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3. Don’t take it personally.

It's important to remind yourself that you likely aren't the cause of someone else's demeanor. Recently, I was working with a client who was newly promoted and assigned a new team. She planned a team-building session but was nervous to facilitate the day because she was worried about how to keep everyone engaged and open. Shortly after the day started, one of the team members seemed oblivious to the conversation and was tethered to her phone.


My client was furious. Not only did it feel disrespectful, but it also triggered her own insecurities about facilitating the group. But, at the morning break, my client asked (rather than accused) the team member if something was wrong. The woman explained that she was dealing with a serious family issue, and after their conversation, both agreed that this team member should leave to be with her family.


4. Become proactive.

What happens when someone takes credit for your work or yells at you? You likely become angry or upset. The problem is, most of us can end up spending valuable mental, emotional and physical energy stuck this way. It’s totally draining and only ends up hurting you in the long run.


So how can you take a more proactive approach? Focus on what you want. Be clear about your own career objectives, know what you want to accomplish in the next one or two years, and recognize the roles those around you play. The more you focus your actions and attention on what you want to accomplish, the more the difficult people gently fade into white noise in the background.


5. Find the solution.

Finally, when things get tough, fight the urge to flee. Instead, challenge yourself to be constructive and solutions-oriented. It might not be easy, but if you approach the problem with curiosity, ask open-ended questions, and truly listen with an open mind and without judgment — you might find the answer was simpler than you expected. State your objectives, acknowledge their position, ask for their suggestions, and never lose sight of your wider perspective.


Sometimes, we are able to choose the people with whom we work, but more often than not, those decisions are made for us. And while we can't always change the cards we’re dealt, we can take responsibility for how we engage with others. Ask yourself what each person can teach you — especially those you struggle with the most. Stepping up and choosing to approach challenging people with compassion and understanding, rather than frustration and resentment, can only make you a better leader and teammate at the end of the day.

Starla Sireno is an Executive Coach and Facilitator. She specializes in helping leaders increase awareness of their executive presence, leverage their innate strengths to build a distinguishing personal brand, 

and hone their interpersonal communication skills in order to step in more highly visible leadership roles both internally and in client-facing roles.  She is most deeply committed to helping leaders connect with the purpose of their work.  She works with individuals to align their passions, strengths and values so that they can maximize not only their impact, but also their sense of meaning.

The Implications of Refusing to Return to Work


by Bob Kieserman

I can’t imagine what it is like to be an employee right now. Even though I was one for over 50 years, first as a member of my family’s large chain store organization early in my career, and then, for the rest of my career, as an employee of my own small companies as well as a full-time employee of colleges and universities as a professor, I still cannot totally relate to what it must be like right now being an employee. And as I watch things unfold each day as a retired professor and entrepreneur, I feel so badly for the plight of the employees of this country.


I have always considered myself a proponent of the employee. One of the courses I taught during my teaching career was human resources management, and I would always begin the course with a line that was coined by Hal Rosenbluth in his 2002 best-seller The Customer Comes Second: Put Your People First. Hal is the former CEO of Rosenbluth International, a company that was started by his great-grandfather in Philadelphia where I grew up. After college, Hal joined his father and uncles in the business, and eventually took over the company and made it into the third largest travel company in the world.  In 2003, Hal sold the company to American Express for over 15.5 billion dollars.


Hal Rosenbluth attributes his success to always treating his employees as his most important asset, and that is how I began my HR course, with that message. Without dedicated and devoted employees, the business is nothing. You can have the best product, the best location, and the best advertising, but if your employees are not onboard with the mission of the organization and not feeling like they are the most important thing that matters in your business, then you can forget about profits.


And so, I think about that message often. I was very fortunate during my career to always work for organizations that valued their employees. But now, as most states move into the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis, I read articles and accounts about how some companies are not accommodating their employees, and are too anxious to open their doors again at the risk of their employees becoming exposed to possible illness. I know that many employees have worked faithfully at home remotely throughout the crisis to keep their companies in business, and I admire that. I also know that some employees who never worked at home before came to like the option, and feel safer working at home and want to continue to do so. However, some employers are being resistant to the idea, and telling their employees to return back to the workplace, and that is sad.


Whether we are trying to get back to business too soon at the risk of putting employees and also customers at risk is a matter of personal opinion. Frankly, I think things should be going much slower. And I feel great compassion for the employees who do not feel ready to return to the workplace, especially when they are told they either return or they will lose their job. Much has been written in the past month about this situation, and it has become one of the major issues being covered by the news networks.


The questions are being posed: What should an employee do if he is anxious about coming back into the workplace? Should she be given the option of working from home, or is it the employer’s right to demand that an employee return? If the employee agrees to return physically to the store, the office, or the factory, should the company be obligated by law to provide every protection possible, at the company’s expense, or is it up to the company as to how diligent they want to be? Does an employee who comes back to work and feels compromised in terms of safety in any way, have the right to sue his employer and/or report the employer to the government employment protection agencies like the National Labor Relations Board, OSHA, and the Department of Labor? These are the issues that are being discussed, especially in the daily updates from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), that guides employers through this new phase.


So, as I sit at my laptop and I read story after story, and watch posted videos and news feeds on Facebook, I experience the angst and anxiety of employees. How much are employers showing that they value their greatest asset? If companies are smart and more importantly, responsible, putting people before profits, the return to the workplace will work for both employees and employers. Hopefully, employers will put the safety and value of their employees first, and have the customer come second.

Bob Kieserman is the volunteer Executive Director of The Pennington HR Institute, and the publisher of Employee's Life. For over 35 years, he was a professor of healthcare administration and business administration, and a consultant to hundreds of businesses and professional practices. Bob is also a licensed librarian, and was featured as a popular columnist for several national magazines and newspapers during his career.

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© 2019 by The Pennington HR Institute

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