Your Real Job in Life… 

This may seem corny, but my office is covered in motivational sayings and images. I put them up for myself but also for my colleagues. I figure we can all use a little motivation at any given moment. I know I can! People often say to me some variation of “I like coming in your office. It’s always so positive/uplifting/cozy. ” I’m glad.

I was scrolling through Twitter during my commute to work and this quote really spoke to me. I’m going to add it to the collection. We tend to focus so much on the work we’re paid to do and not enough on the work we’re meant to do – unless you’re lucky enough (or have been able to design your life in such a way) that they are one and the same.
I encourage everyone to focus on discovering your life’s purpose. Perhaps more importantly, do not assume that what you are currently doing to pay the bills is it.

 

MYTH: Teleworkers Aren’t Working

This topic has been on my mind for a while. I’m a huge fan of teleworking. HUGE. Or rather of giving employees the option to telework. It’s not for everyone and it doesn’t work for everyone- some people need more structure & guidance or don’t work well in isolation. It also won’t work for every job. However, I believe there are few office-based jobs that can’t be done from an alternate work site (AWS) at least some of the time with the right equipment. I have a hard time understanding why more employers aren’t on board with telework as a flexible work option. I’ve noticed some employers, even though they offer a telework option, place expectations on teleworkers that they don’t place on workers who are in the office.

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Every person I’ve spoken with (aka a slightly less than scientific study) who has at least one regular telework day tells me they are much more productive on those days, primarily due to not having to commute and there being fewer distractions. I also think teleworkers have a tendency to “overwork” so people in the office don’t think they’re slacking. This has always bothered me. Just because you may or may not be wearing pajamas doesn’t mean you’re slacking.

Why is there a perception that just because you aren’t at a desk in an office space your employer owns, you aren’t working as hard or as much? Heaven forbid you miss a call or don’t respond to an email immediately. Guess what – people miss calls and don’t respond to emails immediately when they’re in the office too. People play video games and login to Facebook and shop on Amazon and all kinds of other things IN THE OFFICE. I won’t even go into the amount of time wasted on meetings and random chitchat. Yet there’s this perception by many employers that in the office = working and not in the office = probably not working.

I always say the proof is in the pudding. Well, I don’t actually say that. Who says that? My point is, if a person is not performing or is under-performing, it doesn’t matter where they’re located. The proof will be in that they aren’t getting results or meeting their goals. People who aren’t motivated to work from an AWS probably aren’t that motivated to work when they’re in the office either. THAT is the real problem that needs to be addressed.

This is another one of those things that comes down to trust. Trust your people. If you don’t trust your people, think about why that is and what can be done to change it. Allow your people flexibility to the extent that it doesn’t pose a hardship to the business. If someone isn’t performing well outside of the office but performs well in the office, maybe teleworking isn’t for them. That’s OK. At least they were given the option. If someone isn’t performing in or out of the office, a conversation needs to be had surrounding that issue. Just please don’t assume that a person who is teleworking is not really working. Last, but certainly not least, please understand that teleworkers also need bathroom breaks, eat lunch, step away from the desk for a moment, might miss a call or not immediately respond to an email. Just like when they’re in the office. Don’t worry; they’ll get back to you. Just like when they’re in the office.

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WordsMatter: The Power of Language at Work

I was inspired to write this post for a few reasons. I recently listened to a webinar titled “The State of Performance Management: What’s Broken and How to Fix It” and I found myself agreeing with a lot of what was being said. More than a lot actually. Pretty much all of it.

The presenter, Kevin Eikenberry, explained that one of the main things wrong with performance management is the term itself. To paraphrase him, we use terms like performance management/evaluation/review/assessment but people don’t want to be managed, evaluated, reviewed or assessed. The terminology alone puts people on the defensive, and leads to anxiety and stress. Who needs more of either? Do you? I certainly don’t. So ultimately it doesn’t get done or it keeps getting put off until the last minute and then it’s done half-heartedly and the results are worthless.

words matterHe suggested that instead we use the term Performance Development. Makes sense, right? After all, the process should, ideally, be designed to assist employees in knowing what they’ve done well and making them aware of areas for professional development. The process should also include a plan (i.e. action items) for that development to occur. The process should be positive, or at the very least not negative or demeaning and above all it should be useful. A phrase I read recently in regards to providing feedback is that it should be personalized but not personal.  I agree.

We hear a lot these days about the death of the traditional performance review. Well, that’s a death I won’t be mourning. The terms currently used (see above,) and thus the associated processes, tend to be neither positive nor useful. When people are told they are being managed, evaluated, etc. it automatically puts them in the mindset of being subordinate. When someone is tasked with managing, evaluating, etc. another person, it automatically puts them in the mindset of that person being subordinate to them.

Subordinate (definition):

  1. lower in rank  or position 
  2. a person under the authority or control of another within an organization
  3. treat or regard as of lesser importance than something else

Eeek! Unless you’re in the military or in prison this dynamic sounds pretty undesirable and unnecessary to me. Should there be some type of objective metrics to gauge performance as well as strengths and opportunities for development? Sure. But the process needs to change and it starts with the nomenclature.

Don’t even get me started on rating (for lack of a better term) people on expectations that aren’t clearly defined. (Meets or exceeds? How about what are they?? ) Or rating based on the recency effect i.e things that happened a short time prior to when the review is being done vs. the entire review period. (Great all year but made a mistake last month? No soup for you!) Or subjectivity vs. objectivity. (Self-explanatory.) There is a lot to talk about but this post is about words.

Another thing that inspired me to write this post was my own 2015 “performance evaluation.” I reread it the other day in preparation for the 2016 version. To say I took issue with quite a bit of it would be an understatement. Not because I think I have no room for improvement or can’t take constructive criticism, but because most of the criticisms weren’t actually constructive. They were primarily personal and subjective judgments rather than objective, work-related statements that could be supported by facts or examples.

This may sound like hyperbole but when I asked for examples of stated actions/behaviors that I considered to be negative I didn’t receive any. Not. Even. One. When I explained what the words being used to describe me implied, I was told “I didn’t mean that, I meant this.” However, that is what was written down and what will be attached to my employment file, without further explanation or clarification. So yeah, I was none too happy about the whole thing and I’m not looking forward to doing it all over again.

wordsI also got to thinking about the general terminology we use to describe relationship dynamics in the workplace. Boss. Manager. Superior. Subordinate. (See above.) Who came up with these?? I have never and will not ever refer to another person as my boss or superior. I’m just not built that way. In using those types of terms you are subconsciously (consciously, for some) indicating that a person is better than you and/or has power over you. Some people may be fine with using those terms but in my opinion, it’s an unhealthy dynamic. As you think, you will speak. As you speak, you will do. Ever heard of the phrase, speaking truth to power? Well, when the words you use are demeaning to yourself or others, those words will manifest as beliefs and actions.

Some may say I’m taking this too far but think about it. If you are currently using any of these terms in the workplace, try to stop using them, in both written and verbal communication. Remove them from official documentation, policies and procedures. When people stop hearing and seeing these and other similar words that denote an unnecessary and unbalanced power dynamic, I believe we will see a significant shift for the better. (Hierarchy may be necessary for the purpose of organizational structure but that doesn’t mean it has to be part of the organizational culture.)

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to be a change agent and turn your performance management process that doesn’t work (trust me, it doesn’t) into a performance development process. I’m sure morale and productivity among your employees will begin to improve, even if it isn’t bad to start with. And if it doesn’t, at lease you tried. If it’s not within your purview to change terminology and processes and/or shift culture on an organizational level, try doing it on a department level or on a team level. Whether you effect change on an organizational, departmental or individual level, every journey begins with a single step. Never forget, WORDS MATTER.

11 Reasons You Should Have Friends at Work

how-to-make-friends-at-work-6-638We all know people who aren’t the least bit interested in having friends at work. You know the ones. The “I have a life outside of work; I don’t need/want to make friends here” camp. To an extent, I get that. Especially if you work with folks you would never dream of knowing, let alone hanging out with, if you didn’t have to see them at work. There are also workplaces that frown on and discourage employees establishing friendships for various reasons which typically boil down to fear and lack of trust.

However, I am of the mindset that we spend so much of our time at work – one might even say TOO much- that making a deliberate effort not to build friendships there seems counterproductive. Of course, I don’t believe in forcing relationships either. If a connection isn’t there, it isn’t there. But if there’s the potential, why not let it happen?

As it turns out, there are also some great data-driven reasons (HR folks love metrics) for establishing friendships at work – see below. Perhaps the final statement is the most important – Office friendships have a direct link with engagement and productivity. Who wouldn’t want to be more engaged and productive at work?  Who wouldn’t want their employees to be more engaged and productive at work? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

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HR Humor: Flex Time, Schmex Time

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Pure , unadulterated fact!

Despite the current conversations surrounding the proven benefits of work/life balance, flexible work hours and the like, it never ceases to amaze me the extent to which this proves true. It’d be great if more employers focused more on employee morale, productivity and results than on a few “missed” minutes in the morning, presuming there is no adverse impact to the business. Continue reading

#ProTip: Never Check Email in the Morning

Several years ago I purchased a book titled Never Check Email in the Morning and Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work by Julie Morgenstern, primarily because I was intrigued by the title. The book sat on my bookshelf for years. I never got around to reading it but the idea of not immediately checking email after arriving at work remained in the back of my mind. Sounds cool, right?

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#WorkLife: Are Tattoos Still Taboo?

It’s 2016. Times have changed when it comes to what is and isn’t work-appropriate. Right? Women are allowed to wear pants to work. Hell, women are allowed to work. People of African descent can wear their natural, unprocessed hair to work. In most places. We have business casual workplaces and “dress down” Fridays. Workplaces have undoubtedly loosened up a bit over the years. Granted, heavy issues like equal pay, racism and gender parity, among other things, have yet to be fully addressed but, to paraphrase Robert Frost, we have miles to go before we sleep.

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