Tag Archives: Dr. Bright

Are the People You Work with Truly Your Friends?

6 May


Are your co-workers genuine friends?  This is a much easier question to raise than it is to answer. Depending on who you ask, you would probably get a different response. Most of us think of a “friend” as someone  we can trust and who we think trusts us.. We might even think a friend might be someone we can depend on to help us when times are tough. While we may categorize friends on a sort of scale that runs from “occasional” to “good” to “best” to “very best”, in all cases they are persons we respect and feel comfortable around and with whom we  share some degree of intimacy.  Very importantly, we expect a friend to be truly happy for our successes and is uplifting and fun to be around.

But when it comes to the workplace, we may want to take a slightly different perspective. Friends that form in the workplace are joined together  because of the mutuality of the work and the workplace itself.  That commonality leads to a lot of conversations.  What is oftentimes overlooked or dangerously underestimated is that underlying a friendship at work is the fact that the workplace is competitive. Because of the competitive nature in the workplace, when push comes to shove if someone needs to or has the opportunity to enhance their position in an organization, workplace friendships may oftentimes take a backseat or, to put it mildly, not be at the forefront of individuals’ priorities.

This ambition factor can manifest itself especially as it regards people of lower ranks in the workplace who are friends of those in upper ranks. As a result, it’s important to think about whether or not to differentiate workplace friends from just friends.

The idea that today we are friends and tomorrow we are forgotten often times depicts workplace friendships.  Think about what happens when  a co-worker leaves. The common bonds that once  held the friendship together wither rapidly or they simply are  no longer there. That’s because mutual interests really never went much farther than workplace matters.   Over time, the relationships that were once vibrant and full of chatter tend to fade away as the parties realize that they have very little in common outside of the workplace. Reflect on your own workplace experience when co-workers retired or found a new position in another company;   how many of your fellow colleges have you stayed in touch with once they have left?

Co-workers do need to embrace those elements that friends share such as respect and trust. These are factors that are very necessary among those who work together. … and they may be even more necessary in a working relationship than they need to be with just friends.. If you are a manager, it’s imperative that you address this issue with your people who work with you and with one another. People don’t have to be friends to get along and work with one another, In fact they don’t even have to like each other! But, they do have to respect and trust one another or the working relationship will never work.

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Is Dressing for Success an Outdated Concept?

28 Apr


With what I am observing in organizations today, it appears that employees are increasingly caring less and less about their appearance. To put it a little more bluntly, it seems like “dress down Friday” has become “dress down Monday thru Friday” in many organizations. This trend got me thinking about what would happen if John T Molloy’s top selling book in 1975, Dress for Success, were to hit the bookshelves today? Would it still be the bestseller that it was back in the late 70s? Would organizations actually change any of their dress codes? Most importantly, would the author’s message gain any traction and cause individuals to change the way they dress? Being pessimistic, I don’t think Molloy’s book as written in the 70s would even get considered a “must read” among today’s office workers! But why is this and why the pessimism? And what has changed in the past 20 or so years that made “dress own Friday” “dress down Everyday” in most workplace settings?

Well, for one thing the social notion of personal rights has been extended to how we dress in our workplaces. I have been told, as probably you may have, that dressing according to your own taste is your personal right. Furthermore, I think a kind of revolution erupting out of the 90s against the wearing of ties, suits, dress shirts, skirts and just about anything pressed in the workplace, has created a kind of “anti conformity” or redefined cool when it comes to dress. Ironically, nothing could be more conformist than today’s dress down climate! And, while most organizations seem to be okay with the notion of “casual dress”, few have been successful in defining where to draw the line between just plain ugly and casual.

But consider this, have you ever been overlooked for a promotion or have not been given opportunities to take on challenging and visible assignments within the organization? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then perhaps it’s time to look into the mirror.

Please don’t think I’m suggesting that dress is essential to being successful. However, try being successful without dressing well! Furthermore, I’m not suggesting that you dust off Molloy’s book either. Rather, what I am suggesting is your choice of how you dress signals an attitude that influences how others think about you. Why else do we dress up for a job interview?

No one has said anything to you about your dress? That’s not surprising.  In today’s politically correct atmosphere, where there is a heightened sensitivity to anything negative, bosses and colleagues are most likely not going to say anything for fear of hurting your feelings or infringing on your sacred “personal rights”. So, rather than take a risk, it’s easier for them to say nothing at all.

One thing is for sure; don’t think that poor dress is going unnoticed. Sounds a little over the top? Well, think about this: if you subscribe to the idea that a cluttered desk equates to a cluttered mind, then what’s the corollary to someone who dresses in a careless and sloppy way?

Deb Bright, Ed.D., is founder and president of Bright Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm devoted to enhancing performance. Her roster of clients includes Raytheon, Marriott, Disney, GE, Chase, Morgan Stanley, and other premier organizations. She is also a best-selling author. Her newest book is entitled The Truth Doesn’t Have to Hurt: How to Use Criticism to Strengthen Relationships, Improve Performance, and Promote Change (AMACOM Books).

Receiving Criticism: Tip #2

21 Nov

Don’t personalize the criticism:

Confidence better enables us to handle criticism because we are not easily threatened. We are able to listen to the criticism without taking it personally and we can more accurately evaluate what is being said. Let’s take a look at the following perspectives that will help you avoid personalizing criticism:

  •   Look at criticism as information. Remember you are the one who colors what’s being said.
  • Identify what you need to do differently. To avoid personalizing criticism, get past what’s being said and how it’s being communicated and focus in on the desired behavior.  Ask for the information you need to achieve the desired behavior, and remember that the information comes from the giver’s perspective, not your own.  Having enough specific information will give you a greater sense of control and the confidence needed to take the corrective action desired and positively move forward.
  • Examine your perspective as the receiver. Whenever you receive criticism, keep in mind that your confidence will play a big part in whether or not you personalize that criticism.  If your boss has just criticized you for several mistakes you have made, and your customer is suddenly upset with you about a couple things, and your mate or loved one starts to criticize you, your confidence may wobble because so many things are happening at once. You are more vulnerable.  This temporary loss of confidence may result in your being more susceptible to personalizing the criticism.
  • Look at the big picture perspective.  Use Bright’s 2-M Simultaneous Focus Quick Charge to put things into perspective and to regain your confidence.  Bright’s 2-M Simultaneous Focus Quick Charge is practiced in the following way:  The first “M” refers to the Macro perspective, the other “m” is the micro or more specific perspective.  Today, it’s not enough to have the big picture focus, or the macro, nor is it effec­tive to operate always in the micro. You need to be able to operate in the micro and the macro simultaneously.  So you want to focus your lens to clearly see both perspectives at the same time. For example, when being criticized, you are in the “micro”- zoom out to the “macro” to recognize that at least that person took the time to say something to you.
  • Remember to inspect the criticism.  Keep in mind that when you are receiving praise, it is very much like criticism.  Both are forms of information that you should develop habits of inspecting. Because we’re creatures of habit, if you take praise “hook, line and sinker,” without inspecting it, chances are that you will take criticism the same way.  Remember to inspect!

Receiving Criticism: Tip #1

16 Nov

Ask yourself if the intent is positive: Pay more attention to the “what” versus the “how”

Being able to sort out the intentions behind the criticism is a valuable way for you to exercise the control that is inherently yours. The giver’s purpose of the criticism should be delivered in such a way that will inspire you to want to bring about a change in behavior that ultimately helps you to perform better or to resolve a situation.


Here’s an example: Just as you walk through the office door, your boss screams at you for not having finished a report the night before. (Notice that you haven’t said anything yet, not even “hello.”) After examining what your boss is saying and questioning his intention, you may conclude that he’s having a bad day and his only intent is to take it out on you. Reaching this conclusion is easier when you and your boss have a relationship rooted in trust and respect.

However, if you are unsure of the giver’s intention, you need to  ask directly, what is the purpose of the criticism.  How this question is asked needs some special consideration in order to avoid adding fuel to a situation that may already be emotionally charged.

When assessing the intent behind the criticism, receivers need to watch out for paying too much attention to “how” the criticism is being communicated than on “what” is being said.

Discussions with hundreds of people during workshops have revealed clues to look for when trying to determine the intent behind criticism. The following are some of the more common clues for you to look for on the part of the giver of criticism. These clues should send an immediate signal to you that the giver’s intent may not be positive.

  • Approaches you knowing that it will upset you
  • Talks in generalities
  • Fails to look you in the eye
  • Is quick to cut you off
  • Exaggerates the criticism
  • Offers no corrective action
  • Compares you to an identified known enemy

If one or more of these clues are present, then you might want to ask for

clarification of the giver’s intention. A good question to ask to clarify the intent behind the criticism is: “How do you want me to take this?” or “How should I take this?” Watch your tone of voice when asking these questions!

Please visit us at: www.drbright.com

Giving Criticism: Tip #6

5 Nov

Tip: Keep the criticism in- bounds

When giving criticism, it is important to consider whether the criticism is in-bounds. When criticism is in- bounds, then the receiver is more receptive. One important factor to consider is timing.   If the giver is in a bad mood and has a lot going on in his or her personal life, delivering criticism is out of bounds. The same is true for the receiver. If the receiver is depressed or sad, he or she may not be able to focus completely on the criticism and the message will not be received as intended. If you are unsure about the timing, ask the receiver.

For example, Paul has been out of the office all day in meetings and when he returns, his assistant, Jennifer gives him a report that is full of errors. Rather than immediately criticizing Jennifer, Paul says, “Jennifer, I don’t know what you have had to deal with today but we need to discuss this report. There are things that need to be changed. Is now a good time?”

By asking the receiver shows respect and helps to assess whether the receiver is receptive emotionally.  When givers assess the timing of the receiver they help to ensure a productive exchange because they are showing empathy for the receiver while simultaneously attempting to address a particular situation. 

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Giving Criticism: Tip #4

26 Oct

Tip: Make sure the focus of the conversation is on how to mentally take corrective action

Before giving another person criticism, it is very important to determine the corrective action, or the desired behavior upfront.  Doing this prior to saying anything ensures that the criticism is intended to help. After all, once the giver opens his/her mouth, the control shifts to the receiver. If you do not know what the corrective action is, the criticism will need to be delayed, aborted, or revised.

For example, one of Bob’s employees continues to ask questions that she should be able to answer on her own. Bob finally loses his composure and says, “You keep interrupting me with these stupid questions!  Why are you so dumb?”  This kind of criticism is not intended to help the receiver take action. It is destructive and its purpose is to temporarily relieve the giver. Even though the giver may feel better in the short run, what’s possibly jeopardized in the long run is a quality working relationship. Bob needs to “think before delivering criticism” in order to make sure he knows the corrective action upfront. Otherwise, he needs to revise his delivery. The next tip will provide some valuable insights. 

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Giving Criticism: Tip #2

9 Oct

Tip: Have the “purpose” of your conversation clearly established upfront

Before you begin to deliver criticism to an individual, determining the purpose for the criticism must be made apparent. Because you are delivering criticism, you want the receiver to change his behavior, because the receiver perceives the intent as positive.  This is a very important step when you are gathering information and fully thinking through the situation.

Let’s take, Sally, for example. She has repeatedly asked Billy, her spouse, to put the toilet seat down with no success.  Sally reasons that perhaps it’s possible that Billy continues to forget or that Billy is being cordial but simply doesn’t want to change.

As Sally continues to ponder over her purpose of bringing up the topic, yet again, she considers the following:

  • She can ignore the situation rather than constantly argue with Billy and cause stress in her relationship.
  • Sally can get creative and tape a picture of something that Billy would not like to look at to remind him to put the toilet seat down!

Sally’s purpose is to encourage Billy to put the toilet seat down, however, after working through the situation, she realizes that something so minor, should not be causing so much stress and tension in their relationship and decided to drop the whole situation.

Why have your purpose clearly in mind upfront?

  • Because your intent needs to be helpful, giving criticism repeatedly without seeing any positive changes causes the giver to reflect on the purpose- otherwise the receiver, as in Sally’s case can be perceived as a nag!
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