Assertiveness. Just to say no or say the truth?

How to be assertive? Pictures below or similar are often used to illustrate the answer for this question. There are many articles about assertiveness titled “just say no!”. As you can see on the images  “no” might be said in many different ways.

We can explain our thoughts and try to find a compromise or just say no and nothing more. In my opinion, the second case has nothing to do with assertiveness. Unfortunately, many people think that to be assertive means to be able to refuse. Let’s take a look at example.

A: Would you like to go to a dinner with me?
B: No, I have no time. I have to finish my work.
A: Ok. No problem.
—– After a few minutes —–
C: Would you like to go to a dinner with me?
B: Yes, sure I’m very hungry. Wait a minute.

What do you think about the behaviour of person B? One may say that person B has the right to refuse to person A. This is definitely true. My question is: what about the feelings of person A in the context of the next situation? The calm answer “I have no time. I have to finish my work” might be a reason for person A to feel ignored. Why? The answer is simple, that was a lie. Person A has the right to hear the truth, even if it was difficult. For that reason my definition of the assertiveness is a bit different. It’s the ability to say the truth respecting feelings of the other people in the same time.

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Benefits and Values. Why we are working?

Why we are working? One may say that we are working to earn money, to have a power, to be a very important person. Let’s assume that these are the only or at least the most important reasons we are working. If so, why we like running, playing football, playing a guitar, reading books, learning etc. These activities give us a satisfaction but not money. In spite of that we are doing them, because we are taking care about our values!

There is a big difference between: want and have to do something. Financial benefits (carrots) are necessary to convince people to be responsible for the work they don’t like. Unfortunately, they are not sufficient. Some awards, a bonus payment, a health insurance, a company car – all of this things are connected with the money. Furthermore every penalty is nothing else than the lack of the financial benefits (stick). The image above shows an employer who is motivated by three carrots e.g bonus payments. The question suggests that the man has a lot of responsibilities and a promise of a reward. A lot of mangers thinks that one person could be as efficient as a group of people when we promised him a great reward. Unfortunately, it is not so simple. In this case the man could be frustrated, because getting a carrot may be too difficult for him. In the same time he has to do his job as usually, because of the penalty, e.g lack of promotion.

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Can I make mistakes?

In theory everyone can make mistakes. Probably everyone know at least one very smart quote about making mistakes. Let’s take a look at some examples.

  • “The important thing in my view is not to pin the blame for a mistake on somebody, but rather to find out what caused the mistake.” Akio Morita (b.1921). Made in Japan, (1987), p. 149.””
  • “Those who make no mistakes are making the biggest mistakes of all — they are attempting nothing new.” Anthony de Mello, One Minute Nonsense (1992), p. 20.
  • “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” John Powell, The Secret of Staying in Love (1990), p. 85.

Do you hear about these quotes? Do you like them? I think that IT developers love them ;) Our managers never understands us. We are trying to finish our projects before deadlines but there are many problems during the development, e.g: code which we get from someone else is a piece of crap or business requirements changed many times.

I admit that it is hard to work with a code that we couldn’t understand. Of course also frequent changes don’t help. That’s true. In such situations, software engineers often treat symptoms because it is the most simple solution, often the only possible. We are creating more and more patches, wrappers, adapters to “fix” the code we get. To fix or to work around possible errors.

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Management By Objectives

It is believed that management by objectives is the best way to inspire employees to work efficiently. How it works?

  1. An organization defines its goals. It is usually done for one year.

  2. Employees choose their goals from the lists provided by their managers.

  3. Working on everyday tasks and measuring the work progress and performance.

  4. Performance evaluation, providing feedback and rewards or punishments

It seems simple but what about if management by objectives inspire employees to win in the lottery with the one rule: “there are no rules”? There are no rules to make goals from the lists and the only reason to achieve the good result during the evaluation are rewards or fear of punishment?

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Introduction to Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management is a specific approach to assure quality. It is assumed that a company exists for customers and the whole organization have to take care about the quality of the products and services all the time. Neither strict rules, nor special salary encourage people to look after their workplace. It is believed that people are working to earn more and more money but it isn’t the only reason. People are working to feel proud.

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Total Quality Management doesn’t forget about the psychology. In most cases we don’t want to make a bullshit. Often we haven’t got a chance to report about problems and almost never to fix them. For that reason we usually warn our friends against the products we made. Does it seems strange?

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