Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Test of Your Professionalism: Will You Pass?

A professional is someone who possesses distinctive qualities in a particular profession. Everyday in the workplace our professionalism is tested, there are situations that will be unpleasant to deal with, people who are rude, bosses who are demanding, and work that may seem demeaning, but in today’s economy, keeping a job is like finding a pot of gold, you are fortunate to have it. In the office, the expectation is to constantly exhibit decorum, tact, composure, and display knowledge of your skills. So what do you do when your professionalism is tested? Below are examples of five tests you will encounter in your professional career, how will you score?

1. Dealing with rude co-workers, clients, or customers. 10 pts.
We have all had those people who we have to deal with on a daily basis who seem as though they have a disregard for others feelings or don’t care about listening to what they have to say. Let them have their words. Do not interrupt. Listen with empathy not sympathy and be assertive in your response. When they are finished, ask questions to clarify their feelings. Seek answers. Get to the root of their ill-behavior and offer solutions. If you are not the person who can assist them, refer them to someone who can.

2. Dealing with a boss who is a micromanager. 20 pts
Being able to handle an overly exertive, anxious, non-trusting boss is a challenge to any professional. The most important thing to remember when dealing with someone like this is to give them what they want before they ask! In other words, provide them frequent updates before they have to ask where you are on the project. Ask questions for clarification and provide them with feedback by restating what they told you so that they know that you understand. The biggest fear in a micromanager is that you don’t understand the task; therefore, it will not be done right. Keep a notepad handy at all times to take notes and get updates. Finally, give assurance that the project will be completed by the deadline (while giving updates until completion). If an extension is needed, give good, solid reasons why- maybe due to the constant micromanager interruptions.

3. A colleague claims your idea as his own. 30 pts.
How many times has this happened…you are sitting in a meeting and your boss asks for ideas, you want to raise your hand but you are fearful that you will be laughed at or rejected? So after the meeting you tell a co-worker your idea, who then at the next meeting voices the idea as his own and gets all the praise. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do at this point; however, this incident has educated you for the future.

If you become timid when it comes to speaking in a group meeting, provided you know what the agenda items are prior to the meeting, put them in writing in proposal form and give them to the Chair before the meeting or slide them to him during the meeting. Afterall, the worst that will happen is that your idea won’t be used, but the positive is that you voiced your suggestion and no one took it!
So, how do you maintain a cordial working relationship with this ‘thought thief?’ Being the professional that you are, you will continue to be cordial, you have been taught a valuable lesson, learn from it and move on.

4. Criticism and/or negative feedback during a performance review. 50 pts
It’s that time of year again---the dreaded performance review. We need to look at performance reviews from a different perspective. Performance reviews or evaluations are conducted for the sole purpose of letting us know what areas we need to improve or develop our skills. Just as you are prepared for meetings, events, etc. as professionals, we need to be prepared for the performance review. This means bringing a pad and pen and being ready to jot down notes. Is there a certain quality about your supervisor that you admire? For example, my supervisor is great at prioritizing, so I asked her about prioritizing skills. This shows that I am interested in improving and that I am watching her work ethic. Also, this is the perfect time to ask for some professional development training in the areas your supervisor has highlighted you may need improvement. So don’t leave the review mad or angry; leave enlightened.

5. A reprimand/write-up (verbal or written). 100 pts
Dealing with a reprimand is a very unpleasant event. A reprimand is an eye opener that says we need to change or modify behavior. This is going to be a big challenge to your professionalism because emotions tend to overcome our logic. Leave emotions outside of the room.

There is a three step process in dealing with a reprimand effectively. The best way to deal with a reprimand is to accept the notification. It doesn’t matter if you don’t sign it, you must acknowledge the fact that you made a mistake, for whatever reason, and then devise a strategy to not allow it to happen again. Then ask for suggestions or recommendations about how to avoid this situation in the future. Be open to suggestions. Finally, the third step is to provide feedback. Apologize for your actions and assure everyone involved that you will work on your behavior. This test has the most points because it may be the most difficult test of our professionalism.

There may be instances when the same test may be administered in one day, such as the test of the rude co-workers or customers. Take off ½ points if you have a negative reaction than what was suggested. For example, if you were angry at your supervisor for the feedback you received from the performance review (and it showed) you would score 25 points. Then for the next review you need to work on your emotions, so that you can score 50 points.

It is important to remember that any irrational moves or reactions to any of the tests could have a detrimental affect on your career and reputation. Think first, and then react.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

4 Ways to do a Midday Power Up

It’s 3 o’clock and your sitting at your computer with heavy eyes, slow fingers, and slightly blurred vision. You are ready to curl up under the desk, grab a pillow and take a much needed nap, but wait, you are at work and your boss would not approve of such behavior! This feeling usually occurs 1 to 2 hours after lunch. Here are four ways to give you an energy boost for the home stretch:

1. Take a short walk.

Nothing wakes you up quicker than a walk through the building or if you can, outside to get some air. Organize your visits to other offices or departments during the time of the day when you affected by the “power down” so that you can get the boost you need to finish the day.

2. Stand up and stretch.

If you can’t leave your desk, stand up and do a 30-second stretch to get the circulation flowing –if your boss doesn’t mind the wild arm motions (try not to make the noises though).

3. Listen to upbeat music
Depending on what your office environment is like, listen to your favorite singer or band. If you can, pat your feet to the beat or bob your head to the music. Be tactful; don’t act like you are ready to be on Dancing with the Stars!

4. Have a midday snack. suggests the following snack foods to get you going for the remainder of the day.

Dried fruit. These high-energy, low-fat snacks are easy to pack and almost never go bad. Try a medley of apricots, figs, and raisins. However, be aware that some commercially packaged dried fruits contain sulfur dioxide, which has been shown to increase your risk of asthma.

Almonds. Ounce-for-ounce, this is the most nutrient-dense nut. Research has shown that adding two ounces of almonds to your daily diet increases your intake of vitamin-E and magnesium.

Yogurt. Quick, easy, and delicious, yogurt is available in a variety flavors. One cup of low-fat yogurt contains almost 13 grams of protein and 17 grams of carbohydrates-just what you need for great energy.
Coffee, energy drinks and bars, are not a very good source of energy because very soon you will come down from the “caffeine fix” and be more sluggish than you were. Eliminate the feeling of walking in mud and perform a midday “Power Up” - you will be more productive and more alert at the end of the workday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tax Tip for the Office Professional

It’s that time of year again- tax season! This is the time of year that most people stress over because we are waiting for documents like W2’s, mortgage statements, 1099’s, and other information in order to file taxes.

Here is a tax tip for all office professionals that go above and beyond the call of duty during the year and spend their own money without getting reimbursed.

Tax Tip: Complete a Form 2106 – Employee Business Expenses

This form is used for expenses NOT reimbursed by your employer that you may have incurred throughout the year. Use for the following purchases:

- professional conferences/workshop registration fees
- items purchased for conferences/workshops
- food, hotel room stays, airfare (classified as ‘travel and entertainment)
- mileage used throughout the year traveling for professional purposes (EXCLUDE daily commute to/from work)
- professional subscriptions and dues to professional organizations
- employee union dues
- basically any out-of-pocket expenses related to the job or your profession

These are just a few expenses that can be listed on the Form 2106. Tax season doesn’t have to be a tear jerker. Ask your tax professional about other expenses that you may have incurred that were not reimbursed, you may be surprised and have a little more dough coming back to you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Do Bad Bosses Breed Bad Bosses?

Have you ever wondered where bad bosses come from? Were they dropped out of a spaceship in the middle of the night or were they brainwashed and conditioned by other bad bosses to continue bad behavior? According to the Association for Psychological Science (2006), the unconscious transmission of actions or emotions from one individual to another is possible. In other words, if someone observes a certain behavior that person is susceptible to behave in the same manner.

Bad bosses come in all shapes and sizes. The following is a list of the top 5 characteristics that make up bad bosses and how you can deal with their behavior.

1. Non-Communicative
Being able to communicate is essential in any setting. Bad bosses like to withhold information from their employees or expect their employees to be mind readers and already know what they’re supposed to know.

How to deal with it: If you work with someone who does not like to share information or it seems as you are left in the dark, ask questions. Get the individual to talk to you by you talking to them. Don’t wait around the water cooler, listening to the rumor mill. Be proactive and get a dialogue established with your boss.

2. “Rules with an iron fist.”Some bad bosses believe that what they say goes and there is no room for negotiation. They are close-minded and do not believe in change or that there is a better way to do things.

How to deal with it:
These types of managers believe in facts and statistics. Show them the benefits to changing or revising a procedure and explain how the company and your department will be more productive. If possible submit the plan in writing.

3. Unorganized.
So your boss approaches you at 4:50 p.m. and tells you that he needs a report by 10 a.m. tomorrow for a meeting at 10:30 a.m. and you don’t arrive until 9 a.m. This is not a simple report and you will probably need to come in early to have it completed on time. This is frustrating because you have other projects you need to accomplish and you don’t like working last minute.

How to deal with it: If you keep your bosses calendar, you can ask him ahead of time if he needs anything in particular for the meeting or if you know the agenda you can suggest information your boss can take to the meeting and have it prepared. If this occurs frequently and you are unaware of your bosses calendar, then during your next staff meeting or performance review politely express your concern that you would prefer to receive tasks and projects ahead of time so that documents can be fully prepared and reviewed before being presented to a group, especially upper management. Again, explain the benefits to requesting projects ahead of time and put it in writing. Sometimes emergencies occur and can’t be helped so determine how frequently your boss makes these requests and make necessary suggestions on how you and he can be more productive and efficient.

4. Lack of trust.
These are the micromanagers; they don’t trust their employees to do the job or that the task will be done properly. These kinds of managers want proof that you will do the job effectively.

How to deal with it: In this situation you must prove that you are capable of completing the task and don’t need someone standing over your shoulder. As tasks or projects are assigned, give 110% attention, check and double check for accuracy. Remember micromanagers seek out “micromistakes,” so if there is a comma or number out of place or missing, you will have to start over in establishing trust.

5. Opposed/resistant to the professional development of their employees.
Have you ever asked your supervisor to pay for a training or workshop that would enhance your professional or personal development only to get rejected saying there just wasn’t enough money in the budget?

How to deal with it:
Provide written materials and information about the training or workshop you wish to attend. Include how the company and your department will benefit by investing in you – their most valuable asset. If the manager insists that the budget is tight, suggest that you would pay half of the cost; this will show the manager that you are willing to invest in yourself. If that doesn’t work, think about paying for the training out of your own pocket and then show your boss how effective and productive you are afterwards by using what you learned. Then the next time you wish to attend a training, they may more open to paying the costs for you attend because they will know how beneficial the last training was for the you and the company.

We know that bad bosses don’t miraculously drop out of the sky and they weren’t born to be bad – they were made. Unfortunately, behavior can be contagious (good and bad) and most times we don’t realize we have “inherited” such behavior. The best philosophy to live by is, “treat others as you would like to be treated.”

Wang, S. (2006). Contagious behavior. Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved February 2, 2010 from