Congratulations! You submitted your awesome resume, aced the job interview, and now you’ve got the job! Wanna know how to keep your job? Don’t suck at it. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Here’s to not sucking at work!
Growing up can be both awesome and sucky. It’s awesome because you can do what you want, when you want; and it sucks because you have to pay your own bills and work pretty much every day. Ah, the double edged sword of young adulthood. There are ways, however, that growing up can be more awesome than sucky and that’s what this series is going to be about – how not to suck in your professional life.
Your professional life can’t suck if you don’t have a job. Want to know how to get the job you want? Here’s how – show up. Really! 90% of the young people who say that they want a job and that they’ll “stop by to fill out an application,” never show! Then the ones that do show, often show up smelling like a stale cigarette, dressed unprofessionally, with their cell phone pinging away in their pocket or purse. (*Side note: I’m as obsessed with my cell as the next person but there’s a time and a place, kids, and this is the “how to get the job” part. You might not like everything I have to say but trust me, if you want the job you’ll listen.)
Live by the Boy Scout motto: Always be prepared. If you want the job show up, show up early, and show up fresh. Do you hair, put on some makeup, wear something stylish but make sure it’s appropriate (if it’s something Kim Kardashian would wear, don’t wear it); we’re in the beauty industry so the expectation is that you’re going to be stylish, not whorish, so be mindful of skirt length and boobage if you’re a chick (not shorter than your fingertips when you hang your arms at your sides) and if you’re a dude, make sure your pants aren’t wrinkly, your hair looks polished and your scruff looks intentional. Not sure what the difference is? Google it. Stat. Or, ask someone. People in the salon industry notice details.
Speaking of details, know what else people will notice? When you ask them for a pen to fill out the application you came to fill out. Make sure you bring a pen with you. But I’m bringing my resume, Heather, so I won’t have to fill out an application. You have a resume? Awesome! Bring the pen anyway. Human resources says that employers have to have an application on file. For those of you without a resume, no worries – we’ll go over resumes in my next post – but in the meantime, type up a quick bio about your achievements and activities as they relate to the job you’re applying for. Highlight clubs you belonged to, previous jobs you’ve had and the awesome things you did while you were there, your GPA, honors programs, volunteer work, community service – kidding – don’t share your community service experience unless asked. Make sure you include your contact information and make sure it includes the following:
Now that you have the basics covered, print your bio on nice paper (not copy paper, yuck), get out there and start putting in applications. Next topics will include how to build a resume that doesn’t suck and how not to suck in an interview.
Here’s to not sucking at work!
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine defines denial as this: a primitive ego defense mechanism by which a person unconsciously negates the existence of a disease or other stress-producing reality in his environment by disavowing thoughts, feelings, wishes, needs, or external reality factors that are consciously intolerable. In other words, a person pretends that a situation that is happening in their lives isn’t really happening at all. Oddly enough, however, the very mechanism people in denial use to protect themselves is the very thing that prevents them from actually helping themselves.
Considered one of the most primitive of the defense mechanisms and one of the most frequently used by individuals with an undeveloped, or immature, ability to cope with reality, denial is also usually accompanied by regression (“If I don’t think about it, it’s not real.”) and people existing in a constant state of denial and regression can pay a high price mentally, emotionally, and socially. With such harmful repercussions as a result, why do people choose to exist within these mechanisms? Sigmund Freud, the armchair psychologists psychologist, claimed that in order to reduce feelings of anxiety, human beings are driven towards rationalization. Saul McCloud, a teaching assistant at the University of Manchester, concurred stating that rationalization is the cognitive distortion of “the facts” to make an event or an impulse less threatening, or to protect the person’s self-esteem. It’s the conversation that plays out like this:
“My husband (or wife) does this (or that) behavior (or thing) repeatedly and makes me (or our family, himself, herself) look bad not because he (or she) doesn’t love me (or our family, himself, herself) but because (insert lame, overused excuse here).”
If you, or someone you know, lives in denial, you’ve heard statements similar to that one that may be about the person’s job, their family, their friends, their kid’s friend’s parents; however, most people, when making excuses like that for themselves, rationalize on a fairly conscious level. McCloud had this to say about those individuals, “For many people, with sensitive egos, making excuses comes so easy that they never are truly aware of it. In other words, many of us [they] are quite prepared to believe our [their] lies.” Sounds like a recipe for disaster for the friends and family who aren’t prepared to believe the lies. So, what are they to do when confronted with the denial and rationalization of a loved one or colleague? It’s an area where, according to another mental health professional, they had better tread lightly.
Michelle Aycock, a licensed psychotherapist and contributor for the Savannah Morning News, wrote about the impact of denial on relationships in a recent online article. Highlighting the difficulties of having a relationship with a person in denial because of the inability to confront the individual (due to the fear of repercussions), she had this to say, “Some people enjoy floating down the river of denial.” In other words, you can confront a person living in denial until you’re blue in the face but the only reaction you will most likely get is continued denial (“Your face isn’t blue at all, it’s red.”). She offers the following advice for dealing with a person using denial as a chronic coping mechanism:
Don’t try to take on or fix their problems. As difficult as it may be, let them deal with the consequences of choosing to live in denial however bad.
And for the person living in denial, she offers this:
If people are telling you you have a problem, then you probably have a problem.
Is there any hope for people in relationships with others living in denial? According to veteran psychologist, Dr. Bev Smallwood, there is. Smallwood wrote in an online post that if the person acknowledges and examines the areas in their life where they haven’t been completely honest and then, with that same honesty, reflects on her suggested activities below, there is hope.
Life is not easy and with all of the demands we are faced with in the 21st century, so it’s easy to understand why so many people choose to live in denial. Oftentimes, it’s easier than facing the ugly truth! But if are constantly living in denial because of situations and circumstances in your life that are repeated over and over again, and it’s causing the people around you to a.) not have candid conversations with you about your situations and circumstances because they know you’ll have a melt down, or b.) concur with you and your bullshit because they know you’ll have a meltdown, it might be time to step out of the river of denial and onto dry land.
I went to work for my husband eight years ago when he decided he wanted to open a beauty school and I’m pretty sure that’s when my definition of work-life balance changed. I came from a traditional corporate work background – you know the drill – go to work, do your thing, and at five o’clock, turn it off. Even with a busy sales career that required extensive travel and life as a single mom, I still managed to maintain a life, one that consisted of riding my horses, exercising, running, and spending time with friends and family. I read magazines for leisure, cleaned my own house, and on weekends went into the city for dinner with girlfriends. I had a firm grip on my career and my life; the only balance I sought was whether to ride every other day, or run every other day.
While the school was being built, I continued to work at my full-time sales career and worked part-time, recruiting students and giving tours, in the mornings before my day began, in the evenings after work, and on the weekends. It was an exciting time but neither of us noticed the candles burning at both ends, nor did we realize the habits we were creating at the time would haunt us even after the hungry days of being a start-up were long gone. But with every penny we had going into the business, work-life balance really was no longer a corporate buzz-word or water cooler conversation – it was work-work, period. In my mind (and in reality), if I wasn’t selling, we weren’t making money, and if we weren’t making money, we weren’t eating. And, in the beginning, since it was only us and I was responsible for the sales and marketing, and my husband and his business partner were heading up education and operations, if I didn’t work, we literally didn’t eat. Those were lean days, and they ended up lasting years. The fear of failure, of losing our house, of my husband’s business partner losing his house, of us going belly up, gnawed at me every day and at night kept me far from sleep. But every enrollment, every sale, drove me to want another, and then another, not to mention the insane satisfaction and pride I got knowing I was making my husband’s dream a reality.
Steve Toback, a former senior executive in the technology industry (and, probably no stranger to the work-life balance conversation) wrote a brilliant piece on the work-life balance myth and had this to say about my lament, “We stay connected 24×7 because we want to. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head when you answer a call or a text when you’re supposed to be playing with your kids or out to dinner with your better half. So why do we do it? We love the attention. It makes us feel special. We’re addicted to it. No kidding.” Yeah, Steve, no kidding. But why? Why does working so much make us feel special? When did the latest text or email become the new aphrodisiac? According to Harvard Business Review contributor, Leslie A. Perlow, “Many — if not most — of us are addicted to success. We are successaholics not workaholics. We’re obsessed with work because of the satisfaction we get from the kudos for achievement, not because of some deep-seeded satisfaction from working long hours, as an end in itself. And what this means is that it is the definition of success, not some ingrained personality issue, that is at the source of why we are always on. If this is true, then turning off requires changing what we value in each other, not changing ourselves.” She goes on to share the results of an experiment she conducted where people were applauded for taking time off and shunned for staying plugged in. She concluded that people who appear to be thriving on a non-stop work week are actually thriving on a job well done. I love that story, but what if the judge of the “job well done” is actually the person doing the job? I was beginning to feel like Indiana Jones.
Fast forward eight and a half years, and the business we worked so hard to make successful is just that; yet, my work-is-life mindset vacillates between feast-or-famine and we’re-not-quite-there-yet mentality, choosing to lag behind the business’s obvious success, choosing instead excuses ad nauseam for the countless hours spent on Hootsuite “updating our site” into infinity. Had I trained myself to live in this space of always being “on,” my phone pinging incessantly with emails and text messages? Was my lack of balance excusable in light of the fact that we owned the business and that if it wasn’t successful, our family could lose everything? Or, was I using all of those covers to hide the fact that I am a workaholic and that I’d rather be working than doing pretty much anything else? To make myself feel better, I googled “successful entrepreneurs, work-life balance,” and this is what I found – “If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, there is no such thing as work-life balance.” Thank you, Paul Brown.
So, rather than over think this whole work-life thing, I’m going to a.) go back to my seashore vacation (yes, I’m writing this while on vacation – another sign of a workaholic with zero work-life balance – but, hey, I’m writing it at midnight and everyone’s asleep) and b.) I’m going to follow Steve Toback’s advice, “The next time you hear yourself complaining about how little time you have or your lack of work-life balance, try this instead. Think about your priorities. Think about what you spent your time on that day, that week, that month. Then think about what you didn’t get to do. If there’s a disconnect, do something about it. Simple as that.”
The story is as old as time.
You’ve always dreamed of starting a business. You and a friend decide to strike out on your own. You form a partnership and, boom, you’re on your way to making your dreams come true. The partnership starts out (like most do) crazy fun. During the early days there’s a heady excitement that makes long hours, no money, and little to show for all the work you’re putting in, a “We’re-gonna-look-back-on-this-one-day-and-laugh,” experience. The stress level is high, your partner’s and your patience is worn thin, but you both suck it up and keep plowing forward. Moodiness, elation, depression – it’s par for the course, right?
Fast forward a decade and all the start-up giddiness is gone. The frenetic day-to-day roller coaster craziness? It’s been replaced with steady, business-as-usual work days. And, your business partner’s mood swings, negative attitude, and manipulative survival-of-the-fittest mentality exhibited during the start-up days? They’re all still there.
Your business is established now! Your partner’s still acting like he’s too stressed, too exhausted, too overworked? I thought times were good? You both enjoy a flexible, relaxed schedule and (finally) cushy paychecks are de rigueur. So, why is your partner still miserable? Why is he still acting like the sky is falling? Is something going on that you don’t know about? Concerned, you start digging into your company financials; who knows – maybe your partner is feeling the year-end pinch? That’s when you realize the impact your partner’s decade old eat-or-be-eaten mentality has had on the organization as a whole and now, not only are you wondering what kind of weirdo you’re shacked up with, you’re actually beginning to question the survivability of your partnership.
But wait – slow down here – everyone has a bad day, right? I mean, it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to have a series of bad days, right? Starting a company is tough! And, for Pete’s sake, we’ve all snapped at a colleague at one time or another, or sulked behind our monitor for a day (or two), ignoring our office mates, mumbling about how much we hate our fucking job. Is that a reason to suddenly want to part ways? In most cases, probably not, but according to studies, If the bad days your partner is having have turned into years? Then it may be time to determine if the negative behaviors that you and your staff have brushed off as, “You better stay away from him,” “He’s in a bad mood today,” Ugh. His team lost last night,” are actually negative behaviors at all, or if your partner’s bad days are merely his dysfunctional management style in disguise.
Dictionary.com defines dysfunction as not performing normally, having a malfunctioning part or element, and behaving or acting outside social norms, and defines management as the person or persons controlling and directing the affairs of a business. So, then, it would probably be safe to say that the definition of dysfunctional management could be the malfunctioning person or persons controlling and directing the affairs of a business while not performing normally and/or behaving or acting outside social norms. I’m pretty sure we’ve all reported to a dysfunctional manager at some point in our careers – the sales manager who always got a bit too tipsy at happy hour sales meetings and then spent hours spilling the beans to her subordinates about her affair with the company’s VP and how it ended badly – or, the department manager who blatantly favored the guys on his team over the women and would take them to strip clubs and golf outings for meetings while leaving female subordinates at the office with a casual, “We’ll download tomorrow,” as he left the office. Dysfunctional managers are everywhere but (surprisingly) some people wouldn’t recognize one if that dysfunctional manager was their business partner. Huh? I sit right next to the guy, you may be saying. Ever hear the expression, “Can’t see the forest through the trees?” It’s based on the ancient expression, “Can’t see the psycho partner through the door.” Now you know why.
So, to determine if you have a dysfunctional business partner, take a minute to read the bullet points I gathered from Med Yones’ amazing article, and then answer the questions I added to each of the bullet points. The comprehensive article, written for the International Institute of Management’s Executive Journal, outlines with laser accuracy the characteristics of a dysfunctional workplace (which, by default, highlights the characteristics of a dysfunctional manager).
• Dictatorial Leadership: Management that does not allow disagreements out of insecurity or arrogance [How does your partner lead?]
• No 360 Degrees Feedback: There is limited or no leadership performance feedback [Does your partner allow subordinates to give him or her feedback?]
• Personal Agendas: Recruitment, selections and promotions are based on internal political agenda [Who is your partner promoting, and why?]
• Political Compensation: [raises], bonuses and perks are not fairly linked to performance [What criteria is your partner using to determine raises?]
• Unequal Workload Distribution: You’ll find some departments are underutilized while other departments are overloaded [Does your partner favor one department over another? Why?]
• Fragmented Organization Efforts: Interdepartmental competition and turf wars between rival [departments] lead to the emergence of silos, which results in communication gaps. [Does your partner create or allow turf wars? Do you find departments unwilling to work with one another?]
• Too Much Talk: Plans are heavy on talk but light on action. In a political corporate culture, image management becomes far more important than actions [Or, A.T.N.A. Does your partner talk out his or her ass but never delivers?]
• Ineffective Meetings: Argumentative and heated cross-divisions meetings with discussion and language focusing on point scoring and buck-passing rather than sharing responsibility and collaborating to solve the problem [Observe your partner in meetings – body language, posture, eye contact, tone of voice. Observe if staff members object or disagree with the partner or do they yes him or her to death for fear of backlash?]
• Lack of Collaboration: Every person for himself/herself. Low sense of unity or camaraderie on the team. The key criterion for decision-making is What is in it for me? [Does your partner encourage a W.I.F.M. culture? How has it negatively impacted your business?]
• Low Productivity: Management wastes more time and energy on internal attack and defense strategies instead of executing the work, innovating and overcoming challenges. Critical projects fall behind on deadlines, budgets and performance targets (e.g. sales, market share, quality and other operational targets) [What controls do you have in place to ensure your partner’s dysfunctional management style isn’t, or hasn’t, negatively impacted your business? Would you know if they were?]
• Constant Crisis Mode: Management team spends most of their time on fire fighting instead of proactive planning for next-generation products and services [Dysfunctional managers love to “put out fires.” In fact, you may even hear your partner using that expression all the time as in, “I’ve ben putting out fires all day.” Sound familiar?]
• Morale Deterioration: Muted level of commitment and enthusiasm by other teams. Even successful results cannot be shared and celebrated due to animosity and internal negative competition [You may have noticed the decline in morale and could have, possibly, shared your concern with your partner whose reply may have been, “Fuck ‘em,” followed by laughter to put you at ease.]
• Backstabbing: Backbiting among the [staff] becomes common and public [Perhaps your partner engages in the same behavior WITH the staff.]
• Highly Stressful Workplace: There is a high rate of absenteeism and a high employee turnover rate [Or, even worse, your employees quit but don’t leave, their work a clear indicator of their mental “I-already-quit” status.]
Still not sure if your partner is dysfunctional? Consider the greater impact your dysfunctional business partner may be having on your business. In an article written for MIT Sloan Management Review, authors Cialdini, Petrova, and Goldstein, revealed some of the additional, not so obvious, side effects of dysfunctional management that contribute to “ruinous fiscal outcomes.” They included reputation degradation [people don’t want to buy from a company that sucks], lower job satisfaction [people don’t want to work for a company that sucks], and fewer candidates in the employment pool [because people don’t want to work for a company that sucks]. Yikes. Starting to see why determining whether or not the years long depression your business partner has been in is, in fact, just depression and not dysfunctional management is critically important to the overall health of your business and, possibly, the survivability of your business? Yones’ research revealed that employees in an environment where they feel disrespected, taken advantage of, or abused, will oftentimes resort to passive aggressive behaviors like intentional sabotage, excessive absenteeism, or purposely produced substandard results in their work. “But I give them pep talks all the time,” you may be saying. I hate to disappoint you (your partner probably does that to you enough) but your positive attitude can’t make up for your partner’s shitty attitude. Yones’ study also revealed that employees view positive company initiatives with skepticism [and, oftentimes, intentionally undermine them] because buy-in no longer exists for them. Add to that the studies that have revealed that in environments where dysfunctional management is the norm, employee theft and shrinkage are exceedingly high.
The long and short of it? Having a dysfunctional business partner can not only be an aggravating energy suck (hello), it can cost your company a lot of money and, quite possibly, annihilate the dream you started the partnership with. So, is there hope for people with a dysfunctional business partner? Can dysfunctional partners be fixed? Next time, we’ll explore partnerships what happens when a dysfunctional partner is confronted and why you shouldn’t expect a healthy, normal response from an unhealthy, abnormal person.
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