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Withstanding Personal Attack in the Workplace

Withstanding Personal Attack in the Workplace
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It’s been said that a man who stands on principle is bound to face personal attack. In my line of work, school administration, this has certainly been true as attacks can come literally from out of the blue. A longtime colleague can take you on, seemingly out of the blue with a laundry list of complaints. The next day, an attack might come from a parent whose child isn’t receiving the attention they deserve. Neither may be a real attack but perception is reality and when someone disagrees with us, we can’t help but to get worked up. The key is in choosing the appropriate response for each workplace moment of inevitable stress. Here are some keys when personal attack rises its ugly head in the workplace.

  1. Consider the source. Is your attacker a serial complainer? If so, disregard the comment as par for the course and move on. On the other hand, if the attack is coming from a reasonable person with a good intention, step back and listen to what they have to say. No one person has the total truth so it’s very possible that they have an angle from which you can benefit.
  2. Consider the source’s reasons. If your attacker is hurt or angry, keep in mind that they may be acting out of emotion. When this occurs, find a way to help them calm down and articulate the real reasons for their angst.
  3. Consider the bigger picture. Will your response to the personal attack affect the community in a positive way? Are you willing to cut a deal to save “now” without seeing how it will affect “later”? Keep in mind that each decision affects folks beyond just the two parties involved. As the head disciplinarian in a small New Jersey high school, I am reminded every day that any significant negotiation that I enter into now will probably return later, often in ways that aren’t helpful for the school as a whole. On the other hand, if I can stick to the policies of the school, everyone benefits both now and later.
  4. Cultivate strategies for stress reduction. If I asked you to list the top four or five ways that you minimize stress, would you be able to populate your list? Do you have a menu of options for when work gets crazy and personal attacks chip away at your self esteem? Whether it’s jogging, meditation or reading a good mystery novel, stress mediation is no longer a luxury that we can afford to bypass. My advice: work on your stress reduction techniques and practice them each week. When personal attack comes up, your ability to handle the stress will be further honed.
  5. Focus on the other areas of your life. Those that pour every moment of life into work are bound to do two things: make a difference at work for a short period of time and face burn out down the road. Rather than take on the latter, maximize the former by working on other areas of life. Grab a hobby, spend tons of time with your family and enjoy your home. That formula has worked for me when times get tough at work and they are bound to work for you as well.

Mike St. Pierre is the Dean of Students at Oratory Prep in Summit, NJ and blogs daily about productivity at thedailysaint.com

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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