Tuesday, May 31, 2011

11 things Not to Do on Your New Job

We are intensely territorial at heart. Our reptilian brains are keyed to be suspicious of "intruders," and to fear what we don't know. Your first few days in a new job, you're being scrutinized under a microscope and are only tentatively welcome. Use your Emotional Intelligence to survive the first 100 hours! Here are 11 things NOT to do.


If you do nothing else, remember people's names. When introduced, wait expectantly for a cue. If they stick out their hand, shake it. if they don't, just smile and say the usual.


Take it easy bringing your "things" to the office. Save the photos and personal items for a while. Place your yogurt discretely at the back of the refrigerator. Don't grab any old cup from the coffee room, or start making the coffee until you see how it's done. It's a reptilian, territorial thing. You're moving into THEIR turf.


Keep your conversation light, neutral, and just enough to be friendly. Sure as you get loose, you'll step on someone's toes. You don't know yet who just got divorced, who's married to an Italian, and who's opposed to daycare. As soon as you say, "Well personally I hate..." the next person who comes in will have that, do that, like that, or live there.

Use "neutral" language and tone of voice, like the anchor people do. Avoid any slang or colloquialisms in this new country. The King's English: what you learned in school.


Maybe everyone leaves at 5:31 on the dot; maybe they don't. Keep a low profile and pay attention to what others are doing. You're moving into an established culture and they have a set way of doings things whether they're mindful of it or not. You want to fit in, not stand out. Remember the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."


Save the designer stuff and status symbols. Appearing "better than," in any way, will backfire on you later. If you drive a brand new expensive something or other, park at the back of the lot, and don't advertise it. If you just got back from a barefoot cruise, or just bought a new home, save it for later. You don't know the circumstances of those around you. The person you're telling may have just filed bankruptcy.

And speaking of parking ... one first day on a job, with uncanny bad form, I actually managed to park in the boss' unmarked, but definitely claimed, parking place. "How lucky," I thought. "I can park right in front of the door."


They don't trust you yet. "Get" that. Don't volunteer to make the coffee or make the nightly run to FedEx. You could poison them. You might never make it to the FedEx office. (I am not kidding.)


Pace your initial tasks. If you start out blazing, you'll be held to that pace forever, or you may threaten others who do what you do. If you go too slow, you might not be there long. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

8. Don't SAY 'NO'.

If you're asked to join them for lunch, pitch in for a baby shower gift, "grab the phone," or do a task for someone, say "yes." If something goes against the grain (and there's always one person in an office who tries to make life hell for the new guy it seems), file it for later. First you need to find out how disputes are handled.

The good manager, the one with the high EQ who knows people, and knows HER people, will tell you, "If so-and-so gives you any trouble, just be nice. Then come tell me and I'll take care of it." The inept manager won't know, or isn't willing to deal with it, and you'll have to figure it out for yourself. How do you do this? By having your antennae out. Observe and process.

EXCEPTION: Occasionally in an office you're ignored for the first few weeks, except by the loser, who will ask you to join him or her for lunch, trying to build an alliance. In that case, you come up with an excuse ("Sorry, gotta run to the bank at noon.")


You'll notice things that could be done differently and better, but if you speak at this point it will sound like complaining or criticizing. If it's too hot or too cold, for instance, wait it out. The "new kid on the block" isn't entitled to anything. You can straighten the place out later.


You watch the Discovery Channel, don’t you? Well, picture the troop of monkeys, i.e., if you’re not the alpha male, you’re just one of the pack, so start grinning and grooming the others.


In physics it’s called “sensitive initial conditions." It means the way “it" (any system) begins makes a huge and permanent difference. Think of what you say and do as being broadcast with a loudspeaker into a cavern which will reverberate and echo for months. There’s not such thing as an “innocent comment" when you’re new, and if you show up in a bright print dress when everyone else is in neutral and pants, you’ll reinvent the term “sticking out like a sore thumb."
The onus (hard work) is on you. They will be ADJUSTING to you. You must ADAPT to them (a far stronger concept). When in doubt, get coaching! You want to get off to a good start.

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The Politeness Pundit

by Susan Dunn, Coach

Is that you? If so, huzzah, you’ve found a fellow champion (and I, you)!

Do you walk around shaking your head these days, wondering why it all has to be so nasty? Do you listen to someone cop an attitude to someone else (beyond the age of, say, 18, where copping an attitude is expected) and have that ‘nails on a blackboard’ feeling? Do you watch someone go after someone else at work in a perfectly awful way, seemingly just for the sport of it, and shudder? Do you wonder where the politeness has gone? And why?

If so, you may wonder, as I do, what their childhood was like that they failed to rise above the stuff of childhood. Now, I’ll admit I had the perfect childhood for exploring my own nastiness and the limitations of the rewards of same. I had a twin sister (as well as other siblings). Twins spend an inordinate amount of time together. It’s the ultimate test: get along or die.

We fought like cats and dogs. Mother would banish us to separate rooms and we’d cry to get back together again (so she said). What’s a mother to do? Eventually she gave up, smart woman that she was, and let us sort it out.

What was I to do? My twin took my necklace, slopped her things all over my side of the room, took MY Snicker’s bar, occasionally lost her temper and said nasty things to me, and sometimes (when Mother wasn’t looking, which was most of the time) even slapped me around a bit. And she was always there! That’s the thing: it doesn’t go away.

On the other hand, I never had to start school alone. I could take her Snicker’s bar, as well as borrow her necklace. I never had to wake up alone in the night. And we could gang up on someone who was nasty to one of us.

I can’t say I “struggled" with this; it was just a fact of life, and in some muddled child-y sort of way, I figured out the good outweighed the bad, and that I’d just have to figure out something.

It was helped by an act of fate: my father’s latest promotion landed us in a new high school of 4,000, not knowing anyone but each other. I think we both decided it might be smart to get along with one another.

While we weren’t that crazy about one another at that point, we were all we had. And there’s a sense in which that’s true of all of us, no?

There in that office where you work is this little group of people you’re stuck with all day long, like it or not. So why not get along? Would it be so difficult? No, it would not, and it brings nice results. If you’re the egocentric type – it helps your health. If you’re another type – you’ve learned by now, I’m sure, that sugar works better than vinegar, or however that saying goes.

I’m struck with the irrelevant things people blame their nastiness on – I can’t stand my manager, they don’t know how to do things around here, she gets on my nerves, they don’t appreciate me … and then the I have a headache, backache, teenager at home, PMS. Who doesn’t? That’s an excuse, not a reason.

It isn’t all about you. And check out your premises. Who said you have to like someone to get along with them? Who says you have to be feeling good to behave in a civilized manner?

It’s the same with marriage – barring true pathology on the party of the first part, or the second, you’re going to encounter the same set of bowling pins at the end of every bowling alley. Things are not, nor will they ever be, arranged for your sole satisfaction.

Because we live and work together, we have etiquette (or used to): the rules of how to behave in public. It may be experiencing a comeback. Some of us would be relieved to see more of it.


·Pollyanna walks through the usual stress-filled office with a big smile on her face and Scrooge says, “Why are you smiling? Are you on drugs or something?"
POLITENESS POINT: If you’re so unhappy you must stamp out all signs of it in others, get therapy.

·Mario turns a corner and runs into someone who snarls at him.
POLITNESS POINT: Since when did we stop walking (as we drive) on the right side (not the ‘correct’ side, the right-as-opposed-to-left side) of the hallway? The rules are what make orderly life possible. You see how many squabbles could be prevented if we did something like this?

·People walk in without greeting one another, which not only makes it impossible for the phone receptionist to know who’s there, but puts a surly tone to it all. POLITENESS POINT: Didn’t your mother instruct you to say “Good morning. Did you sleep well?" when you came to the breakfast table? COROLLARY: Whether you meant it or not. That’s sort of the point.

·Flick hands Flack a phone message, who takes it, grunts, turns oh his heel and walks off.
POLITENESS POINT: What happened to “Thank you" and “You’re welcome."

·Curly, Larry and Moe head out to lunch, not inviting the 4th member of the department to join them, for whatever reason, and saying nothing.
POLITENESS POINT: “We’re going to have lunch to talk about our part of the project. I know you’ve had enough of it, so you don’t have to come."

·Playing the game of “let’s get the new person."
POLITENESS POINT: Frat hazing is for frat boys. Grow up.

·Someone comes from another culture/dresses weird/is known to be a stamp collector/takes punctuation a little too seriously so let’s mob up on them and make their life miserable.
POLITENESS POINT: Very astute, Sherlock, that they’re different, but if you need to make someone else feel small in order to make yourself feel big, get therapy.

·Mary’s bored so she starts a rumor about Harry.
POLITENESS POINT: Isn’t there some work you’re supposed to be doing?

·You’re the boss, it’s your shop, you fought and scrambled to get there, so now you’ve earned the right to act like a petulant two-year-old.
POLITENESS POINT: Life is long. What goes around comes around.
COROLLARY: Do you have any idea what you look like when you’re acting that way?

·When you were climbing up the ladder Attila the Hun was nasty to you, so now it’s your turn.
POLITENESS POINT: Instead of “turn about is fair play," how about getting your knuckles off the ground and treating people the way you wish you’d been treated and weren’t? In addition to giving you a delicious sense of righteousness, it could also save your health, not to mention that of those around you.

·You can’t control yourself because you’re under too much stress/have more to do than everyone else/produce the most/are special.
POLITENESS POINT: Give me a break.

· You don’t like something about someone so you’re rude.
POLITENESS POINT: If you aren’t past the point of logic and reason, did you ever consider they probably don’t like something about you as well, so that’s not a reason!


Etiquette and good manners sort of level the playing field in your head. It means how you act regardless of whom you’re with. Therefore it shows more about you than about the other, i.e., Dave Barry’s quote that someone who’s nice to you, but not nice to the water, is not a nice person.

And BTW, the point of being nice isn’t to be popular; it’s about smoothing out daily interactions. Etiquette eliminates a lot of the friction that drives us all nuts. We can all be little beasties. That’s why dinner manner developed … there we all are with sharp instruments in our hands.


1.If you haven’t figured out yet that you have a choice how you feel, act and think, and that they affect your health, do some reading, get some coaching, get enlightened.

2.Your Emotional Intelligence, your ability to manage yourself and your relationships (of all kinds), affects your success, happiness, and health.

3.Learn where the silverware goes. One reason people are nasty is because they feel inferior, and there are books you can read and courses you can take that will get you to a level where you’re comfortable. Here, I can tell you in one sentence something that will help: “Work the silverware from the outside in." (There’s more, but not a whole lot more.)

4.Say “please," “thank you," “you’re welcome," and “I apologize." (I apologize is great, BTW, because that you can always do, while you may not really “be sorry" in the strictest sense of the term. (Hey, I’m a pundit!)

5.Ask permission. You may intend to take a cell phone call during the lunch one way or another, but politeness dictates you ask (“I’m expecting an important call I must take. Do you mind?"). The beauty is politeness will dictate they respond, “Why no, I don’t mind at all." See how it works?

6.Read Emily Post (in its 16th edition). Would it help persuade you to know it’s listed on www.navyadvancement.com ?

7.Pay attention to the small things. Walk on the righte side, let others in front of you in line when you can afford to (it’s good self-discipline), smile, use people’s names, pass the salt and pepper, offer to get something or do something for someone else once in a while.

8.Don’t put people who use good manners in the penalty box. There’s a creeping sentiment these days that someone who says please and thank you is a lightweight.

9.Keep some boundaries. It used to be not everyone wanted to hear about your sex life, religious preference, forms of medication you use, or political persuasion. Nowadays there are 50 additional things not imagined 25 years ago that we don’t want to hear about. Save it.


Reduced friction. Less stress.

Studies show repeatedly that money is not the top reason why people stay at jobs. They want an environment of respectfulness, and to feel meaning and purpose in what they do. Etiquette accomplishes both. If you’re in a respectful situation, you respect the situation. Get it?

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Successful Aging: Emotional Intelligence and Transitioning to New Roles

Successful Aging: Emotional Intelligence and Transitioning to New Roles
Your most-valued new role amounts to why you like being alive.
By: Susan Dunn
"I don't know how to do anything. "

My friend who retired last year from years on Wall Street tells me, “I have to watch very carefully how I spend my money. I don’t know how to do anything.”

We Identify With Our Roles

One of the reasons people find retirement challenging, is also the solution to the problem of better aging: we identify with roles in our lives. Worse than that, we enjoy them. They’re what our life is all about or we wouldn’t have been doing them in the first place.

Now my friend certainly knows how to do things. He can cook his breakfast, he’s an attentive father, he knows how to mow the lawn. But to his way of thinking, now that he’s no longer a broker, he “doesn’t know how to do anything.”

Whether it’s being a manager, a doctor, or a mother, a recent study confirms we do best when have control over roles we value, and that this is more important than a sense of control over life itself. ["Role-Specific Feelings of Control and Mortality," Neal Krause, Ph.D., and Benjamin A. Shaw, Ph.D.; Psychology and Aging, Vol. 15, No. 4.]

What does this mean to you and me on a daily basis?

In the study, conducted over 6-7 years, participants were asked to name the roles they valued most in their lives, including such things as parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, friend, homemaker, provider, volunteer work, church member, etc.
In the follow-up study it was found that participants who were able to maintain a sense of control over the role most important to them were less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors (smoking, drinking, obesity) and less likely to die prematurely. And, the research found, it was only the most important valued role that correlated with decline, not choices two and three.

By “having a sense of control,” I imagine they mean being able to continue doing that. I also would imagine, unless your life has been different of mine, there’s no sense assuming control over life in general. You’ve learned that by now!
Your most-valued role amounts to why you like being alive, or what makes life worth living. In other words, what matters to you.

Psychological Coping Abilities Decline With Age

The researchers suggest that psychological coping abilities “decline” with age. I suggest they can be bolstered, even increase by studying EQ, and a look ahead is an emotionally intelligent thing to do.

In my coaching work with clients in transition, the “transition” often amounts to the fact they’ve lost or been ousted from a role they enjoyed. Some were fired, some forced into retirement, others lost children prematurely, others are between parenting and grand parenting, and not “needed” by anyone in that special nurturing role.

How can you cope better? While life is about losses, it is equally about gains and wins. While you may be dumb-founded by an immediate loss, with time and Emotional Intelligence competencies, you can make the next step and find a new role.

Resilience is one of the many EQ competencies and it means being able to bounce back after loss, failure, and defeat, while remaining hopeful and enthusiastic.

Somewhere there’s a baby crying … a group that needs managing … an account that needs balancing. How you define your role is up to you. It’s personal choice and that’s what EQ is all about. You may no longer run Coca-Cola, but you can run the volunteer department of the local children’s shelter.

We’re so busy when we’re young, and so many of the roles are proscribed, we can forget it’s an open and flexible system.

Lamenting my “last baby,” I was reminded by an older friend that she went weekly to the neonatal unit at the hospital and sat and rocked the newborns.

On a recent flight to Seattle, I met an 80 year old woman with her foster baby. She took newborns to their adoptive parents, usually a plane ride. There she was with infant seat, bottles, diaper bag, and the whole thing. How she did it physically I don’t know. It must’ve been the drive of her heart, the satisfaction she got, and the physical condition she had to be in to do it. The heart will motivate.

Re-Creating Roles Is One Thing You Can Do For Better Aging

Emotional Intelligence involves flexibility and being able to generate new solutions. Just as the teenager must one day have her first job, you will one day have to move into new territory. Re-creating roles is one thing you can do for better aging. If you are “stuck” on a certain definition and in the “yes, but” mode, consider something different.

CLIENT: I miss so much being a mother.
ME: Then go mother someone.
CLIENT: That’s not the same thing. That’s not being their real mother.
ME: Says who?

I have had, when working at the children’s shelter, a child tell me, “I know you’re my real mom.” Yes, it’s heart-rending. Yes, that’s part of it. Wasn’t it part of it the first time round?

As a volunteer director, I relied on many people who were starting new roles, and the more they considered it their job, their real job, the more helpful they were to me.
Managing the kitchen of the shelter can be as much a real management job as you make it, and if you think it isn’t “real” and isn’t needed, on what do you base your judgment? Does money have to change hands? There are other things to work for, and other rewards, and if being important is one of them, you will, if anything, be more important, because many volunteers call in at the slightest whim to cancel, or don’t show up at all. They don’t take it seriously. Taking things seriously is a personal decision and totally within your control.

Molly has “adopted” her niece and nephew by-marriage, who are very young and going through some very difficult times. Notice these people are not even related to her. With a newborn in the house, their toddler has been diagnosed with a heart defect, possibly terminal, and requiring lots of care, while one of their parents is also dying. No one told them Molly wasn’t their mother. And believe me, no one asked for her credentials when she showed up at the door of this overwhelmed young couple.
Somewhere there’s someone who needs you in the role you value most, and if you haven’t found them, you’re being lazy. Don’t be lazy. You’re needed. Get out there!

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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Mother's Day


My mother - first on the left.
Her mother is on the far right.

Your mother ...
No relationship is so fraught with ambivalence.

She loved you, yes,
but she also took things away (those enticing scissors)
made you eat things you didn't like (squach!)
made you do things you didn't want to do (go to school)
babied you when you didn't want it (as a teen)
failed to baby you when you wanted it (as an adult)

for those who are with their kids, and those who are not

My favorite --
if there are any heavens my mother will(all by herself)have
one. (e.e. cummings)

And some more quotes:

No one in the world can take the place of your mother. Right or wrong, from her viewpoint you are always right. She may scold you for little things, but never for the big ones. ~Harry Truman

God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers. ~Jewish Proverb

Life is the fruit she longs to hand you,
Ripe on a plate.
And while you live,
Relentlessly she understands you.
~Phyllis McGinley

Because I feel that in the heavens above
The angels, whispering one to another,
Can find among their burning tears of love,
None so devotional as that of "Mother,"
Therefore, by that dear name I have long called you,
You who are more than mother unto me.
~Edgar Allan Poe

The best conversations with mothers always take place in silence, when only the heart speaks. ~Carrie Latet

A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best, but his mother the longest. ~Irish Proverb

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