b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: February 2007



How Women Can Be Successful in Business (part II)

Continuing from yesterday's post: women are way more likely to sabotage themselves in the workplace. Per Debra Burrell CSW, here's another reason why:

"Women interpret withdrawal from communication as abandonment. They take a lack of communication personally.

A man’s tendency, under stress, is to isolate himself. His door is closed, literally and figuratively. A man will attempt to shut out all extraneous situations to better focus on the problem at hand. Interruptions are experienced with irritation and abruptness. A woman who doesn’t realize this, will let her imagination get the best of her, and jump to the conclusion that she is not “liked”, or that something is going on behind her back (i.e. taking it personally). She may tell herself that she is deliberately being excluded for something important, and then have an attitude that is inappropriate and problematic based on her perceptions."

Debra Burrell CSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice as well as the Regional Training Director of the Mars Venus Institute. She can be reached by calling 212-754-6232. You can also visit her website at http://www.debraburrell.com/.




Do Women Sabotage Themselves in the Workplace? (Part I)

I was talking to my friend Debra Burrell recently about how women sabotage themselves in the workplace. It is her belief that women do the damnest of things that put them at a great disadvantage. So as I present Debra’s points over the next few days I ask you to think about it and determine whether you’re guilty of doing the same:

Women seek input and are seen as indecisive and lacking in leadership qualities.

When a woman is faced with a problem, her tendency is to explore options out loud. She researches the situation by trying to figure out who may have faced something similar, determining what the history is within the organization, and getting opinions from respected peers. We discuss problematic situations we face with those who we want to keep “in the loop”. We do it as a sign of courtesy. Unfortunately, this tendency to discuss with others can make the woman who is seeking information, appear indecisive and uncertain. This is especially so in a male oriented environment where the general rule is not to present problems unless you have solutions.

Debra Burrell CSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice as well as the Regional Training Director of the Mars Venus Institute. She can be reached by calling 212-754-6232. You can also visit her website at www.debraburrell.com.




Top 10 Ways to Get Blacklisted at Work

When announcing a reduction in force, companies typically frame it as a measure to reorganize or cut costs. In some instances, that's actually true. However, often, it's a way of cleaning house -- getting rid of "deadwood" or "difficult" employees without incurring liability.

In her book 'Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You to Know,' former human resources executive Cynthia Shapiro says that she has seen organizations initiate a restructuring just to get rid of one or two people.

Stuart Watson, an independent human resources consultant, says he's witnessed the same.

"Periodic restructurings allow managers to purge employees they don't like in a way that averts lawsuits and saves face for everyone involved," he says. "Whether formal or informal, nearly every company or manager has a blacklist of employees they'd just as soon not have to deal with. The trick to surviving a layoff is to not be on that list!"

Here are 10 common ways one can get blacklisted:

1. Embarrass, insult or argue relentlessly with your manager. Your boss holds the key to your future with this company. Offending him or her is career suicide.

2. Say negative things about your employer or its mission every chance you get. Companies want employees who will support their initiatives -- not sabotage them.

3. Be at the top of your pay range without providing added value. From a business perspective, the ideal employee is one who is competent, shows potential for growth and is near the middle or bottom of the pay range. If your pay falls high in the range, you best be sure you're giving your employer its money's worth!

4. Take the work-life balance credo too far.You shouldn't routinely leave early to watch soccer practice or spend more than 15 minutes a day conducting personal business on company time. Even the most family-friendly of companies wants a worker who puts in the hours and is focused on the job!

5. Complain to HR about your boss or co-workers without first trying to work it out directly. Failure to handle your own problems can signal immaturity, a possible lack of people skills and can get you labeled as "difficult."

6. Use HR as a confessional for personal or professional problems.As nice as they may seem, remember, HR reps are there to serve the company's best interests, not yours; they likely will report any conversations they've had with you to your manager.

7. Make a highly visible mistake. To publicly atone for its sins or set an example for other employees, corporations will often offer up a scapegoat.

8. Use your boss or co-worker as a therapist. No matter how sympathetic they may appear, your colleagues have their own problems and lives to get home to.

9. Tell your colleagues that you're planning on taking maternity or family leave -- or filing for workers compensation -- before telling your boss. If your boss or a superior hears about your plans from someone other than you, they could lay you off to save the company money and hassle and claim they had no idea of your personal situation.

10. Don't bother to bond with your new boss or colleagues. You'll come off as distrustful, standoffish or socially ill-adept. Besides, it's much easier to fire someone with whom you don't have a relationship."

Bottom line, it pays to be a little paranoid," Watson advises. "Examine your image and actions from the company's perspective to make sure you're viewed as adding value. You want to be seen as someone who is competent, professional, supportive of the company and easy to work with."

Copyright 2006 CareerBuilder.com.




Lightbulbs Usually Mean Bright Ideas

After a hefty hiatus, I decided to come back with a joke that a friend just shared with me:

How to get "sick leave":

I needed a few days off work, but I knew the Boss would not allow me to take a leave. I thought that maybe if I acted "CRAZY" then he would tell me to take a few days off. So I hung upside down on the ceiling and made funny noises.

My co-worker (who's blonde) asked me what I was doing.

I told her that I was pretending to be a light bulb so that the Boss would think I was "CRAZY" and give me a few days off.

A few minutes later the Boss came into the office and asked "What are you doing?" I told him I was a light bulb.

He said "You are clearly stressed out. Go home and recuperate for a couple of days". I jumped down and walked out of the office.

When my co-worker (the blonde) followed me, the Boss asked her"...And where do you think you're going?"

(You're gonna love this.....)

She said, "I'm going home too, I can't work in the dark!"




10 Signs That Indicate You've Gone Cubicle Crazy

Many companies have a containment policy about cubicle decoration. Of course some don't - and this is to give employees some sense of freedom to include at their desk some items and photos that help get them through the day. So in some office environments it's a way to keep morale up. Some people however, lose all control.

If you feel you are on the borderline, watch out; you could be spurring innocent bystanders to more cubicle madness.

The following are 10 signs that indicate your cubicle may be overly adorned:

1. Do you need trademark protection for pictures or images of your cube ?

2. Does the new employee tour feature people walking by your cubicle ?

3. Do film students approach you daily asking to use your cube as a set?

4. Is the net worth of the collectibles in your cube more than your rent?

5. Do the electrical gadgets and settings for your cube require a special permit from Maintenance?

6. Do friends and co-workers ask to borrow your cube or pretend it's theirs for visitors or dates?

7. Does your cubicle have its own website and Youtube.com video?

8. Do branch offices in other division campuses of your company have copycats of your cube and wannabe cubicles with different themes?

9. There is a petition circulating to get your cubicle in the Annual Report.

10. The competition has approached you on the sly with a job offer, as long as you bring the Cube Magic with you.




The Cr@p Sandwich: “Constructive” Criticism from the Boss

It’s great when the boss gives you a compliment. It’s even better when it’s genuine. I don’t know about you, but my favorite is when I used to get:

“I appreciate what you did with this report. Of course, there was a comma missing on page 219 of 376 which makes me think you need to spend a little more attention to detail, but otherwise the report looks good.”

OR (as in a performance review):

“Worker Bee A streamlined “The X Report” and completed a major overhaul that cut man-hours by 50%. Of course, we expected man-hours to be cut by 51%. Still, we look forward to more pro-active work by this employee.”

My point is this: you can have the freshest, tastiest slices of bread around. But as soon as you stuff it with crap it loses its appeal quickly. Who wants to eat a sandwich when the insides taste bad?

If you’re going to pay a compliment on a job well done, do it and move on. Pick another conversation for areas that need improvement.




Using Feedback to Motivate

Entrepreneur magazine surveyed their readers to find out the most important issues on their brain for 2007 (January issue).

#1 on that list is retaining key workers (68%).

I think the masses are divided on the motivation issue. People are either on one side or the other; there doesn’t seem to be an in between. Motivation is what people have when they love their jobs. And guess what, it DOES affect a company’s bottom line when its employees love their job. The exact opposite can be said when they can’t stand it anymore and need to flee or run the risk of going postal.

What’s one thing you can do to help motivate your employees? Give feedback. This doesn’t mean you go out telling them what a horrible job they did and how could they be so stupid to make this mistake or whatever. If they goofed on something there’s right way and a wrong way to proceed. What I just told you is the wrong way. Likewise, if an employee did something particularly well then you need to let them know this too – because you want them to continue doing it!

Give feedback often; don’t wait for annual performance reviews to practice this. But before you dive head first into giving feedback, you need to know a few things. In Motivational Management by Alexander Hiam, the author explains that feedback works best when it meets the following criteria. It is:

Specific – so the employee can relate it to identifiable behaviors or actions.

Accurate – this leads to helpful insights, not confusion or anger.

Informative – gives insight into how to do things differently and better.

Controllable – relates to behaviors or actions the employee can change.

“Your goal should be to stimulate employees to improve their own judgment so they can monitor their own performances more effectively.”





Conference Call Pet Peeves

Sometimes when you have to get through that morning meeting, you have to gird your loins and grit your teeth for audio conference hell. For many employees this may be the ultimate test of patience, cunning, verbal defence, and ability to survive. For others, it’s the death knell, the black raven of their work week.

Ever get through a conference call with a few colleagues or the entire sales branch and just feel like you want to lie down... or jab a knitting needle in your ear? Ever feel numb from hearing too many facts and figures, or too many people trying to be heard? Ever want to pick up a chair and send it flying through the window? This is because you are forced to act as though real communication is going on.

In the caveman era, grouped social hunters and gatherers massed in the same area in primitive cultures, saving the need for conference calls. Today, we are forced to stare at a small plastic speaker or worse, a video screen to communicate the same dull details that make us nod off at our own desks.

While studies have not ye shown the deleterious effects of conference calls on human health and development of homo sapiens, this much is clear: Man was not made to group around a tiny speaker at work for more than an hour. For any reason.

Conference call pet peeves are many, but these are the top five.

The Chirper

This person talks at a level that makes you careful to back it away from the glass of your monitor, and makes your countertop or nearby coffee mugs start to shake. You put the receiver or speakerphone closer or farther away, depending on what you can stand. You tune out the noise, and when asked to repeat a detail or answer a question, you wake from a sound sleep.

The Accent

There’s nothing wrong with having an accent, as long as the conference call is conducted in the same language. But having someone stumble through presentations on the line because the boss wants them to learn English is like having fingernails scraped across a chalkboard.

Accents work with difficulty because when audio is the only medium of communication, it becomes much more important. Instead of concentrating on the key points, people on seven continents are working to help Gilberto finish a sentence.

The radio announcer

You have to brace for calls from the ‘radio announcer”. Most likely this is someone who has been told they have a great voice. One time too many. The radio announcer will talk at full volume, gaily and robustly hopping through almost every statement and sentence with attitude and more. It’s unnerving and exhausting.

The radio announcer doesn’t know when to quit and needs hemming in. They’ll open a new item or issue no matter how long the call goes. You can get lucky if they schedule the call you participate in late, after the radio announcer is talked down a notch.

The Guest

The guest is wearisome because callers have to remember not to discuss anything that person might not be allowed to know, and tolerate their rhapsodizing about events and issues nobody else knows about. Being polite to someone who breaks in and interrupts the normal flow of the call can screw everything up.

For this reason it’s tough including people outside the company. They may bring up issues that unwise participants may not have been coached to keep mum about. It’s also prone to make people angry that other groups or divisions have merit or privileges they don’t. After a call like this, give everyone a wide berth for 20 minutes.

The Little Girl

The little girl type is the worst, because it’s mind-blowing to hear a forty year old plus woman try to talk like a young girl. The cotton-candy, excited or jinked-voice just grates. When deep-voiced men state numbers and talk money in the millions, a hesitant, shy, breathy, yet headstrong woman can sound like …something else.

These days, people who work in business, especially women, know exactly which cues they are giving off. If the Little Girl needs to get in the middle of a duel or take sides, just let it go. Any response means this bid for undivided attention will occur again and again. It may mean a shot of insulin is needed. Listeners just chafe at having to hear it.


If any of these five types are mixed together, the combination can be lethal. Combine this with any of the other types above, and you’ve got a killer conference call on your hands. If two opponents battle it out, take bets or place money on the longest shot.

You may just make enough for a cappuccino or something stronger to take edge off after the endless round of conference calls is over for the day.


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