Dodge These ‘Dirty Dozen’

16010132Ah, “The Dirty Dozen.”

No, I’m not talking about the iconic western. The phrase popped into my mind when I read this Business Insider story about 12 ways you’re sabotaging your career.

Some of the mistakes are pretty obvious. Acting like you can’t learn anything new, for instance, has “bad move” written all over it. Some are less apparent – and the “offenders” may not even realize their blunders.

Career development specialist and author Sylvia Hepler offers comments on each of the missteps. Here is a memorable trio:

  • Criticizing your boss.
    Whispering behind his back, carping to her face or making your supervisor out to be wrong, pathetic or inept puts you in the danger zone, Hepler says. “If you’re doing this, don’t expect to land a promotion or last there.”
  • Wearing your emotions on your sleeve.
    Going overboard with disruptive displays of anger, whines of frustration and dramatic tears usually sends messages of warning to bosses, staff and peers, she says. “People may conclude that you can’t manage your feelings, and that’s never a good thing.”
  • Complaining.
    “Chronic complainers generally focus on the problems at hand rather than on the potential solutions,” she explains. “Instead of moaning about policies, processes and people, accept what you cannot change or make recommendations for positive change.”

Unexpected Germ Nightmare: The Office

You might think that because your office is professionally cleaned, dusted and swept regularly that it’s one of the cleanest places you could spend your day (that’s more cleaning than happens in my house, for instance, on a weekly basis…).

But, it’s not. It’s really, really gross.

Ragan Communications has posted an infographic from MASTER Cleaners Ltd, which points to just how dirty our desks, phones, and other work surfaces are – and no, I’m not talking about clutter on your desk, or even the pile of shoes under your desk (shoe graveyard, as I’ve affectionately called mine).

Be prepared: You’ll want to have your anti-bacterial wipes ready.

The dirty details:

  • Office phones have about 25,000 germs per square inch.
  • Cold and flu viruses can survive for up to 18 hours on hard surfaces; and bacteria actually increase by up to 31% per day on surfaces that aren’t regularly disinfected. If you’re sick, this just proves that you should stay at home until you are better.
  • Wash your hands – and then use antibacterial gel when you get back to your desk, because 75% of office tap handles are considered a serious risk for illness transmission.
  • I’ve saved this one for last: office desks have been found to be more than 400 times dirtier than a toilet seat. On average, about 10,000 bacteria reside around the area where your hands rest. Most keyboards contain 70% more bacteria than a toilet seat.

Alright, now that you are thoroughly disgusted, here are a few simple ways you can combat office germs as we head straight into cold and flu season:

  • I’ll say it again: Wash your hands. The same lesson that applied as children still applies now (though, as I witnessed a woman leave a library bathroom without washing her hands the other day, some people still don’t get this simple message).
  • Clean your stuff – disinfecting your phone, desk, door handles and other hard surfaces regularly and often will help keep bacteria at bay.
  • Take an actual lunch break and eat somewhere else – if you must eat in the office, absolutely don’t place the food straight onto the solid surfaces of your desk.
  • Do your coworkers a favor and stay home if you’re ill – there’s just no good excuse to come in to work if you’re infectious.

Of course, you can’t live life in a bubble. Germs and sickness are a part of life; but remember that there are a few easy things you can do to keep yourself and others around you healthy. We’re all in it together!

Schmooze the Boss

Everybody has a boss. Even CEOs answer to boards. And sometimes, unfortunately, your boss is a miserable, miserable person who makes your career seem like (to borrow a quote from "Jerry Maguire") an "up-at-dawn, pride swallowing siege." PR Daily offers some thoughts on dealing with your personal Sorcerer of Suffering:

Here’s how:

  1. Establish work preferences with them early in the relationship. Ask them how you can best help make their job easier. Soliciting feedback is essential and helps to diffuse tense situations before they escalate.
  2. Don’t engage with craziness or take it personally. You are never going to win an argument with someone who isn’t rational. Instead, turn the demand or rant your boss spouted into a calm and positive opportunity. Don’t get defensive. Apologize if you truly made a mistake and arm yourself with solutions. “So it seems you weren’t happy with the situation. Here are some ideas regarding how we can fix things and move forward.”
  3. Always follow up with clarification, in writing. After a meeting or a call, send a quick email with a bulleted list about your action items and responsibilities based on the discussion. And make sure you include deadlines. (For example: “I will complete the report by 2:00 p.m. and appreciate your feedback by 4:00 p.m. so we can send it out by 5:00 p.m.”).
  4. Praise them. Yes, this is where some humility comes into play. Thank them when they provide you with clear direction. Tell them how much you learned from them by watching their presentation, etc. Most tough bosses thrive on positive feedback and want to be admired. Bonus points if you do this in front of other colleagues.
  5. Over communicate. Frequently provide positive email updates. Not only are you documenting your work and achievements, but you are preempting any complaints they may have about you not working fast or smart enough. These updates can be sent even if the project is not completed, or if it has hit a speed bump. “I completed half of the media list and although there are dozens of editorial changes, I’ve also uncovered some great new contacts. I’ll have something to share with you in another hour.”

    Understand that you can’t change others, but you can change how you relate to them. With some practice, you’ll become a pro at dealing with difficult clients and managers and enjoy a happy and productive career.

‘Tis the Season for Networking, Making the Most of Your Holiday Party

A recent non-scientific survey found that nearly 70% of organizations are expected to hold some type of holiday event in the coming weeks. More than half (55%) are doing some on a workday or near the end of the day. Most (60%) limit the festivities to employees only and less than a third (30%) are staying on-site.

No matter the type, size or location, these events are often meaningful to employees. They can also be beneficial for the individuals who play the game correctly. A few tips from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas:

  • Arrive early:  This might be your best opportunity to talk with senior executives while things are still relatively quiet.
  • Work the room:  It is easy to simply socialize with the members of your department, with whom you work with day in and day out. However, you gain if you use this occasion to meet people in other departments. You never know who can help your career.
  • Do not over indulge:  Free alcohol can quickly lead to excessive drinking. Stay in control. You do not want to do anything embarrassing to you or your employer. Even if your alcohol-induced actions do not get you fired, they could hurt your chances for advancement.
  • Be friendly, but not too friendly:  The company party is not the place to try out your latest pick-up lines. The risk of such behavior being seen as sexual harassment is high.
  • Avoid talking business:  This is not the time to approach your boss with a new business idea. Save that for Monday morning. Instead, find out about his or her interests outside of the office. Find a connection on a personal level. That connection will help you on Monday when you bring up the new idea and it could help when it comes time for salary reviews.
  • Attend other companies’ parties:  If a friend invites you to his or her company party, you should go.  It is an opportunity to expand your professional network, which  is critical in this era of downsizing and job switching.

Encyclopedia Brown & the Case of the Shrinking Cubicle

Well, this is just sort of a bummer, man. Your office space is shrinking:

Feeling a little cramped at work? Do you no longer enjoy the elbow room you used to? Well, you’re not alone. According to the International Facility Management Association, the average American office worker had 90 square feet of work space in 1994, but by 2010, that same worker was down to just 75 square feet of personal space in which to stretch out on the job.

Nor are office drones the only casualty of this spacial downsizing trend. Senior company officials have seen their offices shrink as well, from an average of 115 square feet in 1994 to 96 square feet in 2010. Oh, the humanity!

The shrinking workplace is yet another cost-cutting measure that employers have pursued for years under the theory that smaller workstations are cheaper to maintain to especially as commercial rents spiral upward.

Overcoming Embarrassment at Work

So maybe your signature Larry King suspenders gave out and your pants fell down during an important meeting, or you "accidentally" punched your boss’ wife in the face during one of your trademark drunken flailing fits at the office Christmas party. But a recent survey from OfficeTeam says you’re not alone in committing an embarrassing act at work.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than

1,300 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States and Canada. 

“Nearly everyone has had an embarrassing situation at work,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Although these moments can be awkward, it’s best not to dwell on them, or you risk drawing more negative attention to yourself.” 

Wardrobe malfunctions were a top cause of discomfort for survey respondents.  Following are some examples:

  • “I was late getting to the office and realized I wore my bathroom slippers to work.”
  • “I conducted a training session with my zipper down.”
  • “My skirt got stuck in my pantyhose.”
  • “I came to work with two different shoes on.”
  • “My trousers tore in front of my team members.”
  • “My shirt was on backward.”

Fortunately, OfficeTeam offers a few tips to help you deal with your predicament:

  • Remain calm. It’s easy to lose your nerves after a slipup, but try to keep your composure. Take a deep breath and collect yourself.  
  • Own up. Acknowledging a blunder before someone else does can alleviate any awkward tension that may arise. If appropriate, address the situation in a humorous way to make everyone feel more at ease. 
  • Make amends. If your accident affected another person, immediately apologize and take steps to ensure a similar mistake does not happen again.
  • Move on. Rather than dwell on a misstep, focus on getting back on track. The faster you recover, the less memorable the incident will be.

10 Annoying Cubicle Habits

The blog of the Houston Press tackles the 10 things you do from your cubicle that irritate your coworkers the most. See the entire post for further explanations of each. Hopefully, you’re not guilty of any of these.

10. Eating too loudly
9. Hovering
8. Talking about your wonderful, fantastic, not-at-all average kids
7. Flirting on the phone
6. Endless throat-clearing
5. Violating basic headphones etiquette
4. Eat lunches that have the pungency of a Mumbai spice market
3. Engage in endless discussions about reality shows or fantasy football
2. If you at any time have been told you have a unique laugh or giggle, DO NOT EVER BE AMUSED BY ANYTHING
1. Coming back from lunch wearing someone else’s perfume

Give Your Coworkers a Break Room Break

Go to 100 different businesses, and I venture you would find that 99 have some type of break room disputes taking place. Maybe there are few surprises here in this OfficeTeam survey, but it at least confirms what many are experiencing.

Any horror stories to share? Favorites from the tip list below?

Forty-four percent of workers interviewed said making a mess for others to clean up is the most annoying break room behavior.

Workers were asked, “In your opinion, which of the following is the most annoying workplace break room behavior?” Their responses:

  • Making a mess for others to clean up – 44%
  • Stealing a coworker’s food – 19%
  • Leaving expired/spoiled food in the refrigerator – 18%
  • Eating smelly food – 5%
  • Nothing annoying/no break room – 7%
  • Other/don’t know – 7%

“Many people believe their actions in the break room go unnoticed, but subtle behaviors can send a message about an individual’s consideration for others,” said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. “Leaving messes in a common area will have colleagues wondering whether you’re just as careless in other aspects of the job.”

OfficeTeam offers five tips for minding your manners in the lunch room:

  • Remember what your mother told you. If you spill something in the microwave or on the counter, wipe it up. It’s also common courtesy to refill anything you’ve emptied in the kitchen, such as the coffee pot or napkin dispenser.
  • Spare the air. You may love the smell of your famous “seafood surprise,” but your neighbors might not share your enthusiasm. Avoid bringing extremely pungent foods to the office that could offend your colleagues’ olfactory senses.
  • Stake your claim. Label your food with your name and the date. This will ward off break room bandits and make it obvious when the item should be thrown away.
  • Get the hint. Schedule alerts on your calendar so you’ll remember to take home or toss out leftovers or groceries from the refrigerator. This will help free up storage space for coworkers.
  • Do a little dirty work. Clean up around the break room even if someone else created the mess. By simply picking up a piece of trash or wiping a table, you’ll set an example for others to follow and create a more pleasant and potentially safer environment for your colleagues. If you see an ongoing issue with break room etiquette, consider asking management to implement a staff policy or reinforce the rules of conduct.  

Is Your Office Environment Hurting Your Company’s Productivity?

Jason Fried is fed up. With work. But not his actual job. Just his office.

In a Q&A with Big Think, Fried, co-founder and president of 37 Signals (a web-application company based in Chicago), rails against the modern office paradigm, contending offices are one of America’s top productivity killers.

Jason Fried: Yeah, my feeling is that the modern workplace is structured completely wrong. It’s really optimized for interruptions. And interruptions are the enemy of work. They are the enemy of productivity, they are the enemy of creativity, they are the enemy of everything. But that’s what the modern workplace is all about, it’s interruptions. Everyone’s calling meetings all the time, everyone’s screaming people’s names across the thing, there’s phones ringing all the time. People are walking around. It’s all about interruptions. And people go to work today, and then they end up doing most of their real work after work, or on the weekends. So, people are working longer hours, people are tired – I’m working 50-60 hours this week. It’s not that there’s 50 or 60 hours worth of work to do, it’s because you don’t work at work anymore. You go to work to get interrupted.

What happens is, is that you show up at work and you sit down and you don’t just immediately begin working, like you have to roll into work. You have to sort of get into a zone, just like you don’t just go to sleep, like you lay down and you go to sleep. You go to work too. But then you know, 45 minutes in, there’s a meeting. And so, now you don’t have a work day anymore, you have like this work moment that was only 45 minutes. And it’s not really 45 minutes, it’s more like 20 minutes, because it takes some time to get into it and then you’ve got to get out of it and you’ve got to go to a meeting.

Then when the meeting’s over, you’re probably pissed off anyway because it was a waste of time and then the meeting’s over and you don’t just go right back to work again, you got to kind of slowly get back into work. And then there’s a conference call, and then someone calls your name, “Hey, come a check this out. Come over here.” And like before you know it, it’s 4:00 and you’ve got nothing done today. And this is what’s happening all over corporate America right now. Everybody I know, I don’t care what business they’re in. Like when I talk to them about this, it’s like “Yeah, that’s my life.” Like, that is my life, and it’s wrong.

See this related post from back in April.

What do you think? Are these legit concerns about office life, or are the brains of today’s twenty- & thirty-somethings just way too fried from playing "Super Mario Bros." to concentrate properly?