b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: April 2006



How To: Call In Sick

The excuses are virtually limitless:

- I won't be in to work today because I've been tripping on Peyote for the last few days, and I can't seem to find my legs.

- The dog ate my car keys. We're going to hitchhike to the vet.

- My mother-in-law has come back as one of the Undead and we must track her to her coffin to drive a stake through her heart and give her eternal peace. One day should do it.

Per Careerbuilder.com’s absenteeism survey late last year, 43% of the workers said they called out sick in the last year when they weren’t really sick. This number was up from 35% the year before. The most popular day of the week to call in? Wednesday. 63% of the hiring managers stated that they were more suspicious of people calling in sick on Mondays or Fridays. (I’m guessing people know this if they’re calling out on Wednesdays).

The results from Career Builder also said that 38% of the people surveyed felt that sick days are equivalent to vacation days. Hmmm.

The most common reason for calling out sick when not sick was to relax or catch up on things at home. The others included going to a doctor’s appointment, running errands or they just plain old didn’t feel like going in.

Making the Call:

There’s a right way and a wrong way to call in sick. For starters, you need to remember to call!

When you make the call remember to keep things as simple as possible. If you can, call early and leave voicemails. Avoiding a conversation minimizes the possibility of slipping up. Know what you’re going to say before you pick up the phone.

The reason can be brief: “I don’t feel well, so I’m not going to come in.” It’s simple and to the point. Don’t elaborate too much on a reason. You have a bug, a headache, whatever. It doesn’t need to be more detailed than that.

When you leave the message, be sure that the tv or radio aren't blasting in the background. If there’s noise in the background, this can reduce the efficacy of your excuse. If you’re really sick, you’re going to be in bed… play it up. Speak quietly or raspy or however you can to convey the image that you are unwell.

Be smart: don’t come back to work the next day with a suntan if you’ve been at the beach. Nothing will cut your credibility faster than being caught like this! Let's see you weasel your way out of that one.

Also, try not to take off more than one day at a time if possible. Some employers want a doctor’s note for 2 or more days missed. Know what your company’s policies are ahead of time if you can.

So let me know when you call out so we can play hookey together!

© Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting


Too Sick to Work?

We all know that there are plenty of people out there who have called in sick when they were OK to work.

There are many reasons for this:

* People need to take a “mental health” day.
* Something came up .
* There are too many chores that need to get done.

Lastly, and my favorite, your bat-$@#%-crazy manager drives you to do it. Of course, this could go under “mental health” day, but I think it needs its own category.

Mental Health Day:
People need to take a “mental health” day. This, more and more, is becoming widely acceptable as a reason for calling out. Mental stress is just a valid reason as physical stress to need time off to “defrag”. Sometimes it just feels good to watch morning re-runs of “Little House on the Prairie” rather than deal with the joys of work. Believe me, I would have rather watched episodes of “Saved by the Bell” and/or “Trading Spouses” than go in most days. Besides, sometimes it is absolutely necessary to go to the beach in order to make oneself feel better.

Something Came Up
Of course personal days should be used in most cases for last-minute issues, but if you have the sick days to burn, then every so often this isn’t a bad option. Are you having furniture delivered or is the cable guy coming by for an appointment? Are you really going to go to work after coming in at 4 am from seeing U2 and then driving half the night back home? How functional will you be at work? It shouldn’t be a crime to take a sick day as long as it’s done within reason.

Again, personal days should be used for things like this, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. I mean, you can only take so many personal days when you’re interviewing for other jobs.

The Devil Made Me Do It
Sometimes your manager is an idiot and you just cannot be around the stupidity for another minute. Constant exposure to that couldn’t possibly be good for your health. Also, if this idiot has caused a ridiculous amount of stress, then you actually will be sick when you call out. I remember taking a sick day once to have an upper endoscopy performed to confirm acid reflux. It was something that I looked forward to because I would have the day off. There’s something really wrong when you look forward to having a medical procedure like this just to have a day off from work. But I was.

All in all, sick days need to be taken when you are truly sick. It’s also important for employers to remember that happy employees don’t call out sick as often as the unhappy ones. There’s a correlation there to be aware of. If you find yourself calling out more and more when you’re not actually sick, it may be time to ask yourself if it’s time to move on.

© Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Rules of Engagement

Per my last post, I promised that I would give you some rules to playing the office politics game. It can be looked at two ways. One, play by the rules and get “in” or two, screw the rules and do what’s best for you or just have some plain old fun. So, the following tips/rules can be followed either of those ways.

Help the people you work with! I’ve said this before; make your boss look good, you’ll be a superstar. Or, help your subordinates and your bat-$@#%-crazy manager will promote them over you. Either way, it’s a winner.

Try to do projects that put you on people’s radars. Of course, if you have to look for the “high profile” work, chances are it’s gone. I mean, do you really think that anything THAT important isn’t already being reported to the decision makers? There’s always a load of the bulls*** work left over. Always enough of that to go around. Get buried sufficiently in that and your idiot boss will start asking for your red Swingline stapler.

"Love thy neighbor, but pick thy neighborhood." I love this quote. Choose your friends wisely. It is as valuable now as it was in grade school. Unfortunately, many people at this “professional” level still act like they were in grade school. So ok, maybe it’s not the wisest move to befriend an obvious slacker, but sometimes people aren’t liked just “because”. So you have to not like them too? That’s right! Screw ‘em – sell yourself out to the highest bidder.

Avoid negativity. I love this one! It’s easy enough to do when the negativity isn’t happening to you. If it is, well… roll with it. That is until the acid reflux, depression and anxiety get so bad that you just need to do what I did and that is look for another job!

Cultivate good relationships with others in your company. This is always advisable. Do what you can to make others’ lives easier. Know everything you can know about your job that will help others. That way when you need them, they can give you great references to get out from under the Evil Empire, uh I mean your own bosses. On a serious note, cultivating the right relationships with the pee-ons today will mean you have vice presidents and leaders as your friends tomorrow.

Develop social savvy – but be careful of what you do in front of coworkers, even when socializing. This is another great one, but can backfire just as easily. I’ve been friends with those held “in high regard” who have been caught doing the dumbest things and they emerge unscathed, meanwhile I’ll be the one coming out smelling like well, you know. Then of course, I was friends with someone who got so totally piss drunk at a company function who then turned around and got promoted. There’s no real rhyme or reason to this one.

Confidences are almost always broken. This is an important one. Guard your secrets like Fort Knox. It doesn’t matter who you trust or how much they swear they will never tell another soul… this one will almost always come back to haunt you. Don’t tell people anything you don’t want known.

These are just some of the guidelines I can think of. As I come across more, I’ll be sure to share them. Office politics are a funny thing. Sometimes it just boils down to being in the right place at the right time. You can play your cards right and still wind up the loser.

Good luck!

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Office Politics

It’s tough to hang in with a job where office politics run rampant. While it’s something that can not often be avoided, there are ways to survive.

For starters, remember Mom’s advice: Keep your nose clean. Don’t get caught up in office gossip. If you’re smart you certainly won’t be the one starting it. But if it’s your manager(s) that is instigating it tread carefully. I was once caught in a situation where my manager made disparaging comments about a coworker of mine. While this person was not important to me, I was careful not to agree or disagree with the remarks. Tactfully change the topic of conversation to something more neutral.

One thing to think about though if you find yourself in this situation; be cognizant of your own words and deeds. If your manager can rip your coworker apart behind their back, they can do it to you as well.

Again, that’s a situation I found myself in. Whether it’s true or not is irrelevant, what they think is. Someone told me about a conversation between my managers where they discussed my personal affairs. Unfortunately, it was case where I heard it second-hand and was unable to address it directly with them. If I’d heard it myself I could have taken the bull by the horns. However, I couldn’t.

The only thing to really do in that situation is to be beyond reproach. Don’t give anyone any reason to give credence to the gossip they’re spreading. Do the job you were hired to do. Show up on time and work as hard as you know you can. Continue to produce the results as you were before and conduct yourself as professionally as possible. It may be killing you not saying anything, but the more you act contrary to their beliefs they *may* one day give it up.

Of course, that’s not what happened with me. But I was sure to watch my “P’s” and “Q’s”. I gave my managers nothing to go on, but they still came up with things that were pulled out of thin air. I only wish I knew what they were thinking.

I give this advice because I know there is the possibility of it succeeding in other work environments. Unfortunately, I make no guarantees. However, I maintain that my situation was unique. It is possible to play their game. I’ll get into the rules later.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting





My last day of employment in Corporate America was not marked by celebrations, dancing, wet t-shirt contests or anything merry.

As I walked out, I felt disappointment. The system that I thought believed in me as I so naively believed in it many years ago disappointed me. I thought that after so long with the company my managers would see me off with congratulations and well wishes. I was sorry when that was not the case.

My departure was anticlimactic. Since it was a holiday weekend many people were already gone. I picked up my belongings (sorry, no trophy) and walked out the door. Before I reached the elevator Miss Manager came to say good-bye and disappeared quick. That was it. No “good luck”, no “It’s been nice knowing you”. Nothing.

I can’t say I’m surprised by that, although I am disappointed. I’m disappointed too that neither of her two managers had so much as 2 words to say to me since I put my notice in a few weeks ago. These are people I reported to for several years.

So people want to know how great it feels to finally put that place behind me. Did I boogie on out? Did I party till the sun came up? No.

Although I left with no regrets, I did leave with a hefty amount of anger, hurt and resentment. I know in time I’ll put it all behind me, but yesterday… well, it wasn’t what I expected.

When I got home I was so exhausted I slept for a few hours; it was the end of a very, very, VERY long day.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Persona Non Grata

Persona non grata (Latin, plural: personae non gratae), literally meaning "an unwelcome person," is a term used in diplomacy with a specialized and legally defined meaning (wikipedia.com )

That's me.

I came in to work this morning and my computer didn't work and I was unable to access my voicemail. Hmmm... I looked at my phone and my name is no longer on it. I half expected to see someone from administration show up with a box for my things and escort me out the door. No one came.

IT got me back up with the computer, but I never bothered with the voicemail.

It was really amusing.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Work Burnout

I was recently doing some research on the effects of work burnout and was directed to a link on ivillage.com They had a test you could take to see if you suffered the signs of work burnout. So I took their test. I answered the questions as though I wasn’t leaving my job in 3 days.

Based on the results, this was what they had to say about my answers:

Your score indicates that you have many signs of burnout.

People that score in this range sometimes have trouble coping with the demands of daily life. They often feel overwhelmed. They sometimes lack energy and are unable to manage stress. They have trouble sleeping and have many physical complaints
(hmmm, like acid reflux? ).

People who score in this range are not usually able to set realistic and attainable goals for themselves. They can be pessimistic about their work and future. They are often unable to relax and enjoy their non-working time. They have a very difficult time separating work life and home life.

People who score in this range cannot typically control and recognise their feelings or act on them appropriately. They sometimes have difficulty learning from their mistakes. They often lack compassion and respect for other people. They can feel isolated and alone.

People who score in this range can be excellent workers. However, because of their desire to get ahead they often take on too much work and responsibility. They often become so overwhelmed that they lose their focus and are not able to do their best work. They can become confused about what is expected of them and become distressed when they feel they are not living up to assumed expectations. They can become bitter, angry and resentful.

However, there is hope for people on the verge of burnout so don’t give up! You can regain control and begin to enjoy your work again. People who score in this range can decrease their level of burnout by setting realistic work goals
(as if it was ever up to me!), making time for themselves, exercising, being open to the idea of changing jobs (HELLO?), reading books about handling stress (one of the reasons I have this blog), keeping a diary, pursuing an interest outside work (my new business), spending time with their families and friends, overcoming negative thoughts (it’s called Wellbutrin ), getting involved in some community activity, and, most importantly, by learning to say no (or: I QUIT).

You can definitely get back on track! Good luck.

It’s funny, I’m hearing a lot of the same comments from people when they hear that I’m leaving my job. Usually, it’s “Thank GOD you’re finally out of there!!!” Looking back on the really bad times, it’s crazy to think of what I went through there. Remembering what it was like telling people almost felt as though they didn’t always believe that what I was saying actually happened. It wasn’t even supposed to go on for this long; everyone I spoke to was convinced I’d be out of there sooner. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case… but that’s not important now.


Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Does Workaholic = Micromanager?

As you folks know, I have extensive experience working for micromanagers. While I do not believe that every workaholic is a micromanager, I would have to say this is the case most of the time. I’ll tell you why.

Definition of a Workaholic: One who has a compulsive and unrelenting need to work. It is sometimes linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder… just like someone who micromanages.

Definition of a Micromanager: One who directs or controls in a detailed, often meddlesome manner.

As I’ve mentioned before, many micromanagers are individuals suffering from a compulsive disorder (which may be helped by a swift kick, or not).

Workaholic Behavior:
Need to control
you bring work home
You think about work and how to “fix” things while at home or on vacation
You want to do it all yourself; you do not properly delegate tasks

Micromanaging Behavior:
Need to control
Excessive criticism
You want to do it all yourself; you do not properly delegate tasks

As with micromanagers, workaholics also tend to suffer from low self esteem. Micromanagement and workaholism are irrational behaviors. Both result in damaged/diminished social relationships, health problems and distorted thinking. Long ago, the term workaholic was used as a compliment. Since business changed and office cultures evolved, so has the term.

If someone you know is a workaholic, it may be time to throw them a life preserver and tow them to safety. They can be shown the way. If someone you know is a micromanager, tie an anvil to their ankle and throw them overboard. They won’t be missed.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Revisiting the Job Resignation

I read an article the other day titled “Resigning with Class: How to Diplomatically Resign From Your Job” by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D. In it, he makes several suggestions on how to resign diplomatically.

Once a resignation is tendered there are some important things to remember. The first thing is that you may be escorted out of the building (which I discussed in Ciao For Now ).

The next thing to be aware of is being guilted by your boss or co-workers. It’s possible that others may be envious of your new move. They may even attempt to make you feel as though you’re deserting them. The thing to focus on here is your own responsibility to your job. It’s important to wrap up any projects you may be working on or training your replacement. The key is to remain positive.

Of course it’s entirely possible that you will receive no response whatsoever. This is what’s happening in my case. Not only was no one surprised to hear my news, it was expected and unbelievably, something that my manager wanted to facilitate. As it happens, my management wants me to go! So, while I know it’s important to be diplomatic, I will not play by all the “rules” set up by others that think they know best. Only I can be the judge of that.

Another thing to think about is what to do should you receive a counteroffer. It hasn’t been often in my career that I’ve heard others receiving counters, but I suppose it is possible. If you’re in a bad situation (like me) don’t eliminate the chance of being walked out. Incidentally, my management asked me to stay for the remainder of two weeks. Of course, they may do this to get whatever they can out of you before you go.

In that case, it’s important to remember that you can only do so much. You can’t be expected to do it all before your departure. It would probably be nice though to help where you can since the responsibilities may fall to those you don’t want to see tortured. It can be a hard thing to do, but think about if the tables were turned. If you’ve been on the receiving end of that you’ll know what I mean. Then, if the situation is so god-awful that you can’t stand it any longer then you have my permission to do what you need to do in order to survive.

The other thing to think about in regards to a counteroffer is that it may end up hurting you. For starters, studies show that the majority of people that accept counteroffers don’t stay long with the job. It puts your loyalty in question. If you’ll “so easily” be ready to go, it may destroy any remaining trust. Be very careful with this one.

The last thing I want to bring up is the exit interview. I know, I know, you’ve heard me moan about this before. I used to think there was no point in giving one since the chances of any positive action going into effect as a result was slim to none. However, my personal feeling is that if there’s something you feel very strongly about then by all means, submit to one and state the facts. In order to remain credible it’s important to stay unattached. Don’t whine and complain randomly. State things as they are plus some suggestions as to how to make things better. Of course the other option is to remain positive.

At the end of the day the way you go out is really up to you. It’s true you never know who you’ll run into down the road or what favor/recommendation you may need. The place I’m coming from makes me really want to push all that advice to the side. Before doing anything, be sure you’ve thought things through and weighed the advantages and possible consequences. If you’ve done that and still want to let it all out, then good luck to you.

I can speak about that since it’s my situation. I know I will not need (or ever want) my manager’s recommendations or help down the road. Aside from that one individual, there are many (many) others whom I can rely on for a good referral should I need one.

Good luck.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




The $64,000 Question

Since my big day last Friday, I've had many people asking the following questions:

1. How did the meeting go?

2. How do I feel?

My answers:

#1: The meeting lasted less than 5 minutes. Miss Manager and Miss Understand were both out on vacation. So I went to "The Chief". The Chief wasn't surprised in the least bit. But if you think about it, who would be? Everyone in my department knows my situation -- there's NO doubt in anyone's mind WHY I'm going.

Of course, everyone wants to know where I'm going. I haven't - and won't - say a word until after I'm gone. They don't need to know my plans.

#2: I feel fine. Actually, I feel more or less the same way I did before I resigned. Although I'm anxious and scared of the uncertainty that my future holds, not ONCE did it occur to me to NOT RESIGN. This was something that I knew had to be done. It's that simple.

But I do have to say a HUGE THANK-YOU to everyone for your kind words and wishes. You guys have been a huge help/inspiration to me these last few months. Your support has helped tremendously.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Exit Interview, Pt III

What is the best thing about your job?

If you asked me that question four years ago, I would have been able to provide a list of things as long as my arm.

Today, my answer is “going home”.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting




Exit Interview, Pt II

If you could add or change a benefit at Company X, what would it be?

One topic that continues to come up is telecommuting. At headquarters, this may be a commonplace practice, but in the New York office it’s a very different story. In Dept.A it seems as though certain individuals receive preferential treatment when it comes to telecommuting. Granted, not every job can be done from the comfort of one’s home. It’s a given that the individual’s role needs to have the flexibility present to take advantage of this benefit.

However, the preferential treatment became rather obvious during the New York City transit strike last December. My entire team (the Idiot Boss included) relies on public transportation to get to and from work everyday. When the strike was imminent, Miss Manager told me that both me and my team (consisting of 2 people) had to be present but that she was going to work from home. Meanwhile, I have the ability to work from home (as does my team). One of my employees, Worker-1, lives in Funky Town which is close to where Miss Manager lives (the not-so-funky part). Worker-1 made the 2 ½ hour trek in to work on the first day of the strike, meanwhile my Idiot Boss stayed home. Why was that? On that same day, I suffered from a severe tooth infection (which incidentally was extracted in an emergency procedure that same day) and was on painkillers (as my managers were aware). But at 6am I was on my way to the office and I was there early. Again, Miss Manager was home.

This telecommuting policy needs to be scrutinized a little more.

Copyright 2006 Pied Piper Consulting


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