Some labels are on the inside where they belong, like a piece of clothing – while others are in plain sight with little chance to be missed – like the ingredients on a can. Then there are those that are invisible to the eye but have the greatest impact of all…workplace labels.

No one asks, or wants to be labeled but unfortunately, we are all predisposed to this experience at an early age. For those lucky few who never were labeled anything – I marvel at your ability to live a life free of this experience, and for the millions of others who weren’t as lucky – I feel your pain. Being labeled sucks and it can like the stink of skunk that just won’t go away.

Labels follow us around like our shadow – sometimes clearly visible while other times completely hidden. Worst of all, they stay with us right through adulthood and yes…right into the workplace.

In order to understand just how labeling works, we must first breakdown the following:

  • Why it’s dangerous to label people
  • Common stereotypes in the workplace
  • Why “perception is reality” and what you can do about it

The Danger Of Labeling Others

As sophisticated as we “can be” as human beings, we are also horribly wired to make some irrational and quick judgements on pretty much everything (and everyone). It’s not your fault, blame it evolution and the development of our brains. The irony here is that judging people is hard, knowing people is harder and understanding them is hardest so we tend to settle for the easiest route which is to judge. Consider its auto-pilot without the pilot. People label others together to simplify the world around them and make both interacting and understanding it easier. It’s called Categorical labeling and although it serves a purpose, it’s deeply flawed and can be the root cause for many of the problems we face in our relationships with others. Labeling is a technique the brain has developed to make understanding the complexities of the world easier, although these assumptions are often incorrect, incomplete or down right insulting. So how dangerous is this really?

Another way to look at this and a term most people recognize is “unconscious bias” and in the past decade, there has been an uptick in companies not only discussing this issue but training their organization to better understand what it is and how to minimize it within the workplace. So, what is it (for those who aren’t familiar)?

  • It is an inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group. It’s your unconscious feelings you carry around about other people – these feelings strongly impact and influence your judgement of certain people, while lacking perspective or objectivity limiting your perception.

The impact of our biases are also incredibly real and impact our:

  • Perception – how we see people and perceive reality.
  • Attitude – how we react towards certain people.
  • Behaviors – how receptive/friendly we are towards certain people.
  • Attention – which aspects of a person we pay most attention to.
  • Listening Skills – how much we actively listen to what certain people say.
  • Micro-affirmations – how much or how little we comfort certain people in certain situations.

In the workplace, there are 4 main types of unconscious bias to watch out for:

Common Stereotypes

Now that we covered the “why” – let’s look at the “what” and in this case, the what refers to the various types of stereotypes and labels that currently take place in the office. There are so many stereotypes out there, it really depends on what specific category or group you are looking to typecast. Three common stereotypes you should avoid being labeled as are:

  • The Gossip: Commonly associated with someone who likes to know everything about everyone regardless if it has anything to do with them. They rarely can be trusted and can be heard saying “hey, did you hear about…”
  • The Know-It-All: Commonly associated with someone who has an opinion about everything and everyone. Considered a SME in life, can be heard saying, “well, at my last job – this is what we did…”
  • The People Pleaser: Commonly associated with someone who lacks the courage to stand up to others (when asked to take something on) and is taken advantage of over and over again. Lacking personal boundaries and possessing a strong need to be liked, this person can be heard saying, “sure, I can help – whatever you need?”

Did I mention that there are a lot of labels? Lucky for you (and for me) I found thisinfographic from PowWowNow which provides a great overview of twenty additional stereotypes:

How To Remove A Label

Labeling and stereotyping in the workplace can quickly sink morale, lower productivity and create a toxic environment for you and your employees. Once labeled, it can be challenging if not impossible to change it. Einstein once said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” and the same theory applies at work. You may not actually be any of the labels placed upon you but to do nothing about it makes the label stick stronger and the perception (to others) is that it’s true.

If you find that you have been unfairly labeled, there are some steps you can take to improve the situation so it doesn’t cost you your career and happiness.

  • Assess the substance and the source of the label. Is there any truth to it?
  • Seek out a second or third opinion from a co-worker/peer you trust to determine if there is any validity to your bad reputation.
  • If you are in a position leadership role, take a look at your style of management -are they any subtle (or not so subtle) changes you could make?
  • If you conclude that you do need to improve a personal attribute, get clear on what it is and make a commitment to yourself to change your behavior.

According to the HBR article You Really Can Change Your Reputation at Work there are some principles to remember if you find yourself being labeled by another person:


  • Address the issue head on, especially if you were in the wrong.
  • If you want a more positive impression to stick in someone’s mind, you have to offer it up repeatedly.
  • Look for characteristics you share with the person. Common ground will help soften their stance.


  • Accuse the person of being wrong about you. Their perception is their perception, and it’s up to you to help “correct” it.
  • Avoid working with the person. The more you’re in front of them, the better.
  • Expect people to change their minds on a dime. Shifting someone’s perception often takes time.


Final thoughts: Labeling isn’t always a cause for concern, and it can be useful in certain instances, but when thrusted upon another coworker irresponsibly, this becomes both dangerous and demeaning leaving you and your employee’s feeling bullied while fracturing your culture. It’s up to your organization to take the proper measures to ensure discrimination of others and self is not tolerated and a safe workplace environment is created so that you can perform and enjoy your job.

The floor is yours: How does unconscious bias impact a companies culture ?



When it comes to life, we all fail at some point.

So how is it that some fail and fall in place while others appear to seemingly get back up and rise to the occasion – finding ultimate success?

The answer is simple – sort of, you see the difference lies in two areas, the first involves their mindset and the second surrounds the actions they take as soon as they experience a setback. It’s one part “how” they do it, plus one part “what” they believe which has them moving forward versus standing still. How you respond to your setback will either be the catalyst forward or the cement that hardens you in place.

Thomas Edison for example, notably one of the greatest success and failure stories throughout history endured thousands of setbacks and he can teach us all a great lesson when it comes to shifting our mindset as we seek out success in our life.

Since setbacks are inevitable throughout life, the key is to shift your mindset and stop defining your setbacks as failures but rather as part of the journey to greatness and understanding that when one method doesn’t work, you are simply one step closer to finding one that does.

When you can achieve this mindset shift, you will begin to experience your setbacks as simply small steps bringing you closer to your goal. The key is to identify when this happens and then of course take some course of action – which brings us away from the “what you believe” aspect and lets us focus on “how” to move forward.

  • Disclaimer: There is no one simple solution, quick fix or exact formula that works for every person, every time in every situation. In fact, you will have to truly allow yourself to experience failure to understand how to move forward. Below is a high-level outline of what’s worked for me.

How To Move Forward: The Post Mortem

The key is to first separate your emotions from facts.

Before you can move forward, you must take a look backwards. I call this a Post Mortem – designed to have you look closely at the totality of the situation through a variety of lenses. Businesses are known to running these types of meetings so why not conduct your own? Understanding the full scope of your setback is critical, and learning how you got here and how it could have been avoided is the only way to ensure you don’t have a repeat performance. Basically, “why” are you here versus where you hoped to be.

The obstacle for many is that they begin looking for answers to soon leaving them with more excuses than facts they can work from in how to move forward. Here are a few ways you can begin:

  • Journaling your thoughts is an excellent and productive way to filter through what’s in your heart so you can get back to your head and find a way forward. It will help you gain perspective and better understand your current situation. The process of writing down your emotions allows you to reflect in a deeper more personal way. The goal is to “get out” the anger, sadness, frustration or anything else that may be there so you can begin to feel more at peace. There is no time frame on how long you should write or how long this can take – everyone’s emotional cycle is different. Be with yourself and focus on you first. Ask yourself, “what is the emotion you are experiencing at this moment? Are you happy, sad, relived? What’s your body telling you?
  • Measuring your goals can be done in a variety of ways – both quantitatively and qualitatively. Measuring based on feelings is a slippery slope – it’s like saying it’s going to rain outside because you head hurtsIt could be true but it’s not based on facts or any concrete – just a feeling. Some questions to ask yourself: What actually happened vs. the story you have about it?” We all know the acronym SMART goals, so ask yourself:Did you have a SMART goal to begin with? If so, what aspect of your goal did you fall short? Can you identify when things started to go off track, and identify what initiated the setback?
  • Take accountability for your part in how you got here. Being accountable and taking responsibility is both a sign of maturity and EQ. When you can own your level of involvement in how you arrived at your setback, you are showing others and yourself you are responsible for your role in the situation and open to looking inward versus playing the blame game. Some questions to ask yourself: Based on the desired goal, what actions did I take, or not take that led to this outcome? What’s one thing I could have done differently that would have led to a different outcome?
  • Get some distance but don’t go too far away, make sure you come back. Perspective is a powerful tool when applied in a concise and deliberate way. Take a macro view on the situation and explore what skills you either demonstrated well and what knowledge you learned from the experience. Some questions to ask yourself: What skills did I acquire from this or what new skills have I identified I need to learn moving forward? What unique talent did I discover about myself? What relationships did I grow or weaken through this journey? Has this happened to me before in some other area of my life and if so, what did I do about it then?
  • Recommit to what’s next to ensure you have a plan in place and the right people to support you in your efforts. We’ve discussed the need to improving your knowledge and skills, now it’s time to discuss the people and your plan to move forward. Let’s start with the people piece first. Some questions to ask yourself: Did you have the right people by your side before and if so, how might you use them differently? What new people should you include and what existing people should go? Now let’s look at the plan. Some questions to ask yourself: Is you new plan forward anchored in a SMART goal? Are you simply duplicating your existing goal or making actual changes? What measures can you take around time management (of both yourself and others) to ensure your success? Have you buffered into your plan the time allotted to learn any new skills (or hire those who have them)? Lastly, are you ready to announce to the world your new plan?
  • Stop playing the victim and shut down the pity party. Misery loves company until of course the company leaves and your left with just your misery. Get reinforcements and surround yourself with positive people who won’t RSVP to your party. The people you hang out with will affect your mood, your outlook and ultimately your actions. Seek support, perspective and tough love. Overcoming adversity doesn’t have to be tough when you have the right cast of characters helping you move forward. Some questions to ask yourself: Are the people around you accepting of your flaws and imperfections? Will these people challenge your intentions and actions? Do the people around you compliment your strengths and share your vision?
  • Own it and be proud of where you are, how far you’ve come and what you will declare moving forward. Every success story begins with a journey in failure and they all have one commonality which is the person celebrated their losses in service of their victories. Make your setback part of your storyline and embrace the unknown, unpredictable and uncertainty of life. Some questions to ask yourself: Could you openly share your current setback with someone? If so, what’s one takeaway you could speak to as a place of learning? How might you teach others about your setback as means to share your experience?

Final thoughts: Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you respond to it. The problem is that so many people let their setbacks become permanent, giving into their emotions versus honoring their goals and commitments. The bigger your vision, the more obstacles you will undoubtedly face. Learning how to overcome this will be what separates you from those who make change versus those who make excuses. Remember the next time you hear a “no” – it simply means next opportunity.

The floor is yours: What’s one motivating question to ask yourself when you experience a setback?



People bring a lot of things to work on a daily basis that they probably should just leave at home – ranging from their personal drama to their kids; but there’s one thing that should always be brought to the workplace and that’s your heart.

We always hear about leaders needing to have high EQ and IQ but all too often we forget about LQ.

Yes, LQ – aptly standing for Love Quotient or what I like to call the heart of this article.

Jack Ma was famously quoted about this earlier this year, “To gain success, a person will need high EQ; if you don’t want to lose quickly, you will need a high IQ, and if you want to be respected, you need high LQ — the IQ of love.”

The Love Quotient is the simple act of being kind towards people.

In the most basic way, it’s about bringing your heart to work and to the people you serve. Think servant leadership. Servant leaders look to take care of, and meet the needs of their colleagues, customers, communities and of course their employees. It’s about authentic service and showing up through the lens of vulnerability with the intention to make a difference in the lives of others. This in return can create deeper experiences for themselves and their employees.

Although the LQ may not be the most scientifically proven concept, it can be qualified if not quantified through the eyes and hearts of those they lead. As a boss/leader, showing you genuinely care must come from their heart. I’m not big on models but here was one that resonated deeply with this topic:

Human. You are human and if you want to lead others more effectively, they must see you as such. You make mistakes and you have weaknesses. When your team can see more of the real you, they are more likely to choose to follow.

Empathy. Often leaders try to be sympathetic, yet empathy is far more powerful. The best leaders “put themselves in the shoes” of others by thinking of similar situations, or sharing their own related situations.

Attitude. Attitude isn’t about logic, it is all emotion. It is OK to be disappointed and frustrated, and showing that to your team in small doses can be quite powerful. But they also need to see your positive passion and belief on display as often as possible.

Relationships. If you want to lead more effectively, find ways to connect with and get to know more about more of your team members. Remember that your goal isn’t to make friends, but rather to be friendly and genuinely interested in others. While there isn’t a formula, leading from your heart certainly includes building stronger and more lasting working relationships with others.

Trust. Trust is both a noun and a verb. If you want to build others’ trust in you (the noun), trust them more (the verb). In other words, to get more of the noun, do more of the verb.

Here are a few excellent ways I found online which you can start implementing with your team today. Check out the full list here.

Look for opportunities to help and support. Make it a habit to look for opportunities to help the people around you. Maybe it’s an official part of your job, leveraging your knowledge and skills in a way that has a positive impact on someone else’s job. Maybe it’s an unofficial role, like mentoring new hires. Or it could even be sharing knowledge and ideas with a co-worker around something in their life that has nothing to do with work.

Communicate healthily. How you communicate is one of the biggest ways to bring your heart to work. Does it open the door to connection and understanding, or does it feed conflict and divisiveness. Does it acknowledge the shared humanity of the other person, or does it make them an “other” to be dealt with? Does it encourage people to open up and fly, or shut down and protect themselves? Does it enable a healthy resolution of challenges, or does it pour fuel on them?
Express gratitude. Make it a point to sincerely thank people whenever the opportunity arises. This is a two-way street. The recipient gets the good feeling of being appreciated, and you get to bask in gratitude – a heart-based activity if ever there was one.
Acknowledge others. Along similar lines, sincerely acknowledging others’ efforts and achievements can be a way to work from the heart. It’s a validating and encouraging practice that requires little investment on your part, but has the potential to make a significant impact for the receiving party. And in the go-go, results-driven environment of today’s workplace, that kind of reinforcement is often all too infrequent.
Show patience. We live in an impatient culture. Showing patience is a gift of love. Not only does it create more space for your interactions to unfold positively, it also reduces the negative impact of impatience-driven conflict.
Connect. You don’t work with co-workers. You work with people. Opening yourself to connection with the people you work with takes you out of cogs-in-a-machine mode and creates the possibility of more meaningful experiences.
Final thought: Love for what you do, where you do it and ultimately love the opportunity to make a difference in another persons life whenever possible. The process begins within yourself as you can’t fake this. Take the time necessary to find the love within and then go out and give that back to your team.

The floor is yours: Should more leaders practice vulnerability?