Dealing with that difficult colleague

We spend a great deal of our time at our workplaces, so ideally, we’d wish that we get along with everyone because you know, working alongside people you don’t like or respect can be draining.

This isn’t usually the case though. You will always meet that difficult person at work all the time. They come in many forms though; there are those who will try to intimidate you using their job positions so you can submit to them. Then there are the ones who will use every opportunity to attack you with something personal, say something about your appearance, aimed at lowering your self confidence. We also have those who impose their ideas on you by all means necessary, never giving you an opportunity to share your thoughts. And let’s not forget the ones that prefer to report everything and anything to the boss, even when it’s something that could have been resolved by the two of you.

We all come from different backgrounds with not so similar upbringings and when we meet, we’ll most definitely clash. So as a person, how do you deal with such people at your workplace? An acquaintance of mine recently confessed to working with this person who had become such a pain in her leg.

First and most importantly, you must remember two things: #1 is that we do not have to like or respect one another in order to work together. It would be nice if we did, but now that we don’t, work must still go on. #2: work is not a popularity contest. If you want popularity, join a beauty contest or become a socialite, otherwise, your main focus should be on doing your job. You did not join that organization to please people.

You also need to minimize interactions with this person. Meet when you must and when all is done, get back to your business. Avoid situations where you will engage for too long. If you must, ensure you stick to the business at hand.

It is sometimes good to confront the problem. Approach the person and let them know how you feel about your interactions. Talk about specifi examples. If there is no change even after the conversation, learn to deal with them. Ignoring this person may work too. However, should this interfere with your work so much, you need to take it up with your immediate Supervisor or the HR.

When you hit rock bottom…..

If you’ve ever hit rock bottom then you can attest to the fact that down there is very dark and lonely.

I personally have found myself in that dark place a couple of times, both professionally and relationshipwise. I admit, there were times I felt my life was not worth anything. I started existing instead of living and yes, I wished for the ground to open up so it could swallow me. The good news however is, I’m still here, I fought through the difficulties. I picked up a few lessons along the way though:

#1: No matter how good you are, you can be replaced. That is the honest truth so never get too comfortable. And don’t feel sorry for yourself for too long, it’s a waste of your energy. You are not the first person to be rejected, neither are you going to be the last.

#2: Very bad things happen to very good people. You will not always understand why most times, so just move along with it until it gets better because you know what, the sun will always shine in the morning. Sometimes, the answers you seek are never in black or white and the deeper you dig, the more you hurt yourself.

#3: No one in this life owes you anything so stop expecting people to repay you for the good you have done to them. Do your best and keep moving forward. And please, no one is coming to rescue you from your misery, the decision to get back up is yours.

#4: This is not the last trial you will face, neither is it the last time you will fall, so keep coming back up and fighting. Even Jesus Christ Himself said it, ‘….in this life, you will have trouble, but worry not, for I have overcome the world’.

#5: Stop trying to control everything and trying to be perfect. You are only human and so you are allowed to be imperfect. It is okay to be vulnerable at times and to break down and cry like a baby.

#6: Finally and most importantly, God’s grace is always sufficient and there is no place in this life that His grace will not reach. And yes, you must trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not in your own understanding.

Always remember this, God will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear so when you reach the end of your rope, don’t let go, tie a knot and hold on to it!

Workplace Romance

Someone recently sought guidance on how to handle a case where a senior Manager had been romantically involved with a junior staff and the two were now living together as husband and wife while still working for the company.

It is very common for people to start romantic relationships at work, after all, you spend the most part of your life at your workplace. While some of these relationships are short lived, others end up into great and happy marriages. Some companies however look at the conflict of interest that arise from such relationships because as human beings, we are naturally inclined to act in the interest of the person we are in a relationship with.

Even though there is no law in Kenya that prohibits workplace romance, most companies have policies on how to deal with such cases. There are those organizations that have no problem with it, while there are those that due to the nature of work, such relationships are not encouraged. You may argue that this is non of the company’s business, but the truth is that anything happening within the company premises is company business because in the end, such a relationship may have a positive or negative impact on the performance of the two.

You cannot lawfully dismiss from work an employee summarily for being in a romantic relationship with a colleague so company policy on this comes in handy in such instances. In large companies, one of them may be moved to a different department if they are working together or at times even transferred to a different work station. In other organizations, the two may be asked to choose by themselves which one of them would resign from the company voluntarily. There are also those companies where this really doesn’t matter and a wedding invitation from the two is highly welcome. Which ever the strategy the organization chooses to go with as above, they are all in order.

So the next time your male or female colleague winks at you and hints at a romantic relationship, confirm with your HR what your company policy on the subject is so you can know what to expect in future should the relationship blossom.

Let them go….

One day a father and son walked into my office unannounced. The son was looking for a job and so his father had accompanied him to the job search. So I asked the father to sit, while the son stood (I only had one seat). After the father had finished explaining to me the ‘issue’, I turned to the son and asked him how old he was. He was 26, actually, it is the father who responded to this question.
What upset me so much about this incident was the fact that the son sat there comfortably as his father responded to each and every question I asked. I eventually had to ask the father to leave while I continued the conversation with this guy. I never hired him in the end for two reasons; he was not qualified for the position he was seeking and secondly, I felt he needed time to grow up. He was still ‘too young’ to get into the murky world of employment. How is it possible that a serious 26yr old man can allow their father accompany them to an interview and let them do all the talking when he was not deaf or dumb? What will he do if he gets into trouble at work? Will his father come to speak for him or rescue him?
I believe that any man or woman above the legal age of 18yrs old should be able to express themselves properly and as such, should be able to step into any organization and explain what their problem or desire is. One of the things hurting us in Kenya is that we believe that in order to get employed, we need someone to speak for us, to connect us to the hiring person. There is nothing wrong with referrals, however, when you get to interview level, atleast prove yourself, prove to them that you are qualified.
To the parents, it’s important to emphasize to your children that life is rough and that’s the truth, whether they choose to believe it or not. Handling your children like eggs is not helping them and that’s because what you have achieved now has taken you years to build. They too need to build their own and so they will have to weather all those storms as they move up the ladder. Stop accompanying your children for interviews, it is not group work. Let your children grow by themselves, and pray for them while at it.

Resolving Workplace Conflict

Conflict at the workplace is inevitable, and that’s because where human beings are involved, there is bound to be difference in opinion.

Conflict arise from so many reasons, ranging from poor communication to someone just having a bad day. As a leader, when such cases are brought to your attention, wishing them is never the best approach. Taking sides or pointing fingers just makes the conflicting parties confirm that you cannot be trusted to resolve their issues.

Over the years of practice, I have learnt not to take anything on the face value. People can pretend very well, some will manipulate you with tears so you can take their side. My unorthodox way of dealing with conflict at work is assuming that all of them are guilty, until the facts prove each one of them innocent. When a complaint is brought to your attention, it is important to listen very carefully to the complainant. Take notes for reference purposes. You must also listen separately to the accused too. Do not pass any judgements at this stage or draw conclusions. You must then bring the two conflicting parties together so each one of them can repeat exactly what they said. This is where the truth will come out, and sometimes, you will see that the stories will begin to change. It is sometimes necessary to have a third party present, like a Supervisor, as a witness when resolving the issue, depending on the sensitivity of the matter.

Resolving conflicts is not about pleasing anyone but helping the conflicting parties find a solution. Being too quick to offer solutions in such cases may work against you and therefore, you must allow both parties to find their own solution to their problems. The idea is to deal with the facts as presented and not make a decision based on emotions. As I said before, some people will literally weep in your presence in order to get your sympathy. Sweeping employee complaints under the rag and hoping that they will go away on their own is wrong. The truth is that they never go away, instead, they blow up when you least expect and what comes back to you is that, you were notified of the issues and you did nothing.

As a HRM or a Leader, you must define very clearly to the employees or your team what is acceptable behavior and avoid all forms of emotions when resolving conflicts. Always remember that nothing is always as it seems, so sift through the facts. Sometimes, finding a solution to the conflict will not be in black and white, so as a leader, it is up to you to do what is right.

When Should I leave my Employer?

Our exit from an organization may be forced, while other times, it’s voluntary. The question however remains, when is the right time to call it a day and move on to other projects?

In trying to answer this, one particular person comes to my mind. When Jonathan Ciano joined Uchumi Supermarket in 2006, his job was to turn around the establishment and true, he did, or at least that’s what we saw from the outside. Uchumi Supermarket was even enlisted back to the Nairobi Stock Exchange in 2011. I personally expected that once the Supermarket was back to its feet, he would be gone. He didn’t do that! I remember mentioning in passing to a friend around 2014 that I felt Ciano had overstayed his welcome in Uchumi Supermarket and he needed to leave now. Unfortunately, my memo never got to him. We all know how his exit happened and it wasn’t a happy one at all.

When we are riding high in success, sometimes we tend to get too comfortable and want to bask in the glory for too long. This could work for us but sometimes it may work against us. In my village, we have a saying that one should leave the table when the food is still hot and sweet. The difference between Michael Joseph of Safaricom, Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid and Jonathan Ciano is that the two former left the table when their flags were still flying high.

Exiting when you are on top of your game helps you to maintain the legacy you have created. A scandal that finds you when you are at the top is remembered longer than the wonderful things you may have done prior to that. As a matter of fact, people begin to even question how true your previous achievements were.

As an employee and a Human Resource Practitioner, I believe in getting the job done and exiting as soon as possible. Otherwise, when you try to become a lifetime staff of a company after the main job is finished, it never ends well. It is a huge risk leaving when you are riding high but I believe it’s always worth it in the end. So go in, get the job done and hand over to others to continue with the work.

Why Should We Hire You?

While conducting a job interview, I like to ask this question because it helps me to understand a candidate’s drive a bit more.

The answers that come up are interesting, but today, I’d like to focus on one; because I need this job. It is not wrong to say that to a recruiter, however, it just doesn’t motivate me enough to want to give you the job and that’s because, all the other candidates seated out there need that job too, that’s why they came, I believe.

As a candidate, you need to know that the panel is most interested in what you will offer the company if hired as opposed to your current state of joblessness. Therefore, your answer must be geared towards convincing them of the same. When you attend an interview you hope and pray that they choose you, but they can’t do that if you don’t give them reasons why.

An interview is an opportunity for you to market yourself to a potential employer. How you package yourself is what will most likely land you the job. And that package needs to be more than just the fact that you have not had a job in a long time and you need one desperately. You may even be tempted to cry while explaining this, but the truth is, tears will most likely not move the panel. I understand that staying jobless can be hard and draining. But when you walk into that interview room, you need to convince them to hire you with more than just your personal problems and tears.

So next time you land into that shortlist, no matter how desperate you are, go in there and market your capabilities and everything else you will offer if hired. Goodluck!