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Showing posts from September, 2013

Hello, Goodbye: How To Leave A Company Holiday Party

Fall is here, the company holiday party circuit is right around the corner, and it all begs the question: how are you going to extricate yourself from the party when you feel like leaving? Most of us have been there. You're at a party that offered a clear start time but no end time, and you're ready to leave. Perhaps you tend toward "introvert" on the extrovert-to-introvert scale and about two to three hours of non-stop small talk is all you can handle before you need some alone time to recharge your mental batteries. If there were a show called I'm An Introvert, Get Me Out Of Here!, then you'd be on it. Now throw a party on top of it that goes until...it stops, whenever that is?...and you're truly lost for words. Is it me, or is there a trend these days toward party invitations that offer a clear start time but no end time? It used to be that the birthday party was scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m., so you knew when to leave. But now the party starts at 2 p.…

Are Company Holiday Gifts Staying Relevant To Your Workforce?

It's time for management to come up with a holiday gift for employees, which means that management will probably give employees the same, exact gift it has given them since the Pliocene era. Let's talk about how to make sure company holiday gifts stay relevant to your workforce! Who hasn't worked for a company where the employee holiday gift was, shall we say, a little bit antiquated by modern standards? Maybe you don't use a business card anymore, for example, but the boss gives you a business card holder. Again. Only in a different color this time. Oh look, it's another leather-bound business card holder with the company logo on it! It'll make a matching luggage set for my daughter's Barbie collection! The list of outdated, corporate logo-emblazoned holiday gifts is endless, really. A leather CD case for storing your Top 15 music CDs. A monthly scheduler. A USB thumb drive that's no longer compatible with the technology you use. An insulated drink h…

Pew Study Finds 15% Of Americans Avoid Using the Internet

Quick question: could you live without the internet? Come on, be honest as you read this blog post on...the internet. Oh, the irony. A decent percentage of your fellow Americans would answer this question with a resounding "Yes!" A new Pew Internet study reveals that 15% of Americans don't use the internet, and 5% think the internet is simply pointless. Well, yeah. One word: ICanHazCheezburger. The internet is a total time toilet filled to the rim with useless photos, meaningless factoids, offensive comments, fawning narcissism, and soon-to-be-failed social media start-ups. Alas, the Silicon Valley keeps telling us that social media is both relevant and super important to our future, so let's just keep tweeting until we lose our jobs. But back to the Pew Internet study. More than one-third (34%) of non-internet users said that they don't use the internet because it simply isn't relevant to them. How old are these survey participants? Pew doesn't say, ex…

Dig It! The Low-Down Dirt On Starting A Workplace Garden

Ah, you're thinking about starting a workplace garden. You envision everyone on staff happily digging in the dirt, planting tomato seeds and building a better sense of team work. But what if you say tomato and I say tomahto? Hmm. Should we just call the whole thing off? Now I'm all for gardening. It's a latent past time of mine, even though my thumb is barely green at best. It's one of those skills I wish I had, kind of like when I was eight years old and wanted to be an Olympic gymnast, or an Olympic ice skater, depending on whether I was watching the Winter Games or the Summer Games. Like many people, however, I've lived down the street from the neighborhood gardener. You know the one. The home owner with the perfect lawn, the thriving plants, and the penchant for giving wheel barrows full of unsolicited gardening advice as he or she grimaces at our gardening "technique." The neighborhood gardener can make us feel like our yard is straight out of the …

Employers: The 90s Called, And It Wants Its Pentium Pro Back

Have you ever found yourself using your cell phone at work rather than your desktop computer simply because you're in a hurry? If you're thinking, "yes, every single day!" then you may be interested in a new LondonOffices.com survey of British employees that finds nearly one-third (31%) have a faster broadband connection at home than at work. Slightly more than one-quarter (26%) said that their homes have better, more recent computer hardware compared to their offices. Every day, you leave the creature comforts of your gigabit broadband connection with its dual 27-inch monitors and six-month-old quad-core processors to trek into the office, where the IT department is almost done phasing out dial-up connections. Finally. You were starting to wonder if it was ever going to happen. Those were the days, man. I'll wait while you go make yourself a sandwich. Of course, we're talking about British employees, but is it really any better on this side of the Pond? W…

Ouch! How To Survive the First 48 Hours Of Unemployment

You've just lost your job. Before you start to panic, please stop to think about how you're going to muddle through the first 48 hours of unemployment because how you handle it could make all the difference to your future employment. Anyone who works long enough will lose a job. It can happen to the best of us, and often when we least expect it. Losing a job is one of life's Top 10 Most Painful Moments. After it happens, we succumb to the five stages of loss and grief -- e.g., denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance -- when we realize that we've lost a job title that may have become a big part of our identity. But why experience only one emotion at a time? For most of us, the first 48 hours of unemployment are a roller coaster ride of emotions ranging from denial ("This can't be happening") to anger ("I can't believe this happened to me") to depression ("Oh God, why did this happen?") and back again. Another very h…

Do You Work With Someone Who Thinks the Work Is Beneath Them?

Have you ever worked with someone who thinks the work is beneath him? That he, or she, is simply too talented, and too smart, to work at this company? Oh, wait. That's pretty much all of us in this turkey burger economy! The I'm working here, but with my skills I should really be working over there career mindset has been around since we started caring about our career paths in the 1980s. Before the 1980s, we "worked a job." After the 1980s, we "plotted a career." It's a subtle change in phrasing that has lead us to obsess obsessively about things that we, in reality, do not have very much control over. There are many older employees in our out-of-control, part-time economy who are here but would rather be "over there." In a word: Google, or at some other company that always makes the "best places to work" list for offering the Good Greek Yogurt and Casual Tuesdays. Whatever it is, you wish that your grass-is-always-greener co-wo…

Seven Halloween Costume Ideas Sure To Scare Management

Halloween is right around the corner, the magical time of year when an employee might wear a costume that scares the hell out of the human resources department. Let's suit up and wade through the racks of costume ideas that could leave anxious managers and HR directors hyperventilating into a paper bag this year! First, let me say that Halloween is always a fun time of year. It's an opportunity for the workplace to let its collective hair down -- or zombie wigs, in this case. While the vast majority of employees have the common sense not to wear the naughty barmaid costume to work, a few employees were behind the creaky candalabra bookcase when common sense was handed out, if you know what I mean. It isn't a far-fetched scenario anymore to envision your Halloween-hating co-worker who dresses as herself every Halloween walking into work one fine morning in late October to see that your other co-worker is dressed as...oh, wow what was he thinking? I'm really offended …

It's Time To Discuss How We Talk About Mental Illness

Like everyone else, I've been following the latest updates on the Washington Navy Yard tragedy. We don't have all of the details yet, but one thing seems certain. We need to start treating mental illness like a real illness. Issues of the mind are a major matter in today's workplaces. The 2010 U.S. National Comorbidity Survey estimates nearly 20% of the U.S. workforce in the 15-to-54 age range is coming to work every day experiencing symptoms of an untreated mental health condition. Think about this statistic for a second. Roughly one in five employees has a mental health condition of some kind that he or she is hiding at work. Keep in mind that this statistic is three years old, at least. More recent statistics are available, however. One in four U.S. adults (61.5 million Americans) will experience mental illness in a given year, according to a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) fact sheet. NAMI also estimates that serious mental illness results in $193.2 billi…

Forget Texting, We're Still Trying To Master Email Use

I'm guessing that the founder and CEO of logistics app Postmates is probably regretting a rather terse email reply that was mistakenly forwarded to a customer before landing in the press. Oops. Ding! You've got mail! There are so many "how to" angles to this story. How to delete long email threads so they don't end up being read by someone outside the company (or inside the company, in some cases). How not to rely on others to delete your sensitive comments for you. How to own your mistakes as a company leader. How to make sure employees still care about "good" customer service when you tell a customer to ahem, go away. How we think email is so old-fashioned these days, but we still make basic mistakes when using it. Yes, these are all "good" angles to explore. I can't decide which one to cover, so let's just take them quickly one-by-one, shall we?1. Deleting long email threads. Anyone who works long enough will be involved in a long…

It's Blame Someone Else Day, So Pin It On Somebody Else

Do you know that today is Blame Someone Else Day, the one day of the year when we can outright blame somebody else for our mistakes? So who in the office will take the blame? It doesn't matter, just pin it on somebody else! OfficeTeam surveyed more than 1,000 senior managers and asked the insightful question: "have you ever taken the blame for something at work that wasn't your fault?" Well, three in 10 managers said that they have accepted blame for something they didn't do. Slightly more than one-third (34%) took the blame because they felt indirectly responsible (no word on how many felt directly responsible), while more than one-quarter (28%) didn't want to see other people get in trouble. Exactly one-quarter (25%) said that the mistake wasn't worth fighting over, and 12% said that waiting for an explanation would take too long. See? Your senior manager isn't simply a self-promoting, self-interested jerk after all! But back to the topic, which…

How Are You? (Please Don't Ask Unless You Really Mean It)

Has someone ever asked "How are you?" and then walked on without waiting for your reply? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, okay. Make that everyone. As I continue my never-ending international tour of inconsequential workplace matters, I'm going to have my very own Andy Rooney moment: have you ever wondered why so many people will ask "How are you?" when they can't even stop for two seconds to wait for your reply? Personally, I find this habit vaguely annoying. Not that I would say anything more than "fine" or ever expect someone's world to turn on its ear eagerly awaiting my reply. Perhaps it's my journalistic training, however, that has taught me to wait for a reply after putting forth a question? It does seem like the logical progression of things. Ask, and you shall receive. Asking "How are you?" is a reflexive action these days, though. It's become something we say without thinking. But we really do need to stop and think about i…

Well, That Stinks: Dealing With Smelly Co-workers

The summer days are starting to cool down, and your co-worker can resume his lunchtime jogging routine. Too bad he's making your eyes run all afternoon because he thinks he can skip showering afterward. It's time to hold our noses and discuss our stinky co-workers. Hold on to that roll-on, because we're going in! This topic has been on my mind this week as I see lunchtime runners hoofing it down the sidewalks, sometimes alone and sometimes in small groups. I'll go ahead and make the assumption that a good percentage of them will be running right back to work in a few minutes to clean up just in time for an afternoon status update meeting. It's debatable, however, how many of them will show up smelling springtime fresh. If you've ever worked downwind of the lunchtime runner who doesn't realize just how bad he (and it's usually a he) smells, then you know of what I speak. The workday was going great until your co-worker went for his regular noontime ru…

The Unemployed Are Holding Out For the "Right" Job

On Friday we learned that the official U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 7.3%, which means more people are either going back to work or giving up looking for work. Oh, wait a second: here comes a new survey that finds the unemployed are holding out for the "right" job. Why are you guys being so difficult? Online placement firm Beyond.com surveyed more than 2,000 job seekers and found 67% are holding out for the right job. I assume "right job" refers to a full-time job with benefits that would allow these new hires to utilize their core skills, competencies, education, and years of relevant work experience instead of working two part-time survival jobs for which they are incredibly over-qualified and receive no benefits. Or taking a never-ending "internship" where they can do what they used to do as a highly-skilled, salaried professional, only now they get to do it for the "experience." If they're self-employed, they get to work for the …

Does the Key To Promotion Run Through the Boss's Closet?

Admit it: sometimes you sit there at work and wonder what it would take to impress your boss, who may not be very easy to please. What you don't realize is that impressing the boss might be far easier than you think. A new survey reveals that 68% of managers are "more aware" of employees who dress like them. They're also more likely to award these employees "brownie points," whatever that means. So all you need to do to get ahead at work is to become a fashion Mini Me! Of course, you might look at your boss head to toe and think, "There's no freaking way I'm ever going to wear a pair of pants like that and those shoes are totally awful." Besides, we already know how the Millennial generation feels about dressing professionally. Just let them wear their flip-flops to work already! YOLO. But if you're thinking that look-alike fashion is the way to go, then you'll have to have an understated game plan. I would suggest starting you…

Is Your Cheating Co-worker Riding A Cheater's High?

A new American Psychological Association study finds that dishonest little deeds can lead to a "cheater's high." Let's compare cheat sheets, shall we? Yes, it turns out that lying, cheating, and overall unethical behavior can actually make us feel better instead of worse -- as long as we don't have to get down into the weeds pertaining to the direct consequences of our actions on others because, well, that would be sort of a downer, wouldn't it? As Newswise reports:People who get away with cheating when they believe no one is hurt by their dishonesty are more likely to feel upbeat than remorseful afterward, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. Although people predict they will feel bad after cheating or being dishonest, many of them don't, reports a study published online in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. "When people do something wrong specifically to harm someone else, such as ap…

What to do about coworkers who hum all day long

I was standing in the pasta aisle at the grocery store recently, engrossed in the noodle selection. Do I go with spaghetti noodles, rotini noodles, or shake it up with shells? My mental noodle was startled out of concentration mode by a store employee who appeared from behind and started humming Adele's Rolling In the Deep as she stocked the shelves with pasta sauce. Hey, I like Adele as much as the next person, as long as I'm in the right mood for her depressing break-up songs, and Rolling In the Deep is probably her best song so far, IMHO. So I give this happy, smiling employee credit for picking a good song to hum, and she had a decent singing voice on top of it.Of course, the song was stuck in my head for hours afterward as I debated whether to over-cook spaghetti, rotini or shells. Actually, I'm more likely to end up al dente. I rarely get it just right. There's a fire starting in my heart, reaching a fever pitch and it's bringing me out of the dark.If you fee…

Dear Professional, Please Stop Saying How Busy You Are

Are you getting tired of listening to other people talk about how "busy" they are all the time? Don't worry, you aren't alone. We all want each other to talk about something else. The Harvard Business Reviewhas a great little article today entitled Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are, which has this to say:We're all just so "busy" these days. "Slammed" in fact. "Buried." Desperately "trying to keep our heads above water." While these common responses to "How are you?" seem like they're lifted from the Worst Case Scenario Handbook, there seems to be a constant exchange, even a a one-upping, of just how much we have on our plates when we communicate about our work... ...So much of this is about out-doing each other. To say that "I'm busier than you are" means I'm more important, or that my time is more valuable, or that I am "winning" at some never-finished rat race to In…