workplace behaviors

Posted: February 14, 2015
By: Clay Cerny


Bloomberg has published a very interesting article on how people treat each other in the workplace. Citing research performed by two scholars at Stanford, Akane Otani writes that we are more likely to return favors done for us by friends than we are to help co-workers. This is logical since most workplaces because people are more calculating about what they do at work. One of the researchers, Jeffrey Pfeffer, recommends that the best way to deal with selfishness at work is to be realistic about it. He says that we need to stop looking for a “mythical Santa Claus” that is going to be nice to us. People act in their own interest, and we need to do the same.

In one sense, I totally agree with this advice. While we might make friends of co-workers, those relationships tend to be separate. If we can get a better job, we leave our co-worker friends behind. On the other hand, bosses and co-workers are often our best teachers and mentors. Throughout my career, I have learned great life lessons at work. Now, I would add this to them: Don’t get upset when a co-worker stabs you in the back to get ahead or plays office politics with your reputation. That’s how most people are, especially when they aren’t our friends.

Posted: January 23, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Huffington Post offers a short, but insightful article by Steve Tobak of Inc.  The premise is simple – 9 sentences that could kill your career, which grabs our attention.  The real advice is to communicate professionally in an office environment.  Don’t discuss topics that can lead to arguments.  Don’t gossip.  Don’t spread rumors or bad news that has nothing to do with your job.  I especially like Tobak’s last point:  Don’t put in writing.

Think before you speak, and remember that you’re at work.  What you say has consequences, and it can be used against you.  Saying the right thing is an important part of career management.

Posted: April 23, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

A client told me an interesting story today.  He works in sales for a company that is affiliated with health care.  In mid-December, he and other sales representatives were notified that the company would no longer give commissions on existing business.  This change meant that he would lose $20,000 a year.  The note from management informed employees that they could make up lost income by drumming up new business (while keeping existing accounts). 

My client complained to his manager about the change.  The manager replied, “I dare you to find a better job.”  Here’s the good news.  My client is taking him up on his dare. He will find something better.  Many companies have taken similar short-term, short-sighted actions that punish their employees.  They will pay in the long run when their competitors hire good employees who respect themselves.  If you’re company is taking advantage of you in this way, it’s time to leave.

Posted: May 18, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Sun-Times features a profile of a woman who claims she was fired because she has cancer.  However, as I read the story, it became a more cloudy issue.  Can employers keep employees who are going to be off the job? Should they be required to?  Does it matter how long someone has worked for a company?  These questions don’t have easy answers.

To read the story, follow this link.

Posted: May 11, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

The May issue of Inc. magazine features an interview with Tom Rath, the author of Well-Being: The Five Essential Elements.  Rath identifies several factors that affect happiness at work.  The first one is relationships with the “boss.”  Most people say that they do not want to be in the same room as their boss.  However, at the highest rated companies, workers want to be around their boss because she is someone who cares about them as employees and people. 

What defines a good manager?  Rath says, they are supervisors who “see all employees as unique individuals.  They know their strengths.  They help them celebrate their successes.”  At the same time, good bosses are clear about what they expect their employees to produce.  They know how to get the job done without alienating their employees.

The most interesting quality of happiness at work is “socializing.”  Rath claims that happy employees spend as much as six hours each day socializing.  How do they get any work done?  Rath reports that employees who are connected to co-workers are actually more productive and “highly engaged.” They enjoy being at work, which makes them work harder.

Rath and his colleagues at Gallup wrote the great book Strength Finders 2.0.  I’m not a big fan of personality tests.  Most of the time they offer simple descriptions of complex people.  The Strength Finders evaluation is detailed and complex.  Rather than offering simple answers, it gives readers a way to think about how they can use their strengths in career and life.

To read the entire interview with Tom Rath, follow this link.

Posted: April 12, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Today’s Los Angeles Times reports on the myth of multitasking.  The problem is mental.  If we try to do too many tasks at once, our short-term memory fails.  We keep working hard, but our effort is wasted when we make mistakes.  Experts recommend that we do less at one time, focus more, and find ways to relax.  Good advice.

To read the article, follow this link.

Posted: February 23, 2010
By: Clay Cerny

Seth Godin has a new post on self-destructive workplace behaviors.  He identifies fear as the motivator behind both extremes.  What’s his alternative – be a linchpin.

What’s a linchpin?  Read Seth’s new book (yeah, that’s a plug).

To read today’s post, click here

Posted: December 17, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

Seth Godin has a great post about the attitude we take toward our work – and how it is our choice.  Often the people who have the hardest jobs also have the least choice.

To read the post, click here.

Click here to go to the home page for Seth’s blog.  I recommend putting it on your list of favorites.

Posted: December 1, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

My phone rang today, and a sweet-voiced woman calling herself Daisy asked me to give her the model number of my copier.  I asked her where she was calling from, and she told me the “distribution center.”  Years ago I was working as an Office Manager.  My programmer took a similar call and gave out the model number.  We were sent 5 toner cartridges that we did not need.  It took me several phone calls to find the company running this scam, and send the toner back.  Even after that, they tried to collect a fee for shipping. 

When I told Daisy that I didn’t own a copier, she hung up on me.  Then I started thinking about what a miserable job she has.  Daisy – if that is her name – spends her days trying to deceive people.  Why would she take such a job?  Yes, we all understand.  It’s a very difficult job market, and she might be behind on her mortgage or rent.  Her credit card might be maxed out. I do not know what is motivating Daisy to call people and lie.  Whatever is driving her, she is acting without integrity.  The company she works for is wrong, and so is Daisy.

A couple of weeks ago, the Sun-Times food critic wrote about a restaurant where his waiter’s focus was “upselling,” presenting the most expensive items on the menu.  The waiter’s goal was to drive up the bill and, hopefully, his tip.  Can someone who is focused solely on the money he will make, not the happiness of his customer, take any pride in his work?  Again, even if the restaurant told the waiter to behave this way, he did not need to choose to work at such a job.

Daisy and the waiter must dread going to work.  Yes, they might bring home good money.  But they have to spend every day lying to their customers.  Their success is based on fraud.  Integrity starts with the truth.  We all need to choose to work at companies that let us tell the truth and have the self-satisfaction of doing honest work.  That is our responsibility.

Posted: September 3, 2009
By: Clay Cerny

People remember how you behave and how you teat them more than they remember what you do as an employee.  No matter what anyone says: It is personal

When we are under stress – which we all are in this job market – it is easy to forget about manners.  What is the cost?  Broken relationships.  Lost Opportunities.

Be aware of your behaviors.  When are you most likely to be rude or say the wrong thing?  What is the trigger that sets off your temper? 

Avoid conflict.  If a co-worker or friend is behaving in a way that is unusual, try to understand what is happening in that person’s life and – if possible – offer to help.  Take a careful approach in these matters.  Personal problems can be time bombs in the workplace.  Know when to refer a problem to a supervisor or to Human Resources.

Keep communication open with co-workers and supervisors.  If you have a concern, present it in  clear language that emphasizes business and professional impact.  Present your points in writing and ask for a written reply if the situation is serious or could affect your employment.  Explain that you want to keep written records so their will be no misunderstanding in the future.

Don’t spread negative language or ideas.  Whenever possible keep it positive.  Find a way to be a problem solver, not someone who makes a bad situation worse.  24 hour cable news and the internet are powerful tools, but they are also an echo chamber for spreading the negative.  Be realistic without being negative.

Always say, “Thank you.”  Gratitude reminds us that the world is not against us. It also tells others that we appreciate what they are doing for us, and it makes them more likely to help in the future.