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



Escape from the Cubicle Farm: Things to Keep in Mind Before Quitting Your Job

As we say goodbye to 2006, I want to pass along some tips to keep in mind as you (attempt to) move forward in your careers. One of the reasons my blog attracts readers is (aside from keeping tabs on me) that people know and understand the stories I post. Everybody has bad days at the office. Some even have them running consecutively and can probably share some colorful tales. Many have done so here.

With a fresh start fast approaching, now is a great time to decide where you’re at. It’s also a good time to ask yourself some questions: Are you happy where you are? Do you have a gameplan as to what your next step would be if it’s a promotion or new job you’re angling for? Are you going to cut and run or patch things up? If you split, are you going into the same job elsewhere or starting over at square one?

#1: Are you going to stay the course or split? If there’s problems at your job relax: everyone has problems where they work. Of course, some are worse than others. Some can be fixed while others can’t. Take the time to evaluate where your workplace issues lay before making any rash decisions.

#2: If you’re gonna hit the road as soon as you can, remember to brush up on your networking skills. It’s always good to keep up on the contacts you have. Make some calls, send out some emails; be sure to remain on people’s radar. They can’t help you if they don’t know you’re there and need help.

#3: If you don’t want to go yet, do what you can to find out how to get your job – and career path – where you want it to be. Ask for feedback. Be honest about your achievements and ask your supervisor(s) to do the same. Throughout the year they should be providing you with the feedback necessary to keep you on track and moving forward. Discuss what’s going on and ask specifically what it is you need to do to get the recognition you deserve or the promotion you want.

#4: You’re desperate to go but you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Evaluate your skills. Write down the things you’re good at and enjoy doing. If that’s too much of a challenge, take a personality test. I happen to be a fan of the MAPP Test (Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential). You’ll like it too, it’s very thorough and some of the results may surprise you. Along with the results, it will provide several career choices based on your answers. It’s really very cool.

#5: Tired of dealing with the rat race? Yeah, I was too. Figure out a plan and go to work for yourself. Get your financial ducks in a row and research the business you want to start. This one may take some time however. If you can, get whatever certifications and accreditations while you are still employed full time. When you’re working for yourself, you’ll want to give your business as much time and energy as you can spare.

So that’s what I got right now. The new year is an exciting time; for most of us, there’s nothing but time ahead. Now’s the time to get your game face on and play life like you mean it.

Happy New Year.




How to Blog about Work without Getting Caught

I’ll be the first person in line to say how fun it is to blog. Of course I wouldn’t be the only one to say that; there are millions of blogs out there. You could search for days on any number of subjects. Me personally, I chose to blog about bad bosses. Who knew I’d have so much to go on? The stories keep coming in. As long as my readers keep emailing me or people continue to share their experiences, I’ll have something to write about.

Since I get into boss/workplace/career issues, I think it’s only appropriate that I bring up blogging and work. Blogging as I mentioned is a great thing, with many people doing it. However, it should also be said that blogging has its time and place.

Regardless of what you decide to blog about, unless you do it for a living you should not do it while at work. That’s rule #1: Never blog at work. Of all the blogging I’ve done, I’ve never done it while at the office. Especially if your company has strict rules about being on the Internet, you don’t want to get caught doing this. It can be grounds for immediate dismissal (or at least disciplinary action).

If you blog about work, that puts you in another category altogether. Corporate bloggers are actually paid by their company to post articles about their products and programs. This is done in an effort to raise public awareness about the company – it’s a great way to create buzz and drive sales. They are coached however, to steer clear of publishing proprietary information or anything that could be construed as counterproductive to the company cause. So you can’t get on your soap box and talk about management or coworkers. Of course there are plenty of individuals that do. My UK blogging buddy has a site dedicated to these types of blogs at Workblogging.com. It’s so inspiring.

If you want to get into blogging about management and coworkers, you need to do so smartly. Rule #2: Never name names. It may also be wise to leave out identifying information about your subject matter. This can serve as enormous protection against potential lawsuits.

Libel law consists of 4 necessary factors:
1. The libelous text needs to be published where others will see it.
2. It needs to identify who the individual is.
3. It has to cause damage to the other party’s reputation/result in job termination.
4. It can only be libelous if it is FALSE.

So, if you’re ever trapped in a libel suit, your best defense is the truth! And just so you know, the law leaves a great deal of wiggle room on the name calling bit. If you don’t want to identify your bat-$#%@-crazy manager, you can actually say bat-$#@%-crazy manager. Gotta love that rhetorical hyperbole. On a serious note, if you have any questions about this, you should consider finding a lawyer to ensure that you remain in the clear.

Rule# 3: Keep it to yourself! Just because people may find out about it anyway does not mean you should run out and tell everybody – particularly at work. It’s one thing to have a small handful of friends reading it, it’s quite another to tell your friends at work. That’s a surefire way to get the word out, which could get you fired, fast. If they find out after the fact at least they can't fire you.

And to all of you reading blogs at work: you should probably get back to your job! Good luck and happy blogging.




How Can YOU Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way?

In the spirit of launching my new book Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way: Tales of Survival from the Corporate Battlefield, I wanted to take a moment to explain what this means. Overall, people have a clearly defined idea of what makes a good leader, but sometimes, even those with the best of intentions (or so they think) tend to stray from the mark.

The idea of "Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way" is what many people want to say to their bad bosses. In these situations, it's the bat-$#@%-crazy managers that create the problems. There's usually an array of issues, but it's problems in communication that ultimately lead to a slow-down in production. Managers should be the ones to facilitate communication, instill a sense of pride in others for the job and the company, and properly motivate their employees (not intimidate them).

I came across this leadership blog post that caught my eye. It has some fantastic ideas about leadership that is really quite accessible. Even a flea would understand the basic principles outlined here.

While this article gets into several traits of a successful leader, I'll take a look at 3 of them:

Failure can be a good thing. I've worked for managers in the past that had a real issue with this. Of course, there's failure and then there's failure. You may never know if a new idea is going to work until you go out on a limb and give it a whirl. Of course if you work for someone that has a limited capacity for risk-taking, this may be a difficult hurtle to leap. However, as a leader, it's crucial to put yourself out there and take calculated risks. Failure in these circumstances means you possess ingenuity and are able to step out of your comfort zone. These kinds of risks sometimes need to be taken in order to move forward. You also need to remember to foster this in your staff and not beat them up for it. Drop the ego at the door and focus on your job!

Be true to your beliefs. In a forbes.com article outlining the five marks of a great leader, Paul Johnson places moral courage at the top of his list. This can piggyback on the idea that it's not always best to run with the pack. It takes a strong person to do what they feel is best when others are saying something different. Be strong: don't give in to the whims of others when it will hurt your team! I've seen this happen too many times - managers will throw subordinates under the bus to make themselves either look better to their superiors or feel better about themselves. What a bad (and weak) way to go.

Believe. Learn from the mistakes and move forward. Don't dwell on them! Far too often managers will continue to point fingers about all the mistakes individuals on their team may have made (or the missing commas or bullet-points that should have been added to their emails...I mean, come ON). This does no one any good. Put your faith in your staff. I'll bet that they are smart and talented and have every intention of doing their best. If you make them believe it, they will fulfill your expectations. The same goes if you shred their confidence and make them feel like failures; they will falter. If you can set them up to fail (and believe me, I've seen you in action), you should be able to set them up to win - which in turn creates a victory for you.

Just something to chew over this Christmas Day. Happy Holidays to all.




Work and Weddings

These are a few of my favorite things. If that’s not enough, just combine the two and double your pleasure. To top it all off, take those two and add recovery from a stomach virus. Now we’re talking. This was me this past weekend.

Someone I used to work with got married and so I joined my boyfriend (whom I had met incidentally while at my last job) and went. It was a beautiful ceremony; the bride was stunning, the groom ebullient; the food was truly delectable; the band versatile and a real crowd-pleaser. It sounds like a nice time out right?

It was, except that I had to face most of the folks I used to work with that I had no desire to see. These were all the people who sided with my former captors, I mean bosses. They mostly put on pleasant faces and faked it, as did I. I say mostly because not all of them came to say hello. If anything, they went out of their way to not say hello. Oh well, that certainly wasn’t my loss.

Again, to top it all off, I had these bozos to my back (because they were literally at the table behind me), I was recovering from a nasty stomach flu (at least I'd know which way to face if I felt the urge to purge), and then I had to sit face-to-face with a woman I fired a little over a year ago. Let me tell you, I disliked the people I used to work with so much that facing the person I fired was a welcome distraction. We even had some good conversation.

I know that inviting people from work to a wedding is a given for many people. It has *never* been for me, and now that I work alone I really don’t have to face this issue. Unless I’m friends with my boss or a co-worker or two, I really can’t imagine inviting people from the office. I mean, don’t we all have enough stress to deal with when it comes time for the company Christmas party? Why would anyone want to do this to themselves at any other time? Then again, if you have a large enough wedding, you can tuck them away in a corner and go your merry way; after all, if you’re the one getting married, you won’t be spending time with them, will you?

Mixing the office with my personal life in that way is not my idea of a party. I wouldn’t even tell them I was getting married. Let them guess – it’ll give them something to chew over at the water cooler.




Guilt by Association

Sometimes it just doesn’t matter if you do everything right at your job or not.

Back in the days when I was still incarcerated in corporate America, most of the sales department had gone on a little field trip to the sunny beaches of Florida (gotta love those “working” vacations). With them went most of the management in my department. So it was just myself and another lowly manager left behind to keep the other peons company.

As this was at a time when I was already in the dog house (for reasons I never found out why), I kept my head down low and just tried to get everything done. Although I had the reprieve of my captors being away, I was still overloaded with a ridiculous amount of work that would have made any seasoned pro cry.

So, I went to work and did what I needed to do. Every once in a while I heard a ruckus out in the cubicle farm that made me emerge from my cell to investigate what was happening. It turned out someone found an Internet game about a yeti throwing a penguin or something like that.

It would have been OK if they were quiet about it. But, they let EVERYONE in on the game. Again, since the “grown-ups” were away, they were openly playing. There were contests going to see how far each contestant threw the penguins. To say it got out of hand is an understatement. Then the emails came boasting the high scores; more friendly competition. I read them and deleted them. First of all I was just too busy. Secondly, with the way things were going for me, the last thing I needed was someone catching me play an online game.

Well… turns out the other lowly manager who was left behind stepped forward and said something. The comment was something along the lines of “please remove me from your email distribution”. OK. Can’t fault them for that. But we knew there was some trouble afoot. It was further confirmed when everyone came back and this manager apparently volunteered the information that everyone was playing this game.

You see where this is going… I too got nailed for playing this game. I didn’t so much as go to the web site with the game, but I was deemed just as guilty as if I had. There was no getting myself out of it – I was guilty by association.

What should I have done? Maybe I could have also sent an email asking to be removed from the distribution, although I’m not sure that would have helped at all. I could have ratted everyone out, but I didn’t want to do that… even if it meant I would have been cleared, I can’t see how that would have benefited anybody. Even when I showed all the work I got done – which could never have been done if I stopped to play games – it still didn’t get me off the hook.

It just goes to show that once you’re in the dog house, there’s sometimes little you can do to dig yourself out.




Think Your Emails Are Secure? Think Again.

An MSNBC article I just read confirms what I’ve suspected for a long time: your emails and IMs at work are most likely tracked and saved.

I know there are those of you who truly believe that personal use of company email is your right (after all, how are you supposed to get all of your personal business done otherwise?). Although it doesn’t sound like everyone’s transactions will be saved and/or monitored, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution. If you’re going to use company email for personal use, you really (really!) need to proceed with caution.

This is especially the case for those of you that use company email for social purposes – don’t do this! You may be completely justified in bashing your bat-$#@%-crazy manager, but if – heaven forbid – you got fired and contested it… yeah, they’d go through your emails and blow your case up. Not only that… you could get sued just on the basis that you’re sending such emails.

At the same time, you could be using emails for other personal reasons and get nailed for that. If the powers that be feel you’re using their email too much for your own purposes, it can be grounds on which they fire you. I know, I know, you do it during your lunch hour… but you know as well as I do that it sometimes extends beyond that. Not only that, but companies know it. All I’m saying is: Be Careful.

Aside from email, Big Boss is probably watching your use of the Internet as well. They can (and most likely do) track which web sites you visit. Even if you do this on your lunch hour, you’ll be watched. I’d be very careful about where you visit. I’m not one to talk on that matter, as I visited job sites frequently when I still worked for my former employer. I worked on the resume and sent emails only from my home computer, but I did go looking to see what listings were out there. It made me feel like I was doing something which helped me cope with the nonsense in front of me. But of course, if management confronted me with it and tried to fire me, they could have – with reason.

It’s great that we have all this technology readily available at our fingertips… good or bad, it is what it is. But you need to keep in mind that there’s a record of everything, and it could cost you your job if you’re not careful.


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