Wednesday, February 27, 2019

3 Ways to Feel Better About Failure

I'm not sure I know many people who get up every morning and say, "Gee, I can't wait to fail today!"

Fail. Failure. Failing. Any of those words are drilled into us from childhood to avoid. No teacher or parent wants us to fail. We don't want to fail in front of friends or coworkers.

So it makes sense that when we fail, we feel terrible.

But what if we could feel good about failure -- or at least better? Could feeling better about failure mean that we are less likely to dwell on thoughts that get us nowhere? Could failing become something that energizes us instead of depresses us?

Here's some things to consider about failing:

1. What did you learn? I remember the time I climbed up on the bed to hang curtains, forgetting that the ceiling fan was on. Yep. The ceiling fan clipped me in the head and I did an Olympic-caliber flip off the bed. Sure, I had a headache, but I also learned from it (always check whether the fan is on before climbing on a bed to hang curtains). Sounds obvious, but sometimes we do the dumbest thing at work that we need to stop doing. Or, it can be a much bigger lesson about trusting the wrong person or not listening to our gut. If you frame failure in terms of it being a teaching tool, you're more likely to see it in positive terms.

2. Take baby steps. If you are taking on something that is out of the norm for you or something you consider risky, don't feel you have to jump in with both feet. For example, if you want to start your own business, try to keep your regular job (with health benefits, ahem) while you test the waters and try out your idea. If you're trying to change positions within your company, build a safety net with mentors and cross-departmental training. If you fail at your new venture, you haven't risked everything and can make some adjustments to boost your chances of success. Failure then becomes a minor setback as opposed to a colossal screw-up.

3. Ask questions. This can be one of the most difficult steps, because many people find it hard to ask others why something failed. Look at it this way: If you went to a restaurant and vowed never to go back because you had a snotty waitress who got your order wrong, don't you think it would be helpful for the restaurant manager to know that? Or, should the manager just "guess" at what was wrong and come to the conclusion that the menu needed to be changed. That doesn't make sense, and it also doesn't make sense to "guess" why you failed. Try to get some specific feedback on what went wrong so that you can better understand how to fix the problem and succeed in the future.

Monday, February 25, 2019

3 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Everyone has heard the expression "work smarter, not harder."

If you're like me, that's often easier said than done. When you're under pressure from your boss, or you're trying to juggle multiple projects, you might forget all about such advice, and find yourself working 12-hour days.

Of course, you're not really clear about what you're getting done -- but you did answer 100 emails, send 100 emails and create a paperwork blizzard on your desk. Yes, indeedy! Your boss will be impressed with your productivity, right?

Wrong. Your boss is wondering why you are working so many hours, seem to be buried under paper and still haven't made progress on that key project.

Here's where you need to stop and repeat after me: Work smarter. Not harder.

Let's look at some ways to do that before your paperwork buries you like a late-season snowstorm:

1. The boss's goals are your goals. Sure, you'd like to answer emails and send emails, but is that what your boss wants done? The best way to work smart is to always say to yourself: "What is the boss's priority? Am I working on that?" Only when you've got the boss's goals taken care of can you move onto something else.

2. Clearly communicate. If someone comes to you and wants your help, clearly state why you can or cannot help. "I can help you tomorrow if I get the boss's request done. There is the chance she'll ask me to do something else, and that takes priority. If you want to wait, I'm happy to let you know when I'm done." No one is going to argue with that reasoning, and it clearly shows why you can't jump to another task. If the boss comes to you with another request (or several), get a clear indication from her about how she would like your energies directed -- the task she wants done first, second, third, etc.

3. Be intentional. If using Facebook or Twitter or Instagram isn't a part of your job, don't even look at it during work hours. Save it for break times, and then only allot a certain amount of time. You're really better off recharging your batteries -- and working smarter -- if you use your break times to take a walk or eat something nutritious. When you set parameters about how to use your time during work hours, you will stay in your lane and stop drifting to "busy" work or tasks not related to the job at hand.

You may believe that you are a good worker because you're always busy, busy, busy! But if you're hiding behind meaningless work, the boss will not see you as a valuable member of her team. Only when you're directly contributing to helping her meet her goals and contributing to the success of the organization will you truly be working smart.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

4 Steps to Being Happier

When my children were babies, I knew exactly what I would do if I won the lottery: Hire a nighttime nanny.

That's because my kids couldn't seem to get the hang of sleeping through the night, and I was beyond exhausted. I could have tried out for the "Walking Dead" and won a part based on how I felt -- and how I looked.

Things got a bit easier once my kids decided to start sleeping, but that led to a host of other stresses as they grew: baseball and music practice, school projects, friends' birthday parties, etc. At the same time, my career was becoming busier and busier and I was taking on bigger projects.

That led to a bad spate of insomnia as I struggled with thoughts of schedules and science projects and work commitments. It was a tough time, and not the first or the last of tough times trying to figure out a personal life and a career. There just felt like there weren't enough hours in the day to get it all done.

That's why research from Ashley Whillans at Harvard University really struck a chord with me: Having enough time, or "time affluence" is now at a record low in this country -- and we're really in a "famine" when it comes to effectively managing our time.

But here's the surprise: Despite the perception that people today work longer hours, the data shows that most of us have more discretionary time than ever before.

What Whillans and her team have discovered is that we spend our time trying to get money -- taking on bigger jobs for more money. We believe that money will make us happier in the long run.


It turns out that the happiest people use their money to buy time. Whether it's working fewer hours or paying someone else to do disliked tasks, we experience more fulfilling relationships and careers when we use our money to buy time.

But even Whillans admits that making better choices for our happiness isn't easy. Sending emails while on the beach, making phone calls during a commute and giving up exercise time to talk to a colleague all sabotage her efforts.

Still, she says there are ways to shift such a mindset. Among her suggestions:

1. Forget spontaneity. Our brains don't like it, and it leads you to check your email instead of going our with friends. So, plan ahead. Plan what you want to do on your weekend or after work and then stick to it.

2. Get moving. Try to build in activities that require you to be physically active, whether it's volunteering at a food bank or walking the dog. Research shows you'll be happier if you engage in more active, rather than passive, activities.

3. Enjoy a meal. Don't eat in front of the television or the computer. Savor your food -- enjoying your food reduces your stress.

4. Be open. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone in line as research shows that casual social interactions with strangers "significantly boosts happiness," she says. At the same time, volunteering also increases your happiness and makes you feel like you have more time.

Monday, February 18, 2019

This is What You Need to Do to Change Industries Successfully

More people are expected to test the job waters this year as more than 12,500 U.S. employers are looking for new workers and unemployment remains low. This comes as good news for workers who are ready to take the leap to a new job or industry, including those federal workers who are looking for steadier paychecks after government shutdown uncertainty.
Still, those seeking to change industries in their job search will need a strategy to overcome blockades. Computers may weed them out in an initial screening, and employers may be wary of hiring an industry newbie.
That’s why it’s key to craft your resume and cover letter in a way that highlights transferable skills. Here are some things (see more here)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

3 Ways to Handle a Negative Coworker

It seems like everywhere I turn, someone is always talking or writing about "times like these." Usually, it's not "times like these are so great." It's usually something like, "Times like these are so horrible."

For a lot of people, this negative outlook on life becomes a big problem and they carry it like a heavy backpack with them wherever they go. They sigh when they sit down in a meeting. They mutter under their breath when others are talking about new ideas. They rarely contribute anything to discussions unless it's a criticism or complaint.

Eventually, you realize that this colleague's negative behavior is getting to you. Perhaps you even worry that her negativity is starting to rub off on you.

What can you do?

First, realize that you're not helpless -- do not start to believe that the negative colleague is in control. You are, and there are things you can do. Among them:

1. Study her. What makes her so hateful? Are there certain times that she's more negative than others? When you take the more "scientific" attitude to studying her, then you become less emotionally invested in what she does. Think of it as getting an inside look at what NOT to do.

2.  Stay calm. One of the reasons you're so upset with the negative behavior is because you know that it's having an impact on you. You think about the negativity at night, making it difficult to fall asleep. You know it's making you so tense that you are becoming more frustrated driving home after work, and worry you're developing road rage. Enough. It's time to disconnect from her bad behavior. Don't engage with her and try to find the "bright side" of life when she's being negative. Don't argue her point of view. "I guess we'll have to agree to disagree" can be your mantra when she tries to drag you down with her.

3. Start walking. You can't always walk away from a negative coworker, such as when you're in a meeting or she's working with you on a project. But once you're done interacting with her in a professional capacity, don't be hesitant about walking away. If you don't want to be rude, tell her you've got to return a phone call, meet with someone else, etc. But the physical act of walking away will help alleviate the emotional stress of dealing with her, and the physical activity will help lower your blood pressure and restore you equilibrium.

Finally, if you suspect your coworker's negativity may be related to depression or some other mental illness, go to your boss or human resources to relate your concerns. They are equipped to handle such an assessment better than you.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Research Shows the Secret to Influencing Social Change at Your Company

Do you care about social issues like protecting the environment or curbing poverty? Would you like to see your employer get more involved in such issues?

If so, you might want to pay attention to research that shows you might be more successful in getting a company on board if you frame the issue to fit the company's values and mission.

"Our findings suggest that this approach works because it elicits feelings of anticipated guilt and motivates managers to devote resources and promote issues that benefit society," says David Mayer, a University of Michigan professor and one of the researchers.

In other words, you may want to see your company practice more sustainable practices to help the environment, but the best way to get your manager on board is to connect that sustainability to your company's business and its stated values in a "moral" type of message.

However, don't just try and get a manager to support your issue with only economic language or moral language. Researchers say this strategy isn't always as successful as connecting morality and the business values.

Mayer says that the research clearly shows that even lower level employees can be successful in trying to bring about change for social issues in their companies, which can provide "inspiration in their future that they can be influential within their organizations."

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Research Shows What Can Help You Survive a Toxic Boss

If you have a horrible boss, you know that each day seems to get longer and longer, it gets harder and harder to get out of bed and you start to develop physical ailments like headaches and stomachaches.

You know deep down that you will get past this, and someday you may even look back on this period and laugh about it (or maybe not). But in the meantime, you've got to find a way to somehow survive the bad boss.

The results of a new study might help. Researchers say that when you've been mistreated by a toxic boss, you are more likely to show ethical behavior when you become a leader. When you have an abusive boss, you "distance" yourself from them and are less likely to be abusive to your own team members, they say.

"This suggests the cycle of abuse isn't inevitable in organizations, just as developmental psychology research shows that abusive parenting does not always lead the next generation of parents to become offenders," researchers say.

At the same time, researchers recommend that if organizations want to stop bad leadership behavior and instead establish a culture of ethical leadership, then they must promote those who have strong "moral identities" and strengthen the moral identities of current managers. One way to do that, they suggest, is by ensuring that everyone is crystal clear on organizational and professional standards and making sure those rules are displayed in an office environment.

So, while you have to go to work today for your a**hole boss, try to console yourself with the fact that this bad experience is molding you into being a better leader one day, because you'll know what NOT to do when you become a boss.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Doing This Can Make Mondays a Whole Lot Better

It's estimated that some 14 million people will call in sick to work today because they can't manage to get out of their pajamas after watching the Super Bowl last night.

While such action (or inaction) costs employers about $2.6 billion in productivity losses, it does have a positive side: People obviously had a great time over the weekend. They probably didn't think much about work when they were enjoying the Doritos commercial or simply throwing Doritos while Maroon 5 performed.

Taking such mental breaks are important and we may need to build more "Super Bowl" weekends into our lives.

Specifically, a recent study finds that treating your weekend like a vacation can boost your happiness. Forget traveling to Punta Cana for a week -- just by being a bit more attentive to enjoyable things you do in a weekend (eating, sleeping, fewer chores) can make you happier on Monday.

Further, that happiness can carry throughout the week, the study shows.

By staying more in the moment, the study participants said they enjoyed themselves more even if they were doing tasks such as making breakfast.

One word of caution: These weekend vacations can't become a habit. The cognitive and emotional impact may be weakened if they become routine, so save the mental breaks for when you really need them, researchers say.

If you were able to give yourself a nice mental break with a Super Bowl party with friends or family -- or even your dog -- then why not do it more often? When things start to pile up for you at work and you start dreading Monday more than usual, it may be a sign that it's time to have a vacation weekend. Think of all the things you like to do on vacation (make pancakes, go for long walks, play games) and do them over the weekend. You may just find that Monday isn't so terrible after all.