Motivating Back Office Employees

Dear, Anita,

I manage a back-office department in a large company. My team doesn’t interact with the clients nor upper management very often. The work can be repetitive and sometimes boring. How can I keep morale up on my team?

Dear, Back on Track,

Office workersEvery company has internal operations departments performing business-critical functions that may not be, well, very sexy. The sales team or research & development may get all the glory, and these hard-working back office employees may feel out of the loop or under-appreciated.

WeSpire’s annual employee engagement survey reports that engaged employees have managers that care about them, are recognized frequently, and feel they are contributing to their teams in a meaningful way.

Use some of your regular staff meetings to keep employees posted on what other departments are up to. You may wish to invite upper management to give brief corporate updates quarterly. The goodwill from an annual visit and interest in your team from the CEO would be remembered for months.

Occasional team-building events away from the office can break up a monotonous routine. Be sure to celebrate birthdays and note work anniversaries (if your team is large, observe all the birthdays in the month with one cake). A quarterly potluck lunch is a great way to enhance camaraderie. You could even come up with silly contests for your corner of the world (for instance, the first one to reach a particular weekly milestone gets a $5 Starbucks gift card, or every time someone encounters a last name starting with Z, they ring a bell).

Not all motivation is touchy-feely. Money talks… (and I’ll leave the last half of this common colloquialism unsaid). Make sure your employees are paid adequately, and offer real bonuses (not just coffee shop gift cards) for measurable performance results. Don’t wait until the annual review to give feedback; offer verbal pats on the back frequently. Hold regular one-on-one meetings with each team member, and you’ll be able to gauge when one of your employees may be spiraling into discouragement.

Janitor with broom on white background, portraitThe real key to create lasting job satisfaction is to get employees to buy in to your company’s mission. Explain the “why” along with the “how” for departmental duties. Day-to-day tasks feel less onerous when there is an understanding of how they affect the company as a whole.

President Kennedy was touring NASA in the 1960s, and he encountered a janitor with a broom. When asked by the POTUS what he was doing, the custodian replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” The takeaway: No matter how small the role, everyone contributes to the success of an organization.

Managers: What are some of your best employee engagement strategies?
Employees: What could your manager do to keep your morale high?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Be a Social Seeker, Part 2

Dear Readers,

Last week, we explored how to search for a job on Facebook. Here, we’ll see how other social media platforms can help in your hunt for a new position.

Twitter_000015982279Twitter Tips

Twitter is probably the best for connecting with companies and people you don’t already know. You can develop a Twitter relationship, and hope it hatches into something more.

First, fill out your bio. Like everything on Twitter, you have to keep it short and tweet! You have only 160 characters to give your virtual elevator speech. As with Facebook and LinkedIn, you want to include a professional-looking head shot, maybe even the same one you use for other social platforms for the recognition factor.

Follow companies you have an interest in and the people who work at those companies, and engage with them. Retweet, yes, but add thoughtful commentary or ask a perceptive question. In your tweets, point to your LinkedIn profile or your personal website or blog, if you have one. But don’t just use Twitter for self-promotion; offer valuable content for your field or circle of interests.

Use Twitter Lists to organize the deluge of tweets into a collection of useful information for your job search.

Level Up on LinkedIn

Check out my past post about LinkedIn essentials. Beyond basic connections, you can sleuth out the HR contact or potential hiring manager for a company you are interested in working for. If you can find a connection to hand-deliver your résumé to HR down the hall, your chances are much greater to get your foot in the door. Your connection may even have some insight about the job that’s not available in the ad.

You can also check out people who currently work at a company to see what their career paths have been. Perhaps one of the companies in an employee’s previous experience is just the place for you to apply now. Similarly, try an advanced search for people in or near your zip code who have the same skill keywords as yours.

In a Forbes article, William Arruda advises, “Ignore [Anita Clew’s and] LinkedIn’s advice to only accept connection requests from people you know” because LinkedIn’s search algorithm favors those who are in your network. Chances are, you don’t yet have a connection to the person who may hiring you next. (Okay, I may just have to update my rule to not accept all requests.) Arruda urges you to shoot for 500 connections, as that number seems to pack some psychological magic on those who view your profile.

Explore LinkedIn’s Alumni feature, recommends Wayne Breitbarth, author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success. Be sure to also join your Alumni’s LinkedIn Group. Speaking of Groups, join any that are relevant to your industry and skills. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 Groups. To get the most networking value, be an active participant in your Groups.

linkedinmemeAs mentioned in Part 1, 94% of recruiters are active on LinkedIn. HR professionals are checking out your LinkedIn profile whether you are actively looking for a job or not. If you have a good enough profile, you may be contacted by a recruiter. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate outcome in passive job searching!

Pore over Pinterest

You’ll have a better chance finding a job ad on a coffee shop bulletin board than a bona fide job opening posted on the Pinterest. But there are atypical ways to use this digital bulletin board in your job search. Search for career-oriented keywords, such as “résumé” or “interview” and you’ll find a wealth of informational gems. The individual “pins” are visual bookmarks that, when clicked, take you back to the original site. You can follow Anita Clew on Pinterest, and check out my boards that contain past blog posts, as well as ideas on interview and office attire, work lunches, or even inspirational quotes to keep you going when the job or the job hunt gets you down. To get started on Pinterest, here’s a beginner’s guide.

Enter the YouTube Universe

Just like Pinterest, you can use keywords to search for videos to further your career knowledge and sharpen your job hunting proficiency. But YouTube is also an opportunity to upload your own video résumé or introduction. After all, Justin Bieber got his big break by posting a recording of his performance on YouTube! You’ll want to keep your video about 60-90 seconds in length and as professional as possible (call in favors from any friends with film experience). Include a link to your YouTube video in your cover letter, and you’ll seen as innovative with leading-edge skills.

Get started in your social search by choosing the one social media site that you are already enthusiastic about and employing it in a new way… for your employment.

Readers: Which social media platform has been most helpful in your job search?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Be a Social Seeker, Part 1

Dear Anita,

I just heard that a friend of a friend got a job through Facebook. I never thought beyond LinkedIn for job searching on social media. Do you have any tips on how to use Facebook or Twitter in my job search?

Social Job Search InfographicDear, Social Butterfly,

I was surprised myself to see that, according to Jobvite, a whopping 76% of social job seekers found their current position through Facebook. While I couldn’t ferret out a statistic for how many people actually found a new job through LinkedIn, success stories are easier to find. And Jobvite does indicate that 94% of recruiters are active on LinkedIn, so don’t abandon the popular professional networking site just yet.

Pew Research Center found only 13% of LinkedIn users check their account daily, 25% check weekly, and 61% check less often. By contrast, 70% of Facebook users check the site daily. So it makes sense that people who are more active on Facebook may benefit from including their online friends in their job search tactics.

Facebook Job Search Tips

Conduct a Facebook makeover, including a more professional profile picture to replace that blurry selfie. Use your About section as a mini-résumé. Be sure to include all past workplaces and college information and, just like LinkedIn, add keywords about your professional skills.

Be aware: 93% of recruiters are likely to look at a candidate’s social profile and 42% have reconsidered a candidate based on social content. The three biggest offenders, according to Jobvite: illegal drug references (83%), sexual posts (70%), and spelling/grammar (66%) which narrowly beat out profanity at 63%. Go through several screens of past posts (this could be up to a year’s worth, depending on your Facebook frequency factor). Delete any posts you wouldn’t want a hiring manager to see (or “Limit Past Posts” under Settings). Untag yourself in unflattering photos and enable the setting that allows you to review tags people add to your posts before appearing in your newsfeed. If you have some friends with no regard for social etiquette, you may also want to enable the review feature to keep offensive comments from appearing on your wall.

If your job search is on the down-low, even if you are not Facebook friends with your boss, you may be a friend of a friend so there is always a possibility the word could get back. Double-check your Privacy Settings and take the extra few seconds when posting to use the audience selector. Create a Facebook List to group your business and networking contacts. Then, when you post something career-related, you can use the audience selector to share it with your professional list, and your Aunt Bessie won’t see the latest industry article that she has no interest in.

But keep in mind, good old Aunt Bessie may live next door to the CEO of a company that’s hiring for your position! The Status Update (to Friends and Family only if you’re currently employed) is the most obvious way to use Facebook in your job search. While you don’t want to overdo posting requests for career help, remember that out of sight is out of mind, especially in the fast-moving social feed.

Like the companies you are interested in working for on Facebook. Many savvy businesses are publicizing job openings across all social media.

Facebook’s Graph Search in the bar at the top of the site allows you to type in phrases such as “People who work at Facebook” or “Employers in San Antonio” to see what connections pop up. Not nearly as powerful as LinkedIn connections (and glitchy since a recent upgrade for mobile devices), this Facebook search may still yield some useful contacts to Friend or Message.

No matter the platform, social media can definitely be your friend in your job search. Next week, we’ll look at Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and some beyond-the-basic tips for LinkedIn.

Readers: Have you use Facebook to successfully land a new job? Tell us about it!

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Quitters Never Win… or Do They?

Anita,

I’m at a point in my job where I think I’ve hit the salary wall. I basically have to wait for my manager at my current company to retire in order to move up. He’s older, but I don’t know exactly if and when he plans to leave his post. My best friend thinks I should bail and that I could find a better-paying job at another company. I’ve been here only a few years, and don’t want to look “flighty” on my résumé. What should I do?

Dear, Resigned to the Idea,

Collapsing wall making a dollar symbolI grew up hearing the phrase, “Winners never quit and quitters never win” and come from a generation where loyalty was valued. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but recent articles are swaying me to believe the best way to get a significant raise these days is to quit one job and change to another.

When you stay with a company for many years, your raise is usually based on a percentage of your current salary. The average salary increase last year was 2.9%, according to Mercer’s US Compensation Planning Survey. (There are some standouts that earn a 5%-10% raise, offset by federal employees receiving a 1% raise and those poor souls who get no pay bump at all.) With the inflation rate hovering around 2.1%, the extra spending money after an annual raise may be inconsequential.

In a Forbes article, Employees Who Stay In Companies Longer Than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less, a hiring manager explains that if you start fresh with another company, you’ll likely command a higher base salary, which is often more than a raised salary offered by your current employer.

pay raise ahead roadsignTalk to your manager about what it would take to increase your salary. (He may just spill the beans about his retirement plans.) Before the meeting, check out Salary.com or PayScale.com to see the range of wages paid for your position in your geographic area. You don’t want to use this information to threaten, but to enlighten.  If a raise is out of the question in your current position, tactfully explore the option of moving to another department within the organization. Or negotiate for a bonus based on completion of a task outside your normal scope of work or for reaching a milestone.

If pay raises or bonuses are not forthcoming and you don’t feel that you can wait it out for your boss’s chair, consider searching for a new position with a significant salary increase. Mull over the risks to changing jobs. What if that exciting start-up offering competitive salaries and amazing perks goes belly-up? What if your new boss is a micromanager? Factor in future career goals. Some more established companies do frown upon job-hopping. They may have a policy of tossing any applicant résumé that has, say, more than three jobs in the last 10 years. So before you take the leap to another company, be sure that the salary and/or title increase is worth it, both personally and professionally.

Readers: For what percentage salary increase would you consider leaving your current job?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Bypassing Human Resources

Hello, Anita,

Hello, I am 56 years old and have been taking care of my mother who is 94 for the past six years. She has many doctors’ appointments, some only days apart. I haven’t been legally employed in this time, but I keep my skills up to par by doing “side jobs” now and then. By trade I’m an Industrial Spray Painter, working over the years for military contractors, sub-contractors, and factories.

Recently I’ve tried to reenter my field, trying to find a second or third shift position. This way I will still be able to help my mother out and work in the evening or overnight. Unfortunately, due to my time off I can’t get past the HR department. I believe that I’m being dismissed immediately due to the six year gap. If I could talk personally with the foreman or plant manager and take the spray and written test that is generally given to be considered for hire, I know I could win them over with my talent and knowledge of the field. But you have to deal with someone in HR that knows little to nothing about a person’s talent. They only look at the date of your last employer and write you off.

I’m always open to suggestions…

Bypass_Sign_iStock_000024740925Dear, Painted into a Corner,

You may do better with your “good ol’ boys” network than with HR managers. According to Jobvite, 4 in 10 job seekers have found their best job through personal connections. On the other side of the desk, 64% of recruiters say they find the highest quality candidates through referrals, so a savvy HR professional would be thankful to hear about you from a company employee.

Contact former supervisors and coworkers, even the clerks at the paint store to see if they’ve heard of any job openings that might be a fit for you. Ask if they know any plant managers or foremen at the companies for which you’d like to work.

After exhausting your personal contacts, log on to LinkedIn to see if you can connect to the right people. It’s like that 90s Kevin Bacon game, “six degrees of separation.” Check out my primer, Lessons on LinkedIn, to get started. Be sure to click on the “Jobs” tab and enter keywords related to your experience. Save the search and set up alerts to let you know when new jobs open up.

While scrutinizing LinkedIn profiles, pay attention to any industry associations to which your connections belong. Consider joining and attending meetings and turn your networking know-how into introductions, appointments, or key contact emails – and follow through.

Do some homework to research and identify the top 10 businesses in your area likely to hire someone in your field. Check each of their company websites see if they have a “Careers” page.  If not, even better! They may be a smaller company without a human resources department. Put them on your target list. A charming phone call to the receptionist could yield the hiring manager’s name – and more, depending on the chattiness of the gatekeeper.

Working with (not against) HR

There is a danger when trying to circumvent the system put in place to maximize an HR manager’s time and resources. While a creative, unconventional, or disruptive approach may work, there is a very real possibility it will backfire. You could be seen as someone who can’t or won’t follow directions or an obnoxious boor who doesn’t respect these professionals’ time (NOT great qualities in any employee).

businessman over stretchedWhen submitting a résumé online, be sure to take advantage of adding a cover letter if the option exists. Mention the elephant in the room – your six-year gap. Explain (without going into too much detail) that you have been caregiving for the past few years while keeping your skills current and are eager to reenter the workforce full-time. While references are often requested at the interview stage, preemptively include a glowing reference letter from a past employer or a testimonial letter from one of your freelance clients.

I saw this fitting description on a chat board: “HR screeners are rather like the wait staff in a restaurant. They’ve been given an order by the hiring manager and usually lack the flexibility to substitute one ingredient for another.” If a search term doesn’t match exactly, sometimes the screener (which may be a computer) will reject that application. Be sure to tailor your résumé using keywords found in the job listing.

Experiment with a functional format for your résumé, which may help focus the attention on your skills and away from your gap in employment.

Readers: Have you successfully done an end run around HR to secure a job? Tell us your story!

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Hire for Culture

Dear, Anita,

I am interviewing for a replacement member of our team and have narrowed it down to the two top applicants. They are equally qualified in almost every way. How do I decide between two really stellar candidates?

Dear, (Eenie, Meanie, Miney,) Moe,

Square Peg in a Round HoleWhat a great problem to have! I often hear complaints that there are not enough qualified applicants for open positions.

It sounds like you have thoroughly analyzed their hard skills, but what about their soft skills and interpersonal rapport? These traits can be harder to quantify. You want to make sure the potential hire is a good fit with your company’s culture – the tacit attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of your organization’s management and employees.

If you haven’t already, invite both to interview with your manager, HR supervisor, or even the company president. (If you are the head honcho, schedule another informal interview in a more relaxed setting, such as a coffee shop, to get a different take.) Here are some sample questions used to determine cultural fit:

  • Tree_iStock_000021275060Describe the work environment and management style with which you are most productive and happy.
  • How would your coworkers describe your work style and role within the team?
  • What is most important to you in making your next career move – money, recognition, stability, challenge, or environment?
  • What motivates you to come to work every day?
  • What do you like to do for fun?
  • What is your super power?

Try to avoid nebulous questions like Barbara Walters’ infamous, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” or just plain odd questions like Stanford University’s “Who would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman?” unless you work for Marvel or DC Comics.

After the interviews with other managers, confab to get their impressions of the two candidates. You don’t want to make a decision solely on the fact that one candidate likes the same football team as the rest of you, but the applicant who is sports-oriented may fit in to your company more readily than the equally-capable bookworm.

Arrange for each applicant to spend a few hours or a half day shadowing the employee they are replacing or attending a department meeting. While they’re bound to be a little nervous and may not be able participate fully, you’ll get valuable insight seeing them interact with your team. And they may self-select out once they see what it’s really like in the trenches! Cultural fit is a two-way street.

There is no clear-cut test for cultural congruence. When it comes down to it, you’ll need to make a gut decision between two awesome candidates. Chances are, either one will work out, but paying closer attention to the culture issue could make all the difference.

Readers: How does your company screen for a cultural fit?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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The Poppy Seed Effect: Urban Legend?

Hello, Anita,

Is it true that eating a poppy seed bagel can cause you to fail a drug test? It’s my favorite breakfast!

Poppyseed_Bagel_iStock_000020753418Dear, Positively Negative,

Rumor-busting website Snopes says TRUE! Back in 1998, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that oversees federal workplace drug test regulations upped the threshhold for opiates (drugs produced from poppy plants) from 300ng/ml to 2000ng/ml. But not all drug testing companies that serve the private sector use this higher threshhold.

Employers use drug screening as a tool to maintain a safe workplace. I, for one, am glad drug testing is federally required in certain industries where safety is imperative. In addition to pre-employment drug screening, tests can be performed when there is reasonable suspicion of drug use by a supervisor, after an accident at work, before returning to work after substance abuse treatment, and when the company has a policy of random or periodic testing.

Most employers request the standard 5-panel urinalysis drug screen that detects street drugs such as cocaine, PCP, opiates (heroin, codeine, and morphine), amphetamines (including meth), and THC (found in marijuana, but also in lesser quantities in hemp foods and cosmetics). A 9- or 10-panel screen additionally tests for prescription drugs such as oxycodone, benzodiazepines (mood elevators like Valium, Librium, Xanax), barbiturates (downers), propoxyphene (Darvon), or methaqualone (quaaludes).

Many drugs stay in the system 2-4 days, though some drugs may linger longer. Chronic marijuana users may test positive up to 3-4 weeks after their last use. And for chronic bagel-eaters? MythBusters TV show hosts tested positive just half an hour after gorging on poppyseed pastries – all in the name of science.

What about that Medical Marijuana card? Even in states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes, the legal protection is generally construed to be from criminal prosecution, and is not considered a free pass for any positive employment drug test results. Recent court rulings seem to favor employers over employees, so you may want to switch to a cinnamon raisin bagel and avoid hemp milk for your morning meal.

Readers: Have you ever failed a drug test for non-drug use? Tell us about it.

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Workaholism: A Necessary Evil?

Hey Anita,

My wife is complaining that we haven’t taken a vacation in 6 years. But she doesn’t understand that I have to work non-stop to keep up with my job. Our kids are in sports and camps, and I can’t afford to be get lackadaisical. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I need to keep pace with the pack. But my long hours are causing a lot of friction in my marriage. Can you give me some arguments to help me prove to my wife that not taking time off is the price of success in our modern business world?

Workaholism_InfographicDear, Marty Martyr,

National Workaholics Day was this past Sunday, July 5. Admit it – you checked your work email.

You are not alone. A hefty 79% of respondents to a Select Family web poll consider themselves workaholics. Gallup reports that while half of Americans work 40 hours or less per week, the other half work 41-49 hours (11%), 50-59 hours (21%), even 60+ hours (18%). The last thing I want to do is help you argue with your significant other, and these stats don’t measure success – only time spent. A Huffington Post article observes, “Many feel, with some justification, that a 40-hour week would be career suicide.”

Working hard is one thing; being addicted to your job is another. Workaholism is a pattern of long hours, working beyond expectations, and a consuming obsession with your job. Workaholics Anonymous has 20 questions to ask yourself to see if you are taking your commitment to your profession too far. Beyond the obvious (Do you work more than 40 hours a week?), there’s one that seems to apply in your situation: Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else [like vacation]?

Americans leave 429 million vacation days unused yearly, according to Oxford Economics, which noted that a heavy workload and peer pressure prevented some from taking their earned PTO. Heck, even the CEO of the U.S. Travel Association had trouble getting his employees to take more than $350,000 in accrued vacation.

There’s always one more call to make, one more email to answer. And, God willing, there will be one more day. Instead of trying to “finish” everything each evening, learn to be okay with leaving some tasks for the morning – or next week – and try to relax. The world, your industry, and your company will manage to muddle on without you for a week or two while you embark on that much needed vacation.

The consequences of workaholism are stress-related health symptoms, sleep issues, decreased productivity (did you get that one?), and an increase in work-family conflicts. If you continue on this exhausting path, you may just find yourself married to your job, and nothing else. Research by Dr. Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., reveals that workaholics are 40% more likely to get a divorce. Or worse, you could make your wife a widow. Those who regularly work 11+ hours a day are 67 percent more likely to develop coronary disease, according to a UCL study.

My advice? Have a heart and address your family’s vacation deprivation. To quote Harold Kushner, “No one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’ ”

Readers: How many hours a week do you clock for your job? Do you feel pressure to work more than 40?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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Texting on the Job

Dear Anita,

Lately I’ve noticed that one of my employees is texting all throughout the workday. I’m not unreasonable. I don’t mind a text here and there, but I feel like half of her time is spent on personal chit-chat. How can I address the situation?

Texting_on_the_Job_00001161700Dear, Vexed about Texts,

Americans send 208,333 text messages every second, totaling 18 billion texts daily, according to the CITA-The Wireless Association and Nielsen. We use texts more often than phone calls these days to keep in touch with family, friends, and coworkers. While the vast majority of those responding to our Select Family poll think that it is not okay to send personal texts at work, the Millennial generation may disagree. The numbers indicate that 18-24 year olds are especially addicted to texting.

Texting on the JobAs I mentioned in my blog post The Multi-Tasking Myth, productivity suffers when you are interrupted, whether by another work task or the buzz, chirp, or ding of an incoming text.  In a recent study in the Higher Education Journal, half of a class was requested to text the professor three times during a lecture and the other half was not allowed to text.  Who do you think retained less information and scored lower on the pop quiz afterwards? The texters, of course.  A University of Waterloo study in the workplace similarly found that cell phones created too many distractions for employees to complete their office tasks.

Customer service may suffer because of text distractions. It’s incredibly rude for a worker to engage in texting (personal or otherwise) while handling a customer face-to-face. Even when on a call on the business line, an incoming personal text can cause less than 100% attention to the conversation at hand.

Staffers who drive for their jobs should be especially careful not to text while at the wheel. And employees who have a company-provided cell phone should be aware that any texts or images sent and received are company property (think twice about “sexting” on your work cell).

Vexed, is this just one bad apple ruining texting privileges for the whole team? Depending on your company size and culture, you may wish to add a texting policy. Think carefully, though, because a strict policy could backfire by decreasing employee morale and thus productivity.

If you feel your company does needs a written policy, check out Quickbooks’ article Tips for Establishing an Employee Texting Policy. Here is one example of a texting/cell phone policy:

XYZ Company is committed to providing a work environment that is safe, customer focused, and free of unnecessary distractions related to personal cell phone usage. Cell phones must be set to vibrate or silent mode instead of sounding ring tones. The company encourages a reasonable standard of limiting personal calls and text messaging to breaks and meal periods. Employees are asked to make all personal calls and texts on non-work time and to ensure that friends and family members are aware of this policy. Flexibility will be provided in circumstances demanding immediate attention.

As a manager, you may want to make exceptions for special situations, such as when an employee’s family member is ill. In another for instance, parents of latch-key kids will be more distracted until they get that text message that their child made it home safe and sound.

But if you feel a formalized policy is overkill (or you’re afraid your workforce of younger employees will mutiny or jump ship), have a chat with your serial texter about the inappropriate amount of messaging during work hours.

BOL (Best of Luck).

Readers: Do you send personal text messages while on the job? What is your company’s policy on texting?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

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6 Survival Strategies for a Job You Hate

Hi, Anita,

I work for a small private company where I am under-appreciated and basically black-balled by the owner and my co-workers to the point I am ostracized and alienated. Obviously there is no chance for promotion; in fact, I have had to train new hires who have been promoted over me which is a very humiliating experience. I realize that the only option I have is to resign.

Dear, Anita,

My supervisor is such a control freak, micromanaging my every move. He is very patronising and doesn’t give me any room to think for myself. I feel like I am suffocating all the time. He also tends to leave important things that require my presence til near the end of the day. When I am staying til 7:00 pm after being there since 9:30 am nearly every day of the week… I am exhausted! It’s taking a toll on my health, productivity and sanity!

 Ready to commit career suicideDear, Job Haters,

Before you take the drastic measures depicted in the movie Horrible Bosses, promise me you’ll try these first:

  1. Have a Heart-to-Heart with Your Boss.
    If you really feel that you are being treated unfairly, schedule a face-to-face meeting to outline your position. Keep the language neutral and non-accusatory, and rein in your emotions (“I feel under-appreciated” instead of “You don’t appreciate anything I do for this company!”). Offer solutions (“It would be helpful if you could let me know my important tasks before lunch so I can finish them by day’s end.”). Give the situation enough time to improve, and if nothing changes, involve the Human Resources department, if you have one. If there is still no satisfactory resolution, proceed to #2.
  2. Keep Calm and Carry On… with Your Job Search.
    I rarely recommend quitting your current job until securing a new position. Devise an exit strategy with a timeframe goal and the steps you’ll need to reach your target date of starting a job at another company (e.g., set up alerts on all of the job boards, send out 3 résumés a week, attend the monthly industry association meeting, and network with at least 5 people).
  3. Consider Self-Employment.
    Not for the faint of heart (or light in savings account), take stock of your life skills and see if you could turn one into a profitable business venture. Research, research, research before taking this giant leap.
  4. Learn New Skills.
    Explore the proficiencies you need for your dream job. It’s easier than ever to find training at local colleges or online courses, for fee or free. Take advantage of any training that your current company offers to increase your marketability. You may even be eligible to move up or laterally within your organization (and possibly away from the sources of antagonism).
  5. Set Personal Goals.
    Focus on your life outside of work. Sign up for a marathon (or just make it to 10 sit-ups tonight). Learn a new language and plan a trip to a country where you can practice your accent. Digitize your family photo albums – all 47 of them.
  6. Create Your Own Fun.
    You have the power to make your job better with humor. Play Business Buzzword Bingo while enduring an endless meeting (though yelling “Bingo” when you hear all of the overused phrases is not recommended). Treat yourself to a double macchiato with triple whip after finishing your report. Invite co-workers to lunch (make the office a taboo subject), and play the “whoever looks at their cell phone first pays the bill game.”
  7. Be a Duck.
    Ducks have waterproof feathers to let the storms of life roll off their backs. Don’t let the minor annoyances of your workday upset you. You don’t even need to read the classic book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff to adopt the title philosophy.
  8. Remind Yourself Why You Do What You Do.
    Print out your company’s mission statement and post it on your bulletin board. Gaze at the framed photo of the family you’re working to support with your paycheck and health insurance benefits. Clinton_Survival_Tips_0515

Readers: How do you cope when a bad day at work turns into a week, a month, or longer?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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