December 02, 2016

What you need to do at the office holiday party

 

                               Holiday party

 

This weekend I am attending my husband's holiday office party. By now, I have been to enough holiday parties to know there are unwritten rules. So, I know to tread carefully. I also know that office holiday parties are important -- maybe more so than most people realize. If you are thinking of skipping your holiday party, don't do it. The boss knows exactly who was there and who wasn't.

Now, let's say you do go and you decide to make the most of your company's generosity. Do so cautiously. One year, my husband's co-worker made a big pig of himself by ordering two meals -- a giant steak and a full size lobster. I guess he figured it was the company's dime, but he came across as someone who would run an expense account up just for the heck of it. Not a good impression to leave on the boss.

Holiday office parties can be landmines for embarrassing behavior,  or they can be huge opportunities to impress the boss and strengthen relationships with co-workers. Here are a few tips from many years of navigating the office holiday party.

1. Eat something before you go. Take a nibble on something small but sufficient to soak up any alcohol you ingest quickly. (It's a good idea to pace yourself on the alcohol, too) I have been on the wrong side of this one so I speak from experience.

2. Dress appropriately. We all know what that means --  no sleazy outfits, no ratty shoes, no stained clothing. Ask ahead what people are wearing so you don't show up too overdressed or too casual. 

3. Mingle. It's easy to hang out with the people you already know well but this is great chance to get to know co-workers from other departments or managers who might be helpful in the future. Introduce yourself so you don't spend the whole night talking to someone who has no idea of your name.

4. Make conversation with your boss' significant other. You may not realize it, but significant others have a huge influence on your manager's perception of you. Making the extra effort to converse with his or her other half can help your career. When my husband considers raises, I can't tell you how many times I have pleaded someone's case, so again, I speak from experience.

5. Arrive timely. We joke around in South Florida that people are on "Miami time" but at a holiday party arriving late deprives you of the chance to hang out early in the night when people are most talkative and drinks are just beginning to flow. Even if you don't really want to attend, showing up on time and scooting out shortly after should be enough for people to remember you were there.

6. Be receptive. If someone kisses you on the check, don't stand there like a cold fish. If someone shakes your hand, look him or her in the eye and welcome the introduction. If someone pinches your tush or hugs you too long, that's another story. Let them know right away that you find it offensive. Using humor is a good way to do that.

7. Show appreciation. Before I leave, I always say thank you to the person who planned the event, and the person who paid for it.  Someone put in a great deal of effort hoping you would have a good time and someone spent money to make it happen. Even if you didn't have the best night of your life, not only is saying thank you the nice thing to do, but it also makes you stand out because most employees don't.  

Monster.com has some tips as well, including some advice for the party planner. 

My favorite part of the holiday party is seeing my colleagues dressed up and in a good mood. How about you -- do you love office holiday parties, or dread them?

 

 

November 09, 2016

Post Election: What to Say To Your Daughter

I woke up this morning thinking about what I wanted to say to my daughter about the future. At first, it felt like an overwhelming task. I saw a clip on television of a woman at the Hillary Clinton reception. The woman looked up and said to the camera: "The glass ceiling is there and it's fully in tact."

Clearly, that's not the message I want my teenage daughter to take away from this election.

I also do not want her to take away the message that degrading women is okay or that walking around in shirts that say "Trump that Bitch" is acceptable behavior. I want to my daughter to believe that there is a level of respect for women in the United States and that young women today have every opportunity to achieve whatever they set out to do. I want young women to believe that their husbands, fathers, brothers and male friends are okay with women having power in the workplace and in the political arena.

My daughter watched the campaign results in her sorority house, surrounded by young women who had voted for their first time. This morning, I told my daughter I was proud of each and every young woman who voted. As a child, my mother hammered in the message that women worked hard to get the right to vote and I must never let them down by failing to exercise my right. It's the same message I have repeated to my daughter.

As a journalist, I have been writing about women in business for two decades. I have seen firsthand how difficult some of their journeys have been to achieve success in their fields. But I see progress.

This morning, I encouraged my daughter to be proud of how far women have come and to realize that having a female presidential candidate is an accomplishment. I told her that young women today need to educate themselves about politics, business and social issues. They need to know who and what they are voting for and why. They need to demand respect at work and in the world and refuse to accept anything less.

I am encouraged by the reaction of a young woman at Wesley College who said this morning: "Today, we put on our pantsuits and fight on!"

Yes, young women, we need you to fight on! 

Over the years, I have seen that the success of women is the success of families. I have seen that when women break the glass ceilings in their fields, they achieve feats that better all of mankind. 

There are two things that Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech that I wanted my daughter to hear: 

 

Hil

"To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. Now, I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now."

Then, Clinton went on to say something equally as encouraging to the next generation of female leaders:

"To all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams."

So parents, talk to your daughters today about what the future holds for them. Give them the encouragement to dream big and to understand that achieving high goals may come with obstacles but navigating them is part of life.  Show them examples of women who are admirable and encourage them to address disrespect. Most important, let them know that there is a lot of work to be done and I'm hopeful that there are many young women who are smart, self confident and enthusiastic enough to make positive change for years to come. 

 

November 07, 2016

Good news for workers, employee perks are back!

During the recession, companies pulled back on perks as they cut costs. But now hiring has resumed, salaries are rising, and the fancy perks are back and more creative than ever. 

That's good news for those of us trying harder than ever to strike a work life balance! The even better news is companies are trying harder to find the perks their workers really want. After all, what good is a perk if it doesn't improve our work lives or personal lives, right? 

A growing number of employers are introducing enticements such as cooking classes, student loan assistance, spot bonuses, standing desks, paid leave and free snacks or meals. Other popular benefits that we are seeing more often are onsite meditation, yoga, mindfulness — programs that help workers de-stress.

Recent research from Glassdoor.com, a California-based jobs and recruiting website, found that more than half (57 percent) of people said benefits and perks are among their top considerations when considering accepting a job, and that four in five workers say they would prefer additional benefits over a pay raise.
 
At minimum, most employers offer the basics — medical, dental, vacation, 401k. But more companies are adding to those offerings.  “When employers offer perks, they get something back: They get happier, more focused, more productive employees,” says Andrea Lubell, whose company Innergy Meditation is about to open a Miami Beach studio but has been going to workplaces and doing onsite meditation with employees as a perk.
 
According to a SHRM survey, the three top benefits employees say are important to their job satisfaction are paid time off, healthcare/medical benefits, and flexibility to balance life and work issues. 
 
With a little digging, I found some interesting offerings. If your employer doesn't offer them, it may be worth asking. 

POPULAR EMPLOYEE PERKS IN SOUTH FLORIDA

Food:

Free food

Some businesses provide regular catered lunches. Other companies offer snack rooms, juice bars and visits from food trucks. At Brightstar Credit Union headquartered in Tamarac, employees are provided free healthy snack options including granola bars, smoothies/protein shakes and salads. O’Connell and Goldberg in Hollywood has created an ice cream bar and even holds ice-cream meetings twice a week.

Discount sign

Discounts: About 20 percent of workers say employee discounts are what they value: discounts on cruises when working for a cruise line, dining or shopping when working at certain restaurants or retailers, or on services when working for dentists. Fort Lauderdale cosmetics dentist April Patterson at Dr. Patty’s Dental Boutique and Spa gives her employees a free whitening every three years and free teeth cleaning twice a year, along with discounts for family members.

Happy hour

Happy hours and social events: From hosting a team-building bowling night to taking employees on weekend cruises, employers have caught on that work outings are a fun way for employees to bond while building morale. Future Energy Solutions in Fort Lauderdale does regular team outings to local trendy play spots.

 

Pingpong

Play time: Pool tables and ping-pong tables may seem like distractions, but some companies have recognized their usefulness as creativity boosters. Ultimate Software in Weston has an indoor basketball court for employees to shoot hoops. Fort Lauderdale staffing company Hayes Locum has said its ping-pong table is one of the most used things in the office.

 

Meditation

Stress relief: Some local employers are bringing in masseuses to the office to work out people’s kinks; others are offering yoga classes and guided meditation. At International Creative Designs in Fort Lauderdale, employees can bring their pets to work — a guilt and stress reliever.

 

Contests  Run

Contests and reward programs: Some companies are rewarding outstanding workers with the opportunity to leave early or take a day off. At NextEra Energy in South Florida, all 10,000 employees can use PowerBucks to recognize and reward other colleagues. The PowerBucks are used to enter monthly raffles and win prizes.


For my full Miami Herald article on this topic, click here. 
 
 
 
 

October 31, 2016

How working parents can make the most of Halloween

                                           Halloween

 

 

For years, I scrambled to get home from work in time to take my children trick or treating. I planned my whole day so that as a working parent, I wouldn't get caught on deadline and tied up at work. Not only is Halloween one of my favorite days -- and nights-- but I loved the fun of the holiday and being with my kids and neighbors. One Halloween, I had to tell a good source I just couldn't interview him because he called as I was trying to get out the door to go home. Yes, Halloween can put work life balance to the test.

Make no mistake, whatever sacrifice you need to make at work to be home at a decent time to be with your children tonight will be well worth it! Now, two of my children are in college and one is in high school. I am grateful for every moment I spent trick or treating with my kids. 

Clearly, I am in a different phase of my life, but I'm still making the most of Halloween and I urge you to make the most of the holiday, too. Tonight, my parents will come over and sit in our driveway and pass out candy.  Instead of watching the thrill on my children's faces when someone tosses Hershey bars in their bags, I look forward to the delight on my mother's face when a small ghost or tiny witch thanks her for the treat she puts in his or her bag.

I have reached the age in which my friends no longer have their parents, or are managing issues around their parents’ declining health. While I long for those nights of trick or treating with little ones, I am wise enough to appreciate my time with my parents.

I realize that holidays like Halloween are about treats and fun but they are also about finding new opportunities to bond with family, friends, neighbors and even co-workers. I encourage everyone to view Halloween as the happy day it can be at work and at home and dress up, indulge in sweets or find a way to enjoy a break from routine with the people in your life. 

Make a deal with yourself not to sweat the small stuff today. If you kid sheds part of his costume along the way, no biggie. If you turn off the lights and a kid still rings your doorbell, be okay with it. If your co-worker thinks his costume is the greatest in all the land, let him gloat. If your mother in law feeds your kid a Halloween cupcake after he has eaten a ton of candy, let it slide. 

I encourage you to put whatever stress you have in your life aside for today. Years in the future, you will realize it was well worth it.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

 

September 27, 2016

Is it okay to interrupt women?

Last night, I watch Donald Trump continuously interrupt Hillary. Indeed, by the time the debate was over, Trump had interrupted Clinton 51 times — whereas Clinton had interrupted Trump just 17 times, according to the fact checkers. You could say it is Trump's personality to speak his mind and that he interrupted the men, too, during the Republican debates. 

What was different in last night's debate were the Twitter comments that ensued, such as this one:

 

Shout out to all the women having stress flashbacks to being yelled over in important meetings

 

Stacy Marie was just one of the women took to Twitter to complain about how often she is interrupted by men, particularly in the business setting. Decades of research show that women get interrupted more often by both men and women, and that women are often given less credit, or even penalized, for being outspoken.

Last night, these dynamics were on display on a worldwide stage and the reaction was fascinating.

Whether it's in the boardroom, the conference room or in front of TV viewers, interruptions are not only rude, they prevent a speaker from making his or her point, and moving on. At the end of the day, not being heard affects our efficiency, effectiveness and our work life balance.

Men likely are more comfortable interrupting women because they have been raised from day one to believe what they have to say is important. However, women interrupt each other, too. In a blog post on Vox, it was noted that tech startup CEO and linguist Kieran Snyder designed an experiment that found men in tech industry meetings interrupted twice as often as women did, and that men were three times as likely to interrupt women as they were to interrupt other men. When women did interrupt, they interrupted other women 87 percent of the time.

Post debate, I've heard little criticism of Trump for interrupting as much as he did. In fact, Vox points out that Hillary is more likely to be criticized for the way she responded to Trump's interruptions.

 

I appreciated this tweet:

A President should always interrupt someone by yelling "wrong, wrong" in a microphone.

 

Don't be naive to think such "wrong, wrong" behavior doesn't go on in workplaces. It does and it needs to stop.

In fact, recently workplace columnist  Rex Hupkke wrote about mansplaining and described the term this way:

"The all-too-frequent instances when a man explains something to a female co-worker in a condescending manner. It often begins with the man interrupting the woman — "Actually …" — or talking over her, all so he can explain something she already understands."

Rex even offered a solution to men:  Stop and think. Before you cut off a female colleague or launch into an explanation of something that needs no explanation, ask yourself: Am I about to mansplain?

I am sure Trump could care less about curbing his mansplaining or his interruptions. It's been an effective tool for him in business. But when our effectiveness and work life balance are at stake, women need to make men more aware of their behavior, whether or not it is intentional, and nudge them to change it.

Of course, let's not let ourselves off the hook either. We have just seen what interruptions look like and it isn't a pretty picture. Let's set the example for men and stop and think before we interrupt other women.

Everyone deserves to be heard. It's time to make that loud and clear.

 
 

 

 

 

 

September 16, 2016

How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Suggest We Make Work Life Balance Easier

RuthShould we be working at all hours all the time? Should any professional be at the beck and call of a supervisor or client after he or she leaves the office? These are questions we're going to be asking ourselves more often.

The answers aren't simple. In law or any profession, expectations for customer service usually mean an immediate response. Businesses will need to figure out how to give their professionals the work life balance they want and deserve, and please the customer.

When I saw this interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the National Law Journal, I thought she hit the work life balance concerns right on. She wants to see more action. Most of us do.

"Firms don't seem to be moving that fast to be flexible," Ginsburg said during a conversation with former U.S. solicitor general Theodore Olson before the D.C. chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

But instead of just complaining, Ginsburg gave solutions, which is why I truly admire this woman.

Despite major advances under the law, as well as new technology that facilitates remote work, law firms “don’t seem to be moving that fast” to allow new parents of both genders to balance work and home life, Justice Ginsburg said at an event on Wednesday in Northern Virginia hosted by the Association of Corporate Counsel.

Ginsburg said women and men at firms "should get together with each other and decide 'what we want' " in terms of workplace changes, and "make it known and illustrate by example that you can have a home life and a work life.Ginsburg gave a great example of how a firm can be flexible.

As an example, Ginsburg said a former law clerk of hers who now has three young children worked out an arrangement with an unnamed law firm to have a three-day work week. "They are delighted with her work," Ginsburg said.

While that's one example, there are others that include men and women. Yes, men and women need to discuss  'what we want' " in terms of workplace changes.  We need to see changes that help both genders be the lawyers or professionals they want to be and have a life outside the office, too.

Ginsburg has reminded us that the struggle for work life balance is real and needs to be addressed. Will firms heed her call to action?

 

August 29, 2016

How to survive back-to-school as a working parent

Sommer davis
(Sommer Davis and her family/ Photo by Shannon Kaestle)

 

For years, I've heard people say it takes a village to raise a child. Most working parents will agree with that statement. But I haven't read much on how to build your village. So this week in my Miami Herald column, I set out to help working parents build a support team for a better work life balance.

If you're a mother or father trying to adapt to a new school routine, here is where you should look to build your support team:

Workplace: The least-stressed working parents have their employers on their team. In fact, at least 4-in-10 mothers and fathers say they cannot be successful as parents without a supportive boss, according to Bright Horizons’ Modern Family Index, a 2014 survey of 1,005 American parents who work at least part time.

When the boss is not understanding, try to find co-workers who you can rely on in a pinch. Barbara Baker, an assistant in a Cutler Ridge medical office, remembers the day she needed to attend an unscheduled parent-teacher conference but saw a line of patients waiting to be checked in. Her co-worker, another working mom, stepped up and filled in.

Community: Many working parents reach into the community to build their team by joining carpools, courting neighbors and trading favors with other parents and friends. A parent who travels often for work may ask for help driving their child to after-school activities in exchange for doing a weekend pickup from a “Sweet 16” party, for example.

 

Peggy Sapp, president and CEO of Informed Families, suggests take time now to build connections: “Some people think they are too busy, but it is worth it to take time at the beginning of school. Introduce yourself to other parents or offer to meet over coffee at Starbucks. Anything you can do to create a bond now is going to make it easier than a cold-call later when you need some help.”

Family: With nearly 70 percent of mothers in the workforce, you and your spouse need to work as a well-functioning team. Today more fathers are helping to make dinner, pick up kids from school, or even leave work early to handle emergencies. For others, family members such as grandparents or aunts are critical to their support team. Don't feel bad asking a family member for help, often they enjoy the time with their young family members.

Sommer Davis says her husband, Lawrence, a long-distance truck driver, is on the road for months at a time. For Davis, raising two daughters and succeeding as a public information officer for the Miami-Dade County Water & Sewer Department requires her parents’ involvement. "I am fortunate I am able to rely on them for assistance,” Davis says.

School: You might want to make your child's teacher part of your team, too.  On back-to-school night, put teachers’ contact information into your phone, along with contact information for after-school providers, bus drivers, coaches and any other school faculty who you can call for help. Some teachers will allow a helpful child (or teen) to stay in their classrooms after school for a short while.

As this school year kicks off, start now to assemble your team. You may need it sooner than you  think.

 

 

 

 

 

August 18, 2016

A Back-to-School Tip for Working Mothers (and Fathers)

 

                                           Mom on phone

 

Today, I was interviewing an expert for a back to school article, when she shared a piece of wisdom with me that I wish I had thought of years ago.

She suggests creating a file on your phone with the email or phone number of every person your child comes in contact with during the school day. For example, the file would have the bus driver's number, the transportation department's number, the mother who drives your child to school. It would also have the teacher's contact info and the school's contact info. If you child is in aftercare, it would have the aftercare director's number or one of the care providers. If you child is in extracurricular activities such as piano lessons, the file would have the piano teacher's number or another parent whose child takes lessons the same day with the same teacher. 

The key is ALL the numbers are in ONE place. No need to search around and wonder whether you filed someone's info by first or last name or by topic or some other way. 

If the bus doesn't show up or you need to reach someone to reach your child, NO NEED TO PANIC! Making contact with someone who can help becomes much easier when everything is in one place and at your fingertips.

As much as our phones draw our attention away from our kids if we let them, our phones can be our lifeline when our children need to reach us, or when we need to reach them. 

It's also good to collect phone numbers of your child's friends parents. That could be a separate file on your phone. If you don't know all the parents, use the new school year as the perfect time to get to know them. 

There will be days that unpredictable events with our kids turn our lives upside down. Inevitably those days will be the ones in which we have a big presentation at work or our boss is riding along with us on a sales call. Getting our safety net prepared ahead of time can make all the difference in a working parent's work life balance!

What tips can you share with other working parents who are trying to keep it all together during the school year?

 

August 16, 2016

How to survive political discussion in the workplace

                                                               Politics

 

 

Your co-worker mentions that he's a big Trump fan and went to the rally over the weekend. You're repulsed but you have to sit next to this guy every day. Do you engage and ask him why the heck he would support a guy like Trump? Do you tell him not to mention politics at work?

Drawing the line between work and politics can get tricky with the November election only months away. With new election developments daily, political discussions in the lunchroom, parking lot and office cubicles are inevitable. So how do you navigate workplace discussion knowing the election will soon be over but your co-worker will sit next to you for months and years to come?

Here are a few ways to approach political conversations at work:

Take a cue from the top. In some offices, managers have made employees remove buttons and stickers on cubicles in support of a candidate, or discouraged workers from political talk on the job. In other workplaces, managers are comfortable with respectful debate about personalities and issues and encourage workers to stay abreast of current events that could affect business.

Think carefully before you speak. Longtime Florida lawmaker Elaine Bloom, now president and CEO of Plaza Health Network, the largest nursing home network in Miami-Dade County, says in her daily interaction with executives and healthcare workers she often gets asked her thoughts on a political issue or candidate. “I have to be very careful,” she says. Sometimes, she will clarify a fact or give her opinion, but make it clear that she doesn’t expect her staff or nursing home residents to agree with her view. Sometimes, she will discourage the conversation if she believes it’s going to create hard feelings. “I’ll say something like, ‘Let’s leave the political discussion for outside the workplace.’ 

Speak up. If you feel bullied or harassed or can’t get your co-worker to stop talking politics, it's time to mention it to a manager. “These conversations could drag on for hours and become a productivity issue. When voices are raised, threats come out, or it becomes a distraction, a manager needs to step in," says Edward Yost, director of employee relations for the Society for Human Resource Management.

Agree to disagree.  If your colleague mentions he supports Marco Rubio for Senate and you despise Rubio, you may want to give your perspective but agree to disagree. It's difficult -- if not impossible -- to change someone's political opinions so the best approach is to verbalize that you don't see eye to eye and that it's okay to have perspectives. The key is to stop the conversation before it gets personal.  

Think long term. If someone sees a bumper sticker on someone’s car or finds out a colleague is campaigning for a candidate, it's easy to make a snap judgment about a co-worker’s beliefs and even cast someone as prejudice. But remember, you are going to be working together after the election and it’s not smart to damage a cooperative working relationship.

Use caution on social media. If a supervisor touts his political views on Facebook where a staff member can see it, that could be considered harassment, says April Boyer, an employment attorney at K & L Gates in Miami . “It’s possible the employee could come in and complain. These are complicated issues to work through.”


For more on talking politics at work, read my column in The Miami Herald.

 

June 21, 2016

Tragic death shows why work life balance is important

As a beer lover, my attention was immediately drawn to the recent headline in The Miami Herald:

Founding brewer for MIA Beer Company killed in car crash

I continued on to read the article:

A well-known brewer in Miami’s craft beer scene was killed in a car crash over the weekend.

Piero Rodriguez, one of MIA Beer Company’s founding brewers, was killed in an accident early Sunday, owner Eddie Leon confirmed. He was 34.

“We are completely devastated,” Leon said.

And then, there it was, the paragraph that stood out to me as a warning for anyone who thinks excessive work can't kill you:
 
Rodriguez had been working double shifts, Leon said, brewing in the morning and often tending bar at the brewery at night to make extra money. Friends feared it might have been exhaustion that forced him to lose control of his late-model Acura on Northwest 33rd Street at the tight curve in the 8900 block, just minutes down the street from the brewery. He struck a light pole, wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was ejected, according to police. He was pronounced dead at Kendall Regional Medical Center at 2 a.m. Sunday.
 

Clearly, the ironic part is that Piero was doing a job he loved -- he was just doing it too much.

His friends and peers told The Miami Herald It was common to find him at the brewery doing the laborious, scrubbing tanks with punk rock blaring in the background while his son tagged along.

He was living the life he always wanted, his brother Ruy said, albeit cut far too short.

“People should be more positive,” Ruy said, “and pursue their dreams like he did.”


And there, right there, lies the fine line. While it is admirable to pursue your dream and do a job you love, everyone needs balance. Death by overwork is real and it can take your life in different ways. There are health reasons why work life balance is important and repercussions for thinking you can work a little longer or harder before taking time off. Over the years, I've written about people who have dropped dead of exhaustion right at their desks.

According to the Herald, the last thing Piero Rodriguez said as he left work late Saturday night was how much he was looking forward to spending Father’s Day with his young son.

He would never make it home.

That's a cautionary lesson for all of us. Sending my prayers to Piero's family....
 
 
 
Piero 1