November 25, 2015

Why is Showing Gratitude at Work So Tricky?


As you sit around on Thanksgiving saying what you're thankful for, will you save some of those thank yous for people at work?

Let’s face it, showing gratitude is rare in most workplaces. Even while there have been numerous studies on the positive relationship between gratitude and work engagement, the concept isn’t often embraced by the people in charge. When is the last time your boss said thank you?

Some bosses fear saying thank you to staff will weaken their authority, while others worry employees will take advantage of them if they show gratitude. There are also some managers who believe they already thank their staff by giving them a paying job, and some who will argue that because they don’t receive appreciation, there is no need to dole it out.

It is no surprise that people are less likely to feel or express gratitude at work than anyplace else, according to a 2012 survey of 2,000 Americans by the John Templeton Foundation. “It’s the habit that people bring to the workplace,” says Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. “They feel reluctant at work to say thank you but those bosses who do actually tend to be more respected.”

Clearly, creating a culture of gratitude can be tricky. For one corporate leader, finding the right approach was a learning process. When Criag Ceccanti, CEO of Pinot’s Palette (based in Houston; it has seven studios in Florida) gave his employees high-fives and thanked them often for their work building his paint and sip concept into a national franchise, the show of gratitude backfired: “They began not working as hard and not striving for the next level.”
Now he thanks employees during staff meetings, when they do something that deserves recognition. 


Dr. Jason Pirozzolo approaches gratitude at the office the way his mother taught him as a kid — through handwritten thank you notes to his employees for going above and beyond their routine job descriptions. 

It's not just bosses that can show gratitude. Thirty-year-old Jimmy Sinis says he thanks his co-workers when they put in extra effort on team projects. They do the same for him: “Because we have situations where it gets stressful, when we get to finish line together it’s gratifying. Saying thank you is part of the routine.” Sinis says if a co-worker pitches in to alleviate a few late nights, he reciprocates beyond verbal of gratitude: “I’ll say, let me take you to lunch, you really got me out of a jam.”
If someone deserves gratitude, Bob Preziosi, a professor of management at the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business at Nova Southeastern University, believes saying thank you is best done publicly so that it is observed and can permeate the culture. However, Preziosi sees nothing wrong with employees giving the boss a push. “An employee may need to do a reversal and shoot a gratitude bomb at their boss,” he says. “Hopefully, their boss will pick up on it and respond.”
What are your thoughts on gratitude in the workplace? Do you want to be thanked for a job well done? Do you think a boss that shows too much gratitude is going to be stepped all over? 

November 20, 2015

Does Thanksgiving Stress You Out?




It may just be me but I find Thanksgiving to be stressful. It started when I got my first job and I had to work the day after Thanksgiving. While everyone else seemed to be at the stores, I was stuck in my office. I stressed over whether to take a vacation day, whether to cut out early or whether to just grin and bear being an average American worker with limited time off.

As the years have gone by, there are so many additional aspects of Thanksgiving that stress me out -- the cooking, the setting up and cleaning up. And, of course there's the family dynamics to fret about. Someone is bound to say something that offends someone else. I have seen a simple compliment of a recipe lead to a big brouhaha.

This year, my husband is stressed over potentially overeating. He's trying to lose weight by year end and already is worrying that he won't be able to resist pumpkin pie. 

I have friends that are stressed over Thanksgiving travel. This year, travel experts predict more than the average travel craziness so there's good reason to be stressed.

I have friends in retail that are stressed about having to work on Thanksgiving and others who are stressed about whether or not to cut their holiday short and shop the sales.

Of course, even with all this stress, most of us need to realize that we have a lot to be grateful for. At a time when the world seems to be volatile, we are fortunate to be able to find a sense of peace and hope. 

I offer these five tips for making it through Thanksgiving with the least amount of stress possible.

1. Smile and nod. There is very little you can do to control your relatives. However, you can control how you respond to them. The other thing to remember is that when it comes to conflicts between family members, they don't necessarily need to involve you. Don't take sides and don't assume it's your job to resolve those conflicts on Thanksgiving. Practice self-control. Smile and nod and don't let anyone ruin your day.

2. Make your life easier. Order what you can. Make what you can. Ask for help with the dishes. Use paper, plastic and foil. If someone doesn't think your holiday meal is fancy enough, let them shop, cook and clean up.

3. Enjoy your company. My young cousin was around to celebrate Thanksgiving last year. This year he is gone. His death certainly made me more appreciative of the people at my holiday table and made me realize I want to make my meal last as long as possible. I can hit the sales the next day.

4. Take a walk. Let's face it, we probably will eat more than we should on Thanksgiving. We probably will find travel exhausting and we probably will deviate from our normal exercise routine. But taking a walk is an amazing stress reliever and great bonding time with family members. Do it, you won't be sorry!

5. Make a pact. Agree going into the Thanksgiving weekend that you will not argue -- not with your spouse, your friends, your parents, your cashier, the jerk in the parking lot who takes your spot or the pushy customer who butts in line in front of you. Telling yourself (and reminding yourself) you will stay zen regardless of what craziness you encounter will lead to a much more enjoyable holiday weekend.

Do you find Thanksgiving stressful? Have retailers added to our stress levels or made it easier by starting sales earlier?

November 18, 2015

Finding Work Life Balance And Hating It




The other day I met a friend for lunch. She is finally in a job that has normal work hours, one that allows her to make lunch plans and have dinner with her family. She no feels exhausted or has a high level of responsibility at work. But she is miserable.

"I miss feeling excited about going to work every day," she told me. "I found work life balance, but I thought I would enjoy it more."

My conversation with my friend replayed in my mind this morning when I read a Huuffington blog post by Erin Blaskie. In the post Erin writes that after being a entrepreneur for 12 years, she burned out and thought that more balance was the answer. So, she decided she would concentrate on a year of self care. What she discovered when she scaled back in her business to a more manageable size, was that being less than all in made her miserable.

In her post she writes: "Stepping out of my craft, to focus on everything but work, created a hole in my soul where my business used to be. It created a void and I filled it with negative behaviors." She describes those behaviors as experiencing envy at what her colleagues were doing and questioning everything she had done in her business for the last 12 years. Even though she was able to take nights and weekends off, she was not happy. 

"The truth was, I wanted my business, my purpose and my passion back, " she writes. Erin says she began to ramp up again in her business and felt happier. "When you've found your calling, work fuels your life and your life fuels your work."

What Erin and my friend have come to realize is that work life balance will look different to everyone and sometimes when you do find balance, it doesn't look like the balance that everyone else says it should.

Erin said it well: Look for the version of work/life balance that is going to work for you.

I often hear from readers and friends who have tipped the scale one way or the other between work or life -- and they are happy. Balance doesn't have to be an equilibrium. Remember there will be times in our lives when responsibilities require we spend more time caring for family or our own needs. And, there will be times when we need or want to devote more attention to work. Work life balance means making choices that are best for us and not those choices we think we are supposed to make.



November 12, 2015

Would You Take Your Parents to Work?


(Fiorella, a design coordinator at Stantec, and her parents, Angel and Marlene)



For the last few years, parents have taken then daughters and sons with them to work to give them a glimpse at what their work day is like. Indeed, Take Your Child to Work Day has become well celebrated nationwide.

Three years ago, LinkedIn started Bring Your Parents Day after finding about a third of parents don't understand what their children do for work. That's kind of a big deal when about a third of all millennials still live with their parents

I admit that at first I thought the whole thing was a little ridiculous...I wondered if this was just another extension of over-involved parenting. But I have learned a little more about what the day is about and have changed my mind. 

Last Thursday, Stantec in Miami, an engineering, architecture and interior design firm, invited its employees to bring their parents with them to work for the day. 

Architect and Senior Principal Jon Cardello of Stantec in Miami gave them a tour and answered questions. “Stantec recognizes that parent support plays an important role in employee job satisfaction. When parents visit their children’s place of employment, they will better understand their child’s profession and encourage their workplace goals,” Cardello said.

Fiorella Mavares, 28, lives at home and often works long days and late nights as a design coordinator at Stantec. She brought her parents with her to the office to give them a feel for what she does and why she's challenged with work life balance.

"They saw everyone working and meetings going first they were a little overwhelmed, but they liked it," Fiorella says. "It helped them understand why I stay late so much and the level of difficulty of stuff we do."

Fiorella says she took her parents with her to an internal meeting for a project her firm is working on in Wynwood. "They sat there and they realized, it's not only artsy stuff we're doing, there are legal issues and zoning codes and technical stuff we're involved with as well.

Both of Fiorella's parents work. Dad works as a realtor and mom as a mortgage broker. Still, Fiorella says spending time at her office made them more supportive and proud of what she does for a living. 

Last year more than 50 businesses opened their doors to more than 20,000 parents. I wonder whether it made any difference -- or further reinforced why some of us are miserable in our jobs.

Whether you bring your child, your parent or even your spouse with you to work for the day, seeing you in your work environment, meeting the people you work with and experiencing the challenges you encounter can help to build an understanding. The truth is we all need to feel supported by the people when live with. 

What do you think your family member would learn about your work day by coming to your workplace? Is it anything they don't already know?

November 10, 2015

The Fight for $15: A home care worker's perspective

Today my guest blogger is Brenda Williams, a Florida home care worker. Brenda works a difficult job and balances it with her home life. Along with other home care workers, she is fighting for higher wages. This is a hot button political issue but one that deserves our attention.


(Brenda Williams and her client Mr. Dukes at his 102nd birthday party)


This election season, I’m thinking about my grandson. I’m looking for a set of leaders that will fight for our families and communities and our ability to care for one another. And for me, and thousands of other home care workers, that means supporting $15 an hour and union rights for low-wage workers everywhere.

In my eight years as a home care worker, I’ve worked miracles to keep families together. I provide daily support services to seniors and people with disabilities that allow them to age with dignity and independence in their homes, surrounded by friends, family and their community. But how can I take care of my loved ones when I’m struggling on low pay?

I am paid $11.50 an hour, and it’s not a fair wage. I live paycheck to paycheck, with one eye constantly on when my next bill is due. It isn’t right that I’m 62 years old, work constantly and am unable to make ends meet. A raise to $15 an hour would mean an opportunity to save for the future, and not just for myself. I moved to Florida 17 years ago to support my grandson, and I dream of being able to put aside savings for him. Home care workers everywhere are wondering how they’ll be able to provide for their families’ futures on low wages.

Sadly, low pay for home care workers has discouraged many from the job. Across the country, the number of seniors in need of home care services has outpaced the number of home care workers available. In Florida, there is one home care worker for every 35 seniors who need care. It’s clear that the system isn’t working for our elderly, it isn’t working for home care workers, and it isn’t working for families. We all deserve better, and we’re demanding that elected leaders stand with our call for change.

I’ve had some of the most remarkable home care clients. The first of them, Mr. Dukes, was a wonderful man and like a grandfather to me. Mr. Dukes had muscular degeneration and impaired vision. Over the years, he’d lost contact with his family and his home was filled with stacks of letters he was unable to read. I began reading the letters and reaching out to relatives and friends who had written them. When Mr. Dukes turned 102, I invited everyone to a birthday party. I told him 13 people would attend and over 50 came, including many long-lost relatives. His alma mater even sent a picture of him from his college years. It was a moving and powerful experience to help my client reconnect with his family and community, and he felt it too. 

Home care workers provide invaluable services to seniors. We help with cooking, bathing, and doctor’s appointments and provide the stability and consistency of care that allows families to stay together and thrive. But too often, low wages mean we can’t cover the basics of food and rent, much less take care of our kids and grandkids the way they deserve. It’s a simple matter of fairness that home care workers should be able to provide for our family members the way we provide for others.

Today, November 10, is one year from the 2016 election. I’m coming together with other home care workers and low-wage workers in the Fight for $15 in our largest nationwide mobilization yet. For too long, our families have been on the line. Now our votes are too. We’re letting candidates know that, whether they’re running for local office or President of the United States, they’ll only get our support if they support $15/hr and union rights.

Home care workers need leaders in office that know what families need. If you stand with us, we’ll stand with you. 

November 05, 2015

Is there a such thing as work life balance?



At least once a week, someone will tell me they don't believe in work life balance. This week it was Maryam Banikarim, global chief marketing officer of Hyatt Hotels Corp., a risk taking, change maker with two teenagers at home.

When I began my conversation with Maryam, one of the first things she said to me was:  "I don't believe in work life balance."

Then, she added:  "I think we juggle lots of different things, and make different tradeoffs at different times in our lives so we never really have balance." Balance implies there is an equilibrium, she told me. "At different times something gives. I recognize family is important, but there are moments when I make a different decision because something is urgent at work."

In other words, Maryam believes what I do. That balance isn't about a moment in time but rather about the big picture in life. It's about fast forwarding to when you turn 100 and you ask yourself, "Was my life fulfilling?"

Yet, balance is something all of us chase. And we should.

For her new job with Hyatt, Maryam has relocated her family to Chicago. For now, her work and home lives both present a challenge, particularly with her son and daughter in high school. "Kids need different things at different times. When they get older, your presence is required in a different way," she explained to me and I agreed.

Maryam says in the first few months of her new job, she tried not to travel for work while her husband and children acclimated. "It's a challenge when you move your family for your work. You have to be empathetic to the people who are part of your journey."

Opportunities to make purposeful change at companies have always presented themselves to Maryam who says she uses this motto to guide her career decisions. "You only live once so I want to have left the world in a better place than I found it." 

Maryam made her recent leap into hospitality after working in the media industry, book publishing, consulting and sales. Her prior job was the chief marketing officer at Gannett Co.  She says jumping into a new industry is easier than one might think.  “You just have to have confidence your skills will translate."

Throughout her career, Maryam has held leadership roles and navigated through common challenges many women in executive positions face. Now as Hyatt’s CMO, she is responsible for bringing the company’s brands and experiences to life while initiating innovation around the guest experience and driving growth. Her main task has become differentiating Hyatt’s nine brands in the hospitality marketplace.

“When you come from the outside you look at things from a different lens. You might see different opportunities,” she said. “But it’s a combination of the view from outside, plus the expertise of those who know the business coming together that help you see a new path forward.”

Her secret to leadership: "You need to have people around you who have different backgrounds ... people who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions.”

As a leader, she has no qualms about voicing her opinions -- or taking risks.

Because she grew up in Iran during turbulent times, Maryam says she has a higher risk tolerance than most people and excels at ushering companies through purpose-driven change. For her, an ideal job is one where she can learn and have significant impact. She once told a former boss: “I will work hard while I’m here, but if there is nothing new to learn I will have to find another job.”

As a mother, Banikarim offers her teens this advice: “Pick something you care about, something you really want to do because you will end up spending a lot of time at work.” 

So do you agree with Maryam about work life balance? Do you think there are times when the scale needs to tip one way -- or the other  -- toward work and a personal life?  Can you be successful in your career and as a parent?

November 04, 2015

Couples, Money and Work Life to blend all three




When I decided to go part time when my children were young, my husband and I sat down and talked about how the loss of income would affect our household. I knew the schedule would make our lives easier, but I also hated giving up half my salary and becoming more dependent on my husband to support our family. 

Conversations about money and work are common in households across the country. Or, at least they should be. 

Instead, couples seem to be communicating less and hiding more from their significant others -- particularly as people work longer hours or get married later and have their own credit and debt. Indeed, Fidelity Investments found that 72 percent of the couples surveyed believed they communicate well. But four in 10 of the pairs didn’t know how much their partner earned, and one in five admitted to hiding some of their finances from their significant other.

As today's workers struggle with work life balance, there are more financial questions that they face (Is this job worth the time demands? Should I start my own business? Should I ask for a reduced schedule? Should I demand a raise? Should the breadwinner have more say over spending?)
I tackled the topic in my Miami Herald column today and in it I shared a piece of advice from Jeff Motske, a financial adviser and author of A Couple’s Guide to Financial Compatibility.  Jeff suggested couples have a financial date night once a month. He isn't advocating you show up with bank statements or a paycheck stub. He simply says sit down together in a stress free environment and talk about income and expenses, goals and dreams, work hours and income. Jeff says financial date night helps to get couples on the same page and reduce arguments that can destroy a marriage.
Experts say it's okay to have separate accounts and it's okay to have splurge money and it's even okay to keep pouring money into a business rather than taking a salary ---as long as you and your partner are open about it and communicate with each other. With bank statements now digital and online access to accounts, it's easier than ever to keep money secrets. But is it worth it?
Repeatedly, money is mentioned as the top source of arguments in marriage. Yet, all healthy marriages have disagreements over money, So, it seems well worth the effort to make a financial date night and get concerns out in the open. I'm planning mine, are you?


November 03, 2015

Improve work life balance and fight cancer at the same time

As October came to a close, I began to miss the month when pink was everywhere. Still, it's great that at least one month a year, there is a focus on preventing and curing breast cancer. 

But now that November is here, there is no reason we should stop talking about cancer prevention, particularly when there are some easy things we can do to reduce the risk of cancer and improve our work life balance at the same time.

Dr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda headshotDr. Pedro Serrano-Ojeda (CEO and Chief Radiation Oncologist of Caribbean Radiation Oncology Center in Doral) offers some suggestions that seem pretty doable:

Cut the sugar and exercise Obesity has surpassed the use of tobacco as a cancer causing factor. Making exercise a part of a daily routine can help minimize stress – make sure to leave the cell phone behind – and it makes for a healthy body.  Even just a brisk walk or light jog for 20 minutes a day will all help towards reducing the risk of cancer. 

Shop smart There are many household products – including certain shampoos – that contain parabens, such as sulfate, that could increase the risk of breast cancer.  There are many online resources that can help with finding products that do not have these elements, just a little bit of research before hitting the grocery store goes a long, long way. 

Read the label Using containers that are not suitable for the microwave can be a cancer-inducing practice. Cancer is an ancient and formidable enemy, yet there are some things we need to avoid in the modern world that will assist us in preventing the disease. Looking carefully at how we are using everyday products can make a difference.

Take Vitamin D– Women with breast cancer often have low levels of vitamin D so it is important to have a regular vitamin D check

Chill out Stress has a great impact on the body and predisposes it to cancer. It’s inevitable that sometimes situations will arise that will lead to stress, but if we stop and ask, “Is this item we are stressing over worth risking cancer for?” then I really think we wouldn’t sweat the small stuff.  

Live with purpose- As Einstein used to say, “Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.” And, as I say, “People do not die from old age, but people die when they stop dreaming.” So keep dreaming and keep living with purpose.

November 02, 2015

A Work Life Balance Must: Always Have a Plan B


Last week I was lounging comfortably on a couch in Starbucks, drinking coffee with Dr. Heidi Chumley Executive Dean of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. During our conversation, Dean Chumley said something so brilliant I had to share it.

I asked Dean Chumley about the what she feels she has done right on her ascension to upper administration and her plunge into motherhood. Not only is Chumley dean of a medical school and an Executive MBA student, she also has five children. Her husband holds an equally weighty job as vice president of education for Broward Health.

Chumley didn't skip a beat with her answer:  "I always have a Plan B."

Oh, how I have learned that to be true!  If there's one safety net that can keep a working parent from a deep plunge into work life disaster, it's having a Plan B.  "Time time to figure out your Plan B is not when you're having a crisis," Chumley told me. She's so right!

I recently read an interview with Ilene Gordon, CEO of Ingredion who talked about having a Plan B in business. Her comments apply to home life as well. Gordon said:  "We need to always be prepared for the possibility that things may not go according to plan. You should always have something to fall back on when things go wrong, or you'll have a hard time making it to the top. "

Gordon took it a step further: "Don't just have a Plan B, have other people readily available to help you execute it when the time comes."  

I have learned that a Plan B looks different at various stages of parenthood, work and life. But I completely agree with both women that having a Plan B is absolutely critical for work life balance. Here is what it involves:

Assembling your village: Before I had children, my desk was situated near a new mother who recently had given birth to her third child. At least once a week, the woman was called by the daycare to pick up her sick baby. She had no one else to pitch in and never asked her spouse to take a turn. After two months, the women, a really talented reporter, quit. The experience was enough to make me aware that I needed to create my village before giving birth. I lined up family members, and backup babysitters to ensure that I was prepared for childcare emergencies. Throughout years of balancing work and family, I added to my village by courting neighbors and other parents to pitch in with childcare when work emergencies cropped up.

Exercising flexibility: This crucial component of having a Plan B comes after proving yourself a hard worker. Even jobs like elementary school teacher can provide the flexibility to come in late or leave early if you have a good reputation and an understanding boss. More jobs than ever can be done at different hours, or from home. You need to figure out how you can use flexibility before a work life conflict arises.

Trading favors: My best advice to working parents is stockpile favors. When your boss calls a last minute meeting and your child is waiting to be picked up from dance class, you may need to ask another parent whose daughter is in the same class to help out. Being a parent who does favors for others goes a long way when you need one back. 

Including your children: As soon as your children are old enough to walk and talk, they are ready to be part of your Plan B. An older child can help out with a younger child, especially when the older child starts to drive. A middle schooler can call friends and ask for a ride to soccer practice when a parent runs late. The key is to include your children in helping you prepare by empowering them to find solutions in advance.

Being okay with delegating: To be successful at juggling, you need to identify people at work who have your back when you need it. Simply put: You can’t be the micro manager. You have to be able to get things done through others, particularly when you can't be there to do them yourself. Decide ahead of time who those people are and establish a give and take relationship.

Do you have your Plan B in place? If not, now's a great time to figure it out. 

October 27, 2015

REI's Work Life Balance Move Gets a Big Thumbs Up

I already loved shopping at REI and now I love the outdoor/sporting goods company's CEO. REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke announced he will close its stores on Black Friday and give all of the company's 12,000 employees a paid day off to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. 

Wow! What an amazing idea! It's not only an endorsement for the products his company sells, it also says something about his commitment to work life balance.

While its online sales will remain open, no sales will be processed until the next day. There will be a message on the corporate website encouraging people to spend time outside.  With the hashtag #OptOutside, REI will ask people to share what they're doing on Black Friday on social media. REI is hoping to convince consumers to start a new Black Friday tradition, one that encourages relaxation and fitness over stress and consumerism.

"Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea," says REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke, who admits he was apprehensive about closing at first. "As a co-op ... we define success a little differently. It's much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?"

Jerry Stritzke is taking a big gamble by closing on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. But it's a gamble I think will pay off. Imagine the good will he is creating with employees and customers who understand the message he is sending. 

"Somebody has to be the one to kind of put their flag in the sand and say enough is enough,"  Brian Harrower, store manager at the REI in Bloomington, Minn.,told USA Today. "That's what #OptOutside is for us, is saying we're going to be the first, we think this doesn't make sense anymore, it's not healthy. And an outdoor life is a healthy life."

Of course, the idea of closing on Black Friday was enthusiastically embraced by REI employees.

Here is Stritzke on CBS News on why the company is closing its stores on Black Friday:


"There's more to be gained from brand identity and showing our values than the money we will make on that one day!" he said.

What do think of REI's announcement? Do you think other retailers should do the same thing?