April 11, 2016

If Birth Order Affects Success, Am I Doomed?

                                   

IMG_3292
(Me and my siblings!)

 

 

Yesterday was National Sibling Day and my Facebook feed was filled with friends posting adorable photos of themselves with their siblings.  Seeing the photos made me think about my siblings, my slot in the family, our personalities and our lives, and of course, our work life balance.

I am a middle child, squeezed between an older sister and younger brother. I am also the sibling who wants everyone to get along. I guess you can say I'm a collaborator and a peacekeeper. So, what does that mean for me as a business woman and working mother? 

According to Jeff Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect, whether you have siblings, how many you have and where you fall in the hierarchy can play an important role in the work you love, the career you pursue and how successful you’ll be. It could even affect how you balance work and life.

Kluger says middle children -- like me -- take longer to find a career they love and in which they can thrive. Sometimes, we even get depressed about it. On the upside, we tend to build bigger networks and excel at relationship management—connecting, negotiating, brokering peace between differing sides. Kluger says middle siblings may not wind up as the corporate chiefs or the comedians, but whatever they do, they’re likely to do it more collegially and agreeably—and, as a result, more successfully—than other siblings. 

Kluger is right. I'm not a CEO, but I have found success as a writer on my own terms. However, because I'm the agreeable middle child,  I think work life balance is more difficult for me. I'm the sibling who takes on what others don't want to do, just to keep peace, such juggling my own children's needs with caregiving for aging family members.

Life is different for first borns, the oldest children. Kluger says they are statistically likelier to be CEOs, senators and astronauts—and to make more money than their younger siblings. He points out that first borns tend to run their companies conservatively—improving things by, say, streamlining product lines, simplifying distribution routes and generally making sure the trains run on time. From what I've seen, first borns run their households the same way as they run their organizations. These are the superwomen who make juggling work and family look easy.

Kluger says last borns, the youngest children, are risk takers. They are more inclined to be rebellious, funnier, more intuitive and more charismatic than their older siblings. Multiple studies have shown that the baby of the family is likelier than other siblings to be a writer or artist or especially a comedian—Stephen Colbert, the youngest of 11 siblings, is a great example of this. From my perspective, the youngest child stresses least about work life balance because he or she is more likely to ask for help -- and get it.

So, what do you think about birth order and odds of success? Do you fit Kluger's stereotypes? How do you think your birth order may be affecting your career and life choices and your work life balance?

March 31, 2016

Why women will get equal pay and who we will thank for it

Women are capable of achieving amazing feats, and for centuries we've done it without recognition. But now, we're achieving way too much to do it without equal pay.

In the last few months, female voices are getting louder, the discontent over the gender wage gap is getting stronger and we're rallying the way we did decades ago when we wanted the opportunity to vote in America. Today, I woke up to learn that five players from the World Cup-winning U.S. national team have accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination in an action filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Women soccer players want equal pay and they should get it. It's an awesome goal.

Soccer2
 

The soccer players' lawsuit comes only weeks afters the subject of equal pay in tennis grabbed headlines. It started with awful comments by BNP Paribas Opentournament CEO Raymond Moore said female players in the Women’s Tennis Association “ride on the coattails of the men.” He followed up by suggesting that women should “go down every night on [their] knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.” Moore has since issued an official apology for his “erroneous” comments that were in “poor taste.” But Novak Djokovic, the world’s top men’s player, who won on the men’s finals this weekend, added more fuel to the fire, saying that men should “fight for more” money because their matches have more spectators that those played by women.

Serena Williams, wasn't going to take that and fired back, saying “I think Venus, myself, a number of players—if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister—I couldn’t even bring up that number,” she added.

SerenaSerena got her point across. Moore took so much heat for his comments about women's pay that he announced he was stepping down as CEO of the tournament.

Outside of the sports world, the call for fair pay has cropped up in other professions. In my Miami Herald column yesterday, I wrote about young female lawyers in Florida surveyed by the Florida Bar who complained of inequities in compensation in the legal industry. Their collective voices are bringing attention to the issue in the legal community.

And then there is the attention Jennifer Lawrence has brought to equal pay in Hollywood for actresses. In a widely read essay Jennifer addressed wage gap in Hollywood, which was made explicitly clear to her after the Sony hacking scandal revealed she was paid less than her male co-stars in "American Hustle."  She wrote that she wasn't so much upset with Sony as she was with herself, believing she "failed as a negotiator." She attributed this failure to "an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled.'" 

Her piece sparked not only sparked discussion, it launched the Women Entertaining Change movement in JlawHollywood in which actresses and female directors are speaking out about fair pay and opportunities for women. The Today Show has been highlighting outspoken women in Hollywood and their demands for an equal playing field.

Women may have gotten the Equal Pay Act in 1963, making it illegal to pay men and women differently for the same type of work, but today, women are still paid, on average, only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of color, that pay gap is even wider. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, intended to restore and improve on equal pay law.

Yet, women still experience pay inequality across the board -- whether you're Hollywood's , a clerk in a retail store or a businesswoman.

My mother's generation went mostly for jobs that were set aside for women. My generation fought to ascend into careers that had been off limits and we're still fighting to get the leadership positions in businesses that we think we deserve. Now come the millennial women and they assume they are going to be business leaders, law firm partners, world renowned athletes and Oscar winning actresses --  and they want to be paid equally for it. They are speaking out about it -- loudly. 

I believe they will be heard.

Not because the men want to hear them, but because they no longer can afford not to hear them. These women are their daughters, their wives, their bosses.They are smart, competent, and increasingly well educated and think big. They are saving lives, directing corporate strategy, winning sports events, bringing audiences to the movie theaters, representing litigants, discovering cures and inspiring the next generation of women who will make a difference in the world.

These young women see that they are sacrificing as much as men and working just as much and they want to be appreciated for it. Not with praise or trophies but with equal treatment and compensation.

Their voices are loud. Their strategies are targeted. Their actions are creating dialogue. I believe the time is now and equal pay is in their grasp. 

 

                                            Equal

March 03, 2016

Big changes in the workplace in 2016

Now that we welcomed March, the luster of the new year is starting to wear off. I've been hearing people complain more about their co-workers, their bosses, their clients, their workplaces. With all the grumbling going on, it's good to stay abreast of legal changes that affect us in our workplaces. Some of them may put more money in your wallet, make your work life easier, or prevent you from getting fired. For employers, keeping up with changes is critical for avoiding a costly lawsuit or government audit.

Adam Kemper Photo 2

Fort Lauderdale labor attorney Adam Kemper, of Greenspoon Marder Law weighs in today to bring us up to date on the changes we need to know about:

 

 

 

 

Ten Employment Issues to Lookout for in 2016 

 

  • 1- Increased Salary Requirement for Exemptions: Employees may get a boost in salary in 2016. The threshold for many exempt (salaried) employees is increasing later this year from $455 a week (or $23,660.00 per year) to $970.00 a week (or $50,440.00 per year). For workers affected, employers will need to increase salaries or pay overtime.

 

  • 2- Increase in Minimum Wage: As of January 1, fourteen states increased their minimum wage requirements. Employers  in those states must pay the new minimum wage or risk wage violations.

 

  • 3- Sexual Orientation is a Protected Characteristic: Employers are now liable for sexual orientation discrimination in their workplace. Expect employers to implement policies to avoid potential claims for sexual orientation discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation.

 

  • 4- Transgender Rights in the Workplace:  Employers must ensure all anti-discrimination workplace policies include protection for transgender workers. They also must provide their employees adequate access to restrooms that correspond to their employees' gender identity.

 

  • 5- Increase in Age Discrimination Claims: Another year, another birthday for the country's aging baby boomer demographic. Employers must now give more thought to eliminating positions belonging to individuals in the protected age class (of age 40 or over). 

 

  • 6- Safety in the Workplace: In 2015, there were a number of violent attacks in the workplace. Employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees from harm. Employers will need to revisit workplace safety policies to ensure their employees are adequately protected.   

 

  • 7- Marijuana Regulation: In 2016, expect to see more regulations passed that permit individuals with health conditions to be treated with marijuana. That means employers will need to revisit their workplace policies. Overly restrictive policies on the use of medical marijuana (or any prescribed medication for that matter) could result in a potential ADA violation.

 

  • 8-Social Media: While the boss might want to keep employees off social media, a complete ban on can run afoul of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act because employees have a right to engage in concerted activity on social media. Additionally, employees can now refuse to give their employers their Facebook or Twitter passwords as more states have enacted legislation which ban an employer's request for login and password information for employees' social media accounts.

 

  • 9-Background Check Litigation: Worried that a background check will unfairly be used against you? With increased safety concerns, more employers are conducting background checks on their applicants and employees. However, many employers are not familiar with laws concerning background checks and violations of both the Fair Credit Reporting Act and federal anti-discrimination laws. Employers will need to ensure that their background check processes complies with all laws.

 

  •  10-Misclassification: Are you a contractor or an employee? The Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service are now sharing information to notify the other of instances when employers are misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. The consequence of misclassifying is penalties assessed by both federal agencies (in addition to lawsuits by private litigants).  Employers will need to understand the distinction between employees and independent contractors, and classify workers properly. That could mean paying benefits and overtime to workers who are misclassified.

 

We all know there are many personalities in a workplace and issues that arise that can easily lead to conflict. Kemper advises being mindful of legal changes to avoid major headaches and disruption! Expect to see more changes in the year ahead!

 

February 05, 2016

Could you work with your spouse?

Helen+Jacob__03__2013

 

My husband and I used to drive work together from Aventura to downtown Miami. He is a morning person. I am not. He would rush me out the door and then try to make conversation as soon as I shut the car door. Some days, he would sing along happily to cheery tunes. By the time he dropped me off at my office, I was ready to strangle him. I need my space.

Yet, around me I see many couples who work, live and play together without any tension. In fact, they make it look easy. Helen and Jacob Shaham are a great example. They built their company together from it's start in 1980. Today the couple own and operate nine senior communities under The Palace brand, including two in Homestead plus one under construction, four in Kendall, one in Coral Gables, one in Tel Aviv. They also developed an active adult community in Weston and they own and operate The Palace at Home, a home health agency.

They have worked side by side for 36 years.  How do they do it? 

In honor of the upcoming Valentine's Day, Helen shares her survival tips.

1. Divide responsibilities. Jacob is the visionary. He selects future Palace sites while overseeing financial and legal aspects.  I am in charge of marketing, architectural and interior design, customer service, the hospitality and human resources. We both are heavily involved in construction decisions and development.  I may be at a site frequently to review construction aspects in the design of the building and units while Jacob is involved with the general contractors. We recognize when specialists are needed and hire top talent and consultants.

2. Respect the talents of one another. We would not be able to build The Palace Group without the respect and trust in each other.  We disagree and fight, but in the end we hear each other’s point of view. At the time of our original partnership with Lennar, I needed to be convinced it was the right move at the time.  Jacob explained we couldn’t do it alone. He was able to convince me but the final decision took two years.

3. Build a case by putting it in writing. When I want something I find the best way is to write it down to build my case.  It may take the form of a 5-10 page letter but it’s the best way to explain my point of view.

4. Make it a family affair. We wanted our children to be exposed to what we were doing. Dinner was like a board meeting because we had so many issues to discuss about The Palace. When the kids left for college, we were building The Palace Tel Aviv and without the children, dinner was watching the 8:00 news to learn about Israel.  Now at dinner we really don’t talk about work.  Our two sons are involved in the company—Zack is the Executive Director of The Palace Gardens, the assisted living community in Homestead and Haim is the Director of Sales for The Palace Coral Gables.  Our niece, Liat Cohen, is Corporate Human Resources Recruiter.

5. Recognize your differences.  I am the pessimist while Jacob is the optimist. I wake up and think what can go wrong and what disasters can occur but Jacob balances me. He can look up at the sky in the morning and enjoy the beauty of the day.  In the morning, I have learned to not start talking about the problems we may face that day and enjoy his perspective. 

6. Don't compete with your spouse. Spouses aren’t competitors. Neither of us has to be right.  Working together means everyone will share credit.

7. Have separate hobbies and interests. Jacob enjoys golf and playing courses where we travel; I am an avid reader and a fitness fanatic.  I log my steps walking each day.  I also enjoy estate sales and have collected many of antiques that are used in Palace communities.

8. Be passionate about your business.  Both of us usually can be found at one of our communities. We make an effort to be accessible to our employees and talk and listen to them. We try to have lunch with not just managers but our hourly employees too.  It’s not unusual to invite managers to meetings at our home as well. We make a concerted effort to learn about everyone.

9. Hold on to family traditions. Regardless of our schedule, it's tradition for the family to come together for Friday night (Sabbath) dinner and usually 20-25 may gather at our home. 

10. Be crazy in love with each other. Love has carried us through the many challenges we have faced over 36 years.

 

Readers, what are your thoughts about working with your spouse? Do you think it would enhance your marriage as it as for the Shahams, or would it destroy it?

 

February 02, 2016

You don't need an excuse for being late to work

 

 

                                 Late to work

        

It's 8 a.m., the thick of rush hour traffic in South Florida, and my friend is swearing while she's talking to me on her speaker phone. She tells me that traffic is particularly bad, she's late to work and that her boss is going to be upset with her. Then, she proceeds to complain about how she was up until midnight trying to finish a project for a demanding client. 

Why would your boss care what time you arrive when you're were up until midnight? I asked her. 

He is just like that, she said.

The conversation got me thinking about the new rules of the workplace and the questions they raise. For example, since just about everyone is answering work emails and calls after hours, should bosses look the other way when salaried employees are running late? Is the whole concept of punctuality outdated?

Being chronically late is different. To me, it requires a conversation between employee and boss about expectations.

But if work hours are extending well past the traditional work day, then there should be some leeway on occasion in start time. (That's what flexibility is all about!) Rather than giving an excuse on the days when you are running late, I find it more productive for the employee to just sit down and get to work.

CareerBuilder released its list of the top bizarre excuses employees give for coming in late.  It conducted the survey alongside Harris Polls from Nov. 4 to Dec. 1, 2015, with more than 2,500 hiring and human said they were late for work at least once a month, while 13 percent fessed up that they are tardy once a week.

Traffic remains the top reason people give for lateness. (We can all relate to that!) But workers still give all kinds of crazy excuses to their bosses including this one: "I thought of quitting today, but then decided not to, so I came in late."

CareerBuilder went on to report that about two-thirds of employees and employers consider the 9-to-5 grind to be antiquated. And yet,  51 percent of employers expect employees to arrive on time. So, bosses expect employees to arrive on time, but they also expect them to stay late. Does that about sum up your workplace?

On a positive note, a third of employers said occasional lateness is not an issue, while 16 percent said they don't consider punctuality to be essential as long as their employees get their work done. To me, that's the key "as long as employees get their work done." Treating workers as professionals who can manage their time and workload goes a long way. As an employee, I would stay late and worker harder for a boss that didn't nit pick my arrival time.

What are your thoughts? Do you think hard-working professionals need to offer up an excuse for being late to work?

January 20, 2016

5 ways to fit mentorship into your work life balance

When I saw a TV interview with Lydia Muniz from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, something she said repulsed me. She told interviewer Helen Ferre that Miami is dead last out of 51 metro areas when it comes to its volunteer rate. Dead last.

Growing up in South Florida, I'm the first to admit that we tend to be self absorbed in the Sunshine State. We also consider ourselves very busy people with little time or money to donate to help others. 

I get it, people are busy. We work long hours.  We carry our smartphones on us all the time and can't get away from work calls and email. We have wives. We have kids. We have hobbies we want to pursue. Mentoring a child just doesn't seem like it should be something we sacrifice our free time to do.

But here's an interesting tidbit: 

A study by Wharton’s Cassie Mogilner, published in the Harvard Business Review, found spending time helping others left participants feeling as if they have more time, not less. Mogilner’s research shows that spending as few as 10 minutes helping others can make people not only feel less time-constrained but also feel capable, confident and useful.

If that's not motivation here's another tidbit:

Children who are mentored maintain better attitudes toward schools and are less likely to use drugs or start drinking, according to Mentoring.org, a nonprofit charged with expanding youth mentoring relationships.


With that as our motivation, we should be able to figure out how to mentor a child without it taking too much of our time. January is National Mentoring Month so this happens to be a great time to consider it. 
 
Natalie and Kriss 4.2015 II
(Natalie Parker, on left, mentors Kriss Reyes, right, in her workplace, The DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Miami)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here are some ways to fit mentoring into your schedule:
 
1. Have the children come to you. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a School to Work program that will bring students to your workplace once a month for four hours. The only requirement is that you have at least 10 volunteers.
 
2. Find a school near your office and pop in during your lunch hour or before work. Many schools encourage this type of mentoring as long as you are cleared by the county as a volunteer. 
 
3. Mentor as a couple or family. Forming a relationship with an at-risk youth can be easy when you include him or her in what you already are doing such as going to the beach, a football game or the park.
 
4. Mentor by phone. Some college students ( and high school seniors) are desperate for career advice. Young professional organization often are able to pair you with these type of students who are at risk for giving up. One of two phone calls and support as needed can set a young person on the right path.
 
5. Mentor occasionally by speaking on career day or at an afterschool club meeting. Schools are desperate to find speakers who are good role models. Organizations like Women of Tomorrow and Girl Power Rocks can facilitate this type of mentorship.
 
 I hope you will join me in making a difference in a young person's life!
 

SOME YOUTH MENTORING ORGANIZATIONS

▪ Stand Up for Kids (standupforkids.org)

▪ Big Brothers Big Sisters (bbbsmiami.org)

▪ Girl Power Rocks (girlpowerrocks.org)

▪ Honey Shine Mentoring Program (honeyshine.org)

▪ Women of Tomorrow (womenoftomorrow.org)

▪ Take Stock in Children (takestockinchildren.org)

 

Read more on this topic in today's Miami Herald.

 

January 14, 2016

Work Life Balance Trends that will make your life easier in 2016

One night, I was typing away on my laptop when I realized I easily could have finished what I was working on during the day if I hadn’t gotten distracted by social media. (Do you have this problem, too?)

So, when I welcomed 2016, I resolved to become more productive during the workday and spend more quality evening time with my family. Many of you started the new year with similar intentions to reclaim boundaries and improve your work/life balance. Fortunately, a number of work/life trends are taking hold to help us with our resolutions.

Rethinking around flexibility. If you want a flexible work schedule, this could be your year. With the rise of new technology tools, workers are demanding flexibility. In 2016, look for an increased acceptance of flexible schedules and organizations that support flexible work options.Paul D’Arcy, senior vice president of marketing at Indeed.com, a job search site, says job seekers increasingly are asking for, and choosing, employers that provide flexibility.

Pushback on overwork. If you feel swept up in the cult of overwork, you may get a reprieve. A backlash is growing against the expectation that work hours never really end. Look for this conversation to get louder in 2016, for workers to push back against constant connectivity and for companies to be forced to grapple with their own role in preventing burnout. “Employees are feeling put-upon,” says Robert Preziosi, professor of management at the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. Preziosi believes workers will turn to their managers for help with setting priorities: “If you know your priorities, you know who and what you need to respond to quickly.”

Raises more likely. If you’ve been putting in long hours without much reward, a raise could be on the horizon. Mark Zandi, chief economist at research firm Moody’s Analytics, has forecasted 2016 will be a breakout year for wage growth, particularly as the economy heads toward full employment. A new CareerBuilder nationwide study found that 68 percent of employers plan to increase current employee compensation levels and 46 percent plan to increase starting salaries for new employees. Finally, some good news!

Paid leave gaining momentum. If you need time off to care for a newborn, you may have a better chance of getting paid for it in 2016. Currently, only 13 percent of people in the U.S. have access to paid family leave, but that percentage is getting bigger with municipalities and corporations introducing new paid leave policies. Last year, the percentage of large corporations offering paid parental leave jumped to 21 percent from 12 percent the previous year, and we saw companies like Netflix announce unlimited maternity leave policies. In 2016, expect that momentum to continue!

Renewed interest in engagement. If you’ve lost interest in your job, this could be the year when you find more fulfillment. Gallup surveys show 68 percent of U.S. employees are not engaged in their jobs, and with this awareness, more organizations are launching engagement initiatives. It's likely this will be the year your company makes more of an effort to keep you happy.

More self-employment. If you think your work/life balance would benefit from going out on your own, there is no better time. As of May 2015, 15.5 million people in the U.S. were self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — an increase of roughly 1 million from a year prior. In 2016, that number will keep growing as more people become independent workers — freelancers, contractors and temporary employees. Several factors contribute to the trend: There are more ways to work remotely, new co-working spaces are opening in most urban centers including Miami, and employers now see the benefit of using experienced contractors rather than full-time employees. “Different people have different priorities,” D’Arcy notes. “It’s all about how each of us want to live our lives.”

 

 

December 10, 2015

Yes, it's okay to buy your boss a holiday gift

                                                Gift

 

My husband was explaining to me that his administrative assistant seems truly stumped every year by what to get him for the holidays. Some years, she flat out asks him what he would want.  When he told me this, I asked him whether he thought she even needed to get him a gift at all. His answer was "it's always nice to feel appreciated."

Many people struggle with whether to get their supervisor a holiday gift. I have been one of those people who has contemplated this dilemma many times. Like you, I don't want to look like a kiss up but I also want to show a good boss that he or she makes my work life enjoyable.

Over the years, I've given my editors something I knew they would enjoy --a fun mug with their favorite coffee, a container of homemade chocolate pretzels, a gift card to Starbucks with a note. Actually, I think the note is the important part. Some managers feel pressure from above -- all the time -- and appreciate someone on their staff acknowledging that they are good at their job. I've written short notes like: "Happy Holidays! Thanks for being a great editor!"

Another option is to pool with your colleagues to get one gift from everyone. Just don’t make it too personal or offensive. Miss Manners says this group present should be inexpensive (each person's contribution should be less than what the boss spent on them) and consumable, according to the boss's taste. A bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, or something similar.

Last holiday season, more than a quarter of workers said they planned to buy for the boss, according to a survey by staffing company Spherion. To get a boss' perspective, I asked a former editor of mine, Terence Shepherd, his thoughts about giving a supervisor a holiday gift. "It's really sweet," he said. But then, after a few minutes he added, "Of course, it's also risky. You have to know your boss well to know how it's going to be received. Also, don't expect anything in return." Terence says in prior years, he has given his boss a bottle of wine or champagne -- gifts he considers low risk. He also has received gifts he appreciated, including a scarf.

If you've got a particularly bad boss, I can't fathom buying him or her anything. However, you might have to contribute to the group gift to avoid landing yourself in the dog house.

Alison Green who writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, suggests looking closely at the culture of your workplace – and knowing your boss. A reasonable manager would never penalize someone, even subtly, for not giving her a gift at the holidays. On the other hand, you might not have a reasonable manager. Know your own situation, and proceed accordingly. (But know that etiquette is on your side if you choose not to give a gift.)

Also as a manager, you don't want to set the tone that gifts are expected. You might have to be outspoken about this if you truly don't want to receive gifts. In that case, as the employee, you can always give a nice card. 

What are your thoughts on giving a boss a gift? Has it ever made you uncomfortable to give or receive a gift at work?

December 03, 2015

Why Holiday Office Parties Are Big Deal

Last night, my husband began telling me who wasn't coming to his company's holiday party for managers. The way he was presenting it to me was as if the two people who weren't coming were doing something extremely offensive. I turned to him and said, "Why is it such a big deal if they don't come?"

His answer surprised me. He sounded kind of exasperated and answered: "Because they are part of the team."

While some of us think of our holiday office party as no big deal, senior managers, like my husband, consider it crucial to showing you want to be part of the team.

I know you might be thinking... "I can spend my personal time how I want to spend it and if I don't want to hang around my co-workers on my time off, so be it." You might also be thinking, "I don't want to go alone or I don't want to be around my jerk of a boss after hours."

Those are good reasons. But not really.

If you are in a bad place, skipping the office holiday party will only make it worse. And, if you use the opportunity well, there is a lot to gain.

One year at my newspaper’s holiday party, I ended up sipping champagne with one of the top editors. It was the first time I had a conversation with her outside the office and about something other than business. I learned she actually had a sense of humor, a quality she rarely showed in the office. We joked about our college experiences and compared our favorite cocktails.

The next time I saw her at work, she treated me more kindly and seemed to have more time than usual to ask me what I was working on. I was thankful I had attended the office holiday party and I realized what a significant networking opportunity it had provided me.

When my brother-in-law told me he had no intention of going to his office holiday party, I told him to think about someone at his company with whom he wanted a better relationship and use the festive environment to make that happen.

At holiday parties, the dynamics are different than other times of the year. People attend to eat, drink and mingle with no specific business agenda. Whether it's your own company's holiday party, your spouse's or a professional organization's, the event is a chance to get in front of someone who can give you a future job, send business your way, or even make your work life easier. Holiday parties can be worthwhile for the opportunities they present when the atmosphere is festive.

Let's say you are at your spouse's holiday office party and you get one-on-one time with his boss. You can casually mention something your partner contributed that his boss might not be aware of or might have overlooked. Or, let's say you have had a hot/cold relationship with one of your co-workers. Sharing time outside the work environment might help you discover you have more in common than you realize. 

So, while you might initially consider skipping a holiday office party as no big deal, it's actually far from that. Drink in moderation, mix as much as possible and get in front of supervisors while they may be in a rare good mood. Just being there is a much bigger deal than you might think. Use the opportunity well and there is a lot to gain. 

November 25, 2015

Why is Showing Gratitude at Work So Tricky?

Thankyou


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?