Friday, November 30, 2007

Attend a Job Fair Like You Mean It

Be honest: The last time you went to a job fair, did you do more than fill out a couple of applications or toss your resume at a recruiter? Did you rehearse your qualifications while standing in line to meet employers or did you work the Sudoku puzzle in the local newspaper? Did you use the event as a chance to network with everyone, or stand alone and drink free coffee?

The sad truth is that many of those attending job fairs blow it. Instead of using it as a chance to make themselves stand out from the pack, these job seekers often blend in with hundreds of others attending the event because they haven’t prepared.

The key is remembering that job fairs involve more that just wandering aimlessly among the job booths. It’s a chance to meet and impress employers, network with the business community and hone your job search skills.

If you’re planning on attending a job fair, some important points to remember include:

· Doing a test run. If you’ve never attended a job fair before, consider attending one where you simply observe how it’s run. Ask organizers what is the best way to move through the fair, and who are key employers attending. Learn from attendees what works and what doesn’t – look for those candidates who seem to really capture the attention of the recruiters and stand out. What are some things you can learn from their behavior?

· Do your homework. Once you decide on the job fair, research the employers who will be attending. What does the company do? How many employees do they have? What is the mission statement? How could your skills fit into that environment? Use the Internet or call the company for an information packet before the event so that you’re prepared to ask questions of the recruiter. The candidate who can move beyond, “What does your company do?” will be noticed.

· Be organized. Once you’ve researched the employers, keep your information in files to be reviewed before each conversation. Don’t be worried if the recruiter sees your notes – it will show that you cared enough to do the research and are approaching the fair professionally. Don’t juggle a coat, papers, umbrella, coffee cup, etc. Carry your things in a professional tote or briefcase, and keep your coat hung up or neatly folded over your arm. Eat or drink away from the recruiter tables – keep at least one hand free to shake hands and accept business cards. If there is free merchandise, don’t try to keep track of that as well. If you don’t have a bag to store it, leave it. It’s much more important that you look professional, not like a kid at the carnival.

· Hone your message. You won’t have much time to meet with recruiters, and they will want to hear your qualifications clearly and concisely so they can move on to other candidates. Practice your promotional message that outlines your strengths and how you could be of value to the company. Look for specific strengths. Saying you’re a “people person” doesn’t say much, but saying that you are detail-oriented and thrive on helping solve problems tells the recruiter more.

· Look and sound the part. Dress professionally and neatly and make sure your breath is fresh and hair neatly combed. (Don’t chew gum.) Make eye contact and always offer a firm handshake. When you speak, make sure you keep your head up and pointed toward the interviewer. Job fairs can get noisy – don’t shout, but project your voice clearly.

· Take notes and get names. Have a pad and pen ready so that you can take notes from your interview. Keep the recruiter’s business card with your notes, and make sure you get an address so that you can send a thank-you note after the job fair. Your notes should keep track of particular interests of the employer, the qualifications being sought and where and when you can do further interviewing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Workplace Affairs Still Cause Problems

I have written about workplace romance before, but it appears SOME people are not paying attention.

Take the case of the American Red Cross recently dumping President and CEO Mark W. Everson after it was learned he'd had an affair with a female subordinate.

This kind of hanky-panky has been going on in the workplace since, well, forever, but there is a lot less tolerance of on-the-job romance in some cases. Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher learned that lesson the hard way when he had to resign because he had a love affair with another female executive. And now Everson can join that list of people who think the rules apply to someone else.

Companies -- and even nonprofits like the Red Cross -- cannot afford to have their images tarnished by tawdry affairs that cast their public reputations into the mud. That means that those with lesser titles, including everyone from a senior vice president to the newest employee, need to be even more vigilant about making sure workplace dating complies with any guidelines set up by the organization. (And keep in mind that the rules may be even more strict regarding dating someone else if you are already married, and still apply even if you fool around while on a business trip.)

While those workplace dating rules may be written in an employee manual, they may not be. But before you even think about becoming romantically involved with someone at work, make sure you clearly understand the rules and follow them. Ask your boss or your personnel department to clarify the guidelines on workplace dating. If they don't seem to have a clue, here are some general rules that will help keep you from getting into trouble:

1. No dating the boss. This is always a bad idea because the boss can be fired for dating a subordinate, and your job and reputation can be trashed as well. But let's face it: the boss probably has many more connections than you do, and stands a better chance of landing on his or her feet. You could be looking for a decent job for a long time to come. If you are the boss, keep in mind that you could face a sexual harassment charge from the subordinate if the love affair takes a bad turn.

2. Keep it private. No canoodling in the hallways, supply closet or elevators. Never send anything smacking of private thoughts via e-mail to the other person while at work. This can easily be used against you (this is how Stonecipher got caught), and lead to your firing on the basis that you're using company property for your personal use. If co-workers do find out about it, refuse to be drawn into any discussion.

3. Set some ground rules. Always make it clear to the other person that you want the dating kept private, and that you don't want to jeopardize your job in any way. If you believe the other person can't or won't honor that, then you may want to decline anything other than a working relationship.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm in Oprah's Magazine!

Just wanted to tell you to keep your eyes peeled for the January issue of "O", The Oprah Magazine, because I'm in it! I was interviewed about how to make your career better, and I'm very excited that I not only was included, but my book, "45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy" was mentioned.

When hearing I would be in the magazine, one of my sisters immediately e-mailed me: "If you're going to be on Oprah's show, I want to go...and I'd like it to be the one with Oprah's favorite things where she gives away a lot of free stuff." Sorry, sis, I doubt that will happen. (But if it did, you'd have to grovel a lot more than that because I still remember the time you threw my favorite Barbie onto the roof of our house...)

Still, I'm thrilled to be in the magazine, where I've heard it sometimes takes two years of work by public relations people to have a client be included in an issue. I simply got a call one day from a reporter for the magazine. When I asked her how she found out about my book, she said that an O editor had received the book, and kept it because she liked it. Wow. Guess it really is sometimes that simple!

On another note, please check out my new "career links" on this website's homepage. I spent some time trying to beef up the list of resources, and hope you'll find it helpful. I want to thank my technical team for their efforts in helping me put this together.

Reheating Catfish in the Microwave

I've raced around the Web today, trying to find items for this Tidbit Tuesday. I figure I've burned off at least one of the pieces of pecan pie that I shoved into my face over the holiday (is this what is known as wishful thinking?). Anyway, here are some things you might find of interest:

* You're not the boss of me: New research suggests that children entering school with behavior problems, as a rule, can keep pace with classroom learning, but persistent behavior problems can be a strong indicator of how well these students adapt to the work world.
The findings may help parents, teachers and social and behavioral scientists improve educational and occupational outcomes for disruptive students, reports .
"Every student deserves a good education and an opportunity to have a fulfilling work life," said NSF Developmental and Learning Sciences Program Director Amy Sussman. "These findings can help us understand how to make that goal a reality for even the most difficult-to-reach students."

* I've fallen and I can't get up: Psychologists say more people are complaining of being disconnected, unhappy, listless, dejected and resentful. The reason may be our "frayed" connections.
While our ancestors enjoyed close personal relationships with friends and families, partly out of necessity, we go through life without many of these same meaningful relationships.
"Can you imagine hugging your coworkers several times a day or seeing the same dozen people from sunrise to sunset? Because our ancestors lived in such close contact with one another, protecting one's individuality and privacy likely became paramount. The paradox is that in a world teeming with anonymous faces, the privacy we crave is in easy supply. And when we obtain it, we're at risk of slipping into detachment, isolation, and anxiety," says Nando Pelusi, Ph.D in Psychology Today.

* Dilbert in real life: The folks at Wired News aren't just testing out the latest technogical gizmo and then explaining how it works to the rest of us. No, they're delving into deeper subject matters and have just named their winner of the saddest-cubicles contest.
The winner is David Gunnells, an IT guy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The description of this bleak working condition: "His desk is penned in by heavily used filing cabinets in a windowless conference room, near a poorly ventilated bathroom and a microwave. The overhead light doesn't work -- his mother-in-law was so saddened by his cube that she gave him a lamp -- and the other side of the wall is a parking garage. Gunnells recalls a day when one co-worker reheated catfish in the microwave, while another used the bathroom and covered the smell with a stinky air freshener. Lovely."


Monday, November 26, 2007

Learning From a Demotion

Remember the time as a child when you tripped and fell in front of all your classmates? You probably thought you would die of embarrassment, right? Well, of course you didn’t, and somehow you managed to pick yourself up and survive the incident.

But what happens when as an adult, you trip and fall again? Only this time it’s not you physically stumbling and sprawling in front of others, it’s the kind of tumble that is often more damaging emotionally and spiritually. Specifically, how do you survive the humiliation of being demoted?

Few events in your career are as difficult as being demoted. It may be that you saw it coming – verbal and written warnings from the boss indicated you were not meeting expectations – or it may totally blindside you. Whatever the reason, being demoted is something no one wants to experience, and the pain is often so great some people will just quit rather than accept it.

Still, that’s not always the best move. For one, quitting means the paychecks stop, and that’s pretty devastating for someone who has car payments, school loans, a mortgage and kids to support. And two, quitting doesn’t accomplish anything other than putting you in the unemployment line and possibly facing the same consequences in the future. Because if you haven’t probed deeply the reasons behind your demotion, you may just be doomed to repeat it.

Specifically, once you get past the shock and hurt, it’s time to think about:

*Sitting down with the boss and try to find out exactly why this happened. Let the boss know that you’re interested in focusing on the problems and fixing them. It could be the boss will tell you that it’s merely industry restructuring, and it’s happening throughout the company. In that case, you need to consider your future job security not only with your current employer, but within the industry.

* Considering your overall value. Do you need to think about training and additional schooling in another area? Maybe jobs in your industry are being sent overseas or phased out because of technology. In that case, you need to seriously look at how you can get training in areas that are expected to grow and prosper.

* Setting new goals. With the boss's input, you should immediately establish some new goals to get you back on track. Get a professional mentor to help keep you focused and committed, and make sure you meet with the boss more frequently to ensure you're headed in the right direction.

All of this will be difficult, of course. It’s natural that you will be angry and upset, and going back to work after a demotion will be tough. Still, keep in mind that even if you want to quit, you’re still going to need a good recommendation and you’re still going to have to explain to another employer about why you left the job. So hanging onto that job is better in the short term until you figure out what you really want to do.

Of course, your decision may be that you need to look for another job. Maybe the job was never a good fit in the first place (you disliked your duties, hated the hours, etc.), and the demotion was something that resulted from your lack of full commitment to the job.

The point is that whether you decide to tough it out and earn back your old job (or an even better one), or leave the employer, take the time to make the demotion a learning experience. Was there anything you wish you had done differently?

Use what happened to do some soul-searching and find out how you can avoid tripping again in the future.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Workers Fighting Serious Health Issues Need Support of Co-Workers, Bosses

I've done hundreds and hundreds of interviews over more than 20 years as a journalist, but the ones that I remember most are with people who are facing enormous challenges in their lives, but who somehow manage to get up every day and go to work.

But let me be clear here: I'm not just talking about the person who puts up with annoying co-workers or bully bosses. I'm talking about the folks who face daunting physical challenges, such as life-threatening diseases, and still remain committed to doing their job.

One of those interviews was with a woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was funny, insightful and smart. She provided these suggestions on how you can help the person at work who may be facing such a challenge, including:

· Asking how you can help. There are a lot of fears when you have cancer or another serious disease. You wonder how you’re going to get through treatments, how you’re going to keep your job and when you’re going to get back to normal. If you’re working with someone going through it, reassure the person you’re there to help, whether it’s with a project at work or making them lunch. Tell them they’re still a valuable person at work.
· Don’t be an armchair physician. While it's nice of you to care, inundating someone with articles and books about a disease such as cancer is overhelming, and possibly dangerous in some cases. Offer to help with research if the person wants, but it’s really uncomfortable for the person to have to deal with something he or she does not want.
· Pay attention. Those undergoing cancer treatment or coping with other diseases may get exhausted suddenly. When you see the person start to become tired, offer to cover for them and let them rest for a while, resuming when they feel better.
· Be reassuring. If you’re in a management position, assure the employee that it’s OK if he or she is not in top form. Tell the employee that he or she is valued and that the person’s job will be there tomorrow. One of the greatest fears for those fighting a health problem is that they may not be thinking clearly and they're worried they can’t do their job. The boss telling you it’s going to be OK and you won’t lose your job is really helpful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Road Warriors, Networkers and Wordsmiths

On this Thanksgiving Tidbit Tuesday (I seem to have an abundance of alliteration), lets consider the habit of saying "thank you."

Don't be a turkey: According to HotJobs, it's a good idea to send a thank-you note after a job interview, although opinions vary as to the impact on getting the position. One senior manager said he had yet to see a thank-you note from a candidate really being the deciding factor in being offered a job, but concluded that every little bit helps. Still, he stressed that if you do send a note, make sure you check for grammar and spelling.

Another executive felt a little more strongly about the importance of sending a thank-you note after an interview, noting that while it probably won't be only thing getting you a job, it certainly doesn't hurt. She mentions that if there are multiple candidates who send notes, the candidate who doesn't send a note sticks out in her mind.

Forget the hot breakfast, just get me a hi-speed connection: Hotels and airports are gradually catching on to the fact that mobile workers need more help getting their jobs done on the road, The New York Times reports. "Hotels that cater to laptop-toting travelers are scrambling to add electrical outlets in easy-to-reach places, install better task lighting and design chairs with flat armrests that can double as desks.

They are putting desks on casters so the desks can be wheeled in view of the television or even extend over the bed. And perhaps most important to business travelers, some hotel chains are installing technology to make their Internet service more reliable or adding employees to offer better support when guests call for help", the story says.

Further, "airports have not made as many changes, though some are adding kiosks where passengers can charge gadgets, check e-mail messages or buy a flash drive to replace one they forgot."

Pass the crab dip, please: Crain's Chicago Business reports that "in many careers, embracing the social whirl goes hand in hand with climbing the ranks. Staying on top of industry issues or becoming acquainted with potential clients can differentiate those moving up the ladder from those happy to stay on the ground.

But that division can cause friction at home and point up fundamental differences in how each partner weighs career vs. family."

The story profiles some couples, and how, for example, they handle the networking needs of an outgoing person with those of a homebody. Some couples compromise on which events the spouse will attend, while others feel part of their role is to remind the partner that life exists outside of work.

Look it up: In case you didn't know it, there's a Dictionary Society of North America, and it often posts jobs for lexicographers, the folks who help add words to our life.

According to Portfolio, assistants start at around $30,000 a year, while senior editors can hit the low six figures; freelancers are paid either by the project or hourly at a rate of $25 to $45.

Useful skills include a grammar and computational linguistics knowledge, along with a proficiency with search engines and the ability to be open-mindeded, curious about language and detail-oriented.

There are an estimated 200 full-time positions in the U.S., with an equal number of freelance jobs.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Use Time Off for Job Reflection

Probably the last thing you want to do on your Thanksgiving break is think about work. And yet it intrudes into your thoughts, whether you want it to or not. You wonder how many email messages are piling up; how the boss will receive the report you left; and whether you're still in the running for that promotion.

OK, you’re going to think about work whether you want to or not. So why not channel that mindset into something productive? Like taking a mental step back and really considering where your career is at, and where you want it to be.

Consider, for example, whether you’re happy. Not happy just sitting there eating that second piece of pumpkin pie, but happy at work. How do you feel about your job? Is it something you look forward to, something you endure (kind of like your grandmother's fruitcake), or something you truly hate?

These and other questions are not easily answered when you’re running a meeting, rushing to meet a customer’s order or doing reports at home. These are questions best answered when you can sit back, relax, and let your mind and heart work together.

For example, maybe you’ve been thinking about quitting your job, but haven’t really considered the reasons behind it. Look back over the last year. Has something changed that has made you feel unhappy at work? Maybe you’re required to travel more, or perhaps you’ve gotten a new boss that is giving you a hard time. Make a list and decide what must change in order for you to enjoy going to work, and then whether you’re willing to work for those changes in order to stay put.

Or, maybe you’ve been thinking about starting your own business. What do you see yourself doing? Who would be your customers? Do you have the financial and professional resources to make it a success? Can you receive moral support from family and friends?

At the same time, sketch out where you see the business in the future, what resources it would take to get it off the ground, and what failure would mean to you both personally and professionally.

And while you’re considering your career, look into your crystal ball and try and predict where your employer will be in the next year. Considering industry reports, the economy, and your own observations, do things seem solid? Many times those who have been laid off say they never saw it coming, until they reconsidered all the warning signs they ignored. Do you have a game plan in place if things begin to look rocky?

Also consider your time away from the job to think about how you feel -- deep inside -- about your work life. Are you committed to what you’re doing? Are you able to stay focused on your goals, or are you often distracted and depressed? If anger and resentment are present more often than not, maybe it’s time you were honest with yourself about your job. You may realize that your work is making you really unhappy, but you're afraid to give it up because you've grown accustomed to the lifestyle it can give you.

Maybe you can't come up with the answers to all these questions right now, but it's important to take the time to try. Often, we're so busy hacking through the forest that we forget to climb to the top of the trees from time to time to see where the heck we're going. So, find some time between all the eating, shopping and football to do just that.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Women's Anger Viewed Differently

The woman exploded in anger at work, alternately spewing hateful invectives at a co-worker, then abruptly stopping and breaking into tears. Finally, she nearly ran from the room, leaving stunned colleagues in her wake.

Their reactions ranged from pity for such a “weak” person to subtle amusement that it must be “that time of the month” to outright disrespect for such an emotional display.

Angry women are everywhere, and the workplace is no exception. Women, stressed to the max with personal and professional demands, are battling to contain their hostilities at work, and sometimes it works — and sometimes it doesn’t. Of course, men — just like the fictitious woman portrayed above — lose it. But when a man gets angry at work, it’s not likely to have such an adverse impact on his career.

For women it’s another matter. If a woman gets angry at work, she is automatically marked as “emotional” by both men and women. And if she puts up with something and doesn’t get angry, then she’s often seen as a classic, “passive” woman.

Not the attributes that women want associated with them at work.

But even the most volatile woman can learn to control her anger, and deal with it in a way that is healthy for her and doesn’t have adverse affects on her reputation at work:

* Acknowledge the feeling. Maybe you’re in a meeting and you’re angry, but you can’t deal with it right then, just like you wouldn’t get up to fix yourself a sandwich if you were hungry. You would tell yourself you’re starving, but you’ll eat after the meeting. Do the same thing with your feelings – you’re mad but you’re going to deal with it at an appropriate time.
* Find refuge. If you’ve gotten really angry, excuse yourself from the situation as soon as possible, go to a quiet place like your office and then you can throw something or just vent to someone you trust. Then, take a step back and decide what you can do to make sure what got you so angry doesn’t happen again.
* Take action. This may be a private meeting with a boss where you outline how someone’s behavior or a certain practice interferes with you doing your job properly. Taking action is what any professional – male or female – should do.
* Plan ahead. If you know you're facing a tough day, and it's likely to trigger anger or tears, enlist someone at work to help you out who would be willing to step in and give you a moment to recover. Or, already have something planned out to say, such as: "I want to discuss this more, but I need a moment to collect my thoughts. I'll get back to you." Then leave the room and go somewhere to calm down.

Keep in mind that anger can sabotage your career in many ways. It not only creates problems for you, but gives others ammunition to use against you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Extreme Commuting Gaining Popularity

It's time for Tibit Tuesday, and I've got a little bit of everything, sort of like a pre-Thanksgiving meal. But after this, you won't have to take a walk just to make room for pie.

It ought to be an Olympic sport: If you were offered a really great job, would you be willing to relocate? As someone who moved the family five times in 13 years because of job opportunities (and we're talking cross-country relocations), I know the decision can be tough. And it becomes much tougher if you've got children and they're old enough to want to stay put with established schools and friends.
That's why I found this study from Korn/Ferry International interesting: 70 percent of those surveyed would prefer “extreme commuting,” (commuting by airplane to work and back each week or by car for more than 90 minutes one way each day), rather than relocate. Some 55 percent of executive recruiters indicated that it was more difficult today than in the past to convince candidates to relocate for new job opportunities with family ties being the leading reason for resistance, while lifestyle factors (25 percent) and housing market costs (10 percent) also cited as contributing factors.

Analyzing diaper changes: Choosing to bring a child into the world is often a decision made with the heart, not the head. But the folks at Duke University say women may benefit from "applying formal decision-making science to this complex emotional choice."
Specifically,Professor Ralph Keeney and doctoral student Dinah Vernik of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business developed a sophisticated logical decision model to help women weigh their options. Variables are plugged into the model which then attempts to balance the benefits of motherhood against its effects on career and social interests and the age-related concerns of diminishing fertility or an increased likelihood of conceiving a child with a genetic abnormality.
The researchers, in a press release, "stress that their model should not be interpreted as prescribing solutions for women, but instead as a formalized way for helping them sort through conflicting pressures and considerations related to beginning a family."
"We use decision analysis all the time to guide complex business and policy questions and decisions, so why not use the structured approach to improve our understanding for making important personal decisions?" Keeney was quoted as saying.

What, no Elvis? If you want to know who the top 50 "business thinkers" are, check out this list, which puts C. K. Prahalad, an Indian management guru at No. 1, followed by:
2. Bill Gates, "Geek-turned-philanthropist"
3. Alan Greenspan ex-Federal Reserve chairman
4. Michael Porter, competitive strategy author
5. Gary Hamel, business strategist
One name that was personally familiar to me (I don't usually hang out with Gates or Greenspan) was Marshall Goldsmith at No. 34, the first time he's hit the list. I've known Marshall for many years, and interviewed him several times. He even gave me a blurb for my book.

Please shut up, darling: One of the trickiest things about working with your significant other is finding a way to do it without driving each other batty and winding up in divorce court. Forbes reports that "couples who do it successfully say they respect each other's roles, communicate, and every now and then, say to their partners, "for goodness' sake, stop talking about the office."


Monday, November 12, 2007

Taking Cheap Shots

Let’s be honest here: Sometimes when we don’t get our way at work, we can resort to the sort of cheap, immature shots best reserved for squabbling 5-year-olds in the pre-school sandbox.

Example 1: The “I’m way smarter than you” argument.
Remember when you used to argue with your friends about where babies came from? There was always the kid who had the real scoop on what went on between Mommy and Daddy to make Junior, and was willing to share that knowledge in vastly superior tones. The same often happens in the workplace with the “superior” knowledge one worker constantly seems to have. His or her smarts are not used to educate or help others in a positive way, but rather as an attempt to lord his or her knowledge over others. Using your intelligence to bully others or place yourself in an “authority” position on nearly every subject is obnoxious and unprofessional. Instead of others seeking you out for your knowledge, they’re likely to try and avoid you, and that can seriously hurt your career.

Example 2: The “People like her…” judgment.
If there’s one thing we should have learned in our lives is that it’s dangerous – not to mention stupid – to categorize people. Do you like being put into a category? Most people don’t. They consider themselves to be individuals, and usually don’t appreciate someone else forming opinions about them without the facts. So, the next time you think you can predict someone’s behavior, stop and take the time to ask the person questions and use the interaction as a chance for you to learn and grow. You can miss some key opportunities, and make some really big mistakes, by trying to pigeonhole people.

Example 3: The “I yell a lot” excuse.
If you were the kid who kicked sand all over your friends in the sandbox when you didn’t get your way, you may have come to realize that you have a temper. But to use that as an excuse to browbeat others at work, or explode in a tantrum when you are under stress, is extremely short-sighted. It can be very difficult to overcome a bad reputation at work, and someone who shows no willingness to control bad habits will find promotions, top projects and pay raises passing him by.

Bosses often put together diverse groups of people based on their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you’re not the most organized, but your high-energy “I can tackle anything” perfectly complements the detail-oriented person. The key is remembering that you should always look to bring your strengths into play in order to help the bottom line, and work on improving your bad habits so that they don’t drag down your career or your company.


Friday, November 9, 2007

The Workplace: What Men Don't Tell Women


These are just a few of the names Christopher Flett says that some men call women in the workplace. Not to their faces, he says, but behind their backs.


Those names make me uncomfortable, and angry. Plenty of other women will feel the same way, and I think we could have some pretty heated discussions among the sexes in the days to come. But Flett, who has been called the “shock jock of management,” says that it’s time someone exposed the “alpha male” business strategies towards women, and he’s just the one to do it.

A self-proclaimed “reformed alpha male,” Flett says in his new book, “What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business: Opening Up the Heavily Guarded Alpha Male Playbook,” that while men may have put the glass ceiling in place, it’s the women who keep it there with their behaviors that have some men calling them ball busters, whores, geishas, and other less-that-complimentary names like “man” and “mother.” (Trust me, these are names that put women down.)

Flett told me that he used to be such an obnoxious alpha male that would try and hire staff away from other companies just to hurt those businesses. But when his dad got cancer and told Flett “that he was embarrassed by the way I was acting, I had a reset switch.”

Now Flett says he’s out to expose ugly alpha male strategies to the females of the workplace who are often hurt the most by them. And that includes revealing some uncomfortable truths, such as the name-calling.

“Fifty percent of the women who hear my message love it, and the other 50 percent hate my guts,” he says. “But I don’t mince words. People are so busy trying to be politically correct, the message just gets muddied.”

Many women have joined the discussion about Flett’s book online, and say they have benefited from having alpha male strategies revealed. Some men say they abhor such business strategies as well, and they have no place in the workplace today. Flett says that it’s time women realized that they have the power they need and they don’t need to fight for it – they just need to take it.

He provides this final example: “I’m Canadian, so I speak a little French. When I take American clients to France, I get a better room, food and other upgrades because I can speak a little French. What I’m saying is that if women can learn to speak alpha male, and understand that this information is power, then they’re going to benefit from it.”

C’et la vie! , indeed.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Interrupting Co-Worker

I recently received a letter from an employee (I’ll call her Barbara) who was fed up with a man (I’ll call him Jason) in her office who constantly interrupted her. The interrupter was nice, the person said, but she was going to strangle him one of these days.

“He just starts talking, really loudly, when I’m on the phone,” Barbara says. “And, the other day he did the same thing when I was in the middle of a conversation with someone else. He couldn’t miss the fact that I was speaking with someone, but he just kept talking really loudly.”

To add to the annoyance is the fact that Jason has an irritating laugh – “sort of a cross between a honking goose and braying jackass,” Barbara wrote.

This letter is similar to many complaints I have heard over the years. While we may find the people with work with nice enough, some of their habits drive us crazy. We spend up to eight hours a day or more with these folks, and often certain personality quirks can cause huge problems if not addressed.

Here’s a way to handle someone like Jason:

Be perfectly clear. There’s no use pussyfooting around someone who continually interrupts you. If you’re on the phone, ask that person to hold a moment, or excuse yourself with a smile when speaking directly to someone. Walk up to Jason, look him in the eye and say, “I am in the middle of something that I need to finish. I will talk with you later.” If you need to, guide Jason out of your office or away from your work space with your hand on his elbow.

Follow up. If the problem exists on many levels – Jason interrupting when you’re on the phone, Jason interrupting private conversations, Jason interrupting when you’re in a meeting – then you need to make sure he fully understands your position. Find a time and place to speak to him privately and say: “I should have spoken up when this first happened, so forgive me for that oversight. Your voice can be very loud and disruptive when I’m on the phone, and interrupting me when it’s not an emergency is a problem. I’d like to talk about how we can resolve it.”

Finally, remember that because you have to continue to work on a daily basis with some of these people who irritate you, don’t be so rude or hostile to them that you sever any chances of working together in a professional way. Always remain calm, but continue to stand by your position that it’s a problem affecting the way you do your job, so it is an issue that must be addressed.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Poor Handwriting Skills a Problem

I had a very frustrating Monday as I tried to post to this blog. It finally posted sometime after 10 p.m. when I gave up in frustration and went to bed. My sister, no computer whiz, suggested that "maybe the guy holding the satellite was out sick."

This is the second time this has happened, and I am open to suggestions as to where to take this blog besides, which I find has about as much tech support as my sister can offer. Any suggestions on where I could move the blog that would be more dependable and offer the support I'd like?

Hopefully, this Tidbit Tuesday will post without problems, and the satellite guy is on the job. Here goes:

* When I was interviewing bosses for my book, "45 Things That Drive Your Boss Crazy...and How to Avoid Them," I was surprised by the vehemence some managers had for employees who could not write them a simple note. They complained that while much of the handwriting was sloppy, they were more concerned with the fact that they couldn't begin to decipher the meaning. That's why an article in Newsweek citing a study showing that good handwriting was critical in educating children caught my attention.
"Handwriting is important because research shows that when children are taught how to do it, they are also being taught how to learn and how to express themselves. A new study to be released this month by Vanderbilt University professor Steve Graham finds that a majority of primary-school teachers believe that students with fluent handwriting produced written assignments that were superior in quantity and quality and resulted in higher grades—aside from being easier to read."
Researchers believe poor handwriting skills filter into all areas of a child's learning and may hamper them in being successful.
One boss I spoke with told me that the more she had to rewrite or edit an employee's written work, the less likely she was to call on that person for important assignments. She added that while it would be nice to have the time to help an employee become a better writer, the truth was that she was jammed for time like most people, and wanted to be able to submit work to her boss that required the least amount of extra time from her.
So, it may be that not only do poor writing skills impact a child's learning, but their future success in the working world as well.

* Many GenY workers have gone to work for companies that also then hire their friends -- GenY employees say they'd rather work with people they like and often will jump ship to join buddies at another company. But according to a Wall Street Journal story, these workers might want to be careful.
"A growing number of companies sue job hoppers for luring staffers or customers while still employed," the story says. "Such lawsuits often claim breach of fidiciary responsibility."
The story goes on to say that even in a job interview, you should never suggest how many loyal co-workers would tag along with you. "Some skittish businesses reject candidates for boasting about their ability to recruit teammates."

The Chritian Science Monitor says that a new Financial Freedom Senior Sentiment Survey reports that among the 35 percent of seniors who plan to work in retirement, more than half say they enjoy working. Nearly 40 percent are bored. Twenty percent say their spouse is driving them crazy, while another 16 percent think they spend too much time with their spouse.
But retirees must learn the world of hunting for a job in the Internet age, and many are visiting online sites set up to help older Americans find jobs suited to their interests and skills.
At the same, while there is age bias against many of these workers, employers may not be able to snub such job applicants for long.
"Whatever challenges older applicants face, demographics are increasingly on the side of retired workers. In the next 14 years, the number of people over 50 will increase by 74 percent, and the number under 50 will increase by 1 percent...There simply are not enough younger people to replace those who are leaving the workforce due to retirement."


Monday, November 5, 2007

Hang Up on Bad Telephone Habits

There are few things more annoying than being on the phone with someone who is a) eating; b)doing something else; c)mumbling or speaking too softly; d) talking to someone in the background; or e)behaving in a rude or dismissive way.

With the reliance on e-mail, more people seem to have forgotten the art of speaking on the phone. They answer the phone with anything from a curt "hello" to a mumbled "yeah?" and say "good bye" as they toss the phone at the receiver from a few feet away (clunk, clunk, slam)-- if they say "good bye" at all.

But how you interact with someone on the the phone can be critical to your success. Just one phone misstep can cost you an important client, tick off a boss or even mar the reputation of your entire company. And, based on the stories I've heard, this seems to be a problem at every level of the business world, from the interns and mid-level employees to corporate leaders.

So, let's all take a few lessons in Telephone Manners 101:

* Callers are guests. Just as you would not slam the door in the face of someone who visited your home, you should not make others feel unwelcome when they call you. Begin with a professional and cordial "Hello, this is Jane Smith."
* You have about six seconds to make a good impression. You can never burn bridges behind you in the business world because every connection may be important to your future success. That means it always pays to be friendly every time you make that initial connection on the phone -- you never know how that specific interaction may impact you down the line.
* Be helpful. Don't be dismissive of the person on the other end, because you have just become the voice representing your company. You should never let anyone hang up thinking your company is uncaring, rude, ignorant or unprofessional. That means you provide answers when you can, and try to be as helpful as possible. Try to avoid saying things like "I can't do that" or "you'll have to do that" because you've only succeeded in frustrating the caller without providing anything of value from you or your company.
* Pay attention. When you talk on the phone, don't eat, drink, check your e-mail or do anything else that shows you're not giving your best effort to the caller. This is for your benefit as well -- you may miss key information from the caller simply because you're too busy snarfing down the Big Mac or instant messaging a friend.
* Observe the basics. It's amazing how many people forget the basics, which can really make a big difference. Speak clearly into the mouthpiece. Don't talk to other people in the room when you're on the phone. If you tell someone to hold on, tell them how long you'll be. (You're not going to be "just a second," but probably at least a few minutes.)Say goodbye clearly, and make sure they have responded before you hang up.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Impact of Negative People at Work

We've all had a good laugh at the "Saturday Night Live" skit featuring Debbie Downer. We all can readily identify someone in our lives who always sees the glass half empty, who has nothing good to say and always expects the worst of life.

But sometimes we are affected by people who are less obvious about their bleak view of the world. At work, it may be the co-worker who sighs deeply several times a day, as if the weight of the world is too much. Or, it may be the business partner who spends too much time contemplating why something "can't" work instead of what "can" work.

Not everyone is as obvious as Debbie Downer, but the effect may be the same. These people may drain our energy, sapping our ability to be as creative and focused as we need to be in order to be successful in our careers.

Think about it: Are you letting negative people affect you in such a way you're not doing a job to the best of your ability? Is someone else's bad mood rubbing off on you, robbing you of the things you could be enjoying about your career?

Here are some things to be on the lookout for:

* Blue moods: If you find yourself feeling gloomy when you've been around a certain person, then you know you need to think about how they're affecting you, and why. Is there a way you can change that interaction -- possibly being around them less or finding something that will lighten your mood after dealing with them? Try taking a brief walk, repeating a favorite inspirational quote or just saying hello to the most cheerful person in the office, whose smile may be just what you need.
* Dissect your reaction: Why are you feeling negative after a certain interaction? Is the person rude or whiny? The old adage about you can't control other people's actions, but you can control your reaction to them is often very true. When the other person begins making rude comments, do you take it or say, "I can see you're upset about something, but I want to be spoken to with respect. Now, I'd like to focus on how we can get this project done on time." Or, if the person starts whining about other things, point out that you're on deadline and have to focus on the work. Leave once you've taken care of business.
* Trust your gut. If you see someone frowning, and the body language seems tense (hunched shoulders, crossed arms, unsmiling), then try to avoid dealing with the person until later. You could end up being a convenient punching bag for an issue that has nothing to do with you. If this person always seems in a bad mood, try to schedule an appointed time to speak, so that you don't catch them unaware -- which can often make a negative person even more so.

Of course,everyone has negative thoughts and there are going to be some days that just stink. But the more you can do to keep a good perspective, the more positive your work performance will be and that will always pay off in the long run.