If there’s a problem at work, just ask Gretchen Hydo. For more than ten years, the certified life coach at California-based Any Lengths Life Coaching has been advising on everything from relationships to business and executive productivity. She’s been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Fast Company and The Economist and has spoken at Universal Music, the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Not only that, but her #AskGretchen advice column is nationally syndicated, covering real-world topics like work, love, school, money, parenting and friendships in a witty, modern Dear Abby-style manner.
Since her parents divorced when she was just 7 years old, Gretchen had an ingrained compassion for others and was drawn to listening, giving advice and being there for friends without judgement. After working in public relations and starting her own successful boutique firm called Chatterbox PR, Ink., she realized that despite being effective, she wasn’t living her life’s purpose.
“The kind of positivity I get from helping people who are at a crossroads makes me more excited than the placement of any news story has,” says Gretchen. “At the end of the day, I wanted what I did to be about more than money. I wanted it to be about making a difference.”
Besides the hum of the fast pace, strategic thinking and skills pitching the media in the PR world, her entrepreneurial experience gave her the ideal background to counsel on business productivity.
One issue that comes up quite often is conflict at work.
“Frustration that is not verbalized in a professional way is counterproductive because it becomes an obstacle of focus,” says Gretchen. “The job at hand suffers because the mind is consumed with the problem, rather than the solution or common goal of company or team. It can also lead to sick days, illness, headaches, anxiety and low-self esteem.”
Fortunately, Gretchen says work conflicts can actually be productive and “wonderful opportunities for teaching moments and team building.” Here’s how she would reply to each of the common workplace woes, should you send your situation to her inbox:
There’s a difference of opinion on your bonus
Ask for the number you were expecting and provide data that supports it. The data should not include things like needing money for a new car. Instead, it should include times where you saved the company money, were an intricate part of the team, led initiatives and spearheaded change. You can also negotiate for other perks. Maybe you would like to work at home one day a week, have an office rather than a cubicle, receive a designated parking spot or a place on the corporate gym membership. Most people make the mistake of only focusing on money.
A teammate is not pulling their weight
You were hired to do your job. Do it to your best ability. If you have a joint project or share responsibilities with someone, do not do their work for them. You can remind them about deadlines through email so you have a paper trail, but give them the dignity to fail on their own. If your boss wants to know why things aren’t getting done, use this as an opportunity to speak up. Always use your boss as a last resort.
A a co-worker takes credit for your work or badmouths you behind your back
If you are in a meeting, and your colleague takes center stage and starts taking the credit for the work the two of you have done together, speak up by pointing out something that you spearheaded. You can say, “Let me build on that. One of the most exciting parts of this project I want to highlight is…,” and insert a part of the project that you want people to associate with your work. If it was through email, you can send back one or two sentences stating that you have been privileged to be a part of the project and what you are most looking forward to. If it persists, schedule a meeting with your co-worker and resolve it directly. Invite them to coffee and ask if there is something you have done to upset them, need to make amends for or clean up. If there is, then do it. If there isn’t, let them know that you would appreciate it if they would share the stage with you and give you credit where credit is due. Ensure your actions aren’t lending themselves to anything that can throw you under the bus. Your work and character will speak for themselves.
A colleague constantly talks over you in meetings
You can say, “I would love to get your take on this, but let me finish because it may change what you were going to say,” or “Give me one more second and then you can have the floor.” What’s important to remember is that we teach people how to treat us. If people know that you won’t speak up, they will continue interrupting. Project your voice and make eye contact with others in the room, but not with the one who generally interrupts, as this can encourage them to jump in.
Your personality simply doesn’t click with your cube-mate’s
Keep things light and polite. Hold your conversations to a minimum and be respectful. If they say something you don’t agree with, you can say things like, “Let me think about that” or “I want to give you a thoughtful answer, let me get back to you in an hour.” Then, you can cool down and formulate a concise response. Most importantly, don’t engage.
Your boss is treating you unfairly or setting the bar too high
Have a candid conversation with your manager about what they expect and what you can deliver. See where you can bridge the gaps. Ask yourself if there is an opportunity for growth. If your boss is expecting you to do things that are outside your capabilities and your job requirements, tell her that you will need additional support in the areas that are new to you or beyond your bandwidth.
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Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump
Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo