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

                                       Vacation

 

 

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.

 

December 03, 2014

Shopping online at work: The key to work life balance

At 3 p.m. on Cyber Monday, I nabbed the boots for my daughter wants for the holidays for a bargain price. Coming off the high of snagging a great deal, I plunged forward into completing an article that I had been working on for weeks. Rather that distracting me, my online holiday shopping left me energized and ready to focus.

I say go ahead and shop at work. It's convenient and your boss is probably doing it too.

A new survey by CareerBuilder found bosses, and not the rank and file, are more likely to spend time on the company computer shopping this holiday season.

One senior executive told me she shops for almost everything online from holiday gifts to pantyhose to deodorant. She shops from home, work, airplanes and even during conference calls. She doesn't see shopping online at work as an intrusion but rather as a necessity. She wants to spend her free time with her kids, not searching for a parking spot and waiting in long lines.

With all of us squeezed for free time, online shopping has become the key to juggling work and a personal demands. A few clicks on the computer can help you reclaim your lunch hour for eating rather than battling crowds to buy a gift. Right now, most retailers are offering free shipping. You just can't beat the convenience!

“So long as productivity and customer service meet expectations, many employers are lenient in regards to a small amount of holiday shopping at work,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.

It does surprise me though that some employers still don't get where this trend is going. 

Some employers are adamant about putting a halt to holiday shopping on work hours. In the 2014 survey 53 percent of employers said their organization blocks employees from accessing certain websites from work, and 32 percent said they monitor the sites employees visit. Some companies flat out forbid employees from shopping online at the office.

What they may not realize is that employees don't need to use our work computers to shop online. We have all we need in our pockets or our purses.  CareerBuilder found more than 1 in 4 (27 percent) of employees they use their personal smart phones or tablets to shop at work.

The key to shopping online at work is be discreet and reasonable.  Limit yourself to a few minutes during lunch or a break, and refrain from having large packages delivered to yourself at the office. Most important, use common sense: don't neglect a customer or work project just to take advantage of the deal of the hour. 

A few abusers can ruin the privilege for the rest of the office, so don't be that person. Know the rules of your workplace.

Eric Younkin, Cleveland branch manager for Robert Half Technology, told Cleveland.com that online holiday shopping done at work - within reason - could be a win-win for both employer and employee. Employees get to cross-off items on their holiday shopping lists and take advantage of cyber specials that may only be available during work hours. Employers don't have to worry about an employee taking a long lunch break to shop at a brick-and-mortar store. As long as an employee isn't spending hours of the workday surfing the Internet for holiday bargains, the minutes spent making an online purchase pale in comparison to a trip to the mall or the local shopping district, he said.

I agree that online shopping can be a win-win for all.

My motto this season: Shop smart. Work smart. And don't push the limits of your employer's trust.  

November 18, 2014

Never bring your boss a work life balance problem

This morning, a male friend called me with a management issue. He wanted my thoughts on how to handle a situation with one of his female employees who is struggling with a work and family conflict. 

The problem is that each member of his staff takes a turn with a task that requires they stay late at the office one night a week. This one employee, a mom, has a young child at daycare and finds it impossible to rely on her husband or a family member to pick the child up when it is her turn to stay late.  She approached her boss and told him she couldn't continue to stay late once a week. 

"She's a good employee," my friend explained. "I don't want her to quit. But we are making everyone else take a turn at staying late."

My immediate response was to rattle off questions. 

First, why is this just this woman's problem? If there's a father in the picture, why isn't he working to find a solution, too?

Second, if she knows in advance she needs to stay late once a week, why can't she plan for it?

Last, and most important, why did she approach her boss with a problem, rather than a solution?

The number one rule in negotiation of a work life accommodation is bring a solution to the table.

I advised my friend to tell his employee to come back with a proposed solution to this dilemma. Then, she and her boss can negotiate from there.

If I were the frustrated mom, I might have asked my boss if there's a task I could take on early in the day in order to skip my turn on the late night rotation.

Long ago, I learned that bosses respond best to proposed solutions rather than problems. Because this woman's co-workers are single or have no kids, there is a possibility of resentment. As a manager, my friend needs to make sure whatever accommodation he makes for this working mom comes off as fair to all. 

We work in an era when the needs of the 21st Century workforce must be considered. In two-job families, men and women may both confront work life balance challenges. No one wants to lose his or her job over a child care issue. And, a good boss wants to keep a good employee. 

As I hung up with my friend, he said: "Let's see what she comes up with. I really want this to work out."

I pretty sure most bosses feel that way. 

 

September 19, 2014

How to Ask Like a Man

Askforraise

Let's say you are a high level executive and you get a great offer to serve on a corporate board. There is a ton of prestige in a board position and you really want to say yes. But first, you need your CEO to give his approval, particularly because the board position involves a substantial time commitment.

So, what do you do? Do you go ask your CEO if it's okay for you to take the board seat?

Apparently, that's the tactic some women have taken and the result hasn't been favorable. The CEO's answer was a pretty swift "no" followed by "we need your attention here at our company."

The lesson...it's all in the ask.

A few days ago, I moderated a panel of search executives who spoke about how important it is to frame the way you ask your boss for something.

Bonnie M. Crabtree,  Managing Director of Korn Ferry's Miami office, said the way the women executives SHOULD have asked their CEO is the way men tend to ask when they want to take board seats....not really seeking permission but explaining the benefits and making the CEO feel it would be bad business not to agree to it.

It's the same approach women should take when they are asking for a raise or a flexible schedule.

Listen to a successful businessman ask for something from the boss and it usually goes like this: I'm going to do it and it's going to benefit you too. We both are going to prosper. (There's really no permission seeking involved)

Sheryl Sandberg tells women to stop showing self-defeating behavior in the workplace. If we're going to do that, we need to master "the ask." Let's say we want more money. Rather than ask for a raise, Sandberg explains, tell your boss the reasons you should get more money and how it is in his interest to give it to you. 

Not knowing how to ask, and not asking well, can cost all of us money and opportunity. Simply put: our boss wants to feel like a winner. So if you're going to ask for something, keep that in mind and make yourself a winner, too.   

September 12, 2014

How to help a co-worker who is burning out

One day at work, one of my co-workers put her face into her hands and screamed. It was bizarre. All of us just watched, not really sure how to react. After a few minutes went by, the screaming got louder.

She was having a HUGE meltdown and it felt like acknowledging it might make it worse. I know that burnout happens. But watching it happen feels awful. For weeks, this co-worker, a single mother, had complained to me about having too much on her plate. When I arrived at the office, she was there. When I left, she was there.

Burn out has ended more than a few careers. But is it possible to help prevent a co-worker or even a boss from burning out?  In most companies, hard work is rewarded with more work. Should anyone step in when they see someone who can't seem to strike a work life balance? 

CareerCast.com says "We usually reach the point of being burned up when we try and tough out unpleasant work-related situations without an effective strategy. We ignore the signs of unhappiness, make excuses for the miserable way we feel on the job, justify staying on the job with any number of reasons, and gradually fall into a downward spiral where our motivation to change the situation is gone and, running on fumes becomes running on empty."

While it may be hard to recognize in ourselves, burn out could be easier to recognize in our co-workers. So, if we see some like my co-worker on the verge of a meltdown, what should be do about it?

CareerCast.com offers these suggestions:

 

  • 1. Urge your co-worker to seek help from a trained mental health professional who treats work-related problems.

 

  • 2. Step in with a gentle suggestion before the problem becomes so severe your co-worker loses his or her job or burns bridges.

 

  • 3. Urge your co-worker to consult a career counselor to find out if he or she has other career and work interests at a new and possibly different type of job, profession or career.

 

  • 4. Let your co-worker know that just because he or she is burned out on a current job or in a current role, doesn't mean it will necessarily be the same on a new job or new position. Circumstances change and, with it, a different job could lead to increased energy and a more positive frame of mind.

 

After my co-worker's complete crash, she was encouraged by her boss to take a long weekend. When she came back to work, she was offered a  less stressful, lower paying position at the same company. I encouraged her to take it, although it meant she has to live more frugally. 

A year later she seems much more in control of her work life balance and happier at work. 

Lot of us see co-workers every day who can't or don't make time for a personal life. Sometimes it is by choice. Sometimes he or she feels the company expects a 24/7 commitment.

Have your ever witnessed a co-worker burning out? Do you feel a responsibility to say or do so something? 

 

September 08, 2014

Would a pay raise improve your work life balance?

 

                                   Pay raise

 

 

What would you do with a raise?

Would you make changes that would make your home and work life easier? Would you buy a more reliable car to drive to work?  Or how about hiring someone to care for your elderly parent while you're not home?

My son gets minimum wage as a bus boy at a local pizza restaurant. He works like a dog for each cent he brings home. Still, he doesn't think a small increase would make a big difference for the dishwasher who works a second job to support his family. I disagree and have told him that every penny counts when you are living paycheck to paycheck.

Across the country, fast food workers have been rallying for higher wages, trying to get food businesses to pay at least $15 an hour. Now that's a significant increase from the $7.93 a cook at a Miami fast food joint says he makes. The cook says that extra $7 an hour would  allow him to pay rent and have enough left to buy an ample supply of food for his family.

White collar workers are struggling, too. In some workplaces, staffers haven't seen a pay jump in at least five years -- even if they are busting their butts.

The good news is U.S. employers are planning to give pay raises averaging 3 percent  in 2015, on par with the 2.9 percent average raise in 2014 and 2013, according to a survey of nearly 1,100 U.S. companies by compensation consultant Towers Watson.

A small raise is better than no raise, right? But what if you feel like you're working harder than your colleagues?

Who gets a raise and why can create major contention. Employees believe that employers are falling short in how pay decisions are made, and that there is much need for improvement,'' says  Towers Watson managing director Laury Sejen. Only half believe they are paid fairly. Their big gripe is that employers are not differentiating pay for top performers as much as they have been in recent years.

The median annual salary among the nation's 106.6 million workers is now about $40,560, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Base pay is the No. 1 reason why employees join a company or choose to leave,'' Sejen told USA Today.  "So there's value in companies making the effort to improve base pay."

Would a pay raise make a difference in your work life balance? How significant a raise would you need to see a real different in your lifestyle?

September 03, 2014

Who to go to for advice

A few nights a week, my husband and I walk around the neighborhood for exercise and talk about our days. We often discuss work related problems that come up in a typical day. While neither of us asks for advice, it's natural to give it.  Often, we view the same scenario differently and give suggestions the other person never considered. 

Knowing how I interact with my husband, I often have felt that my boss' spouse had more influence on my future at a company than any other high level manager.  A new survey proves me right.  Most CEOs admit they consider their spouses the person they turn to first for advice on tough business decisions, more than senior members of their staff. 

According to a survey from the staffing firm Adecco, 37 percent of CEOs and business owners say the opinion of their spouse is what matters most to them. This is followed by their head of business development department (16 percent) and operations department (13 percent).  

“A spouse can be someone to discuss ideas or decisions off of without judgment or agenda. If you’re in a partnership with someone, you hold their thoughts and opinions very highly,” Joyce Russell, president of Adecco Staffing in the US told Business News Daily. 

For most of us, seeking advice is tricky -- particularly from a significant other. While I appreciate the business advice my husband gives me, at times, resisting it has created marital tension. Sometimes, when I just want to vent, he chimes in with a solution that I don't want to hear. 

My friend Jill, who owns her own business, says it has taken her a long time to ask for her husband's advice without feeling guilty if she doesn't take it or getting upset by his more practical appraoch to problem solving. She's convinced listening to her inner gut or her female mentor, rather than her spouse, has led to better business decisions.

Have you ever taken — or totally resisted — business advice from your spouse/significant other? Do you feel like your spouse knows you best and guides you well or doesn't asking for advice open the door to resentment or problems down the road?

 

August 19, 2014

Working parents biggest fears

I shouldn't say I'm shocked but I am. How is it that in 2014, at a time when most mothers and fathers work, we still fear that we will be fired when our family needs interfere with work demands?

It's interesting that men almost fear bringing up child care issues with their boss more than women do. A dad I know once told me I was lucky that I had a flexible work arrangement and said his boss would get angry if he asked for one. I urged him to ask but I don't think he ever did. 

A new Bright Horizons Modern Family Index survey of 1,000 working moms and dads with at least one child under 18 still in the home shows:

  • working parents fear family responsibilities could get them fired
  • fathers are just as stressed and insecure about work and family conflicts as mothers
  • 39 percent of parents fear being denied a raise because of family responsibilities
  • 37 percent of parents fear they will never get promoted while 26 percent worry about a demotion because of family responsibilities
  • 22 percent worry that family commitments will cost them key projects at work
  • 19 percent believe they won’t be invited to important meetings because of family obligations
  • Working parents are nervous to bring up key family-related issues with their employers

That's a lot of fear, isn't it? We all know that business is about making profit or showing performance but workers are the ones who make that happen. When we have to choose between leaving a sick kid home alone or going to work, that's a tough choice we shouldn't have to make.

Here's something all employers should note: . Those working parents who do feel supported by their employer report strong loyalty.

David Liss, CEO of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, said it well:  "it is clear that working parents throughout the U.S. are still struggling to manage all of their responsibilities, and many still feel that they cannot be honest with their supervisors about needing to be available and active in their family lives."

As a working parent, showing vulnerability to the wrong boss can be career suicide. And so, out of fear, we lie. In the survey working parents -- moms and dads --  admitted to lying or bending the truth to their boss about family responsibilities that get in the way of work. Some revealed they have faked sick to meet family obligations. Others said they lied about missing a work event because of a family commitment or the reason why they didn't respond to emails.

Again, all very pathetic but shockingly understandable.

Over my years as a working parent, I found a supportive boss makes all the difference in being a successful working parent and achieviing work life balance. If I hadn't had a supportive boss when my kids were really little, I couldn't have kept my job. The survey shows 41 percent of working parents agree with me.

Have you ever been fearful that family needs will get you fired? Do you think fathers get less of a break at work and have more reason to be fearful than mothers?

July 09, 2014

Need more balance? It may be time to hire a career coach

Have you ever felt stuck with your career? 

I've heard a lot about career coaches but I wasn't really sure exactly what they could do for me. I felt that maybe career coaches were for top executives who want to become better leaders. But I found out a career coach can be a HUGE help to almost anyone at any level. 

My Miami Herald column today answers these questions -- When is the right time to hire a career coach and how can hiring one improve your work life balance?

Read on...

Feeling stuck in your job? It may be time to hire a career coach

 

Executive Coach Monique Betty, owner of Boca Raton-based CareerSYNC, coaching the staff of the Women’s Business Development Council of Florida

 

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

If you’re putting in the hours and still not seeing the rewards, feeling undervalued or simply striving to be more successful, it may be time to hire a career coach.

When New York Times Editor Jill Abramson was fired last month, she had begun the process of working with a career consultant to work through some of the “management style” and “temperament” concerns that allegedly did her in. Like Abramson, most of excel in our jobs because of our technical expertise in our fields, but often, it is the “people” skills, such as managing and motivating staff, that trip us up.

A career coach can help you figure out behavior changes to help you advance, strategies for a new direction, or an action plan to close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

“Think of a career coach as an objective person to talk to who doesn’t have a vested interest in anything but your success and satisfaction,” said Teressa Moore Griffin, an executive coach and founder of Spirit of Purpose.

One Miami executive hired a coach when her nonprofit women’s organization needed new direction.

At the time, Nancy Allen, president/CEO of the Women’s Business Development Council of Florida, was facing the high levels of stress common when nonprofits face board transitions and pressure to raise funds. Allen said that while working with a coach weekly for seven months, she defined steps to bring in new sources of revenue and new programming. Her coach also helped her scrutinize where to focus her time.

“I came out of it with clarity of purpose,” Allen said. “Most executives know what to do, but professional coaching helps them move beyond the minutia to set a plan of action, stay focused and accomplish defined tasks.” Now, Allen has brought her coach to work with her staff individually to develop their strengths: “I think it will lead to a happier, more productive staff.”

As the job market opens, more people, particularly younger workers, are turning to career coaches. In a survey of 12,000 professional coaches by the International Coach Federation, 60 percent of respondents reported an increase in the number of clients over the previous 12 months and more than 75 percent said they anticipated increases in clients and revenue over the next 12 months.

Coaching, once perceived as a luxury available only to senior executives, is increasingly appealing to younger generations, according to the International Coach Federation’s 2014 Global Consumer Awareness Study. Of the 18,800 workers surveyed, 35 percent of those between 25 and 34 years old said they already had participated in a coaching relationship.

Employers, spending once again on leadership development, are hiring coaches for managers, vice presidents and high-level executives who have hit an obstacle in their career progressions or face new challenges. Griffin said that like coaches who work with athletes, she encourages corporate leaders to see how a small change in behavior affects performance: “Often, the person thinks the organization is the problem. I have to get them to see that if they want the team or boss or customer to behave differently, change starts with them.”

Hiring a career coach is different from hiring most other professionals, and can be costly. Expect to pay $100 to $350 for a one-hour session, according to the International Coach Federation. Most professionals work with their coaches for six months to a year.

There is no official licensing agency for career coaches, which has led to a wide range of quality among those claiming to be experts. However, the International Coach Federation has built a worldwide network of more than 12,000 credentialed coaches with a minimum level of training and certification. When selecting, Miami career coach Marlene Green advises asking for recommendations, checking references and asking questions “just as you would when hiring an attorney.”

To be clear, a coach differs from a business consultant. Where a consultant identifies a business problem and gives a solution, a coach asks questions and encourages the client to find answers.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Do I have financial resources and time resources to get coached and am I in a place where I’m ready to have self-introspection?’ ” said Alexa Sherr Hartley, president of South Florida’s Premier Leadership Coaching. “You’re paying for a coach to help you figure it out, not to figure it out for you.”

After she was twice passed over for a management position at her company, Jenna Altman decided it was time to hire a career coach. “I felt like I was doing everything right and I needed to figure out why I wasn’t being promoted,” she said. Altman says her coach asked her questions that made her think differently about her strengths and weaknesses and how she adds value to her company.

She ended up asking for, and getting, a completely different position that she had never previously considered.

“When you have tried all the tools in your toolkit and you can’t move from your current state to your desired one, that is the help a coach provides,” Sherr explained. Research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology shows that 85 percent of business success comes from personality — the ability to communicate, negotiate and lead.

Shockingly, only 15 percent is attributed to technical knowledge. But Sherr says that with coaching, those soft skills can be learned and practiced at work and home: “That’s why investing in coaching makes sense.”