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? 

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?

September 21, 2015

Better boss, or pay raise?



One day, all three of my kids had the stomach flu. It was the same day I needed to turn in a article to appear in our Business Monday section. Being late would mean more work for my editor.But he didn't hesitate when I told him what was going on in my home. "Don't worry," he said. "Just do what you need to do at home." I ended up turning the story in on time. And, I think my editor knew I would. But having him say that to me made me appreciate where I worked and for whom I worked. 

We all know a boss can make or break your ability to balance work and family. He or she can also make or break whether you like your job. 

A new study produced by HR consulting firm Randstad U.S. shows that workers in the U.S. would trade salary increases for a better boss. More than a quarter of respondents (28%) to the survey said they would rather have a better boss manage them than have a $5,000 raise. 

Because most of us spend more of our valuable waking hours at work than anywhere else, having a boss who respects your life outside of work is worth more than $5,000 as far as I'm concerned.

Jim Link, chief HR officer for Randstad North America. "41% of employees don't believe their employees help them achieve work-life balance and 39% don't feel their managers encourage them to utilize vacation time. Therefore, bosses who proactively encourage workers to unplug, unwind and truly leave work behind to enjoy time off will be looked upon as workplace heroes."

Just last week a friend called me, exasperated. Her boss had called a mandatory staff meeting at 7:30 a.m. (An awful time for parents of young children) At the meeting, her boss rambled without a set agenda and no real point. "I love what I do but I can't take working for this woman anymore," my friend said. 

How do you deal with a horrible boss? How do you know when it's time to quit? For me, it's time when you absolutely dread going to work. Here are more Telltale Signs It's Time To Quit Your Job.

Yes, there are ways to handle a bad boss. As Forbes points out: "However fixed in their ways your boss may be, you can always learn ways to better manage him or her."  Of course, it is not easy and the process might not seem worth the effort.

So when you put it out there...better boss, or pay raise? I'd take the better boss. How about you?


July 01, 2015

Should your spouse come to the job interview too?


Have you noticed at the Academy Awards, all winners thank their spouses. It's the people you are married to who suffer the consequences of an all consuming job. 

Before taking a job, most of us discuss it with our spouses. We tend to look at what this position means for us and also for our spouse and family -- more money, less time at home, more travel, etc. When I saw an article about a trend toward more companies interviewing candidates' spouses before they take high level positions, it made sense to me. In fact, I applaud the move.

An article in Corporate Counsel says ThoughtSpot, (misspelled in an earlier version) a business intelligence company, invites a prospective employee's partner to meet with CEO Ajeet Singh in the final round of interviews. "I want spouses to know that we're not a company full of mercenaries that are going to bleed their families dry and not care about their life outside of work," Singh told Business Insider. 

While some lawyers advise against companies taking this approach, I think it's fabulous. The legal concern is that the candidate could claim discrimination if the spouses raises a concern and the applicant assumes the offending information was used in the final decision, thus opening a possible discrimination claim. 

Yes, that's a risk. However, when you're hiring someone and you have the buy-in of a spouse, you've already alleviated some of the tension that can interfere with job satisfaction. Americans today are working long hours. We're getting calls from work long after we've returned home. We're checking our email at the dinner table. There are so many ways work interferes with our home lives. So, if you're going to call my husband during dinner, at least tell me the benefits of the job so I can see past the infringement it makes on my home life. 

Recently, board members of a non profit organization were complaining to me. They hired a CEO and expected his wife to be involved, too. In the last year, she's come to very few of the organization's events. She has made it clear, she sees her participation as unnecessary. Had the board interviewed her along with her spouse, they would have known her position upfront.

When your spouse is going through a job search, you are emotionally attached to the outcome. It is much better for your relationship to have someone outside your home coaching him or her through the process. But when the search comes to the point where someone is seriously considering a position, I see it as a win-win for all to air expectations during the interview process.

What are your thoughts? Do you think a spouse should be part of late-stage job interviews? 

May 15, 2015

More workers than ever are struggling with work life balance

                                                 Woman nyc


Today, I spoke with a female executive while she walked through the streets of New York on her way to a business meeting. I could hear the horns honking and the street sounds as she explained to me it was the only time she could fit the conversation into her busy day. As it was, she explained, she was already going to have to work late into the evening.  

It's no wonder that more than a third of 9,700 workers surveyed by tax and professional services firm Ernst & Young say managing work life balance has become more difficult in the last five years. Here is how and why people are struggling with work life balance:

People are working more. Around the world, about half of managers work more than 40 hours a week and four in 10 say their hours have increased in the last five years. I think that pretty clearly shows the traditional 40-hour workweek is becoming obsolete.

People are stressed. And as people work more and struggle with balance, they are not happy about it. The survey found dissatisfaction highest among white-collar workers in their 20s and 30s who are establishing families at the same time they are moving into management and other jobs that carry more responsibility.

People are struggling. These workers say their salary has not increased much, but their expenses and responsibilities at work have increased. That's making work life balance more difficult to achieve.

Here's a finding that might surprise you: U.S. men are more likely than women to change jobs or give up a promotion for work life balance reasons. Clearly, everyone is struggling with work life balance, not just women. 

People are suffering when they use flex schedules. Nearly one in 10 (9%) U.S. workers say they have "suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule." That rate is higher for millennials, of which one in six (15%) reported either losing a job, being denied a promotion or raise, being assigned to less interesting or high profile assignments, or being publicly or privately reprimanded.

People are encountering work life hurdles. The biggest hurdles faced when U.S workers try to balance their personal and professional lives were: Getting enough sleep, handling more responsibility, finding time for me, finding time for family and friends and additional hours worked.

People are quitting their jobs. EY looked at the leading reasons full-time workers quit. The top five reasons were minimal wage growth, lack of opportunity to advance, excessive overtime hours, a work environment that does not encourage teamwork and a boss that doesn't allow you to work flexibly.

People are feeling the effects at home. The economy caused one in six (15%) full-time workers to get divorced or separated and almost one-sixth (13%) to delay getting a divorce. Nearly a quarter (23%) decided not to have additional children and more than one in five (21%) delayed having additional children.

So what exactly is it that employees believe will help them achieve work life balance? After competitive pay and benefits, employees want to work flexibly (formally or informally) and still be on track for a promotion. The want paid parental leave and they don't want excessive overtime.

Do you think some of those wants are doable? Will it make a difference when more millennials become bosses? 



(The Global Generations survey, EY’s second attempt to study generational issues in the workplace, was conducted in the U.S., Germany, Japan, China, Mexico, Brazil, India, and the U.K. In addition to international findings, 1,200 full-time U.S. workers were asked about major changes they have made, or would be willing to make, to better manage their work-life balance, paid parental leave, and couples’ work schedules by generation.)


March 27, 2015

Working parents: your boss may be judging you

(Katharine Zaleski)

If people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their boss. How do you become a boss that workers refuse to leave?

The answer looks obvious from recent online discussion: Refrain from judging employees with an outside life.

In an apology letter to working mothers that set off a firestorm of online buzz, the president of an Internet startup gave a harsh account of how workers with family responsibilities are unfairly judged by their bosses.

As a manager at The Huffington Post and then The Washington Post in her mid-20s, Katharine Zaleski admits that she judged other mothers or said nothing while she saw others do the same.

“I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last-minute drinks with me and my team,” she wrote in a letter that appeared in Fortune. “I questioned her ‘commitment’ even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hungover colleagues the next day. I didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she ‘got pregnant.’

In a move that goes on in many workplaces, Zaleski said she scheduled last-minute meetings at 4:30 p.m. all of the time. “It didn’t dawn on me that parents might need to pick up their kids at daycare,” she said.

Zaleski said she didn’t realize how horrible she had been until she gave birth to her own daughter. She now runs PowerToFly, a company that matches women who want to work from home with jobs in the tech field.

We all know that Zaleski isn't the only boss who has harshly judged a working mother -- or father. It can be easy to dismiss a working parent as uncommitted, a worker with elder care responsibilities as distracted, or a younger employee who wants to train for a marathon as lacking work ethic. It can be easy to call super early morning or schedule evening dinners with clients that can happen during the regular workday.

But you don’t need to be in a person’s shoes to be a boss who creates a workplace where employees thrive. A good boss thinks about the bigger picture and realizes people have lives outside of work -- and that allowing them to do both well makes them more committed to their jobs!

I find myself offering encouragement almost weekly to a working mother or father who feels judged by a boss for asking for flex time or wanting to leave by 5 to make it to their son’s soccer game. Their most common complaint: my boss will penalize me.

A report from Bright Horizons Family Solutions, an employer benefit child-care and early education company, reveals many employees - male and female - feel they can’t be open with their boss about family obligations. As more fathers want to be equal partners in parenting, they still feel they can’t express that to their boss, especially non-parents. Bright Horizons found about a third of working dads have faked sick to be more involved with their family, and one in four have lied to meet a family obligation, according to the report.

That could change.

As millennials become managers, many do think differently about work/life needs. They want to be more involved in thier children's lives and may make it easier for thier staffers to balance work and family without being judged.

If you feel like your boss or co- worker is judging you for having a life outside of work, it might be time to speak up. Communicate your accomplishments and the ways you show your commitment to your job. It's unfortunate to think that some managers don't see the value that working parents bring to a workplace.

Have you felt judged by a manager for having personal responsibilities or interests outside of work? How did you handle it?

March 11, 2015

How to manage your boss



Have you ever walked in the door of your home grumpy because your boss spoke to you in a condescending manner or didn't think to include you in a meeting or assigned someone else a key project you wanted to be part of? We all bring our work aggravation home, it's just what we do.

Most of us realize our  relationship with our boss can be critical to our sanity, our income, our advancement, and our work life balance. That's why managing up is a workplace skill. It can make us more valued or appreciated by even the most demanding boss.

What exactly is managing up? It's not the same as sucking up.

Managing up is good communication, says Jay Starkman, CEO of Engage PEO, a Fort Lauderdale HR services provider. “It’s making sure that your manager is getting from you what they need in order to do their job and look good to their boss.” By managing up, you deliver information in the style and manner your manager prefers, “not the way you would want it if you were in their position.”

Starkman encourages his staffers to manage up by sending him regular emails. If there are problems, he wants his employees to communicate them but also include solutions. He believes people who manage up are more effective, and happier in their jobs, because they are working as a team with their boss.

Managing up is thinking ahead and responding to the boss's needs before he has to ask for something. It's bringing a problem to his attention with a solution. It's going beyond the tasks your manager has assigned to you so that you can enhance his work.

Even if you have a difficult boss, you still can manage up.

With a difficult manager, learn his pet peeves or preferences: “You need to ask: What are expectations? What do you think I can do to set myself up for more success?” explains Marla Grant, a Miami certified coach, strategic advisor and professional speaker. Employees who make the effort can change the dynamics of a troubled relationship: “It doesn’t happen overnight,” Grant says. “But you can create room for a shift if your boss sees you as valuable to them or someone who makes them look good."

Along with advancement, managing up can lead to better work/life balance. Sandra Fine, vice president at RBB Public Relations in Miami, has reports and a boss. As a manager, she appreciates when her staff manages up by communicating when they will be out for a while and how they have covered their accounts. “I’m an email person, a much better reader than listener. I like knowing the details are taken care of and my employee is not leaving things on my plate to figure out.”

If you’ve built a relationship and good communication, a manager will give you leeway when you need to work from home, or turn down a promotion, or trust you when you take a new approach with a client,” Grant says. “If don’t have that, a boss will be more judgmental. That’s what managing up is about.”

Do you manage up? Do you see managing up as much different than sucking up?




March 04, 2015

How to handle a hot head boss




Does your boss yell?

I have worked for a yeller. My friend currently works for a yeller. It's awful and if you let the screaming get to you, it likely will make you hate your job.

Here's what might be going on: 82% of those selected for management roles don’t have the competence to effectively execute their role, according to a report on Fox News. Given these disturbing facts it’s no wonder new manager’s get frustrated -- and yell!

But for those of us on the other side of the screaming, it can be stressful and upsetting. It can make us start to dislike a job that we otherwise would enjoy. It can mess with our work life balance because we take that stress home -- and even take it out on the people around us.

Michael Woodward, also known as Dr. Woody, is certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University (FIU) Center for Leadership.  He offered these tips for how to cope. I added one of my own.

Don’t Take it Personally: Often these yelling boss doesn’t intend their rants to be taken personally. They are likely reacting out of frustration and may not even be aware of how damaging their behavior to morale. Even in those cases where the yelling boss does get personal, the best thing to do is pull yourself back and focus on the facts. Use evidence as your guide and try to keep emotion out of it. Consider what you did well and what you can do better. 

Never Take the Bait: Never match the tone and tenor of a yelling boss as this will only result in an unhealthy escalation. Once you take the bait you lose you effectively give your power away by acknowledging the rationale of their tone. The best thing you can do is stay calm and just let them burn themselves out! (Cindy's note: I've tried this approach. It works!)

Seek Out Guidance: If the yelling boss can’t actually answer the question of “what do you want me to do?” they aren’t managing, they are just venting frustration. In this case, wait until the dust settles and then seek them out to get some direction on what they actually want you to do in moving forward. Before you approach him or her, be sure to have some ideas on what you can do to make-up for whatever real or imagined problem that caused the situation. 

Don't Put Up with Personal Insults: It's one thing for a boss to scream about an action or behavior, it's another to dish out a personal insult. "You're a moron" is a hurtful statement. When the boss calms down, make it clear that constructive criticism with a clear direction for how to do something better is okay, a put down on a personal level is not.

As Dr. Woody notes: At the end of the day people leave bosses not jobs.If you find yourself the victim of a yelling boss, do your best to not take it personally, be sure to avoid getting drawn in, and find a way to ask for positive direction in moving forward. 

February 23, 2015

Do you really want honest feedback?

Most of us tell ourselves we want feedback at work -- until we actually receive it. It's kind of like when we ask our spouse if a certain pair of pants makes us look fat. We aren't actually okay with the answer being yes.

Now, employers are asking managers to ease up on harsh feedback for their staff. At a time when younger workers want ongoing feedback, they want the managers to accentuate the positive instead of negative. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

While positive feedback definitely helps with motivation, I want to know the honest truth about where I stand. If something I'm doing is holding me back in my job or career, I want to know it, just like I would want to know if I'm walking around in pants that make me look fat.

There are nice ways to deliver the harsh truth. Good managers have mastered the art of giving truthful feedback in a constructive way. Of course, not every manager has skills to find a constructive way to tell someone he or she is not assertive enough or productive enough or focused enough to get ahead.  While criticism may be awful to hear, if something I'm doing is standing in the way of a raise, promotion or plumb assignment, I want to my manager to empower me correct it.  Having a manager give me only the positive is not going to be enough to open my eyes to the need to change my behavior.

As Talent Management Magazine notes: In a perfect world — and with a perfect employee —  focusing only on the positive is likely effective. But sometimes — and in specific industries — being a little tough can be beneficial as well, especially with an employee who perhaps has taken advantage of a "nice" manager and whose work has suffered as a result.

One boss I know always gives negative feedback. No one wants to work for her. That's not a great approach either. I have seen it lead to bad morale.

I want my manager to extol my strengths and heap praise on me for what I'm doing well, but I also want him or her to be honest about real or perceived weaknesses that might be holding me back. If I'm a remote worker and the perception is that I don't work hard, I want to know that so I can do something about it. If I see myself as a leader and no one else does, I want to know that, too, so I don't put in long hours and become frustrated when it doesn't lead to advancement.

Providing the right kind of truthful feedback -- which includes strengths and weaknesses -- separates a mediocre manager from a great one. A really great manager might tell me how to use my strengths to improve my weaknesses.

What are your thoughts on feedback from the boss? Do you only want to hear the good stuff? Do you think allowing a manager to give critical feedback is opening the door for bad morale?

January 11, 2015

How to actually take vacation, time off in 2015




Close you eyes and for a moment imagine yourself relaxed, happy and at your best at work. When I do that, I envision myself about a week after I have returned from vacation, all caught up at work and in a much better mindset than before I left.


Being my best self at work affects how I lead, treat others, show compassion and patience, and exhibit creativity. Most of us need a break from routine, a chance to decompress, to be our best selves. But surveys show we are not taking that crucial opportunity.


Just less than 42% of Americans didn't take a single day of vacation in 2014, and women took fewer vacation days than men, according to Skift, a travel intelligence site. The findings show many full-time employed Americans have at least 10 days of allotted vacation. Because workplaces often have use it or lose it policies, not taking vacation is like leaving money on the table.


What's going on?


There are all kinds of reasons people gave. Some said they were reluctant to use their vacation time for fear of appearing replaceable or concern about their work piling up. Some didn't have money to go on vacation or believed there was no one who could cover for them if they took time off.


Right before my vacation this summer, I felt like any story ideas I came up with were stale. I felt tired and disengaged. Most of us recognize we are not at our best when we haven’t been able to disconnect from work physically and emotionally for a long stretch of time.


Vacations don’t have to be costly or long to be revitalizing. Now is the time to think ahead for 2015. Start by establishing expectations that you will take time off, guidelines for how you will disconnect and back up plans for when you are on vacation. Help your boss (or client) get into a routine of contacting others for some issues that he’d normally contact you about. Do this even when you are in the office to train those who will cover for you.  You want you boss to gain more confidence in them and allow you a real vacation from work.


Even in workplaces that don’t encourage time off, let others know that they will benefit from your post-vacation rejuvenation. I feel like taking vacation in 2015 is doable if you keep your “best self” vision in mind and plan for it now.