Never Give All the Heart (to your colleagues)

by Honolulu Mother

This NYMag article briefly summarizes a much longer Harvard Business Review article by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele on the trade-off between being a giver at work (good for the organization!) and being too generous with yourself (bad for you!)   The sweet spot is apparently to be generous, but to know your limits and keep something back for yourself.

Where do you fall along the spectrum from taker to selfless giver (there’s a grid in the HBR article), at work and at home?  I suspect most of us will self-report as self-protective givers, the sweet spot, but I also suspect that category covers a wide range from aiming to have everyone owing you just one more favor than you owe them, to being an almost-selfless giver who holds just enough in reserve to avoid burnout.  And, I suspect most of us are closer to the selfless-giver end of the spectrum at home than at work.


79 thoughts on “Never Give All the Heart (to your colleagues)

  1. “Being an effective giver isn’t about dropping everything every time for every person. It’s about making sure that the benefits of helping others outweigh the costs to you.”

    This strikes me as a “duh” moment, but I guess maybe it’s not, based on the fact that there is a whole book/article/4 yrs of research about it. If you drop your own massively critical deadline to help someone else fix the copier, that is killing the company for whom you are supposedly working. The point is to put the good of the *entity* above the good of the individual,* not just putting the needs of every person who happens to walk by your office above your own.

    * Which also means picking and choosing when you need to put the needs of the entity above your own, because if you do it every time, you will burn out and crater and not be able to be there to provide good for the company over the long-term. So you jump when it’s really important, and don’t when it’s not.

    Based on the chart, I guess I am a “self-protective giver,” which I guess is a good thing. I just always thought it was efficient/lazy.

    I do note, however, that there are certain people with whom I am definitely a “matcher.” Primarily, these are people who are themselves either takers or matchers, so I tend to respond in kind as a self-protective measure. But, damn, it’s exhausting — let’s all just focus on doing the job as efficiently and in the least-painful way possible, so we can all just go home.

  2. Yep, I’m a “sustainable givers”. It’s not hard to tell what the “right” answer is for each of those questions. But except for the student and the newbie, that survey entirely ignores power differentials, which is where things get sticky. Deciding whether or not to help someone else is easy, as long as their work and yours are of equal importance. What if your boss has a habit of asking you for help and then coming down on you for not getting your work done? Or if you’re working on a teesy-weensie part of something extremely important, and your colleague who wants your help is doing work that’s crucial to a project that’s only fairly important?

    LfB, you have your own special category? I don’t see that on the chart.

  3. SM – Here’s the table LfB is the 3rd one.

    Where Are You On the Generosity Spectrum? And where are your colleagues?

    -Takers see every interaction as an opportunity to advance their own interests. They will run you ragged if you don’t protect yourself. But you can get better at spotting takers if you know what clues to look for: They act as if they deserve your help, and they don’t hesitate to impose on your time.

    -Matchers trade favors evenly. They can give as good as they get, but they expect reciprocity. Matching is a transactional, defensive stance — it adds less value for both you and others, but it can be helpful when you’re dealing with a taker.

    -Self-protective givers are generous, but they know their limits. Instead of saying yes to every help request, they look for high-impact, low-cost ways of giving so that they can sustain their generosity — and enjoy it along the way.

    -Selfless givers have high concern for others but low concern for themselves. They set few or no boundaries, which makes them especially vulnerable to takers. By ignoring their own needs, they exhaust themselves and, paradoxically, end up helping others less.

    +1 to LfB; I’m right there with you on all.

  4. Oh, the table in the article. I was looking at the graph charting out how many people fell into each of three categories in the survey. Oddly enough, they are different from the four in that table.

    It took me a long, long time to figure out takers and matchers, because I had no concept of boundaries. I’m working on setting limits, still not good at it with people who mean a lot to me.

  5. Agree with S&M – When it is your boss who is asking you to do something for him/her or for a co-worker, it is much harder to say no than when a co-worker is asking or you are deciding whether to offer. When I worked in the office, my former co-worker convinced my boss that she needed help on a time sensitive task, not just once but on a recurring basis. Although, I was to help only “when needed”, I was “always” needed. I approached my boss, who would not budge. When that co-worker left, the new one said “I understand you do X.” I said, “No. I only do X if you can’t complete your job timely.” Hmmm…Only was asked one other time when co-worker had a family emergency.

    I am selective about who I offer help to – sometimes it is as a matcher, other times it is self-protected giver. I rarely help a taker unless pushed into the situation. Some takers are easy to spot a mile away.

  6. “I was looking at the graph charting out how many people fell into each of three categories in the survey.”

    Umm, ok, how did I miss a graph and survey? I still don’t see them.

  7. This topic reminds me of an article I read in the last year or so about how women more often agree to “housekeeping” tasks than men that end up hurting their careers or causing them to focus less on activities that can advance their career. There was another article about how men (I think it was about consultants) are more likely to take flexibility vs. women who ask for permission. I was already going down the path of volunteering for housekeeping tasks less and asking for forgiveness vs. permission, but those two articles converted me. I vowed to never volunteer to take meeting minutes or sign up for employee engagement committees etc. So I’m a lot les generous when it comes to those things. I’m also at a point in my career where I know I’m not going to be in the executive ranks, so there is minimal impact to my career growth.

    My boss is great about flexibility, which helps a ton. But I’m confident enough in the value that I deliver that I’m going to take what I need and force someone to call me on it. Small example but I had a role where we were supposed to be butts in seats by 8:00 and leave at 5:00. I usually got in at 8:15, but I’d also get in at 6 if I had to and leave late too. Nobody ever said anything to me about it. Other people complained about being there at 8, but they still showed up at 8, even though nobody ever really did anything.

    I like to help my coworkers, but takers make me angry, and I rarely help them.

  8. Laura, clicking on “the lineup” at red thing after the link leads to three tabs. The survey is on the third one. You were doing the work–I skipped to the test.

  9. In my organization, college hires are of necessity takers (because we don’t document anything or have very standardized procedures) and most other people mentor as they can. Unfortunately, since the organization doesn’t reward mentoring, college hires often don’t get the mentoring they need and attrition is much higher than the organization would like. I sent this article to my manager on his college recruiting trip. :)

  10. Videos too? This thing is a masterpiece in how to get your work out there over and over. Extricating myself from the admirably detailed rabbit hole now.

  11. Thanks, SM. I have zero idea what to make of that graph — looks like I was mostly “inconsistent giver,” but not sure how any of those categories really mesh with what the article was looking at. I tend to prioritize everything based on overall urgency/importance and who is the best person to help; sometimes that means I jump in even if it means pushing my own work aside, more often that means I help after finishing my own work or direct them to someone who knows better. I guess that makes me “inconsistent,” but I *feel* consistent, because I am following the same principles in making the decisions all the time.

    Unless the person asking is one of about 2 people here — they can hang fire until I damn well feel like it. See “takers,” supra.

  12. I think this verbage sounds a lot like the self-protective givers on the other page.

    You are a sustainable giver.

    Sustainable givers are the consistent contributors who help teams and organizations function. Their default is to support their colleagues, but they also recognize that being too self-sacrificing can jeopardize long-term success. They have discovered the sweet spot between helping others and protecting themselves.

    Keep helping others and looking for ways to create a lot of impact with a small amount of effort. Sometimes it makes sense to be selfless and do whatever it takes to help someone, but turn down more requests that aren’t in your wheelhouse to save energy for those that are.

  13. The best skill to developer with a boss who is a taker is to manage up*. So when boss comes with the request to bail themselves or a coworker out the response is “I’m happy to help with X but that will delay Y for 2 hours, 3 days or a week.” You have to help out but it works better for you to be clear and direct on what the cost is to your work.

    One should always be “managing” their manager. I’m always surprised when co-workers don’t practice this skill. The relationship is a two way street. If you run into a manager that you cannot do this with then it is time to move on to a different position because the manager is in the power. For most totebaggers, they have the ability to leave if the position is not working for them but many stay in work situations that are toxic. You spend to much time at work to be miserable for most of it. Granted we will all have periods that are tough but if it is just a cesspool then you need to be working on an exit strategy.

  14. UTL – related to what you said, I have become good at making sure I understand the expected timing of something my manager wants from me. My prior boss’ default was “now” for everything, but she came to learn that wasn’t really possible once I started clarifying deadlines and pointing out that if I do this new thing, the other thing she asked me for would be pushed out.

    And quite literally, many things are “by the end of the week” or some kind of less urgent then “now”. But until people ask/clarify the timing, everything remains “now.” I’m surprised some co-workers have not learned this skill.

  15. One should always be “managing” their manager. I’m always surprised when co-workers don’t practice this skill. The relationship is a two way street. If you run into a manager that you cannot do this with then it is time to move on to a different position because the manager is in the power.

    Is the manager “in the power” by definition of being the boss? Yes, you can and should push back if the manager is making unreasonable demands, but ultimately your boss has the power to tell you what to do.

  16. I think the reason it is hard for some people to learn the skill about “now”, and a few other important office skills is that they’re not programmed that way. This is where some of the Myers Briggs stuff comes in because they have to learn this skill, and it isn’t something that is generally taught. Every company or organization has the unwritten rules about what is now.

    I think I once posted about a guy that managed our team that would get angry with junior associates and analysts if they didn’t respond to his email right away. He started to ping them all of the time just to test them. I was disgusted because this wasn’t Goldman Sachs or any of the big American firms. This was at a foreign bank with a very different type of culture. He was a bully and he tried to change the culture of our team. It didn’t work, but he made life hell for everyone until he relocated overseas.

  17. How does this work with the blame game. On my last project there was a team where the boss loved to go after any screw up by anyone on her team or on anyone else’s. Then she was surprised when everyone else, including her staff, was so eager to throw her under the bus. Is it really that hard to understand that you cover up for them and they cover up for you and that’s how the game is played?

  18. I am constantly managing my workload – with my boss, my internal clients and my colleagues. My clients, especially the more junior ones are the worst. I’ve had to train them that if they do not specify a deadline, then the deadline is “when I get to it”. Now most of the time I am able to address things immediately and/or same day, but I’ve also learned that people come to expect that response every time, so have to manage that as well. The deadlines in my line of work are often ridiculous.

  19. We had a person in our group displaced because though she was a very nice person, she needed to be more assertive in her role. She was responsible for consolidating reporting along with comments people provided to her. Even though this reporting was required monthly and everyone knew the deadlines there was always people not sending her the information or sending it very late although they had it. In HR terms it was described as skill set not fitting the job but it was being a giver in a role that called for a good dose of being a taker.

  20. Kerri, any thought to sometimes completing a task, then sitting on it as a way to train your customers?

  21. Finn – Yes. Because my clients really, really appreciate responsiveness, I don’t do it as much as I probably should, but yes I do that.

    Part of this issue is sussing out when my client is facing a real deadline and does actually need my input quickly and when my client is creating a false deadline or just didn’t loop me in as early as they should have. I try to follow the “your emergency is not my emergency” mantra, but sometimes a matter really does need to be addressed urgently. I’ve definitely gotten better at this over time and tried to put in place processes (formal and informal) to manage workload.

  22. (Spell check questioned my use of “sussing out”, so I googled it and learned its British slang. My time abroad did leave an impact, albeit a subtle one.)

  23. A little slow today so I was wondering if NYC was getting snow as well. The current NYC weather is 62 degrees with a blizzard tomorrow.

  24. Wow, y’all just made me check the weather report — 70 today, snow by morning. Thanks for the head’s up; given our lack of snow days so far and the total weenie-tude of the schools here, I will leave tonight prepared to work from home tomorrow.

  25. “Suss out” (my phone keeps changing it to the German word süß) is British? I could swear I learned in heartland USA, growing up in them thar he-ills.

    Lauren, I’m guessing that that guy was from a culture I know well? People there aren’t soft & sweet (süß), but I sometimes find them easier to deal with than Americans, because they are very clear about their objectives. I’m getting better at picking up on meanings besides the face value of words, but would still prefer not to need to think about what “I’m happy to do that for you” really means. That slight tonedeafness means I’m a better editor/ compiler of stuff than Louise’s colleague, and not at all prone to do the “housekeeping” kind of thing. This commercial makes me laugh, because it is an exaggerated version of me–I might not realize I was being asked to make soup, especially if I was thinking about what I was doing, where I was headed. If I delivered her last line, it wouldn’t be as a slam, but as a sincere suggestion of something to help.

  26. I just ate lunch so I think that means it’s safely time to hijack.

    DD(8) has a teacher who is a yeller. Seems to focus on a few kids (not mine), but most kids in the class are getting it a few times per day. The thing is, DD is super sensitive and hates conflict. She is afraid to go to class because she doesn’t want to be yelled at, but she also can’t even handle other kids getting yelled at.

    It’s hard to know how much is this is my special snowflake and her conflict-avoidance vs a terrible educational enviornment. Speaking with other parents, many of them had said that their kids think the teacher “hates” them, are crying before school, etc. I know at least one parent has been in (in the past week) to discuss her child’s fears. Seems like the perfect time to involve the school counselor, but it turns out the state budget cut that a few years ago.

    I’ve emailed the principal who is encouraging me to go directly to the teacher, or to have a group conference. I don’t want to draw further attention to DD or antagonize the teacher. I’m not sure how helpful meeting with the teacher will be – there is a lot of she said-she said going on.

    Any thoughts? suggestions?

  27. I’ve emailed the principal who is encouraging me to go directly to the teacher,

    Sounds like he’s afraid of her too.

  28. Honestly, Anon, follow the process. If the principal says go to the teacher, go to the teacher. If that meeting / call / email exchange does not result in an improved classroom experience, then you can go back to the principal and say you met / talked / corresponded with the teacher, to no avail.* It would be great (maybe somewhat sadistically from my perspective) if the teacher were inundated with requests for these 1:1 meetings to discuss parental concerns, and actually more likely to achieve something positive than a group meeting of several+ parents with the teacher. S/he might just shut down if it’s all of you vs her in one room.

    * I, personally, would copy the President of the school board on that followup email, just to “warm the circuits for if you need to appeal to them”.

    Good Luck!

  29. 4:15,
    A petition from the class parents to the principal to put in a voice recorder to run all day for the next month? And any yelling complaints that arise during that time, the audio file is saved and reviewed; days with no complaints, they can get rid of after a week. Then the principal will have more of a feel for whether classroom demeanor is a real problem.

    Selective recording for only part of the day, or doing it for only a few days, would mean the yelly teacher could hold it together for a while and then take it out on the kids once the record button was turned off.

    And it would probably come off as too weird and creepy to secretly bug the teacher by planting a device in an 8 year olds backpack, and that’s assuming an 8 year old can be relied on to be discreet.

  30. I’ve totally thought of recording the day, but would need the child’s cooperation and could never get that (coats and backpacks are in the hallway.). Oh, and ethics and legality stuff too.

    I bet union rules keep the teacher from being recorded.

  31. S and M, he’s an investment banker from NY. There’s a lot of people like him, but he’s American.

  32. The yelling teacher thing happened at our middle school. The principal couldn’t ignore it because this person teaches five classes a day. Lots of negative requests for the following school year, so the Principal stood in the hallway to listen. The teachers union contract in our district doesn’t permit observations that are a surprise, but this woman kept her door open and you could hear her yelling from the hallway.

    They are working with her this year. She still yells a little, but the teacher admitted it’s a problem and she broke down crying when the Principal told her that over 30 families wouldn’t allow their child in her class again. I knew all of this because they called me in because my daughter had her two periods and I didn’t complain. They wanted to hear from a wide range of parents.

    BTW, the principal did not get involved until 10+ separate parents sent in a negative request for the following year. It can’t just be a lone wolf.

  33. Holy crap, anon. If the teacher is yelling, you are *not* dealing with special snowflake syndrome. I don’t care how conflict-averse your kid is. No teacher should ever yell, period — not acceptable, no way, no how. Sure, they’re human and screw up now and again, just like parents. But any teacher who resorts to yelling repeatedly on a daily basis is clearly very lacking in basic class management skills.

    FWIW, that principal’s suggestion is also idiotic. The teacher is a bully — someone who is much more powerful than her charges, and is using her power to intimidate and terrify. You don’t “fix” that kind if problem by telling the powerless kid just to go “work it out” with the bully. *Especially* where said kid isn’t even the target, but could well become one for causing problems (because, what, bullies never retaliate?). OMFG NO. Nonononono.

    First, read the school’s/district’s procedures, rules, etc. Familiarize yourself with your rights and pick up on key words and concepts.

    Second, set up a meeting with the Principal to discuss — email is too easy to brush off. If it were me, I would be fairly direct with the principal that the reason I came to him/her is because my child is specifically afraid of being noticed by this teacher (and thus becoming a target), and therefore I don’t consider any solution that requires me to out my child (and thus validate those fears) to be an appropriate response. Given that my child does not feel safe in this teacher’s class, how does [Principal] intend to address the situation? Be polite/concerned vs. accusatory, i.e., it can be hard to discern the truth from the stories that come home, you’d really just like some way to figure out what is going on. Have some suggestions in hand, like recording the class, or repeated parental observers, etc. Maybe you can refer the principal to DD’s principal and they can talk about videotaping the classes. :-)

    Third, follow up that meeting with an email, where you describe what you said, lay out the principal’s response and proposed plan of action, and ask the principal to let you know if you have misunderstood anything.

    Fourth, by all means, canvass the other parents — the more people who complain, the harder this is to brush off as your overreaction. See what they might be willing to do, whether it is to sign a letter as a group, or set up their own private meetings with the principal to discuss the teacher’s behavior (on the same understanding that they don’t want their kid outed either), etc,

    The problem is that trying to do anything with this teacher will be very difficult for the principal, because the teacher is protected by the union and its lawyers. So the incentive is to do nothing and just drag things out until you decide the year will be over soon enough and it’s not worth your time. Your only opportunity to really accomplish anything is to make “do nothing” even less appealing to the principal. So the more people you have, and the more you can document document document what is going on, the better chance you have to force some sort of action.

  34. “BTW, the principal did not get involved until 10+ separate parents sent in a negative request for the following year. It can’t just be a lone wolf.”

    A principal once told me he is almost powerless to do anything unless parents complain.

    I don’t think you have much choice but to go directly to the teacher. Even if it’s already to the point where your child doesn’t feel safe in the classroom, going to the teacher first as a perfunctory step might be a good idea. Good luck. I’ve listened outside of teachers classrooms and heard yelling, but I don’t think my kids were much affected. We don’t yell at home, but they seem to accept it from teachers.

  35. “In HR terms it was described as skill set not fitting the job but it was being a giver in a role that called for a good dose of being a taker.”

    Interesting. It’s true that some jobs do seem require more “taking” than others.

  36. We had a terrifically balmy day today in advance of a snow storm that is forecast to start shortly after midnight. What I’ve appreciated about this winter is that any freezing/snowy days have been quickly followed by warmer days in the forties or fifties. The snow and ice melt and then we get a few days of relief before the next cold spell. Very civilized!

  37. And the grocery store today experienced an unfortunate convergence of panicky pre-snow shoppers along with senior citizens’ day. Bless their hearts, but parking your shopping cart at an angle in a narrow aisle or spending five minutes blocking the aisle while you search for that particular coupon in your queen of England handbag tries my patience. No worries because I’ll be there soon. Unless I can get my robots to do my grocery shopping!

  38. ….kids think the teacher “hates” them, are crying before school, etc

    8 year old kids? No! They are still forming their self-image and approach to the world. This is the way to ensure that they hate themselves, hate school, and are afraid of it.

    I think it’s fantastic that your child has empathy and concern for the other kids, that she wants to stop the bully, and has enlisted the strongest person she knows–her parent–to help her do that. You’ve gotten several good suggestions here.

    I did not know how bad things were for my child at schools where kids were ganging up on him regularly until other kids’ parents told me. He was so convinced that he was a bad kid that he didn’t realize that what was going on was wrong. Make sure the kids who are the direct targets are told that they are good kids, that this isn’t right, and that they are worth making a fuss over.

  39. “Fourth, by all means, canvass the other parents”

    The fact that you have already talked to the principal will help getting other parents involved, since that means they won’t be the first.

    Another thought is to, when possible, visit the school and discreetly stand outside the class to assess the situation.

  40. I had a few friends whose kids had a yelling teacher two years ago. Some kids did not notice and some kids were in tears. Parents talked to the principal and the teacher. One or two kids ended up getting switched out of the class at the parents request. Our principal did the same – asked the parents to talk to the teacher first and then if things didn’t improve she would step in (allowing some kids to just switch teachers). By all accounts from the parents whose kids did stay in the class the teacher did improve her behavior after she realized some of the kids were so upset.

  41. I agree, go to the teacher first. And have as many other parents as you can go to the teacher as well. And copy the principal on every email.

  42. My gripe for today. I ordered a new laptop and it was scheduled for deliver today via UPS with signature required. I also had three other packages coming today, not signature required. My neighbor said she could sign for it. I went to my UPS account and updated the delivery instructions for the laptop to go to the neighbor. When I did that, it automatically updated the instructions for the other packages to also go to the neighbor, and it made them signature required as well. Then the neighbor missed the delivery, so they are taking all the packages to the nearest UPS store tomorrow for me to pick them up there.

    First, I’m annoyed with UPS for making the other three packages signature required and not delivering them. And second, I’m annoyed with the neighbor for missing them, because I was considering having the package sent to the UPS store in the first place, and if I had done that, I would have gotten everything today.

    I know, first world problems.

  43. DD, I don’t even try. I just tell the delivery services to deliver to either the UPS Store or the Stapleton FEDEX office.

  44. UPS, unreliable neighbor, friend whose kid might not ace gym, the lisence fees–somebody’s got it in for you.

  45. The storm seems to be missing us today, but DH flew to NYC yesterday for a meeting, and was to return home tonight. The second he landed, he got a call canceling the meeting, and right after that, a note from the airline saying his flight home today has been canceled, too. Maybe he’ll be able to get last-minute tickets to a show… You New Yorkers stay warm!

  46. Risley, you always have the best attitude of anyone I’ve ever seen! I hope your husband finds a way to enjoy his snowy adventure and that he gets home safely

    A while ago, I asked for suggestions on here about bribes for teenagers. It was the first time I was considering doing something like that. One person said “we all do it”, so obviously I was late to the party again. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’ve come up with his favorite breakfast cereal and driving him to school sometimes works. I’d still appreciate other suggestions.

  47. SM: I don’t do bribes, per se. I will give the kids treats if they have a long study night or did something especially helpful. Treats might include dinner out at a favorite place, a favored snack food, etc. When I ask them to do something, I expect them to do it without reward and without fuss. They are usually good about this. If they fuss, it’s usually because they are getting sick or really stressed or tired.

  48. After internal debating I decided to complain to the principal about the behavior of kids on DS’s bus. There were two kids who were going beyond horseplay and the behavior was getting out of hand. It wasnt like DS was targeted but there would be days which were not great. The principal called the kids in spoke to them and the behavior had stopped. He did it without mentioning who complained. DS was starting to dislike the bus. I just wanted for middle school to continue to be a positive experience.

  49. SM – what’s the conduct you’re seeking to get from DS? I feel much the same as Houston but it’s hard to know without context.

  50. I had a terribly strict science teacher at school and she really put the fright into us. My friends hand was shaking so much in the lab that she dropped a glass beaker. The teacher had a child with special needs and somehow we felt at the receiving end of her challenging home life. As kids it was hard for us to feel bad for her and hate her at the same time.

  51. Totally off topic, best House Hunters ever the other night — guy was moving to Amsterdam with his daughter, wanted to live the romantic life of a boat on a canal, ended up buying an honest-to-God old pirate ship. Freaking awesome.

  52. Houston, that’s the way I’ve always done it until now, which is why I have no idea how to do this. When he’s too stressed and/or sliding into depression, there is absolutely nothing he likes. If he does take pleasure in a thing during those times, taking it away is the last thing I want to do.

  53. We just watched an episode of Fixer Upper the other night that was a houseboat home. I was amazed at how they were able to transform this thing into a floating home. The guy had 4 kids, and they even fit in 4 beds for the kids using built in bunks. I would be happy to visit either of these HGTV families for a few days on the boat. Seems like a fun vacation rental.

  54. Anon – our 4th grade teacher is very stern and short-tempered with the boys in the class, including my son. Not yelling but a little disdain, disappointment and little patience. It has been a miserable year and I told her as much. I don’t see how the school continues to put up with her. Most of the teachers are sweet as could be and really try to bring out the best in the kids. She sort of ridicules my kid and favors all of the girls, especially the ones who are snitches. This teacher has been teaching at the school for 33 years and taught in two other districts before that.

  55. I don’t see how the school continues to put up with her. ….. This teacher has been teaching at the school for 33 years

    She has tenure, they can’t get rid of her.

  56. Lauren – I saw that fixer upper and liked what they did to the houseboat but couldn’t help thinking/wondering about what happens when the kids outgrow bunkbeds.

  57. We thought the same thing about the bunk beds, and we couldn’t figure out how he secures it when they’re living on land.

  58. Saac, we praise the behavior you want when you see it. If you are being literal with terms like depression, I would consult a psychologist or psychiatrist.

  59. Regarding the tenure discussion, they can get rid of her but it requires a backbone of steel. My MIL was an principal and became an assistant superintendent. She dismissed many incompetent teachers and mentored other administrators to do the same. She has been personally sued and it is stressful. However, she knew the rules/regulations and won all of the union appeals as well as the case against her in court. The kids in her schools had better education experiences as a result.

    There are tools in place to dismiss incompetent teachers regardless of their tenure but many administrators lack the will to do so. Instead they either ignore the problem, get the teacher moved to a new school or district and go along to get along. Superintendents move these teachers around to mask the problem or hope they finally get a principal with the “balls” to follow through with a dismissal. But bottom line when a principal tells you there is nothing they can do, that is not true. There is just nothing that they personally want to do.

  60. And just so it is clear that I’m not picking on teachers, this happens in other industries whether they are union or not. We all know of incompetent and/or belligerent staff who are not rightfully dismissed. Some managers cannot walk the walk of a manager and manage staff appropriately.

  61. @SM — money. She never liked “stuff,” but ever since she discovered money at about 7, that has been a huge drive. When she was littler, I picked one behavior for her to work on a week, and she could earn an extra I think $0.25/day by doing it consistently. Now she’s always broke and wants to earn more money to go play with her friends, so we “hire” her to do stuff around the house so she spends time working on the stuff we want her to work on.

    When she was very little, it was 1-2-3 Magic. But I found that more useful for stopping bad behavior than for getting her to start specific good behaviors (i.e., it was much better for stopping a tantrum than for helping her figure out how not to take 30 mins getting dressed for bed).

    But I second the notion to see a therapist. You can’t lure someone out of a depression just by finding the right incentives — almost by definition, depression Fs with your brain so you can’t even process those incentives correctly.

  62. And FWIW, the system was basically just worked in as an add-on to her allowance — she got a base allowance that I calculated as sufficient to cover 1-2 lunches at school if she chose and tzedakah for Hebrew School, and then she could earn an extra $1.25 through behaviors. The first one was the “sit down and start homework without melting down.” And we went from there.

    Then again, I am not exactly in Totebag-approved territory here, as I currently pay her to do Khan Academy as her “job,” for reasons discussed extensively in previous blogs. So YMMV. :-)

  63. Now that’s what I’m talking about! Thanks :)
    Money sometimes works with my kid, and sometimes he realizes he’s got everything he needs, so doesn’t care about money. Last week an Ikea chocolate bar worked for getting his binder (stored in the classroom) in order when I drove him to school early on the day his teacher had told them there would be a binder check. But I don’t think his excitement was about the chocolate as much as it was about getting a good feeling from one of those checks, instead of a sinking feeling. I hope that a few times will help him make that positive connection and just keep doing it.

  64. UGH!!!! Just got the call for a delayed opening. This doesn’t usually happen around here because they do a great job with snow removal. The snow is already clear from our driveway and our roads, but the school is worried about ice. I am frustrated because I thought I was so smart to re schedule a meeting to early tomorrow morning when I saw the forecast for the storm that was due to arrive on Thursday morning.

  65. Lauren, so this morning you’re out & about while dear one is home alone? I hope she can snuggle up and enjoy a cozy slow morning on her own.

    I’m having a weird morning here because it is “fair day” in W. Hills. county–public schools close, so kids can go to the fair. It feels like a weekend, but none of the Saturday shows are on the radio.

  66. Saac, I agree with others that depression is a whole different ballgame then occasional lack of motivation. It really requires professional help.

    At our house, when I finally figured out to frame things as earning privileges instead of being punished, things got much easier. For example, instead of getting in trouble for a really crappy attitude when she got woken up every morning, the rule was if you wanted to do something with friends on Friday night you had to be a decent human being when you got up every morning of the week. For my son who always wants money for that next video game release, I have to see no zeros on the school website. Previously, I would’ve taking away privileges from both of them for behavior I did not like, now I frame it as their choice on how to behave, but if they want things out of life, they’re going to have to behave the way we’re teaching them. It took all of the emotion out of those issues.

    A lack of desire to engage with their world is a different issue though, and not one that can be handled through a positive feedback loop.

  67. Saac, I wanted to echo the others about depression. Depression is a serious, potentially fatal illness. Don’t take it lightly. If you even suspect depression is an issue, please consult a professional ASAP.

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