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Opinion Editorials

How to deal when you have to work with (or sell to) people you hate

(OPINION) It can be exceedingly difficult to talk to someone who evokes feelings of hate, particularly in situations where you don’t have the option to leave or ignore them. So what can you do?

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No place for hate…

When I was in 4th grade I remember obnoxiously lamenting how much I “hated” someone, and my friend’s dad overheard. We both received the classic “hate is a strong word” lecture.

Of course, I had gotten this talk from my parents, but you never want to listen to your own parents when you’re ten. Since then, I try to check myself whenever I’m feeling hateful about others.

But sometimes you can’t help it.

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…Except when there is

I work in retail, and around the holidays things get crazier than usual. Customers are needier, more frenzied, and come at you like a group of people seeking refuge from the zombie apocalypse when the doors open. It’s hard to stay calm and loving when someone is nagging me about how I picked the wrong color ribbon for the present I’m wrapping, or that it’s my fault they ran into a display.

It can be exceedingly difficult to talk to someone who evokes feelings of hate, particularly in situations where you don’t have the option to leave or ignore them.

Author Jay Neinrichs details some techniques to deal with situations where you’d rather murder someone than talk to them. He suggests identifying your goal and audience with every interaction, combating your own feelings of hate with aggressive interest in what the other person is saying. If you act out of sympathy and (faked) love, it’s easier to feel less icky about the situation.

Goal setting

One of my goals is to keep my job. Technically I have a choice about how I respond to customers who tell me they need something for their grandchild who’s smart “because he’s half Chinese” or ask if we have any Silly Putty “for girls” because the only color left is blue. I could launch into a rant about how wrong they are, but that would potentially lead to a negative Yelp review.

In these situations, I ultimately have to consider that I am not just representing myself, but the company I work for. While I would love to hold a combined Sociology/Feminism 101 course in the play area, I don’t have that luxury. Instead I have moments in which I can act out of love and understanding despite my feelings of frustration. My other goal is to not end up in jail for assaulting a customer with a robot claw. So how do I achieve this?

Uncanny valley

I created a survival game for myself. I call it Uncanny Valley, based on the phenomenon where humanoid replicas are eerily human, but something isn’t quite right. The rules are simple: be horrifyingly kind, even when I want to throw everyone into a lava pit. I win if I can be the nicest.

I go out of my way to be what I consider disgustingly nice, actively repressing the horrible thoughts I have. For my coworkers who know how irritated I actually am, it’s borderline creepy. I can go from trash talking to answering the phone with a face-busting smile in a matter of seconds.

Whoever is on the other end hears a sweet, attentive employee who wants nothing more than to describe every detail of all the dolls in the store. But look into my eyes and you will see the depths of Mordor.

All the store’s a stage

Technically my audience is everyone in the store, but ultimately it’s myself. I’m the one that has to deal with how I act and react to people that frustrate me. Playing into my feelings of hate is a really quick downward spiral. I’m not going to change their worldview in a twenty minute interaction. What I can control is how I act, and in turn that helps assuage feelings of hate.

I try to consider why someone is mad at me for their kid breaking something. Yes, their child is being awful, and that’s unfortunate for me in that moment. But they have to live with that kid full time. So while I can’t make their four-year-old heathen a shining example of good parenting, I can provide a moment of calm and understanding.

Am I seething inside? Absolutely. But they don’t need to know that. I almost always win Uncanny Valley.

#UncannyValley

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Opinion Editorials

DNA tests are cool, but are they worth it?

(OPINION EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?

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Over the last few years, DNA testing went mainstream. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.

However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.

When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.

These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.

These companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPPA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.

These companies know that loophole well; Ancestry.com, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.

Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.

In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”

There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.

Additionally, Ancestry.com has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.

Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.

It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.

Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.

It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.

If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from Ancestry.com in a murder trial.

Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.

Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?

I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.

The best course of action is to take extra precaution.

Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.

Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.

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Opinion Editorials

How to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, too

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sometimes bosses can be the absolute worst, but also, you depend on them. Here’s how to deal with an abusive boss and, hopefully, not get fired.

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Nothing can ruin your work life like an abusive boss or supervisor. But when you’re dependent on your boss for assignments, promotions – heck, your paycheck – how can you respond to supervisor abuse in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your job or invite retaliation?

A new study to be published in the next Academy of Management Journal suggests an intriguing approach to responding to an abusive boss. As you might expect, their study shows that avoiding the abuser does little to change the dynamic.

But the study also found that confronting the abuser was equally ineffective.

Instead, the study suggests that workers in an abusive situation “flip the script” on their bosses, “shifting the balance of power.” But how?

The researchers tracked the relationship between “leader-follower dyads” at a real estate agency and a commercial bank. They found that, without any intervention, abuse tended to persist over time.

However, they also discovered two worker-initiated strategies that “can strategically influence supervisors to stop abuse and even motivate them to mend strained relationships.”

The first strategy is to make your boss more dependent on you. For example, one worker in the study found out that his boss wanted to develop a new analytic procedure.

The worker became an expert on the subject and also educated his fellow co-workers. When the boss realized how important the worker was to the new project, the abuse subsided.

In other words, find out what your boss’s goals are, and then make yourself indispensable.

In the second strategy, workers who were being abused formed coalitions with one another, or with other workers that had better relationships with the boss. The study found that “abusive behavior against isolated targets tends to stop once the supervisor realizes it can trigger opposition from an entire coalition.”

Workplace abuse is not cool, and it shouldn’t really be up to the worker to correct it. At times, the company will need to intervene to curb bad supervisor behavior. However, this study does suggest a few strategies that abused workers can use to try to the tip the balance in their favor.

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Opinion Editorials

Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes

(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.

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A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.

Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”

I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.

Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.

This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.

I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)

While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.

So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.

This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.

Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.

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