Self Development

Improve Your Conversations with Customers.

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If you want to improve your conversations with customers, lose the jargon. The next time someone asks you what you do (or what your company does), watch to see how many insider industry terms you drop. Corporate-speak is generally more confusing than helpful to someone who’s asked you a straightforward question. Plus, jargon limits your reach to folks who already understand those phrases and terms. What about the people who could use your solution or service but don’t know it yet?

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Dealing With Minor but Persistent Annoying Behavior

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The Case Study

Greg grits his teeth and takes a deep breath. “Be calm,” he tells himself. “Don’t let it get to you. It’s just Carl being Carl.”

But Greg has been gritting his teeth for months now, and he’s finding Carl’s irritating behavior increasingly disruptive and distracting. There’s the frequent cursing, the “reply all” to emails, the smelly sandwiches, and the black hole of scattered papers that is his desk.

Greg doesn’t know what to do. Should he continue to ignore it and pretend everything’s fine? Confront Carl? Talk to his supervisor? Go to HR? Or maybe even look for a job in another department?

In this article, we look at the damaging impact that persistent, irritating behaviors like Carl’s can have on workplace relationships, team morale, and performance. We’ll also explore strategies that you can use to tackle them.

The Impact of Irritating Behavior

Irritating behavior can be defined as a person’s annoying habits that bother you often and, eventually, drain your energy and morale. Examples might include:

Journal of Health and Social Behavior

Journal of Health and Social Behavior (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Talking loudly on the phone.
  • Always interrupting people.
  • Being disruptive during group sessions.
  • Leaving it to others to clear away after a meeting.
  • Failing to file documents correctly.
  • Being persistently late.
  • Eating loudly.
  • Taking frequent cigarette breaks.
  • Wearing inappropriate clothing.
  • Cutting or chewing fingernails.
  • Referring to people inOften, these behaviors are perceived to be unimportant and so go unchallenged. You might feel that you’ll come across as a “killjoy” if you ask a colleague to change what they’re doing, particularly if it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else and it isn’t affecting his or her ability to work.
  •  terms they don’t like.

But failing to address such issues can leave you feeling helpless, deflated and miserable. Eventually, that niggling little habit can become a major distraction, and it may cause resentment and anger to build up. This can threaten personal and team relationships, and impact your productivity.

Dealing With Irritating Behavior in the Workplace

In this section, we look at seven tips for tackling a co-worker’s irritating behavior in a tactful but assertive way.

  1. Avoid Gossip

It can be easy to vent your frustration about your irritating colleague by complaining about him to another co-worker. But spreading rumors in this way can be divisive and destructive. Not only that, but you might find that it backfires on you, and you could end up looking like the “bad guy.”


Gossiping can also lead to much more serious behavioral issues, such as exclusion, harassment, bullying, or discrimination. These can result in formal disciplinary action, and even dismissal.

  1. Assess the Impact

What we find irritating can be very subjective. So, before you decide how to approach the problem, take a step back and look at it objectively. How much does your colleague’s behavior really affect you? Do other people on your team seem bothered by it? Do you feel able to cope with it on your own? Or, do you need to refer it to your manager?

The level of action that you take should correspond to how serious you feel his behavior to be. If he persistently talks loudly on the phone, for instance, perhaps you could just wear earplugs or politely ask him to “keep it down.” But, if you think his behavior is aggressive or damaging, then you’ll likely need to refer the matter to your manager or HR department.

  1. Be Tactful!

It can be hard to keep your emotions in check when you’re faced with persistent, irritating behavior, and “bottling them up” can often make things worse. But, remember that it’s the behavior that’s the issue, not the person. Your colleague is likely unaware of the impact her annoying habit is having on you.

Keep your emotions under control when you confront her. Be tactful, and make the conversation as work-focused as possible. Assert how you feel, but avoid making it personal, as this may cause her to become defensive or angry.

For example, you could say: “Hey, Dina, I love your taste in music but I’m on a tight deadline today and really need to focus. Any chance you could turn it down, just for a while, please?”

  1. Consider Any Underlying Causes

Give your colleague the benefit of the doubt. A messy desk, for example, could be a sign that he is struggling to organize his work. Noisy phone calls could be the result of hearing loss. And poor asset management could be due to a lack of training.

His behavior might be down to something you haven’t considered, such as cultural differences. If so, you’ll need to tread carefully. You don’t want to come across as insensitive or discriminatory.

  1. Be Open and Honest

Start a “savvy” conversation with your colleague. Be open and honest with her about how you feel, but also show respect, and listen to her reply with empathy and without judgment. Savvy conversations are designed to enable people to talk freely with each other in a way that avoids conflict or distrust.


If tensions do run high, try asking an impartial colleague to mediate the discussion. Mediation is an informal conflict-resolution tool that can help to improve trust and team relationships.

  1. Seek Support

If behavior shifts from being irritating to serious – in cases of persistent lateness or bullying, for example – it becomes a performance or disciplinary issue. In these circumstances, it’s best that you let your manager or HR take the lead.

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  1. Develop Coping Mechanisms

If you think that a colleague’s irritating behavior is unlikely to change, or you choose to ignore it, make sure that you have adequate coping strategies.

Try deep breathing exercises or mindfulness to help to keep calm and focused. Or, if it’s a “noisy neighbor” that’s the problem, you could try using earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Perhaps you could change desks, or adjust your workstation to make his irritating behavior less visible or distracting.

Managing Irritating Behavior in Your Team

It’s important that you take seriously any team member’s complaint about a colleague’s irritating behavior. You may have observed the problem yourself, or perhaps other people have raised similar complaints. But you need to be seen to be fair, and not to leap to conclusions.

If the person’s performance is otherwise exemplary, the accusations could actually be the result of jealousy. Talk to her about her working relationships and listen empathically to her response. Reassure her that you will not accept bullying behavior and that you are committed to resolving the situation.

However, if her irritating habit does need to be addressed, be frank with her and make clear what your organization considers to be acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Share and discuss any code of conduct with all of your team to show that the individual is not being singled out or victimized.

Be sure to review the situation, in case she continues the irritating behavior and its impact grows. Then, you might consider using more formal conflict resolution, such as the Interest-Based Relational Approach. And if matters still don’t improve, refer your concerns to HR.

Managing Your Own Irritating Behavior

Chances are, you have quirks or habits that really bug one of your co-workers! It can come as an unpleasant surprise to learn this, and you may feel a range of emotions, from embarrassment and shock to anger and shame. But try to avoid reacting negatively, and use the following approaches to deal with the issue calmly and rationally:

  • Empathize. Try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective and ask him to clarify what has annoyed him. For example, you might think you’re being helpful by offering your advice to two colleagues mid-conversation, but if do this regularly you might get a reputation for “butting in.”
  • Be aware of body language. Do you ever get the feeling that someone just isn’t happy with you? She’s not specifically said anything, but there’s that nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right. Nonverbal actions like tone of voice, sighs, eye-rolls, shrugs, or folded arms can signal that a person is reacting negatively to something you’re doing or saying. If this happens, try using open body language and tone of voice to show that you are willing to discuss the problem.
  • Think positively. Recognize that working to adjust your behavior could improve your wider performance and team relationships. This will likely have a positive impact on your reputation and career progression.
  • Ask yourself, “Is this fair?” Complaints needn’t be personal attacks. So, be assertive if you feel that a co-worker’s criticisms are unreasonable, or if you think that his manner is aggressive. If you feel uncomfortable challenging him, especially if he is your boss, seek advice from HR or, if appropriate, a trusted peer.
  • Use self-reflection. Evaluating your own conduct objectively can help you to judge whether you are acting in a way that’s respectful and appropriate to your workplace. You might have unwittingly fallen into negative, complacent or lazy behaviors that are having a poor effect on those around you. If this is the case, set a good example and adapt your working style.

Key Points

Irritating behavior is persistent, annoying, but apparently minor. Ignoring it, or tackling it carelessly, can negatively affect your and your team’s morale, relationships and performance. So, follow these seven tips to improve the situation:

  1. Avoid Gossip.
  2. Assess the Impact.
  3. Be Tactful.
  4. Consider Any Underlying Causes.
  5. Be Honest and Open.
  6. Seek Support.
  7. Develop Coping Mechanisms.

If you manage a team in which a complaint has been raised, avoid leaping to conclusions and be seen to treat everyone fairly.

Finally, if someone criticizes you for being irritating, try to adjust your behavior in a positive way. But, if you think the complaint is unfair, say so!

The Striking Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Workaholics

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“The Striking Difference Between Healthy And Unhealthy Workaholics.” Knowledge@Wharton. N. p., 2017. Web. 5 Dec. 2017.

Most people will agree that being a workaholic is a bad thing. The word itself, adapted from “alcoholic,” implies a compulsive behavior that could eventually kill you. It has even been referred to as an addiction by some researchers, albeit one that’s socially acceptable — even rewarded — in American business.

We think of the workaholic as someone hunched in a cramped office in rumpled clothing, sweating over a hot computer while the hours’ crawl by and everyone else has gone home. Or someone obsessively on email and the phone while they’re supposed to be relaxing on vacation. We say they are “working themselves to death.” But are they, actually?

Recently, Wharton management professor Nancy Rothbard put this long-held belief to the test, teaming up with Lieke ten Brummelhuis, a professor of management and organization studies at Simon Fraser University, and Benjamin Uhrich, a consultant in learning and organizational development at the Carolinas HealthCare System. “There are so few studies … that really look at the implications of our working life on our health,” says Rothbard. Their paper is titled, “Beyond Nine to Five: Is Working to Excess Bad for Health?”

Surveying 763 employees at a large international financial consulting firm, the team investigated whether employees who worked long hours and those who reported having a workaholic mindset had a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol and excess waistline fat that is known to increase one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The researchers gained access to individuals’ company health screenings and personnel records in addition to the surveys.

Rothbard says that while there has been some research on workaholics’ self-reported physical and psychological symptoms — things like headaches, insomnia and stress — this study was one of the first to look also at objective health outcomes: actual changes in the body measured by doctors.

“There are so few studies … that really look at the implications of our working life on our health.”–Nancy Rothbard

Intriguingly, while work hours and workaholism often go hand in hand, not all people who work long hours are workaholics, and not all workaholics work long hours. What’s more, the researchers found that simply working long hours alone didn’t lead to poor health. In fact, employees who worked long hours but were able to mentally “recharge” overnight were not putting their health at risk. But those who worked long hours and also had a compulsive work mentality significantly increased their risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Knowledge@Wharton High School

Ten Brummelhuis commented in an Academy of Management Discoveries interview, “If you’re working long hours and you are compulsive — so you’re preoccupied with work all the time, you can’t switch off, you go to bed but you can’t sleep because you’re ruminating about your job, that’s the unhealthy version of working excessive hours.”

Happy vs. Unhappy Workaholics

There was a second finding, one even more intriguing to the researchers. Within the group of true workaholics — those who worked long hours and also couldn’t switch off from work – – a striking distinction emerged.

Workaholics who were not engaged with their jobs did show signs of increasingly poor health in terms of metabolic syndrome. However, workaholics who reported being highly engaged and fulfilled in their jobs stayed healthy. It didn’t matter that they put in long hours, drove themselves to work very hard, and thought about their job all the time. In fact, they showed no more risk of developing metabolic syndrome than the average non-workaholic employee.

“We just assumed that all workaholics were going to have a higher risk of metabolic syndrome,” says Rothbard. “It turns out that only some of them do: the ones that don’t have that passion and positive energy around their job.”

Another advantage the engaged workaholics had were more personal resources. Ten Brummelhuis explained in the AMD interview, “So they have, for instance, a supportive spouse, or they are more likely to ask for help at work. And maybe that’s why they’re just better at dealing with their work stress.” Rothbard adds: “Interestingly, they report that they have more time management skills, more intrinsic motivation [to do their job], and better communication skills.” Another self-reported advantage was co-worker and supervisor support.

Engaged workaholics’ pleasure in their work — along with these personal resources — seems to act as a buffering mechanism from developing the precursors to disease. What really excites Rothbard about the study’s findings is “how your outlook and your mindset can affect your body… that mind-body connection.”

“We were able to look at a psychological process … and find that there were effects on our physiological health. I can’t underscore [enough] how important I think that is,” she says. The team had ruled out other potential risk factors such as heredity and health history, and had gotten the same results. “I was just blown away by that,” says Rothbard.

Within the group of true workaholics—those who worked long hours and also had an obsessive work mentality — a striking distinction emerged.

Recognizing the Dangers

Both employers and employees should take heed of these findings, say the researchers. Workers’ health problems cost businesses plenty in the form of absenteeism, turnover and health care costs. And employees who don’t like their jobs but work like crazy at them should realize they may be actually putting their health at risk. There could be serious long-term health consequences.

“Make sure you do build in the time for recovery, and that you maintain some balance, and draw on the sources of support that you have,” Rothbard advises.

Conversely, the good news is that if you’re an engaged workaholic, you’re at less risk than you might think given the commonly accepted wisdom. So, if rushing non-stop from meeting to meeting, crunching numbers long into the night, or jotting down a brilliant idea at 3 a.m. is what you love, and you feel recognized and supported for your achievements, don’t let people tell you that workaholism is ruining your health. Instead, it may be what helps keep you going.

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2 Minute Thought – Wandering Mind

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One of the biggest challenges all new Leaders have is to learn how to delegate tasks and projects to their team.  Most new Leaders find themselves challenged by the concept of giving up control over the process. Often new leaders feel like they can do it better, faster. Some leaders, even feel guilty asking people to take on a project or task. Even after a new Leader understands why they should delegate they still may not have the knowledge or the confidence to execute the delegation process.


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2 Minute Thoughts – Wandering Mind

English: Wandering Thoughts

3 Thought Provoking Paradigm Shifts for Leaders.

A true leader moves beyond “my idea” to “our idea.”

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 You can’t assume culture.

When faced with a setback, look beyond the point of impact.

 Shifts of thinking that are necessary to become a great leader from Coach Mike Krzyzewski

Mike Krzyzewski, head basketball coach of Duke...

Mike Krzyzewski, head basketball coach of Duke University,

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You Are What You Tweet – From Wharton Business School

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New research from the University of Pennsylvania attempts to understand the personality traits of Americans and the well-being of the communities they live in, by studying what they tweet. In studying a mind-boggling volume of 37 billion tweets, the researchers at the World Well-Being Project have created an interactive map of U.S. counties with scores […]

Team Building, What Does This Say About You as A Leader?

I used to get dragged into team-building activities, and I never felt comfortable. I was always watching the clock and eyeing the exit. I like to chill with people, but I never got into team-building exercises. Years later, I know why.


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Team-building exercises are pointless and even insulting to your team members because they suggest that if only your team members spent more time doing silly things and solving group problems together, climbing trees and rolling around on the floor, they would work more effectively together the rest of the time.

The fallacy is that the problem you as a leader must solve has anything to do with your teammates! It doesn’t. When a team hasn’t gelled and isn’t communicating, it’s not because they need team-building training. It’s because there is an energetic blockage in the mix and no one is talking about it.

That’s the elephant in the room, and it’s a leadership problem 100% of the time. An entire industry has sprung up around the made-up and juvenile idea of forcible team-building, all to prevent leaders from having to look in the mirror and take responsibility for the culture and communication on their teams.

No one ever hired a consultant to put on a team-building workshop when there were no problems! We only think about team-building when the team isn’t working together well. That’s a leadership problem.

It doesn’t mean that the team’s leader is unequipped for the job, but it means that the conversation has to begin with the question “Why is the energy blocked on this team, and why hasn’t the topic been aired yet?” rather than with the question “Should we take everybody to the arcade or take them to the ropes course in the woods, in order to do some team-building?”

Here are the principal energy blockers I see in corporations and not-for-profits, startups and government agencies:

• Fuzzy or missing strategy

• Unaddressed conflict

• Role confusion

• Red tape bureaucracy

• Slow processes requiring multiple approvals

• Over-reliance on measurement and quantitative goals

• Little to no conversation about culture, norms, energy, conflict or feelings

• Inexperienced leaders

• Little focus on experimentation, collaboration and innovation, and

• Lack of praise, acknowledgment and information-sharing

Being a leader means diving into conversations about sticky topics, rather than dancing around them and taking the team out for ice cream instead. Strong leaders can talk about icky, sticky topics. Weak leaders can’t. They organize fake-fun activities as a thank-you to their teammates for having the courtesy to keep quiet about the fake that the emperor has no clothes.

If you have to take your team off-site to play games because you can’t stand to talk about what’s happening in your office, what does that say about you as a leader?

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Are You Getting Enough Quiet Time?

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Executive Summary

Taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive. For example, silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. But cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets.  Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, and quiets inner chatter as well as outer. Try going on a media fast, sitting silently for 2 minutes during the middle of your workday, or taking a long walk in the woods — with no phone. The world is getting louder, but silence is still accessible.


In a recent interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates argued that serious thinkers and writers should get off Twitter.

It wasn’t a critique of the 140-character medium or even the quality of the social media discourse in the age of fake news.

It was a call to get beyond the noise.

For Coates, generating good ideas and quality work products requires something all too rare in modern life: quiet.

He’s in good company.  Author JK Rowling, biographer Walter Isaacson, and psychiatrist Carl Jung have all had disciplined practices for managing the information flow and cultivating periods of deep silence. Ray DalioBill George, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan have also described structured periods of silence as important factors in their success.

Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead. Duke Medical School’s Imke Kirste recently found that silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. Physician Luciano Bernardi found that two-minutes of silence inserted between musical pieces proved more stabilizing to cardiovascular and respiratory systems than even the music categorized as “relaxing.” And a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, based on a survey of 43,000 workers, concluded that the disadvantages of noise and distraction associated with open office plans outweighed anticipated, but still unproven, benefits like increasing morale and productivity boosts from unplanned interactions.

But cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets.  Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, quiets inner chatter as well as outer.

This kind of silence is about resting the mental reflexes that habitually protect a reputation or promote a point of view. It’s about taking a temporary break from one of life’s most basic responsibilities: Having to think of what to say.

Cultivating silence, as Hal Gregersen writes in a recent HBR article, “increase[s] your chances of encountering novel ideas and information and discerning weak signals.” When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next—it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found.

Even incredibly busy people can cultivate periods of sustained quiet time. Here are four practical ideas:

1) Punctuate meetings with five minutes of quiet time. If you’re able to close the office door, retreat to a park bench, or find another quiet hideaway, it’s possible to hit reset by engaging in a silent practice of meditation or reflection.

2) Take a silent afternoon in nature. You need not be a rugged outdoors type to ditch the phone and go for a simple two-or-three-hour jaunt in nature. In our own experience and those of many of our clients, immersion in nature can be the clearest option for improving creative thinking capacities. Henry David Thoreau went to the woods for a reason.

3) Go on a media fast. Turn off your email for several hours or even a full day, or try “fasting” from news and entertainment. While there may still be plenty of noise around—family, conversation, city sounds—you can enjoy real benefits by resting the parts of your mind associated with unending work obligations and tracking social media or current events.

4) Take the plunge and try a meditation retreat:  Even a short retreat is arguably the most straightforward way to turn toward deeper listening and awaken intuition. The journalist Andrew Sullivan recently described his experience at a silent retreat as “the ultimate detox.” As he put it: “My breathing slowed. My brain settled…It was if my brain were moving away from the abstract and the distant toward the tangible and the near.”

The world is getting louder.  But silence is still accessible—it just takes commitment and creativity to cultivate it.

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