Category Archives: Stress Management

Critical feedback dialogue

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Lucky (The female junior, early 30s)- Sir, what happened to that job we discussed last week. How do we do it?

Sunny (the male boss, early 40s) – I remember telling you clearly that estimate had to be taken from agency and an approval note made.

Lucky- (in a plain tone) I don’t remember.

Sunny- (getting irritated)- Well, I remember exactly, and you even said- one agency is charging reasonably, so we can get it done from that agency.

Lucky- (same tone) I don’t remember

Sunny- (with fuse blown, but in a clenched-teeth voice)- I remember 500 % that I told you, it is a separate thing that both of us forgot after that and the job was not done, but this was discussed.

Lucky- Sir, what happened, I wanted to ask you…..

Sunny- Let us not get into that in the morning, we will discuss later.

Later in the evening, Sunny calls Lucky and asks diplomatically- yes you were saying something in the morning.

Lucky- Sir, for last one week, you have been behaving differently , so I wanted to ask you what happened?

Sunny- Okay, first things first. About today morning incident, you know I hate lairs, and when someone directly or indirectly implies that I am a liar, you can imagine my problem. So when you said in the morning- I don’t remember, you were implying that I am lying, so I did not like that. This you have done once or twice in the past too, but I did not say anything. But when you did it again today, I lost control.

Lucky maintained deliberate, intelligent silence  and let Sunny finish, she just kept nodding.

Sunny then added- As for last week’s changes, let me start from the beginning.

See, as a team leader, I feel that I go out of the way to give visibility, exposure and opportunities to my juniors. Sometimes I feel that it is at my own cost, but I still do it. Secondly, I have told you earlier that my funda is clear, if one of us can do a job, I will not insist on both of us wasting our time on that. So you or me will do that. So I always try to create a positive work environment. Lastly, I asked during your appraisal this year, are there things you don’t like about me, and asked this again 2-3 times, you did not say anything, So I presumed that you are okay with my working and management style. And since I went out of the way to create a good team culture, I expected you to reciprocate that by being a good team member.

Lucky- And yes I always tried that. As for feedback about you, when you did my appraisal, I had worked with you for 2 months only so I could not tell much. But what happened last week, that changed your behaviour, which was confusing to me.?

Sunny- (Realising that her logic about 2 months working is solid, went to next topic) Well, you see, it is really good that you asked. Otherwise I was thinking that I had made a wrong image about you. After last thursday, I had stopped giving any agency work to you, and to show my anger, I was doing all agency related work myself. But when you did not react, I was puzzled. I would not have tried to have shown my anger this way to other guys. I did it to you, because I thought you were a thinking person, well-read, and you would notice the difference. So when you did not say a word, and acted normal, I was confused as to how do I manage such a team member. Because your non-reaction could mean only two things.

One, I was wrong about your emotional quotient, and you were plain Jane,a dumbo, who could not notice the difference in my behaviour, or

Two, you notice but you did not bother about my mood, anger, or reaction.

In either case, it was problematic for me. So I was confused how to handle you as a manager.

But by asking now, you have solved part of the problem.

Lucky- No, I noticed it Monday only, and in the evening I asked my mom also, and she said wait for sometime, you will get to know, but when it continued on Tuesday, Wednesday also, I was like what the hell. I did not want to ask as I was afraid it might make you more angry.

Sunny- Okay, so last Thursday, both of us knew, next three days were off-days, and we might have to work on all three days. I asked you given a choice, which days you would like to come, and you replied very curtly- If I have to come, I don’t mind what days?

That made me very angry. Here was I, a senior, who could have dumped the whole three days on you, willing to share the load, and offering you first choice. I was being generous and a good boss in my mind. And what do I get in return, an attitude and almost disobedience.

Then you said, you had to go home urgently, and I said-use official car for going. You were hesitant, but I insisted saying that we invest our holidays and all, so we deserve this much. You said okay.

I did tell you, that come what may, do try to come back, which I thought to myself, was a bit harsh, but I did tell you later that you could avoid coming if situation demands.

Aniways, you went and took a lift from another person, sms’ed me. I was okay with that. But then I went to agency and sms’ed you to use official car if you decide to come back to office. You sent back sms 2 hours later- I have taken a taxi and I have come back.

That really pissed me off, so I decided then and there not to call you on next 3 days.

On Monday also, my anger did not subside, I did not want to make an issue of it, knowing that my anger will go away in 2 weeks, so I decided that I will do all agency-related work and keep mum. This I thought will convey my anger to you. I wanted to convey two things to you.

One, I am self-sufficient and can do the work on my own, if required. If I ask you to do the work, it’s because I want the whole team to work together.

Two, If I end up doing work on weekends, I can jolly well do the work on weekdays too.

Lucky- Sir, I did not mean to hurt you, my anger was directed at the other departments who were working slowly and spoiling our weekends. Though I get it that my words did not convey this. As for car, while going home, I got a lift, and since I had already taken a taxi from home for the personal work I had, and I had to pay him aniways, so I came back by taxi.

But you could have told all this to me on Monday, you know how these things disturb me.

Sunny- No but it was intentional and I wanted you to realise how angry I was.

Lucky- I get that, but now you owe me a coffee, and please please in future do tell me if I say something wrong.

Sunny- Okay, deal.

(This is a real conversation I had with my junior this week. Thought to write in a dialogue form to make it interesting reading)

What say??

Junior this!

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You can get a lot done, if you don’t mind who gets the credit, thus goes a quote. And I firmly believe in that on a day to day basis. Though I did have a conflict in my mind when I was assessed as not-the-best performer. So I can’t say I live by this quote 100 %. But to be frank, on a daily basis I act on it. However once or twice a year, when it affects my assessment, it hurts me but I come to terms with it soon enough and get on with my life.

So this junior who was feeling singled-out and shared that with me, who was feeling hurt by comments of a friend and shared. In both the cases, I took remedial measures, so that she does not feel singled-out and feel hurt. She reads a lot of books, talks sense most of the time, but last week she behaved very oddly.

We have been working on a publication for last one month. I have given her full liberty, exposure and visibility. So I was feeling good that we were working as a team. But when it came to a long weekend, when I asked her to share the load, and choose the days she wants to come, she said-If I have to come, I will come any day. Then same day, she also disobeyed me when she did not act on my advice to use office car for some urgent work, instead hired a taxi on her own. Same evening happy told, that she would tell something this junior said about me. All this made me very very angry.

So I worked on 2 full days on weekend and did not call her. Then I debated in mind if to tell her how upset I am. But then I remembered she is the same junior who had cried before others, when I corrected her draft and made a silly comment. So I decided that I will not say anything. But I was still not at peace. I kept on thinking, and found that her daughter was not well that day and I had insisted that she comes back to office. She might have disliked that, but what the hell.

So on Monday, I did not say anything to her. I kept myself under control though it was very difficult. I felt like making satirical comments or sharp taunts, but I kept mum. Strangely in that state of mind, I subconsciously took a decision that for this job, I will not send her to agency. If I have to work on weekends, I can very well work on weekdays too. She appeared to take it very casually. But somehow I am liking this sudden decision on my part. Though I know this will not work with all colleagues. But since she appears to be well-read and sensible, maybe she realises that she hurt me. Though there may be possibility that she would be carrying grudges against me, which I don’t know, but I don’t feel like asking happy right now.

Maybe in 3-4 days, my anger will cool down and things will be back to normal.

Let  us see.

Mood swings

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Mood is a strange animal, very difficult to control. One day it is on, one day it is off. At times I know the reason of my mood swing, and at times I don’t. Now I can’t blame it on hormones, or can I. Then mood can be interpreted as nothing but a state of mind, which also affects other organs of the body resulting in fast heartbeat, headache and what not.

But for every person, reasons for mood getting off-track are different. Thanks to Daniel Goleman, M. Scott Peck and Dale Carnegies of the world, I am trying to understand the working of my mind these days, and so trying to guess reason of my off mood today on this fine Sunday.

Two things really I could pin down on.

One is the fear of an important person being angry with me. Actually this person if the spouse of a big shot in our company. I was asked to assist them in a printing job, which I did last year also. But this time I could not give full time to it, and had to rely on another person who is formally the editor, and it seems this editor backbited and sullied my image. I don’t have any confirmation yet, just hunch because I was not called to their last meeting. So I am feeling cheated. Seeing in a big perspective, after 3-4 years, these things won’t matter, but then why is my mood off. Actually there is a function to formally launch the publication next week, and I am not sure I will be invited or not, and if invited I should go or not. Besides, another reason for that spouse being upset is that last year I made my spouse a member of their club, and told the friend who mediated, that why my spouse was not called for their get togethers. It seems this cunning, conniving friend might have complicated the things by passing on the things with spice to big shot spouse. Again this also is a hunch. What I could read from this situation is more than the loss of face, what worries me is the choice dilemma-I go or not go, I take interest or not. So Choice or decision, that too associated with a tricky situation upsets my mood.

I told you about a junior of mine, who was not very keen on coming to work on weekends even for an urgent job. Now the confusion, whether I tell her about how angry I was with her attitude, is again perturbing me. So here again the choice is making me upset, not the act itself.

I was thinking of telling another junior also about two of his lapses. Till the time I was thinking, I was not okay. But when I told him, that issue is out of my mind now. There was other issue also, but there I came to a different decision, and that also led to peace of mind.

Life is really simple, if you make it so.

Emotional Judo by Daniel Goleman

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A project manager notices a draftsman struggling over a simple aspect of blueprint. The project deadline looms, and they are all under tremendous pressure. As she approaches her colleague, the project manager notices that her hands are clenched, her thoughts are fixed on angry feelings about the difficult deadline, and she feels frustrated because the draftsman is not further along.

She relaxes a bit and asks the draftsman-What’s going on, is something wrong? His response is a litany of frustrations of his own, about not having enough information to finish the drawing., about how much he was asked to do in so little time.

Sympathetic, the project manager asks more detailed questions about what he is up against. Her speech is lively, animated, her gaze direct. She lets him know she feels overwhelmed by the pressure, too.

Her line of questioning leads him to see that he actually has more inthought, and formation than he that he can, in fact, finish the drawaing. He is buoyed, eager again to get back to the task. The manager even makes a joke about how everyone was missing some data on this project, especially the vice president who had made such a crazy commitment in the first place. They both laugh and get on with the work at hand.

What did the project manager do that was so right? She was emotionally present at work. She was fully attentive and involved in her work. Such person perform their best. Others experience them as accessible and engaged, and they contribute their creative ideas, energy and intuitions fully.

Presence begins with self-awareness. Manager… was attuned to her feelings, her clenched hands cued her to the anger she was feeling about the situation. And her empathy made her receptive to picking up the draftsman’s sense of frustration without taking it as a reflection on herself. Her ability to be comfortable with these distressing feelings let her deal with them effectively rather than avoid them. Instead of dismissing draftsman’s frustration or preemptively criticizing his performance, she drew him out. And she was able to highlight information that transformed the frustration to enthusiasm, ending the encounter with a joke that put th  onus where they both felt it to be- an EMOTIONAL JUDO MOVE that tightened the bond between them.

When fully present, we are more attuned to those around  us and to the needs of the situation, and we fluidly adapt to what is needed-in other words, we are in the flow. We can be thoughtful, funny, or self-reflective, drawing on whatever capacity or skill we need at the moment.

From- Working with EI

Bossing around

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Well at times bosses do go on bossing around, without any rhyme and reason. They will start lecturing on what should or should not have been done in a situation, without asking if I did something. Today was one such day. A set of newspaper clippings was to be organized from a small town 1000 miles away. There was this guy we had tied up with earlier this year for such jobs, again my idea and initiative, but no credit, but he was not responding today. Aniways we knew it is not that urgent as it is being made out to be, no sky is going to fall. In some departments, like the one, where we had to send these clippings, where every junior officer thinks of himself as  god incarnate, and tries to earn brownie points with his seniors by pressurizing us minions. But our own boss goes out of the way to impress them, so we are left with no help. Okay, so boss who was bunking almost the whole day, calls up in evening and starts lecturing why clippings were not arranged. I tried to explain how we tried different sources, but he was not ready to listen. Neither did he ask his favourite executive in department, who is senior to me, to take care of the job. When it comes to facilities, perks, trainings, tours, exposure, seminars, conferences, committees, he is the favourite, but when it comes to shitty jobs, I am the chosen one. So I was given a piece of boss’s mind, without ever given a hearing to what all I tried. I WILL TRY THAT I DON’T DO IT TO MY JUNIORS.

Another incident that happened today was a junior coming to me and reviving my faith in giving credit to team. Though she is very conscious, touchy and all, but she came out from boss’s room and told me, sir, boss liked the photo we got edited last week, and was appreciating the agency. But I told boss that it was your idea and not agency’s idea to redo the photo. I was not expecting this maturity and broad heart from her, I would have imagined that she would have gladly accepted the praise, without ever mentioning my name. But she did and pleasantly surprised me. That she came out and told me, and I believed her also speaks of trust in our relationship. So I am tempted to consider my self a better boss to my juniors, than my boss is to me. This junior can sit idle for long hours without feeling any repentance, which I find strange, but then she works sincerely when required, is obedient, cooperative and cheerful. So I rate her better than juniors who do insubordination, are two-faced and dishonest.

Another colleague who had expressed his desire to sit away from me, as I keep reminding him of jobs to do, was taken aback today, when I taunted that I will remind him weekly since he does not like my daily reminders. Well that was my midway solution and also I wanted him to know that I know what he said about me to others. He today tried to reconsider his decision of seat change, discussed with others and me too. So tactic worked, though this time I insisted that he sits away because I am not very keen on sitting with him specially if he was not happy with it. He also tried to patch up with me by showing some soft-porn cartoon, ultimate in male bonding, and offering to give some movies in pen drive.

Such are the ways of the world.

 

 

Living in present by Dale Carnegie

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I had the privilege of interviewing Arthur Hays Sulzberger (1935-1961), publisher of NYT. He told that when 2nd World War flamed across Europe, he was so stunned, so worried about the future, that he found it almost impossible to sleep. He was never able to banish his worries and find peace until he had adopted as his motto 5 words from a church hymn: One step enough for me.

Lead, kindly light…

Keep thou my feet: I do not ask to see

The distant scene; one step enough for me.

At about the same time, a young man in uniform- somewhere in Europe- was learning the same lesson. His name was Ted, and he had worried himself into a first-class case of combat fatigue. He explains- I was utterly exhausted.. I was worried for fear we might be making embarrassing and serious mistakes. I was worried about whether I would come through all this. I was worried whether I would live to hold my only child in my arms- a son of 16 months, whom I had never seen. I was so worried and exhausted that I lost 34 pounds. I was so frantic that I was almost out of my mind. I was terrified at the thought of going home a physical wreck. I broke down and sobbed like a child. I was so shaken that tears welled up every time I was alone.

I ended up in an Army dispensary. An army doctor gave me some advice which has completely changed my life. He informed me that my troubles were mental. He said-

Ted, I want you to think of your life as an hourglass. You know there are thousands of grains of sand in the top the hourglass, and they all pass slowly and evenly through the narrow neck in the middle. Nothing you or I could do would make more than one grain of sand pass through this narrow neck without impairing the hourglass. When we start in the morning, there are hundreds of tasks which we feel that we must accomplish that day, but if we do not take them one at a time and let them pass through the day slowly and evenly, as do the grains of sand passing through narrow neck of hourglass., then we are bound to break our own physical or mental structure.”

One grain of sand at a time….one task at a time. 

From- How to stop worrying ans start living

Narrow-mindedness

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I think of myself as a cool, chilled-out person, who is happy-go-lucky, and does not bother about small things in life, as Richard Carlson said- Don’t sweat the small stuff in life.

But when I introspect, I find myself brooding over lot of insignificant things. Day before yesterday only, boss asked three of us to go for gate-keeping duty (read protocol) to a function where CEO was going. This is to coordinate the crowd-feedback, when CEO should come, do recee of way to venue, warm up front-rwo seats for him and so on. Now there are people who love these kind of jobs, but I am not that sort. But PR has its professional hazards. Aniways there are people who go for bootlicking, brownie points and for free cocktails. None of these holds appeal for me. So boss asked any two of us to go, so I excused myself, and let other two go. Next day a photographer mailed pix of the event to our common department email id. There the two guys were there with our boss and CEO, all smiles. This pinched a bit. Now knowing the background, I had the choice to go, I did not, but when this pix came, I got envious, though I claim to be not interested in seen around CEO. I confuse myself at times.

Then boss sent a colleague for a training and I noticed that it is 3rd training in a year he has been sent to. I made a noise about it today behind boss’s back. But later I thought and found that boss had asked me to go on another training but I had refused. He had sent to to another programme when he had to go out of town at the last minute. I was thinking of it as a give-away, but to think of it, boss could have sent anybody else in his place, but he did send me. Boss also sent us to other seminars. So I was not entirely right in making a noise about it.

Then I have noticed for last 2 weeks that since I am taking extra care to not let get happy the impression that I am envious of her higher ranking, I expect extra care on her part too. If she says things like you would be next advisor, you are more close to boss, did you tell boss already (credit-grabbing allegation on me), i know how to manage bosses, i get upset.

So whatever emotional intelligence capabilities I may be sharing and claiming to have, I do behave with narrow-mindedness at times, and I need to correct it. I can share it and think it in writing here because of anonymity, and maybe I get some advise and I am told that I am not the only one behaving in this manner.

Self-awareness for stress management by Daniel Goleman

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The more accurately we can monitor our emotional upsets, the sooner we can recover from distress. Consider an experiment in which people watch a graphic anti-drunk-driving film depicting bloody auto accidents. During half hour after the film, viewers report feeling distressed and depressed, with their thoughts repeatedly going back to the troubling scenes they saw. The quickest to recover are those with the greatest clarity about their feelings. Emotional clarity enables us to manage bad moods.

..Even when people seem unflappable, if they are actually seething inside, they still need to handle their troubled feelings. Some cultures, like in Asia, encourage this pattern of masking negative feelings. While this may keep relationships tranquil, it can have a cost to the individual…Imploding is the problem here.

Emotional implosion has several drawbacks-Imploders often fail to take any action to better their situation. They may not show outward signs of an emotional hijack, but they suffer the internal fallout anyway. Headaches, edginess, smoking, and drinking too much, sleeplessness, endless self-criticism, And they have the same health risks as those who explode, and so need to learn to manage their own reactions to distress.

From- WOrking with EMotional Intelligence 

 

Horrible bosses by Sonal Kalra

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Let’s first classify the devil that’s making your work life miserable.

1. The Shirker: Hmm…this kind of a boss is rather common, but thankfully not very harmful. He doesn’t do much himself, and enjoys a comfy ride on the back of the mules he has around him. Ironically enough, such people also get promoted by some magic stroke of luck, leaving others to wonder if God’s promotion department software has some permanent virus. A typical hands-off person, he is quick to criticise when something goes wrong, and usually justifies his non-involvement by saying that he is ‘empowering’ his juniors. In most cases, this generosity of empowerment comes only because he has no clue or clarity in his head about what he wants out of his own life, let alone his team. No vision, no goal, and an uncanny ability to never own up to his team’s failure. That’s Mr Shirker for you. I call such a boss less harmful than other animals at workplace only because their laziness prevents them from turning vicious as long as their ego is not messed with. It’s best to enjoy their absence, keep doing the good work and being on generally friendly terms with such bosses. Let them feel happy by appearing to take credit for anything successful, but always remember that deep inside, people know who’s done all the work. Also, don’t forget that a useless person never enjoys an unbeaten innings – the good luck will run-out the day something changes on the top and they are held accountable for their performance. Wait and watch, with interest.

2. The Sulk: This boss, in his childhood, was the obnoxiously spoilt kid you see today lying flat on the floor of a shopping mall, throwing a massive tantrum because his mum is not buying him the seventh ice cream. He just likes to sulk, endlessly, over the smallest issues. I once had a boss, who wouldn’t respond to my good-morning greeting on the days he was sulking. Obviously enough, my mornings didn’t remain very good after that. A boss who sulks silently is often unsure of the validity of his or her displeasure with you. It’s best to help him come out of that mood by asking, not more than once, if you have something to do with what’s bothering him. If he chooses to not tell you, choose to assume it’s not you. Also, it’s best to not fuel mistrust in the minds of such bosses by having private conversations with colleagues, making them feel you could be conspiring against them. So no whispering and pausing a conversation the moment he passes by. Even if you were planning his surprise birthday party!

3. The Conqueror: Now we are inching towards the more harmful ones. A boss in the sulk mode is easier to handle, a boss in the hulk mode isn’t. This one’s all out to intimidate the daylights out of you. He bullies, he shouts, he swears. He won’t hesitate to throw you in front of the bus if it comes to saving his ass in front of the management. His strategy is to rob you of all your self-esteem, so you go home every evening feeling like a loser, no matter how hard you work. Dealing with this devil starts with the first, and the most important step of believing that the problem person in this situation is he, not you. And the next step is to counter an abusive behaviour with an irritating amount of calmness. Yes, you heard me right. Nothing rattles a violent, abusive drama queen more than his or her victim responding each time firmly, and calmly. If he abuses or shouts at you inappropriately in front of everyone, tell him clearly that you are not sure what this is about and would prefer to discuss this with him in detail, and in private. It’s tough to keep shouting when there’s a very formal, cold response from the other side. Send him a mail later, expressing ‘disappointment’ that you became a reason for him to lose his peace of mind, and ask him for suggestions on how not to be such a reason ever again. In all probability, you won’t get a reply. You won’t get abused either.

4. The Manipulator: This, according to me is the most harmful of the boss species. This guy devotes all his energies, to not learning his job, but the tricks of manipulation. A deeply insecure person, this kind of boss has the superhuman ability to play games to keep his team divided and fighting, so that no one’s left with any energy to notice his inadequacies. If the constant negativity is zapping you of your strength and spirit, it’s very easy for me to tell you to look for an alternate job. But then, when have I ever suggested easy routes to calmness? Here’s an opportunity for you to turn around an insecure, negative person into a positive, reassured one. The first step to dealing with such manipulative people is to somehow make it clear to them that you can see through their games, and that they don’t bother you enough to go into a panic mode. Half of their battle is lost if they can’t seem to rattle you. And you can make them lose the other half by involving them in your accomplishments. Even when — and especially when — they haven’t done much in a successful project, use the terms ‘our’, ‘we’ and ‘us’, instead of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ when informing them and others about your accomplishment. Show them that you have no interest in being a threat to them by being more popular or successful. Remember the golden rule of dealing with manipulators — consciously refuse to be their victim. The moment you take away their target, you take away their strength.

From- The hindustan times

Shouting seniors

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Today started off on a bad note. A media release which we issued yesterday at 5-30 pm did not get enough media coverage in newspapers. Boss called and said in a harsh tone, why we did not get enough coverage. He is normally very polite and soft. But I did not like the blaming part of what she said. As if I am the only one responsible for not getting it. There is one senior in between who writes in his appraisal that he is doing media management, but he does not do anything. No one says anything to him. It’s almost like a free gift to him, the job specification. Then I tried 2-3 times earlier that if it is not a time-bound release, we should issue next day, if we are not in a position to release say by 2-3 pm. But each time my idea was shot down. So this time I did not say anything.

Earlier also this happened with him. Whenever I used to call him on weekends to tell some important thing. He was always dismissive and curt. He did not like being disturbed on a weekend. So one time when there was something which could wait till Monday, I did not call him. And lo, on Monday he asks angrily why did you not tell me on Saturday. Screwed either way.

Then today only an ex-boss calls and starts shouting, why you did not do the personal job I gave you last week. See his dare, he is shouting at me for not doing his personal work, which is not urgent. I was boiling with anger but did not say anything, because this boss has done a lot for my image and recognition. However this does not mean he will keep taking me granted the whole life. Confused what to do.

There is this another person in our company’s controlling secretariat who also shouts a lot at me and I hate going to his office. But all and sundry bow down to him because he has positional power, so I have to keep silent. But I hate this person like anything. Maybe time will turn someday and things will change.

I introspected and found that it is one of my weaknesses that I get emotionally disturbed whenever people in power shout at me, specially for a non-reason. Because I can shout back or snub others, but I have to swallow my pride in front of people in power and can’t say anything. One is that they may misuse their power instantly or sometime later and harm me career-wise which will also disturb my family life. Second reason is that I prefer having cordial relations with all at work, because you have to face them day in and day out. Though there are some peers who are arrogant and keep to themselves. Them I am okay with.

Any ideas on how I can control my upset mood when shouting happens, and I don’t want to shout back and the other person in not in a mindframe to listen to sense. ?