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.