Thursday, May 29, 2008

Just Wear a Potato Sack -- With a Really Cute Belt

For many people, it's always been tough deciding what to wear to work. If today's news is any indication of the confusion assaulting the workplace, I think we may be headed for real trouble.

First, we have Rachael Ray being criticized because she wore a scarf that, according to some people, resembles the traditional Arab scarf known as a kaffiyeh. Ray sported the scarf in a new commercial for Dunkin' Donuts. Conservative pundits were outraged, while the stylist, I imagine, was a bit bewildered why a black and white scarf with a paisley design is causing such an uproar. One blog commenter, obviously tongue in cheek, said that Ray isn't a terrorist, but the stylist probably is.

That brings me to the next fashion fuss: "Sex And the City" attire as featured in the new movie is possibly prompting women to wear provocative clothes to work as a way of getting ahead. Some career women howl at the notion, and even men seem dumbfounded that a woman's cleavage should be considered a way to gain career, er, leverage.

I've always had a pretty simple rule: If you can wear is clubbing, to mow the back 40 in or to sleep in, it's never appropriate for work. I may have to amend that to: or could have you be considered a terrorist or a stripper.

What do you think? Do you believe people are judged more by their looks these days and what they wear -- rather than for their abilities?


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Are You Capable of Asking for the One Thing You Need the Most to be Successful?

I'm going to ask you a very tough question: When was the last time you asked for help?

I'm not talking about a desperate cry for aid when you're, say, about to drop a cardboard tray of Starbucks, or when you ask your friend to hold the door while you bring in the groceries.

No, I'm talking about asking for help at work. When was the last time you said: "I can't get all this done by myself -- can you help?"

This is often a very difficult request for many people. Part of the reason is because we often think it's just easier if we do it ourselves, and part is because we fear we'll be seen as incompetent if we can't handle everything that comes our way. At the same time, we have that niggling feeling that letting anyone else into our "territory" will allow them to get a leg up on us, diminishing our capabilities or hurting our success in some way.

I'll admit it: I'm one of those people. I think it will just be faster and easier to do it myself and I can be very protective of my turf. But I learned a valuable lesson recently when I had surgery on my arm and faced months of rehabilitation. I had to ask for help -- and there were so many people willing to give it. Not because I was asking -- but because they were giving back. Of course they were willing to lend a hand (literally and figuratively), they said, because I had done it many times for them.

Huh. I didn't exaclty remember all those times, but they sure did. And while it was difficult at first to ask for that help, the interactions were so positive that I think I've permanently changed my viewpoint. I've become closer to friends and family, I've formed new bonds with colleagues who were willing to step in and help, and developed new friendships from those who were sympathetic to my plight and offered encouragement and ideas for getting work done.

While I dreaded the months of trying to figure out how to get work done one-armed, instead I found it was a really enriching experience. People were funny and kind and never once tried to take my job. My bosses and clients were understanding and supportive and as the days and weeks went by, I realized that the fear I had of asking for help had slipped away.

In it's place was a real sense of gratitude for the relationships that had grown and for the new ones that had developed. I realized that I was as worthy as anyone else of receiving help, and a simple "thank you" was all that was needed from me.

Since I'm getting back up to speed, I don't need as much help (hardly any, in fact), but I try to remind myself every day of the positive experience that can arise by simply asking for help.

So, what's holding you back?

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seven Ways to Deal with the Co-Worker Who is Driving You Nuts

OK, time to fess up. I don't care how nice you are, there's someone at work who is driving you nuts. It's either the guy who clips his fingernails while on the phone and leaves the droppings all over the floor, or the woman who complains nonstop about her worthless, freeloading kids. It could be the person who constantly interrupts, butting into your conversations or the guy who has to always trumpet his every success, no matter how small. ("I just reloaded my stapler!")

It’s not enough that you put in long hours on the job, sit in boring meetings and put up with irate customers. No, on top of the bad coffee and the elevator that always gets stuck between floors, you’ve got to put up with the aggravation in the next cubicle, also known as a co-worker.

You’re ready to crack. You like your job, but you can't stand another day with one or more of your co-workers. You don't want to complain to the boss -- how to explain that someone's nasal voice makes you want to shove your favorite snow globe up his nose?

Don’t despair. There is a way to handle a bothersome co-worker without screaming, quitting or running to the boss:

* Write down the things that really, really bug you. Separate personal issues (she laughs like a hyena) from the professional ones (she interrupts when you’re talking). It’s not your place to comment on personal pet peeves, but rather on the professional issues that prevent you from doing your job as efficiently and productively as possible. And remember: Only address issues that directly impact you.

* Speak to the person directly. Schedule some time with her, in a private area where you won’t be interrupted and she won’t feel compelled to lash out because she’s embarrassed in front of others. Be specific about your complaints. "You’re always interrupting,” isn’t helpful. Say, “I believe you interrupt me when I’m trying to make a point in team meetings.” Try to provide an example.

* Ask for change. Once you’ve outlined the problem, then be specific about what you want to happen. “When I’m speaking, I’d like to finish my sentence so that I can make sure all members of the team understand and then I’ll answer questions or listen to other opinions.”

* Be honest. If the co-worker’s actions are really ticking you off, then say so. Describe how frustrated you feel when she pops above the cubicle partition to offer her unsolicited advice. Remain calm while describing how you feel – it will have much more impact than pitching a fit.

* Cut to the bottom line. Make it clear that you’re not bringing up these issues because you’re a whiny sourpuss. State why the issue is important in a calm, serious way.

* Fess up. You need to be honest that you’ve let the issue go on too long without speaking up, or you should have communicated more strongly your beliefs. Make sure she understands that it stops now.

* Look for solutions. Let the other person save face by helping you come up with ways to stop the problem.

So, what's the thing that drives you crazy about your co-workers?

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Sometimes the Real Battle Begins When Vets Return Home and Try to Find a Job

Eight months ago I wrote a column for Gannett News Service and about ex-military personnel having a tough time finding private sector jobs in this country. I also blogged about the problem, and several others bloggers joined in, including Jason Alba at JibberJobber. Since then, Alba has launched JibberJobberUSA, which is designed to help those returning home from deployment.
Still, many vets struggle with not only physical and mental challenges, but face a lackluster economy and a very tough job market. I thought on this Memorial Day, it would be a good idea to re-run this post and remind all of us that we still have a lot of work to do.

When signing up to serve our country, new recruits often are told how their military career will lead to good jobs when they one day re-enter the civilian world.

That appears to be complete bulls**t, according to Dan Caulfield. I recently spent nearly an hour talking to Caulfield, an articulate, passionate and committed guy who gave me a real earful about the pitiful state of affairs regarding employment for our veterans.

Despite having served with honor and serving in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, these vets have a tougher time than other job seekers looking for work – those age 20-24 often have an unemployment rate two to three times higher than non-veterans of the same age group.

Caulfield calls it the “military service penalty,” which he says comes about because too many civilians who do the hiring are personally unfamiliar with the military.

He says that only those who have a “personal” relationship with someone in the military end up hiring vets.The problems don’t end there. He says that not only does the military do a lousy job transitioning military personnel into the civilian working world, but vets lose the very thing they need most when getting a job – their military network.

It’s networking, he asserts, that still is the critical aspect of finding a job.That’s why Caulfield started Hire a Hero with about a half million dollars of his own money, because he wants to make sure that there is a community ready to do more than “than just put a yellow ribbon on their car.”

“It only makes sense that those who have done the most to protect the American dream participate fully in its rewards,” says the group’s website. Hire a Hero focuses on helping vets connect with people locally who can help them get jobs.

By allowing vets to post requests for help, and information about themselves, the site helps connect vets with hundreds of companies willing to temploy hose who have served. At the same time, the social networking aspect helps vets support each other during the difficult period of returning to civilian life and trying to find a job.

The site is filled with personal stories and requests for help. “Where do I go from here?” asks one vet. “I hope employers … do not hold it against me that I just served four years in the Army as a combat medic.”

Notes another: “Man, this is so crazy – I can’t believe it’s hard to find a job! I don’t feel like the world owes me anything for serving in the military, but can they just give me a chance.”

Caulfield says that one of the group’s missions is to continue to educate employers that vets (some 250,000 will leave active service this year) are about more than just being “disciplined,” a description he says that can come off as patronizing and one-dimensional. He says these men and women have many more valuable job skills that give them qualifications to be more than “front-line” workers.

"You learn so many valuable things in the military – these people know how to solve problems, how to work together and have a lot of personal integrity,” he says. “They make excellent employees, and they deserve a place at the table.”


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Thursday, May 22, 2008

When You Jump Ship and Realize You Can't Swim

Have you ever accepted a job and then realized you made a huge mistake? Many people have been in that position, but how about this one: You accept the job and before you even begin, you decide you've made a mistake and want your old job back. Ever had that happen?

For example, just a few days after University of Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan accepted a job with the Orlando Magic as its basketball coach, he changed his mind.

Statements issued said that even though he had signed a five-year multi-million dollar deal with the pro team, Donovan was conflicted. He said, simply, that he was happy where he was and wanted to stay. After some legal shuffling, his wish was granted and he was allowed to stay in his university coaching job, as long as he didn’t try and coach in the NBA for five years.

While most of us will never be under consideration to coach a pro basketball team or be offered that kind of money, we can probably identify with having second thoughts about a new job.

That kind of "buyer's regret” can be a real problem, because lots of people are going to be very unhappy with you backing out of what is considered a done deal, whether you're making millions or $25,000 a year.

The key: Realizing that once you've made a mistake, you've got to be honest -- and you've got to be quick about it.

You cannot waffle for weeks about your decision. In Donovan's case, he made the decision after only a few days. What he proved is that the new employer must be told immediately, but it must be done in such a way that they are able to feel that you acted with integrity and with respect for them.

Some other key considerations:
* Once you tell the employer you're having second thoughts, it's over. Not only have you cost them money already (headhunter fees, employment ads, recruiting time, etc.), but they have to begin the recruitment process all over again. Or, if they decide to move to the No. 2 person, then that job candidate knows he or she wasn't the first choice -- not a great way for an employer to make someone feel welcome and valued.
* Your old company may not want you back. While you still have the same skills and abilities you had when you walked out the door, they may see it as a sign of disloyalty and say "forget it" or some variation of "@#$ you!"
* Other employers may avoid you. If the new employer had you sign a contract with a non-compete clause, that would mean that other companies will shy away from you because they don't want to risk a lawsuit. You may also run the risk of your professional reputation being sullied because of your actions -- all the more reason to act quickly and honestly.

In this tough job economy, would it be career suicide to walk away from a job offer that you've already accepted?


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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Cats Can Teach You About Living a Better Life

A while ago I wrote about what I learned about life and work from my dog. Since then, I've been trying to figure out what my two cats, Spike and Ace, have to teach me.

So far, I'm stumped.

But the more I think about it, maybe that is what they have to teach me. They don't really care if I don't get them. They don't care what I think. They plan their days around naps, eating, the litter box and maybe a little playtime with one another.

They have little regard for someone else's angst, unlike my dog who seems to sense bad moods and do her best to set things right with tongue lickings and a wagging tail. Like most cats, their persona is one of ultimate cool. Two sleek black cats that are mirror images of one another. They've got the cool part down pat.

If I'm having a bad day, it's not their concern. Their priority is a morning bath in the sunshine, maybe a little Purina and then a nap. And, if they should they need a scratch behind the ears or a tummy rub, they complain in incessant meows beside my desk until I comply.

Then, once again, they go on their own way, seemingly satisfied that they've take care of their needs.

So, I guess I have learned a thing or two from Spike and Ace:

1. No need to rush. Food, water, a patch of sun and a clean litter box, and life is good. Why fret about deadlines or toss and turn at night when right here, right now, things are just fine? Hurrying to and fro is not only a waste of energy, it makes you look uncool.
2.Walk away from the noise and chaos. When the dog is barking, the kids are yelling, the phones are ringing and someone is at the door, the cats head for the quietest spot they can find, usually to resume their naps. No way are they sticking around where they can get their tails stepped on or get caught up in the frenzy. They don't let themselves get drug into issues that don't concern them, or ones that would add any kind of stress to their day. They don't make a lot of excuses -- they just make it clear that they've made a choice and they're cool with it.
3. Know you're awesome. The sight of two solid black, green-eyed cats striding down the hallway is enough to make you look twice. They are a throwback to their jungle counterparts, and project it in every step. They know who they are, what they want out of life, and make no excuses. Take them or leave them. They're cool with it.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hang Around for a Bit and Watch Me Lose My Mind

When I was a kid, my sisters and I used to make fun of my mother's habit of mangling names. For example, Bob Burke would be called "Bill Bark" by my mother.

"Bob Burke, Mom!" we would say, laughing and shaking our heads. "Bob Burke!"

What little smarty pants we were. She should have locked us in our rooms overnight with only bread and water until we learned more respect. I know now how disrespectful, how full of sass we were. I know that because my own children are now doing it to me.

And it's not funny being the one who mangles names. I have this uncanny ability to screw up people's names, no matter who they are. Now, when I look in the mirror not only do I see my mother, I now hear her voice. My biggest embarassment is that I often call some ordinary citizen by a celebrity name. So, I now refer to Jennifer Andrews as Julie Andrews. My children howl with laughter, shaking their heads.

They're this close to being locked in their rooms with bread and water.

I've been thinking a lot about why this is happening. Sure, some of it might be age. OK, a little itty, bitty, tiny part might be age. But I think the biggest culprit for me is the number of distractions and my perpetual multitasking.

I worry that this problem will affect the quality of my work. Mangling names in print is a definite no-no, but it's already happened.

I've been doing some research on how the brain functions, and what I can do to get a better handle on my name mangling and forgetfulness. The key is getting rid of a lot of bad habits and honestly, going back to doing some things the way I used to, especially when it comes to doing one thing before moving on to something else. (No more talking on the phone while printing something out and cleaning out my e-mail.)

According to Corinne Gediman and her book, "Brainfit," there are some things I can do every day to make my mind sharper and improve my memory. I'm only going to list five, because until my mind gets clearer, I won't remember to do more than that:

1. Work a jigsaw puzzle. I'm supposed to work it as quickly as possible and then write down how long it takes. In a week, I'll try it again and see if my time has improved.
2. Go to a movie, and then tell someone about it the next day. I'm supposed to provide names of the actors and the general plot. Maybe my bad habit will reverse itself and I'll start calling George Clooney by some average George's name.
3. Take a walk and really observe everything around me. When I get home, I'm going to write down something I had never noticed before, giving as much detail as possible.
4. Do errands without a list. Currently I have notes to myself on every flat surface of my home. I'm going to try to focus on just one shopping trip and remember everything without a list. I'm trying not to panic at the thought.
5. Read something I don't have an interest in. I read a lot already, but there are some things that don't get my interest: my son's car magazine; instructions to any appliance in my home; and a new age book that's very popular right now. I'm going to start reading stuff that I'm inclined to pass by.

Do you feel your memory is getting worse? What do you do to "troubleshoot" memory or concentration problems?


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Monday, May 19, 2008

Does Your Personal Brand Taste Like Burned Toast?

A lot of people are promoting their personal or career brand these days as a way to make themselves more memorable and more successful. There's one problem, however. Some of these personal branding strategies make us a) want to run and hide or b) smack the person across the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

More than a decade ago Tom Peters' call for "You, Inc.," resonated with many people. Articles and books were written about it and businesses sprung up to help others develop career or personal brands. It's become one of the hottest things going, and a lot of people have made money off the whole idea of "me."

Now, don't get me wrong -- I think career and personal branding is a smart move, especially in this tough economy. Anything you can do to get others positively talking about you and your brand, the better.

You'll note, please, the emphasis on positive.

The problem is that some personal brands are starting to put a foul taste in people's mouths. Sort of like burned toast.

I mean, I can eat burned toast if I have to. If I have time, I'll scrape off the really brown parts. But as I become busier and more stressed, I'm not really inclined to put up with burned toast. I'd rather pitch it in the trash (I know, I know, at $12 a loaf this is a terrible thing to do) and get new, better toast. Something I'll enjoy and not have to put up with that lingering bad taste in my mouth.

That's what you've got to remember: Your personal brand has got to be palatable. Too much self promotion, too little focus on bringing something valuable to the table, and you could find yourself getting discarded.

So, in an effort to get things back on track, here are some tips:

* Don't always hit "send." Seriously, folks, I don't need to know about every burp in your life. Just because you attended the National Association of Acid Refluxers, I don't need to know you met some other folks and ate the all-you-can-barf buffet. Please stop sending me so many "branding" updates that I now send you straight to the spam file.

* Think of your momma. If you're hanging out with some real questionable characters either at work or online, you need to reconsider. You know who these people are: they spend most of their day doing things they're not paid to do and are probably illegal in 12 states; they don't have anything good to say about anyone or anything; and they get nervous when "America's Most Wanted" comes on the air. Think of it this way: Would your mother be pleased that you're associating with these people?

* Look in a mirror. Have a heart-to-heart talk with "Me, Inc." Have you become "Idiot, Inc.?" Have you become so focused on establishing a brand that you've lost sight of who you are? Starbuck's founder Howard Schultz is being portrayed as more intense, more anxious, than in the past. While this may be a natural evolution for him as he struggles to bring the company back to its head honcho position, it might be time for him to do a gut check and ask himself if this is really true to his personal brand.

And speaking of looking in the mirror: Your personal appearance is one of the first things that mark your personal brand. If you've been nominated for "What Not to Wear" by several people and have been featured in the "What was he/she thinking?" category for any publication, then you need a makeover, pronto. Remember: If you can wear it to sleep in, to mow the back 40 in or to go clubbing in, it's never appropriate for making business contacts.

If you've got some more personal or career branding insights, please share!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Five People You Gotta Pay Attention to Today

“It’s almost a time warp. All the predatory and demeaning and discriminatory stuff that went on in workplaces 20, 30 years ago is alive and well in these professions.” -- Sylvia Ann Hewlett, found of the Center for Work-Life Policy, speaking about women in science, technology and engineering

"There's a lot of happy talk around that we're going to have slowing in the rate of growth in young workers and, therefore, employers are going to want to hire older workers just at the time that older workers are going to want to work. We think it's much less clear than that." --Boston College economist Alicia Munnell, co-author of "Working Longer," a book to be published this month by the Brookings Institution.

“For many in the millennium Y Generation, they don’t understand the repercussions. They think everybody’s cool. In reality, no – everybody’s not cool.” -- leadership coach Peggy Klaus, talking about employers finding unflattering online information about job candidates that can damage their chances of getting a position

"Rwanda's economy has risen up from the genocide and prospered greatly on the backs of our women. Bringing women out of the home and fields has been essential to our rebuilding. In that process, Rwanda has changed forever. . . . We are becoming a nation that understands that there are huge financial benefits to equality." --Agnes Matilda Kalibata, minister of state in charge of agriculture

"You can work all the time and still live in a studio apartment. You can be recognized walking down the street, but somehow you can't afford to buy a home. That's not right in every possible way."-- agent Devon Jackson, speaking about declining actor's wages


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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Performance Evaluations Can be Like Playing Strip Poker -- Only You're Blindfolded

I'd like to meet just one person who came out of performance evaluation saying, "Gee, that was a swell experience. Can't wait to do it again next year!"

Managers hate performance evaluations. Employees hate performance evaluations. They stare at each other across a table and try and remember all the Oprah shows that talked about how to read body language.

But what it comes down to is this: The employee is supposed to bare his/her soul, so to speak, while the manager tries to look wise and supportive and doesn't let on what he or she is really thinking.

It's sort of like someone asking you to play strip poker, only you have to wear a blindfold. The boss has all the advantages. The employee is forced to bare all, but never even gets a glimpse at what the manager might be thinking.

So, I think it's time we evened the playing field a little bit. Got rid of the blindfolds, and made performance evaluations -- if not enjoyable -- at least a bit more enjoyable. (And no, I'm not talking about taking off any clothes. That was an analogy, OK?)

Some rules for performance appraisals that should be enacted by Congress immediately include:

* No surprises. Every employee should have a pretty good idea of the areas where they're not living up to expectations, because the manager has been saying so for some time. At the same time, the employee should have an even better idea of what improvements need to be made.

* Walk the talk. No manager should be allowed to be late in performing an evaluation. Employees get in trouble for being late with stuff -- the same should be true for a manager. Further, no manager should be allowed to be sarcastic, belittling, grumpy or unprofessional with an employee during an evaluation. Managers should be evaluated on how well they handled the process. Paula, Randy and Simon from American Idol could serve as judges for manager evaluation performance.
Randy: "Dog, that was hot!"
Paula: "Oohh...wonderful, fantastic. I also liked the second evaluation the best. What? There was no second evaluation?"
Simon: "Sounded a bit karaoke to me."

* No sticks allowed. The evaluation process should be a chance for the manager to provide some inspiration to the employee, to emphasize how his or her performance is really important to the bottom line. Employees who come out of the process re-energized and recommitted to their jobs should be the norm, not the exception.

Ever have a bad experience in a performance evaluation? How should the process be changed? Please share your thoughts.


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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is There Such a Thing as an Overnight Success?

Recently I was having a discussion with some friends about the term "overnight success."

We all agreed it was a load of crap.

I mean, who really has overnight success except people in novels or movies? Most of us labor -- unknown -- in the trenches for years and years before we receive recognition for our wonderfulness from anyone except the family dog.

In the meantime, we fight off jealousy as we see others achieve what we think is instant success, and get depressed when that project we worked so hard on fails. Big time. Down-the-toilet kind of failure.

And it's equally hard to be patient when the Internet makes it seem like everything should happen at light speed. We are constantly exposed on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to other's achievements: "I landed that big account!" to "I got the promotion!" to "I've been named the new Queen of England!" can be hard to swallow with grace each and every time.

We wouldn't be human if we didn't admit that some days are hard. We want to give up. We want to throw in the towel and admit that we're just losers and the success we desire isn't coming our way.

But wait.

I think success is a state of mind. It isn't the big account and the tiara. It's knowing that each day you get up -- and despite the odds -- you continue to slug away. You continue to dream. And at the end of the day, maybe you aren't known to Diane Sawyer or Warren Buffet. Maybe your boss's boss doesn't even know your name.

But you haven't given up. And that, in my book, is success. Because others will give up, they will concede that they're not going to achieve what they desire. And that's where your perseverence will pay off.

Here are some things to get you through the tough times until you become that "overnight success":

* Create a better now. Get more sleep, exercise, eat healthier, spend more time with people who make you laugh and who believe in you.

* Keep your perspective. Did you ever stop to consider that what you have right now is a dream for someone else? I often think about this when my husband and I drive through really ritzy neighborhoods and dream about living in those homes. Then, I see someone drive through OUR neighborhood and realize they think we have the dream home. Think about what you've achieved already in this life, and don't take it for granted.

* Be patient. Think back to when you were in high school, and everything that has happened in your life since that time. Are you the same person as you were then? Of course not. You have changed and grown and only through time and different experiences have you evolved. You will continue to grow and change and learn, and that takes time.

I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent with wild success. -- Steve Martin, "Born Standing Up"

What do you think about overnight success?


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to Spot a Liar

Can you tell when someone is lying to you?

Most parents can tell in a heartbeat when their kids are lying. Maybe it's because we know them so well, or it's written into our DNA, but when they say, "I didn't do it," our radar goes off.

At work, it can be tougher. These are people we may not know that well, although we spend lots of time with them. And yet, it's critical that we be able to spot someone telling an untruth, because their lies and deception could end up impacting not only us, but an entire company.

I once interviewed negotiation expert Harry Mills, and here are some tips that he offered to help spot someone who may be fibbing. While they may not always hold true in every situation, it's worth paying attention to these clues:

* Voice pitch rises, there are increasing pauses or hesitations and speech slows.

* Hand and arm movements don't seem to match up; doesn't use gestures to make a point. May touch nose, chin and mouth more.

* Person avoids eye contact and has a smile that seems forced or insincere.

* Answers more abrubtly or avoids direct answers. May begin to mumble or keep head down more.

* If numbers are mentioned, they are "almost" or "nearly" and are similar: "$30,000" or "30 companies" or multiples of that number.

* Avoids saying "I" or "we". May use phrases such as "to be perfectly honest" or "to tell you the truth."

* Is prone to verbal outburts that leak information.

* Has more "um's", "uh's" and and takes longer to answer questions.

Should you confront someone at work who is lying to you? Why or why not?


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Monday, May 12, 2008

Four Steps to Finding What You Were Meant to Do

Would you like to be the next Tiger Woods? It's possible.

Woods is a competitor. He doesn't let anything get in the way of sinking that little white ball into the hole every chance he gets. He wants to do it more times than anyone else on the golf course that day. He's passionate about what he does.

While you may not be able to play golf like Woods, there is no reason that you cannot feel that same passion for what you do.

So, maybe you love to play golf or tennis or won't walk away from a game of Monopoly until you've won. The point is that such a competitive spirit, which is a natural passion, can be turned into finding a career that you love.

The key is looking at what makes you feel excited, whether it's helping other people, bringing order to chaos or pitting your talents and skills against others in the marketplace. But how can you discover what you were meant to do?

Begin by:

1. Giving yourself permission to find your passion. Talk to family and friends about what they believe the source of your energy to be. Look for common themes. For example, maybe you love the thrill of competition and could use that passion to launch a new company or head up a new project at work. The key is looking for themes that get your blood pumping.

2. Embracing the bumps in the road: Marriage, death and divorce are all life-changing events that can help you re-discover where you really want to be in life. Think back to how you felt during those times, and what seemed really important to you. Brian Clark wrote a great post about this on Copyblogger about a snowboarding accident.

3. Trying something new. Get out of your comfort zone. Take some risks. Try something out that you've been intrigued by but perhaps afraid to try. During this process, evaluate how you feel. Do you lose lose track of time? Does it just feel right? These are all signs that you are on the road to finding your passion.

4. Evaluating: As you investigate these new avenues, you can feel overwhelmed. Set goals for yourself along the way so that you can take a pause and see where you’re going. This will help the situation not feel so out of control, but rather a natural progression toward something exciting.

Are you living your passion? Do you feel you're doing what you were meant to do?


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Friday, May 9, 2008

Five People You Gotta Pay Attention To Today

"If you go down the hall to vent to an associate, that's okay. But if the next step is to go upstairs and vent to someone else, then you're holding onto the incident, and it can become very disruptive." -- Matt Grawitch, St. Louis University professor who studies workplace stress.

"Once a CEO is startled by seeing your cleavage, an image is set in his mind that is not going to disappear." -- Michele Royalty, a recently retired executive

"There are profound differences between acceptable work behavior and acceptable school behavior. You rated your professors 'hot or not' -- but you better not do that with your boss." -- Shanti Atkins, employment attorney

"It was just out of my heart, she (the toddler) was pointing and going 'ah, ah...' I should have gone to my purse and got the change, but it was busy." -- Nicole Lilliman, a restaurant clerk who was fired after giving a 16-cent bite-sized doughnut to an agitated child. She was later given back her job after widespread media attention.

"It's so personal, it's so emotional — I tell my artists all the time that I don't know how they do it, because I couldn't deal with the ongoing rejection that seems inherent to the job." -- Jen Bekman, New York City gallery owner, speaking about the life of an artist

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Moms Are Not Getting Paid What They're Worth...and Neither Are A Lot of Other People

Are you getting paid what you're worth?

According to, I sure as heck am not. Let me repeat: I'm not getting paid what I'm worth.

In it's annual Mom survey, it has been determined that "the time mothers spend performing the 10 most popular 'Mom Job' functions would equate to an annual salary of $116, 805 for a Stay-at-Home Mom and $68,405 for a Working Mom."

The report says the job titles that best matched a mom’s definition of her work are (in order of hours spent per week): housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, laundry machine operator, computer operator, psychologist, facilities manager, van driver, chief executive officer and janitor. (At my house, that's just what I do before 9 a.m.)

So, I'm not getting paid what I'm worth as a Mom, and I'm not getting paid what I'm worth as a freelance writer and author. Why is this? Part of it has to do with the lousy economy. Part of it has to do with the fact that I'm a woman and am just now learning how to ASK for the things I want instead of just waiting for them to happen. And part of it has to do the fact that I need to quit giving away so much stuff for free.

While many of us job hop in order to get more money, I know of one incident where someone learned a co-worker doing the same work and was making quite a bit more money. He went straight to the boss with it, and immediately received a raise that put him on equal footing.

Will this always work? If you're not doing a great job, no. But if you're really adding value, then there's no reason to just take what you get. Even in this tough economy, employers are willing to pay for talent to keep them ahead of the pack.

Here are three things you need to do today in order to get a raise you deserve:
* Pinpoint specific things you did to earn your company money. Maybe you spotted an error that everyone missed and saved the company money and/or time.
* Find out what everyone else is making. Call some employment agencies, check with your alumni group, Twitter, ask a professional association -- just get a good handle on whether you're making what you're worth.
* Get a mentor. Quit putting it off and think of someone you can ask to coach you and help you grow enough in confidence and skills so that the boss would be a complete fool not to give you a raise.

Do you feel you're getting paid what you're worth? Why or why not?


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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Being on Time May Be an Impossible Task

Is being late a sin?

I can't tell you how many times in the last months I've been late somewhere, and I am never late. I'm not sure why this is, but I'm determined to get a handle on it.

Being late bugs me. It stresses me out. But I wait on a lot on other people who are late. They're late for phone interviews, they're late for meetings and sometimes they never even show up.

At work, we're all under some incredible deadlines, being asked to do more faster, better, smarter and -- did I mention faster?

So, if that's the case, are we now running later than ever because we set unrealistic deadlines? It's estimated that employee lateness costs about $3 billion annually, but lots of successful people run late: Bill Clinton is known for his inability to stick to a schedule.

Many of us have terrible commutes that we have little or no control over. We're juggling the demands of work and home, and many toil for our companies even when we're physically not at work through e-mail and phone calls.

I'm reminded of a hand-stitched sampler that we had in our living room while I was growing up:

"The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get."

Some will say that lateness is a way to control a situation, it's a head game the tardy folks play with the rest of us. It's the people who are whiners and slackers who are late, and the rest of us shouldn't have to pay the price. But does that still hold true in the workforce today?

Should bosses continue to punish employees for being late? It does make them mad, and ticks off plenty of co-workers.

So, maybe there's an "acceptable" amount of time to be late. If there is, I wish someone would tell me so I could quit chugging the Maalox every time I start to run behind. Is it five minutes? Ten? Twenty?

If you've found ways to stay on schedule and never be late, please let the rest of us know. I'm getting behinder more every day.


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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I’ve Stared Into the Abyss…and Seen a Lot of My Friends

If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention.

Bad times are here, folks. Those people who make the numbers 4 and 5 are busy printing them up as fast as they can for gas stations. As in: $4.00 a gallon. $5 a gallon.

The front page of AJR (American Journalism Review) reads:"Maybe It Is Time to Panic."

And here's a press release from JobFox: "While the value of the dollar is shrinking, many job seekers - including in-demand technology specialists - must accept new positions at lower salaries than they did just a month ago."

OK, you don't have to beat me over the head with it. I get it. It's bad and it's time to take action and not just sit around and wring my hands.

So, in the last two weeks, I have:

*Networked with dozens of new people and established contact with them online and via phone.
* Done detailed research about where new opportunities are being predicted and how I can move into those areas.
* Checked in with all my bosses and clients to make sure they still find my product of value.
* Began adding "extras" to my work -- and letting my bosses and clients know about it.
* Checked into new technology and researched where it can help me do my job better. I'm ready to make an investment in voice recognition because my bad elbow is seriously hampering my productivity.

So, what are you doing about your current career situation? Are you hunkered down and praying the next business or economic downturn will pass you by?

I want to know: What are you doing to UP YOUR GAME?


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