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Interpersonal Skill Building -- Yank The Suckers & Weeds

According to the National Gardening Association, suckers are rapidly growing shoots rising from an underground root or stem, often to the detriment of the tree. They can be very irritating and annoying for they bear no flowers or fruit. Rather than cut them off, one way to get rid of them is to roughly yank the suckers off to remove the cells and tissues that cause re-growth.

Even if you are not a gardener, you know a lot about weeds. They are everywhere and tend to take over, crowd a plant's root system, and provide a chaotic and unsightly mess. While there are many kinds of weed-killer sprays on the market, orchard growers hesitate to use them for fear of damaging the trees.

Unfortunately, businesses have suckers and weeds too. These unattractive thieves rob the organization blind by ruining its competitive advantage, and choking and stifling its people. To avoid these outcomes, try applying a heavy layer of protective interpersonal mulch to effectively stop all but the most persistent of suckers and weeds.

Here are four suckers and weeds that are typically found in the business garden, along with ways to yank them out before they root too deeply:

Office Politics

Far too many workers put their faith in office politics and believe their careers will either soar or plunge as a result of them. Office politics are a fundamental part of the daily grind. Sometimes people who cannot succeed on their own merit play them, and oftentimes, workers who pursue personal hidden agendas at the expense of others practice them. How do you keep this damaging sucker from taking root?

  • Learn and understand how the office political game is played. You cannot afford to ignore office politics; whether you choose to play the political game or abstain is up to you.
  • Use ethical influence to impact others without being sucked into the game. Strengthen professional relationships with others in your company and industry.
  • Increase your awareness of how the company works-who has informal power and clout, and the unwritten as well as written rules of engagement.
  • Jumping to Conclusions

    We often criticize others for jumping to conclusions or assuming the worst about a situation that may be erroneous or is not justified by the facts. When we jump to conclusions, we tend to label others based on prejudice or stereotype, interpret their behavior as a result of assumptions, and narrow our objectivity by becoming overly critical or intolerant. To uproot this weed, you have to continually dig deep into the soil of your mind and heart and repeatedly yank it out:

  • Think of ways to jump to positive conclusions or consider alternative aspects of any problem, issue or situation.
  • Refrain from speaking or acting before hearing all the facts. Stop wasting precious time and energy on what you think may have happened. There may be a perfectly good explanation for why a particular action was taken. Ask for it.
  • Avoid the tendency to pigeon-hole others or use labels and stereotypes.
  • Wishy-Washiness

    Do you have a boss or co-workers who just can't seem to make of their minds? One minute they model commitment and confidence, promise to support and back you up; the next minute they hesitate, become indecisive, and do not know the right direction to take.

    You will need both hands to handle this slippery weed:

  • Focus on what's important. Ask for advice and insight. When you have considered all the available facts, move forward with prudence and good sense.
  • Put some stakes in the ground. Take a stand and stop straddling the fence.
  • Clearly outline any roles and expectations; then follow the plan.
  • Double-Talk

    In the business world, double-talk looks like excuse making and blame shifting. It often involves the deliberate use of ambiguous, vague or confusing language that is spoken or written in an earnest, sincere or meaningful tone. Yet, when you reflect on what you have just read or heard, you realize it is a mixture of sense and nonsense, drivel, rubbish, and just bunk! When someone uses double-talk, we are left with a bad taste in our mouths. So, how do we get rid of this poisonous weed?

  • Don't do it! Understand that to continue to engage in double-talk will negatively impact your character, integrity and reputation in the end.
  • When you hear double-talk, try to discover motives, hidden agendas, intentions and reasons by listening with an objective filter.
  • Hold yourself accountable for your mistakes and failures instead of making excuses and blaming others.
  • Don't let pervasive suckers and weeds choke your career and business garden. Don't just cut them out; yank them-root system and all! You'll be more successful if you do.

    Althea DeBrule, entrepreneur and seasoned human resources executive, has focused for more than 30 years on helping people achieve their career goals. Creator of The Extreme-Career-Makeover? and a founding partner of RADSGroup Organizational Consultants, she is recognized for her bottom line and practical application of career development and management strategies in a way that penetrates hearts and compels action. She speaks and teaches with inspired talent, humor and contagious zeal at management conferences and leadership retreats nationwide, and has been featured in CFO Magazine, Strategy@Work, Human Resource Executive Magazine. Althea is the author of Bosses & Orchards, a compelling and candid book about how to make your work relationship with your boss succeed. To discover how you can take your career to a new level, visit

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