Workplace Goofs

The 5 Worst Things to Do During a Meeting


Whether they’re scheduled on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, almost all careers require at least some meetings every now and then. When acting purely as an attendee, it’s important to be engaged, participatory, and interested in the topics discussed. However, when you’re leading meetings, there are a few more responsibilities to keep in mind. The following examples are some things to keep in mind, and avoid, for the next meeting you run.

Don’t wing it
Olympic swimmer and champion Mark Spitz once said, “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” Walking into a meeting with no game plan could make you appear disorganized and uninterested in your topics of discussion. And, your teammates will feel like you don’t value their time.

Having some notes, points to highlight, and questions to ask is important to have beforehand. But should your meeting go in a different yet productive direction than you initially planned, go with the flow. Those in the meeting will be able to tell the difference between zero planning and necessary spontaneity that often comes with interactive meetings.  

Don’t over-share
There is such a thing as over-sharing in the meeting world. While you may have the best intentions at heart, telling your teammates every detail, thought, and plan is often unnecessary and boring.

During your preparation stages, establish the highlights of each topic. Make note of what is most relevant, interesting, and important for your audience to know and leave out all the extra details. If you’re worried you may have missed something, feel free to ask if anyone has questions when all is said and done. The majority of the time, if an audience member needs clarification or further instructions, they will ask you during or after the meeting.

Don’t get distracted
Answering a phone call, text, or email during a meeting may at times be an utter necessity, but the majority of the time, it’s just plain rude. Your audience will see your communication with others as a distraction and lack of commitment to your presentation. Make it a priority to silence your cell phone, put it away, and ignore it until the meeting has concluded. 

If for some reason you are expecting a call during a meeting (i.e.: you have a sick relative or are expecting a call from upper management) explain to your audience beforehand that you may need to step out for a moment but will return promptly. Your teammates will be much more understanding of your distraction if they know it’s for good reason.

Don’t run late
Be aware and respectful of your teammates’ time. If your meeting has a specified time restriction, honor it. Those in the meeting will be appreciative that you respect their time and, will in turn, respect what you have to say. Sometimes running a few minutes over is unavoidable, but consistently holding your audience late is disrespectful of their time and other job duties. Realize that although your topics of discussion may be important and relevant, there are other tasks your audience needs to work on throughout the day too.

Don’t disregard common courtesy
Eating during a meeting is not only disrespectful, but off-putting. If you are in a boardroom setting with nine teammates and decide to open a bag of chips while delivering a message, it becomes a distraction and not very pretty to watch. Of course, some meetings occur over breakfast and lunch where eating is, obviously encouraged, but for the majority of the time, it’s best to eat while on your lunch break.

If your meeting is expected to take up the majority of the day, coordinate snacks or meals for everyone in attendance, with specified break times allotted in the agenda. The only thing worse than watching someone eat is watching someone eat when you’re hungry. This simple gesture will show your teammates you have their best interests at heart.

Meetings are an everyday occurrence in the business world, no matter what your field. And most likely, you will all have to participate in them in some capacity. Keeping the preceding five tips in mind will help you deliver a message without distraction, offending your audience, or embarrassing yourself.

Recover From a Bad Conversation With Your Boss


Perhaps this happened to you. You’re enjoying a typical day on the job when suddenly things take a turn for the worst. Tempers flare, words are exchanged, and regret sets in. You had a bad conversation, maybe even a fight, with your boss. Thankfully, these regrettable conversations are not always a deal breaker. You may be given the opportunity to redeem yourself, move forward, and continue to wow your employer. The trick is, how do you begin the recovery process?

Cool down.
During any argument it is natural to turn on our defenses, however, entering a resolution while feeling defensive is rarely productive. Take time to cool down and collect your emotions and thoughts. For each individual this time is different; whether you need five minutes or an afternoon, take the time you feel is appropriate and necessary.

Admitting fault is never fun. If after taking some time to cool down you realize you were in the wrong (yes, you actually did snap at that customer), approach your boss with humility and a resolution. But, apologizing is simply not enough. Be able to tell your boss why what you did was wrong and how you plan on avoiding similar situations in the future. Show initiative in taking steps toward a better you. Admitting fault when you still believe you were in the right is especially difficult, but it is vital in moving forward. When you’re having trouble finding fault in yourself, apologize for the way you reacted. Most of us say or do things we regret in the heat of the moment, so, if nothing else, apologize to your boss for your “momentary lack of professionalism.” Acknowledging that you were wrong, in at least some way, will show your employer you are taking some of the responsibility.

Move forward.
Unfortunately, many of us like to bring up situations that should be left alone. After apologizing, don’t continue bringing up the argument. Making light of the situation may seem like an easy way to get over the awkwardness but keep in mind, each time the conversation is brought up, your teammates are reminded of your moment of weakness. If co-workers, or even your boss, continuously bring up your meltdown, simply remind them the situation has been addressed and you are taking the necessary steps to move forward. In this case, the less ammunition you give your peers, the better. 

Arguing with an employer is undoubtedly awkward and even scary. The true test will be your ability to recover from the situation professionally. Showing the maturity to move forward will prove your ability to conduct business respectfully and graciously.

Break Your Web Surfing Habit

Websurfing_June2011_web With so many jobs now requiring employees to spend the day on the internet, distractions are bound to occur. Whether you are susceptible to Facebook, news stories, or checking your bank statements, we all have something that steals our attention and productivity. Although some workplace distractions are inevitable, there are some simple precautions you can take in order to avoid one-hour YouTube watch parties with your co-workers.
1. Acknowledge your personal high and low productivity hours. Do you hate mornings? Do you always feel especially tired after lunch?  Recognize your low points of the day and schedule your workload around them. That isn’t to say you are allowed to sit and do nothing during your slump, but by working harder during your best hours you will be able to ensure a more productive, effective day in the office.

2.  Create deadlines for yourself. It can be hard to stay on task if you have an unspecified time to produce results. If your manager doesn’t set a deadline, set one for yourself. Make your deadline reasonable; no time constraint should be unattainable nor should it be lackadaisical.

3. Listen while you work. Studies show that music impacts reasoning skills, the cardiovascular system, and moods. Use music as a powerful way to improve your health and focus during work. Instead of looking to the internet for entertainment, you can play your favorite song for some much needed comfort and inspiration. Listening to music can ensure you’re having fun and getting your work finished at the same time.

4. Block inappropriate websites. You know the websites you’re prone to look at when you should be working. To keep your eyes from wandering, block these websites during times you are supposed to be working. There are a plethora of blocking programs, including LeechBlock, that help curb your time spent on the biggest time-wasting sites. 

5. Change your attitude toward work. At the end of the day, if you are compelled to waste time, you will. The biggest obstacle in breaking your tendency to procrastinate is the way you think about your workday. If you are bored, uninspired, and don’t feel challenged at work, there may be something deeper occurring. Really consider your time at work and if it is worth your efforts. Although most procrastination is simply human, some may be a sign you are in need of a more fulfilling job.

There will always be things to distract you at work. Although getting sidetracked is nothing to feel guilty about, it is something that should happen in moderation. Strive to focus on work, give yourself breaks to refresh and rejuvenate your mind, and have fun. You’ll find the more you enjoy work, the less procrastinating you’ll end up doing. 

He Said What? Avoiding and Recovering From Office Gossip

Gossip_May2011_web In a work environment, no matter how many employees there are, gossip is most likely going to occur. According to the American Psychological Association gossip can be “undeniably aversive and problematic,” for individuals. Accepting the fact that gossip will happen occasionally, it is important to know how to avoid it and what to do if it happens to you.

Turn the other cheek.
The best advice regarding office gossip is simple – don’t do it. Gossip leads to a multitude of problems, including distractions, hurt feelings, and even damaged relationships. When you hear co-workers discussing another individual’s personal or professional business, avoid joining in. Although you may be tempted to include yourself in the conversation, avoiding it entirely will help you steer clear of any further problems caused by the situation. The golden rule applies perfectly to this scenario – treat others as you would want to be treated. If you don’t appreciate your co-workers gossiping about you, don’t gossip about your co-workers.

Respond graciously.
If the time comes when you hear of others gossiping about you, respond with maturity. Brushing the situation under the rug will most likely lead to unresolved resentment and an uncomfortable workplace. If you choose to address the situation instead, approach the offending co-worker in a private setting and gently explain your thoughts and feelings on the situation. Due to the delicacy of the situation, approach your peer gently to avoid playing the blame game and creating further workplace problems. By addressing your frustrations calmly and maturely, you will help prevent further inappropriate discussions and keep the situation from escalating.

If for some reason your gracious response to the office gossip is not received well, keep calm and find support from those above you. Seek guidance from a manager, supervisor, or the HR Department within the company to find ways to resolve the issue. Just be sure your reinforcement doesn’t turn into someone you can gossip with.

Being the victim of gossip is never fun, especially at work where it involves your professional peers. Knowing the potential hurt it may cause you and your reputation, be sure to avoid it when you can spare your co-workers the same frustrations. In the end, your team members will respect your decision to maintain professional conversation far more than your knowledge of the inner office gossip.

Tackling Costly Celebrations at Work

Workplaceparty2_April2011_web Adding celebrations like birthdays, wedding or baby showers, and other milestones into the mix of regular office life is a balancing act. Celebrating special moments together is an important part of team building.  But, such festivities can sometimes cause stress, distractions, and even a financial burden. With wedding season just around the corner, keeping the following tips in mind will ensure you not only survive celebrating in the office, but truly enjoy yourself during the process.

Don’t make it a competition.
Believe it or not, your work ability will not be judged based on your involvement in planning work parties and giving the best gifts. Although you may receive accolades for a generous donation of time, most likely you won’t be receiving a raise or promotion for your input on your co-worker’s wedding shower. Set realistic boundaries regarding what time and energy you can devote to the planning process. Consider other obligations including work, family, and life. Don’t feel the need to devote more time than necessary, neglecting more important duties, for the perfect company celebration.

Remember, work comes first.
Although these parties are a great way for the office to unwind and escape the daily grind, work tasks still take priority. Never allow parties to come before finishing a project, meeting with a client, or completing necessary duties. Learning to balance work, along with your other responsibilities, will show your boss that you deserve the occasional break!

Have a budget and stick to it.
Occasional splurging is quite understandable, but with all the different festivities at work, spending large amounts consistently is unrealistic on your wallet. Talk with your co-workers and see who is interested in giving a group gift. Consider shopping sale aisles, discount stores, or even making your own presents. The old saying, “it’s the thought that counts,” still holds true.

Company celebrations can be a time of fun and relaxation, or a time of stress and financial strain. Remember to realistically set boundaries regarding your time, work, and money and you could be the life of the party!

Two Dangerous Downfalls to Slacking Off at Work

Downfallsslacking_April2011_web Let’s be honest – we’ve all had our lazy moments while on the job. Whether your laziness comes in spurts or daily instances, it’s important to realize procrastination actually causes more problems than solutions. We all need a break from time to time, but watch out for these two consequences.

The greatest challenge that comes with procrastination is the stress that partners with it. Putting off a project until the evening before it’s due may seem like a good idea at the time, but it can take quite a toll on your stress level at work – and on your health. Avoid the added stress that comes with stalling by prioritizing your work. Ask yourself what needs to be accomplished and when. By organizing your work, you will find yourself much more in control of your projects and at ease when in the office.

Low Expectations.
If you develop a reputation of putting things off until the last minute, those around you are going to have low expectations. And, low expectations will lead to fewer responsibilities and even fewer opportunities to shine in the office. In order to gain the confidence of your co-workers, and your boss, you must hold yourself to a higher standard and surpass expectations.

Work Smarter.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, resist the urge to procrastinate. Instead, find ways to work smarter. Working smarter means you approach tasks with efficiency in order to avoid more work than necessary. Applying this principle to your daily tasks can radically change your schedule and motivation in the workplace. By incorporating efficiency in your daily routine on the job, you will be able to produce valuable work while saving you time and the company money, which is a win-win for everyone.

Although it is difficult to be productive 100% of the time, it is a worthy goal. By focusing on your work in a timely manner you will increase your independence, responsibilities, and worth in the office.

How to Save Face When You Make a Ghastly Mistake

As 2010 comes to a close, various “Top 10” lists start making the news. Top 10 Headlines. Top 10 Influential People. Top 10 Sports Memories.

There is even a Top 10 Public Relations Blunders List issued by a prominent San Francisco PR firm that features botched product recalls, free speech fallout, and one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. These blunders indicate that ghastly mistakes happen on the job everyday and everywhere.

But what happens when you make a ghastly mistake at work? How will you recover, especially when you are the new kid on the block? When you make a mistake, here are four tips that will help you save face and possibly your job.

Admit your mistake. This might be the hardest step, but admitting you made a mistake is necessary. When you own up to your oversight, your co-workers are more likely to forgive you. They will probably even pitch in to help you correct your error. Blaming others won’t correct the situation nor will it make the problem go away. Instead, playing the blame game will only waste precious time and will most likely upset your co-workers.

Regain your composure. You won’t be able to logically correct your misstep until you regain your composure. Remain calm and try to retrace your steps. This will help you identify where things went wrong.

Tell your supervisor. It’s imperative to inform your supervisor of your mistake first. It is better that your supervisor hears the news from you than a co-worker or a customer.

Develop a corrective action plan. Work with your supervisor to develop a plan to help change or fix the situation. Despite your blunder, working on an action plan will demonstrate to your supervisor that he or she made the right decision in hiring you. Pay attention to details as you work through your action plan and offer to be responsible for carrying out the plan.

Because we’re all human, mistakes are bound to happen. The key is to take responsibility for the mistakes you make, and most importantly, learn and grow from them. As someone once said, “If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t doing anything.” So the next time you mess up at work, take it in stride and see it as the opportunity it is, to learn from the mistakes you make.