Monday, December 9, 2019

The Greatest Gift to Give Workers This Year

By now, most people have heard of the Secret Santa.

He's the guy who passes out $100 bills to those in need. He often finds these folks at thrift stores, bargain aisles or anywhere else there is someone just trying to make ends meet. He knows they need some extra kindness at holiday time.

This year, he recruited Milwaukee bus drivers to help him pass out the money. Why? Because these bus drivers have a reputation of helping others. He thought they would make great elves, and he was right.

These bus drivers handed out thousands of dollars and raved about what a wonderful experience it was for them. They were there to see the difference they made in people's lives.

How many employees can say that about their jobs? How many go to work each day knowing that the world will be better because they swept a floor or entered data into a computer or drove a bus?

The cofounder of Fast Company, Bill Taylor, recently wrote an article called, "Do You Give Employees a Reason to Feel Proud of What They Do?"

He writes: "Everywhere you look, the competitive environment is more demanding than ever, which means that people at every level, and especially those on the front lines, have to be at their best, their most determined, every day. There’s no doubt that giving people raises can up their game, and I’m all for it. But I’m convinced that if you truly want people to elevate their performance, you first have to build up their pride. It’s much more likely that people will do things in exceptional ways if they believe deeply in what they do."

I've interviewed many experts over the years, and the one thing they can agree on is that everyone's job adds value. They may not realize it, but it's true. The person who works in a canning factory adds value because she's helping to ensure the quality stays high so that no one gets sick from the product. The bus driver adds value because he ensures that an elderly woman safely makes it to her doctor's appointment on time. The school janitor adds value because he keeps a school in good condition so that it's a positive learning environment for children.

The problem is, we often lose sight of why our jobs matter. That's why every boss should spend time throughout the year reminding each worker about why his or her job makes the world a better place. Why what they do matters, even if the job is sometimes dumb or boring.

As Taylor says, giving people more pay or bonuses at the end of the year is certainly nice, but the most meaningful gift may be simply telling a worker that what she or he does matters.

Monday, December 2, 2019

5 Holiday Gift Ideas for Co-Workers

It's that time of year again -- trying to figure out what to get a colleague for the annual gift swap (besides that giant bottle of booze in your grocery's discount aisle). Or, perhaps you want to get something for that great co-worker who has helped you out more times than you can count.

Here are some ideas for that team member on your gift list:

  1. Memberships. If your co-worker loves the local museum or zoo or wombat rescue park, you can't go wrong getting a membership so they can enjoy it whenever they need a wombat cuddle.

2. Office stuff. In a bit of irony, why not give the person in the office something from The Office? How about this Clue version of The Office:

3. Travel. Whether it's for work or pleasure, people often need something to keep all their stuff secure -- and dry. This Yeti bag may be just the thing for that co-worker who traverses the wilds of the Amazon or just needs somewhere to keep all his or her stuff while attending a conference on wombats.
4. Plants. It's been shown that greenery reduces stress, but it can be a bit difficult to go outside and enjoy nature when there's a blizzard outside. This plant is easy to grow (I have one and it has survived for the last five years with little assistance from me). It makes a great desk plant because it doesn't care who stares at it all day.

5. Charity gifts. If your co-worker makes it clear that he or she does not want anything for sustainability reasons (or simply because she is super picky and doesn't trust anyone else to choose a good gift), then think about doing good while also showing appreciation for the co-worker. A charity gift in a co-worker's name can "give back" through gifting a dairy goat or clean water to those in need.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Does Your Workplace Have Unconscious Biases?

It’s estimated there are more than 150 identified types of unconscious bias. These types range from the natural tendency to surround ourselves with others who are similar to us to forming assumptions and stereotypes about others.

In the workplace, this has become a cause for concern as employers worry that such biases can lead to multiple problems – problems such as poor hiring decisions, a lack of innovation or discrimination.

As a result, human resources often is tasked with figuring out how organizations can deal with such unconscious biases and overcome them. It’s not always easy. Unconscious biases (read more here)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Research: Facial Imperfections Impact Hiring

Research shows that attractive people get paid more and are considered for more jobs, which I'm sure most of us consider unfair and discriminatory.

Now there is new research from Rice University and the University of Houston that suggests if someone has a birthmark, mole or scar or some other "facial imperfection," then it's likely that will affect how that person is evaluated during a Skype interview.

The solution, according to researchers, is to acknowledge the "imperfection" at the beginning of a conversation, which makes employers less likely to focus on it.

"Facial stigmas draw attention during social interactions, including interviews," says Juan Madera, associate professor of management at the University of Houston. "Our experiment showed that it draws attention at the start of an interaction, and then people look away. Seconds later they look back at it, and this cycle of looking back and forth is continuous. We theorize that people try to make sense of it. They may ask themselves, 'What is it?' 'How did they get that?' 'Is it is from an accident?' or 'Were they born with it?' In an interview setting, an interviewer also needs to pay attention to an applicant’s answers, which is probably why they continuously look away from it."

If they don't acknowledge the "imperfection," then "people seem to get stuck in a vicious cycle of staring at the scar and looking away," notes Mikki Hebl, the Martha and Henry Malcom Lovett Chair of Psychology at Rice.

Researchers say they hope the study will highlight workplace discrimination and show how a person's looks can affect the hiring process.

For more information, check out:

Monday, November 11, 2019

You Need This to Be Happier and More Successful at Work

More employers are beginning to focus on "emotional intelligence" when making new hires and when deciding who is ready to be promoted.

Emotional intelligence is often described as an ability to be empathetic to others, to understand their emotions -- and your own emotions -- and how to best deal with them in the workplace.

But emotional intelligence isn't easy for everyone, and some may believe that when they need it they can just Google it and figure it out. But it's more complex than that, and without some commitment of time and energy, your efforts are going to fall flat.

If you want to be successful in today's workplace, then you need to embrace emotional intelligence and understand how it will not only make you a better employee or leader, but also improve other aspects of your life. Once you tune into people emotions -- and your own feelings -- then you will make better decisions, reduce your stress and be more successful.

In a new book, "Emotional Intelligence (You Can Really Use)" author Kerry Goyette explores several issues, including how trying to survive office politics "tempts us to defensively guard our reputation at all costs."

How so? By wearing "ego armor" that we believe protects us. We detect a threat, and since we only have seconds to react, we react with conflict avoidance; impulsiveness; blame-shifting; control; perfectionism; or power hunger. Such reactions help us feed our need for immediate gratification or to mask our insecurities. But they're rooted in fear and we can overcome them to make better decisions, she says.

One suggestion: Sit down and write about what you will do when one of the above issues pops up. When you want to shift blame, what will you do instead? When you go into avoidance mode, what will you do to counteract it?

"The earlier you recognize an emotion, the more choice you will have in dealing with it," says Dr. Paul Ekman, a deception detection expert  in Goyette's book. "In Buddhist terms, it's recognizing the spark before the flame. In Western terms, it's trying to increase the gap between impulse and saying or doing something you might regret later."

Monday, November 4, 2019

Is Your Job About to Become Obsolete?

Trade wars. Labor strikes. The rise of automation.
Those are the things that are most worrisome for the U.S. economy and the employment outlook, along with the decline in manufacturing, retail and government jobs. But before panic sets in, it’s important to note that there are plenty of bright spots in the job picture, especially heading into the next six months.
“I'm very optimistic about the economy and jobs,” says Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network in Chicago, a staffing and recruiting firm.
Experts like Gimbel are upbeat because, even though jobless claims have inched up at times this year, and various sectors (agriculture, manufacturing) are being affected by trade disruptions, there are no indications that a recession is (read more here)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Help Your Career by Learning the Art of Persuasion

Have you ever tried to persuade someone to do something at work -- give you a pay raise, let you take on a new project, adopt a new system -- and you fail miserably?

There's a reason for your lack of success. The technical term is called "reactance," which in layman's terms means: "The harder you push, the less someone else will want to do what you want."

That's a pretty key understanding of human nature if you want to be successful in your career. There are always going to be times when you're trying to persuade someone of something, from the small ("Can you wait on customers while I run to the restroom?") to the large ("Can I take the next six weeks to work exclusively on this new idea I have?")

New research sheds some light on effective persuasion techniques. One of the keys is that too many people rely on emails or texts when they're communicating, and that lacks persuasive power. Instead, talk to someone in person, or on the phone if that's not possible.

Also, think about the words you will use when persuading someone. You need to choose words carefully and not overuse certain ones in every situation or you end up sounding like an infomercial. For example, "you" is an important word, humanizing your connection to the other person. Other powerful words of persuasion include "free," "because," "instantly" and "new."

Next time you want to persuade someone at work, don't just try and wing it. Think about your goal, the best time to approach someone (not when they're under great stress or deadline), keeping your voice modulated and using words that persuade.