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How to Spot a Toxic Co-worker

We’ve all seen them – TOXIC people who have a dark cloud over them, create a lot of drama, and point fingers that everyone else is the problem These people will undermine your career, drain your energy, steal credit for your ideas, and then point the finger that you’re the one with the problem and it was you who screwed them over. If you call them on their B.S. you will be crucified.
Most of the time they will give away their “tells” — so be on the look out for them. Perhaps they’re bragging about how they vilified their ex-spouse in a divorce, or how they screwed over someone else’s chance at getting a job. If you have a co-worker like this, RUN! Do not share anything with them they can later use against you, because they will. After all, if they’d screw over a spouse, they will certainly do the same to you, and feel no remorse whatsoever. They love playing the victim.
WikiHow refers to these types as “Impossible People.” There is nothing you can do about them, except ignore them.  Don’t stoop to conquer. You’ll never win.

Do not worry about the tales they tell about you. For they will continue to tell the world what shit heads they are through their actions alone.


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References in the Job Search

We all know that smart employers will do a full background check on any prospective candidate before making an offer. That’s because a poor choice can be costly if it turns out they hired a deadbeat, a crook, drug addict, or drama queen.

But I also believe that references should go both ways. If you’re being recruited for a new job, be sure to run a reference check on the management team. Go beyond the LinkedIn page and place calls to former colleagues. See what you can dig up. I’ve seen it happen too many times where candidates “fall in love” or are so excited about the prospect of an awesome job, they fail to thoroughly check out who they’ll be working for. The awesome job ends up being awful.

Don’t email for a reference either. Permanent records in writing are what scares people from fully opening up. Ask questions over the phone about the manager’s ability to train; their expectations, ability to delegate, tolerance for mistakes, and ethics and honesty. Note any hesitation or refusal to answer certain questions. Or read between the lines if there appears to be vagueness.

If you are only allowed to talk to HR, then the question to ask is, “is she eligible for rehire?”

While there is always the possibility your new manager won’t appreciate undergoing the same background check they are subjecting you to, I think that would also be a telling sign as to whether or not you want to work there. Any employee who does due diligence for them-self, will also do the same for their company.

And if you don’t feel comfortable performing a background check yourself, we can help with that too. Drop us a line on the “contact us” page.

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Freedom From Workplace Bullies

October 16 through October 22 is Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week, sponsored by the Workplace Bullying Institute. Thank God this organization exists. Someone needed to shed light on this growing problem in the USA, especially in this economy. Why? Because I’ve seen so many hard working and talented people who are unemployed, while a Workplace Bully gets to keep his job. Or I see people stay in jobs and take the abuse, out of fear they won’t find another. And in my opinion, that’s wrong on so many levels.

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You Get More with Carrots than you do with Sticks

I’m reading a book this week on employee engagement and how to motivate employees to love working for you. Throughout my career I have worked for some wonderful companies, one of them was Buck Owens Broadcasting, another was America West Airlines. Both of these organizations understood that praise and reward are much better motivators in the workplace, than fear and punishment. Tyranny builds resentment and erodes loyalty and commitment. Sad to say, not all managers understand that. These are the people who feel the need to watch their employees every move to find fault so they can “start a file” on them. Any positive performance is either said privately (if at all) or awarded in writing to the entire team on a job “well done.” But none that is documented in your personnel file.

When I worked for KNIX in Phoenix, we had lavish holiday parties, quarterly get-togethers (with lots of free alcohol), and a gym on the premises. Buck and his sons wanted us to be happy employees. And we were! Ratings and revenues soared and we broke all kinds of company records. There was so much love in that building, you could just feel it.

It wasn’t like that at a few of my other radio jobs. At one place, the management promised listeners meet and greet parties with the announcers, but then didn’t include the air staff. Instead, the managers brought their spouses, leaving listeners to wonder who are these people, and the deejays feeling slighted. The environment in that building was stifling; and workers were always complaining and resentful. That in turn made the manager even more paranoid, turning the place into one giant viper pit, and worker against co-worker. Then with all the rudeness going on, there were additional opportunities for the manager to write up the employees. It was hell.

I forgot about these experiences until I started reading Finding Happiness, by Todd Patkin. In Chapter 12: titled “Treat Them Like Kings,” Patkin outlines why it’s in every managers best interest to treat their employees well, rather than reprimand and criticize them at every turn.

From my experience, Patkin is right. I am a firm believer that a fish rots from the head first.

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Is Autism Protected by the ADA?

I wrote to Workforce Management Magazine this past week wondering if Autism and Asperger’s syndrome are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s not just children who have this disorder; so do some adults. The only difference is that most adults are not even aware they have this affliction, because when we were kids, the disorder hadn’t been named yet.

Those with Autism and Asperger’s syndrome are not stupid. Quite the contrary, they are super smart. But what makes them stand out is they have poor social skills. Most lack friends, tend to have a strong interest in only one subject, and thrive on a daily routine where they do the same exact thing at the same time every day. It’s very ritualistic. They don’t adapt well to change, and tend to have a lack of empathy for their peers. And while not required for diagnosis, those with Autism and Asperger’s can be clumsy, or have a funky gait, such as walking on their toes a lot. They also tend to have a heightened sense of self-importance and are quick to point out the flaws of others, or may perceive that their co-workers are getting preferential treatment.

Because many managers, as well as the employees themselves are unaware of the symptoms, there can be clashes in the workplace. Managers may see the Autistic employee as difficult, unyielding, and combatant, especially if there is a schedule change, or change in responsibilities. In fact, most managers will try behavioral therapy to address the issue, focusing on specific deficits to address poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. When in fact, the managers and co-workers should be aware of the disorder(s), and how to coach and work with an autistic employee. At the ADA and the Department of Labor, it’s called an accommodation. But are accommodations granted to those with Autism? It’s not a disability you can easily see, and employees can only hide it for so long, if they are even aware they have Autism.

Managers and HR Directors need to be observant of their employee’s behavior to determine if a diagnosis is necessary instead of just firing the worker because they are challenging. Otherwise the company could end up with a huge lawsuit on their hands, and a lot of unwanted media publicity.

In the meantime, if I hear back from Workforce Management Magazine on whether the ADA protects Autistim, I’ll post it here. Your comments on the subject are encouraged.

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References Go Both Ways

When you apply for a job, there’s a good bet your former employers are going to get a call about you. What they say, or  don’t say, could keep you from your next job. And yet, many times when I’m helping people in their search, I hear the horror stories of crappy management, bad bosses, corrupt employers, and unsafe workplaces as for why people are seeking to get the heck out. I’ve experienced it myself.

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Diplomacy in a Job Interview

After nearly 10 years as a Professional Resume Writer I’ve heard the horror stories of clients who worked for bad bosses. These folks were good at their jobs but were sabotaged by tyrants, ego-maniacs, yes men…. I’ve heard it all. So how do you diplomatically answer the question in a job interview, “Tell me about your last supervisor?” You don’t want to lie, but then again if you tell the down and dirty truth you could also hurt your chances at a new job. I’ve put together a list of responses you can use at your own risk, along with translations.

1.  “She has a colorful personality” really means she flies off the handle and has mood swings.
2.  “He valued everyone’s opinion” translates to “he tells his boss you don’t agree with upper management’s decisions”
3.  “He’s great with Crisis Communications.” He’s really good at burying dirt so it doesn’t end up in the newspapers.
4.  “He’s decisive.” That means he makes a decision and even if it’s a bad one, won’t change his mind or admit he made a bad judgment call leaving the staff and customers to suffer with the results.
5.   “She’s very hands-on.” A micro-manager who insists you do everything her way.
6.  “Open to Change.” Couldn’t make a decision and kept changing the ways things were done  throwing everyone off kilter.
7.  “Really Smart.”  That’s a sneaky bastard who knows how to manipulate people.
8.  “A very agreeable individual.” He talks out of both sides of his mouth, and tells everyone what they want to hear.

See how easy that is? Let the interviewer assume you’re saying good things about your last job, when you know the whole truth. When it comes to the question of “why did you leave your last job?” Here’s a few vague responses.

1.  “Not a Good Job Fit” means the boss wanted you to perform tasks that you didn’t agree with and that caused a moral dilemma for you. (i.e. sexual favors, lying to customers, etc.)
2.   “Challenging Environment”  means the place was a snakepit.

3.   “There was no room to move up.”  You weren’t in the clique.

4.   “The economy caused a slowdown in business.” Well, this is true for most job seekers right now so it doesn’t have to translate into anything.

The bottom line is to choose your words carefully. You don’t have to be explicitly honest. You don’t have to lie either.

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Identifying the Toxic Workplace…. Before you Sell Your Soul

People don’t quit jobs, they quit supervisors, and the number one reason people come to me seeking a resume is that they work for a nutcase and need to get out. After hearing the horror stories as well as experiencing a few of these Jekyll and Hydes myself, I did some extensive research to better understand the traits of what to look for in a neurotic boss before you sign on the dotted line.

One of the best studies I uncovered was in “Seven Neurotic Styles of Management” by Kurt Motamedi, PhD at Pepperdine University. Dr. Motamedi identifies recurring patterns in Explosive, Implosive, Abrasive, Narcissistic, Apprehensive, Compulsive, and Impulsive behaviors along with their detrimental impact on organizational effectiveness.

I’d like to take Dr. Motamedi’s findings one step further and point out just a few things you need to look for during a job interview and salary negotiations so you don’t move your family across the country, only to end up working for Satan.

For example, one of the neuroses described in the Seven is “the Narcissist.” Narcissists like to embellish their image. So during a job interview take a close look around your future supervisor’s office. Is it overstuffed with awards, and photos with famous people everywhere? How about impressive company logos from previous employers?

Next, if your prospective boss has YEARS of experience but has jumped around all over the country, check to see how many of his or her former employees followed along. Most new managers will tap into their network of former colleagues and try to bring along some top talent to their new position. After all, there’s already an established relationship between a former worker and manager. But if the manager doesn’t bring along a former staffer, that could be a serious RED FLAG. It’s highly likely no one from his or her past would ever want to work for this person again. And you should be suspicious. These are folks who “will piss on you and then tell you it’s raining.”

Neurotic Managers ruin morale, micromanage and sabotage projects, don’t keep promises, covertly watch your every move, and will do everything they can to keep you off kilter. If you challenge them, you will be told you’re not a team player. But let’s face it, how can you play on a team if you’re always having to defend your actions against the office bully. The other problem with challenging them is that they fear you will blow the whistle on them.

Many of these toxic leaders abuse alcohol or drugs. Their moods change on a dime, they waste company resources and when you are no longer valuable to them, they cast you aside like yesterday’s news.

Most companies will conduct a pre-employment background check on you, through drug testing, credit reports, references checks, etc. It is imperative that you do your own due diligence to find out WHO you will be working for. Use LinkedIn to contact former employees of your prospective boss. (oh, and don’t forget to check how MANY former employees are actually Linked to this person.) Most current employees are too afraid to warn you for fear of losing their job or being the next targeted victim so don’t even approach them.

If you’ve been subjected to a bi-polar boss, or OCD-inflicted supervisor, be make sure to read “The Seven Styles of Management.” It’s only a few pages. Then use hindsight of what happened during your job interview and courting process, and think about the early warning signs that you either ignored or didn’t notice at the time (because you were being seduced with a great new job). I’d love to hear your story. Would you share it here? Don’t identify yourself, and please don’t list names of people or companies.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

(also known as How to Pray for a Job)

Going on job interviews for the perfect opportunity can be exciting. Especially when it’s a job you REALLY want, or at least you think you do. I’ve been through enough job interviews to realize that not all is what it appears and learned from the experience how to pray for the right job. There have been several times when I thought it was PERFECT until I worked there a few months. It’s also happened to clients. They take a job only to find out the company is bankrupt, or it was misrepresented, or the boss is bi-polar… you name it. Worse, is how to deal with it. Do you stick around for 3 years so you don’t have a nasty blemish on your resume? Or if the company goes belly up, then that’s decided for you.

So what’s a job seeker to do? Pray! But pray the right way. Instead of “Praying for the job” ask your higher power to give you the job only if it’s in YOUR best interest. And if it’s not, then “let it go.” That way it’s a win-win situation. Not every job is meant to be, accept that. Forcing the issue can cost you. I’ve seen broken relationships, health, etc because of crummy jobs. They are just not worth it.

Be patient, and pray. The right job will come along, just make sure you’re specific with what it is you want.

–Susan Geary, CPRW / 1st Rate Resumes

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Hate Your Job? You’re not Alone!

Apparently 65% of people who are still gainfully employed in this crummy economy are not satisfied in their jobs. According to a blog posted by the LA Times, “workers across all age and income brackets are increasingly dissatisfied with everything from the nature of their positions to the quality of their bosses.”

And most don’t expect to be in the same position next year. Read the full article here.

Remember to track every accomplishment and keep your resume up to date to be ready for all opportunities that come your way!

–Susan Geary, Certified Resume Writer / 1st Rate Resumes