Friday, August 22, 2008

What To Do When the Gossip is About....You


Go ahead and fess up.

I know you look at those gossip rags near the checkout supermarket lines. I know that you know that Brad and Angelina had twins. I also know that you are aware John Edwards cheated on his wife, Elizabeth. If you don’t know these things, then you’re not human and obviously live under a rock.

As much as all of us proclaim we don’t listen, see, spread, smell or otherwise consume gossip, we really do. Maybe not on purpose. Maybe just by accident. We can’t help it, we say. We can’t walk around with our palms over our ears singing “nah, nah, nah” or slap our hands over our eyes so that we don’t see Britney Spear exiting a car sans underwear.

And the same is true of the workplace. If you have a job, then you have gossip. Maybe we don’t even think of it as gossip, but call it that more politically correct term, “office politics.” We listen to it because sometimes our very survival depends on it. We’re aware of the blow-up the boss had with his boss. We know that positions may be cut in another department. We have heard that a co-worker has been demoted for yelling at a colleague. All of that, we say, is important stuff we need to know.

But then one day, you’re sitting at work, and you realize that the talk is about you. You realize there are discussions about the mistake you made last month that cost the company money. Or, you find out that people are talking about your son being arrested for DUI. Maybe there are snickers or sly glances your way and lots of hushed tones to indicate you’re the subject of some kind of gossip.

You ignore it as long as you can. You’re hoping it goes away. You figure the gossips will tire of you and move onto something else. Still, no matter how much you try to put it out of your mind, you realize that the gossip mill continues to grind away, and you’re still caught in it.

While our mothers may have taught the old “sticks and stones” routine to us when we were in school, it doesn’t always work when we’re older. For one thing, gossip can hurt our careers. For another, it can make us physically sick and unable to do our jobs. And here’s the real modern-day kick: It can continue to be spread online.

So, what to do when you realize you’re the object of gossip at work? There are several routes to take, depending on what you feel is best for you at the time:

1. Confront the source. This takes a lot of guts, and you need to do it in a calm way. Walk up to the person and say: “I heard that you’ve been discussing issues in my personal/professional life.” Then, summarize what you’ve heard: “I understand that you’ve been talking about my son/job performance, and I would appreciate it if you would come to me if you have any questions or comments rather than talking to others about it.”

2. Ask for help. If you think someone may be talking about you, but you’re not sure (or maybe are sure), then you can act as if you’re enlisting their aid, which can help shame them into stopping their wagging tongue. “There seems to be gossip going around about me. I don’t know if you’ve heard it, but it’s really not OK with me. If you hear anyone gossiping about me, I’d appreciate it if you tell them to stop.”

3. Keep your nose clean. The worst thing you can do if you’re being gossiped about is to attack with the same kind of talk. Make sure no one sucks you into talking about the person who may be gabbing about you, or tries to ratchet up the destructive comments. Just change the subject, or say: “You know, I don’t like talking about other people. I know what that feels like, and it’s really hurtful.”

4. Go to the boss. This can be risky. If your boss doesn’t support you in stopping the gossip and confronting the ones at fault, then the gossip is only bound to get worse. The only choice may be leaving the job. Still, if your company has a formal policy in place that states no gossiping, you could have a better foundation to build your case.

What would you do if you were being gossiped about at work? Is there any way to avoid it?


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Friday, July 18, 2008

Ten Rules Guaranteed to Cause You Less Stress

It's Friday. TGIF, right? You've put in some long hours, dedicated yourself to the job and figured out a way to whittle your lunch tab down to $1.25 (ketchup put into hot water makes tomato soup, right?).

I know you're stressed. That's why I'm here to tell you that it's really OK if you:

1. See that when you're the only one getting on the elevator with the top boss you suddenly say: "Oops! I forgot something! You go ahead!" Some days you just really don't want to do the whole elevator-pitch thing, ya know?

2. Claim you already gave to the latest charitable cause for which a colleague is collecting money. You're not a bad person, but if it comes down to saving the sea turtles or a latte, well...

3. Don't watch "The Office" because it depresses you. It cuts a little to close to the bone. "Dwight" has inhabited the cubicle next to you for three very, very long years.

4. Are determined to best your personal record of 17 straight spins in your chair. You brought some WD-40 to work, and are waiting for everyone to leave before trying for your personal goal of 35 spins.

5. Have scoped out a future retiree's larger, more private work space and are already schmoozing the office manager to make sure that when the time comes, that baby is YOURS.

6. Claim you didn't get the phone message from your boss over the weekend because your service sucks. And the e-mail? Same thing.

7. Show up for the company potluck with your personal, extra-secret recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Good thing Mrs. Field's is near your house...

8.Have written an entire novel in your head during a human resources presentation on "Know Your Company, Love Your Company."

9.Paid the snotty parking lot attendant all in pennies on the day he reported you were parked in vacationing employee's spot.

10. Offer your opinion on the latest business books, although you didn't actually read them. But those amazon.com reviews are so helpful, aren't they?

If you want to add to this list, feel free. It's Friday. It's OK.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Moms Are Not Getting Paid What They're Worth...and Neither Are A Lot of Other People

Are you getting paid what you're worth?

According to Salary.com, I sure as heck am not. Let me repeat: I'm not getting paid what I'm worth.

In it's annual Mom survey, it has been determined that "the time mothers spend performing the 10 most popular 'Mom Job' functions would equate to an annual salary of $116, 805 for a Stay-at-Home Mom and $68,405 for a Working Mom."

The report says the job titles that best matched a mom’s definition of her work are (in order of hours spent per week): housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, laundry machine operator, computer operator, psychologist, facilities manager, van driver, chief executive officer and janitor. (At my house, that's just what I do before 9 a.m.)

So, I'm not getting paid what I'm worth as a Mom, and I'm not getting paid what I'm worth as a freelance writer and author. Why is this? Part of it has to do with the lousy economy. Part of it has to do with the fact that I'm a woman and am just now learning how to ASK for the things I want instead of just waiting for them to happen. And part of it has to do the fact that I need to quit giving away so much stuff for free.

While many of us job hop in order to get more money, I know of one incident where someone learned a co-worker doing the same work and was making quite a bit more money. He went straight to the boss with it, and immediately received a raise that put him on equal footing.

Will this always work? If you're not doing a great job, no. But if you're really adding value, then there's no reason to just take what you get. Even in this tough economy, employers are willing to pay for talent to keep them ahead of the pack.

Here are three things you need to do today in order to get a raise you deserve:
* Pinpoint specific things you did to earn your company money. Maybe you spotted an error that everyone missed and saved the company money and/or time.
* Find out what everyone else is making. Call some employment agencies, check with your alumni group, Twitter, ask a professional association -- just get a good handle on whether you're making what you're worth.
* Get a mentor. Quit putting it off and think of someone you can ask to coach you and help you grow enough in confidence and skills so that the boss would be a complete fool not to give you a raise.

Do you feel you're getting paid what you're worth? Why or why not?

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