Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When the Blues Won't Go Away

I've written about hundreds of workplace issues over the years, but one of the subjects that brought in the most mail when I wrote about it more than a decade ago was a column on depression.

In the story, I outlined some signs of depression that may be evident on the job. The mail flooded in -- not only from those who believed they recongized they were suffering from depression -- but from those who already had been diagnosed. Many of the letter writers shared how they often felt stigmatized when they were diagnosed -- that other people merely thought depression was "in their head" and they should "snap out of it."

I do believe that our societal views of depression have changed a bit. As more people have sought help and been successfully treated, we have all come to understand the disease and its effects a bit better. Still, as someone who had a close family member suffer from depression, I believe it's a disease that is still often misunderstood.

That's why it's so important that we recognize the signs of clinical depression. Whether we may be suffering from it ourselves, or believe someone we work with has the illness, it's also critical to remember that it is a disease that can be treated with proper care.

If you suspect you are depressed, contact a health professional or Mental Health America for more information. If you believe a co-worker may be suffering from the disease, contact your human resources department or let a supervisor know there may be a problem.

Among the warning signs of clinical depression:
* Difficulty making decisions.
* Decreased productivity.
* Irritiability and hostility.
* Withdrawal from others, or conversely, extreme dependence on others.
* Feelings of hopelessness and depair.
* Slowness of speech, chronic fatigue.
* Slumping posture, flat or blank expression.
* Inability to concentrate, decline in dependability.
* Unusual increase in errors in the work product.
* Proneness to accidents.
* Tardiness, absenteeism.
* Lack of enthusiasm for work tasks.

Keep in mind that many employers have employee assistant programs or other health referrals available for employees. To be blunt about it, it is in everyone's best interest to get help for workers who may be clincially depressed.

Specifically, its' estimated that depression is as costly as heart disease or AIDS to the U.S. economy, costing over $43.7 billion in absenteeism from work (over 200 million days lost from work each year), lost productivity and direct treatment costs. Depression tends to affect people in their prime working years and may last a lifetime if untreated.

Finally, remember that more than 80 percent of people with clinical depression can be successfully treated. You're not alone, and help is available if you need it.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Brand You: A Free Telesummit for Those Seeking to Help Their Careers

I cannot believe it is the last Tuesday of October. When I was a kid, it seemed like time moved so slowly. I waited forever for summer break to arrive, I waited forever to get my driver’s license and I waited forever to get my ears pierced. Now that I’m older, it seems time flies much too quickly – didn’t we just celebrate the Fourth of July?

Ah, well, what better way to send off the month than with these parting tidbits….

Mark your calendars: On Nov. 8 you will have a unique opportunity to listen and learn from people who make it their business to help you with your career. The event, “A Brand You World Global Telesummit” will bring together speakers from 24 separate seminars that will focus on helping you manage your own career. The day-long seminar, in celebration of Tom Peters’ article on personal branding published in Fast Company 10 years ago, will be free and feature experts from the United States, France, Italy and Portugal. All you have to do is register for the event, and recordings will be available for those who can’t make it that day.
I’ll be part of the group discussing why employers appreciate those employees who understand and promote their personal brand, and how a personal brand can help you achieve success on the job. I’m scheduled to be the lead-off person at 10 a.m. EST, so I hope you find time to listen.
Check out the other speakers and remember that you’re basically being offered a chance to help your career and learn a thing or two from some well-regarded and highly-successful people that are willing to share what they know with you. I know that I still have a lot left to learn and after my session is done I plan to sit back and be a part of the audience.

In case you were wondering: Nobody likes conflict at work, but a new study shows that Americans are a lot more optimistic than East Asians about the chances of successfully resolving disputes on the job. And they're a lot more willing to join work teams that have a high potential for inter-personal conflict.
“Americans were more likely to join a talented team with a high potential for relationship conflicts," said Jeffrey Sanchez-Burke, a University of Michigan researcher. "East Asians avoid joining these kinds of groups – for them, the potential for turmoil trumps technical talent.”
The findings strengthen previous research showing that Americans tend to view the personal dimension as less important in work settings than East Asians do, the researchers said. This attitude is part of what Sanchez-Burks has termed “Protestant Relationship Ideology,” a tendency among Americans to approach getting the job done by playing down the social-emotional and relationship aspects of the work process.

Eddie Munster, anyone? “While some people can't resist the prospect of wearing a costume on Halloween while performing daily work tasks, others would rather dress for business as usual,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “And even though the young-at-heart employee might see it as the perfect time to express creativity through an elaborate get-up, it's best to fully consider whether the witty garb is innocuous enough to make every co-worker smile or if some might deem it offensive.
According to the National Retail Federation, 33.8% of adults plan to dress in costume for Halloween this year. And there's a good chance many of them will be dressing up in the office: A survey in 2005 found that almost one-third of workers planned to wear a costume to work that year.
This year's popular choices for adult costumes include traditional Halloween favorites such as witches, pirates, vampires, cats and princesses, according to the federation. Also high on the list: characters from ‘Star Wars,’ doctors and athletes.”


Monday, October 29, 2007

Office Politics Can't Be Ignored

As the race heats up for the presidential nomination, it’s a good time to remember that politics isn't confined to just those running for office. In fact, some of the most sophisticated politicking takes place in the workplace.

Who hasn’t been on the receiving end of some on-the-job political maneuvering that would put even the most savvy national campaign strategist to shame? What workplace hasn’t seen people choose up sides, putting their support behind certain people while working to undermine others?

For those in the professional political arena, this is part of the game and they readily admit they love the rough and tumble stuff. But for those who want to just do their jobs, this is a nasty side of business they could do without.

Still, it’s naïve and unwise to ignore office politics that have been a part of the work life since man first earned a wage. The key is to understand that you can – and must – understand on-the-job politics in order to not only survive, but thrive, in the workplace.

Here are some things to think about:

1. Hating it won’t make it go away. In a perfect cubicle world, office politics would cease to exist. Forget it. You have a better chance of the Easter Bunny being named CEO. The sooner you accept it’s part of life, the sooner you’ll understand that you can deal with it and not sell your soul to the devil.
2. Know your code. While you may detest some of the smarmier aspects of politics in the workplace, it doesn’t mean you have to sink to that level in order to participate. You don’t have to lie, cheat, steal or cause physical harm – but you can listen, learn, be professional and ethical.
3. Seek win-win solutions. Politics in the workplace often get rough when someone is going to come up with the short end of the stick. If you become known for creating situations where everyone gets something they want, then you’re less likely to be blindsided by dirty politics. This may mean you give a little, or you negotiate with someone else to bring about a positive solution for a third person, but in the end, everyone feels they’ve gotten a fair shake.
4. Don’t gossip. Some people equate gossiping with office politics, and that’s a big mistake. Gossiping is dishing dirty on another person in order to put down or minimize him or her in some way. Office politics, on the other hand, means understanding the relationships among the people in your workplace, and how they connect to what you’re doing and want to accomplish.
5. Don’t hold a grudge. If someone plays hardball and actually sets out to do you professional harm, then you’ve learned an important lesson that you need to be careful with this person in the future and not provide another opportunity to hurt you. That doesn’t mean you shut down communications. In fact, it means that you stay even more in tune with this person to avoid a repeat performance. What if someone accidentally harms you and seems genuinely sorry? Then you hold to your code of conduct and accept the apology and go on to behave with professionalism. Remember that if you hold a grudge, then it bars you from learning from the experience and moving on.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Working From Home a Challenge

There are a lot of things I don’t know for sure in this life. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to grocery shop on the moon (my second grade teacher swore to my class that we would some day), I don’t know if I’ll ever figure out how to boogie board (I nearly drowned last time and made a lifeguard fall out of his chair he was laughing so hard), and I can’t say for sure if I’ll ever understand how Billy Mays got a job selling anything (why is he always yelling?)

But here is one thing I know for sure: As soon as my butt hits the chair in my home office, I will have visitors. And let me be clear on this: I can sneak to the office with all the stealth of a Navy SEAL on a top-secret mission, and somehow a red alert goes out: “Attention, attention: Anita Bruzzese is now in her office attempting to get something done. Stop her at all costs. Repeat: Stop her at all costs.”

So the dog and two cats appear, dumping over the trash, barfing up something they should not have eaten, and scrambling to lie on the computer keyboard, my lap or whatever papers I need, all the while drooling and shedding and panting and meowing.

But should I finally manage to contain the four-legged animals, the two-legged ones soon take up the challenge.

It begins with breathing.

They know I can hear them breathing. They don’t say anything, because I made it a rule a long time ago that unless someone was on fire or Publisher’s Clearinghouse was at the door, they are to leave me alone. So they breathe until I can’t stand it and I look up.

There stands one of the males in my family, who has lost a shoe, a school paper, a computer game, his appendix…something. Something that only a female (that would be me) can find. Like…right now.

Once I get that settled, then the technological interruptions begin. There is the e-mail from someone at a bank branch in Nigeria telling me that there is an identity theft and I need to contact them right away with all my vital information to make sure everything is secure (yeah, right). This is followed by the fundraising phone call from the Fraternal Order of Canadian Geese Police; the neighbor wanting to know if we’re having trouble with moles; and the movie rental store informing us we have five movies that are six weeks overdue (oh, crap).

The reason I’m sharing all this (other than to make you feel way better about your own situation), is that I understand how tough it is to work from home without interruptions . So far, most people I know who do it successfully work at 3 a.m. when everyone else is sleeping. Since I like to be one of those people sleeping at 3 a.m., I’ve put together a list of suggestions from experts and work-at-home warriors who swear these ideas can work. I’ll let you choose which ones might help you, and hope you’ll add some of your own to share with readers of this blog:

1. Run it up the flagpole. Turn on a certain lamp or use some other sign like a sock on the door handle (kind of different from the old college days, huh) to let others know that you’re working and you don’t want to be interrupted unless it’s that Publisher’s Clearinghouse thing, or something else really important.
2. Turn off the e-mail. Some people break out in hives if they can’t check e-mail fairly often, so tell yourself nothing earth-shattering can happen in 30 minutes, and only check it every half hour. Gradually wean yourself to checking it only once an hour. Promise yourself you will answer no personal e-mails while you’re working except after an hour’s worth of honest labor.
3. Organize your space. For some reason, home offices often are an afterthought. Instead, make it a priority. Put together an organized, dedicated space where you can work, out of the line of heavy traffic and noise. I know one man who found the solace he wanted in the basement workshop. His daughters hated the spiders that could be found down there, so they left him alone. The hum of the furnace provided some white-out noise to let him concentrate, and he was able to keep all his files in once place without fear they’d get lost in the hustle and bustle of a busy family.
4. Screen your calls. As much as you would like to chat with a friend or family member, don’t interrupt your work time. Schedule a break and use that time to return calls that are important and return the others when you have time after the work is done. If you’ve decided to work specific hours, let others know. It doesn’t always mean they’ll respect them, but it will make it easier for you to ignore the phone or the doorbell.
5. Put on blinders. This one is tough. You cannot look around too much when you’re working from home or you’ll notice the dishwasher that needs unloading or a new magazine you want to read. Many things will seem much more important than that pesky old report due for the boss tomorrow, so you’ve got to stay focused on what you need to get done.
6. Schedule breaks. I can’t stress enough that even though you’re working from home, it’s still home. That means you need to take breaks and toss the football with the kids, have coffee with your significant other or just put your feet up and read that favorite magazine for a while. It’s important that your home is a place to recharge your batteries and maintain a sense of balance.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Birth Order: Science or Fiction?

I once interviewed a man who had written a book on how birth order affected the way a person behaved, the careers chosen and even how punctual that person would be.

When I called him, he answered on the first ring and said: "You must be a first-born...probably an only child. You're calling right on time."

"Uh, no...," I said. "I'm the youngest of three."

He went on to probe a little deeper into my background, and finally concluded the reason I was so punctual in calling him was because my sisters were so much older (seven and five years), so that meant I was "nearly" raised as an only child. That is what made me behave in such a way, he said.

I was reminded of that interview when I read the recent Time magazine story on "The Secrets of Birth Order."

According to the story, oldest siblings:

*May be better educated than younger siblings
*Likelier to hold a professional position
*More concerned with meeting parents' expectations
*Likelier to serve as family historian and guardian of aged parents
* Higher IQ than younger siblings

Middle siblings:
*May take longer to choose a career than other siblings
*Less connected to family, more to friends
*May de-identify from firstborn, making opposite life choices
*Lacks the parental recognition first-and last-borns enjoy; may develop self-esteem issues

Younger siblings:
*More tolerant of risk
*Likelier to be an artist, adventurer or entrepreneur
* Often physically smaller than firstborns
* Less likely to be vaccinated than firstborns
* Frequently funnier than other siblings

In my family, some of these are true and some are not. The story points out that the birth-order debate will "never be entirely settled," and families are often sloppy things and rules are often broken.

Still, it's sort of fun to try and see if our birth order determines where we land in life, and the kind of careers we choose. For my part, I'm a writer, received all my shots, am taller than my sisters...and oh, yeah....I'm way funnier.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Undermanagement an Epidemic?

Welcome again to this latest installment of Tidbit Tuesday, where I've rounded up the latest in career news and put it in one convenient corral for you to take a look at. As always, you little doggies should feel free to herd any good workplace tips my way. (Can you tell I watched "High Noon" last night?)

I'm so outta here: The Miami Herald reports: "Not long ago, workers considered midcareer sabbaticals perks for those who could afford time off to indulge in trips to Australia or backpacking through the Himalayas.

But now that success is measured by who can log the most hours, the sabbatical is making a comeback as a antidote for burnout. A growing number of workers want to disconnect from their jobs and recharge. And, for more of them, it's not just a pie-in-the sky dream.

Just as teachers get the summer off to regroup, more employers, big and small, are stepping in to help their employees slow down, unplug and unwind -- for from four weeks to a year.

'Companies find if they don't do something, their workers will burn out and leave, or worse, burn out and stay,' says workplace consultant/speaker Bill Blades.

Among the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work, 22 companies boast of offering fully paid sabbaticals. The Society of Human Resources says the percentage of large companies that offer sabbaticals has doubled in the past five years."

A muffin can work wonders: BNET breaks down the nitty gritty on what you need to win at office politics:
* Thirty bucks every few weeks for the occasional lunch with a colleague to build and maintain relationships.
* An hour a week, give or take, for coffee breaks, lunches, and impromptu chats in the hallway — time for you to offer help, ask for it, or socialize with people whose relationships you value.

Top campfires fill up fast: Nancy LaPook Diamond, founder and president of, said young people who would like to spend their summer working at a camp should begin making contacts now.

"It's not too early to look for a summer job for next year," Diamond said. "Camps are posting positions, and young people who want to get the most in-demand camp jobs should move now to get ahead of the game."

The American Camp Association reports that 1.2 million people found jobs at summer camps in 2007. These include not only young people, but also seasonal employees like teachers and school nurses, who obtain summer camp jobs as a way of supplementing their income.

Calling Martha Stewart: says that "Passive and disengaged bosses who chronically undermanage don’t get nearly as much public attention as bullying bosses who bulldoze their way through the office. But according to some business consultants and experts, they can be every bit as damaging to a company’s morale and productivity."

This "undermanagement" is being called "an epidemic,” with many managers intimidated by a culture of political correctness, red tape, and potential lawsuits. Laid back managers are seen as causing more problems than the tough boss who makes everyone toe the line.

Staying connected to the mother ship: Teleworkers who are proactive and get their accomplishments and their faces in front of their bosses as often as possible are actually thriving in the telework environment, says And they’re also taking advantage of all the technology out there making it easier for employees and managers to connect. Webcams, video and audio conferencing, instant messaging and, of course, e-mail, are all becoming telecommuter lifelines.

Some suggestions to make sure telecommuting doesn't hurt your career: attending key meetings in person; a willingness to reschedule telecommuting days; touching base with co-workers at least once a week; making sure goals are clearly communicated with the boss; and an "office buddy" who will make sure you receive office news via e-mail.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Sabotaging Your Own Career

I've spent two decades writing about career challenges and how to get ahead. I've interviewed hundreds of experts and read thousands of pages of research material, trying to find the best information I can to help others be successful in their careers.

And here's the one thing I've come to realize: Some of you simply don't want to get ahead.

That's right. There are those of you in the workplace today who are afraid, for one reason or another, of success.

So, while there can be the best career advice in the world out there (ahem), there are still some people who are just going to ignore it because they're afraid of what might happen if they try.

It's time to own up to the fact that your not getting ahead is not the fault of the boss or your co-workers or even the economy. rests squarely on your shoulders, my friend. And while I certainly would never attempt to provide the psychological reasoning behind your fears, I can certainly point out some of the fastest ways to derail your career:

Being late. While some work environments have become more flexible, bosses still don't like it when a worker shows up late, whether it's for a meeting or for work. When businesses decide to cut costs, you can bet some of the most vulnerable to the pink slip will be those who have shown little respect for the boss or co-workers by being tardy so many times. You know deep down that being late is a problem, yet you continue to do it, right? So, why are you doing something so obvious that draws so much attention to you in a negative way?

Procrastination. You put things off as long as you can, and then scramble to get a project done on time. The result is that other team members are truly pissed that they are forced to scramble to get the work done right along with you, and the work you turn in is not really quality stuff. You've known for a long time that this work was due, and several team members offered you help, but you declined. Congratulations! You're now officially considered a bottleneck. Don't count on getting that corner office any time soon and don't be surprised when your team members TP your car.

Being unprofessional. This can range from wearing sloppy, inappropriate clothes to work to talking like a surfer dude to telling dirty jokes at staff meetings. If you come off as immature and unprofessional -- whether you're 23 or 43 -- then the boss will have serious reservations about putting you in any kind of situation where you will be representing the company. (For the record, that can range from answering the phone to attending a key meeting with clients to working a company-sponsored charity event.)

Acting like a jerk. When you don't use basic manners that were drilled into you since kindergarten, when you put others down for the way they look or when you act like a pompous, inconsiderate ass, then you're officially acting like a jerk. These kinds of behavior are like an invisible force field that cause people to stay away from you as much as possible. Kiss success buh-bye.

Finally, let me stress that while there are many other ways you can dig your own career grave, the point is to realize that you may need outside help to understand why you are so clearly setting yourself up to fail. If you consistently fall short in meeting your goals, if you don't take advantage of opportunities that come your way -- then it may be time to figure out not just what you're doing wrong but why you're doing it.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Backstabbing Co-Worker

There are many tough workplace situations, but perhaps one of the most difficult to deal with on a daily basis is the co-worker who must win at any cost. That means that this colleague will backstab -- either on purpose or perhaps unintentionally -- as he or she seeks to succeed in our increasingly tough business environment.

Of course, when the bad behavior is an accident, a one-time thing, it may be easier to get past the incident and move on. But what if the co-worker consistently makes a barracuda look like a guppy? What action can you -- or should you -- take?

Your reaction may range from plotting the person's demise to feeling angry or frustrated to tattling about the jerk to the boss. Or, you may feel immobilized by the actions of this person, finding yourself less productive or creative as you struggle to deal with the emotions that bombard you.

Of course, that is the key:Once you cannot do your job because of this person's actions, then you know that you've got to do something. Some ways to handle such a scenario:

Look deeper. Try to see what is motivating the co-worker to behave so badly. Is there something else going on -- perhaps a personal problem that is affecting the person's performance? You may discover there is an issue at home (family illness, money troubles, etc.)that could be the root cause of the problems. While you may not be able to solve such issues, taking the person out to lunch or coffee and providing them a safe outlet to talk may help.

Be clear about the problem. Don't go to your colleague and say, "Listen, you jerk, if you don't quit getting in my way I'm going to kick your ass and then I'm going to tell the boss what you're doing." Be more reasonable and polite: "I can appreciate how hard you work and all the things you're trying to accomplish. But I have a problem with you making a call to my clients without my knowledge because I have a long history of respect and trust with them and I don't want them to feel confused in their dealings with this company."

Document behavior. Keep track of the backbiting and problems with the co-worker, noting specific instances and how it affected your ability to do your job. This will be critical if you decide to go to the boss with your complaints. Bosses are much more likely to intervene if they find out a worker is adversely impacting the bottom line.

Keep it private. Don't attempt to bring up the problems where others can overhear. That's likely to make the other person defensive, and escalate the bad behavior.

Don't rise to the bait. There's a chance this peer will react negatively to anything you have to say; don't show any similar emotions. Simply repeat that you have a problem with it and that you'd like to come up with a solution. If the person becomes angry or insulting, say that the comments are out of line, and you can see the person is upset. "We need to talk about this, but let's do it later."

Finally, if the boss refuses to take action, and the co-worker shows no sign of stopping the aggressive behavior, you may need to decide if you can live with the situation...or it may be time to move on to a more supportive, friendly environment.

Personal note: I won't be blogging the rest of the week....I believe the highly-technical term is that this blog is "going dark." I'm having a bum knee fixed and plan to be either unconcious or on some kind of la-la land drugs (not a good combination for writing anything that makes sense). I'll be back next week, so don't forget about me and come back and visit, or leave me a comment on anything you'd like to chat about.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another Day at the Orifice

It's time for Tidbit Tuesday, the time of the week I prowl around the Web and see if I can find some interesting things to share. Also, my thanks to those who sent in items that saved me from having the prowl around the Web looking for items to share.

We're happier than we let on: The Wall Street Journal notes: "So many people tell you to 'follow your dreams' -- from commencement speakers to executive coaches -- that it is easy to get the impression you aren't. But there is scant evidence that people aren't doing pretty much what they want; and putting the kids through school often tops the dream list.
While people may talk about freeing themselves from work once they're done with the bulk of child-rearing costs, they usually don't. The Families and Work Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, found that only 3% of parents over 57 years old whose youngest child is between 22 and 25 said they were very likely to leave their job in the next year. And the same paltry percentage said they were 'somewhat likely' to leave their job in the next year."
The bottom line: While complaining about a job is a popular pasttime, the truth is that many people like their jobs, and wouldn't go to the Bahamas at a moment's notice even if they had the time and the cash. They're just as happy staying home, taking care of the family and living their lives.

That eggnog is a killer: With cold weather and holiday parties just around the corner, the office can be particularly hazardous for putting on extra pounds. Forty-nine percent of workers say they have gained weight at their current jobs, according to a recent survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, of more than 5,600 workers nationwide.
Tips to keep the extra pounds off include: stocking your desk drawers with healthy snacks (Krispy Kreme doesn't count...I checked); drinking water throughout the day to curb your snarfing tendencies; packing a healthy lunch from home; chewing gum or chatting with co-workers to keep your mouth busy with something other than shoving in that last piece of chocolate cake; and starting a support group.

Wait until you see what I can do with Legos: There appears to be a "creativity gap" between American creativity and what their job demands of their creative resources. According to the Creativity Survey:
* 88 percent of Americans believe they are creative
*75 percent of Americans believe their employer values their creativity
*61 percent of Americans believe they work for creative company
*63 percent of Americans believe they work in a creative position

Somebody's gotta do it: Crime scene cleaner. Bull semen collector. Bikini area waxer. Some of these jobs may not appeal to everyone, but for the people who do them, there's a real sense of satisfaction in completing the job. Reports Forbes: "People who do the dirtiest and sometimes most stomach-turning jobs say they enjoy seeing the quick results of their labor. Unlike a banker who might take months--even years--to complete a deal, or an author who works on a book for a similar period of time, the dirtiest jobs can often be the most rewarding. And for some of these workers, it's all just another day at the orifice."

"Hi, my name is..." ":The way you manage the first weeks with a new employee can boost someone's entire career. And if you're the new guy, there's no better time to make new relationships and start your career off in the right direction," says Fast Company. If you're the newbie, some ways to get off on the right foot include: introducing yourself to as many people as possible; talking to the boss and finding out three things you should do and three things you should never do; helping everyone; and becoming an expert in something that will really help your employer's bottom line.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Generational Divide May Be Overblown

They're energetic, often launching businesses they feel passionate about. They are committed to helping others, and want to make sure they have time to do the things in their private life they love doing, such as traveling, or spending time with family and friends.

Think I'm talking about GenY? Think again -- I'm referring to those over 50.

While there has been a lot of press given to GenY and the impact they will have on the workplace, a real shift has been taking place on the other end. The over 50 crowd -- those baby boomers who have dominated the American workplace for generations -- aren't quite ready to ride off into the sunset.

A record 24.6 million Americans age 55 and over are still on the job, a huge shift from what has been seen in the past. AARP found that 69 percent of people age 45 to 74 are working, or planning to work, in some capacity after retirement.

Why the change? One reason is that many can't afford to retire because of rising healthcare costs, or other costs of living -- such as supporting family members --that cannot be met by Social Security or other pension income.

But many other boomers report they simply don't want to retire -- they like working and challenging themselves every day.

The really interesting part of all this is how much many of their desires match those who are sometimes half a century younger. In "70: The New 50," author William C. Byham, a Ph.D., found in his research that these workers want to help others; spend more time with family and friends; work fewer hours; have more flexibility; and take more vacation time.

Gee, that sounds awfully familiar. Exactly like what GenY is saying. Could it be that instead of spending so much time and energy touting which generation is having the biggest impact on the workplace we should be channeling our energies towards these generations helping one another meet their goals?

Of course, there are differences. GenY is often referred to as narcissistic, money hungry and a great desire to be famous.

Still, I've worked with enough GenYers to know that they are not that different from where we all want to be -- financially stable, doing work we love, making a positive impact on those around us, being treated with respect for our skills and abilities, and enjoying life with good friends and family. In that regard, there is no generational difference on the job...just a real desire for the same thing.


Friday, October 12, 2007

The Five Most Annoying Networking Behaviors

Although I had been introduced to Thom Singer this summer, he and I didn't really have a chance to sit down and chat until recently. And, boy, did we talk. Seems we've both got some pet peeves when it comes to people who are pretty obnoxious when it comes to networking.

Since Singer is a networking guru, and a lot of people listen to him and benefit from his advice, I thought it would be nice to list at least five of the most annoying things people do when they network and how Singer believes they could improve:

1. Don't dive bomb. Don't swoop down on us at events, shove a business card in our hand, shoot the bull for five minutes and then expect us to be best buddies. "You don't propose on the first date, do you?" Singer points out. "We've got to get to know each other first -- share some experiences."
2. Stop being a greedy grabber. In the world of networking, little things mean a lot. Send us a follow-up note, a word of thanks, just something to show meeting us mattered to you. Then, let's hook up seven to 10 times before you even think about getting something in return. The rule of thumb: you have to give three times more than you want.
3. Social spamming sucks. Just because we met you once or twice briefly doesn't mean we want to connect with you through LinkedIn or some other social networking site. No offense, but we don't really know you, so how can we trust you? Putting our professional necks on the line for an acquaintance makes us uncomfortable.
4. Don't be snotty. If we choose not to connect with you -- either by ignoring or turning down your LinkedIn request, or not returning calls or returning e-mails, just let it go. Nothing personal, it's just that we've already got what we need in our network.
5. Stop whining. Just because you tried networking a few times and it didn't work does not mean you should just give up and complain how networking is worthless. You owe it to your company to get out there and look for opportunities and people who are willing to help. Examine your past forays into networking and find ways to improve. Don't wait for the other person to make the first move -- stop being such a Debbie Downer and go for it.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Power of Quiet

Recently, I had the opportunity to be in a soundproof room. We're talking padded, carpeted walls with absolutely no sound -- nothing -- penetrating the walls. I was in there by myself, and the minute I was left alone I let out a sigh. It was like all the air left my body, and my posture immediately relaxed into the chair.

I was in that room by myself for about 10 minutes, and it was absolutely remarkable. Seriously, I cannot recall any time in my life that there was absolute quiet. There was nothing for me to do but just sit there and listen to...nothing.

It felt like a gift. Something given to me unexpectedly in the face of an often chaotic life where I try and meet the demands of my professional and personal life on a minute-by-minute basis.

I've thought many times about that soundless room in the last few weeks, as my stress level often peaks and I search for ways to relieve it -- reading, listening to soft music, exercising, visiting with family. But I've got to say, I think very longingly of my quiet room. It's as if that room said to me: "It's OK. Turn everything off. Quiet yourself and just be."

This week I noticed a couple of posts by blogger Tiffany Monhollon and I was struck by the anxiety and confusion she felt as she tried to figure out the issues facing her and GenY, and why it all seemed so hard. I immediately remembered how I felt starting out in the world, and the same stress of trying to keep my personal and professional life on track, while trying to make sense of the world. I told her that generations before her had faced the same dilemma called life, and sometimes we all need to just remember what we have in this life...not what we don't have.

But one thing I didn't tell her was that I do believe the constant barrage of information and just noise hitting the younger generation is something older workers didn't face in their early careers. We were given a chance to just think, to walk out of our workplace and not resume the job until we re-entered the next day. We weren't expected to be on call to a computer and pager and cell phone.

In the latest issue of Esquire magazine, an acoustic ecologist says that in 1984 there were some 21 spots in Washington state where there were at least 15 minutes during which no man-made sounds could be heard. Today, there are only three.

The writer of the story used this information in a story about how he had always been quite the talker, but spent some time recently simply not speaking. He found the less he talked, the easier it was to shut things out. "Used right," he said, "silence communicates trust. It's like carrying a holstered gun....It's not dangerous; it's in the holster. But people notice. It can't kill anyone, but they see what you are carrying. Silence makes you the sheriff."

So, here's a new challenge for all of us. Shut it off. All of it. Try to eliminate every hum and rattle of your world for at least 15 minutes every week. Try to talk less and just be.

Then, let me know if you find what you've been looking for...


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dishing About Casual Work Wear

Diane Danielson over at the Women's Dish Network, has, in her words, been "mouthing off" about the sad state of attire in the workplace today. Seems she told CareerBuilder that she didn't care for it (OK, it totally "pissed her off") when a job applicant showed up wearing a frayed denim skirt.

Danielson's reaction: she sent the girl packing, with nary a question asked.
Danielson said the girl had clearly "wasted my time" by showing up in something so inappropriate for a well-established, conservative employer, whose reputation should have been researched by the applicant.

I can certainly appreciate Danielson's straightforward look at an ongoing problem. One of her problems with casual dress: "You never know when a client - who may never have casual day - might want to meet wih you."

I agree. It's a constant complaint I hear from bosses and co-workers, who are mystified why something so easy as dressing neatly and professionally seems to elude many workers. Why -- when so many things at work can be out of our control -- would anyone pass up the opportunity to convey a professional, capable image simply by dressing correctly? And why would anyone dress well four days a week, then throw the whole image out the window and dress like a casual slob on the fifth day?

So, here's my final word of advice for the truly clueless: If you can wear it to go clubbing, mow the back 40 in it or is comfortable enough to sleep in...DON'T WEAR IT TO WORK!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Roads Paved With Opportunity

I'm going to try out a new feature every Tuesday, which I'll call "Tidbit Tuesday" (catchy alliteration, huh). I welcome anyone sending me an item they think would be worth being included, and I'll put it before my editorial board for consideration (that would be me).

From "Jude Werra's semiannual barometer of executive résumé deception—his very own "Liars Index"—hit a five-year high, based on his review of résumés he received during the first half of 2007. He figures that about 16% of executive résumés contain false academic claims and/or material omissions relating to educational experience. That was up five percentage points from the levels he witnessed between July and December of last year."

From It's OK to omit your Social Security number on a job application, or even supply a false one, since indentity theft is such a big problem these days. Just let the employer know that you'd prefer not to give the number unless you get the job, or that you're supplying a fake in order to protect your privacy.

Job of the week at is doorknob desinger Ryan Hale. A mid- to senior-level designer can expect to earn between $75,000 and $100,000, while a background in industrial design and an engineering degree is helpful. Also, having experience working with architects is a plus. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were about 6,000 specialty design jobs in 2004. So the number of doorknob designers is significantly smaller than that.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Nobel Prize winner Mario R. Capecchi noted when he came to America as a child after he survived being homeless and alone as a child in during World War II while his mother was sent to a concentration camp: ''I literally was expecting the roads to be paved in gold -- and what I found actually was just opportunity.''
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Monday, October 8, 2007

Bad Bosses Are No Laughing Matter

Anyone who has ever worked for a bad boss knows that, despite such lighthearted looks at these people through comics such as “Dilbert” and television shows such as “The Office”, it really is no laughing matter.

I’ve had two really bad bosses in my life, and I can tell you it is truly a painful experience, both physically and emotionally. At times I was depressed, at times angry – and suffered from headaches and stomachaches, not to mention waking at 3 a.m. every night and re-running every horrible encounter through my head.

It’s probably little consolation to anyone going through this experience that there are plenty of people going through the same thing, but I think it’s important to show that these bad bosses are at least being exposed more and more to the sunlight. First, there are websites devoted to outing bad bosses and providing helpful advice to employees going through a rough time. Second, more press has been given to the fact that a lack of management training means we’re putting ill-prepared and poorly qualified people into these upper positions where they can become abusive. Third, rising healthcare costs mean that companies cannot afford to have employees sickened by bad bosses, plus face high employee turnover because bully bosses drive away the talent.

One of the latest looks at the problems of butthead managers is a study by Florida State University study, which shows that 31 percent of 700 respondents said their supervisor had given them the “silent treatment” in the past year. (This was a favorite tactic of one of my bad bosses, lasting one time for six months.)

Further, 37 percent of the respondents reported that their supervisor failed to give credit when it was due, and 39 percent noted that their supervisor failed to keep promises. And on the truly smarmy scale, 27 percent noted that their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers, while 23 percent said that their supervisor blamed others to cover up or to minimize their own embarrassment.

At the same time, the abuse took its toll on employees in physical ways, such as increased exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depression and mistrust.

Wayne Hochwarter, the professor who did the study along with a couple of his doctoral students, offered some advice to suffering employees:

Stay visible at work. While it’s common for the employee to blame himself or herself for the situation, hiding out can hurt a career because it can prevent others from noticing individual talent and contributions. And remember, bullies have often subjected others to this treatment, so their history is probably already known to others.
Keep focused on the future. While it may seem that you’ll never break free of the boss, chances are good that you will eventually work for someone else, and you want to make sure your performance will impress others. “You want the next boss to know what you can do for the company,” Hochwarter says.
Know when to draw the line. No one should take abuse that is physical or would be considered harassment or discrimination. Such complaints should be made through formal channels, such as internal grievance committees or law enforcement.


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Thursday, October 4, 2007

Shopping Online During Conference Calls

It’s always a little disconcerting to be speaking with someone on the phone about a business matter, and you hear this tap-tap-tap that you know means the person on the other end is checking e-mail. (OK, the reason you know this is because you’ve done it once or twice…)

But how would you feel to know that the person who is doing that sneaky e-mail check is not keeping up with the deluge of messages – but really checking out the latest 50 Cent CD or buying that darling Coach purse or even ordering a refill of heartworm medicine for a pet?

That kind of puts a different spin on things, doesn’t it? I mean, there’s one thing about checking e-mail…but shopping?

According to a recent survey, some 12 million Americans shop online during business conference calls at least once in the last year – and one million of them admit to being caught doing it.

The reaction to being caught? They report being embarrassed – but also to discussing the items they were purchasing and asking for second opinions.

And, just in case some of you out there thought it was obviously women who were the biggest transgressors, consider this: The survey found more men were likely to engage in this behavior, as were college-educated, aged 35-54 and earning more than $50,000 a year. Further, 23 percent admitted that they had done it five or more times in the past year, and 12 percent admitted that they had done so 10 or more times in the past year.

For those of you engaging in this behavior, stop it. Not only is it extremely rude to everyone else, it is just the sort of thing that ends up being put into your personnel file and pulled out for a performance evaluation – or mentioned the next time you ask for a pay raise.

Further, it’s embarrassing to your boss to try and explain why you would display such immature and selfish behavior (others are obviously not deserving of your time or attention if you’ve got to shop), but it’s a clear indication that you’re wasting company resources and time. As more employees are fired for misusing company e-mail for personal use, do you honestly believe that your shopping forays during conference calls will be overlooked? Is so, maybe it’s time you started shopping for an job interview suit – because you’re going to need it.


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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sexual Harassment Verdict Against Thomas Proves Problems Still Exist in the Workplace Today

While on the job, she claimed he called her “bitch” and “ho” among other things, and after a year and a half of such treatment, she decided she had had enough and sued for sexual harassment. She was fired.

It a widely publicized case, Anucha Browne again showed us that the workplace is not always fair in its treatment of employees. She has been awarded a whopping $11.6 million in punitive damages – $2 million more than she asked for – in a sexual harassment case against New York Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas.

Browne, a former team executive, said that Thomas hugged her, kissed her on the cheek and invited her to leave the office to mess around – all of which Browne did not welcome and made her feel uncomfortable.

For his part, Thomas claims he is still innocent . But during a break in the legal proceedings weeks ago, Thomas was asked by a reporter if he would find it offensive for a black male “to call a black woman a bitch.” Thomas responded: “Not as much and I’m sorry to say, I do make a distinction.”

Well, Thomas has just learned that a jury of his peers doesn’t agree with his sentiments.

Perhaps now is a good time for everyone to take a step back and think about behavior and sexual harassment in the workplace. While women are often advised that pursuing claims of harassment may be more than they bargained for (look at how Browne lost her job after reporting claims), men argue that the boundaries of proper behavior are too blurry and they have a hard time keeping up with what they can and cannot do.

I once interviewed a sexual harassment expert, and she gave me some tips that I think provide a good roadmap for proper behavior, and what can get you into trouble on the job:

Do you kid around in a sexual way?
Do you generally direct your humor to members of the opposite sex?
Do you tell racy jokes no matter who is listening?
Do you think members of the opposite sex are less able than you are?
Do you frequently make remarks about how people look?
Do you use obscene language when things go wrong?
Do you tend to touch people when you talk to them?
Do you make comments that are a put-down to one gender?
Do you ignore the no’s when asking someone for a date until you get a yes?
Do you use sexual comments and gestures to intimidate people or gain power?
Do you ignore conduct that you really think could be sexual harassment?

As Browne said, “I think it really is a wake-up call to those in a professional working environment, to those that are not civil, to let women know they have recourse.”


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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Entitled Generation Hits the Workplace With Chutzpah and Plenty of Controversy

I was grocery shopping the other day (one of the things I hate doing the most), and my attention was drawn to a mother with her two young daughters.

“Can you pick out some juice for Mommy?” the woman asked her oldest daughter, who appeared to be about 6-years-old.

The girl picked up a bottle of apple juice and turned to her mother. “Look what I did, Mommy!”

“Oh! That’s the BEST JUICE EVER. You did a GREAT JOB! That’s so WONDERFUL! I’m SO PROUD of you!” the mother gushed.

Geez, I thought. It’s only apple juice. Child didn’t just negotiate peace in the Middle East.

I continued on my way until I came to the dairy section where another mother was trying to talk her son into letting her place some cut flowers on his lap while he rode in the grocery cart. He was balking a bit, his lip sticking out while he contemplated his mother’s request.

Another mother stopped nearby as the boy finally held the flowers and his mother prepared to continue shopping.

“Wow! That is TOTALLY AWESOME!” the other mother told the boy. “Aren’t you SO GREAT for helping! You’re the best helper EVER! What a TERRIFIC thing to do for your mom!”

Ooo-kay. Another child who didn’t bring an end to world hunger, but was praised as if he did – merely because he held onto a bunch of daisies.

That grocery store experience was why the recent story about the “Entitlement Generation” (those born after 1970) caught my eye. The story found that the kids who have been handfed the constant “you’re-so-great” feedback throughout their lives grow up to be (big surprise) a bit full of themselves.

The problem, however, with these narcissistic youngsters seems to be that when they enter the workforce they continue to believe they are always the best, and always right. They drive older workers and bosses bonkers.

Still, some experts believe these young workers may end up helping, rather than hurting, the workplace. Yep, it seems this brazen, brash, can’t-stop-me-or-top-me generation may be just the shot in the arm many companies need to find innovative, energetic and creative ways to function.

On the flip side, however, some experts contend that this generation often alienates and bullies others, and ignores good advice or common sense. Relying on these kinds of workers actually hurts, rather than helps, a company since their wrong-headed ideas can quickly hurt the bottom line, experts say.

So, I guess the key is this: We’ve got to find a way to nurture and guide these young workers in the right direction without totally squashing the chutzpah they bring. In other words, finding the ones who truly do select REALLY GREAT apple juice.


Monday, October 1, 2007

LinkedIn Sparks Ongoing Debate

Thom Singer has a rant going about the problems with some people wanting to make a connection to him through LinkedIn when he really doesn’t know them very well. It seems someone got a bit snippy at Singer’s connection rules, and fired off a less-than-professional e-mail to him.

That’s got a lot of people discussing how social networking fits into the networking rules of the workplace. Singer has asked other bloggers to weigh in, and after giving it some consideration, here are some of my thoughts:

1. Would I recommend you for a job? I don’t link to you unless I’ve worked with you in some way or know you personally and feel good about the experience. I don’t want anyone calling me about your work and saying, “What are this person’s strengths?” and I say, “Gee…I dunno.” That makes me look bad, and that’s not what networking is about. It’s supposed to be a win-win for everyone. So, if I don’t connect with you, it’s nothing personal – it’s just that we need more time to get to know one another.

2. Do I think you’re headed in the right direction? If I see someone connecting to a lot of people really fast, throwing invitations out like confetti on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, I hang back. It makes me a bit nervous to see someone collecting connections like they’re Pokeman cards. Those links seem a bit too rushed, and the lack of solid foundation concerns me. It’s sort of like social spamming.

3. Are you doing your homework? If you have no real understanding of what I do and how I do it, then I ignore you. Again, nothing personal, but I’m not into connecting with you if you’re not willing to take the time to get to know me, and help me get to know you. Lazy linkers will always move on to the next person, and that's fine with me.

Finally, I really consider myself a sort of gatekeeper for the other people in my network. They see me as someone they trust, and I don't want to betray that by trust by letting someone in that I really don't know. But, hey, once I get to know you and we connect in an honest way,then welcome to the party, pal.