Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Evil Does Exist. It May be One of Your Coworkers.

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

14383290_sNarcissists are among the most interesting coworkers. They are also repugnant, disruptive and poisonous to a business, and potentially to your career. That is, if your narcissist sees you as anything except a reflection of his or her greatness. So, you must interact with your narcissist as if everything she does deserves nothing but positive regard and appreciation. Otherwise, expect that your narcissist will attempt to destroy you.

Actually, no matter what you do: your narcissist will attempt to destroy you.

Our office narcissist has picked on everyone except me. That is, until Friday. Then, she pointed her ugly, crazy, manic, depressed, stressed-out-because-I-don’t-have-enough-work-to-do-but-I-have-too-much-work-to-do tantrum in front of me. This came right after it took me 30 seconds to find an important corporate contract that an investor said he needed. It had been created long before I arrived. Our narcissist said the document didn’t exist. After all, she had spent 5 days “looking for it.”

So there I was holding it in my hand after near-zero effort to get it. And my ease of finding it tripped the venom in her mouth to spew. At one point there were words like “you never had a friend” and “you think you know everything” coming like projectile vomit at me. “Stop,” I said. “Go away. I have to get this document to the investor.”

Ten minutes later, she walked by my office and stopped in the doorway. “Oh,” she said. “You’re still working? It’s after hours – do you want me to stay and help you?”

A dead calm hit me.

And in that moment of pure serenity, I had the epiphany.

OMG. She’s a malignant narcissist! A rare breed.

These are people who work to make trouble and cause distress, then reverse on you to suddenly become helpful and appear goodnatured. M. Scott Peck does a great job of describing malignant narcissists in his book, People of the Lie.

The thesis of Peck’s monumental work is this. These people are the evil in the human race.

They have a self-image of perfection. Excessive intolerance of criticism. Scapegoating. Disguise and pretense. Intellectual deviousness. Greed. Coercion and control of others. Symbiotic relationships. Lack of empathy.

So it took two months to actually “diagnose” her, just in time for our malignant narcissist to give her 30 days notice. When we gratefully accepted? She changed her mind. After all, as a malignant narcissist: you believe giving and taking back your resignation would be your right.

This will be an eventful week. We anticipate lots of (false) accusations, blaming, crying, sick days, and precision attacks on the character of others. That is, after all, how we went from “Isn’t she amazing?” to “What’s wrong with her?” At least now we are over the confusion – which is the first sign that you have an malignant narcissist.

She’s not crazy. She’s not suffered any misfortune. She is simply a bad apple, as organizational psychologist Adam Grant calls these folks. Or evil, as the renowned psychiatrist Peck calls them.

For the rest of us good eggs, it’s been a startling realization.

So, if you have been confused, aggravated and disrupted by a co-worker, subordinate or superior: wow! Isn’t it nice to know there’s a diagnosis for these folks? And, as a boss I find it reassuring to learn there is no amount of training, no amount of support and even no magnitude of praise that I could muster to help her.

I had a plant like this in the outer reaches of my property at home. The plant is called poison ivy. It makes you itch, blister and scar. It looks benign, even nice. But, it’s poisonous. Just have to cut it out. Then the rest of the plants can blossom.

And so we will.

 

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How to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burnout

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

23723300_sI had the unfortunate experience of reading a list of the top stressors in human life. You may have seen that list. Death of a loved one, divorce, losing a friend, major illness, moving, caregiving … the usual suspects. Then, thanks to grazing on brainpickings.org, I discovered the link between unrelenting stress and the deleterious effect on your memory, physical well-being and emotional stability. What a bummer. All bad news.

Well, there was a bit of good news. In the moment, a sudden stressor shuts down any unnecessary bodily function so the organs, systems and limbs you need get fully funded by your central nervous system. Plus they get first priority on blood flow and other physiological processes.

That’s why the caveman wasn’t standing at the sink eating a sandwich when the saber tooth tiger roared outside the opening of his cave. Caveman was suddenly in the mood to flee, or if necessary, fend off the beast. He got super focused in a hurry. Tunnel vision. Got his priorities in order.

The occasional rush deadline or your boss screaming about a missed delivery isn’t in that league of stressor. Most of us turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, or claim we were hacked so we didn’t get that email.

It’s when unrelenting problems meet unsympathetic responses that stress tears you down. It’s physiological, not a character issue. It’s your chemicals: hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal hormones that over time cause inflammation in the oddest places. Arthritis, colds, migraines … almost any ailment you can imagine may be triggered by stress.

So that creates more stress. Unmitigated, ongoing stress leads to a kind of numbness. We call that burnout.

The cure doesn’t seem obvious. “Gutting through it” isn’t a long term strategy. Running away isn’t always possible.

Probably the least obvious stress reliever is helping someone else. We’ve known for a long time that altruism benefits the giver more than the receiver. There is something about doing service for someone who could use your help that breathes new life into your worn out soul.

Maybe it’s walking shelter dogs. Lending your couch to someone who is temporarily displaced. Washing your roommate’s dishes. Reconciling a checkbook, doing the weekly shop or whatever else you can for a disabled or elderly neighbor.

Giving the gift of yourself reminds you that you are a gift.

Don’t do the old “give ‘til it hurts.”

Think: If it hurts, give.

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The #1 Relationship Problem That Stalls Your Career

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

 

nance rosen, Productivity Skills, relationships, successAll of us have experienced “relationship” problems. You might have a problem with your girlfriend or boyfriend, life partner, parent, sibling, business partner, best friend, roommate, boss, coworker or even a neighbor. Really, given the number of people in your life, especially when you add your FB fame or any other cyber group you’re in: it’s amazing you have any ability to focus on anything in your career or business.

Focus is the greatest predictor of progress. Relationship problems get in the way of your ability to focus.

The worst relationship problem you have is with yourself.

It seems odd to think of yourself being in a relationship with yourself. But, you are. You reject yourself. Criticize yourself. Feel guilty about abusing your body. Feel out-of-control about your impulsive behavior. And, occasionally you feel good about yourself, even great – often because you’ve kept a resolution or promise you made to yourself.

Did you make resolutions this year? Like:

1. I will go to bed before midnight because experts say it’s good for my liver. FYI, depression experts say that staying up all night is an immediate and wildly effective intervention if you are suffering. Keep in mind, all-nighters are not part of a long term strategy because sleep deprivation is used for torture, as we found out in the last peek into CIA documents. But being depressed might be more important than your liver on any given day. And one night does not approach the torture threshold.

2. I will drop or add 10 pounds so I can look a lot more like Bradley Cooper, or like Bradley Cooper’s girlfriend. BGF: Thank you for posting those selfie bikini photos because apparently Bradley is incapable of giving you enough attention, so why not get more from random strangers? It’s clear your being photographed by the paparazzi when you’re with Bradley really isn’t as fulfilling as being photographed by yourself, by yourself.

3. I will stop smoking, biting my nails, yelling at my kids, drinking Diet Coke, texting while driving, using my finger nails as tools to scrape stuff off my desk, eating gluten, being a glutton or doing anything that in any way reduces my anxiety in ways that work in the moment, but make me feel bad later in the day, week, year or any period of time that I feel anxious. That time period would be called my life.

In other words: you make promises to yourself and break them all the time. Then you feel remorse, guilt, misery, and out-of-control.

Given that you probably don’t give yourself a time-out and sit in the corner, you probably push the self-recrimination under the proverbial rug and keep living your life. In other words: you don’t actually figure out the root of the problem or goal. You declare tomorrow is the day when you will really make progress on this goal.

That promise is a trance you put yourself in. It’s what I call a “stalling trance.” You delay your progress by a) making the promise and breaking it, and then b) making the promise again.

Because you don’t figure out what’s wrong with the promise or how to set up your environment so you will succeed: you are actually giving yourself the “silent treatment.”

Now, most people in relationships with others use the “silent treatment” to punish the offender. If you tell your romantic partner to bring home some milk, be nice to your parents, stop telling jokes in public or never again sing Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head at karaoke: and that demand is denied: what is the number one most common response?

The silent treatment. You simply stop talking to the offender, maybe for a day. More if it’s not the first offense, or whatever you decide as prosecutor, judge, jury and probation officer.

In psychology the silent treatment is called: the Demand/Withdraw dance. Actually, they don’t call it a dance, I do. It’s an awkward dance because you’re with this person, often sharing the same space, and you have to weirdly move around them, not talking. You withdraw from engaging in the relationship, by withholding communication. At least about the gross violation of your direct order.

You do the same thing with yourself. You demand certain behaviors of yourself that are not natural – at least not at first. You demanded that you stop over-eating. Or my favorite: stop procrastinating.

When you fail to follow your demands, a bunch of feelings roll in like a thick pea soup fog. No words. Just a sickening stomach churning, cheek burning embarrassment that you failed yourself. Again.

Disappointment and a sense of powerlessness over not just this failure, but all your past failures leave you speechless at how little self-control you have. Hence, the silent treatment. After all, what could you say?

How about speaking up with the best new resolutions you could have. “I will stop ordering myself around. I will catch myself doing things right. I will make a huge deal about anything that could be considered even the tiniest triumph.”

Or more simply: “I will like myself today.”

Repeat each day until it sticks.

That’s progress.

 

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Start Your Naughty List Now

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

good_versus_badHow could it be coming on the end of the year? Where did this year go? Is that how you feel?

Are you looking back and thinking where did you go wrong?

Do you have a sense that this year could have been so much bigger for you?

If you are looking back with some regret, with lingering doubts that you did your best: there is a solution.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to PLAN for the coming one. Take out a big sheet of paper and mark down the milestones you will reach. Write down the actions that you must get to. Imagine what can happen when a fresh new calendar is awaiting you.

There’s only one catch. You must acknowledge what you meant to have happen this year. You have to account for what got in the way. It’s time to write an annual naughty list, so you only reward and move forward with the nice.

If you want to avoid repeating the same patterns that led you astray from your goals, it’s time to take a hard look at what- and who – didn’t work for you this year.

I am sorry that blame has become a synonym for self-righteousness. It’s ridiculous that we don’t value pinpointing the people or processes that were the inflection points of failure. I dislike the trend that no one bears any responsibility for water that has gone over the bridge, milk has been spilt and dreams have been dashed.

I prefer to look failure in the eye and get really granular with who got in the way. Of course, sometimes it’s just the woman (or man) in the mirror.  But, sometimes it was a friend, partner, boss, client, or subordinate who just made progress too hard.

This is a good time to ask:

  • who got in your way?
  • Who needs to be crossed off your holiday gift and email list?
  • Who needs to be reassigned and taken out of your collaboration circles or team?
  • Whose opinion needs to be unsolicited this coming year?
  • Who dropped the ball, took too much time and otherwise just didn’t perform?

If you are going to be an A player, you need to be with A players. You can be friends with everyone, but your closest circle needs to be red hot with motivation, aspirations, and the ability to work hard – especially when the road is rocky.

Take a quiet moment. Make your assessments. Use your judgment. Then decide what next year is going to be made of – including the people and processes on which you will depend.

Then give thanks you, get another year to do better and go bigger.

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Fear Your High School Reunion!

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

School reunion concept.Last Saturday night I was the “plus one” at a high school reunion, where people were frankly in shock. It had been 30 years – 30 years! – since they’d all been together at Lakeland Regional High in Wanaque, New Jersey.

How will you account for three decades that start the moment you begin life, without adult supervision?

How will you explain the lapse of time between now and when you did or didn’t get into your first choice of college, maybe started spending student loan money like you’d never have to repay it or just up and started working or maybe drifting?

One thing for sure. Be careful of getting a job. You might look up 30 years later, waiting for retirement to kick in. Working at a big box store or whatever you land at 18 can be addictive. When you’re too young, the feeling of money in your pocket never gets old… until you do. Then in 30 years you wind up faced with the lives of adventurers and risk-takers, and you’re in the mirror with the same old, same old.

Imagine walking into a hotel ballroom with a deejay playing the soundtrack of your teenage years. Will you still be schlepping your high school sweetheart around the floor?

Imagine the tyranny is over. The dominance of jocks, the secrecy of nerds, the relentless buoyancy of cheer squad and the brotherhood of hipsters smoking in the parking lot – all behind you. (Actually, the hipsters will still go out into the parking lot to smoke.)

Here’s what I observed in place of these old roles. You become a person over 30 years. You drop the attitude, the chip on your shoulder, and the previously endless scrutiny of who’s hot and who’s not. Instead you remember so much, so fondly. Everyone talks to everyone. There are hugs and tears and the whole group dancing badly on the dance floor, in some strange geometric shape that simply means “we survived!”

Fear your high school reunion. Let that motivate you to live a life with stories to tell, adventures you’ve had and failure that taught you resilience and perseverance and came with a big dose of optimism.

You’ll probably be wrinkled, fat, bald or looking older than you ever thought possible. But, it’s all good if happened with the excitement of life experiences.

Now get to work on living – really living! You’ll need stories to tell.

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Why Your Left Hand Hates Your Right Hand

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

400-04590123erIn a typical population, left-handers make up about 15%.  Of course, not every population is typical.

  • Among the five designers of the first Apple computer, four are left-hand dominant.
  • Three of the last five presidents are left-handed.
  • In a group of alcoholics, left-handers triple their typical representation.

So, your left hand might have a lot of interesting stats, but odds are you’re right-handed,  so it’s likely you ignore it unless you really need… an extra hand.

On the other hand….

Your right hand pretty much stars in life’s events. It shakes all the other hands that are stuck out to welcome you. It gets supported in those little desk-chair units at school. Scissors are made for it, no special request needed. It waves hello and good-bye.

Actually, given all the action your right hand sees – your left hand might be jealous.

Sounds nonsensical, doesn’t it? Your hands are simply doing what comes naturally. It’s silly to think that something underhanded (ha!) is going on.

So, let’s get serious. What does your left hand have to do with your attitude about other people at work?

Like your body parts, your co-workers are functioning largely as they are naturally inclined to do. Some are quiet. Some seem to dominate every meeting. Some seem to be incapable of helping when you need boxes carried or midnight oil burned. Some seem to want to jump in (lend a hand?), anytime you look stressed.

Sure, some of us have better titles, more initials after our names and bigger spaces to work in. Some of us have special training and skills. Those attributes don’t change our nature. Largely we each are doing what we do, as we are naturally inclined to do it.

So stop being mad at everyone who acts differently than you want them to. When you stop taking others actions so personally, you become a much happier person. A person who is more in control of yourself, and your career trajectory.

The next time someone infuriates you, maybe you could take a breath and think:

Wow. Just like my own left hand. It often isn’t strong enough or quick enough to do what I need. That’s the way things are.

What does that take? Charity. Patience. Compassion. Three personal branding qualities that you want to keep in mind and on hand.

(With my apologies to left-handers!)

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