Category Archives for "General"

Why You Need to Know the Difference Between Annoying and Dysfunctional

I’ve managed a lot of people.  I know first hand  that anyone that distracts from driving your business goals is of concern.  That’s why I started writing about Managing Annoying People.  They certainly fall in that category.  Lately, I’ve been dealing with a different breed; dysfunctional people who engage in circular thinking.  This not only impedes moving the business forward,  but makes you crazy!

Managing annoying people requires consistency and setting very clear boundaries.  The technique is repeatedly enumerating priorities and the actions needed.  Try it, it works.  Managing dysfunctional people proves to be much more difficult.  Their behavior is manipulative, cunning and baffling.  Annoying people are usually consistent in how they annoy you, compared to those who are dysfunctional.   The hallmark of the dysfunctional behavior is that it is confounding, you never know what they will do next.

Understanding the difference between dysfunctional and annoying behaviors can save you a lot of time vis-a-vis your management efforts and co-workers.  I made a handy dandy chart so you can clearly see the subtle differences of the behaviors :

Subtle Difference between Annoying and Dysfunctional Behaviors

Surviving  Dysfunctional People

Notice I was careful not to say managing dysfunctional people.  Often these type of personality traits are deeply inbred.  Your best bet is to recognize the behavior, you will not change it.  What you can do is stop the time drain by not reacting to their twisted reality.

1.  Just the Facts.

They are competent but certainly not superstars.  Often they believe that their work is superior and they have an inside track to information.    Yet, because of their dysfunction, they do not see situations clearly.   Use the facts and just the facts.  Document their actions without labeling it negative or positive.  For example:  The report you sent was empty.  Please populate and resend.

2.  They Believe that Everyone Else is the Problem.

Dysfunctional people are quick to label and complain about everyone around them.  It’s actually one of the surest signs of dysfunction – they label their own behavior by blaming it on others.  They tell you that you are the one with the problem.   When a co-worker starts saying, “you are manipulative and rude,”  it’s a safe bet that they are really talking about themselves.  The old saying holds true here:  when I point one finger at you, there are three pointing back at me.  (Pro Tip:  Point now and look at the three pointing back at you.)

3.  They Complain Constantly.

This is the crucial time drain.  Because they do it all the time, I find myself listening, because it’s just easier.  In the long run, this is a huge offense to the whole team.  Once that language starts circulating it can spiral out of control.  Statements like, “If Libby just did what she was supposed to,” or “if the central office followed orders” or “if the IT people fixed that program” are misdirected.  They never believe that it is their responsibility to make things work.  It hard for them to give and forgive a little.   They think everything should work around them in a perfect world all the time.  Isn’t that a lovely bubble.

4. Don’t Let Them Get Away with Rude Comments.

When called out on their behavior dysfunctional people swing back.  Often they exhibit aggressive behavior and usually do some bullying.  Of course they don’t see it that way, they think they are protecting their bubble.  But it is what it is.  Label their behavior and let them know, you know what they are doing.  Be clear and concise, “Louis, why are you being so aggressive?”  No reason to get into it, the back and forth is not necessary.

What’s Next:

Time is your most precious business commodity.  Our effectiveness depends on our ability to closely manage those that steal our time. Once you know the difference between annoying and dysfunctional, you can choose how to spend your time, and who is worth your while and worthwhile to manage.  This puts you in the driver seat.  That’s the bubble you want to be in.


What You Need to Know About Selective Listening in 5 Minutes

Why do people hear what they want to hear and leave the rest?  Why does selective listening happen and how can we lead and manage through it?  This question, almost as profound as which came first — the chicken or the egg, plagues us all.  This phenomenon is particularity perplexing to those of us who lead and manage others.  The result is we focus on a CYA (cover your ass) mentality, which interestingly enough still leaves holes.  Equally confounding is the lack of a pattern or predictability to selective listening.  The confusion usually comes out of the blue sky without warning.   What I’ve learned is that even with my professional radar, I still get surprised by who didn’t hear what and when they choose to mention it.   As a result one of my signature phrases is:  “It’s never what you expect that actually gets you”.  Monty Python  nailed it; “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition”.

When selective listening happens, I recommend:

1.  Act Quickly

Letting it fester is the worst approach to take.  Akin to freezing and looking like a deer in the headlights.  This is an opportunity for you to showcase your humility while using your strong leadership skills to get to the root of the issue. In these situations, it’s never black or white.  There is a big gray area, that will continue to grow without your action.     Check out the 4-Fs in Managing Annoying People.

2. Do a Jessica Fletcher Timeline

If you don’t know who Jessica Fletcher is, Google immediately.  Star of Murder, She Wrote, J.B. Fletcher, international best selling mystery novelist always starts with creating a time line.  Who was where?  When did it begin?  When did it really begin?  What evidence exists… emails, texts, pictures, voice mails, documentation, meeting notes.  You get the idea, let’s just hope it doesn’t boil down to crime scene photos like J.B. has to deal with.

3. Label It To Discuss It – Selective Listening

If you can’t categorize it or name it, you cannot discuss it.  Use phrases such as “we have a case of misunderstanding” or  “he-said; she-said” or “old-fashioned telephone” (often that has to be explained to millennials).  Feel free to use my favorite: “we’re not on the same page literally”.  By the same token, you do not have to immediately fix it.  By labeling it, you demonstrate that you understand there is an issue and you are working to resolve it. 

4. Stand in the Selective Listener’s Shoes

In the light of day, this can be incredibly powerful.  Owning up to our own responsibility when someone else hears what they want to hear takes practice and a lot of work.  Sometimes we are not as clear and concise as we think.  Or even if we are thorough and have it all documented, it is possible it can be misconstrued.  Moreover as we stand in their shoes, we see they may have been acting on old information or as it happened previously.  Their shoes maybe painful and hurt to walk in.  Perhaps they are going through tough economic times, a health scare or relationship troubles.  Others may have a vested interest in not hearing the information because it doesn’t make sense in their world right now.  They need it to be the way it makes sense to them.  Those with selective listening cannot see anything else at this time.

5. When Possible Find a Graceful Exit

The goal is not to be right.  As a matter of fact, it is to have the right outcome.  The outcome that will not weaken policy and procedures.  The solution that treats same people in the same circumstances in the same manner.  The resolution that leaves the relationship in tact without compromising principles or setting an unwanted precedent.   Again, easier said than done.  Remaining cognizant of what a graceful exit actually looks like will increase the likelihood that you will achieve a graceful exit.  

What’s Next:

Remember, it’s not you.  It happens to everyone.   Be as clear as you can moving forward.  Ask for feedback on what people heard you say.   Keep your cool, deal with it head on and make a graceful exit. 


3 Things Everyone Knows About Waiting That You Don’t

Time it right or you will miss blueberry season.  Waiting for those plump, fresh, delicious purple jewels to reach full flavor.  I picked, ate and baked.  Who could wait?  Fresh blueberry muffins, right out of the oven.  Delicious.  Four hours later, a second blueberry muffin.  And you know what?  It was even was more delicious.  Who knew that waiting would make it better?  Waiting matters when you want maximum results.

Wine lovers know the perfect time to open up a bottle.  How long to let it breathe.  And they know exactly what to pair it with to make it even more delicious.

Deal makers wait for that precise moment in the negotiations to turn a disadvantage into an advantage.

Managers instinctively navigate team dynamics.  Knowing just when to push back.  When to build confidence.  What to explain.  Resulting in each person doing their best.  They use tools like my How Do You Annoy Your Co-workers Quiz.

So why am I so impatient?  Why do it I want it right when it comes out of the oven?  Why can’t I wait?

1.  I Know What I Want so Why Wait?

This gives me free reign to go get it.  I am the boss after all.  I’m in charge.  I can get what I want.  I’ve earned it.

2.  I Assume I will Get Results.

It will work out.  Competency trumps negativity.  The plan will come together.  If it goes sideways I can handle it.  Haven’t I been through worst before?  I will make sure it works.  Remember the famous line from the original TV series the Odd Couple?  When you assume you make an ass out of you and me.

3.  There Aren’t Enough Hours in the Day.

Seriously.  Sometimes I don’t want to have to wait.  I just want to get on with it.  Cross it off my list.  Put it in a file.  Stick it in a draw.  Get it done so I can move onto something else.

What’s Next:

Even a bad blueberry muffin is a pretty good thing.   I can make it better by learning to hone my timing.  Striving to get the full flavor, the full intent and the full experience of the muffin.  I won’t assume hot out of the oven is always better.  In the immortal words of Tom Petty…the waiting is the hardest part.

Stop Talking Now

Stop Talking Please.  How many times have I seen people look at me and I just know what they are thinking?  You’ve guessed it.  Way too many.  Why me?  Looks to me that other people jabber on and never get that look.  When I talk it’s different.  I had to go inside to find the answers.  Turns out I had to go inside my hurt and my emotions that is.  Seems like in my role of providing advice, talking is not always the answer.  So, I had to think about how I can do better.  Here’s what I found:

1. My Timing Stinks.

Once it’s in my brain, it’s on my lips and out of my mouth.  I guess that’s what shooting from the hip really is.  Without thought or instinct, I blabber it out.  Often its too soon.   Too soon, because the other person hasn’t finished talking.   The other person has not thought through the impact of what they are saying.  I am already onto solutions.  The other person is just beginning to process what is going on and I am talking about what is going to happen next.  Too soon. 

2.  Too Much.  Too Fast.

You know exactly what I mean.  It takes me a lot of words to say something that can be put more succinctly.  In my defense, they are complicated thoughts and I want to make sure you get the full gist.  How can I do that faster?  So I start talking faster.  That never works.  It has the opposite impact.

3. Trying Too Hard. 

It’s important to me that you know I understand.   As a result, I think about what I want to convey.  The t-shirt with the slogan ” Do me a favor.  And Stop Talking.”  pictured on my blog  is about what you want.  I really want what you want.  So I’ll stop talking now. 

What’s Next.

A little reminder that a look inside doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear, but we need to hear it.  And then honor it.  Now I am really shutting up.  Have an easy week.





Reactions Speak Louder than Actions – Guard Your Body Language

It doesn’t matter why they irritate you, when you are annoyed – whether you are the boss or the employee or a peer, it evokes a fight, flight or freeze response.  Your entire body literally displays your feelings.  Your reactions speak louder than your actions. How your body portrays your thoughts matters. As said by Blanca Cobb, body language and people watcher extraordinaire

This is the power of body language. Silent messages CAN be more credible than spoken words. There are situations where words whould sell you out before your body language.

People who “annoy you” make it difficult to work together.  Even if you think you are doing your best poker face (as in no reaction, no response), think again.  Your boss, the team and your coworkers see your reaction. Reactions speak louder than actions. 

This unspoken yet noticed actions make it difficult to work together.  In a strange turn of human behavior, although it was the other person that started this chain of events, it turns out that it is your response that matters.  You have  now become the annoyer.  Usually people annoyed by the same behaviors will coalesce around your reaction.  They will flock to you and hang on your words and actions. This is good right?  Wrong. 

It’s just human nature.  Eventually team members will start to feel bad for the under dog.  Especially if you are the boss and you are the one reacting negatively.  Over time staff become fearful that it can happen to them. That you will react to them and treat them in the same way you react to the annoyer.   This sets off an environment of mis-trust, mis-Communication and fear.  As a result that definitely means no teamwork. 

There are several way to deal with your own reaction to annoying people:

1 – Instead of Reacting Have a Direct Conversation

Let the annoyer know how their behavior impacts you.  Be very specific in your conversation. For example you can say: “At yesterday’s team when you interrupted me I didn’t get to finish and that frustrated me and made me not want to hear you had to say even though it might have benefited the team.”

2 – When you are Irritated by Someone, Ask Why They Act That Way

Often people don’t realize their behaviors set others off.  Once again the more specific, the better. You may ask: “why do you always bring a mound of files to the team meetings, I find it distracting.”

3  – Smile Like You Have a Secret When Annoyed

Finally advice that is easy to do in every situation that annoys you. Smile a big smile (ear to ear) like you know something.  I like to say, Smile like you have a secret and let the annoyer wonder what you are smiling about. That alone often changes their behavior and fosters teamwork.    Even when you can’t help yourself, your smile will hide strong feelings.

I actually wrote a whole book on behaviors that make it difficult to wok and manage teams!   You can find some new tricks to change your reaction and drive your work forward in my book and blog posts.  Or be old fashioned and send a text!


Get Business Networking Results

Happy July 4th!  Summertime brings lot of chances to get business networking results.  With parties, events and summer games there are many conversations to have. This leads me to think about how much business chit-chat is too much?  How do you network to be get results.  How do you make yourself memorable?  The answer is easy.  Anything that feels like work is work and should be limited in networking opportunities.   Networking conversations should be easy, breezy and fun. 

The key ingredient when discussing networking is value.   To find your sweet spot when networking think value. What is a good conversation worth to you?  The best way to network is to share a laugh or a thought or an unusual fact.  When you network with these goals in mind, you will be professional, appropriate, relevant and most importantly memorable.  Who doesn’t want to be memorable?  Memorable gets results.

Network to Learn and Laugh

Learn what others are engaged in, how they got where they got and what makes them tick.  When you network from the perspective of learning, you take the emphasis away from yourself.  This not only opens you up to see the world in another light, it’s is much more enjoyable for the random people you pony up to.  Don’t be so serious, have some fun.

Network for Insight to be Memorable

Get out of your head and see what insights you can apply to your situation by listening to others.  Show up interested.  Especially in business conversations people can tell when you are genuinely interested.  Get results by networking with those you value.

Network to be of Service to Others to get Results

It seems that people tend to network when they need something.  The time to network, is when you have something to give.  A funny story, a joke, an insight, a helping hand.  Think about it as part of your pro Bono arm.  I can’t explain how it works, but those that give the most, get the most back!


With over 30 years in C-suites, and many July 4th Work picnics, I know how to annoy.  That’s why I speak on building powerful engaged teams and managing annoying people who steal your energy and time, even though they are competent.  I help managers drive their agendas and bring joy back to the workplace.

Network with a funny story or a unique fact and be memorable!


Never Start By Saying No!

Newsflash:  Despite global warming it is officially Summertime.  The signs are everywhere.  Kids are off from school.  There are many more outdoor activities and the days are longer.   This all adds up to less reasons to be stuck working.   You’ll need a boost to get the time away from work you need.  Try this productivity hack to spend your time off without stress.  Learn how to say “no” to your boss so that you can enjoy your downtime.

The Advice

Never start by saying “no”.   Learn how to say “yes” and accomplish the “no”.   Learn to meet both of your needs by setting boundaries and figuring out what you must and can accomplish.

This is funny advice from me.  Since I have a whole chapter in my book Managing Annoying People about how to just say NO.  Last week I urged you to say “no” for cleaner focus on your priorities.  Click here to read  why your efficiency hacks are not working, This advice  is a subtle twist on the concept.

Why Listen to Me?

I write, speak and mentor on workplace dynamics; building powerful engaged teams and managing people/teams that annoy you and steal your energy and time, even though they are competent.  I counsel people to learn to use boundaries.  We work on how to distill the situation and then be able to clearly and concisely communicate to get results.   I understand how messy it is out there folks.  Everyone is doing more with less time, staff and resources.  How your react sets the tone for your relationships.   I know, I managed 10,000 people and had to learn who would get it done, even if not my way!

How Do I Use this Productivity Hack?

The trick is to meet your boss’s needs (or your employee’s needs) and do it on your timetable and rules.

Let’s say the Boss wants you to work over the weekend to finish a project.  You have to quickly scan  — is it doable?  What resources do I need? How can I get this done?  The goal is to figure out other ways to finish the project without sacrificing your own time and needs.  It’s really helpful if you think about the instructions for putting on an oxygen mask on an airplane.  Put your oxygen mask on first and then attend to those around you.

The Conversation Sounds Like This:

Boss: I need you to stay all weekend and finish the XYZ Project.

Response: Of course (the more enthusiastic the better).   I’ve been wanting to hammer that out and get it done all week.

Boss:  Great I can count on you?

Response:  Yes, you can.  Let’s talk about the specifics.  I can tackle it hard on Thursday and Friday and then if needed, Sunday night.  We will have it bright, shiny and ready Monday morning!

Boss:  Great, so you’ll be in the office on Saturday?

Response:  Probably not especially since the plan I outlined will work —  we will have what we  need.  The goal is to get the project finished by Monday morning.  I can do that.  Do you need anything else?

Specific Time and Place Events

In a situation when it’s an event or coverage on a very specific date and time and it conflicts with with your needs – remind  your boss that if you don’t have some breathing room and downtime, you will not be fresh and peppy to do all the other things you need to do for the job, The idea is for the boss to be able to relate personally to your situation.  It would help to remind your boss that you need to take care of yourself (and your family) so that you can “rock” your work place responsibilities.

In these situations:
  • Express your disappointment.  Reiterate that you are re so glad that they asked and you would love to do it you’ve been looking for those opportunities.
  • Problem solve on who else may be available or a good fit; don’t look at all the obvious options that your boss has thought about.
  • Describe how you will connect to people at the event or follow up even though you won’t be there.
Remind your Boss – they can count on you to get accomplished what needs to be accomplished.
If you are interested in talking more about this, please email me at ilene@alignedworkplace.comor reach me at 212.787.8581.

3 Reasons Your Efficiency Hacks Are Not Working

Who doesn’t want to get more accomplished in less time with less effort?  Efficiency hacks have been a hot ticket for the past several years.  So why do I constantly hear workers complain about their workload, no time for vacation, and the amount of hours expected at the office.  Why aren’t these hacks making it better?  Why have we yet to find efficiency mantras that actually work?  

We are following the wrong advice.  It’s the negative hacks that work; not the positive seeming actions.  Let’s start with this truth:  It’s not what you are not doing that is holding you back.  It’s what you are doing. Like trying to open doors that will always stay closed to you.  So stop spending time on the wrong things, like pitching funders that don’t fund you or offering jobs to those who reject you.   Start focusing on the things that work and your efficiency will soar.

Understand how to stop doing what’s not working:

  1. Its Counter Intuitive. 

As Americans we wrote the book on MORE, MORE, MORE.  The concept of doing less and getting more is counter intuitive.  We think one more go at it and this time it will work. Just not so.  Think about a much needed vacation, or rest.  After the vacation of actually doing less,  you can actually do more.

2. We Focus on YES, not NO.  

We are trained to say Yes.  As in, “yes i am a team player”, “yes I will help my neighbor” and the ultimate “‘yes i can do that’.  We don’t want to be the Debbie Downer that says No.  And yet it is the No that makes more space for our Yes.  Can you wrap your head around this?  No, leads to more Yes.  It hones your priorities.

3.  Maybe, Someday, and Tomorrow  are the Bermuda Triangle of Efficiency. 

In classic Yoda fashion “Do or Do not”.  Anything else is a waste of time.  Choosing an action, regardless if it’s an active DO or passive DON’T Do, puts you on a clear path with a concurrent action plan.  Waiting, undecided, lingering just slows you down and clogs your brain, your calendar and your energy.  Last fall I was featured on Marc Guberti’s (Teenage Entrepreneur) Virtual Productivity Summit.  My most liked efficiency hack was: ” Do what you hate first. Once you get it done everything else will open up”.

To make your hacks work, make them purposeful and easy.  Follow my advice on Maroon Oaks Blog – Lead Your Workday with 12 Efficiency Mantras.   

Maroon Oaks connects  Women – Entrepreneurs,  Job Seekers & Relaunchers through a free member network.  Developed for Women who ant a level playing field and a chance to achieve family-work-life balance

It’s a little of a spiritual concept to grasp.  Only the doors that are meant to open, do open.  It doesn’t matter how much you knock, honk, sneak in and try to get access.  When it doesn’t work, stop doing on it and spend time on efforts that yield results.

If you focus on the people, companies and workers who understand you and your products and say “No” to those who don’t, you will have more time to say “Yes” to those who want to work with you.  And as a by-product you will be happier.

Try No and grow your business.



Lead your workday with 12 Efficiency Mantras


Do I Annoy My Co-Workers? Take the Quiz and See.

I’m so  excited, I finally did it.  I created an annoying quiz just for you!

With 100% certainty I know what is going to happen to you in the coming weeks.   You will annoy a co-worker.  Usually not purposeful, but the end result is the same.  It gets in the way of the work.  Although we often don’t intend to offend, it happens.  We don’t always look at our behaviors or understand  our actions that annoyed our colleagues.

Who wants to spend their time being annoyed?  That’s annoying already.

I know what you’re thinking.  How can Ilene know my situation? My team’s irritating idiosyncrasies?  The specific nuances of my workplace?  The truth is, I don’t.   What I do know is human nature; human nature as it particularly relates to being part of a team and managing workplace dynamics.  And I clearly know about being annoying (have you met me?)

My new quiz will provide insight into how your co-workers interpret your actions.

With 50% certainty, I know you are going to struggle with honesty when taking the quiz.   When the words resonate, pick that answer or you will only be annoying yourself.

Aligned Workplace mentors business leaders and managers to drive their agenda and build workplaces where success, inspiration, kindness, and joy define the culture.   We provide specific actionable advice to put you on the path to being less annoyed at work by using tactics to instantly transform the relationship dynamic.  Because being annoyed takes away from you driving your business agenda and wastes your time.

What’s Next:

First step is to know your “annoying type.” — the quiz will help you.

Start the quiz and in 7 questions you will know your annoying personality type.

Take the advice and share, share, share your results.

The world wants to know:  What is your annoying workplace personality?


What Everyone Ought To Know About Why I am Out of Sync and Need Help

I need your help.  I’m out of sync!  The funniest part is that’s how I made my living for years.  I knew exactly how to line things up and make them work.  I could spot what was out of whack much earlier than my colleagues.  That made me annoying.  Now I am out of sync.    

Four years ago I created Aligned Workplace, assisting C-suite Execs and Managers align their resources, team skills and messaging to quickly drive their agendas and grow their organizations.  Big shout out to those of you who bought my services!  And know how to drive your agenda, I did.  I was intense, pushed too fast, and was hard on you.  

Then something amazing happened. Managing Annoying People:  7 Proven Tactics to Maximize Team Performance was born.  The book officially launched January 2017.   It’s a fun, easy read handbook to deal with people in the workplace who suck your energy, time, and Zen.     “I built the book.  The book built the business and the business is building me” as said by Dean Minuto of Yescalate. Thanks Dean!

And now I’m not in sync. The book and business did really build me.  I’m different now.  More purposeful, relaxed and open.  I am at crossroads of what to do next.  Where should I be focusing my efforts?  Who is the exact customer that needs me and what should I be doing?

Data Points

I love data points, so here are mine.  Here’s what’s been happening:

  • Close to 500 copies of my book have made it into readers’ hands.
  • I speak and train new audiences on how to be better managers and handle difficult workplace situations (gentle reminder, send opportunities my way).
  • My radio interviews, guest blogs and articles (such as give career advice to new workers, mid-level managers and millennials on how to jump start their leadership journeys.
  • Through coaching, I provide CEOs and team leaders with action plans to broaden their spheres of influence.

My unique ability is to provide services, just in time.  I am in your corner as change occurs:  be it environmental, personal or workplace shifts that alter the existing rules.  What I find interesting is that everyone thinks their solution is so unique and yet they all want that one silver bullet  – the actions they can take to propel them forward.  They want answers.  They want shortcuts.  They want it wrapped up and delivered with a bow. 

So now the ball is in my court.  How do I reach and serve those who need me?   Originally targeted to CEOs and team leaders,  I now seem to be more useful to sandwich managers.  This is a term I coined.  Like the sandwich generation, stuck in the middle of two masters.  Sandwich Managers have to manage up and down and are usually annoyed all the way around!  I find these to be newish managers, late 20’s to early 30’s.  Particularly complicated now that everyone is gluten-free.

Here’s Where I Need YOUR Input:

  • Who should I be speaking to – where are the associations, populations connections to people and service organizations who could use my services?
  • Where are the right training opportunities with groups of 30 – 50 people?
  • What do you think of the creation of on-line “paid for course”?
  • Who would benefit most greatly from my services?
  • Who is willing to pay for this content?
  • Would it be fun to have more short videos with annoying situations played out?
  • How about more guest pod casts?
  • How annoying are these questions?

I am out of sync.  Now that I have repeated that three times – I think, you got it.

Hit REPLY and tell me what you think.  And a truly radical idea, pick up the phone and let’s have a conversation and catch up.

The lines are open 212.787.8581.

Spoiler Alert – next week’s blog will be a survey on How Annoying are You in the Workplace? 

Looking forward to connecting.

Un-Annoyingly Yours,


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