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.


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 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


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'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? 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? 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?