Category Archives: Advice

Staying Productive While You’re Snowed-In

Stay productive while snowed-in!
Stay productive while snowed-in!

Many of us along the Eastern seaboard – and in areas across the country – are stuck inside after record-breaking snow, resulting in slick streets, icy roads, and general weather yuckiness. Sure, we would like to go out and make snow angels with the kids, or catch up on some guilty pleasure TV (cue the Housewives of whatever city), but the truth of the matter is that we still have to work despite the weather.

So, here are five tips to keep you focused and productive while you are stuck indoors working.

Play first, then work

If you are like me, snow is actually a welcomed friend that I’m happy to see. So, to shake off the excitability and get focused, allow yourself time to revel at the winter wonderland for a few moments, including calling your loved ones to commiserate, and then get your workspace ready and operational. Having satisfied the kid inside of you before getting to work, you can reduce the urge to stray away from work.

Prioritize your day

You probably prioritize work responsibilities anyway, so tweak your agenda to include unanticipated interruptions, scheduling a play date for the kids because school is closed, shoveling the sidewalk, impromptu office teleconferences, and altered project due dates. If you are the most productive early in the morning, work on the most complicated tasks, or the assignments that take the most time to complete, at the beginning of the day.

Give yourself a break

For some people, working solo at home means that they can work nonstop with little interruption. That means progress, right? Sometimes, it can lead to burnout, brain freeze and frustration. So, schedule brief reprieves during your home-day workday. Take a coffee or tea break, make sure you have a bite to eat for lunch, and give those fast fingers a break from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

Stay connected

Staying connected with co-workers and team members while working from home during bad weather creates camaraderie, and keeps you on task. Checking in also helps you stay in touch on project updates, gain management input, and inspire collaboration through trading ideas in a more relaxed environment (your home!) and one-on-one conversations that may not happen during a normal day at work.

In addition, if snowy weather gets you down, staying connected to co-workers can help ease the effects of cabin fever.

Establish a routine and stick with it

Discipline can be tough in the best of circumstances. Staying on task when working alone at home can test your resolve, so it is a good idea to establish a work routine – especially if you anticipate being at home for more than one day – to help you keep on track with expectations from your supervisor, client, and colleagues on your project team.

Do you have any tips that help you productive during a wild weather shut-in? Share in the comment section below, or Tweet us using #ATSSnowDay

EDITOR’S NOTE: This entry was originally posted on December 9, 2013. It was updated on March 2, 2015.

DISCLAIMER: Since its original debut on MySpace in 2004 as Midweek Musings, ASK THE STRATEGIST is a blog that highlights information on business, entrepreneurship, careers and the workplace, health, community, and women. Any content or advice dispensed through Ask The Strategist is solely for informational and entertainment purposes. All content, unless otherwise noted, is the property of Ask the Strategist and its affiliates, and may not be re-published without express written permission from the Editor.

About the Blogger: Kesi Stribling

Kesi Stribling, Editor, Ask The Strategist
Kesi Stribling, Editor, Ask The Strategist

How to Survive a Horrible Boss

The follow-up to the 2011 hit movie, Horrible Bosses, is set to debut on November 26th, so I thought it may be a good idea to repost the Ask The Strategist entry, Surviving Horrible Bosses. Since the movie sequel, Horrible Bosses 2, will include new plot twists and characters, our post has been updated, as well.

Enjoy and feel free to share a horrible boss story of your own, including how you survived him/her, in the reply section below.

How to Survive a Horrible Boss

Horrible Bosses pulled in $28.3 million during its premier weekend in 2011. That should come as no surprise as the summer typically draws the masses to cooler environments for entertainment. Movie theaters are the perfect place to enjoy a little humor while keeping cool. The draw, however, was not solely the promise of frigid air for a few hours. Folks flocked to the big screen comedy to gain a glimpse into the characters’ world of horrible bosses – and how they dealt with these annoying rabble-rousers.

Don't let a Horrible Boss Get You Down
Don’t let a Horrible Boss Get You Down

In Horrible Bosses, art imitates life for some of us. We have, or have heard about, horror stories involving supervisors who demonstrate weird behavior in the workplace: sexual harassment, slacking off and doing no work, or basic ineptitude.

Characters played by Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, and Charlie Day are believable on the big screen, even though their zany plans to eliminate their horrible bosses is absurd. For the rest of us real people, how can we bear the burden of horrible bosses, get our work done, and even thrive in a dysfunctional environment without resorting to the far-fetched hijinks of this crew?

In all fairness, there are probably multitudes of great, supportive supervisors out there. For those poor souls who brave the horrible bosses every day, here are some helpful strategies for dealing with them.

Know who you are dealing with and act accordingly

If your boss morphs into the Incredible Hulk when employees approach her early in the morning, take this cue to ask any questions or get feedback later in the day. You can easily gauge your supervisor’s personality by taking time to observe her in the workplace. This includes how she treats her inner circle, including the executive assistant, human resources manager, and any interns assigned to the department. Does she treat certain individuals differently? If your boss seems to become more pleasant with an individual than the rest of the team, figure out why.

Does that employee anticipate what your supervisor will ask for and have it in advance? Does the staff member exert extra initiative? Does the employee cower or stand up for his or her rights in the workplace? Take a moment to study an employee who seems to get some level of respect from horrible bosses (yes, there is usually one), figure out how the positive interaction can work for you, and implement the process for yourself. Take care to avoid artificiality. Bosses will notice it, and it may place you in a less desirable situation than you are already in at work.

Don’t give them an inch and they won’t be able to take a yard

Some bad bosses simply get away with bad behavior because employees, who want to make a good impression when they begin work, change the game in mid-play. Most people, at work and in life, get used to the way people behave and respond.

If you started the job with a can-do, bend over backwards to get it done spirit, your supervisor will always think of you as a go-to person who never says no. Even when it is 7:00 p.m. and you are trying to leave the office to pick up your son at daycare before it closes at 7:15 p.m., a bad boss will expect you to call your spouse, neighbor, or stranger to collect your kid from the babysitter. Having a little backbone in the beginning, while still displaying the ultimate professionalism, helps curtail excessive expectations from an insensitive supervisor.

Let them know when enough is enough

There are times when a bad boss’ behavior crosses the line – morally and legally. I do not recommend that you consider hit men to take care of these annoying individuals as the protagonists did in the movie Horrible Bosses. Instead, do three things: take your temperature; get feedback; and, put them in their places.

Taking your temperature – or surveying yourself to identify if you are responding appropriately, or are overreacting – is the first step in identifying what, if anything, you should say to a cantankerous supervisor. Consider the boss’ behavior. Is the perceived violation a personal affront? Offensive to everyone? Offensive to women, transgendered, or racially different (from the supervisor) employees? A bad mood leading to a one-off slight?

If the temperature is off the charts, the next step is to get feedback from someone else. It always helps to get another perspective. A coworker who reports to the same supervisor, or has witnessed bad behavior by the boss, can shed light on the situation and help you determine if you should advance to the final step: put them in their places.

There are many ways to check bad behavior in the workplace. If your supervisor’s activities warrant intervention, there is a way to address the behavior professionally, and without potential repercussions. If you have a good relationship with your horrible boss (it can happen – think about the weird, but workable, relationship between Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute on The Office), then you may be able to gently approach the subject. If your supervisor is not that congenial, you may want to take the situation to your human resources department and let the HR professional deal with your supervisor directly. Not only does it take the pressure off you, it lessens the likelihood of potential retaliation if human resources handles the issue appropriately.

Become indispensable at work

Chances are that if you are indispensable in the workplace, horrible bosses may check their rude behavior so that you do not quit your job. They may still be ill tempered and rude; however, these supervisors generally know not to press their luck with you.

Develop and display your exceptional skills – fiscal responsibility, the ability to troubleshoot and fix office technology, or exceptional speech writing capabilities – that your horrible boss relies upon to get through his or her day. When people have to ask you to do things, they are less likely to tick you off for fear that you may not help them or will be reluctant to assist when you are truly needed. Sadly, this is a reality in some workplace environments.

Get your backup plan ready

If you decide that you’ve had enough, and the “higher ups” refuse to deal with your boss’ behavior, then get your resume ready and network with others within your industry until you can make the transition into a different department, or work at a new company.

Detail your work functions and contributions on your CV and the impact they have had within your division. Be sure to include the results the company gained by your hard work – reduction in customer wait time, increased satisfaction rate or revenue, or the creation of new business opportunities. Once you have polished your resume, update and overhaul your social media presence, especially on the professional networking site LinkedIn.

Your objective is to shore up your experience without needing your supervisor’s recommendation or endorsement for your next gig. What professional alliances and relationships have your created since working at the company? These networks should serve as references for future employers, or provide you guidance on transitioning into another work environment. So often, employees feel stuck in a job with toxic supervisors because they have not devised their own career plans, and end up staying in unhealthy situations. Getting your plan ready before you need can help you survive, and sidestep, a horrible boss.

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ABOUT THE BLOGGER: Kesi Stribling

Kesi Stribling, Editor, Ask The Strategist
Kesi Stribling, Editor, Ask The Strategist

DISCLAIMER: Since its original debut on MySpace in 2004 as Midweek Musings, ASK THE STRATEGIST is a blog that highlights information on business, entrepreneurship, careers and the workplace, health, community, and women. Any content or advice dispensed through Ask The Strategist is solely for informational and entertainment purposes. All content, unless otherwise noted, is the property of Ask the Strategist and its affiliates, and may not be re-published without express written permission from the Editor.

The Rules of Civility

In an era of seemingly uncivil people (cue any Real Housewives franchise slap fest), I recently stumbled upon Rules of Civility: The 110 Precepts That Guided Our First President in War and Peace, edited by Richard Brookhiser.

Originally published in 1997, with a healthy update from Brookhiser in 2003, Rules of Civility pre-empted the onslaught of reality television, and stories of soccer moms behaving badly on the field. This book takes a refreshing look at sage advice President George Washington followed, notions he learned as a child in the 1700s.

TheRulesofCivility-RichardBrookhiser While a few rules appear outdated (rule #9 – spit not into the fire, nor stoop low before it), the majority of ways to conduct oneself are practical, especially when it comes to governing ourselves in business. More than a primer on etiquette, Rules of Civility focuses on the motivation beyond the action. For example, rule #23 admonishes that “when you see a crime punished, you may be inwardly pleased, but always show pity to the suffering offender.” The motivation is to treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Here are the top five career-related rules:

1. Rule #12: Shake not your head, feet, or legs, roll not the eyes, lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, wry not the mouth, and bedew no man’s face with your spittle by approaching too near him when you speak.

These are a few non-verbal communication deal breakers that job seekers interviewing for a position, and entrepreneurs meeting with potential clients and investors, should avoid.

2. Rule #15: Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean, yet without showing any great concern for them.

Be neat, tidy, and professionally garbed when you interview for a job, or go to work everyday; however, take care not to overly emphasize your appearance, for it can make you appear conceited and superficial.

3. Rule #35: Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.

Brevity, when speaking with business leaders – men and women – is always a plus. We can all do without listening to a monopolized company meeting, whether it’s the supervisor or employee.

4. Rule #40: Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.

The boss – or customer – is always right. Also, do not be heavy handed with your judgment, so as not to embarrass your co-workers or become the office know-it-all.

5. Rule #82: Undertake not what you cannot perform but be careful to keep your promise.

As the adage says, under-promise and over-deliver. Enough said.

 Which of these rules hit home the most for you? Let us know in the comment section below.

NOTE: This updated post first appeared on the original Ask The Strategist website on August 6, 2011.

About the Blogger: Kesi Stribling

Kesi Stribling, Editor, Ask The Strategist
Kesi Stribling, Editor, Ask The Strategist

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: ASK THE STRATEGIST is a blog that highlights information on business, entrepreneurship, careers and the workplace, health, community, and women. Any content or advice dispensed through Ask The Strategist is solely for informational and entertainment purposes. Never miss ASK THE STRATEGIST blog posts! Have them delivered to your inbox by subscribing. All content, unless otherwise noted, is the property of Ask the Strategist and its affiliates, and may not be re-published without express written permission from the Editor.

Tips Every Intern Should Know Before Networking

By Madeleine Marshall

I’m not new to Washington, DC. Even though I live in Georgia, I feel connected to DC through family. I fancy that I have had similar childhood experiences as those who also grew up here: Being mad when your parents refuse to go to the mall to watch the fireworks on July 4th, playing tennis with new friends at the park in Chevy Chase, and, making a trek to various monuments every time a new friend moves to the area. I may not be new to visiting DC, but I am certainly new to its professional scene.

As an intern for the first time in the Capital City, I find myself surrounded by others like me, who have embarked on their annual internship pilgrimage to DC. The experience can be intimidating; and, regardless of what people say on sites, like Yik Yak, interns are often appreciated by their company leaders and colleagues. But, what about connecting with others outside of the workplace?

Pump up your networking savvy
Pump up your networking savvy

One of the most important things to do as an emerging professional in DC is to go to networking events where you don’t know anyone. While it’s nice to ask a bunch of coworkers to come with you to a networking event, odds are, if you do that, you will spend the whole evening socializing with them, and not making any new connections. Friends are comfortable. Taking a risk and introducing yourself to someone who could be valuable in the future is not. But boldness pays off.

Recently, I prepared myself to attend one of these networking events where I know no one. Being organized and prepared is key. I wrote a list of talking points and listened to a pump up playlist while getting ready. My tips to developing talking points include writing down silly stories that have happened to you lately, your interests, your elevator pitch, and things that inspire you.

Once you’ve finished the talking points, get ready by dressing for success. Once you arrive at the event, network with people above your professional level. Be charming and polite. Listen to others and they will listen to you.

Always remember that it’s okay to spend a few minutes off to the side while you take the temperature of the room or venue. This will help your confidence as you formulate a game plan to meet others. And lastly, it’s not useful to have a million people on your contact list if none of them take a particular interest in you. It’s your job to make the people who matter like you and see your potential so that they will want to stay in contact with you in the long run.

About the blogger: Madeleine Marshall

Maddy Marshall, Guest Blogger
Maddy Marshall, Guest Blogger

Guest blogger Madeleine (Maddy) Marshall is a rising junior at Mount Holyoke College pursuing a double major in International Relations and French. She is highly involved in the Student Government Association (SGA), including service on the Career Development Center (CDC) Advisory Committee and the Committee for Senate Continuity. Maddy traveled to Haiti to volunteer with a program involved with micro lending to women entrepreneurs in the Cap Haitien area last spring, bringing her one step closer to the ultimate goal of a career as a diplomat to a French and Arabic speaking country.

DISCLAIMER: ASK THE STRATEGIST is a blog that highlights information on business, entrepreneurship, careers and the workplace, health, community, and women. Any content or advice dispensed through Ask The Strategist is solely for informational and entertainment purposes. Never miss ASK THE STRATEGIST blog posts! Have them delivered to your inbox by subscribing.