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In this video I talk about writing thank you notes after interviews. Topics include ideas on what to say in your letters and whether to send them as emails or on actual thank you cards. I cover why it’s important to write thank you notes after all job interviews (including Skype, in person and phone interviews), how they should be sent and I also run through the guidelines that form a thank you note template. I will also include a thank you note template on my site and will provide the link below.

 

Don’t forget to hit subscribe!

 

Thank you note template: coming soon!

 

4 Reasons Why You Should Ask Questions in Your Interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSX2sa90F0M

 

25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School:

http://consultingforrookies.com/products/

 

 

     
     
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    Stress Management in the Workplace

     

    Stress and Stress Ball by Bottled Void Who Else Wants Less Stress at Work?

    Photo by Bottled_Void

    The nature of corporate life can take a toll on employees. With so much going in the workplace as well as in the economy, it is important that we make stress management a priority at work. Managing stress does not have to be hard. It can be as simple as learning to prioritize, taking regular breaks and making sure to include some “me time” in our schedules. This article will discuss easy ways to manage stress in the office.

     

    Even with so many articles and books devoted to the topic, prioritization and time management is something that is often underrated and misunderstood. However, in almost every situation, completing urgent tasks and projects first is a must. Additionally, blocking time off on your calendar for all activities that you need to complete is an exceptionally useful method for putting your mind at ease and allowing yourself to focus on the right activities at the right time. Remember to break down any large, overwhelming tasks into bite-sized pieces to further reduce your stress levels. Though time management and prioritization is often misunderstood, once mastered and made a habit you will find that not only will it reduce how stressed you are at work, but you will also have more time for relaxation and breaks while simultaneously producing greater output and better quality work products.

     

    When we are stressed, especially when our plates are filled with projects and work to complete, we either forget or vehemently refuse to do the one thing we need most: regular breaks. Taking regular breaks, even during highly stressful situations, is very important to giving your arteries and heart a break from the intense blood rush and strain. Take at least a 5 minute break away from your computer and desk every hour or so in whatever way is best for you. Some people like to take a few minutes to catch up and socialize with others, some prefer to go out for a walk or a drink of water, while others like to go someplace quiet to just close their eyes. Taking regular breaks at work is a great way to manage your stress levels at work, but it is also important to have a more encompassing stress management plan.

     

    Cracking Under Stress by topgold Who Else Wants Less Stress at Work?

    Cracking Under Stress by topgold

     

    Stress management at work is not just about dealing with it during the work hours. With all the hustle and bustle of not only our career life but also our personal life, we often forget to focus on one of the most important people in our lives, ourselves. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly no matter how intense the workout or short the timeframe and make enough time for a good night’s sleep. Schedule in some “me time” for any hobbies and interests you have. Do not forget to take time off for vacations! If you do this easy and fun step, you will find that you are better able to manage stress at work and in life and the effects of stress on your health will be reduced.

     

    While there are many ways that you can use to reduce your stress levels in the office, starting with those presented here will get you on the right path to taking more control of your life. If you make prioritization, regular breaks and investing in yourself important in your life, you will not only reap the benefits at the health level, but you will also feel better, more energetic and stronger, too. Remember that you do not have to make large changes to manage stress at work and in life. The small suggestions presented here can have a huge impact and they show you how quick and easy managing your stress can be.

     

    To discover great ways to prioritize your projects and tasks, be sure to buy my book, 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School: A User’s Manual for Surviving Office Politics.

     

       
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      Paper Stack Wiertz Sebastien Im Being Discriminated Against at Work   What Do I Do?

      Photo by Wiertz Sebastien

       

      In a previous post I wrote this week, I talked about gender discrimination in the workplace but on a larger scale. I talked about it in terms of an overall organization and how we as a society of professionals can reduce the amount of sexual discrimination in the workplace.

       

      I received a comment on that post with questions regarding how to deal with discrimination at work, but on a smaller scale, the personal scale. What can someone do if they themselves are being discriminated against?

       

      I thought this was a great question and though I did responded in the comments field on that post I want to polish my answer and put it in an actual blog entry so others have easy visibility to it as well. I know discrimination at work is not a rare occurrence by any means and it can be very stressful, upsetting and difficult to deal with.

       

      Without further ado, here are my suggestions on what to do if you are being discriminated against. There really is no cookie-cutter answer as every situation is different and I encourage you to talk to friends, family and mentors outside of work for added input. But this post will give you some valuable insight and, at the very least, a strong starting point.

       

      I am Being Discriminated Against at Work, What Do I Do?

       

      The answer to these questions:

       

      What do I do if I am being discriminated against at work? Do I talk to the individual who is discriminating against me? Do I talk to my manager? Do I approach HR?

       

      Is “it depends”. This answer probably brings you back to college days when you were sitting in your Economics class for business majors, and Biology class for everyone else. Somehow the answer was always, “it depends.” Well, it is just as applicable here, but do not worry. I will not leave you hanging. Here is what I would do.

       

      Communicate

       

      My first recommendation in any situation involving other people is to communicate. Talk to the person and try to reach an understanding. When you honestly try to understand the other person, it makes them more compassionate and understanding of you. If people would sit down and talk more instead of react based off misunderstandings, there would be much less conflict.

       

      The reason why I suggest that you first consider talking to the individual is because they may be completely oblivious to what they are doing. They may not realize that they are treating you unfairly or making you uncomfortable. If you talk to them and explain how their behavior makes you feel, the light bulb may go off and they may back off.

       

      With that Said

       

      With that said, I understand that a lot of times, communicating with others is something that can only happen in an ideal world. Often times, communication is just not an option and that is perfectly understandable. This is actually the entire premise of my book, 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School – tips and techniques to use in various situations when communication just does not work or is just not an option. Here are some reasons why you may not be able to communicate when being discriminated against in the office:

       

      • You do not feel comfortable approaching the individual
      • The individual is your manager
      • You have already tried communicating with the individual and they agreed with you to your face, but continue to discriminate against you. They have chosen to ignore you

       

      HR Policies

       

      According to most HR policies, the person being discriminated against does not need to approach the discriminator themselves. You do not in any way have to make them aware that they are discriminating against you or making you uncomfortable. Most HR policies also clearly outline what forms discrimination can take and require that all employees not only read the policy, but also undergo training on the same topic.

       

      Paper Stack Quinn Anya Im Being Discriminated Against at Work   What Do I Do?

      Photo by Quinn Anya

      At the same time, one of the first things that we learn when we enter the “real world” is that what is put on paper and in writing is often very different from what occurs in reality. Discrimination of any kind, whether gender, racial, age, sexual orientation, etc. is extremely difficult to prove. Most companies, and that includes their HR departments, are going to protect themselves over you.

       

      The reason why I bring this up is that even though you do not need to take MUCH action (other than informing your manager or HR) when it comes to dealing with discrimination know that in many cases the company is not on your side. So no matter what you choose to do whether it be talk to the discriminator in person, talk to your manager, talk to HR, or even talk to no one at all, you MUST document, document, document.

       

      Documentation

       

      A general rule of thumb in any difficult, tense situation in the workplace is that you should have strong evidence that highlights what is going on in reality. Evidence generally comes in the form of documentation. Remember, if you only do one thing, it should be to document. Document, document, document.

       

      People, including individuals in HR, may try to tell you that documentation does not mean anything and that it is useless (even though when you first joined the company they likely told you how important it is), but always document. Documentation does mean something. In fact, it means a lot! If you are being discriminated against, be sure to check out my posts regarding the tricks HR plays and how to beat them at their games. I let you in on a lot of HR secrets that I had to learn the hard way through personal experience dealing with them.

       

      What should you document? Documentation usually comes in the form of emails, but it can also come in the form of notes that you write in notepad or journal. Included in your documentation should be:

       

      • Detail of what happened and what was said. If you can write things verbatim, even better
      • A date and time stamp of when each event happened. If you write this in an email, the date and time stamp will already be there for you and will be even more credible
      • You should document all events and conversations. That includes documenting any conversations you have with the discriminator as well as with HR and your manager

       

      Honestly, I have learned the hard way that you should document everything regardless of the outcome of the conversation. Even if the discriminator agrees to modify his or her behavior and you end on a good note, document it. You never know what is going to happen in the future. There have been times when things were going well at work with individuals I fully trusted and never had conflicts with. And then one day the tables turned and it was very fortunate that I documented things that were said. You just never know.

       

      Shredded Paper by RLHyde Im Being Discriminated Against at Work   What Do I Do?

      Photo by RLHyde

       

       

      The best form of documentation is when you email the individual that you talked to. So, if you talked to the discriminator, you might shoot him or her an email subtly documenting what was discussed. Do not be too obvious as you do not want to make them nervous, but do document it. If you meet with HR, document that as well. You can probably go in more detail with your HR emails.

       

      When you email the individual you talked to, it not only counts as evidence that something has been going on, but it also serves as a way to make sure that no one can claim that they were unaware of your situation. You sent them an email so they were definitely aware.

       

      I know I said that no one is supposed to get away with the “I didn’t know” card, but like I said, what is written on paper is very different from what occurs in reality. If, for whatever reason you cannot do this, writing notes to yourself is still useful and much better than having nothing at all. Think about Sabrina Sabin and how she kept records of sexual harassment where she worked.

       

      Quick Recap

       

      So at this point you have either decided to, or not to, talk to the discriminator. Regardless of whether you are or are not going to talk to them, you are keeping detailed documentation on what is going on. If possible, you are sending emails TO the individual in a subtle, non-threatening way so that they are aware of what is going on. Either way, you are also keeping detailed notes that are date and time stamped.

       

      Final Step

       

      Now that you have some documentation regarding what is going on, it is time to approach someone. It can be the discriminator if you have decided to talk to them. It can be your manager. If you talk to your manager, they are required to report it to HR, but I might follow up myself in a few days if I do not hear back. If the discriminator is your manager, or if you just prefer to talk to HR, get in touch with HR. If the discriminator is not your manager, you might want to give your manager the heads up that you are approaching HR, but that is up to you depending on how personal the situation is.

       

      ***

       

      This should give you some good first steps on dealing with discrimination at work on a more personal level. Just always remember to document.

       

      If you are dealing with other situation that involve dealing with difficult people in the office and communication is just not an option, be sure to buy my book 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School: A User’s Manual for Surviving Office Politics available on Kindle.

       

      For other related posts, check out my article on age discrimination in the workplace as well as my article on how to communicate more effectively at work.

       

         
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        People Talking Cliff1066 7 Great Tips for Effective Communication at Work & in Business

        Photo by Cliff1066

         

        The biggest key to having an efficient and smooth workplace is communication. Unfortunately, most communication in business is not carried out effectively. Here are some tips on how to communicate effectively at work.

         

        1) Be more precise. If you want something done, whether you are talking in person, on the phone, by email, or by instant messenger (IM), set a specific date and time when you need it completed by. Get feedback from the person helping you that they heard you, are ok to proceed and will get it done by your allotted time and date. If they cannot meet your timeline, work with them to adjust according to their schedule to find a date and time that works for both of you.

         

        2) Follow the 5Ws. Many times confusion and misunderstandings occur because communication is not clear and detailed enough. I talk about the importance of the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why & how) in my book 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School. I’m going to briefly re-introduce it here but in the context of communication.

         

        Before you end a meeting, discussion, or conversation with someone, especially if the meeting involved action items, you want to ensure that everyone is on the same page. To ensure effective communication in the workplace, make sure to cover the following 5QW questions and points before you wrap up:

         

        Who:

        Who needs to get the work done? This will likely be the person helping you or someone on their team.

        Who does the work need to be sent to once completed? Does the work need to be sent to you or to someone else?

        What:

        What needs to be completed? An entire project, certain deliverables, a report, an analysis, etc.?

        When:

        When does this need to be completed by? Give the individual a deadline that you can both agree on so everyone is on the same page. Effective communication is all about capturing right details.

        When can the person helping you start getting to work on this? Consider that the person helping you may have to wait on someone else for information before they can get started. Also consider that they have other things on their plate as well. Additionally, consider if is there something holding you up from asking them to start? Maybe you need the go ahead from someone else first?

        Where:

        Where does the deliverable need to be sent? Directly to the person’s inbox in electronic form? Directly to their desk in paper form?

        Why:

        Why does this work need to be done in a particular way and by a particular deadline? These are really important questions to cover when communicating with someone in business or in any other field. You owe it to the person helping you to give them the big picture. Furthermore, if you give them the overall synopsis, they just may have a better to look at things or a quicker way to get the task done that you may not have thought of previously.

        How:

        How should the task be completed? Is this something that should be done in Excel? PowerPoint? Hyperion?

         

        Many of these points may be a given depending on what tools or methods your company primarily uses. Pick and choose the questions that are more relevant to your situation, but make sure that you cover as many of the above points as possible when you are working with someone. A very large part of communicating effectively in business is about asking the right questions.

         

        3) Be fully engaged. Do not let yourself get distracted by your computer, phone or emails. I disagree with others who say that answering your phone, or checking text messages or emails makes it appear as if you are not interested in the conversation at hand or the person in front of you. I do not believe that people today really take it personally or read into it much. I do agree, however, that you should ignore your phones, computers and emails when you are talking to someone. Giving in to distractions while communicating with others greatly reduces communication effectiveness. My reasoning is that attending to distractions breaks the flow of a conversation and in doing so, you are also distracting your listeners. They get distracted just as much as you do and the strength of your message will be lost.

         

        4) Keep your point short and simple (KISS). When leading a meeting, have 1-3 main points and make each point only a few words long. You want to make your points memorable and easy to understand and follow. This will improve the chances of your being heard and understood and your message remembered and acted upon. It can be hard to pick just a few points and a few words to encompass the message, but you need to think, “If I could only have people remember 1-3 things from my discussion today, what would they be?” Doing this will enhance the effectiveness of your meetings at work.

         

        5) Ask open ended questions. In my book I discuss why you should ask open ended questions and how much you are limiting yourself and others when you ask closed ended questions. I also show you several examples of questions that you can ask to make your communication at work more effective. I’m not going to go into too much detail on this here, but I will give you one very simple, day-to-day example from my book that will show you the value of asking open ended questions and how it can enhance communication effectiveness:

         

        “Imagine you are planning a birthday surprise for a colleague. You decide that you will buy something for everyone on the team to eat in celebration of your teammate’s birthday. So, you ask him, which is your favorite, cake or brownies? And he answers brownies.

         

        At that point you would think you know exactly what to get him for his birthday. Brownies are exactly what he wants. But maybe he does not like brownies all that much. Maybe he does not like cake and between the two, he would pick brownies. But if it was up to him, he would not pick either. In fact, he would rather go without.

         

        While I am sure he would appreciate the effort, he will not be completely satisfied on his birthday and your surprise snack would be a bit of a waste.

         

        The better question would have been what is your favorite dessert? Or if you were thinking something other than desserts you could ask what snack he is absolutely unable to resist. This is where you will hit gold. Out of all the options in the world maybe he likes chips, or candy, or pizza. Maybe he is a fan of cupcakes, or donuts, or cookies, or muffins, or ice cream. But you never would have known. Moral of the story: ask open ended questions. The answer might surprise you.” – Excerpt from 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School: A User’s Manual for Office Politics by Trishna Sharma.

         

        6) Add visuals. You are not going to be able to pop up with a slide deck in every conversation you have, but when possible, add visuals and images to strengthen your points. This is especially important when giving presentations. A picture is worth a thousand words. Adding visuals is also something I discuss in more detail in my book and it is something that can really make your communication and message much more effective. Images can really get your point across even when words cannot.

         

        Conversation People Minke Wagenaar 7 Great Tips for Effective Communication at Work & in Business

        Photo by Minke Wagenaar

         

        7) Know when it is better not to say anything at all. Sometimes the most important thing about communicating is knowing when not to say anything at all. Always listen to what others are saying and think before you speak. Formulate your words carefully so you give not only a large impact, but the exact impact you were aiming for. But even before you speak, judge whether anything needs to be said at all. Sometimes silence speaks more than words. Knowing when to and when not to speak is something that comes with practice and time. It is more an art than a science. But it is something that can enhance your communication skills.   

         

        ***

         

        Effective communication skills in business is a must for anyone who wants to have an easier road to success at work. When you communicate well, are clear, ask the right questions and think before you speak, you are not only making life easier for yourself but for others as well. By clarifying possible questions and making expectations clear, it takes some of the stress and burden of having to figure things out off of others.

         

        If you like this post, be sure to check out my book 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School for more specific tips on how to communicate effectively during meetings, with teammates, as well as in different forms of written material. I go into detail and provide template examples that you can apply immediately. If you have not purchased it already, you are missing out!

         

         

           
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          Grandpa DavidDennisPhotos.com  Preventing Age Discrimination at Work

          Photo by David Dennis Photos

          Age discrimination in the workplace can mean any number of things. It can refer to discriminating against an individual when it comes to hiring them, promotions, raises, bonuses, firing them, laying them off, etc. solely based on their age. It can also mean harassing them because they are too young or too old. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which is supported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), helps protect workers over the age of 40. However, we all know that what is on paper is very different from what happens in reality. In this article, we will talk about discrimination in both older and younger workers as well as steps we can all take to reduce such discrimination in the workplace.

           

          My Experience with Age Discrimination

           

          Age Discrimination against Older Workers

           

          I personally have always valued the experience and knowledge that older workers bring to the workplace. After all, most of the older workers are my dad’s age or could even be my grandparents. I attribute much of my success to my parents and grandparents.

           

          But, I have seen older workers get discriminated against at work simply because of their age. Older employees are usually the ones who will get laid off first. This is especially prevalent when companies go through transitions and new leadership is interested in having only fresh blood. While I can certainly see that point of view, in my experience it only hurts the company. When employees are laid off solely on their age and not on their value, a lot of important knowledge gets lost with the employees and everyone left at the company is stuck picking up whatever pieces are left.

           

          When recessions hit, age discrimination against older workers is even more common. Employers want to cut costs, so they cut the employees with the largest salaries – generally older workers. When employers are hiring during a recession, they favor younger employees as they know they will require lower salaries.

           

          Age Discrimination Not Just for Older Workers – It Affects Younger Workers Too

           

          While the majority of age discrimination in the workplace happens to older workers, it does happen to younger workers as well. While older workers are considered “too expensive,” younger workers are often considered “too inexperienced”. A lot of times, older workers feel threatened by their younger colleagues’ many college degrees. In such cases, younger workers will be discriminated against for having “too much schooling.”

           

          Teenagers Guitar by epSos.de  Preventing Age Discrimination at Work

          Photo by epSos.de

           

          I myself have been discriminated against because I was “too young”. This is more unusual but it does happen. In a company of older employees, despite the fact that I provided top-notch results on all of my major projects, I was continuously told that I “didn’t have enough experience.” I was told that it did not matter how “young” I was, all that mattered was experience. This surprised me considering that they had hired me for this role based off of my experience!

           

          I was told I would be doing mostly tactical work going forward and that I would only get to observe other more experienced employees while they worked on the major projects. When I asked where I might have missed something on the major projects I had completed, they had no answer.

           

          Even though the number of reports of age discrimination at work is rising, it can be extremely difficult to prove discrimination of any sort. Age discrimination affects us all.

           

          Age Discrimination in the Workplace and What We Can Do

           

          Businesses, Employers, Managers:

           

          Older Employees

           

          It is important that businesses, employers and managers realize the value that their employees bring to the table. If businesses fail to do so, it will only hurt them in the long run. By discriminating solely based on age or salary, you are very likely losing your top talent.

           

          It is important that businesses and managers understand that older workers bring extensive knowledge about the company and its history. If the employee has worked at a variety of companies, they bring the combined knowledge of the best practices from a multitude of corporations. Why would you want to throw that away without a second thought?

           

          If the employee has been at the same company for forever, I can assure you that individual is not going to leave the company on their own accord. It does not matter how bad things get. These employees have surely seen both good and bad times at the company and they have stayed through it all. They have loyalty and you can be sure they will be there as long as you will let them.

           

          Older employees also have experience in multiple fields. Over a career of 20-40 years, it is almost certain that the employee has not been doing the same job the entire time. Chances are, they have not even been in the same department. This knowledge of different areas of the business adds diversity to the company no matter what race or gender. Yes, older workers may be expensive but truly consider what value you are getting for that price.

           

          Also consider the fact that younger workers are earning higher starting salaries than what people their age earned previously. My starting salary was at least 38% higher than my dad’s and we both got our first real jobs after our master’s degrees. This is not anything unusual or unexpected. It is just the nature of money and time and the economy but it is an important factor nonetheless.

           

          Younger Employees

           

          Sure, younger workers may not have the experience or loyalty that older workers provide. But younger workers bring fresh enthusiasm and a newer perspective.

           

          Younger employees certainly need work life balance but most of them do not have families or children that they have to go home to or pick up at a certain time. As a result, younger employees are more focused on career growth, experience and development. They are more willing to put in their all to finish a project, whereas older workers have responsibilities and are more family focused than career focused.

           

          Employers should not underestimate younger workers and their abilities. Experience is definitely something that is needed but education and creativity should be valued just as highly. It takes some adults hours to figure out devices like iPods, iPhones and iPads, it takes toddlers minutes. Experience is not the only factor.

           

          Grandpa Baby Qole Pejorian Preventing Age Discrimination at Work

          Photo by Qole Pejorian

           

          Employees:

           

          As employees, we do have power and influence when it comes to age discrimination in the workplace. Here is how to exercise it:

           

          Older Employees

           

          It is important that you be comfortable with sharing your ideas and mentoring younger workers. Many older employees fear that in doing so, they will be giving away their power. They will be giving away the only thing that is keeping them valuable and relevant in the workplace, their knowledge and experience.

           

          This is not an unreasonable fear at all. But think about it this way: If you share your experience with others, others will become blatantly aware of how much knowledge and experience you have and will wonder how they could ever succeed without you. In sharing your knowledge with others, you are also marketing your value and reminding people of why they need you.

           

          Learn to be ok with change. Embrace it and know that change makes us all grow. So many times, I have seen older workers fear change and stick to their comfort zones. Not only are you limiting yourself, but you are setting yourself up for failure.

           

          If you are having trouble adapting to change, talk to younger workers and get their perspective. If you have been mentoring them and teaching them the ropes, they will be more than happy to share something with you! Regardless, they would be more than happy to give their advice. Who doesn’t like being asked for advice? (To learn the perspective younger workers come from, see: Nervous About Talking to Big Shots?).

           

          If you want to improve your computer or technical skills, definitely ask someone younger! I once taught an older worker friend of mine about excel shortcuts. He was extremely open and said he wished we had talked before because I could have saved him so much time. The better you are with technology, the more productive you can be and the more valuable you will be come.

           

          I also taught him about the value of YouTube and the excitement on his face seriously made my day. If you are an older employee reading this, here is my lesson to you: YouTube is more than just clips of videos to pass the time. There is a multitude of valuable educational and informative information on there. I know of many people who learned economics, calculus, etc. using Khan Academy. I often use YouTube to learn about different excel functions that I don’t know how to do. It is a valuable resource that can take you a long way.

           

          Younger Employees

           

          There are going to be many times when others underestimate you because of your youth. I have an entire chapter related to this in my book, 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School. My advice to you is to never give up. When I say never give up, I do not mean that you should stay at the same company even if you are not growing. I am all about growth. These are the years when you have the time and freedom to put your career first and grow the most and learn as much as you can so take it! But, if you have been at a company for a year or two to no avail, go somewhere else and start fresh.

           

          If all you get is the grunt work at your company, I suggest you devote at least 30 minutes every week to finding areas of improvement at work that you can fix. Here are some examples:

           

          • You see a better way to complete a process
          • You see a lack of communication so you set up and run weekly meetings
          • You notice that most colleagues lack a main skill set that is crucial to success, so you research and organize a training group to come in and teach the skill. Or, you learn about the skill yourself, create and give your own presentation and you become the expert (this can really work wonders)
          • You notice others are not as up-to-date with their industry as they should, so you a book a month, write a summary with the crucial points and share them with leaders in your group or with your team
          • You sense your team lacks foresight and planning so you talk to all the stakeholders and create your own plan that you share with your team to follow
          • You come up with some creative way to cut costs
          • You come up with some creative way to bring  more money in
          • You find a way to cut the amount of time spent on tactical activities so focus can be spent on more strategic activities

           

          It sounds harder and bigger than it is to improve things in the office, but it is not, I assure you. The simple solutions are the best. Those are the ones that people need most and wonder why they did not think of it before! Those are the winners.

           

          If you are stuck with the grunt work, check out my book. I provide tons of strategies for how to not only look fantastic in the eyes of your manager while doing the grunt work, but to also make sure you are not doing the grunt work forever. My book is also chock-full of ideas on how to provide value to others.

           

          Networking with those higher in the ranks is important for your success at work and will reduce some of the age discrimination you experience in the workplace. The more someone gets to know you, the more trust they have in you and your abilities, even if they have never been privy to your work. So talk to people with higher titles than yours and stay in touch.

           

          If you are nervous about talking to older workers or workers higher on the totem pole, read my article Nervous About Talking to Big Shots? For some tips on how to get more comfortable so you can show them your true potential.

           

          If you are looking for more information regarding age discrimination in the workplace, check out the following resources:

           

          Age Discrim Book 1 Preventing Age Discrimination at WorkIf you are being discriminated against because of your age, Age Discrimination in the American Workplace: Old at a Young Age by Raymond Gregory will provide you with details on how to file and substantiate your claims. This book also talks about the different ways older workers are stereo typed and discriminated against as well as some solutions. It is available both in hardback and on Kindle.

           

           

           

           

          Age Discrimination 2 150x150 Preventing Age Discrimination at WorkIf you are more interested in the policies, law, and academic side of age discrimination for both young and older workers, Age Discrimination: Ageism in Employment and Service Provision by Malcolm Sargeant may be more along your lines. It is a great guide for academics as well as businesses needing to stay up to speed with the more recent changes in the law regarding age discrimination.

           

           

           

           

             
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            In my last post I talked about unfairness and how that is one of the causes for stress in the office. Unfairness can take on many forms and in this post I will be talking about gender discrimination in the workplace.

             

            Gender discrimination is a product of our cultures, experiences and pasts. Even so, we have the ability to see beyond that, especially when not doing so can affect business performance. Here we will explore some of the causes of gender discrimination in the workplace, its effects on company performance and how we can evolve and move forward.

             

            My Experience with Gender Discrimination

             

            Most women will experience some form of gender discrimination while at work at some point in their careers. At a previous company I worked for, sexual discrimination was very blatant. There would be several “unofficial” happy hours that women would not get invited to. If you happened to find out about these happy hours before they happened and you decided to show up, I’m sure it would be nothing short of uncomfortable. I make this educated guess based on the fact that I did find out about and attend some “unofficial” lunches and I was essentially ignored.

             

            The Good Ol’ Boys network was also very obvious and yes, you had to be both Caucasian and male. I had male friends of different ethnicities who tried to join in and fit in. They were also made to feel unwelcome (more on racial discrimination in the workplace in a future post).

             

            Gender discrimination also affected the amount of exposure and number of opportunities women got at the company. And both of these things, naturally, affect women’s abilities to get raises, promotions, bonuses and awards. Despite my strong performance, and the performance of other women, I would often find out that it was the males on our team who were given extra-special projects to work on. When I would take the proactive approach and ask to be included on those projects or to work on other projects, I was told that they do not need any more people on the project. I was told that they would consider me in the future. This happened several times before I made any breakthrough.

             

            Another form of gender discrimination in the workplace is when male teammates and colleagues are asked for status updates on projects their women colleagues are working on. It baffles me that managers will not go to the woman who is working on the project and ask her directly. Instead they go to her teammate.

             

            Causes of Gender Discrimination

             

            I know I am not alone in my experiences. Not only have I seen similar things happen to others, but I have heard from others that they have been affected by gender discrimination. Here are some of the causes for gender discrimination against women in the workplace:

             

            1) Being too pretty to be smart.

             

            This is a cause that I think is dying out, but it is still around and alive. It is still rare to see female executives who have hair past their shoulders. I do see women starting to wear better-fitting clothing, however.

             

            2) Not being pretty or sexy enough.

             

            The world is still highly materialistic and appearance based. Not that this is the only cause, but such views are unlikely to change in the near future with all of the celebrity and fashion worship that our youth are addicted to.

             

            3) Getting pregnant or even just the possibility of getting pregnant.

             

            You would be surprised at how much of an impact this has on gender discrimination at work. I have even heard of someone at a previous company I worked for who went on maternity leave only to find out when she was ready to return to work that there was no position left for her at the company.

             

            Effects of Gender Discrimination on Employee Performance

             

            Obviously, when someone is being discriminated against in any form, or when they see others like themselves being discriminated against, this can start to surface in different ways. Like in my previous post on the causes of stress in the workplace, this is another cause and it is related to unfairness. The effects are similar:

             

            • Lower productivity and output
            • Lower quality of work product
            • Lowered employee morale
            • Employee will be less proactive
            • Increased team friction

             

            Why Companies Should Care About Gender Discrimination

             

            Business Performance. From the previous section it is clear that business performance declines when individuals are discriminated against and treated unfairly. If companies want their performance to improve, they need to start taking a stronger stance on this issue.

             

            Diversity. Everyone brings a different perspective to the table based on their unique life experience. We have seen the benefits of this time and time again. Teams and companies who embrace a broader, more diverse perspective often perform better. Why would you want to cut out ½ of the experience and insight you could have by discriminating against the women in your workforce?

             

            Lawsuits & legal costs. Walmart may have gotten away with their discrimination lawsuit but that does not mean that other companies have or will. The legal costs from such lawsuits can add up and affect a company’s numbers and performance on a very grand scale.

             

            Reputation and branding. Once you are pegged as even possibly discriminating against women or others, it sticks for a long time and it will affect our reputation and your brand. It will make people think twice about purchasing your products. Even if you offer products with prices that can’t be beat, a significant number of people will shift over to your competitors. Those who continue to shop with you will have your negative reputation playing in the back of their minds because the association will be very strong.

             

            What We Can Do About Gender Discrimination at Work

             

            We are all to blame when it comes to any kind of discrimination, particularly gender discrimination. That includes both men and women. But here is how we can rectify it:

             

            1) Most forms of discrimination primarily occurs because we do not take the time to understand one another and accept our differences. The same applies to gender discrimination. We as a society of workers need to learn to understand one another and at least be more comfortable with our differences. Stereotypes are not all bad. As humans have a need to label and group things and people so we can better understand others. At the same time, it is important to realize that we need to look beyond the labels we give others and see the individual. To understand others is why our brains label and group things in the first place. We want to better understand and wrap our heads around things. Why don’t we take our understanding the whole way and see it through?

             

            2) Women, we need to pull each other up. I see women doing just this, but I also see women doing the complete opposite. I see women putting others down because they feel threatened. There is no need to feel threatened. If you build a strong network we can only all rise and grow together.

             

            3) Men, you need to pull women up with you. From what I have observed in the workplace, when a well-respected man vouches for a woman and pulls her up or takes her on as a mentee, that woman gets so much more respect and so many more doors of opportunity fly open for her.

             

            Gender Discrimination Against Men

             

            Gender discrimination is not something only women face in the workplace. Men do, too. The same effects of gender discrimination and solutions apply towards men who are being discriminated against, just in reverse.

             

            Gender discrimination in the workplace is definitely getting better, but it is still alive and breathing. While salaries are starting to be better matched (though there is still a ways to go here), it is important to also be aware of what happens after the individual is hired. Maybe she does start at the same salary, but is she being set up for promotions and raises the way her male counterparts are being set up? Is she given the chance to chase after the same opportunities as her male counterparts? Or is she being setup for slower career progression, or even failure?

             

            If you liked this post and want to learn about how to succeed in the workplace despite the many interpersonal and office politics issues, buy my book: 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School: A User’s Manual for Surviving Office Politics available within seconds on Kindle.

             

            Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about how diversity and discrimination in the workplace affects corporations and how executives can make a difference, check out Making Diversity Work: Seven Steps for Defeating Bias in the Workplace by Sondra Thiederman.

             

            If you want to learn more gender discrimination at a more insider / personal level, check out Gender in the Workplace: A Case Study Approach by Jacqueline DeLaat. This book can give you a broader idea of the different sexual discrimination situations that can occur in the workplace. It also provides suggestions on how we can handle such situations. This would be a good read for employees, mentors and HR managers.

               
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              Stress Pulling Hair Evil Erin 4 Causes of Workplace Stress and What to Do About It

              Photo by Evil Erin

               

              Most people spend at least a third of their lives in the workplace and we all know full well that stress can take a serious toll on our health. With workplace stress continuously increasing, it is important that we learn what causes stress in the workplace. Once we can identify what the causes are, we will be able to start learning to relieve and manage it.

               

              Effects of Stress in the Workplace

               

              Stress in the workplace is not just “someone else’s” problem. When employees are stressed, it can effect business results overall. Managers and businesses will, at a minimum, be forced to cope with:

               

              • Decreasing productivity levels
              • Reduced quality of work
              • Increases in employee absenteeism, and
              • Declining employee health that can have long-term effects on both employee, as well as business, performance

               

              Causes of Stress at Work

               

              Workplace stress is caused by a variety of factors that overlap with one another, but are also important in their own rights.

               

              1) Dealing with difficult people. When most people think about what causes them grief at work, they probably first think specifically about one or two people. Let us face it. After the first year in a role, most jobs really are not that difficult. The hardest part about working in the business world is dealing with difficult people. Stress really elevates when the difficult person in your life is your manager.

               

              2) Unfairness and poor management. We all know that life is not fair, but that does not mean that we are ok with it. At work, we want to know that if we work hard and produce quality work products, we will be appreciated and valued. We want to know that the people who produce the best results are the ones who will get promoted or get that raise or bonus. When it comes down to it, however, rarely does the working world run this way. Again, when the person who shows the most unfairness is your manager, stress levels in the workplace increase. (See related articles: 15 Signs Your Manager is Trying to Force You to Quit, Lay You Off or Fire You and Tricks HR Plays that You MUST Know About.

               

              3) Lack of control. Often, someone will enter a new team or take on a project or task that was originally started or done by their manager. Because the manager feels they have more experience completing the task or role, they expect the employee to complete the work exactly the way they used to do it themselves. However, more often than not, the employee has a more efficient method, or at least a different way of achieving the same results. This is where the cause of the stress lies. The manager wants the employee to do things the same way they have always been done, and the employee is frustrated because they know they can achieve the same results, if not better, by doing it their own individual way. Lack of control in the workplace can come in many forms. This is just one example. But it is this lack of control that creates large amounts of stress.

               

              4) Bullying and harassment. There is a lot of talk going on about bullying in schools and it is great that awareness is being brought to this issue. But what most do not realize is that bullying does not end in high school. Bullying and harassment occur more frequently in the workplace than you might think. Bullying can come from managers as well as other colleagues and can come in many forms. This is probably one of the biggest causes of stress in the workplace and is something we all need to be more aware of.

               

              Workplace Stress and the Economy

               

              While not an everyday cause for stress at work, the economy does have an impact on stress levels in the workplace, especially during more dire times. As you read, keep in mind that while I use the broader business level, a change at any level of the company can create this type of stress. Even if a team loses or gains one individual, the dynamics can change entirely.

               

              In difficult economic times or when corporations realize they are behind their game, organizations have to rethink their strategies and restructure their business. As a result, many organizational shifts occur which in turn affects individual jobs. Employees are not only asked to take on more work as they see their close friends and colleagues being let go, but they are also being held accountable for new work responsibilities that they have never done before. In addition, employees are expected to produce results in these new responsibilities at the caliber of an expert in the field. So not only are employees being made accountable for areas they have no knowledge of, but they are also being asked to produce top-notch results in these same areas. The stress of being put in the wrong roles and being overworked and burnt out can take a major toll on the employee, and fast.

               

              Happy Stress Ball Jetheriot Medium 4 Causes of Workplace Stress and What to Do About It

              Photo by Jetheriot

               

              How Leaders (and Employees) can Reduce Stress in the Workplace

               

              The question we all should consider is how can we reduce stress in the workplace? What can we do about this? I tend to walk around with rose-tinted glasses but here are some things that could really help make this one very important third of lives a little better:

               

              1) Show a little love. What really makes the world go round is love, kindness and appreciation. This idea may have been too “soft” or “mushy” in the past. But what about all of these “random acts of kindness,” “free hugs,” and “pay for the person behind you at the drive thru” campaigns that go viral? Everyone wants a little love, even the difficult people in your life, and one act of kindness creates a domino effect. It just takes one person to start it. While I do not expect kindness to work on everyone and I still suggest that you keep yourself on guard, with time and patience kindness works on most people. Not only will this help reduce the causes of stress in the workplace, but it could also be the start of a wonderful friendship.

               

              2) Fairness. As kids we learned to play nice with others and that “sharing is caring”. Then we grew up and learned that working life does not function that way. However, for those of you who are managers and want to be a true leader, be sensitive to the needs of your employees. Being unfair to your employees does not in any way benefit you. By causing unnecessary stress for others, you are only hurting yourself. If you are fair and you are getting feedback that your employees see otherwise, have a conversation with them and let them know what your criteria for success is. Be transparent. How do you evaluate which individual should get raises, bonuses and promotions? Be willing listen to your employees and adjust your criteria if needed. Let your employees feel heard and their stress levels will start to decline while their productivity and quality levels rise.

               

              3) Empower your employees. As a manager your focus should be on results. If an employee achieves results and is ethical, how does it matter how the employee achieved them? Empower your employees and ask them to find better ways of doing things. After all, you hired them to produce great results more efficiently – so let them! By doing this, you will reap the benefits of reducing workplace stress two-fold. Not only will you achieve added productivity from your employees because their stress levels from lack of control have declined, but you will also achieve added productivity because your employees will be empowered to get creative and be more efficient.

               

              4) Speak out.  This one is hard to do since speaking out against harassment and workplace bullying is not always well-received (which only adds on further stress in the workplace). Most companies do have a non-retaliation policy, however how the company views it in reality depends on where you work. If you feel you cannot speak out, be supportive of colleagues who are getting bullied or harassed. A little support and encouragement can go a long way.

               

              ***

               

              The workplace is a place for us to interact with each other, do something productive and feel accomplished. However, more often than not, work is much more stressful than it is fun. There are many more causes of stress in the workplace than those I mentioned above, and even more than anyone can identify. It is important to note that most employees leave a company, not for the paycheck or the promotion, but because of the stress. It is crucial for everyone to realize the causes and effects that stress has in the working world. Without this awareness, companies will suffer lowered performance and employees will suffer from serious health issues.

               

              How to Reduce Workplace Conflict Stress Affiliate Image 300x300 4 Causes of Workplace Stress and What to Do About It

               

              Once we become aware of the causes, we can learn how to manage it not only within the organization, but also within ourselves. If workplace stress is something you want to start taking control of as either a manager or an employee, check out the highly recommended, How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress by Anna Maravelas available both in paperback as well as on Kindle.

               

               

               

               

                 
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                In this video I talk about the nuts and bolts of answering the all too famous, What Are Your Weaknesses? interview question. Included in his video are the:

                • 3 different techniques and ways to answer this question
                • 2 crucial parts needed to answer this question for the best results
                • 3 do’s/don’ts you must watch out for

                 

                   
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                  In business, any experience is good experience when you are starting out. There is so much for you to learn and do. You grow in many ways: work ethic, work style, relationships, etc. While I believe there is always something to learn no matter where you go or what you do, I believe that the earlier and longer you work in a consulting firm, the better. I gave you some insight into the overall culture of consulting firms in my last post. In this post, I talk specifically about the benefits of working in consulting. I recommend working in a consulting firm earlier in your career and for at least 2-4 years before moving on if possible.

                   

                  Why You Should Work as a Consultant

                   

                  Being successful in business is all about learning to produce quality deliverables, meeting deadlines, building relationships with your teammates, managers and subordinates, providing good customer service, understanding the needs of others, presenting your thoughts completely but succinctly, being addable to change, and walking in each day wanting to do things better than you did them before. Working in any career will teach you some level of each of these skills, but consulting will give you an entire degree on it.

                   

                  1)  When you work as a consultant, one of the main types of deliverables that you produce are “decks” or PowerPoint slides. These decks force you to learn to think about your project and your client’s business both holistically and in detail, while simultaneously training you to quickly highlight the key points. You are trained to see the entire picture, each detail while also holding the high level vision in your mind. You learn to structure your thoughts and think effectively.

                   

                  In my book, 25 Things They Don’t Teach in Business School, I discuss in detail the different purposes of these decks. Most of consulting and business in general is about learning on the job and learning to create decks is the same way. However, in my book I give you a head start by walking you through the science of how to create an effective deck the “consultant way”. I also define common consulting jargon including the full meaning of “deliverable.”

                   

                  2)  Much of consulting is about presenting your thoughts, ideas, deliverables, updates and solutions to your client. Your managers pay close attention to how well you speak and present your views and your information. Remember when you used to dread giving a presentation in school? Well, that fear never completely goes away but because presenting becomes a weekly, or even daily, occurrence in consulting not only do you improve your ability to share thoughts and information, but you also gain confidence. You learn to be a voice at the table.

                   

                  3)  Consulting is all about customer service and like any customer service role, it is not always easy. As a consultant you are often mistrusted because employees at your client’s companies worry you will cut their jobs. Others see you as an outsider who only makes recommendations and does not take accountability and actually implement the suggestions. If something goes wrong, it is always easiest to blame the consultant which can be an added burden for you. However, most of the experience is positive and as a consultant you learn to listen closely to the needs of your clients. You learn to get a feel for needs your client has that they are not even aware of themselves (in my book, I teach you how to identify these needs as well as how to fill them). You also learn about sales and earning new business which I found very valuable.

                   

                  4)  Because you are always in this mindset of finding needs and solving problems, you are naturally trained to focus on continuous improvement in the workplace. Your work style naturally becomes one of being observant of your environment and finding ways to make things better today than they were yesterday. If you were not adaptable to change before, you will be after working in consulting.

                   

                  5)  Consultants are very concerned about doing things the “best” way, or what they often call “best practices.” Other areas of business have best practices as well, but I have not seen them well implemented. They usually are brought up and then they fall to the way-side. In consulting, best practices are always updated from whitepapers and from experience on projects, discussed and they are very often followed.

                   

                  6)  Below the manager level, everyone works in set teams. However, there are several aspects of the teamwork found in a consulting role that are different from those found in other roles. First, in consulting you are constantly switching projects, clients and teams. Some projects are 2 weeks, others as long as 3 years, but most fall in the 3-6 month range. This set up teaches you very quickly about working with different personality types and dealing with various teammate issues (my book covers common teammate issues you will find in any business role and how to deal with them).

                   

                  Second, teamwork in consulting is what you would expect teamwork to be. In the industry, while people are placed into teams, each person has a very specific job role, has their own projects and spends much of their time working independently. There are attempts to collaborate, but from what I have seen it is chaotic and not very successful. In consulting, everyone works on the same project and everyone is focused on the same end goal. While there are certainly “roles” that each person can play, each person is expected to be a “utility” player and to step in to help the greater good. There really is not much individual work. If you think back to high school or even business school when you worked in teams that is exactly what it is like in the consulting world. The consulting team setup teaches you how to work towards a common goal which is essential to your growth as a person and in your career.

                   

                  7)  Because of the various clients that you work with and the numerous teammates, the size of your network grows much faster in a consulting role than in other business roles without any effort on your part.

                   

                  8)  Consulting firms invest heavily on networking and training. Every year you will likely go to at least one training camp that will be at least a week long. This training camp or “University” as companies like to call them, are HUGE. If a firm has many offices, all of the offices will meet in one area for that week to train (sometimes they may have 3 different areas and weeks). This gives you such a fantastic opportunity! Not only are you given top-notch training in presentation skills, critical thinking skills, project management skills, risk management skills, and even more technical skills, but you are training with employees from all across the nation! You are eating breakfast and lunch with them and going out to bars or for dinner with them. And, just as a side note about training, the best part is all the free gourmet food and sugar-packed snacks. Yum!

                   

                  In the industry, most companies have just one main office and any training that is done is spread out across the year instead of having an entire week devoted to it and does not have much emphasis on networking with your peers.

                   

                  9)  As I mentioned in my previous post, it does not matter what level of consultant you are, especially at big firms, you will be doing some level of managing. Most of consulting is project management.  You manage your clients, you manage projects, if you are in IT consulting you may manage teams of developers. In other business roles, you have to wait until the Senior Manager or Director level to get this type of experience. Consulting truly boosts your career development.

                   

                  10)  Speaking of boosting your career, if you work in consulting for a few years, especially at a big firm, and you choose to move to another company, you will get a promotion from your current level as well as a pay raise. I have known managers at the consulting firm where I worked go straight to Director level when they left to join another company. If you come from a different business role and move into consulting chances are you will be “demoted.” Consulting is a whole different ball game.

                   

                  ***

                   

                  While my experience in consulting certainly had its negative sides, in terms of career development and personal growth it was definitely one of the best experiences of my career yet. If you have the opportunity to work in one and have the freedom to travel, I very highly recommend working for a firm. I learned so much more in 9 months of consulting than I did in over a year in the industry. It will do wonders for your career.