Returning from another meaningless meeting with the site team, Rebecca stepped out of the elevator and walked to her office on autopilot — until she passed her boss's office. His door was closed again. So she poked her head into Jean's doorway. "What's happening now?"
Jean looked up, surprised. "Wolcott, and their site manager. I thought you were in there."
Rebecca blanched. Another in a long string of snubs. She stepped in, closed Jean's door and slumped in the chair.
A message is only a message.
It's not necessarily
an accurate message."I'm sorry," said Jean. "it just slipped out."
"No, it's not you. I'd rather know. What am I doing wrong? I ran this project for the past year, really well, I thought. New boss, and Pow. I'm worthless. I feel sick."
"We're all unhappy with Neal," said Jean, trying to console her friend.
"No, this is different. He schedules meetings I can't make, he closes the door in my face, he wants me to get his signature whenever I want to inhale. I'm a wreck."
Rebecca is going through a rough patch. Neal, her boss, is telling her indirectly — and frequently — that her contributions aren't helpful.
But a message is only a message. It's not necessarily an accurate message. Here's a simple example.
I can make the Sun do a loop-de-loop. At noon tomorrow, look outside and watch the Sun for a clear demonstration of my awesome powers.
Do you believe that message? Certainly not. It's a message, but it's false. Here's another example:
Rebecca, you're incompetent. The only way to save the company from you is to have you ask for my signature every time you want to inhale.
That's just another message. Rebecca can decide whether it's accurate. Given that she's been doing her job well for years, the message is probably false. No matter how often it's repeated, it remains a false message.
What can you do if your boss continually sends false messages that you're incompetent?
- Begin with your Self
- Do you believe the messages? Your feeling bad is clear proof that you don't — feeling bad is what happens when a negative message bumps into your self-image. If the message is false, recognize it.
- Reject false messages
- Sometimes we accept false messages simply because of the sender's authority. A false message is false no matter who sends it. Reject it.
- Recognize your limitations
- In hierarchical organizations, your status determines the size of your megaphone. A boss who intends to prove that you're a non-performer can probably win the message war.
If your boss uses these tactics, you'll probably have to find a new job — or a new boss. Whatever you do, you're in for an adventure. Choose a path that you can look back on someday and feel proud of. Top Next Issue
Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!
- Dale Emery (www.dhemery.com)
- Today's Point Lookout reminds me of Charlie Seashore's "Briefcase Method" of receiving feedback. Charlie says, "When you receive feedback, you don't have to act on it right then, or even think about it. Imagine putting it in your briefcase. At some later time, you can take the feedback out and examine it to see whether it fits for you. Or you can throw it away." (In a session on feedback at a workshop at the Einstein Institute way the heck out on Cape Cod.)
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Games for Meetings: IV
- We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized
games. Here's Part IV of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
- No Surprises
- If you tell people "I want no surprises," prepare for disappointment. For the kind of work
that most of us do, surprises are inevitable. Still, there's some core of useful meaning in "I
want no surprises," and if we think about it carefully, we can get what we really need.
- Let's Revise Our Rituals
- Throughout the workday, we interact with each other on many levels. Some exchanges are so common and
ritualized that we're no longer aware of them. If we revise these rituals slightly, we can add some
zing to our lives.
- Business Fads and Their Value
- Fads in business come and go, like fads anywhere. In business, though, their effects can be so expensive
that they threaten the enterprise. Still, the ideas and methods that become fads can have intrinsic
value. Where does that value come from? Where does it go?
- Unnecessary Boring Work: II
- Workplace boredom can result from poor choices by the person who's bored. More often boredom comes from
the design of the job itself. Here's Part II of our little catalog of causes of workplace boredom.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 23: Power Distance and Teams
- One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
- Managing or responding to project risks is much easier when team culture encourages people to report problems and question any plans they have reason to doubt. Here are five examples that show how such encouragement helps to manage risk. Available here and by RSS on October 30.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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