Have You Been Voluntold?

Have You Been Voluntold?

Voluntold, it’s a funny word.

A combination of volunteer and told, to do something.

I couldn’t believe that this word is actually in the dictionary and means:

“When one has been volunteered for something by another person. Often against their wishes and desires.” (Reference: Unwords)

“The exact opposite of volunteering. Always used in reference to an unpleasant task to which you have been assigned by your boss.”(Reference: Urban Dictionary)

I’ve seen this used when the boss asks for volunteers for a task or special project. If no one volunteers, then the boss volunteers someone–telling them to do it. They have been voluntold!

One time, I remember a very tense meeting where a boss was presenting his vision for the organization, but at the same time putting down the status quo and everyone in it.

As one point, he asks for a volunteer to help with driving his vision forward (note: no one had bought into it), and no one volunteers.

The boss ask for a volunteer once, twice, and three times at the meeting as the tension rises.

Finally, a hand goes up and someone accepts the task.

He is the bosses new favorite and is told publicly at the meeting that he will be rewarded for “stepping up.”

The truth is he didn’t really step up, but rather succumbed to the pressure to do it.

Another victim of being voluntold.

In the end, he really didn’t perform much of what he volunteered for–not a surprise, since he never bought into it to begin with.

Sometimes, we do have to ask people to do things, but it shouldn’t be by force or undue pressure.

A leader builds his vision with his team–not for his team–and they move forward together to achieve their unified goals and objectives.

Telling someone to do something, and pretending that they are really volunteering fools no one and achieves nothing accept maybe calling out some pretend accomplishments to go with the pretend volunteers. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Andrew Huff)

Why Can’t We All Be As Happy In Our Jobs As This?

Why Can't We All Be As Happy In Our Jobs As This?

Lapham’s Quarterly (5 June 2013) put up a matrix of the “Worst Jobs In the World,” but the problem is that is completely misses the mark!

The worst jobs matrix has four dimension based on the functions of jobs being treacherous, tedious, difficult, and disgusting.

The matrix has some doozy jobs listed, such as the food taster for the emperor (i.e. testing for poison) and the banquet attendant who cleans up guests vomit and holds the pot for partygoers to urinate in.

However, while this infographic provide some interesting job tidbits, it completely misses the point of what it really means for a job to be bad or worst.

What doesn’t necessarily make a bad job?

– It is not how treacherous a job is, because treachery can be in the name of patriotism (such as someone who works in the Intelligence or National Security community and may commit treacherous deeds, but they are for a noble cause to protect our people and country).

– It is not how tedious a job is, because many jobs are tedious but they are necessary and important, such as working “on the line” in many traditional manufacturing jobs producing goods that people want and need.

– It is not how difficult a job is, because often the more difficult a job is, the more rewarding it is, such as a surgeon, scientist, social worker, teacher, and so on.

– It is not how disgusting a job is, because many jobs involve blood, guts, and gore, but are jobs that save lives such as doctors, fire and rescue personnel, and even our warfighters.

What does necessarily make a bad job?

– If you work for a cruel boss, you have a bad job. A bad boss–one that is bullying, arbitrary, unfair, egotistical, mean, and abusive–can ruin even the best of jobs. When you work for a great boss, you can learn, grow, and are well treated and for a boss like that, you will go the extra mile.

– If you perform meaningless work, you have a bad job. One of the most important factors in worker satisfaction is whether you perform purposeful and meaningful work. If you do, then you have a reason to get up in the morning, and that is a great feeling, indeed.

– If you work and are not fairly compensated, you have a bad job. Most people don’t mind working hard as long as they is a fair performance management system, where they get rewarded and recognized for their contributions. However, if you aren’t fairly compensated and can’t make ends meet to provide for your family, you have a bad job.

– If you have a job that doesn’t provide for work-life balance, you have a bad job. Generation Y really appreciates this, and they have taught us all something about the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. This means working to live and not living to work. If you have a job where you miss your kids’ ballgames, have no intimacy with your spouse, and don’t have time and energy to take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually, you have a bad job.

Many people work in jobs that are challenging–whether they are treacherous, tedious, difficult, or disgusting–but they are in good jobs. Other jobs are for cruel bosses, doing meaningless work, and are not fairly compensated and don’t have work-life balance, and they are in jobs you would never want to have in a million years. In fact, food taster and banquet attendant may sound pretty darn good in comparison. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

So Sorry, Charlie

So Sorry, Charlie

In the old Starkist Tuna commercials, Charlie the cool tuna thinks he’s all that, but he keeps getting rejected by Starkist, because he’s just not good enough and then the narrator comes on and says, “Sorry Charlie!”

These days, from my perspective, people often do not take responsibility when they mess up and arrogantly they can’t bring themselves to just say, “I’m sorry”–it was my responsibility, I messed up, and I am committed to doing better in the future.

It’s really not so hard to say sorry, if you let your ego go. Most often, from what I’ve seen, unless the boss, spouse, or friend is just a jerk, saying sorry goes a long way to making things right–it shows you care about the relationship, your human and fallible (like the rest of us) and you are able to introspect, self-help, and learn from mistakes.

In contrast, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (18 April 2013) says sillily, “Don’t Apologize”–that refusing to apologize makes a person feel better about themselves, more powerful, and less of a victim.

Certainly, we don’t want to apologize for things we didn’t do, when we really don’t mean it, or to give someone on a pure power binge the satisfaction of making us beg–in those cases, we should be truthful and respectful and set the record straight. We should also, make it clear that we will not be victimized by anyone, at anytime.

But when we are wrong–and it’s not easy for everyone to recognize or admit it–just say so. It won’t kill you and you’ll usually see the other person lighten up on the punishing diatribe and maybe even admit their part in it or the stupid things they may have done at other times.

No one is so perfect–despite some very large egos out there. And the bigger the ego, the bigger the jerk. The humbler the person, the nicer and more workable they are.

Don’t apologize for things you didn’t do or to satisfy someone’s bullying, but do apologize when you could’ve done better and you are committed to improving yourself and building the relationship.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Healing Environment

Spa

We’ve all been in work environments that make us either feel good about coming to the office in the morning, and those which don’t.

For those that don’t — is it the mundane and unsatisfying work? Unpredictable work hours and demands? Annoying co-workers? Bullying boss? 

Let’s face it—the environment we work in can make the difference between whether we enjoy a long happy career someplace or whether we want to run out the door screaming. 

At the extreme, I remember a colleague telling me how when they were temping in college they worked in some mind-numbing jobs for some awful companies and they literally lasted in some cases until noon before they couldn’t take it anymore. 

Factors aside from the people can make a person feel good or bad. 

In an interesting article in Fast Company (December 2012/January 2013) called “Spaces That Heal,” hospitals have found that the patient’s room itself can actually be designed to aid in bringing people back to good health.

Research shows that “the color, shape, layout, and accoutrements of a hospital room have a direct effect on health.”

Some design items in the hospital that aid recovery, for example, are:

– Sunnier and brighter spaces with big windows (unless you are having a migraine!)

– Exposure to “nature and art” (I choose nature—the greener, the better)

– Classical music (make mine high energy or pop)

– Colored walls (light blue is relaxing for me)

– Lot of clean circulating fresh air (I like the air conditioner on all year long–even Winter!)

– Presence of family members (well certain family members anyway) 🙂

Additionally, rooms wired for smartphones, tablets, and computers and that keep patients busy and engaged are another big positive—I remember when I was in the hospital and my wife brought me a device so I could blog and be me, and I felt like a productive human being again.

New room design in hospitals will also be single rooms (yes, a little privacy and personal space when you’re not feeling well).

They will also have beds at an angle that “face both the window and the media wall”—the media wall is very cool where you can look at everything from digital photos of your kids to watching Netflix or being able to Skype.

Beds will be placed in line of sight of nursing stations for safe monitoring, and bathrooms will have dual accessibility from the patient’s room for doing your business, and from the hall for hospital staff to come and restock it or clean without waking a resting patient. 

The environment we recuperate in matters to how we recover and the environment we work in matters to how we stay healthy, happy, and productive. 

People are not machines, but thinking and feeling beings, and how they are treated physically, emotionally, and mentally all make a world of a difference to their success or failure—and to that of the organization that employs them. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Be Live Hotels)

Reprogramming Your Inner Software

The importance of positive life energy (or Ch’i) is something that both the Asian culture teaches and which the self-healing industry has picked up on.I remember when my cousin had a brain tumor, and people used to tell him to envision himself healthy and cancer free; he fought for a decade of survival before the tumor eventually took his life.His mother too died from cancer at a young age, hers was leukemia and she didn’t have a fighting chance.

While surrounding yourself with positive people and energy helps us to stay focused, positive, and strong, it, in and of itself, is not a cure-all.

Many extreme athletes and hyper-achieving professionals are often told or tell themselves to envision actually performing unbelievable feats–they do this until they can literally see it happening in their “mind’s eye”–this then supposedly helps them to ultimately perform accordingly.

On Sunday mornings, Joel Osteen’s popular message is the same idea–you are not what others say you are or criticize you to be, rather “you are what G-d says you are.”

Today, Osteen compared us to computers, where often our external hardware is functioning okay, but our internal software is messed up and needs reprogramming. Osteen said you need to hit the delete key–delete those who say that you cannot or will not succeed, and instead fill yourself with faith that you can become what the almighty has designated you to be. One story, Osteen told, was about the father who always told his kid that he was a good-for-nothing, and even on his deathbed, he said, “your brother is a nothing, and you are and always will be a nothing too.”

These words hurt and can haunt people all their lives; the words echo in people’s heads and souls and prevent them from fulfilling their life missions, unless they “hit the delete key” and refocus themselves on the positive message that they are a child of the G-d most high who has breathed life into them, not for nothing, but to achieve their destiny.

I remember hearing a crummy boss at work yell at a subordinate in front of the rest of the office and tell them “you are not half what you think you are.” Similarly, at school, children are notorious for tearing at other kids for being too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too dumb, and too smart.

At work, at school, and at home, people can be vicious in bringing others down and the impact of these negative messages on people’s lives is crushing.

So surround yourself with positive people and positive energy–people who tell you that you can do it and are genuinely rooting for you to succeed, not in a fanciful way, but in a sincere and loving way; these are your biggest allies in life.

Groucho Marx joked that “behind every successful man is a woman, and behind her is his wife.”  Seriously though, behind every successful person are all those who love, believe, and support them to be able to achieve what they do or as the poet John Donne wrote, “no man is an Island entire unto itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

In the movie Saints and Soldiers, a group of American and a British soldiers in World War II are on a trek to reach allied forces with vital information to save them from German attack–in one scene the British airman get the others to tell him their personal life secrets, and then when they turn around and ask him what his story is, he says “I’m not going to tell you that, I barely know you.”

While it’s sort of humorous, in life a lot of people are unfortunately that way–they take from you, but then do not give back. For example, at work, the worst bosses may “use you and spit you out” and when you say oh, I’m been loyal to you for X years, the response is cold and muted, like I the British soldier that after taking in their personal stories, responds that he barely knows them.

In families too, this happens when for example, parents sacrifice to give their children “everything”, but later in life, the children don’t even have the inclination to call or visit or “give them the time of day.”

This is like one of favorite songs by Harry Chapin called “Cats In The Cradle,” in this case though the father was always too busy for the son and then later in life the son had no time for his dad–“and as I got off the phone it occurred to me, he’d grown up just like me.”

We can rise above the selfishness, the coldness, and the negative attitudes, and we can be giving to others in our lives–the words we speak and the actions we show have lasting impact.

Rather than being the target of someone’s “delete” button in their life, wouldn’t it be nice to be cherished for their “save” button–and help them to achieve in life what they came here for to begin with.

Speak Up or Shut Up

Shut_up_vs_speak_up_organizati

We’ve all been there–organizations that are run by the king or queen and their proverbial gang of 6 or 7 or 8 or 9.

These are the organizations that are dominated by powerful, but narcissistic leadership (notice I do not call them leaders–because they are not).

According to Forbes, (11 January 2012) in an article entitled Why Narcissistic CEOs Kill Their Companies, in these organizations, the c-suite is dominated by those showing four narcissistic personality traits:

Exploitative–They are in charge and everyone else had better respect–or better yet worship–them. Typically they are surrounded by “yes men” and eager beavers, ready to please at just about all costs.

Authoritarian–They insist on “being the center of attention,” they always know better, are always right even in the face of evidence to the contrary, and with their people, it’s their way or the highway.

Arrogant–They are full of themselves and usually something else 🙂 and believe they are superior and therefore entitled to their positions of power and stature.

Self-Absorbed–They admire and and are preoccupied with themselves, and not focused on what’s ultimately good for the organization, the mission, and its people.

In such organizations, and with such pitiful leadership, generally we find cultures of fear and what Harvard Business Review (January-February 2012) says are organizations where people “are afraid to speak honestly.”

In these dysfunctional organizations with inept leadership, the workforce is stunted–they cannot genuinely contribute or grow and where organizational candor, trust, and collaboration is low, organizational performance is predictably poor.

HBR suggests that greater candor and sharing is possible by “breaking meetings into smaller groups,” assigning people to “notice and speak up when something is being left unsaid,” and to “teach ‘caring-criticism'”–where input is provided constructively and not personally attacking and where honest feedback is viewed as “generous, rather than critical.”

I think these suggestions may help organizations that are fundamentally well-run by caring and professional leaders, but when narcissists and power mongers rule the day, then the culture is not speak up, but rather shut up.

One of the things that I have been fortunate to experience and learn is that diplomacy from the top-down goes a long way in creating a professional and productive work culture.

When people are given respect and the freedom to speak up constructively, when they can work in true-teaming environments, and when relationships matter more than winning the day, then the workforce and all the individuals therein have the opportunity to grow to their potential. In speak uporganizations, people can voice their opinions, provide valuable input, and contribute to the mission–both the people and the organization thrive.

In contrast, when the workplace is shut up, because of narcissistic and poor leadership, the workforce is essentially shut down–they are in essence muzzled in speech and ultimately in deed. These organizations choke off their own talent and lifeblood, while their head swells from the arrogance and power at the top.

Diplomacy is a skill not only in international relations, but in life and in the workplace, and diplomatic leaders are notnarcissists trying to wield and hold power, but rather polished and professional leaders who foster a culture of speak up and team up–they are ready to take their organizations and people to new levels of productivity, growth, and meaning.

Raise Your Glass To Great Bosses

Raise_your_glass

It’s a funny time of year. Folks are celebrating the holidays, and for some of them the traditional office party is full of cheer, while for others it’s a nightmare.

In a way it’s a paradox for some that they have a holiday party with the same bosses that treat them otherwise badly the rest of year!

This reminds of some of the worst traits a boss can exhibit–here’s a “top 10”:

1) Selfishness: Every day it’s all about the boss–their power trip, their ego, their next promotion–instead of about the mission and the customers.

2) Amoral: To some, integrity and business do not go together.

3) Discrimination: They tolerate or in too many cases, even exhibit blatant discrimination themselves.

4) Disrespect: This can be overtly or implicitly, hurting the employee professionally and personally as well.

5) Inconsistency: Flip-flopping is not just something that bothers people about politics, but it makes for a bipolar work environment, where employees are damned if they do and if they don’t, but the boss can always say, “I told you so (and the opposite).”

6) Favoritism: Plays favorites instead of judging employees only on the true factor, merit. This causes workers to become demoralized as they see people hired and promoted for all the wrong reasons.

7) Insecurity: They are threatened by seemingly everyone and everything–can’t give anyone else credit or recognize the good around them–a one-person team who sees anybody else’s success as implying their own failure.

8) Competitive: They have to be the smartest person in the room, and innovation and objectivity is squelched–no risk is worth the wrath of “boss Khan.”

9) Stealing: If someone else does have something of value to contribute, this boss just steals it and presents it as their own (attribution or recognition, what for?)

10) Micromanagement: Looking over your shoulder every minute, redoing your work, not trusting you, they are control freaks, a complete nightmare to work for.

Bosses come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve been fortunate to work for some of the best, and I hope that I do them justice with my own employees over the course of my career.

Here’s hoping that at your holiday party, you were able to raise your glass with a boss who makes you feel valued and respected–that’s a holiday party to really celebrate!

(Source Photo: here)