3 Tricks to Relieving Workplace Tension

WorkplaceTension_August2011_web With the fast pace of the work environment and the desire to succeed, stressful situations can come up between you and your peers. Whether it’s a misunderstanding regarding a deadline, a conflict over limited resources, or a debate over the direction of a project, a tense environment among co-workers can create roadblocks in the workplace. Here are a few tips for an open and relaxed environment that fosters conflict resolution.

1. Have a Real Conversation
If you’re dealing with a co-worker conflict or know a subject might be touchy, skip email or phone conversations when possible in favor of a face-to-face conversation. A casual, impromptu conversation can set the stage for a relaxed discussion in which all parties are open to the idea of focusing on resolving the problem instead of focusing on their own agendas. If you must schedule a meeting to talk, versus just stopping by, make sure your email, phone message, or conversation regarding the scheduled meeting is clear and open. Don’t overstate the conflict, instead request a time to talk about resolving the challenge. The quicker you can meet the better, since leaving time to dwell on the upcoming meeting can create unnecessary anxiety.

If you can’t have a face-to-face conversation, schedule a conference call where all involved parties can speak together, rather than separate calls with each individual. Having individual calls, and then later referencing each conversation, will not develop the same trust and open communication as a shared call. 

2. Gather Perspective
While you may only think there are two options in resolving a problem, either your own or the other party’s, talk with non-involved peers to get some perspective and brainstorm alternative answers. Keep in mind, a solution that isn’t from either party involved in the tense circumstances may be the best starting point for a resolution. Don’t get others involved just to gossip about the problem or recruit peers into seeing things your way. Have private and respectful conversations with the goal of seeing things from another point of view.

Try researching how competitors are handling similar challenges to help you think of additional ideas. Speak with your mentor and ask for direction or how they have handled a similar problem. By keeping an open mind, you may uncover a way out that wasn’t on the table, and your first discussion may just be starting points to the best resolution.

3. Take a Break
Rather than reacting quickly to a tense problem, if time allows, take a break. At first blush, a challenge can seem much worse than it actually is. We’ve all heard the saying “when one door closes a window opens,” and in the heat of the moment it can be hard to see the opportunities offered through that window. Another saying that holds true in conflict resolutions is “it’s best to sleep on it.” Letting emotions cool down and giving your brain time to focus on an answer rather than the frustration of the challenge can set the stage for a more relaxed resolution.

Resist getting caught up in the heat of the moment. Keeping your cool, considering alternative solutions, and working toward a mutual answer will be the most productive resolution.

By Rachel Rudisill

Understand “The Numbers” in Your Job: Part 3

Numbers_Celebrate_August2011_web In this series of blog posts, we’ve addressed why it’s important to be informed about the numbers used to measure performance in your organization and job, and how to measure your own job performance. The best part about tracking key metrics is that you have clear defined points for celebration when goals are met.

Tip #3: Celebrate Winning Scores
If you aren’t keeping score then you don’t know who wins. While it can seem intimidating to measure your key performance indicators, the satisfaction you get when you hit your goals will overshadow any anxiety the process may have caused. And, when you notice a new trend in your numbers, let your manager know. You demonstrate your initiative and commitment to your job when you celebrate and take notice of increases in your performance.

By keeping an an eye on company goals and measurement, you’ll have a better idea of what’s up next and where the organization is headed. This will also give you a chance to congratulate co-workers when you notice they’ve hit a milestone, helping you build rapport within your organization. Knowing where the company stands in respect to its goals can help you understand why funding may be directed to a specific initiative or when is the best time to ask for additional resources.

While you may not consider yourself an accountant, defining and tracking your performance and goals will help guide your activities and let you know where to invest your time. Be sure to check out the other two posts in this series,  
Part 1: Get Informed and Part 2: Measure Your Performance to help you understand why knowing the numbers can be fun and how it impacts your career.

Understand “The Numbers” in Your Job: Part 2

Numbers_Performance_August2011_web In part one of “The Numbers” series, we focused on how you become informed about the numbers that matter in your company. The next step in understanding the metrics that impact your career is evaluating your own performance and how it can be measured.

Let the Numbers Add to Your Job Search
When stating your abilities, whether it’s on your résumé or your LinkedIn profile, it’s best to focus on achievements and give qualifying information as often as possible. For your résumé, state how many boxes per hour you can build or how many new clients you brought into the company per month instead of just stating your skills. When you are pursuing a new job, understand that potential employers are comparing your skills against other candidates. Presenting your abilities in a way that demonstrates the value you would add to their team can help you stand out as the best candidate for the job. This type of information will also give you a good point to elaborate on during interviews.

It can also be helpful to measure your performance during a job search. When searching for a job, take a look at what your activity is yielding. Do you schedule one interview for every 10 applications or is it one interview per every 25 applications? Understanding what to expect can help motivate your job search activity.

Tracking Your Productivity 
In a current position, make sure your goals are measurable and that you understand how they are being tracked, who is tracking them, and how often your performance will be reviewed. When you are negotiating a raise or asking for help in managing your workload, you’ll need to be able to clearly demonstrate your job performance.

While taking the time to analyze your job performance can seem counter productive to getting work done, it is time well-invested.  By understanding the number of hours a project took, the number of phone calls it took to make a sale, or rate of return on an investment, you’ll be able to forecast what it will take to meet your goals and where resources should be allocated. Make sure you talk with your manager about areas of concern where your resource investment is not yielding the best results and what measurements are most important to your job.

Now that we’ve covered how to become informed about the metrics that matter and how to measure your own performance, next we’ll cover why tracking your job activity can result in a celebration.

Understand “The Numbers” in Your Job: Part 1

Numbers_GetInformed_August2011_web When crafting a résumé, preparing for a performance review, or reporting in the weekly staff meeting, knowing what key metrics are used to measure the performance of your company and your job is critical. It can be easy to detach yourself from company figures and reports, especially if you don’t see how your job impacts critical measurements. In a changing economy, understanding benchmarks of success and current checkpoint data can help you gauge the future direction of a company. This can be important if you’re evaluating companies to work for, or if you’re curious about the state of your current employer. In this three part series of on understanding the numbers in the workplace we’ll talk about how to tackle the numbers that relate to success in your career.

Get Informed
You’ve likely heard that knowledge is power, and when it comes to knowing your company’s sales figures and production reports, that definitely holds true. Taking time to understand how your company measures success and what records it has achieved will help you see the bigger picture of your organization. This type of information is also good to research before an interview and can be the basis for questions you may want to ask a potential employer. If you are currently employed, try checking out your company intranet or employee newsletter for this type of data. You could also ask your manager about company measurements. Chances are, they’ll be impressed with your desire to better understand the organization. When researching potential employers, check out the media relations section of their corporate website for news or earnings releases.

Find Meaning in the Numbers
For any sort of data to have meaning, you need something to measure it against. For example, if you type 42 words per minute, it’s important to know that the average ratefor transcription typing is 33 words per minute and an average professional typist achieves 50 to 80 words per minute. Without knowing what you’re measuring your skill against, it’s hard to know how good it is. Ask your manager what the standard is in production timelines and what the company is currently averaging. You can seek information about records set in your own company, maybe the highest sales figure for a quarter or largest client order. Those measurements can have additional perspective if, for example, you know your top two competitor companies and what their figures are for highest sales in a quarter. 

Up next in this series we’ll discuss how you measure your own performance and  why it’s important to your career that you celebrate your measured success.

How to Be Punctual

HowtobePunctual_August2011_web We recently showed the benefits of avoiding tardiness. Now that you know why it’s important to be on time, this post will show you some tips and tricks to help keep you on time.

Address The Clock 
In most cases, the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting that it is indeed a problem. In this instance, the problem is being late or missing deadlines. If you find yourself continually rushing, chances are your tardiness is a problem. Take notice of how often you are late and consider the negative implications it can have on your career development.

Be Aware of Your Time
If you don’t already wear a watch, get one. Make sure it is synced with your computer, phone, car, and any other clocks that you’re around. Losing track of time can be one of the biggest reasons you are late. Setting your clocks ahead can be helpful, but be sure you don’t only rely on a clock running early to get you there on time. A true commitment to being on time is required.

Be aware of how long a task will take. When working on a big project consider setting up check points to ensure you will meet the final deadline. If you are working on a deadline driven project this is also the time to conduct research and to seek input to guarantee the best finished product. Keep track of how long it takes you to do tasks like dress for work, walk across your building for a meeting, or drive to a client’s location for future reference.

Be conscious of what you spend your time on. Reading the paper or surfing the Internet can become quick time traps. Just 10 minutes checking emails can quickly turn into half an hour or more. Stick to your allotted times for a given task and move on to the next meeting or project to prevent your day from getting out of control.

Plan Ahead
It’s not a good idea to assume everything will go smoothly. There’s a chance you won’t hit every green light on the way to work, so don’t leave your promptness up to chance. Try adding a 10-minute buffer to allow for the unexpected, along with planning on being 15-minutes early for everything you do. Would it be so bad to be early for things? The benefits outweigh the negatives, and you can always bring paperwork, read a book, or take advantage of your smartphone’s capabilities while you wait.
 
Plus, if you are working ahead of schedule on your projects, it allows time in your day to help out your co-workers or your boss. An opportunity to help others allows you to build your skills and deepen relationships within the workplace, but you need to make sure you have time to do so without harming your own schedule.

Be Ready To Go
Do not hit the snooze button and drift back to sleep. Have you ever taken a nap only to wake up even more tired than before? The same principle applies. Sit your alarm clock across the room if you have to, but resist the urge to hit snooze. Your body will adjust and get used to the new routine and you’ll begin to reap the benefits of getting adequate rest.

Prepare the night before to make your morning go smooth. If you’ve got children consider choosing clothes, gathering schoolwork, and packing lunches the night before to make getting out the door easier. Check to make sure your own work attire is clean and ready to go. Your peers can tell when you were running late and didn’t have time to iron your clothes or fix your hair. 

The first step in being on time is to admit you have a problem with running behind. From there you can start to take control of your schedule.

The Benefits of Being Punctual

BeingPunctual_August2011_web You can run late or miss a deadline for a variety of reasons. “The alarm didn’t go off,” or “I hit every red light on the way to work.” Whatever the reason, you can take control of being punctual. If you were headed to an important interview, you would probably take traffic into consideration and show up well in advance. But sometimes it’s hard to treat every workday or deadline as if it were an important interview.

Unfortunately, constantly being late can send the wrong message to co-workers and your employer. Some see being late as a disregard for company policy. Others may believe you are late because you are disorganized. These messages can translate into assumptions about your character and work ethic. For example if they think you are late because you are disorganized, you may not be considered for leading a big project with a tight deadline.

Here are a few good reasons to be early or on time that can have a positive impact on your image in the workplace.

Building Respect
Respect is a big thing in the workplace. Being constantly late, whether its to work, to a meeting, or with a project, is rude to your co-workers, manager, and clients. Being late is seen as disrespectful and that image can be difficult to recover from professionally. When you are on time you show your respect for the policies of your employer, as well as the time of peers and leaders. 

Being Reliable
This isn’t high school and your boss is not your teacher, so resist the urge to be the cool kid that comes in late and slacks off. On the flip side, showing up early does not mean that you are trying to show up your co-workers that might struggle with being on time. Try not to get caught up in who is showing up on time for work or returning quick from lunch. Unless you are a manager, all you need to worry about is your own punctuality. Don’t worry, people will notice that you are always on time and that they can count on your dependability. You’ll know your reputation for being on time has had a positive impact when people start to rely on your departure from your desk to signal them its time for the weekly staff meeting.

Relieving Stress
Apart from the normal stressors of a workday, always having to rush because you are running late will compound stress. It can just pile on – being late can mean having to park far away, which causes you to be even later by having to walk further to your building, etc. – and it’s not a good way to start your morning off. Once you get into a routine of being on time you may find the rest of your calendar falling into place. You should be scheduling your day, not reacting to a schedule imposed upon you. 

Clearing Your Mind
When you are running late all the time or pushed up against a deadline, you don’t have time to think. To foster creativity you need to allow yourself time to problem solve and brainstorm. Working ahead of schedule allows you time to develop alternative solutions or try out a few ways of completing a task before having to meet a deadline or turn in something you don’t feel totally finished with.

Staffing Jobs Impact Search for Full-Time Work

TempJob_August2011_2_web When on the job hunt, people can make the mistake of overlooking the benefits of temporary work simply due to the word “temporary.” And, all the while, others are taking full advantage of temporary work and turning the opportunity into full-time jobs.

When looking for work, try to shake the average perception of “temp jobs” and turn them into step towards full-time employment.

Access to Employment
There are numerous benefits to taking a temporary job, but one that sticks out is work. Rather than sitting at home wishing you had a job, a temp job actually puts you to work and is a source of income. Good jobs don’t just appear in front of you. If you narrow your pool of potential employers by eliminating temporary work, you’re also decreasing your chances of getting full-time jobs that may be available via temporary work.

A recent New York Times story highlighted the plight of unemployed workers trying to find jobs, saying the longer you are unemployed the less attractive you are to companies that are hiring. By taking temporary work you are filling a gap on your résumé, versus remaining unemployed as you wait for your ideal opportunity. The average duration of unemployment is currently nine months, which could result in almost a year gap on a résumé. The American Staffing Association (ASA) cites that 88% of staffing employees said temporary and contract work made them more employable.  Also, if you take a temporary job while looking for full-time employment it may give you the financial resources to be more selective in where you apply and which full-time opportunity to accept. 

Bridge to Full-Time Work
Just because you take a temp job doesn’t mean it has to be temporary forever. A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive shows that 70% of those surveyed turned the temporary jobs they had into full-time positions.

Employers want dedicated hard workers, and if you prove yourself to be invaluable, it’ll be hard for them to let you go. If you come to work like it is a full-time job and treat it as such, it can become one. And even if the position is not scheduled to turn into full-time work, you never know if your hard work will impress the right person. Right now, companies are starting to see an increase in demand but may be hesitant to hire someone full-time, however if the economy continues to improve while you are working a temporary assignment, the company may become more secure and ready to hire full-time workers.

A Chance to Build Skills
Whether you’re developing new skills on the job or simply honing the ones you already have, temporary work can build your résumé and experience. According to ASA, “65% of staffing employees said they developed new or improved work skills through their assignments.” Take inventory of the skills you possess that can crossover into other industries, like a proficiency in Microsoft Office, or ones that might be unique to an industry, like knowledge of the RGIS inventory system.

Not only can you build skills with temporary work, you may also discover an industry you want to pursue skill development in. Often, temporary workers are called upon in growing industries, and you may uncover a field that is ripe with career opportunities that you hadn’t considered before. While a company may not hire someone full-time who doesn’t have the perfect skills, a temporary worker may get on the job training that allows them to advance into other roles in a growing industry.

Temporary work can offer quick access to positions, the opportunity to build skills, a flexible work schedule, and the chance to make additional professional connections.  So, if you’re looking for a full-time job, don’t close the door on temporary work, it might just be a foot in the door to your next career.