Don’t Be a T.O.P.

No TOPS logo 2As toys go, the old-school spinning top is pretty low-tech; especially when compared with the gadgets kids have today. A top has basically two tricks: spinning and falling over (OK, three if you count inflicting great pain in the bottom, fleshy part of your foot when you step on one in the dark). Today’s toys offer multiple and complex functions and I suspect that when grade school kids learn about those unfortunate kids in the 50’s and 60’s who played with jacks and tops, they feel a momentary sympathy pang – until their cell phone or iPad alerts them that it’s their turn on Subway Surfers.

The old-school toy top may not be on any kid’s wish list for toys but it provides an excellent metaphor for something I’m passionate about: making the workplace work for everyone.

In the workplace that works for everyone there are no bullies, timeclock dictators or tattletales; there is honesty, teamwork, support, compassion and understanding, and if we really evolve, there will be fierce conversations and forgiveness.

In my writing and presentations to work groups around the country I have developed an acronym for the kind of personality that we want to avoid in the workplace that works for everyone: T.O.P. which stands for Ticked-Off Professional: someone who is always ticked off, all the time.

I’ll lay odds that everyone reading this had someone’s face pop into their mind when they read that description. Whether it’s a relative that shows up every year at the holidays or the colleague that made you perfect your seamless about-face move when you hear their voice coming in your direction; we all know someone who is perpetually miserable and can’t wait to tell you why you should be too!

Tagging others as a TOP is easy, but sometimes the person we need to tag most is looking back at us in the morning mirror. Anyone can become irritated about work, a supervisor or colleague, the pay raises (or lack of them), the parking,…you get the picture. The danger lies in when those initially minor irritations turn into our theme song.

Success in the workplace and creating a workplace that works for everyone requires that we rise above petty irritations and move on. If you want to be a superstar at work, or simply master a successful life you’re going to need to learn more than 2 tricks.

You know this. We all know this. The key to success is remembering it when life gets messy. To help myself with this I printed out the “Don’t Be a Top” picture and stuck it on my bulletin board at work and in my home office to remind me that I can’t ascend any mountains as a TOP.

If you know a TOP, don’t preach: save the picture, print it out and tack it in your office or cube. When people ask what it means, indulge them with a teaching moment and no matter who it is, remember to be kind (it’s more important than being right); we’ve all had periods where we weren’t at our best.

Share some wisdom, be encouraging and make your workplace work for everyone!


(( originally posted on the author’s LinkedIn site ))


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