TGIF - Less is more

TGIF – Less is More

Hello for the weekly rendez-vous on Friday.  TGIF – Trust, Gratitude, Inspiration, and Fun.

Trust

I am trusting that less is more.

Period.

Life is complicated
Is that it?! There is so much more….
Denise Dampierre smiling
Yup. All for now…

Gratitude

I am thankful for chance encounters.

Two weeks ago, at a networking event, I sat down next to a stranger and introduced myself.  It so happens we share a vision for an entrepreneurial project and come at the concept from different yet complementary angles. We decided to collaborate and are both growing through the contact.  It is invigorating to have one’s ideas both acknowledged and challenged simultaneously. 

One clients described this kind of exchange as the epitome of benevolence at work:  to be demanding of your team member because you want the best for them and therefore to kindly yet firmly push the limits to have them recognize how well they perform and that they can go further.

I am thankful for those people who see your and my potential and help us reach it.

Inspiration

This week’s inspiration is like a conversation between sages.

Someone confides,

“Hell is other people.”  – Jean Paul Sartre

Another answers,

“Ask not what your country (or company or friend…) can do for you—ask what you can do for your country (or company or friend…).
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy from his inaugural address.

A third concludes,

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

And I am inspired by Brian Morton of the New York Times who verifies references and corrects us.

” The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this: ‘If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.’ ”

Fun

Yesterday was July 4.  How did you celebrate the US Independence Day?

The funny thing is…I forgot! 

Amazingly, on the other side of the ocean, Happy Birthday USA is not top of mind.  It is a regular workday here.  I realized the date upon sending an email to an American company and receiving the automatic reply message:

“I shall be out of the office on July 4 due to a national holiday.”

Aghhh!

(FYI, I will be celebrating 14th of July, the French national holiday and ooh-ing and ah-ing over the fireworks.)

Eiffel Tower July 14
The magic of the Eiffel Tower on July 14. From Le Figaro

This is definitely a time when more is welcome!

Wishing you a great week.

Sincerely, Denise

 

Neat & New Stuff

What’s YOUR Focus Word?

Boy looking through telescope. Searching Focus word!We are featuring this article again (did it last week too) because of the comments from several of you.  Glad you liked it.

This afternoon, my focus phrase is “Make it to the school on time.”  Our youngest son is graduating from high school.  Read on..

Paris in the snow

3 Managerial Insights from Snow in Paris

With the recent snowstorm in Paris, folk talk about other people’s responsibilities, especially what the governement should have done.

Today, I’m focusing on what I can do differently and what I learned about management from the 20 cm of snow in our garden.

Our decorative bushes usually stand proudly 1 meter high.  Laden with snow, they barely rise above the ground.

Commuting to work means schlepping through the snow and slush.  If it’s not cleared out, in the evening we’re slipping and sliding.  (I love the above photo by Christophe Jacrot taken in front of the Samaritaine.  Check out more of his beautiful pictures of Paris in the snow here.)

In dealing with our plants and path here is what I (re)learned about management.

1. Remove Needless Burdens

Laden and frozen branches approached their breaking point.  Removing the mounds of snow gives them a chance to survive.

They barely needed much help:  a bit of shaking off and retrieving the branches buried in the flakes.

Bushes laden with snow Burdened.

What are some of the burdens dumped on employees at work?

  • Negative criticism
  • Gossip
  • Expected 24/7 availability

Let’s take a closer look at the impact of negativity and how to lighten the load.

Negative Critique

Each snowflake numbs with cold and weighs down minutely.  It’s the culmination that damages.  Like most of the criticism we give and take.

“Late, again?” publicly announced.

“Why did you do it this way?  (regarding the format for the presentation or the homework in purple pen or the baked instead of fried chicken…)
Questions beginning with “Why” often put people on the defensive.  The intent behind the question is often, “Why did you not do it my way?”

“You didn’t do _____?”
The twenty major accomplishments slip by without a remark.  The one item remaining on the list gets highlighted.

“Yes, but ______” which really means, “No.  And I won’t listen.”

Taken individually, each of these comments seems innocuous.  “You are over-reacting!”

It’s a different story when you’ve heard a hundred of them in less than a week.

Take the Critique Test

Find out if YOU are the one inflicting minor chills on an ongoing basis!

Invite a colleague, friend, or family member to listen to you and to note both your reproving and your encouraging comments.  When we receive their feedback graciously (without being defensive), we discover a lot about ourself and our relationship grows in trust.

If you tend towards demotivating fault-finding, it’s more comfortable to find it out from a person of your chosing than during a formal review session!

Shake Off Negative Critique

Be quick to learn and to be flexible with others.

Avoid Taking Critique too Personally

When I shook the flexible branches, they easily dropped their burden of snow.  The rigid tree limbs held onto the piles of snow.

Are you insisting on being right?  That your viewpoint is THE ONLY VALID perspective?  Be flexible.  Be curious.

“Help me understand.  What would an excellent report look like?”

“If I were to do ______ and ______, would that be satisfactory?  If not, what is missing?”

“I hear that you are dissatisfied.  On a scale of 1 (very bad) to 10 (excellent) how would you esteem the quality of this work?”

Seek Benevolent yet Straight-Forward Feedback

There might be truth in the critique.  Does your reputation lean towards tardiness rather than timeliness?  Do you hide your work until the last minute so colleagues are not aware of your choices along the way?

Find out.  Seek feedback directly from someone you know appreciates you as a person.

Those branches did need some shaking up for the snow to fall off.

When a friend told me to arrive 10 minutes early, not right on time, I knew punctuality ranked among my needed areas for improvement!

2. Use the Available Resources

Since Paris is rarely under snow, we don’t own the equipment to shovel the walk and dig out the car.

The work still need to be done.

Out came the rake, the broom, and the metal dustbin.  These hardly classify as the ideal snow clearing tools, yet their availability rendered them optimal for me.

Years ago, upon graduating from Harvard Business School, a group of students and I spent two weeks in Peru on a humanitarian trip to build a sidewalk for a school teaching technical skills to polio survivors. In this jungle town of dirt roads, our sidewalk would enable students to access their classes during the rainy season.

The construction manager, a leathery-skinned man who looked ancient to me and was probably forty-years-old and prematurely aged by challenging conditions, instructed me to level the ground.  Which tool would generate the optimal results: the short-handled flat-edged shovel, the rusty round-edged shovel, or the stick?  THE ELBOW GREASE!

A tool makes A difference.  How we use it makes ALL the difference.

3. Work in Layers

Armed with imperfect tools, I discovered the most effective tactic lay in working in layers: first raking off, then hand shoveling, and finally brushing away snow as needed.  Each step made the next one possible. I tried beginning with the hand shovel, but cutting corners simply broke my back!

On a professional front, I focus on layering in my training classes too.  Teaching a concept with theory, then sharing an example, introducing multiple perspectives through a role play or activity, and inviting each participant to share a take-away and thus to take ownership of their learning.

It’s like tiramisu: a combination of different and complimentary layers that get repeated.  Together they create a delicacy.

Try layers in personal as well as professional relationships too.  When a child resists homework, parents often address the challenge in the same way again and again.  Voice.  More Voice.  DO IT NOW.

That’s re-investing in the losing strategy.

Consider additional tools and layers:

  • Break down the work into smaller chunks
  • Sit beside your child with your work as he does his
  • Engage in a conversation (veritable exchange) regarding his view of the value of school.  Try these discussion-inviting questions:
    • “Describe what life would be like if you dropped out now….”How would it be different if you graduated from high school…or college?”
    • “What bothers you the most about homework?”
    • “What is one benefit about doing your work for school?”
    • “If you were not to do homework, how would you use this time and energy?”
  • Frame grades to celebrate successes

 

This Paris snow storm got me inspired .  Read here about insights on diversity.

What do you think of these life lessons taken from current events?  Let me know in the comments.

Cover photo by Christophe Jacrot from his site, Tiramisu from LaBombacha

 

Tiger in cage. Safe boundaries.

Solutions Alternatives au Licenciement d’un “Employé Toxique” – 2/3

Combattre la toxicité avec des Messages en « Je »

Les employés difficiles répandent souvent leurs toxines sans que cela se voit, ce qui rend compliqué la gestion de leur impact négatif.

Dans le dernier article, nous nous sommes intéressés à parler ouvertement de ce genre de comportement. Mais que se passe-t-il si votre collègue vous évite et s’extirpe d’une réunion qui devait donner lieu à une discussion constructive ?

VOUS pouvez toujours capter leur attention de façon positive en une ou deux minutes avec un message centré sur le « Je ».

Un homme ou une femme qui s’oppose à un chef ou un collègue avec franchise et respect est une personne qui ose ! Les Messages en « Je » sont un outil pour mettre en place des barrières protectrices ou bien pour mettre à bas des barrières qui n’ont pas lieu d’être.

Parlez de VOS besoins avec le « Je »

Quand on aborde une attitude difficile chez une tierce personne, on a tendance à commencer la phrase avec « Vous ».

« Vous me mettez mal à l’aise… »

« Vous causez des problèmes quand… »

« Votre attitude… »

A QUI APPARTIENT LE PROBLEME ?

Le « Vous » implique que l’auteur du comportement a (ou bien cause) un problème. Pourtant, un comportement toxique peut servir ses objectifs.

Dans l’article précédent, nous nous sommes intéressés à l’exemple d’un chef qui touchait de façon inappropriée ses employées. Son comportement confirme qu’il pense qu’il mérite un traitement de faveur, il peut toucher… sans que cela ne le touche lui. Une plaignante peut être réaffirmée dans sa mentalité de victime, malheur à elle ! Personne ne l’aide à se délester de son fardeau.

Ce sont les autres, comme vous et moi, qui expérimentons la difficulté ; nos objectifs ne sont pas atteints. C’est le sentiment de sécurité de la femme qui est violé quand un homme choisit de toucher sa poitrine comme bon lui semble. C’est le besoin de respect du manager qui est mis à bas quand un membre de l’équipe arrive en retard aux réunions avec une tasse de café encore chaude dans la main, le tout surmonté de crème chantilly.

ASSUMEZ LA RESPONSABILITE POUR VOS BESOINS INSATISFAITS

RENDEZ-LES RESPONSABLES POUR LES CONSEQUENCES DE LEURS ACTES

Comment aborder un comportement inapproprié pour que la personne agisse en conséquence et de manière positive ?

Un message en « Je » pose les limites sans juger.

En tant qu’êtres humains et que professionnels, nous cherchons tous à se sentir à notre place et à contribuer positivement à un groupe porté par un but qui en vaut la peine. En tant que managers, nous espérons que les membres de notre équipe trouveront au travail cette communauté pleine de sens !

Quelles sont les qualités nécessaires pour rendre un environnement propice à la mise en place d’un objectif qui fait sens et d’un sentiment fort de coopération ?

  • La confiance
  • La confiance
  • La confiance
  • La sécurité, la responsabilité, l’initiative, l’engagement, la compréhension, l’acceptation, la coopération, l’accueil des différences, la joie, le rire

Des frontières claires et respectées renforcent ces qualités propices au respect.

« On fonctionne de cette manière…. Ce n’est pas comme ça que l’on procède… »

« Comme je sais que ma supérieure assure mes arrières, je suis très actif dans la recherche de moyens pour améliorer notre activité. Je pose des questions à nos clients dans le but d’avoir un retour constructif. Je propose et teste régulièrement des idées pour affiner la qualité de notre service. Je le fais car je sais qu’elle se donne beaucoup de mal pour moi aussi. »

Quand un manager s’approprie le travail de son groupe, il a franchi la limite entre travail de groupe et toxicité. La frontière a été forcée et les besoins des employés ne sont pas satisfaits.

Un message en « Je » aide à parler d’une violation d’un comportement constructif sans pour autant recourir au reproche ou à la honte.

Les Trois Parties d’un Message en « Je »

Il y a trois parties dans un message en « Je ». L’ordre n’a pas d’importance. C’est le fait de couvrir les trois éléments qui compte.

1. EXPOSEZ BRIEBVEMENT LE COMPORTEMENT INDESIRABL

« Quand vous arrivez en retard aux réunions de groupe avec une tasse de café liégeois encore chaude dans la main… »

2. PARTAGEZ VOS RESSENTIS (UN MOT PAR SENTIMENT)

« … je sens de l’injustice… »

3. REVELEZ LES CONSEQUENCES

« Parce que d’autres doivent prendre sur eux pour votre confort. Quelqu’un, moi ou un coéquipier, perd du temps à vous faire un récapitulatif de ce que l’on a déjà abordé. C’est une perte d’argent pour l’entreprise et c’est un manque de considération pour la charge de travail du collègue en question. »

OU

Exprimez ce que vous souhaiteriez

« J’aimerais que vous arriviez à l’heure. »

En ce qui concerne la partie 3, je préfère me concentrer sur les conséquences des actions perturbatrices et permettre à l’autre personne de proposer sa propre solution. Il se peut qu’ils arrivent à l’heure à la réunion avec du café pour tout le monde !  Exprimer un souhait peut paraître directif.

Un Exemple de Message en « Je »

Un professeur de management a raconté comment il avait utilisé les messages en « Je » avec les étudiants de l’université quand le groupe commençait à se dissiper. Un jeune homme en particulier, plus difficile que les autres, avait roulé des yeux, et, marmonnant quelque chose sur l’injustice de la vie, allait et venait bruyamment pendant leur temps de réunion.

Pensant, « Mais quand vont-ils grandir ?! », et sentant sa colère monter, le professeur avait décidé d’attendre le cours suivant pour réagir.

La semaine suivante, pendant une session sur le commerce mondial, il a abordé le sujet de comment saisir les fruits de la diversité en utilisant des messages en « Je ». Les gens de différentes cultures se comportent de façons qui peuvent être déstabilisantes pour les autres.

Il a partagé deux façons de traiter un problème de différence générationnelle dans sa classe :

L’option des messages en « Vous » : « Vous gênez les autres quand vous parlez pendant le cours. »

La classe a souri narquoisement. Ils avaient déjà entendu ce genre de remarques. C’est rentré dans une oreille et ressorti aussitôt par l’autre.

L’option des messages en « Je » : « Quand vous parlez pendant le cours, je me sens volé parce que le bruit supplémentaire me prive de la possibilité d’entrer en contact avec ceux de vos camarades qui sont intéressés et qui souhaitent apprendre. »

La classe s’est tue et leurs yeux se sont écarquillés. « Je pouvais les voir réfléchir… et se rendre compte qu’ils faisaient une différence dans la réussite de toute la classe », a-t-il raconté.

Des Conseils pour Réussir avec des Messages en « Je »

A. PREPAREZ-VOUS EN AMONT, AU CALME

Bonne nouvelle : un message en « Je » est rapide à dire. Si une personne qui n’a pas un bon comportement évite vos tentatives de prises de contact, un message en « Je » d’une minute attirera son attention.

Retour à la réalité : ça prend du temps à préparer.

Un des défis est d’identifier une émotion appropriée au travail.

Quand on dépasse nos limites, notre cerveau passe en mode combat, fuite ou bien arrêt. En fuite ou en arrêt, on ne rétorque pas quelque chose sur le coup. En mode combat par contre, c’est le cas… et avec des mots que l’on veut blessants.

« Je me sens violé… ridiculisé… détruit… usurpé… »

Ces émotions sont réelles et valides. En même temps, ces mots plein de jugement peuvent se retourner contre vous.

Quand notre cerveau se met en mode combat, on répond avec des mots que l’on veut blessants.  Se calmer nous permet d’avoir de nouveau accès à un langage constructif.

Donnez-vous le temps de vous calmer après avoir été confronté à une situation toxique avant d’y répondre.

B. SOYEZ PRECIS

Rappelez une situation toxique qui a eu lieu.

Evitez d’employer les mots « toujours…. » et « jamais…. »

Considérez ces questions :

  • Qu’est-ce qui a été fait ou dit ?
  • Comment vous êtes-vous sentis après ? Comment les autres ont-ils réagis ?
  • Qu’est ce qui a été le déclencheur négatif ?
  • A quoi vous attendiez-vous ?
  • En quoi le comportement actuel diffère-t-il des actions souhaitées ?

Essayez de définir l’écart qui pose problème. Il est utile d’identifier les qualités de l’environnement de travail que vous souhaitez pour le rendre constructif. Vous êtes-vous heurté à de la moquerie alors que vous recherchiez de la confiance ? Êtes-vous relégué à des tâches subalternes alors que vous souhaitez apprendre ?

C. UTILISEZ UN LANGAGE FACTUEL

Quand vous décrivez un comportement, remplacez le vocabulaire subjectif par une description neutre.

« Quand vous insultiez Jane… » invite à une réponse défensive.

« Quand vous avez dit à Jane qu’elle ressemblait à… » relate des faits.

D. REDIGEZ DES EBAUCHES

Plus votre message en « Je » sera clair, plus vous aurez de chance de recevoir une réponse positive.

Il se peut que vous n’ayez qu’une minute pour capter l’attention de « l’employé toxique ».

Les messages en « Je », comme tout nouveau langage, demande de l’entraînement. Imaginez que vous êtes en train de parler à un représentant d’une autre planète (D’une-Ville-Qui-Pense-Vraimeeeeent-Différemment-De-Moi). Essayez votre message en vous entrainant devant votre miroir.

Attendez-vous à rédigez plusieurs brouillons… de chacune des trois parties : le comportement, vos sentiments, et les conséquences.

Relisez. Est-ce que les sentiments sont en lien avec les conséquences ? Si ce n’est pas le cas, repensez à ce qui vous a gêné, et réessayez.

Pensez à votre message en « Je » comme un pitch court. Qui doit attirer l’attention. Qui invite à la collaboration. 10 brouillons !

E. CHOISISSEZ DES OCCASIONS

Partager et recevoir des messages en « Je » implique de la vulnérabilité et du courage. Utilisez ces ressources précieuses avec parcimonie. Il serait dommage de vous créer une réputation de quelqu’un qui ne fait que souligner les problèmes.

« Quand tu laisses le stylo ouvert sans son bouchon, je… »

« Quand tu prends le dernier Kinder à la cafétéria, je… »

Se Laisser Être Surpris par la Réponse

Certaines personnes incluent un autre élément au message en « Je » : une demande pour une action précise. J’aime croire que la personne réagira efficacement.

Le professeur d’université a également raconté « la fin de l’histoire ».

« La semaine suivante, je suis arrivé en classe en avance et l’élève le plus perturbateur était déjà là. Je suis allé le voir, lui ai fait remarquer sa ponctualité et lui ai dit à quel point j’appréciais son effort de comportement. Il a souri, eu un petit rire et a dit « Ouais. Je pense que c’est la première fois cette année ! »

Il a contribué positivement tout au long de la classe. Alors qu’il s’en allait, je lui ai de nouveau dit que j’avais remarqué sa participation pertinente. Il s’est exclamé « Et, vous savez, j’ai écouté alors même que la fille derrière moi n’arrêtait pas de me planter son stylo dans le dos pendant tout le cours. Je ne me mettrai plus devant elle ! »

Je pensais que c’était une personne toxique. Il m’a prouvé le contraire. Son comportement avait été répréhensible mais il s’est montré capable de contributions positives même dans des circonstances difficiles. Il a surpassé toutes mes attentes. »

C’est pourquoi j’aime présenter un message en « Je » et permettre à l’autre de me surprendre avec leur propre réponse constructive. Ça arrive dans la plupart des cas.

… Et si les difficultés persistent, alors il est temps d’adopter encore une autre méthode. Nous en parlerons la semaine prochaine.

Lire : Qu’est-ce qu’un employé toxique ?

Lire : Solutions alternatives au licenciement d’un employé toxique – 1/3

Monkey looking in mirror. Feedback!

Alternatives to Firing a “Toxic Employee”- 3/3

Don’t give feedback. Give feed-FORWARD

Feedback can be difficult to receive.  A team member with toxic behavior may have had ears full of “constructive criticism.”

Full ears lead to closed hearing.

In one of our training activities, participants are given a series of directives.

“Be on time.” “Take notes.” “Treat the client well.” “Check the references.” “Find out about _______.” 

The listeners exclaim, STOP.

  • Stop talking AT me.
  • Stop talking OVER me.
  • I am STOPPING TO LISTEN!

This is the third article in a series on toxic employees at work.  Today’s focus is on providing feedback in a way that builds collaboration.

We are building on the previous articles

  1. Acknowledge the challenge…and your role in it
  2. Set firm and kind boundaries with “I” Messages

Today’s post considers how to create and follow up on a personal development action plan of a team member.

1. Focus on Qualities to Build

Did you know?  The challenges we experience today present opportunities for learning and growth!

Blessings in disguise. Ha!

And yet…by overcoming our obstacles, you and I have grown wiser and more experienced.

For every behavior, there is a counterpart.

Think about Territorialism.  Its obverse could be Teamwork.  Somewhere along that spectrum lies Communication.

We can focus on trying to stop territorialism OR to build communication and teamwork. (Progress is never a straight path.)

 

Step by step. Build on strengths

 

I love how this cartoon contrasts the removing and building outlook.

Destruction fosters insecurity.  People erect defenses. Constructing enforces community.  People feel a sense of belonging and an ability to contribute.

Asset or deficit based mindset

In the office these two perspectives could sound like this:

  • Looking back (deficit focused): “Last meeting with Jane and Joe did not work well.  What will you do differently?”
  • Facing forward (asset based): “How could you demonstrate open-mindedness in the upcoming meeting with Jane and Joe?”

2. Build on Strengths

Imagine two cliffs with a void in between the two.  How can one get to the other side?

With one thread, one can slide another strand, then a third…until one can cross.  Does it take work and time to build on that initial filament?  Of course.  AND one can build on it.

Focus on weakness is like facing the void.  Follow the thread instead.

birds on a wire

3. Encourage Self-Evaluation

People with toxic behavior can easily be on the defensive.

Read: What is a “Toxic Employee”?

Auto-evaluation makes a person responsible for his own behavior.

One manager shared this incident.

“A team member did not take her share of the workload.  Absenteeism was an issue and so was quality of output.  As an engaged union member, she knew she could keep her job despite her disruptiveness.

I finally asked her to evaluate her own overall behavior on a scale of 1 to 5.

She responded 3. 

I answered that this was a bit higher than my own assessment.  Even more importantly, was she satisfied with 3 out of 5 when we both knew of her capability to do more?

Until then she had chosen to stand up while I was sitting down.   She took a seat and we began to make a plan to help her contribute to the team through her excellent written communication skills.”

4. Notice Progress

A sense of accomplishment highly impacts a person’s motivation and desire to contribute asserts Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile in her work on The Progress Principle.

Noticing progress helps people progress in performance.  They are

  • more productive
  • more engaged
  • more creative and solution-oriented
  • more committed to work
  • more collaborative

Managers often associate progress with major landmarks.  “We signed the contract!”

Amabile asserts that remarking progress on “small” efforts generates these positive attributes too. “Thank you for saying ‘Thank you’.”

5. Repeat Feedback Feed-FORWARD REGULARLY

It is different to give feedback regularly vs. to do so often.

Feedback Often

How frequently is “often”?  What triggers the need to review behavior?

Collaborative behavior is like service management.  When things go right, we don’t notice it.  How many times have you paused today to thank your firewall supplier for protecting your computer against viruses?  Or your bank for generating interest on your savings?  Probably none.  These service gets taken for granted…until a problem arises.  THEN IT IS URGENT.

When things go right, we don’t notice it.
Take time to notice it so that things go right more often!

Unless feedback is regularly scheduled, it tends to happen when toxic behavior merits correction.

That’s when our own behavior communicates a toxic message!  Our actions reveal that we don’t care about building a team member’s strengths or transmitting values.  We prefer comfort without nuisances.

Checking-in “too often” can communicate lack of trust in their ability.  Without me or you, that woeful, tiresome person will stay doomed to exasperate others.

Scheduled Feedback

A scheduled check-in time creates a sense of accountability on both parts:

  • the person building constructive behavior (notice the progress in using positive language ?)
  • the one encouraging personal development in his team member

There is an expectation of results.  An appointment to recognize progress.  An opportunity to further strengthen relationship muscle.

There is an expectation of results.  An appointment to recognize progress.  An opportunity to strategize for continued successes and further tone the relationship muscle.

The planned-ahead element creates a safe space, allowing for bloopers and learning from mistakes.  This is not an emergency meeting called because the person messed up (again).

Follow up sessions are scheduled on the calendar to check in…and to keep focusing forward.

“It sounds like you, Jane, and Joe are starting to understand each other a bit better?  How can you go the next step?  What could teamwork look like?!”

 

Thank you for your positive attention! ?

Photos by André Mouton and Glen Carrie on Unsplash
Tiger in cage. Safe boundaries.

Alternatives to Firing a “Toxic Employee” – 2/3

Counter Toxicity with “I”Messages

Challenging employees often diffuse their toxins under the radar which makes the negative impact difficult to contain.

Last post we looked at getting the behavior out in the open.  What if your colleague avoids you and slithers out of setting a meeting for constructive discussion?

YOU can still positively catch their attention in one or two minutes with an “I” Message.

A man or a woman who stands up to a boss or colleague with forthrightness and respect has balls!  “I” Messages are a tool to position protective boundaries or remove unnecessary fences.

Address YOUR Needs with “I” Messages

When we address the challenging behavior of someone else, the tendency is to begin the sentence with “You.”

“You make me feel uncomfortable….”

“You cause problems when….”

“Your attitude…”

To Whom Does the Problem Belong?

This implies that “You” has (or is causing) a problem.  However, toxic behavior may serve the perpetrator’s purposes.

In the previous article, we looked at an example of a boss who inappropriately touched female employees.  His behavior confirms his belief in deserving preferential treatment; he can touch…without it touching him.  A complainer can be confirmed in her victim mentality; woe is she!  No one helps her by removing her burden.

It’s other people, like you and me, that experience the difficulty; our goals are not met.  It is the woman’s sense of security that is violated when a man chooses to touch her chest at his whim.  It is the manager’s need for respect that is undermined when a team member arrives late for meetings with a cup of warm coffee topped off with fresh whipped cream.

Take Responsibility for YOUR Unmet Need
Give Responsibility for THE Consequences of THEIR Actions

How to address inappropriate behavior so that the person acts on it positively?

An “I” message establishes limits without making judgements.

As humans and as professionals, we each seek to belong and to contribute positively to a group with a worthwhile purpose.   As managers, we hope our team members will find that meaningful community at work!

What are the differentiating qualities of an environment which builds meaningful purpose (the kind we all dream of finding at work) and an engaged sense of partnership?

  • Trust
  • Trust
  • Trust
  • Security, Responsibility, Initiative, Commitment, Understanding, Acceptance, Cooperation, Welcome of differences, Joy, Laughter

Clear and respected boundaries foster these respect-building qualities.

“We act this way….  This is not what we do….”

“Because I know my manager has my back, I am on the lookout for ways to improve our business.  I ask our customers more insight-seeking questions.  I regularly propose and test out ideas to tweak our service quality.  I do it because she is going out of her way for me too.”

When a manager takes credit for his group’s work, he has crossed over the line from teamwork to toxic.  The boundary has been broached and employee needs are unmet.

An “I” Message helps communicate a breach in constructive behavior without resorting to blame or shame.

The Three Parts of an “I” Message

There are three-parts to an “I” message.  The order is not important.  Covering all three elements matters.

1. Briefly state the undesired behavior

“When you arrive late in team meetings with a steaming cup of coffee with fresh whipped cream in your hands….”

2. Share your feelings (one word per feeling)

“…I feel resentful…”

3. Express the consequences

“because others suffer for your comfort.  Someone, me or a team mate, spends extra time to bring you up to date with what we already covered.  It is a waste of company money and a lack of consideration for the team member’s workload.”

OR

Express what you wish

“I would like you to arrive on time.”

With regards to Part 3, I prefer to focus on the consequences of the disruptive actions and allow the other person to come up with his own solution.  They might and come to the meeting on time with fresh coffee for everyone!  Expressing a wish can sound directive.

“I” Message Example

A management professor shared how he used “I” messages with university students when the group became unfocused.  People talked without listening to each other.  The group became dissipated.  One particularly challenging young man rolled his eyes and, mumbling over the unfairness of life, noisily moved his about during their meeting time.

Thinking, “When will they grow up?!” and feeling his temper rising, the professor decided to wait for the next class to respond.

The following week, during a session on global business, he addressed the topic of reaping the benefits of diversity by using “I” messages.  People from different cultures behave in ways that could be unsettling to the other.

He shared two ways to address an issue of generational disparity in their class:

Option “You” Message: “You are causing problems for others by talking in class.”

The class smirked.  They had heard similar comments before.  It went in one ear and out the other.

Option “I” Message: “When you speak in class while I am teaching, I feel robbed because the additional noise takes away the opportunity for me to connect with interested classmates and for them to learn.”

The class went silent and eyes popped open.  “I could see them thinking…and realizing they made a difference in the success of the entire class!” he shared.

Tips for Success with “I” Messages

1. Prepare in Advance, When Calm

Good news:  An “I” Message is quick to say.   If the person with disruptive behavior dodges attempts to connect, a one-minute “I” Message will catch his attention.

Reality check: It takes time to prepare.

A big challenge lies in identifying a work-appropriate emotion.

When our boundaries are crossed, our brain goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode.  In flight or freeze, we do not retort on the spot.  In fight state we do… with words intended to wound.
“I feel violated…ridiculed…crushed…usurped…”

The emotions are real and valid.  At the same time, these judgement-filled words can backfire.

When our brains are in fight mode, we respond with words intended to hurt.  Calming down allows us to re-access helpful language.

Give yourself time to calm down from experiencing a toxic situation before responding to it.

2. Be Specific

Bring to mind an actual toxic situation.

Avoid “always _____” and “never ______”

Consider these questions:

  • What was said or done?
  • How did it make you feel? How did others respond?
  • What was the negative trigger?
  • What were you expecting?
  • How does the actual behavior differ from the desired actions?

Try and define the bothersome gap. It is helpful to identify the qualities of a constructive workplace you seek to build. Were you hoping for trust and found mockery instead?  Are you seeking learning and are relegated menial tasks?

3. Use factual language

When describing the behavior, replace judgmental language with a neutral description.

When you insulted Jane…” invites a defensive response.

“When you told Jane that she looked like …” relays facts.

4. Prepare Written Drafts

The clearer your “I” Message, the more likely it will invite a positive response.

You might only have one minute to catch the attention of the “toxic employee.”

“I” Messages, like any new language, takes practice.  Imagine you are speaking to a representative from another planet (Thinks-Waaaaay-Differently-From-Me-Ville).  Try your message out by speaking at your image in the mirror.

Expect to write several drafts…of each of the three parts: the behavior, your feelings, and the consequences.

Review.  Do the feelings relate to the consequences?  If not, reconsider what bothered you and try again.

Think of your “I” Message like an elevator pitch.  Attention-grabbing.  Inviting collaboration.  10 rough drafts!

5. Choose Occasions

Sharing and receiving “I” Messages involves vulnerability and courage.  Use these precious resources, wisely.  It would be a shame to create a reputation of fault-seeking.

“When you leave the cap off the pen….”

“When you take the last Kinder at the cafeteria…”

Trust to Respond

Some people include an additional element in the “I” Message:  a request for a specific action.  I like to trust the person to respond productively.

The university professor above shared “the rest of the story.”

“The following week, I arrived in class early and the student with the most disruptive behavior was already there.  I went up to him, noticed his timeliness, and shared how I appreciated his effort for punctuality.  He smiled, chuckled and remarked, ‘Yeah.  I think this is the first time this year!’

He contributed positively throughout the class.  As he was leaving, again I commented noticing his helpful participation.  He exclaimed, ‘And, you know, I paid attention even though the student behind me was sticking her pen in my back during the entire class.  I’m not sitting in front of her again!’

I had thought he was a toxic person.  He taught me otherwise.  His behavior had been reprehensible but he proved capable of positive contributions even under adverse circumstances.  He performed beyond my expectations.”

That’s why I like to present an “I” Message and allow the other person to surprise me with their own constructive response.  It happens in most situations.

…and if challenges persist, then it’s time to seek yet a different approach.  We’ll address that next week.

Read: “What is a Toxic Employee”?

Read: Alternatives to Firing Toxic Employees – Acknowledge the challenge…and your role in it

Toxic employee is like a slithery snake

Alternatives to Firing a Toxic Employee – 1/3

Consider the case of a team with a toxic employee.  I am coaching the manager who says, “I told him right out what is not working, and he keeps doing it.”

The manager is being honest with feedback.  And yet, the situation perpetuates itself…even worsens.

This post is the first in a three-part series to present tools to turn around situations with bad-attitude employees.

The Case of the Toxic Team Member

This young employee, let’s call him George, had been assigned to a team for a specific project.  George’s previous work had been well enough appreciated, his skills were valuable, and this project needed manpower.

The manager expected higher quality output than what he was getting from George, so he let him know it.  Honestly. And with respectful language.

“You have got to be more thorough.”

“Be responsible.  Take initiative.”

“Don’t wait for me to specify what work you need to do and how.”

“There are mistakes in this document!”

Instead of improving his attitude and effort, George withdrew when in front of the manager and talked behind his back.

manager employee toxic relationship. Vicious cycleRumors got back to the manager who trusted George less and less.  He was on the lookout for occasions where George underperformed.  People find what they seek; the manager identified imperfect work, and George received increasing critique and diffused more resentment throughout the team.

Vicious circle.  Toxic employee.  Suffering team.

The Manager is Honest and Respectful.  Isn’t he right?!

Yes, the manager clearly pointed out the areas of underperformance without disparaging the junior employee, George.

Could he have done anything else? Yes.

The Trust Balance on Overdraft

Let me use a metaphor to explain:  Credit

When you pay off your debt, the balance becomes ZERO.  Not negative.  Yet not positive either.

When the manager pointed out the faults, he may have been removing negative behaviors.  It’s like he brought “development potential” up…up to zero!  Yet, the employee still totters on the brink of demotivation and disengagement.

The manager’s goal is to generate a positive performance AND positive return on the investment in talent.  Pointing out the negatives is not the same as investing in skill development.

There are constructive communication tools which BOTH set limits for expected results AND SIMULTANEOUSLY encourage and engage the employee. Before considering termination, try one of these less costly and potentially high return approaches to bringing a slacking employee up to speed.

  1. Acknowledge the challenge…and your role in it (this post)
  2. Use “I” Messages
  3. Schedule frequent feedback

This post is the first in a series of three where we address tools to encourage employees.

Acknowledge the challenge…and your role in it

How can one have a conflict with only one person?

By definition, a clash involves a minimum of two parties.  It is rare that with humans one person is totally correct and the other one is completely 100% in neglect.

On the principle, the boss is most probably correct.  Performance needs improvement.

And yet…How was the tone of voice?  Or the clarity of expectations?  How many times do we spout off requests while rushing to a meeting?!

I had a situation where an employee was mourning the death of a friend from overdose and the boss had just had a fight with his teen.  In their respective hypersensitive states, latent tension was exposed.  They clashed, and it led to subsequent coaching.

An outright confrontation has the advantage of bringing the differences out in the open.  It’s a costly move for everyone.  Angry outbursts at work leave a mark on everyone’s reputation.

Here are more trust-building ways to address a conflictual relationship.

Inquire & listen

“I wonder if we are understanding each other as effectively as we could. How would you rate our communication on a scale of 1 (ineffective) to 10 (full engagement on both of our parts)?”

Find ways to have your employee speak and name the challenge.  They are savvy at slithering into a victim mentality.  Avoid the trap with this type of question which respectfully yet firmly has the employee face his responsibility for his attitude and behavior.

A ranking provides a starting point for exposing differences.  If they respond with a “9” and you think the cooperation runs at “2”, it’s an opportunity for each of you to express your expectations of effective collaboration.

“What does a “9” entail, and can you give me an example of when this happened?”

Think of it like deciphering an optical illusion where both of you see different images in the same brush strokes on the paper.

Read: See Through Someone Else’s Eyes

Set a meeting with just this topic on the agenda.

Separate personal and professional issues

“As a manager, I don’t see us working well together to reach performance objectives. As a person just like you, I would like work to be a motivating and pleasant part of my life.  I feel frustrated (choose your emotion) with the way we work together.  I don’t see us reaching either of those goals.  When can we set a time to discuss what you want from this job and what you expect from your work relationships and I can share mine too?”

Many young employees seek society at work.  Their work used to be school and that’s where they made friends. Help them understand that performance issues differ from their interest as an individual.

By having the employee “present his case” you again have him face the responsibility of his own attitude.

Give the employee a respectful way to voice objections

“You and I seem to be viewing the same situation from very different perspectives. When can we sit down, and you can tell me your understanding of our project requirements and of our teamwork?  At 9:00 a.m. or after lunch?”

We managers give feedback regularly.  Often in little chunks.  We drop by his desk on the way to a meeting.  We call him into our office, say our stuff, and dismiss him.

(In the third post of this series we will look at a way to encourage self-evaluation and focus feedback on ways to progress.)

When are employees invited to share their disagreements with their boss?

Consider this an opportunity to model the kind of behavior and respect you would like to receive from him.

Switch Perspectives

The above questions invite both manager and employee to switch perspectives.

The employee is challenged to get out of a “victim” mindset where the world owes him favors.  The manager gives him responsibility for his actions.

Each of these examples also acknowledges that the manager, may not have a 360° understanding of the situation.  The more responsibility one gains, the more difficult it is to know what happens lower in the organizational structure.

The boss has the power to give a raise, to promote (and to dictate who works on weekends).  Team members watch for signs from their manager that indicates they may disagree without negative repercussions.

That young employee’s adverse behavior might just be an indication that a sensitive subject merit being addressed.

I have learned what I do well and what to improve in my leadership style through such discussions.  It’s not always pleasant.  It has been beneficial.

Your Invitation to Disagree

I presented these concepts to Harvard Business School alumni.  Some espoused them immediately: “It’s so obvious that I forgot to think of it.  Like fish not recognizing water.”

Others took the opposite stance, “You are letting the wolves take over.”

What is your take on dealing with a potentially toxic employee?  Comment below or send me a message.

 

Next week, we’ll explore “I” Messages.  Stay tuned.

Cover photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Boys in teamwork. What collaboration!

Turn Good Intentions into Great Teamwork

Who among you works with youth or young employees?  How do you help the next generation to transform good intentions into teamwork, collaboration, and positive results?

That’s what I had the opportunity to put to the test this past week when teaching a class in Introduction to Management to university students, youth with several months of corporate work experience.  The university called me in to pick up a class in the middle of their curriculum; I began with the topics of Motivation and Leadership.  How appropriate!

Personable and polite students entered the class with good intentions.  In theory, they were motivated.  In practice, they quickly lost focus by chatting with a colleague or scrolling on their mobile phone.  Bye bye, teamwork.

Professor colleagues lament the young generation’s lack of attention and most respond in either of two schools

  • to carry on whether the students are listening or not
  • to walk over to the students’ desk and close their computers for them

Motivation 3.0

My area of expertise is Motivation-in-the-Era-of-Internet which expounds that employees are most motivated when they find autonomy, mastery, and purpose in their work.  Ignoring students or treating them like a child lies contrary to this Motivation 3.0 approach.

“Management is about creating conditions for people to do their best work…And what science is revealing is that carrots and sticks can promote bad behavior and encourage short-term thinking at the expense of the long view.” – Dan Pink, from Drive

Additionally, my experience with Millennials confirms their search for authenticity and connection in relationships.  Neither of the above teaching/leadership styles convey either genuine interest in or an engagement with the students.

Here was my dilemma:  How to teach/lead and engage these students in a way that

  • ensures results (the material is covered qualitatively=
    AND SIMULTANEOUSLY
  • creates a sense of belonging and desire to contribute among the students?

In other words, how to help these Post Millennials transform their good intentions into positive teamwork?

Team-Generated Collaboration Guidelines

We used a tool that works wonders in my workshops: Co-Developed Group Guidelines

This tool helps both create and maintain a constructive work environment.

CREATE COLLABORATION

1. The first step entails putting the good intentions into writing.  Here is how.

Invite your group to share, “What can we each do to work together as a great team?”

Folk respond right away with, “To respect each other.”  And the list continues.

2. It’s helpful to break down vague or over-used words. 

  • “What does respect mean exactly?”
  • “What will it sound/look/feel like?”
  • “What is an example of lack of respect that we should avoid?”

3. Once the brainstorming complete, invite the group to prioritize three to five of these great team behaviors.

The process of making the list together brings the success-criteria to top of mind.  It’s like hearing the reminder to drink 1 liter of water a day.  We know these are helpful behaviors AND we benefit from remembering to do so.

The process of having built these teamwork criteria together builds belonging to the group and accountability.  “It’s the rules I made.  It’s normal that I should keep them.”

Here is our class’ list.Teamwork collaboration guidelines

MAINTAIN TEAMWORK

As humans, any rule is hard to follow, even the great ones we make ourselves!  We need help yet even well-intentioned positive reminders can sound like nagging.  Invite self-evaluation as an effective means of follow through.

Half-way through my class I invited our group to review our team ground rules.  “How are we doing? Thumbs up (good teamwork), side ways (OK job), or down (need improvement).”

In our class, thumbs were all over the place!  That’s an opportunity to address the elephant in the room.

“Well…it looks like some people think we are listening while other people talk, and others don’t.”

That’s where I appealed to everyone to think of one or two behaviors to change so that our listening improved.  Some students closed their computers on their own accord.  We reshuffled the break-out groups which had the effect of separating chattering partners.  People sat up straighter in their chairs…

And we smiled (!) and continued with class.

And for our next session on Communication and Teamwork, we’ll begin by reviewing those same co-developed ground rules and setting a personal goal to be 1 Great. Team.

How do you engage your young employees?  Please share in the comments.

Apply Teamwork Guidelines to Your Work

What is your challenge with teamwork?

  • People arrive late in meetings
  • Folk repeat what has already been said or done
  • Meetings have no agenda
  • Lack of trust

Try setting a new stage.  Instead of focusing on the challenges, brainstorm together about great teamwork and, TOGETHER, set yourselves some clear guidelines.

Apply Teamwork Guidelines to Your Life

Easter is this Sunday.  In France, it’s customary to celebrate over a looooooong meal with extended family.  You love the food, wine, and company.  The kids get bored à table for an eternity.

Try this activity “en famille.

“Sweethearts, what can we do to make the big family meal a great experience for everyone?”

Everyone can brainstorm:

  • “We could get up and play between courses”
  • “We could get up and help (!) between courses!!”
  • “We could have Easter Egg drawings and color them while the adults finish eating”
  • “We could make an Easter Egg hunt for the adults!!!”

Once the brainstorming juices have flown free, then select one or two options that’s acceptable to everyone. 🙂

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Sand seeping through hands

4 Timely Ways to Overcome Procrastination Quickly

With HUGE delight we welcome our guest blogger, Sonya Kaiser.  Sonya was a high school classmate of my son and has now graduated from University of Pennsylvania in Biological Basis of Behavior with a minor in Psychology.  Sonya is bi-cultural, with a French father and American mother, and has lived on several continents.  She currently teaches in a bilingual pre-school in Seattle, Washington, USA.

It’s a treat to benefit from her scientific knowledge of the brain and its impact on behavior.  It’s also an honor to feature a young woman whom I knew as a teen and is now a colleague.  She’s keeping me on my toes!

Please do let Sonya know what you think of her article! Which of the Procrastination Traps catches you most off guard?!  How do you overcome it? Share your questions about neurology and time management in the comments.

 

Sand seeping through hands
Time running out

We’ve all done it, thought “I’ll do it tomorrow”, left an assignment to the last minute, procrastinated a task for so long that eventually we just forgot we wanted to do it in the first place.

Procrastination is an enemy to many and the best way to handle it is to know your enemy.

Did you know that procrastination can be caused by a few  psychological patterns? Which one of these speaks to you?

Procrastination Causes

Fear of Failure

Fear of failure
“Oops!”

The reason that is most commonly brought up is a fear of failure.

The feelings of anxiety or self-doubt that come over you when you’re unsure whether you can complete a task successfully can quickly become crippling and prevent you from getting started.

Even worse, as time goes by, you can start overthinking and building the task so much in your mind that it becomes harder and harder to overcome that fear.

Self-Defense

Kids in viking costumer with shields
“No way!”

Another possible cause of procrastination is a sort of self-defense mechanism, to maintain a positive view of yourself.

Your sense of self-worth is often determined by your ability to successfully complete tasks. This is why it’s often easier to check easy tasks off your to-do list than more challenging ones, why you might tend to avoid anything with a higher likelihood of failure.

Procrastination can also be a convenient defense if you do end up failing.

If you don’t give yourself enough time to complete the task, you can blame the failure on the lack of time rather than your own lack of ability, which in turn enables you to maintain your confidence in your abilities.

Problem for the “Future Me”

Einstein in color graffiti
“I’ll be smarter later”

Another common reason to procrastinate is the idea that your future self will be better equipped to handle the task. You might think you’ll be in a better mood, less tired, or more emotionally prepared in a few hours or a few days and you leave the burden of your task to a future you.

 

Which of the above have tempted you the most?!  Fear of Failure – Self-Defense – Delegate to “Future Me”

Want help setting up your Pro-Doing-It-Now plan?  Ask your question here.

Strategies to Turn Procrastination Around

Divide tasks into smaller pieces

Watermelon cut into smaller pieces
Chop, chop

This will make them seem more manageable. It’s always less daunting to start a task when you can picture the end of it.

Tips for parents

Instead of writing “clean the house” on your to-do list, try “tidy living room, do laundry, mop floors, vacuum floors, fold clothes”

Tips for students

Instead of writing “write 10-page essay” on your to-do list, try “find topic for essay, research for 2 hours, write an essay plan, flesh out essay”.

Set tangible deadlines

kitchen time
“Driiiiing!” Time is up.

If a deadline isn’t imposed by someone else, try giving yourself one. Self-imposed deadlines are generally less effective than external ones, but they’re better than nothing!

Tips for parents

If you do give your kids a deadline, try using “when” rather than “if”. For instance, try saying “When you’re done cleaning your room, we can play a board game” instead of “If you clean your room, we can play together”

Tips for students

Try setting a timer to encourage yourself to work for a specific amount of time without stopping or getting distracted.

Block access to distractions

Fence with this way sign
Stop. Turn. Go.

It’s so easy to let your attention wander. As an adult, the main culprits are often distracting websites like social media or streaming services. But kids can be distracted by anything that moves, anything that makes a noise or even by their own exciting inner lives.

Tips for parents

Try keeping your kids’ attention focused on boring tasks, like putting on shoes and coats, with a little song that you can all sing together.

Tips for students

There are a few great apps that can help you block websites in a more effective manner than just self-monitoring, like SelfControl and StayFocusd.

Find joy in the task itself

Boys in garden
“Joie de vivre” – Contagious joy.

It always helps productivity and mood to think of tasks as things that you want to do or get to do, rather than things you have to do. Try to make tasks either positive, worthwhile or entertaining in some way.

Tips for parents

Add a sense of competition to dull tasks like getting ready for school. The first person who’s completely ready gets to ring a little bell! Ready, set, go!

Tips for students

Instead of sitting down or pacing while studying some flashcards, put on some music and have a little dance party!

 

Thoughtful brother

Family Feedback Example—To Mom, be more generous. To child, learn through a job.

We are coming to a close of our Family Feedback of the year. One son remains to give and receive his feedback with his parents.  This is the fourth in the series of posts to give you a glimpse into one our most precious and powerful family moments.

Click here for our How To’s.

Read on to learn how my son told me to be more generous and I encouraged him to grow by working simple jobs of manual labor or service.

Feedback to Mom

Well Done

We are seated at the dinner table and the boys chose to go around in the order of seating. It’s our second son who finally got the floor.

Son (17 years):  “Mom, what I really appreciate is your flexibility with letting me spend time (like the night) with my girlfriend.”

This is a very delicate issue between us because his behavior is in contradiction with my values.  Yet, you see, my job as a parent is to provide him with an education and to present him with a set of values.  He graduated from high school this summer and now lives out of our home.  My role as a mother has evolved now:   to allow my son to fly with his own wings.   I did my BEST while he was under our roof.   It is his life, not mine.  I have made mistakes and learned some of my best lessons from them. He too will blunder.  He might choose some or none of my values for his life.  He will live with the consequences of those choices.

With regards to my life and beliefs, I try to follow Jesus Christ.   Try.  Because invariably I fail. But  Jesus loves me.  Still.  So, if I follow Christ, I am to love.  Still.  And loving my son now means to be “less of me and more of him.”

Mom:  “I’m glad you appreciate it.”

To Change

Son:I really don’t have a way where you could change…

This is our son who has complained and COMPLAINED about …everything and anything.  He’s an expert at finding faults.  We have purposefully taught him to identify other people’s strength and to encourage them.  It’s been WORK.

Son: “…ah yes.  You didn’t do it this year for Christmas, but sometimes you offer people the gifts you would like to receive.”

Mom:  “What do you mean, exactly?”

Son: “Last year you gave everyone kitchen tools.  The ceramic knife, the knife holder, the latest fashion cookbook…you used them all.”

Embarrassingly, this is all true!

Mom:  “I see (all too clearly) what you mean.”

Son:  “Ok, what about me?”

Transmiting a Vision of Thriving to My Child

Well Done

Mom: “What you have done excellently last year is master your schoolwork.  You graduated with honors. Intelligence contributes to these results, and you also worked for those grades.  You exhibited discipline and determination…along with balance in your social and spiritual dimensions of life.  And it was not just last year.  This year your academic demands are even heftier and you’re at the top of your class and keeping up with a life.”

Dad:  “You’re ranked N°1 in your class?”

Son: “Didn’t you know?”

Banter between son and father where the younger bull gets to show off his size and the senior one grunts his consent.

To Change

Rowdy teen boysMom:  “And what you could do to change is considering getting a job.  Try working for money.  The jobs you’ll have at your age are mostly entry level manual labor or service positions.  It’s a good thing to know first-hand the value of sweat and smile.

Son: “I’ve thought of that.  But you see, I don’t feel the neeeeeed to work yet.  (oh, oh!)  I work at school and then deserve a vacation.  I can afford not to work now.”

Mom:You can afford it?  Who’s paying for your time off?  Until when?  Why?

Now that you have more of the privileges of adulthood, isn’t time that you also take on more of those responsibilities too?”

Silence.

Mom:  “Aagh!  It’s tough when you want to eat your cake and keep it too!” (In French we say, ‘To have the butter and the money for the butter.’ ‘Avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre.’)

We can all relate…and smile.

Dad: “Are we finished with the analysis and mutual-flagellation?”

Everyone:  “Poooooor Dad!”  “If it were THAT bad, why did you stay with us?” “Yes, dear ”

Mom: “Everyone clear his plate and takes at least one other thing back to the kitchen!”

Thus closed the evening meal and the Family Annual Review.

Follow Through on the Family Feedback

Our comments now hang in our Frame of Fame…where they’ll stay several weeks and re-appear from time to time over the year…as behaviors might deteriorate and the need arises to

  • be humble,
  • be generous,
  • think before speaking,
  • advance step-by-step, or
  • dress one’s age

 

Enjoy this year’s whole Family Feedback series:

  1. Family Feedback How To’s &
    To Mom, be clear.  To child, be humble.
  2. To Mom, be flexible.  To child, go step by step.
  3. To Mom, stop being a fashion victim.  To child, think before you speak.
  4. To Mom, be generous.  To child, learn through a job.