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9 posts from December 2013

December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! May you find the work life balance you want in 2014!

Is it just me or are the years going by much faster? For me, as my kids grow older and near college age, I'm more motivated than ever to make each day, month and year as fulfilling as possible. 

This time of year, many people will tell me that want better work life balance in the new year. They want more fulfillment from life. My response is "what does that look like for you?"

Does it mean eating dinner with as a family a few nights a week? Does it mean reclaiming Saturdays for personal time? Does it mean devoting more time to your career so you can achieve your goals? 

Once you know exactly what it means, figure out what you need to do to make it happen. Remember creating a habit or breaking an old one takes time and practice. It requires change. What specifically are you going to do to make sure that change happens. If you want to eat dinner with your kids, post a photo of you doing it somewhere you will see it each day -- like on your computer desktop. A visual prompt helps!

If you mess up and spend a Saturday at the office, don't fret or give up. Change the background on your mobile phone to yourself on the beach as motivation for making it happen the next week. 

All of us can and should work toward living the most fulfilling life possible. 

Happy New Year to All!


December 26, 2013

Rearview Mirror: Work life balance and workplace challenges of 2013

When I look at the year in review, I see a continued struggle for work-life balance exemplified by a question I raised in a recent Miami Herald column: What is an average work week?

For those of us with anything beyond the most basic level of responsibility, most agree that a 9-to-5 work day no longer is a reality. Many of us feel like we’re “always on.” The technology that brings our home life into our workplace and our jobs into our homes presents opportunities and challenges. I have tackled some of them in this column in 2013.

One area of challenge arises from where we do our work. Can people be as productive at home as they are in the office? And, aren’t most of us working from places outside the traditional workspace at least some of the time? Earlier this year, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer called remote employees back to the office and set off a firestorm of debate.

In my March 6 column, I asked: Can anyone really argue that Mayer is wrong to feel that there is value in the conversations that arise when people are physically together in a room? There’s a reason that Google has configured its offices with a lunch room extraordinaire. It’s to keep people on campus and working together, I noted.

After a multitude of conversations with experts and employees, I’ve come to believe that the best workplaces strike a happy medium — allowing workers to come to the office some of the time but also manage their own schedules.” Corporate futurist Christian Crews, principal of AndSpace Consulting in Fairfield, Ct., said companies with the greatest competitive advantage are “managing the tension between getting engagement from employees who can make their own hours with the tension of getting critical mass in a building to create innovative new approaches to business.” To me, companies that get that right will be around much longer than those that don’t.

Another challenge involves the technology we use to do our work. In my July 3 column, I noted that with continuous new technology, many employees want the latest smartphones, tablets or laptops to balance their work and home lives on their devices. We are more satisfied when we use our own preferred devices on the job. Allowing us to do so saves our employers money buying and maintaining equipment.

But as more employers embrace the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, questions abound over whether we are ready for the heated issues cropping up such as our expectation of privacy and what happens if there’s a security breach. Should an employer have the right to search our personal device or wipe out the memory remotely should it suspect a concern?

Niza Motola, special counsel with the Miami law firm of Littler Mendelson, says the BYOD trend has made it evident that with the rapid advance of technology, the laws and workplaces haven’t caught up. “The lines are blurred on what’s personal and what’s professional at work and that’s only going to get more obvious.”

Some see opportunity in blurred boundaries between work and personal life. My July 24 column addressed the trend toward working vacations. It seemed the economic worries that led American workers to limit themselves to drive-by vacations for the past several summers had lifted. The two-week vacation made a comeback, mostly because people have figured out ways to integrate work and travel to make for a better return. The new guilt-free vacation centers on knowing when to check in and field calls and when to disconnect.

Cristy Leon-Rivero, chief marketing and merchandising officer with Navarro Discount Pharmacy, discovered that working on vacation meant she could take a full week off, but she and her husband tag-teamed to ensure their children wouldn’t feel shortchanged when their parents connected to their offices.

“I might say, ‘Watch the kids for a minute; I’m going to get on a call,’ or he might do the same, but we keep our family activities time-protected.” Leon-Rivero found that when she took a full week to let go of stress and relax, she was more productive when she returned. “The best ideas happen outside the office.”

Throughout the year, I dug deeper into the mindset of millennials, our youngest employees who are changing how all of us think and act on the job. In my Sept. 11 column, I wrote that millennials want an entrepreneurial culture in their workplaces where their ideas can help shape the business. But research shows managers often feel millennials want too much too soon and don’t know how to keep them on a career path that keeps them engaged. Frustrated, young innovators often take a “move up or move on” attitude.

Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, feels the best strategy for managers is tell younger workers specifically what to do to become a manager in a set number of years. “Those expectations are so important, and nobody is setting them, which is why turnover (and frustration) is so high,” he said.

While most of us have tried to separate our work and home lives, millennials want their personal and work lives intertwined. In my Sept. 18 column, I wrote about new research showing that this generation wants workplaces to be like second homes, their co-workers to be their friends and their bosses to be their workplace parents or mentors. While the big push in creating social workplaces has centered on ice cream-making contests and costume competitions, experts say the future is going to require a more strategic approach. Employers will need to build a “fun” culture that encourages camaraderie, collaboration and dedication. Employers who get it and create that culture will find this innovative generation has a lot to contribute.

Of course, it’s not just businesses that can win from working well with millennials. In my Oct. 2 column, I wrote about a trend called reverse mentoring: Companies are pairing grizzled veterans with young up-and-comers. The arrangement works to retain eager young workers and keep older executives technologically and socially relevant. In some instances, it’s a formal arrangement; in others, it’s casual — much like traditional mentoring. But those of us seasoned workers who allow the younger generation to teach us how to use better use technology to communicate and connect will find ourselves more efficient. Our work-life balance is sure to benefit.

Lastly, I must point out that the Family Medical Leave Act celebrated its 20th year in existence in 2013. In our struggle to balance our family lives and our work lives, it is the one law that has made a giant difference for 35 million American workers. It’s been a godsend for those of us who want time to bond with our newborn, care for an aging parent or deal with a health emergency without the fear of losing our jobs. But as I wrote in my Feb. 6 column, FMLA does not guarantee time off with pay, and some of those who need it can’t afford to use it. Those involved in the passage of FMLA say they are pushing forward on the next step — federal legislation that would expand eligibility to more of the workforce and introduce a nationwide paid family leave. I hope the men and women of this country understand how vital this is for all workers and push for change.

Going forward, I believe the big work-life debate will be whether constant connectivity will lead to additional productivity and profitability, or whether just the opposite is true. Time will tell. In my experience, those who manage to disconnect, at least for a while, will find more of the balance that makes life fulfilling.



December 18, 2013

10 to-dos you should get to before 2013 runs out

Each day, I scurry around town trying to enjoy the festiveness I'm supposed to be experiencing while I check stuff off my to-do list. A good day is when I get to at least five items. I decided this week to approach the end of year craziness with some strategy. What are the things I should make priorities?  I came up with 10 action steps that will better position you and me for work-life balance, career success and financial wellness in 2014. 

• Get to the doctor. Even if you’re not sick, you might want to visit your doctor in December. Most healthcare flexible spending accounts mandate that the money you contribute be spent before year’s end or you forfeit whatever remains. Don’t let that money go to waste. It can be used tax-free for contact lenses and glasses, prescription drugs, co-pays for health services. Another reason to scramble for a doctor’s appointment: With some insurance policies, the plan year ends on Dec. 31. If you have met your deductible, you will want to get your medical visits or procedures completed while your insurer picks up the tab.

• Assess time off. By now, you know whether you have neglected to take time to rest and relax in 2013. If you’ve left some of your earned time off on the company clock, you’re not alone. The Society for Human Resource Management found employees at 61 percent of its member organizations had an average of three or more unused vacation days each year. Lisa Orndorff, SHRM’s manager of employee relations, said managers should encourage their people to use their leave and take a break from the work, even if it’s just a day or two every few months. If possible, use December to take your remaining days off and study the 2014 calendar to schedule vacation days now for next year.

• Network into the new year. Get into the right frame of mind, and the holiday season is rich with networking opportunities. Industry open houses, holiday gatherings and even friends’ holiday parties are an opportunity to make connections. “You never know where your best friend’s cousin works or who he knows,” says Amanda Augustine, job search expert for TheLadders, an online job-matching service for professionals. Job hunters often think that December is a dead month, but that’s not the case; more people are hired in December and January than any other months, according to CareerBuilder.com, an online employment website. Networking isn’t limited to parties. “The holidays are a great excuse to reconnect with a recruiter or future customer by email or a handwritten card,” Augustine says. “You don’t need to fabricate a reason. Take this time to send a holiday greeting or end-of-year wish for a great new year. It’s an opportunity to put yourself back on the front burner.”

• Max out contributions. While you’re busy buying gifts, remember that the biggest gift you can give yourself is a comfortable retirement. Joseph L. Saka, director in charge of the Tax Services practice of accounting firm Berkowitz Pollack Brant in Miami, suggests you use the year end to max out your annual contributions to retirement plans such as 401(k)s and IRAs. “By contributing to your retirement plans, you not only save for the future, you also reduce your taxable income,” he said.

• Close a deal. In business, deal-making heats up right about now, so get in the game. David Wells, shareholder in the corporate department of law firm Greenberg Traurig in Miami, explains some of the reasons for the end-of-year scramble. First, people often are more cooperative in early and mid-December in anticipation that activity will slow when people take time off. Another motivation is tax implications. If you’re selling a business or asset, you may want to recognize a loss or gain on the sale in 2013, depending on your tax position. Lastly, if your company awards bonuses or assesses you on performance for the calendar year, your motivation to close the deal could be driven by compensation. “All these factors may motivate people to devote the energy to get transactions done,” Wells said.

• Position yourself. Now’s the time to evaluate your next career move. Casandra Roache, a Fort Coach cassLauderdale life coach and founder of InspireMany.com, suggests having a conversation with your supervisor about moving up the ladder. “If there is no next step, maybe it’s time to look for a new job. If there is one, establish a guideline for what you need to do to achieve it.” If you are the business owner rather than employee, set business goals now to be ready for January. “If you want to earn $20,000 more, that could mean an extra 10 clients or a higher price point,” Roache says. Also, December can be an ideal time to negotiate a raise as companies set new budgets for 2014. “Look at your current job description and put in writing what you have done above that job description. You want real results that you can have a conversation about,” she says.

• Clean out email. Declare email bankruptcy or move all email to an archive and start fresh for 2014, suggests Shani Magosky, a business/productivity coach with Vitesse Consulting in Fort Lauderdale. “I’ve seen executives so distracted by minutiae, especially their email, that they are not fully present mentally and emotionally.” She says to only touch an email message once: Delete it, file it in folders or turn it into a task. “Usually those emails that linger require action. That’s how people end up using email as to-do lists instead of as a repository for communication.”

• Review social media and email marketing strategies. If you don’t know what online marketing efforts are working for you, now’s your chance to figure it out. Alex de Carvalho, South Florida regional development director for Constant Contact, suggests offering a holiday or end-of-year promotion to one set of customers and a different one to another set. “That can give you clues on how to take it forward next year.” For anyone active on social media, it’s a good time to craft an editorial calendar for 2014, he says. Quarterly objectives and seasonality should drive customer interactions, such as what you tweet about or promotions you include in your email marketing campaigns.

• Be charitable. If you’ve been meaning to contribute time or money to a good cause, get to it. For many charities, end-of-year fundraising is the difference between a successful year and financial hard times, and it might be your opportunity for a 2013 tax deduction. Experts suggest you give to charities that have the biggest impact on making change. To motivate kids to be charitable, pick a cause that has meaning to them and fit volunteer time into your holiday schedule, or clean closets and donate clothing and toys for which they no longer have use.

• Break a bad habit. Use December to figure out what held you back from achieving work-life balance. Did you work on weekends or spend your evenings toiling at your computer? Magosky Shani Magosky Headshot suggests taking time to understand why you want to change a habit and what is at stake if you don’t change it. The next step is narrowing the focus of what you want to change to one actionable task, such as leaving work one day a week by 5 p.m. Then, figure out a way to keep that intention at the top of your mind and identify someone who will hold you accountable. It takes about 21 days for a new habit to take hold.


 If there's something you think I should add to my list, please let me know!

December 17, 2013

When your boss catches you shopping online

Shopping online


You're a click away from a great deal on new earbuds for your son when you feel a presence over your shoulder. Yep, it's the boss. Now what?


While you might think it's just women that have found themselves in this predicament, you're wrong. Men shop online at work, too. It's kind of the way we balance work and our personal lives. Most of us think we're great a being discreet with our online shopping habits -- until we get caught. If it happens to you, there are few ways you can recover gracefully.

An article in Self Magazine offers these suggestions:

Accept that you're busted. You're first instinct will be to minimize your screen or toss your smartphone off to the side. (Right?) Career expert Lindsey Pollak says don't do this because you will look more suspicious. She says your boss might even think you're doing something worse, like job hunting.

Confess.  Pollak suggests saying something like, "Oops, I had a few minutes of downtime and was just taking a little mental breather."  Odds are the boss has shopped online during the workday, too, and admitting it could make you look honest and be better in the long run.

Drop it. Once you admit it, don't mention it again. The boss probably has more important thing to worry about (like finishing her work so she can take time off). After any mistake in the workplace, the best thing to do is pretend your boss is watching you 24/7 for the next week, so don't repeat the mistake again and do something to earn extra credit, Pollak says. 


Have you ever been caught shopping online at work? If so, how did you handle it? If your the boss, how did you handle it when you caught an employee doing it?




December 11, 2013

Holiday gift giving in the workplace: Should you give your boss a gift?

For many years, my editor was a close friend. He gave me guidance in life and at work. So when the holidays rolled around, I felt like I wanted to give him something. I usually opted for holiday treats, which I presented discreetly. Finding the right gift for someone in the workplace and deciding who to give a gift is tricky.

I got some advice from the experts for my Miami Herald column. How do you handle workplace gift-giving? Have you ever given a gift to a boss?


From left, Joanie Stein, a senior manager in the tax department, shares a laugh with Celia Cue, the director of human resources and Richard Berkowitz, the CEO of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants. EMILY MICHOT / MIAMI HERALD STAFF


One day in the company lunchroom, Jason Ibarra and his co-workers had a conversation about what they were going to buy their boss for the holidays. As the agency director at Exults Internet Marketing, Ibarra considered aloud how much to spend and asked: “What do you get a guy who probably has money to buy himself more than I can afford?”

In the workplace, holiday gifting can have big implications. Buy too extravagant a gift for a boss and you look like a suck-up. Worse, don’t buy a gift and you could come off as unappreciative. “It can be a little awkward,” Ibarra says.

Ibarra solved his dilemma by putting a black-painted jar in the lunchroom at his Fort Lauderdale firm. He suggested staff put in whatever they feel comfortable giving for the boss’ gift. They collected $250 and bought the boss a fishing rod, which they presented to him as a group gift for Hanukkah.

Etiquette experts say bosses should give their employees gifts to thank them for performance or dedication, but employees don’t need to give a gift back. In the workplace, giving should be down — supervisors to employees — rather than up. “Don’t feel the need to reciprocate if your boss is showing appreciation for your year of hard work,” says Amanda Augustine, a careers expert with TheLadders, an online job-matching site for career-driven professionals.

If you do give the boss a gift, do it for the right reason. “If you feel appreciative of opportunities this year to work in your organization and you’re pleased with the way you were treated, it’s nice to acknowledge a supervisor with something small and a handwritten note,” says Alice Bredin, small-business advisor to American Express Open.

Experts say the best gifts are handwritten notes and something consumable such as a platter or basket of treats. The worst gifts are expensive or too personal such as jewelry, cologne, or intimate apparel. If you’re giving a gift to curry favor, you might want to reconsider. “If you are not a cultural fit or under-performing, sending the boss a really nice gift is not going to save your job,” says Augustine of TheLadders. “The person is going to feel uncomfortable or offended, and, either way, I don’t think the outcome is going to be favorable.”

If you are new to the company, it pays to do a little research on precedent by asking a veteran employee. “On-boarding 101 is always enlisting someone who can tell you what you will not find in the company handbook,” Augustine says. If there isn’t a gift-giving precedent, she advises erring on the side of caution and avoiding giving “up.”

Surveys show the majority of employees spend less than $50 on a supervisor’s gift and the $10 to $25 range is the average. “Bosses usually make more than you so if you spend too much money, they are going to feel embarrassed,” said Elena Brouwer, director of the International Etiquette Centre in Hollywood.

This year, only about a third of employers of all sizes plan to give employees holiday gifts, and about a fifth will give non-performance based bonuses, according to a member survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. However, small-business owners may be less generous. This holiday season, fewer small business owners will give staff gifts (30 percent compared to 44 percent in 2012) or plan holiday activities to celebrate the season with their employees (32 percent vs. 40 percent in 2012), according to the 2013 American Express Small Business Holiday Monitor.




•  Give everyone the same level of gift within your budget.

•  Write a handwritten thank-you note if you receive a gift from the boss.

•  Consider a group gift from the team for the boss.

•  Choose a gift related to someone’s hobby (gift cards are acceptable).

•  Exchange gifts with a specific co-worker/friend outside the office.

•  Stay away from giving alcohol (some policies forbid it).


•  Feel like you’re expected to reciprocate gift-giving.

•  Give a gift to a co-worker on a tight budget.

•  Give a gift too personal (nose-hair trimmer, flowers, lingerie).

•  Give a gift that involves self-improvement (weight loss, makeovers, etc.).

•  Re-gift an item from anyone in your office to another co-worker.

Source: Elena Brouwer, director of the International Etiquette Centre in Hollywood ( etiquettecentre.com)






December 10, 2013

How to be interesting during the holidays

This morning, I listened to my favorite radio station and heard caller after caller complain about how much they hate the holidays. Yes, the holiday season seems to bring out the worst in some people.

But what you might not realize is that the holidays are a huge opportunity to improve relationships with co-workers, friends and family. Holiday gatherings can be an chance to make a good impression on your boss, get your office crush to notice you or forge a bond with your new brother in law. They key is to make yourself interesting.

Here are a few tips how to do that:

1. Don't complain. People often default to complaints to fill dead air. That's a waste of good relationship building time.

2. Plan ahead. Think about movies you've recently seen, books you've read, places you've visited and weave that into the conversation.

3. Find commonalities. That may mean a little research ahead of time. Who doesn't love talking about a common interest? 

4. Be a storyteller. Everyone loves a story and anything can be a story. It's all in the delivery.

5. End your conversation on an up note. Don't wait for a lull to move on.

Jessica Hagy who wrote a book called How to Be Interesting shares these tips for being more interesting all the time:

 Step 1: Go Exploring: Talk to strangers; Roll the dice.

Step 2: Share What You Discover: Offer to help; Expand the group.

Step 3: Do Something. Anything: Go outside; Sign up.

Step 4: Embrace Your Weirdness: Get sidetracked; Capitalize on your quirks. 

Step: 5 Have a Cause: If you don't give a damn about anything, no one will give a damn about you.

Step 6: Minimize the Swagger: Drop the titles; Admit goofs.

Step 7: Give It a Shot: Overstep your bounds; Tackle the hard stuff. Play around with a new idea.

Step 8: Hop Off the Bandwagon: Question ubiquity; Crawl into niches. Do your own thing.

Step 9: Grow a Pair: Lead the Mutiny; Make a mess. Be courageous.

Step 10: Ignore the Scolds: Jettison toxic cargo; Learn from all examples. Don't listen to people who resent you for your adventures.


December 06, 2013

6 tips for dealing with a workplace bully

A few weeks ago, a friend of my called me quite distraught. Her boss had begun to degrade her all the time, even in front co-workers. She likes her job but she told me she can't life being stressed out at work all the time. When you work for a bully, you can pretty much forgot about work life balance and count on being stressed out at home and the office. Fortunately, there are some ways to cope.

Business etiquette coach Barbara Pachter says you don’t want to become a bully when responding to one, but you do want to get your ideas heard. She suggests following these six suggestions to act in a polite and powerful manner: (more suggestions can be found in her book,
The Power of Positive Confrontation.

 1.  Stand when you can. You don’t want the other person towering over you. It gives that person a psychological edge. Make sure both of you are sitting or standing. And if the other person invades your space, stand your ground.
 2.  Look the person in the eye. Many people look away when they get nervous. By doing so, you are telling the other person you are uncomfortable. Force yourself to look at the person.

 3.  Speak up. You don’t want to scream, but you need to speak loudly enough to be heard.  

 4.  Don’t ask permission to speak.  Discussions need to be two-way. The other person is not in charge of the flow of conversation. Avoid asking, “Is it okay if I give my thoughts?”

 5.  Learn to interrupt. Usually, you don’t want to interrupt someone; but with bullies, if you don’t interrupt, you may never get the opportunity to speak.  

 6.  Give your opinion as a statement, not a question. If you say, “Wouldn’t using vendor x be a conflict of interest for us?”, you are letting the other person make the decision. Instead, use a direct, assertive statement: “I believe using vendor x would be a conflict of interest.”

Have you ever tried any of these approaches with a workplace bully? Are there other approaches that have worked for you?  

December 05, 2013

Stressed Out? This Holiday Season Just Say "NO"


Holiday stress


It’s the holidays – the hardest time to say no to people demanding you do the gift shopping for your mother or stop by a holiday party that deep inside you don’t feel you want to do. It's a real skill to to learn to say 'no' tactfully, graciously, and without offense. 

Jill Brooke, author of The Need to Say "No", offers a few tips to resist the time demands that undermine your peace and happiness. I have a few of my own I've added.

It is OK to say "NO". The word no is baked into the word kNOwledge.  Assess a value system to everything about how much time it requires whether it’s a task outside of your job description or that chocolate éclair that requires an extra hour at the gym to work off. “No, not now but perhaps later”  is a perfectly fine response.

Hold to your boundaries.  Whether a relative or friend is bossing you around to create holiday parties or hosting doddering Dad for the week since “you’re so good at it”, bullies target empathetic people but don’t let yourself get used. “ Have boundaries of what you are comfortable doing and not doing. As long as you say your 'no' confidently and calmly, you will get results. Bullies then move on and target other people.

Assert your position, don't try to change theirs.  A colleague is suggesting a project that you see as futile and unproductive or you hear someone gossiping and wanting you to join in.  You can say “I see your position. I understand that is the way you are thinking. But no, I am not comfortable doing that.” Or , "I think we will have to agree to disagree on that position."

Say "NO" kindly and mean it.  You can say no without a future yes. For example,  a friend or relative calls asking for yet another favor in your jam-packed holiday schedule. “Because I am a perfectionist, I want to always do a good job. No, I can’t commit to another project at this time but maybe later”, might be your response. Or you can say, "No, I can't at this time. Good luck with it. "


Understand that saying "NO" is a healthy decision. "No" is a choice not a scolding. Say it with a smile in a calm voice that won't invite debate. "No, that doesn't work for me" is not selfish but the construction of  a protective shield against the onslaught of countless requests that truly undermine our ability to focus on what is important such as meaningful friends, family and work.

The two biggest tips I can share about saying NO are these:

* Pause before you say yes. Giving yourself 24 hours to "think about it" will help you to figure out how much you really want to do something -- or not do it. It also will give you time to think of a reasonable way out.

* The less you explain yourself the better. Just say NO without detailing why you can't pick up the cake for the office holiday party or why you can't come in and finish something the weekend before Christmas. "No, I can't do it" is a good enough explanation.


In his recent blog post, advertising guru Bruce Turkel points out: 

When you say “no” you establish who you are, what you stand for, and — most importantly — what you will and will not do in a given situation. And whether you’re an advertising agency desperately trying to make payroll; an unwilling young woman being offered another drink at a fraternity kegger; an elected official being told by their party leaders to change course on an issue that they promised to their constituency; or an artist debating changing a piece of artwork in order to have it hung in a gallery, getting the “yes” you want often comes down to your ability to say “no.”

Turkel says:  “No” might very well be the most powerful word in the English language... “What part of ‘no’ didn’t you understand?” says it all about as clearly and succinctly as any comeback you can employ.

I, like most of you, want to be agreeable and liked. I don’t like to say “no.” I makes me uncomfortable, especially during the holidays when everyone is supposed to be spreading cheer. But Turkel explains that saying no in the long run is actually a nicer way to go.  

"What’s nice about agreeing to a task that you already know you’re not going to be able to complete well or on time? What’s nice about saying “yes” to a social engagement that you don’t want to go to, don’t have time to attend, and will probably wind up blowing off? And even if you’re not concerned about being nice to the person asking you to do something, what’s nice about putting yourself under the pressure of doing something you don’t want to do?" Turkel asks.

Here's the point he makes that I really appreciate:  unless we’re willing to draw our line in the sand and say “no,” then we can’t really achieve the outcome we want. Ironically, sometimes the only way to get to “yes” is to start with “no.”

So, instead of driving yourself into a state of overwhelm over the holidays, you might want to try out your "NO!"  If you learn how to use it effectively now, you will be well positioned for a less stressful 2014.

December 02, 2013

Cyber Monday: Is it okay to shop online at work?



Admit it, most of us will at least browse online today. The lure of a bargain is just too hard to resist. But is it wrong -- ethically and legally? And, if you're going to do it, how do you ensure you dont' get caught.

Once again the lines are blurring between work and our personal lives.

A study conducted by polling firm Omnibus, on behalf of digital coupon site RetailMeNot.com, found nearly 90% of working Americans plan to shop or browse online for gifts during work hours on Cyber Monday. More than 20% plan to spend four hours or more doing so. 

Yes, you read that last line right -- some people are going to spend more than four hours today shopping online. Wow! Now I think that's crossing the line. Doing anything for four hours when you're supposed to be working seems a little outrageous. 

This whole phenomenon of Cyber Monday is tricky for bosses. Some plan to pull a Scrooge and snoop on employees or ban shopping on the clock. Banning online shopping completely could be a BIG morale killer. Some bosses will look the other way. Of course, if they do turn a blind eye, they need to do it for everyone, not just a chosen few.

If you're going to shop online at work, I recommend you have an idea of what you want, you go to one website, buy it and log out. There are a few other tricks so you might want to check out this article on how to shop discreetly at work.  

This year, more employees are less concerned they will get caught shopping on the work computer because we can sit in our offices or cubicles and shop on our iPad or mobile device. Why not get great deals while enjoying the privacy and the comfort of the office! Just be careful about bragging about your great deal. It just might get back to the boss. 

According to CareerBuilder, about 7% of hiring managers said they have fired an employee for holiday shopping at work.

So, if you plan to shop from your office or cubicle this year, here are some tips:

  • Only browse the Internet and do online shopping during lunch or other breaks.
  • Don’t put projects or paperwork on hold for online shopping.
  • Never shop online at work while you’re on the phone or sending important e-mail messages. You’ll be distracted and could miss something important.
  • Be careful about the websites you visit and items you’re searching for. For instance, if you’re planning to buy a friend an inappropriate gag gift, that’s fine–but don’t do it from your work computer.
  • If you have to place an order by phone, be careful when giving your credit card number–even if the only people who can hear you are co-workers.
  • Don’t distract those who sit around you with phone calls to retailers or excitement over great deals.
  • Don’t get distracted.