Monday

Effectively Managing Personal Issues at Work


Everyone goes through personal issues of some sort during their lives. Let's face it, when major family/personal issues arise, your time and energy is going to be focused on resolving these difficulties.

You're not a machine, you're human, so accept the realities as they are and don't bristle against them. Beating yourself up will accomplish nothing except low self-esteem something that will only add to already difficult circumstances. Accept the fact that you won't be at your best in the office during this time. Instead of taking the approach to "keep a stiff upper lip", try sharing with people around you. Let them in on the personal issues you're experiencing. Give them an understanding that your situation will require your absence from the office or will take up a lot of your time. Of course there's no need to share specifics unless you want to. Sometimes when you let others know the circumstances, it negates gossip and sets your co-workers' expectations properly. It also allows them to be more understanding and provide a way to reach out and offer help.

Some people prefer to "work through" a crisis and others may benefit from taking some time off or taking an unscheduled vacation. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to consider taking a sabbatical. Often we think we are handling things jut fine, but we really aren't.

Many years ago I was dealing with an issue that involved one of my children. It was a difficult and very challenging time for me and the rest of my family. A few close friends knew, but I felt that I couldn't or shouldn't let others know, and besides, I was handling it, right? Then one day, a client told me she thought I wasn't interested in her as a client anymore. When I asked why, she confided that I seemed distracted when we met and that I didn't send her emails or respond to her as I had in the past. I realized that while I thought I had myself under control, I didn't. I would have benefited from some time off, so I could focus on what needed handling without having to pretend' everything was all right while I was at work.

During this difficult time, size up your work load and priorities. Focus on what must be done and let everything else go. Make a point of reminding yourself that you can't do it all and only the things that absolutely must be done will get attention.

Be kind to yourself, ask for help from others and accept it graciously. For some reason, most people are hesitant or embarrassed about asking for help. It is during these times that we need others the most, so don't deprive yourself during these difficult times. And remember to take time for yourself. Going through a trying time will wear on you emotionally and physically, so take time to go to the gym, play golf, read a book or take a long, relaxing bath.

If you take care of yourself, you are better able to take of the personal issues in your life. Learn to embrace all facets of life. The cycles of personal problems and personal successes will flow and ebb and you will need to learn to flow along with them. Being kind to yourself is the first step.

Linda Finkle is a leading expert on organizational communication strategies and human potential development. As CEO of her executive coaching firm, INCEDO GROUP, Linda has helped countless leaders build internal communication and conflict resolution strategies. She brings about changes in attitude and leadership style that yield dramatic results. Company profitability is an inevitable side effect. Learn more at =>http://www.IncedoGroup.com

How to Manage Life at Work in a Job You Hate


When you realize that the average American spends over two thousand hours per year at work, almost half of their total waking time in a year, it quickly becomes clear how much of an impact your life at work can have on your life in general. Knowing how to make the most out of your life at work can greatly improve your quality of life, and at no time is this more important than when you're working in a job you dislike.

First, be friendly. Chances are, at least one other person is as unhappy with their job as you are with yours, so that can be a point of bonding. Or you may find that you share outside interests with others at work. Either way, you should always be cordial and pleasant to your co-workers, because nothing can make your work life less miserable like having someone to share it with.
A corollary of being friendly is never, ever talking about your co-workers or boss behind their backs, even though it is extremely tempting to vent when you're in a job you hate. Although participating in the office grapevine may initially ingratiate you to your co-workers, there truly is no quicker way to get burned. In the politics of life at work, what goes around inevitably comes around.

However, don't be too friendly. You were hired to work, not chat, play fantasy football, or forward e-mails, and your boss can make your work life much more unpleasant if they find out that you're slacking. Not being overly friendly is also an good way to protect yourself from scheming or sticky-fingered co-workers. You need to set boundaries, and likewise respect the boundaries that your co-workers set for you. This is an integral step for keeping yourself sane in your life at work, and lets others know that you are not a good person to "borrow" supplies from, or an easy mark for backstabbing.

Finally, in order to keep your life at work from ruining your life outside work when you're in a job you hate, find ways to make the most of your non-work time. If you come home and crash on the couch every day after work, the highlight of the non-work portion of your day becomes a TV show or a bag of chips, which is not only physically and psychologically unhealthy, but can make you feel even more miserable when you are actually at work. By giving yourself something to look forward to -- say, a post-work bike ride or home facial -- you can actually make your work time go by more quickly.

Spending most of your waking hours in a job you hate can be a nightmare, but is sometimes unavoidable. Whether it's gossipy co-workers, unpleasant bosses, or simply a boring job, a bad work life can quickly put a damper on the rest of your time. However, by following a few simple steps, you can keep your work life from making you miserable.

Feeling down at work and thinking you need a new career? It is possible! There are opportunities for every person, even if they don't have much time or money for college.

By Jade Knight

Dating in the Workplace - Be Careful When Considering Such a Relationship



Given how much time the majority of us spend at work these days, it is hardly surprising that many relationships blossom there. While some people disapprove of dating in the workplace, preferring to keep their work and personal lives separate, dating a co-worker can also add a little excitement to your working week. Before you decide to start dating someone you work with however you should consider a few factors.

Some companies discourage the practice of dating within the workplace and it is important to check out your company's regulations regarding this before you leap into a passionate relationship with the top sales executive. The more strict company policies regarding dating may require you to notify human resources or even to transfer to a new position before embarking on the relationship.

If the object of your attraction is your secretary or another subordinate, you need to proceed very carefully. Dating someone who reports to you directly or is dependent on you for possible promotion can be particularly complicated and may cause frictions within the workplace. Other jealous staff members might be tempted to accuse you of offering your date a promotion in return for certain sexual favours; accusations that could prove seriously damaging to your career.

It is much easier dating someone from a different department or floor to your own as this will tend to have less impact on the atmosphere within the workplace. Not only are you free from the possibility of any accusations or tensions developing as a result of you and your co-worker dating, you will also be able to maintain a little more distance at work and keep a sensible separation between your office and your love life. It also means that, should you break up, you will not have to see that person every single day which can be difficult when feelings have been hurt.

If your dating experience goes well and starts to develop into a more intimate relationship it might be tempting to express your love in public. This is not recommended and could harm your professional image, as well as encouraging gossip within the office. Similarly, fights or arguments should be left at home and not brought into work. Any kind of in-fighting spoils the atmosphere and has a negative effect on productivity.

Even if your company has no official policy about dating in the workplace, it is still important to exercise some common sense. If your personal relationship starts to impact on your work or the productivity of your department as a whole, this presents the company with every reason to introduce stringent rules in the future.

It is also recommended that you inform your manager about your relationship with a co-worker. This can both protect you and can also protect the company from any future allegations about sexual misconduct within the workplace. As with dating in any context, be sensitive to how your intimacy is making other people feel and be professional about your relationship and the possible effects it can have within the workplace.

Jan Boulton enjoys writing articles on a wide range of topics.

Wednesday

Business Transformation - 8 Proven Tips to Help Transform Your Business Quickly


I had just gotten the CEO position. I wasn't completely sure of the story behind the company problems. The company was bleeding red ink, and we didn't have a lot of time to make changes. During the interview process board members asked how long the turnaround would take? What would I do? All were interesting questions, and perhaps legitimate from their perspective. But I'm not wired that way. Rush to judgment with an extreme makeover would be like a surgeon deciding to remove the patients lungs without a thorough diagnosis. The principle is the same when leading the turnaround of a company or any significant change.

Extreme makeovers are metaphorically like a heart transplant. Organizations are living organisms. They are made up of humans who evolve, adjust and grow.

Extreme makeovers are like New Year's resolutions. Easy to make, hard to sustain, seldom successful.

Here are the steps we followed and turned the company around in 2 years.

1. Do your own research. Organizations which are struggling have a thousand critics and an equal number who feel they have the right solution. From owners, other employees, regulators, customers. All have different perspectives. As the CEO, your duty is to do your own research as to what is going on. The first step is to sort out the noise.

2. Be vulnerable as you research. Set aside your ego, your title, and any arrogance. Be vulnerable if you want people to be open with you. You will be a welcome surprise to most employees if the culture had been top down, secretive, and had leadership silos.

3. Be absolutely clear what you stand for. Clarity is conviction to your core values and the courage to live by those values as they are tested. Some leaders get their opportunity to lead because of the culture or politics. An unhealthy culture or politically driven leadership will prevent you from doing your own best research. This was my first test. All you need is the courage to live your core values. Magic begins, when you are open and vulnerable. People begin to trust and hope replaces despair.

4. Search for truth. Your diagnosis will be one of the key leadership decision's of your legacy. Get it right from the beginning. If your diagnosis is wrong because short cut research, you may cause more damage and slow the recovery. If your diagnosis is wrong because of an honest error in cause and effect, you will likely have time to adjust. Seeking truth is difficult as people run for the hills in tough times. This is an important time to gain personal clarity of your own purpose.

5. Find individuals with similar core values. Those who share your beliefs and want to run with you. All may not run at your pace, if you are impatient. But find people in your organization who are on the same page as you. In our turnaround, we found mid level managers shared the same values, beliefs and personal drive to turn the organization around. They were from different generations, different styles-some introvert, some extrovert, women proved most courageous and clear. You may have all the right people in the organization now. Maybe the old culture was unhealthy and stifled the values you expect.

6. Decide the top 3 business focus areas. Once you've assessed and diagnosed what is going on...decide the top 3 or 4 critical business measures you want everyone in the organization to focus on. It must be on their minds daily, in your conversations, measured, monitored, celebrated. Regulators, owners, employees, and a host of others might see 100 different focus areas. You can't turn the ship around with chaos. One hundred different focus areas means chaos.

7. Decide the top 3 cultural focus areas. This is the soft stuff, the ecological stuff, the feeling stuff. And the things which probably were ignored in the past.

8. Engage everyone. Think of your job as getting 1000 voices to sing on the same song sheet. Sing the same song, with the same rhythm, same verses, same crescendo. Business transformation works when the majority are on the same page, singing the same song, anticipating the next verse. The song really should be the story of your organization.

These steps may sound too simple to transform a business quickly. But follow it, it works and you will see sustainable results.

Monday

Help! I Hate My Boss


Getting Along with the Boss: Build the Relationship at Work that Matters Most to Your Career
Find me someone who has ever held a job, and I'll find you someone who's hated his boss. Call it karma, feng shui, or just the way of the world, but everyone seems to have had a boss they've disliked. Really disliked. Even bosses have hated their bosses.

Why the hate? For starters, as you've read thus far, the little things can get in the way of love. I, for one, find it hard to love the boss who clips his toenails in his office, as was the case with boss #3. Call me crazy, but I still harbor the slightest bit of ill will for the supervisor who returned a draft of a memo I had been working on with "I don't get this" written in large, red letters across the top.

Despite these cruel injustices, it doesn't serve me - or you, dear reader - very well to sit around, be cranky, and stew in our own juices. Hopefully, you're working with a manager or supervisor who is enlightened and a joy to be around, or maybe your boss is less than perfect. Perhaps you don't have a boss yet, but want to make sure you start off on the right foot when you do. Whatever the case, this is going to be one of the most important work relationships you'll have, and you'll want to do everything you can to make this relationship work. It doesn't mean you two have to be best friends, but like it or not, your boss holds the keys to your career, at least for the time being. Unless you want to ride shotgun for the rest of the ride, you're going to want to figure out how to love the one you're with.

The Micromanager
How to Spot Him: It's not tough. He's the guy breathing down your neck, looking over your shoulder, and calling you every three minutes to check on how things are progressing with the report you're working on. Micromanagers have a hard time giving up control and have you on a very short leash. Plus, they drive you completely nuts.

How to Manage the Micromanager: Consider his perspective - as your manager, his butt is on the line with everything you do. When you screw up, it's more work for him, and he isn't sure he can trust you to get things right. Perhaps he was burned in the past by a former employee and just isn't willing to take chances on letting you work solo. Or, maybe he's a control freak who won't let go, or thinks nobody can do the job but him.

Try this: Think of your micromanager as a strict, overprotective mom who worries about everything, and who feels much better when she knows exactly what is going on at all times. Send daily updates, weekly reports, detailed voice mails - whatever it takes to keep her very, very informed. If you smell the faintest whiff of a problem in the air, let your micromanager know immediately. As Equity Methods CEO David Roberts (who is certainly not a micromanager) puts it: "Never let a bump in the road become a pothole. Keep me informed."

If you want your micromanager to give you more independence, start with something small to test the waters. Show the micromanager the benefits of giving you some space and managing you less - for instance, they save time, gain productivity, and strengthen your skills and abilities in the process. And remember, trust is earned. Don't expect your boss to let you handle the presentation or the proposal on your own for a while. No boss, no matter how relaxed, is handing over the keys to the Porsche until he's darn sure that you can really drive.

The Absentee Boss
How to Spot Her: Good luck. If you happen to catch a glimpse of her in the office, she's either running out the door, to a meeting, or is buried in a conference call. You see her so seldom, you hardly remember what she looks like. Often, the Absentee Boss leaves you wondering what you're supposed to do and how you're supposed to get it done.

Manage the Absentee Boss: Why are some bosses so hard to get a hold of? For the absentee boss, her disappearing act might be explained by the fact that she's being pulled in too many directions and doesn't have time for you right now. Or, let's face it, some managers simply don't want the job or responsibilities that come with managing someone, and it could be that she prefers handling the tasks of her job rather than managing you. Whatever the reason, that's little comfort to those of us who would actually like to see our boss once in a while, if only so they can see all of the great work we're actually doing.

Try this: First, try like heck to get your boss to agree to a weekly meeting. Even he'll only give you five minutes, force him to put something on his calendar each and every week (or more) that is exclusively time for you. Don't let him off the hook here -make sure you get a regular standing 'date' with him, so that even if he's pulling a disappearing act the rest of the week, you know you'll have your regularly scheduled meeting to ask questions, get him to sign off on stuff, etc. Once you've got your meeting, run it like a tight ship - be extremely prepared, keep your points short, sweet, and concise. If you aren't prepared or waste time, it will be that much harder for you to get his attention the next time you need it.

The Slave Driver
How to Spot Him: Easy - he's the boss who likes to schedule meetings on a Saturday afternoon, who wants to review your memo at 7:00 am on a Monday morning, and doesn't seem to bat an eye about calling you on your vacation to discuss an upcoming project. Hard working?
Sure, but the Slave Driver takes it to a scary new level, where it seems there is little else that matters more to him than work - and you're expected to follow suit.

Manage the Slave Driver: Managing the Slave Driver is tricky - after all, if he is your boss, you can't very well say no to the early meetings, the Saturday work sessions, or anything else for that matter, can you? The answer is... maybe.

How to know? Start by taking a look around the office: Do you work in a company that celebrates a 'work hard/Type A personality' type of culture? Have you noticed that many of your colleagues work weekends, come in early, or stay late? If that's the case, accept the fact that you're part of a company or industry where working long hours is par for the course and your Slave Driver boss is simply one of many around the office. On the other hand, if you and your boss usually the only ones burning the midnight oil, you may have some room to negotiate.

Try this: If you've truly got a Slave Driver on your hands, your owe it to yourself to take a stand. Numerous studies of workplace life and stress management show how working around the clock results in less productivity, higher rates of absenteeism and illness, and, ultimately, burnout on the job. The bottom line: Your mind, body, and spirit need breaks from time to time. Don't feel guilty about taking them.

Still, tread very, very carefully when telling your boss 'no' in any way, shape, or form. Even if your boss is being unreasonable, you're still the new kid on the block, and the last thing you want to do is gain the reputation of being unreliable, lazy, or not holding up your end of things.

In the Final Analysis
If there's one thing to remember when it comes to your boss, it's that it's up to you to make the most of your situation, even if your boss is Cruella DeVille in disguise. No matter how lousy your boss is (and I sincerely hope this isn't the case), it isn't an excuse for being lousy on the job. Instead, remember that bosses come and go throughout a career, and this is simply a small bump in the road. When the boss chips are down, resolve to focus more than ever on results and deliverables, and do the good work you were hired to do. And if it doesn't work out perfectly - or at all - don't worry too much. You've probably learned a few things along the way (even if it's what not to do as a boss!) and you're better armed, better prepared, and better able to handle the next one that comes along.

Elizabeth Freedman is an expert in career and workplace issues. She is the author of Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself and The MBA Student's Job-Seeking Bible, and was a 2005 finalist for College Speaker of the Year, awarded by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. Elizabeth runs a Boston-based career-development and coaching firm; clients include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Reuters and The Gillette Company.

Friday

Workplace Stress Trap - I Hate Work Meetings Because I Look So Dumb


How much time do you spend in meetings at work? Far too much time is the usual response. But what if you are hopeless in meetings but good at your desk and other work? What if you feel you look dumb all the time at meetings? Is this a workplace stress trap that has caught you up? If so, let's think about how often this happens and how you can deal with it.

The first reality is that most people get frustrated in meetings. The agenda seems too long; there is very little specific purpose to the meetings; there are few positive outcomes; and there are too many people sitting there. I often look around at meetings and calculate the per hour cost of the meeting. Let us imagine that there are 12 people meeting where the average cost of salary plus benefits is probably $80 per person per hour then you have a meeting that is costing nearly $1000 per hour. You would expect a lot of outcomes from this investment.

Another issue with meetings is the social dynamic that plays out. The well-known cognitive psychologist Edward de Bono says that meetings involve a lot of payback and inter-personal pressure. A person proposes a motion and then immediately makes eye contact with colleagues to gather support for that idea and motion. A sense of loyalty requires the colleague to support the motion because the person deserves support. So the value of the motion is less important than the interpersonal support. De Bono says that the most efficient meetings to cut down on the social dynamic is to either meet in a completely dark room or have all the chairs facing out from the table so that people cannot see each other. For a lot of people, this meeting social dynamic and interaction can be extremely stressful. For others, it is the hierarchical and competitive dynamic that makes them feel inadequate and dumb and adds to meeting stress; that is, looking silly in front of supervisors and bosses.

How to Escape the Stress of Meetings
If you feel dumb at every meeting you attend you have to ask the question:"Did I prepare adequately for this meeting?" Some people float into a meeting without the background reading and preparation. They are constantly trying to play catch-up because they did not get across the issues from the last meeting, failed to do the required reading, did not have follow-up discussions with other team members, and generally treated the meeting as though it was an obligation not an opportunity. So the first way to overcome the workplace stress trap of feeling dumb at meetings is to become informed.

But some people feel inadequate generally and try to compensate for their inadequacy by talking excessively and unnecessarily. A good motto is 'God gave me two ears and one mouth so that I would listen twice as much as I talked.' This is very good advice for meeting novices. Listen carefully, take notes so that you're well organized, only speak if you have something important to contribute, and be brief. Try not to speak more than a few times per meeting so that your colleagues will expect that what you have to say is worthwhile. And they will listen. In this way, you will no longer feel dumb.

From a psychological point of view, the reality is that most of us are anxious about our performance. We tend to be more negative and self-critical than positive and self-supportive. This negative self talk increases stress and anxiety and reduces our ability to relieve stress and tension. If we add to this the workplace stress trap of not feeling competent at meetings a sense of anticipatory anxiety and reduced feelings of competence and self-efficacy, we compound our feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty. The sounds like a lot of jargon but the reality is that if you want to avoid the stress of being dumb at meetings be well-prepared, be prudent and thoughtful in what you say, and believe in yourself.

Dr Jeff, a psychologist, writes about workplace stress, personal stress, interpersonal stress, and how to manage stress. On his blog, http://www.drjeffbailey.com, he answers questions from readers. He works hard to make his articles practical and helpful and all of his articles are based on sound research evidence and extensive clinical experience. Please go to his Dr Jeff blog to get your free report on stress.

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