Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's Time to Admit It: Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

OK, time to fess up. It's Monday morning, and the truth is: This week is going to suck big time because you keep doing the same truly, truly stupid things over and over again.

How's that for uplifting career advice? Not exactly what you expected, right?

But the truth is, you keep shooting yourself in the foot, and you keep blaming other people for it. So, in the interest of keeping things simple on a Monday, I'm going to give it to you straight:

You're screwing up, and you have no one else to blame but yourself.

Let me give you some examples and see if you recognize anything familiar:

* You really, really wanted to take a day off. But you didn't want to use one of your vacation days, so you called in sick. That wimpy little cough you faked over the phone didn't fool anyone. Least of all the co-workers who ended up getting stuck with your work while you slathered on the SPF 2 while sunbathing with friends at the beach and drinking Long-Island Iced Teas by the gallon. So now the next time you need you co-workers to help you out, don't be surprised if they suddenly have other things to do -- like count paper clips or read the phone book.

* Being late is not a problem. Well, it's not a problem for you, anyway. Other people may get annoyed at your tardiness, but that's their issue. In fact, you find that you like the power you wield over others because you are late. Everyone has to wait on you, dammit, and that's an awesome feeling. Superman has his cape, Batman has the cave, and you have the power of the clock. But wait: your unwillingness to meet on time has caused the boss to dump you from an important project -- he's afraid you won't be able to meet the deadline of a demanding client. What's all that about?

* You're passionate about what you do. Translation: You're a horse's ass when you don't get your way. You yell, curse, stomp and give a performance DeNiro or Streep would envy. If it's not about you, it should be! You can take just about any situation and turn it into a reason to focus on how much you go through every day, how much you've sacrificed for your job and your employer and how no one gets it BUT YOU. Ahem. Once you rise from the fainting couch or unhinge yourself from the ceiling tiles, don't be shocked to find that people have scattered like cockroaches to get away. That doesn't exactly bode well for any promotion plans you might have, since the only way the boss is likely to get others to accept you is if he arms them with extra-large cans of Raid.

* Technology makes the job bearable. Uh...not because it helps you do your job better. No, this kind of fun comes from shopping online during those boring conference calls, playing some online poker (mama needs a new Burberry purse!), checking out friends' MySpace pages and reading about the latest addition to the Jolie-Pitt litter. Of course, you never feel guilty about this because everyone does it. Maybe you spend a couple of hours (or three or four) on personal stuff, but don't get paid enough as it is, so this is a little private benefit you've created for yourself. Doesn't really matter -- you don't plan to work at this job forever. In the meantime, ESPN is playing highlights of last night's game...
Of course, you're really pretty peeved when the boss calls you into her office and notes that the IT people have been monitoring your Internet actitivies and oh, yeah, you've just been fired. For not only misusing company time and property, but because it shows what a general screw-up you are.

So, I think you get my point. Some people try to blame their career problems on others. It's the boss. It's the co-workers. It's the company. It's the guy who empties the trash at night.

Sometimes that may be the case. But if it keeps happening to you over and over, it's time to take a look in the mirror -- and realize the real problem in your career is staring back at you.

Are you your own worst enemy -- or know someone who is?

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to Spot a Liar

Can you tell when someone is lying to you?

Most parents can tell in a heartbeat when their kids are lying. Maybe it's because we know them so well, or it's written into our DNA, but when they say, "I didn't do it," our radar goes off.

At work, it can be tougher. These are people we may not know that well, although we spend lots of time with them. And yet, it's critical that we be able to spot someone telling an untruth, because their lies and deception could end up impacting not only us, but an entire company.

I once interviewed negotiation expert Harry Mills, and here are some tips that he offered to help spot someone who may be fibbing. While they may not always hold true in every situation, it's worth paying attention to these clues:

* Voice pitch rises, there are increasing pauses or hesitations and speech slows.

* Hand and arm movements don't seem to match up; doesn't use gestures to make a point. May touch nose, chin and mouth more.

* Person avoids eye contact and has a smile that seems forced or insincere.

* Answers more abrubtly or avoids direct answers. May begin to mumble or keep head down more.

* If numbers are mentioned, they are "almost" or "nearly" and are similar: "$30,000" or "30 companies" or multiples of that number.

* Avoids saying "I" or "we". May use phrases such as "to be perfectly honest" or "to tell you the truth."

* Is prone to verbal outburts that leak information.

* Has more "um's", "uh's" and and takes longer to answer questions.

Should you confront someone at work who is lying to you? Why or why not?


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