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.

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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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Hiding the “Gray” on Your Résumé (and Beyond)

Dear, Anita,

I’m 61 and graying. I get job interviews because I have a great résumé, I do everything right, I am usually the most qualified with years of experience and training. However, I do not get hired. I believe it is my age. I try to emphasize my energy and work ethic. I make it a point to tell them I go to the gym regularly and I’m a triathlete. I still don’t get the job. What can I do? I’ve even tried coloring my hair!

Hiding_the_Gray_000012255136Dear, Motivated Methuselah,

Over the past three decades, long-term unemployment has been more common among older men and women, spiking after the Great Recession, according to AARP. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that people 55 and older were far more likely to be unemployed long-term (44.6% compared to 22.1% of those under age 25). But the news isn’t all bad. A CareerBuilder survey indicates that 57% of private sector employers plan to hire mature workers (age 50+) in 2015, up from 48% two years ago.

Let this old dog see if she can teach you a few new tricks to get you on the road to employment.

You’re a prime candidate to take advantage of the “old boys’ club.” Networking is almost twice as effective as applying to internet job boards, so reach out to old contacts, via social media or tried and true phone calls and face-to-face business mixer events. While I applaud your foray into hair coloring, please be sure your LinkedIn profile picture resembles the current in-person you. (As an aside, I really don’t get the #grannyhair trend where young women intentionally go gray. I fought it for years – and lost!)

Explore jobs outside your given areas of expertise (you may need to have several customized résumés on hand). This may mean a pay cut. If your retirement account can afford it, lower your salary requirements to compete with younger workers. After all, it may be better to have some wages flowing in than none at all. In fact, you may need to postpone your retirement, as this TradePost article direly predicts.

You say you have a great CV, but other mature professionals may not have the best mid-life résumé. The functional résumé may be the best way to age-proof this first impression. In the accompanying cover letter, walk that fine line between touting your vast experience and coming across as a fossil. Be sure to pick up on any software requirements in the ad postings, and stress your up-to-date tech skills to combat this common misperception about older workers.

Interview_Men_PinterestInterview-Women_PinterestTo prepare for interviews, dress in stylish clothing – without trying to look like a hipster. Ladies, lose the banker suit (unless you are applying at a bank) and have a youngish depart­ment store sales­person help you select a modern yet professional outfit for the big day. Check out my Pinterest boards for visual ideas for interview wear for men and women. Follow Anita Clew while you’re there!

During the interview, don’t come across as a know-it-all, especially if you are interviewing with a youthful boss. You want to accurately portray your experience, but still seem like a team player who will work in harmony with people of all ages.

The silver lining is that graybeards are consistently more engaged, have admirable work ethics, and as a demographic waste less time than their younger counterparts. Before long, you’ll find an employer who doesn’t think you’re “overqualified” (frequently a euphemism for too old).

Boomers: How have you age-proofed your presentation when seeking a job?
Hiring Managers: What impresses you about “mature” job applicants?

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

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Find a Reverse Mentor

Dear, Anita,

I’ve owned my business for 34 years now, and try as I might  to keep up with all the new technology and trends, I don’t know if Facebook is still cool, if Instagram is out, or if something else is the next big thing. I understand my business has to evolve and change with times to reach new and existing customers and even to create a company where people want to be employed. Do you have any resources for keeping in step with what’s trendy?

Reverse_Mentor_000011786220Dear, Wanna Be Relevant,

You have probably  mentored your share of employees in your tenure. To mentor means to advise, guide, or train someone, especially a younger colleague. But have you heard of a reverse mentor? One of those 20-somethings in a nearby cubicle could be more “digitally mature” than you! While you may struggle with new technology and social media, these skills are second nature to Generation Y who grew up interacting with devices since they were toddlers.

Don’t be offended by the thought of being “trained” by a young whippersnapper. Large companies such as IBM, Procter & Gamble, and Time Warner have formal reverse mentoring programs that help them broaden their brands’ reach and increase revenue.

Think of it more as an exchange of ideas, with both sides receiving benefits. Maybe “reciprocal mentoring” would be a better term. Tutoring sessions should be a two-way street. While your reverse mentor may help you create an account on LinkedIn or Twitter, you may explain why his idea to tweet some inside information would have a negative impact on the company long-term. You want to be pushed outside of your comfort zone, but temper the hip, creative ideas being offered with your experience, insight, and strategic thinking.

To keep up with trends, issues, and news headlines that affect today’s businesses, subscribe to The Select Family of Staffing Company’s blog TradePost. Both mentor and mentee will find food for thought for their next session.

Readers: Have you ever been in a reciprocal mentorship? What was the most eye-opening advice you ever received from your mentor?

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

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Inviting Coworkers to Personal Events

Dear, Anita,

I’m having a BBQ and inviting some co-workers. Do I have to invite my boss? I’m worried that it’ll make some feel awkward. And how do I keep it a secret from the other people at work I’m not inviting, so they won’t feel slighted.

Dear, Miss Mannered,

Group Of Friends Having Outdoor Barbeque At HomeWith the summer wedding, cookout, and party season upon us, the guest list dilemma often crops up. A simplistic answer could be extrapolated from elementary school birthday party etiquette – either invite the whole class or no one from school. But depending on your company size (and the acreage of your yard!), it could be impossible to invite every coworker.

If you work with a small team, you may want to invite your entire department, boss included. Then it’s up to each of them to decide if they are comfortable attending or not. Many supervisors understand that employees may prefer to socialize without the boss, and will gracefully decline.

Managers hosting parties should include their entire team if they invite anyone from the office at all to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Be careful, however, not to give the impression that attendance is obligatory.

If you want to keep your barbecue guest list to a few close chums from the office, invite them personally (not via your work email) and mention, “We’re trying to keep it small.”

For weddings, most people understand the per-person dollars and cents connected to each guest (and their plus one) invited to a reception, so you don’t have to avoid all mention of your wedding plans in the break room. Still, you may wish to say something to those who just barely didn’t make the cut. “I’d love to invite the whole office, but our budget simply wouldn’t allow it.” Diane Forden, Bridal Guide editor-in-chief, thinks it’s wise to invite your supervisor to your nuptials.

Each workplace has a different culture based on the combination of personalities involved, so use your intuition and common sense when composing and implementing your party list.

Readers: Do you or don’t you invite your boss to personal events with other coworkers?

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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