Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Are You Capable of Asking for the One Thing You Need the Most to be Successful?

I'm going to ask you a very tough question: When was the last time you asked for help?

I'm not talking about a desperate cry for aid when you're, say, about to drop a cardboard tray of Starbucks, or when you ask your friend to hold the door while you bring in the groceries.

No, I'm talking about asking for help at work. When was the last time you said: "I can't get all this done by myself -- can you help?"

This is often a very difficult request for many people. Part of the reason is because we often think it's just easier if we do it ourselves, and part is because we fear we'll be seen as incompetent if we can't handle everything that comes our way. At the same time, we have that niggling feeling that letting anyone else into our "territory" will allow them to get a leg up on us, diminishing our capabilities or hurting our success in some way.

I'll admit it: I'm one of those people. I think it will just be faster and easier to do it myself and I can be very protective of my turf. But I learned a valuable lesson recently when I had surgery on my arm and faced months of rehabilitation. I had to ask for help -- and there were so many people willing to give it. Not because I was asking -- but because they were giving back. Of course they were willing to lend a hand (literally and figuratively), they said, because I had done it many times for them.

Huh. I didn't exaclty remember all those times, but they sure did. And while it was difficult at first to ask for that help, the interactions were so positive that I think I've permanently changed my viewpoint. I've become closer to friends and family, I've formed new bonds with colleagues who were willing to step in and help, and developed new friendships from those who were sympathetic to my plight and offered encouragement and ideas for getting work done.

While I dreaded the months of trying to figure out how to get work done one-armed, instead I found it was a really enriching experience. People were funny and kind and never once tried to take my job. My bosses and clients were understanding and supportive and as the days and weeks went by, I realized that the fear I had of asking for help had slipped away.

In it's place was a real sense of gratitude for the relationships that had grown and for the new ones that had developed. I realized that I was as worthy as anyone else of receiving help, and a simple "thank you" was all that was needed from me.

Since I'm getting back up to speed, I don't need as much help (hardly any, in fact), but I try to remind myself every day of the positive experience that can arise by simply asking for help.

So, what's holding you back?

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Women's Anger Viewed Differently

The woman exploded in anger at work, alternately spewing hateful invectives at a co-worker, then abruptly stopping and breaking into tears. Finally, she nearly ran from the room, leaving stunned colleagues in her wake.

Their reactions ranged from pity for such a “weak” person to subtle amusement that it must be “that time of the month” to outright disrespect for such an emotional display.

Angry women are everywhere, and the workplace is no exception. Women, stressed to the max with personal and professional demands, are battling to contain their hostilities at work, and sometimes it works — and sometimes it doesn’t. Of course, men — just like the fictitious woman portrayed above — lose it. But when a man gets angry at work, it’s not likely to have such an adverse impact on his career.

For women it’s another matter. If a woman gets angry at work, she is automatically marked as “emotional” by both men and women. And if she puts up with something and doesn’t get angry, then she’s often seen as a classic, “passive” woman.

Not the attributes that women want associated with them at work.

But even the most volatile woman can learn to control her anger, and deal with it in a way that is healthy for her and doesn’t have adverse affects on her reputation at work:

* Acknowledge the feeling. Maybe you’re in a meeting and you’re angry, but you can’t deal with it right then, just like you wouldn’t get up to fix yourself a sandwich if you were hungry. You would tell yourself you’re starving, but you’ll eat after the meeting. Do the same thing with your feelings – you’re mad but you’re going to deal with it at an appropriate time.
* Find refuge. If you’ve gotten really angry, excuse yourself from the situation as soon as possible, go to a quiet place like your office and then you can throw something or just vent to someone you trust. Then, take a step back and decide what you can do to make sure what got you so angry doesn’t happen again.
* Take action. This may be a private meeting with a boss where you outline how someone’s behavior or a certain practice interferes with you doing your job properly. Taking action is what any professional – male or female – should do.
* Plan ahead. If you know you're facing a tough day, and it's likely to trigger anger or tears, enlist someone at work to help you out who would be willing to step in and give you a moment to recover. Or, already have something planned out to say, such as: "I want to discuss this more, but I need a moment to collect my thoughts. I'll get back to you." Then leave the room and go somewhere to calm down.

Keep in mind that anger can sabotage your career in many ways. It not only creates problems for you, but gives others ammunition to use against you.

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