Independent Thought Alarm and Principle of Legitimacy in Leadership and Governance

People aren’t complicated. Human nature is fairly predictable. And we don’t need a plethora of rules and regulations to define every possible way a person might step out of line. Typically, we can boil it all down to the basics – a few simple things most people want and deserve.

Governance and Leadership Independent Thought and Principle of Legitimacy

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How to Save a Relationship and Get Engagement at Work or at Home

Got a person you’re struggling with? Want a simple method for better communication? Snickers, my cat, taught me the key to salvage a relationship, whether at work or at home. This one thing she does will help you build engagement with colleagues, co-workers, customers, constituents and loved ones.

Relationships tips and communication skills

Here’s what she does: As soon as she sees my son head for the stairs to our basement, Snickers runs over and sticks her paw through the railing. When her paw appears, Brett reaches through to scratch her head and pet her back. Then she flops on her side and rolls around to get her belly rubbed. (You may want to skip the belly-rubbing with some people.)

It’s now a game. She initiates it, Brett responds and she wiggles around in delight. The more they engage in this ritual, the more my son expects it and actually gets quite a kick out of it. She makes a “bid” for his attention and he falls for it every time. I don’t know how she’d cope if one day he didn’t respond.

THE KEY: RESPOND TO “BIDS”

“Bids” for attention can strengthen relationships when they result in a positive response. When we say something to another person, place a phone call, send a text, email or letter, we usually want a reply. It sets up a give-and-take exchange that meets our social needs for human connection and validation.

Just like Snickers, we all want our bellies rubbed (figuratively speaking of course). It fires up those endorphins, builds trust and leads to relationship retention. Some people want more of it than others. Some are downright needy and tire people out. But most of us have a set point based on reasonable expectations.

interpersonal communication

Basically, people want recognition. That doesn’t mean they are fishing for compliments or a plaque on the wall. They want to know that somebody “sees” them – that they matter. And the more we respond to those bids, the better results we get in terms of acceptance, cooperation and engagement. Socially astute people learn how to fulfill this human need and as a result, win friends and become a welcome addition to the neighborhood BBQ.

Those who ignore someone’s “bid” may discourage the other person from making an effort in the future. They could interpret the lack of response as apathy or flat out rejection. The more often this occurs, the less likely the relationship will survive.

RESEARCH AND BENEFITS

People are people and human behavior is pretty predictable, whether you’re dealing with someone at work or at home. Studies of successful marriages have found that couples who divorced six years later had responded to bids only 33% of the time, while those who stayed married had positively responded to bids 86% of the time.

The more often we engage, the stronger our relationships. And the stronger those social connections become, the longer we live, as described in The Longevity Project by Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D and Leslie R. Martin, Ph.D. This eight-decade study tracked the loves and lives of 1500 Americans from childhood to death.

The way in which we respond is also important. Delivering lukewarm, unenthusiastic comments can kill a relationship about as quickly as no response at all. Read about the four styles of responding to others in this article.

Reciprocity rules! Positive responses build good feelings and encourage people to open up and offer more of themselves. And reciprocity is one of the seven laws Dr. Robert Cialdini explores in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Positive responses show you are enthusiastic, interested, supportive and encouraging. It sets up a chain reaction that moves us to higher ground together.

HOW TO AVOID MORALE PROBLEMS

So often I hear people say they have communication problems within their organization, which usually leads to morale problems. Chances are, it’s because some folks don’t realize how important it is to let others in on the backstory. Maybe they don’t believe there’s a strong enough “need to know.” But as Simon Sinek explains in his TED talk on the Golden Circle, understanding the “why” is crucial to better leadership and also better branding.

To improve your organizational or personal brand in the eyes of others, explain yourself now and then. Don’t let people guess. Don’t force them to make up their own story about your motivations, otherwise you may not come out on the better side of that story. Once people understand the “why” behind your motivation, they tend to be more tolerant and cooperative. But keeping it to yourself can be perceived as arrogant and unfeeling. No wonder morale problems occur!

4 WAYS TO AVOID TROUBLE

Relationship Cure by Dr. John Gottman

Dr. John Gottman, author of The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family and Friendships, is an expert in predicting which couples are prone to divorce. After studying thousands of couples, he identified four things that doom relationships. I’m willing to bet these four behaviors may also have a bearing on how successful we are with people at work as well as those we live with. They are:

Criticism: when someone says their partner’s personality or character as the problem. (Based on Gottman’s research, this is something women tend to do more than men.) Before we open our mouth, consider whether the thing we’re about to say is based on a minor irritation or is it something more serious. Is it worth the cost of damaging the relationship to voice this concern? Will the world stop or somebody die if the behavior continues? I’ve written about a way to raise an issue using a non-critical approach here.

Defensiveness: counterattacking, whining or responding like a victim. When we’re attacked or criticized, instincts kick in and we try to protect and defend ourselves. But the more we protest, the more likely we are to: 1. not hear what the other person is saying, 2. not learn how to do things better in the future and 3. reject the other person’s opinion which can undermine the relationship. It’s hard to stay objective under these circumstances and it takes practice. Sometimes a simple, “Thank you for the information. Can I get back to you on this?” is all that’s needed.

Contempt: acting like you’re a better person than they are. (This is the #1 predictor of breakups.) This can also occur as we talk about the other person to a third party. Acting morally superior is usually a telltale sign.

Stonewalling: shutting down or tuning out. It implies “I don’t care.” (85% of the time it’s the men who do this.) There’s very little belly-rubbing going on here. Closing the door to interaction can make things worse. While sometimes tuning out is a way to avoid saying or doing something you’ll regret, neglect is a dangerous place to go. Stonewalling can also be a passive-aggressive way to get back at the other person.

IN SUMMARY

Respond in positive ways to the bids for attention you get from colleagues, co-workers, customers, spouse or family members to strengthen relationships. Research studies also prove that if you avoid the four deadly behaviors of contempt, defensiveness, criticism and stonewalling, your marriage (and likely other connections) will last longer. Don’t default to a position of neglect or apathy. Put in a little consistent effort if you want the people in your life to stick around. Err on the side of communicating too much.

Next Steps: Know of someone who’s at risk of ruining a relationship at home or at work? Help them out and forward this article.

How to Stop Them From Saying That’s Just the Way I Am

Once upon a time there was an organization that held team conference calls. Each week the company owner would guide the group through key issues then ask for feedback. Without fail, one guy would pipe up with a comment that was disrespectful and targeted at the owner.

Interpersonal Communication Skills

It was embarrassing for everyone. But the boss never called him on it, either publicly or afterwards privately.

Not too far down the road was another organization. They were suffering with a woman who rampaged around the office like Godzilla. Everyone, including HR and her frontline manager was afraid of her. Nobody wanted to cross her for fear of her wrath and repercussions.

So, here’s what they both did. They called in a trainer to hold a class on courtesy and communication. (I wonder who that was.) Better to have the outside stranger lower the boom than those who worked closely with these folks.

After all, “That’s just the way he/she is.”

These stressed-out people were hoping the message would deliver a wake-up call to that one person who was driving everyone crazy. They’d sit through the class, nod knowingly and stare pointedly at the offender hoping he or she would “get it”. That way nobody would have to put up with their nonsense ever again and they wouldn’t have to personally put their life on the line.

Poof, the magic fix!

While situations like this tend to keep me in business, it’s not the most effective use of everyone’s time or energy. If you want things to change, co-workers as well as the boss need to take action. Merely modeling good behavior with one another may not be enough for this person to notice how inappropriate and destructive they are. But it’s a good start.

You can also try to:

Be a leader. Everyone is waiting around for the manager, owner, boss to take control of the situation. Don’t be a chicken. Don’t leave it up to someone else. People look up to you ‘cause you’re supposed to be in charge.

Create a workplace of respect. Here’s an acronym I made up to help get people focused on their behaviors.

R – regular reminders of standards and norms

E – effort to create constructive outcomes

S – speak to the person directly

P – personally responsible for our words and actions

E – empathy to understand how we impact one another

C – commitment to right any wrongs

T – timely action, privately when possible

Put them on a performance plan. Yes, you can do this for personal traits that seem hard to quantify. Hold them accountable to behaviors that fall under communication, leadership, internal/external customer service, teamwork. Give them a reasonable period of time to improve. Get them a book. Hire a coach. Be a mentor.

Congratulate them. They won’t go from 0 to 100 overnight, but make an effort to notice the small ways they get better. Do they listen to you? Will they acknowledge they might be impacting others? Are they willing to try and improve? Do they catch themselves “in the act” and adjust more quickly than before? Will they apologize? Can they be responsible for themselves in a self-deprecating way? If so, notice and acknowledge.

Banish the phrase, “That’s just how they are.” If you allow people to run amok and let them off the hook, things won’t improve and they could get worse. Then you might just blow a gasket when the behavior becomes too much to bear.

And finally, peer pressure is a wonderful thing. Culture is the way we do things around here. Create a culture of caring and sometimes these folks self-select themselves right out the door!

Additional Reading:

How to Have That Difficult Discussion

Why Your Biggest Embarrassment Makes You More of a Leader

Nonverbal Communication and How Our Truck Almost Fell in the River

After a trip to Flaming Gorge UT, a friend and I explored an area near Dinosaur in northwestern Colorado. We drove along the Green River to Brown’s Park, also known as Brown’s Hole, a favorite hideout for Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang. We came to a narrow, single-lane bridge, which of course we just had to cross.

interpersonal communication skills

As we approached the bridge, we saw a sign at the entrance that said, “Weight Limit 3 Tons”. So I casually asked my friend, “Just out of curiosity, how much does your truck weight?” And he said, “With you and me in it? About 6800 lbs.”

I laughed as he started to cross the bridge and asked, “Do you really think we should be doing this?”

He gripped the steering wheel a little bit tighter and said, “Yeah, we’ll be okay. I’m an optimist.”

So I held my breath as we drove forward. S L O W L Y.

nonverbal communication

Cables on the suspension bridge began to hum and the wooden planks curled up around the tires. I peered out my window at the swirling water below, wondering how cold it was. Then I heard a noise from the other side of the truck. So I looked over at my friend…

…he had lifted up the steering wheel, unbuckled his seat belt and rolled down his window!

Holy cow! We’re goin’ down!

NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION

Hmmm, what to believe, words or actions?

Ever get mixed messages from friends, family, customers or co-workers?

When it comes to interpersonal communication, we want people to be congruent in speech and action. The principle, “Walk your talk” is recommended so we can become better leaders or parents. In fact it’s such a common saying that people poke fun at themselves by urging, “Do what I say, NOT what I do”.

Researchers have found we filter out or morph the meaning of 70% of messages we hear. We tend to focus on parts of the message that supports our position, desires and goals. And we may also disregard critical elements of the message that seem minor but contain the essence of the person’s true intent.

Because of that bias, it’s easy to miscommunicate. We can’t peer into someone’s head to see what they really mean. So if we care, we often try to compile clues from what they say and do.

It helps if we have some history working with the other person – some kind of relationship. The more trust we’ve built, the easier it is to decipher someone’s motivation. We cut them more slack. But even among those who have a long track record with one another, misunderstandings can still occur.

APPLICATION AND ACTION STEPS

So, to reduce the risk of getting crossways with people too often:

  • Tell them your intent and motivation: My intent is to maintain our friendship
  • Identify the outcome you seek: I want to get this project done on time
  • Clarify the position you hold: I’m not crazy about this idea
  • Point out roadblocks that could derail understanding: I tend to be easily distracted
  • Ask them to repeat your statement back: What did you just hear me say?
  • Define what reality/certainty means to you: I’m certain we can reach 80% of our revenue goal
  • Define what hope/possibility means to you: I think it’s possible to exceed our goal by 20%
  • Consider your personal listening style: Appreciative, Empathic, Discerning, Comprehensive or Evaluative

Next, to improve communication within your team, board, family or with customers, ask:

  1. What behaviors and messages do I tend to misunderstand from others?
  2. What do I say or do that others misinterpret?

Exploring those triggers will help you build bridges rather than undermine relationships. 

Are you wondering if we made it across the river? Thankfully, WE did.

But this guy sure didn’t!

Interpersonal communication problems

Brown’s Park Tractor Disaster

How to Maintain Integrity and Deliver Negative News

Ever received a piece of negative news? Were you blissfully tripping through life thinking everything was rosy when out of the blue you learned something that impacted you in a big, big way? You never saw it coming. Now your world is upside down and suddenly, there is a new reality to cope with.

How to have a difficult discussion

It takes a while to get your bearings again, doesn’t it? Would things have been easier to manage if you’d had a heads-up?

Of course. 

Negative news is never easy to hear. While discomfort and disappointment are part of life, the true test of character is how we handle ourselves as both the giver and receiver. 

It doesn’t matter whether your situation occurs at work or in relationships, people don’t like surprises. They deserve honesty and transparency, so they can…

  • adapt their mindset
  • maintain a sense of self-respect
  • change their tone or language
  • make a behavioral course correction
  • become more self-aware
  • pursue other opportunities
  • manage their emotions
  • focus energy
  • take control of their circumstances

So give people credit for being grownup enough to handle it. No one is served by being elusive, vague or dishonest by omission. Many justify delaying the inevitable because they’re uncomfortable, but the longer you wait, the more this issue will weigh on you. It’s  like not knowing what you have in your checking account. You’re afraid to look, but know you can’t put it off forever. And you will feel so much better once the deed is done.

The recipient may not like what you have to say, but they’ll be more likely to see you as a person with principle and integrity for having the cojones to speak up. You’ll prove you walk your talk.

HOW TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION

There is a popular feedback approach called the Sandwich Communication Method where you start the conversation with something positive, then lead into the constructive feedback and close with another positive comment.

Let’s not fool ourselves. People know that when you start a conversation by saying, “Bob, I really like the effort you put into the XYZ project, BUT…” there will be something negative coming next. Everyone I’ve ever asked tells me the same thing – they know the BUT is coming so they aren’t even listening to what you said just before that. And the positive comments you make at the end seem gratuitous. People question your sincerity.

Some say that giving two pieces of positive feedback will balance out the negative feedback. Yet according to social psychologists, negative feedback “weighs” nine times more than positive. It’s heavier. It has a bigger impact. It makes a bigger withdrawal from Stephen Covey’s emotional bank account. Even though you may have put a lot of emotional credits into their account, one big event could wipe out all the savings you’ve worked so hard to build.

The best way to build trust is to be straight with people. There are a number of ways you can do this.

LANGUAGE TO LAUNCH BY

Yes, I know it’s hard to have the conversation. The hardest part is just knowing how to start. So here are some phrases you can use:

  • I have some concerns…
  • You deserve to know that…
  • I respect you enough to tell you the truth…
  • You’ll respect me more if I’m straight with you…
  • I want to be honest and transparent…
  • I don’t want to undermine our relationship…
  • You’ll trust me more if I…
  • I want to maintain integrity…
  • I’d like to openly discuss…
  • You’ll be able to make better choices if I…
  • We will both be better off if I…
  • I’d like us to create a new approach…
  • I’d like you to have every chance to…

THE 5-F COMMUNICATION METHOD

When people are nervous, they tend to blank out and have a hard time remembering what to say. It makes it easier if you put structure into the conversation by framing it with these five components:

Facts – be specific; stay above the “waterline” by not assuming you know what people are thinking or what has motivated them

Feelings – Are you concerned, confused, misunderstood, unclear, frustrated?

Fallout – the most likely outcome if things continue as they are

Feedback – give them the opportunity to share their thoughts/feelings

Focus – on the end goal or objective you’d like to achieve to move forward

Even if you don’t remember to address each one of these components or even get them in order, including two or three steps will help guide the discussion.

ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS

It’s not necessary you do all the talking. Asking questions is a great way to get input from the other person so you can have a conversation. And by the way, asking one or more of the questions below doesn’t mean you are waffling or backtracking on your difficult news. These questions are designed, however, to help you coach the person and hopefully help them move from where they are to a much better place. Make sure to start with “how” or “what” so you don’t put them on the defensive. “Why” and “when” questions sound accusatory.

  • how would you like this to end?
  • how could you/we do this differently?
  • what do you think worked?
  • what could you/we have gone better?
  • what can I do now to make things better for you?

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ~Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

PRINCIPLE OF LEGITIMACY

Most people just want to know that things make sense. They will accept negative news much better if you apply the Principle of Legitimacy. Originally created in 1814 at the Congress of Vienna, it provided guidelines for rulers. But it applies to modern day relationships and interpersonal communication too. The three components include:

  1. The rules don’t change
  2. People will be treated fairly
  3. They have a voice in the matter and can be heard

If you keep these principles in mind, you’ll be much more successful when you decide to have the big chat.

IN SUMMARY

Life is tough. Communication is a challenge for most people. Relationships are complex and don’t follow predictable paths governed by checklists or flowcharts. We are complicated creatures. And we possess a boundless capacity for using our emotions and intelligence to achieve much better outcomes. There is everything to be gained and little to lose by doing the right thing for the right reasons.

So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key. ~The Eagles, “Already Gone”

 ADDITIONAL READING

Why the Open Door Communication Policy is a Bunch of Baloney

How to Kill a Relationship By the Way You Respond

How to Recover When You Say Something Stupid

I hate to admit this since I specialize in interpersonal communication, but I’ve been known to say something stupid once in a while. It doesn’t happen often (that I know of) but when it does, I feel dumb and embarrassed. How about you?

communication skills with Laura Benjamin

Have you ever said something you regretted? Wish you could get a “do over”? Better yet, want some ways to avoid it in the first place or recover with your self-respect intact?

There you are out in public, at a party, a workplace event, with a client, customer or co-worker. Maybe you’re trying to be light-hearted or humorous. Perhaps you want to be helpful but it comes out all wrong.

I once innocently called out to someone heading for a public restroom and said, “Sir! Sir! That’s the ladies room!” Then SHE turned around and with a look that could kill said, “I beg your pardon!” It was a bit awkward.

That experience (and a few others) taught me to do the following:

PREVENTION TIPS

Count to 10. That brief pause will give your brain time to catch up with your mouth and give you the chance to get more information or reconsider what you were about to say.

Let someone else go first. If you’re in a group, resist the temptation to comment before anyone else does. You don’t win a prize for taking the lead in every conversation. (Exception: when something dangerous is about to occur.)

Imagine your image. Consider the type of person you want to portray. Do you want to be perceived as:

  • Angry (Alec Baldwin)
  • Sarcastic (Dr. Gregory House – Hugh Laurie)
  • Wise (Yoda)
  • Intimidating (Darth Vader)
  • or comical…

Darth Vaders Bride

Notice when you’re nervous. I think our potential to make a mistake with our mouth increases if we’re upset or nervous. Rate your nervous level on a scale from 1-10 and then decide whether you trust yourself to sound kind, credible, respectful, intelligent at that point in time.

Ask yourself, what’s at risk? Could you lose a job, piece of business, sponsorship or risk a relationship? How would you feel if your words showed up in the newspaper or featured on the 5 o’clock news? Then ask yourself, what’s the reward? What benefit will be gained?

RECOVERY TIPS   

Apologize. As soon as you realize how your words could have been misinterpreted or the impact you had on someone, say you’re sorry. Most people will overlook a lot if they feel you are sincerely apologetic. Even if a few days have passed, it’s never too late to make amends.

Mention your motivation. There’s nothing wrong with explaining where you were coming from by saying, “I hope you know I was trying to be ____________ (light-hearted, sympathetic, humorous, witty, etc.) when I said XYZ.” Sometimes describing your intent, even though it went horribly wrong, will help people cut you some slack.

Ask a question. As quickly as possible after becoming aware of your gaffe, ask “Did what I just say sound stupid, insensitive or rude?” Then you can follow up by saying, “I really was trying to ______________” and explain yourself. Make sure you are accountable for what you said.

BUT WITH THAT BEING SAID…

I don’t want to imply we should avoid being truthful, transparent or courageous in our communication. Important issues need to be raised. People must be held accountable. Wrongs should be set right. Nobody benefits when we’re too fearful to say what needs to be said. But there’s also a responsibility to consider how we come across. We can still be persuasive, powerful and influential while being sensitive to words and timing.

The mark of a true professional and a self-aware person often requires we balance two competing goals or conflicting concepts to get a constructive outcome.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

And finally, don’t beat yourself up if you say something stupid. We have ALL been there. Make your amends and then move on. Don’t belabor it. There’s no need to grovel. Just consider this another important lesson learned on the way to becoming a fully enlightened human being!

ADDITIONAL READING:

15 Reasons Why Venting is Bad

You Have Every Right Not to Talk to Them

How To Tell the Boss You Are Overwhelmed

Our HR Director was a really sharp lady. People would say of her, “She’ll lead you kicking and screaming to a new level of excellence!” Yep, she was a driver, that’s for sure. And I never wanted to let her down.

Laura Benjamin on Productivity

For a short time she was my direct manager after my boss left his job “abruptly”. We had 2500 employees and now there were only two Benefits people: me and my co-worker Paula.

Between projects, employee phone calls, new hire orientations, investment seminars, counseling sessions and reports, my head was swimming! Then one day our Director caught me by the filing cabinet.

She handed me a folder and said, “Laura, would you take on this project for me? I need it by Friday. I know you’ll do a great job on it.”

I was up to my eyeballs and didn’t know how I could finish what was already on my plate. Normally I’d do my best to help, but this time I had reached my limit.

I turned to her and said, “Jean, I really can’t take on one more thing! I’d really appreciate it if you could find another option.” I’m sure I said it nicely, but I recall the churning in my stomach and the stress I felt.

It was the first time I’d ever told my boss “no”. I was very thankful she saw my distress and knew I was doing the best I could do under challenging circumstances.

Have you reached that point?

Are all the to-do lists, color-coding, prioritizing “big rocks” and scheduling a calendar failing you? Do you walk into work and get hit with four “fires” to put out before the day even starts? Is it noon before you know it and nothing you wanted to finish is done?

ONE PERSON’S DILEMMA AND TIMELY TIPS

At least one reader knows what this feels like. She wrote in to ask, “How do I find my voice to inform my boss of the volume of work I am facing?”

So I sent her a private email with a few ideas:

1. Have the conversation. And come prepared. Document the increase in workload and give her plenty of “proof”. Don’t let your emotions carry you away, even though you may be very frustrated right now. Before you meet, decide exactly what changes you’d like to see happen. Present option A, B, and C as possible solutions.

Rather than “tell” consider “show”. Create visuals. For example:

2. Put wire file holders on your desk or an office table and label each project clearly in a folder, visible to anyone who enters your office.

3. Put up a whiteboard and list every project you’re working on with a “status” column. You’ll have to keep it updated, but it’s a powerful visual. You can also use a spreadsheet which you print and post publicly. Use large font.

4. Create a weekly status report listing the projects you’re working on, number and length of calls you’ve taken, meetings attended, etc. My former manager asked me to do this when I was a Call Center Team Manager. It helped my boss understand my workload, gave her specifics she could forward to her boss and provide substance for my performance review. I disliked taking the time to do it each Friday, but grew to appreciate the value of this tool.

5. Ask if she would let you attend a class on time management. This is NOT because you are a failure at managing time. But when you make the request, you can say, “I’m working my little heart out but struggling with the volume. A class might help me learn some tricks so I don’t feel so overwhelmed.”

6. See if she would sit with you, learn more about your process and offer tips to help you manage. You may have to do this by phone or Skype if you work remotely. Sometimes this helps to clarify what she sees as a priority. You may be doing things that can be put on the back burner for a while.

FOCUS ON PROGRESS VS PRODUCTIVITY

Give yourself credit for all the juggling you do. Most people have just a few really productive hours a day, so don’t feel like you are abnormal. Even if you don’t do the weekly report mentioned above, definitely keep a list for yourself of everything you’ve accomplished. It’ll make you feel like you are making headway and do a lot to lift your spirits. Then, if your manager won’t, find a friend to give you a weekly pat on the back. Recognition and positive reinforcement can make any burden feel lighter.

“Progress” may be the better goal to keep in mind. Another great boss once told me, “You’ll never catch up in this job. But as long as you’re making progress, I’m happy.”

Life is hard by the yard, but a cinch by the inch. ~Anonymous

And finally, safeguard your health. No job is worth you getting sick, burned out or depressed. Take it one day at a time, resolve to do the best you can do and move forward. If your boss won’t support you and the situation doesn’t improve, consider setting a deadline, then head in a new direction where the workload is reasonable and the job is rewarding. 

Recommended Reading:

A Surprise Message After 40 Years

Never would I have imagined that a postcard, sent 40 years ago, could have had such an impact.

But a few weeks ago, I received this email from a former classmate:

“I wanted to share something with you that you gave me right after graduation and I’ve kept all these years (see below). As you can see, the postage at the time was 16 cents!! Ah, the old days! That small wooden block/postcard with the words “When All Else Fails, Try a Prayer” has been with me (on my dorm or home desk, wherever I’ve lived) for the last 40 years. And it’s been a reminder of what I need to do when things don’t seem to be going well. It’s funny how the small things we do (like this gift you gave me) can have such lasting and important consequences. So thank you Laurie!” –J.F.

TryAPrayer

I was stunned. It arrived at a time when I wondered if I was having a positive impact on anyone. And I don’t even remember sending the postcard, or why.

I’m sharing this personal experience with you not to prompt a pat on the back, but for a more important reason:

How many times have we considered a gesture, but never did it because we didn’t think something so small would make much of a difference?

We never know, do we?

Have you heard stories about someone who got a handwritten thank-you note from their boss or co-worker and posted it in their office, cubicle, truck or toolbox? How about the youngster who earned an unexpected coupon for a free dessert after doing something good? Rather than redeem it, he hung it on his bedroom wall for years.

Often recipients don’t do what my friend did, so we rarely know if we made a difference.

But you DO.

And it’s usually the smallest things that have the biggest impact.