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Archive for the ‘@The Cubicle’ Category

Constructive Termination – Yes, your manager is trying to get you to quit

Socioeconomic Affirmative Action – More reasons for white males to sue their employers

Director of Human Interest – Saatchi & Saatchi’s job title for their HR guy, Seth Wolk

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Image courtesy of www.paper-source.com

Image courtesy of http://www.paper-source.com

I picked up these calling cards from the Paper Source on Chicago Avenue last week.

I’m too cheap (now) to create my own business cards – but it beats writing my contact info on scrap notes and post its. If you are a stationary junke (or craft nut) this store will be your orgasmic Utopia.

Also, they have really cool crafting workshops and uber-wonderful discount sales.

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When you know you’re gonna get canned

There’s all this talk that it’s common courtesy to give your employer 2 weeks notice when quitting your job. Yet, who is that really benefiting? Common opinion states that you burn bridges when you quit without notice.

I think burning bridges is a tad overrated.

Think about it, what if your employer said, “Hey Jane, we’re planning on terminating your employment next Monday, so I just thought I’d let you know as a courtesy.”

You’d probably freak out at first. Then, perhaps, you’d come to terms with your (eventual) job loss and prepare for the inevitable changes. Maybe, you’d even quit before your job’s expiration date. Yet, that’s not how it usually works. 

Employers don’t do that – there’s no common courtesy when you’re getting canned. You’re pulled into a quiet office on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday afternoon (when all your coworkers have left for a “late lunch” around 2 pm) and told by your manager that you no longer have a job.

Oh, and you have about 10 minutes to gather all your crap and get out.

Where’s the “common courtesy” in that?

So, no – all this common courtesy BS needs to go out the window. Perhaps, you’ve already received verbal warnings, been written up and are on probation. Unless you enjoy the indignity of being escorted from your (former) place of work with a shoddily assembled Trader Joe’s bag of personal items – you might as well quit.

No notice necessary. 

Giving 2 weeks notice is a death sentence

Some employers have a nasty habit of firing employees on the spot once the (very kind and courteous) employee gives a manager their obligatory 2-week notice.

If you’ve seen this happen – these managers get what they deserve. You’re actually playing it smart when you don’t give notice in these cases. What’s the point of 2 weeks of unpaid unemployment just so you can puff out your chest and say “I was courteous.”

Give me a break. You’re better off spending that time starting your job search sooner (or, if you are lucky – your new job).

What about burning bridges?

Frankly, depending on how bad the exit is – you can actually still leverage relationships from the charred remains of a burnt bridge. If you managed to alienate an entire department – or just your boss, you probably can still connect with former co-workers. This is not naive – its business. I’m not advocating that you make quitting your job without notice a habit – but there are certain situations that warrant it. 

People quit jobs for all sorts of reasons. Today’s workplace is less likely to punish you for jumping ship because job hopping is paramount for professional success. So, if you are worried about your reputation, you most likely don’t have one to worry about. Your reputation – just like your relationships – will speak for themselves.

It’s easier to blame the person doing the unexpected quitting as unprofessional and not practicing good business etiquette.

Yet, no one ever seems to question what drives people to quit jobs unexpectedly (and without notice) in the first place.

It’s never brought up that the company’s workers rather chew glass than come to work or that turnover is ridiculously high or that the CEO has a personality of a barracuda.

Also, how likely are you to refer to a former employer you hated for a reference? The relationship speaks for itself. If you’ve been dutifully practicing career multiplicity, hopefully by now you have other connections in your network to rely upon. Thus, if you are thinking about using your former manager for a recommendation for your next job – be a little realistic and move on to other potential contacts.

Furthermore, most company HR policy prevents managers from bad mouthing former employees. Some don’t even allow managers to provide recommendations or references. When looking for a new job, HR managers give title and dates worked.

And, with only your permission – salary earned.

Your staffing recruiter may ask questions like if you gave 2 weeks notice, what happened at your last job yadda yadda yadda – but if you’re smart, you can handles these questions with flair. You can say you left to pursue other opportunities.

Theoretically, you did. It’s not lying.

Other posts you may enjoy:

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Kumar Appaiah

Photo Credit: Kumar Appaiah @ Flickr

Good bosses by typical, static definitions don’t exist. Young professionals tend to link Good Boss criteria with traits that have nothing to do with being an effective manager.

Therefore, a disconnect appears between the invented definition and the reality of what makes a Good Boss. Such invented criteria can be be difficult to solidify.

Someone who knows how to communicate with me

That’s a tall order. Whether you believe it or not, knowing how to communicate with someone and communicating well are two different things. One implies talents using ESP and the other involves insight, active listening and learning within a relationship . 

In short, a good connection doesn’t happen overnight (if at all) when a “good boss” hires you. Expect to a build a relationship first, then (perhaps) you’ll reap the benefits of someone who communicates well with you.

Also, good communication is reciprocal. Keep that in mind the next time you complain that your boss doesn’t “get” you.

Reality: I want someone who will listen to what I have to say and give me appropriate, thoughtful feedback

Someone who trusts me to do my job

If left to your own devices, what would you really do? There’s a difference between a boss trusting you to do your job and trusting you to do your job well. In truth, you don’t want someone micromanaging your every move. If, however, you want to be trusted to do your job (and only your job), it implies you want to be left alone. In that case, you probably don’t need a boss.

But, that’s why entrepreneurship exists.

Your boss is there for guidance and instruction. They can’t trust that you will know all the answers, that’s why they exist.

Reality: I want someone who is available when I need them and can give me constructive, effective direction when I have questions

Someone who knows what they want

That’s vague. Bosses, like you, are subject to the ever changing trends and decisions of a company. Also, expecting someone to be perfectly in tune with the whims of a business is naive. Someone who knows what they want is not going to be good – they’re going to be crazy.

After all, a boss knowing what they want doesn’t necessarily mean they know what they want for the company (or what’s best for it, either).

Reality: I want someone who can navigate the company/department with enough aplomb and flexibilty so that I don’t get confused about what they need from me as an employee

Someone who will give me good work

This is not good boss criteria – this is (good) job criteria. You’ll be surprised at how many interesting, challenging projects float over people’s heads because they simply didn’t ask for them. It’s not your boss’s job to keep you professionally stimulated or motivated.

God bless ’em if they try it though.

Managers don’t get paid to read your mind. So, if you want something – speak up for it! All a manager can do is provide access (or, let’s hope they can). Therefore, let’s not assume that if you are unchallenged in your job, it’s because you have a crappy boss. You just might have a crappy job.

Reality: I want someone who encourages professional development and will provide access to challenging work

What do you think? Is there a disconnect between what a good boss really is and what people say they want?

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at Flickr

Photo Credit: ::stromberg:: at Flickr

1. When an entire department is on vacation or during the major holiday season

If the salaried employees can’t be bothered to be there, why should the temp? Once, I was supposed to cover for two admins that were on vacation during Christmas. The agency asked me to work the day before Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas.

Ok, that’s fine. But get this: the entire department was gone as well. Actually, not the entire department, just the director of operations, the office manager, all support staff for both floors, the managing directors and the consultants – not to mention, the lights were on weekend timers.

Needless to say, even if I could find another soul in that place (and I did) – none of them could give me work to do. There was nothing I could do. But, the guilt goes away fast. You get some cash in your pocket, at the expense of a disorganized manager.

2. To help someone else with work they were hired to do in the first place

If you need to hire a temp so that someone can catch up on their job tasks – something is seriously wrong. Most likely, this person has too heavy of a workload. Or, they’re an incompetent employee. Or (scarily) both. Either way, it costs businesses money. Hiring a temp to help someone do work that only one person was hired (and needs) to do is a sad case of mismanagement and wasted company funds.

Years ago, the office manager at a company I worked for hired a temp to cover the phones while the receptionist sat in a cube. The receptionist supposedly used this time to catch up on her administrative duties. On the surface, it just seems odd. If you probe even deeper, it just gets stupid. If you are going to outsource someone else’s (current) job, wouldn’t it make more sense to have them perform the “cheaper” portion of it?

You probably wonder what that means.

In reality, it costs more to have a temp answer phones (per hour on average) than it does to have them do data entry at a desk (especially when it takes the same amount of time to train). Also, you’re aren’t doing your business any favors when you pull maneuvers like that in the name of “efficiency.”

3. You are overwhelmed with “outstanding projects”

Outstanding projects are business wild cards. You have the idea that the work should’ve been done. But, it wasn’t. Now, it’s collecting dust. And perhaps, we (the business) should pay attention to it now (for whatever reason).

The projects become outstanding because they fall out everyone’s primary job description. You know how it goes, “I don’t do that, Pete does that!” “Well, I used to do that, but my boss says it’s not my job,” blah blah blah. You know the drill.

As a manager, you can stick it to some hapless soul and make it part of their job description. Nevertheless, it sounds like you may need to create a new job position within your company. For the sake of employee morale and efficiency, hiring a temp to take over tasks that are too time consuming for one person to do is the best use of time and money for any company.

4. When someone quits unexpectedly or you haven’t hired anyone yet for a job vacancy

This is a perfect opportunity for managers to evaluate if the position needs to be filled, eliminated or rewritten. Some companies take the cheap (and most inefficient) route. Managers lodge additional job duties onto other employees to pick up slack. Unfortunately, business suffers in the long run when employees have to deal with handling two jobs instead of one (in the long term). 

Not only will you have cranky employees (who question your management skills), but you will have to deal with confused clients and a medley of whining complaints thinly disguised as “concerns.”

After a few weeks, if you don’t expect to promote or hire anyone soon, it’s your best bet to have a temp come in.

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pink-slipA good friend of mine was recently fired from her job a few months ago. She’s still mighty steamed about it. I’ve been a good pal – we meet up every now and then so she can complain about her former employer.

But, she’s beginning to bum me out. I’ve gotten a little tired of the hour-long gripe sessions, and personally, I don’t think I’m helping her by indulging the resentment.

During our last (and maybe final) gripe fest, I tell her, “They didn’t like you anyway – why do you care?”

Her response?

“I just don’t think it was fair. I didn’t even get a performance evaluation – how can you let someone go when you don’t even tell them what they’re doing wrong?!”

That’s easy. They didn’t like you enough to bother with the details. Performance evaluations are moot nowadays because a good employee knows they’re a good employee – a great performance evaluation is just icing on the cake.

If you need a performance evaluation to know how you are doing – you are doomed. But this post is not about why or why not employers should use evaluations – this is simply about getting fired – and a few reasons why.

Principle

This is one of those obvious no-no’s that get you the pink slip. Maybe you embezzled money, leaked company secrets or violated internet policy by inundating your company’s server with bad porn (eh, is there such a thing as good porn? Oh, I digress…).

When you recklessly violate company policy, rules or other professional mores, you can count on getting that “emergency” meeting at 2 pm on a Tuesday and finding yourself without a job.

Unfortunately, when things like that happen – serious emotional issues are at play (and more than likely, self-sabotage). Sometimes, even the seemingly “harmless” things can set an employer to fire you (like blogging about your job or dating a co-worker) – but that’s a risk we take when we decide to blur the lines between the personal and the professional.

Usually, in those cases, you do deserve to be out of work, at least for a while.

My pal didn’t violate any company rules – she’s quite an ethical person, but that didn’t save her from getting canned.

Perception

Keeping a job is just as much about image control as it is about implementing skill. Did it seem like you wanted to be there? Did people “feel” your enthusiasm for your work?

It doesn’t matter if you are the most talented, hardest worker in the department, if no one knows about it – you are just another bee in the hive.  I hate using this cliche, but the “perception is reality” thing seems to be the rampant mantra amongst managers and execs.

“Suzy seems to always know what to do next – she’s so smart.” Ever heard that before? It doesn’t matter if you really are doing anything mind boggling or saving the company from inevitable chaos – if you are associated with doing so, people will think you are accomplishing a whole lot more than you actually are.

For example, I worked with a guy named “Ben” who supported a group of directors in my department. I never really knew what Ben did for them because his group was always approaching me and the other support staff for help. They’d preface their requests by saying,”Ben is so busy, I don’t want to bother him – do you think you can help me?”

Are you kidding?

But yes, it’s true. Since Ben could talk louder than anyone on the phone, disappear for mysterious amounts of time and shuffle bunches of paper at his desk – his team thought he was even too busy to support them.

In reality, Ben was a desk slob who spent copious amounts of time away from his desk in favor of hanging out with pals from other departments. Depending on whom you ask – Ben was really busy.

See what I mean about perception?

But smoke and mirrors aside, perception is probably the least of your worries since people who are really and truly engaged in their work  – actually appear to be so.

Personality, Politics & Performance

These three concepts kind of mesh and mingle with another. There are highly capable and talented people floating all over the Earth, but their personalities suck and they are in constant professional turmoil (whether or not they have a job).

As I’m sure you already know, perfectly nice, well-mannered, sociable, happy and likeable people keep their jobs – jerks and jackasses do not.

Jerks and jackasses, however, that do succesfully navigate office politics do maintain their jobs.

My friend did not want to admit to herself that it didn’t matter if she had an evaluation or not – her boss (and maybe her co-workers even more so) didn’t like her. She was having trouble integrating with the department and she felt out of sync.

Often, she’d complain she was under utilized (not that she really minded because she admitted to just spinning her wheels). There was an uneasy relationship with another co-worker and the person complained about her constantly.

Her performance wasn’t up to par because she learned – too late – about the importance of properly handling the politics and personalities of her co-workers. 

Despite the “best” of efforts, it just didn’t work out. I’d say she’s better off, if anything, the bittersweet lesson will prepare her for the next job she takes.

Therefore…

So, what does that mean for someone like you? You got the boot. Ask yourself this: did you really like working there in the first place? Was it offering you the growth you needed to pursue the next step?

If it did or you actually liked the job – I’m truly sorry. That’s terrible, but please remember that the Career Gods didn’t stop creating jobs when they made that one.

Keep your chin up.

But, if you didn’t like the job and people got on your nerves – please get off your very high horse and grow up. You can’t reasonably expect to keep a job you disliked or where you disliked the people (and vice versa). 

And if they didn’t like you or you didn’t like the work – so whatBad jobs are a dime a dozen – and getting canned from one doesn’t make you a soulless cretin or a professionally incompetent lout. Or, maybe you are one of those things, but I’m sure you are taking steps to work on that 🙂

Assuming that you know what it takes to keep a job, getting fired doesn’t mean that you can’t still think of yourself as the multi-faceted, interesting and fabulous person you always were – you just happened to work some place where the people didn’t agree.

And that’s OK because you didn’t like them anyway.

Move on and take this experience as one of life’s hard to swallow, bitter pills. It’s ill-advised to remain pissed off at what amounts to a blip on your professional radar screen. Remember that when you land the next (wonderfully better and professionally fulfilling) job.

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office-knotI was (re)reading one of my favorite essays by Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic.”  I tend to do that when I’m looking for some inspiration.

I was badly in need of a distration and not another WSJ reminder about the joyless economic recession and thin job outlook.

Specifically, I was hoping to find an encouraging, happy hum amongst the dismal drones of media negativity – something so positive, it could be dangerous.  Ms. Lorde was my chanteuse – even if I did have to time warp.

After reading Lorde’s essay, I tried to remember the last time my workdays reached the emotional zeniths she described as the erotic (read – passionate) morphed into professional performance.

It’s hard to figure out how passion can be fused into the countless hours of the workday. When our lives are squeezed with prioritizing meetings, filing, faxes, calling clients, proofreading emails and typing correspondence – it gets kind of hard to tap into the “sexiness” of your job. 

Lorde explains the uneasiness that is exhibited when people (women) tap into their passions.

It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society.

But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies.

Spending your time passionately engaged in what you are doing is the vital energy necessary for an “erotic” professional life. Demanding more  means wanting more of yourself in order to be invigorated by the elusive and sensual “passions” you seek.

Remember the last time you were “in the zone” about something? You thought you could do it all day and nothing was cooler than what you were doing at the very moment. That’s passion creeping up on you. Lorde further explains (emphasis mine):

Such a demand incapacitates everyone in the process. For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing.

Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness.

Sounds good, Audre. What are you really talking about?  Simple, unadulterated emotional highs – the sense of purpose that overwhelms you when you complete the tasks embodying the “work” you need to get done. 

Product is only the result of the work – but passionate work is your performance made erotic.  This is the soul of enjoying your 8 (or 14) hour work day – you are bringing yourself closer to that “fullness” Lorde mentions.

Of course, women so empowered are dangerous. So we are taught to separate the erotic demand from most vital areas of our lives other than sex.

And the lack of concern for the erotic root and satisfactions of our work is felt in our disaffection from so much of what we do. For instance, how often do we truly love our work even at its most difficult?

Loving what you do at its most uninteresting, vapid and difficult is the emotional signpost that you are engaging in your “heart’s desire.” Recognizing this makes you a little bit dangerous – because you are more than a little bit ahead of the game.

Freeing yourself of the encumbrances of what you should like versus what you passionately enjoy threatens the status quo malaise of others who are content to couch themselves in its staid and familiar comfort. They would be more than happy to have you join as well.

Developing (and successfully capturing) an appreciation for passionate work makes you clear headed in ways others have trouble connecting with – you’ve learned the secret to driving your purpose.

How does your passion drive its purpose?

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