How Your Seating Sets Up Says A Lot

Have a peek at the office furniture where you work and pause to think about how you feel if you’re not the primary occupant of that space, but rather a visitor. Does the layout have you seated across whoever works in that space, separated by a desk? If so, do you think that’s because it’s the only layout that will work in that space or has it been set up like that on purpose and if so, why?

Typically, people who want to convey a sense of power and control often sit behind a desk, with visitors sitting directly across from them with a desk between. On their side they’ve got the computer monitors, keyboard, access to drawers, filing cabinets and if anything is needed during a meeting, it’s totally accessible from their side. On the side of the visitor, there’s the chair to be occupied and that’s it. Comfortable?

Now, there are alternatives. If the space is large enough, some people will have space for a second desk; this one might be off to the side and have a couple of chairs at it and the user of the office will routinely move to sit in one of these seats with open space between themselves and another. The message here is that both people have something to write on, put a drink down on, etc., but the open space sends the message, we are equals. This you can see, may be precisely why some would like it and others would refuse the very idea. Yes, for some, it is about communicating authority, power, control – any way and every way they can.

When space doesn’t permit a second desk or seating area, intelligent people can still move themselves into positions which communicate openness. You might find that upon entering an office for a meeting, the owner of that space will physically move their chair into a place off to the side of their desk, so they are removed from sitting directly across from you with the desk between. Sitting to the side changes the dynamic of the meeting, without ever having to say a word. It’s like the person is sending the message, “I have power and control, but I don’t need to use it here, so let’s get comfortable.”

This is an example of non-verbal communication and doesn’t happen by accident. Office arrangements are either dictated by the organization and standard designs to consistently send the same message to all employees and customers/clients, or where office furniture and layouts vary, it’s a clearer sign of the preference of the occupant.

Ever notice how some meetings are held in different spaces, even when the meeting may be just between two people? Every heard the phrases, “Come to my office”, or, “Can I see you in my office? There’s something I want to talk with you about.” The choice of seeing you in their space and advising you of that preference can – all by itself – get you anxious.

Sometimes of course that’s the point. There are some who love to wield with that sense of being the big boss, the enforcer. Sometimes people aspire to get their own office because it is for them a recognition of passage. They’ve gone from the office cubicle to their own space with a door. It’s their office, their desk, they’ve got walls to put up their certificates and achievements for all to see and perhaps shelves to personalize. They’ve arrived!

Now of course not all people are enforcers or love to wield the power and control just because they have a desk separating them from visitors. How the person sits and the posture they assume says a lot, as does the tone of their voice, the smile or lack of it. All these and more go into making a trip to that office a welcoming, comforting experience or one to be cautious of.

Oh and what about that door? Is it routinely left open or deliberately closed by the office occupant after you’ve entered? Maybe it’s only closed for certain types of conversations and left open for others? Having a door closed could be for your own privacy and benefit by a caring and thoughtful Supervisor. On the other hand, it could be yet another form of intimidation believe it or not; you’re physically cut-off from everyone else; it’s just you and them, one-on-one. That door doesn’t open again until the person who called you in chooses to open it and release you.

Now as an employee, we don’t often get to choose our furniture; its standard issue. Our seating arrangements are fixed, right down to the chair we sit on, the chair we offer visitors, the workspace we use and the table or desk we sit at.

You might not like the set up you’ve been assigned and the message it conveys to your own visitors. There might be something you could change for the asking but it’s probable there are financial considerations and limitations which will prevent change. If so, how you use the space you have and the atmosphere or mood you choose to create will need some thought and effort on your part.

Could be that you meet the public in specific areas beyond your personal desk. You and the others who may share that space may want to think about the tone that space sets.

Want To Work But Your Partner Says No?

If you are in a relationship where your partner tells you to stay unemployed you could be in an abusive relationship. This is especially true if you express an interest in working and the conversation is closed. To be in an abusive relationship you don’t have to be at the receiving end of a punch or slap, it could be an issue of control.

There’s some warning signs to look for in the controlling behaviour of others. Could be that your discouraged from seeing your friends; told they aren’t good for you to hang out with, and that the controlling person has your best interests at heart. This tactic is really about isolating you from other people, and when you’re isolated, you become an easier target to control. And as for looking for work, if you are isolated and don’t get to talk to many people, there goes your networking ability. Who’s in a position to help you get a job if they don’t even see you much, let alone know you want to work and could use their help?

Another sign to look out for has to do with finances and who manages the money. Many people who have control issues want to manage all the money. They themselves may use money for socializing, buying drinks for their friends and buying things for themselves, but the money they allow the controlled person to spend is severely limited. So again, with respect to work and wanting the money that comes from a job, the controlling person doesn’t want their partner working because then you might gain some independence.

So when someone is controlling the behaviour of another person, what’s behind it? Well it could be that the person has low self-esteem and actually needs someone else to be dependent on them in order for them to feel important. Being the ‘bread winner’ and bringing home the money is a physical way in which they can be the big provider; aka the caveman who brought home the kill for the day and then had their partner cook it up for them. There’s a mistaken belief sometimes that if one can’t provide for two without the second person working, the first is a failure.

Now most of the time, and I’ve been careful not to attribute gender into this piece until now, the male is the controller and the female is their victim. However, there are situations where a man is the victim of a woman who refuses to let him work, removing from him his sense of masculinity. Before you retort with, “What has masculinity got to do with it?”, the word is one used often by men in this predicament themselves. I will not change what they state as their feelings with something we might otherwise find more politically correct. And with an increase in gay, lesbian, transgendered and queer relationships, it may not be a typical male to female model at all. So the, ‘one person to another person’ analogy is where I’ll keep it. Abuse is abuse, leave the gender out of it for now.

Abusers worry about their partner meeting people, sharing things with those people that they don’t approve of, and want to know all the details about what they talked about. They are worried too that if they aren’t watched, their partner might stash some money away for themselves, or open up a secret bank account. So questions about where the money is at any time are always asked.

Now consider anyone who is unemployed for a moment. Probably not very proud of their unemployment, and may have even retreated somewhat from social gatherings. But get a job; ah get a job and what happens? Their self-esteem is back, they are more confident and only then share they good news. It’s much the same for a victim of abuse who is controlled by another. If they get a job, there’s a little rise in their self-esteem, maybe a crack of a smile more often, and possibly purchases of things just for them like new clothes. And if they break free from the controlling partner, only then do they talk much about being free of the controlling partner and in so doing reclaim some personal dignity.

I’m reminded of a 20 something woman who was very attractive, in good shape, and wanted to work. Her partner, who I never did meet, told her he’d have to approve of where she worked, when she worked, and he’d handle all the money issues for her. Alarm bells couldn’t be ringing any louder for me. She wasn’t ready when we first met to see things objectively, (how could she?) but eventually she saw things for the way they were.

She started with a job in a dollar store, and her partner monitored her from outside the store and every so often came in after she had helped people to ask what they’d been talking about. While he got banned from the store, she had to deal with his anger when she went home. Eventually she left, and when she did, he hurled physical and verbal abuse. BUT SHE WAS FREE.

Does this hit home with you? Describe you or someone you know? My advice which is always related to jobs and careers is to first get yourself in a safe spot. Seek supportive counselling. It’s private and confidential. Your safety has to be first.

Stuff You DO Control In A Job Interview

Feel anxiety and nervousness heading just thinking about going to a job interview? Much of that anxiety is really centered around the stress of willfully putting yourself in the situation of being questioned, evaluated and judged. I mean how often do people voluntarily expose themselves to being grilled by a stranger and then look to the person questioning them for some kind of approval?

If you see interviews like this, its little wonder you probably don’t enjoy the interview process. And what’s more, you might feel like you have to come up with potential answers to hundreds of questions, not knowing which 6 – 10 you might get asked in any single interview. Well it doesn’t have to be this way.

I’m going to try to convince you that you’ve got more power and control than you think you may have in the interview process, and if I manage to convince you of this, you might find that your next interview becomes a positive experience.

So here’s things you control in the interview:

Time of the interview: Some people like to go early in the day or early in the interview process. Others like to have afternoon interviews or be the last one interviewed. When offered a time and date, you could request a time to your liking if at all possible.

Length of the interview: Your answers may be extremely long or short; have detailed examples proving your skills or not. How you respond to those questions will impact on the overall length of the interview.

Appearance: Everything from your choice of clothes to your personal grooming is up to you. Skirt and blouse or dress with heels? Shirt and tie, or khaki’s and unbuttoned collar? Polished leather shoes or suede?

Salary: Not always, but yes sometimes you can negotiate salary. Demonstrate you’ve got what they need and can add value to their organization or solve a problem, and your value rises. Blend in with every other candidate and your value diminishes.

Attitude: Whether you come across as brooding, enthusiastic, passionate or sullen, its up to you. How do you want to brand yourself? Aggressive or assertive? A team player focused on exceptional customer service, or driven to reach sales targets and deadlines at all costs? Positive and optimistic or negative and pessimistic?

Punctuality: Will you be on time, run late, get there 15 minutes ahead of time, or arrive 3 hours late because you wrote down the wrong time? And what will the time you arrive say about your reliability, your dependability and your ability to take ownership of your own situation?

Research: Couldn’t be bothered taking 10 minutes out of your busy life to even visit the company website before you walked in the door or did you do a little research about the company, it’s values, mission statements and challenges? The effort you put in here may be indicative of how much effort you’ll put out in the future if hired.

Answers: Your answers will either demonstrate you’re using a recognized interview answer format or you’re winging it from answer to answer. Your answers will also demonstrate your skills, experience knowledge and education or betray your lack of these. Will you give strong examples that PROVE you have the skills you say you do, or will you talk in vague generalities that talk more about what you might do rather than what you’ve actually done?

Language: The words you use will show your education and your weak or strong vocabulary. Are you using the kind of words the company uses and those in the field you want to work in currently use? Do you overuse words like, “awesome”, “like”, “for sure”, “totally” and frequent “um’s” and “ah’s”? Do you overuse phrases that get annoying like, “I’m glad you asked that question…” after each question?

Questions: Most interviewers provide a small window of time for you to ask anything you’d like. So will you have some intelligent questions that demonstrate you’ve done your homework and really want this job, or will you choose questions that are fully answered on the website or worse yet, questions that were addressed earlier in the interview? Maybe you’ll choose to ask none at all? What questions would this raise about you?

Posture: Whether you choose to sit slightly forward in your seat, slouch, fold your arms, cross your legs or plant them both firmly spread on the floor, your posture will communicate through your body language a message. What do you want to communicate without words that will support your and back up your words?

Facial expressions: Smile or not? Good eye contact or evasiveness? Your face could communicate anything from anxiety, stress and strain to happiness, comfort and confidence. Do questions you don’t expect cause you to look puzzled, annoyed, thoughtful or reflective?

Handshake: Do you or don’t you first of all? And if you do, is it a firm, weak, sweaty or confident hand that you extend? If a hand is extended to you to shake and you refuse; even explaining your health concerns or phobia’s, what could that potentially do?

You control a great deal in the interview process. This is only a small list of things. What others might you add that would help someone gain confidence as they prepare for upcoming interviews? The more in your control, the more you might see the interview as a power sharing experience.

Did You Ever Consider That The Problem Is You?

It started when you rolled over in bed, dreamily half-opened your eyes and had your first look at the illuminated clock on the end table. No worries, you’ve still got an hour or so to drift off again before you rise. Ah but then the eyes jolt open as the brain screams, “This isn’t Saturday! Get up! Get going!”

In a flash, you’re barking at kids in other rooms, flicking on lights that seem to have magnified in intensity, you slam your knee into the ‘stupid’ dresser that somehow during the night must have moved on its own and put itself directly in your path. Another bark to the kids to, “get up or else!” and no time now you realize for a shower. Kids are up and moving at least and you’re in the closet standing in your underwear looking for a specific pair of slacks. Like the dresser, the cursed pants have somehow conspired with your other pants and skirts to conceal themselves as you separate hanger after hanger angered at your inability to find the stupid things.

“What’s for breakfast?” a voice from the kitchen is calling. “Can’t you see I’m getting dressed? Get your own!” Really though, how could they see you’re getting dressed? X-ray vision? The dog is panting and pawing at the door, unable to fend for itself like the kids. Now dressed, fed, and out the door, you put the car in reverse just ever so quickly and nick the bottom of the garage door which couldn’t get out of your way fast enough. “Stupid door!”

You’re finally within a block of the school when the siren is heard and the Officer is signaling you over to the side of the road for speeding in the school safety zone. The steering wheel is choked by the intense grip you’ve got it under, and if it had previously come to life like the dresser and your pants, any life has since been squeezed and snuffed out in your death-grip.

Whew! Fate really has it in for you today! It’s like the gods all conspired or were bored and you got picked in the ‘let’s mess up somebody’s day lottery.’ Or is it possible – just possible mind, that it is YOU that started this entire chain of unfortunate events and the decisions you are making are continuing to attract disaster? I think if you are honest with yourself, you might arrive at the same conclusion that yes in fact, the actions you’ve taken based on the decisions you’ve made, contributed to the kind of day you’re having based on the things you’ve got control over.

When you are having a really rushed, busy day and things are getting out of control and not moving along positively, sometimes the best thing you can actually do is exactly the last thing your fire-fighting instinct is suggesting. So instead of reacting to a new stimulus in an immediate way that in retrospect may not be the wisest, it’s best to do the oppostie and switch that auto-pilot over to manual and take a breather. Get in control.

What often happens, and I’ve seen it again and again, is when people are out of control and rushed they get sloppy, work is of a lower quality, and ‘accidents’ always seem to happen. Maybe the saying, “things always happen in threes’ is because it takes some time to actually get back in control, and by then on average, three bad things have happened? Could be.

If you are running late, it’s always best to call ahead, inform your boss and indicate you are going to be in as fast as you can. If you have a dependable record to rely on in terms of attendance, you probably have a boss who will understand the ocassional day you’re a few minutes late. Better to arrive there in one piece than slam into another car because you were distracted and rushed and never show up at all. A quick pause when things seem out-of-control can give you a few precious seconds to inventory your available resources in a crisis, and determine what assets you can put into motion to mitigate your problems and most importantly avoid multiplying your worries.

Oh and a word of caution; while you might call the dresser and the pants stupid, best to hold back on calling the Officer stupid. That would be most unfortunate!

The Venting Room

Doesn’t really matter whether you personally work in an office, a factory, a school, a store or any other place you could name, today’s subject applies to your workplace. From time to time, (and hopefully not very often) you’re going to come across some person who is going to really annoy you.

Oh you can be the kind of person who is almost always positive and upbeat, but sooner or later somebody is going to push a button that sets you off. So when you find yourself in a situation where your threshold of tolerance is pretty thin, and you just want to fire back a volley of verbally charged venom whether offensively or defensively, what you say and where you say it is critical.

My suggestion is that you get to know your workplace. Where is that one spot in your daily work life where you can retreat to and vent your frustration, amazement, or even anger and bewilderment? I learned this lesson about 20 years ago now when my job involved visiting numerous schools in rural communities. I entered this one school and was meeting with a school official in the teacher’s lounge. Just prior to the lunch hour, the official turned to me and said, “In a couple of minutes the bell will ring and most of the teachers will come in for their lunch. Please don’t put too much meaning into what you might hear; this is the safe room where they can vent their frustration”. Huh?

Now in my ignorance of this behind-the-scene practice, I asked for some clarification of what they’d just said. Well it seemed that the school staff had come to an understanding that the staff room was to be the one place a teacher could come and just share openly some incident that had occurred in the class that they were frustrated by. They could apparently voice comments like, “Oh that kid, I just wanted to scream!” Now in reality, no teacher was going to actually scream or resort to physical violence etc. however, the staff sometimes needed a place to put a voice to their feelings rather than repress them, and by doing so, they could return to the class with less stress and carry on.

I’ve seen this in other work settings too. I myself have worked in a situation where a fellow co-worker is so frustrated and angry that without some way to release what was building up inside, they might otherwise be in danger of lashing out with a verbal barrage at a client and say things that they would immediately regret having said, and possibly have long term career implications. Rather than have to go into damage control and have some kind of disciplinary hearing, I remember getting my co-worker’s coat and just saying, “Walk with me”.

What I did that day is simply remove the individual from the situation long enough for them to step outside the moment until they could regain their composure and swing that pendulum of emotion back to some sense of balance. It doesn’t matter in a situation like this really what you personally say to your co-worker, but rather that you get them out of a pressure-filled volatile situation and give them the chance to vent and blow off some steam. How long that process takes can be a few minutes up to half an hour. This isn’t a counselling session, so it’s not something you need to have experience in. I think you’ll find that the person who is boiling over will carry most of the conversation.

Even when your workplace doesn’t have a designated room or area for this, it’s not a bad idea to take a few minutes just to remove the person from the source of the person who at the moment is the source of the problem. Now most of us are professional and can keep our emotions in check until lunch time, break time, or the end of the day. However, all of us are human; keeping these frustrations and stressors bottled-up inside will only result in the pressure being jacked up and then in some completely different setting, some trigger could happen that sets off an explosion.

This is why sometimes you might get into some massive argument with a spouse who says or does something that is rather innocent but is similar to what you’ve been experiencing a work for weeks on end, and finally you can’t take it any longer and the cork is out of the bottle and you’re yelling, gesturing, and essentially losing your self-control. While your partner is bewildered at your outburst, you’re only venting all that built-up stuff you’ve been repressing, but your partner is lost to explain your behaviour. Don’t let it get that far.

If you in your workplace know all too well what I’m speaking about and you don’t have some kind of safe area to vent, you might want to talk this over with your Management group and see if there is some merit in creating this space and then go about informing staff of the area. A good idea too is making sure that everyone knows that anything said in that space is only venting and not always exactly what the person really means, or really intends to do. So for example, an overly frustrated salesperson that has been rudely treated by an overly demanding customer for 45 minutes but kept her cool the entire time might retreat to a backroom and say, “Ugh! I could kill that woman!”, but there really isn’t any point in over-reacting and placing a call to 911 for the Police.

By releasing frustration, anger, heightened emotion and restoring balance to your inner self, you can continue to be a valued employee who is in control of their emotions, and can be relied upon to work with a strong personal work ethic and professionalism.