Jackie Kellso

Posts Tagged ‘co-workers’

Dear Millennials: Protect Your Brain from your Heart

In brain, connections, friends with co-workers, friends with colleagues, heart, millennials, personal life at work, professional boundaries, work relationships, workplace connections, young professionals on May 9, 2016 at 3:52 pm

On the tail of Mother’s Day, I was thinking back to what I was like at age 27, the year my mother died.  I was already a successful and ambitious sales person in the media business when this happened, and it shook my whole world.  I was thinking about how vulnerable I felt at the time and what I did to fill the void.  And, since I was single and work was my primary focus at the time, filling the void meant forging strong relationships with colleagues.

A year after my mother died I landed my biggest and most important job to that point, a hot hot hot cable network!  No gig was cooler than that place in the 1980s, when I got this job. (MTV, folks!) I was great at what I did and managed to succeed even with my personal grief.  But inside I felt deeply alone and was trying to live my life without my mother in it.  Well, the woman who had hired me was a bright, lively, warm person, a few years older than me, and reached out her hand in friendship.  I couldn’t have been more thrilled!  We became good friends.  I went to her house, she went to my house, we talked on the phone, we cried to each other, shared secrets, the whole shmeer.  The professional boundary had been smashed.  I was in heaven because I worked for the coolest company, and had me the strong, comforting, female, authority figure for which I longed.

A year passed.  Suddenly, this boss moved over to a new department, gained a higher status in the company, and I got a new boss — this one, not so warm and friendly.  But it didn’t matter because I still had this great relationship that would support me and be there for me, just from a different department.  So I thought.  I soon realized that she wanted to cut me loose, and move beyond me.  I was crushed, I tell you, to my core.  I wrote her letters, I called her, I tried to understand the sudden disinterest in being my friend.  I never got a straight answer.

It took me awhile to heal.  I had let my heart shoot my brain, basically!  I now know it’s because the hormone oxytocin (which acts as a neuro-transmitter in the brain) is released when there’s a powerful connection.  It’s what we all seek, of course, especially when we are in need.  Work is a sea of opportunity to connect. The danger in this is that many people in corporate life are in it to win it; ambitious to the point of using people along the way.  And, even if they aren’t trying to use people, they have to recover and protect their own boundaries, in order to be most effective and have the best chances of success.  I can’t say to this day what her motive was to befriend and then unfriend me. Once she broke my trust, I felt I never really knew her in the first place. But, in hindsight, if she’d known how to handle it better she would have.

I’ll never forget this powerful lesson. No matter what is going on in your personal life, work is a dangerous place to become vulnerable to others.  Sure, I made some very nice friends throughout the years, some of whom are reading this right now, but the difference is having a friend vs. trying to find healing through a co-worker.

I wanted to write this to you from the perspective of someone now approaching 57, who has made lots of mistakes and has learned from each one of them. Your work life is different in many ways than mine was at your age.  But still, people are people, and as nice as they may be, your best bet is to keep a professional boundary so that your personal life doesn’t encroach on all of the amazing opportunities and business relationships that await you.

Always learning and growing,


Copyright, PointMaker Communications, Inc., 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, Inc., with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


How and When to Say No

In being a yes person, delegating, leadership, office politics, personal interest, profesional boundaries, professional interest, saying no, saying yes, staying late, team-player, working relationships on July 8, 2015 at 5:56 pm

You’re being asked to stay extra late to work on a project by your boss and you say, “Okay,” but probably want to scream, “NO!”  Your colleagues want you to join them for drinks after hours, and you don’t like to socialize with your co-workers, you just want to be a vegetable on the sofa, talking to no one until the morning. Sadly, you hear yourself saying, “Yes.”

Why is it so hard to say, “No?” When is it appropriate to say, “No?”

I think it’s pretty obvious why it’s hard.  We don’t want to disappoint.  We want to be the stand-up professional ready to take on more than is humanly possible.  We want the goods to come back to us.  (YOU: “Oh, he’ll remember when I said yes to working until midnight and I’ll be the first to be considered for that promotion.”) We succumb to peer pressure and don’t want to risk not being liked.

The consequences of saying no to the crowd can be hurtful.  I found myself being ostracized more than once because I didn’t want to join the group. Believe me, although somewhat hurtful, it was better than the alternative:  I had learned the painful lesson of becoming too friendly, too open and too close with people at work.

Being a YES person doesn’t necessarily get us respect anyway!  True, we may be liked, but that doesn’t make up for not being respected.  This is the risk of the person who sets professional boundaries.

So, as a general rule, it is appropriate to say, “No,” when it isn’t in one’s best personal or professional interest to say, “Yes.”  Here are some guidelines:

1. You feel taken advantage of (people perceived as YES persons may experience this more than others.)

2. You are beyond tired and must take care of your well-being. Staying even one more hour is pushing the limit.

3. You are being asked to do a colleague’s work because that person is lazy or overwhelmed or knows you are better than she is at that given task.  There are promises of a return favor, but you know this won’t be the case.  You don’t want a favor from this person anyway!  (Don’t confuse this with a manager delegating work to you, which he/she should be doing!)

4. You are uncomfortable becoming too friendly with co-workers.  Once alcohol gets involved, it’s a game-changer. Another type of boundary-breaker is the person who privately shares her personal dramas with you.  Or, of course, there’s the office fling.  My vote?  Do nothing that might make you the topic of gossip and don’t create an expectation that you are the dumping ground for others’ problems.

5. You are being dragged into gossip and condemning of others.

6. Your ambitious nature makes you want to say, “Yes,” with the motive to get ahead. Sometimes this is appropriate!  We want to be perceived as  team-players and a proactive leaders, but this can backfire if we use it to promote how great we are.

We can’t always say, “No,” and that’s a reality.  It’s okay to say, “Yes” when:

1. You are a team-player and want to contribute beyond the call of duty.

2. You see someone in need of help and have the capacity to chip in.

3. On the odd occasion, the team is rallying together late for an important business cause, such as solving a major client’s problem.  Pizza and chocolate for all are called for in such situations.

4. You feel good about saying, “Yes” with no regret or fear.

So, how do you say, “No” without arousing ill-will?

Always start with addressing the concern of the other party.  Here are some examples:

a. “I know how much you value my work and think I’m the right person for the task. I appreciate that. I’m going to say no because it will dilute the quality of the work I have on my plate.”

b. “Thank you for inviting me to join you for drinks.  It makes me feel good to be invited! I’m going to say no because I need to replenish my energies for the morning, and just relax at home. I would be happy to have a quick lunch with the team tomorrow, if it’s convenient for you.

c. “I’m sorry you’re having such problems with your boyfriend.  I don’t want to hurt your feelings and I hope you work it out.  I feel that I’m just not the right person on this subject.  I hope you understand.  I’m very excited about working with you on this project.  By the way, are you free at 3pm so we can go over that report?”

In the end, saying, “No” is not easy.  But, if we hold to the idea that we are setting professional boundaries, we are more apt to gain respect.  And, as long as we are compassionate towards others while we turn them down, we can contribute to creating positive working relationships.

Enjoy your assertiveness,


Copyright, PointMaker Communications, Inc., 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, Inc., with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.