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15 posts from October 2012

October 31, 2012

Halloween is the work life balance breaking point for some working parents

If you're a working parent, chances are high you are nervous right about now. You are stressing over making it home in time to enjoy Halloween night with your children. Any small obstacle to your leaving at a decent hour becomes giant. 

This is make or break it night when it comes to flexibility and understanding.

Miss out on trick or treating and you will be resentful for the rest of the year.

As a news reporter, Halloween terrified me. What if a news story broke in the late afternoon? Would I get stuck tracking down sources and miss out on trekking through the neighborhood with my Thomas the Train or Indian Princess?

A friend of mine, a high powered lawyer, told me she once cried all the way home at 9 p.m. on the Halloween night after getting stuck at the office with a partner who demanded she stay and work with him on a legal brief. She quit a few months later to go to a smaller, more family-friendly firm. This year, she took the day off, just to make sure she would be home dusk.

My two older kids are teens. They no longer want to go door to door in costume. I now realize how little time we have to enjoy this holiday with our kids. I am thankful for having always been able to spend Halloween with my kids.

For all you parents stuck at work tonight, you have my sympathy. For all of you bosses, your behavior tonight toward working parents speaks volumes about how much you value them. Think wisely. Trick or treat?


Guess what American workers and bosses fear most this Halloween?

As we head into the final quarter of 2012, I'm sensing a lot of angst. People are fearful about the economy and they're uncertain about whether things are getting better. I asked American workers, small business owners and top execs about their biggest concerns and shared them with readers in my column today.....


I'd love to hear what concerns are on your mind!


Workplace fright grips South Florida workers


We asked South Floridians what scares them the most about the workplace and we asked experts how to manage those fears.

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Behind the masks and scary costumes this Halloween are American workers with real fear about what the last few months of the year will bring.

Workplace fright has gripped everyone from top executives to desk clerks. It ranges from fear of being fired to concerns about hitting performance goals or losing business to a competitor.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there in this business climate and that has created a lot of fear,” says Ryan Skubis, Florida district director for staffing agency Robert Half International.     

      A new survey by Accountemps, a Robert Half company, shows it is not ghosts, goblins or even public speaking that scare workers most — it’s making a mistake on the job. This angst stems from scaled down workplaces where workers now do the job of two, three or four workers. “People are putting so much pressure on themselves,” Skubis says. “They have a lot on their plates and they don’t see a lot of hope for slowing down.”

An effective fear buster is open communication with a manager or client. Instead of hiding mistakes, a worker should feel it is okay to fess up, suggest ways to correct the situation or ask for guidance, he says. “Mistakes happen all the time. Even leaders make mistakes. It is how we go about fixing them that matters.”

At the top levels, executives say they fear falling short of year-end projections. In some businesses, profits in prior years came from cost-cutting. Now, with little left to cut, revenue increases depend on growth and in some cases, it’s not there. Alex Trujillo, a senior manager at a wireless company, says the year has been more volatile for sales than expected. Now, he’s worried people won’t spend in the traditionally stronger fourth quarter and shareholders will be disappointed. “It’s a realistic and widespread concern.”

Trujillo’s fear of disappointing numbers trickles down to managers at all levels in businesses, says Kathi Elster, a management consultant and executive coach. They are afraid of new management coming in and making changes. As companies try to rebound, some workers are concerned about a younger person with specific technological skills replacing them, Elster says.

Elster suggests managing this fear by staying ahead. “Get active in your industries, attend conferences find out what’s coming in your field and get trained in it.” You may have to spend your own time and money doing this, she says. “It’s your insurance policy. That’s the world we’re in today.”


Read more....

October 29, 2012

Get that Halloween Candy Out of Here!

Halloween candy


I love candy. I love sharing my candy. This is problem in the workplace. This is an especially big problem around Halloween. 

I not only raid my kids' candy bags and bring in my leftovers, but also I encourage my co-workers to pick out there favorites and gobble them up. I tempt them by telling them my favorites. Junior Mints, Kit Kats, Twix, Twizzlers. Yum!

Recently, more workplaces and the people in them are striving to get healtheir. People like me may rankle co-workers who are trying to cut down on sugary treats. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, believes the high visibility of candy in a stressful place like an office can gradually wear down one's resolve.

I think bonding over Halloween candy encourages comraderie. I love when my co-workers stop by my work area to take a piece and chat about what their kids dressed up. But I'm now questioning whether I'm being disrespectful by making these high calorie treats so available.

Should I place a bowl of fruit next to a bowl of candy or should I leave it up to dieters to have self control? Do you think Halloween candy should be forbidden in the workplace?


October 26, 2012

Will we ever find work life balance while we're juggling many balls?

I juggle a lot --  marriage, children, work, volunteering, friends. It's a choice. I know that one day, I Juggler2
won't have much to juggle and frankly, that scares me. But sometimes, I'm juggling so much, that I feel like I'm doing nothing right.

I wonder how many other people feel that way....

I just read a blog post by Luly B that hit right on point. She writes: "Sorry, I am not a professional juggler! Sometimes, I am going to say no to a play date for my kids. I am going to say no to a happy hour networker. I am going to sign up to bring the “easy” stuff at school. And sometimes, I will say “I can’t do that right now.” I don’t care to be seen as the amazing juggler of fifteen balls. I don’t need a gold star on my chest. I am not going on some special honor roll. I just want peace. I just want to be happy."

If you stopped juggling as much and set some of the balls down, what would happen? Would you be happier? I don't think I would be.

Lately, I've realized that I enjoy juggling. If I were to sit in the audience and watch someone else performing, I'd be bored. I want to participate. I'm addicted to juggling. I need to feel the high of accomplishing many things at the same time. It makes me happy.

That doesn't mean I need to juggle 10 balls. I just need to find the right amount and figure out when to put one ball down to pick up another so I can feel like I'm getting it right more often.

Do you need to have many balls in the air to feel good about yourself? Are you willing to try setting one of the balls down to find more balance?

October 25, 2012

How to deal with an annoying co-worker


This morning, I had to work on a project with a very annoying man. He was loud, bossy and he was a know-it-all. I hadn't eaten breakfast and I'm not a morning person, and which means I was cranky to start with so it took a lot of self control not to react when he got into my personal space and spoke way louder than what's acceptable.

At some point, most of us have to deal with someone in business who completely and utterly annoys us. I would like to avoid working with this person, but I can't. I'm stuck with him for two more weeks. But I realize I have to figure out the best way to deal with this situation because today, I let this guy put me in a very grumpy mood.

The reality is that we can't chose who we work with most of the time. (There's an entire website devoted to these people in the workplace with irritating habits: annoyingcoworker.com)

So what's the best way to cope?

Keep in mind that what you find annoying, your coworker may see as merely constructive, friendly or inclusive. This man who I find annoying is merely trying to be helpful. He's just so LOUD and in your face that no one wants to work with him -- including me.

Experts say you have several options for dealing with an annoying co-worker.

1. Steer clear.  If you can avoid the person, do it. It you need to move your cubicle, move it. If you can switch to another team, switch.

2. Address it. Most people do not want to be considered annoying, and they are willing to modify their behavior to remedy the situation if you bring it to their attention with some sensitivity. Most often, the solution is simply to be straightforward and speak up for yourself in a matter-of-fact, professional way. Make it about you...tell them privately that it’s hard for you to concentrate when their voice gets loud or when they get into your space.

3. Repeat. Once you communicate, you may have to repeat yourself again, two days later. Be prepared because you may only get temporary results.

3. Take it up the ladder. If your polite requests for behavior change don't work, you may need to take it to your boss. If you do that, make sure you have a solution in mind for how to bring peace to the workplace.

4. Re-evaluate. Consider whether you have unrealistic expectations of your coworker. While some  employees truly are disruptive because of their annoying behaviors, sometimes  you just need to be more accepting. For all you know, your coworker could find you annoying.

5. Don't counter-attack. "When someone has bad behavior, don't engage in the attack or bad mouth him or her," says Kathi Elster, co-author of Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional When Things Get Personal. "Instead of taking things personally, focus on acting professionally. Do not get into a power struggle or turn it into a negative interaction." Elster reminds us that there are all kinds of different personalities in the workplace. "It's a mistake to think that everyone operates in the same way as you do."

Readers, have you had to deal with an annoying co-worker? If you confronted him or her, how did that work out for you? Are you guilty of allowing your entire work life balance to get thrown out of whack by letting an annoying co-worker to make you grumpy and miserable? 

October 24, 2012

Low Wage Workers struggle in many ways you can't imagine

Ashley Maddox is polite and hard working. She wants a good life for her son, just like all the rest of us working parents. But if you're a salaried worker, you might find it interesting to hear what Ashley's life is like....

Times are tough for low-wage workers

For many workers, basics such as fair pay and sick time can be elusive, and many are beginning to speak up.

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Ashley Maddox hugs her son, Miguel Romero III,  who will be 2 in December, n her Little Havana apartment before leaving for work.
        Ashley Maddox hugs her son, Miguel Romero III,  who will be 2 in December, n her Little Havana apartment before leaving for work.    

By Cindy Krischer Goodman


            Ashley Maddox boards a bus and heads to work at a South Beach restaurant, a chore that can take up to 1 ½ hours. Once she arrives, she writes up orders, serves food and clears tables. Some days she brings home just $20, other days more. When her shift ends, the single mom heads back home on the bus to her toddler son, who she leaves in the care of his grandma or aunt, or a friend.

Each week, Maddox’s schedule changes, making a more stable child-care arrangement challenging. Whether she has a cough, cold or fever, Maddox still gets on the bus and goes to work. “I don’t get any sick days or benefits and I need my job.”

Last week, when low-wage workers gathered to show support for a proposed new paid sick leave law in Miami-Dade County, Maddox was there with her son on her hip. At 27, Maddox has had a series of low-paying jobs serving food. She’s been struggling to stay well and hold onto her current job for about a year.     

      We see our presidential candidates courting the woman’s vote and hear them debate job growth, flexibility, fair pay and even paid sick leave. But for Maddox and other low-wage workers, these issues are not about work-life balance or fairness or politics: They are about survival. Every benefit or new right in the workplace makes a giant difference in whether they can eat dinner, afford electricity, clothe their child or pay rent.

For these workers, the last few years have been particularly tough. As businesses have struggled to stay afloat, low-wage workers increasingly have endured the consequences. Many have had their hours cut and sometimes are even forced to work off the clock. Others have been stiffed out of pay when businesses abruptly closed. And, some have been subjected to bosses who fire them for taking a day off to care for a sick child or family member.

“If you’re a low-wage worker, the deck is stacked against you,” says Noah Warman, a labor lawyer with Sugarman & Susskind in Coral Gables. “Employers want your muscle, not your brain, and you become a cost of doing business. If a business needs to cut corners, this is where they do it.”

Low-wage workers like Maddox are the people who serve us meals, clean our hotel rooms, ring up our purchases and care for our kids or our parents. Increasingly, they are more of the population: During the recovery, most of the employment gains have been concentrated in lower-wage occupations, which grew almost three times as fast as mid-wage and higher-wage occupations, a new National Employment Law Project (NELP) report shows. These workers typically earn less than $13 an hour and lack benefits or flexibility.



Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/10/23/3064020/times-are-tough-for-low-wage-workers.html#storylink=cpy

October 19, 2012

Sarah Silverman's Dad: Why You're Never Too Old to Stick Up for Your Kid

My husband often teases me about being a lioness. He says I protect my baby cubs too much.

He's right.

As my babies become teens, I'm trying harder to let them fight their own battles. Sometimes, letting them do this  is harder on me than it is them.

I was thinking about this when I read about Donald Silverman, a dad who obviously feels it's okay at any age to stick up for your kid. 

Sarahsilverman_a_pDonald Silverman, 75, told Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt to stop picking on his daughter, popular comedian Sarah Silverman, 42. It started with the Rabbi's Oct. 11 "Open Letter to Sarah Silverman." 

The Rabbi  targeted the comedian's involvement in letmypeoplevote2012.com, a campaign against plans for voter ID laws. Sarah had contributed a satirical video that painted the ID laws as a plot to keep President Barack Obama's supporters from voting in the November elections. Her campaign echoed "Let my people go," Moses' demand in the biblical story of the Exodus.

The Rabbi lashed out at Sarah: "I wouldn't be writing these words had your most recent video not been framed in biblical language," Rosenblatt wrote on JewishPress.com. "As an Orthodox rabbi, I disagree with just about everything you say, but respect your right to say it. All I ask, respectfully, is that you not use traditional Jewish terminology in your efforts. Because doing so is a lie."

But then the rabbi shifted to her personal life, suggesting she would see things differently with a husband and children."I think you have latched on to politics because you are searching for
something to build," Rosenblatt wrote. "I pray that you pursue marriage and, if
you are so blessed, raise children."

Daddy Donald took offense.

He was not pleased with the tone and focus of the  Dallas rabbi's letter. "Take your false god and shove god up your judgmental a--," he wrote to Rosenblatt in the readers' comments section of JewishPress.com.

Since then, many others have chimed in with their opinions.....

"He's her dad. that's what dads do — stick up for their little girls, no matter what," South Florida reader Gail Richards Rochat Reilly commented on the Sun Sentinel's Facebook page.

"Sarah, I love you. I love your dad even more. He is a ROCK STAR!" wrote one HuffPost reader.

I would hope that the message being sent is parenting is lifelong job.  We love and defend our kids regardless how old we get. But the thing is as our kids grew up, they don't always want us to come to their rescue.

If I was Sarah, I'd love having my dad defend me so publicly. But I wonder how Sarah feels about it? Is she humiliated? Does she feel it demeans her that her dad's response has received more attention that her own? Do you think Donald Silverman did the right thing or should he have let the very independent Sarah fight her own battle?  


October 17, 2012

Become a better problem solver in the workplace

Are you a born problem-solver, or is it a skill you learn?

Miami Publicist Lisa Palley says it's a skill you learn and she was taught it at a young age. Her parents told her to stay calm when she had a problem and think it through. Over the years, they showed her how to sharpen her ability to be a problem solver by believing there's always a solution.

At the same time, I have friends who just seem to be totally incapable of doing anything but complaining about a problem. The inability to think like a problem solver hurts them in business and often destroys their work life balance.

This week in my Miami Herald column, I decided to go to the experts and offer readers advice on how to be a better problem solver. If you have strategies that have worked for you, please share.

  Lisa & Myrna

(Lisa Palley and her mom, Myrna) 


Learn how to find solutions on the job


Don’t be a workplace whiner. Here’s how to become a problem solver in your workplace.



Most days, real estate agents storm into Ron Shuffield’s office with problems. They might have a closing that’s about to blow apart or a commission in dispute. They lay out all the obstacles and argue that there is no possible resolution.

“I tell them to stop, listen a little longer, learn all the pieces and focus on a solution,” says Shuffield, CEO of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors.

With the recession and cutbacks, it has become easy to be a workplace whiner or someone who points out roadblocks. What’s more difficult is being the person who calmly puts on his or her problem-solving cap and bring ideas and solutions.

“Companies are dying to have people play these roles,” says Dwayne Spradlin, CEO of InnoCentive, a Massachusetts-based crowd-sourcing company that helps businesses identify problems and connects them to solvers all over the world.

Being viewed as a problem solver can put a career on the fast track, even lead to better work-life balance. Problem-solving ability ranks high as a desirable trait for job candidates and it should become even more in demand from all level of employees. “It’s a key skill workers of the future will need to tackle the technology and global changes that lie ahead,” says Sayed Sadjady, talent management and organizational design leader with PwC’s advisory practice in New York City.

With a little effort and some know-how, you can become a problem solver. Here’s how:

•   Define the problem. Before jumping in with a quick and easy solution, become better at asking the right questions so that you tackle the right problems, Spradlin says. Recently, a manufacturer hired Spradlin’s InnoCentive to help find the right lubricant that would work for its machinery. But by asking questions, he learned that rather than finding a new lubricant, the company actually needed a new way to make its product. “It takes asking lots of question and brutal introspection to understand what the real problem is and why it hasn’t been resolved.” Spradlin says. “A better-defined problem is already closer to a solution.”

•  Think bigger. Craig Robins, a Miami real estate developer, has built projects that have been on the forefront of neighborhood turnarounds. As a pioneer in redevelopment, Robins has encountered all kinds of difficult situations. But he has become a problem solver by “getting out of box and not being consumed by conventional thinking or process.” Robins now has an ambitious plan to turn Miami’s urban Design District into a super-high-end retail destination. He has partnered with a Paris-based investment fund that owns high-end brands to make it happen. “Usually, innovative solutions involve collaboration,” Robins says. Most important, though: “It takes looking at things differently and perseverance to come up with a solution that’s better than what’s currently contemplated.”

•   Examine a failure. When faced with a challenge, be the person who does his or her homework. Learn the history of problem-solving efforts and what went wrong with already-attempted solutions. Shuffield, of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors with 10 offices in South Florida, says he encourages real estate agents to come to the negotiating table prepared for possible problems to crop up and with research on previous solutions that have been successful. By doing that, he says, you can enter a situation with a problem-solving mind-set. “You are prepared to take charge of the situation. People want to do business with you.”

October 16, 2012

Why we're miserable at work. The reason might surprise you.

Lately, I'm starting to wonder about all the negativity I'm hearing about workplaces.

I've heard employees are whining, bosses are bullying  and workers are completely unengaged.

On top of that, employees are stealing each others lunches, sending curt emails, shooting down good ideas and sometimes even getting violent.  

What's going on? Are most people miserable at work?

Of course, not everyone is naturally cheerful. But what's making all of us so unhappy at the place where we spend a good chunk of our waking hours?

A new Study by TellYourBoss.com says our bosses are to blame. 

Bosses are leaving Americans feeling unappreciated, uninspired, lonely, and miserable, says the results of the study conducted by Michelle McQuaid, a consultant who offers positive psychology interventions in the workplace.

The study found that:

 •     Only 36% of Americans are happy at their job and 65% say a better boss would make them happier.

•     31% of employees polled feel uninspired and unappreciated by their boss, and close to 15% feel downright miserable, bored and lonely.

•     Only 38% of those polled describe their boss as “great,” with 42% saying their bosses don’t work very hard and close to 20% saying their boss has little or no integrity.

•     Close to 60% of Americans say they would do a better job if they got along better with their boss.

•     Close to 70% of those polled said they would be happier at work if they got along better with their boss, with the breakdown equal amongst men and women, but younger workers in their 20s and 30s skewed even higher (80%).

•     Over half  (55%) of those polled, think they would be more successful in their career if they got along better with their boss.

•     When stress levels rise at work, a disturbing 47% say their boss does not stay calm and in control. Although 70% of boomers polled say their boss doesn’t lose his/her cool in times of stress.

Most bosses are never offered training for skills required to succeed in their job...something to think about today, which has been declared National Bosses Day.

If you're not too fond of your boss, it might seem repulsive to kiss up. But you might want to consider doing something to improve your relationship with your boss because it most likely will help you better manage your stress. It may as simple as saying thank you as a response instead of grumble or you may want to consider using one of these 5 tricks to beat a bad boss.

Michelle McQuaid at TellYourBoss.com suggests trying to improve your relationship by telling your boss what your strengths are – the things you like doing and are good at - and suggest new ways to use these in your job.

Readers, what action will you take today? McQuaid is encouraging us to share our National Bosses Day action on social media #tellyourboss. I'm planning to tweet my plans @balancegal!




October 12, 2012

When TV working moms quit their jobs are they bad role models?

Julia b

Earlier this week, I tuned into one of my favorite TV shows, Parenthood, and watched one of my favorite working mothers, power lawyer Julia Braverman-Graham, lose her cool. Julia, mom to a biological daughter and a newly adopted grade-school-age son has been distracted at work in recent episodes. She's been trying to help her new son, Victor, get adjusted to being part of her family.

After screwing up at work, screwing up at home and suffering a panic attack, Julia has a work life balance meltdown. Then, she's called into the office on her day off. When her angry bosses doubt her commitment to the partner-track, Julia makes a huge move: She quits her job.

Slate.com says her circumstances are particular, but Julia's part of a larger trend: pop-culture moms who take their jobs and shove 'em when work starts to interfere with family life. It gives Sex & The City's Miranda and Ed's Nancy Burton as other examples of this trend.

I'm left to wonder, does TV fail to provide working mothers with role models who explore options other than quitting when the going gets tough?

Clair-huxtable-16x9Claire Huxtable of The Cosby Show made it look oh so easy to raise a house full of kids and work full time as a lawyer while her husband enjoyed his career as a doctor. Claire was frustrated at times, but she NEVER talked about quitting her job.

I like that Parenthood presented a real look at how job commitment can be questioned when a working mother seems distracted by what's going on at home. I think that's a realistic scenario and I'm sure other mom lawyers have had to face the same humiliating questioning of their commitment to their workplace that Julia endured.

While it makes for good TV to have Julia quit, I'm left to wonder, what's next for this family's breadwinner? Will she have the kind of discussion that real moms have with their spouses?  Will she and her hubby talk frankly about her options and how the family will get by financially without the kind of salary a lawyer on partner track brings home?

I would like to have seen Julia discuss her options with her firm's management before quitting. I'm not fond of the all or nothing approach to work life balance. I'm not saying that Julia is a bad role model because she quit, but I hope Parenthood paints the aftermath of this type of decision as stress-laden as it did the events leading up to it.

AliciaAs  fan of the CBS show,  The Good Wife, I enjoy watching Alicia Florrick at work as a lawyer and at home as a mom. But after the first season, her mother-in-law no longer watches her kids while she's at the office. We viewers have no idea how she pulls of her work life balancing act or whether it's the least bit difficult for her.

Readers, can you think of working mother role models on TV who you feel portray an accurate look at the work life balance challenges that women face? Do you find it a disappointment when a TV working mother quits her job?