Cube Life

Are You Too Nice to Your Co-workers?

When never saying “no” turns into a problem.

It’s a question they ask. Every. Single. Interview.

“Are you a team player?”

There’s only one right answer: “Yes.” Followed by examples of how great you are at working with a team.

And it’s true—if you can’t work well with others, you’re probably going to have trouble in any workplace.

However, there’s a limit. If you accommodate every single person’s request, from picking up lunch for a group meeting to taking notes, you become everybody’s “go-to guy (or gal).” It’s flattering to be thought of as the co-worker who can get any task done. But that can take a toll on you, both mentally and physically.

Here’s a few ways to tell it might be time to start embracing the word “no” (or a suitably polite equivalent).

You Say Yes. A Lot.

As noted by the Wall Street Journal, many employees now spend 85% of their time working with other team member in emails, meetings, conference calls, or instant messaging. That’s why it becomes a problem when you tell everyone you can handle anything.

You want to do a great job. So, you email a friend in a different department that you’ll send their request to your manager, help every customer (via phone or in-person) with any requests they have, and tell the front office coordinator you can cover the desk while they’re on lunch break. You like being reliable.

But before you know it, it’s two hours before you’re supposed to go home and you haven’t even started your own projects for the day.

You’re (Too) Stressed

When you say you can do several things for several different people, even if they’re all small, it all adds up. And saying “yes” makes you accountable. You said you’d do it, and don’t want to let everyone down.

But now you’re juggling too many things. You almost forget what you’re working on, who requested it, and when it’s due. And even if you can keep all those things straight, you still have your own responsibilities as well.

You’re Becoming Bitter

Eventually, initial feelings of pride over being the reliable person can turn sour. You don’t even remember why you started doing these things that aren’t in your job description in the first place! Why did people even ask you to handle responsibilities that aren’t yours? Why don’t they do it themselves! But now it’s too late to say no. You’re buried with no way out.

Or are you?

You’ve Accepted You’re A Yes (Wo)Man; Now What?

First off: you’re not alone. Being overwhelmed is a real problem, all across North America.

According to Robert Cross, lead author of an eight-year, 28 employer study on collaborative demands, “The volume and diversity of collaborative demands on employees have risen 50% in the past decade.”

But not all hope is lost. The article goes on to note that “changing just a few behaviors can regain 18% to 24% of the time spent collaborating.

These include:

  • Taking time to focus, whether through meditation or whatever else relaxes you.
  • Not answering every email. It’s okay, not everything is meant for you to respond to. If you’re addressed directly, feel free to forward it to the appropriate person.
  • Having hard discussions. Sitting down with your boss or a particularly demanding co-worker to let them know you’re a bit overwhelmed. If you’re handling odd jobs for multiple people, it’s likely each person doesn’t know the full extent of everything you do.

And if you’re resolved to continue doing everything for everybody? At least try to schedule your workload down to the minute. Once you go past your scheduled time on a task, stop it and move to the next one. Prioritize your own projects and let people know you’ll be handling those responsibilities first.

 

Have you ever ended up as the workplace go-to person for basically everything? If it became overwhelming, how did you handle it? Let us know in the comments section below!

Poll Results: Are Companies Offering the Flexible Work Employees Crave?

And how do workers define flexible work?

Open up any employment news report these days and you’ll see that workers want flexible schedules.

But what does that even mean? And does it mean the same thing to workers as it does to employers?

We decided to find out with two polls. One here on Movin’ On Up, and one on Refresh Leadership, our blog for business leaders.

The Results

Job seekers listed “freedom to adjust your schedule to accommodate personal family needs” at number one, with 22% of the vote. Just under 25% of business leaders agreed, making this the most popular response for both groups.

The number two definition for jobseekers at 19% of the vote was “freedom to adjust your own hours/schedule.” Number two for employers was “options to work outside the traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. business day,” with 20% of the vote.

And rounding out the top three for jobseekers was “options to work outside the traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. business day” at 18%, while 15% of employers chose “freedom to adjust your own hours/schedule” as their number three choice.

Beside that slight difference, responses were more or less the same. We’ve listed the remaining results for both job seekers and business leaders below.

What Flexibility Means to Jobseekers:

  1. Working extra hours each day to accommodate a 4-day week: 10%
  2. Working from home part-time: 9%
  3. Working remotely from another city or state/province, etc.: 7%
  4. Working from home full-time: 5%
  5. Working part-time: 4%
  6. Unlimited vacation/paid time off (PTO): 2%
  7. Job sharing: 1%
  8. Doing freelance/gig work: 1%

What Flexibility Means to Employers:

  1. Working extra hours each day to accommodate a 4-day week: 11%
  2. Working from home part-time: 10%
  3. Working remotely from another city or state/province, etc.: 8%
  4. Working from home full-time: 3%
  5. Working part-time: 3%
  6. Unlimited vacation/paid time off (PTO): 2%
  7. Job sharing: 2%
  8. Doing freelance/gig work: 1%

What does this mean?

Job seekers and employers mostly agree on what flexible work means. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that flexibility is being provided. Conversations should be had between employers and employees to work toward a suitable solution to the flexibility question.

About Express

Headquartered in Oklahoma City, Express Employment Professionals is a leading staffing provider in the U.S and Canada with over 800 locations. If you have any questions about part-time work in your area or job search in general, feel free to contact your local Express office or fill out our online contact form.

Does your employer offer a flexible work situation? Let us know in the comments section below!

Diffusing Tension in the Workplace

Resolve conflict and bring peace to the work world

The workplace is complicated. It doesn’t matter if you work on an assembly line, type away at a cubicle, make cold calls in a call center, or take customer orders at a dinner table; you always deal with other people.

We’re all human and we have bad days. And sometimes you might do something inadvertently to make someone’s day worse. It could be a miscommunication via email, perhaps you chew loudly, or maybe there’s a scheduling conflict you just can’t agree on. These little things add up and suddenly there’s tension between the two of you.

Getting rid of that tension is one of the most important workplace soft skills. An employee who can effectively resolve conflict is priceless. So, how is this accomplished?

There are five main styles for managing conflict, according to Thomas, Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann originators of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. The key is to figure out the right mix of styles for any given situation, and recognize your coworker’s preferred conflict management style.

Here are those given conflict management styles, as outlined by SourcesOfInsight.com.

  1. Accommodating

Think of this as killing your enemy with kindness.

Basically, if accommodating is your style of choice, your tendency is to give into the other person’s desires without making sure you get what you want. Maybe you think your boss’ idea is less than great, but don’t tell them because that would make waves.

Although it might sound cowardly on paper, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the accommodating style. All styles are valid. For example, it’s usually better to defer to those with more experience when you’re new to the job.

  1. Avoiding 

With this style, you avoid conflict at all costs. You never win arguments and prefer to stay out of the combat zone entirely. You don’t want to say no so you end up saying nothing. Think of this as the “let well enough alone” mentality.

Avoidance is a great for when emotions are running high and you need time to think, when you know you can’t win, or just don’t feel like the situation is worth the effort. Why engage when there will be minimal gains?

  1. Collaborating

Think of this as the “win-win” scenario. You want to work with your coworker in order to achieve common ground and for everyone to get what they want.

This is a great conflict resolution style when everyone is already on the same page. You trust each other, value teamwork,  say what you mean, and don’t have to worry about hurt feelings. It’s not a great choice when emotions are running high or people’s viewpoints are diametrically opposed.

  1. Competing

This is the “might makes right” mentality. You want to get what you want no matter what, and the opposing side’s wishes aren’t important.

Again, this sounds like the angry boss who intimidates his direct reports into getting something done. In that case, it’s not the best decision. But if you’re an accountant on a deadline and someone on another team is trying to tell you how to do your job, competing is a perfect response. You know your job better than someone in a different department, and don’t have time to worry about hurt feelings.

  1. Compromising

Think of this as standard negotiating procedure. The “give and take” approach. You and your coworker both work toward a solution by giving things up until common ground is reached.

The main problem with this one is that it takes time and isn’t affective when someone is unwilling to give anything up. That means it’s best used when you need a temporary solution or when both sides have important goals. However, beware: compromising can frequently be the result when collaborating is the better choice because it’s easier to get done. But if everyone can get what they want with a bit of hard work, why not go that route?

If you’re partial to any of these conflict resolution tactics, ask yourself if you’re trying the same solution in every situation and not getting the results you need. If you are, you might want to explore other methods to get rid of the problem.

Have you ever had to solve a workplace dispute? How did it go? Let us know in the comments below.

Navigating Complex Workplace Situations; Or: My Coworker Smells Bad—How Do I Tell Him?

We’ve all been there. Maybe someone in your cubicle row breathes loudly. Or someone on the assembly line just won’t stop talking. And then there’s the case of the coworker that smells … less than good.

These are all real problems, but you’re working with this person every day. How can you politely let them know that their behavior is negatively affecting your performance?

Honestly, it’s really a three-step process.

  1. Calm Down and Think Rationally

It’s easy for issues like these to fester and become bigger in your mind than they actually are. After behavior like this goes on for months on end, it can seem like they’re personally targeting you.

But in all honesty, they probably have no idea they’re doing whatever it is that annoys you so much. People aren’t going to have a reason to change their behavior if they don’t know it’s causing problems for other people.

Also, take time to consider the facts. Is this something that the person is even capable of changing?

Human behavior is complex. Most people aren’t setting out to bother the rest of the workplace every day. Perhaps they keep talking because they’re nervous and want to impress you. Maybe they just breathe oddly because that’s how they’re built.

  1. Don’t Speak to Them Directly

But don’t gossip about them either. Take their manager aside and talk to them about the issue. Don’t be accusatory. Let them know that it’s totally possible there is a cultural or behavioral reason for the offending behavior. You don’t want the coworker to feel called out for something they didn’t know was wrong! Put yourself in their shoes. Of course this tactic helps you as well; you don’t want to look like your complaining about what looks like a relatively small problem.

  1. Observe and Adjust

Okay, you’ve done all that you can do. You’ve let their manager know. If the behavior continues, consider changing your own behavior to block it out. If they talk to much, let them know when you have to work and put headphones on. If they emit an offensive odor, grab a scented oil dispenser or some scented spray. Though it may be annoying to change in a bid to adapt to someone else’s behavior, it’s far better than telling them they stink and dealing with the ensuing awkwardness for years.

Have you ever had to deal with an awkward work situation? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments section below!

Can You Be Friends with Your Coworkers?

Or will you only end up hurt in the end?

In a given year, many adults spend more time with their coworkers than with their friends or family. That lack of socialization can make it tempting to turn your coworkers into friends. A day spent talking about new projects and meetings can turn into a social outing after work; you can be productive and get your social fix at the same time.

But is it really the right choice to turn your coworkers into friends? Honestly, it depends on who you want to be friends with, where you work, and a ton of other factors. Before trying to start up a workplace friendship, ask yourself these questions.

What’s at Stake?

First, let’s define what we mean by “workplace friendship.” We’re not talking about the cubicle buddy you make fun of the dress code with, or that guy in accounting that told a great joke before the 8 a.m. meeting. A “workplace friendship,” as we define it, is a relationship that combines your personal life with your work life. Meaning that you meet up after work for meals or go to events together.

There can be plenty of benefits to having a close friend at your place of work. They can inform you of project progress in a different department, chat with you about your strengths and weaknesses, or help you figure out how to tackle a particularly difficult work problem.

However, whenever there’s a large group of people, cliques are certain to form. Whether it’s the playground, high school lunchroom, or the nearest breakroom, it’s hard for people to be friends with everyone. And cliques result in people feeling left out, feelings they might act on by gossiping about you or just being difficult to work with.

When you begin a workplace friendship, that means opening yourself up to the possibility of that friendship failing and still having to work with that person. Maybe you complained about a coworker when you were friends but then got promoted, causing jealousy and frustration. They tell that coworker you said something negative way back when and suddenly you’re the office tyrant.

Are They Your Boss?

How good are you at setting boundaries? Some people are able to separate work and personal issues to such an extent that talking to them about deadlines is like dealing with a completely different person than the one you planned an upcoming get-together with.

If you can’t be that person, it’s probably not a good idea to pursue a friendship with your boss. That opens you up to a whole world of criticism. If it goes well, you have to deal with other employees thinking you get special treatment. If it turns out you aren’t actually that big a fan of your boss outside of work and no longer want to spend time with them, you’ll be in the awkward position of feeling like you have to meet with them after hours to keep your job. And you’re not being paid to be anyone’s friend.

As noted by Monster, Dr. Jan Yager, author of “Friendshifts: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives,” said “Same-level friendships are the easiest to maintain. Problems can arise if one friend has to supervise or evaluate the other.”

But what about when your friend gets promoted and is now your boss? The key is to set boundaries. Gone are the days when you could make fun of upcoming training classes or analyze a recent managerial decisions together. If you value the relationship, keep overly personal conversations to after hours and weekends.

Do They Want to be Friends with You?

The Week is pretty clear on where they stand on this issue in their article, given that the title is Your Coworkers are Not Your Friends. And to be honest, they’re right. This quote best sums up what they’re trying to say:

“That is not to suggest we cannot or should not make friends on the job. But it is to say most of our coworkers will only ever be coworkers (take a moment to think about how many of your friendships with former colleagues have any meaningful existence outside of Facebook), and inside the office, they should be treated accordingly.”

Nobody in the workplace is there to make friends. At the end of the day, most of us are here to make a paycheck. Liking your coworkers gives you more of a reason to come in every day (and those that like their coworkers enjoy their jobs to a much higher degree), but it’s not the base reason you work.

What that means is you shouldn’t assume your coworkers want to be your friend just because you do. If they do, great! But if they don’t seem comfortable with high-fives or keep rejecting your invitations to get dinner or hang out on the weekends, don’t take it personally. Although being friendly is often a must to thrive in the workplace, being friends is not. People are free to have their own interests and spend their personal time on their own terms.

Do you have any experiences with friendships gone wrong (or right) in the workplace? Let us know in the comments below!

Workplace Gift-Giving Guide

The do’s and don’ts of workplace present exchange

Who doesn’t love the holidays? Delicious eggnog, shimmering trees, and, of course, presents bound in cheerful wrapping paper. This time of year provides a wonderful opportunity to bond with your coworkers. Exchanging gifts that are a bit more personal enhances your workplace relationships

But not too personal. A happy occasion can be ruined by an inappropriate or strange gift.

DO: Office Supplies

Unique and fun office supplies make great gifts. If you have a friend who loves bulldogs, spring for a dog-shaped eraser, pen, or calendar. If someone’s a writer, maybe they would appreciate a typewriter-shaped pencil cup or a calligraphy pen. The gifts don’t have to be particularly quirky. If you want to get April from accounting something but aren’t sure what she wants, you really can’t go wrong with a numeric keypad!

DON’T: Anything Offensive or Inappropriate

Stay away from anything that includes swear words or lewd images. Even if you have an inside joke with your buddy Bob, giving him an inappropriate gag gift in front of the entire office is a bad idea. It makes you look unprofessional, and could even put Bob in a bad spot when he has to figure out what to do with your gift. Also, take care your gift won’t be offensive due to an individual’s religious or personal beliefs.

This is all still true even if the actual gift exchange isn’t happening at the office. People talk, and your boss is sure to hear about it one way or another.

DO: Personalized Items

It’s inexpensive to order customized items online these days. You can get a coffee cup made with an inside (and safe-for-work) joke plastered on the side for a few dollars, or a few pens monogrammed with someone’s initials for a similar price. Some Etsy sellers even create custom keychains or stickers for under $10. Search online and use your creative flair to design something memorable.

DON’T: Jewelry, Perfume, Flowers, Cologne, Etc.

Steer clear of any gift that could be romantic. Although your intentions might be entirely platonic, you have no idea how your coworker might feel upon receiving such a gift. Not to mention the gossip that could start because of it.

And personal items like perfume and cologne are a bad idea anyway. You don’t really know a person’s scent preferences, and could end up giving them something they don’t like or are even allergic to.

DO: Gift Cards

Although gift cards can be a bit impersonal, they are by far the safest workplace gift idea. It’s hard to get offended by a gift card to your favorite restaurant or retailer. Just ask around beforehand to make sure they don’t have a vendetta against any one chain or supermarket. A fun holiday card can add a personal touch.

DON’T: Alcohol

Although there’s nothing wrong with bringing a nice wine to a dinner party, it is usually frowned upon to bring such libations into the workplace. It might be alright if your gift exchange is happening at a restaurant or coworker’s home, but consider your company culture before deciding.

Looking for more workplace gift ideas? Let us know in the comments below!

Poll: Are You Over or Underemployed?

Despite the current job market trending in favor of job seekers, many workers find themselves trapped in positions that don’t align with their experience and abilities. Some find that their skills and expertise are not fully utilized (underemployed), while others are treading water in positions that are over their heads (overemployed). Both are tricky situations that can quickly lead to frustration and burnout if left unchecked. So this month, we want to know where you sit on the over/underemployment scale. Are You Over or Underemployed? Let us know by voting in our poll.

Given your skill level and experience, how would you describe your current employment situation?