Wednesday, April 26, 2017

5 Critical Steps to Take When You Quit a Job

If a great opportunity comes along, you might jump at it. It could be because it offers more money, but it also might be because you feel it gives you a chance to do something you feel passionate about, or perhaps because you feel it's a more stable position. Whatever the reason, it's important that you make a stellar exit.

Keep in mind that how you leave a position is often how you are remembered most by colleagues and your boss. And, as we all know, the world is often a small one – so quitting a job poorly may come back to haunt you for years to come, perhaps even adversely affecting other job opportunities. This lesson, unfortunately, is one that many people don't understand until it's too late.

So, how do you leave a job properly and make such a good impression on co-workers and the boss that they will have nothing but positive things to say about you? You need to:

• Prepare. Before you tell the boss, understand your company’s policy about employees who quit. Some require you to be removed immediately. If this is the case, make sure you have all your personal files removed from your computer and have cleared away any questionable material from your desk.
• Make it legal. Your resignation letter to your boss should be professional (no sarcasm, hateful comments, etc.) and state clearly your intentions. Include: the date the letter is written, your official last day (two weeks is the common courtesy) and your legal name, along with your signature. This is the letter that will go in your personnel file so there’s no need to be long-winded. If you can’t think of anything nice to say, think Richard Nixon. He resigned in just seven words, but we all got the point quite clearly.
• Practice. Rehearse what you plan to say to co-workers and the boss when you decide to quit. Make sure you don’t make any disparaging comments about the business, or say something like how “not working with such losers anymore will be so nice.” Also, don’t offer too much information about your future plans, since it’s not good form to talk about all the exciting opportunities that await you and how you’re going to be making loads of money and working with great people, blah, blah, blah. None of that helps your boss or your co-workers, and just makes them sort of, well, hate you.
• Be a pro until the end. Don’t start slacking off on your duties. In fact, you might have to put in some extra time getting files in order; briefing others where you stand on projects; informing your customers who to contact after you leave; leaving notes on where to find information that will be needed; and meeting with the boss to let him know you’re trying to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s before you leave. And, for goodness’ sake, don’t take your departure as a sign to start loading up the backpack with goodies from the supply cabinet. Be absolutely sure you don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you, not even a pencil. Check at home to make sure you don’t have any company property, and if you do, return it promptly.
• Exit gracefully. If you have an exit interview, don’t use it as a chance to vent any hard feelings. Again, this will get back to the boss, and sink your reputation in his eyes and in others. Remember, bosses talk to other bosses, and human resource people talk to other human resource people. Being seen as difficult and vengeful and taking potshots on your way out the door will not help your career. Also, remember that if you criticize a co-worker today, that same person may just turn out to be a future boss tomorrow. Leaving with a firm handshake and a smile will serve you well in the long run.

This is an update of a 2009 post.

Monday, April 24, 2017

4 Steps for Dealing With a Hated New Job

When you accepted the job, you were excited about the new opportunities chance to enhance your skills. But three months later, all you can think of, is “What was I thinking?”

You now believe you’ve made a mistake when you accepted a new job. Something doesn’t feel right. Maybe you don’t like the people you work with, maybe you don’t like the duties you have been given, maybe you cannot stand your boss. Whatever the reason, it’s difficult to admit that things are going seriously wrong after only 90 days on the job.

What are you going to do? Can you quit this early in the game? Can the situation be fixed or is it only going to get worse? Should you tell anyone?

Before panic sets in, the first thing you should do is step back and start to look at the facts. Is the job affecting you outside of work? Are you anxious, grumpy or can't sleep at night? If so, then you know the problems are serious enough to address. Ignoring it will only make it worse.

Some actions you can take include:

  •  Get feedback. Talk to your friends or family and ask them what they hear you say about the job. This will help you pinpoint the areas that may be causing you the most stress.
  •  Go to the boss. Tell him or her that something isn’t working and you'd like to talk about it. Just don't expect the boss to "fix" the problem for you. Ask the boss to serve as a sounding board to try and figure out what is happening. Remember, the boss has put time and money into hiring you, and hasn't begun to see her investment returned in the short time you've been there. It's in her best interest -- and that of the company -- to find a way to make the job work better for you.
  •  Know when to cut your losses. If the problems are serious -- you ethically disagree with company policy or you're asked to do duties you find reprehensible or just have no interest in -- then it's probably time to just move on and learn from the experience. Begin looking around and contact people you had interviewed with before you accepted your current position.
  •  Take responsibility. When you begin interviewing for a new position, you may want to avoid putting such a short-term job on your resume. But if you do decide to mention it to hiring managers, explain that you thought the job was a good fit, but it became clear after a short time on the job that you had not asked the right questions and take full responsibility for it not working out the way you had planned. "So now," you tell the hiring manager, "I've learned that I have several more questions I'd like to ask."

This post originally ran in 2008

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Have You Become a Toxic Sponge?

I have banished sponges from my kitchen.

You may think this has nothing to do with the workplace, but stay with me for a moment.

According to WebMD, sponges are the No. 1 source of germs in the whole house because "moist, micro-crevices that make a sponge such an effective cleaning device also make it a cozy home for germs and more difficult to disinfect. Wiping your counters or dishes with a dirty sponge will only transfer the bacteria from one item to another."

Bleh. Now you know why I don't use sponges in my kitchen.

As for the workplace connection? Toxic sponges also hang out there. Not in the break room kitchen, but possibly at your desk.

I've been writing about being a toxic sponge for a long time. I first heard the term decades ago, and have found that toxic sponges still thrive.

What is a toxic sponge? A toxic sponge is someone who absorbs the negativity in the workplace. He or she listens to the woes and whinings of of co-workers and the complaints of the boss. This person is often seen as calm and capable, someone who is a good listener and seems to make others feel better after having a conversation.

But the problem with being a toxic sponge is that, well, you're absorbing a lot of crap. It's a lot of negative energy that can be transferred into other parts of your life. Before long, you may find yourself unable to sleep, anxious, depressed or even contemplating finding another job.

You may not at first recognize that you're a toxic sponge, but others do. They know you're the one they run to when they want to flush their system and dump their bad mood on someone else.

It's OK that you want to help others, that you want to solve problems for your colleagues or your boss. Just keep in mind that there needs to be limits on what you can take on or all that toxicity will make your life unhealthy.

Here are some things to think about:
  • Know when to step aside. Don’t try to be an armchair psychiatrist. Learn to back off from the person who needs professional assistance. As long as you continue to absorb the problem, things won’t get better.
  • Set limits. When you’re a toxic sponge, others may not recognize that you’re overloaded because you seem to so calmly accept whatever they say and want to help. But you’ve got to learn to set your own parameters of how and when you will deal with such issues. Find ways to firmly end a conversation with a constant whiner by saying, “I’m expecting a call any minute and I’ve got to prepare for it,” or “I’ve got to be somewhere in a few minutes, so I’m going to have to cut this short.”
  • Turn the problem around. If someone comes to you to complain about a process, for example, try to make them be more proactive instead of letting them just harp about problems. “Let’s talk about ways you can make the process more efficient” or “What specifically makes you think it won’t work?” are ways to get the person focused on finding solutions instead of just dumping problems on you to solve. Or, if someone comes to you and starts a tale of woe about how her best friend just got fired, say something like, “That’s tough. I’m sorry. Thankfully, we still have jobs.”
  • Give yourself recovery time. If you find yourself being dumped on, end it as soon as possible and then find ways to wring out your toxic sponge. Talk to an upbeat family member or friend, go for a walk, play with your dog or treat yourself to a massage.
Finally, don’t make excuses for the people who continually dump their problems on you. While we can all provide a sympathetic ear now and again, that doesn’t mean others should take advantage of you and expect you to drop everything to listen to them and even solve their problems. That’s a form of manipulation that does them – and you – no good.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Key to Surviving Disruption

At the turn of this century, Xerox was in trouble.  The competition was offering cheaper products and new technology was eroding customer demand for its products. Stock prices skid more than 90% from June 1999 to December 2000.
But then Xerox began reviving itself, aggressively reconfiguring its core business, simplifying product lines and outsourcing core functions. Cash flow became positive and stable.
But Xerox wasn’t done making changes. At the same time it was repositioning its core business, the company began experimenting with new service lines and bought Affiliated Computer Services for more than $6 billion.
By 2012, Xerox was hitting $21 billion in revenue.
Scott D. Anthony shares this story in his new book, “Dual Transformation: How to Reposition Today’s Business While Creating the Future,” which he wrote with Clark Gilbert and Mark W. Johnson.
Anthony says Xerox is an important example of what companies can do to thrive when their industry is being disrupted. But perhaps the real kicker to this story is this: Xerox is going to need to do it all over again.
That’s the lesson for any business wanting to survive in today’s fast-paced environment, Anthony says. Survival depends not only on repositioning the core business while also creating a new separate growth engine – but also being prepared to do it over and over again.
“That’s the new normal,” he says.
Those who don’t follow such a strategy will end up like businesses such as Kodak and RIM that were buried by disruption, Anthony says.
While Anthony says the book addresses many of the steps leaders need to take, he says it’s also important that employees “in every nook and cranny” of an organization been seen as a critical piece in helping such a strategy be successful.  Their input, he says, is important for spotting signs that companies may need to change.
“Employees can be a great early warning system for disruption. You tell them to keep their eyes open and ears tuned, and they can pick up on faint signals that new competitors are emerging or customer preferences are shifting,” Anthony says.
At the same time, these workers must be educated that change will be (read more here)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why Bosses Need to Be More Agile

There's lots of talk these days about the need for companies and their employees to be more "agile," to learn to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and customer demands.

The problem, however, may be that it's the managers who are the ones who are the real sticks in the mud.

For example, there was a story in the Wall Street Journal about how some bosses hoard talent, refusing to let workers move on. The managers hang onto this talent, often refusing to let others join a team of top performers. The problem, of course, is that such a strategy isn't good for an organization and it certainly isn't helping employees develop.

Another report in Harvard Business Review addressed the importance of leaders being both consistent and agile. Too consistent, the article suggests, and you've got a rigid leader. Too agile, and you have a boss who can't focus.

The bottom line is that teams need diversity -- and the management ranks need diversity. That means that organizations need to shake things up once in a while by switching team members in and out of various groups. They can do the same with managers, letting them lead different projects or teams.

Companies that want employees to come up with innovative ideas must make sure that they're not using career development practices that are no longer viable. If they don't want workers to move elsewhere for more opportunities, then employers must ensure they are walking the talk and being more agile in everything they do.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Channel Your Inner Cat to Survive in Business

The statistics paint a bleak picture:
  • From 2001-2011, only about 10% of companies actually met their growth targets, Bain & Co. find.
  • Only 13% of Fortune 100 companies were able to sustain as little as 2% annual real revenue growth from one decade to the next over the past 50 years, reports CEB Inc.
Well, that’s enough to make many leaders go back to bed and pull the covers over their heads. But for the ones willing to fight through such a tough environment, Leonard Sherman advises they channel their inner cat.
Sherman explains that in such a competitive dogfight, it’s the companies that are clever, bold and independent – like cats – that will be the ones to survive and thrive.
“The market doesn’t stay still. You go back hundreds of years, and you’re going to see one evolution after another,” Sherman says. “If companies try to stop the clock, they will wind up being left behind.”
Companies like Kodak and Blockbuster failed because they were defending current market positions and didn’t differentiate themselves with new products or services, he says. If companies fail to constantly renew their competitive advantage with innovative ideas, then the market becomes saturated. Competitors will begin attacking current products with comparable or better products – often at a lower cost, he explains.
Sherman, executive in residence and adjunct professor of marketing and management at the Columbia Business School, also has worked as an Accenture senior partner and J.D. Power and Associates managing partner.
He says that experience has shown him that the pace of change is more rapid than ever before, and those “that go with the flow will be left behind.”
One of the biggest problems, he says, is that many companies don’t seem to know their own strategy. “There is so much going on when managing a complex company, and every day people are throwing out suggestions and bombarding the leader. That’s when action can be confused with progress,” he says. “It’s a rare CEO that can cut through the noise and distraction. That’s why you hear it at all levels that people just aren’t sure where the company is headed.”
He says that Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has the right idea (read more here)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

4 Ways to Stop Being the Office Doormat

One complaint I hear fairly often is from those who feel they are not appreciated at work. These workers often feel that they've become human doormats, with colleagues and bosses treating them as if what they do doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.


Everyone's job matters. If you put together boxes, that's important. Without those boxes, products could not be delivered and people might miss out on getting important medicines or critical parts for a project. It matters if you sort mail or drive a truck or  make jet engines. Everyone's job is part of the life cycle of an organization. Without your efforts, organizations would begin to unravel.

That's key to remember because I think when we treat our jobs as "less than," we set ourselves up as doormats. If you want to be treated with respect, if you want to be appreciated for the job you do -- then respect yourself and appreciate that what you do really does matter.

If you feel like it's time you became more respected and appreciated, then you need to:

  • Show some class. Dig out those manners you learned from your mama or aunties and start saying "please" and "thank you." Address new people you meet as "Mr." or "Ms." unless you are told to do differently. Stand up tall, shoulders back. Make sure you're well groomed, look people in the eye and smile when greeting them. Politeness sends the cue that you have respect for yourself and others -- and can influence others to show you the same attitude.
  •  Don't show favoritism. Your politeness should know no bounds. You need to demonstrate the same level of professionalism to the person who empties wastebaskets as you do to the CEO. If you want to stop being treated like a doormat, then don't do it to anyone else.
  • Stand out. To get others to truly notice you and not see you as background scenery, think of ways to stand apart from others. When someone approaches you, put away your phone or turn away from your work. Be completely engaged when the person is talking, and wait until he or she is finished before summarizing what was said. Offering someone your undivided attention -- in this time of distractions -- will definitely set you apart. 
  • Stay positive. Workplace research shows that incivility from the political arena is carrying over into the workplace. Don't be the person who launches into political diatribes or seems to find the negative in every daily occurrence. You don't have to lie or be unrealistic, but you can be the person who tries to find something uplifting or even funny to share every day. (Make sure all your humor is G-rated.) Even a big smile every day with a genuine "It's good to see you!" can make others really see you and appreciate you.
What are some other ways to garner more respect on the job?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Science Shows Why Trust in the Workplace is Critical

A decade ago, Paul Zak began measuring brain activity from people while they worked and he soon made an important discovery: There are scientific reasons why some organizations perform at high levels while others flounder.
He discovered from his tests that people work more effectively – and deliver better results for their companies – when they are working in trusted cultures, such as an environment where workers are not reprimanded or fired if they make a mistake.
Zak, who is trained as an economist and a neuroscientist, helped launch the field known as neuroeconomics, which measures brain activity while people make decisions.
“If you want innovation, then you need to let people make mistakes,” he says. “Innovation requires taking a risk, and people need to know that’s OK.”
In his new book, “Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies,” Zak explains that he’s sometimes been called a “vampire economist” because he takes blood from volunteers in order to measure neurochemical changes during decisions.
Zak is the first scientist to show that the brain synthesizes the neurochemical oxytocin when people are trusted by others. The oxytocin then causes others to reciprocate trust by being trustworthy, he explains.
In other words, it’s the oxytocin that is the biological underpinning for the Golden Rule, he says. “If you treat me nice, my brain makes oxytocin, signaling that you are a person whom I want to be around, so I treat you nice in return,” he says.
Zak says that it’s important that leaders understand (read more here)