated, I would rehire five if they would want to work for me again.

I am going to let you in on a little manager’s trade secret. Don’t tell anyone I told you this. Promise?

Managers hate to fire people. Not only is it difficult from a simply human perspective – we have hearts and dreams and families too – believe it or not; it is just legally, difficult to do. Why do you think employers have instituted probation periods? It’s easier to terminate a hiring-mistake within a standard probationary period than it is to let go a longer term employee. By the time an employee behaves himself out of the initial probation period, his slate is generally clean. To terminate shortly after a probationary period would place the manager in an awkward situation. After a year, it is impossible to fire an employee without a mountain of documentation weighing approximately as much as the employee himself. So, ever wonder why so many companies keep so many bad employees around? It’s because they feel they do not have enough documentation to safely terminate. And to top it all off, remember our passive-aggressive employee from Chapter 5? They are the hardest to collect documentation on because technically, they are following all the rules. The employee who exhibits Munchausen syndrome is equally as difficult because, on the surface, he is an employee of heroic proportions.

Here’s my point and a warning to you. If you have become your manager’s special project, that is, you find yourself explaining his documentation of your performance or attendance, or you find yourself in one on one conversations that eventually turn into one on one conversations with a witness present, you are in the termination pipeline. No need to ask your boss, “Are you trying to fire me?”. Trust me, he is and by this time you should know it.

If you get to the point where you are on a Performance Improvement Plan or a final written warning, you are in danger as well. But it is still not too late, even at this point. If this is where you are, go back to Chapter 11 and try rehabilitating your manager’s opinion of you starting tomorrow morning.

But, if you have been in his office, with the witness, and he has handed you a bundle of documents and this meeting follows an annual evaluation where you were given more opportunities for improvement than accolades for excellent performance, this chapter is for you.

You can be sure, the bundle of papers he gives you in your meeting is just a fraction of what he has stored on his computer or in his filing cabinet. When you get to this point, the company is reasonably sure they have enough to let you go. Now they are just seeing how you are going to react. How serious is this guy about keeping his job? The worst thing you can do in this situation is angrily and verbally fight for your job.

Remember, you are on your way out right? At this point what you need is a HUMBLE setting on your attitude and that does not mean tears or whining. It means a sincere, “Yes sir. I understand. Yes, you have talked to me about that before. I will do better or I will understand completely your need to let me go.” That’s it. And if the termination proceeds, it is better to shake hands with a “Sorry it did not work out. I will learn from it. I hope to have a chance to work with you again some day.”

Don’t laugh - I know that statement sounds corny and remaining humble in this situation is very hard to do. But it may just make the difference in your manager’s perception of you that you need. The real reason you are in this position is you’ve not changed. Over the months in which your boss has reminded you about performance lapses, attendance, or attitudes, you’ve not changed enough to satisfy him. But these final words may make him reconsider. If not, perhaps you’ve left a door open to return some day.

Many times, during a termination, possessions must be exchanged. You turn over ID badges, keys, computers, phones, etc. and your former boss must allow you to collect your personal belongings from your desk or work area. Do everything within your power to make sure this exchange of possessions goes smoothly. And if you have followed my advice, and have not loaded your work area with vast amounts of personal possessions including tools, equipment, and supplies, it makes it a lot cleaner and simpler. Any discomfort you feel as the terminated employee is shared by your manager, who must now escort you from the premises. So the longer you drag this out, the more discomfort there will be. This discomfort will be remembered and your chances of ever being rehired will dwindle. Likewise, any company property that you need to return to the manager must be in good condition and present on site. Do not keep laptops, keys, pagers, etc. at your home, especially if you’ve gotten to this point in your relationship with your boss.

When you get to this point, you have been terminated so stop trying to convince him to give you another chance. The manager is not going to change his mind; he has stopped coaching you; he has decided that the changes he needs to see are not coming so his only choice is to replace you; he is just ready to move on. You should be too. Don’t whip out your cell phone as you are being escorted out of the office make a call and loudly proclaim that you just lost your job. Don’t tell every one you meet along the way that “It’s been nice working with you but you won’t see me tomorrow”. Remember, until you finally get into your car you are trying to lay the ground work to eventually be rehired or to receive a decent reference from your manager when you apply for a position at another company. Your behavior at this point, will go a long way to giving you this opportunity.

If you’ve been let go and you are now off the premises, refrain from contacting your former coworkers or customers while they are at work. Actually, they’ve already moved on and this will further discourage your former manager from considering you for rehire or from his giving you a reference; plus it is just plain creepy. The cost in real dollars and man hours to protect your former coworkers and the security of the business as a whole is astronomical. Should you persist in contacting your former place of business or just driving by to look around, for security reasons, you’ve then completely burned the bridge. If your behavior, after leaving for good, makes your former coworkers, managers, and customers worry about their safety – they are simply going to set watch for you, possibly change the locks on the doors, and change their cell phone numbers. They are going to screen their calls and they will not answer yours. You’ve gone too far at this point. Now people are just scared, regardless of how innocent your intentions may be.

One note before I finish up. Your manager really does not want to fire you. He just wants you to be the person you promised to be during your job interview. He wants you to be a vital, cheerful, competent part of the team he is building. On the other hand, your manager assumes you don’t want to be fired. In order for this to work out, the manager either has to change the business to allow you to be who you are or you have to change who you are at work to conform to the business. Your manager can not afford to change the business; it would fracture the team and reduce profit. However, you can’t afford not to change who you are at work because this is how you get paid. To not be the person your boss needs you to be will reduce your profit from the arrangement; that is, you will stop getting paid. For the life of me, I can’t see why we can’t all get along, as both parties have a vested interest in making it all work.

Last of the Bullet Statements:

• If you are frequently being asked to explain your manager’s documentation of your performance – he is already building a case to terminate you.

• If he starts handing you documents with evidence of poor performance or if you are put on a final written warning or a performance improvement plan, you are nearly out the door.

• Don’t give up – but don’t cry, whine, or argue. Change your attitude to the HUMBLE setting. Accept what is coming and get out as gracefully as you can or if he does give you one more chance, make it count starting immediately.

• If you get terminated, part your manager’s company with dignity- don’t shout it out to the department, or make loud public phone calls.

• Don’t keep more personal items in your work space than you can carry in one arm load or a small push cart. A cleaner exit is the best way out.

• Take care of the items your company gives you to work with. Turn them all in and make sure they are in good condition. Don’t keep these items at home.

• After you are escorted off the premises, do not call your coworkers or your customers, don’t drive by the office just to see what is happening. What’s left of your relationship with your former company will be destroyed because this is just creepy.

Good Employee Ch 11 - Once One Takes The Step

Chapter 11

Once One Takes the Step (the road back is tougher than the road forward)

If you have made it this far and recognize yourself in any of the preceding chapters you have taken the step to becoming unemployed. I will not mislead you. The road back to being a good employee is going to be much tougher than the road to being fired. But there is still hope. This very short chapter, in a sense, is the most important in this book because, since you made it this far, you still have time to turn it around and if you do turn it around, you will be rewarded with a much happier work life. The real kicker here is it is all up to you and it starts with changing the way you operate and move and perform within the work environment your company has designed for you. It starts with making your purpose in fulfilling your responsibilities on the job, the same for which you were hired in the first place. And it starts with going all the way back to your interview with your current manager and the contract you made with him – Remember? Start your next work shift with the goal, “I will be a person who behaves the way you require me to in exchange for a certain amount of money you have agreed to pay.”

Here’s how you work your way back to being an excellent employee. Starting with your next shift, clock in on time and every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year do only those things that will unify the team and earn your manager’s trust. Minute by minute, step by step, your manager will eventually notice the difference and begin to trust you again. And when you’ve finally re-earned his trust, keep doing those trustworthy things for as long as you work for him and for the rest of your life. Minute by minute; good decisions; trustworthy actions; minute by minute.

Now here are the most important bullet points so far:

• Be on time – be where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there, and leave when you are supposed to leave.

• Take care of your customer whether your customer is the traditional purchaser of the product or service you provide or your customer is another department in your company, a coworker, or your boss

• Take care of each other. Make sure, through your actions and your dependability, that your teammates know you are there to help them and to help make their work experience a relaxing, in control environment.

• Smile, be polite, no whining, no trash talking, no criticism

• Demonstrate to your boss that you are willing and able to function under the authority his job position implies.

• Follow the rules and treat others as you would be treated – even if you think they do not deserve it.

• If you can’t do any of this…leave

Good Employee Ch10- The 40 Hour Paradox

Chapter 10

The 40 Hour Paradox (You are not guaranteed forty hours a week)

Nothing is more frustrating to a manager than to have an employee who misses work during the week then tries to make up his hours with afterhours work. Do this for too long and a smart manager is going to figure out what you are doing and then start scrutinizing your attendance and the quality and quantity of your make up time. You are in danger if this is happening to you now. Stop and do everything you can to get to work on time Monday morning.

On employee in my past tried this. He would call in to say he was going to be 2 hours late for some reason or other and then he would stay 2 hours late to make up the time. Or towards the end of the pay period, he would calculate his hours and see he was 20 hours short and since he was a service engineer, he would find service calls to respond to in the queue and spend 20 hours over a Saturday and Sunday “taking care of the extra workload” in his words. What he was really doing was making the assumption many employees with poor attendance make – that he is entitled to 40 hours a week. Unfortunately for him, that was not the case.

Here’s how it works. Your employer is not required to give you 40 hours a week of regular pay unless you work 40 hours regular. He is not required to pay you over time unless you work overtime. If you are a full time employee, he would like you to work 40 hours a week because out of the revenue you help generate he is paying you benefits given to employees who work 40 hours a week. If you frequently do not work 40 hours a week as a full time employee, your manager is paying you for benefits for which you no longer qualify.

The employee example I use in this chapter found out the hard way, when he received his weeks pay to find that since I could not prove he worked the 20 extra hours (he did not clock in or out and there was no documentation to suggest he had actually done any work) I refused to pay him. He took home only half of a normal paycheck. That got his attention, however he was very upset and did not, I am afraid, comport himself very well the next day when I talked to him about it.

The main lesson is this. If you are late coming in to work, unless approved by your manager, you are not supposed to stay late the same amount of time to get your 8 hours. Why? Because your schedule is set to what it is for a reason and that reason is, there is work for you to do during those hours. There frequently will not be enough work for you after hours. Your boss is not going to be too keen on paying you for sitting at your desk when the rest of the staff are gone and the office is closed. Besides, if your manager lets you adjust your schedule when you miss a day or come in late, soon he will have to do that for everyone. And within 6 months he will have lost control of the entire staff. He won’t know who is where and when they are supposed to be there.

You are only entitled to get paid for the hours you work. If you miss time, your manager may allow you to use vacation days to fill in your 40 hours but even that can be at his discretion. If you are out of vacation and try to self-adjust your schedule to compensate for missed time, you may find your paycheck is much smaller than you counted on.

You are not entitled to getting paid for work you did not do or for hours worked that are not approved by the manager. This brings me to a couple of more points before I round out this short chapter.

You are not allowed to work “off the clock”. First of all, I have no earthly clue as to why someone would want to perform work on their own time, without being paid for it. I would suspect someone of having a mental illness like Munchausen Syndrome or something like that. The real reason behind this is you are unprotected for worker’s compensation should you be injured while off the clock. Secondly, you are much harder to supervise if you are working at home without approval and off the clock. A manager, responsible for the financial well being of his office, will not take your word for it for very long – so don’t pull the “I’ve been working off the clock because I am so dedicated” routine. It doesn’t fly and you’ll look stupid.

Do not use your own tools, equipment, or office supplies and for goodness sakes, don’t bring them into the office. You will not be compensated for these and it really just muddies the water when you wind up fired. Eventually I will get to chapter 12 where I will explain in more detail. Again, the main reason for this is your manager can’t control it. Nothing is more frustrating for your boss than to replace a tool that is broken or missing and know it is going back into your personal tool kit and will eventually be taken home by you when he lets you go.

Here are your bullets. Follow them and you will not end up stuck in Chapter 11 of this book.

• Want to get paid for your work. Show up to work when you are supposed to and leave when you are supposed to.

• Do not self-adjust your schedule to make up missed hours and make sure your attendance is such that you are not asking your boss to adjust your schedule for you too often.

• If you perform work, be on the clock. Do not give work for free. Really, your manager will appreciate it.

• Do not use your own tools, equipment, or supplies. It just makes things messy.

Good Employee Ch 9-Work For An Excellent Organization

Chapter 9

Work for An Excellent Organization (warning: double entendre)

A double entendre is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways - Wikipedia

The average employee working eight hours a day spends 1/3 or more of his life at work. It would be a shame to hate 1/3 of your life. Don’t do it. If you just can’t help it then I have some advice.

The things we think and feel in our minds and hearts will eventually, no matter how hard we try to conceal them, work their way out into our words and actions. Save the hatred, depressing outlooks, sour attitudes, and whining for the 2/3 of your life that do not impact the work place. The work place, believe it or not is really the only place in your life with a set of rules, an opportunity to excel, and the very real opportunity for you to create a relaxing safe haven from the other aspects of life for which you have no control. Follow the rules, put on your happy mask, be friendly and get paid to do it. Work within the world your employer has created and take control of your life – at least for 8 hours a day.

If this seems impossible for you to do then you only have two possible ways out. Both are described in the title of this chapter: Work For an Excellent Organization.

Either stay where you are and work to make it into the excellent organization every employee deserves or leave to work for a better organization. The worst thing you can do is stay where you are if you are not happy. You will be a burden to your manager and teammates. You will never be happy there and, to be honest, your manager and teammates would prefer that you leave and be another company’s problem employee.

If your job is not fulfilling your purpose then make your purpose to transform your job into something you can be happy doing. If you are a service engineer and you hate to repair machines, make it your purpose to satisfy customers or make it your goal to keep the machines from failing.

If you hate flipping burgers, make it your purpose to provide your customers with the best burger they have ever tasted, perfect every time, quickly done, and happily delivered.

This is not easy to do, changing one’s purpose. But by aiming for a higher reason for the work you do, you will transform how you think about your job. It will no longer be a mindless and sometimes difficult series of tasks. The goal becomes the outcome.

But the most important thing to remember is this. If you are not happy, your customer will not be happy, neither will your teammates or your manager. Work life will be a burden and eventually you will lose the job anyway. So why not seek a higher purpose by either changing your attitude toward the job or find another one.

It is here that I feel I must give you a warning. If you have tried working for an excellent organization but you have found that no matter what job you do and no matter who your boss is you always wind up wanting to leave and you just can’t face another day. The problem is you. Your job is what you make it. The guide provided in this book, if followed, will help you make your career one that you can be happy working with. It will help you earn the respect of your employer and coworkers.

It is difficult sometimes and if you feel you have always been “the problem employee” or if you feel your bosses and coworkers never give you a break, it may seem impossible for you to change. It is not. I’ve done it and so can you.

• Be happy or leave

• Do what it takes to transform your purpose into one you can enjoy or leave

• Work to make your organization and excellent one or find an excellent organization to work for.

• Don’t be a problem for your current employer. Leave them and be someone else’s problem.

• Life is too short to hate your job.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Good Employee Ch 8-The Mask

Chapter 8

The Mask (Clock-in, Don the Mask, Clock-out, Doff the Mask)

“In wise love each defines the secret self of the other, and refusing to believe in the mere daily self, creates a mirror where the lover or the beloved sees an image to copy in daily life; for love also creates the Mask.” – W.B. Yates

This quote by Yates perfectly describes the way a sad, unconfident, shy, unfriendly employee can become a business’ employee of the month. And it starts with your first act as an employee. No it’s not the first clock in on the first day. It’s the job interview.

Most people I know, who are looking for employment and presented with the question “Why do you want to work for my company?”, if they are honest will, answer, “Because I need the work and you are on a list of companies for which I have applied.”

This answer will not get you the job.

Instead, the excellent applicant will say something like this. “I have always wanted to work for your company because of its excellent reputation for customer service and for taking care of its employees. With my skills, friendliness, and excellent customer service attitude, I will be as much a benefit to you as your company will be to me.” By the way, this is what I want to hear when I interview someone and have used this response myself. Feel free to use it whenever you wish. You won’t owe me anything at all…except…

When you get the job, become that person, every minute of everyday. You see, the job interview is your first act as an employee. It is a contract you are making with the employer. In essence an agreement is made. You are promising to be the person you present during the interview everyday for your manager in exchange for the money the company promises to pay you.

Worried about lying on a job interview? Not particularly happy and want to make sure your prospective boss knows it going in. That is admirably honest. But you won’t get the job. Businesses are looking for a particular kind of person; one that is skilled, obviously, but also one that can behave in such a way as to satisfy its customers. If you are not that kind of person it would be stupid for a manager to offer you the job. If you are the rare combination of relaxed, happy, skilled, and friendly person a company needs – I envy you. Your life will be most interesting because you can have any job you wish. But if you are like me, basically a grouch, basically think every thing is bad and it is only going to get worse, basically wish someone would pay me just to stay at home and read and sleep, then we’ve got work to do. Here’s how it works. In order to get a job, think of applying a mask before you go in. Tell yourself that this mask is who you are going to be for this company if they hire you. Show the interviewer what you are capable of, smile, be positive, be encouraging, talk about what makes you tick and how you can help them. It won’t be a lie! Now here’s the kicker. It won’t be a lie, if, and that’s a mighty large I followed by a mighty large F; if you become that person moments before you clock in everyday. If you can sustain it throughout your shift, and don’t turn that person back into your old self until you’ve clocked out, hopped back in your car, and pull out of the lot. In a sense, you are signing a contract at the interview and then fulfilling your end of the bargain every day, and you are getting paid to do it.

If this makes you feel like you are selling out what you really are; if you think it is unfair for a company to try to change who you are as a person, then you would be right. If you don’t think you can do this, be yourself then, in the unemployment line. I think, though, if you approach how you act while at work as an essential task that you must perform to remain in good standing and receive your pay, you can still be who you want to be, you simply put on an emotional uniform right before you clock in.

And, you know what? After a while; after all that smiling and saying hello; after the warm greetings, and thank-you’s, and paychecks, and team work, you are going to find that you are a much happier and more confident person in your personal life too. So not only are you getting paid to perform a task for your company; your company is serving as the ultimate self-help workshop – How to Get Happy in 30 Days and Get Paid to Do It!”

The secret to this trick of “Fake it Till You Make It” is simply a matter of love. You may not particularly like what you do or where you have to do it. But you can love the feeling of making a customer satisfied, of finishing the quota for the week, of taking a broken machine and restoring it to operation. Find something to love, as Mr. Yates said in our leading quote, and it will provide the mask.

Now this grouchy business writer is happy to provide you your helpful list of bullet statements to help you earn Employee of the Month.

• If you aren’t a happy person in your personal life – Fake It Until You Can Make It when you get to work

• Get happy moments before you clock in and sustain it all day until you get in your car and pull out of the parking lot.

• You are not lying to yourself or anyone else if you act the way your company wants you to act while you are on the clock. You are simply performing a task essential to your getting paid.

• If being exactly the way you are right now is so very important to you and you do not want to change, please do not apply for any job. Be an unemployment statistic. I beg you!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chapter 7

Munchausen By Proxy (Applaud Me for Clearing up the Mess I Made)

M√ľnchausen syndrome is a psychiatric factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. - Wikipedia

Have you ever been around someone who seems like the unluckiest person in the world? No matter what they do or how hard they try, an overwhelming sense of drama and dread seems to follow them wherever they go? Do they constantly try to blame their circumstances on you or do they insist “the world is out to get them”? Chances are low that this person is just unlucky or that they have attained such an important position in the universe, that everyone, in a fit of jealousy is just out to get them. The most likely explanation is a form of Munchausen syndrome not particularly related to medical causes, that is a very real – and serious – issue in the business world.

This form of Munchausen syndrome is easily detectable in an employee, or manager, first by the increased amount of drama that accompanies even the easiest tasks. It is particularly easy to detect this behavior in professions where maintenance and repairs are required and somewhat more difficult to detect in job functions that are more stable. I would argue that potential employees that suffer from Munchausen syndrome actually seek out professions where they are required to work independently, performing on- demand tasks such as equipment repair or software maintenance. I’ll give you an example of Munchausen syndrome in such a profession which may help me explain the point of this chapter.

A service person works from home. The responsibilities of his position include maintaining an assembly line in a manufacturing plant. He does scheduled preventative work in which he inspects the line on a scheduled basis, replaces high failure parts before they fail, and makes proactive adjustments on the machinery to help assure uninterrupted operation for the plant. He is also responsible for making repairs to the assembly line on an as-needed basis, if the assembly line fails in some way. Usually, a failure to the line will cause products from being shipped on time and a loss in profits.

This kind of scenario is the perfect habitat for an employee with Munchausen syndrome – self directed work, work routines designed to reduce failures, and responsibilities for restoring operations as quickly as possible.

Here is an example of how this condition manifests in this kind of work environment.

If everything goes as planned with the preventive maintenance of the assembly line, catastrophic failures most likely will be prevented. Though the service man would have performed his task perfectly and he will have received a well earned paycheck for doing so, this is never enough for the employee suffering from Munchausen syndrome. In fact, the scenario I just described will rarely, if ever, play out like this in the first place.

The service professional exhibiting this behavior, in an effort to draw attention to himself, may actually sabotage the assembly line he is working on during an inspection so a repair will become necessary. The manufacturing plant will have no choice to call him when the line breaks down. And he will come to the rescue. But not so fast. Most likely, in these cases, the service man will assess the situation (already knowing what is wrong because he caused the malfunction) and paint a bleak picture to the manager about how expensive the repair will be, how long the line will be down, and how many hours of overtime he is going to need to get it up and running again. Then a series of ups and downs throughout the repair process will ensue. The service engineer will give frequent up dates – “It’s up and running now, but I am going to sit and watch it for a while to make sure something else does not go wrong.” Frequently something else will go wrong because the engineer will have placed another bug in the system to draw out the repair event. This may be repeated several times over the course of one service call. The roller-coaster that ensues insures that the manager will be completely confused about what really happened and will have no choice but to trust the engineer is doing his best and is really the expert person to take care of the issue.

As the deadline for completing the repair looms, the drama within the whole event increases and just at the last minute the service engineer will make the repair, declare the crisis over, and sit back and take the credit for resolving the problem without a loss of production or revenue. In the meantime, he will have earned undeserved overtime and undeserved credit for the work. If the manager had known what really happened over the course of the last few hours, he would not have approved the overtime, nor would he have given any credit. Actually, he would probably fire the engineer on the spot for incompetence or sabotage of his assembly line.

Even though I used the specific example of a service engineer in a maintenance industry, this type of behavior can be seen in all aspects of business. Whether it is a secretary constantly gumming up the copy or fax machine, the financial analysts waiting until the last minute to submit a report of month end financial problems that seem to work out in the end, a hotel housekeeper who seems to always go through heroic actions to clean the last of their rooms on the fifth floor, or a truck driver who always seems to experience traffic conditions that make his deliveries hit the dock at the zero hour, Munchausen syndrome is a serious detriment to efficient operations and frequently draws attention away from the team and places it directly on an individual in the team, who through a lack of confidence or because of some inability to function in an environment where things are working okay must create a crisis before they can spring into action and be the center of attention. It occurs to me that the superheroes in movies and comic books may exhibit Munchausen syndrome. The employee who always seems unlucky or who thinks the world is out to get them may have an internal need to be validated as the superhero, who against all odds, saves the day at the last possible moment.

If you find yourself in this position frequently, where you believe that your have to be heroic to get the job done I have a thought for you.

You are in the wrong job or you lack confidence or you have a legitimate mental illness for which you should find some professional help. Don’t be this person, it destroys the team, productivity suffers, the company suffers, people will lose their jobs if efficiency drops too low and if you are in an industry where lives are at stake, this kind of behavior can injure or kill. Life is dramatic enough without having an employee exhibiting Munchausen syndrome mucking it all up even more. If one reduces the purpose of almost all businesses to its most essential function – it is to remove drama from the lives of the people it serves, whether it be an auto mechanic who needs to get an elderly woman back on the road in a safe car, a medical equipment repair person who insures the x-ray machine is dosing properly, or a fast food worker responsible for cleaning the kitchen.

Here are your helpful bullet statements for Chapter 7:

• You are not unlucky and the world is not out to get you. Most likely, you are sabotaging your own life.

• Remove the drama, relax, its okay if things work well for a while. Sooner or later a crisis will develop on its own. Don’t feel like you need to create a crisis to function.

• Before you deliberately sabotage your business, stop. Think. Leave it alone. The credit you receive for clearing up the mess you made will be fleeting and will eventually cost you your job and possibly someone else’s.

• Your customers will appreciate those infrequent times when you are the hero at the last minute but only if those times are infrequent and legitimate. Eventually the customer will get as tired of the drama as your manager is and you will lose your job just before your company loses its customer.

• Your customer and manager, really only want one thing: An experience that is in control, stable, non-dramatic, predictable, and reliable. Heroics are acceptable if necessary, but not self induced, and certainly not every day.

• If you have to have a crisis to force you out of bed every morning or if you can’t seem to get by without being in the middle of the day’s drama – be a bull fighter, mercenary, revolutionary in an 3rd world country, or a reality TV star. Don’t take a service industry job or a job where lives are at stake.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chapter 6

There is No I in T.E.A.M. (But there is a ME)

Teamwork is vital to the success of any business. The title to this chapter could have been written by a passive-aggressive employee. “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM. But you know boss, there is a ‘ME.’” Yeah. There is also a ‘MEAT’, a ‘MATE’, an ‘EAT’, and an ‘ATE’. Since we are not necessarily dealing with anagrams in this chapter I would like to move on to a philosophical discussion centered on what is called a TEAM.

By its very nature a TEAM essentially becomes its own person. It is quite like one huge multi-legged, multi-brain organism which, in order to survive, has to build relationships with other huge multi-legged multi-brain organisms – either another team in your company or the customer’s team. It is, therefore, that this TEAM organism has a unified purpose. We’ve all seen dysfunctional teams. They are identical to a mental patient suffering from schizophrenia. Their thoughts float from one thing to another, sometimes battling against themselves to the point that the patient no longer knows what reality is.

A TEAM with a unified purpose is one marked with each member thinking the same way, working toward a common goal, understanding one’s place in the universe in which they work, and participates in activities or behaves in such a way to foster growth and good will, the health, if you will, of the other members of the team. To see this in action is a joy to any manager and there really is no limit to how far one can go, how high one can climb, or how mobile an organization can become when the TEAM moves and exists as one organism. The odd thing, and I realize how hard it is to describe, is that when this happens, the TEAM takes on a personality of its own. It essentially becomes its own person and as long as that newly created “person” stays at the center of the team, things go well.

I would now like to introduce the employee who constantly tries create this new “person” in his own image. This employee sees the role of leadership as their being the center of the TEAM and they try to force that to happen. In essence, they try to recreate the team dynamic into something that looks quite like themselves. And they do it without realizing that it is really very easy to do. But they fail to see that by introducing their stronger personality into the equation, they actually create dysfunction in the TEAM because the TEAM ceases to focus on the mission and they only focus on counterbalancing them. They essentially create a group of strong willed individuals who happen to work at the same address.

I know I need to be careful here because I am leaving the technical aspects of team building that, honestly, generally fail to foster the team work a manager needs. I am stepping off into something that is much harder to define, something that is somewhat uncomfortable to hear, and it all has to do with how we act toward each other as people.

I will leave you with your bullet points for how to act towards other people.

• Trust your coworkers. Unless an imminent death or injury would be involved with letting a coworker fail. Let them fail. This sounds like a lack of team work but it really is not. Team work should never consist of compensating for another team members failure to perform. Trust them to help you, delegate what you need to, then let them help. If they fail, they fail. In your efforts to help someone else do not compensate for poor behavior.

• Treat everyone with courtesy and respect- even if a coworker is untrustworthy or not worthy of respect treat them like they are. Don’t tattle, don’t degrade. Your manager knows what’s wrong. If you compound your manager’s problems, by being disrespectful or angry with your team it will take him longer to weed out the issues. Besides, we all want respect. There is no harm in giving it. You will appear the better person if you respect everyone.

• Take the high road. Just because someone does something wrong and seems to get away with it doesn’t make it right. Always be respectful, always do the right thing. The right thing is rarely to make someone else look bad. Only in cases when a coworker is going to hurt himself or others or if a coworker is deliberately damaging a customer relationship should you report them to your manager. And even if you have to, there are ways to do it without being accusatory or appearing to tattle.

• Do not impose your will on the team. Do not think too highly of your self. Put the team and the goal you are trying to reach before any personal credit you may be able to attain. There will be enough credit to go around.

• Teach. If you have a special skill or special knowledge, do not keep it to your self. Teach team mates what you know. Volunteer to lead training classes. Teach without appearing to be a know-it-all

• If the team is successful, make sure you speak in terms of what ‘we’ did. Do not bring up specifically what ‘you’ did. Let your manager do that. If the team is not successful, do not point out other’s faults, instead take responsibility for what you did wrong and let others have the opportunity to speak up for themselves about what they did wrong.

• If you can’t work on a team and purposefully help develop the team personality. Get a different job; a job where you can be your own team, like bull fighter, or burglar.

Chapter 5

Until it Hurts (Passive-Aggressive behavior is just plain stupid)

Some people are perpetually tardy because they don't have a good sense of time, or try to squeeze too much into the time they have available. Others are late because it's a passive-aggressive way to be in control.”- Karen Sherman

Some employees have evolved, through some genetic mutation, into what is called Pass-Aggressive behavior. One would think, by this time in human history, that we as a species would have moved on from this type of behavior. It simply wreaks havoc on society in general and businesses in particular.

The openly aggressive brand of employee is relatively easy to deal with for a manager. If you are of this type I must send on a special message. Eventually, you will resort to the Top 11 List of Things Not to Say to Your Boss, one too many times. Your boss will write you up for insubordination and when your attitude doesn’t change, you will be terminated. Don’t get into that position. Stop being openly aggressive or find a job where you can rest in your internal happy place and show off the good attitude lurking inside you.

The Passive-Aggressive brand of employee is very difficult to manage because, technically, they follow the rules but they do it in a typically low-key way that seems designed to prove their manager wrong or to show that life at work really is the dumps. Sometimes, they follow the rules so stringently that it actually brings productivity to a halt and morale to all time lows. Sometimes they may use a mocking tone when announcing to everyone in the office, “Look! I am following the rules!”

If it seems as though I am having a hard time describing this behavior, it is because I am. This is the most sinister aspect of the Passive-Aggressive behavior – it is hard to pin down, root out, and correct. The closest I have been able to come to accurately describe it is this.

There is a saying in business that has been around for decades. “What is professionalism? I don’t know. But you know it when you see it.” It is much the same for the passive-aggressive employee. If asked to describe a passive-aggressive, one is reduced to fumbling about for words and then resorting to giving real life examples. Since it is in my nature, sometimes, to try to achieve the impossible, I am going to give it my best shot before resorting to the real life examples where I must change the names to protect the guilty.

The passive-aggressive, henceforth referred to as a PA, is generally not happy with his work life. He’s probably not too happy with his personal life either. This kind of person, unhappy, will attempt to demonstrate how dysfunctional things are by working very hard to let things fail, and try to arrange things to look like they are not at fault. A PA may, when under instructions from his boss that no overtime should be taken for the rest of the week if possible, stop a job midway, clock out and go home. This may be a low risk decision on his part if he is in shipping and receiving and he was sweeping the floor. However, if he works in a hospital as an equipment repair technician and he leaves a much needed ventilator broken, suddenly this passive aggressive behavior becomes a serious issue. The behavior, though, is the same. What the PA is trying to do here is to show the boss that his restrictions on overtime are a bad idea. How does he do this? He follows the rule to the letter regardless of the circumstances. If called onto the carpet about leaving a job half finished, the PA now has the ammunition. “But you said no overtime.” Thereby, placing the blame for the half finished work on his manager.

The core of the PA problem really is one of control. Using a manager’s directions against the manager, causing havoc in a situation and sitting idly by as if the sky is falling but “it’s not my fault.” Another way the PA tries to gain control of the situation is to immediately find fault with his manager’s ideas and then manipulating circumstances to insure that the problems he identified really do happen. A PA who has been told that he must follow up with every one of his customers after delivering the product to make sure they are satisfied, may immediately tell his manager, “But my customer is not always available when I call,” letting out a pitiful sigh, “but I will do my best”. In the back of his mind, the PA is already thinking that he doesn’t like customer follow ups anyway and he’ll show his dipstick manager this is not going to work. Over the following days, the PA will make half hearted attempts at contacting the customer by phone or by dropping by unannounced and will use his inability to connect with the customer to prove to his manager that customer follow-ups are not working because he can never get in touch with them. How do we know this is passive-aggressive? The PA won’t use email. He won’t use something very effective at setting up appointments, instead he uses techniques that rarely work to insure the project fails.

The PA uses a manager’s words against him by taking those words and following the directions to illogical limits. For instance, a service manager may instruct his staff to watch spending on parts towards the end a month to make sure their office makes its profit numbers. Most normal employees will understand that this means keep repairs as low as possible and if something can wait until the new month starts without impacting the customer then they should let it wait or at least talk to the manager and ask what they should do. A PA employee will use this to his advantage and make no repairs which require parts or services and let the customer suffer. If confronted with this kind of approach, the PA most likely will not talk to his boss, but will tell the customer “My boss said not to spend any money.”

Notice to the PA: The fastest way for you to get to the unemployment line is to air dirty laundry in front of your customer. It does not make you look good, nor does it hurt your manager. In fact, what you don’t realize, is that your manager most likely, has a better relationship with your customer than you do. You can not play the two against each other with any success, so don’t try it.

Here are your bullet statements:

• Passive Aggressive behavior is hard to root out. Don’t be a PA. It will only cause your manager to scrutinize your work life more intensely.

• Try to take a common sense approach to your manager’s rules. A good rule of thumb is to follow the rules as closely as you can, matching the intent of your manager not the direct letter of the rule especially if your customer or coworkers are negatively impacted. Actually, when directions are given by a manager, they are done so, with the assumption that a person with common sense will understand the intent.

• Never play your manager against the customer or vice-versa. Because your manager has a better relationship with your customer anyway.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Good Employee - Ch 4 It Flows Up Hill

Chapter 4

It Flows Up-Hill (Explanations are nice, but not always practical)

There is an old saying that implies that all the good “stuff” goes up hill and all the bad “stuff” flows down. That old saying was first spoken by an employee. A manager knows that it is not the case at all.

A good manager will make sure good stuff gets spread up and down, and all around. Good things are hard to come by in the business world. A good manager will make sure bad stuff only goes up when it has to and only goes down when it can’t be avoided.

If you have a manager who gives you the credit when things go well, but takes the heat when things go poorly, be truly grateful. If you have a manager who lets upper management heat get to you, then he is most likely in the wrong profession. Give him no reason to do this and then look for work somewhere else, or as mentioned before try to out last him. He won’t be around long.

The uphill flow of things is nowhere more evident than in the area of communications. An engaged manager will ask many questions and will offer many explanations to why he may be asking you to do something. But there is the potential of this engagement becoming a requirement the employee makes of his manager.

A boss who says, “I’d like you to do this and here’s why” is to be respected. But sometimes a manager is unable to discuss the how’s and why’s behind his requests.

A boss who asks a lot of questions may, at first, appear to lack knowledge. He probably does, but in reality, asking the right questions of their employees helps him study the problem and decide the best course of action. Sometimes a manager is not merely required to convince his manager that a certain solution will work, he must convince them that the other possible solutions won’t. That means lots of questions need to be asked. Don’t fall into the question trap.

While a manager that freely offers up explanations for why he is asking something of you it may not always be possible to tell you why, for you to ask, can put the manager in a difficult position. So don’t ask. Just assume he is limited in what he can talk about. For sure, do not demand an explanation of him in front of a customer or in a group setting of any kind.

If your manager tries to explain the why’s of a request so much it makes you want to throw up try to be thankful he is not one to just tell you to do something “because he said so”. Trust me the alternative is preferred.

Here’s the trap employees can fall into. They expect an explanation because either a manager has always offered one before or the manager has never offered one before and, now frustrated, the employee begins demanding an explanation. Now here’s where I explain the title to this chapter. Information flows uphill, by necessity. Information does not always flow down hill, again, by necessity.

To be frank, sometimes you would not want to know why a boss is asking for certain information, or why he has made the decision to keep you in the dark. Here’s a quick real life example and then on to your bullet’s.

A management company had an account at a large business in the Midwest. The company was losing the account due to mismanagement of staff, poor customer service, and they were making too much money. A new manager was brought in to try to salvage the customer relationship and renew the account. Because of the lack of trust between the management company and the client, the client demanded that they be able to attend regularly scheduled staff meetings.

During one of these staff meetings, with the client in the room, one of the employees asked why the new manager had not yet hired them additional people to help with the work load. The manager delicately let them know that he was working toward that end but there are just some things he could not discuss right now. Frustrated, the employee, barked back to the manager, “Why not? Why can’t you talk about it!?”

There were at least two reasons why the manager could not openly talk about the staffing issues he was working on. The first reason was the client sitting in the room at the time. The second reason?

The manager discovered that not only was he overstaffed (they really did not need the extra help) he also was agonizing over the decision he had to make – whether to let 3 of his overqualified, overpaid, and underworked staff go. It would have been inappropriate for him to discuss this in front of the client, or in front of the rest of the office even, especially since the employee who demanded an answer was one of the employees at risk for losing his job.

Here are your bullets to help you stay out of the question trap:

• Never demand an answer in a public place – in the privacy of your manager’s office simply and politely ask him why?

• If you do not get an answer to your question – assume your manager can not talk openly about it with you at that time.

• Because of this, information generally flows up hill, and may not flow back down again or without delay.

Good Employee - Chapter 3 - The King Maker

Chapter 3

King Makers Not Welcome (No, you are not in charge)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand."- Abraham Lincoln

As a manager, I have found that, inevitably, an employee will be so good at what he does that he eventually feels he is untouchable. Perhaps, he may even believe that he can manage as well or better than his own manager. A common feeling that accompanies these beliefs is that there are several tasks that he will not do because it is beneath his skill level, experience, or station in life. Don’t be this guy. And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell your coworkers, your customers, or your boss you feel this way. It will work out much better for you if you quietly go about your business and find another job. Resign giving two weeks notice and start your new job. Really, that is the best way out. The reason? You are one step away from becoming the most reviled type of employee in any business, in any country – The King Maker.

The King Maker views himself has the “power behind the throne” so to speak. No one likes the power behind the throne. Study history or watch any number of movies involving war, adultery, murder, or betrayal and there is always a King Maker lurking around the throne room, manipulating (in the bad way) events, causing turmoil and heartache. Now try to think of a moment in history or in a movie where there is a power behind the throne who revels in that distinction, and the story has a happy ending. Can’t do it? Neither can I.

I once managed an employee who thought too highly of himself. He actually told me that I didn’t need to do anything but sit in the office and approve payroll because he could handle everything else. I was to give him free reign and he would establish me as a great manager, because he was a “King Maker”. It should be no surprise to you that I have dedicated this chapter to him by entitling it as I did. It should, by this time, be no surprise to you that this guy is no longer employed by me.

Sometimes the greatest detriment to a good business becoming great is a disjointed, unrecognizable direction of travel. Or to paraphrase George Orwell in Animal Farm, One Boss Good, Two Bosses Bad. Even if the King Maker has good intentions there will be the inevitable differences in opinion between him and the manager that will cause a drop in morale, confusion, and an inferior product. If these “collisions” happen too often, the office begins to observe the interplay between the King and the King Maker to see who is going to win. Sometimes wagers are made – but office gambling is a completely different subject. The thing about the King vs. King Maker battle is no one wants to get on the King Maker’s bad side should he defeat the King. And vice versa. This kind of office is a mess.

Make no mistake; there are people in every office that help a manager be successful. They are always excellent, always helpful, always there when you need them, and they always no how to make your customer happy. Though they will establish a manager’s success, they are not King Maker’s. Why? Because King Maker’s generally always make it known that they are the Power Behind the Throne. Now why would they reveal this about themselves? Because the real issue with the King Maker is that he wants to be King himself. That means trouble.

If you feel like a King Maker – kill that feeling immediately or leave. Find your own country and make yourself king. If on the other hand, you enjoy doing your job so well that the entire team and your manager succeeds, then send me your resume. You’re the kind of employee I need.

In an effort to avoid the big battle between the King Maker and himself, the manager will be forced to terminate the King Maker immediately. King Maker’s beware. If you attempt a coup, you will end up unemployed.

Here’s your bullets:

• Succeed because you want to succeed not because of the power you think you will receive.

• If you feel like a King Maker, stop it! Or leave quietly. Try to establish your empire with your manager’s competition. Tear them apart.

• If you feel that your manager’s success is largely attributed to your efforts, more than likely your manager knows it. Revel in your good standing. Do it for yourself. If you need more recognition, the next time your boss asks you what he can do to make your job easier, simply suggest that the staff need to hear when they are doing well. If that doesn’t work stay away from the statements in Chapter 2. Just leave quietly giving two weeks notice.

• Keep in mind that just because you feel like you are the best at doing your job does not mean you can manage better than your boss. Unless of course your current boss is a former King Maker. If that is the case, leave or resolutely endeavor to outlast him – because it is relatively easy to do.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Good Employee Chapter 2 - things one should not say to one's boss

Chapter 2

The Spade and the Barrow

(things one should not say to one’s boss)

“I have often repented speaking, but never of holding my tongue.”-Xenocrates

Like it or not, managers are people too. Just as the words they say can hurt an employee, cause irreparable damage actually, the words an employee says to his boss can be just as destructive. A wrong word said, especially if not followed by a sincere apology, can cause irreparable damage to an employee’s work status. It is a truth that what a person thinks eventually works its way out of his brain and finds an outlet in a tongue that wags or in the hands that do the work.

There is a delicate balance a manager must keep in dealing with his employees. A manager is constantly straddling this fine line between encouraging behavior and correcting it, between giving an employee ownership of a job while maintaining the traditional station of authority his job description requires, between stroking an employee’s ego to get even more out of them and correcting them in a way that knocks them down to size. This balance, to one degree or another, is disturbed constantly, not by the manager, but by the employee.

A worker that excels at a given function and knows it may at some point begin to believe he is untouchable and begin to verbally demonstrate this to his customers and coworkers. Of course, a good manager will pull the worker aside and remind him that while his technical skills are exemplary, his attendance leaves something to be desired. On the other hand, a worker who simply lacks confidence and would much better be able to take care of his customer if he had a little, may need to hear his boss stroke his ego a little to kick him into high gear. Sometimes this comes in the form of recognition or a complement that may not be altogether deserved. This may sound like manipulation on the part of the manager to you. In this case, you would be right. If this makes you angry or sick to your stomach, you’ll need to get over it. The core principle behind the existence of managers in the first place is the need to direct (manipulate) employee behavior to achieve a common goal – that goal is usually a satisfied customer. Of course there are sinister forms of manipulation too, so let me be perfectly clear. A manager who simply lets things unfold as they happen, without this manipulation or guidance, is not managing, he is resigning his position. A manager who manipulates circumstances for his own gain or to exert dominance over an employee is one of those soulless managers discussed in Chapter 1.

On the flip side to the manager’s tight rope walk of employee direction and communication is the employee who is expected to maintain the same boundaries between himself and his manager. An employee provided an opportunity to self-direct his work on a project or in his daily routine must, at all times, maintain the employer to employee structure of authority implied in their respective job descriptions. Obviously the prior actions of this high performing worker has led to his new found freedom. For that worker to then assume some form of authority over his manager, by word or deed, really amounts to a form of betrayal of that trust.

It is with great pleasure that I now present the Top 11 List of things one should not say to one’s boss. Or better yet, put away the spade and the barrow, the hole you’ve dug is deep enough.

11. “Are you out to get me?” or “Am I black listed?” – Paranoia is, as has been said, a good idea when everyone is out to get you. However, it’s kind of stupid when no one really is. The most striking aspect of someone asking this is the effect it has on the manager. They begin to ask themselves, “Is this guy a paranoid schizophrenic? Or does he just have a guilty conscience? Neither of these is good. Truth be told, I can see how a manager actually managing can be taken to be intrusive. A good manager will attempt to “pick apart” all aspects of the business to determine what is working well, and therefore does not need a lot of his attention; and what is not working well, which is going to attract a lot more of his scrutiny. If you want to be a good employee – do all the things required to be in the first category – the things that are working well.

10. “I don’t think I can work here” – no matter how you phrase it or what emotion you put to it a manager really hears, “I’ve already quit I am just waiting for you to fire me or for me to find a new job”. With very few exceptions, I have always terminated immediately upon hearing this from one of my employees.

9. “None of my coworkers trust me or they always make fun of me” – this statement is appropriate – if you are in the 3rd grade; inappropriate, though, for a full grown adult to say to their boss. The empathy one might expect from making a statement like this, immediately causes concern to a manager. If the entire organization doesn’t like you, the problem is, more than likely, you. This may be hard to hear for you but it is true. There is something that has caused the rest of the team to feel like you are not a part of them. It may be something as simple as a weird personality. However, even weirdness can be over come if you are always on time, always cheerful, always helping, and technically competent and reliable. Rarely is personality the only issue in this case.

8. “You can trust me boss…” – Uh huh. Short answer to this one: If you feel like you have to tell me – then I most likely, as a manager, have a problem on my hands. Show me you are trustworthy and I will trust you. Too many instances where it appears you may not be trustworthy, even if it is not an out and out lie, will make me not trust you.

7. “That’s not my job” – Technically, anything your boss asks you to do, if it is not illegal, dangerous, or immoral, is your job. Sometimes, your boss simply needs something done and he doesn’t have a lot of time to think about who should do it. Sometimes you will be the first one he comes across. Never utter these words to your boss, coworkers, or customers.

6) “My last manager didn’t do it that way” – Newsflash. Your new manager most likely doesn’t care what the last guy did. A good manager will ask how it has been done in the past, examine the validity of the decision, but then must formulate his own process. It is frustrating, I know, for an employee to change things under a new manager, but eventually one has to accept that a different manager is going to mean differences in the way he operates. A manager has precious little time to spend on recreating history what with monitoring all the attendance issues in the office.

5) “If you don’t do _________ I am out of here!”- see number 10 for guidance on this one. To a manager, you’ve already quit in your mind and you’ve quit on him. This statement is irretrievable and it demonstrates an attempt to subvert the manager’s authority.

4) “I didn’t get that email” – Its’ the 21st century. Unlike snail-mail, email is not lost by being torn to shreds by a postage sorter, it’s not rained on, dropped by the postman, misaddressed, or accidentally mailed to the wrong zip-code. Bottom line? Your boss should know your email address. Do not say you didn’t get the email, which implies it got lost. Emails, as a general rule, do not get lost. However, saying you didn’t get the email is a little better than telling him you deleted it because you can’t keep up with your email! If your boss feels the need to attach a Read Receipt to the emails he sends you there are only two possibilities in play. 1) If he attaches a receipt to every email he sends to everyone – he’s a psycho. Or 2) If he attaches the receipt only to the emails he sends you, most likely you’ve used the statement “I didn’t get that email” too many times.

3) “But does the same thing!” – That’s it. Throw your coworker under the bus. Two things can happen when you say this to your boss and both are bad. First your boss will be convinced you are a tattler and most likely will tell you that he’s not interested in talking about your coworker, he’s interested in what you do right now. Besides, unless he’s one of those soulless vampires we talked about earlier, he’s not going to discuss another employee’s status with you, nor is he going to discuss your status with anyone else. The second bad thing that could happen, is your boss genuinely did not know your coworker was as bad an employee as you and now you are both in trouble!

2) “We need more help” – this may sound like an honest assessment of the work place and the team’s inability to get the work done. However, if this statement is translated into Manager-ese it sounds like this. “You are either mismanaging the department or have hired inefficient, incompetent people.” Be careful of answering the question of “what can I do to help you be more successful?” when your boss asks it, with the statement, “We need more help”. Here is generally the reality of this situation. Your manager is looking for ways to improve your efficiency and the quality and timeliness of your work. Hiring help for you is not efficient. Instead provide constructive information like this –

“I think it would help me if I had some training in Excel to help me track orders, or better yet, is there an automated way for me to track this information, etc.”

“I need this tool, which will help me do this, which will make me more efficient, because now I have to do it this way which takes much longer.”

“Can I reschedule some of this work to another period which will even out my workload? Right now I am getting slammed the first quarter of the month.”

Obviously, these are just generic examples but they can apply to almost any work done by anyone. The point is, ‘more people’ is almost never the right answer to productivity problems.

1) “No” – Don’t say it. Don’t think it. When your boss asks you to do something you do not like doing, just say no to “No”. With a little practice and forethought it is quite possible to say no without saying no. In fact, easy responses to a new assignment are easily made. Phrases like:

“Are you sure I am the person most capable of doing this?”

“I will be happy to do this for you, but I just want to let you know that I have these three things waiting for me. How would you like me to prioritize them?”

Here are your bullets for Chapter 2

• Let your actions, attitudes, and words demonstrate to your boss that you are comfortable operating under the authority his job description implies.

• Your words should be humble but confident. Praise others and let your boss praise you. Don’t take credit, let your performance, attitude, and the way you communicate speak for themselves.

• “That’s not my job” and “No” should be removed from your vocabulary – with your boss but especially with your customers and coworkers.

• Never give your boss an ultimatum, Never take away his opportunity to give you the credit, by taking it for yourself.

• If most everyone in your office gives you the cold shoulder…something is wrong….most likely, with you.

• Earn your bosses trust with every task you perform, every day, every week, all year long. If you have to assure your boss that you are trustworthy, most likely you are not.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to be a Good Employee Introduction and Chapter 1

How to Be A Good Employee

The vast inventories of thousands of booksellers in cities around the world are replete with self-help business books promising three or more easy steps to being an excellent manager or manage like Jesus for success, or the management secrets from the dungeons of some mythical school of magic. All it takes is a quick perusal of the many tomes to see that one vital segment of business is completely ignored. (“Tomes” is probably overdoing it a little – most of these volumes are less than 200 pages and are littered with bullet points – perhaps because managers think in PowerPoint.) I think it is significant what one does not find. There are no books offering bullet-pointed guidance to the one person that makes or breaks a company, a community, or a country. There are no books to help the employee be the kind of employee a manager needs for success.

Let’s face it, management techniques – even those practiced by seasoned and successful managers – can only do so much and really only motivate employees who generally need no motivation. If I take exception to self-help management books that promise success if only one manages like Jesus or more profits because one approaches his team like the Dali Lama, it is this: they should be titled accurately, at least, perhaps something like these fictional examples would be more appropriate.

6 Easy Steps to Make Your Self Motivated Employees Feel Good About Themselves

Harry Potter’s Secrets to Convincing Your Good Employees to Tolerate the Idiots They Work With

Dilbert’s Guide to Preventing Work Place Violence (Good Employees Should Not Kill the Bad Ones)

This, then, is my humble attempt at creating a self-help book for those employees who seem to always be in trouble; always on the cusp of another written counseling or being placed on a performance improvement plan. This is my contribution to help the team wreckers, the unpopular customer dis-satisfiers, the always late and frequently absent employees who diminish productivity, sow discord, and constantly find themselves in a whirlwind of pressure and paper work. This is dedicated to Them.

• Throughout this book I’ve insisted on using the traditional ‘he’ pronoun for brevity. I do not intend to imply that managers are always men or employees should only be ‘men’. I am just old fashioned and typing he/she is laborsome.

Table Of Contents

Chapter 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . Attendance (Yes one ought to be there when one is scheduled)

Chapter 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . Spade and Barrow (Things one should not say to one’s boss)

Chapter 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . King Makers Not Welcome (No, you are not in charge)

Chapter 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . It Flows Up-Hill (Explanations are nice, but not always practical)

Chapter 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . Until it Hurts (Passive-Aggressive behavior is just plain stupid)

Chapter 6. . . . . . . . . . . . There is No I in T.E.A.M. (But there is a ME)

Chapter 7. . . . . . . . . . . . Munchausen By Proxy (Applaud Me for Clearing up the Mess I Made)

Chapter 8. . . . . . . . . . . . The Mask (Clock-in, Don the Mask, Clock-out, Doff the Mask)

Chapter 9. . . . . . . . . . . . Work for An Excellent Organization (warning: double entendre)

Chapter 10. . . . . . . . . . . The 40 Hour Paradox (You are not guaranteed forty hours a week)

Chapter 11. . . . . . . . . . . Once One Takes the Step (the road back is tougher than the road forward)

Chapter 12. . . . . . . . . . . How to Get Fired with Grace and Dignity

Chapter 1

Attendance (Yes one ought to be there when one is scheduled)

“The biggest fool in the world is he who merely does his work supremely well, without attending to appearance.” – Michael Korda

Be there when you are supposed to be there; leave when you are supposed to leave – if for no other reason than to present the illusion that you are in control, serious about the job you have been given, and feel that you are an important part of the team.

Some of us leave home 15 minutes earlier than we, perhaps, need to for everything. Whether we are going to the movies, a dinner with friends, or a doctor’s appointment, the courtesy of being on time (or the fear of being late) drives us to arrive a little early, even if it means we have to wait a few minutes in our cars or in the lobby; even if it means we are always waiting on those who have no fear of being late, or those whom regard courtesy as an ancient custom no longer applicable to modern man.

Some of us, however, are perpetually late. I thought about dividing the perpetually late into two categories – those who do their job well and those who, when they do decide to show up don’t even have that going for them. But, in reality, businesses have held timely attendance separate from job function for too long. A recurring theme in this text, should you decide to stick with me until the end, is that everything an employee does is connected to overall job function and performance. Timely attendance has a profound effect on job performance, customer satisfaction, and staff morale.

When you are there with the rest of the team you are showing them that you are all in this together. You’ve got their back and they’ve got yours. Nothing wreaks havoc within a team more than one member of the team rarely being where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. Soon every member of the team perceives that the outlier is being treated differently than they are. Within six months of this kind of behavior, every member of the team will be setting their own schedule or completely pissed off at everyone else. The true victim in this situation is the customer. If your own teammates can’t count on you then your customer can’t either.

Being on time has other benefits beyond customer satisfaction and team morale. Remember that pay raise you asked for? Remember the recognition you did not get? Remember that new efficiency your boss was trying to get approved that most surely would make your job easier? Well, if your manager has to spend too much time tracking your attendance he will not have the time to lead your organization to new levels of efficiency and he definitely is not working to be more profitable so he can pay you more money. I’ve seen one person completely derail a project that would have put more money in all of his team-mates pockets simply because the manager had to spend too much time tracking attendance, producing paper work, and counseling.

Most companies detest overtime. The reason? They can’t control it, report it in advance, or accurately budget for it, even if it is based on sales or production estimates – it is still an estimate. Additionally, overtime wears you out. One of the ways a perpetually tardy or absent employee “evens out” their weekly hours is to volunteer overtime work whether it is truly needed or not, claiming to work from home, or actually adjusting their schedule if they do have to work overtime. Meanwhile, the person that works overtime to fill in hours or fails to show up the next shift because overtime wore them out, wears out their coworkers and teamwork and morale suffer.

Ask many employees and they will tell you that their boss has no soul. Ask many bosses and they will tell you that the reason for this is that their employees have slowly killed it over time. I tend to agree with the bosses on this one. Many of my peers in the management world appear to be soulless vampires sucking the remaining life out of their employees. However, as is the trend in modern entertainment with empathetic blood suckers in the movies, I understand that the vampirism of many managers has been developed by years of employees turning them to the darkside through the invocation of the human story into their excuses for absenteeism. Enough of the humanity. A valid excuse for an absence is good as far as it goes. Embellishing an excuse with the sordid details of how the world is out to get you or how you are up against the greatest odds may prick a little compassion in the soul of your manager but eventually the number of times you have to give an excuse will outweigh the validity of the excuse. Eventually the manager won’t believe anything you tell them and he becomes tired of or immune to the feelings of compassion that an employee tries to create in him; hence the appearance that the boss is a member of the ranks of the undead. By this time, however, your credibility is pretty much shot. A good manager will intensify his scrutiny of your attendance and the leeway he may have shown in the past will disappear. This makes him seem even more soulless.

Enough lecture? – here are your 6 bullet points for Self-Help Attendance Excellence

• Being there when you are supposed to has a positive effect on the cohesiveness of the team

• If you are always a few minutes late – leave earlier. Your manager should not be responsible for what happens in your life before or after work, and your manager, if he is worth his weight, will not accommodate a new schedule to help you get there – that’s special treatment no one else gets. The bottom line? Be at work when you are supposed to. That’s it. No further hints necessary.

• If you get overtime the night before – do not self adjust your schedule “to help” reduce your company’s overtime or to recover from the personal strain a late night may have on you. Do not leave early or come in later to offset overtime hours. Give your manager the courtesy of making these decisions for himself.

• Even if you have a good excuse for being late or for an absence, eventually the quality of the excuse no longer comes into play. The quantity of excuses will eventually catch up to you. Besides, there is some truth to the old saying, “An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” Too many excuses and a manager begins to doubt your honesty. And rightly so.

• Do not make a habit of appealing to the humanity of your manager in the excuses you provide for absences or tardies. This sucks the life out of him and he will eventually turn into the monster you’ve always dreaded he would be.