Am I contagious?

“Why did you leave your last job?” – How to deal with this question if you were terminated

I have been fired twice in my life, I deserved it both times. Neither was recent but both were during my professional career, meaning I’m not talking about being 16 and getting fired from McDonalds. In both instances I made mistakes and one of them was pretty big. So if you have been fired, I’ve been there. I wish I had some magical advice that would absolve you of this black mark, I don’t, it doesn’t exist. Until you put years (a decade normally) of work between that event and your current gig you’re going to have to answer for it.

In nearly every interview I have been on, and every interview I have personally conducted I asked some form of this question. As the hiring manager I have a limited view of you as the applicant. At this point I have your resume which is the highlights of your career, I’ve done a google search, I’ve looked at your social media if it’s under your name (Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) so I have an impression already. This question though is key and how you answer it makes or breaks my impression.

So here is the first thing to keep in mind as the applicant: The person interviewing you has a work story too. Like I said in the opening, I’ve been fired. Someone gave me another chance, I might give you one. Don’t assume the question is meant to trip you up or expose you negatively, it is meant as a general gauge to know why you want to work here. The hiring manager rarely cares about why you left, but why you want to work there. More money, better commute, shitty boss…..

The second thing to keep in mind as the applicant: Why EXACTLY were you fired? You have to be very specific here and study this and rehearse it in your head. You likely have a formal reason for being terminated from your last job, that formal reason is the ONLY reason. Let me explain. Maybe you were terminated for repeatedly being late. That’s a valid reason, and there may be a valid reason why you were late, I’m not asking for the later. The point? You answer the question directly with as little elaboration as possible and without talking negatively about the prior role.

Some jobs are forest fires

Now a good interviewer is going to ask follow up questions “why were you late” that’s natural and you should expect it. At this point you have a choice. You can be honest, you can be less than honest, or you can lie. It’s highly likely I as the hiring manager that I will never get the actual details of your dismissal, your prior company isn’t going to share it with me, you are my only source of detail for this event. Choose carefully here because lies tend to lead to horrible long term outcomes. That said if you were having an affair with the boss’s spouse at your last job you might want to not share that specific either.

People are terminated all the time it happens you aren’t the first person. If this was a mistake at work you own it, tell them you learned from it and be upfront. If this was a personal situation, like being late because say your kid had an illness, you can share it without playing a sympathy card. If this was a character issue, you stole, you harassed someone, you got into a physical fight with your boss (yes I’ve seen it) these are far trickier and require you to cultivate several references that will affirm you have corrected this issue.

So how do you deal with this question if you have been terminated prior? When in doubt tell the truth. As a hiring manager I am going to respect the hell out of you for owning it, and I will realize how tough that was for you to say it to me directly. Little do you know I’ve been fired too.

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For those with Anxiety: How to tell if you have a great boss

If you are functioning with Anxiety bravo you are doing well. Given how crap the world has become with politics, covid on and on it’s a wonder sometimes any of us get out of bed. If you are now back to work (in the states) or have been going to work all along, or if you are in the midst of a huge surge like our friends in India are enduring you likely still have to deal with work stress. Number 1 cause of work stress? Bad Bosses, coworkers are a close second.

If you have a bad boss you already know it, but how do you tell if you have a great boss? There are of course so many in-between that make up the vast majority of work bosses. Everyone has good and bad days you have to understand that. Good bosses? They are out there and that ideally the norm for all of us, great bosses however do 2 things regularly. They ask the two questions below, with the following elaboration…

  1. “How you doing” – This isn’t just the passing in the hall greeting this is them coming to your work area and asking you. They elaborate by asking about your family, your personal hobbies (if they know it). This may seem like a superficial attempt to become your buddy and it may be but a boss that takes the time to ask this and does so consistently does so because they genuinely care about you. Sure it might be that they care you are doing well to better your work performance but they still care.
  2. “How can I help you win” – This, in context to the first question is in all candor likely in reference to winning at work. A great boss understands that in order for you to be very successful at work you have to be doing well in all facets of your life. This question may seem odd and again self-serving to the person asking but anyone that wants to help you win, even if it benefits them as well is an asset that you want to nurture.

Don’t confuse these two questions with some notion of attaining a deep relationship with your boss where you are having BBQ’s together and your families hang out that’s likely not to happen. It is within the context of you doing well at work. A great boss cares about you as a whole person and asks these questions genuinely to help and make your life better. As someone with Anxiety that is a huge win, we need more people in our lives that want to make things better for us, even if it means they gain as well. I’ll take all the positives I can get.

So ask yourself, when was the last time your boss asked you either of these questions? Do they ask regularly?

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Work Place Drama: What would you do?

Work is a leading source of stress and anxiety, and yes DRAMA. Some people love drama, as an observer I don’t deny that when things get spicy life can be interesting but there is a line that you shouldnt cross because it can become harassment. So for today’s post lets chat about something that happened at work (article can be found here) and I will give my two cents.

From the article: “A woman didn’t accommodate her vegan coworker and now people at work think she was mean. She explained what happened on Reddit’s “Am I the A******” forum to see if she was justified. Her coworker Carla was never the kind of vegan that tried to convert meat-eaters, but one day Carla made a request that seemed unfair. She asked the Reddit poster to eat her hamburger outside during her lunch break because she didn’t like the smell. It was cold and snowing so she ate it in the only breakroom, but the move didn’t go over well with her coworkers.”

Now the article doesn’t delve to deeply but this is an interesting scenario and as a former manager I am glad I don’t have to deal with. So some of the points to consider:

  1. Carla is a vegan and the smell of her coworker’s hamburger was making her feel I’ll
  2. Carla asked the Coworker to eat it outside.
  3. It was cold and snowy, the co-worker refused and ate the burger in the designated break room
  4. Carla told other people in the company about this incident, and the woman with the burger is now deemed “mean” at work.

For more context read the article, it’s not long. So as a manager if this issue is brought to me I have to think of both sides. I can’t assume one person is 100% wrong absent of facts. What is described above doesn’t appear to be, on the surface as a violation of any policy. A coworker got lunch and ate it in the breakroom. Conversely, the request to eat outside because it was making Carla feel sick is not unreasonable save for the caveat that it was cold and snowy.

Work Drama ! Everyone’s hair is on fire !

Neither party is wrong here, and we do not have context on what Carla said about the incident to other people. Meaning, Carla can tell other what happened, its factually correct. If (BIG IF) Carla supposed the burger eater’s intent was to cause distress, or called her a name, or embellished the story that’s problematic. We don’t know if that happened or not.

So you are a manager or an HR professional and you get this situation, what do you do?

Answer: You have both parties in to meet and hear each side of the story. You ask if it is possible to have alternative meal times and if that would solve the issue. If Carla proclaims that the smell makes her, I’ll you ask if the burger eater can have the meal at the point of purchase and not bring it to the office. If the burger purchaser proclaims that isn’t fair, and that she is using the break room as intended, you resolve it by providing a 2nd location to have their meals (perhaps your office).

Now this issue flips, if a vegan brings something in that makes the burger eater not feel well the same accommodation and issue arises. This is a small, but very important example of what happens in the work place circa 2010ish on. I’ve seen things like this happened before, where one person is uncomfortable and accommodations have to be made. This is an enormous source of stress for management as this has the potential to morph. Any employee can now state that “X” food makes them feel sick, precedent has been set.

What would you do?

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Can Anxiety make you a better Leader?

There are all sorts of articles out there on leadership. This post isn’t going to be a dossier on what you can do to be an effective leader. That’s often subjective based on goals. As an example if the goal is to get multiple people to climb a wall aggressive yelling might be effective (boot camp anyone?). Most Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team or an organization. Once you do that leaders provide the support and tools necessary for the team to get the win.

So how could anxiety help? I’ve read now dozens of articles on how to manage your anxiety and many of them boil down to “think differently”. For many people out there that isn’t an option. For some it is though. For some of us in the throes of anxiety we are functional. We understand our triggers and understand when it’s happening. For those of you like that, I found a good article here.

From the article: “If you can understand your own self efficacy around being anxious, you are more able to take a step back and observe the reactions,” she says. “You can be a powerful communicator when you tune into signals and dynamics in room. You listen more, and that’s a great leadership skill.

“Anxiety is part of life and certainly part of a high achiever’s life. To achieve, you need to take risks, push yourself, and drive toward a goal, and anxiety is inherent to this process. It’s really about your reactions.”

I liked the article because it pointed out that risk induces anxiety in nearly everyone. It’s natural, and if you have the requisite coping mechanisms you can parlay that anxiety into successful outcomes. The basic premise here is, take risks, anxiety is natural. Now of course there are degrees like everything in life. No one is suggesting you enter into a situation where you have crippling anxiety but as an example if there is a promotion at work you are up for but are anxious? Yes you take it and grow from the anxiety.

Let’s face it, if you have anxiety you are going to get bouts of it regardless of what you do. I have been a manager in a corporate environment for years and I get days where I am in a complete funk. I call in sick, I stay in bed and hide. Yep, it happens to you managers, Vice Presidents, directors of Human Resources. If you accept anxiety, warts and all and continue moving forward it’s going to help you recognize the same traits in others. Your empathy will increase and that is a key component to leadership. Understanding others and being able to empathize with this situation is critical to producing positive results when you are in a leadership role.

This article isn’t for everyone, it’s really for those of us who are high functioning with Anxiety. If you aren’t, that’s okay, you are doing awesome. One day at a time.

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