Wednesday, February 20, 2019

4 Steps to Being Happier

When my children were babies, I knew exactly what I would do if I won the lottery: Hire a nighttime nanny.

That's because my kids couldn't seem to get the hang of sleeping through the night, and I was beyond exhausted. I could have tried out for the "Walking Dead" and won a part based on how I felt -- and how I looked.

Things got a bit easier once my kids decided to start sleeping, but that led to a host of other stresses as they grew: baseball and music practice, school projects, friends' birthday parties, etc. At the same time, my career was becoming busier and busier and I was taking on bigger projects.

That led to a bad spate of insomnia as I struggled with thoughts of schedules and science projects and work commitments. It was a tough time, and not the first or the last of tough times trying to figure out a personal life and a career. There just felt like there weren't enough hours in the day to get it all done.

That's why research from Ashley Whillans at Harvard University really struck a chord with me: Having enough time, or "time affluence" is now at a record low in this country -- and we're really in a "famine" when it comes to effectively managing our time.

But here's the surprise: Despite the perception that people today work longer hours, the data shows that most of us have more discretionary time than ever before.

What Whillans and her team have discovered is that we spend our time trying to get money -- taking on bigger jobs for more money. We believe that money will make us happier in the long run.


It turns out that the happiest people use their money to buy time. Whether it's working fewer hours or paying someone else to do disliked tasks, we experience more fulfilling relationships and careers when we use our money to buy time.

But even Whillans admits that making better choices for our happiness isn't easy. Sending emails while on the beach, making phone calls during a commute and giving up exercise time to talk to a colleague all sabotage her efforts.

Still, she says there are ways to shift such a mindset. Among her suggestions:

1. Forget spontaneity. Our brains don't like it, and it leads you to check your email instead of going our with friends. So, plan ahead. Plan what you want to do on your weekend or after work and then stick to it.

2. Get moving. Try to build in activities that require you to be physically active, whether it's volunteering at a food bank or walking the dog. Research shows you'll be happier if you engage in more active, rather than passive, activities.

3. Enjoy a meal. Don't eat in front of the television or the computer. Savor your food -- enjoying your food reduces your stress.

4. Be open. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone in line as research shows that casual social interactions with strangers "significantly boosts happiness," she says. At the same time, volunteering also increases your happiness and makes you feel like you have more time.

Monday, February 18, 2019

This is What You Need to Do to Change Industries Successfully

More people are expected to test the job waters this year as more than 12,500 U.S. employers are looking for new workers and unemployment remains low. This comes as good news for workers who are ready to take the leap to a new job or industry, including those federal workers who are looking for steadier paychecks after government shutdown uncertainty.
Still, those seeking to change industries in their job search will need a strategy to overcome blockades. Computers may weed them out in an initial screening, and employers may be wary of hiring an industry newbie.
That’s why it’s key to craft your resume and cover letter in a way that highlights transferable skills. Here are some things (see more here)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

3 Ways to Handle a Negative Coworker

It seems like everywhere I turn, someone is always talking or writing about "times like these." Usually, it's not "times like these are so great." It's usually something like, "Times like these are so horrible."

For a lot of people, this negative outlook on life becomes a big problem and they carry it like a heavy backpack with them wherever they go. They sigh when they sit down in a meeting. They mutter under their breath when others are talking about new ideas. They rarely contribute anything to discussions unless it's a criticism or complaint.

Eventually, you realize that this colleague's negative behavior is getting to you. Perhaps you even worry that her negativity is starting to rub off on you.

What can you do?

First, realize that you're not helpless -- do not start to believe that the negative colleague is in control. You are, and there are things you can do. Among them:

1. Study her. What makes her so hateful? Are there certain times that she's more negative than others? When you take the more "scientific" attitude to studying her, then you become less emotionally invested in what she does. Think of it as getting an inside look at what NOT to do.

2.  Stay calm. One of the reasons you're so upset with the negative behavior is because you know that it's having an impact on you. You think about the negativity at night, making it difficult to fall asleep. You know it's making you so tense that you are becoming more frustrated driving home after work, and worry you're developing road rage. Enough. It's time to disconnect from her bad behavior. Don't engage with her and try to find the "bright side" of life when she's being negative. Don't argue her point of view. "I guess we'll have to agree to disagree" can be your mantra when she tries to drag you down with her.

3. Start walking. You can't always walk away from a negative coworker, such as when you're in a meeting or she's working with you on a project. But once you're done interacting with her in a professional capacity, don't be hesitant about walking away. If you don't want to be rude, tell her you've got to return a phone call, meet with someone else, etc. But the physical act of walking away will help alleviate the emotional stress of dealing with her, and the physical activity will help lower your blood pressure and restore you equilibrium.

Finally, if you suspect your coworker's negativity may be related to depression or some other mental illness, go to your boss or human resources to relate your concerns. They are equipped to handle such an assessment better than you.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Research Shows the Secret to Influencing Social Change at Your Company

Do you care about social issues like protecting the environment or curbing poverty? Would you like to see your employer get more involved in such issues?

If so, you might want to pay attention to research that shows you might be more successful in getting a company on board if you frame the issue to fit the company's values and mission.

"Our findings suggest that this approach works because it elicits feelings of anticipated guilt and motivates managers to devote resources and promote issues that benefit society," says David Mayer, a University of Michigan professor and one of the researchers.

In other words, you may want to see your company practice more sustainable practices to help the environment, but the best way to get your manager on board is to connect that sustainability to your company's business and its stated values in a "moral" type of message.

However, don't just try and get a manager to support your issue with only economic language or moral language. Researchers say this strategy isn't always as successful as connecting morality and the business values.

Mayer says that the research clearly shows that even lower level employees can be successful in trying to bring about change for social issues in their companies, which can provide "inspiration in their future that they can be influential within their organizations."

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Research Shows What Can Help You Survive a Toxic Boss

If you have a horrible boss, you know that each day seems to get longer and longer, it gets harder and harder to get out of bed and you start to develop physical ailments like headaches and stomachaches.

You know deep down that you will get past this, and someday you may even look back on this period and laugh about it (or maybe not). But in the meantime, you've got to find a way to somehow survive the bad boss.

The results of a new study might help. Researchers say that when you've been mistreated by a toxic boss, you are more likely to show ethical behavior when you become a leader. When you have an abusive boss, you "distance" yourself from them and are less likely to be abusive to your own team members, they say.

"This suggests the cycle of abuse isn't inevitable in organizations, just as developmental psychology research shows that abusive parenting does not always lead the next generation of parents to become offenders," researchers say.

At the same time, researchers recommend that if organizations want to stop bad leadership behavior and instead establish a culture of ethical leadership, then they must promote those who have strong "moral identities" and strengthen the moral identities of current managers. One way to do that, they suggest, is by ensuring that everyone is crystal clear on organizational and professional standards and making sure those rules are displayed in an office environment.

So, while you have to go to work today for your a**hole boss, try to console yourself with the fact that this bad experience is molding you into being a better leader one day, because you'll know what NOT to do when you become a boss.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Doing This Can Make Mondays a Whole Lot Better

It's estimated that some 14 million people will call in sick to work today because they can't manage to get out of their pajamas after watching the Super Bowl last night.

While such action (or inaction) costs employers about $2.6 billion in productivity losses, it does have a positive side: People obviously had a great time over the weekend. They probably didn't think much about work when they were enjoying the Doritos commercial or simply throwing Doritos while Maroon 5 performed.

Taking such mental breaks are important and we may need to build more "Super Bowl" weekends into our lives.

Specifically, a recent study finds that treating your weekend like a vacation can boost your happiness. Forget traveling to Punta Cana for a week -- just by being a bit more attentive to enjoyable things you do in a weekend (eating, sleeping, fewer chores) can make you happier on Monday.

Further, that happiness can carry throughout the week, the study shows.

By staying more in the moment, the study participants said they enjoyed themselves more even if they were doing tasks such as making breakfast.

One word of caution: These weekend vacations can't become a habit. The cognitive and emotional impact may be weakened if they become routine, so save the mental breaks for when you really need them, researchers say.

If you were able to give yourself a nice mental break with a Super Bowl party with friends or family -- or even your dog -- then why not do it more often? When things start to pile up for you at work and you start dreading Monday more than usual, it may be a sign that it's time to have a vacation weekend. Think of all the things you like to do on vacation (make pancakes, go for long walks, play games) and do them over the weekend. You may just find that Monday isn't so terrible after all.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

How to Benefit When You Get Blindsided by Criticism

One day when I was on deadline frantically trying to complete a story, my instant messaging app popped up with something like: "Anita didn't check the database and now I'm having to recreate this work. *sigh*"

The IM was from my direct editor to another editor. I really didn't give it much thought, other than to instantly reply: "What? Is this message to me?"

The editor didn't reply and I quickly went on with my work since I had only minutes to my deadline.

Later in the day, a phone message arrived from my editor," Um, I'm sorry about that message. It wasn't to you. And I just realize that I never even told you about the database."

Okaaaay. So, this was one of those cases where the message had been sent to the wrong person: me. It was a message that was obviously critical of me, but then the editor realized it was an unfair criticism since she had failed to inform me that a database existed.

I sent her a message telling her not to worry, but I was ready to be trained on the database when she had time.

Really, I didn't care. I know from years in journalism that a lot gets said (and messaged) in the minutes before deadline. But I also saw it as an opportunity to form a stronger relationship with this editor.

First, I realized that she might not be giving me enough constructive feedback if she was complaining to another editor about an issue instead of talking to me about it. Second, I realized that it could be a turning point in our relationship as my ability to handle it professionally could help her see me as a level-headed team member who didn't jump to conclusions or hold grudges.

I know a lot of people who have gotten erroneous messages similar to this and they get mad, or feel hurt or vow to start looking for another job. Whether it's from a boss or a colleague, you can feel blindsided by the criticism and it can truly damage relationships.

The thing to remember is that you can turn a bad message into something positive that helps you improve your reputation and your career. Here's what to do when it happens.

  • Breathe. Don't punch back with an email or message or storm over to the person's desk and say something like, "You *&^%!"
  • Address the elephant in the room. The person who accidentally sent you the snarky message is likely to avoid you or pretend it never happened. If that happens, find a private moment to talk to the person: "I know that sending me the message was a mistake, but it's clear you have a problem with my work (or taking a long lunch, etc.). I think we should talk about this." Tell the person you truly just want to have a good working relationship, so you want to clear the air and move on.
  • Leverage it. I found that with my editor, my level-headed response earned me some goodwill in the weeks to come. She started giving me better assignments and she became more open about the challenges she faced. That made it easier for me to ensure my goals were aligned with hers -- and that helped me get ahead. If you don't snark back at the boss or a colleague over the message, you are seen as someone who can be trusted, which can lead to them wanting to help you in the future.
  • Address your blind spots. If a coworker or a boss is complaining about something, then it could be that others also see it as a problem. I wasn't even aware of a database, but it made me realize that I needed to be more proactive and constantly ask questions to determine if I completely understood the resources that were available. While criticism isn't fun, that message delivered in error can be beneficial if it gives you an early warning that there's a problem or others may be complaining about something you need to improve.
Finally, if you receive an apology for the wrong message, accept it graciously (even if it's not graciously given). Put the unkind words behind you and look at it as a chance to improve your professional relationships and reputation.