Monday, November 29, 2021

How to Say "No" at Work

 Do you find it difficult to say "no"?

You may find it easy to say "no" to brussels sprouts, but much tougher to say "no" to a work colleague who seems to want your help with something that doesn't sound entirely ethical or may violate company policy. Or, what about the valuable customer who is pressuring you to do something you don't want to do?

These are tricky situations because you need to maintain relationships with these people, but also believe that "going along" doesn't feel right and could lead to problems for you.

Here are some ways to respond instead of outright saying "no" in workplace situations:

  • Be prepared. Chances are, you've known a colleague or a customer is leading up to something. You may not know specifically what the ask will be, but you have a pretty good idea. The person has probably been dropping hints to see your reaction, so it's a good idea to have a plan in place. Try writing out your response to why you may not want to say "yes" -- such as it violates your professional ethics, you don't want to lie or be less that completely honest or you think it could damage someone else.
  • Have other routes. Once you suspect that you're being pushed into something that doesn't feel right to you, then you need to be prepared with an alternative offer. It can lead to friction with the other person to just say "no" to a proposal, so make sure you've got some other ideas. Maybe you suggest moving the idea to the back burner until more data is gathered, or you include others in a meeting so that you're not pressured one-on-one. If you need an emergency exit, grab your phone and claim you just got a "911" call from home.
  • Ground yourself. Call on a trusted family member or friend, or reach out to a mentor to keep yourself from saying "yes" when you know you should say "no." Having ethical, steady voices throughout your career is critical, and are especially vital during such difficult times.

Monday, November 22, 2021

3 Keys to Developing a Successful Career

In an ideal world, a  boss recognizes your talents and helps you develop them so that your career blossoms.

But in the real world, bosses are stressed and overworked and may not have a lot of time to look out for your career. To be honest, some of them are jerks and could care less if you're reaching your goals.

That's why it's always a good idea to have a plan when it comes to developing your own career. You are the one who is ultimately responsible -- not your colleagues, your university professors or your boss. 


Let's look at some ways you can develop your own career:

1. Make investments. Every year, put aside some money for career development, whether it's to take an class, attend a seminar or attain a certification. With so much moving online, this can be less expensive than ever before, so don't miss your chance to add to your skills.

2. Make connections. Be  more intentional about your connections, whether online or in person. Try to expand your network into areas other than your field of expertise. For example, all businesses now depend on technology to be successful -- are there tech experts you could get to know through LinkedIn or conferences in your industry? While it might be intimidating at first, most people are very generous with their knowledge when you express a genuine interest and willingness to learn.

3. Stay updated. Even if you're satisfied in your current position, are you reading job descriptions for the job you want next? You should always be aware of shifting job emphasis, how your career goals might need to be tweaked or even spot warning signs that your industry is in trouble.

Always remember to be flexible when it comes to your career. While you can have a general timeline, the pandemic has shown all of us that flexibility and resiliency are critical. Be open to making lateral moves, or working in another industry if it ultimately will give you the skills you need. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

How to Get Off on the Right Foot When Starting a New Job

If you've just gotten a new job, congratulations! A lot of people are starting new positions, and that's something to celebrate.

But before you think you've got it made, remember that your "interview" process continues after you begin the job. While you may not sit across from a hiring manager and answer questions, you will still be under scrutiny in your first weeks and months in a new position.

This time, however, there are going to be more people watching what you do right -- and wrong. From co-workers to subordinates to bosses, you need to be prepared to make the right moves in order to garner trust and good working relationships.

Here are some ways to get off on the right foot:

1. Ask questions -- and write down the answers. It gets on everyone's nerves when the new kid asks the same questions over and over. Writing down the answer will show that you respect everyone's time. It's OK to go back to someone with a follow-up question, but always remember to write down that answer. 

2. Never assume anything. Make sure you know your working hours, where to park, which entrance to use, etc. It's also critical to make sure you fully understand any security or safety protocols, so make sure you have written confirmation or have been walked through those processes. If not, ask.

3. Be open. Greet each new person with a smile and graciously accept any offers of help. You don't want to appear inept, but you also don't want to brush off someone who wants to show you a process or share a resource. Remember the offer of help is more than that -- it's a way of establishing a friendly working relationship and that's critical. At the same time, accept lunch or after-work invitations in the beginning. You can slowly cut back once you've been there a while.

4. Don't hash over old grievances. Whether it's former co-workers or bosses, don't badmouth them. Not only is this unprofessional, it makes you look petty and childish -- and new co-workers will think you will do the same to them. In addition, it opens the door to gossips who believe you like to trash others (and being known as a gossip is never a good thing).

5. Have some mystery. You don't have to share every detail of your life with colleagues --even the nosy ones. It's OK to connect via LinkedIn, but if your Instagram or Facebook accounts have more private information, then don't feel pressured to connect with coworkers. It will take some time to establish trust with others at a new job, so don't feel rushed to do more.

Good working relationships are critical to career happiness, so just being polite, kind and respectful of others will go a long way to ensuring you get off on the right foot when starting a new job.

Monday, November 8, 2021

5 Questions to Ask in Your Job Interview

 I've never met anyone who takes a job and thinks: "I'm going to quit this job in 90 days and start the job hunting process all over again."

So why do so many people find themselves quitting a job after less than a year? 

I think a big part of the problem is that job seekers don't ask enough questions during the interview process. They hear some general idea about what they'll be doing, their salary and company benefits and don't ask any questions. As long as there isn't a big red flag, they'll accept the job if it meets their needs.

Then, as time goes on, they start to see those red flags pop up. There's high turnover. No chance for promotion. No one is allowed to offer feedback.

That's the kind of workplace culture that can lead to disengagement and even burnout. It's the kind of culture that can lead you to regret taking a job and immediately begin thinking of how to leave.

To save yourself the hassle of job shopping too soon, here are some questions to ask during the interview process:

1. Why did the last person in this position leave? If he or she got a promotion, great! That means the job has potential. If it's a new position, then ask: "What kind of career path do you see for someone in this job?" You want to make sure it's a position with potential, not a dead end.

2. How is performance measured? Are there formal reviews? Who determines the performance targets? If targets are exceeded -- or fall short --  what happens?

3. How is feedback given? Feedback given only during the annual review process isn't helpful because it only reviews things that have already happened. To grow in your career, you need in-the-moment feedback so that you continue to learn. If a manager is only willing to provide yearly feedback, then the boss isn't invested in you succeeding.

4. Is there a mentorship program? Companies and employees benefit from mentorship programs, and help grow future leaders.

5. What does the company do to support work/life balance? There is no company that hasn't had to address this question since the pandemic began. There should be some structures in place to ensure workers have balance, whether it's a hybrid work arrangement, stable schedules or paid time off to handle personal needs.

With employers desperate to fill positions, now is the time to ask these questions (and more of your own) to ensure a new job will be a good fit. Don't waste your time on employers that are evasive or have policies that fall far short of what you need to ensure a satisfying job.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Why Some Promotions Can Be a Bad Idea

It happens all the time: A great employee receives a promotion and then, for some reason, begins to falter months or years into the new job.

The boss may be confused as to why this once great worker seems to be failing. Unfortunately, sometimes these problems lead to this employee leaving the company or being nudged out.

What happened? Did the employee get complacent? Get in over his or her head? 

The reasons may not be the employee's fault, but that of the boss who promoted him or her.

Some executives say that one of the problems with promotions is that bosses never stop to ask the employee if he or she even wants the promotion. What if that person is perfectly happy and motivated in the current position? What if the new job is seen as a reward by the boss but actually turns out to be a punishment?

Most of us wouldn't turn down a promotion. To do so might anger the boss and be career suicide. It might mean that another promotion never comes along at that company, and compensation won't ever increase according to an employee's value to that organization.

These executives suggest that bosses need to:

1. Ask "Do you really want the job?"

2. Outline a true picture of what the job entails -- the good, the bad and the ugly.

3. Assess whether the employee's personality really matches with the job -- or it's a way to simply fill a position with a known quantity.

4. Assure the person that if the promotion isn't a good fit, other opportunities will come along. Or, come up with other ways to reward a great employee, such as monetary rewards or great projects.