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How to Accept Backhanded Compliments

how-backhanded-complimentDear Crucial Skills,

I have a colleague who deals me backhanded compliments about my job performance as the proofreader for the firm. For example, she repeatedly congratulates me on catching errors and then says, “It’s nice to hear those things when you never hear it from anyone else. It must be awful to think your job is not valued.” First of all, my work is valued; that is not the issue or even something I worry about. I just want the backhanded compliments to stop.

I don’t like this woman on a personal level because she is a gossip and has a reputation for stirring up trouble at the office. However, because I work closely with her and her department, I want to at least have a respectful working relationship. How do I address the backhanded compliments she’s been serving me lately?

 SlightedDear Slighted,

Thank you for your question. I read some resentment in your comments (perhaps my interpretation). You say you don’t like your coworker. But the fact that you took the trouble to write about this makes me suspect that you feel provoked or offended by her insinuation that your work is not respected. That’s what I’ll assume for the purpose of my response to you. If I’m way off base, then I hope my comments are at least useful to others!

May I suggest that the reason her comments hurt is not because they’re hurtful, it’s because you fear them. They trigger some shame or hurt you hold from past experience. The hurt they create is predictable because you hold them in a mentally habitual way. Two things are necessary to create this pain. First, some triggering circumstance must occur. For example, someone indicates that they believe your work is of inferior value to that of others. Second, and this is the important part: you must interpret this triggering event as evidence of some shame you fear. For example, when someone disparages my work, I may conclude that I am worthless. The second step feels inevitable and true. We don’t even notice our role in the interpretation process because we have a lifetime of practice in drawing this conclusion whenever these kinds of triggers occur. But if you change the way you interpret, the hurt will disappear—completely.

I know this both from the laboratory of my own life and from a lifetime of observation of others’ emotional responses to social triggers. I was baffled for years as I observed people in apparently toxic interpersonal environments who seemed largely immune to them.

For example, I once watched a man who was (wrongfully) accused of being dishonest in the middle of a business meeting. This wasn’t a passing accusation either. It was delivered with a sneer and a string of epithets. I felt my body tense in empathy for the man who was being unfairly insulted. Had it been me, I would have felt a powerful urge to lash out at the accuser. This man, on the other hand, was relaxed. His face showed concern, but not pain. And his response registered interest, but not animosity. “Wow. I had no idea you saw me that way. What have I done that caused you to see me like that?” he said.

He felt no shame. He felt no pain. Instead, he felt compassion and curiosity. Why? Because he understood that this person’s action were not about him.

So, I’ve got great news for you. In fact, I can promise you that if you think deeply about what I’m about to share, ninety-nine percent of the problem you’re experiencing will disappear in a matter of days—or weeks at the most. Never again will you feel slighted, offended, or hurt by this person. Wouldn’t that be great? All you need to do is consistently practice the following skill in coming days and these results are guaranteed. Remember: It is never, never, never, never, never about you. Never. Ever.

Now, let me be clear. There are times when others’ words or actions give us true feedback. They may indicate we are incompetent, made a mistake, broke a promise, etc. And their feedback may be true. It may be helpful information about you. But their emotions and judgments are not about you; they are about them. Nothing they ever do or say has any implications for your worth, self-respect, or self-esteem—unless you decide it does. And it is this decision that causes your persecutor’s foible to feel provocative to you.

So, here’s what I’d suggest:

  1. Own your emotions.Notice what kinds of triggers connect with painful self-doubts or shame you’ve learned to invoke. Then develop a script you’ll use to refute this inaccurate conclusion and reconnect with the truth about yourself.
  2. Get curious.Once you’ve owned and managed the emotions that could get in the way of a healthy conversation, you’ll notice your resentment will be replaced with curiosity. So act on it. Approach this person, describe the pattern you see, then genuinely try to understand where she’s coming from when she makes these statements. As you do, you will almost inevitably gain new insight about why she frames her “compliments” the way she does. For instance, when your shame is not distorting your perception, you may learn that she has felt her work was disrespected in the past. Maybe her comments were a clumsy attempt to reassure you about something that is only an issue for her.
  3. Teach.With a better understanding of her true intent, you can let her know how you hear comments like this. Teach her better ways of expressing solidarity or affirmation to you.

I wish you the best in creating a healthier relationship with her. But most of all, I hope recognizing this trigger gives you an opportunity to develop greater emotional mastery—which can bring a greater peace and happiness to your life.

Best wishes,
 JosephJoseph GrennyJoseph Grenny is a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance. For thirty years, Joseph has delivered engaging keynotes at major conferences including the HSM World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall. Joseph’s work has been translated into twenty-eight languages, is available in thirty-six countries, and has generated results for three hundred of the Fortune 500.  

Leadership: Do you have it?


By Craig J. Davidson, CEBS

February 1, 2012

What is the difference between a manager and a leader? According to Warren Bennis, founder of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, “Managers do things right, but leaders do the right thing.” A world of difference exists between these two individuals. Which camp do you fall into? Most people have some management acumen, but a minority has the stuff it takes to be a great leader.

Some leadership thinkers believe that leaders are born. They would say you either have it or you don’t. These are the trait leadership theorists. Others believe that we can make anyone into a leader with the right education, training and occasional kick in the pants when one fails. We all fail sometimes. We all succeed sometimes. These are behavioral theorists. Whichever theory you subscribe to, I am here to tell you that you need to develop your leadership skills. This will be a good thing for you and your career.

We will devote the rest of this column to the important subject of leadership: Do you have it?

Being a leader in business requires that you have followers. Why would someone follow you? That is a question with a number of potential answers. Most of the answers revolve around leadership style, the way you act with subordinates and other potential followers.

My experience in leadership tells me that only two types of leaders exist – transactional and transformational. The former lead by rewarding followers when they do something that the leader likes, hence the transaction. Transactional leaders are functional and mind the store, but do not inspire followers to greatness. Transformational leaders have a whole different set of traits than transactional leaders. These traits include the following:

Idealized influence

Idealized influence is the notion that your leader has a relationship with you that you consider close to ideal and as a result you are willing to be influenced by the leader. Does your sales manager have this type of relationship with you? Sales managers, do you have idealized influence over your reports? Idealized influence is a key factor of sales leadership because it is built on trust or experience, or both.

Inspirational influence

Chances are you would prefer a leader who inspires you over one who is autocratic and/or a Machiavellian. The opposite of inspirational leadership has terms like repressive, suppressive and unprovocative. If you are a manager, which method seems to be more productive and fun for you?

Employees like to be inspired, or transformed, to do great things rather than be repressed and uninspired. Great leaders inspire their reports on to great sales performance. They help their followers go beyond themselves.

Intellectual stimulation

Do you feel like a leader managing a bunch of dead heads? Do you have a boss who doesn’t get it, lacks any original thought and is not open to new ideas? Chances are both situations are devoid of intellectual stimulation. This is the practice of promoting intelligence, rationality and careful problem solving to, in this case, sales. As a leader do you cultivate and actively solicit intelligent thought from your reports? Are you disciplined to keep leader-subordinate business discussions on a rational basis or do you entertain irrational discussions that waste time? Do you challenge subordinates at an intellectual level to get them to think about themselves and the business? Leaders should want their subordinates to think and reason-out problems and the best way to attack opportunities.

Promote intelligence

Good leaders promote intelligence because intelligence makes for more professional sales presenters. You want to advance your subordinates’ careers in every way you can. That includes promoting educational opportunities to learn about the craft, themselves and life. When you do this, you will generally develop deep devotion and loyalty from your subordinates to you. This is all the stuff of great sales cultures and the talented leaders who run them.


From my experience, true rational thought is scarce in sales cultures because of organizational constraints that prohibit rational thinking. Those constraints are 1) limited or unreliable information regarding possible alternatives for decision making; 2) a limited capacity for the human mind to evaluate and process information that is already available; and 3) a limited amount of time available to make a decision. Given these constraints, leaders want to make rational choices but settle for decisions that are “satisficing.”

Satisficing is making a decision that achieves minimum satisfactory results that are familiar, hassle-free, and secure. In making a satisficing decision, the leader recognizes and abandons rational decision making because it would result in additional costs and risk.

Careful problem solving

Great leaders take time (which can be scarce on occasion) to carefully solve problems. Since most organizational problems involve people, special care needs to be taken to properly triage, diagnose and take action to resolve the problem(s).

Great leaders do not solve problems by autocratic edict. They involve staff members who have a stake in the problem. They get their input and, thus, get their skin in the eventual decision. Leaders who fail to get buy-in from subordinates run the risk of alienating their staff and developing an apathetic attitude among their reports. This ultimately leads to the emperor-has-no-clothes syndrome where staff is fearful of the leader and reluctant to say anything antagonistic toward the leader for fear of reprisal.

Now we’re talking about a bad culture, bad leaders and a caustic environment for employees. This leads to higher presenteeism, turnover, and all that nasty stuff that smart thinkers counsel companies to avoid.

Leadership and power

Power is a primary tool that leaders use to get things done. It is not the only tool and which power tool one uses determines in part the effectiveness of the leader. Leadership and power tactics are closely intertwined. Here are a few power styles that we see in leaders. Make a mental check of which type of power your leader uses on you, or if you’re a leader, which type of power you use on your subordinates. Here are a few styles that leaders use to project power.

Position Power – This is power that comes with the position that the leader holds. Take away the position and you take away the power. Relying on this form of power makes a leader mostly a transactional leader; not exciting and nothing to write home about.

Coercive Power – This is power that is used to manipulate others and to punish people for wrongdoing. It is a tool, but not a tool that great leaders use. Are you a leader who uses coercive power on your staff, even sparingly? Are you a staffer affected by coercive power? How does that make you think and behave about your job? Does it motivate you to sell?

I rest my case.

Expert Power – This is power that is derived from one’s outstanding expertise in an area. It may be superior sales skills, unequalled knowledge of the business, things like that. The thing with expert power is that the holder is a magnet for others who desire that knowledge. He or she is a go-to person. Because others are dependent on his or her knowledge the person with expert knowledge has power over others.

Referent Power – This is the most abstract of the power styles, but maybe the most important to seek. Perhaps you remember when you were a kid that you and all your friends tended to congregate at a certain friend’s house, all the time. Why? Is it possible that all that had something to do with the one friend’s personality and likeability? Now fast-forward to your business life. Is there someone in your organization who has that something, those special personal and knowledge characteristics that cause you to defer to his or her judgment even if the referent power individual has no formal authority or position from which power tends to emanate?

Transformational leaders have an abundance of referent power. That is a special quality that makes people listen to them. A transformational leader with referent power is, arguably, the best candidate for leading a healthy sales culture. He or she will motivate you and bring out the best qualities in you for all to see. He or she will make you a star because that is what this leadership profile does.

Are you that type of a leader? Do you work for a leader like I’ve described in the past two paragraphs? Do you agree that this is the type of leader we need to head up a healthy sales culture? I’d be interested in your thoughts if you’d email me. Seek to be a great leader. It is noble undertaking. Our industry desperately needs leaders – not more managers. In fact, let’s fire a few managers. E

Davidson, CEBS, is the founder of future officenetwork.com, MedAnalyzer suite of health care analytics and mysalesrockstar.com. He is also on the faculty at the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Reach him at craigd@davidsonmarketing.com.

What it means to be a leader

Here are few likeable quotes on leadership that I think you’ll appreciate after reading this column:

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” – Stephen Covey

“Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” – Tom Peters

“Leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it.” – Omar Bradley

Is “Facebook Syndrome” Making Your Employees Miserable?

Have you seen a trending topic of concern related to “FaceBook Addiction”, “Facebook Syndrome”, or “Facebook Depression?”

When searching Google, phrases like “How not to become addicted to Facebook” are showing up more frequently in the suggested keywords section.New research is trickling in.The problem, as defined by victims is spending too much time on Facebook and feeling out of control over its use. Part of this dependence is using Facebook to give one’s life meaning.Since all things connect, is workplace productivity being affected by this new affliction.If one look at your Facebook page tells you that everyone else’s life seems more exciting and happier than yours–and this affects your social and occupational functioning–you are probably experiencing Facebook Syndrome.New research was released that shows social media has a direct bearing on how we feel about ourselves. A recent study of a group of undergraduate students discovered being denied the use of Facebook or receiving fewer “likes” and “comments” had a direct bearing on the participants’ self-esteem and feeling of “meaningful existence.”Do you feel stressed, anxious, or have negative thoughts about yourself after using social media?Do you have employees who need to take steps to detach from Facebook’s mental assault? (Even creator Mark Zuckerburg didn’t mean for his invention to be a way of life, but only a utility.)Do employees, even while not a work, find themselves in the frustrating trap of using social media as a time filler, a way to validate life’s worth, or to prove how much happier others are than they.Reality check: Most people do not post negative information, and as a result, any Facebook user is exposed to a selective set of information, which of course warps one’s perception.You may wish to consider a brown-bag or awareness article on this topic at some point in the near future to help help employees struggling with this problem step back from the screen. (If your company subscribes to FrontLine Employee, we gave employees a shot in the arm on this topic in the June issue.)You will find the research mentioned above is at — www.uq.edu.au

Daniel A. Feerst, MSW, LISW-CP Publisher

5 Label Tricks – Don’t Get Duped by “Natural” Foods

Photo by: Darya Pino - https://www.flickr.com/photos/summertomato/

Photo by: Darya Pino – https://www.flickr.com/photos/summertomato/

By Crystal Collins, Contributor  ClarkHoward.com

Time and time again I see it: Everyday shoppers want to get healthier. So they pick up something from the store that is ridiculously expensive, but no healthier than what they’ve been purchasing in the past.Let’s call this for what it is: clever marketing.Companies are smart. They spend absurd amounts of money on marketing, advertising, and branding to increase their bottom line. Hey, I’m all about free enterprise and businesses making money, but I also have to be smart with both my money and my health.If you’re looking to get a little healthier, here are some labels to watch out for:

  1. “All Natural.” This is probably one of the biggest dupes on the average consumer. Just because a product says “all natural” does not mean that it is good for you. According to the USDA, products with the “All Natural” label can still contain a multitude of additives, hormones, genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), antibiotics, pesticides, and more Solution: Look for the “100% USDA Organic” seal or purchase more raw, whole foods.
  2. Green Colors. Did you know that if a food product is predominantly labeled in green colors, that we’re more likely to assume that the product is healthier? This is thanks to the whole “green movement.” Brands count on this, and will mix green colors with words and phrases like healthy, natural, good for you, simple, etc. Don’t buy into it. Solution: Look at actual certifications before making a buying decision—not just the color of the packaging.
  3. “Organic” or “Made with Organic Ingredients.” If you see this on a product, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. Unless it’s 100% certified USDA organic, there could be all kinds of stuff in that food that has absolutely nothing to do with being organic and healthy. 70-95% of it will be organic, but the rest could be anything. Solution: Look for the “100% USDA Organic” seal.
  4. “Whole Grain” or “Multigrain.” This is one of the most widely used labels on products, and it can be deceiving if you’re not careful. There isn’t really a unified standard definition and regulation of what “whole grain” actually is, and customers can be misled if they’re not careful. Many items that contain this label tend to have higher amounts of sugars and calories than foods that don’t have the label.  And to make it worse, the bread could actually still be bleached flour with some brown coloring added, and a few random seeds sprinkled on it to qualify it as “multigrain.” Solution: Look for the “100% Whole Grain” stamp, or make your own breads at home.
  5. “Free Range” or “Grass-Fed.”These items aren’t regulated. A company may never even let their chickens or cows out of a 5 square-foot area, and still call the meat “free-range” or “grass-fed.” This isn’t necessarily the case, but since there is no regulation here it’s important to choose with caution. Solution: Know the company practices of the brand you are buying, and/or purchase from local farmers.

It’s important to also note that not all things labeled “USDA Organic” are necessarily healthy. That box of organic cookies: filled with sugar and the ingredients are still processed despite their organic certification. Instead, try sticking to raw organic fruits and vegetables, proteins, dairy, healthy oils, and grains.Even at “healthy” grocery stores, there are chemical-ridden foods disguised as “natural,” and the consumers are left footing a higher bill for a product that has very little to do with healthy eating.Shop smart. Eat healthy.Crystal Collins, a Savings.com DealPro, is an Atlanta local, adventurer, a health advocate and thrifty as can be. Check her out on her blog at  NaturalThrifty.com.

Boomers just don’t understand what younger people are saying about politics and culture.

occupierFifty years ago, Baby Boomers and their parents suffered through what was ubiquitously understood as “the generation gap,” or the inability for different generations to speak clearly with one another.A new national poll of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 — the Millennial Generation — provides strong evidence of a new generation gap, this time with the Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) playing the role of uncomprehending parents. When Millennials say they are liberal, it means something very different than it did when Barack Obama was coming of age. When Millennials say they are socialists, they’re not participating in ostalgie for the old German Democratic Republic. And their strong belief in economic fairness shouldn’t be confused with the attitudes of the Occupy movement.The poll of Millennials was conducted by the Reason Foundation (the nonprofit publisher of Reason.com, the website and video platform I edit) and the Rupe Foundation earlier this spring. It engaged nearly 2,400 representative 18 to 29 year olds on a wide variety of topics.This new generation gap certainly helps to explain why Millennials are far less partisan than folks 30 and older. Just 22% of Millennials identify as Republican or Republican-leaning, compared with 40% of older voters. After splitting their votes for George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 (each candidate got about 48%), Millennials have voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 elections. Forty-three percent of Millennials call themselves Democrats or lean that way. Yet that’s still a smaller percentage than it is for older Americans, 49% of whom are Democrats or lean Democrat. Most strikingly, 34% of Millennials call themselves true independents, meaning they don’t lean toward either party. For older Americans, it’s just 10%.Millennials use language differently than Boomers and Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980). In the Reason-Rupe poll, about 62% of Millennials call themselves liberal. By that, they mean the favor gay marriage and pot legalization, but those views hold little or no implication for their views on government spending. To Millennials, being socially liberal is being liberal, period. For most older Americans, calling yourself a liberal means you want to increase the size, scope, and spending of the government (it may not even mean you support legal pot and marriage equality). Despite the strong liberal tilt among Millennials, 53% say they would support a candidate who was socially liberal and fiscally conservative (are you listening, major parties?).There are other areas where language doesn’t track neatly with Boomer and Gen X definitions. Millennials have no first-hand memories of the Soviet Union or the Cold War. Forty-two percent say they prefer socialism as a means of organizing society but only 16% can define the term properly as government ownership of the means of production. In fact, when asked whether they want an economy managed by the free market or by the government, 64% want the former and just 32% want the latter. Scratch a Millennial “socialist” and you are likely to find a budding entrepreneur (55% saying they want to start their own business someday). Although they support a government-provided social safety net, two-thirds of Millennials agree that “government is usually inefficient and wasteful” and they are highly skeptical toward government with regards to privacy and nanny-state regulations about e-cigarettes, soda sizes, and the like.For all the attention lavished on the youthful, anti-capitalist Occupy movement a few years ago, it turns out that Millennials have strongly positive attitudes toward free markets (just don’t call it capitalism). Not surprisingly, they define fairness in a way that is less about income disparity and more about getting your due. Almost six in 10 believe you can get ahead with hard work and a similar number wants a society in which wealth is parceled out according to your achievement, not via the tax code or government redistribution of income. Even though 70% favor guaranteed health care, housing, and income, Millennials have no problem with unequal outcomes. Like most older Americans, too, Millennials are deeply worried about massive and growing federal budgets and debt, with 78% calling such things a major problem. It would be a real shame if we can’t have the sorts of conversations we need to address and remedy such issues because different generations are talking past each other. Millennials are different than Boomers or Gen Xers: Culture comes first and politics second to them. They are less partisan and they are less hung up about things such as pot use, gay marriage, and immigration. But in many ways, they agree with older generations when it comes to the value and legitimacy of work, the role of government in helping the poor, and the inefficiency of government to do that.Everyone agrees that there are crises everywhere: Social Security and Medicare are going bust and the economy has been on life support for years. The best solutions will engage and involve Americans of all ages. The Reason-Rupe poll points to some places where generations are talking past each other and others where there is wide agreement. Giving its finding, a close read might just help narrow today’s generation gap so we can get on with improving all generations’ prospects.

A Good Night’s Sleep: More Important Than You Think!

good_night_zA good sleep allows for us to remain alert and functional during the day, as well as perform and maintain concentration at work. Sleep affects our metabolism, our mood and our immune system. Some study shows that only through sleep can our brain cleanse itself of toxins acquired from our environment. Ultimately, we all know that sleep is important, but how much do we actually know about healthy sleep patterns and habits? Do you know the telltale signs of sleep deprivation?Take our quiz and find out just how much you know about sleep. Hopefully some of these facts will help you understand the impact of some of our unhealthy sleep habits and make better choices when it comes to this vital aspect of a healthy life.
  1. Falling asleep at night right when your head hits the pillow is a sign of a healthy sleep pattern. True/False
  2. On average, how much of our lives do we spend sleeping? a) 33% b) 25% c) 17% d) 10%
  3. How many hours of sleep should an adult get per night? a) 7.5 b) 8 c) 6 d) 9
  4. Watching TV in bed or checking your smartphone before you go to sleep affects your sleep cycle. True/False
  5. On average, the sleepiest time of the work day is: a) 8am b) 10am c) 2pm d) 10pm
  6. Impulsivity is increased when you are sleep deprived. True/False
  7. If you work overnight shift work, your body will eventually adjust to become nocturnal. True/False
  8. Not sleeping for 16 hours leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to having a blood alcohol level too high to drive. True/False
  9. You are less hungry when you are tired. True/False
  10. Falling asleep upon entering a dark space during daylight hours is a sign of sleep deprivation. True/False
See the answer key to see how many you answered correctly! Answers: 1. False: Anything less than 10 minutes to fall asleep could be a sign of sleep deprivation 2. a) 33%. We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping 3. b) 8 hours of sleep. 4. True: The light from your devices the TV can affect the quality of your sleep 5. c) 2pm: this time is a natural sleepy lull in the day. 6. True: Sleep deprivation affects the part of the brain associated with decision-making and impulsivity 7. False: Biologically, humans’ circadian rhythms are set to daylight hours. A human will never be naturally nocturnal 8. True. 9. False: The part of the brain associated with appetite and impulse-control is affected by lack of sleep 10. True.Were any of these sleep facts surprising to you? What are some unhealthy sleep habits you hope to break?