Monthly Archives: February 2009

Healthy Ways to Blow off Steam at Work (Without Losing Control)

It’s one of those days, or maybe one of those weeks, months, or even years, when everything seems to be going wrong. Economic concerns and reports of job loss bombard the news and your thoughts; your workload literally towers above your head, threatening to topple and crush you under its weight. And to top it all off, your cube-mate makes Dwight Schrute seem the embodiment of normality.

The pressures of work and home can be overwhelming, but before you detonate from built-up stress, use these five tips for healthy ways to blow off steam at work.

Take a break. Release pent-up frustration by taking a break from the task at hand. Find a quiet place to unwind when you feel provoked or annoyed by a boss or co-worker, before you snap under the pressure. If the weather allows, spend a few minutes outside to enjoy the air, or take a short walk to help release tension.

Escape at lunch. Spend time away from the office during your lunch break instead of working through lunch or not even taking your much needed break. Take a drive, wander through a park or a local bookstore, or take a nap so that you can return to work with a renewed focus. Utilizing your lunch will help you feel refreshed and better prepared for the challenges of the day.

Clean your desk. Take time to organize your workspace. This is a productive way to physically alleviate aggravation and expend extra energy. Cleaning the area you work in will help you feel less overwhelmed and will leave you ready to tackle your next task.

Listen to music. Listen to music to take your mind off stressful situations and soothe your emotions when you’re upset. Music releases endorphins in your brain that can help you relax, so if your job or company allows you to use an mp3 player at work, release your frustrations to the beat of a song. But be sure to use headphones so you don’t add to your co-workers stress levels.

Laugh a little. Charlie Chaplin once said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” When you or a co-worker feel overwhelmed or stressed at work, use humor to lighten the mood. Play a team-building exercise or tell a joke or story to a co-worker who is feeling frustrated. Laughter in the workplace promotes creativity and understanding, strengthens relationships, and can be the “best medicine” when you’re feeling stressed.

Office outbursts often have a trickle-down effect that can impact your work relationships, company, and even your career, so before you get irritated at work, practice these tips to blow off steam without losing control.

5 Simple Ways to Appreciate Your Boss (Without Kissing Butt)

Anonymity – the feeling that you are not known or appreciated for your job role – is one of the three signs of a miserable job. Everyone craves to be known and appreciated for the work they do. In fact, it’s the role of the boss or manager to provide this for every employee.

Do you ever think about who is appreciating your boss for the work they do? Chances are, they don’t get as much thanks as you would think.

Many people are hesitant to demonstrate their appreciation for a great boss. That’s because, there’s often a sticky side to employer appreciation. No one wants to be known as the office brown-noser. Especially at the price of co-worker relationships.

But, the fact is, a great boss deserves to be appreciated – and more than just with a card on National Boss Day. So, here are five simple ways you can show your boss your genuine appreciation – without kissing butt.

1. Strike up a conversation. Depending on your work situation – and your boss – this may be the easiest thing in the world or it may be difficult. Either way, having an informal conversation with your boss is a great way to build rapport. Don’t forget, conversation can happen in many ways – it doesn’t have to be in person. Write an e-mail, or make a phone call, just to say thanks or catch up. Then, make sure your thankful, positive attitude shines through in the way you communicate – verbally and non-verbally.

2. Help them meet a deadline. When you’re on top of your game and have time to spare once your tasks are completed, invest your time in helping your boss meet – or beat – an important deadline. Adding time into your boss’ workweek by offering to lighten the load when you can is one of the best ways to show your appreciation.

3. Share important news. If you have a pulse on a niche or are well-read in your industry, consider e-mailing interesting articles or resources to your boss to keep them well-informed. This practical idea not only saves them time, it also demonstrates your value and just may spark an innovative idea.

4. Send them a note. Consider writing a short note of appreciation or encouragement to your boss and leaving it on their desk. For an even bigger impact, mail the note – to their work or home address. The cost of the stamp will be worth it. Personal mail is so rare these days, your gesture is sure to stand out and make a positive impact.

5. Use the golden rule. Most bosses aren’t perfect. But who are we kidding? Most employees aren’t perfect either. So, choose to focus on the positive aspects of your boss, and show your appreciation for those factors. (Even if you don’t feel fully appreciated by them.) A simple act of gratitude may speak multitudes into the heart of even the most callous boss.

You may be surprised how far a little thanks can go. After all, a positive attitude is contagious. So, no matter how good or bad your relationship with your boss stands right now, realize you have the power to make it better than it is today.

Taking the time to show your thanks – whoever your boss may be – just may spark the positive energy they need to better motivate your entire team.

How Not to Ask for a Raise: Part 4 of 4

Peanuts_1 Never approach your supervisor asking for a raise with a cavalier attitude or a sense of entitlement. As a manager, nothing frustrates me more than when employees feel they deserve a raise just because they lasted another year.

If your significant accomplishments include being on time and meeting deadlines, you might think twice about asking for a raise because those are examples of just doing the bare minimum.

Raises – especially significant raises – are earned by being a top performer and demonstrating your value to the company. You have to be able to demonstrate how your company is better off because of your efforts or you aren’t likely to get a raise.

Prove why you deserve one – not that you need one because of poor financial choices or a bad economy.

You might not be able to receive a raise now, but look at where you can be in a year. Set your goals high and persevere, then this time next year you’ll be able to negotiate a well-deserved raise without making any mistakes.

Managers, please share your successes or tales of disastrous raise requests by commenting below.

What Do You Mean “No Raise”?: Part 3 of 4

Corporate You’ve done your homework, written out your case for a raise and presented it to your boss, only to be met with a resounding “No.” Where do you go from here? Well, you can take the rejection and curl up in your cube or hide in your locker, or you could do something about it.

Be flexible. If money is tight, you should consider asking for additional paid time off, stock options, or tuition reimbursement. These are alternative benefits that don’t require permanent salary commitments.

Be persistent. Ask your boss what you have to do to be considered for a raise. It might be nothing, or it might be something substantial. Now that your request is on the radar, you can keep the topic front and center by committing to a deadline. Tell your supervisor that you want to revisit the request in six months. This puts pressure on you to perform but shows initiative on your part. By scheduling regular one-on-one progress meetings with your boss, you may have the raise sooner than you planned.

Get promoted. Your company may have hiring and salary freezes in place, but that doesn’t rule out promoting people. Rather than a raise, you might be considered for a promotion, especially if people are leaving your company. Set your sights on the promotion instead of a raise and the financial windfall could be significantly better a few months down the line. If you think of yourself as promotion-worthy, the same rules apply – prove you’re a top performer by documenting your value to the company.

Everyone wants to be properly compensated for the job they do. If your company is operating in the red and there have been significant layoffs, now is probably not the best time to ask for a raise. But if you have a plan in place, you’ll be way ahead of your co-workers when the economy turns around.

Check out part four of this series to find out how not to ask for a raise.

Did your persistence pay off? Did you get the promotion you wanted? Share your successes with us.

Plan for Your Raise by Proving Your Value: Part 2 of 4

Running_man Most people go into a performance review thinking about the raise they’ll get. But, if you’re a top performer, you might not have to wait until your next scheduled review. When it comes to asking for a raise, it’s vital to strike while the iron’s hot and your performance is top-of-mind.

When is the moment right? Have you recently closed a big sale, finished a big project, or received accolades from co-workers and the bosses? When you’re being praised for your actions, that’s the perfect time to discuss the value you bring to the company. State your case in a one-page memo that highlights why you should be rewarded.

How valuable are you? Companies reward top performers who can demonstrate their return on investment. How did you contribute to the company’s bottom line last year? What are your plans for this year? When you look at your value in terms of what you’re saving the company or making the company, you can make a strong case for a raise. For instance, if you saved $80,000 by reducing printing waste, a raise might seem in order.

Leave with an answer and a plan. Don’t expect an immediate yes or no. More than likely, your supervisor will want to get back with you. But, don’t fall for the brush off line, “I’ll have to get back to you.” Don’t leave until you have a follow up plan in place. Schedule the next meeting immediately.

How have you demonstrated your value? Have you been successful? Are you still waiting for your supervisor to get back with you? In part three of this series, you’ll learn how to overcome objections.

Asking for a Raise in a Recession: Part 1 of 4

Up_and_down The current economic landscape means that things aren’t pretty when it comes to the workforce these days. Budgets are being slashed, layoffs are increasing, and hiring and salary freezes are now commonplace.

You might think in this economy that it’s the worst time to ask for a raise.

But then again, it might be just the right time to ask for one – if you can justify it to your boss. To improve your chances of success, it’s important to assess your past, present, and future value to the company before asking for more money in these budget-conscious times. This four-part series on raises will help you traverse the obstacles that stand in your way.

Start by thinking about these two questions. And if you’re a supervisor – these questions can help you evaluate a request for a raise.

What have you done for me lately? Performance reviews can be a challenging task for managers because not only are you evaluating performance, you’re also determining if they’re deserving of a pay raise. If it’s time for your review, approach it seriously and remember that there’s a difference between performing your job duties and going above and beyond. Provide specific examples of how you exceeded expectations. Be sure to document, in writing, your benefits to the company, especially if your actions saved or made the company money.

How much are you worth? Everyone wants to get paid what they’re worth, so it’s important to research comparative salaries. Resources such as, and can provide guidelines to help you identify a range for your position based on your job responsibilities and geography. The more knowledgeable you are about your position, the more comfortable you’ll be making your case.

In part two of this series, you’ll learn about timing your request.

Recession-Proof Your Job: Start with Common Courtesy

Today’s hurried culture has changed the expectations of social behavior. In an effort to keep pace with the deadlines and demands of every day, it has become increasingly difficult to see beyond ourselves, a problem only compounded by current economic concerns. Consequently, courtesies once considered common are becoming a rarity.

Lack of common courtesy in our culture impacts workplace productivity, profits, and relationships. Demonstrating a sincere attitude of courtesy and consideration for others certainly won’t hurt your job security and could even help it. Make your mark in business by making courtesy an everyday habit, and you’ll stand out to employers and co-workers. Here are three easy ways to get started.

Acknowledge Others

Whether it’s simply opening the door for a co-worker, asking about someone’s day, or giving praise for a job well done, recognize the presence and accomplishments of those around you to strengthen relationships and promote a team-centered outlook. Courtesy is contagious, so changing your habits will encourage others to follow your example, creating a positive work environment everyone will appreciate.   

Be Prompt

Arriving early to meetings and responding to emails, phone messages, and requests as promptly as possible displays professionalism, efficiency, and respect for the schedules of others. You probably don’t appreciate when others delay you or your projects, so treat them with the respect you want and be consistently prompt.

Be Thankful

Co-workers feel appreciated and valued when you express genuine gratitude for their contributions. Taking time to simply say “thank you” can help build company community and morale, and shows your co-workers how you truly feel.

Making courtesy a habit will enable you to positively impact your workplace relationships and your career. Take time to demonstrate your professionalism and respect, and you will stand out to your employer the next time you’re in line for a raise, a promotion, or a positive recognition.