Month: April 2020

How to handle a toxic colleague

Throughout my experience as manager, I have stumbled across toxic colleagues. Such people can jeopardize a career or a team. As normally we spend a lot of time in the office, it is important to maintain a positive work environment and a pleasant atmosphere.

I am fairly certain that some people are currently dealing with this so it crossed my mind to write something helpful on this topic: How to handle a toxic co-worker.

How to identify a toxic colleague?

You must know them, these people with whom nothing is going well and who are never happy. They always have a good reason to complain, their missions exasperate them, their time and stress management is weak, they were never given the right mission, the right responsibilities, and the right tools. According to them, they always meet all the problems in the world. Everything prevents them from moving forward, they never have a chance to do anything.

They often let everyone know about this discomfort and share it at the coffee machine or via chat tools. It is the place where these people are the most dangerous, because they are eminently attractive to listen to. After all, aren’t we all stressed to some extent? Do we not carry in our DNA an overdeveloped critical spirit? And then it’s sometimes nice to complain, right?

You will also identify them during team meetings. They will often adopt a negative attitude in their posture and words, always expressing negative criticism or demotivation.

These behaviors can kill the team’s motivation and pull everyone down.

How to Deal with a Toxic Colleague?

Before drawing any hasty conclusions and dismissing a toxic employee, it is necessary to take the time to analyze the situation in more depth and to identify if something is problematic to him or her. They may simply not understand the company’s vision or may have strayed from your team and company’s goals.

However, they may also have personal problems or may not feel appreciated at work. If you want your team to be healthier, you need to find the root of the problem.

In order for this to happen, communication is key. It is very important to ask him/her what he/she thinks about the situation, then give him/her direct feedback and explain the consequences of his/her behavior. You should let the employee know that you will analyze his behavior and give him written feedback followed by a coaching plan for improvement.

Also, it is very important to put yourself under the question mark: did you encourage this behavior? Did you do something to create frustrations? If the answer is positive, an honest discussion about it could solve the issue faster than you thought.

If you have tried everything and the toxic employee continues to affect the productivity of his co-workers and well-being at work, the only thing left to do is to help him find opportunities outside of your team before he causes more harm. With this said, you must also be aware that there are several types of toxic people. In this context, you should deal with each of them individually.

The Gossip Whisperer

This type of toxic colleague is not easy to manage, because many people in the office can appreciate him/her. However, giving him/her something to focus on can help him/her ground his/her communication skills and channel his/her energy into something productive.

gossip, toxic colleague

The Sociopath

The sociopathic employee leaves traces of destruction wherever he/she goes. It causes a hostile environment, ruins the morale of the team and can seriously damage the reputation of the business. He/she often repeats harassing behavior and shows little regard for rules and protocols. He has a problem with authority and is particularly good at manipulating and sabotaging.

By putting in place strict anti-harassment policies within your company and creating a safe and caring environment, you can help prevent this from happening. Carefully document negative behaviors and trust your gut. If you receive many complaints about the same employee, it may be time to get rid of them.

The one who takes everything personally

This one thinks that every decision ever made in the team or in the company was made only to harm him. Every change was made only to piss him off. Every “instructions” mail was sent only to make his life harder (even if the e-mail was received by all the team members).

This is usually a cry for attention and people like this just want to be heard. Book a one on one with this person, let her talk. Ask questions and take time to listen the answers. You will be surprised how many good ideas these persons could have.

Make this person responsible of something he/she complained about. If he/she complained about the planning of the team, invite him/her to propose his/her version. This toxic colleague will see that the task was not as easy as imagined and will stop complaining about it or he/she will come with a better version of it. This is what I call a win/win situation.

The one who blames anyone else for his own mistakes

He can never be the guilty one. If something bad happened, it was the manager, the fellow colleagues or anyone other than him. Even when it is obviously his fault, he points the finger towards another person, thing or event. And he genuinely believes it.

Sometimes, this kind of attitudes comes from persons who are insecure at the workplace. Maybe a discussion about the tasks he/she cannot manage would be helpful, as well as a training offer on those topics.

The Reaction

The first reaction of your collaborator will be interesting to analyze. The right people will take the initiative positively and move forward. The other type of collaborators will probably have an air of doe caught in the headlights, because if criticizing is pleasant, working to solve a problem is much less.

toxic colleague

The results

After all these steps are done, follow closely the work of your colleague. Several scenarios are possible:

Scenario 1: The attitude issue is solved. This is the most rewarding scenario for all the parties involved in this story: manager, employee, team. And everyone will live happily ever after.

Scenario 2: Your toxic colleague also breaks his teeth on the problem. He will then understand that criticism is easy, but art is difficult. Failure will usually have two impacts:

  • He/she will learn humility and will now moderate his remarks internally. You will thus have succeeded in limiting his toxicity and saved your team.
  • He/she will not accept this failure and will do everything to leave the team or the company. The toxic cloud will pollute other skies.

 Sometimes, letting people go can be perceived as a personal failure. Try to avoid this thought.

Some jobs are not made for everyone and some people cannot be fixed or do not want to get better. Do your best, communicate, plan and do actions, but in the end, do what’s best for your team!

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All about A team

Ok, maybe not all. At least not from the first post.

On my laptop, I have a sticker with a bunch of amazing people. I have so many beautiful things to say about them, that I am not really sure in which order to start their presentation. In this picture, it is my local team. I mentioned the “local”, because a part of our team is away, in another country. I`ll tell you more about managing a long-distance team in another post, it has a lot in common with a long-distance relationship, but now let’s focus on the team members that have to deal with me (almost) every day.

We are working in the IT area, in a service center. Some could call it a call center, but for us it’s a bit of a difference because in the call center you deal with final customers. For instance, at a call center you receive calls from the people who are using a service, such as telephony services. In a service center, it’s a bit more sophisticated, as our “customers”, or “users” as we like to call them, are the employees of another company and not its clients. All that to say that we are offering IT support to the employees of our client. So, if one user has an IT issue, he calls us. He has other ways of contacting us also, but I wouldn’t like to forget the purpose of this: presenting you my team.

about a team

My team members are my heroes: they all speak two or more foreign languages, they handle calls in different languages, they are patient, they are kind, they are polite and nice. Oh, and did I tell you that they are also innovative, always coming with improvement ideas and going the extra-mile each and every day? Sounds like the ideal team, isn’t it? Well, it is.

I won`t lie to you, we have bad days also, but together, as a team, we find ways to move forward. Sometimes, we learn it the hard way, some days one of us are not in the mood for science, but at the same time, you can always find someone who cheers us all up.

We started working on this project 2 years ago. We celebrated the 2 years some days ago. The team is pretty stable and I guess our secret is that we enjoy working together. I plan to tell you a lot about how we work together, how we make things better, how we motivate each other, how we handle the relationship with the team at distance, how we handle difficult users, how we manage to achieve our sla (service level agreement) on a long term, how we handle conflicts as team, but for now, I want only to say thank you to my great team who inspired the existence of this site and almost everything that you will be reading here.
My heroes, thank you!

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Service Desk team: The 4 “Musts” for great achievements

As a technician or even as a team leader, being part of a service desk team is challenging. Sometimes it’s like walking through a park and other times it’s like a ride on a rollercoaster or wandering in the Jurassic Park, as a colleague of mine used to say. It’s always a struggle between your client’s requests, your manager’s targets, your co-workers’ needs and your objectives. Sometimes all these things aren’t “on the same” page and you have to come up with a way to get the work done.

From my experience, these are the 4 “must” that will help to fulfill the requirements and satisfy the needs of every part involved in the project: client, users, team members, management.

1. People

As much as I hate the expression “human resources”, the “human” in it makes it bearable, you just have to ignore the “resources”. Maybe I am idealistic, but I think that in a period where companies promote hashtags like “people matter”, “people first”, “it is about the people” and so on, we should get rid of “resources” and adopt a more “human” mentality.

I know that a lot of top management considers employees just numbers or revenue, but at the end of the day, aren’t we all just humans? I am so pleased to see how in these COVID-19 difficult times, we are reminded how important people are! I really hope this will not be forgotten after returning to “normal”.

people; team; service desk team

In my humble opinion, people are the central pillar in any project. The success or the failure of a project depends on how the people work on it. In my service desk team, we depend a lot on each other. For the mission to be accomplished, it takes a team of good people:

-who understand the objectives

-who have the answer to “why are we doing this”

-who are engaged

-who have common goals

-who are loyal to the common purposes

As a manager of a service desk team, I know that without my team, my job would be (almost) useless. They are the heroes that are doing the hard work. And I know some of my roles are to serve them, to create a suitable work environment and to support them in their career paths.

One person can make the difference, so again, people are important and should be treated accordingly. If your focus is not on the people, don’t bother to read any further.

2. Communication

Communication is a key. Each time I have to recruit a new member for my team, I make sure I inform him/her about the importance of communication. When someone joins my team, his/her “onboarding process” starts with a “lecture” about communication. The members of my team will smile while reading this, because they are really familiar with what I am about to say.

I always tell new members of my team that for me communication is very important and I ask them to come to talk to me about any work-related issues and not only. I insist that they come to see me when they make a mistake. Why? Because in 99% of the cases I will hear about it anyways. But, if I know it from the beginning, maybe we can solve it together or at least diminish the impact of the said mistake; and more importantly we can find what caused that mistake and try to avoid it in the future.

I always tell this true story about a girl and a team meeting. We had the meeting, she started to tell me something and at some point, someone interrupted her and my attention switched to the other person. In the next week, I observed that this girl kept some distance from me so I went to her and asked her what happened. She told me that she was displeased that in the meeting I ignored what she was saying and I let another person talk, therefore not paying attention to what she had to say.  If I wouldn`t asked her, I would`ve never guessed why she was bothered.

My point is that sometimes we create frustrations to the people around us without even knowing we did. That’s why it is important to communicate, to talk about things.

I won’t insist more on this topic, but you got the point.

3. Knowledge

knowledge; service desk

Knowledge is power! During these COVID-19 times, the fact that my team acquired a high level of knowledge helped us managing our activity even with all the social distancing story. Of course, we communicate a lot and discuss about the cases we have, because each one of us has his/her strong points, but the basics are totally mastered by everyone. Even more than necessary.

We have also a good knowledge base that can be accessed by every member of the team and that is updated when needed. Besides that, every new “discovery” made by a team member is immediately shared with all the whole team. When we don’t have a solution, we search for it, we try workarounds, we go the extra mile.

It is important to have a knowledge base that is accessible to everyone and know where to find and how to use it. I will ask my knowledge manager to write more about this topic, so I won’t give you more details for now.

4. Quality

The quality of the provided services makes the difference between a good team composed by great people who have communication skills and have the knowledge and other teams who focus more on quantity or any other thing.

In the service desk field, we deal with people mostly via phone. We cannot rely on the help of the body language to make a good impression.  So our interactions must be impeccable. I’m not talking about standard scripts and talking like a little robot. I am talking about being empathic, assuring the interlocutor that he/she called the right number and his/her problem is half-solved already only because he/she decided to call us. Because we are good people who have mastered communication and have the knowledge to help him/her.

quality; service desk

I was once asked the what makes a call perfect and my answer was the following: when I call the service-desk, I want to feel that the person at the other side understands my issue. That he/she doesn’t make me feel bad for having the issue or for not knowing how to solve it by myself. I expect from the service desk agent to be empathic, to not make me feel like I disturbed him, but to assure me that he/she’s understands what I need and he/she’ll solve it for me as soon as possible. Even today, I stand for my answer.

Having the right people on your team, encouraging and mastering the communication, having and sharing the knowledge and pouring the sweet sugar of quality on top, represents a powerful basis for great achievements.

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How to keep close with the team during isolation

We are living surreal difficult times, due to the COVID-19 or CORONAVIRUS. If some months ago we couldn’t even imagine how we could move our activity outside of the office, the current situation proved that everything is possible. Even keeping close, under these circumstances.

Our team work in a service center, so our main activity is to offer IT support via phone. So, who would have imagined an office-based team working from home from a day to the next? We were lucky, as the tools we use are flexible and we were able to adapt them out of the office in order for us to continue working with the minimum impact.

Change is not easy, yet we were forced to adapt to work each one from his corner, but keeping close in the same time. When working in a service center, or call center, one kind of depends of the others. When the activity involves taking calls, you have to pay attention at the availability, so you take breaks depending on the others, you have to monitor the waiting calls list and so on. Furthermore, at the office you can ask your colleague when you have a case you don`t know how to handle. At home, you are quite of on your own. Hence, how ca all these be covered when working remotely?

In order to keep close with the team and continue to realize our activity as if we were at the office, this is what we did:

  1. 1. Each morning, we open a group conversation on Skype
keep close
Keep close!

The goal is to remain in contact, so each day we find each other on this group conversation on Skype. Here:

– we share a screen with the “waiting calls” line;

– we talk about the cases and we exchange opinions about the solutions;

-we inform the others when we take a break;

-we exchange about the current situation and our concerns related to coronavirus.

2. Each Wednesday, at 20h, we have a Skype video call

In this reunion, we mix business with pleasure. We take a look at the numbers of the previous week, we talk about the cases and I take advantage of the moment to show all my love and appreciation for my team members.

keep close

Besides, we try to make fun of the situation, of each other and we plan the day that we will be back at the office.

One of my colleagues reads us the funny horoscope of the week, as he used to do when we were at the office.

3. WhatsApp group

Also, we have a WhatsApp group. It was created long before the COVID-19/ CORONAVIRUS event. We exchange about work. We send pictures. We have discussions about COVID-19, our fears and how we will manage this situation in the next period.

During the coronavirus and not only, the safety of the team is a priority, but it’s important also to keep close and to remain together. Because together we are stronger, better and will pass through this easier.

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IT support technician : 8 reasons why this job is cool

Working in a service center seems scary and not very cool. But I think this job is underrated. And I have 8 reasons why being an IT support technician is really cool!

1. As an IT support technician, you get to do interesting deeds every single work day

Yes, that’s true. With every call you take, you help someone; when a customer calls the service desk, he/she has an issue and the technician helps solving it. Imagine that someone has to go in a meeting in 20 minutes and needs to print something but the printer doesn’t work properly. In cases like these, he/she calls the IT support and knows that a technician will pick up, listen, understand and solve his/her issue. Well, maybe we don`t save children’s lives, but we save someone’s work day! We get to be heroes! How is this not cool?

2. You learn “patience”

Sometimes it happens to get calls from users who are not so “IT friendly” so you have to take your time to explain to him/her what causes the issue and what he/she has to do in order to solve it. Sometimes they might get mad because they’re pressured and you cannot help and feel like wanting to hang up on them, but after taking a deep breath you go on with the explanations over and over with patience and empathy until the user understands the situation and the solution.

IT Support

On these occasions users are often impatient, they expect us to be not only IT technician but even magicians and pretend to have a solution right away. In cases like this, it takes incredible patience in order to keep explaining why this and why that in multiple ways until it’s completely clear even to people that are not familiar with the IT language. And this is how we learn to be patient.

3. You are part of a team

Being part of a team is a big deal! Usually, we spend more time at work than at home, so the team is important. A team is a group of people doing the same job at you, so they understand you, they understand every emotion, every frustration, every situation that also you could face. Furthermore, they are always there for you to help you when needed. The great thing about a team is that usually each member has a field of knowledge that he/she masters, so every individual adds a great feat to the team making it better and stronger.

4. You have the knowledge, you have the power

Knowledge and information mean power and you have both of them when working as an IT support technician. Right from start and then throughout the course of project you get IT trainings starting with basic IT that will help you also outside of the job. Moreover, you are among the first ones to be informed about the advancement of technology as you are one of those who will offer support for it.

knowledge is power

5. You learn new skills

From technical skills to how to handle a call, you learn a lot of stuff. As the IT world continuously develops, so do your skills. Positive attitude, effective communication, empathy, deep knowledge of the perimeter you offer support for are only a few of the skills when working as an IT support technician.

6. Career evolution

You can get promoted. If you want it and if you are good at your job, you can get promotions. You can become technical referent, knowledge manager, trainer and even manager. Most of the service centers value and promote “internal first”, so if you really want to advance I think nothing can stop you.

7. Change and innovation

As an IT support technician, you get used to constant changes like: change of tools, change of perimeter, change of project, client change, schedule change and so on. Each and every one of them adds new skills, flexibility and creativity to your cv.

Also, you also keep up innovation and latest trends in technology.

8. You become a communication expert

puzzle; team

Active listening, leading the conversation, showing empathy, adapting your language are only a few sides of the communication that you get to develop and improve in this job. And this is big deal!

Between the customers, the managers and the team, communication is a key factor and a skill that’s worth being mentioned on this list.

As a conclusion, we can say that working in a service center is really cool and worth it!

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Failure is a good teacher

When something doesn`t go well at work, I feel bad. Really bad. Mostly because I take all the failures very personal and because usually it affects many people and I am not comfortable with it.  When failure comes along, I feel like running in a closed space, getting anywhere and I feel like I want it all to go away. Fast. As fast as it can.

Failure can translate in losing a team member, receiving a complaint from a client, having an unhappy team, not being able to respect deadlines, lack of attending your objectives, being close to losing your job, receiving a negative feedback from your superiors, changing and getting rejected by your new team and the list can go on.

I experienced all the things listed before and much more. I had days wondering if I still need the job or if it is worth it to keep fighting. I had days when I felt like crying each morning before arriving at the office, knowing that I`ll have to face the blaming faces of my colleagues and managers.

Sometimes, when failing, you try to find a guilty factor: the team, a coworker, your boss. Nevertheless, eventually, you see your part in the failure and it feels awful. At that point, you feel lost, you start doubting yourself and your skills and you get frustrated. You feel like wanting to escape. At least it is how I react.


Failure is not easy to handle. It takes courage, honesty, perseverance in order to get yourself together and make things right. It starts with seeing what went wrong in the first place and then, as Samuel Beckett said, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Failure is the best teacher. Failure dares you to do new things, to try new strategies, to innovate, to make things better. It teaches you that there is no limit out of the box. It shows you that you still can and you still have what it takes to do it. It opens new doors for you, as it can make you discover new skills and affinities.

There are a lot of articles, videos and books and this subject. With this one, I just wanted to remind you that you are not alone. Others were down this path also and they survived. Maybe this is not the first time, neither the last time you`re facing a failure, but think about all the lessons you learned the hard way and be grateful that you didn’t limit yourself by a comfortable “status quo”.

Failure is part of the journey, but dare to rise above it and transform it in a success. I believe in you!

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What makes a great team

According to the business dictionary, a team is “A group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project.”

But what makes a team good? I consider my team a good one. The best I’ve ever had. The perfect team. And this is not due to the fact that my team members are perfect human beings (even if for me they are), but they are perfect team players.

They work well together, they are competitive, but at the same time they help each other and they rely on each other. During peaceful times they know how to have fun and play together; on the other hand, in challenging moments, they know how to take everything seriously and go the extra mile to achieve the best results.

One of our secrets is communication which is the common ground, a basic principle. When we have something to do, we present it, we discuss it and we exchange ideas. When dealing with difficult situations, we gather together, try to understand each other’s perspectives and eventually reach an accordance that satisfies everyone involved. If someone makes a mistake, here we go again: a discussion takes place. It’s how we build trust; it’s how we do things.

Together we do lots of extra activities that are not related to work such as games nights, karaoke nights or running sessions. This helps us to know each other better, to accept each other, to set or reset the expectations.

Not every day is full of rainbows, but having built strong basis right from the beginning and nurturing it every day, makes my team the best team ever.

We are in this together!

The text above was written before the covid-19 “episode”. Today, after 2 weeks and some days after starting the home office saga, I decided to re-write it.

The fact that my team is great was once again confirmed. We are working in a service center. This means that each member of my team has to take calls and help users remotely, offering IT support. Our customers are in home office as well, so it is a new situation for everyone involved in our activity.

The night before starting the activity in home office mode, I wasn’t able to sleep much. I felt a little lost, like if it was the day before starting a new project. Not because I didn`t trust my team, but I didn`t trust the technology. I wasn’t 100% sure that all our tools would work, that our home internet connection could handle the connection, that we could be able to communicate efficiently between the calls and so on. I had at least 10 negative scenarios disrupting my sleep. I wasn’t sure about how our work volumes would be impacted by the new state, about how people would react and the only thing that reassured me was the fact that I had no doubt about how amazing my team is.

The first week was a roller-coaster: we made a skype group, we paid attention to every little detail, we informed each other about breaks, customers, incidents and at the same time we shared opinions, emotions and fears related to the coronavirus. For the first time we worked separated, everyone from his place, but despite all the difficulties that appeared on our way we became closer than ever.

Don`t get me wrong, my team and I used to be close and do stuff together even before, outside of the office. But the new thing was that we were able to make a great job even while being apart. The idea is that when being part of a team, things get easier when your co-worker is physically near you. You can ask him/her for help, he comforts you when things get difficult, you joke around, you take lunch together and a lot of other little things that make life at work happier and more bearable. We used to take these things for granted and I guess we’ll value them much more when we’ll get back to normal. All this to say that in the last 2 weeks, our routine changed, but we remained united, we remained team players.

What makes a great team? In a great team, the team members have the same objectives and each one gives his/her best even when no one is watching. A great team has team players who understand each other, help each other, cover for each other.

A great team knows to face the unknown, the change. Change is never easy and this time we had to change everything from one day to another. Do you know what didn’t change? Let me tell you: the respect we have for each other, the trust, the common goal.

During these difficult times my colleagues managed to do their best and they’ve even outdone themselves. Without complaining, they proved each day that they are true professionals who can master our perimeter and they don’t let anything stop themselves from fulfilling their duties and even going beyond the expectations in order for things to be properly done and advance.

What makes a team great? I wish you could meet my team to see for yourself! A great team is made of beautiful human beings and I am beyond proud of mine!

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