Monday, July 13, 2020

Bad Zoom Habits to Break Now




When we first started using Zoom meetings, it was a learning curve for many. It was often funny -- the cat who constantly walked in front of a co-worker's computer screen or the pants-less spouse who ran by in the background.

But Zoom has become a daily fact of life for most of us, and a lot of these "funny" or "odd" or "embarrassing" incidents have lost their charm. Colleagues no longer want to look at your cat or hear your kid's TV program blaring in the background. They don't want to see you looking like you were dragged through a hedge backwards.

It's time to accept that Zoom meetings are here to stay, and it's time to conduct yourself just as you would in any professional situation. Here are some things to think about:

1. Prepare yourself. Don't show up to a Zoom meeting after just working out or just waking up. Would you walk into a conference room dressed in ratty sweat pants or with your hair sticking up in five different directions? You've had plenty of time to adjust to working at home and starting to dress like a grown-up. Doing otherwise signals to your boss and your colleagues that you're not taking them or your job seriously. (And don't think you can get by with using an avatar -- everyone is expected to show their actual face by now.)

2. Improve your environment. It's been interesting to see pieces of various homes while on Zoom. But it's no longer interesting to see your dirty dishes, your unmade bed or your dying plant. Many people associate a messy desk with a disorganized person, so don't send that message from your home. You may have a limited space to work, but take the time to convey your professional approach to your job -- or others may think you're just waiting to crawl back into that unmade bed as soon as the call is over.

3. Use your manners. Showing up late, slouching in your seat, messing with your phone and not being prepared for the issues to be discussed are all bad form during a meeting, and that includes those conducted via Zoom. Make sure you're speaking clearly, smiling when appropriate and sending a 'I'm-here-and-I'm-ready" visual vibe to others. Anything less than that is rude and unprofessional.

While many of us are working from home, our face-to-face contact with colleagues and bosses is limited. If you're not making the best impression possible during Zoom calls, you're seriously undermining your career because that visual interaction will provide a lasting -- and unimpressive -- memory for others.


Monday, July 6, 2020

How You're Showing Intolerance at Work



The ongoing protests and calls for greater equality in our country are prompting many changes, from renaming buildings to large donations to diversity organizations.

For many, however, these changes won't directly impact them. Whether they're working from home or going back to work, they may not really think about diversity other than to be supportive of various causes or to voice their concern.

Yet, diversity does affect all of us. Every day. Whether we can admit it to ourselves or not, we all show prejudice in various ways at work. This doesn't mean we are openly hostile to someone of color or nationality, but it still exists.

These prejudices also don't mean we're all bad people. We just need to become better informed and more aware of our own actions. Things we do or say (or don't say) can lead to real harm, whether it's damaging someone's reputation, ensuring the person doesn't get ahead or even leading to that person losing a job.

Here are some things to think about:


  • Your network. Check out your online connections, whether it's Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn. How diverse is it? Do you have connections -- people you regularly connect to -- who are from different cultures, races, genders, etc.? Do you have conversations about topics outside of work-related matters? Do you listen? Do you learn? Do you interact with people who disagree with you?
  • Your effort. In your workplace, are there people with names that you find difficult to pronounce? Is that the reason that you've come up with a nickname or otherwise shortened the name to make it easier for you? No one should be forced to change his or her name for such a reason -- it shows a real lack of respect and professional courtesy. You may need to ask the person to help you with the pronunciation, but that's OK. Start making an effort to be more open and receptive to others who aren't like you.
  • Your assumptions. More than once, I've met someone in person who says: "Oh, you sounded blonde on the phone." What does that even mean? How do you sound blonde? Or, I've been treated derisively by someone because of the slight twang of my voice. We often make assumptions because it helps us quickly categorize people and decide what we will do in reaction to that person. So, a shorter-than-average man must have a "Napoleon" complex, a blonde girl who dresses preppy must be a sorority airhead and a Black woman who went to Harvard must have been an affirmative action student. Think hard about how many times you do this, and even ask family and friends to make you aware when they hear you making assumptions about colleagues.

We can all do better and there's no time to waste. Start today thinking about the way you interact with others at work and how you can really start to make a difference in your own actions and attitudes.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Why You Need to Be Worried About Your Job Now -- and What to Do About It



If you're still employed, congratulations.

But, also....be worried.

It's a sad but true reality that even if you're employed right now, things are clearly not going to go back to normal anytime soon. A new study says that 30% to 43% of U.S. employees will not go back to their pre-pandemic jobs. For every 4.2 new hires made, there will be 10 job losses, meaning that millions of people are going to unemployed.

Clearly, there are hard-hit industries right now such as those in hospitality that are showing huge job cuts. But think of the ripple effect these jobs losses have had -- farmers who can't sell their produce or milk because restaurants have cut back so drastically.

That's what you need to consider when you think about the safety of your job. If you work for a company that has a lot of government contracts, you could be threatened as the U.S. government begins to slash contracts with private companies. Or, if you work for a business that provides service or parts for water theme parks or even Disney World -- then you're going to be in real trouble as those venues remain closed or severely restricted.

Even white collar jobs are in trouble. Think of the entertainment law firms that no longer have entertainment business to handle because television and movie projects have been postponed. What about the accountants who handle the business for resorts? Those vacation destinations have been hit hard -- how many accountants will lose their jobs because there isn't enough business?

While your job may end up being safe, you should never be lulled into being complacent right now. Here are some things you need to do to improve your chances that you'll land on your feet should you become jobless:


  • Diversify your network. Look over your contacts on LinkedIn and other social media channels. If you're in advertising and all your contacts are in advertising or public relations or marketing, you're going to be in trouble should the industry take a big hit. Start looking for those in other sectors -- healthcare, tech, engineering, etc. You may need to make a real pivot to another industry -- do you even know anyone in another industry?
  • Grow your skills. Try to branch out. Think about taking a coding bootcamp, project management courses or other tutorials. Check out some options here.
  • Get to know your company better. A lot of employees don't really know much beyond the basics when it comes to the company's business. But if you're dependent on a paycheck from a business, then you need to know if that business is vulnerable. Do some online sleuthing, read industry publications and even try to get your boss to open up a bit about where he or she sees the company going. Paying attention may give you a heads up that your job may not be as safe as you thought.

Monday, June 22, 2020

How to Handle Going Back to Work After COVID-19



If you're still working from home, you need to start preparing to return to your workplace.

The thought may fill you with dread. Maybe you love working from home. Maybe you're scared of catching COVID-19 when you return to work. Maybe you're just getting used to your new routine and the thought of commuting and going back to your co-workers fills you with anxiety.

Just remember that you're not alone. We've all been experiencing a lot of stress, depression and anxiety since the world was turned upside down and we were required to quarantine at home.

"Uncertainty and unpredictability can really create an unhealthy amount of fear and stress, especially when it's sustained over such a long period of time," says Dr. K. Luan Phan, head of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

Still, when the boss says it's time to return to work, you know that you will probably return to work. So, how do you do it and still feel safe? How do you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to, once again, confront change?

Here's some things to think about:

1. Take your own precautions. Just because your boss says there will be hand sanitizer and social distancing doesn't mean you shouldn't take your own steps to feel safe. So, bring your own sanitizer. Wear a mask even if no one else does. Don't use the communal coffee pot, water fountain, beer keg, etc. Take the stairs instead of the elevator full of people. Some people are much more lax about social distancing and wearing a mask, but you don't have to be. Do what makes you feel safe.

2. Start the transition. So you've been wearing sweatpants and college sweatshirts since you started working at home. But now it's time to get out your adult clothes and figure out if they still fit. (No judgments!) Try on several outfits and think about how you feel in them -- if nothing works it's time to try a little online shopping to get yourself ready.

3. Get organized. It may have taken you a while to set up your home working space, but it's time to start thinking about what you need to go back to work. Start organizing the files, computer cables, workbooks, etc. that you're going to need to take back to the job.

4. Prepare your household. Whether it's kids or pets or partners, consider what will also make the transition easier on them. Do you need to set up a schedule that will mimic the one that you'll have once you're working away from home? Do you need to find new treats or toys for your pets to keep them occupied when you're not taking them for five walks a day? Do you need to prepare more freezer meals for when you're not home to cook when you want?

5. Remember to breathe. When we all first went into lockdown, we had to learn to cope with the scariness of it all, the weirdness of our lives and the uncertainty of what was going to happen. Think about what calmed you then. Was it listening to music? Talking to family more? Doing yoga? You may need to rely on those things again as you transition to working away from home. Rely on what works for you and call on it in the coming weeks as you begin this new change.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Signs You Are Toxic to Others at Work



Lately, we've all started taking a much closer look at toxic behavior in the workplace. People like Anna Wintour and Roger Lynch at  Conde Nast are among those high-powered bosses who are being cited as intolerant and cruel.

Employees and even co-workers are no longer afraid to talk about poor behavior that has affected them personally and professionally. Stories of bullying and discrimination seem to surprise those who are accused of it, which shows how oblivious some people are to their damaging "get ahead" tactics.

Could you be one of them? Could you be someone who is treating people badly and not even know it? Before you end up losing your career over your behavior, it's time to take a hard look at whether you're a toxic person. Some signs:

1. You blame other people. Whether it's a typo in a report, missing a deadline, not being prepared for a meeting, not sealing a deal -- you blame other people. From the minor to the major, you cannot ever take responsibility that you're an adult and are responsible for your own actions and decisions.

2. You have no loyalty. It doesn't matter if you've worked with someone for three days or 30 years, you are willing to throw anyone under the bus for any reason. It can range from snarky comments to others about mundane matters ("Did you see what Jane was wearing? Did she get dressed in the dark this morning?") to more targeted gossip meant to derail someone's career ("I think Brad's age is catching up with him. I mean, this is the third time this week I've had to remind him about that deadline. Poor guy.")

3. You believe it's better to take than to give. Maybe you put on a good front during the latest crisis situations in this country and posted really meaningful tweets about "We're all in this together" and photos of "Love one Another"  cupcakes on Instagram, but that's just on the surface. You don't inconvenience yourself for anyone else or always have an excuse of why you can't help in some way: "This is just such a bad time for me! You know I'd love to help, but...."

4. You never apologize. You've always got a million excuses, but never one "I'm sorry....that was my fault." If you do apologize, it's only when you realize you're on Good Morning America and the entire nation has dubbed you to be the latest Karen.

5. You hold a grudge. At night, you lay awake figuring out how to get back at Gary for not holding a seat for you in the meeting or Kelly for not gushing about your latest idea. You don't know if anything was done on purpose to slight you, of course, but that doesn't really matter. Plotting against others and thinking of really cutting remarks or actions against that person are more important than moving on and learning to forgive others.


Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? Are you brave enough to ask others if they see these behaviors in you? If this has become the way you live your life, then you need to make some serious changes. The workplace is different now, just like the rest of the world. No matter how important you may consider yourself, or how "vital" you may be to your company, you can no longer expect others to put up with your toxicity.

Monday, June 8, 2020

5 Tips for Starting a New Job Remotely



Many companies have been great about keeping their job commitments to new hires or even interns in the midst of a global pandemic.

The problem is that many new employees are starting their new positions from their kitchen table instead of the building where the employer resides because companies are still following work-from-home policies.

That presents quite a challenge for the employer -- to successfully onboard a new hire virtually -- and also to the new worker or intern.

If you're one of those who is starting a new job from the comfort of your couch, here's some ways to ensure you still get off on the right foot in a new job:

1. Dress the part. If your new supervisor wants to jump on Zoom for a quick chat, you don't want to be caught in your pajamas or gym shorts with uncombed hair and your home looking like a disaster zone. It's a good idea to start a new job showing your boss that it really matters to you, no matter if you're working virtually. Dress professionally, and set up a workspace that reflects well on you.

2. Ask questions. Whether you're in an office setting or working from home in the early days of a new job, make sure you fully understand how the boss likes to communicate (email, text, Zoom) and how often he or she expects you to check in. Are you supposed to communicate what you get accomplished each day? Or only once a week? If you have problems (technical, employee benefit issues, project management) who do you ask for help?

3. Don't hide. Even the most outgoing people can be nervous when starting a new position, but don't let that be an excuse to hide from colleagues or supervisors. Try to set up Zoom meetings with each colleague -- "Can we chat for 10 minutes via Zoom so that you can tell me a bit about what you do?" is a great ice-breaker in an e-mail. The added advantage of quarantined workers is that many are wanting to connect with another human face and chatting with a new worker through video chat is a great way to get off on the right foot with them.

4. Be helpful. If you know of an app or read an article that might be helpful to a co-worker who is dealing with an issue, forward him or her the information in an email: "I remember from the Zoom meeting that you were researching more efficient delivery methods for that new product, and I just read this article and thought it might be helpful," and then provide the link.

5. Be flexible. Even though many companies have had employees working from home for months, this is still a learning process. They're often making it up as they go, and things may change from day-to-day. You need to stay flexible and know that whatever you do one week may look different the next week. As companies start to phase workers back in to the office, it will probably change several more times. When you show others that you're flexible, can adapt and still be contributing, then you'll be seen as a valuable team member -- no matter if it's at your kitchen table or in the office.

Monday, June 1, 2020

No Job is Safe These Days -- the Warning Signs You Need to Heed




With more than 36.4 million who have filed jobless claims as of May 9, as a result of the coronavirus, even those still employed might be a bit concerned about their job security. How do you know if your job might be in danger?
Tim Sackett, president at HRU Technical Resources, says that there are some signs you’re about to be laid off:
  • Unusual behavior. There are closed-door meetings when there usually aren’t. You’re being asked for information that you usually don’t supply, such as updated standard operating procedures, and the latest performance metrics for your group or position.
  • Weird vibes. There is "radio silence" from leaders who are normally talkative. Quiet leaders are now over-communicating.  
In addition to unusual behavior by leaders in your workplace, you should also be aware of news in your industry and whether experts believe it could be in danger. For example, realtors (read more here)