Six ways to get to know someone at work

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How to get to know someone at work

Work can be one of the loneliest places around, besides maybe bars and Tinder (I’ve heard 😜). 

We weren’t designed to sit right next to each other in a gray maze and never connect.

That’s weird. 

But it’s never too late to start getting to know someone you work with every day. Even if you’ve worked with them in mostly silence for five years, you can start a connection today.

And you may find it changes your outlook on your own work.

Does that strike a little fear in your freshly-caffeinated heart? 😱

Fear not

Just remember a few things:

1. Never assume someone doesn’t want to connect with you

Everyone desires connection with others in some way, even if they don’t let on.

It’s one of the top yearnings I hear from clients. There are really very few people in this world who “don’t like people.” That’s a cover for their own fear of reaching out and being rejected.

This is why taking your initiative to reach out to others is so valuable. If you start it, the likelihood of rejection for them is greatly diminished.

And there’s a good chance that someone who thinks you’re awesome has always wanted to connect with you, in particular.

So just know that.

2. Keep it simple

Simply ask a question about their weekend, or just comment on that old standby — the weather. 

Maybe that’s not deep enough for you. But remember, Gandalf,  you’re merely trying to open the door and get an exchange going.

The goal is not to become their best friend or hold hands while running through a tulip field together. 🌷 

Yes, you may find that over time, these light exchanges may eventually turn to slightly deeper matters.

But that’s not your point today.

Building off of these seemingly old-school conversations simply starts to develop a little trust.

3. Be curious, George

Even better, use your natural curiosity to ask questions about something you may already know that interests them. 

Do they have pictures of themselves dressed in fly fishing gear inside their cubicle? Ask them about that. 

I can almost guarantee you will start something, because I’m guessing you are likely not to know much about fly fishing. (That just seems like a very niche kind of thing.)

Watch them come alive and share something with you that they may have learned while fishing in a remote river somewhere. 

Don’t you do this when someone asks you about something you enjoy or have become an expert in? 

4. Listen to understand, not to reply

This means that when someone is talking to you, you’re not having a conversation inside your own head about what you’re going to say next. 

Even if it’s super valuable and super witty. Shut it down for a minute. 

You’re listening simply so that you can get more information about the other person. 

Here’s a fun trick: summarize and restate back to them what they just said to you. They’ll quickly tell you if you got it wrong. 😳

Next time you’ll be eager to pay more attention.

5. When you do share, try not to offer advice

It’s tempting to want to provide advice, especially if you’ve already been there. But you may not have earned this yet. 

Remember, you’re connecting and building rapport. 

And if you’re not careful, it can seem like you’re trying to top their experience.

We’ve all met “toppers.” These are conversation assassins who seem to invalidate your story while telling you how their experience was so much worse (or better). 😒

Don’t be a topper.

Simply offer this: 

“I went through something similar once. It wasn’t easy. Here’s what worked for me.”

Sharing from your own experience has the added benefit of them maybe developing some empathy for you, too.  

6. Compliment them about one thing they do really well at work

As far as I know, we’re still allowed to give compliments at work.

We are awesome at so many things that just come naturally to us, and it’s nice to hear that others notice it.

All the career literature says that being recognized for your good work is one of the main drivers for employee satisfaction. And employees may not be getting that recognition from their management, quoth the same career literature. 

So you can totally boost someone’s day with one positive observation about their work.

You’ve now taken a simple connection and created more positivity in your sphere of influence.

Look at you being an agent of change!

Let’s get it started in here

We can’t always rely on instant rapport to drive how we connect at work. Connection doesn’t just happen.

In many cases it may require an intentional action that starts with you. 

If you’ve struggled to connect with others, know that it’s not a character flaw to beat yourself up with. 

Connection is a skill that can be learned and developed.

Just find simple ways to reach out and look for common interests.

Find a touch point that you can both share, and let it evolve from there.

What about you?

Have you struggled with making a connection at work? Share in the comments!


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How anger at work affects you and what to do about it

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Anger at work

Few things are as destructive in the workplace as anger.

And it’s quite stealthy.

I’m not talking about the kind of anger at work that wells up when you open the break room fridge and find your lunch MIA. This has never happened to me. I suspect it’s largely because my lunches contain mostly quinoa and avocado.

I’m not even talking about the yelling, slamming-fists-on-the-table kind of anger. I know realistically we’ve all worked with someone like that at some point. The person who name-calls and yells, is visibly infuriated, flies off the handle when they don’t get their way, and makes everyone uncomfortable.

Some people say you should just let this kind of anger out, that catharsis is healthy. I’m not so sure about that, domestic violence being what it is.

Silence is rarely golden

No, I’m talking about a more silent anger. One that hides behind smiles and professionalism, but drives many of your behaviors and decisions at work.

You may not even realize you’re angry. Maybe it really feels more like frustration. But if left unchecked, frustration can boil up and surprise you when you can least afford it.

Suddenly you’re saying and doing things that are out of character for you.

Then what?

  • Good relationships get pummelled because things were said that can’t be taken back.
  • Trust erodes when anger at work rears its head because we assume the worst about people and their intentions. People like our bosses.
  • Projects don’t get finished because no one can focus on their actual work and companies make less money.
  • Good people quit good jobs when they get angry at work because they feel powerless to make change.

The work game can set you up for anger

Work sometimes reminds me of the game called Keep Away (Piggy in the Middle, for my British friends). Did you play this game as a kid?

There’s one ball and three people. The object of this game is to toss the ball back-and-forth between two people and keep the third person, who finds himself in the middle, from getting the ball.

That’s pretty much the game.

Great laughter and sneering ensues while the third person flails around pathetically trying to catch the ball.

Maybe when you were a kid you were athletic, tall, aggressive, quick, crafty or Lebron James but in my storied past, this is how I looked when this sad game went down.

I remember being seriously ticked off playing this game.

Those two knuckleheads tossing the ball were blocking me from what I wanted, and it made me so angry.

But being a good Southern girl, I smiled and laughed it off while downing my sweet iced tea with lemon.

Anger is an obstacle

Anger usually presents itself when something or someone is standing in your way to a goal or a status you are trying to achieve.
  • You might be angry because you didn’t get the promotion you thought you deserved.
  • You may be angry because a coworker didn’t finish their part of the project and now the whole thing is in jeopardy.
  • You may be angry because you feel disrespected in spite of the value you bring to your team.
  • You may feel angry because you don’t have the resources to be successful.
  • You may be angry because you feel invisible, or you feel like you’re too visible and take the rap for everything bad that happens.
  • You may be angry because you can’t find peace to get your work done.
  • You might be angry because the changes never seem to stop and you just can’t get your legs under you.

No one may even have a clue you’re angry about these things. You’re good at hiding it because you don’t want to be yelling-and-slamming fists guy (or girl, girls can slam fists). That’s unprofessional.

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.

So if you’re all smiles and giggles, how does this anger show up?

  • Have  you ever dropped sarcastic remarks in response to someone’s input on something?
  • Have you ever removed yourself from others in an effort to “show them?”
  • Have you ever asked deliberate leading questions to get someone to admit something or to make them look bad?
  • Have you ever talked about someone behind their back?
  • Have you ever withheld information someone might need to do their job?

These kinds of behaviors are all passive aggressive.

Meaning, you’re angry, but you act like you aren’t and use unrelated actions to communicate it.

Like when your spouse slams the dishes around while cleaning the kitchen you were supposed to clean. There’s a message there, but she’s not being terribly clear about it. But she is being loud.

And like that game of Keep Away, staying angry and flailing around about what you’re not getting isn’t going to get you anywhere.

At some point, you have to take action or nothing will change. In fact, your anger could give way to things like anxiety and depression.

So what can you do?

Stop letting anger block you

Anger is an excellent indicator that something is wrong. It wraps itself around and protects things like fear, vulnerability and hurt.

Anger can give you useful data to find out what you really need to work on. Anger is a beetle (What!? More on that here.)

Understand what you’re angry about

Take an honest assessment about what is making you angry. Write down each thing that you get upset about.

A good way to know when something has made you angry is if you sit at your desk and ruminate about it constantly and can’t get your work done.

Write. It. Down.

Then, rate from 1-10, how angry that thing makes you:

  • 1=”not so much,”
  • 10=”off the freakin’ rails.”

Look for patterns in the things you rated as off the rails, or close to off the rails. What common elements do they share?

Use this data to find out what you’re wanting and not getting.

You can also review your list and see if you can identify any other possible scenarios that might explain the situation.

Your boss ignored your email?

  • Perhaps it’s in her spam folder.
  • Maybe her daughter had to go to the ER and she’s been a little busy with that this morning.
  • Maybe she drafted a response and got sidetracked and forgot to hit Send. That happens to me soooo much.
  • Maybe she actually doesn’t care about your email. The negative response is always a possibility but it doesn’t have to be the first thing you come up with.
  • Try to explore all the possibilities before you go all Walter White on her.

Be brave and communicate it directly

Now that you have some idea of what is making you angry, give some consideration as to how you might communicate it to others so you can speak honestly about your experience.

In a work environment, this can be tricky. Most organizations have mechanisms to deal with slamming-fist people, but many are not that skilled with the finer emotional events that drive everyday work.

You will have to be the one to take the initiative, and it will be good for you because initiative is the anti-passive-aggressive.

So who should you talk to? Your manager?

You have to gauge this one based on your relationship with your manager. Many managers want to know when their people are unhappy, but just as many don’t know quite what to do with it.

Give some thought as to how your anger might sound on their side of the table and see how you might frame it in a way that will help them help you.

One way to do this is to communicate your concerns using “I” statements.

Speak from your own experience, describing the emotions you feel and how it has affected your situation.

And, this is important: you do this without casting blame or trying to assess the other person’s motives.

For example, NOT this:

“I noticed my accomplishments were not mentioned in last month’s report to the CEO along with everyone else. How could you disrespect me like that? I worked so hard and sacrificed a lot of personal time to get it done. I can’t believe how little you care about me and my work.”

Dang! No…

Try this instead:

“I noticed my accomplishments were not mentioned in last month’s report to the CEO along with everyone else. Gotta be honest, that made me feel a bit angry because I worked extra hours and sacrificed personal time to meet the goals. My goals and my team’s goals are really important to me. Help me understand what you need from me. What could I be missing?”

In the last scenario, you speak to your anger, but not in a way that puts the other person on the defensive. Instead, it’s a call for more information to improve the process, and ultimately, it’s more collaborative.

“I” statements are a powerful way to communicate with anyone who may have a real stake in your life: coworkers, spouses, kids, friends, the geniuses at the Apple store.

If you can’t talk to your manager, is there someone else in your internal network who can hear your concerns? Maybe someone in a different department who has a voice in the organization?

Don’t be a jerk, let it go

Whether you address your anger with someone else or not, you are still faced with the prospect of letting your anger go.

Anger is exhausting and doesn’t really serve anyone, least of all you. You may not get your justice, and you may have to be okay with that.

Letting it go serves to start with a clean slate, for everyone. This is a great foundation to build trust and can actually strengthen your relationships.

There is great value in exploring and processing anger, but the road always leads to the same place: to move forward you have to release it.

This is the part you can control

Letting go of anger is a decision and a commitment. There’s no magic trick that will distract you from it or make it seem better than it is.

It is an act of humility that says the greater good is bigger than my feelings in this moment.

It’s easy to look for others to be the cause of why we’re struggling at work, but we forget that we hold so much power over our emotions.

Anger is tricky because it seems like it’s mostly caused by something or someone else.

But the decision on how to deal with anger is largely left up to us.

That’s not fair, but that seems to be the way that particular cookie fell off the sheet.

We can choose how to perceive others’ actions in our workday, and we can decide what role we might play in the solution.

Who knows how that might change the outcome?

What about you?

How have you experienced anger at work? What has helped you? Please share!


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How to weather change at work without stressing out

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How to weather change at work without stressing out

Change has always been a part of the workplace.

But in the last five to eight years it seems it has reached a fever pitch in many organizations. You can expect something big to change every two or so years, sometimes even way less.

Have you experienced this lately? Change can be one of the biggest causes of stress at work.

Reorganizations, leadership changes, new regulations and legislation that require big changes to workflows and processes, automation that makes cherished roles redundant.

Don’t get me wrong. Change isn’t necessarily bad. New developments and innovations can take an organization in a new and exciting direction.

But it’s still an adjustment because motion creates friction. (Hey, look who was paying attention in Mr. Rieger’s 10th grade physics class.)

The catalyst for change runs the gamut but the results can be the same:

  • What’s going to happen to me?
  • When will I know what’s going to happen?
  • What if I’m not comfortable with the changes?
  • Will I have to take on even more?
  • Am I still needed?
  • If I don’t like the change, should I stay and wait it out or get out now?
  • This isn’t what I signed up for.
  • This isn’t fair.

Emotions like fear, uncertainty, anger, and frustration can drown you and your coworkers in times of change.

You may feel powerless, which can cause you to think and act in ways outside of your character.

That certainly won’t help.

And you may lash out at leadership, even as they may be experiencing the same emotions and fears.

Many organizations haven’t mastered how to effectively coach their employees through change. 

So developing a healthy attitude and adaptive responses to changes at work largely falls on your shoulders.

To thrive in today’s work environments, you have to expect that change will come knocking on your door.

And part of that expectation is being prepared ahead of time. You can decide now how you will engage so when the change occurs, you can remain flexible and productive.

Here are a few things to consider as the winds of change start blowing at work.

1. Don’t take change personally.

Reframe your perspective. Don’t be paranoid. It’s not about you.

It really is “just business.”

Change or die is kind of a very real thing now facing organizations (Blockbuster, anyone?).

Change can result from new industry advancements, higher expectations from technology, excitement about the future, or a desperate attempt to salvage something that’s just not going well.

And this would probably happen whether or not you were sitting in your cheerily-decorated space.

Do this instead: 

Choose to view yourself as a business. While “just business” is still “kinda personal” — because, after all, business changes can affect your livelihood — you can decide to use the power you do have to make your own change.

The change door swings both ways.

While your organization is assessing, hypothesizing and consulting, you get to do the same thing.

  • What’s working for you?
  • What’s not working?
  • What skills would you like to continue to develop or deepen?
  • What other levers could you pull to achieve your career goals?
  • What do you want to do?

Honestly, you should always be on the hunt for answering these questions, even if everything is perfect at work.

Exploring these questions can help you feel a little less powerless because you can generate some tangible options for yourself.

You don’t have to act on those options necessarily. But it’s a real mood booster to know you have options, like finding that surprise $20 bill in your jeans on laundry day.

Plus, assessing your skills and experiences is a huge validator. Sometimes in the day-to-day we forget how awesome we are.

2. Don’t ruminate about all the negative possibilities.

Rumination is a dastardly thinking habit that’ll take you right down the road to depression and anxiety. If you only have the mental budget to stop doing one thing, pick this one, please.

When you entertain distressing and negative thoughts over and over and over, without challenging them, stewing over them at your desk and casting blame on others like Thor’s hammer, guess what?

Your mood totally tanks. Your mental state spirals down into a mess of obsession over every little comment, side glance or email.

Now you feel hopeless.

You may look up and realize a half hour has gone by and you haven’t done anything.

So, in a time of great change, you’re not getting your work done.

(If you prefer a description of rumination that involves cows, and really, who doesn’t?, click here.)

Do this instead:

Rumination is a habit and one you can absolutely change. It’s easy.

Instead of fuming, write down your most distressing thoughts, right there at your desk. Then, under each thought, write a possible explanation you may not have considered.

Be a detective. What else could be going on that you haven’t considered, Sherlock?

It can be completely plausible or involve aliens. As long as you’re generating ideas.

Bonus: Now you have distracted yourself, probably made yourself laugh because we all know how funny you are when it comes to aliens, and interrupted the aforementioned dastardly rumination.

You have also considered a different perspective on your experience, which is gold. You get 10 points!

3. Don’t get caught up in the rumors and the riff raff.

Note: If you don’t know what riff raff is, you’re probably part of it.

This one is really, really hard. I know your mother and all the career literature says, “Thou shouldst not partaketh in gossip-eth.”

But in an organizational change vacuum, where reliable information may be like finding a free restroom in Manhattan, sometimes gossip feels like all you have.

However, priming the rumor pump is a nifty way to keep anxiety and fear constantly churned up — for everyone.

Of course, you naturally want to share and process your feelings and fears with others who are going through the same experience. This is normal and healthy, to a degree.

But there’s a point where it becomes damaging and counterproductive. Sharing information that you heard from someone else is one thing.

Fortune-telling and mud-slinging from that information (which may or may not be accurate, usually not) is a whole other enchilada.

And in many cases, your predictions are way off anyway.

Do this instead:

Decide to be a safe person for your coworkers. Determine ahead of time how you will engage with new information that presents itself from unofficial channels.

If you are uncomfortable with something, say so. If a group discussion starts going askew and you start getting that icky feeling, excuse yourself and walk away.

You may not nail this 100% of the time because some conversations just evolve. But do your best.

Most importantly, find simple ways every day to encourage your coworkers who may be struggling even more than you.

Make this your “shtick” as your organization progresses through the change. People do appreciate it, and it will help keep you encouraged as much as it helps them.

4. Don’t abandon your self care regimen.

Now is not the time to stop exercising, eating right or sleeping.

Focusing on these three tools in your toolkit is the key to building resilience for everything life throws your way.

Stress at work takes its toll on you physically by jacking up your adrenal system. When you’re under stress, your blood pressure goes up, your heart rate increases, your muscles constrict, and your pupils dilate.

The hormone cortisol becomes the general who barks orders in your body as it prepares you for the “danger” ahead.

Staying in this constant state of “fight or flight,” though, is too much wear and tear on your adrenal and cardiovascular systems.

This is why at the end of the day you have headaches, heart palpitations, indigestion, irritability and difficulty sleeping.

Do this instead:  

Intentional self care is the foolproof antidote to stress at work. It won’t change your stress but it can change your outlook on it and how you respond.

Exercise: Find time every day for some form of movement. Go for a run or walk, ride your bike, do yoga, play a quick game of basketball with your kids, pull some weeds in your yard, whatever. Just move.

When things get hot at work, take a break and go for a 10-minute walk. You’re allowed.

This is a great way to let off steam in the moment and has the added advantage of reducing your blood pressure on the spot. (I know this because I’m now in that phase of life where taking my blood pressure has become a sport.)

Eat right: Make a planned and deliberate effort to nourish your body with healthy foods. It doesn’t matter if you are doing keto, paleo, Weight Watchers, you’re a vegan or you just eat when you’re hungry (is that a thing?).

Simply focus on making healthier choices every day and staying away from the processed junk and sugars that we all know by now are bad for us.

Don’t make your marvelously adaptable body have to work harder to keep you all together.

Sleep: Sleep is a discipline. It’s not something that happens upon you like bonus fries at the bottom of the bag. You may have to work for it to get it to fall in place.

Make bedtime the main event and focus of your evening. Anything that distracts you from getting to bed on time shouldn’t make the cut. This won’t make you a hit at the parties you’re not going to, but the results will make you feel like a rockstar.

Do we not do this with our kids when they’re young? If you were like me, your whole nighttime schedule revolved around getting your kids to bed on time. Woe be unto any person or activity who tried to impede that.

Make that same commitment to yourself. Maybe your evening should involve more snuggling and someone reading you a bedtime story.

For more grown-up tactics on how to get better sleep, Google “sleep hygiene” and “bedtime rituals.”

Stay flexible, my friends

None of these things will keep changes at work from affecting you. But the secret sauce of weathering change, at work or at home, is giving yourself the best shot at staying flexible.

What doesn’t bend will break. You’re not helpful to yourself or anyone else if you’re broken.

You can’t be adaptable by being paranoid about the future, letting your emotions run amok, giving others room to determine your perspective and allowing your body to get overwhelmed.

You have more power than you know to not just survive change, but to thrive beyond it.

What about you?

What are some ways you have dealt with change at work? What has worked for you? Do share!


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