At Work

Can’t Walk and Chew Gum

I reviewed my resume this morning. I’m not looking for another job – I was checking to see if I listed multitasking as a skill set that I possess. Thankfully it was not.

Attention everyone, “I stink at multitasking.”

At home I can do laundry, prepare dinner, empty the trash and check e-mail. What usually happens in the middle of this activity is I’ll lock up and forget what I was going to do. I’ll actually stand in the middle of the living room until I remember that I was headed to get a tissue.

Put me in front of the TV and rest of the world ceases to exist. My wife can ask me a question three times and I’ll not hear her. It’s frustrating to her because she multitasks well. She can have a conversation while reading a book and watching TV.

At work, my lack of multitasking ability is beneficial. Concentrating on one task and doing it well is, in my case, a stronger attribute because when I multitask to get everything done sometimes my work suffers.

When I approach a project, I break it down into multiple tasks. Take this blog post for example. I will research, write, edit, proof and post – five steps. That’s not multitasking – it’s accomplishing one task at a time. I have a to-do list each day of three to five significant work projects that need to be tackled one at a time.

I decided to admit my multitasking deficiency when I read an article in the New York Times that challenged “any man to talk on the phone, send a fax, reply to an e-mail, change a diaper, get a toddler a snack, monitor what your school-age children are watching on TV and add to the grocery list – all at the same time.”

I wasn’t up to the challenge. At best, I can listen to music while working, but that’s like counting breathing while walking as multitasking.

Do you think women are more naturally prone to multitasking? Are you a multitasker or a uni-tasker like me?

Don’t Make Me Use My Patronus On You

harry potter job searchHarry Potter. HARRY Potter. HARRY POTTER.

I can’t get away from him. He’s in the paper. He’s on the Internet, my radio and the television. I can’t escape him at the movies or in the bookstore (which I did not brave this weekend). All weekend I was force fed Harry Potter.

I wasn’t even safe at work, when at 7:55 a.m. Monday, a co-worker asked me if I bought the book and then offered me her copy since she was done with it.

That’s when I started thinking about what Harry Potter character she’d be (Ginny Weasley).

Who would I be? I was intrigued. I took several online quizzes at lunch and the results were inconsistent at best. According to the highly (non) scientific surveys I am the following HP characters:

Hermione Granger: Hermione is a wiz kid, so much so that at times people make her feel ashamed of her intelligence. She is a leader and will tackle anything she puts her mind to. However, she is a bit confused about her romantic interests (does not apply to me). When she goes with her gut instinct she is seldom wrong. In the workplace, Hermione would be ambitious and confident. However, she’d need a strong mentor or boss like Professor McGonagall to rein her in. Her desire to master everything could be her downfall by spreading herself too thin and burning out early.

Harry Potter: He is courageous and very loyal friend. He is not afraid of challenges and is always looking for adventure. Harry loves family but sometimes wishes he was just an average person, which he is definitely not. He is special and important. At work, Harry would be the one to question why something is done a certain way, and then he’d provide a better solution. In his unassuming way, Harry is an innovator. He’s the golden child with a one-way ticket to a corner office.

Draco Malfoy: He tries to influence people, but for all the wrong reasons. Draco picks on his schoolmates. He’s the classic workplace bully. His own insecurities feed his unhappiness and create the desire to harm others. Well, that and the fact that he rides his father’s coat tails and did not have the best family upbringing. One day he will cross paths with the wrong coworker (wizard) and lose his tough-guy status.

When I finished with the quizzes I thought about my high school teachers and how they resembled the Hogwarts faculty: geometry (Severus Snape), drama (Sybill Trelawney) and Spanish (Pomona Sprout).

I daydreamed some more and reflected on some of my past bosses. I ranked them according to how Voldemort-like they were. The list was impressive, but I realized I had never worked for a Dumbledore.

That gave me the motivation I needed. I could become a Dumbledore to my team. I might not ever make it, but it’s a much better path to walk than the path “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” took.

Do you work with a Harry Potter character? Do you hide in fear when your Voldemort-esque boss turns the corner? I’d like to hear your stories.

Care for a Mint?

Jerry Seinfeld shared the following quote during one of his monologues in season five of Seinfeld.

“I really feel as human beings, we need more training in our basic social skills. Conversational Distance. Don’t you hate these people that talk to you – they talk into your mouth like you’re a clown at a drive-through.”

In this episode (“The Raincoats”), Elaine’s boyfriend is a “close talker” (CT), a man who invades your personal space.

I ran into a close talker this week at a business lunch and it still has me shook up.

The man was the same height as me. We were both dressed in suits and ties, had similar builds and the same color hair and eyes.

He approached me with a question and steadily began entering my personal space like Napoleon plowing through Europe. In about 20 seconds I was pressed up against the wall, and I had yet to say anything. But I could tell he chose the tuna salad.

This experience was exactly like a scenario I read about in the USA Today on Tuesday. The article “Does height equal power? Some CEOs say yes,” offered some good insight into social domination.

In the article, Lara Tiedens, an organizational behavior professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business stated that people often use height, or the appearance of height (high heels or lifts) to look more powerful. She describes these power players who look directly at others, use an open stance and vigorous gestures, speak loudly in a deep voice, interrupt at will, and lean in close or otherwise reduce the space of others and expand their own.

Since “CT” and I were so similar, I contend he chose to invade my space to gain an advantage. I observed him speaking with others, mostly women, and he kept a comfortable distance. Then again he was taller than them.

Have you met a close talker? How do you think height affects power plays at work? Please share you experience.

Next time I run into a close talker, I hope he’ll pick the chicken salad instead.

Who’s Facebooking You?

The social networking site Facebook is now the most used people search engine on the
Web according to data reported by Inside Facebook, an independent blog dedicated to Facebook news. And, according to Wikipedia, the site is now the 7th most visited site in the U.S. and has 30 million registered users.

What does all this mean to you? That friends, acquaintances and employers could be searching Facebook for information about you. If you have a Facebook account, the thought of your boss or a random neighbor perusing your profile may not sit well with you – depending on what you have posted there.

The content on Facebook profiles has created career hiccups for some. For example, Miss New Jersey was recently involved in a blackmailing fiasco that threatened to end her reign as a result of some questionable photos on her Facebook page. 

According to CBS.com research, about 20 percent of employers are routinely scanning the Facebook profiles of applicants. When employers stumble upon racy or questionable content on applicants’ profiles, it can do serious damage to the applicants’ chances of landing an interview, let alone a job.

But just because employers are browsing social networking sites for information on candidates doesn’t mean you should delete your Facebook profile. Online profiles can actually be used to your advantage. For one, they give employers an inside look at your personality, interests and creative abilities – all of which can help you stand out from the crowd.

If you’re actively applying for jobs and you have an online profile, consider including some of your career strengths and interests on your profile in case a recruiter finds you online. Or if you have content on your profile that you don’t want prospective employers to view, make your profile private.

What’s been your experience with Facebook and other social networking sites? Have you searched co-workers, applicants or employees on these sites? How would you feel if you knew a recruiter had looked at your profile?

Wanted: Fuel Counselor

A co-worker of mine only buys $15 of gas at a time. She’s been doing this since gas was 98 cents, and $15 used to go a lot further. It used to fill up the entire tank. She still pays the same amount when she fills up because it is psychologically easier on her.

This morning I looked at my car’s gas gauge and wondered if I could make it through the week with only one-third a tank of gas. I was relieved when I did the math. If I only drive to and from work, I’ll make it with two gallons to spare.

The topic was fresh on my mind, having just read the nationwide AAA gas price survey. The report was disturbing.

Nebraska has the most expensive gas in the nation – their average is $3.34 for a gallon of gas – 29 cents above the national average of $3.05. Rounding out the top 10 are Wisconsin, Indiana, Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Kansas and Iowa

South Carolina has the cheapest AAA gas ranking, at $2.83, followed by New Jersey, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

I know that on Friday it will cost me more than $50 to fill up my car. Something I know is inevitable, but it will nonetheless ruin my TGIF celebration. I’m making alterations to my lifestyle this week by only eating meals I prepare myself. No take out or dining out until I fill up my vehicle.

Pinching pennies is a necessity because I make the same amount that I did when gas was $1 a gallon cheaper. I’m thankful I now work 12 miles from the office instead of the 40 miles I used to drive. Moving closer to work was a lifestyle change as much as it was an economic decision.

If gas prices keep escalating I might forgo asking for a raise and ask for gas vouchers instead.

What about you? Do you fill ’er up or only purchase a set dollar amount? Are you changing your lifestyle to adjust to paying more at the pump? Looking for work closer to home? Riding your bike?

Where Are All the Magic Lamps?

I want to own a new H3, but I drive a five-year-old Chrysler.

My wife wants me to cook lobster tonight, but I’m picking up pizza.

My youngest daughter wants to go to the beach, but tomorrow she will see the sea lion show at the zoo.

More often than not, your ideal situation does not match up with reality. It’s certainly evident in a survey recently conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Only 21% of mothers with children under 18 say full-time work is their ideal situation, while 60% of working moms say part-time employment is their preference.

The desire of mothers with minor children to work full-time appears to be waning. In 1997, 32% desired to work full-time with 48% longing for part-time employment.

Although there’s a 12% shift in the past decade toward moms working fewer hours, 70% of mothers with kids under 18 are employed outside of the home, according to the U.S. Labor Department. And, of those moms in the workforce, 75% are employed full time and 25% work part time.

After years of giving 100% at home and 100% on the job, working moms are clearly seeking a better work-life balance.

In an interview conducted by the Associated Press, Cary Funk, a Pew researcher on the survey, said the trend reflected women’s latest thoughts on the ideal arrangement for their children. “I don’t think it means people are going to give up their jobs,” she said. “It’s more of an expression of the difficulties of combining responsibilities at work and home.”

What have been your experiences with juggling work and family responsibilities? To read more about work-life balance check out these blogs:  On Balance (Washington Post) and The Juggle (Wall Street Journal).

Who’s the Kid in My Boss’s Office?

If you look around your department, you are likely to see someone who is quite a bit older than you – or quite a bit younger. With so many Baby Boomers prolonging retirement and with nearly 80 million Generation Y workers beginning to enter the workforce, it is becoming more common for older and younger generations to share a cubicle.

In some instances, Baby Boomers are actually working for some of these younger individuals. I recently watched an interview on Good Morning America where they spoke with a 54-year-old who had recently landed her ideal job in event marketing. She ended up getting fired because she couldn’t tolerate working for a boss 25 years her junior.

“I think that it’s very common for someone older to be a little resentful to someone who is 25 years younger telling you want to do,” she said in the GMA interview.

Do you find this sort of thing happening in your company? If you’re reporting to someone half your age, how does that make you feel? Do you have a problem working for someone younger who has less experience? Or, if you’re the young boss, how do you communicate with the members of your staff? Do you feel that authority comes with experience or performance?