How to deal with whingers, angry people and chronic complainers

Just about everyone has to deal with, or even work with, with whingers, angry people and chronic complainers. Sometimes you can shrug your shoulders and walk away. Sometimes you can’t–you need to stick it out and deal with them. When that happens, try this:

First, don’t take it personally. That’s just the way some people are and they’re probably the same with everyone, not just you. Or maybe they’re having a difficult day; they might have just had some bad news or be feeling unwell. So don’t take their whinging, anger or moaning personally.

Instead, take a deep breath. This delivers oxygen to the thinking part of your brain so that you can think more clearly and keep your cool. While you’re taking that deep breath (or three!) remind yourself that this poor person is probably doing the best they can. They just lack the skills to behave or communicate more effectively.

Next, put your filters up. Imagine a big screen between you and this person, filtering out their nastiness, their emotionalism, or whatever it is that’s making them difficult to deal with. This big screen is only letting through the facts and the important information you need. You can make your screen any colour you like–mine is gold!

With your bug screen up between you, you can safely let them have their full say. Try to listen with them, not against them. And don’t interrupt, even when you disagree or believe they’re wrong.

When they finish, recap what they’ve said to let them know you’ve heard them and understood their point. At the very least, they may stop repeating it and allow the conversation to progress sensibly.

Just one more thing to think about: sometimes people who annoy us are really holding up a mirror; what we’re seeing or experiencing is really a reflection of ourself and nothing to do with the person we’re dealing with.

Ahhhhh–that makes you think, doesn’t it?!


How to boost your earning potential

Anyone who has read my books knows that I love a good quote. Here’s one from Henry Ford:

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.

There’s no doubt in my mind that’s true. And learning isn’t just a question of staying young. It’s also a question of earning potential.

The all-important question for everyone trying to earn a living is: Are you a life-long learner? If you’re not, forget about earning the big money or finding interesting jobs. Organisations don’t have room for people who don’t learn continuously and take responsibility for adding to their bag of skills.

Here are seven things to start doing now to boost your employability and your earning potential:

  1. Think of yourself as ‘Me Ltd’. Develop a personal brand; build it; live it; and keep it fresh.
  2. Accept that your foundation training won’t see you through for the rest of your working life. Things are changing much too quickly for that.
  3. Appreciate that learning is a never-ending investment in your career and in your ability to earn a living.
  4. Up-date your skills before they depreciate and disolve into worthlessness.
  5. Gain broad experience, both the hard-edge technical experience of your specialism and, probably more importantly given the way organisations are changing, the soft-edge people experience. For instance, seek out working in a variety of teams and with a variety of people and in unfamiliar cultural contexts. The more skills you have in working with others in lots of ways–workplace teams, virtual teams, temporary project teams–the more your earning power increases.
  6. Build outwards from your specialism; organisations are after generalists and pay well for skilled all-’rounders.
  7. Find out what best practices are in your industry or profession and don’t just adopt them but continually try to improve on them.

There you have it: seven ways to manage your changing world and make it work for you and your bank account!

Bring on the Boomers!

Nothing stays the same for long, that’s for sure. Of course, had we been living in the beginning of the 20th century rather than the beginning of the 21st century, we’d have faced dramatic change too: the agrarian economy gave way to the industrial economy; electricity transformed peoples’ lives; railways brought the cities and the countryside closer together, and the telephone revolutionised communication.

Yet, the rate of change seems to be faster and deeper today than even, say, 40 years ago. Perhaps the biggest change for older workers, and the most challenging, is in communication and information technology. Many Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964, as you probably know), having entered the workforce before the advent of computers, were aghast at having to learn even the basics and although most coped, some remain ‘technologically challenged’.

But is that a big deal? Why not assign the right duties to the right people, which you should be doing anyway? Younger employees generally thrive on technology while many older employees are more comfortable using other skill sets. No big deal. When you need a mature employee (there, that sounds better than older employee, doesn’t it?!) training and practice will save the day. Everyone can learn when they want to, whatever their age.

As a matter of fact, mature people learn just as quickly as immature people (oh, that sounds bad doesn’t it?!) Strike that. Mature people learn as quickly as younger people and what’s more, there is a lot of research evidence suggesting that once the oldies have acquired a skill, they can apply it more effectively. This is partly due to their experience and partly to their brains: inductive reasoning (moving from the specific to the general) and spatial orientation (awareness of the space around you and where your body is in relation to it) peak at around 50 years of age and verbal abilities and verbal memory peak at around 60 years.

Baby Boomers tend to be easier to manage, too, because they don’t expect as much from their employers and their managers and do many younger workers. They’ve been conditioned into accepting ‘mushroom management’ (let’s just say being treated more like cogs in a wheel than real live people), so many will still put up with a lot more expletive deleted than younger people are willing to. Boomers are also likely to stay in the job longer if for no other reason than they know it’s harder for them to find jobs than the 20- and 30-somethings.

In shying away from mature workers, organisations are missing out on the benefits of their experience, their accumulated common sense and their ability to think problems through and follow up on their solutions to make sure they’re working. They’re also missing out on older workers’ ability to tap into all the networks and relationships they’ve built up over the years, their willingness to not move on to greener pastures and their willingness to put up with–but let’s not go there again.

It doesn’t matter, though, because just around the corner, organisations won’t be able to afford the luxury of ignoring the older talent pool. There simply aren’t enough younger workers entering the workforce to replace the retiring Boomers. Then everyone will just have to learn to work together. Goodness, what a thought!