Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gossiping in the Workplace

Gossip in the workplace is about as common as the daily arrival of UPS. Workers gossip about their families, their friends and whether Miley Cyrus should punch Annie Leibovitz in the face for that Vanity Fair photo.

But, workers also gossip about the boss. They gossip about co-workers. Sometimes it's not mean-spirited ("Did you know Daniel and Heather in accounting are dating?") but other times it is ("She's sleeping with the boss to get that job.")

I've been in plenty of workplaces where people gossip, but get their work done. I've also been in workplaces where people would shirk their duties even if they wore duct tape over their mouths. Sometimes the nicest, hardest working people gossip, and many people truly feel bad about gossiping.

Bosses gossip. They talk about another department head, customers and even their own boss. Maybe they don't mean to do it, but frustrations build and before they know it, they've made some personal comments about someone's character.

Let's face it: People in this country love to gossip. Look at the popularity of shows that do nothing but stage a 24/7 Britney watch, and the gossip rags that proclaim Doris Day is having an affair with George Clooney (and no, that isn't true) and the way gossip spreads over the Internet.

Realistically, is there a way to put an end to gossip in the workplace? Is it fair to fire someone for gossip when "everyone else does it?"


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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bosses Feeling the Strain

I've been traveling a lot for business lately, and I've just got to get some pet peeves off my chest:

* If you've got a big case, stuffed with a heavy laptop, do not fling that thing over your shoulder without checking to see if someone is behind you. Chances are, if you're standing in line or on a crowded flight, there is someone close by and you could cause potentially cause serious bruises and/or brain damage when you whack them with it.
* Two words: Anti-perspirant. (Or is that two words?) No matter. Use it. When we're packed together like sushi rolls, your failure to shower or use such a product is very evident. Your fellow passengers would appreciate it.

OK, that's it. I know you thought I was going to get into people and their cell phones, but I figure no one is paying attention to that argument anymore. So, if you'll just stop smelling like a gym locker and refrain from giving me a black eye with your laptop, I'm good.

Now, on to Tidbit Tuesday:

* OMG: I wrote in my book about bosses being driven crazy by employee's poor writing skills, so here's another thought: The zealous text messaging by today's youth will only make the problem in the workplace much worse in the years to come.
“Text messaging is destroying the written word. The students aren’t writing letters, they’re typing into their cell phones one line at a time. Feelings aren’t communicated with words when your texting; emotions are sideways smiley faces. Kids are typing shorthand jargon that isn’t even a complete thought,” says Jacquie Ream, former teacher and author of “K.I.S.S. Keep It Short and Simple” (Book Publishers Network).
Ream contends it's up to today's parents to rescue our children from shoddy writing, or we're going to have a whole generation of workers who can't use their critical thinking skills to write reports for the boss. Her suggestion: Get the kids to talk about a novel they've read and put their thoughts down on paper.
Based on what bosses tell me, I think the problem has already hit the workplace...

* I want my YouTube: I'm starting to get press releases from companies who say they can do all kinds of technological wizardry to keep workers focused on their work. Example: eTelemetry says it can turn off the employee use of online videos at work. Seems the streaming video "stresses a network by 100x more than an email, and can cause problems ranging from slow download or surfing speed to complete network outage, plus the clear issues with employee productivity, says eTelemetry press release".
"Now businesses large and small have the capability to optimize their bandwidth usage to ensure that it is used for the highest-priority applications,” said eTelemetry President and CEO, Ermis Sfakiyanudis.
In other words, no more watching a dog windsail or a Madonna impersonator on YouTube when you're supposed to be working. Bummer, dude.

* Even the boss is depressed. A survey of 899 corporate leaders and managers finds their on-the-job confidence and energy are waning, suggesting the difficult business climate is taking a toll, says eePulse Inc.
“Over the last year, we have reported to our clients about warning signs in data from leaders whose energy is what we call ’below the zone,’” says Theresa Welbourne, eePulse president. “Executives say they are working at personal energy levels at which they are less productive due to uncertainty, lack of having the right people in the right jobs, continuing stress at work, and other issues."
All right, everyone, your mission today is clear: Give the boss a hug. Now go back to work.


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Monday, April 28, 2008

Revealing Salaries Favored by Young Workers

In a live radio interview last year about my book, the host asked me:

"So, Anita, how much do you make writing your syndicated workplace column?"

Thankfully, you couldn't see my reaction, because I have a feeling my face sort of resembled a landed halibut. But after a moment's hestitation, I answered him in a round, ballpark-figure-sort-of-way.

I thought of this as I read The New York Times story that noted younger workers don't really have a problem telling someone else what they make, and even financial adviser to the huddled masses, Suze Orman, chimed in that she thought fessing up to what you make is a good idea.

My parents were very closed-mouthed about their income, and the only reason I ever figured it out was because I snooped into their income tax report sometime in high school. My own kids don't have a clue what my husband and I make, although with the way we constantly yell at them to turn out lights "because it costs money!" and "No, you can't have the new you think we're made of money?!" I'm sure they think we make about $450 a year.

Should we be discussing salary with our kids? What about with our work mates? Orman thinks it needs to be out in the open, claiming it will help level the playing field and get rid of income disparity. Younger workers claim they have no problem with it, and is part of their willingness to be more transparent.

As for me, I have to say that when the the radio host admitted that he doesn't make any more than I do as a workplace columnist, I felt better. But am I going to tell my kids our annual income? Probably not. I'm not buying a new Wii anytime soon.


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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Scoring Dream Job Takes Persistence

Alexandra Levit is a career coach, author and speaker, and has a new book, "How'd You Score That Gig." I recently asked her a few questions about her book.

1. What inspired you to write "How'd You Score That Gig?"
The idea originated as a result of several conversations I overheard at friends’ dinner parties. It seemed that someone at every event always had a job that totally intrigued the rest of the group. People were completely captivated by this individual, and were always curious to know how the person scored the gig, and what exactly it entailed.

2. You give career advice, but what did you learn about career strategies from the people you interviewed?
I learned so much from my more than 120 interviewees. The most important takeaway was that what sets apart people who have their dream jobs from people who don't is persistence. Talent is great, but persistence is better. These individuals were willing to keep plugging away at these competitive careers until something panned out. They didn't give up until they had the work situation they wanted, and that was so inspiring to me.

3. Can you tell us about the "passion profiles" and what they mean?
I researched various personality type measures to develop my seven “passion profiles” – adventurer, creator, data-head, entrepreneur, investigator, networker, and nurturer – and placed the 60 cool jobs into the appropriate categories. At the beginning of the book, readers take a quiz to determine the passion profile(s) that suit them best, and are then able to explore relevant careers. With the help of my husband, who's a clinical psychologist, I was able to construct fairly detailed descriptions of each profile.

For example,"networkers" always have a ringing phone and a full dance card. They thrive on keeping busy and managing a diverse array of responsibilities. Networkers seek out group relationships and emphasize interpersonal fulfillment and influencing change. They need personal contact and surround themselves with people who respect them. Networkers are gracious and generous with people who share their values, but, as leaders, they may be critical of those who won’t commit or give 100 percent to a task. Though they are generally well-liked due to their excellent social and persuasive skills, they can be over-sensitive and too emotionally invested in a job, always warding off fears that they don’t fit in.
The “team player” networker likes to consult a variety of points of view in order to make a decision.

4. What do you think is a common mistake young people make that leads them to hating a job?

Finding a career that will fulfill you personally and professionally requires exploration, and a great deal of trial and error. Young people usually hate their jobs because of unfulfilled expectations. Although the individuals profiled in my book love their jobs, even they don’t believe there’s a such thing as the perfect work situation. Every job has its ups and downs, and aspects we love and aspects we don’t love. This is a hard, but necessary lesson that I had to learn when I succeeded in my dream job of being a book author!


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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stop Saying "When I Was Your Age"

This is a frightening time for everyone in the workplace, when fears abound about what latest economic downturn will result in layoffs. One of the most vulnerable groups of employees are the experienced workers with their higher salaries and richer benefits.

Older workers need to understand that this is the time to ratchet up their game. They need to be seen as vital by going after new clients, taking on new projects and just being seen as a dynamic voice in the future of a company.

And, most important, make sure you look the part of a vital employee. For example, are you still wearing the tie you got from your kids in 1990? Does your hairstyle involve a comb-over, anything with AquaNet or is hard enough to crack an egg on? Do you complain openly of your aches and pains and have no idea who Kanye West is?

If so, it’s time for some updating. Consider:

Visiting a personal stylist. Of course, you’d look ridiculous with a tongue piercing, blue spiked hair and biker boots. But you also need to have someone qualified analyzing your appearance from year to year. Visit a department store cosmetics counter (preferably with younger employees), a hair salon that caters to younger professionals and look into getting some new duds, even if it's just one or two more updated pieces. Also, nothing makes you look worse than clothes that are too tight, too loose or too worn, so get them altered or get rid of them if needed.

• Keeping up on current events. Not just what's happening on Wall Street and in politics. Pick up a copy of Rolling Stone magazine. Check into some of the television shows and movies being talked about by younger staff members. Look at some of the popular videos on YouTube and even visit Facebook so you understand the concept of how it works.

• Saying “When I was your age…” Never, never, begin a sentence this way. You might as well ask for a box of Depends and some denture cleaner. Try not to recall your glory days, but rather offer opinions based on experiences in your career that are timeless and universal.

• Offering contacts. There’s nothing quite as valuable to co-workers and company brass than the relationships you have formed over the years with vendors, customers, competitors, etc. There is be a certain level of trust among those with long relationships that can be highly valued in a competitive environment.

• Keeping the edge. Don’t rest on former glories. Always appear enthusiastic in offering new ideas or accepting new challenges. Don’t have a “been there, done that” attitude that says you’re bored, but you’ll do it because you get paid to. Use new technologies to implement your strategies. If you don't understand how to use some of the latest hi tech stuff, learn. Take a class or enlist the help of a younger worker in exchange for some mentoring from you in other areas.

• Making sure your game is sharp. Keep track of your daily accomplishments, goals met and problems handled. This will be a valuable record when it comes time for performance evaluation — or a discussion of your future with a company. Keep documentation of all projects you worked on, kudos from co-workers or bosses, and even favorable notes from customers.


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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Going Green At Work

In honor of Earth Day, we're going to deal with all things green in this Tidbit Tuesday post:

* One of the job sectors expected to grow is anything that has to do with the environment. If you're interested in "green collar" jobs and what that means, check out this report.

* Co-op America and both offers ways to make your office green in 10 easy steps.

* For the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks, artists from more than 45 comic strips are all working together to focus on a common theme -- the environment.

* The environment is becoming more and more popular as a marketing tool for companies, reports USA Today. The story says about 34% of Americans said they were much more concerned about the environment than they were the year before, according to a 2007 Yankelovich poll of 2,763 consumers.


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Monday, April 21, 2008

Women Bullying Other Women Not New

Was I the only one NOT shocked by the YouTube video of several girls beating another girl and videotaping the incident?

Of course, it was horrible. Of course, we should all condemn it. Of course, the girls who assaulted the other girl should be punished.

But women who gasp in horror and express their disbelief that females would be capable of such acts aren't being honest. Because the truth is, girls do beat up other girls, and it's not just a recent phenomenon. (Although the number of videos on YouTube showing such acts is.)

When I was in high school (and that was quite a long time ago), I was caught in the middle of girl-on-girl violence. I was with some friends who were attacked by some other girls they had a long-running fued with. I will never, as long as I live, forget the sickening thud of my friend's head being slammed into a marble wall by another girl. I managed to escape unharmed, and my friends survived as well.

Now let's fast forward to late last year, when I interviewed some experts about a study that showed in the workplace, women are much more likely to be bullied by -- you guessed it -- other women. Did it surprise me? Not really. I've been a woman in the workplace for a long time, and I've seen how women often treat other women.

Sure, we like to say we're collaborative, and some of us are. We like to say we communicate better, and sometimes we do. Still, the ugly truth remains. As my podcast partner Diane Danielson has said, women do throw other women under the bus. We say ugly things about one another, we don't support one another, and we don't reach back and help women who are trying to gain a toe-hold in the competitive business world.

So the question is this: WHY do we continue to bully one another? Isn't the world tough enough, isn't the workplace tough enough, without adding our own abuse to the mix?


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Friday, April 18, 2008

Your Success Is Tied Directly to the Boss

Ask anyone who really enjoys going to work every day, and you’re likely to hear that one of the reasons they like the job is because of the boss. A good boss, it seems, can make even the really bad days bearable. But a bad boss — well, a bad boss makes every day unbearable, no matter how good it is.

And while you may be miserable day in and day out working for a bad boss, it actually gets worse. Because if you’re working for a real jerk, it’s likely that you’re putting career success at risk.

That's because you only can achieve what a boss lets you achieve, and if you’re working for the worst boss since Attila the Hun, then you’re going to have difficulties achieving your goals.

The first thing you have to do when you’re confronted with this situation is realize that you’re not in it alone. If you’ve got a problem boss, then chances are you’ve done nothing wrong and other people are going through the same thing.

That's why it’s important that you deal with a problem boss just like you would any major business dilemma: you do your homework; look for problem areas; make adjustments to fit the demands; and take responsibility for making success happen.

For example, if the boss gets along with other people, study how that happens. Look for the flash points you have with the boss, and how to avoid them. Maybe you always want to talk to him first thing in the morning, but he's grouchy before noon. So, you just delay your talks until after lunch, when he'll be more receptive.

Here are some other ideas for improving your relationship with the boss:
• Let the boss know what’s going on. You come across as being insecure when you sneak around and keep things hidden from management.
• Respect the boss’s position. Even though you may not agree with him or her, the position deserves respect. And, if you look at the results achieved, and not the technique, you may actually learn something.
• Ask what you can do to help. You want to know what you can do that will aid the boss in doing his or her job. Periodically repeat the same question in different ways.
• Let the boss know what can be expected from you. Prove that you’re not afraid of hard work and that you can be depended on to follow through on assignments. Remember: bosses hate surprises, but love hearing, “I’ll take care of it.”


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Thursday, April 17, 2008

More Professionals Vulnerable to Addictions

She was at the top of her game. She was a lawyer who traveled all over the country, handling big shopping mall real estate deals. She had four young children, a terrific nanny, an easy-going husband, and a family proud of her achievements.

But what no one knew was that she was an addict. That is, until she was arrested by an undercover narcotics officer when she tried to buy cocaine.

And despite her promises to get help, she eventually was disbarred after a second arrest for buying cocaine, was divorced by her husband, and lost custody of her children. She now attends addiction meetings daily, has a small apartment and a dog, and works in an antiques store.

She is my cousin.

Experts say professionals like her all too often become addicted to everything from pornography to drugs to gambling. And, with the stressful business times being felt from Wall Street to Main Street U.S.A., it can serve as a catalyst to more addictions in the executive ranks.

But unlike other addicts, executives often need a different kind of rehabilitation — one that emphasizes that while they are successful professionally, they need help in their personal life. In fact, top-notch professionals often have to be taught that while they are smart -- it's their thinking that got them into the addiction mess in the first place.

Also, experts say these kinds of addicts are different because these high-ranking employees are more secretive. In other words, you're not going to see them sit in a bar and drink. And, it's another reason they can become addicted to online porn or gambling -- it's easier to hide from others.

But let's back up for a minute and look at where it all started. Experts say these executive addicts often were the kind of children who wanted to achieve a great deal, even from a young age. Often, that meant less playtime and less social interaction. These kids wanted to be the family standout, to go to college and become as self-sufficient as possible, as soon as possible.

And while such self-reliance can lead to professional success, it also feeds narcissistic tendencies that keep these hotshots away from forming close personal relationships. Still, the driven executive often doesn’t think of this as a problem — until he or she begins handling stress with too much drinking, or stealing from the company coffers, or buying cocaine -- instead of turning to personal relationships for support.

At the same time, it is that driven, focused personality that makes executives good candidates for rehabilitation, because they understand how much they have to lose. Let's hope they get the message before it's too late and they lose everything they've worked so hard to gain.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Working Abroad an Intriguing Idea for Many

As the economy takes a nose dive, and many of us experience burnout as never before, the attraction of working overseas becomes greater. After all, if Brad and Angelina can travel the world and work, why not you?

Still, if you’re considering working overseas there are some practical matters to consider such as work permits and visas. And, you also need to be realistic and understand that while many of those who have worked in other countries describe it as one of the greatest adventures of their lives, others hated it.

Here are some things to consider if you’re looking for a job abroad:
• Evaluate the risks. The U.S. State Department posts information on where it is safe to travel for Americans, and the danger zones. Still, no place — not even the U.S. — in 100 percent safe. You need to consider the level of risk you are willing to take, and for how long.
• Plot your career path. Companies and jobs often don’t operate the same overseas as in the U.S., even if you are working with an American company. Local cultures and customs often dictate how business is done, as well as the input from local workers who may be employed by an American business overseas. Will you be given the right kind of responsibility? Will your skills be given a chance to grow? Are there opportunities overseas that you might not be able to experience in the U.S.?
• Know the law. It’s not enough to decide you want to go overseas — you must acquaint yourself with the permission needed to gain a job in another country. Work visas are normally only offered through the company offering you the job, and the company must prove that the position cannot be filled by a local.
• Decide on the type of work. You may decide to gain work experience through volunteering (if you can afford to go without a paycheck), or by teaching English as a foreign language in another country, typically a one- or two-year gig (check out the Peace Corps, and Fulbright scholarships.) Another option is an international internship for academic credit, but again, you probably won’t get paid. Still another idea is a short-term job, usually about six months, with employers such as restaurants or farms, or taking care of children.
• Use foreign language skills. Even if you’ve only got one or two years under your belt, that high school or college French may come in handy when considering a job. It’s also a chance to become truly fluent in a language, which may help your career later.
• Recharge your batteries. Believe it or not, helping a small village put in a well can give you more personal fulfillment than making a million- dollar deal. If you’re finding yourself burned out with your life and your career, working abroad can be life-changing event that helps put your life back on track, while helping you gain skills by working with people of diverse backgrounds.
• Watch the deadlines. It’s not going to be possible to decide you want to work abroad and then leave two weeks later. There are applications and deadlines that must be followed, so it’s best to make your decision and then begin the process. It may take a year to get where you want to go, and remember to apply early to increase your chances of acceptance.


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Don't be messy. Be on time."

The income tax has made liars out of more Americans than golf. -- Will Rogers (1879-1935)

Let's not even think about taxes anymore today, and instead focus on Tidbit Tuesday:

* Bring on the Rogaine: Sometimes you have to be really creative in promoting your business and your professional abilities, and a guy with a blog on balding has done just that. He recently sent me some information that pointed out we haven't had a bald president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. If that isn't worthy of Meet the Press, I don't know what is.

* Ah, that first job: While teens connect through Facebook and MySpace, they often spend their time discussing the latest music, school event or romantic attachment. But some enterprising teens got together and decided they wanted to set up their own job site, and have done so at While pretty limited in scope, it is interesting to read some comments from job-hunting teens and the lessons learned. One teen supplied that she really didn't have any advice to offer other teens since she was fired after two weeks from her toy store job. She did impart these words of wisdom: "Don't dress messy. Be on time."

* And the dog ate my report: As for the above item, a lot more people need to learn a similar lesson that being late can cost them a job. According to a recent survey, 15 percent of workers say they arrive late to work at least once a week, while 24 percent admit to making up fake excuses to explain their tardiness. Some of the excuses:
1. While rowing across the river to work, I got lost in the fog.
2. Someone stole all my daffodils.
3. I had to go audition for American Idol.
4. My ex-husband stole my car so I couldn't drive to work.
5. My route to work was shut down by a Presidential motorcade.
6. I wasn't thinking and accidentally went to my old job.
7. I was indicted for securities fraud this morning.
8. The line was too long at Starbucks.
9. I was trying to get my gun back from the police.
10. I didn't have money for gas because all of the pawn shops were closed.

While many hiring manager say they believe their employees' excuses for lateness, about 27 said they were skeptical. (Can't pull anything over on these folks, huh.) And while we may run late every once in a while, a chronic problem could cease to be amusing since some hiring managers say they would consider firing the employee if tardiness is an issue several times a year.

* At least we're doing something right: "A significant increase in supportive attitudes at the workplace towards co-workers living with HIV as well as greater acceptance of condoms and other preventive measures are being registered around the world as a result of effective HIV policies and practices," says a new report by the International Labour Office (ILO).
The report summarizes the activities of the ILO SHARE project currently active in over 650 workplaces in 24 countries, covering almost one million workers.


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Monday, April 14, 2008

How Your Dad Influenced Your Career

Tomorrow on my Blog Talk Radio show, I'm going to interview Dr. Stephan Poulter, who I wrote about last week regarding his take on how mothers influence us in both our private and professional lives.

I thought it might be helpful to also look at a story I did with Poulter a couple of years ago, when he wrote about how fathers influence us in our careers.

In his book, “The Father Factor: How Your Father’s Legacy Impacts Your Career,” Poulter says there are five kinds of fathering styles that create the father factor.

Those are:
• Superachieving: “It’s all about looking good. The fathers work really hard, and they have kids that are very responsible and very driven,” Poulter says. “But there’s also the shame factor – children of these fathers never feel good enough.”
• Time bomb: “This dad is often alcoholic or very volatile and heavy-handed,” Poulter says. “The kids learn early on how to read people in order to survive.” As workers, these people often avoid conflict, yelling and expressing any degree of anger or frustration, emotional tension or dealing with unresolved conflict in the workplace. These workers often have a lot of anxiety, and suffer from low self-esteem on the job.
• Passive: “This father showed his love through his actions. He was very responsible and stable, but lacked courage and motivation,” Poulter says. As a result, these children become workers who are emotionally distant, which is difficult in today’s labor force where employees may change jobs or careers many times, and need to be able to connect with people again and again. “These are the kinds of kids who grew up with a father that was asleep on the couch and they’d say, ‘Is he asleep or is he dead?’ It was hard to tell because he was so passive. As a result, in the workplace these people have a hard time relating to other males.”
• Absent: “This is the father who is not involved in a child’s life,” Poulter says. “When the first man we love leaves our lives, it often produces an angry or aloof employee in the workplace.” He stresses that a father’s death is a loss, but his involuntary departure versus a voluntary exit creates a different effect on children. “Absent fathering – from indifference to physical abandonment – will lead to a coping with profound sadness or to anger issues such as violence, criminal behavior and white collar crime.”
• Compassionate mentor. “This is where we all want to be, what we should all work toward,” Poulter says. “These fathers help a child find a roadmap and help center them. In the workplace, these are the children that grow up to motivate people around them, and empower others, as they were as children.”


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Customer is Not Always Right


“The customer is always right.”

“Good service is what keeps the customer.”

If you’re a manager, you probably have used these words with your employees. If a customer is snotty to an employee, too bad. If a customer tries to return merchandise that violates the return policy, the employee must remember “that the customer is always right,” even if it causes him or her to lose a commission.

And if a customer becomes hostile and throws coffee because it’s not hot enough, the employee is to smile and fix a new cup because “good service is what keeps the customer.”

But what toll are your words having on your employees? When you tell them to "smile" through experiences that shake them emotionally, then it affects more than their souls -- they suffer physically, as well.

What can managers do to help keep customers while not placing more stress on workers? Try:
• Providing a supportive environment. An employee who has been put through the wringer by a customer should be supported by a manager by being allowed to step away from the job for a while. A chance to take a short walk, or even take the afternoon off, can show the employee that the manager is sympathetic to the situation.
• Recognition. A manager needs to make a habit of recognizing the contribution that workers make to an organization, and the emotional stresses faced every day. Rewards and incentives show that the employee has worth.
• Show where to draw the line. It’s important that a manager stand behind an employee when dealing with an especially difficult customer. No employee should have to smile when they have food thrown at them by an irate customer. If you tell them they have to take it, then you’re showing you don’t value them.
• Providing coping skills. Many employees are not educated about how to handle abusive customers. They need information on how to stay calm when faced with an angry customer -- what words and body language to use and how to recover their composure after a tough time.


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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Recommendations Play Key Role in Job Search

Human resource people tell me a good reference can make or break a job applicant, but many of those vying for jobs seem to give their references little or no consideration.

With that in mind, here are some tips for getting the most out of your references:

1. Contact the reference. Make sure you have current addresses, phone numbers and e-mails for each person you give as a reference. Ask them how they would like to be contacted and if it's OK to give his or her name to companies. (You'd be surprised how many people don't do this.) If possible, meet with the reference in person. This also gives you a chance to strengthen the connection.
2. Provide the best reference. You don’t have to just give the names of people who worked with you. Perhaps you volunteer at an organization that allows you to be creative – and you would like a new employer to see this side of you. Or perhaps a client saw your ability to handle difficult customers well while providing top-notch service. Consider the job requirements and what skills you want highlighted and use a reference that best plays up those aspects.
3. Know what will be said. Don’t be shy about finding out what each reference will say about you. This should be done diplomatically – remind the reference of projects you worked on, your contribution and how that would be important to the new employer. Prospective employers might ask about your ability to work in teams, how dependable you were, if you were liked and respected by co-workers, if you were self-directed and if you completed projects. Ask the reference what they consider your strengths and your weaknesses for these kinds of issues. Then gently try to put a positive spin on any deficits. Avoid taking anything personally.
4. Keep references informed. Once you think you’ve got a good shot at a job, let the reference know a call may be coming. Let them know the position, the company, and what skills are needed. That way, the reference can couch responses to fit the criteria. It’s also a good idea to supply the reference with a current copy of your resume. Make sure you stress how their reference is critical to you getting the job.

One thing to keep in mind: You're much more likely to get a favorable review from a reference if you've networked effectively with them. That means you've let them know how your career has progressed, and stayed in contact with former employees, bosses and co-workers several times a year through e-mail or phone calls.

At the same time, make sure you've offered to serve as a reference for them if you feel comfortable with it. (A good reference is more likely when it is mutually beneficial.) Finally, whether you land the offer or not, be sure and let the reference know the outcome of your job search. And if a sterling recommendation helps you land the job of your dreams, take that person out to celebrate.


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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Is Anyone NOT looking for work these days?

Let's start this Tidbit Tuesday with a quote:
"I have never liked working. To me a job is an invasion of privacy." -- Danny McGoorty (1901-1970)
As for other matters:

He says, she says: Seth Godin is wrong. Or so says Heather Leigh, who says you do need a resume. He says you don't.

Checking out the greener grass: If there's any doubt that we're all nervous about our job stability, a recent survey by Accountemps finds that 75 percent of executives would be "comfortable" looking for a new job while still working. That's up from 69 percent in 2002.

My mother says I'm very special: "On a very, very basic level, skills aren't the only factor a company should be considering. Loyalty, ethics, willingness to work hard, ability and willingness to learn, and all those other personality traits should factor in. The person who has less experience, but more enthusiasm and sincerity should get the job, not the one who can hit the ground running, but doesn't have a stable working history," says Judi Perkins at How to Find the Perfect Job. She goes on to give some tips about how to get job recruiters to see how you'd be a terrific fit for a job, whether you have all the skills they advertised for a not. Challenge their thinking, she advises.

Laughing all the way to the bank: This really doesn't have a lot to do with the workplace -- OK, maybe a little. But it's funny and sure to provoke discussion with your office mates at lunch today, and that's a heck of a lot better than talking about work. Take a look at "The Five Most Useless Products Ever Sold".


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Monday, April 7, 2008

What Dogs Can Teach Us About Work

It was a glorious weekend -- warm air and sunshine -- and no man or beast enjoyed it more than my Golden Retriever, Annie.

In fact, I spent a lot of time observing Annie this weekend, and I think I came away with some life lessons that would benefit anyone in the workplace today.

1. Take a nap. After chasing a couple of rabbits in the yard, barking at the neighbor's cat and thoroughly sniffing all open spaces, Annie looked a little pooped and headed for some shut eye on the sun-warmed deck. After about 30 minutes, she roused and and resumed chasing birds and barking at the neighbor's cat. The lack of sleep in this country is terrible, and it shows up in the workplace in terms of lost productivity and more accidents, both on the job and while commuting. Nearly 70 million of us are sleep deprived, and that's bad for our mental and physical health. When you're tired, don't check that last e-mail or put in that last load of laundry -- go to bed. Take a nap every day if you can. Annie sleeps when she's tired, and doesn't worry about whether the neighbor's cat will be there when she awakes.

2. Multitasking doesn't make sense. When Annie greets a member of the family, she always brings something to share like a tennis ball or a rawhide bone. Sometimes she'll try and bring a couple of tennis balls and the bone, which slows her down. In the time she spends searching and then trying to organize the items in her mouth, the person she was hoping to share her slobbery treasure with has moved on. She's learned that by grabbing only one thing, she does it quickly, efficiently and reaches her goal in time to enjoy the moment. Multitasking often backfires at work, so take a tip from Annie and do one thing well and enjoy the success of the moment before moving on to....well, barking at the neighbor's cat.

3. Appreciate the hand that feeds you. Every member of our family is greeted with love and lots of tail wagging by Annie, but I have to admit that Annie shows the love a bit more to me every morning because I'm the one who fills her food bowl. I get yips of joy when I pick up the bowl, and the tail wagging that accompanies her meal could generate enough energy to power a small city. Afterward, she always excitedly tracks me down, happily dancing in place as she conveys her gratitude for filling her belly. I think too often we forget that it's our jobs that allow us to feed ourselves and our loved ones, it's our jobs that allow us to pay bills and perhaps travel or buy that new iPhone. So, with job losses on the rise,remember to do an internal happy dance of your own and say "thanks" to those who give you a paycheck.


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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Working Closely Can Have a Downside

Airlines are not the only ones cramming us together like a can of sardines these days. Chances are, your company also is squeezing your personal space as you’re plopped right next to everyone else in an effort to promote “teamwork.”

Certainly, it seems like a good idea. People who are positioned closer together will make it easier to share solutions and problems, and bosses no longer sit behind closed doors, aloof and unattainable. But the unpleasant reality is that often it also means that you hear every word the person next to you is saying to someone else, you get a front row seat to a co-worker smacking gum, snorting into a tissue, belching the spicy food devoured for lunch and clipping fingernails while on the telephone.

Suddenly, teamwork doesn’t seem like such a hot idea.

But it can be if everyone just takes a few minutes to consider how less physical space means we all need to give one another a little more “mental” or “spiritual” space. For example, think about your own pet peeves at work. Do you get angry when someone pilfers your stapler? If you do, then don’t go swiping someone else’s pen or message pad.

Or, if you cannot stand someone popping gum, then you shouldn’t go sucking on a throat lozenge like it’s the last one on earth.

The point is: being a good neighbor at work takes some awareness of those around you, some compromises that offer respect and good manners to those other sardines you work with every day.

Here are some issues to be aware of when you work in close proximity with others.
• Keep your voice down. It’s amazing how far technology has come. That means you don’t have to yell into a telephone to be heard by the other person. Keep you voice well modulated, and question others whether you need to tone it down a bit.
• Watch what you say. There’s nothing quite like being on the phone to an important customer when a nearby worker yells an obscenity. Don’t turn the air blue at work with bad language; it’s bad business. At the same time, keep the crude talk for the pub later — a nearby worker may have a client visiting.
• Mind your own business. It’s a fact of life that many workers have to have private telephone conversations at work. Kids coming home from school, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, and checking in with a spouse are all pretty routine stuff. You may not be able to help overhearing these talks, but it doesn’t mean you have the right to question a co-worker later about what was said. At the same time, keep private conversations to a minimum at work. Nobody wants to hear a 30-minute discourse on your bad bunions.
• Walk away. When you enter someone’s space and it’s clear that this person is having a bad moment, walk away. Let them gather their thoughts, then return. Do you want someone is your face when you’ve just lost a big account or had a spat with the boss?
• Sniff. Take a good smell around you. Is that a leftover chili cheese dog in your wastebasket? Maybe you should have showered after you worked out for an hour at the gym, huh? Remember that in smaller spaces, not only does sound travel, but so does smell. So leave the strong perfume or aftershave at home, and keep your personal space free of strong odors.
• No personal grooming. Brushing hair, applying makeup, clipping fingernails, flossing teeth, using nose spray and shaving at your desk is not okay. In an office with your door closed you might get by with this behavior, but nobody should have to witness your grooming habits unless it’s your mother.
• Honor mental space. Working in tight confines means that people try to find ways to tune everyone and everything out. So when it’s clear someone else is concentrating, perhaps on a deadline, simply drop a note on the desk that says “call me.” Just because you can butt into their lives doesn’t mean you should.


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