Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Fellow Workers May Wear You Out

-It's been a tough year and if you're tired you may think it's because, like so many others, you're now working longer and harder at the same job. But that may not be what's exhausting you.

According to Jon Gordon, author of Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture working hard may be invigorating, but he the negativity of people you work with can drain you of energy and spirit.

Many people work in a world of "drainers" he adds, and that term can describe anyone in the workplace-a boss, coworker, employee, or client-who sucks the life and energy right out of you.

"No one sets out to be a drainer, of course. It's just that some people regularly (and inadvertently) exhibit energy-draining behaviors. What's worse, many bosses allow them to continue-or are themselves guilty of practicing these behaviors. And over time, the entire culture becomes poisoned."

Don't fret, though: Gordon promises that if managers are able to identify the offending behaviors and fix them, they'll be able to spend more time nourishing their companies' cultures-which will, in turn, make employees happier and more productive, thus increasing the bottom line.

In Soup-written in a fun business fable format (much like his Wall Street Journal and international bestseller, The Energy Bus, and several other titles)-Gordon lays out the ingredients that make up a nourishing culture, instead of a draining one.

Following are some of Gordon's draining behaviors, as well as tips for how you can make a change for the better:

1. The Energy Vampire Attack

DON'T: Let negativity become your go-to response. There's nothing more draining than a boss or coworker who is constantly negative. Gordon calls these folks "energy vampires." They are never happy, rarely supportive, and constantly nay-saying any and all ideas and suggestions that aren't their own. According to them, you might as well give up before you start.

DO: Respond constructively when someone offers up an idea. Even if you know more about a particular project, have more experience than the rest of your team, or are positive that the suggestions others are making are off the mark, hear them out. Let employees and coworkers know that when they come to you with their ideas, they'll be heard with an open mind and received with respect. Insist that everyone else practice positivity as well. While negativity squelches creativity and initiative, an encouraging attitude will keep creative juices flowing and encourage constructive dialogue.
"As pessimism rises, performance decreases," Gordon explains. "You have to encourage optimism and guard against pessimism, or your team will suffer."

2. The Out-of-Control Complain Train
DON'T: Give in to the temptation to whine. It's a well-known phenomenon that can have catastrophic consequences: One person's complaint resonates with someone else, who then proceeds to add grievances to the pile, which prompts yet another individual to throw in her two (negative) cents...and so on. Before you know it, everyone is complaining, and any work that gets done thereafter is marred by a bad attitude.

DO: Push for solutions. The next time a water-cooler conversation threatens to barrel out of control into Complaint Central, step in and ask the complainees how they would make things better. Better yet, take a cue from Gordon's bestselling book The No Complaining Rule and ban complaints altogether. It's tough love for sure-but it will also create and sustain a positive culture.

"When you boil things down, complaints are just noise and nothing more-but each one does represent an opportunity to turn something negative into something positive," Gordon points out. "Turn your employees from problem-sharers to problem-solvers-it'll make an unbelievable difference in your office's atmosphere!"

3. The Vicious Voicemail (or Email)

DON'T: Leave critical or harsh messages on voicemail or send them to an email inbox. Nine times out of ten, these critiques seem much more vehement and condemnatory than they actually are. Plus, any communication you send via electronic methods can potentially last forever. Not only could your words come back to haunt you, they'll also be a constant reminder to your coworker or employee of his or her supposed shortcomings.
DO: Suck it up and conduct the tough talks in person. If you need to have a stern talk with someone, or if you need to talk through a conflict or problem, do it in person if at all possible. You'll be able to ensure that your words and tone aren't misinterpreted, and you'll be able to immediately have a constructive dialogue with the other person. By talking about ways to improve, you can end the conversation on a positive and encouraging note.
4. The Loaded Monday Morning Inbox
DON'T: Overwhelm your team with a mountain of emails before the week is underway. If you're finishing up your own to-do list late on a Friday night, or if you're simply trying to get a jumpstart on the week ahead, it can be tempting to dish out the details and to-dos as you think of them. After all, if you wait 'til Monday morning, you might forget to tell those who need to know! However, coming in to an inbox of fifty-seven new messages is draining and makes folks feel like they're fighting an uphill battle from the start.

DO: Boil down and bundle your communication as considerately as possible. Inevitably, people are going to be working late and sending emails over the weekend-in today's business culture, it's unavoidable! However, there are a few things you can do to make "You've Got Mail!" less stressful and more efficient for the recipient. Be sure to flag any urgent emails so that your teammates know which tasks to tackle first-and include as many details as possible so that 1) you won't forget them, and 2) the recipient can get started as quickly as possible. If you can, combine as many of the tasks and questions as you can into one document.

"One email as opposed to ten separate ones is a lot less intimidating," reminds Gordon. "And if you do fire off a multitude of messages in a moment of panic, a quick note acknowledging the unusual volume can change everything!"
5. The Busy Bee Bamboozle

DON'T: Confuse activity with progress. You know the person. She's always soooo busy but doesn't ever seem to meet deadlines or get anything done. When teams are being formed, people secretly hope she isn't assigned to theirs. She's living proof of the fact that just because your day is full of things to do doesn't necessarily mean that you're getting them done.
DO: Set goals and hold yourself and your employees accoun
table for results. These results should be ones that matter and that are visible and valuable to your team. It can be helpful to transition over to a day-to-day plan that will help everyone stay on the right track. Most importantly, don't put your team in situations where the lines are blurred. If the goals are crystal clear, they'll be easier to accomplish.
6. The Unclear Communiqué

DON'T: Assume others have all the information they need, or that something you know isn't really all that important. These hastily drawn conclusions that result from chronic poor communication can lead to serious mistakes and major missed opportunities. Plus, lack of clarity is incredibly frustrating to those who must work with you. When employees, coworkers, or supervisors have to spend their time tracking you down for clarification, rather than getting the communication from you that they need, productivity falls and creativity is stifled.

DO: Make a concerted and proactive effort to make sure that the right people are in the know. Whether it's letting your boss know that a client's daughter is getting married (so he can call in congratulations) or telling a coworker that a vendor prefers to be contacted only via email, be sure to tell the appropriate people. You'll set your entire team up for success and ensure that your clients get the service they deserve. Also, make sure you copy the right people on emails, promptly return voicemails, and are clear about directions and expectations. And if you say you are going to do something, mean it.
"A big part of a successful culture is having a relationship between employees and managers that is built on trust and collaboration," says Gordon. "And that can happen only if a clear line of communication is established so that inspiration, encouragement, empowerment, and coaching can take place."
7. The Blame Game
DON'T: Point fingers at others in order to take the heat off of yourself. A mistake is made, the boss is mad, a deadline is missed. If all eyes are on your team and you start pointing fingers, you could be making a huge mistake. If your employees or your coworkers don't think you shoulder your share of the blame or are unapproachable when it comes to constructive criticism, they'll start to shut down toward you.
DO: Accept responsibility for your actions gracefully and humbly. Nobody likes to be the one at fault. But owning up to your mistakes and learning from them are big parts of working together and being successful. If you make a mistake, be the first to own up to it and try to do things differently in the future. Also, be open to suggestions and criticisms-they may make the going much smoother!
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