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?

Monday, September 24, 2018

How to Make All the Right Moves in Any Job

No one sets out to fail in a job, but it can happen if you don’t take some time to establish good habits from your first day in a new position. Whether it’s your first job or your fifth, there are ways to ensure that your career stays on track and you don’t do things that annoy the boss and your colleagues. If you want to know how to succeed in your career, then you need to:

1. Be proactive

Don’t sit in your cubicle or workstation and never emerge unless it’s for a bathroom break or to leave for the day. Opportunities won’t find you there – you need to get to know people in your department and throughout the organization. By looking for opportunities and connections to further your skills (read more here)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

These Are the Really Dumb Things to Avoid in a Job Interview

It’s not unusual to be a bit nervous for a job interview. It’s also not unusual to worry that you might say something dumb. But do you plan to ask the hiring manager the location of the nearest bar? Or why the hiring manager’s aura doesn’t like you? A CareerBuilder survey from 2017 found that these were some of the questions asked by job candidates, so you might be breathing a little easier, knowing that you could never ask anything that unprofessional.
Still, there are some questions you never want to ask in the early stages of the interviewing process – don’t even think about how to ask how much a job pays. To avoid making that mistake and other goofs that will turn off an employer, here are queries that you should avoid:

1. “How much does the job pay?”

It’s not that you can never, ever ask how much a job pays, it’s just that it’s considered a no-no in the initial interview phase. It’s sort of like when (read more here)

Monday, September 17, 2018

Get Rid of "Good Job" and Say This Instead

As a parent, I think I probably said "good job!" to my children at least five billion times. I don't think I exaggerate -- it was "good job!" for just about everything, from getting good grades to going potty.

In the workplace, it's also become the norm. But getting a "good job!" from the boss or a colleague can lose much of it's meaning, which is why I thought it might be helpful to provide some alternatives.

Here are some ways to say "good job" in a different way:

You’ve got it made!
You’re doing fine.
You’ve got your brain in gear today.
Good thinking.
That’s right!
That’s better.
Good going.
That’s good!
You are very good at that.
That was first class work.
That’s a real work of art.
Good work!
That’s the best ever.
Exactly right!
You did that very well.
Good remembering!
You’ve just about got it.
 You’ve got that down pat.
You are doing a good job!
That’s better than ever.
You certainly did well today.
That’s it!
Much better!
Keep it up!
Now you’ve figured it out.
Nice going.
You’re really improving.
I knew you could do it.
You are learning a lot.
Good going.
Not bad.
That’s great.
I’m impressed.
Keep working on it; you’re improving.
Congratulations, you got it right!
You must have been practicing.
Now you have it.
You did a lot of work today.
That’s it. You are learning fast.
I like that.
Good for you!
Way to go.
Couldn’t have done it better myself.
Now that’s what I call a fine job.
You’ve just about mastered that.
You’ve got the hang of it!
That’s an interesting way of looking at it.
One more time and you’ll have it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Don't Wait: 8 Reasons to Leave Your Job Now

I've often written about how to get a job. But now, I'm going to write about how to leave a job.

With unemployment below 4%, there's never been a better time to say good-bye to a job that has cost you sleep, sanity and family relationships. It's time to give your two-weeks notice to the boss who is stingy with praise, passive-aggressive with feedback and uses pay raises as a chance to pile on more work.

Say farewell to the colleagues who reheat fish in the microwave, steal your stapler and troll you on Slack.

Not sure whether you should leave your job or not? It can be tough to decide that you've had enough, especially when you learned to put up with so much crap in the crappy job market of the last decade. You may be thinking you'll keep this job while you can start your own company on the side, or perhaps it's better to know the devil you do than the devil you don't.....blah, blah, blah.

But I'm here to tell you that bosses who treat you badly will not see the light one day and start being nice. The company culture that makes a dictatorship look like kiddie daycare doesn't become zen-like anytime soon. The commute that lasts 10 minutes longer each month will not miraculously become shorter (unless you figure out a human pneumonic tube).

So, let's go through a short list of why you should quit your job. If you want a longer list, take your best friends to the nearest pub where they will come up with a much longer list, filled with items like "The carpet smells funny" and "There's no Jacuzzi in the men's bathroom."

Leave your job if:

  • You are back from vacation for two weeks and still cry every day that you have to go into work, or at least feel like punching the wall every single day.
  • The minute your boss opens his/her mouth, you feel like someone just ran over Mr. Boopsie, your childhood bunny. 
  • Every Sunday night you break into hives, develop a migraine, get a stomachache or otherwise feel like the bottom of a garbage disposal at the thought of going to work in less than 12 hours.
  • You don't care about the job or what you do. Whether it's making tin cans or doing brain transplants, you can't summon up even an iota of enthusiasm.
  • The company makes your skin crawl. You don't like the leaders, what the company does or its values. You don't like even telling your Nana where you work, let alone your friends.
  • You hate the sound of your own voice, because all it does is whine about the job, the company, colleagues and your boss. 
  • You could be more productive, but you are not. You might think about why, but it's too much trouble and you'd rather read about what Meghan Markle wore to the latest polo match.
  • You're miserable to be around. You argue with everyone, including the dog. The next time you find yourself sniping at a friend or family member about the best place to put the TV remote, you know it's time to get your resume together.
Face it: You know when it's time to go. Why hang on to a job that someone else can do and may really love? It's time to leave and find something that makes you -- and all the people in your life -- much happier. 

How to Get Credit for Your Ideas

Have you ever had someone steal your idea?

If you've been in the workplace for any amount of time, the answer may be "yes."

But as Daniel Solis points out, there really isn't a way to steal an idea, because someone else has probably thought of it first.

The world of work is rapidly changing, and ideas often are zipping around the workplace like a squirrel after drinking a case of Mountain Dew. There are bound to be ideas that sound similar, so it's easy to believe that Marty or Janet stole your idea.

What's important is that you don't stew in your own juices and a)pout about it like a 2-year-old denied a cookie b) cry or whine to your co-workers c) get angry and vow never to propose anything ever again. Ever. Again.

Those strategies will only damage your career, and eventually everyone will see you about as relevant as a rotary telephone.

So how can you pitch an idea and make sure everyone knows it came from you first? (Or at least you're the first to propose it in your company or department.)

Here are some ideas:

  • Stand tall. If you propose an idea in a meeting, make sure you don't drop it like a dead rat and then scurry away. Solicit feedback such as "Does anyone have any problem with what I've proposed? I'd like to start on it right away." This shows you're ready to stand behind your idea and hear any objections -- or supportive comments. It forces others to acknowledge your idea.
  • Don't fade into the woodwork. Sometimes days or weeks may go by without much fanfare about your idea, and then a colleague proposes nearly the same thing you did -- and it's greeted like the greatest idea since the light bulb. Respond with, "I'm so glad you were able to build on my idea from several weeks ago." Then, jump in with some comments such as "When I was researching this idea months ago, I found that younger customers will respond the best to such a marketing tactic."
  • Follow up. When you've proposed an idea in a meeting -- or even to a boss in the elevator -- then follow up with the idea in writing so that there's a clear record of when you proposed it. This helps remind everyone where the idea came from, and a clearly dated document can keep anyone from later crowding you out when you clearly initiated the idea.
Finally, never rest on your laurels. Always keep pitching ideas, even though some may never get far. Organizations today are under intense competitive pressure, and companies like Amazon and Google have shown that there is no such thing as a crazy idea -- just employers who are crazy to ignore any idea. As long as you keep your creative juices flowing, your career will be headed in the right direction.

This post ran earlier.

Monday, September 10, 2018

What You're Getting Wrong When You Apologize

Today, social media is sure to blast the news far and wide when a top leader makes a mistake, whether the person is in the private sector or public life.

Recently, a discussion  about leaders who benefit from showing genuine remorse when things go wrong prompted me to think about how we can all learn from such a situation.

I'm not saying you have to apologize on Twitter or post a remorseful 600-word apology on Facebook when you screw up at work. That doesn't make sense since no one is Wichita is really going to care that you forgot the charts for a presentation at your company in Seattle.

The key is not just making an apology, but an honest apology. You would think that the distinction doesn't need to be made, but we all have had experience with that person who offers a flip "I'm sorry!" and then blithely goes on his or her way. Or, the sarcastic, "Well, excuse me for being human!" that doesn't help at all.

Too often, leaders think that apologizing shows weakness and that erroneous assumption trickles down to their employees. Workers are afraid to apologize to their colleagues or their managers, and vice versa. That only causes resentment, and can impact a team's ability to function.

If you've done something wrong that has hurt another person or the business, you need to:

  • Apologize to the right person. Making a blanket "sorry!" doesn't make anyone feel better. If your actions, for example, caused someone else to have to work the weekend to make up for your failing, then apologize directly to that person.
  • Acknowledge the damage. "I'm sorry I didn't finish my part of the report and you had to work over the weekend. I'm sure you had other things you wanted to do."
  • Offer a solution. When you've made a mistake, it's critical -- especially if you're apologizing to your boss -- that you take steps to fix the problem. "I didn't have my report done because I was waiting on information from shipping. I have an appointment set up with the supervisor there and we're going to come up with a plan for communicating better so there won't be delays in the future," you say.
  • Ask for suggestions. If you can't come up with a way to make things better, simply ask, "What can I do to make this up to you?"
  • Don't be sneaky. If there's more bad news to come because of your screw-up, such as a client threatening to go somewhere else, then you need to get that out in the open. Bosses, especially, don't like to be blindsided by such information. "I understand our client is upset and I've already set up a call for this afternoon. I'll give you a full report when I'm done," you offer.
Things move really quickly these days, which means you can't delay when offering an apology. Act as quickly as possible, and always make your apology in person or via phone if possible. While it can be difficult to admit your failure, it's much easier to deal with it quickly and professionally and move on to showing you can provide real value to your boss, your colleagues and your company.

This post ran earlier.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

How to Help Your Boss See You as a Rising Star

Many young workers come to a conclusion that's often hard to swallow: Working hard doesn't mean you get ahead.

Just because you show up on time, meet all your deadlines and don't gossip, well, that's not enough to get a bigger paycheck or title. In fact, you may wonder why the dunderhead in the cubicle next to you got a supervisory role, when you know more and do more.

But here's the thing: Dunderhead is working smarter. He knows that it's not enough to want the new title and new office -- he's let it be known that he does. He's mentioned it in his yearly review, talked about it when he and the boss had coffee (Dunderhead had coffee with the boss???) and asked what he needed to do to get on track for that management role.

And you? Well, you sat at your little workstation and just figured that someone had to know how hard you worked. Right?

The biggest mistake young workers make is thinking that their accomplishments -- no matter how big or small -- will garner them rewards. Nope. It doesn't work that way. What garners you the bigger gains in your career is being strategic -- like a coach plotting out the game-winning plan.

Sit down and figure out:

  • Your strengths and weaknesses. These don't come just from you -- take a hard look at what past performance evaluations have noted and the feedback you get from bosses and colleagues. Go through your emails or texts -- is there a familiar compliment such as "Your work is always so thorough" or a complaint such as "your writing is unclear"? Find ways to improve your deficiencies, such as through online classes, seminars or even going back to school. Instead of a vacation this year to Tahiti, use that money to invest in yourself and your future by earning a new certification or more education that is valued by your company.
  • Weigh in. The next time a new worker needs help or your colleague is stuck (again) when using the new software, pitch in. This time, however, make sure that others know about it -- tell your boss you enjoy being a mentor and would be happy to help others, or offer to write up a short cheat sheet for others to follow when they get lost using the new software. You don't want to take on too much extra work, but you want to be able to show your expertise.
  • Keep a log. Sort of like Captain Kirk on Star Trek, you need to keep a record of daily happenings or you'll forget -- and so will your boss. Make note of when make the company money or save it money. For example, if you solve a customer complaint that results in new sales or figure out a cheaper way to ship items, then those are the kinds of things you need to make sure your boss knows about. Being able to demonstrate your contribution if one of the best ways to climb the ladder of any career.