Workplace Rights

Weekly (10/18/10)

Topic of the Week  Try Softer--Challenging People Indirectly at Work

· DO try softer.

· DO try framing the issue differently.

· DO ask, "What if."

· DON'T just do the same thing.

While most of us at work tend to always try harder, comedienne Lily Tomlin famously suggested that we could always "try softer." Which reminds me of the outer road near Eureka, MO which was freshly paved with asphalt made from pig manure. Yes, you read that correctly. The animal waste was converted into a bio-oil that was used to bind the asphalt together. Hog farmers are ecstatic, not only do they get rid of the waste, they can actually make money in the process.

Based on my inbox, many of you also get more than your share of manure at work today. The question is, like those roads in Missouri, can we transform our work manure into something more constructive? I've listed three Do's and one Don't below to help you discover new ways to tackle your toughest work challenges. For more, check out Ira Chaleff's book, "Courageous Follower" (Berrett Koehler, 2009).

DO try softer. Next time someone is annoying you by how they do things at work, ask them gently why they do things the way they do. You might discover that they have a good reason for doing it. Or if you're a boss, don't immediately dominate the discussions at staff meetings. Bite your lip and let other people speak up first. You might be impressed to not only learn that your people have ideas, but that many of them may be better than yours.

DO try framing the issue differently. We often frame things at work. For example, all customers want to get the lowest possible price, that's often the case. But there are those customers who are willing to pay a premium for a specific service. Like the first class seat that I bumped up to on this flight (it's been a long day). Or to look at a problem as an opportunity, okay it sounds simplistic, but it can give you the energy to go after a really tough challenge at work.

DO ask, "What if." What if you could carry your computer in your pocket? What if your computer could connect to the Internet wirelessly? What if you could even have conceived of the Internet in the first place? The world is full of cool things that only exist because someone had a vision and the guts to ask, "What if." Isn't it time that you routinely asked the same question at work?

DON'T just do the same thing. We all know the definition of insanity, yet many of us continue to do the same thing, magically expecting a different result. I had a friend who would drive to work a different way each day. Initially I thought it was a waste of time. But I discovered that there is something to buffing your change muscles daily, even on seemingly insignificant things.

That stretch of road near Eureka gives an entirely new meaning to the phrase hogging the road and these tips should help you get further down the road in tackling your toughest challenges at work.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"I try to be cynical but I can't keep up."

–Lily Tomlin

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