Friday, October 3, 2008

Have Your Ever Wondered If Ashton Kutcher is Hiding Around the Corner at Work?

Have you ever been at work, and you think you have perhaps fallen into another dimension? That maybe Ashton Kutcher is going to show up and explain that you've been punked -- that what you're going through isn't really, well... real?

Unfortunately, we're not celebrities, and the bizarre things we end up doing at work are not practical jokes. Let's look at some of the....

Things That Were Not in My Job Description:

1. Smelling the boss's breath to make sure it's not "too garlicky" before meeting with a client.
2. Looking at a co-worker's photos of him cutting his child's umbilical cord.
3. Entertaining a customer's 3-year-old who asks "why" every 25 seconds and wants to know what dirt it made of.
4. Cleaning out the microwave where some idiot left the remains of an exploded bean burrito.
5. Listening to a co-worker describe her wedding plan, complete with PowerPoint, flow chart and Excel spreadsheet.
6. Participating in the annual pep rally kickoff for a community campaign that involves cheers and wearing a really stupid hat.
7. Fixing a broken office chair with a paperclip and Dentyne.

What are some other things you've been asked to do at work that are not in your job description?

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Understanding Why You Really Get Distracted at Work

If you feel like you're going to scream the next time someone interrupts you at work, pay attention. The problem may not be them -- but you.

That's right. You're the cause of your own distractions. You may be responsible for driving yourself crazy.

Let's be real. That candy dish on your desk? A "hello, stop and chat" magnet if ever there was one. Looking up whenever someone walks by (smile optional)-- a sure sign you're willing to shoot the breeze.

And let's talk about those cute little toys on your desk and the funny posters that cover your cubicle or office walls. That doesn't exactly say you're serious about work, now does it? You may consider them just part of your work space, but to some people they say: "Whoopee! Always ready to be interrupted for whatever silly thing you have to say!"

OK, so now that we've started getting to the truth of why you can't concentrate at work, let's get a bit tougher. There is no reason that once you've greeted everyone with a smile or friendly hello at the beginning of the day, you should keep it up. You're not a cruise director are you? You can always just nod when you pass someone in the hallway -- but keep moving! If an unexpected visitor shows up, you can offer a friendly smile or greeting, but stand up and offer your hand, while saying: “How can I help you?” This shows that you’re ready for business, and keeps the person from lingering for too long.

Some other tips for cutting down on distractions:
• Talk to yourself. You can either do this in your head or aloud, but continually say to yourself: “What is the most important thing I need to be doing right now?” This serves two purposes: It helps you stay focused and your muttering concerns just enough people to keep them from getting too close.
• Find your hiding spot. The advantage of having laptops is that they allow you to pick up your work and head for another destination. Ask the boss if you can go to a local coffee shop or book an empty conference room so that you can have some uninterrupted time. Turn off your cell phone and only check it once an hour.
• Consider your own behavior. It could be that one of the reasons you’re getting off track is because you’re part of the problem. How many times do you stop and talk to others in a typical day? When you’re waiting on phone calls, or between projects, do you wander over to someone else’s desk to talk? Do you linger around the coffeepot? By behaving in such a way, you aren’t respecting the time of others – and they may be only too happy to return the favor when you least need it.

What are some of your most common distractions? Do you have ways to eliminate them?


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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seven Ways to Deal with the Co-Worker Who is Driving You Nuts

OK, time to fess up. I don't care how nice you are, there's someone at work who is driving you nuts. It's either the guy who clips his fingernails while on the phone and leaves the droppings all over the floor, or the woman who complains nonstop about her worthless, freeloading kids. It could be the person who constantly interrupts, butting into your conversations or the guy who has to always trumpet his every success, no matter how small. ("I just reloaded my stapler!")

It’s not enough that you put in long hours on the job, sit in boring meetings and put up with irate customers. No, on top of the bad coffee and the elevator that always gets stuck between floors, you’ve got to put up with the aggravation in the next cubicle, also known as a co-worker.

You’re ready to crack. You like your job, but you can't stand another day with one or more of your co-workers. You don't want to complain to the boss -- how to explain that someone's nasal voice makes you want to shove your favorite snow globe up his nose?

Don’t despair. There is a way to handle a bothersome co-worker without screaming, quitting or running to the boss:

* Write down the things that really, really bug you. Separate personal issues (she laughs like a hyena) from the professional ones (she interrupts when you’re talking). It’s not your place to comment on personal pet peeves, but rather on the professional issues that prevent you from doing your job as efficiently and productively as possible. And remember: Only address issues that directly impact you.

* Speak to the person directly. Schedule some time with her, in a private area where you won’t be interrupted and she won’t feel compelled to lash out because she’s embarrassed in front of others. Be specific about your complaints. "You’re always interrupting,” isn’t helpful. Say, “I believe you interrupt me when I’m trying to make a point in team meetings.” Try to provide an example.

* Ask for change. Once you’ve outlined the problem, then be specific about what you want to happen. “When I’m speaking, I’d like to finish my sentence so that I can make sure all members of the team understand and then I’ll answer questions or listen to other opinions.”

* Be honest. If the co-worker’s actions are really ticking you off, then say so. Describe how frustrated you feel when she pops above the cubicle partition to offer her unsolicited advice. Remain calm while describing how you feel – it will have much more impact than pitching a fit.

* Cut to the bottom line. Make it clear that you’re not bringing up these issues because you’re a whiny sourpuss. State why the issue is important in a calm, serious way.

* Fess up. You need to be honest that you’ve let the issue go on too long without speaking up, or you should have communicated more strongly your beliefs. Make sure she understands that it stops now.

* Look for solutions. Let the other person save face by helping you come up with ways to stop the problem.

So, what's the thing that drives you crazy about your co-workers?

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Working Closely Can Have a Downside

Airlines are not the only ones cramming us together like a can of sardines these days. Chances are, your company also is squeezing your personal space as you’re plopped right next to everyone else in an effort to promote “teamwork.”

Certainly, it seems like a good idea. People who are positioned closer together will make it easier to share solutions and problems, and bosses no longer sit behind closed doors, aloof and unattainable. But the unpleasant reality is that often it also means that you hear every word the person next to you is saying to someone else, you get a front row seat to a co-worker smacking gum, snorting into a tissue, belching the spicy food devoured for lunch and clipping fingernails while on the telephone.

Suddenly, teamwork doesn’t seem like such a hot idea.

But it can be if everyone just takes a few minutes to consider how less physical space means we all need to give one another a little more “mental” or “spiritual” space. For example, think about your own pet peeves at work. Do you get angry when someone pilfers your stapler? If you do, then don’t go swiping someone else’s pen or message pad.

Or, if you cannot stand someone popping gum, then you shouldn’t go sucking on a throat lozenge like it’s the last one on earth.

The point is: being a good neighbor at work takes some awareness of those around you, some compromises that offer respect and good manners to those other sardines you work with every day.

Here are some issues to be aware of when you work in close proximity with others.
• Keep your voice down. It’s amazing how far technology has come. That means you don’t have to yell into a telephone to be heard by the other person. Keep you voice well modulated, and question others whether you need to tone it down a bit.
• Watch what you say. There’s nothing quite like being on the phone to an important customer when a nearby worker yells an obscenity. Don’t turn the air blue at work with bad language; it’s bad business. At the same time, keep the crude talk for the pub later — a nearby worker may have a client visiting.
• Mind your own business. It’s a fact of life that many workers have to have private telephone conversations at work. Kids coming home from school, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, and checking in with a spouse are all pretty routine stuff. You may not be able to help overhearing these talks, but it doesn’t mean you have the right to question a co-worker later about what was said. At the same time, keep private conversations to a minimum at work. Nobody wants to hear a 30-minute discourse on your bad bunions.
• Walk away. When you enter someone’s space and it’s clear that this person is having a bad moment, walk away. Let them gather their thoughts, then return. Do you want someone is your face when you’ve just lost a big account or had a spat with the boss?
• Sniff. Take a good smell around you. Is that a leftover chili cheese dog in your wastebasket? Maybe you should have showered after you worked out for an hour at the gym, huh? Remember that in smaller spaces, not only does sound travel, but so does smell. So leave the strong perfume or aftershave at home, and keep your personal space free of strong odors.
• No personal grooming. Brushing hair, applying makeup, clipping fingernails, flossing teeth, using nose spray and shaving at your desk is not okay. In an office with your door closed you might get by with this behavior, but nobody should have to witness your grooming habits unless it’s your mother.
• Honor mental space. Working in tight confines means that people try to find ways to tune everyone and everything out. So when it’s clear someone else is concentrating, perhaps on a deadline, simply drop a note on the desk that says “call me.” Just because you can butt into their lives doesn’t mean you should.


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