Monday, June 29, 2015

Being Too Casual Could Cost You at Work

As you work your way up the career ladder, it may be gratifying to know that your hard work has paid off. Your skills and experience are valued, and you feel that your career is on the right track.

Still, don't rest on your laurels. Right when you start to see your future become bright you could lose it all.


You wear yoga pants on casual Friday with the word "sweet" across the butt. You haven't washed your hair for more than a week, nor shaved in the last three days. You go out to lunch with your boss and sit with your feet propped up in your chair. You are always late to business meetings and spend most of the time checking your email or texting.

While some people may argue they work in a more casual environment and their looks and behavior aren't valued more than their skills, that's naive. The truth is that everyone is judged on their ability to conduct themselves in a way that won't offend others.

So, even though you wear leggings and a sweatshirt to work, is the boss assured that you won't do the same when meeting with an important, more conservative client? Or, can you eat like an adult while dining with a key customer or are you going to slump over your food and use your fork like a shovel?

Will others follow you if you show disrespect during a meeting and text during their presentation?

We've become much more casual in the workplace, and in a lot of ways that has led to more innovation and better communication. Still, make sure that your casual attitude doesn't show a side to your boss that will hurt your chances to advance.

What are some things you believe people do or say that hurt their professional image at work?


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to Make Anyone More Excited About Their Job

Brittle. Slow. Bureaucratic.
These are the terms that Jason Jennings uses to describe the companies that have fallen by the wayside since the Fortune 500 was first published in 1955. In the last 60 years, the majority of those original companies are gone.
Jennings, author of “The High-Speed Company,” says that managers must create a sense of urgency and growth in this “nanosecond culture,” or find themselves in the same boat as Sears and Kmart. (He compares these companies to “witnessing a train wreck in slow motion.”)
The key for managers, he says, is that they must create a sense of purpose for their teams if they hope to drive a sustained sense of urgency.
For example, he recently spoke to a group at Silgan Containers, a company that makes 50 billion aluminum cans a year. While it’s a “decidedly unsexy” business, Jennings pointed out to employees and leaders that “what you do has changed the world.”
“I told them how they saved hundreds of thousands of lives every year because they offered food safety,” he says.
After the speech, a 24-year-veteran with the company approached Jennings and told him, “This is the first day I’ve been excited to work here.”
Jennings says that the Silgan employee is representative of many other employees at other companies who are never told about why their jobs have purpose. “That’s the first challenge for any good manager,” he says. “You have to let them know their purpose – you must identify it so that you can attract, unite, ignite and fuel people.”
However, it’s also critical that you express that purpose as succinctly as possible – about 12 words or fewer. “If it takes more than a dozen words to explain why what you’re doing is good, it will be hard for anyone inside your company, let alone outside, to remember the purpose,” he explains. “You’ll miss the opportunity to evoke a strong emotional connection between your company’s work and doing good in the broader world.”
Other keys for managers who want to create a sense of urgency for teams:
  • Provide guiding principles.  These are the “shalls” and “shall nots” that keep everyone true to their stated purpose. It’s not enough to just put the principles on a website – they’ve got to be fully explained to workers. Jennings says that of 220,000 companies his company has studied, there were fewer than two dozen where everyone knew the company’s guiding principles and used them when making tactical decisions.
  • Connect the dots.  “Everyone who works for you should know how their role creates value for the company,” he says. “They should especially learn the economic value they create and how it can be measured, by you and by them.”
  • Be clear.  Instead of giving vague, general directives that are steeped in jargon, be willing to say “I don’t know,” if that’s the case, he says.  It’s OK to (read more here)

Photo: dumblittleman

Monday, June 22, 2015

What Incivility at Work Costs All of Us

I'd say there's probably more than a few discussions today around the watercooler and via email about mean bosses after a New York Times opinion piece "No Time to Be Nice at Work."

In the article by Christine Porath, associate professor at Georgetown University, she noted that after studying the cost of incivility for nearly 20 years she finds that "insensitive interactions" hurt a person's health, performance and souls.

I've written before in this blog about a**hole bosses, and know from personal experience the toll they take on a person. It makes you more prone to sickness -- even leading to health issues such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. It undercuts your confidence, it affects personal relationships and it can lead to emotional problems such as depression.

Porath notes that such bosses produce demoralized employees through a string of actions such as "walking away from a conversation because they lose interest; answering calls in the middle of meetings without leaving the room; openly mocking people by pointing out their flaws or personality quirks in front of others; reminding their subordinates of their 'role' in the organization and 'title'; taking credit for wins, but pointing the finger at others when problems arise."

Do these people know they're being mean and belittling others? According to Porath and those I've interviewed over the years, these people often often don't realize how rude they are being. They were treated this way by their boss, so that's the way they act toward others. Once you add in the fact that many of us took on extra duties when the economy tanked, the pressure of the 24/7 do-it-now workplace, and you've got big problems.

I do believe civility is contagious. I've worked for some tough editors, who liked to eat reporters for lunch. But I came across a young editor several years ago who always said, "please" and "thank you." He never failed to say "Good morning!" or "Have a nice weekend!" The surprising thing is that he did this all via instant messaging. 

My point is that while it's going to be difficult for the average worker to break the uncivil habits of a senior leader, we can all take a step toward making the workplace better. This young editor certainly affected me. I began to be more aware of saying "please" and "thank you," no matter how brief the interaction.

You know what? It made me feel better about my day. Just being nice to others helped relieve my stress. Maybe my day hadn't been stellar, but I ended it knowing I hadn't been a jerk, either.

Remember, you cannot complain about incivility when you're snarky about a co-worker, gossip with others or treat anyone with disrespect -- no matter his or her title.

Civil behavior starts with each one of us. Our health and our well-being depends on it. It's a work challenge we should all embrace.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Science Behind Getting What You Want at Work

When you were a kid, your mom probably asked you to say the “magic word” when requesting something.  You quickly found out that saying “please” could get you what you wanted.
But Tim Davis, a professional magician and communications expert, says there are actually seven magic words backed up by science that can help you persuade, influence and engage others. By knowing the right thing to say, you’ll be able to get your team to perform better and get others to make concessions when negotiating. He says it’s a technique he has taught to companies such as 3M and Burger King.
Davis outlines the seven magic words in his book, “Magic Words”:
  1. Yes. He says it’s important to remember when you’re negotiating, arguing or making a sales pitch, it’s important you get to “yes” as soon as possible.
“Saying yes at the beginning of an interaction eases tension, creates rapport and opens minds,” he says. He explains that in every interaction, you are being judged in two phases. The first phase is highly emotional, illogical and often unfair. This is the phase that puts you into one of four buckets: “good, “bad,” “sexy,” or “boring.” Boring is usually the default setting, because “we can’t possibly be interested in everybody,” so the brain quickly categorizes people into the buckets. That’s why “good” and “sexy” move into phase two, while “bad” and “boring” get left behind, he explains.
Further, a “yes” gives you your best chance of getting placed into the “good” bucket, he says. “Since the first phase takes only seconds to complete, the kind of ‘yes’ you’ll have to use is largely non-verbal. A smile, mirroring body language and tonality, etc.,” he explains.
By finding something to agree upon with the other person, you can stop arguments from getting out of control. For example, offering a “you’re right” can ease tensions and help keep the conversation going, he says.
2. But. Allen suggests using the word “and” instead of “but.” That’s because once you add “but” to a comment, it can erase your “yes.” Another strategy is to place the information you want someone to remember the most after you say “but.”
He explains that while the word “and” links two ideas together, saying “but” draws a distinct line between them. What comes before a ‘but’ is ignored and what comes after a ‘but’ is enhanced. “It’s the word that I see misused most often,” he says.
3.  Because. Toddlers often ask “why” so much that their parents may simply respond “because” just to stop the constant questioning. But this points to the brain’s need for a link between cause and effect. David explains that compelling reasons that may satisfy someone include “want to,” choose to,” love to,” and “called to.” This can be especially helpful to salespeople, David says, because “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
4.  A name. Simply saying someone’s name can be valuable in engaging the other person, and can be especially valuable when dealing with introverts. Calling someone by name and inviting feedback can make them feel their input at work is important, and (read more here)

Monday, June 15, 2015

6 Tips to Help You Get a Pay Raise

It's time to ask for a pay raise.

You know it, and I know it.

You've been busting your butt for years now, telling yourself that the piddly 2% annual raise you've gotten for the last five years is OK. You're lucky to have a job, you tell yourself. You have benefits, you argue. Your boss tells you that he knows you work hard, and didn't he just give you a gift certificate for $20 to the car wash around the corner?

That's enough for now, you contend.

No, it's not. As long as you sit quietly and accept whatever an employer gives you, then you are not going to ensure that your income grows with your skills and experience. You're not going to be able to save for retirement, send your kids to college or keep up with inflation.

As I said, it's time to ask for a pay raise.

You might be nervous about this -- especially if you're a woman. But if you don't ask for one, then you'll never get one. At the very least, you'll put your boss on notice that you believe you deserve a raise, and want one. That should get him or her pondering whether you're unhappy enough with your pay to leave. As the job market heats up, that may spur your boss into giving you a bigger annual raise just to avoid losing you, which can be costly.

In addition, he or she may decide to not only give you a pay raise at your performance review, but may also bump you up before then.

Still think you should sit quietly and take whatever the boss gives you?

No?  Then here's how you go about asking for a pay raise and boosting the chances you'll get it:

  • Do your homework. Consult sites such as Glassdoor or to learn how much others in your industry and position earn, as well as those in your geographic area. You can't ask for something that's way above the industry norm and be taken seriously. You want the boss to know that you've done your homework and are aware of what competitors are paying.
  • Know what you contribute. Take the time to think about how you've helped the company's bottom line, enabled your boss to shine or helped solve a problem. Think about times you've really excelled and been noted for it. If you've received written praise from customers or leaders, that can be brought up in your discussions.
  • Strike while the iron is hot. If you've just received an award, been personally praised by a senior leader or garnered an industry award, then that's a good time to ask for a pay raise. You've just clearly shown that you're above average, and deserve above-average pay.
  • Stay professional. Never ask for a raise "because I need a new car" or "I really want to go to Paris." Any pay discussions should not center on your personal needs, but rather why you believe you deserve more money based on your performance.
  • Time it right. Of course, it's not a good time to ask for a pay raise when layoffs have just been announced or you just screwed up a major contract. Use your common sense -- you want to make a move when the boss is in a good mood, not fuming over an a**-chewing from his boss.
  • Schedule a meeting. Bosses don't like things being sprung on them, especially when those things involve money. So, set up a time to talk to your boss, practice your pitch and approach it with confidence. You're not a serf asking the king for a favor -- you're a qualified, valued worker who is requesting that a pay raise be considered. 
Don't fret if you don't get the raise. The key is that you're standing up for what you deserve and your boss knows it. Simply thank him for his time, ask what you need to do to garner a bigger raise next time and then look for opportunities to do just that. If no pay raise is possible, it may be time that you start looking around in that improving job market.

What tips do you have for getting a pay raise?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Tips for Avoiding Distraction at Work

You start the day with the best of intentions. You are not going to get distracted. Not. Going. To. Get. Distracted.
Then you think you’ll just do a quick Gmail check to make sure you’re not missing anything critical. After that, you check your Instagram account – might as well while you’re already online, right? A quick peek at Twitter and you’re ready to settle into work.
About that time, a co-worker interrupts, asking if you can take a quick look at an email she needs to send an unhappy customer. Finally, back to work where you’re pulled away 10 minutes later when the boss sends you an email asking for a project update.
By the end of the day, you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, once again frustrated that you’ve had so many distractions you haven’t reached the goals you set.
It’s a familiar story to Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, but one he says can be changed so that anyone can have a more productive and focused life. Author of “Driven to Distraction at Work,” Hallowell is a leading expert on ADD and ADHD, and says that traditional advice such as making a to-do list doesn’t work because it ignores the deeper issues that are the cause of mental distraction.
Hallowell says there are six common ways that people lose their ability to focus at work and the emotional and psychological reasons behind each one:
1. Screen sucking. This latest and fast-growing addiction to the Internet and social media make people feel “high” when hyper-focusing on their electronic screens and they feel an actual loss without them. They may “self-medicate” by staying glued to their gadgets instead of dealing with feelings of frustration about their career, for example. Some strategies to overcome it include closely tracking how much time is truly spent online, keeping a list of activities to occupy yourself when bored and trying to communicate more face-to-face.
“Just about everyone has a bad Internet habit,” Hallowell says. “You can be upfront about that (at work), and say we as a group need to take this seriously and give each other permission to set boundaries. I would NOT use the word addiction, as that would scare people too much.”
2. Multitasking. Constantly feeling bombarded by (read more here)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

5 Things to Help You Ace a Phone Interview

The minute you apply for a job, the preparation must begin.

That means that once you hit "send" to email your resume or application to a company, you need to be on your toes. Are you ready to be interviewed in five minutes when the telephone rings and the hiring manager wants to talk about your qualifications?

No? Why not? Were you possibly thinking that a hiring manager would contact you and say, "I'll be calling you in a week to interview you over the telephone. Be ready to answer the questions I'm going to send you via email."

Not. Going. To. Happen.

While the chances are slim that you'll be called five minutes after sending your resume, there is the chance you're going to be caught unaware when a hiring manager does call. Many people apply for jobs, then sort of forget about them as they continue to apply for other positions or get distracted by other things.

They don't take the time to immediately begin preparing for a job interview. They think they'll get some kind of warning that a phone interview will take place, when that's often not the case. Sometimes a hiring manager will just pick up the phone and call. Early in the morning -- when you're asleep because  you were out late the night before.

Or, the hiring manager calls at dinnertime, when the kids are screaming and fighting, the dog is chasing the cat and the burning pork chops have set off the smoke alarm.

Still think you don't need to prepare for the job interview right away?

Here are some ways to make sure you don't give the worst interview of your life when a hiring manager calls:

  • Practice your pitch. You want to be able to sell yourself to the hiring manager who calls. Can you concisely talk about your skills and experience -- and do it in a way that sounds interesting and personable?
  • Screen your calls. While it's tempting to pick up the phone immediately when you see on caller ID that it's a hiring manager, it's better to get to a quiet space -- or wake up -- before you attempt a serious conversation.
  • Keep copies of your resume and/or cover letter nearby. If you're applying for numerous jobs, you don't want to get confused and emphasize the wrong skills to the wrong employer when the hiring manager calls. So keep a file handy that includes notes about the job, the skills you pitched and a bit about the employer. 
  • Take a breath and smile. Before you pick up the phone, take a deep breath so that you don't sound winded or rushed. Remember to smile and stand up if possible -- those things will make you sound friendly and confident.
  • Be careful. Remember that a hiring manager's job is to put you at ease and solicit as much information as possible. The phone can make conversations seem more private, when the truth is a hiring manager may be letting other people sit in on the call. You want to be personable -- without revealing that you're suffering from the mother of all hangovers or that you hate wearing a suit to work (as three people in suits listen to your rant).

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Marcus Buckingham: The 2 Questions Every Leader Needs to Ask

It seems a little odd when Marcus Buckingham states emphatically that leadership is “going away.” 

It’s quite a statement from a man who is billed as a leadership expert when being interviewed by Oprah or being quoted in numerous national publications. If leadership goes away, won’t Buckingham be out of a job?
Buckingham stands solidly behind his contention.
“I think we’ll see the word ‘leadership’ retired quite soon.  It’s like the word ‘beauty’ that is used in women’s magazines. It’s just an ideal,” he says. “There’s no leadership. There are leaders. So please stop writing books and articles on what it takes to have the qualities of leadership. There’s no such thing. It just makes everyone a bit ridiculous.”
Buckingham, who co-wrote the best-selling “Now, Discover Your Strengths” in 2001, says that the leaders and organizations that embrace a strengths-based workplace are the ones that will be successful and will be the key to employee engagement and learning.
But while no one will dispute that team leaders are key to all of this, “the bizarre irony is that the tools we’ve built for learning and engagement aren’t for the team leader at all,” he says. “Our performance management systems and our employee engagement systems are built for HR and the organization.”
Fortunately, Buckingham says, employers are starting to realize that team leaders need tools geared to what they do every day and technology will soon be delivering the necessary help.
“The team leader has been burdened by a whole bunch of stuff that inhibits them from doing the very few things they should be doing,” Buckingham says.
In fact, Buckingham says a team leader’s most important task boils down to only two key questions a week that he or she should ask every team member:
1.      What are your priorities for the week?
2.      What (read more here)

Photo credit:

Monday, June 1, 2015

What the Vanderbilts Knew About Employee Loyalty

I recently visited the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, a beautiful attraction in Asheville, N.C. that is the setting for the largest privately owned home in the U.S.

Built by George Washington Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895, it is nearly 179,000 square feet.

Of course, with that kind of square footage and the thousands of acres that surround it, it's clear that this is a home that has always needed dozens and dozens of employees.

One of the interesting facts I learned by visiting (besides the fact that I should have worn better walking shoes), is that while the Vanderbilts hired staff from overseas (nothing beats an English butler, they say), the family also employed many locals.

As time went on, more locals began to work in and around the home. As the years went by, sons and daughters of the staff began to work at Biltmore -- and eventually even the grandchildren.

Was it because there were no other jobs? That's part of it -- the Great Depression and then wartime certainly made some jobs difficult to come by. But what struck me was that the Vanderbilts ensured there was a decent quality of life for their laborers as they built a nearby village that had a school and post office.

In addition, workers received necessary medical care, and the Vanderbilts took an active interest in ensuring their workers' families also received care.

Of course, the cynical view is that the Vanderbilts had so much money these kinds of benefits hardly put a dent in their wallet. But at the same time, it's certainly true that these local people and their families knew good jobs and and an employer when they saw them.

In return, the Vanderbilts had loyal employees, and never a lack of willing new talent.

So here's the bottom line: If the Vanderbilts figured this out more than a 100 years ago, how come so many employers today won't offer their own employees the same level of compassion and concern? Why are they often so stingy about offering flextime or decent benefits? As the Vanderbilts proved, loyalty is something that is earned by doing the right thing for workers -- and the payoff lasts for generations.

Photo: BringFido