Archive for June, 2010

Keeping your temper in check in the workplace

By Alaya Boykin

The workplace can get a little hot and heavy sometimes. Dealing with different personalities and attitudes is part of the day-to-day routine, but at times you may get more than you bargained for. After all, you’re there to simply do your job, right?

As professionals (or should I say adults?), we should be able to handle ourselves accordingly in most situations, especially when it comes to communicating and working with others. In some circumstances, other people’s resistance and mind-sets get in the way of the real goal: to get the job done.

Have you ever gone off on someone in the workplace? What do you do to keep your composure? If you believe that someone is genuinely wrong, does that give you license to tell them how you really feel no matter what?

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High adventure at work

When window installers William Miller and Paul Barker reported to work on Monday, they probably didn’t expect to wind up in the news. Miller and Barker, who were working outside the 55-story Bank of America tower in Atlanta, had just finished installing a window on the 23rd floor and were raising a platform when the motor malfunctioned and they found themselves stuck high above Peachtree Street.

It took about two hours for Atlanta firefighters to rescue the men, who were calm and cool, talked on their cellphones and took in the view. Miller said the ordeal was just another day at the office, and even took pictures from his perch.

Most of us probably haven’t had that type of an adventure at work; much less show such grace under pressure. What’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened at your workplace? Did you get scared? How did you handle it? Tell us about it.

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Atlanta Contract Glazing worker William Miller shares his experience to the press following his and coworker Paul Barker's rescue from outside the 47th floor of the Bank of America building on June 28. Miller said he and Barker were repairing a window on the 23rd floor and were on their way back up to the top of the building when the platform's motor stalled.  WILLIAM MILLER Special

Atlanta Contract Glazing worker William Miller shares …

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What do you look for in a company?

Excellent pay and benefits rank near the top of everyone’s employer wish list. What about more intangible benefits like flextime and opportunities for career development? Where do those rank among a potential employee’s considerations? Quite high, actually.

While the rate at which the economy is improving remains debatable, what is certain is that companies need to offer far more than just competitive salaries if they’re serious about recruiting top talent.

Blog Break touched on a version of this discussion a month ago. That post focused primarily on retention as opposed to recruitment.

The average employee values strong, competent and accessible leadership. Open lines of communication, volunteer opportunities, and encouragement from peers and management alike are also critical. Environmental awareness has become increasingly important over the years.

Besides salary and benefits, what do you look for in a company? Have you ever turned down a job offer for reasons other than …

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What’s your brand?

By Alaya Boykin

We all need to make ourselves more marketable. Most of us in the work force are focused on constant movement up the career ladder. Branding may be one of the most effective strategies to keep from the falling into a malaise of complacency.

Branding can make or break you. Take Tiger Woods, for example. No one protected their brand like Woods. So what broke him? Let’s just say your actions have to line up with the perceived image of your brand, otherwise, people (employers) won’t invest in you.

At a conference I attended last week, a presenter suggested coming up with three words that you want your brand to express. Once coming up with the words, ask your co-workers, supervisors, friends and family if this is how they perceive you. Are you projecting those words as your brand?

How are you creating your brand? What are some ways you protect it? Is branding working for or against you in the workplace?

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What was your childhood dream job?

Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones has been in the news lately with on-again, off-again talk of retiring from the game after this season is over. Whether he retires this year or not, Jones has had a stellar career in a profession that many boys dream of doing someday.

When my friends, my brothers and I were children, many of us dreamed of being a cowboy, astronaut or rock star. Young girls often fantasize about being an actress, ballerina or singer. The reality, however, is that most of us never end up in that dream job.

When you were young, what did you want to do when you grew up? Did you give it a shot? Are you still reaching for that dream? Do you have a different dream job now?

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Chipper Jones has put off announcing when he will retire until after this season is over.

Chipper Jones has put off announcing when he will retire until after this season is over. Curtis Compton/Staff

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Happy Birthday to who? Workplace obligations

Singing “Happy Birthday” to someone you barely know (or like). Contributing to the monthly potluck spread. Donating money to your manager’s “holiday gift from all of us.” Whether we like them or not, non-work-related obligations are part of life at the office. They can also be really hard to get out of.

I once had a manager who was a raving advocate for involuntary volunteerism. Her specialty was field trips. On weekends! At far-away places! The trick to finagling one’s way out of “Kathy’s Killer Weekend Killers,” as they were known, was simple: A) Have a baby; B) Get a second job working weekends; or C) Iocane powder.

Assuming travel isn’t required, most “obligatory” office functions can be quite enjoyable. Aren’t free cake, respites from e-mails, free cake, awkward group singing, and free cake pleasant distractions from the monotony of everyday office life?

Do you feel trapped by workplace obligations? What’s the worst thing you were compelled to participate in? Have you …

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Are college students prepared for the workplace?

By Alaya Boykin

Students may think they’re doing all the right things by choosing a college with a program that is unique to their career path, getting involved in professional extracurricular activities, getting good grades and working as interns. Does doing all that, in fact, prepare them for the “real world” of the workplace?

According to an article published by Quintessential Careers, college students need a reality check. The article explains that recent grads need to be prepared for the job hunt, salary negotiations and job offers. They also need to let go of their egos and be ready to show professionalism in the workplace.

How do you think college students can better prepare to enter the work force? In retrospect, when you first graduated from college and started working, what do wish you knew then? What lessons did you learn when you first started working? Is the transition simply a matter of trial-and-error?

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How to handle workplace blunders

Everyone makes mistakes at work, but most of us do it out of the spotlight. When umpire Jim Joyce blew a call that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game on June 2, he messed up on a very public stage. The game was on television and then his blunder was replayed for days on almost every broadcast outlet there is.

Upon seeing the replay after the game, Joyce admitted his mistake, apologized to Galarraga and faced the press with courage and aplomb. Because Joyce owned up to his error, and also due to Galarraga’s classy reaction to the play, much of the fallout has been positive for both men. Joyce was even voted the best umpire in Major League Baseball in an ESPN the Magazine poll of 100 players.

While this story has a happy ending, workplace gaffes don’t always end so well. Some result in reprimands, others result in firings, and sometimes companies lose money or accounts.

Most experts say it’s best to admit mistakes, learn from them and move on. …

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Low on cash? Start a business!

Admittedly, opening a new business when you’ve barely got enough money to keep your apartment lit doesn’t sound like a great idea. But what if you’re a family of one with little to risk? What if you’ve prepared yourself by evaluating the market, writing a business plan and developing a marketing strategy? Most importantly, what if you believe beyond a doubt that your business will succeed? Why not give it a shot?

And who ever said that all startups require a six-figure investment, especially these days? Certainly not the entrepreneurs here.

In this unpredictable and limitless age of digital commerce, the allure of online entrepreneurism in particular has never been stronger. Startups are launched quickly, frequently, and often on meager budgets.

Let’s hear from you business owners. What did your budget look like when you first opened? What advice would you give to someone with immeasurable passion but limited resources?

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Have you ever been fired by a stranger?

By Alaya Boykin

The popular film “Up in the Air,” starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, was released last year. In the film, Clooney and Kendrick’s characters work for a firm contracted by corporations that are looking to downsize. They travel around the country firing people in person and are also doing a trial run of laying off employees via video conferencing technology.

The film captures employees’ reactions to being fired by people they’ve never met, and what the future holds for them.

When firing workers, Clooney and Kendrick’s characters hand out a pamphlet and explain that their termination is simply a “career transition.”

Have you ever been fired by a hired gun? Did you feel humiliated by being let go by someone who didn’t actually work for the same company as you? Have you ever been given a pink slip by someone who told you that he or she understood what it felt like to be fired?

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