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



The Real Reason Why It Sucks at Work… your boss is playing games

The people that care about negativity in the workplace try all sorts of tactics. Here’s a few I found that gave me a hearty laugh. I mean, when I experienced negativity in the office, it would have been easily rectified by taking my boss completely out of the equation. That would have made my life MUCH easier. Of course that didn’t happen and so I sit here working for myself… without all that negativity, thank you very much.

Then I came across these “strategies” that bosses can use when they want to diffuse and eliminate workplace negativity. I got a good idea: How about the boss starts acting like a human being and we go from there? But no, your boss may be following the following strategies to fix YOU instead. (By the way, these are taken from Managing Workplace Negativity by Gary Topchik… naturally I had my own 2 cents to add in).

1: Recognize the negativity trigger points.

Uh, hello? I don’t know about the rest of you, but the boss acting like a jackass is my trigger point. Let’s start there.

2: Take a timeout.

Yeah I think I remember this one… back in Kindergarten.

3: Provide an attitude check-up.

They’re going to tell you exactly how you *should* act.

4: Encourage laughter or joke logs.

Not at their expense, obviously.

5: Keep thoughts in the present.

I’m going to club you over the head like a baby seal and stuff you into trash bags… right now.

6: Set a time limit for negativity.

Huh? Ok, if the boss gets to act like a jerk for 8 hours a day, every day (and that’s on the conservative side, of course), then I should be allowed 10 minutes a day to vent about it and then act like there’s nothing wrong? Is that how that works?

7: Set ground rules.

Boss: I’m going to walk all over your pride and figuratively beat you to a pulp by making you run around finishing useless tasks just for my amusement. And you’re going to like it.

Employee: I’m not worthy, master.

8: Look at quality criticism as a plus.

Criticism in the workplace should always be quality. These people don’t know what that word means. To them, they tell you how terrible a job you did and intimidate you into working harder when working smarter is really needed… on their part.

9: Collect funny objects.

What’s that supposed to be for? Can I keep a guillotine at my desk then? I mean, it’s funny for me to envision daily executions.

10: Stop the thought!

Of course!!! Because it really IS that simple!

Folks, in order for workplace negativity to transform into a positive environment, a lot more is needed for the effort. There’s always going to be negative people out there, but really the ones to start with are the managers who tend to set the tone for the workplace.




Self-Helpless Turns 1!

Well, I was really hoping that my book would be out by now in order to have a “proper” celebration, but that’s unfortunately not the case. As a matter of fact, I wanted to do something special to ring in the new year of blogging, but with my dueling deadlines, I more or less missed the boat on that one too.

So, what I would like to do is take a brief trip through the past 12 months to see exactly how far “Self-Helpless” has come, and where she’s likely to go. As my hardcore readers know, this past year has seen a great deal of changes. When I started on 11/28/05, I was bitter and angry. Most of the early posts reflect this. Stories like the following clearly detail the miserable situation I faced everyday at the office. : This is a No-Win Situation, I'm Not a Micromanager, and The Ultimate Insult Pt II, "Miss Manager" to name a few.

Then I attempted some "advice" articles about Workplace Bullying and Verbal Self Defense.

Then, while going through a root canal, my dentist covered for me and wrote a “doctor’s note” while I actually went on an interview. Then I had random (but not so unusual) issues arising with my boss while I had my root canal. Lucky me, I developed an infection, had the tooth pulled, and realized that going through all of that was more enjoyable than going to the office everyday. Yes folks, it really was that bad.

Then I started giving serious thought to my departure from corporate punishment in a series of “resignation” posts back in February. During that week, I fantasized about leaving my job, starting my new career, and had a good laugh over the many ways to “say goodbye” when leaving.

Around that time I also pondered life elsewhere and the importance of going to a 9-5 job everyday (aside from the regular paycheck benefit, of course). Is it necessary to be so unhappy?

Piggybacking on that, I tried to pin down the things that bosses and companies can do to make things right with their people. I shared my Exit Interview - I, II, III (yes, those are more or less mine in their entirety) and gave everyone some tips on how to take advantage of their sick days. Then I talked A LOT about bosses and what they do wrong (ok, again).

Of course there were commentaries on all the stupid things that people have to say about management although have never worked in truly horrid situations.

That brings us into the fall of 2006, where I talked a lot about things that employees can do to protect themselves from the idiocy of their managers, how to roll with some of the idiot punches, and some bigger issues that need some attention.

Now the current trend for Self-Helpless is to continue addressing the issues that plague the workplace and the ongoing stupidity of those that shape so many of the not-so-positive work environments. Self-Helpless loves stupidity. As long as there are stupid people in the workplace, I'll always have a lot to write about. Stay tuned, folks.




I Hate My Job, Now Pass the M&M’s

Is Your Waistline an Indicator of Job Satisfaction? It could be. Studies show that increased stress levels can be linked to added weight, particularly around the midsection. So not only do you now hate your job, hate your boss, hate you irritating cubicle mate who loudly boasts of his weekend exploits, you now notice the scale moving steadily upwards. What the hell?!?!

I can back this theory up. Up until things went *really* bad at my last job about 3 years ago, stress and anxiety used to steal my appetite. Then all of a sudden, as if someone flipped a switch, the job went to crap and I gained weight. I’m STILL trying to lose those few extra pounds. But this whole idea of the job making me gain weight was like adding insult to injury.

So why does this happen? In an article on Sparkpeople.com, the findings suggest that people that work too much (more than the standard 40 hour work week) and consistently suffer from work fatigue are most likely to gain weight. You read that and think, “well gee, that narrows it down by about nothing.” Of course – more and more people work beyond the standard 40 hour work week. As a result of that, people are going to be tired. That’s just natural. The article suggests however, that when done consistently, the weight will go up.

What’s interesting is how this really affects those that are unhappy with their job. According to this article, the ones suffering from work fatigue agree with 3 or more of the following statements:
The suggestions given are good; however I’m not so sure how realistic it is to follow through enough on them to see positive results.

Their ideas include taking a break, simplifying the areas in your life that need it, evaluating your work schedule and tasks (good luck with that), and taking a good long look at your job. This last one makes the most sense. I mean, at some point, almost everybody’s job gets busy. You work on a big project or presentation, or whatever. But if you’re continually burning the midnight oil at the office, you need to rethink your strategy. Is it really worth it to stick it out? Chances are, all signs will point to refreshing your resume and reconnecting with your network to see what else is out there.

Otherwise, you need to be warned about the added weight – it’s not going to go away if the contributing factors do not change. Ultimately, the weight gain will lead to bigger medical issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, to name a few.

Examine your situation and decide what’s important. But always remember that jobs come and go – your health is another matter altogether.




Why Does the Boss Hate You? Here's 10 Reasons

The Bad:

You made a terrible mistake and are still in the dog house. People tend to do stupid things with their company email... is this you? In The Obvious Faux Pas, I made my opinion pretty clear on the personal use of company email: it just shouldn't be done. Or perhaps you went in to your boss promising that your quarterly forecast was absolute and then turned out to be grossly wrong.

You threw up at a client meeting (in the client’s office). Don’t laugh; I’ve actually read about something very similar happening to someone. If you don’t feel well, go home! No one wants your germs. Don’t be a martyr – sick days are there for a reason. If you really are that sick, you can reschedule the appointment. Frankly, if you feel that bad, do you *really* want to go to work anyway?

You put your foot in it. You need to be really careful what you say, especially around the office. Watercooler conversation is perfectly acceptable as long as it's the innocuous kind like, "hey did you see what happened on 'The Office' last night?" However, you should be careful if you start making comparisons between the imbecile boss Michael on the show and your own real life boss. You never know who will hear you. Usually it's the wrong person overhearing the wrong thing at the right time. Don't let this happen to you.

You’re just plain obnoxious. Every office has at least one jerk who yaps away loudly on their cell phone while their cubicle neighbors suffer through whatever personal conversation they're having. I mean really, go outside during your lunch hour or something to do that. Especially if you're loud, you're disrupting others while they're actually trying to do their jobs.

You don’t pay attention or do your job. We all know when we're working hard and when we're hardly working. Don't let others pick up your slack. Do what you're hired to do. It's really simple.

The Good:

You outperform your boss. This is great for you, but spells trouble for your boss and makes them feel threatened. This is especially the case when others (higher up the chain) take notice of your stellar performance.

Your boss is insecure and is afraid that you will overthrow them. This more or less piggybacks off the previous point. However, you can be outperforming them or just minding your own business and doing your job. If your boss is an insecure jerk, they'll think you're out for their job no matter what you do. It sucks, but it's reality for a lot of people.

You’re popular. Many bosses believe in following the "chain of command". If you're well liked, people will go to you when they need something or if they have a problem that you can help them solve. When the boss catches wind of this they usually get all up-in-arms about being in the loop on all conversations and emails you're having. I should know, this happened to me. So stupid.

They’re just jealous. This one piggybacks on the popularity "problem". Bosses, insecure ones in particular, don't really want their subordinates to be more popular than they are. They feel that since they're in the position of higher power, they should get the spotlight. Or maybe there's something that you do better than they do. It's a simple fact that everyone has different talents. Some people are better than others at things. These bosses just can't get past this.

You’re younger than they are. Your life is ahead of you, theirs is behind them. It's all so silly, but when you're in a situation where they're jealous of your age, it can be ugly. I know some people that are affected by this kind of sentiment by their boss. They're great workers and their boss hates them simply because they're young, cute, and do a wonderful job.

These are just a few of the reasons why your boss hates you. I'm sure there's more. But you can start with these and then decide what you can live with and what you can't. If you can't, you need to consider moving on. Of course if you do that, you run the risk of moving into the same predicament. Just something to think about.




Do You Empower Your Employees?

Empowering employees means a certain amount of letting go is necessary on your part as a manager. Nowadays it seems as though more and more people talk about empowering others to move forward in their career, which in turn, helps you in yours.

Why is it important? The short answer: because you want to keep the talented staff you hired. A big reason people leave their jobs in search of something newer and better is because they don’t feel like they’re a part of the loop, challenged enough, or respected.

Why should you bother? Well, aside from the reason I just mentioned about retaining talented staff, it offer some benefits to you:

- Delegating assignments to your staff gets you away from some of the grunt work.
- Since your subordinates are making the decisions, there will be fewer interruptions with issues of lesser importance.
- When employees feel empowered, they are more motivated to find solutions to problems rather than come to you with all the problems.

The key thing to remember is to establish guidelines for accountability, responsibility, and authority, and let employees get on with what they were hired to do.
So how come there are still so many managers that don’t do this?

- Fear/Ego
- Lack of trust in the relationship
- They’re just bat-$#@%-crazy and don’t care
Managers (both good and bad) need to realized the potential benefits to the company: there is a quicker turnaround time in the decision making process when employees have the authorization to take action. When empowered, they have the confidence to speak up and take action. Empowered employees are motivated to do more!

If you’re already doing this with your people, fantastic. But, if you’re reluctant, you need to give your people the benefit of the doubt (provided that they are relatively good workers) and give them the freedom to do their jobs. People can only go above and beyond when they have the authority to do so. This will boost their confidence as well as bolster trust and respect in the work relationship. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what they can accomplish.




Serenity Now! Can This Thwart Workplace Negativity?

It has been suggested that merely reciting - and repeating - a favorite phrase, can help diminish workplace negativity. This is what Gary Topchik suggests in his book Managing Workplace Negativity. While I think that there are some interesting suggestions here, I had to point out this “have a favorite saying” idea.

Of course, the first thing that came to mind was Frank Costanza on Seinfeld and his whole “Serenity now” routine. It didn’t appear to really work for him, did it? It’s one thing to have a bad day or an occasional tiff with a boss or coworker, but it’s quite another if you’re stuck in a dismal situation. No amount of mantras, yoga, or meditation will get you out of that funk (believe me, I know).

Let’s see what some of the suggested sayings are. Naturally, if you have a saying of your own that brings a smile to your face, then by all means, use it. This is what I came across:

Again, for those lucky individuals that only have the occasional altercation, this could probably work. And it makes sense, really. If you’re worked up, the best thing to do is take a step back, breathe, and count to 10. It really does work.

Now, let’s look at some reasons why people would be negative at work. Negative people are:

  1. Overworked, underappreciated, and unrecognized
  2. Doubtful about the company’s future
  3. Not challenged enough
  4. Not included in departmental or company changes and restructuring
  5. Rendered powerless by their boss (or beaten down by them on a daily basis)

I certainly considered myself to be negative at my last job. It didn’t start out that way, mind you, but that’s how it ended up. Almost instantly, my job went from stellar to stagnant. So, when I read those “favorite phrases” above, here’s what I thought:

“I’m in control here.”

I’m not even a little bit in control here. I am micromanaged down to where I’m allowed to place the commas in my email memos. I have no say and I’m watched when I leave my desk even to go to the restroom.

“I’ve got another 24 hours to do as much as I can.”

Fantastic. Another 24 hours to continue taking my antidepressants that enable me to endure yet another day of torture in the 7th Circle of Hell, I mean, office.

“Wow! I’m alive, and I’m breathing.”

That means I’m around yet again for my boss to continue beating my brain to a proverbial pulp. Yay – sign me up for more of that!

So what can be done about workplace negativity?

Management (or anyone in a position to effect change) should:

-Allow employees to be heard – if they know that you’ll listen to them, it will make them feel better. Most times, people just want to know that you’re paying attention to them.

-Treat people honestly and fairly. I know that this is a stretch for some… but this is what people want.

-Offer people growth opportunities and promotions. By “growth opportunity” I don’t mean push off the grunt work and then say how it’s good for them. Honest-to-goodness challenging work. People will be motivated and inspired when they know they're working toward a goal.

-Give constructive feedback. Don’t wait until review time to do this either. Sit down periodically with your staff and let them know how they’re doing. If they’ve done well, give positive reinforcement. If they’re lagging in some areas, let them know it – but do it in a manner that will encourage them to change, not make them feel like losers.

-Bring people into the loop. One of the things that always gets people talking and raising suspicions is when there are a lot of closed-door meetings. When there are changes going on, keep the information flowing as much as possible. People want to feel included; this is a good way to do that.

Workplace negativity is unfortunately a symptom of many different events and actions. Pay attention to what they are so you can prevent it from plaguing your office. Once it sets in, it’s hard to diffuse. So, depending on your situation, perhaps the sayings will make a difference… I don’t know. If your outlook is like mine was, then you need to get the hell outta Dodge baby!




Are Your Employees Happy?

I happened to read this re-posted article from The Chief Happiness Officer called A Challenge to All Managers. It’s a call to all managers out there to gauge what their subordinates really think. Are they really happy? If you had to guess, would you say that they are or not?

One comment stated that, as their manager, you’d know what they were thinking. Of course, that’s if you’re any bit involved with them, then sure.

As a matter of fact, I’d find it hard to be a manager and NOT know what was really going on with my employees. I worked in corporate hell for 12 years… and I managed people probably for about 8 of them. Perhaps it was the nature of my job, perhaps it was just my nature… but I was as involved with the people on my team as I could be. I mean, if they were working on projects that I had to ultimately answer for, you can be damn sure I was involved with my people.

Don’t, however, get that confused with micro-management. You don’t have to be all up in your people’s faces about work to be involved with them and know what’s going on in their worlds - gauge the barometer readings, so to speak. I think I can honestly say that I’ve known when people were happy, and when they were unhappy.

So let’s take a look at the unhappy crew. What happened there? Was it my fault or someone else’s?

Well, it was both actually.

I’m cutting a lot out of this story, but let’s just say that I was “restructured” against my wishes into an undesirable department with a staff that hated their jobs. Off to a great start, huh?

So for starters I was dealing with my own humiliation (again, LONG story) and resistance to this terrible turn in my career. I was well acquainted with my new staff and them with me. What kinds of odds did we have, anyway?

My management was doing everything in their power to push me out… then I get to take the reigns for a group of individuals that had already been beat down with the same awful management. From the beginning, I knew my people hated everything about where they were and were doing everything possible to get out – which I not only knew about, but did everything I could to coach them on their resumes and interviews to help usher them out.

It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t have a great ending. It was down to two subordinates and both were seen as underperforming. At this stage of the game, nothing would have motivated them to do more than they were. Let me tell you – they didn’t WANT to be doing a bad job, but because their spirits were already broken, there wasn’t much I could do to coach them (and going to bat for them was difficult at best and then it was just painful as I'd get beaten)… and I was a lousy coach because I didn’t want to be there any more than they did.

Ultimately, I had to fire one of them and the other found a job elsewhere. What an experience.

I left a few short months after that point and here I am. I have my own company and my first book coming out which talks all about those "fun" times in corporate hell. But to get back to the management challenge to gauge where your employees are… yeah, I think it’s pretty easy to tell. If you’re even a half-way decent manager, you’ll know EXACTLY how they’re doing and what they think of you.




How It Used to Be

Many of you already know how bad my last job was. So... was it ever good?

The answer is Yes. For a long time I enjoyed my job. It was sometimes very busy in the beginning, but I put the time in and sometimes brought work home. It was all good because I got the job done and my managers liked the work.

I had it so good that I was able to stretch the rules a little bit.

I was a big Moby fan. BIG. Well, one summer he was on tour and playing spots around town, one of them was a free concert at Pier 59 (or one of those piers on the west side of Manhattan). Anyhow, the only way to get tickets was to go pick them up at the Virgin Megastore. As it turned out, they were only available from 3-4p one afternoon a few days before the show.

I had it so good that I asked my boss on that day if I could leave, go down to 14th Street, and get a pair of these tickets and then come back. Mind you, I had already taken my lunch hour for the day. But the answer I got was: Yes. How crazy is that? So there I went, to go get tickets for a Moby concert in the middle of the day.

Don’t get me wrong: I used to get in early and I certainly put in A LOT of overtime. But still, it’s kinda crazy, right? Especially when you consider how bad it had been for me the last couple of years that I was there.





Can the Boss Kill Your Career?

Believe it or not, YES.

I had dinner last night with a friend and former colleague of mine. She was telling me a story of this new boss she has. After a successful tenure with her current company, her job security is being threatened. I explained that it’s possible that the boss is just pushing her to do more, get more done… which she is doing. So, perhaps she’s doing exactly what he’s plotting. However, he has come in and eliminated others. My friend has an otherwise good reputation – and people know it.

The bottom line is: you can be great at what you do and still be 100% fired. It almost doesn’t matter what high regard others hold you in – if your immediate boss doesn’t like you, you’re going down. All it takes is one person to ruin your reputation and if left uncontested, your career.

The shame of it is that it boils down to personalities. If your boss doesn’t like you, well… it can be bad. Granted, this isn’t always the case… but it can, and does, happen.

Of course the boss is perfectly allowed to hate you for valid reasons:

-Come in late
-Abuse sick days
-Make the same stupid mistakes time and again
-Take extended smoke breaks
-Talk obnoxiously loud on your cell phone in the cubicle
-Have terrible manners
-Excessively abuse the Internet for your personal use

Whatever… I’m sure that list can go on.

So what do you do if you have a great track record and the boss still has it in for you? This happened to me… and it was just bad. In the case of my friend, she’s still in the early stages of developing a relationship with her boss. It’s important to learn what you can about them:

- What makes them tick?
- What are their goals?
- What are they looking for from you?
- How do they prefer to have the work done?
- Do they want to be in the loop or not?

However, if this is not the case and things take a sudden turn for the worse (as had happened to me), I’m afraid there may not be all that much that you can do. You can do everything right and still not be able to make it up in your boss’ mind. However, you can see about an internal transfer or look for another job elsewhere. Perhaps you can get HR involved but I’ve personally never had much luck with them. They’re interested in saving the company’s hide, not yours. Still, it would always be advisable to document everything you can in terms of meetings, conversations, project requests… anything that can come back to haunt you. At the end of the day though, your boss just might be a bat-$#@%-crazy P.O.S. that’s just itching to see you go. No amount of advice or doing a great job is going to matter. Although, you may be very happy when you do go and find something better anyway.

It’s just sad and unfair how much power your boss has over your career. Sigh.




Benefits for Companies Fostering Friendly Environments?

You bet! You’re probably thinking that this is a no-brainer, but let me tell you that there are companies out there that specifically go out of their way to destroy the alliances that employees forge amongst themselves.

I once worked at a company that was so against people helping others that when some were overloaded with work, others had to “sneak” around in order to lend a hand. The work load was completely imbalanced, and management knew it. But if it wasn’t “your responsibility”, you weren’t permitted to so much as provide filing help to your colleagues if they were desperate for it.

Someone told me recently that they were called into the “big boss’” office and interrogated. The boss wanted to know who they were friends with and what the relationship was. As I listened to this the hairs on the back of my neck stood up… it was creepy.

"So what is the relationship between you and So-and-So?" the boss asked (and we’re talking specifically about women, no romantic involvements). Hey: how's about they sit next to each other and exchange pleasantries on a daily basis? Apparently that's too much of a "relationship" for the boss to handle.

While I know there are companies that promote friendly environments, I do know that companies such as the one I’m telling you about here are not that unusual.

Do you know why people leave their jobs? One of the biggest reasons that people quit and move on is because they don’t feel like there’s a sense of belonging; they don’t feel like there’s any “team” spirit. Why can’t you help the co-worker next to you with simple data entry if that’s what they need? This isn’t like taking over their responsibilities, but helping them manage theirs. Even if this nonsense isn’t happening to you, seeing evidence of it can be a big turn off.

Why would you want bright and talented employees to find jobs elsewhere when this can be so easily remedied? Besides, it’s a simple (and inexpensive) thing that can make your people happy.

Go on, give it a shot.




Prison Break: How I Fled Corporate America

I've told many horror stories about my "time served" in corporate America. When I started this blog a year ago I was still incarcerated. I would tell people the insane stories about my job and the general environment I was in and the response was always the same: QUIT.

Now I'm hearing it again in regards to others' stories that I post here. Of course, quitting is much easier said than done.

For me, the moment that things got really bad at work I dedicated my LIFE to saving my sanity and getting out of that hell-hole of a job. Granted, I probably should have started seeing the writing on the wall before the s*** really hit the fan, but I was in denial... as many people are (and quite frankly I had great benefits: 4 weeks vacation, fully vested in 401k, and I had a great reputation with everyone outside of my immediate boss). Things were not yet at the point where people would tell me I should quit. Things were just... getting uncomfortable.

From the time things went from bad to worse until the day I fled, 18 months had elapsed. During that time I sent out 200 "cold" resumes (from which I had ONE decent lead... plus many other offers to sell various insurance policies and products door-to-door), followed about two dozen "warm" leads (interviews from recommended sources – my friends in the business), networked my tail off and filled up my business card folio with 96 cards. Although I had some great responses, some extremely close calls (I could have had a hot job at Viacom if they didn't completely change management), and even an offer (with longer hours and a pay cut that would have forced me to take a part-time job), I was unable to make my way out.

I spent everyday in tears. There wasn't anything anybody could tell me that would make it better. I cried when I woke up, I cried when I went to lunch, I cried when I went home, and I cried when people told me it was time to find another job (as if I didn't know and wasn't already actively pursuing that goal for 18 months!). I also cried out of frustration.

I knew I needed to leave and began to devise ways where I could just quit. Time and again I'd heard stories of people quitting their jobs with nothing to go to, but I was too terrified to do that and had too much at stake (bills, mortgage, etc). You really can't just quit a job without some kind of strategy.

So I developed a strategy.

To every person out there in a hazardous work situation (hazardous to your physical, mental, and emotional health): You CAN quit your job!!! It takes planning and effort, but it can be done.

Here's what you do:

- Investigate your financial status. Develop an additional savings plan that will enable you to quit your job. Cut everything out that is not absolutely necessary. Use your 401k only when (and if) your savings runs dry.

- Once you determine your financial situation, plan a "drop dead" date. How long will you need to do what you need to do to get everything in order before you quit? 3 months? 6 months? A year? (It took me a year when I finally made the choice).

- Find something to do. You quit your job… now what? You’re either going to look for something else in your field or try something completely different. I did the latter: I formed Pied Piper Consulting, wrote a book about my corporate hell experiences (Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way… to come out around Thanksgiving… stay tuned for details), and picked up work as a freelance writer to help with the bills in the meantime. Something I recommend to people in this situation that don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, is to take a personality test. It’s a fantastic guide – I did it and it revealed some very real career possibilities… as a matter of fact, I’m living one of them!

The journey was a tough one. Frankly, I’m struggling even now but: I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my career. Things are moving slowly, but they are moving – and in the right direction. That’s good enough for me. Every day I wake up thankful for the decision I made.

People, you need to remember: this life is not a dress rehearsal. Both of my parents had strokes at young ages. My father’s parents also suffered strokes. My older brother (who's still young) has been known to have high blood pressure. You see where this is going? Right – life’s too short to work so hard and be taken advantage of. I know how good I am and I know what I can contribute to a company and to society. I’m doing it now on my own terms. You can too.




How Do You Spend Your Lunch Hour?

Most people that work in the corporate world get an hour for lunch. Of course, some get less, but the amount of time itself is not what I’m getting at today. Lunch hour is the time to step away from the mayhem (or boredom) of your morning and take some time for yourself to grab a bite, run errands, or just take a walk.

Of course, many take the opportunity to eat lunch at their desks and read, pay bills, make phone calls, or check personal email. Here lies the issue. My friend, Ms.Worksforwhat, (whom you may have read about in Thursday’s post Work_Life_Balance ) once got a lashing for her use of the internet during her lunch hour. It goes without saying that there’s some sites that just should not be accessed at the office (hmmmm, like porn or any site with loud, obnoxious sound effects – that should be turned off anyway at work). Whatever.

So Ms. Worksforwhat is chowing down on her tuna on rye as she watches a news clip online. Incidentally, it’s a news clip made available on the company’s own intranet. A manager happens to pass by (not her immediate manager) and see this and later rats on her with her manager. So, she gets in trouble for watching what the company puts on their own web site during her lunch hour. I ask: WHY?

Not only that, it’s something that comes up at review time as well. I know from personal experience that once something is put on your record like that, it stays there. I think that if management is going to have a problem with internet use, they should not go out saying that it’s okay to use the internet for personal use during lunch hour and completely eliminate all use of it. And then they should chain the workers to their desks, and demand a blood sacrifice.

So my question for the masses is this: Why should it really matter to your company what you do on your lunch hour (provided you’re not snorting blow in the restroom… then you’d have bigger problems)? What should Ms. Worksforwhat have done in her situation?




20 Questions for Your Boss

I got a big kick out of this article from Poynteronline.com about how to get along better with your boss.

Following normal logic, I’d have to agree wholeheartedly with each point the writer makes. People don’t usually think about “managing up” when it comes to their day-to-day responsibilities. If you have a good job with reasonable upper management, then by all means, this would be the way to proceed.

The reason I think this is a hoot is because I couldn’t begin to imagine having tried these tactics on bosses I’ve known.

These are the questions raised by the writer to be answered by the employee over time:

Twenty Questions about Your Boss:

1. Preferred method of giving info to me:
Numerous emails, phone calls, hourly meetings, passing notes under the stall in the ladies’ room.

2. Preferred method of getting info from me:
Water torture, the rack

3. Biggest current pressure:
The inability to manage (anything)

4. Stands for these values, first and foremost:
Backstabbing and dishonesty; dirty politics

5. Biggest "hot button":
When the subordinates stand up for themselves

6. Passion outside of work:
You mean there’s life outside the office?

7. Has expertise in:
Making others miserable

8. Lacks expertise in:
People and communication skills

9. Vision for our organization:
Removing me from it

10. Would be really hurt if someone:
Slammed an ice pick through their eye

11. Best boss my boss ever worked for:
All of them that told her what to do

12. Expects this from me when there's a small problem:
To be present so she can rant and disparage me whether the problem has anything to do with me or not

13. Expects this from me then there's a big problem:
To commit hari kari

14. Will not compromise when it comes to:
Being proven wrong

15. Considers a great day at work to be:
Making others cry

16. Handles pressure by:
(see #15)

17. Is respected by her/his bosses for:
Fulfilling their dirty deeds

18. Respects others for:
The same

19. Has a blind spot about:
Being right about anything

20. Thinks I'm great at:
Being wrong




Friend or Foe?

Using the Internet to find a job can be an enormous help. However, it can also be the thing that keeps you from success. In this Consumeraffairs.com article, the writer suggests that too much of our personal lives are easy to access for a prospective employer.

You need to take careful inventory of available information about yourself online. While it’s helpful to have a web site with a portfolio (as I’ve learned the importance of being a freelance writer), it can be damaging as well.

So, as you’re on the job hunt, Google yourself to see what comes up. Even if someone else published photos of you online, it could be incriminating enough to turn an employer off. Apparently many of them are doing this nowadays so you need to pay attention.




Are You a New Manager or Just Stupid?

It’s important to realize that when you’re newly promoted into a management position, you’re not going to “get it” all at once. It will take some time and probably learning some tough lessons in order to become truly effective as a leader. Incidentally, there are individuals who have been in management roles that still don’t get it right – and have no business being in leadership roles.

Just because you’re somebody’s boss does not make you a leader. As a new manager, there’s lots to know and learn. Take a peek at the following 5 points as a brief guide (Trust me, I’ve been there before!):

Allow your staff the freedom to do their job. This encourages creativity which offers new solutions to problems and more efficient ways of doing old tasks. New managers don’t always get this right the first time around. Just because something’s always been done a certain way does not make it right.

Don’t fall into the trap of micromanagement! It’s important as a manager to learn how to delegate responsibility properly. Let others have a shot at doing their jobs and learning new things. Besides, micromanagers look like helpless weasels with OCD. Help grow another’s self-esteem; get out of the way and let them do their job.

Don’t just tell others what to do! Stop for a minute before you speak and just listen to what your staff is saying. Good communication is the key to any successful relationship. If you think management is just bossing someone around, smack yourself. Get this thought through your head: It’s not about you.

Find a mentor. This is crucial if you expect growth in your career. Following the advice of someone who’s “been there” before can save you from yourself. It helps to know which pitfalls to avoid and which opportunities you should take advantage of for further growth opportunities and learning.

Expect mistakes. They’re going to happen anyway – just realize that it’s not the end of the world. Pick up the pieces, dust yourself off and move on. Mistakes are lessons learned – don’t forget them! This also goes for your staff – don’t hang them out to dry if they screw up… remember, we’re all human. Don’t lose touch with that.




A Little Late to the Bully Club

There were a couple of people that brought this Yahoo! article about workplace bullying to my attention. So I figured I now had to make some kind of mention of it. Frankly, this writer is a little late to the game. However, what I want to mention is the common mistake that these writers make, this woman included. They think that the problem continues because:

“Most bully victims keep their mouths shut, whispering their horrid experiences to close friends rather than higher-ups.”

While this may be true in some cases, let’s look at some other things that might be going on here.

How likely is that the bully in question is completely undiscovered? Not bloody likely. The only case I think that a bully might be getting away scott-free is if they’re new to the team and there isn’t anyone that knows what this person is truly capable of. For the most part, there’s always someone that knows what’s really going on. In my case, not only did other employees know about my boss (from firsthand experience), but my boss’ boss knew - and let it continue. I mean, let's face it; if a supervisor delivers results, their bosses may not care or question how they go about doing their job - as long as they do it.

For me, it took a little while but I eventually did go to the “higher-ups”. When I did, they did nothing. So not only was I wrongfully accused of being a bad employee, when I took my documentation to the higher-ups to clear my name, I was then viewed as a troublemaker. I know I’m not alone in this: there are employees everywhere that try to do something about their situation and are shut out by those that can help them. Instead of helping, it makes their situation even worse – if you can possibly imagine that.

So, those that don’t speak up may not be wrong by keeping silent. You may ask, “Well how much worse could it actually make their situation?” The answer is: MUCH WORSE.

Let’s be clear on this point: The reason bullying continues is largely because the bullying behavior is backed by others – not because the subordinates (or other coworkers) are keeping their mouths shut.




Work-Life Balance?

My friend told me an atrocious story. Actually, she told me a few of them, but I’m only going to share one of them with you right now.

My friend, we’ll call her Ms. Worksforwhat, is lucky enough to work for a company listed in Working Mother magazine as one of the Top 100 companies for working mothers. This company made this list because of all the benefits offered to working moms (duh). So, in a company where half of all employees flex their hours, 10% work from home, and many more take advantage of laptop computers, cell phones and BlackBerry wireless email devices – all provided by the company, I have to wonder why my friend has been left out in the cold.

Ms. Worksforwhat just returned to work from her maternity leave. Prior to her leave, she discussed the possibility of changing her hours a couple of times a week (“flexing” her hours) in order to pick her child up from day care. Her manager said, “Sure - we’ll work something out”.

HOWEVER, when she came back and asked about her flex hours, her manager dodged the issue and refused to give a direct answer. He told her something to the effect of, “I don’t remember this conversation… we’ll have to see”. And of course, she hadn’t sent an email to follow up when they had the original conversation.

As it turned out, Ms. Worksforwhat discovered that her manager was coming in early and leaving early. Hmmm, that’s odd (she thought). After a few days back at work, he finally told her that she was not allowed to alter her hours the few times a week she needed to (of course she’d still be adhering to a 40-hour work week). However, he was now going to be working the exact hours that she requested – 5 days a week. So, the excuse she got was, “due to departmental needs” she needed to be at the office. So much for accommodating the working moms. This manager by the way, has no other responsibilities awaiting him at home like a wife, kids, or pet (or anything else we’re aware of at the time of this posting). Is it really so necessary to keep her an extra half-hour 3 days a week instead letting her pick her baby up at day care? She now has to perform gymnastics in order to make sure her baby has coverage – all the while hearing how “understanding” and “flexible” her company is.

Come ON. If you’re going to have this kind of policy in place, it needs to be fair for all employees – not just some – or in this case, for someone who doesn’t truly need the flex time – someone who’s not a working parent.


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