Monday, December 31, 2018

The 1 Thing That Could Lead to a Healthier, Happier 2019

I distinctly remember one vacation where I sat alone on a beach, with only some birds for company. I watched the waves go in and out, and I did nothing more than just feel my breathing. I probably sat there for an hour or more -- it felt like one of the most peaceful places on earth and I was completely relaxed.

I now recognize I was practicing mindfulness, although I had no idea at the time. You might think this is the part of the story where I reveal that I continued to practice mindfulness. Nope. Didn't happen. I went back to a stressful job in a stressful city with too much anxiety in my life.

I'm obviously older and wiser now, and while I'd like to say I practice mindfulness on a regular basis, it is still difficult for me. My mind immediately wanders to all the things I could -- and should -- be doing instead of just being aware that I'm breathing.

That's why I like this suggestion from mental health expert Koorosh Rassekh: Choose something you already do every day, and then set an intention around that particular practice.

He explains that he had a client who loved making pour-over coffee every morning, so he established a mindfulness practice around that activity. He focused on the physical sensations of the smell of the coffee, the warmth of the pot on his hands, the sound it made as it splashed into his cup.

So, instead of turning on the TV or talking to Alexa or checking his phone, he became more aware of his inner self and what he was feeling emotionally.

The other thing I like about Rassekh's advice is that he lets people like me off the hook: It's OK to not jump into mindfulness with enthusiasm every day.

"When mindfulness is hard or difficult for us, that doesn't mean it is not working. Rather, it just worked by letting you know that you are particularly distracted right now or you are trying to solve something, or some memory is trying to reconcile," he says. "How great to be connected with that inner process as we go through the day rather than wonder why we keep bumping our head or are so quick to anger! We can be mindful that we are struggling to be mindful. This in and of itself is mindfulness."

As we enter another year of working hard, trying to be productive, attempting to meet all our career goals while balancing our private-life demands, it may be time to start mindfulness. Try to stop listening to the shower radio and just be mindful when you're washing your hair. Instead of watching YouTube videos while eating lunch, try practicing mindfulness as you eat that sandwich.

Health experts say that mindfulness can help with stress and insomnia and lead to a healthier diet and better memory.

Maybe this is the one New Year's resolution that will make the biggest difference in your health and happiness this year?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

3 Ways to Deal With a "Never Wrong" Co-Worker

There are several annoying types of people at work, from the gossiper to the chronic procrastinator to the whiner.

Today, let's talk about the person who is never wrong.

This type of person really is pretty self explanatory -- he would rather cut off a toe than admit he's wrong. He bulldozes through everyone else to get what he wants, not caring if someone else has an opinion or better idea.

While everyone in the office may call this guy several unflattering names, the reality is that such a person may actually have a personality disorder -- or simply low emotional intelligence.

Whatever is going on, you're not a psychologist and you've got to figure out a way to work with this guy (or woman) before you staple him to his desk. Some suggestions:

1. Be precise. If someone lacks emotional intelligence or has little of it, then she isn't going to get some of your more subtle clues that she's making you angry or annoying the crap out of you. Be more clear about how you feel: "Marcia, when you interrupt me in a meeting I feel disrespected. I need you to let me finish what I want to say and then let others respond to it without interrupting and insisting we do it your way."

2. Stay cool. Getting angry isn't going to help because the "always right" colleague will just ramp up his arguments. Try asking more questions about his solution -- get him to reflect more on it and how exactly it will lead to the results that are desired. He may start to back off his "only my way" stance when he sees that his solution isn't going to work.

3. Be fair. When you deal with someone who always has to be right, you can get so defensive that you'd argue with his point that there are seven days in a week. Back off and and pick your battles. Try to dissect his points of view and see if there isn't something that can be of value -- something about which he may be right.

You may balk at the idea of finding common ground with such a personality, but the truth is that none of us is without faults. You may be seen as obstinate or judgmental. Try to find ways to keep communicating with this colleague, and don't dwell on how he behaves -- but more on how you can use his talents to find the right solutions.

Monday, December 24, 2018

How to Work for More Than One Boss -- and Stay Sane

Many workers now have multiple bosses – the one who heads a specific project, the one who oversees a department or the one who works in another country. But conflicting requests and competing deadlines can make working for multiple bosses a real challenge.
Part of the problem is that different bosses can have different management styles. One may like in-person updates while another prefers to use online apps to track project completions. Such competing styles can lead to inefficiencies as you try to adapt to various styles and requirements.
Another issue is overwork as each boss (read more here)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

3 Ways to Handle Nosy Co-Workers

Believe it or not, some people don't like to talk about their personal life. I know, I know, this seems bizarre in a time when people post photos of themselves sitting on the toilet or reveal every detail of giving birth.

In the workplace we often form friendships -- some of them very close -- and as a result we share details of our lives. The woman in the next cubicle, for example, knows that your teenager is getting into trouble and your husband lost his job last week. But those are details you may not want to share with the woman down the hall because a) she's a terrible gossip and b) you don't know her well enough to share that information.

Still, the woman down the hall is nosy. She asks questions like, "I saw your husband at the grocery store in the middle of the day -- is he on vacation or something?"

What can you do when people are nosy at work? You can't be rude because you have to work with them and the boss won't appreciate you having a rift with a teammate about personal business. Lying is never a good idea -- it snowballs and can reflect badly on your character if the truth comes out.

When you feel that a colleague is becoming nosy about your personal business, here are some options:

  • Tell the truth. This may be the last thing you want to do, but really consider the situation from someone else's perspective. Maybe you don't want to reveal that your teenager is in trouble, but perhaps the colleague has gone through the same thing with her child or was once a troubled teen herself.  She may be asking the question not as a chance to gossip, but because she sees you seem to be upset. You can give a simple, truthful answer, such as: "Well, you know teenagers often hit some bumps in the road and Angela is no exception." If the colleague presses you on details, just say you don't want to violate Angela's privacy, but appreciate the colleague's concern. 
  • Change the subject. Your husband may have asked you not to discuss his job loss with anyone, and you need to respect his wishes. If you're asked about it, change the subject or move away from the person. "Gosh, I can't believe what time it is! I've got a deadline in 30 minutes. I better get to it or this client is going to be be unhappy. I've got to run!" Or, answer with a non-answer: "Mike was at the grocery store pickup up some things we needed. Hey, that reminds me: Have you ever tried making homemade ravioli? I have a new fabulous recipe. Let me send it to you -- what's your email?"
  • Limit access. You cannot blab about your teen daughter woes or your husband's job loss on Facebook or Twitter and then not expect people to feel like they can get a bit nosy. If you want to be private, be private -- and that includes online. Set boundaries and stick to them, which makes it much easier to say: "Thanks for your concern, but it's a family matter and we're handling it."
Finally, don't expect others to respect your privacy if you don't respect their privacy. You can't demand nosy people mind their own business when you're not willing to do the same.

Monday, December 17, 2018

How Texting Can Ruin Your Career -- and What to Do About It

Everyone knows you shouldn't text and drive, and several cities (such an Honolulu) make it illegal to text and walk. The reason is clear: people driving or walking distracted are not only a danger to others, but to themselves.

But there is something equally damaging going on in workplaces today that has to do with texting. It's texting too fast. It's responding immediately to a text, rather it's a question from a colleague, a request from a boss or a complaint from a customer.

The result -- and you know deep in your soul this is true -- is that we become more stressed, more exhausted and more distracted when we respond right away to texts.

What would happen if you waited to respond to a text? If you didn't jump every time a text pinged? If you phoned the person who asked the question? Or walked over to her desk to respond?

There's a reason meditation and mindfulness have become multi-million-dollar businesses, and that's because they are necessary for all those people who are being crazy about responding to texts. These people are so tied to their phones that they cannot simply unwind during their workday and so are in a heightened state of awareness to their phones and feel constantly rushed.

"Pauses can be really productive if we re-center our attitude towards them," says Jason Farman, author of "Delayed: The Art of Waiting From the Ancient to the Instant World."

He explains that innovation needs time. It needs people to be able to daydream, to sit and do nothing without the interruption of texts demanding immediate responses. Without that ability to disconnect, we risk losing our creativity, our ability to think more deeply about how to solve problems or challenges.

If you're looking for a way to end your addiction to texting too fast that may be harming you, think about:

1. Turning off notifications. Just as with email notifications, that ping is distracting and ruins your concentration. It takes about 25 minutes for you to get back on track after an interruption. Is it really the best use of your time to respond with "K" after a colleague texts you where to meet for lunch? Or, could you work steadily for 30 minutes or an hour and then check your texts?

2. Realizing how it's hurting your career. Research has shown that a face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an electronic one. If you're really going to get what you want, then turn away from texts or emails and make your request to an actual live, breathing human being. When a boss or colleague or customer indicates they are ready to talk to you, don't respond with a text. Call -- or better yet -- talk to the person face-to-face.

3. Understanding you're likely to make a mistake. Autocorrect is the bane of my existence. It does things like type in "dud" for "did." It sends a message in the middle of a sentence if I hit the wrong key.  That's why it's much better to wait until you can at least email the person or phone or talk in person. Texts are too informal, messy and brief to sound professional. That extra time you take to think of what you want to say will ensure that your communications are clear and not portraying you as confused or immature.

Studies have shown that constantly being "on" is detrimental to our emotional and physical well-being, but it also hurts those we love. A partner who is watching you text work-related matters at home will start to also feel less job satisfaction and performance for both people will suffer.

If you don't think you can turn away from texts, try small steps. Try putting your phone in your office drawer for 10 minutes, then work up to 20 minutes, then try one hour. You may find that when you change your mindset, you break free of a lot of stress and become more creative and productive.

Let me know how it goes....

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Why Jerks Still Get Ahead

The rise of the #metoo movement in the last year and more attention to inequalities in the workplace has prompted a lot of discussions inside and outside of the workplace.

David Mayer, a professor of management and organizations at the Ross School of Business, says that women aren't the only ones who can be treated unfairly on the job -- nice guys don't always finish first.

"Some research shows that when men are more agreeable and nice, they earn 18 percent less over their lifetime than men who are more dominant," he says.

Still, he cautions this isn't a "woe is me" moment for men, because they're still more likely to be in leadership positions and make more money on average that women. It's more a matter of nice guys displaying some of the stereotypical characteristics such as compassion, humility, kindness and being more relationship-oriented.

This is an interesting development as I've written many stories over the last couple of years that more companies are hiring and promoting for emotional intelligence, which is just such characteristics. Companies are finding that without emotional intelligence, there is less collaboration, teamwork and creativity -- and that hits the bottom line.

If companies really want to develop emotional intelligence within their ranks, then they're going to have to do more to reward those who have it, such as women and nice guys.

Mayer says that when he asked his students about whether they've worked at places where it's OK to act like a jerk and still get promoted, about 80 percent said that had been their experience.

"I think it's something we can change as we look into the future," he says.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Why Job Shadowing Can Give You an Advantage

Job shadowing might sound a little creepy—does it mean you’re skulking around a workplace, spying on people?
Well, part of that is correct—you will be in a workplace and there will be people. But far from skulking or spying, you’re given a front-row seat to how work gets done. Whether it’s in an architecture firm, at a high-tech startup, or at an auto body repair shop, experienced workers let you watch how they do their jobs. You’re given a chance to ask job shadowing questions, observe a “day in the life of,” and just absorb and reflect on whether the environment and the workers are something that appeal to you.
Some job shadowers will come away (read more here)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

How to Respond to a Demotion

Have you ever been demoted?

If so, you're not alone. A survey finds that 46 percent of human resource managers say their company has demoted an employee. Most of those demotions hit male professionals and those ages 18 to 34.

If you think about it, the first thing you would want to do after being demoted is deliver a significant hand gesture to your boss and walk out the door, possibly kicking a nearby trash can for good measure. Or, go into a massive sulk and do only the bare minimum required to still collect a paycheck.

The survey supports this: For those who are demoted, 52 percent quit while 47 percent become disengaged.

Such reactions won't surprise an employer. First, they may have demoted you in an effort to get you to quit. Second, they demoted you and are paper-trailing you so that they can fire you in the near future as your performance deteriorates.

But what if you don't quit? What if you turn the tables and actually get better at your job? If you take that course of action, then you've taken control of your career instead of letting a demotion derail it.

It won't be easy. You're going to be pissed, frustrated, depressed and demoralized by the demotion. The demotion may not even be the result of poor performance, but have to do with internal politics or restructuring.

Whatever you're feeling and whatever the reason you were demoted, you have to be smart about it and understand that if you decide to leave, it's going to be much easier to find another job if you depart on good terms. That means you've got to prove you're of value. How? By turning in work where you show proven value and results.

When you've been demoted, it's going to be more important than ever that you:

  • Suck it up. Don't let them see you sweat or cry. All they should see written on your face is steely resolve and determination.
  • Get specifics. Make sure you're 100 percent clear on the performance issues that got you demoted and what your boss believes you need to do to correct them. 
  • Craft a battle plan. Make no mistake: You're going to have to fight to regain ground and get your career back on track. Write out what you need to accomplish in the next week and coming months.
  • Communicate in writing. Let the boss know what you're doing to improve. Daily email reports can provide a way for you to prove you're making changes. You can also give these reports in person, but written evidence will help the boss clearly see the steady progress you're making.
  • Add value. Craft a plan to cut customer turnover, make a process more efficient or improve safety. This is a move designed to make you more valuable to your current employer -- but also beef up your resume so that if you decide to leave you can demonstrate your worth.
Being demoted is no fun. But there's no reason to let it define you. Once it happens, you cannot change it but you can use it to spur new actions that will help you with your current employer -- or propel you into a job that is a better fit.

Monday, December 3, 2018

3 Ways the Office Party Can Help Your Career

Whether it's an office potluck or a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant, most workplaces have some type of holiday gathering.

You may look forward to these events as you sneak extra cookies into your pocket -- or you may dread them and plan to fake a case of malaria to get out of it. (Bad idea. Don't skip the event as no one ever believes such excuses).

While I hope you enjoy your party, you need to always remember that whether you do or not, it's still a work event. That means that if you wouldn't dance on the table during a regular work meeting, then you shouldn't do it at an office party. Still, I'm not saying you shouldn't have a good time, and getting into the spirit of the holidays can actually help your career.

How? It gives others a chance to see you in a whole new light -- as someone who is funny or makes a point of talking to the shyest person at the event. Your career can always benefit when you demonstrate a genuine interest in others.

As you don your ugly Christmas sweater or make your favorite bean dip for the potluck, here are some ways to make sure the holiday party doesn't derail your career:

1. Hang out with people who drive you crazy. You don't have to subject yourself to an entire evening of Debbie Downer's company or Loud Fred's obnoxious stories, but do commit to spending time with people you generally avoid at work. "What's your favorite holiday tradition?" you can ask. Or, introduce yourself to this person's significant other to make him or her feel welcome. Just exchanging pleasantries can help ease some anxieties for your colleagues and perhaps reduce some of their unpleasant behavior during the week if they feel a greater rapport with you. Keep in mind that you're expected to work well with everyone on the job -- you're there to contribute, not avoid people you don't like.

2. Network. People often believe that networking only takes place with those outside a current company. Wrong. You should also be networking with those inside your company because those are often the people who you run across in the future when you need a referral to another job or require information to land a new position. Never burn bridges -- only work to make them stronger. Don't neglect relationships inside your company or you may pay the price later in your career.

3. Have fun. Laughing, telling funny stories or just enjoying the moment of seeing Loud Fred do his Elvis impression is important. Jobs are often tedious, frustrating, stressful and difficult. This needs to be a time when you put all that aside and get to know your colleagues in a new and fun way. Mute your phone. Stick it in your pocket and leave it there. These moments are what will form a new and better bond with your team, and that's a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How to Stand Out When it Comes to Your Career

What makes you unique? If you ask your nana, it’s the fact that you have the cutest little dimples ever. Your friends might say you’re special because you can burp the alphabet. But do those things really mean anything to an employer?
Probably not. The key to success in your career often comes down to how you’re able to bring that special “something” to an employer — some unique ability or skill that will help them beat the competition.
But coming up with that unique value proposition — or your personal brand story — can be daunting. Thousands of people may say they have many of the same skills as you (project management, copywriting, leadership, etc.), so the key is figuring out how you can differentiate yourself in a positive way.
“You’re not an ‘employee’ of General Motors, you’re (read more here)

Monday, November 26, 2018

10 Great Gift Ideas for Coworkers

While it seems like everyone should be in a jolly mood around the office because it's the holiday season, there is also a lot of stress.

And here's some reasons why: Do you buy the boss a gift? What should you get your "work spouse"? Should you get something goofy or something nice for the office gift exchange?

While most agree that you don't have to give the boss something, you really need to follow the norm in your office. If everyone else gives the boss a gift, you don't want to be the lone holdout. As for your "work spouse" -- the person who is your emotional and professional support on the job -- you want to give something appropriate that shows your appreciation. Same thing for the office gift exchange -- it can be fun but should not be something that couldn't be put on someone's desk. (This will keep you from gifting sexy underwear, liquor or an illegal download of "A Star is Born.")

To help alleviate some of your gift-buying anxiety, I'm offering some appropriate gift ideas in a range of prices. While I will include links, I am not endorsing a particular retailer or product -- and will leave it to you to find the best deal should you choose to purchase anything on the list.

Here goes....

1. Lexo tumbler.  This mug includes smart phase change technology that keeps your coffee or tea at the perfect drinking temperature for hours and hours and hours....(Full disclosure: A family member works for the company that makes these mugs, but that doesn't change the fact that this tumbler gets rave reviews.)

Image result for lexo smart mug
2. Packing cubes. I tried these for the first time last year and they're a game-changer, especially if you're taking one suitcase to several locations. 
Image result for packing cubes
3. Umbrella. This is not the kind you buy off a street vendor when it's pouring rain. The Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella is the one that other people will try to borrow -- don't let them. Guard it with your life.
4. Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit.  This game is selling out fast -- all the Millennials are going bonkers for it, willing to throw some elbows to get  in front of kids who also want the game.

5. Swiss Army Knife. While you probably can't get past the TSA with it, it's a gem to have in your office desk drawer for a multitude of things, from fixing your glasses to opening boxes.
Victorinox Forester in red - 0.8363
6. Travel charger. Anyone who has ever left a phone charger on their desk knows the frustration of having a phone die in the middle of a conversation while on the go. The TravelCard is the size of a credit card, which makes it light and convenient.
Image result for travelcard charger
7. Jelly Belly Rogue One Bean Machine.  Just the name alone is awesome. Who doesn't need one at work for those jelly bean emergencies?
STAR WARS̢㢠Rogue One Bean Machine
8. Fun bluetooth speaker. There are lots of options for bluetooth speakers these days, but this Jamoji speaker would be appropriate for work -- and it gets great reviews.

9. Socks. Why not keep feet warm and do some good for the world? Proceeds from sales of these socks and other products like t-shirts, hats and posters help fund more than 30 park conservancies across the U.S.

10. Keyboard stickers.  If you know someone who is tired of a boring keyboard, try these Van Gogh Starry Night or comic book decals.
Van Gogh Starry Night MacBook Keyboard Decal
Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Here's a Radical Idea: Be Grateful at Work

In my house, we have the Thanksgiving tradition of revealing what we're thankful for (we agree that family is a given and you have to name something else).

Depending on the age of the person, common mentions include "good health," "all-day football" and "the pecan pie in the kitchen."

Personally, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it's about being, well, thankful. (No, it's not actually about plotting your strategy for Black Friday sales.) I think it's important to stop for a moment and realize that despite all the hand-wringing and vile rhetoric we sometimes experience, we all have something in our lives for which to be grateful.

The same it true at work. We spend a lot of time griping and stressing about customers, colleagues and the boss. But is it really so horrible? Every bit of it?

Or, do you have a colleague who always greets you with a smile and a cheerful "Good morning!" Did a customer tell you a funny joke? Did the boss let you leave early to attend a child's soccer game even though it's a busy season?

Those may seem like small things, but they're really not. Neither is the paycheck you receive from your employer. Without that paycheck, what would your life be like?

I'm not trying to be Pollyanna, but I do think we can change our mindset a bit about work and use Thanksgiving as a way to jumpstart a new way of thinking.

Recently, Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce Conversations, sent me a list of ideas to practice more gratitude. So, as you ready yourself (and your stomach) for Thanksgiving, think about trying to:

  • Start a gratitude journal: Not all gratitude needs to be expressed outwardly, and recognizing personally what you are grateful for can be very powerful. You may want a journal that encompasses all aspects of your life, or one just for the office. Perhaps every Monday morning you take 10 minutes to write down what work-related people and things you are grateful for. Over time, you can look back and reflect in a meaningful way.
  • Write thank-you notes.  When we are used to email and texting, writing a note can be magical. There is something powerful about taking the time to thank someone with a physical note, whether it's your boss, the intern or even the security guard in your building.
  • Incorporate gratitude into you conversations. During one-on-one meetings, make a habit of highlighting something you appreciate about the person. These conversations can have a lasting impact, and will serve to strengthen the relationship. 
What are some ways to show more gratitude at work?

Monday, November 19, 2018

Why We Need More Fights at Work

There's no shortage of fighting these days -- whether it's the WWE or a cable news show.

In real life, many people avoid fighting. They will turn their backs on a fuming co-worker or not respond to snarky emails at work. Or, they may simply hold up their hands in surrender during a contentious team meeting and back away from a disagreement simply because they don't want to fight.

You may take such action because you hate fighting -- it's bad enough to have a 15-minute argument every morning with your child because she doesn't want to wear shoes to school. You feel like there's enough disagreement in the world, and you just don't want to add to it.

But what if you're making everything worse by not fighting? What if you could make your life -- and those of your colleagues -- better by fighting?

Adam Kahane is author of "How to fight in a Productive Way." He has plenty of experience in some serious battles -- he works with Mexican leaders to help them develop solutions to the country's issues such as a lack of security and equality. As director of Reos Partners, an international consultancy that helps people work together on their most contentious issues, he says that avoiding conflict and differences isn't a good strategy.

The reason: Those differences will just "fester and erupt later with greater violence."

While we probably won't see violence erupt in the workplace with most spats, Kahane's point is still valid: That we need to be ready to challenge others and be open to being challenged right back. When we avoid challenges, we stagnate. We don't learn anything new.

Here are some ways he suggests we can embrace "useful" fighting:

  • Diversify. Teams need to have members of different strengths and perspectives. An IT team, for example, shouldn't just be IT people. Throw in some marketing or human resource people and vise versa. More teams need to have members willing to say: "I think that's a mistake," or "I don't think that makes sense because....."
  • Slow down. Many workplace decisions are made because a team is under deadline pressure or feels compelled to mark something off the "to do" list and move on. But Kahane points out that the workshops of Mexican leaders always included a "get to know you" activity such as having dinner together or two people with differing opinions taking a walk. Spending that time together can lessen anxieties and lead to a shifting of thoughts so that people are more open to one another and perhaps change their positions a bit.
  • Understand that you're not the boss of me. The best way to get people to work together to reach a decision is that you cannot allow any of them to have more decision-making control than someone else. The only way to get change is that each team member must change himself or herself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This is How LinkedIn Can Help You Find a Job

It’s estimated that 90 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent, which means ignoring the site during a job search is sort of like tossing your resume in a shredder and hoping someone finds it and pieces it back together.
That’s not likely to happen, and neither are you likely to find the most available jobs or contacts if you’re ignoring LinkedIn. While you may think you shouldn’t use LinkedIn because you’re still in school or don’t have much experience, you’re wrong. LinkedIn is an incredible tool for catching the eyes of a recruiters; it’s also one of the best professional networking tools online. Your lack of a LinkedIn presence not only makes you invisible to recruiters, it (read more here)

Monday, November 12, 2018

How to Get Ahead When Working Remotely

Working from home is no longer a rarity – IWG reports that 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week. And 53 percent of professionals work remotely for at least half the week! The arrangement has many advantages, such as providing better work/life balance or a much shorter commute. Still, being “out of sight” poses a real challenge to your career. Your contributions may go unnoticed by others and jeopardize your chances of getting a promotion.
(Read more here)


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Do These 5 Things When You Get a New Boss

There's nothing quite as disconcerting as getting a new boss. Even if you hated the old boss, at least you knew all her weird habits and devious tricks and could counteract them before they did much harm.

But a new boss? This means a lot of changes, even if the new boss says there won't be changes. The new boss may only like to communicate via email, even if he's sitting across the table from you. Or, he may not understand that he really shouldn't talk to you before you've had a cup of coffee -- not because you're crabby but because you literally can't form full sentences until the caffeine hits your bloodstream.

There are some ways to ensure a smoother transition with a new boss, and also help him understand your value to the organization -- and to him. You need to:

1. Step up. Be ready to introduce yourself to the new boss like a real grown-up professional. No slouching behind your computer and hoping he won't see you. You can send him your LinkedIn profile or even a short email outlining what you're working on and any areas of development you're tackling (attending night classes, taking an online certification course). 

2. Eliminate "but" from your answers. There's nothing more frustrating to a new boss that always hearing employees say "but that's not how we've always done it" or "but that won't work" or something equally negative. Listen with an open mind to his ideas. Try to expand on them and instead of saying "No, but..." try to find times to say, "Yes, and..."

3. Take notes. When the new boss is giving directives -- from how to ask for time off to who is taking on which project -- write it down. New bosses have a lot on their plates, and employees who pay attention the first time will be seen as assets that are part of his plan when moving forward. Don't risk getting left behind because you're always asking "What was that again?"

4. Offer help. You don't have to be Billy Brownoser with the new boss, but be willing to offer resources or information that can make the new boss's life easier. "I can send you the report I did on that competitor last year. You might find some helpful information in it or perhaps I can answer some questions," you offer.

5. Don't badmouth anyone. In the beginning, the new boss is trying to get the lay of the land -- who does good work and who does not. Badmouthing a colleague -- or even your former boss -- is very unprofessional and will get you labeled a gossip. The boss may find your information helpful, but he will forever see you as a disloyal person -- and that means you'll never be trusted by him. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

The 3 People You Want to Meet at Work

If you want to see where you career is going, look at who you hang out with at work.

Is it the guy who plays on his phone during meetings? Is it the woman who is short-tempered and can be snarky to the intern?

There's an old proverb that says you are known by the company you keep. (Your Mom probably quoted it to you once a day when you were a teenager.) While you don't want to isolate yourself at work or avoid having a diverse group of contacts, you do want to consider what you're getting from those relationships.

For example, you may think the guy who plays on his phone during meetings is also pretty funny. You like going to lunch with him and watching him do impersonations of various people in the office. Or, the woman who is snarky to interns usually isn't rude to you, so you don't have a problem hanging out with her for a drink after work.

But how do you really feel about interacting all the time with such colleagues? Do you find yourself thinking up new ideas, wanting to try and match their passion for their work or appreciate learning something new from them? Or, are you becoming caught in their endless cycle of disengagement, snarkiness and laziness?

I'm not suggesting you cut these people completely. What I am suggesting is that you need to assess whether such relationships inspire you or provide encouragement. If not, it's time to spend less time with them and instead look for colleagues who can help you develop professionally because they model the right behavior.

Look for people who are:

  • Curious. These colleagues are intrigued by information. They read widely -- they may be able to tell you 10 facts about lemurs or discuss the latest industry acquisition. When you interact with those who are always expanding their minds, you will start to do the same -- and that's always a plus for any career.
  • Good listeners. The colleagues who put their phones away during a meeting, turn away from their computers when your're talking to them and let others complete their sentences without interrupting are the kind of co-workers who go far in their careers. They're seen as great negotiators, leaders and team members and have the kind of skills you should emulate.
  • Are not perfect. You want to be around people who are not afraid -- or too pompous -- to admit when they make a mistake. These are the kind of colleagues who learn from their goofs and become even better in their jobs. They don't become focused on fixing the blame, and instead want to fix the problem. You will learn a lot from such team members and you career will benefit from learning how they move on from mistakes and thrive.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Why You Don't Want to Rely on Gut Instinct

As you rise through the ranks and become a manager, you may be faced with ethical dilemmas. Perhaps you're not worried -- you know your moral compass is solid and you would never do anything that wasn't in line with your values.

But can you really rely on that compass when you're in a fast-paced environment where there is constant pressure to produce results and beat the competition -- or else? You may still contend that your ethics won't abandon you, and you know that you'll make the right decisions.

Then comes the day when you need to fudge some product results (just a teeny tiny bit!) in order to keep the company afloat. People could lose their jobs if the results don't measure up. What's the harm in just rounding up a few numbers?

Or, let's say one of your employees has access to some data from a competitor. He accessed it by guessing the password of a friend who works at the company. You've been under a lot of pressure from your boss to find ways to beat this competitor. What's the harm in just taking a look at the data, right?

This is the slippery slope of which many people speak.

Stanford Graduate School of Business professors recently addressed ethical leadership and found that managers can fall short if they don't truly understand their values and how to deal with the business challenges they will face. Among their thoughts:

  • Don't rely on your gut. Just because you have data doesn't mean you're making a sound decision. You can rig that data to align with what you really want to do. Make sure you're doing a good analysis of data and not just using it to prop up your opinion.
  • Let others challenge you. Make it OK for your staff to disagree or criticize your thinking. Let the person with the least seniority offer the first suggestion -- that breaks down the group think structure.
  • Plan ahead. Think about what you will do if you're asked to fudge numbers or look at another company's data without permission. It can be tempting to do something wrong when you're in the heat of the moment so make sure you know the lines you will not cross. 
Finally, don't let the "everyone does it" argument sway you into doing something that violates your ethics. You may make a split-second decision that you have to live with for a long time -- and make you into someone you never wanted to be.

Monday, October 29, 2018

3 Ways to Change the World from Your Cubicle

I'm fed up, and I know many of you must feel the same.

I'm fed up with the name-calling, the finger-pointing and the yelling. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all go away, but I can't. What I can do is think about how I behave every day and hopefully do a little better.

Most of us spend the majority of our hours at work. While we're unlikely to stand up in our cubicle, point at someone and start yelling about how they're wrong, stupid, hateful and wear ugly shoes -- we can use the workplace as a starting point.

The starting point can be this: I will shut up. I will listen. I will ask questions. I will try to understand. I will actively seek out people with different opinions.

Adam Kahane, author of "Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work With People You Don't Agree with or Like or Trust," recently offered some tips on how we can get along better with others at work.

1. Find common ground. Who doesn't feel better walking through a park on a beautiful fall day? Or having a nice cup of coffee? Finding neutral spaces to meet with people can help lower the temperature of an interaction, making it easier to just communicate.

2. Suspend judgments. How many times have you labeled a colleague "difficult" or "annoying"? Try to stop labeling the person and instead think about whether that difficult or annoying label is really more about you. Do you get annoyed when someone challenges your authority? Or find it difficult when someone wants to challenge the status quo?

3. Embrace different. Instead of getting tense or annoyed because a colleague challenges you, think about seeing things from his or her point of view. When you feel your body tense up, try to relax and think about how you cannot control how this person acts, but you still need to work with him or her.

Human beings are hardwired to fight change -- they fear it may be something that will hurt them. But we're in a time when the constant state of warfare is becoming a norm that only undermines our humanity.

Maybe you can't change the world overnight, but you can change how you will advocate for civility and collaboration one cubicle at a time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The One Thing That Can Improve Feedback

It's pretty much a given that everyone hates performance reviews, which is why more companies are urging managers to give "continuous feedback."

What this looks like can vary:

"Great job, Susan, on that presentation."

"John, I think you need a little more research on that report."

"Jeff, I'm not sure that tie really goes with that jacket."

While this is all feedback, none of it is really helpful. It's not specific and doesn't really point the employee to what needs to happen next (other than Jeff needs to change his tie or his jacket). Research finds that about 87% of workers say they want to be developed in their jobs -- but only a third say they actually get the feedback they need to engage and improve.

So what will work to boost improvement and make employees better at making decisions? What's needed to help them become more resilient so they can adapt to change? Research suggests workers need to ask for feedback instead of just waiting for bosses to offer it.

Okay, I know what you're thinking: There is no way I'm asking for feedback from my boss because I'm worried about what he will say -- and it will probably end up creating more work  and stress for me.

But experts say that when you ask for feedback, you are in the driver's seat, which can be empowering. The boss feels more comfortable because you ask for something specific: "Do you think I used too much data in that presentation?"

While it doesn't mean the interaction will be a barrel of laughs, it can make it less threatening and feel more fair to you and to the boss.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Research Shows Your Boss May Indeed Be Setting You Up to Fail

Does your boss set you up to fail?

Two decades ago, Jean-Francois Manzoni and Jean-Louis Barsoux wrote about their research showing that bosses often have a part in an employee's failure to succeed. It's not that the bosses do it on purpose -- and may even have good intentions -- but they still are responsible for "creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived underperformers to fail."

Let's say you have a bad day or week or quarter. Maybe you miss your sales target, or a project goes off the rails or you miss a deadline. Or, perhaps you don't quite "gel" with the boss or someone badmouths you to the manager. Any of these can serve as a trigger that causes the boss to be concerned that you're not a great performer.

So, she decides to put you on her radar and see if she bring up your performance. You now have to run your activities past her, cc her on all emails and face daily feedback from her on everything from how you acted in a meeting to how you fill out paperwork.

While the boss sees this as helping you improve, instead you feel demoralized. You starts to feel like you have nothing worthwhile to contribute and become more withdrawn. The boss sees this and doubles her efforts to help you.

The bottom line, Manzoni and Barsoux write, is that it becomes a situation that doesn't help either the boss or you. Eventually, you quit or are fired.

This, of course, hurts the company and other team members as your talents and energy leave and must be replaced. (With unemployment at about 3.7%, I don't think any company can afford to let a boss set an employee up to fail.)

How to break the pattern of "set up to fail"? The authors give some ideas:

1. Recognize the problem exists.
2.  Higher ups stage an intervention that involves a candid conversation with the boss to point out the unhealthy dynamic with the employee.
3. A conversation between the boss and the under-performing employee where the boss acknowledges that she may be partly to blame for the problem and she wants to have a fair and open conversation.
4. An agreement between the boss and the employee about the specific areas of the performance leading to contention.
5. An understanding between the boss and the employee about what is causing the weak performance in certain areas.
6. The boss and the employee agree about their performance objectives and commit to moving the relationship to a more positive footing.
7. An agreement for more open communication in the future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Skills to Include on a Resume -- and the Ones to Leave Out

There’s a famous line from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke that says: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” Fast forward to 2018 and that line could apply to the disconnect between jobseekers and employers. Jobseekers often put a lot of time and effort into their resumes, extensively noting skills acquired via work experience and education. And then employers turn around and say that the docs don’t contain the information they want to see.
LiveCareer’s 2018 Skills Gap Report examined this problem from a number of different angles. While employers list an average of 21.8 skills per job ad, jobseeker resumes list an average of only 13 skills. Specifically, resumes only match 59 percent of hard skills and 62 percent of soft skills listed in job ads. In addition, a LinkedIn survey found (read more here)

Monday, October 15, 2018

This is the One Thing Every Boss Should Hear

Is it really that difficult to be a boss?

"It’s not easy," writes Andy Kessler in the Wall Street Journal. "Decisions come at you rapid-fire and, like it or not, you’ve got to make a call, potentially without knowing the consequences for years. Meanwhile, a bigger boss or a board of directors is breathing down your neck, prepared to can you if you screw up."

On the other hand, management guru Tom Peters says in his new book that management isn't complicated -- it just takes things like consistency and good communication.

I bring up these diverging views because National Boss Day is tomorrow, Oct. 16. I know a lot of people are going to wonder why bosses need a special day. (These are the same people who complained when they were kids that there really should be a Kid's Day if there was going to be a Father's Day and a Mother's Day.)

Being a boss is tough. I've been a boss, and sometimes I was good at it, and sometimes I was not. I've worked for bosses I liked, and I've worked for bosses I've loathed.

But one thing I've learned is that many bosses feel they're all alone. Even when they do something really great for their employees, they often don't get a simple "thank you." They agonize over their choices and yet are supposed to always remain cool under pressure. No one notices -- and often no one cares.

Can you imagine how you would feel if you were treated the same?

I've not saying bosses are perfect. They have flaws like anyone else, but I do think they deserve a day where everyone takes the opportunity to say "thank you." Is that really so much to ask?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

We Know We're Rude With Our Phones -- But We Don't Do Anything About It

When cellphones first made their appearance, workplace advice columnists like myself advised that bosses and co-workers became annoyed when a worker used it at work. There were several reasons: people using cellphones tended to yell into the thing; the calls were often personal and inappropriate at work; and workers on a cellphone were seen as goofing off.

When smartphones came along, it became obvious that bosses could not ban them from the workplace. Employees used their phones to do just about everything -- banning them from work would be like asking them to work with both hands tied behind their backs.

But the one thing that hasn't changed is that people are still annoying others with their phone use. They still yell into their phones. They still gab to their mothers about their gynecologist's appointment in front of everyone in the office. They still goof off on their phones instead of working.

The strangest thing about all of this: We know we're being rude and unprofessional, but we still don't stop. A  recent survey finds respondents say that it's proper etiquette to put your phone away in meetings but 53% of them keep it out. Eighty percent say it's inappropriate to check a phone during a meeting, but 50% admit doing it. And 77% say they bring their phone into the bathroom at work.

Many people will claim that they need their phone in the bathroom so they don't miss important calls or texts or emails (really??), while others will say that they need their phones in meetings to do their jobs. Others will say they'd go insane if they couldn't play Candy Crush on their phones during boring presentations or they need to keep up with emails because meetings are such a drain on their day.

It's always much easier to point the "you're so rude" finger at others, when in reality we are just as guilty of not being aware of how our behavior affects others. But the numbers revealed above are concerning -- we don't need any more excuses to be uncivil to one another or hurt the productivity of others. Work is stressful enough, right?

There are some cellphone use policies that companies are using, such as those listed here. In the meantime, do a little self-policing. Don't take the phone into the bathroom (ewww) and put your phone out of sight in a meeting or lock it in your desk drawer.

You might be surprised that when you're not connected to that device, you find more time to connect with your colleagues or are better able to tap into more creative ideas without the distraction of Instagram. The best thing of all? You might get more done and get to leave work early for a change.

Monday, October 8, 2018

5 Things to Take Off Your Resume Right Now

It can be daunting to write a resume. First, it's a lot of work. Second, you're never sure what to include or omit on a resume -- what if an employer really does care that you have a Goldendoodle?

It's why many people recycle the same resume over and over, no matter that it's been five years since it's been updated in a meaningful way or that it's the same resume used to apply for a job as an airline pilot and as a bartender.

Sometimes, it's easier to start with the things you can omit from your resume. For example:

1. Microsoft Word. If you can't use Microsoft Word, you probably also can't figure out how to unlock your front door. Leave it off. Employers expect you to know that, and it makes you look pathetic to include it.

2. First-year Spanish. Or first-year Chinese. Or first-year Latin. I don't care if you got an "A" on your final, your minute knowledge of a language isn't going to be useful to an employer unless you can engage others in the language pretty fluently. Being able to order from a menu in French doesn't count.

3. Stupid stuff. An employer isn't going to care that you won best penmanship in 7th grade or that your soccer team made it to the semifinals three years in a row. They will only care about things that will make you a better employee, like volunteering and raising the most money for a community project -- because that shows organizational and leadership skills.

4. Exaggerations. Or lies. There's this little thing called the Internet that makes it pretty darned easy to check out anything you put on a resume.

5. Too much work stuff. When you're applying for a job right out of school, it may matter to an employer that you rocked your job at Taco Bell for four years while in college (it shows a good work ethic, experience with customers, co-workers, etc.) But once you've had several years as a professional, the employer wants to know much more about those skills and experiences. Also, you don't want to list too many employment experiences, as the employer may fear you're a serial job-hopper and won't stay put with them for very long.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Are You Headed Toward Burnout?

Lots of people are really happy about the job market right now. There are plenty of jobs to go around, and companies like Amazon are offering a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

With all that work, however, there is a downside that I hear more people mentioning: burnout.

Burnout is defined as physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Many of us come close to it, which is why we do things like take a vacation or try to leave early on Friday.

But burnout isn't something that can be fixed by a few days off. It doesn't come about just because you're putting in some long days. Burnout shows itself as cynicism, depression and lethargy and arises when you're not in control of how you do your job or when you're doing something that just doesn't resonate with you. A lack of social support is also a problem.

When the Great Recession hit a decade ago, many people took any job that would pay the bills. They cobbled together part-time work. They accepted jobs that forced them to do the work of two or three people. They put up with seeing their benefits cut, salary raises slow to a trickle and bosses demanding more because their bosses were demanding more.

Now, they're paying the price. Those extra tasks haven't gone away. The demands from bosses haven't disappeared. They haven't made up lost ground in terms of benefits or pay. Is it any wonder that more people are mentioning the word "burnout"? (Of course, not everyone feels this way, and many people are thriving in their jobs and organizations.)

At the same time, companies need to pay attention to their workers.  Those headed toward burnout will not only be less productive and creative, but there's a chance they will end up quitting a job and never returning. With such a tight labor market right now, can any company afford to let great people walk out the door?

For those who many find themselves feeling worse every day, don't ignore your symptoms. The fallout from burnout are real: heart disease, stroke, disease vulnerability and alcohol or substance abuse.

If you're headed toward burnout, here are some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Manage the stressors that contribute to job burnout. Once you've identified what's fueling your feelings of job burnout, you can make a plan to address the issues.
  • Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Perhaps you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Is job sharing an option? What about telecommuting or flexing your time? Would it help to establish a mentoring relationship? What are the options for continuing education or professional development?
  • Adjust your attitude. If you've become cynical at work, consider ways to improve your outlook. Rediscover enjoyable aspects of your work. Recognize co-workers for valuable contributions or a job well-done. Take short breaks throughout the day. Spend time away from work doing things you enjoy.
  • Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope with job stress and feelings of burnout. If you have access to an employee assistance program (EAP), take advantage of the available services.
  • Assess your interests, skills and passions. An honest assessment can help you decide whether you should consider an alternative job, such as one that's less demanding or one that better matches your interests or core values.
  • Get some exercise. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also help you get your mind off work and focus on something else.
  • Get some sleep. Sleeps restores well-being and helps protect your health. Aim for at least 7-8 hours each night.

Monday, October 1, 2018

5 Ways to Handle Unexpected Criticism From the Boss

There's nothing more frustrating than to think you're doing just great in your job, only to have the boss blindside you with something like: "You know, I'm concerned that you're not meeting the goals I think you need to meet in order to be successful at this company."

You're confused. Isn't this the same boss who says "good job!" to you at least once a day? Isn't this the same boss who told you in a recent email that she "really liked" your project report?

So, what gives?

There's no way of really knowing what's going on in the boss's mind at this point. She may have gotten some bad feedback from her boss, and so feels somehow that she needs to pass that negative vibe onto you. Or, she may be really bad at offering constructive criticism, and so instead hides behind "good job!" until she dumps the bad feedback on you later.

Believe me, I know just how you feel. I've been there. You're mad, frustrated, confused and perhaps even a little hurt. But while all those feelings are roiling around inside of you, you cannot let them out in an unprofessional way. ("Are you freaking kidding me??" is not an appropriate response.)

This is what you need to do:

  1. Try to get specifics. "Can you share a little more about your concerns? Does this have to do with the XYZ project or something else?" 
  2. Offer solutions. "I'm happy to go back and rework those numbers and do more research. Can I have it to you by the end of the week?"
  3. Stay positive. "I'm always open to improving my work, so I'm glad you brought this to my attention."
  4. Stay proactive. "Can we meet next week so I can briefly update you on the changes and make sure they're in line with what you want?"
  5. Engage. The last thing you want to do with a boss who has blindsided you like this is stick around and talk to her. But this is when it's really important to make a connection with her in a non-adversarial way. Relax your body language, look her directly in the eye and make sure you're not raising your voice. If she sees you're listening and not lashing back, she's likely to calm down and perhaps have a more constructive conversation.
Finally, to avoid blindsides in the future, initiate more feedback from her. After a presentation, you can ask: "I felt good about that, but I'd like to get your feedback on whether you think there was too much data for the clients. What do you think?"

The more you initiate good communication and substantive feedback, the better the chances you'll reduce blindsides that can derail your career.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Why Voodoo May Be the Secret to a Happier Career

There is no shortage of advice on this site and many others that tries to help you have a better career, enjoy your job more or just cope with your irksome colleagues.

But some days at work are just tough to cope with, and I feel your frustration. That's why for times when it seems nothing is making you feel better, I recommend a voodoo doll.

A study of U.S. and Canadian workers finds that when workers are allowed to use "symbolic retaliation" when they feel mistreated at work, it cut their feelings of injustice by a third.

While revenge on a real person doesn't make sense in a civilized workplace, sticking a voodoo doll (that resembles your horrible boss) or even throwing darts at his photo can help you feel better, researchers say.

"Symbolically retaliating against an abusive boss can benefit employees psychologically by allowing them to restore their sense of justice in the workplace," says Dr. Lindie Liang, assistant professor of Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University.

The conclusion: Sticking a boss symbol full of holes not only feels good to you as an individual worker, but may also benefit your entire organization because you may perform better and feel better.

Pins, anyone?