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I Quit! How to Resign from Your Job

Turning in your resignation isn’t always easy. Even if you hate your job, hate your boss and can’t wait to start that new job; even if you are about to be fired, it can be difficult to resign tactfully.

First of all, be sure that you really do want to quit. Then, handle your resignation as carefully as you would handle any other business endeavor. It’s always wise to not burn bridges. You never know when you will need your past employers for a reference.

Resignation Pros and Cons

Before you make the decision to quit, be absolutely sure that this is the right decision.  An employee once called me the day after she started her new job. She hated it, regretted resigning and wanted to come back.  By the time we heard from her, we had already filled the position and she was out of luck.

If you’re not sure about the position you are considering taking, ask if you can spend a day in the office “shadowing” the staff. It may reinforce your decision to take the position or help you decide you don’t want it.

Weigh the Options

Do you have another job offer? If so, weigh the pros and cons of the new position versus your current position. Consider the work environment, flexibility, salary and benefits in addition to the job responsibilities.  How about opportunities to advance? If the new job comes up ahead on all counts and you feel sure that this is the right change to make, don’t hesitate.

No new job on the horizon? Before you quit, consider the basics.  It will take about three to six months, sometimes longer, to find a new job. Unless you quit for a good cause, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Do you have enough savings or other income to manage on?   Even if your employment situation isn’t the best, you might want to consider hanging on to the job you have, as well as your paycheck, and starting your job search before you resign. That old saying that “it’s easier to find a job, when you have a job” does hold true.

Give Notice

If you have an employment contract that states how much notice you should give, abide by it. Otherwise, it’s appropriate to offer two weeks notice.

No Obligation

If your employer asks you to stay longer than two weeks (or the time period in your contract) you have no obligation to stay. Your new employer will be expecting you to start as scheduled, and in a timely manner. What you could do is offer to help your previous employer, if necessary, after hours, via email or on the phone.

How to Quit

The formal way to resign is to write a resignation letter.  However, depending on circumstances, you may need to quit over the phone or to quit via email.

Write a Resignation Letter

Regardless of how your resign, write a resignation letter.  A resignation letter can help you maintain a positive relationship with your old employer, while paving the way for you to move on. You never know when you might need that old employer to give you a reference, so it makes sense to take the time to write a polished and professional resignation letter.

What to Say

Don’t say much more than you are leaving.  Emphasize the positive and talk about how the company has benefited you, but, mention that it’s time to move on. Offer to help during the transition and afterwards. Don’t be negative.  There’s no point – you’re leaving and you want to leave on good terms.

Use our sample resignation letters for suggestions on what to write.

Ask for a Reference

Before you leave, ask for a letter of recommendation from your manager. As time passes and people move on, it’s easy to lose track of previous employers. With a letter in hand, you’ll have written documentation of your credentials to give to prospective employers.

Don’t Forget the Details

Find out about the employee benefits and salary you are entitled to receive upon leaving. Inquire about continuing health insurance coverage through COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), collecting unused vacation and sick pay, and keeping, cashing in, or rolling over your 401K or other pension plan.

You may be asked to participate in an exit interview prior to your departure.  Review sample exit interview questionsto get an idea of what you’ll be asked during an exit interview.

Return Company Property

Return any company property you have – including keys, documents, computers, phones, and anything else that doesn’t belong to you.  The company doesn’t want to chase you to get it back, and you don’t want to be held responsible if it’s not returned in a timely manner.

Review Resignation Do’s and Don’ts

Before you turn in your resignation, review these resignation do’s and don’ts and resign as gracefully as possible.

 

 

By , About.com Guide

How to Develop a Social Media Policy

  • Decide who is responsible for managing and participating in social media. It is important that all employees understand and adhere to the company’ social media policy, while networking in social media online. But, one employee or a team must assume the company’s public persona and manage company social media efforts. Vigilant to follow and respond to public commentary, praise, or complaints about the company, the employee or team has official responsibility to respond in social media. While all employees should be encouraged to interact and represent the company brand, in social media, these employees should proactively handle queries, too.
    Kabani says, “The best way to find a social media advocate within the company is to seek out the person or team of people who are most passionate about communicating with customers in social media. They may already be doing so without you knowing it. Seek those people out and train them well to represent your brand.”

 

  • Establish ground rules for employee participation in social media. You walk a fine line with employees. You need to allow employees the freedom to engage in social media, yet protect the company at the same time. Kabani suggests taking a look at Intel’s social media policy which is comprehensive. The Emerging Technology Department at the Air Force has created this flow chart of their own social media guidelines and David Meerman Scott highlights their social media strategy in his blog post. Telstra offers a simple policy, so examples do exist online.

 

  • While your employees probably already exercise good common sense while participating online, your social media policy must specifically address examples of taboo topics. Confidential, proprietary, non-released company information must stay out of social media. Private and personal information about your work and your coworkers and customers must never appear online. The public image of your employees in social media, if they can be associated with your company, does matter. Nastiness, offensiveness, disparaging comments, untruthful statements, demeaning behavior, and illegal substance use, are all examples of behavior your social media policy must address.

 

  • Create a system for monitoring the social media sphere. Kabani says, “A social media policy doesn’t do much good if you don’t actually monitor the space where the conversation is happening. There are plenty of free and paid tools to monitor social media.

 

  • Make training easily available to your employees who want to participate in social media. Kabani suggests, “Think win-win. Nobody likes to be bossed around – especially when it comes to their own social networking. However, most people are open to learning about how to better leverage these social media sites to further their own careers and brands. Most people who make mistakes online just don’t know any better. If you expect your employees to utilize the social networking tools properly, you must provide training. What they put out there isn’t just a reflection of the company; it is also a reflection of them. Make it a win-win for everybody.”

Social media is expanding with millions of people worldwide interacting in ways that few dreamed possible just a short time ago. Your employees are interacting in social media. Your company should be interacting in social media, too. And, your social media policies and strategies need development now.  Take the opportunity to influence the conversation that is occurring around your company and your brand.

Don’t believe for a minute that the conversation isn’t occurring. Jump on the chance to influence the direction – now.

 

By , About.com Guide

 

 

Top 5 Ways to Destroy Trust

Trust is the foundation of all positive relationships you seek to create in your organization. Trust is one of the strongest bonds that can exist between people and customers; trust is also one of the most fragile. Once you destroy trust, break the bond of trust, trust is the most difficult facet of your culture to rebuild. You can build a culture of trust in your organization if you steer clear of actions that destroy trust. Avoid these trust busters to build a trust culture.

 

In an earlier article, I reviewed the three components of trust as defined by Dr. Duane C. Tway, Jr. He says that trust is the “state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something.” Thinking about trust as made up of the interaction and existence of these three components makes “trust” easier to understand.

The amount of trust you experience is dependent upon the degree to which you can respond affirmatively to experiencing each of these three components of trust:

  • The capacity for trusting means that your total life experiences have developed your current capacity and willingness to risk trusting others. You believe in trust. You have experienced trust and believe that trust is possible.
  • The perception of competence is made up of your perception of your ability and the ability of others with whom you work to perform competently at whatever is needed in your current situation.
  • The perception of intentions, as defined by Tway, is your perception that the actions, words, direction, mission, or decisions are motivated by mutually-serving rather than self-serving motives.

Trust is dependent on the interaction of and your experience of these three components. Trust is tough to maintain and easy to destroy.

Five Ways to Destroy Trust

For trust to exist in an organization, a certain amount of transparency must pervade the intentions, direction, actions, communication, feedback, and problem solving of particularly, executives and  managers, but also of all employees. Consequently, these are ways in which people destroy trust.

  • Employees tell lies of commission: They fail to tell the truth, often with the intention to deceive or confuse. This powerfully impacts a whole organization when the lie is perceived from leaders, but even coworker relationships are destroyed by lies of commission. A lie is a lie is a lie. If it’s not the whole truth, if it requires preparation and wordsmithing, if you need to remember the details to ensure you don’t change your story in the retelling, you are probably telling a lie. Or, at the very least, part of your story is a lie. People who are untrustworthy derail their careers. Can you imagine the impact of lies on an organization when the liar is a senior manager?
  • Employees tell lies by omission: A lie of omission is a deliberate attempt to deceive another person by omitting portions of the truth. Lies of omission are particularly egregious as they give people false impressions and attempt to influence behavior by omitting important details. Once again, the more powerful the perpetrator of the lie in the organization, the more significantly trust is affected. But, an individual can derail their career by using this deception ploy, when caught.
  • Fail to walk the talk:  No matter the work program, cultural expectation, management style, or change initiative, you will destroy trust if you fail to demonstrate the quality or behavioral expectation, if you fail to walk the talk. Words are easy; it is the behavior that demonstrates your expectations in action that helps employees trust you.
    You can’t, as an example, state that participative management and employee empowerment are the desired form of leadership in your organization, unless you demonstrate these expectations in your everyday actions. Customer service is a joke if a complaining customer is labeled “wrong” or a jerk.”
  • Fail to do what you say you are going to do: Few employees expect that every statement,  goal and / or projection that you make will come true.  Sales will be up 10%. No layoffs are anticipated. We will hire ten new employees this quarter. Working the reception desk alone is a temporary fix until we fill the open position with a second receptionist. My assignment will be complete by the end of the first quarter.
    If you make a statement, commitment, or projection, employees expect what you said to happen. You destroy trust if the end result never occurs. You can avoid destroying trust by communicating honestly and frequently about:
    –how you set the initial goal, –what is interfering with the accomplishment of the initial goal, –how and why your projection has changed, –what employees can expect going forward, and –how you will avoid similar miscalls in the future.
    Honest communication is key to building employee and coworker trust.
  • Make random, haphazard, unexpected changes for no apparent reason: Keeping employees off balance may sound like an effective approach to creating agility in your organization. But, random change produces the opposite effect. People get used to their comfortable way of doing things. They get used to the mood the boss characteristically exhibits when she arrives at the office. They expect no consequences when deadlines are missed – because there have never been any in the past.
    Any change must be communicated with the rationale behind the change made clear. A starting date for implementation and participation from employees whose jobs are affected by the change will keep you from destroying trust. A sincere and thoughtful demonstration that the change is well-thought-out and not arbitrary will help employees trust you. An explanation for a change of mood or a different approach goes a long way to prevent the destruction of trust.

 

 

By , About.com Guide

Phone Interview Do’s and Don’ts

By , About.com Guide

 

A phone interview sounds easy, doesn’t it? You don’t have to get dressed in your best interview attire, travel to a company’s office, or interview one-on-one with a hiring manager. Instead, you’re interviewing on the phone from the comfort of home.

It’s not as easy as it seems though. You can blow a phone interview just as easily as you can blow an in-person interview. Dropped calls, background noise, not knowing about the company, and/or not being prepared to respond to interview questions can knock you out of contention for a job.

Review these tips for how to conduct a phone interview and what not to do when you’re interviewing via the telephone to make sure your phone interviews get you to the next step in the hiring process.

Phone Interview Do’s and Don’ts

Create a checklist. Review the job posting and make a list of how your qualifications match the hiring criteria. Have the list available so you can glance at it during the interview. Also have a copy of your resume in clear view, so you don’t have to remember what you did when.

Research the job and the company. Take some time to research the job and the company. The more prepared you are for the interview, the smoother it will go.

Prepare for phone interview questions. Review answers to typical phone interview questions and think about how you’re going to respond.

Use a land line. Unless your cell phone service is 100% all the time, use a land line instead of a cell phone. That way you won’t have to worry about dropped calls and getting disconnected.

Turn off call waiting. If you have call waiting turn it off. The beep of an incoming call is distracting and can make you lose your focus.

Get rid of the distractions. Interview in a private quiet space. That means securing a babysitter if you have small children at home and kicking the dog, the cat, and the rest of the household members out of your interview space.

Have a glass of water nearby. There isn’t much worse than having a tickle in your throat or a cough starting when you need to talk on the phone. Have a glass of water handy so you can take a quick sip if your mouth gets dry or there’s a catch in your throat.

Take notes. It’s hard to remember what you discussed after the fact, so take brief notes during the interview.

Focus, listen, and enunciate. It’s important to focus on the interview and that can be harder on the phone than in-person. Be sure to listen to the question, ask for clarification if you’re not sure what the interviewer is asking, and speak slowly, carefully, and clearly when you respond. It’s fine to take a few seconds to compose your thoughts before you answer.

Pay attention to body language. This might sound strange, but your body language matters on the phone almost as much as it does during a face-to-face meeting. Focus on the interviewer, smile, and think positive. You’ll make a better impression.

Multi-task. This won’t work for everyone, but if you can multi-task have the company’s website open in your browser, so you can quickly check for company information if it comes up in the conversation.

Have questions to ask the interviewer ready. Be prepared to respond when the interview asks whether you have any questions for him or her. Review these questions to ask the interviewer and have a few ready in advance.

Follow up after the phone interview. Ask for the interviewer’s email address, if you don’t already have it. Send out an email thank you note immediately, thanking the interviewer and reiterating your interest in the job. Use your thank you note as a way, as well, to provide information on anything regarding your qualifications you didn’t get a chance to mention during the phone interview.

Resume Length

How long should your resume be? The answer is that the length of your resume depends – on how much experience you have and what level candidate you are.

If you’re an entry level candidate less is more and a page should be plenty. For more experienced candidates it’s fine to have a longer resume.

Resume Length Tips

How long is too long?  The length of your resume should be based on your experience and the type of job you’re seeking.  Some general guidelines are:

Less is more for entry level applicants.Entry level job seekers or those transitioning between career fields should stick to a one page resume.

Other times, a little extra is OK.  or mid-level candidates with around five to ten years of experience or anyone whose field requires technical or engineering skills, a two-page resume is common.  It allows enough space to include all of the pertinent information in a readable manner.  The key is to fill all, or at least three-quarters, of the second page with relevant and helpful information so that recruiter’s attention is not drawn to the blank space on the second page.

Senior executives can write away. Executives or senior-level managers with a long list of accomplishments in their field – or those in an academic or scientific field whose experience includes a number of publications, licenses or patents – are the only people who should be circulating a resume that is three pages or longer.  When a multiple-page resume is appropriate, an addendum can be used after page two. This allows job seekers the option of including the full document depending on the requirements of the job.

 

 

By , About.com Guide

6 Tips To Manage Conflict Between Staff Members

Monday 16  January, 2012 by Profiles International

Contrary to the popular phrase “ignorance is bliss”, it’s not – especially if you’re the manager of two workers who genuinely don’t get along. When two employees hate each other, their animosity can turn a healthy working environment into a cancer ward. Whatever the reason, it is in everyone’s best interest to address and resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

Coworker conflict will always come up; noone can be everyone’s best friend. But coworkers need to be civil and able to work together. The longer the dislike endures, the more likely it is that it will hurt their productivity and that of those around them.

Some would argue that creative tension among peers and coworkers can yield superior results due to the competition and rivalry that is formed. While this might be true in some situations on a project basis, in a day-to-day sense, it can easily establish a permanent us-versus-them culture that devolves into conflict.

If the conflict is among hourly workers, you might be inclined to ignore the spat, or perhaps discipline the employees if it has affected their performance. You may even just let one or both of them go to avoid the drama. However, when the feud is between professional staff, the situation becomes more complicated. And when the conflict is between peers who are vying for an upcoming vacancy due to executive succession planning, emotions and ambitions can get the best of us.

Dislike among workers can stem from any number of work- or nonwork-related issues. Perhaps they’re from different social circles or have differing backgrounds; it could be the way they do (or don’t do) their work; or something trivial such as the sound of their voice or malodorous lunch they eat in your vicinity. No matter the reason, you need to address it – and fast.

You’ve probably encountered people in your personal or professional lives who always seem to be mired in drama and have a knack for dragging others into their issues. If you think “Here we go again” regarding one of the employees involved in the conflict, then that’s probably a sign that the person needs to change their attitude or be sacrificed.

Here’s another thought: if you allow coworker conflict to linger without addressing it, one of the workers (or both, or an uninvolved third worker) could go around you to your boss, making an uncomfortable situation worse. The implications will be clear: “This was brought to the manager’s attention, and they either chose to ignore it, or didn’t know how to deal with it. They’re incompetent”. This could backfire on them, but the damage to your reputation will be done.

6 outcomes of coworker conflict

Once you’ve been made aware of your employees not getting along, here are 6 possible outcomes of resolving conflict among coworkers:

  1. Both parties work out their differences, rise above, and move on
  2. Both parties agree to disagree, but get past it and move on
  3. Both parties say they’ve moved on, but one or both secretly harbor continued ill will. Negativity lurks and performance soon begins to dip
  4. One party sucks it up and acquiesces while the other seemingly “wins.” Conflict could continue
  5. The “wrong” party won’t budge and needs to be removed from the department and possibly let go
  6. The situation damages both workers and both leave

Tips for resolving and avoiding coworker conflict

Each situation will be different, but here are some ways to deal with feuding employees and try to avoid it in the future:

  1. Meet with the feuding coworkers to see if you can remedy the situation. Do this quickly to avoid letting it fester and spiral out of control.
  2. Alert your boss to the situation so that they’re not blindsided by any necessary disciplinary actions now or in the future.
  3. Involve HR as necessary, which could be as an independent mediator, to put difficult employees on notice or probation, or to begin the process of transferring the troublemakers to another department or location.
  4. Advocate an environment of respect, tolerance, and civility in the office.
  5. Maintain an open dialogue with your employees. Freely sharing information and updates on the company and department will quell the need for gossip and rumours.
  6. Review your policies on use of company email and social media sites. Some disgruntled employees will take their rants online either within or outside of the company. Know your company’s electronic media policies and communicate them with all employees.

How to Walk Your Talk

If you work in an organization, you’ve heard this complaint repeatedly. Leaders and managers say they want change and continuous improvement but their actions do not match their words. The leaders’ exhortations to employees ring false when their subsequent actions contradict their words. A CEO once asked me, “Why do they do what I do and not what I tell them to do?” Another asked, “Do I really have to change, too?” These are scary questions coming from leaders.

The power of an organization’s leaders in creating the organization’s values, environment, culture and actions is immeasurable. Want to know how to “walk the talk” to enable organization change and improvement? Want to take the power away from the oft-repeated employee complaint that managers don’t walk their talk? Start here to learn how to walk your talk. Or, use these ideas to help your organization’s leaders and managers walk theirs. It’s the shortest journey to empower change and the work environment they desire.

Tips for Walking Your Talk

The most important tip comes first. If you do this first action well, the rest will follow more naturally. If the ideas you are promoting are congruent with your core beliefs and values, these actions will come easily, too. So, start with a deep understanding of “why” you want to see the change or improvement. Make certain it is congruent with what you deeply believe. Then, understand and follow these guidelines.

  • Model the behavior you want to see from others. There is nothing more powerful for employees than observing the “big bosses” do the actions or behaviors they are requesting from others. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Become the change you wish to see in the world.” And, it will happen.
  • If you make a rule or design a process, follow it, until you decide to change it. Why would employees follow the rules if the rule makers don’t?
  • Act as if you are part of the team, not always the head of it. Dig in and do actual work, too. People will appreciate that you are personally knowledgeable about the effort needed to get the work done. They will trust your leadership because you have undergone their experience.
  • Help people achieve the goals that are important to them, as well as the goals that are important to you. Make sure there is something for each of you that will result from the effort and work.
  • Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t make rash promises that you can’t keep. People want to trust you and your leadership.
  • Build commitment to your organization’s big goal. (You do have a big, overarching goal, don’t you? Other than to make money, why does your organization exist?)
  • Use every possible communication tool to build commitment and support for the big goal, your organization’s values and the culture you want to create. This includes what you discuss at meetings, in your corporate blog, on your Intranet, and so forth.
  • Hold strategic conversations with people so people are clear about expectations and direction. Gerard Kleisterlee, Philips’ president, is holding strategic conversations with as many groups as he can. “In order to build internal confidence, stimulate cross-boundary cooperation, and spark new-product speed to market, Kleisterlee is sponsoring what he calls ‘strategic conversations’: dialogues that center around a focused set of themes that Kleisterlee believes will define Philips’ future.”
  • Ask senior managers to police themselves. They must provide feedback to each other when they fail to walk their talk. It is not up to the second level managers and other employees to point out inconsistencies. (Confronting a manager takes courage, facts and a broad understanding of the organization.) Senior managers must be accountable to each other for their own behavior.

In 1513, Machiavelli wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old system and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one.”

Given these thoughts from Machiavelli – true for centuries – provide leadership and sponsorship through walking your talk. Incorporate these tips and behaviors to ensure the success of your organization. Walk your talk.

 

By , About.com Guide

Increasing Employee Morale: 4 Strategies That Will Not Break the Bank

As of September 6, 2011 there have been 449 bank closures in the US since 2008.  When you compare that to the three closures during the years of 2005 to 2007, it is easy to see that the future for any company in the financial industry is somewhat bleak. Many other companies having also been feeling the effects of the failing economy since 2008.
Financial institutions and other companies within the financial industry had been one of the hardest hit because of the misrepresentation of many securities tied to home mortgages.  Soon after, regulators started to audit any financial company or institution that showed signs of weakness.  In some instances, the regulators took over and eventually forced closure of these financial institutions.  With scrutiny from the public and its regulators, it was difficult being a banker.  In industry where most banks are doomed to fail, how does a bank, a financial institution succeed?  The key to any company’s success is their employees; this is any company’s most valuable asset.  To effectively manage and keep this group alive you need a knowledgeable and tactful Human Resources department.  This department needs to have professionals with strong interpersonal skills to maneuver through sticky situations.  In a crisis similar to what was happening in 2008, strong interpersonal skills will allow this department to improve employee morale and motivation even when the budget to do so is scarce.  Here is a list of the four easy and inexpensive ways to improve employee morale and motivation in slow economic times:
1. Build Trust—being able to build and sustain trust among your employees will increase people’s confidence and performance. This is done through open communication.  For example, at South County Bank Diane, HR Director, and Kent, President teamed up to organize bank-wide meetings where information was shared about the Bank’s bottom line, where the company was headed, and answer any questions.  These meetings stopped one of the South County Bank’s biggest morale killers: rumors.  With everything out in the open there was no speculation about what was really happening.
2. Give Recognition—in times where there is not much to celebrate, how do you encourage employees to work hard?  Through simple and low budget recognition programs, like employee of the month.  South County Bank uses their monthly meetings as platform to recognize employees for yearly anniversaries’ and performance successes.  At one of the first meetings, Derek, Relationship Manager, was recognized for collecting late fees.  Seems real simple, huh? And it is!  Employees in the Credit Department were so use to waiving fees that collecting fees were unheard.  This old way of thinking stopped once an incentive was tied to collecting fees.  Employees will appreciate this recognition and know that their hard work does not go unnoticed.  Other employee will want to work harder so they too will be recognized as a top performer in front of their peers.
3. Create a Great Company Culture—employee morale is most high when a company has a great company culture.  This can easily been done through increased training and growth opportunities for employees.  When employees see growth in their positions, their job satisfaction and happiness will follow.  At South County Bank, the HR department created a new training program to deepen employees’ knowledge of their job.  This empowered the employees to make better decisions and have educated conversations with the customers about their accounts and different products.
4. Bring Back Casual Dress Day—using this as a reward for employees for meeting goals can increase employee morale.  In a financial institution, this is a little harder to implement because customers are dealt with on a daily basis.  Diane and Kent, at South County Bank, reinstated casual dress by allowing employees to dress appropriately for their day.  Meaning if they were working with customers they needed to dress up or in the stock room they could wear jeans.  Top management also allowed people who did not have face-to-face customer contact to wear jeans on Fridays.
In a failing economy, companies need to concentrate on keeping employee morale and motivation high to ensure their companies’ survival.  Human Resources is the department to look towards for the solutions and programs to manage this.  Through the strong interpersonal skills of the HR department this can be achieved.  When morale and motivation are low, the HR department can execute low-cost initiatives to turn it around.   Better morale leads to a better workplace attracting and retaining the workforce needed to succeed when times are tough.  HR has the skills to find, hire, and place the right people in open positions.  Using these four easy ways to improve morale and motivation can spell success for any company.  It means going back to the basics looking at what you have to work with, seeing where you need to be, and knowing the small steps that will get you there.

 

Contributor: Cassandra Phillips

Overworked? 4 Signs You Need to Recharge

By Jeff Haden

Take a cue from endurance athletes: Here are four ways to tell you’re about to hit a performance wall.

Sometimes it’s obvious we need a break, but in most cases we figure it out too late. When you work double-digit hours and Sundays are no longer a day of rest, feeling overworked can become the new normal. Even so you’ll eventually hit a wall, and when that happens it can take days and even weeks to recover the enthusiasm, creativity, and motivation you’ve lost.

Fortunately a few of the same techniques endurance athletes use to detect the need for additional recovery can be used to indicate when you need to recharge your work batteries. Where elite athletes are concerned, chronic overtraining can actually defeat the fitness purpose and result in decreased stamina, power, and speed; sometimes the harder they work the slower they get.

The same thing happens to us when we’re overworked. We put in more hours to compensate… and get even less done. So how can you tell the difference between feeling overworked and really overworking yourself?

I asked Jeremiah Bishop for some simple techniques anyone can use to avoid hitting a wall. Jeremiah is a professional mountain bike rider for Cannondale Factory Racing. He’s a twelve-time member of the U.S. national team and is to mountain bike racing what an NBA All-Star is to basketball (except he’s currently not out on strike).

Here are ways to ensure you stay at your professional best:

Check your resting heart rate. Every day, before you get out of bed, take your pulse. (There are plenty of free apps that make it easy. Some even log results.) Most of the time your heart rate will stay within a few beats per minute. But when you’re overworked and stressed your body sends more oxygen to your body and brain by increasing your heart rate. (The same thing happens when athletes overtrain and their bodies struggle to recover.) If your heart rate is up in the morning, do whatever it takes to get a little extra rest or sleep that night.

Check your emotions. Having a bad day? Feeling irritable and short-tempered? If you can’t put your finger on a specific reason why, chronic stress and fatigue may have triggered a physiological response and sent more cortisol and less dopamine to your brain. Willing yourself to be in a better mood won’t overcome the impact of chemistry, and in extreme cases the only cure is a break.

Check your weight. Lose or gain more than a percent of body weight from one day to the next and something’s wrong. Maybe yesterday was incredibly stressful and you failed to notice you didn’t eat and drink enough… or maybe you failed to notice just how much you actually ate. Lack of nourishment and hydration can put the hurt on higher-level mental functions (which may be why when we’re overworked and feeling stressed we instinctively want to perform routine, less complex tasks.) And eating too much food—well, we all know the impact of that.

Check your, um, output. Urine color can indicate a lack of hydration (although sometimes it indicates you created really expensive urine after eating a ton of vitamins your body could not absorb.) The lighter the color the more hydrated you are. Hydration is a good thing. Proper hydration aids the absorption of nutrients and helps increase energy levels. If your urine is darker than usual the cure is simple: Drink a lot of water.

The key is to monitor each of these over a period of time so you develop a feel for what is normal for you. Pay special attention on weekends and vacations, and if you notice a dramatic change, especially a positive one, that’s a sure sign you need to change your workday routine.

Don’t say this sounds like something only elite athletes need to worry about. We all want to be the best we can possibly be, no matter what our profession, and whenever we slam into the workload wall we are far from our best.

And don’t say you don’t have the time to take a short break or get a little more sleep. You owe it to yourself to find a way.

Eventually your mind and your body will hit a wall and make you, so why not do take care of yourself, and improve your performance, on your terms?

 

Overcome Your Fear of Confrontation and Conflict

A former colleague holds complete conversations in his head with  people with whom he is angry. He rarely speaks directly with the other person.  This anger in his mind continues to build because of his frustration, yet  he  never lets the other person know that he is frustrated and subsequently  angry. His conflict avoidance almost cost him his marriage because he didn’t  let  his wife into the conversations he was having with her; but by himself.

It  was almost too late by the time he did bring her into the real  conversation. His need to avoid confrontation is so strong that he has a safe  confrontation in his mind and feels that he has dealt with the issue. As  you  can imagine, this doesn’t work – especially for the other person   involved.

Are you guilty of holding mental conflicts and confrontations?

Many people are uncomfortable when it comes to confrontation. I  understand the concept of having the conversation in your head; so you   can  plan out what you want to say and how you want to say it. Sometimes these mental   conversations are enough to settle the issue, as you realize you   are making too much out of a simple situation.

I know that I have spent  hours lying in bed at night having conversations with people with whom I am angry  and  frustrated. Not only does this practice disrupt your sleep, your attitude and  your  health, it never really resolves the issue, and is potentially   damaging to your relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that you need to confront every action. If you have the conversation once in your head, don’t worry about it. If  it  comes back and you have it again, perhaps start thinking about holding    a real conversation. By the third “in your head” confrontation, you  need to start planning how you will deal with the real confrontation,  because it looks as if you are going to need to do that.

How to Hold a Real, Necessary Conflict or Confrontation

Start by preparing yourself to confront the real issue. Be able to  state  the issue in one (or two), non-emotional, factual based sentences.

For example, assume you want to confront your coworker for   taking all of the credit for the work that the two of you did together on a project.  Instead of saying, “You took all the credit, blah, blah, blah…” and venting  your  frustration, which is what you might say in your mind, rephrase your approach using  the above guidelines.

Say instead, “It looks as if I played no role in the Johnson account. My name does not  appear anywhere on the document, nor I have been given credit anywhere that I can see.”  (I’ve used additional communication techniques such as “I” language as  well in this statement. Notice that I avoided using the words “I feel” because that is an emotional statement, without proof and facts. The facts in this statement cannot be disputed, but an “I feel” statement is easy for your coworker to refute.)

Make your initial statement and stop talking.

When the person you are confronting responds, allow them to respond. It’s a human tendency, but don’t make the mistake of adding to your initial statement, to further justify the statement. Defending why you feel  the way you do will generally just create an argument.  Say what you want to say (the confrontation), then just allow the other person to  respond.

Especially since you’ve probably held the conversation in your head a few times, you may think you “know” how the other person is going to respond. But, it’s a mistake to jump to that point before they have the opportunity to respond. Resist the temptation to say anything else at this point. Let them respond.

Avoid arguing during the confrontation.

Confrontation does not mean fight. It means: state what you have say.  Listen  to what they have to say. Many times it actually ends right there. Do you  need  to prove the other person right or wrong? Does someone have to take blame? Get   your  frustration off your chest, and move on.

Figure out the conflict resolution you want before the confrontation.

If you approached your coworker with the initial statement, “You took all the credit, blah, blah, blah…”  her response is likely going to be quite defensive. Perhaps she’ll say something like,  “Yes, you have been given credit. I said both of our names to the boss just last  week.”

If you already know what you are looking for in the confrontation, this is where you move the conversation. Don’t get into an argument about whether she did or didn’t  mention anything to the boss last week – that isn’t really the issue and  don’t let it distract you from accomplishing the goal of the confrontation.

Your response could be, “I would appreciate if in the future that we  use both of our names on any documentation, and include each other in all of the  correspondence about the project.”

Focus on the real issue of the confrontation.

The other party will either agree or disagree. Keep to the issue at this point, and  avoid all temptation to get into an argument. Negotiate, but don’t fight.  The issue is you aren’t receiving credit, and you want your name on the  documentation. That’s it. It isn’t about blame, about who is right or  wrong or anything other than your desired resolution.

You will rarely look forward to confrontation; you may never become completely comfortable with, or even skilled in, confrontation. However, it is important that you say  something when you are frustrated and angry. If you can’t stand up for yourself, who  will?

 

 

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