Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The picture on the left is of two of my dogs: Luke and Bandit. Luke is a year and a half Lab/Boxer mix and Bandit is about two years old and a Pit/Basset mix. Both of whom I adopted several months apart and at first were fast friends. Luke was so excited to have another young male dog to play with when Bandit first came into our home.

Now, they are brothers – in every sense of the word. This means that they love each other and they fight. And I don’t mean silly fights as in

“he’s touching me”
“nu uh”
“yeah huh”
“no I’m not, see, I’m not touching you” waving a paw close to his face

Oh no, I mean fight-fights. Like herd the other three in the house and leave the two boys outside while they literally go at each other. Within several minutes both will be at the back door panting, Bandit missing his collar, both missing a few pieces of flesh as they look up at me with the “Sorry, mom” look on their war-torn faces. They then proceed to lie down together and lick each other’s wounds and all is right in the world again.

It is not territory that starts these fights, it is not that one is getting more attention than the other; it is not even over food. It is a matter of confusion. They will go from happily playing and chasing each other around the yard to a split second where Luke’s hair on the back of his neck stands up and then all bets are off. And it’s not so much driving me crazy as ticking me off.

Then I realized I am partly to blame in this, more than partly.

You see I have had a pack of dogs before – I had the two girls that I have now and two other, older males: a Great Pyrenees and German Sheppard. It was the most docile pack of dogs. I would regularly walk the two large boys at the same time with each keeping pace with me at my side with no issues. They all ate in the same room at the same time and were all well behaved.

My mistake came in using the same management style for this current pack that I did with my former pack. These boys are not like my other boys at all. No where near; however I failed to adjust my management style to the current situation. This was a major mistake and once it was realized it is taking much more time, effort and attention to correct the situation. The first part was correcting me.

Part of my coaching involves not only coaching individuals through the job search process but also coaching individuals within workplace environments. Time and time again I have heard a very similar complaint: that they hate the new place. This comes in various scenarios from a complete career change to performing the same job at a new location. When it all boils down to it the same sentiment is felt: they just hate the new environment.

We normally start out with all the perceived evils: what they don’t like about the new boss, new co-workers, new reports, new company, new corporate culture and on and on. I hear about how

“They don’t do it like we used to”
“They don’t look at it like I do”
“They don’t follow the same process”
“They don’t get what we’re supposed to be doing”

…and so on. Have you caught the theme yet? They.

In my case “they” were Luke and Bandit and “they” were supposed to get along. But “they” were not taught correctly, it was assumed on my part that “they” just would. Big mistake.

That is when you have to take the “they” out of the equation and get back to you. Yes, it starts with and comes back to you. Are you imposing a past environment or attitude on a new situation? If so, then you are going to have battle scars.

I tell my clients that they hire me for me to be honest with them, to tell them what they need to hear not what they want to hear. So for all of those in the “they” situation, let me share a few straight-forward thoughts with you.

Get over yourself.

Yes, I did say that and as unkind as it may sound, I truly mean it. You are not in the same situation and no amount of whining, complaining or wishing is going to make it come back. Get over it and get over yourself for thinking that the new environment should adjust to you.

The one thing that drove me crazy as a manager was when a new employee who transferred from a similar position within the industry would complain, “That’s not how we did it at ABC…” My response would always be the same, “Well, you are not at ABC, this is XYZ. This is how our team does it and I would like you to be open learning and performing it in this way. Once you have done so, I would welcome any thoughts you have on how we can improve it. That’s how our team does it.”

What makes you think that the old way was the best way? More importantly, who are you to criticize the “new” way without fully understanding, accepting and performing it? Until you have full knowledge and understanding you have no full basis for comparison. Suck it up.

Life is full of changes and with those changes comes opportunities and choices. You make the choice to become successful or not. When you bring baggage from an old environment into the new you are choosing to limit your opportunities. You are also choosing to alienate those around you. You are choosing to be an isolated “I” in an environment of perceived “they”s.

Someone recognized value in you or they would not have brought you into this environment. I do not know of one single company hiring just to put a body in place. The most important aspect that any employee brings is their value, what they can do for the company. Obviously the employer saw something in you to give you this opportunity.

Yes, having a job is an opportunity – not a given or a right. If you refuse to be grateful for the opportunity in front of you then kindly get out of the way because I know of several people who would gladly take full advantage of that opportunity.

The best solution to eliminate the “hate my environment” scenario is to immediately recognize your contribution and take corrective action. Stop, listen and learn. Remove the assumptions. Often times we fall victim to this trap because our own fear.

A new environment can simply be scary. We all don’t deal with fear well. Some hide it by becoming argumentative hoping to bully others into allowing them to continue in their comfort zone. Others internalize and silently fear that they will not understand the new systems, processes or environment never asking for help.

Cut yourself a break.

Once you have gotten over yourself, then allow yourself a learning curve. Recognize that it is new, it will take time to learn and you will most likely need to ask for help. This is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of intelligence. Knowing your limitations or lack of knowledge empowers you to seek help to further improve your value.

Play nice in the sandbox.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you do, do it nicely. I am a questioner. I am known to over-analyze everything and this can tend to frustrate people. I know this, I recognize it and I have learned to adapt my approach accordingly.

When I ask for help I am very upfront. Before I even begin I tell people that I ask a lot of questions, I am not challenging them or trying to argue in any way I am just the kind of person who likes to know everything I can about a process. Not only do I want to know how to perform the process as a whole, but why each action is taken and possible repercussions of each step. I also realize that my mind works differently and it make take telling me something a couple different times, maybe with slight variations before I really grasp it. I tell them straight off that all my questions can be annoying and I apologize in advance.

I also am quick to thank anyone who takes the time to help me. People appreciate appreciation, never forget to thank them.

Consistency

It is not easy to admit that you may be the key to the problem and even harder to change your attitude or actions. Change does not normally happen immediately; however if you are truly making an effort than you should also be able to notice the subtle positive changes along the way that will eventually add up to a much improved situation.

For me, that extra time and tons of extra effort I am putting into correcting my own behaviors has proven to be a positive for the boys. We are not there yet; however, in just a few short days of implementing changes I did notice a subtle shift.

The most important factor has been consistency. I may not want to spend that dedicated time one day as I have a lot on my plate; however, if I don’t then it may wipe out any positives we had established in the prior week.

When I realized I held the key to solving the problem I immediately corrected my attitude, then my actions. The hair still raises on the back of Luke’s neck; however I am able to defuse the situation immediately, establish control and redirect behavior. In time we will get to the point that the expected is the norm and peace reigns again in the backyard – well, for everyone except the bunnies…

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.
http://www.CareerPolish.com

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