Workplace

How to Deal with Toxic People in the Workplace When You Hate Conflict

I hate conflict at work.

God, I hate conflict. It is so much easier to bury my head in the sand just do my own thing rather than have those “I feel…” conversations when dealing with difficult people.

I am writing this blog post as much for you as me. We all have toxic people we deal with in the workplace, and most women avoid direct conflict. If you don’t have a significant other to bounce ideas off of, it can be particularly difficult.

I have identified four toxic personality types you may encounter in the workplace, and how you can work with them without all-out conflict and without sacrificing all your sanity.

Keep in mind that these are a general overview, and what works for one Debbie Downer may not work for another. Every office has its own different culture and vibe, but the following advice comes from 15+ years of being in the adult workforce. Just remember: You have the right to a sane work environment. Here are a few tips for navigating the professional jungle.

The Debbie Downer. The Negative Nancy. The No-Matter-How-Good-Things-Are-It’s-All-Doom-And-Gloom.

Ugh.

The first line of defense is to minimize contact with these folks. I find myself just sticking to work topics with negative people for my own sanity. It’s not being passive-aggressive; I only have a finite amount of positive energy, and I am not going to let toxic vampires suck it away.

It takes a lot of practice, but I’ve learned that taking everything with a massive grain of salt and with a twist of humor also helps. I never validate Debbie’s negativity, and I take my stand, letting Debbie know I will not stoop to the level of whining about everything. I am work to do a job, not whine about every little thing.

The Micromanager. Me oh my…this is a toughie. These bosses are emotionally taxing, yet there isn’t much you can do if you aren’t the boss. Here, the best advice I can give is to be as trustworthy as possible. Show your boss you are capable of doing your job without a lot of direction. And if you ask for more work, they are more apt to see you as a go-getter than a slacker.

Another tactic is to keep positive lines of communication open. Let them know what you are doing in a project. Report good news as you get it. Ask them if you need help. That is another way to get your boss to buy into trusting you. And bosses who trust you are far less likely to micromanage.

The Busybody. The Gossip. The Snoop. Pretty much everyone has one of these. Gossips should be treated much like the Debbie Downer. I stick to work topics as much as possible, offer no extra details to any story, or play dumb when it comes to giving them the latest “scoop” (if they come to me looking for deets, I either remain vague or just say, “I don’t know”).

I understand that some people see gossip as a way to make friends or bond. And I’d be a liar if I said I never gossiped about a coworker. But the older I get, the less drama I want, and the more I keep my mouth shut. If I don’t engage them, the worst they can say about me behind my back is that I’m not chatty.

The Bully. This toxic personality is the worst. Literally the worst. I’m not going to spend much time on it because I actually wrote an entire blog post about this earlier this year.

I will give two pieces of advice, which served me well (and, believe me, my last workplace bully was absolutely savage): Treat them better than they treat you, and don’t take their behavior personally. Bullying always reflects on the bully, not the victim. So don’t let their crappy self-esteem make you wallow. Keep your conscience clear.

Of course there are times when you do need to deal head on with emotional leeches, but hopefully this post will give you a few ideas how to treat your crazy coworkers without sacrificing your dignity. Or mental well-being. Because you are strong. You are kind. You are special. Your job needs you!

Without naming names to protect the guilty, who was the absolute worst person you worked with or for? Comment below!

101 Things I Learned While Unemployed

It has been a year now since I lost my job. Looking back, it was an awful time, but I grew as a person. I grew a lot.

To commemorate that year, here is a list of 101 things I learned in my six weeks of unemployment. Wherever you are in your career, I hope you can carry something away from the following:

1. A good night’s sleep will help you tackle any challenge.
2. Alcohol will not help you feel better. Believe me.
3. All human resource departments run on their own schedule.
4. Applying for jobs you are not remotely qualified for just to satisfy unemployment requirements becomes second nature.
5. Aunts who take you on interior decorating trips to get you out of the house are the definition of empathy.
6. Being debt-free will make it much easier to maintain finances.
7. Being unemployed is humiliating. But it is temporary.
8. Brothers taking you out for movies to cheer you up are the best brothers.
9. Count your blessings every day. Each one brings you something to be grateful for.
10. Craigslist is useless for job searches.
11. Dads give solid advice.
12. Daily exercise gets the endorphins going.
13. Do not turn down free lunches or coffee from friends cheering you up.
14. Do not wear pajamas at home. Even if it’s just shorts and a t-shirt, wear clean street clothes.
15. Do something that cheers you up before and after every job interview.
16. Doing a weekly or monthly budget will help you know exactly where your finances are at.
17. Doing mock interviews with a friend or family member is a surprising confidence-booster.
18. Don’t be afraid to reach out when you are feeling sad or anxious.
19. Don’t get sloppy/lazy on the weekends. Keep a weekend routine.
20. Don’t read articles about job prospects or unemployment statistics. They almost never pertain to your situation and will only scare you.
21. Don’t take the first job offer that comes along if it’s not right for you.
22. Don’t watch anything remotely sad or depressing.
23. Educate yourself about all your rights and benefits being unemployed. That is part of your job now.
24. Even if it seems impossible, a regular bedtime establishes a routine and will keep you rested.
25. Everyone has job-seeking advice. Use selective hearing.
26. Feeling despair is normal. You can control how you react to it.
27. Funny animal videos on YouTube are instant pick-me-ups.
28. Get out of the house. Every day.
29. Getting out of the house to coffee shops maintains sanity.
30. Getting up at the same time every day helps stave off depression.
31. Going to church helps pass the time and establishes a routine.
32. Going to your parents’ house five nights a week is comforting.
33. Have the interview suit ready to go at a minute’s notice.
34. Having a professional write you a resume is a smart investment.
35. Having an emergency fund will infinitely reduce your stress as you do your job search.
36. Hiring a professional to write a cover letter is a wise investment.
37. I don’t care where you are on the political spectrum. Obamacare is a godsend.
38. If you like to shop, know your triggers so you can avoid them.
39. If you suffer from anxiety and depression, keep on top of your meds and get enough sleep.
40. Indeed.com will become your new favorite website.
41. Inform yourself about low-cost or free medical care.
42. It doesn’t hurt to see if you qualify for food stamps or Medicaid.
43. It is essential to have an emergency fund in case you lose your job.
44. It is important to celebrate every small victory, like a phone interview or scheduling an interview.
45. It takes at least two weeks to start to see the first round of job-search results.
46. Keep a list of all the hoops you have to jump through to get unemployment.
47. Keeping a daily routine is essential for a feeling of normalcy.
48. Keeping a gratitude journal puts things in perspective and reminds you little things matter.
49. Keeping your house clean will give you a feeling of control.
50. Laughing one minute then crying the next because you feel like a worthless person becomes the new normal.
51. LinkedIn is actually a helpful website.
52. Looking for jobs is now your full-time job.
53. Losing 15 pounds in 2 weeks is entirely possible (though not advised).
54. Love on yourself. However you cheer yourself up, do it.
55. Maintaining good nutrition will keep your health and spirits up.
56. Moms are amazing listeners and cheerleaders.
57. Negative people have no place in your life right now.
58. Netflix becomes a primary source of entertainment.
59. Never, ever badmouth your former employer. Ever.
60. One day for a pity party, then you have to get into battle mode.
61. Only eating once a day is cheap, but not recommended.
62. Pets do not make good handkerchiefs.
63. Positive podcasts are great ways to stay motivated.
64. Purring cats are therapeutic.
65. Reach out online if you are feeling depressed. There are people out there who want to help you.
66. Read all the letters you get from your state’s Department of Labor.
67. Read anything positive and uplifting you can get your hands on.
68. Reducing social media consumption is not a bad idea.
69. Remember everything that went wrong in your last job. This is a new beginning.
70. Remember who is kind to you. Those are your best, truest friends.
71. Set a stopping point every day. Stick with it.
72. Shower every day. You owe it to yourself to keep your routine.
73. Sisters feeding you and watching reality TV to keep you company make you grateful for family and Bravo.
   74. Slashing your spending to the bone helps reduce budget anxiety.
75. Start the job search at a set time every day.
76. Stay hydrated. Water is important to help you feel your best.
77. Surrounding yourself with positive people is critical.
78. Take a break from job-searching during the day. It is exhausting.
79. Taking the weekends off from job searches will keep you fresh for Monday.
80. Tapping your professional network is the best way to get into the hidden job market.
81. The Food Network and HGTV are TV comfort food.
82. The library is a great place to get out of the house and job search.
83. The tedium of waiting for HR to call back is maddening. Do not give into temptation to call obsessively.
84. There are way too many “silver lining”-type clichés that people will use on you.
85. There is a difference between feeling humble and feeling desperate.
86. There is lots of good advice online for phone interviews.
87. There is nothing wrong with taking a day to have a pity party right after you lose your job.
88. Tune out every single negative thought. Repeat the positive till it becomes second nature.
89. Uncles are amazing men whose kindness can never be repaid.
90. Unemployment is ridiculously hard to get.
91. Virtual friends you have never met who take time to Skype with you are true friends.
92. Volunteering will take your mind off your situation.
93. When you call your Department of Labor, don’t forget to be patient. You will be on hold. A lot.
94. While Netflix is great, avoid binge-watching season of anything. It leads to feelings of guilt.
95. Work friends are fleeting.
96. Working side jobs to generate income is better than no income.
97. You are just a number to Department of Labor employees.
98. You are stronger than you know.
99. You truly find out who your real friends are when you lose your job.
100. YOU WILL NOT BE UNEMPLOYED FOREVER. THIS IS TEMPORARY.
101. Your pets will not understand why you are home so much now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Deal with a Workplace Bully


Does bullying end once we leave high school and go to college or enter the workforce?

Sadly, the answer is no. Almost 30% of American women reported being the victim of workplace bullying in 2014, were more likely than men to be targets of bullying, and were more likely to be bullied by a female coworker.

Today I want to talk about some of the signs you might have a workplace bully and what you can do about it. It is difficult for a single woman to cope with a bully in a professional environment, but believe me when I say you are not alone.

The definition of workplace bullying can get a little gray. Here are some signs a coworker might be bullying you:

  • Leaves you out of important workplace communications related to your job or leaves you out of important meetings related to your job function.
  • Takes credit for work you do or always wants to be the center of attention.
  • Treats you very different from other people in your office.
  • Makes you feel useless. Doesn’t give you projects or work that plays to your strengths, will subtly seek to isolate you from others.
  • Passively uses you as a scapegoat if something they do does not turn out right.
  • Fails to engage you in small talk, or does not exchange any civilities if you do.
  • Does not maintain eye contact at staff meetings, even when you are directly addressing them.
  • Sharply criticizes any mistake you may make, refuses to accept apologies.
  • Sets unrealistically high expectations of you and the amount of work you can perform.
  • Avoids having face-to-face conversations and talks about you behind your back.

Of course there are other ways not mentioned here, but in my 20 years in the workforce, I have seen many of these play out between other coworkers or have been the recipient of it myself.

So what can you do when you realize there’s a pattern and you identify a bully in your workplace? You absolutely should proceed with caution, because depending on the circumstances, your job may be in jeopardy.

While not all of these suggestions will apply to every situation – because each one is indeed unique – hopefully it will give you some ideas of resources or strategies:

  • Realize the bullying is not your fault. You must understand that while you cannot control how people treat you, you can control how you react to it.
  • Read your employee handbook. Study the chain of command of where to take your grievances.
  • If a bullying incident occurs for a first time, try to address it with the person who did it. Setting clear boundaries right from the beginning may nip the behavior in the bud. Try to be as unemotional as possible during the conversation.
  • Document everything. Save emails if you are being directly harassed, keep track of email chains you were left out of, record dates and times of unpleasant conversations, and any other things that definitively prove you are being bullied. Information is power.
  • Avoid gossiping or complaining to your equals about how you are being treated. I know this is much more easier said than done, but workplace gossip always has a habit of coming back to haunt you.
  • Try to treat your bully better than they treat you. Greet them in the morning and wish them a good evening. It is so difficult to be nice to people who are mean to you, but the high road is definitely the one to take.
  • Following your company’s policies and armed with your information, speak to your direct supervisor of HR officer (whichever is most appropriate). If they are worth their salt, they will address the issue immediately, and your identity will be kept private.
  • If that doesn’t help, take it further up the chain of command.
  • If all else fails and your bully is making you physically or mentally ill, dust off your résumé and start looking for another job. You deserve so much better than a toxic work environment.

Please believe me that I know what it is like to be bullied at work – it’s something I endured working in restaurants, schools, and other settings. You don’t have to stand for it, you are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, and life is too short for you to have to worry about the bully. Hopefully this has given you an insight into symptoms and solutions to deal with your bully.

Who is the meanest person you have ever worked with? Comment below!

7 Things to Do When You Don’t Get the Job

7 Things to Do

I recently applied for a job I was eminently qualified for. It would have been a good pay raise doing something I was passionate about, and I was really excited about the position.

I had all the necessary experience and degrees. I went through a phone interview, two face-to-face interviews, gave them a sample of my writing abilities, and even took a personality assessment.

I thought I aced all the interviews. I researched the company carefully, wrote prompt thank-you letters by hand, and I lined up the best references possible. I felt supremely confident. In short, I thought I had it in the bag.

I just got a phone call this week.

I didn’t get the job.

Damn. Shit.

This is now I felt:

What are you supposed to do when you think you did everything right, but you still don’t get the job?

  1. You are entitled to your feelings. Anger, sadness, grief, cheated, resignation…Whatever you feel, realize it is totally normal and you have the right to be however pissed or depressed you are. The important thing is to not let despair take hold in your heart. Remember there are people who love you and when you hurt, they hurt.
  1. Allow yourself a pity party. I bought ice cream, frozen pizza, and a bottle of wine. And they were all consumed in one evening. Did I feel guilty about it? No! I have the right to express my feelings however I see fit. The key is to make it an exception, not the rule.
  1. Ignore all the clichés you hear. “It wasn’t meant to be.” “A better job is out there.” “It’s their loss.” I heard lots of variations of these phrases. While they are rooted in some truth, don’t be mad at the people who say them. They really do mean well. But you are allowed to be upset you weren’t the one hired.
  1. Follow up with the people you interviewed with. If you interviewed with a reputable organization, you have the right to know what you can do to improve your chances of nailing the next job you apply for. Be polite and take any criticism that comes your way positively. Remember – you are an adult, and handling constructive criticism is healthy.
  1. Don’t burn any bridges. This excellent advise comes to you courtesy of my big sister. It is so hard not to snark on the people who rejected you. The HR director claimed she didn’t get back to me in the original timeframe because she was “on vacation.” If my math is right, that means she took three vacations in the six weeks I interacted with her. Yeah, right. But am I going to tell her that? No.

As hard as it is – and believe me, I know it’s nearly impossible – don’t laugh when they say you were a “top candidate” and they will “keep your résumé on file.” They’re lying and you know it. I know it. We all know it. But don’t be bitter towards them. You never know who they know. And the very last thing you want to do is be a pariah about town when it comes to looking for a job. I know taking the high road is waaaaaay easier said than done, but it is to your advantage in the long run!

  1. Don’t apply for other jobs you aren’t passionate about. It may be a reflex to go out and apply for any job willy-nilly because you want to get out of your current work situation, or you need to raise your income quickly. But don’t waste your energy applying for jobs you aren’t suited for or you don’t think you will love. That is moving in the wrong direction.
  1. REMEMBER: YOU. ARE. MORE. THAN. A. JOB.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received when looking for a job? Comment below!