Tag Archives: relationships

How to GO About Networking at Work

networking at workI can’t stress enough how important networking is. No matter your industry, personality, or situation, networking is one of the best ways to find a job. The connections you build during your job search will benefit you throughout your career.

But what happens once you get the job? Do you retire the Rolodex of connections or clear out your LinkedIn connections, and focus on the job at hand in your little workspace? NO! Developing connections and building relationships at work are just as important as building an outside network. Here’s how you can keep a strong network at work.

Go Small
We all know and work with that one person who seems to talk to everybody. While there’s nothing wrong with being social, it can be a time drain to build relationships with as many people as possible. It’s best to focus your attention on building a more efficient network of co-workers who all have different skill sets, opinions, and perspectives.

Go Outward
While it’s always good to build strong working relationships with those on your team or in your department, you should look to those you aren’t familiar with to build a good network. Keep in contact with people in other parts of your building or who do jobs that aren’t familiar to you. Networks can be powerful when you bring people together who don’t normally work with each other.

Go Weak
You may think I’m crazy for telling you to build weak ties instead of strong ones, but it really isn’t counterproductive. It feels like developing strong relationships will be the most beneficial, but binding weaker sticks together can end up being stronger than a single big stick. Those you are close to probably share the same social circles as you. Developing weaker ties with others outside of your normal circle connects you to a larger list of people you would normally never talk to.

Go to the Heart
We associate the place where everyone goes to converse as “the water cooler,” and that place can be a great resource for bringing people together. Those who frequent the hubs of conversations tend to be the ones who attract the most people. Instead of asking familiar faces if they can help you, try asking people at these casual gatherings if they know anyone who can help. It’s much easier for someone to say no if directly asked for help, but asking for a connection encourages them to think about the situation. They can stay passive while still helping out.

Go All Out
When building your network, don’t be afraid to use it to touch base with someone you’d like to meet. If you’re not the type to just barge into someone else’s workspace and introduce yourself, or if your target is just very busy and never has the door open, consider getting your boss to contact that person’s boss. Explain to your manager why you believe developing a relationship will help you in your career. If that isn’t an option, try to find out if you share the same goals or hobbies as a reason to talk.

Building a network doesn’t happen overnight. With some patience, generosity, and sincerity, you can build a great network just outside your workspace. With these suggestions, you can increase your network company-wide without wasting time or feeling pushy. How have you networked at work? Sound off in the comments section below.

Stand Your Ground Against Workplace Bullying

Workplace BullyingWhen most people think of bullying, they picture the high school football player stuffing the lonely computer geek in a locker or the elementary school tormenter forcing the new kid at the playground to give him some lunch money. What most don’t want to admit is that bullying goes beyond schoolyard antics. Workplace bullying is very real and can greatly increase stress levels, panic attacks, and even depression.

In a study in the Journal of Occupational Health  Psychology, 71% of respondents reported experiencing workplace bullying during the past five years. It’s easy to believe bullying in the workplace doesn’t exist because grown adults should be above those types of childish antics, but it happens more than you think. It happens in the form of aggressive communication like insults or threats, manipulation like withholding paid time off, sabotaging others, and avoiding contact, or acts of humiliation like spreading false rumors, playing harsh practical jokes, or talking bad about someone to make others look good to management.

If you’ve been bullied at work, you may feel like you have no means of defending yourself or have no idea where to go for help. It seems all too real that you receive punishment while the bully goes unpunished or without reprimand. But fear no more! Here are ways you can make a stand to overcome bullying in the workplace.

Check Policies and Procedures
It’s best to take your bullying issues to counselors or organizations that are trained in dealing with these types of issues. It’s important not to make claims or allegations about someone bullying you to those who are not involved with handling these types of situations. Depending on your industry, you might have a Contact, Grievance, or Human Resources Officer or Union Official. They should be able to handle your issue as quickly as possible in a no-blame, confidential manner.

It’s also a good idea to keep a written record of incidents involving the bully that includes date, time, persons involved and present, and what was said or done. The records shouldn’t be used as leverage against the bully, but may be useful later if more formal steps need to be taken.

You can also check whether your employer has a policy and complaint resolution procedure for workplace bullying. It may be available in your employer’s induction package, included in the in-house newsletters, or displayed on notice boards. Depending on your field, there may also be grievance procedures in your industrial award or employment agreement.

Mind Your Mentor
If you want to deal with the situation before it has to result in a formal complaint, you can always seek the advice from a trusted mentor or supervisor who has dealt with being bullied or managed employees who were bullies. Avoid using names when talking to your mentors so they don’t get involved with the situation. You should also avoid talking about it to fellow co-workers or recruiting them to your side. The way you handle the situation professionally and maturely will allow them to make their own judgment.

Confront With Care
If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, you can make it clear to the bully, in a professional manner, that the behavior is unacceptable and unwanted, and will not be tolerated. Sometimes not saying anything only fuels the continued torment and could possible get worse if you stay silent.

Don’t sink to a bully’s level – stay as calm as possible and refrain from yelling or threatening. This type of confrontation is what many bullies look for and it will encourage them to come back for more. Just because you avoid using the same tactics a bully uses doesn’t mean you should show weakness. Be confident and stern but also professional and courteous.

Spread the Word
Bullies are trying to tear you down for their personal gain. One way to fight that is to demonstrate how good of an employee you are. Let your managers know how your projects are going and share what you’ve accomplished in the past few months. Bullies often try to spread rumors about their victims underperforming, but will fall on deaf ears if your supervisors are aware of how much you’ve accomplished.

Your co-workers can also be a great support group. While you shouldn’t involve them in your conflict or rally them to your side, it’s important to foster and grow your workplace relationships so the bully can’t isolate your or make you feel isolated.

The days of schoolyard torment are over. You shouldn’t have to go to work in fear of other co-workers. It is a problem in many workplaces, but depending on your area, it’s illegal and you don’t have to tolerate it with these guidelines. What kind of bullies have you stood up to? Tell us your stories in the comments below.

Lies we Tell Our Boss

Lies we Tell Our BossSometimes we can’t help it. While we may not be the office Pinocchio, spouting lies while our noses get increasingly bigger. There may be times in our career we are tempted to  stretch and bend the truth in little ways just enough to stay out of the hot seat with our boss.

This kind of dishonesty doesn’t come from bad, self-serving, or malicious motivations. It often stems from the desire to please others, even if it’s at our own expense. In the long run, these little lies, while made with good intentions, can not only interfere with your best interest, but also you co-workers’ and managements’ interest as well.

Sometimes lying can be so easy, we may not even realize we’re doing it until it’s too late. Here are some basic lies we tell our bosses and solutions in how we could better handle the situation.

No Questions Here
Remember that rush of excitement after receiving that first big solo assignment? There is also that sinking feeling when the instructions or guidance didn’t make any sense. The boss asked if there were any questions, but nobody wants to be that person who doesn’t understand what’s going on, so no questions were asked.

The problem is that if we have questions, we will need the answers in order to do the job right. If you are worried about sounding unintelligent, preface the questions with, “I just want to be certain I completely understand everything.” It’s better to clarify and do a great job than to appear competent and not meet expectations.

I’m on it
Sometimes it can be a normal workday with a full work load, then the boss walks in to ask one more favor or task to take care of that day. Instead of being honest with how much work that request adds to your work load, a whole hearted, “I’d be happy to” is heard with a giant grin.

The manager expects those who make promises to keep their word. If a new assignment interferes with other job duties, ask the supervisor which tasks have the highest priorities so the most important tasks are completed first. The boss may have just forgotten how much work is on each employee’s plate and can find someone with a lighter load.

Everything is Going According to Plan
For a while, this may be true. Project timelines and scheduled events may be perfectly on task, but life will always get in the way of even the most perfect of plans. It happens to the hardest of workers, but nobody wants to appear behind schedule. That’s why most workers who fall behind on their duties will wipe their forehead and say, “Everything is fine!” when the boss asks how the project is coming along.

Juggling multiple projects might not seem like a big deal as long as everything is finished by the deadline, but lying about the status leaves no room to act should something go wrong before then. There might be a moment when input from the boss is needed before proceeding with a project, but the lie could have kept any questions from being asked since the manager was told that the specific part had already been completed. It’s just better to be honest with a sincere, “I’m working on it.”

Little white lies may seem innocent and are often told with the best of intentions, but they can come back in the long run and disrupt the workplace before anyone realizes it. Honesty is always the best policies and managers are more forgiving when mistakes come from sincerity. What are some of the other big lies told to bosses that come back to wreak havoc on the workplace?

The 10 Commandments of Networking

the 10 commandments of networkingWe can’t escape networking. It’s an important part of the job search and career development. It’s a great way to open doors of opportunity and to have different people in which to bounce ideas off. But to a lot of us, networking is a dirty word and is easier just to avoid. It’s so foreign to us, we might not even know where to start networking if we tried.

So, sometimes we have to go back to the basics. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran who needs a refresher course or a wallflower newbie who wants to learn the ropes, here are 10 important aspects of networking to best meet people and build lasting relationships.

Thou Shalt Have a Strong Introduction
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make it count. Confidently introduce yourself with your name, eye contact, and a sturdy handshake to individuals or small groups of two or three. It can be surprising to see how open people are to talking if you show a little confidence.

Thou Shalt Not Talk More Than Listen
You should be spending more time understanding and getting to know the people you’re talking to than talking about yourself. You have two ears and one mouth, so use them respectively. Your natural reaction to feeling nervous can be to continue talking, but instead take a breath and listen.

Thou Shalt be Relevant
Stick to the point. If asked to tell a bit about yourself, keep it less than a minute and leave out gritty details that are specific to your job or industry. You could be talking to people outside of your field and you want them to stay engaged, so avoid work jargon. Follow the conversation, so you can add relevancy to the topic.

Thou Shalt Not be Awkward
It’s easy to become too personal. Details about a recent surgery, spousal or family argument, political rant, or other personal subjects should be avoided until a stronger relationship with someone is built. Also, be aware of your body language. Good eye contact and staying an arm’s length from others are generally good social constructs.

Thou Shalt Provide Value
The best way to provide value is to find out what they actually need. Use those listening skills to learn the person’s immediate need, and devise how you can solve their problem or introduce them to someone who can.

Thou Shalt Not Be Phony
Don’t try to fake your interest in other people. Networking is about making mutual connections, and sometimes you simply can’t click with some people. If a conversation isn’t going well, excuse yourself, thank them for their time, and move on. You could be spending your time more wisely with someone else.

Thou Shalt be Positive
You should strive to maintain a positive attitude, even if you are having a tough time with the job market. People don’t like doing business with grumpy people. They are attracted to individuals who have can-do attitudes and are eager to accomplish and serve.

Thou Shalt Not Take Too Much Time
Overstaying your welcome is just as bad as ignoring someone. If you notice arms crossing, eyes wandering, or the word “anyway” being said frequently, that means it’s time to gracefully exit and start a new conversation.

Thou Shalt Give Opportunities to Stay in Contact
If a conversation is going well or there are potential job opportunities with someone, give them the opportunity to stay in contact. A business card is a great way to keep the conversation going. Don’t forget to politely ask for theirs, too.

Thou Shalt Follow Up
Any relationship needs to be maintained. Try to contact people of interest within 24 hours of meeting them to say you enjoyed meeting them. Be thankful even if they don’t have any immediate leads. They took their time to talk with you, and they can be a valuable resource later.

If you could add a Networking Commandment, what would it be?

The Workplace Barnyard – Which Animal are You?

Which workplace barn animal are you?You may feel like you work in an animal house, but in reality we all work differently. The workplace is like a barn in many ways. The different personalities you work with can mirror the habits and attitudes animals have in a farm. Here are some common animal personality types that relate to the workplace, which can help you better understand yourself and those around you.

The Challenger Rooster
Rosters are often associated with being “loud and proud” among barnyard animals. They’re the first to signal the new morning and quick to start as head of the farm – at least in their minds. You’ve probably worked with someone who loves a debate and is comfortable taking control. To them, iron sharpens iron but to you, they are pompous and arrogant for challenging your ideas.

It’s not that your loud co-workers are making things all about them, but they are trying to engage in a lively conversation to push everyone to think differently. Talking to them about your feelings and how you communicate differently can help ease tensions and form better working relationships. If you’re a workplace rooster, be careful not to get into rooster fights and watch out about how vocal you can get. It can be easy for you to overstep boundaries with co-workers and managers.

The Problem-Solving Pig
Pigs are widely considered by animal researchers to be the most intelligent domestic animals on the planet. Research has also shown pigs having the ability to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from their own. Pigs can be the problem solvers and are known to help other animals out of a pinch.

Problem solvers may be a treasure trove of knowledge and creativity, but they tend not to be the quickest to react. Most are very analytical and will have to internalize every aspect before making a decision. It’s quality over quantity to the problem solvers, so be patient with those who need time to think over your questions. Find out when they are least busy to give you their full attention.

The Supportive Sheep
Sheep follow the herd. When the group needs to flee from danger, there isn’t a leader. The herd moves as one. Each sheep works hard to make sure they do their part for the greater good. There are co-workers who define their success in terms of volume of accomplished tasks or sales. They work the hardest, put in the most hours, and tend to show the most results.

When sheep are in a herd, they typically don’t think for themselves. They just follow the sheep in front, even if it means to their slaughter. Supportive sheep co-workers generally lack the ability to drive big projects on their own. They wait for the order instead of taking initiative and innovate new ideas. If you work with a sheep, encourage them when they form an idea and support their efforts. If you are a sheep, ask your manager to give you small challenges that are outside of your comfort zone.

The Hospitality Horse
Horses are very social creatures with their own way of greeting other horses. Farmers have been using horses for thousands of years when interacting with other animals from herding to transporting; horses interact with almost every animal on the farm. They also take a lot of effort to tame, and usually have to be tied to something or else they run off.

Co-workers can be very chatty and lack the vision to stay on track. They can be more focused on building connections than doing work or making sales.  Relationships are an end unto themselves to a social colleague. When interacting with them, have an agenda ready. And the quicker those goals are met, the more time you can spend building relationships with co-workers or customers.

You don’t have to treat your co-workers like animals, but you can use their personalities to better understand where they are coming from to have better working relationships with them.

How do I Network When I Don’t Know Anyone? A Guide to Working the Room

How to Network Alone When You Don't Know AnyoneEverybody has been there before. You walk into a networking event, industry professionals meeting, or social hour and don’t know anybody there. For some, it wouldn’t be much of a problem because it’s an adventure to meet new people and make connections, but that’s not the case for most. Networking can be awkward, uncomfortable, and downright intimidating. What’s a person to do?

Whether you’re looking for a job or advancing your career, networking is an important tool. Building strong working relationships can help open doors to landing a job with a desired company or improve your trade by seeking advice from others for guidance and support. But, building a network from scratch can seem like an impossibility.

You don’t have to be well connected to make connections. Everybody starts somewhere and you can have fun, meet people, and grow your network without knowing anyone in the room with these easy tips.

Have a Plan
With just about everything in life, it’s best to have a little strategy before going blindly into a strange place. You’re not strategizing military formations in a war, but you should be prepared if knowingly going somewhere unfamiliar. Before going, catch up on the latest industry, community, and national news. Being caught up on the latest headlines and having an opinion on it can help you start conversations with others and demonstrates your passion and expertise in your field. If you’re attending an event, find out who is going to be there, learn about them, and think of a question or two to ask them. When in doubt, people love talking about themselves, so try to have a few open-ended questions just in case.

Pick Your Targets
Depending on your personality, you should find people you think you would fit in with. A more open, outgoing person might target those who are getting the most attention or the biggest crowd. That’s probably where the most interesting conversation is and your chance to shine. For the more introverted person, look for people who are by themselves or in smaller groups. They may not be very outgoing and are likely feeling the same pressure you are, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a potential resource of information and leads.

Break the Huddle
Many people feel like walking into a circle of people at a social outing is unwelcome. They feel like they are intruding on a conversation that they weren’t invited to. It’s generally acceptable to walk into a conversation at a social event. The more outgoing people don’t see it as an intrusion, but an inclusion into the conversation. If you’re unsure about joining a group of people, walk closely to the group. Casually observe the conversation and get the attention of someone in the group. Once you make eye contact, send a nonverbal greeting their way and wait for a response. If you get one back, introduce yourself and join the conversation.

Talk Genuinely
You may feel out of your element when talking to a group of strangers, but that doesn’t mean you should stop being yourself. Don’t worry about acting the way others expect you to – be yourself. Always be courteous, respectful, and mindful of etiquette, but don’t accept invitations or participate in anything that feels out of character. Many can see through it and  it can hurt your relations in the long run.

Being genuine means being honest with others. Actively enjoy and convey interest in conversations that are actually of interest to you. If you aren’t interested in the conversation, you don’t have to continue being a part of the discussion. You’re missing out on opportunities to make stronger connections with other people. If you need to leave a conversation, exit gracefully by saying something like, “I need to refill my drink. It was a pleasure to meet you,” “I need to step out. It was great talking to you,” or “It was wonderful getting to know you. I hope you have fun tonight.”

Follow Up

Meeting people and building relationships at an event will be much more effective if you keep up with them after your first meeting. Following up with those you meet demonstrates your reliability and interest in your new contact. It doesn’t have to be anything in-depth or boring. It could be something as simple as sending a funny or interesting link related to your conversation, asking how things went after a particular event they were preparing for, or scheduling time to meet for lunch to discuss something if your contact offered to help you with a job search or career development.

Everyone is a stranger until you meet them. Once you get past the fears and be yourself, you’d be surprised how many wonderful people you can meet and relationships you can build when stepping a bit out of your comfort zone and enjoying yourself. Let us know some of your best networking stories in the comments below.

Hey! Stop Complaining About Former Employees!

complaining about ex employeeStarting a new job may take some time to get accustomed to. A common concern new employees can face is being compared to a previous hot-shot employee, but sometimes you can be compared to the opposite. You could find that you have trouble shaking others’ frustrations of a former employee who wasn’t favored or left on bad terms.

If you have siblings, you probably know all too well what it’s like to be compared to somebody else. The feeling can be even worse when it happens in the workplace. Here are some ways to handle a boss or co-worker complaining about the former, less than desired employee.

Let it Roll
If you’ve just started, let some of the comments roll off your back. You may have only had a few days to a few months to work at your company and you haven’t had much of a chance to make the job your own. It’s important to be patient and let your work do the talking before you make a big deal out of it.

You are trying to figure out your work environment as much as your work environment is trying to figure you out. Your new co-workers don’t have much to base a working relationship off of yet, so it’s easy for them to fall back on the familiar. Give it some time and strive to build strong working relationships with those around you.

Share Concerns Respectfully
If the months go by and you still hear constant complaints and stories about the former employee, it’s apparent that there could be a problem. Maybe it’s a signal that your manager has some significant holes in his or her interpersonal skills, or maybe it’s a clue that your co-workers are projecting burnout of their job onto the former employee. Either way, it might be the time to have a conversation with your manager.

Schedule some time with your leader or co-worker and address the issue, share how the comments make you feel like the ex-employee is still in the room. Stay calm and avoid getting emotional. Use specific quotes others have said and refrain from using inflammatory phrases like “You always…” or “You’re not being fair…”

Ask for Feedback
One of the best ways to separate yourself from the previous employee and add positive conversation among your peers is to ask for some direct feedback. Regularly asking for feedback takes the focus off the annoying ex-employee and puts a positive light onto you. Not only will it keep things positive toward you, but it will also make you become a better employee by getting feedback on what you’re doing right and what you need to do to improve. If you keep improving, it won’t be long before you make the job your own.

It’s easy to complain, especially when a former employee is gone. You may find yourself in that trap of everyone talking about the person you replaced and not on what you can contribute to the organization. That’s why you need to make a name for yourself by doing a good job first, then address the issue if it persists. What have you done to keep others from talking about former bad employees?