Are things getting personal in your office? Faced with a couple of love-struck people distracting the team and wasting time? Do some people seem too focused on work social affairs and less interested in getting the job done? Chances are if you’re a leader of people, at some point or another you will be faced with the challenges that can come with office romances.

Being attracted to or even romantically involved with a colleague isn’t necessarily a problem. How people go about it can be. The reality is that in workplaces everywhere people involved are in personal relationships with colleagues and even their boss. Some cases will lead to life long commitments and others will be short lived. Irrespective of the outcome for the couple concerned the consequences for the business can be significant.

Among the most important steps managers can take to respond are these:

1. Call it early

People caught up in the excitement of a new relationship can at times struggle to see how others perceive their behaviour. Bring any concerns you have to their attention as soon as you become aware of them. The sooner you take steps to correct behaviour, the more likely you are to avoid issues arising.

2. Expect discretion

Don’t allow personal relationships to encroach on company time or disrupt the office environment. Ask people to refrain from flirting or bickering at work, talking excessively about their partner and public displays of affection. Remind them if necessary that other people aren’t likely to be as interested in their relationship as they are.

3. Address impacts

Be aware of the time people generally spend engaged in personal conversations. Of course be flexible and give some degree of latitude but nip it in the bud when you see unreasonable amounts of time being spent or inappropriate conduct arising.

Dealing with distracting issues, emotions and fallout from office romances is draining for everyone involved.   Let people know when their romance is impacting on others. Encourage those affected to speak directly to the people involved, but be prepared to step in where required.

4. Understand and mitigate risks 

Apply policies your organisation has in place and workplace laws. While there are no specific laws that prevent office romances sexual harassment legislation may apply. Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. Sexual harassment is not interaction, flirtation or friendship, which is mutual or consensual.

Ensure all staff understand their obligations and take firm steps to address concerning behaviours and manage risks. Consider risks of inappropriate disclosure of sensitive information, favouritism and conflicting priorities. For example, its neither appropriate nor accepted in most circumstances for someone to report to a person they are romantically involved with. No matter how much you or the parties involved believe they can act responsibly, its unwise to allow this arrangement to remain in place.

5. Coach and mentor

While it’s not your job to manage the personal affairs of your staff, when you can see that the relationships people have at work are impacting their credibility and career, its important to raise concern. Help people to understand if they are putting their careers at risk by behaving the way they are.

If someone appears to be just looking for a good time and leaving a trail of broken hearts and trust in their wake, let them know that its unlikely to do anything good for their reputation or career. Encourage people to think carefully about what it says about their ability to conduct themselves respectively if they choose to date a lot of different people at work or get involved in an extramarital affair.

There is no need to unreasonably stand in the way of two consenting adults finding love at work. Understand that people will and do find partners among their colleagues but take reasonable steps to ensure your business and team are not adversely impacted. Educate, coach and manage people to ensure everyone behaves with respect, focus and integrity. 

Karen GatelyKaren Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist and a founder of Ryan Gately. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit www.karengately.com.au or contact [email protected]


We’ve all seen them in action – the person who cruises along, flies under the radar of accountability and lets the team down just when they are needed most. Sometimes these people are just as capable of rising to the occasion and achieving outstanding results. The problem is they can’t be relied upon to deliver consistently and tend to cause havoc for the rest of the team.

Unreliable people not only let themselves and the team down, they typically drain their manager of precious energy and time. Yet all too often I observe leaders failing to act to address the issue. The reason many give for tolerating unreliable behaviour is that they don’t want to lose the knowledge, skills or experience the individual brings. In other words, they are willing to tolerate their unreliability for the benefit gained when they are at their best.

What leaders who do choose to hold these high potential, poor performing employees accountable realise, is that talent is worthless unless effectively applied. It doesn’t matter how capable someone is, unless they choose to behave successfully their potential is wasted. Sure, some benefit is gained but when what they achieve is weighed against the detrimental consequences of their performance and behaviour, it isn’t difficult to see why it’s as necessary as it is to act.

The most important things you can do to deal with unreliable employees are these six things:

  1. Commit to creating a successful environment

Take the step necessary to address the impacts unreliable people have on your team. It’s common for high performing staff to choose to leave a business because they are frustrated by the inaction of leaders in dealing with poor performers. Successful people want to be on a successful team and are typically disillusioned by a leader who fails to create an environment in which the team can succeed.

  1. Be clear

Make your expectations of how people need to behave and perform clear. Ensure each individual understand why their role matters to the team and businesses success. Be clear about what is considered a successful standard of contribution as well as behaviour valued and expected. Explain the consequences that will be applied – both the reward and recognition people can expect as well as the actions that will be taken to address unacceptable standards.

  1. Walk your talk

Remember actions speak louder than words; once you have set your expectations you need to hold yourself and every member of your team consistently accountable. Inconsistent leadership undermines not only clarity but also commitment. Also impacted is confidence in your leadership. Leading by example and doing what you say will is essential to building the depth of trust you need to inspire and lead your team to achieve the heights of your organisations potential.

  1. Act with strength and compassion

Be prepared to have the ‘tough love conversations’ needed to help people understand the gap between what you expect and what they are currently doing. Guiding people to choose more successful behaviours requires that they trust you. Trust depends on your ability to deliver honest feedback with respect and sensitivity. Be direct and truthful but also respectful to the individual, and they are more likely to respond well and improve.

  1. Follow through

Be prepared to take the actions necessary to reinforce the standards you set. Idol threats encourage the behaviours that are holding people back from being a reliable member of your team. If you have given someone reasonable opportunity to understand your expectations, benefit from your support and guidance and they continue to behave unreliably, you need to exit them from your business. Holding on to people who consistently underperform despite your best efforts to hep them succeed will drain the spirit of your team and undermine your businesses ability to thrive.

  1. Believe success is possible

For three years I worked with a leader to deal with ongoing frustrations caused by a senior member of his team who was brilliant one day and totally unreliable the next. The strength of the individual’s client relationships and depth of industry experience, together with their challenging personality made his manager hesitant to act. Faced with growing issues as a consequence, finally the decision was reached to deal with his conduct.

When ultimately faced with the threat of losing his job, the team member in question predictably threatened to resign. As planned the manager held firm and accepted his resignation to which the team member responded “fine! I’ll think about it”. In that moment the manager knew the tide had turned. The team member did return the next day and while it was at times a challenging road, today he is performing well and growing in his career.

While far from always the case, honest, firm and fair leadership can influence the way people choose to behave and help them to become a more successful version of themselves.

Karen GatelyKaren Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist and a founder of Ryan Gately. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit Karen’s website or contact [email protected]


Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time with people looking for advice about the next steps in their career.  Each of these people has wanted something different from me – some have wanted to learn from the steps I’ve taken in my own career and others my opinion on the suitability of various roles and learning opportunities. Throughout my own career I’ve benefited from advice sort from people who had already achieved what I was looking to. Good advice has been essential to my own growth and advancement as well as that of many of the successful people I know.

Mentoring is a personal relationship, a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. A trusted advisor or mentor can have a substantial impact on the quality of our choices and ultimately the level of success we are able to achieve. Finding and connecting with the right person is essential to success. Finding people who are willing and able to share valuable insights and guidance is an important opportunity for anyone looking to learn.

Finding great mentors

While you may be fortunate to have family or friends willing and able to offer quality advice, it’s important to look for mentors and advisors outside of your immediate circle of influence:

  • Talk to people who may know people: ask close friends, colleagues, associates and anyone else you respect to suggest people you need to meet. Ask them to introduce you if they can.
  • Participate in networking groups that provide opportunity to form quality relationships. Exchanging business cards isn’t enough – get to know and build authentic relationships with successful people.
  • Think outside of the square – be open minded to where you might find good advice. For example, it may be your uncle’s best friend who has the experience and insights you need to tap into.
  • Trust: throughout my life the right teachers have turned up at the right time. While it’s important to proactively take steps to find people we can learn from, it’s also important to trust you will recognise new teachers when they arrive.

Choose wisely

Regardless of who has introduced you, use your own judgment about the extent to which you should trust the character and capabilities of a potential mentor. Understand the background of the person you are meeting and be clear about how their experience and approach can help you to gain the insights, learn the lessons or make the decisions you need to in you own career.

Look for a mentor who is an active listener. People who listen actively don’t simply sit back; they invest energy in the process. They sit up straight, focus, take notes, ask questions and repeat what they have heard to ensure accurate understanding. Active listeners use non-verbal gestures such as eye contact, nodding, smiling and expressions of concern to indicate their engagement in their conversations.

Look for a mentor who is an active listener. People who listen actively don’t simply sit back; they invest energy in the process.

Commitment. Both parties must follow through on the promises they make. Trust and respect are fundamental the success of any mentoring relationship and the extent to which both parties invest and commit to the relationship will underpin success.

Leveraging a mentoring relationship well

It’s up to you to make the most of the opportunity that comes with having a mentor. Invest time and energy, listen to learn and follow through with the agreements you make with your mentor. For the relationship to have any real influence on your learning and success, its up to you to take the actions necessary to apply the wisdom you gain.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice about anything you need to learn or improve. There truly is no such thing as a dumb question and if the person you’ve chosen as your mentor doesn’t understand that, it’s probably time to reconsider your choice. Go to any meeting with your mentor armed with the questions you want to ask.  Don’t allow fear or hesitation to hold you back from asking what you really want to know.

Ask for the time you need. People are free to say no if they are too busy to spend time with you. So ask for what you need and take what you can get.  Know what you want to gain from the time you spend together and make sure you tell your mentor. The more prepared they are the more likely it is that you will get value from the time and energy you both invest.

Ask for the time you need. People are free to say no if they are too busy to spend time with you.

Be open and willing to share honest insight to your goals and aspirations, fears and hesitations. Only with full insight can anyone be expected to have a positive influence on what you learn and the choices you make. Understanding and influencing the way you think, feel and behave all matter to your mentors ability to play a valuable role in enabling your success.

Have you had any successful experiences with mentors in your life? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Featured image: Don’t Let Go.

karen gatelyKaren Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist and a founder of Ryan Gately.  Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit www.karengately.com.au or contact [email protected]

 


The beliefs we choose to hold about ourselves, our circumstances, our work, the future and our ability to influence that future unquestionably define the outcomes we achieve in life, including at work.

Seven beliefs that impact upon our ability to build a successful career are the subject of this article. These beliefs are those that have had the greatest influence on my own career as well as those of many other people I’ve met or observed in business and life. Successful people often describe these beliefs, examples of which I will share below.Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else

1. Believe you create your own reality

What we choose to think, feel and ultimately do, defines the reality we create. Choosing to believe life is outside of your control and success a matter of luck will only lead to a sense of helplessness and a life built on chance. As Anais Nin so eloquently said, “Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.” Dreaming about our future and choosing to act to make those dreams come true is fundamental to success.

2. Believe in what you are doing

Choosing to work in a job or pursue a career that has little meaning for you is unlikely to see you thrive. As Richard Branson said, “There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.” When we love what we do and believe it matters our spirit is energised becoming the fuel of our success. To quote one of my favourite businesswomen Oprah Winfrey “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” If you are struggling to get out of bed, let alone thrive at work, start by asking yourself whether or not you believe in what you are doing.

3. Believe you are capable

Being aware of and respecting our capabilities means we are more likely to apply them when needed. Doubting what we are capable of can cause us to hesitate and miss opportunities that come along. This is especially true when we are asked to step outside of our comfort zone and try new things we haven’t done before. In that moment choosing to believe we can succeed is critical to the next choice that must follow – to give it a go. As inspiring businesswoman Alice Foote MacDougall said, “It is the small doubts of timid souls that accomplish their ruin. It is the narrow vision, the fear and trembling hesitation, that constitute defeat.”

4. Believe in your potential

Limiting self-belief is the most common reason I observe for people living a less than fulfilling work life. As Brian Tracy said “The outer limit of your potential is determined solely by your own beliefs and your own confidence in what you think is possible.” Why not you? While there are many things you are likely to need to learn and capabilities you need to develop in order to achieve ambitious goals, choose to believe that you as much as the next person are capable of finding the way to succeed.

5. Believe you will overcome challenge

It’s inevitable that we will go through times in our careers that are challenging or frustrating. Feeling stuck in a role or stage of career can cause the most driven among us to give up the fight and settle for second best. As Michael Jordan said, “If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” Keep striving knowing that only you can change the circumstances you find yourself in. Avoid the trappings of a victim mentality. Yes life can be challenging but our belief that we are ultimately the masters of our own destiny is essential to overcoming the obstacles life can throw in our way.

6. Believe you can learn

It’s natural that at various stages of your career you won’t have all of the knowledge, skills or experience you need to take the next steps. Too often I observe people plateau in their careers because they believe stepping up to the next level of contribution seems beyond their reach. These people choose to believe that they have reached their limits and doubt their ability to learn and grow further. While some things will take greater time or efforts its critical that we first choose to believe we can grow. As Pablo Picasso said, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

7. Believe its OK to be YOU

Having the courage to be authentically who you are is essential to success. Of course our ability to build healthy relationships with the people we work with matters, but if that comes as the expense of being true to ourselves, it’s not worth it. You are entirely unlikely to thrive if you choose to believe you have to hide away behind a façade. Too often I meet people acting out what they believe other people expect them to be. They struggle to ‘fall in line’ and behave within the safe boundaries of conventional thinking an expectations. You will never bring your full potential if you are scared to bring your full self. A Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

Photo credit: Scania Group via photopin cc

Karen Gately

Karen GatelyKaren is a highly-regarded author, speaker, advisor and educator in the field of human performance and leadership. She brings a fresh and down to earth approach, advocating a methodology focused on leveraging both talent and energy to drive great results. She is passionate about guiding women to reach their full potential and to step up to the challenges of the business world.

Karen founded HR consultancy Ryan Gately in 2006, after 8 years as Human Resources Director – Asia Pacific with The Vanguard Group. She is the author of two leadership titles, The Corporate Dojo and The People Manager’s Toolkit (Wiley, 2013). Her approach is deeply rooted in the 25 years spent training and teaching karate. She was the youngest person in Shukokai karate awarded a 1st Dan black belt at age 14 and won multiple state, national and international titles.


How much do you love yourself?  How willing are you to answer that question for yourself let alone other people? 

It’s a sad reality for many western cultures that people are criticised for daring to love who they are.  Modesty and self-deprecation are considered virtues in the minds of many people, none more so than women. Self-deprivation is commonly considered a necessary sacrifice.  Some women even wear as a badge of honor for their choice to put themselves last in all circumstances.Have the courage to accept you are not perfect and few people expect you to be.  Have the courage to ignore the views of people who set unreasonable expectations and dish out harsh criticism

The 25 years I spent training, teaching and competing in the martial arts taught me the importance of having a strong sense of self worth.  It’s every karate teacher’s job to help their students develop a deep sense of love, respect and appreciation for who they are, what they are capable of and how much they matter. People who love themselves typically want to live and have a lot to live for.  Enriched and inspired by life, these are the people most likely to choose to fight for survival if their life is under threat.  They are also the mostly likely to strive to thrive.

There is no question the fondness we feel about ourselves is a powerful source of positive energy that fuels our spirit. Equally an absence of self-love can quickly drain our spirit and lead to behaviours that undermine our success.  Our ability to respect and love ourselves has a profound impact on our happiness and, ultimately, on our success—not just at work but in all areas of our lives.

So, what are the essential steps needed to build our sense of self-worth?

#1 Have courage

Have the courage to know that loving yourself is not only OK it’s a necessary ingredient for a happy and fulfilled life.  Loving yourself isn’t the same as being arrogant or conceited; don’t be afraid that people will perceive you as having an inflated opinion of yourself.   Have the courage to ignore your critics  – look past their unfounded beliefs and inaccurate perceptions.

Have the courage to change how you feel about yourself.  Choose to be proud of who you are and openly recognise your strengths and achievements for what they are. Have the courage to accept you are not perfect and few people expect you to be.  Have the courage to ignore the views of people who set unreasonable expectations and dish out harsh criticism.

#2 Commit to creating a happier life

We all have two voices in our minds that compete for our attention.  One that tells us we are OK and the other that tells us we’re not.  When the ‘I’m OK’ voice in your mind is too loud your ego becomes inflated.  When your ‘I’m not OK’ voice shouts louder your sense of self worth and capacity to love yourselves is repressed.

Choose which of these two voices you give power to.  Commit to challenging the thoughts that go through your mind – choose those that uplift your spirit and build your sense of self worth and belief.  When you are able to choose your thoughts and feelings you will learn to love yourself fully.

#3 Take a dose of self-administered tough love

This is not the time to take open, honest constructive feedback from other people.  Leave other people’s opinions with them and ask yourself what your most valuable qualities and talents are as well as how you need to improve.  Choose for yourself the aspects you are proud of and those you know need to change.  Honestly acknowledge your shortcomings but be kind to yourself.  None of us are perfect and we all deserve the opportunity to learn from our experiences, including our mistakes.

#4 Choose to have self-respect

How often do you criticise yourself to other people?  “I’m so stupid” is an expression I hear all too often.  Many of us are quick to blame ourselves for the things that go wrong and fail to demand fair treatment from others.  Thriving in life demands that you set high behavioural standards for yourself and other people.  Be clear about how you expect other people to engage with you no matter who they are. Respect yourself enough to strive to be the best possible version of yourself you can be.

#5 Appreciate your talents

Take the time to reflect on all of the things that you are fantastic at.  Allow yourself to be completely honest with yourself and appreciate the ways in which you are able to contribute, make a difference and influence the world around you.  We all have strengths we bring and our recognition and appreciation of them is an important step toward leveraging our full potential.  Unless you are able to see and believe in your own talents, you can’t step up and give things a go.

#6 Create Boundaries

Lots of people are quick, and at times all too eager to point out our faults and failings.  These people are also slow to compliment us on our achievements or thank us for our contributions.  Choose carefully whose opinions you allow to impact the perceptions you hold about yourself.  It’s critical that even in the face of strong opinion and criticism that you decide for yourself what the truth is.  Take a firm stance against those who willfully or irresponsibly act in ways that can harm your sense of self worth.   At times it may be necessary to walk away from people who undermine your self-esteem and appreciation.

Karen Gately

Karen is a highly-regarded author, speaker, advisor and educator in the field of human performance and leadership. She brings a fresh and down to earth approach, advocating a methodology focused on leveraging both talent and energy to drive great results. She is passionate about guiding women to reach their full potential and to step up to the challenges of the business world.

Karen founded HR consultancy Ryan Gately in 2006, after 8 years as Human Resources Director – Asia Pacific with The Vanguard Group. She is the author of two leadership titles, The Corporate Dojo and The People Manager’s Toolkit (Wiley, 2013). Her approach is deeply rooted in the 25 years spent training and teaching karate. She was the youngest person in Shukokai karate awarded a 1st Dan black belt at age 14 and won multiple state, national and international titles.