Archive for the ‘Office Politics’ Category

Problems at work: I am being bullied or harassed

March 1, 2009

Abusive, threatening or humiliating treatment is unacceptable in the workplace, regardless of who the person is. There is a growing awareness of workplace bullying and harassment, but it doesn’t help the person affected unless it is reported and dealt with. Often, being treated this way can rob you of the power to act and may make you feel like you are not worth much anyway. If you feel put down, it can be hard to maintain a positive attitude and self image.

But this is not true. It is important to remember that you are worth more than this, and that you will not continue to allow bad treatment.  

What can you do about these situations?


You need to focus on the areas you can actually control as this is where you can make changes. It is difficult to change someone else’s behaviour. But you can alter your own behaviour by avoiding that person, refusing to engage with them and not reacting to situations. You can also report them through the appropriate channels if the problem is serious.

What can you control about the situation you are facing? What is within your power to change?

You have the following options:

·         Talk to the person involved. Ask them about their behaviour and involve a third party as a witness if you are uncomfortable with this. Put it in writing if you like, but make your feelings known. However, this is easier said than done as many of us avoid conflict and painful situations.

·         Don’t respond in kind. You will keep a stronger position if you do not resort to tactics that put you in the same category as the other person. It can actually be more powerful and disarming to be positive and kind to the other person and demonstrate that you are not bothered by them. By reacting, you give them power over you.

·         If you are not sure how serious the situation is, or if you just want to know your options, you can talk to someone else in your HR department. Be careful to make the situation hypothetical so as not to jeopardise your position, especially if the person involved is senior. You can also try talking to friends, Employee Assistance programs, use anonymous phone help-lines or go online for support. It is important to discuss the situation with somebody as you will feel more stressed if you don’t have emotional support.  

·         If the situation is serious, report the person to your direct manager or HR manager. This will involve talking about the details as making a complaint like this can be a serious move, so take any emails, or notes on situations that have happened. You need to be calm and rational and not overly emotional in your approach. Find out whether anyone else has been treated in this same way. It is likely that this person has behaved in the same way before which will help your case. Before you give any details, make sure the conversation will be kept confidential.

·         You always have the option to leave this position or the job entirely. If things are very bad at work, it is better to walk away than continue to be subjected to a situation that will wear you down with stress and anxiety. The majority of work situations are not like this, so move on and you will find somewhere more to your liking. You may need time to evaluate your options and look for different work, but this may be the best option.


What are the three steps you will take to address your situation at work? 

Problems at work: I hate my boss/Manager

February 21, 2009

People do not work or live in isolation. Even if you are in a dream job, it can be marred by the presence of someone who upsets, frustrates or bullies you. This conflict can dominate your work life and spill over into your private time. The situation can be intensely stressful and can make the working days hell. 

Everyone has ways in which they like to work and there are different styles of management for different types of people. However, some managers use the same approach with everyone, so there will inevitably be conflict. I have been in situations like this before for the following reasons:

·         I feel my work and decisions are undermined by my manager who questions my abilities 

·         I am micro-managed and have to account for all my time, making me feel like I am not trusted

·         I don’t respect my manager or the way they works or treat people

What are your specific problems with your manager?

Don’t be put off though! There are some fantastic managers out there who know how to look after and appreciate their people. They manage to the individual’s style and not with a broad brush approach. If you are a manager yourself, or if you want to be one, consider how you would like to be treated and appreciate individual differences in styles of work.  

How do you want to be treated by your manager? 

Do you have a work spouse?

October 16, 2008

In an American survey for Career Builder, one in 10 workers said they felt like they had a platonic work spouse. 

A CNN Money article cited on Wikipedia characterizes the relationship as having the “immediate intimacy [of marriage] without the sex or commitment and cites a report suggesting that such relationships “may not only make you happier with your job but may even improve your chances for promotions and raises.

So this sounds like a good thing…someone who listens to your work problems, supports you and protects you in office politics. But 20% of people surveyed reported that their actual spouse was jealous of the work spouse…so be careful!

To be an employee…or not to be

September 5, 2008
employee or contractor

employee or contractor

I was at a management meeting today. Death by Powerpoint. Managers managing more managers. Jargon bingo. But it made me think about the difference between employees and contractors, and why I have alternatively swung between the two approaches in my career.

Why be an employee?
– You are on a career path. The company invest in you and train you. You don’t have to be an expert to start with, as they will mould you into what they want. You are happy being part of a bigger organisation that has a structure, processes and a support network.

– You like the stability and security of being part of a company. You know how much you get paid every month, and you get paid for sick days and holiday. You have a contract that doesn’t have an end date.

– You like the kudos or prestige of working for X company. You have won that job and it makes you proud.

– You have more options being part of a company. If you want to try something new, you can ask your Manager and can move into a new position.

– You get benefits like pension/superannuation/car. You don’t have complicated taxation affairs. You don’t have to think about the money; it just arrives in your bank account.

Why be a contractor?

– You don’t want to be on a career path. You are a specialist in what you do. You don’t want to do performance appraisals, or be in management meetings. You like being independent.

– You want flexibility of lifestyle, geography and the freedom to move on when you want.

– You like having a variable wage. You can earn a lot more in less time, and then take 3 months off. You don’t need stability.

– You like managing your own money and taxes, or you hire someone to do it for you.

– If you want training, you pay for it yourself – or you do the same job over and over again (and risk being bored)

Both of these ways of working have their benefits and drawbacks. Both involve working for other people (working on your own business will be tackled in a different post).

I started out as an employee – then went contracting. Then back to an employee, then back to contracting. Repeat twice more, and I am currently in the contractor cycle…and heading towards working in my own business altogether. So there is room for all types….. which do you prefer?
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Business email: 22 tips for appropriate communication

August 29, 2008
Business email

Business email

Email is the primary way businesses communicate, as well as how people interact with friends. But there are important differences between the style and content of these types of emails. The following are some tips to help you communicate appropriately on business email.


  1. Be careful what you say in emails. Remember that this is still professional communication. Re-read your emails before you send them to ensure you have been professional.
  2. Make sure you know your company policy about email communication so you are not caught out with personal email. Some companies will ban social networking sites. Some prohibit personal email on company computers. If you know the policy, you won’t make mistakes.
  3. Business communication is for recording, transferring or communicating information. It should not be overly emotional or full of non-factual information. It should be clear, concise and easy to understand
  4. Business communication should also express thoughts in a careful way. Think before you write, and think again before you send.
  5. If the email is particularly important, it may be beneficial to get someone else to read it before sending to a wider group. Often someone else will see flaws in your approach, and change the wording to be more objective.
  6. Business email should also protect confidentiality of the business, so be aware of what you are sending externally.
  7. Question whether you need an email at all. Would this be better done through a phone call or a meeting? If you think you are emotional about the issue, speaking about it can be better than writing so your thoughts are not captured in an email which may jeopardise your position later.
  8. Always state facts objectively, as opposed to your feelings on the matter. You can express an opinion but back it up with facts and not emotion.
  9. Don’t be abusive on email. Always use professional language.
  10. There is a difference between knowing something and hearing about something. Be sure you get your facts right. Don’t gossip on work email.
  11. Leave out irrelevant information from your communications. People are busy now so just state what is necessary.
  12. Make sure email headers contain enough information so people know what they are about to read.
  13. It is best to avoid humour and sarcasm in email as it doesn’t cross the medium well, especially if someone has a different sense of humour to you. Certain types of humour can also be considered harassment, so just avoid it in workplace communication. 
  14. Defamation is when untrue information is communicated that could damage someone’s reputation. This can sometimes be mistakenly done on email.
  15. Never email anything you don’t want that person to read – as chances are, they will end up seeing it even if they are not on the original mailing list.
  16. Email lasts forever. Even if you think you have deleted it, it can be pulled from the backups.
  17. Email is not always private. Assume it can be seen or accessed easily.
  18. Be careful if you communicate with your lawyer by e‑mail. In certain countries, doing so could result in the loss of the attorney-client privilege, since an e‑mail can be read by someone other than the attorney or client more easily than other forms of communication.
  19. Protect access to your computer and to your email accounts. Someone could send an email from your address that could jeopardise your position.
  20. Be careful of clicking “reply to all”. Do all those people really need to see your comments. Only copy people in if they need to be part of the decision/ communication.
  21. No copyrighted material should be transmitted unless you first obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you’re ever not sure if sending an e‑mail attachment will violate copyright laws, ask your company’s law department.
  22. When emailing a member of the opposite sex, keep all written business communication professional. Don’t flirt by email as this can easily be found out by others.
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Multi-Cultural Workplaces: 7 ways to make them work

July 30, 2008
Multicultural workplaces

Multicultural workplaces

Nowadays, people work in global offices with colleagues from different worldviews, religions and attitudes. It is important to be aware of cultural differences and how they affect team dynamics, communication and management style. Multi-cultural workplaces also offer a wealth of new experience and self-growth opportunities. Here are 7 ways to improve multicultural relationships in your workplace.    

  • 1. Make it ok to ask questions. Some people may feel that they cannot ask a person where s/he is from for fear of being offensive or being seen as racist in some way. This can prevent communication, team effort and even friendship from happening. Encourage people to talk about where they are from, and their culture. Most misunderstanding comes from lack of communication. If you can ask questions of one another, then the growth in relationship will enable more effective working together.


  • 2. Learn about each other’s countries and cultures. Many people want to travel to exotic places and experience a different culture. But nowadays, there might be someone from one of those countries in the office. Put a map on the wall and stick pins in it linked to photos of your team members so you can see where people are from. Encourage people to add to the display with information and other pictures and use it as a group talking point.
  • 3. Be respectful and open-minded. Cultural differences can sometimes be confusing or misinterpreted. Be respectful of the way other people work and interact. Try to learn from them instead of considering your way to be the best and criticising. Apologise if you feel you might have offended someone, and ask them how you can behave more appropriately in the future. Speak out again discrimination in the workplace and encourage understanding.
  • 4. Celebrate holidays of other cultures. Festivals and celebration are a great way to learn about other cultures. Have a lunchtime meeting where you share some traditional food and discuss what the festival means. People are the same underneath and festivals often reflect what is important to all cultures – family, faith, children, honouring the past and looking to the future.
  • 5. Create cultural awareness factsheets. If your company employs people from other countries, give them some material on what it is like to work in your company and country. If you send employees overseas to meetings or conferences, they should also know how to work in those cultures. For example, what is the customary greeting within each culture? These worksheets will help provide context for interactions and enable easier work relationships.
  • 6. Treat people as individuals. Culture does not define a person, and cultural stereotypes can also be responsible for more misunderstanding. Don’t jump to conclusions just because someone is from a certain place. Get to know people as individuals regardless of their culture.
  • 7. Identify gaps in your own knowledge. We are all a work-in-progress, and we can always learn more. Identify what you don’t know about your co-workers and their culture. What can you learn about your own culture that affects the way you work? How can you improve the situation so your team can work more effectively together?

“Understand the differences; act on the commonalities” – Andrew Masondo, African National Congress
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Does your job affect your sex life?

June 18, 2008

Yes, it does, in the following ways. This is social comment, not judgement….

• People meet their partners at work – both life partners and sexual partners so it is an important place for relationships. Do you work somewhere you think you could meet this person?

• Extra-marital affairs often start at work, happen at work and end at work

• Online dating website RSVP has shown that 23% of people surveyed have lied about their jobs online. 48% of people believed what job they do makes a difference on a date. Women wanted CEOs, tradespeople, musicians or pro-sportsmen. Men wanted actresses, nurses, musicians or personal trainers.

• Job anxiety can affect your sex life – this study in Italy links job stress to premature ejaculation 

• Self confidence and a positive attitude are attractive to everyone. If you love your job and are enthusiastic about it, people will find you more attractive and enjoy being with you. Do you talk enthusiastically about your job?
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Communication at work: 6 steps to being more effective

June 7, 2008

Companies that communicate retain more staff and increase job satisfaction for their employees. But ineffective communication can be worse than none at all. Here are six ways to communicate effectively within the organisation.

·         Set clear expectations. If you hold a weekly communications meeting, then make sure there is an agenda that informs people about what you will communicate. People will know what is being covered and can save their questions for the appropriate time. It also ensures all topics are covered. Make sure items are varied, relevant and interesting so people look forward to these sessions.  


·         Ask people what they want to know. So often management will drive meetings based on what they want to tell employees, and not necessarily about what is on people’s minds. Turn this around and ask instead. Send out an anonymous survey or ask for emailed questions to a central address. Allow people to ask anything they want of management. You may be surprised at what people are concerned about. Communication is a two-way street, so be prepared to listen and then broadcast the most useful answers.


·         Be clear and concise. People want to be communicated with, but do not need more than a summary most of the time. Cut meetings short if there is not much to share, and make sure they finish on time. Be specific, decisive and articulate about each topic. If people are speaking, do not allow them to monopolise and take over the meeting. Time is precious, so move things along. Make sure there is follow up to people who were involved. If decisions were made and actions were taken, ensure minutes are sent out promptly.   


·         Communicate in different ways. Face to face meetings are just the beginning. Conference calls are an effective way to get participants from global locations, and presentations can be seen onscreen over the web. Internal newsletters and intranet pages can also be ways of broadcasting communication. Some companies now use e-zines (electronic newsletters) which individuals can contribute to and subscribe to within the organisation. Again, allow feedback and suggestions for improvement.


·         Take a risk. Some CEOs and executives have maintained a distance between themselves and employees, and have not revealed much of their personality. Others embrace communication as a part of their daily work. Some CEOs have started blogs as a way of communicating to employees and the world. The most high profile of these is the President of Sun Microsystems, Jonathan Schwartz,  but there are many others. Sun even has a blog policy acknowledging and allowing that people will communicate online. Accept that people will blog and your corporation stories will get online and you will get feedback. This type of communication will only accelerate with Gen Y employees. Use that information to improve the company and the risk will pay off.


·         Be truthful and respect your audience. Your integrity is always on show when you speak and communicate something, even if it is not important news. People generally know something of what is going on in the company and just want the gaps filled in. Be sincere and respectful of the intelligence of your audience, whoever they are. People will see through half-truths and when the truth is revealed, your honesty is on the line. In these days of mass communication, transparency and integrity is valued in every organisation.

Effective communications can transform your company, so make it a central part of your corporate strategy.

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Praise and appreciation: the keys to job satisfaction?

May 30, 2008

People deeply desire recognition and acknowledgement for what they do. Studies have shown that employees are motivated by praise and appreciation before promotion or a bonus.

A word of praise, a personalised email of encouragement or thanks can make all the difference to how people feel about their jobs.  These mementos last longer than the pay cheque and show that someone has valued what they have done. There are some managers and even companies that people love to work for because they are known for having a special way of treating people. These managers and companies recognise that people really are their means of doing exceptional business, and treat them accordingly.

Many employers seem to think that employees are paid to work, so why should they be praised as well. But if companies do not have a culture of praise and appreciation, it will be reflected in their retention rates.    

Here are 5 ways to incorporate praise and appreciation into your workplace.

·         Encourage a culture of appreciation. Give out positive energy and appreciation of others, and you will find it coming back to you. Start appreciating what other people do at work. Focus on the positives, rather than the negatives. Try thanking other people, and they will begin to appreciate you in return. This works at all levels of the organisation. Appreciate your Managers and appreciate your direct reports and co-workers. Everyone’s role is important and if people start to tell each other this, then the effect will be felt throughout the organisation.    


·         Write a thank you note to someone who has performed well – on paper, with ink. In these days of email, a handwritten note will stand out as something special. Use a good quality card and be sincere in what you write. People will keep these cards and too often they are only given when they are leaving the company. Giving this recognition during employment will improve their job happiness and retention rates.

·         Stop the blame and use it as a lesson learnt session instead. If companies have a blame culture, then people feel they cannot take risks or try to improve things for fear of censure. Encourage people to contribute and praise them for trying something new. If it works you will want to use their idea. If it doesn’t, then praise them for trying, and analyse how it can be done better next time. Don’t criticise and blame, but praise and encourage.


·         Use the monthly meeting to award people for a job well done in a public forum. Have an original award and give it to people for going above and beyond their job description. This may relate to a demonstration of company values or for excellence. One example is the First Penguin award used at Carnegie Mellon, which is given for being a risk-taker and being ahead of the pack. It refers to the first penguin that dives into the ocean containing predators, someone fearless and ready for anything. What original award could you start at your workplace?


·         Be aware of what people are doing in the workplace. If someone does a particularly good job, reward them unexpectedly. For example, tell them to have an expensive meal out with their family and put the cost on their expenses. Have a “Special Day Off” award when someone gets to have a day off for free and still get paid. Or get tickets to a sporting event and take a group of employees instead of clients. Make your employees feel that they are worthy of excellent treatment. After all, they are the ones who make the company work.      

Praise needs to be genuine, so all of these should be done with sincerity. These points have nothing to do with the institutionalised “praise” of bonuses and organised rewards/commissions. These examples are for unexpected thanks and appreciation of what people do over and above their job descriptions. Reward people for their service and their loyalty, and you will find that they give even more.

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Sex with your boss: 7 reasons not to do it!

May 10, 2008

There is something about power and authority, late night meetings, work conferences and Friday night drinks. It’s good to look forward to going to work, if only for the chance to flirt or feel attractive.
Sex with the boss is one of the clichés of the office job, for the very fact that it can be quite delicious. But here are 7 very good reasons why you should NOT have sex with your boss.

1) Someone will find out. Email is not private and those text messages will be seen, especially if it is a company phone. Someone will catch the glance you send in the direction of your lover. The secretary will notice how much time you spend together. It will be obvious over time, even if you think you are being discreet.

2) It does not do your reputation any good. When people find out later, then they will assume that your work and position in the company was influenced by your relationship. Even if you think modern society accepts these things, it will still affect your career.

3) The sex may be fantastic…or it may be awful and embarrassing. Flirting and promises are much more exciting than the actuality of ending up in a hotel somewhere to discover you are just not sexually compatible. The embarrassment continues at work, and the excitement is gone, and you end up transferred or leaving.

4) You will be distracted from the job at hand and will not perform as well. You will spend too much time making sure you look good and that the boss sees what you are doing. You will neglect co-workers, friends and even clients in the pursuit of this attention.

5) You cannot ask your boss for a job reference later. Either they give you a glowing referral that you suspect is to do with your relationship. Or they give you a bad one as they feel guilty and blame you for the affair. So you end up not asking them which is a waste of a good reference and could affect your future prospects.

6) It has to end at some point. They will not leave their wife/husband for you. Either you will leave the job, or move to a different department and you will both move on. If you end up loving them and they finish it, you will be hurt so just don’t start it in the first place.

7) They may regret it in the morning and you will be out of your current position in no time. They are the boss for a reason. Respect them, flirt with them – but do not have sex with them.

There are plenty of other ways you can enjoy your job, other than having an office affair. Keep your eyes (and your hands) off the boss!
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