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Behavior: getting from pointless to purposeful

How to deal with frustrating coworkers that just don't get it

Pointlessness. I hate it. Don’t you?

I bet that you, just like me, have had pointless experiences. Pointless meetings. Pointless texts. Pointless phone calls. Pointless conversations.

We can be tempted to say, “yeah, but even thru the pointless experiences, you can find meaning!” Or we might say, “even when things seem POINTLESS, there’s a bigger thing that’s always going on.” Or, “Relationships are valuable. Dealing with pointless stuff is part of building relational capital!” And, I’d agree. But for a moment, think with me...

Pointless experiences (meetings, conversations, phone calls, emails, documents, text messages, etc.) are deemed “pointless” by you and I, the ones who think. We don’t simply do things “just because,” but with a purpose. Purpose drives everything we do. We hate when we are unclear on the objective, can’t see the “why,” and don’t know our role in the larger picture. We hate when behaviors don’t align with how we like to operate: with organization, clarity, agendas, and meaning.

So here’s my idea: you and I must spread a passion for purposeful behavior. We must talk about “how we behave” to our co-workers, bosses, and colleagues who typically facilitate pointless experiences. We must spread a passion for thinking things through and taking the time to decide. We must find great models and ways of doing things that can spread to others and not just be based on our own personal preferences.

If we base our work satisfaction on whether or not others “do things the way WE like them,” we will always be frustrated, annoyed, and bogged down. But if we learn to see opportunities to come along side others and suggest a mutually BETTER way of doing things, we can experience growth, change, and progress.

The more you and I demonstrate what it looks like to give something the attention it deserves (a document, an email, a meeting agenda), we will gain more creditability and influence with those around us. It’s creditability and influence that then gives you a seat at the table to bring about real change in how things are done.

I don’t know if you’re discouraged today by something that happened at work. Maybe you feel like your boss is an idiot... you’re putting in all this extra, valuable effort . . . and it’s unnoticed.

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Make a list of the kinds of “key behaviors” that you’d like to see more of
  2. Demonstrate the behavior you want to see more of
  3. Find an opportunity to talk about “how you behave” with your co-workers*
  4. Continue to talk about the kind of behavior that best serves you & your work
  5. Regularly make adjustments and perform course-correction

* My suggestion for how to find an opportunity to talk about “behavior” is this (based on advice from Clay Scroggins): Find a moment when you are having a light/easy-going moment with your boss or co-worker. Ask them their advice on how you can bring up things you disagree about in that moment — when the stakes are lower and the air isn’t tense. Use this as an opportunity not to talk about the hard stuff but to learn the best way to bring up the hard stuff, the next time it does.

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