“My Co-Workers Are Like Zombies” and Other Survey Items I’d Like to See by Dr. Marla Gottschalk


Over the years, I’ve reviewed (and written) my fair share of items for attitude surveys and culture assessments. These instruments can be pivotal — serving as a barometer of sentiment within an organization. The data can help us understand shifting attitudes among contributors and the general state of “well-being” within an organization. Moreover, the data sets are often utilized to explore dynamic constructs such as job involvement, organizational commitment, job satisfaction and engagement — topics which we strive to fully understand.

The best of survey items are honest, to the point and utilize a “conversational” tone. It actually takes quite a bit of thought to write an item that effectively “captures” the spirit of a construct — and in this medium, items can sometimes appear uninspired or “flat”. Avoiding this problem often involves creative strategies. Stephen Race, an organizational psychologist who crafted a culture assessment for Jiibe, contracted a TV and film writer to edit the items he created to become more engaging. (A great idea. You can see examples of the items below marked with an asterisk.) Interestingly, each writer has their own style — some direct — some incorporating a bit of dry humor behind the core message. A few of the more “direct” items about leadership that I have drafted have been met with a moment of pause. (But happily, the items were eventually included in the final survey instrument.) Ultimately, the hope is to connect with employees and attain an honest view of their work environment.

Classic items such as “Overall, how satisfied are you with your job?”, will always prove useful. However, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the more candidly worded items I’ve seen over the years — and a few I’d like to see going forward. The items touch on varied workplace topics; leadership, feedback, decisions, work spaces, stress, and engagement.

A few items to consider, for your next survey:

I honestly don’t know who is running the show around here.
People don’t speak up here, even if they have something valuable to add.
My work aligns with my strengths.
I do the same mind-numbing tasks, over and over again.*
My colleagues are like family to me.
I avoid my boss.
I brag about the work we do in this organization.
I’m not sure that my boss knows my last name.
There are so many interruptions during my day, I find it difficult to work.
Sometimes we are so tired around here that we can’t see straight.
My boss asks me how I am doing.
I dread going to work.
People here say they are teams players, but in reality they are not.
I wouldn’t recognize our company CEO, if seated next to me.
The organization learns from its mistakes. It makes changes based on what it has learned.*
No one stops to say “thank you” in this organization.
It has been forever since my manager has told me I have done a good job.
I am recognized for what I am doing right, not wrong.
If I had my way, I wouldn’t work on another team.
I can expect to be rescued by my coworkers, if I’m drowning in work.*
People in this organization have a high level emotional intelligence.
Meetings around here are so useless, that I often feel like screaming.
My ideas are valued.
As far as the quality of my work goes, I have no idea where I stand.
I often leave work thinking that I never want to go back.
I’ve grown as a contributor since I’ve worked here.
In my opinion, open offices are “for the birds”.
Sometimes I am so focused on my work, that I delay using the restroom.

Finally, here is one from the Jiibe culture assessment, that captures a telling observation.

My co-workers are like zombies — at least like the kind of zombies who don’t joke around or have any fun.*
What are the best (and worst) items that you’ve seen? What items would you like to see? Share them with us.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She also writes The Office Blend.



Smart Tribe Leadership

I’ve just begun reading Christine Comaford’s book, Smart Tribes (Portfolio/Penguin, 2013).  Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter. This is a timely book for me personally and professionally. 

the “American workforce where 71% of workers are emotionally disengaged and simply working for the money, we know it’s essential to fix our state of so-called leadership…True leadership inspires people with vision.  Vision pulls people not only to take action but also to care about the outcome, to take personal ownership of it, and to bring their ‘A game’ every day. 

The team benefits tremendously too.  As the leader grows in focus, team members feel the leader is increasingly more aware and cares about them more….As the leader’s influence grows, the team members feel the leader is more capable and collaborative.  Over time as results are sustained, team members feel safer and more loyal.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it?!  You can find this book on Amazon at this link.  


Click here to learn more about Christine and her work. 


Follow Christine on Twitter @comaford



100% Team by Jim Johnson

Image you coach a baseball team, and your team just lost a game.  In the post-game talk, you tell your team that they didn’t give it their all – they played at around 85%.baseball coach

Two days later, you arrive for the next game.  You gather your team together for the pre-game pep talk.  Would you say this?

“Ok, team, a couple of days ago I told you that you played at 85%.  I know you can do better.  You know you can do better.  Today, I want 89%!  Now let’s go get ’em!”

No coach I know would ever say that.

An effective coach wants 100% out of their team.  Not perfection, mind you.  But 100%.  Coaches want players to play to their potential.  To give it 100%. 

We’ve all read articles and book where we’re told that most companies see team performance following the 80/20 rule.  What would your team look like it everyone worked at 100%.  Not realistic?  Perhaps.  But why not set that vision?

Refuse to allow your team to live/work to the lowest common denominator.  Give them the vision of higher standards.  Set challenging goals.  Inspect what you expect.  Cheer them on.  Coach them.  Believe in them.

Coaches want their players to play to 100% of their potential.

7 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Promoted

by Brandy Lee
Getting the news that you’ve been passed over for promotion can be disheartening. And the follow-up discussion with your boss—the one that should help you understand why you’ve been passed over—more often than not just leaves you with a bruised ego and no idea what to do next.The fact is, your boss is probably just as uncomfortable delivering bad news as you are with receiving it. (I’ve found that most supervisors actually expend a lot of energy actively dreading these exchanges.) Is it really any mystery, then, why we walk away from being passed up with no clue why the decision didn’t go the other way?

To get some insight, I interviewed 20 of my favorite executives to find out why so many up-and-comers were finding themselves part-way-and-stuck. Straight from their (anonymous) mouths, here’s what bosses are trying to tell us in those less-than-fun meetings.

1. You Lack the Skills Necessary to do the Job

“Julie is very efficient and effective in the completion of her daily tasks. The position she was hoping to get, however, requires strong analytical skills she doesn’t have.”

One of the most common misconceptions employees have about promotion decisions is that they’re based solely on performance in their current role. While that’s certainly a consideration, success in one area doesn’t always translate to success in another. For instance, someone who excels at data entry may need additional education or training to become a data analyst, a job that requires strategic thinking and problem solving abilities.

The secret to getting ahead? Become familiar with the requirements of the job you want, and determine what skills you need to improve upon if you’re going to succeed in it. Then, talk to your boss. Let her know you’re interested in moving up, and ask for her advice on how to get there.

2. You Lack the Soft Skills Necessary to do the Job

“Pam is extremely accomplished, technically. Before we can promote her, though, we’d like for her to spend some time developing her leadership and teamwork skills.”

Here’s something else The Powers That Be (TPTB) don’t tell you up front: These skills aren’t always technical. Particularly if you’re moving up to management, you’ll need to have mastered some soft skills—like conflict negotiation, diplomacy, and business communication—and coming up short might very well be a deal breaker.

Develop the soft skills you’ll need to succeed in the job you want, then highlight them through your involvement in programs that are important (and visible) to TBTP. Perhaps you can become an informal mentor to a newer employee, or volunteer to lead a presentation or training. Whichever method you choose, you’ll be signaling to your boss that you’re ready for management.

3. You Don’t Take Feedback

“I’ve really tried to develop Mary, to get her ready for a promotion. But she gets very defensive when I give her constructive feedback. I feel like she spends more time trying to prove me wrong than she does trying to improve.”

I doubt there is a woman among us that hasn’t struggled to keep her composure when receiving “constructive” criticism. But remember—feedback is not always a bad thing. Is it possible that your boss has some valid points? She’s telling you how to improve your performance—and this is good information to have when you’re gunning for a promotion.

When you receive feedback, whether in your review or in the hallway, resist the urge to defend yourself. Try to take it in and see what you can learn from it, instead.

4. You Lack Professionalism

“What frustrates me more than anything else is employees who are consistently negative about the company. What they don’t understand is, the things they say—they get back to us. Why would we promote anyone who behaves like that?”

It’s not unreasonable to expect that, as you move up the career ladder, you’ll begin to conduct yourself more professionally—and not just when the boss is looking. This came up several times in different contexts—from an inability to maintain confidentiality to participation in office gossip—and was identified by executives as the most difficult challenge for employees to overcome.

This may seem obvious, but how you behave in the company of co-workers is just as important, if not more so, as how you behave around management. For example, you can and should identify problems within your department and company, but you should not pontificate about those problems in the break room—which gives the impression that you’re looking for an audience, instead of a solution.

5. You Don’t Take Initiative

“Jennifer is quick to recognize areas that could use improvement, but we can’t get her to go beyond lodging the complaint. We’d really like to see her take the initiative to come up with solutions, not just expect everything to be fixed by management.”

Becoming a problem solver shows that you care—not only about your own career, but about the long-term health of the business as well. Don’t just document the problems you see, analyze the issues and find ways to get involved in developing the solutions. Collaborating with others to create positive change will identify you as a leader in your organization. Remember, anyone can drop a complaint into the suggestion box.

6. You Think Like an Employee—Not a Manager

“Craig is good at his job, but it seems like he’s more committed to getting on the freeway by 10 ’til than he is to the success of his department.”

Remember, TPTB are anointing future leaders here. If you’re giving them the impression you’re only showing up for a paycheck, it’s not likely that you’ll be high on their list of candidates. No, you don’t have to become a workaholic or start hanging out long past five or six just to “be seen,” but it’s a good idea to express interest in the things that happen when the meter isn’t running.

7. You Expect It

“Sean has made it clear that he expects to be promoted. The problem is, I feel like he expects to be promoted based on only his length of service. There are others on his team that are more focused on their career development, and even though they’ve not been here as long, it’s likely that they will be promoted before him.”

Lastly, recognize that in today’s environment, tenure is no longer the primary factor in promotion decisions, and is best left out of any arguments you might make on your own behalf. These days, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been there six months or six years—it’s all about your contribution.

Being passed over for a promotion doesn’t need to be the end of the world. In fact, it can be a huge learning opportunity—and sometimes, it can also be just the kick in the pants you need to get you started down the right path. So take these lessons, learn from the past, and keep that promotion in your sights.

About the author:

Brandy Lee is a seasoned human resources executive with practical experience in employee development and change management in a variety of industries. As the Practice Director of the HR Services Group at a progressive CPA firm in Orange County, she provides high level consulting services to the firm’s business clients. You can find out more about Brandy by connecting on LinkedIn, or visiting her blog, Real Women Unite, or her wildly funny list of “Things We Learned The Hard Way.”

Read more: http://www.thedailymuse.com/career/7-reasons-you-arent-getting-promoted/#ixzz2S9Q9wua3

Greasing the Skids

Have you heard the phrase “greasing the skids”?

The phrase may come from logging.  During the period of the “skid” method it was necessary for one man to follow the team to lubricate the “skid” with oil so that the logs would slide easily. –Oregonian (Portland), 3 Jan. 1890.
The “skid-greaser,”  halting at every two steps to grease the worn skid over which the logs were about to pass. –Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1893
The cream made enough butter to feed the camp and grease the skid roads, to boot. –Walter Blair, Tall Tale America, 1937

How are you at greasing the skids at work?  Our roles as manager/leader (many times) is the be the skid-greaser – insuring that things get done easier, smoothly, efficiently, etc. 

In our business, we introduced online account opening nearly 2 1/2 years ago.  Folks could now begin a brand new banking relationship with us without having to visit a branch.  That was a new way to do things!  But, once someone became a member (we’re a credit union), we would send them out a form letter, signed by our CEO, that would welcome them with all the flare and excitement of and IRS document.  [yawn!]  There had to be a better way to do this.

If a person chose to open an account online (something pretty cool to do), then we needed to welcome them in a non-traditional manner.  I started to noodle an idea of welcoming them via a video link embedded in an email.  I shared this idea with our Marketing team.  I wrote a rough draft of a script and suggested an employee who could “pull off” the acting part of this welcome video. 

Next, my eServices team began to talk about how this video could/should lead to “onboarding” new members. They began to meet with a rep from Marketing.  This collaborative group started to meet regularly to talk about how we could deepen the relationship with these newest members.  The work and results of the work have proven to be quick effective.  New members are acquiring more of our products/services and are very satisfied with us.  Note:  most of these new members have not physically spoken to us.  This has all been done in a virtual basis. 

Why share this?  I played basically no further role in this process after sharing my initial thoughts.  My team and Marketing took that first idea and, with no obstruction from me, ran with it.  I greased the skids. 

So here’s your question:  what process or initiative are you working on that you (as leader/manager) need to begin greasing the skids for? 

We can either be a log jam for our teams in their work or we can get ahead of the work and grease the skids.  This is a great opportunity to serve your team and watch them work collaboratively.  It’s ok to get out of the way, as long as you are there to help keep the process going and flowing.  Remove obstacles.  Encourage the team.  Give them resources.  And when they get great results, praise them.  Brag about them.  Show them the next opportunity. 

Just keep on greasing the skids. greasing the skids

Managers: Do You “Ask” Enough?


by Peter E. Friedes

How often do you ask your employees what they think?

Effective managers are good “askers.” You ask employees for their observations and suggestions. You ask for their reactions to your ideas and proposed solutions to problems. You re-ask when you don’t completely understand an employee’s statement. (Some managers think asking for clarification is a sign of weakness. It’s not.) You resist the temptation to react to the initial things people say, and instead ask questions. “What led you to that idea? What are the pros and cons you have identified?”

Seems easy, but are you really doing it?
Like the students in Lake Wobegon, most managers think their asking skills are above average. Asking questions doesn’t seem that difficult. Some managers do not even view it as a separate skill set; they lump it into the category of “active listening.” I would argue that it is a distinct skill and often not done well.

Consider this example: An employee comes to you with a suggestion that you know you don’t like. What do you do?

Many managers would immediately respond with why they don’t like the suggestion or why they don’t think it’s workable (with various degrees of niceness). Few would ask, “What problem are you trying to solve?” The employee’s suggestion may simply be a less-than-ideal solution to a very real problem. By asking questions, instead of immediately volunteering your opinion, you may be able to say, “I agree with your assessment of the problem, but not the suggested solution. Let’s see if we can find another alternative to solve this problem.”

Asking can lead to learning about a problem you didn’t know about before.

Asking is enabling, telling is limiting, and ignoring is irritating.
The key to good asking is believing your employees have information, knowledge, and ideas (that you don’t have) that can help you achieve your objectives. If a manager believes this, he or she will show it in tone, words, and behavior by asking and re-asking.

If a manager doesn’t believe this, it will also show in tone, words, and behavior and convey (at best) a lack of interest in involving employees or (at worst) a sense that you view employees as inferior thinkers. Self-absorbed managers don’t care what employees think. They destroy morale, retard innovation, and block productivity improvements. If you pull these managers aside and point out the damage, they are unlikely to change, because they don’t believe they are causing the problem.

Which type of manager do you want to be? One who believes you have all the answers or one who asks questions? If you think you are not asking enough, you are probably right. It’s easy to let deadlines, meetings, and to-do lists get in the way. And another day passes without seeking employee input. But working to improve this skill can significantly enhance your career as a manager.

Start by increasing the frequency of your “elaborative asking”—asking for clarity when a response is unclear and asking for more details when a response isn’t thorough. Once your employees know you are really interested and will continue to ask for clarity, they will come prepared to be more articulate the next time they interact with you.

Master the art of asking and you will enrich your understanding of employees, the challenges they face, and their ideas for meeting those challenges. Workers will sense that you care about what they have to say, and that will lead to higher employee engagement and stronger business results.


About Peter E. Friedes
Retired CEO, Hewitt Associates. Co-founder, Managing People Better, LLC—a management research firm/think tank. Avid competitive golfer (when my back cooperates). Connect with Peter on his Lead Change or Twitter profiles.

Rudeness at Work has Far-Reaching Effects


by Linda Wasmer Andrews

If you’ve ever been the target of a boss’s demeaning tirade or a coworker’s offensive behavior, you know how lousy it feels. In a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, those who had been on the receiving end of workplace rudeness said it had serious consequences:

80% lost work time worrying about the incident
78% felt less commitment to their employer
66% said their work performance suffered
48% cut back on how hard they worked
47% started spending less time at work
25% took out their frustration on customers
12% quit their job because of rude treatment

According to the researchers behind the poll—professors Christine Porath, PhD, of Georgetown University and Christine Pearson, PhD, of the Thunderbird School of Global Management—it’s a growing problem. In their research, half of workers now say they’re treated rudely at work at least once a week—double the number who said that back in 1998.

Lately, more researchers have been paying attention to the decline of civility at work. What they’ve found is a rude awakening for employees and the companies they work for.

Anger Begets Anger

Being the target of rudeness at work can stir up powerful emotions. Another study by Porath and Pearson found that, not surprisingly, anger was the most common emotional response. About half of employees said they felt sadness or fear as well.

Anger often led employees to retaliate aggressively; for example, with their own belittling comments or obscene finger salutes. If the rude person was higher up the corporate ladder, employees frequently took out their anger on someone else or the company itself. Sadness often led to absenteeism. Fear often led to indirect retaliation; for example, by spreading nasty rumors or withholding vital information. Employees who felt afraid were also the most likely to quit their jobs.

Screw-Ups Happen

Being treated rudely or witnessing rudeness increases the risk of making a mistake at work. In certain situations—say, in an operating room—that’s something you especially want to avoid. Yet, in a survey of British surgical staff, more than half said they had borne the brunt of aggressive behavior by nurses or surgeons over the past six months.

Loyalty Erodes

In one study, simply working in a hospital where bullying occurred made nurses want to quit, even when someone else was the bully’s target. In another study, seeing a supposed bank manager publicly chastise an employee made people less likely to patronize the bank in the future.

Marriages Crumble

Unfortunately, it’s hard to leave all that stress at the office. Baylor University professor Dawn Carlson, PhD, and her colleagues found that the spillover to home created tension in relationships there. For employees with abusive bosses, satisfaction with family life was diminished. For their partners, the family unit didn’t function as well. It grew harder for family members to come together to share feelings, make decisions, and confide in one another.

Read more here: http://health.yahoo.net/experts/allinyourmind/rudeness-work-has-far-reaching-effects