Wednesday, December 28, 2016

When Career Pride Becomes Destructive

We're often told we need to show pride in our career, that we need to tout our accomplishments on social media or mention them during networking events.

But can that pride backfire?

Jessica Tracy, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia and author of "Take Pride: Why the Deadly Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success," says there is a "darker side to pride."

She says her research shows there are two kinds of pride: hubristic and authentic.

It's hubristic pride that causes problems because it's really more about a person's own arrogance and ego than just feeling good about working hard and achieving something.

"It’s more, 'I am the greatest. I’m better than others. I deserve more than others,'" she explains.

Many of us have come across someone like this in our careers -- we may even recognize it in ourselves. 

But as Tracy and other experts point out, hubristic pride often signals a lack of self confidence. and the person falls into the trap of finding it easier to just brag about what they do instead of actually accomplishing something.

"Then all of the sudden, instead of feeling the authentic pride and actually becoming the kind of person you want to become, what you’re feeling is this sort of inflated pride that’s based on other people’s’ recognition of you," Tracy says.

Leon F. Seltzer, a California psychologist, says that healthy pride is:

  • Finding satisfaction in the success that comes from working hard.
  • Often quiet, with a self-assured air that comes from knowing deep inside that the accomplishment was earned. There is no "personal superiority" that comes from putting other people down.
  • A genuine recognition of accomplishments, and not distorted claims of greatness.
  • Trying to help others succeed, to support of their efforts to reach their goals.
It can be difficult sometimes to know when it's time to brag about your work and when it's time to step back and let your accomplishments speak for themselves. While you want to promote your abilities in order to advance your career, think about whether you're building others up along the way -- or you spend more time focusing on me,me,me.

Monday, December 26, 2016

How to Cut Your Workload in 2017

Most of us take time off around the holidays, and it's a good time to reflect about what we do -- and do not -- want to do in the coming new year.

Be healthier? Yes.
Spend more time with family and friends? Yes.
Do better in our jobs? Yes.
Be taken advantage of by the boss? Nope.

None of us write "let the boss treat me like a doormat" on our list of new year's resolutions, but yet somehow it's the one thing we can count on fulfilling.

But how do you tell an ambitious boss -- who has no problem working weekends and after hours -- that you don't want to work 80-hour weeks? That you don't want to live and breath your job 24/7? That you would like to have a life?

On the one hand, you don't want to work so many hours. But on the other hand, you do want to get ahead in your job and don't want the boss to think you're a slacker.

If you're caught in such a situation, it's time to:

  • Assess your workload. Spend a week carefully noting your workload. Look at how much time you spend doing certain tasks, the time you're allotted to get it done, the time the work is assigned (are too many assignments coming in a 4:30 p.m. on Friday?) and how many tasks are given to you because someone else didn't get them done.
  • Present your case. Once you have a clear idea of your workload, then you're in a better position to negotiate for changes. Bosses don't want an "I think" argument -- they want to look at facts and have you tell them what you know. Explain how the workload is hurting your productivity -- you need more downtime to regenerate so you can deliver better results. Be prepared to point out bottlenecks that keep you at the office longer, meetings you don't really need to attend or emails that could wait to be answered during working hours.
  • Get to the bottom line. Rehearse your presentation to the boss so that it's concise and quickly points out the advantages, such as cutting overtime pay or leading to more creative or innovative solutions from you if you're not so exhausted. Suggest alternatives, such as letting an intern do some of the more mundane tasks or teaching a colleague how to use certain software.
  • Stay cool. The boss may push back on some of your ideas, so back off for a  bit and let her get used to the idea of changing your workload. Continue to be professional and upbeat, showing the boss that you're not abandoning her, and continue to be a team player. Once she doesn't feel threatened, she may be more open to your ideas and slowly start to ease your workload.
What are some ways you plan to improve your work/life balance in 2017?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why Some Workers Don't Like Young Bosses -- and How to Fix It

As more millennials rise through the ranks, companies may want to be ready for the backlash from older workers that could impact the bottom line.

Specifically, a study of 8,000 workers at 61 German companies found that employees who were older than their bosses reported more anger and fear than if they were working for someone older than themselves.

Reported in the Journal of Organizational Psychology, the study finds that in the companies where employees expressed such negative emotions, there was a 9% drop in financial performance and productivity as compared to those who employees didn't report such feelings.

"They contradict common career and status norms," says Florian Kunze, a co-author of the paper and a professor at the University of Konstanz in Germany.

Unfortunately, those negative feelings from such employees can spread to the rest of the workers, she says.

"When faced with being supervised by a younger person, older employees are forced to recognize their lack of progress," Kunze and his co-author wrote in the paper. "Working daily under a younger supervisor, older subordinates are constantly reminded that they have failed to keep pace."

So what's the solution if you're a younger manager trying to work with older subordinates? 

Jodi Glickman, writing in Harvard Business Review, suggests being confident and open-minded and soliciting feedback.

"Irrespective of specific deals or projects, let people know that you care about continuous improvement. If you message that you’re open to receiving feedback, people will be more likely to give it," she writes.

Kunze suggests younger bosses "create a professional distance with the older subordinate and provide autonomy to [them] by setting clear targets and goals."

Other tips from experts include:

  • Forget posturing. These older employees know you're the boss, so don't constantly say stupid things like "I want it done this way because I'm the boss." Acting as if you're superior to them is a sure way to alienate workers of all ages.
  • Seek input. Even if you were older, there is no way you can know everything. So, don't be afraid to ask questions of your team, especially if they have knowledge about long relationships with customers, or can identify key players at a competitor. They will have the "emotional intelligence" to help you navigate issues that you may not have encountered before.
  • Don't judge. Just because someone isn't a whiz with Instagram or doesn't know about Snapchat doesn't mean this employee is a dinosaur with no useful knowledge. For all you know, this person is very innovative and creative and sees solutions that can bring great success to the team and the company. If you don't want to be judged unfairly by older workers, then show them the same respect.
What else can a young boss do to develop a good working relationship with older employees?

Monday, December 19, 2016

4 Things You Must Do for Your Career in 2017

A lot of people say that New Year's resolutions are worthless, that they just make you feel like a failure when you don't stick with them (or even attempt to do them).

Still, even if you don't want to call them "resolutions," I think it's a good idea to drop some bad habits and begin thinking about new ways to improve your career.

Let's start with a list of things you need to STOP doing:

1. Writing childish and uncivil things on your social media accounts. I don't care if you think someone else should have won the election, that some pop star is a tramp or that a co-worker is a water-retaining sea cow. That's not something you put on social media because it will -- I guarantee it -- come back to haunt you. One day you might get laid off because of an economic nosedive (hello, 2007) or you have a change of heart. But that uncivil and judgmental stuff that came spewing out on Twitter and Instagram is there for all time. Honestly: Do you feel the same way about everything the way you did 10 years ago? No? Then think about how you would like a potential employer to drag up something you said on Facebook in 2004 and hold you accountable for it.

2.  Wearing your overwork like a hair shirt. In ancient times, an undershirt made of really coarse cloth -- or even animal hair or twigs -- was worn close to the body as a way to show repentance and atonement. But then Dan Brown took it to a whole new level in "The Da Vinci Code" with that crazy albino. So, my point is that some people moan and groan constantly about how they're overworked, like this is some selfless act and they should be admired for it. But I've interviewed enough experts and read enough research to know that many people are consumed with "busyness" and aren't really productive. It's time you stopped hiding behind your "busyness" and instead do a valid assessment of what you really spend your time doing. Try something like RescueTime to really get an accurate reading about how you spend your time.

Now, let's look at what you need to START doing:

3. Getting out of your chair. You may think I mean to start exercising, but that's not where I'm going with this. I think that too many people send an email to a colleague about 10 feet away, or even on another floor, when they could simply walk over to the person and have a conversation. I'm not saying you need to be jumping up and down like a Jack-in-the-Box, but if you are sending an email that is going to require some conversation, then go directly to that person. This will not only be more productive (you'll solve the issue faster and possibly come up with a better solution) but you also will practice your in-person skills and foster deeper connections. Can I mention 2007 again? The Great Recession? A lot of people were caught so unprepared because they hadn't fostered strong connections and they didn't even know where to start -- so they languished in a brutal job market without a position. In-person interactions are very important for your career, as they help you become more adept at reading body language, forging alliances and negotiating. Those skills are critical for any career -- take every opportunity to develop them and stop hiding behind your computer.

4. Learning a new skill. I know one manager who is in his 40s, and he often spends much of his time solving interpersonal disputes among his warehouse workers. He clearly has management and leadership and communication skills. But what he doesn't understand is statistics and data and coding. He knows those things are important to his company (he hears them mentioned a lot by his boss) and he's a bit intimidated when the subject comes up. But instead of grumbling about it, or ignoring it, he's begun taking online classes that are helping him understand those subjects. His goal is to be able to contribute to those conversations in a knowledgeable way -- or at least not look like a clueless fool. This is a great example of someone who knows his career cannot be stagnate -- he must constantly be re-tooling his skills set in order to stay relevant. He wants to add those skills to his LinkedIn profile, and attend some seminars in the future. It's time to think about areas where you feel less confident -- or downright clueless -- and begin taking action to learn more. Don't think of it as something that will lead directly to a promotion or pay raise right now, but rather as an investment in lifelong learning that is now required of every worker in every job.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to Become More Resilient Under Stress

The sometimes unrelenting stress of a job can keep both employees and leaders awake at night. They toss and turn as they ruminate about a variety of issues, such as whether an important customer will sign a new contract or if there will be layoffs after a merger.
But two workplace scientists say that there is a way to make teams more resilient so that they can handle whatever changes come their way without having sleepless nights. Even leaders can learn to let go of fruitless worrying and focus on finding new solutions or ideas, they say.
“The only thing that should legitimately keep you awake at night is a book you just can’t put down or a movie you just have to see through to the end. Rumination never solves anything. In fact, it has the opposite effect and may well be giving you a definitely more miserable and probably shorter life in the process,” says Derek Roger, a psychologist who has spent three decades researching the causes and effects of stress.
Roger, along with Nick Petrie, is author of “Work Without Stress: Building a Resilient Mindset for Lasting Success.” They say that rumination prolongs the “emotional misery” and isn’t just a by-product of stress. “It is stress. If there’s no rumination, there’s no stress,” they write.
Petrie, senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership, says that if teams don’t develop a more resilient approach to problems or challenges, then organizations will see an increase in stress, sick leave, disengagement and suffering. “It is hard to watch the way people who have no coping tools, and ruminate so much, are suffering in the workplaces,” he says. “It seems predictable but unnecessary.”
Roger and Petrie point out that rumination is primarily a conditioned habit, and it can be changed by individuals who practice doing it.
One way to do that, for example, is by an individual considering the last time he or she was up all night, fretting over an issue.
“What did it look like in the morning? The problem hasn’t disappeared, but the catastrophizing about it has generally dissolved, at least to an extent,” Roger explains. “This is not to suggest that ‘sleeping on it’ will solve (read more here)

Monday, December 12, 2016

3 ways to Handle a Deceitful Colleague

I recently read some research that revealed many workers in the study were distrustful of their colleagues. They believed given half a chance, these co-workers would steal customers and belittle others to the boss in order to get ahead.

I get it. I've worked in places like that, and it's not fun. You spend lots of energy trying to protect your turf, when that time would be better spent doing your actual work.

But we humans are geared for survival. We don't take kindly to others trying to encroach on what we believe to be our territory. We don't like feeling manipulated by someone else for their own gain.

While you don't want to accept such behavior (and you shouldn't), it can be a tricky to come up with a way to keep such colleagues in line without hurting your career. No boss wants to be brought into the middle of a turf war, so you've got to be proactive in handling the situation professionally without running to the boss with your complaints.

If you've got a colleague who is so intent on getting ahead and is willing to step on you in the process, you need to:

  • Stop being an enabler. I once had a new colleague who I was happy to bring up to speed on different projects. But after several weeks, I noticed that she continually came to my office, plopped down on a chair and said, "So, tell me about XYZ" or said, "Who can I call about this issue?" We had extensive databases on everything she wanted to know and I told her about them several times. But it obviously was much easier for her if I told her what she needed to know. So, wanting to be helpful, I complied. Finally, I said, "You know, I'm right in the middle of something. I think you need to go through our database. It has everything you need." Then I shut up. I had to do this a couple more times, but pretty soon she got the message. (She turned to a colleague in the office next door to mine and tried the same tactic -- he soon directed her to the database.) My point is that while you want to help when you can, you're not doing her any favors if you do her work. Your work will suffer, and her work will suffer. That's something the boss isn't going to appreciate.
  • Confront misinformation. The minute you hear that someone is subtly criticizing you to others, step up. It can be uncomfortable, of course, but it's going to be much more uncomfortable when this person ruins your reputation with the boss or the company leaders. Go directly to this person, and ask, "Barb, I heard that you said I was late in getting my report in, which jeopardized the whole project. If this is true, I'd really like you to explain to me what you meant." It could be that indeed, you were late, but that was because the client asked for a delay while more information was collected. Clear the air immediately when you hear such misinformation and let the person know you aren't going to let it continue. "I know you'll want to clear this up immediately and let others know you were misinformed," you say.
  • Expose the weasels. It can really take you off guard when you're attacked by a colleague who does it as a way to make you look weak or ineffective. Sometimes this can be done subtly ("Well, you know Jim has a tendency to mess things up! Ha, ha!") or more outright ("I think we need fresh eyes on this project and it's time that Jim worked on other things.") Don't let it slide, or you'll just empower the person. You can try: "I think I just misheard what you said. Would you like to rephrase that?" Or, "I think that was inappropriate and I know you're professional enough not to say it again." Or, simply eye roll at the person like you can't believe how childish he or she is being.
No one likes everyone in the workplace all the time. That's just a fact of life. But in order to get along with everyone -- and preserve your career -- you need to communicate openly with people so that you don't get involved in an unending turf battle.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How to Get Others to Embrace New Ideas

For leaders who want to persuade teams to accept new processes, the answer may be in the kitchen.
In a study last year of 200 kitchens, Cornell University researchers found that those who left snack food and soft drinks out in the open were an average of 20 pounds heavier than their neighbors who kept only fresh food openly available.
This what-you-see-is-what-you-eat diet shows that by changing circumstances, you can change behavior, which is key for getting teams to accept changes such as process improvement, says James C. Crimmins, author of “7 Secrets of Persuasion: Leading-Edge Neuromarketing Techniques to Influence Anyone.
“The lesson to executives is to think about the ways they can change the circumstances so that any new process for a team is the most natural – the easiest – thing to do,” he says.
Crimmins says it’s often easier to get people to change what they do rather than what they feel. So, if a team balks at new processes, don’t think, “How can I get them to change their minds?” but rather, “How can I get them to act differently?” he says.
“If you look at the kitchen experiment, these people probably all had the same attitude toward soft drinks – but they managed to change the behavior simply by changing the circumstances,” he says.
Adele Sweetwood is senior vice president of global marketing and shared services at SAS and author of “The Analytical Marketer: How to Transform Your Marketing Organization.”
As someone who is well acquainted with change initiatives and trying to get employees to embrace new ideas and processes, she says that such efforts require a “guiding coalition” to be successful.
“If you bring those impacted into the conversation, identify what they will need to be successful, and empower them with the tools and training, they will be more likely to engage,” she says. “As leaders, we spend a lot of time identifying areas for improvement, defining the details and then devising the solution. By the time we share the solution or change, we (read more here)

Monday, December 5, 2016

How to Stop a Mooching Co-Worker

As the holiday season approaches, it can be much more fun around the office. People are wearing goofy sweaters and goodies are being brought to share.

It seems everyone is in a much more giving mood.

But then you think of Brad.

Brad is the guy in the office who never seems to have even a dollar on him to contribute to a colleague's birthday gift. So he asks if you can contribute a dollar for him, and he'll pay you back tomorrow.

Only he doesn't. He also has not paid you back for the lunch you paid for because he didn't have his credit card with him at the time. Now that you think of it, you've probably paid for 10 coffees at Starbucks for him, and he hasn't offered to buy you one -- ever.

What's the deal here? Is Brad broke? Is he gambling away all his money? Or, is he just one of those people who gets a free ride by asking everyone else to pay for him?

You may never really know why Brad does what he does unless he chooses to share the reason with you. In the meantime, you have to figure out a way to stop him from borrowing money from you even if it is the giving season.

Here are some ideas to break the habit of Brad using you as his personal ATM:

  •  Let go of your resentment. No one forced you to give Brad the money or forced you to buy him 10 cups of coffee. That was your decision, so stop blaming Brad. At the same time, stop being mad at yourself. That's water under the bridge.
  • Always ask for separate checks. If you go out with Brad for drinks or lunch, always ask the wait staff for separate checks. Do it with a smile and then simply continue your conversation. If the group is too big for separate checks, announce that you'll be dividing up the check to determine what everyone owes. (Most people will be extremely grateful you take on the task -- no one wants to pay more than their fair share.)
  • Refuse with sincerity. When Brad asks you to float him a loan, tell him you're sorry, but you're on a budget now. Don't elaborate. Once Brad sees your piggy bank is closed, he'll turn to someone else or learn to start a budget of his own.
While it can be difficult to stand up for yourself in such situations, remember that Brad's behavior shows a real disregard for you. You can maintain a professional and cordial relationship with him, just without the open wallet. At the same time, you may find that your resolve garners more respect from colleagues who may have wondered why you put up with Brad's mooching for so long.