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Winning at Work

By Mel Sandler & Muriel Gray, Magna Publishing, 2004
The new workplace is fraught
with traps that can ensnare
you along your path to
success. Most dismaying are
t hos e t r aps y ou may
unwittingly set for yourself by
taking things too personally,
by concluding that someone's
out to get you, by taking on too
much responsibility, and so on
and so forth.
De s c r i b i n g n u me r o u s
personal traps that can foil all
of us at one time or another,
e mp l o y e e a s s i s t a n c e
professionals Mel Sandler and
Muriel Gray showreaders how
to reassess what is expected
of them and what they need to
do to get there - guiding the
w a y t h r o u g h m a j o r
organizational change and
workplace pressures.
Inside This Book Summary:
The Big Ìdea
Why You Need This Book
Common Personal Traps and How to
Manage Them
The "Taking Ìt Personally¨ Traps
The "Forgetting Self-Ìnterest¨ Traps
The "Tunnel Vision¨ Traps
The "Loyalty¨ Traps
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The "We're Just One Big
Family¨ Traps
Recognizing the "Everyone Out for
Himself or Herself¨ Attitude
Shining Your Own Light
ßreak|ng Free of Persona| Traps to F|nd 8uccess |n the New workp|ace
Mel Sandler, M.S.W., is president
of WorkCoach, a firm dedicated to
helping people overcome their
personal traps at work. He has
over twenty-f i ve years of
experience as a counselor and
c ons ul t ant f or numer ous
c o r p o r a t i o n s . H e i s a
psychotherapist and an executive
and career coach specializing in
job stress and organizational
change. He is coauthor of
"Surviving the Crisis at Work¨.
Muriel Gray, Ph.D., is professor of
social work at the University of
Maryland, Baltimore, and a
di rector of EAP Heal thcare
Institute. She has over twenty-five
years of experience working with
Fortune 500 companies as a
workplace consultant, employee
assi st ance counsel or, and
executive coach. She presents
workshops and seminars on career
effectiveness and is coauthor of a
best-selling series on employee
assistance programming.
About the Authors:
We have been impressed by the high price paid
by people who take what happens in the
workplace personally, particularly when the
company does not accept their personal
reaction. When employees fall into a "Taking it
Personally¨ trap, they often find themselves
digging deeper into a hole.
The new workplace has changed and will
probably continue to change. What you need to
keep in mind is that if you take it personally, you
will only end up getting yourself into a trap.
Remember that it's a business.
You may have done well in the old workplace,
but your focus is to succeed in the present.
Things have changed. You need to learn to free
yourself of traps you may have fallen into.
Learn to stop taking events that are happening
in the workplace personally.
The key is to consider other possible
interpretations of what was going on.
Sometimes it may be personal, but often it is
not. The trap comes when you can see a
scenario only one way, and it is from the
personal point of view.
This leads to increasing stress, negative
emotions, and/or regrettable action or inaction.
Ìt is observed that this trap is typically
associated with specific work situations:
pr obl ems wi t h manager s, t i mes of
organizational change, problems with co-
workers, and problems associated with being a
You will find that many successful people do not
personalize at all. Even those who consider a
danger as personal do not let this paralyze
You may wonder if it's possible to think and act
Authors: Ve| 3ard|er ard
Vur|e| 0ray
Pub||sher: Vagra Puo||s||rg
0ate of Pub||cat|on: 2001
|8ßN: 81-Z809-211-Z
208 Pages
This book offers powerful strategies for those
who find that work just isn't what it used to be -
and that what used to work at work simply
doesn't anymore.
Ìf what it takes to be a winner in today's business
environment seems just out of reach and you
don't know why, this book can help. Ìf you find
yourself perplexed because your tried-and-true
success strategies aren't working anymore, or
because the skills you perfected and the place
you created for yourself are no longer valuable,
this book is for you.
Outdated attitudes, beliefs, and expectations
about the workplace can interfere with your
success there. They can trap you into a work life
of anger, frustration, and despair.
Take a look at some of the personal traps we see
most frequently: taking what happens in the
workplace personally, forgetting your own self-
interest, having tunnel vision, being too loyal or
expecting too much loyalty, and expecting co-
workers to act like one big happy family.
About the Book:
2 oI 6
Why You Need This Book
Common Personal Traps and How to
Manage Them
Winning at Work, by Mel Sandler and Muriel Gray
in your own self-interest and also be in sync
with the company. The answer is yes. Ìn many
ways, it is probably a lot easier today than it
would have been in the past.
Ìf you are to succeed in the job, your interests
must parallel those of the company. They must
also parallel your own vision of the future - your
The focus must be on a better fit between you
and the company. The company is adjusting in
order to look out for its interests, and so must
You know that what you are about to do will not
be easy. However, you will be empowered and
gratified knowing that you are advancing your
self-interest and career. You are working
towards your goals.
Furthermore, this is certainly better than being
overwhelmed with anger or feeling out of
People who have tunnel vision often cannot
cope in today's unstable and unpredictable
workplace. Ìn fact, because their vision is so
personally limited, they often can't even see the
reality as it changes, and consequently, they do
not have the information they need to act in
their self-interest.
Successful people are always able to broaden
their vision and see changes as they occur, and
often they can even stay ahead of them. As a
result they can choose to act in their self-
interest as their work reality changes.
Tunnel thinking leads to tunnel vision, which
causes certain actions. Ìf we were to put this
into a picture it would look like this:
Before you will be ready to take action, you need
to know how to choose the correct actions. You
need to wait until you have acquired the right
approach and learned the best techniques. The
wrong action is likely to add to your problems.
The first step is to become aware of the thoughts
when they come into your mind. Once you have
that awareness, you can try to influence them.
People with the same type of tunnel vision often
have similar thoughts. Here are some examples:
A pessimist will view an event and
automatically think such thoughts as these:
"Oh boy, am Ì in trouble now¨; "They'd better
not find out or else.¨; "Ì'm doomed¨; or "Why
do these terrible things always happen to
Despite the evidence and warnings, an
optimist will continue to think: "Things will
work out. They always do¨; "Ì don't know why
everyone is so upset; they should just give it a
chance¨; Ìf Ì do what Ì need to, it will work out.¨
Regardless of the work load or realistic
expectations, a perfectionist will say: "Ì
should have done that a little better¨; "Ì can't
turn it in like that¨; "This will be the last
change¨; or "Ìt's not quite right yet.¨
A workahoIic will say: "Ì eat, sleep, and
dream my job¨; "Ì have so much to do, Ì have
no time for anything else¨; or "How am Ì going
to get all of this work done?¨
Ìn the old work world, loyalty was the key to
success, and at the same time it was a prize. Both
employees and the organizations they belonged
to expected to give it and receive it.
Today, however, expecting too much loyalty from
your organization or from yourself can lead you
into a personal trap.
3 oI 6 Winning at Work, by Mel Sandler and Muriel Gray
Confusion about loyalty is a major reason why
many people have problems in the new
workplace. Effective use of loyalty is one of the
primary ingredients for career success today.
Ìneffective use of loyalty is one of the common
ways in which we get trapped.
We have different degrees and types of loyalty to
each group to which we belong. They can result
in rewards and can also cause a great deal of
grief and pain.
There is no "right¨ or "wrong¨ when it comes to
rules about loyalty. Ìn fact, there is a mix of
advantages and disadvantages regarding
We understand that for all groups to survive, the
level of loyalty of their members must be high.
Yet for new ideas to emerge, there need to be
people who are willing and able to challenge the
loyalty to an established order.
The willingness of people to question and alter
their degree of loyalty is what leads to the
emergence of newideas.
Ìn order to apply the new loyalty rules, you need
to be able to direct your loyalty in several
directions at once. You can no longer afford to
direct all of your allegiance to your company.
There is no need to feel guilty for not giving your
company all of your loyalty; chances are it does
not want it anyway.
Often people have the same expectations of
their work relationships that they have of their
relationships at home. They may be reliving
some of the same struggles they had with their
These family dynamics are not typically in a
person's self-interest and can get in the way of
effectiveness at work. There should be no
confusing the relationships.
4 oI 6
Employee relationships have become even
more strained as a result of the changes in the
workplace of today. This results in a heightened
energy that can be very powerful and
consuming. Employees in today's changing
workplace often have to deal with managers
who are delivering a much more demanding
message than in previous times. This often
causes them to get stuck in certain traps.
Here are some guidelines for using the direct
approach with your manager:
Be friendly, not confrontational, avoiding
inflammatory words or other references
that might result in defensiveness.
Focus on the positive; use examples of
what is working.
Share information with the manager
about his or her behaviors that make it
harder for you to work effectively, but be
sure to give the benefit of the doubt by
acknowledging that the manager probably
didn't realize this was happening.
Ask for feedback about things that you do
that concern him or her. Be prepared to
hear that your manager's behaviour might
be a reaction to your behaviors.
Be ready for a cooperative agreement.
Be prepared for the possibility that your
manager may start a shoot-out. Ìf so, you
know who will win. Retreat and minimize
the damage.
Winning at Work, by Mel Sandler and Muriel Gray
As you can see, the direct approach is worth
trying, but it also carries some risk.
Before you consider it, observe your manager's
approach and interactions to see howhe or she
is likely to respond.
One important attribute of most successful
people is their ability to relate effectively and
appropriately with other workplace players.
They do this regardless of the changes,
disappointments, injustices, or pressures that
they confront.
You can be a winning workplace player. Ìt
doesn't matter what position you are playing.
Everyone's position is important.
Just focus on playing your position well, letting
others do the same, and working together as a
team - whether you are a manager or an
That's what we call being effective. Ìt will also
forward your professional self-interest.
These pressured times seem to promote an
"Everyone Out for Himself or Herself¨ attitude.
Ìf we charted the typical chain of events leading
to the "Everyone Out for Himself or Herself¨
attitude, it would look something like the chart
on the right.
As you can see, the pressure hits all of the
workplace players. Ìt is passed from the top to
the bottom of the ladder.
All the players are in it together. Consequently,
they have a choice: they can choose to either
sink together or swim together.
One of the first steps on the journey to success is
to be able to see your own light. What most
successful people have over others is that they do
not allow any circumstances to fully control their
attitude toward themselves. They maintain a
determination to recognize their strengths and
acknowledge their competence.
That knowledge and determination fuel them.
They exude confidence. The more difficult the
situation, the more determined they are to prove
to themselves that they can do it. Ìt is just as
important for them to prove this to themselves as it
5 oI 6 Winning at Work, by Mel Sandler and Muriel Gray
Recognizing the "Everyone Out for
Himself or Herself¨ Attitude
Shining Your Own Light
6 oI 6
is for them to demonstrate it to others.
Managers can have a tremendous impact on you,
but you will need to shine your light regardless of
your manager's style. The following are some
rules to follow:
Go for your own inner fuel and use it to shine
your light.
Use your inner light to shine outward.
Remind yourself of your ability.
Look back at your achievements and
endurance record.
Talk with people who will remind you of your
Use that energy to fuel you.
Don't forget, you are doing this for yourself, not for
your manager or anyone else. Ìt is this light that
you need to proper you forward, professionally
and personally.
Ìf you have discouraging events or memories,
stop yourself and remember your competencies
and successes. They're still yours. They fuel your
inner light that will shine outward.

Winning at Work, by Mel Sandler and Muriel Gray
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