November 05, 2009

Pack less or pay the airline luggage fee

Try to find a place for a computer you’ve carried on the plane as your one piece of luggage.

People are in the aisles trying to smash full-size suitcases in overhead bins. They’re blocking the aisle. Stewards and stewardesses are relegated to acting like playground supervisors, asking people to step aside so other passengers can board and find their seats.

The passengers with over-sized luggage didn’t pay the fee, $20 or so, to check their bag. Do you ever wonder why we have rules?

The passengers with too many and oversize bags are uncivil. They’re disruptive to the passengers who paid to check their luggage. Their luggage may be a safety hazard. They are an impediment to a plane departing on schedule.

U.S. airlines don’t have rules or do little to enforce rules about number of carry-on pieces, weight or size. That needs to change unless people can police themselves.

Until that happens, I encourage you to take the path of civility. Pack less or check your luggage. Civility or money—which is more important?

USA Today, For air travelers, a 'fight for the overheads'
Bag fees, crowded jets mean bins are packed

August 27, 2009

Trust enables easy communication and higher performance

A post last fall on lists 25 behaviors that contribute to mistrust. They’re worth contemplation to gauge how each of us may contribute to mistrust.

Does your behavior damage trust?

June 25, 2009

How does one person shut down a discussion?

I’ve had several instances in person and via email lately that I mentally thought….that was a discussion stopper. I wanted to explain how one person can do that--shut down a discussion that had it continued would have had some benefit to solve a problem or move a group on to accomplishments.

This is from Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project---

They write about how you can give the impression of being unapproachable. One does it by appearing or being--

I think those attitudes are a good assessment of how one person can shut down a conversation.

Perhaps people who exhibit those attitudes ask what’s to be gained by discussion. I’d suggest
Uncovering perceptions
--all steps forward with civility.

What do you think?

October 01, 2008

Know your workplace drive-bys

Drive-by, adjective
1 : carried out from a moving vehicle, a drive–by shooting
2 : done or made in a quick or cursory manner, a drive–by analysis
--Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

“Drive-by Decisions
You’ve not participated in any of the planning meetings; you didn’t read any of the background; and you’ve never talked to the customer(s). Then, you speed through and issue an instant decision/edict. There is, of course, a time and place for making a quick decision, but let’s not confuse “the buck stops here” leadership with “I’m the decider” petulance.” -- Ivy Sea Inc., a business consulting firm based in San Francisco.

Drive-by Management
Can appear at different times in a project. May be at the beginning when you are given few details and no direction. Or at the end when the project is near completion and the early decisions are under a microscope with suggestions that go back to the planning and draft stages.

How to cope
Learn to spot drive-by decisions and management and those who operate that way to help in the future. If someone tosses out tasks which you work on and report back only to have that person look at you as if to say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” you’ll know there’s probably no need to spend much time on that person’s tasks in the future unless you work out some real details at the beginning.

Drive-by management at the end of a project teaches you to get minute details at the beginning of the next one from this person.

This article has good suggestions to start thinking about how to deal with drive-by management:
Management by Drive-By-Shooting by Glory Borgeson
March 23, 2007

You can sign up for the Ivy SeaZine, tips and inspiration for conscious enterprise and communication, at

And a new drive-by term I found through a search:
Working moms and the Mommy Drive-By: Why do we do this to one another? by Lylah M. Alphonse
Aug. 19, 2008
“We've all experienced it at one time or another: The Mommy Drive-By. When someone -- a relative, another mom, a total stranger -- takes it upon herself to question your judgment or criticize your parenting.”

December 14, 2007

When professionals become usurped by self-interest (greed or ego)

A profession is an occupation, vocation or career with specialized knowledge of a subject, field or science. Professional occupations
• usually require prolonged academic training and a formal qualification
• are often regulated by professional bodies that may set examinations of competence and enforce adherence to an ethical code of conduct.

Professions include doctors, nurses, lawyers, accountants, engineers, pharmacists, professors, priests, architects and teachers.

Professions tend to be autonomous

They have a high degree of control of their own affairs, the freedom to exercise professional judgment. Autonomy can embrace judgment, but also self-interest.

A blog developed to support the Trial Advocacy Program at the University of Washington School of Law inspired this post. The Dec. 7 entry ‘NY Judge Rebukes Lawyers, Mourns Drop in Civility’ relates the judge wrote "naked competition and singular economic focus of the marketplace have begun to infiltrate the practice of law …the practice of law is now frequently described as a business rather than a profession."

In contrast, some law firms are trying to not hire and rid themselves of lawyers who are no asset to their profession. “…firms are increasingly identifying and addressing concerns involving those attorneys and staff members who, for example, are abusive to co-workers, engage in harmful office politics or act in open and uncompromising self-interest to the detriment of the firm or its employees. What's more, they're doing so regardless of how many hours the offenders bill or how much business they generate.”

A column I linked to last week cited rude and uncollegial behavior in academe. The author doesn’t explain why he thinks professors act in uncivil ways but he does mention self-interest at the closing.

Professionals lose respect
when their primary motives become the quest for money, fame or control rather than helping society. It is sad to see entire professions lose respect. The ones who can halt that disintegration of respect are those within the profession. They need to do that because self-interest actions end up demoralizing staff and ultimately the income of a firm or organization. It’s really all about civility.

November 15, 2007

Focus on the idea, not the person who presents it

If someone whom you respect suggests an idea, it’s easy to accept the idea on first blush. It may be a good idea, but really….maybe not.

If a suggestion comes from someone you don’t like (or worse, don’t respect, don’t trust), it’s easy to quickly dismiss the idea.

Erase the face and voice of the spokesperson to think about the idea
An editorial at the close of local elections in North Carolina focuses on this idea. The writer is talking about politics, but I can construe it to think about the workplace.

‘For the Record: The lost art of civility’ from the Carrboro Citizen in Carrboro, North Carolina (very close to Chapel Hill).
Excerpts I particularly like:
“It would be a lie to say that civility is the answer to all the ills of modern politics — local, state, national and global.”

“what happens when adults go feral”

“I’ve seen good ideas delayed or shot down not on their merits but as a result of who was carrying the water. That’s the kind of attitude that exists all too often in the workplace….”

September 18, 2007

I'm smiling because you've finally driven me insane

Ever feel that way? Your workplace probably has a few difficult people.

There are two kinds of people in the world according to Sidney Simon, author of ‘Negative Criticism’. He says there are "toxic" people and "nourishing" people. One of the secrets to happiness and success is limiting your exposure to the toxic people while expanding your time with the nourishing ones.

1. Who are the toxic people?
They can be egotistical, critical, complaining or cruel. Be careful of these types. They lower your self-esteem and zap your energy. You will burn out faster if you spend too much time with them.

2. What do you do if you're stuck with toxic people?

It would be nice if you could turn toxic people into nourishing people. Sometimes you can't. And if that’s the case, then pull away. Practice creative neglect.

For example, you may have a coworker who goes on and on about how poorly she feels. She's asked for your advice, which you've given, but she pays no attention. Pull away when she launches into her health problems. Wish her well and excuse yourself. Or change the subject. Find creative ways to neglect that topic -- which has become nothing more than an immature attention-getting device.

3. Who are the nourishing people?
Find them because they literally add years to your life. Edward Hallowell documented it in his book 'Connect'. In a 10-year study of women with breast cancer, two groups of women were given the same exact treatments ... with one exception. One of the groups met for 90 minutes once a month in a support-group setting where they would engage in lots of open, honest communication about their situation. The women in that group lived twice as long.

According to Simon, nourishing people have several characteristics.
* They always have something nice to say about you ... no matter what you wear, how you look, or what you do.
* They make it safe for you to ask any question or share any feeling. They don't beat you up for being yourself.
* They allow you to be fragile when times are tough ... never taking advantage of you when you're down.
* They challenge you intellectually. They help you think of new and better ways to handle situations.
* They are tender and gentle, giving you lots of validation and a limited amount of criticism.
* They bring fun and laughter into your life.
* They walk in when everyone else walks out.

Action: Figure out one thing you can do to pull away from a toxic person and one thing you can do to spend more time with a nourishing person.

Condensed, edited and reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman's 'Tuesday Tip.' As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Zimmerman has worked with more than a million people, helping them become more effective communicators on and off the job. To receive a free subscription to his 'Tuesday Tip' articles, go to Or contact him at 20550 Lake Ridge Drive, Prior Lake, MN 55372.

March 22, 2007

How do you know...

if you are the difficult person?

Tough question. Posed by a coworker after she read the most-recent post.

Good assertive people, long-long standing people in your life let you know. Siblings. Spouse. Constant friends. Your kids. Maybe some people in your workplace.

You know after you've asked a coworker for a response, say three times. Too focused, have blinders on, want to finish this project. I generally do it unawares. Forgotten I've asked two times before.

Obviously, there are different degrees of being difficult and frequency of being difficult. I wanted a test. So did my coworker.

Try the Likeability Factor self-assessment

by Tim Sanders, author of ‘The Likeability Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life's Dreams’ and ‘Love is the Killer App’, a link in the resources list.

March 18, 2007

Difficult people, take 3

Let’s assume, just for a moment, we ARE the difficult people. You and me.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I can be difficult at times.

So think about “How is it or when is it I contribute to the ‘difficult people’ problem?”
How does my behavior trigger or reinforce this behavior in someone else?
What can I do differently to diffuse this relationship?

There’s a “Difficult People Tips Newsletter”
It’s from Glasgow, Scotland so be ready for spellings such as organisation and behaviour. And words such as whilst (which I think is pretty charming, actually). You’ll get his humor, this from issue No. 1, Exploring your Options: “You might be offered another job or have a major win on the lottery. You get my drift – These are long shots, subject to the Fates.” Another, “Be a little wary of being used as a cannon ball for someone else’s agenda.” The author Steve Quinn suggests we work to control our “behaviour”. By issue 3, which was five weeks after issue 1, he’s on “a fun look” at the 10 bosses from hell. Issue 2 is The Assertiveness Grid.

The tips are focused most often with the boss as the difficult person, but I don’t have a problem adjusting his tips to be other people. The Web site is Sign up for the free newsletter in the column on the left. Quinn’s credentials are quite interesting; it’s a link below the newsletter sign up.

Energy vampires
This is a column on which gives four ways to deal with energy vampires such as the sob sister, the charmer, the blamer and the drama queen.

A coworker sent me the Ophra link. Feel free to send me topics or links you think relate to civility in the workplace. I may not use them right away, but eventually suggestions seem to fit.

“We deem those happy who from the experience of life have learnt to bear its ills without being overcome by them.”
--Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology (1875–1961)

Have you heard coworkers talking about book clubs? Book clubs are a good thing because you read books you probably wouldn’t have selected. Instead of dwelling on the difficult people around you, try a book. (Find different difficult people.) Here’s one my book club read last year that is still on the bestseller nonfiction paperback list:
Mountains Beyond Mountains, The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World
by Tracy Kidder, biography, 336 pages, published 2003
At the heart of this book is a life based on hope and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too. Paul Farmer is a doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist and anthropologist. In medical school he found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and how a meaningful life can be created.

I wrote down these things from that book that impressed me:
AMCs (Areas of Moral Clarity)
Situations, rare in the world, where what ought to be done seems perfectly clear but the doing is always complicated, always difficult.

“People think we’re unrealistic. They don’t know we’re crazy.”
Jim Yong Kim, MD, Partners in Health, Harvard professor

Paul Farmer biography, Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School

Dealing with difficult people, Nov. 18, 2006
Difficult people....again, Jan. 18, 2007

January 18, 2007

Difficult people……again

Dealing with difficult people is a popular topic, apparently because so many of us have the problem…in the workplace….in organizations…..on volunteer boards… the family. Several people have told me they go back to the entry I posted on Nov. 18 to look at the resources on the topic.

Today a friend sent me a link to an article in today’s New York Times. It’s titled ‘Help, I’m Surrounded by Jerks’. If nothing else, you’ll find you’re not alone if you have to deal with difficult people. The problem is growing or at least coming to the surface more as more books come out on the topic, workshops address it.

This article turns the difficult people situation over and around and looks at it from about every angle conceivable. Be ready to sympathize, smile and be dismayed….at least that was my reaction. Definitely worth the read.

FASHION & STYLE | January 18, 2007
Help, I’m Surrounded by Jerks
By Stephanie Rosenbloom
A raft of books and seminars for coping with people who make life difficult.
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

“Animals are reliable, many full of love, true in their affections, predictable in their actions, grateful and loyal. Difficult standards for people to live up to.”
Alfred A. Montapert, American motivational author (1906-)

November 18, 2006

Dealing with difficult people

“The assertive person stands up for her own rights and expresses her personal needs, values, concerns, and ideas in direct and appropriate ways.” Robert Bolton, consultant and author

Are we being kind by not confronting negative comments and derogatory remarks? It might be our Midwestern culture to be passive when confronted by such behavior, to not be assertive…but our lack of response is not civil.

Working toward a more civil workplace improves your wellness and that of your coworkers, enhances your personal professional skills and improves work productivity.

In the book “No More Blue Mondays” Robin Sheerer outlines four keys to finding fulfillment at work. They are
1. Reveal what’s true for you.
2. Reclaim your personal power.
3. Express your commitment.
4. Surround yourself with support.

Think about #2 in dealing with difficult people. Sheerer says own the problem by asking “If I were responsible for this situation, in what way would that be?”

The second step to reclaim your personal power is to take action. Thinking about problems and complaining does not resolve unacceptable behavior. Action gives you the power to move on. Action takes courage. Courage is the ability to manage fear or pain.

Here’s one problem and a method I’ve seen used effectively—
Problem: A person who is hostile, who unnecessarily criticizes (a put-down)
Solution: Disarm by repeating word for word what the person said. You might preface the repetition by saying, “I want to make sure I understood what you just said. I heard you say…………” OR “I want to make sure I didn’t misunderstand you.”

I saw this technique used in a group meeting where the offender commented in rather a low voice to those around her, “It won’t matter what we say because she’ll (the leader of the group) do what she wants anyway.” The leader immediately called the offender by name, and said, “I want to make sure I heard correctly what you just said. I heard you say ‘It won’t matter what we say because she’ll do what he wants anyway.’ Is that right?”

The offender denied the comment but the leader did a very effective job of communicating that incivility was not going to be tolerated.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to wait until after the group is gone to confront the offender. Sometimes it’s the situation that is difficult rather than the person.

Dealing with difficult people was a concern at the conference sessions I conducted. It’s on the Web. It’s in books.

Books I’ve not read but you can use to search for reviews as well as more books
Coping with Difficult People: The Proven-Effective Battle Plan That Has Helped Millions Deal with the Troublemakers in Their Lives at Home and at Work
1998, Bramson
Working With You is Killing Me: Freeing Yourself from Emotional Traps at Work
2006, Crowley and Elster
Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst
2002, Brinkman and Kirschner

Resources on the Web!difficultpeople.html