28 June 2008
Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians and Happy Fourth of July to my American friends!
I will be back on the blog on July 7th.
26 June 2008
There are etiquette schools that teach business executives, and others who want to invest in their career, how to act in public. Here are some etiquette articles I found on how to pass the salt and pepper, is it OK to ask for a doggy bag at a business lunch, how to entertain guests at a restaurant and even something on dining posture while eating.
I’m sure we have all been at work functions and are waiting for the first person to take a sip of their water or take some bread from their bread plate so we know which one is ours. At some functions the dinnerware is so crammed together it is hard to tell which belongs to you. You will never have to guess again because here is an article to help you know "which is mine?"
The Art of Table Conversation?
I was at a work function recently and sat beside a co-worker and noticed throughout the dinner how she kept the conversation going and kept it interesting. She wasn’t loud or obnoxious, but quietly went about engaging us in conversation. I assumed she had either been trained in this art or because of her job of meeting so many people she had become good at small talk. She was a pleasure to have at the table and it helped to get everyone talking. Work functions can sometimes be stressful to know what to say.
I learned small talk when I was a hairdresser. A hairdresser has to talk to many people in a day. I remember when I first started hairdressing school, I didn’t want to touch the customers, let alone talk to them, but I got over it and actually started to enjoy the interaction with the different people who came to see me each day. It is a different kind of small talk than in business, but it gave me the ability to know how to ask questions and to keep a conversation going.
What do you say at a farewell lunch?
It seems to be expected that you will give some kind of a speech at a farewell lunch. What are you supposed to say? Is there an etiquette on how to say goodbye?
Check out these etiquette articles on when to start eating, how to reply to a toast and dining conversation.
But I still don't know what to say at a farewell lunch...
All etiquette articles linked from the Etiquette School of Ohio's blogsite.
25 June 2008
Because I told you so
We didn’t like it as children when our parents told us to do something and the only explanation was “because I told you so”. We want to know why, but sometimes at work we don’t have time to explain the whys. Here are some ways you might try to get better results when delegating work:
- If you have a big project to pass on or need something done right away, ask the person what is on their plate. Don’t just walk up and tell someone what to do without finding out what other projects they might be handling.
- Give a deadline when you need the task completed by so they can prioritize their workload.
- Always take the time to say please and thank you. There is never an excuse not to be polite, even if you have to go back after a stressful work situation and say it later.
- Encourage questions. Don’t just drop off the work and not stick around for questions. You want to make sure the instructions are clear.
- Asking in person or by telephone for a big project is ideal, followed up by an e-mail to have something in writing.
You are not the boss of me
If you are passing on work to others, have you been given the authority to do so? It is important that staff know what your role is and it will be better received. I was recently discussing what being a supervisor meant and someone told me it was being a team leader and a mentor, which I thought described the role well. A good boss will lead by example and then it won't seem so hard to accept the authority that has been given to them.
24 June 2008
An assistant sent me and other recipients an e-mail proposing a date for a meeting. The first e-mail she sent she put the wrong year.
In the next e-mail she sent, she again sent it to all the recipients and corrected the year, but forgot the attachment she said was in the e-mail.
She tried a third time and proposed a new date for the meeting, but when I checked to see if my boss was available that day, I noticed it was a Saturday.
Unfortunately, each time she corrected her e-mail, she pressed Reply to All and everyone on her distribution list saw her attempts to correct her mistakes. We all make mistakes, but we don't need to let everyone know about them. I would have carefully checked my information before pressing Reply to All or if she was trying to do this in a rush she might have been better to wait and send it the next day when she could look at it more carefully.
Untangling the string of e-mail
Sometimes our e-mails get very long with the conversation that is going back and forth. I realize that you do need to keep some of the conversation in there to get the whole story, however, I find in both business and personal e-mails that a little clean up would help. Here are a few good tips from the E-mail Etiquette Matters blog when using Reply to All.
22 June 2008
I used to work with someone who would constantly put herself down. “I am so dumb”, she would say. “How could I have done something so stupid?” It was hard not to get that impression about her, because she was always telling us how she felt about herself. As I got to know her I found she was none of those things, but was very intelligent and a good worker. She was not doing herself any favours by announcing her imagined shortcomings.
Joking at the office as well can be fun, but beware that you don’t start giving the impression that people can’t take you serious. You are fun to have around, but you would never be considered for something more expert or challenging. I mean you are the jokester right? I love laughing and I find it really helps relieve the stress of a busy day, but sometimes I have had to step back and evaluate what it was doing to my career. Am I giving people the right impression of me? I am a professional and at work that is the number one image I want to portray. My sense of humour is an asset to be sure, but it is not the thing I want people to remember when they are thinking of who to hire.
Sometimes we share with our co-workers things they really don't need to know. I would suggest that you keep your conversations with your co-workers on a different level. We don't have to be all business, but keep in mind that what we say about ourselves can make a lasting impression and when the time for promotions and evaluations come along, it might come back to haunt you.
19 June 2008
Educating yourself doesn't have to cost big bucks or take time away from your family to attend courses. You can read during your commute to work, read before bed or during your lunch break. What better way to spend the time while waiting for a dentist or doctor's appointment than reading a book? That's the beauty of a book or magazine, you can take it with you.
Here is a list of magazines, books and websites that have caught my eye lately:
This is a well-written professional magazine put out by the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP).
This is also a very good professional magazine by Desk Demon based in the UK and the United States.
45 Things by Workplace Columnist Anita Bruzzese
I love visiting Anita's blog. She is insightful and has witty and relevant articles about your career and workplace.
Admin Secret - "In the Know, Running the Show"
This is a new site for administrative professionals and is part of the Monster.com family. It is a fun site to visit, with interesting and relevant articles for the office worker.
Office Arrow - "For Office Professionals, By Office Professionals"
As the title states, this is a site created for and by office professionals and you can tell. The articles are very well written and are relevant to what we do every day. A must-visit site.
The Brazen Careerist - by Penelope Trunk
This can be an interesting site to visit. Sometimes it is more personal than work, but then work can be personal. It is a mixed bag of good information that can really hit the mark.
How Full is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life - by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton
Working Relationships: The Simple Truth About Getting Along with Friends and Foes at Work - by Bob Wall
I have commented on this book and recommended it often. It is a very good read with great tips and stategies for getting along with our co-workers.
Nuts, Bolts and Jolts - by Richard Moran
I get so many quotes from this book. It is filled with fun and serious quotes about work and business.
These are just a few of many. Check out the sidebar of the blog "My Blog List" for more interesting links.
If there are any good magazines, books and sites that you want to share, I'd love to hear about them.
17 June 2008
I heard a speaker say that the way you handle conflict depends on your experiences and I believe that is true. Managing conflict with limited knowledge and skill in that area will most likely not result in success. I am the type of person who believes in the do unto others as you would have them do unto you rule, so when someone breaks that and does something that I wouldn’t even think of doing, I find it hard to know how to deal with it.
When I hear someone speak or I read a book and the author is skilled in the area of conflict management, I get good ideas and tools for dealing with conflicts and it is very helpful. I think we need to be equipped to handle situations that come up at work and at home.
I heard someone speak recently on managing conflict and it prompted some good discussions and insight into this topic by the participants.
We were given five types of conflict style and asked to determine which type we were.
- The avoider does not want to have confrontation and will do anything they can to avoid it
- The competitor wants to win. It is a competition with them and sometimes they will try to win at all costs. The relationship is not as important as the goal
- The accommodator plays the role of the mediator. They try to smooth any ruffled feathers. The relationship is very important to them
- The compromiser wants negotiation and compromise. They want things to be resolved such that everyone wins
- The collaborator seeks a solution that is good for everyone. They look at the issues, not the personalities involved in the conflict.
People who are skilled in conflict management can break it down for us and then we can see clearer what needs to be done. Bob Wall has written an excellent book on the subject. It is very interesting and details conflicts and how they can be resolved. Of course it makes perfect sense when it happens to someone else, but it is more difficult when it is a situation you are dealing with at your own workplace or home.
We will all have difficult situations to deal with at one time or another and having knowledge and know-how to approach them is a good first step.
 Wall, Bob, Working Relationships: The Simple Truth About Getting Along with Friends and Foes at Work
16 June 2008
Read the mail
Read all correspondence and look for action items and due dates and diarize them or bring them to your boss’s attention. If you have access to your boss’s Inbox you should be checking e-mails as well.
Check their calendar
Familiarize yourself with what your boss has scheduled for the week and beyond. Is there anything you need to do to help them? Make travel arrangements? Arrange a conference call? Your boss’s calendar is always changing, but it is a good idea to look ahead and be familiar with what is coming up.
Bring things to their attention when they need it
Keep a good bring-forward system to bring items to your boss’s attention. Use your Tasks in Outlook to remind you or diarize it on your calendar, but have some way of having things ready for your boss, when needed.
Second guess them
When they tell you they want to meet with someone have some questions ready. Things they may not have thought of. If you are organizing a meeting, is it a lunch meeting or do they need a boardroom? If it is a lunch meeting do they want you to make a restaurant reservation or have lunch catered in? Have a list of questions and think ahead. If you are arranging travel, have your list ready. What airport do they want to fly to? How many nights? Any preference on hotel?
If your boss is giving a presentation, find out the details and requirements from the conference organizers. Find out what kind of audiovisual equipment they have. Do they want you to e-mail a PPT presentation or bring it on a memory stick? Have the answers for your boss.
You will make your boss feel more secure when he or she knows you are in control of the situation.
15 June 2008
If you are lucky, your new employer will have a time of orientation and training before you actually go to your assigned desk. But what about the little things? I find some things get forgotten as we welcome new employees.
Have you ever arrived at a new job to a clean and sanitized work station? Some of the things we use really should be replaced or sanitized before expecting a new worker to use them.
Our hands are all over our keyboards. Some people also eat at their desk and food can get in between the keys. Previously used keyboards should be cleaned out and sanitized for the new person and in some cases replaced.
We speak into our telephone receivers and punch in phone numbers on the keypad. A telephone is definitely a place where germs can hide. Take the time to wipe it down before subjecting a new employee to another person's telephone.
I can't believe I even have to mention this one, but when I have started a new job it is usually someone else's earphones I am expected to use. A new employee should definitely be given new earphones.
The Mouse and Mousepad
A mouse is another thing we have our hands all over and should be wiped down or replaced for the new worker. And there is no excuse for using an old mousepad, they are cheap and easy to replace.
The next time you are welcoming a new employee and going through your checklist of things you need to do for them, consider cleaning and sanitizing their desk and work area. Wipe down the computer screen and for goodness sake don't give them used mousepads and earphones. We would never give a guest in our home a used toothbrush to use. Think along those lines with the new employee and welcome them to a clean environment.
12 June 2008
We all have to make personal calls at work at times, but don’t be surprised if your co-worker knows your plans for the weekend or which of your children might be in trouble. You can’t help but overhear conversations in a cube.
Ways to keep it confidential:
- Send an e-mail instead of using the phone
- Go outside on your break and use your cell phone
- Meet someone for lunch to talk
- My co-worker speaks French when she doesn't want me to understand
Try not to be offended if someone happens to hear you. You are in an open workspace. If you want to keep it confidential, keep it quiet or take it outside.
11 June 2008
To change font size using Ctrl keys
To decrease font size:
Highlight the word or section you want to change and press CTRL + SHIFT and use the "less than" key <
To increase font size: Highlight the word or section you want to change and press CTRL + SHIFT and use the "greater than" key >
A quick way to make words and numbers superscript and subscript
Highlight the word or number and press CTRL and the plus sign +
Highlight the word or number and press CTRL + SHIFT and the plus sign +
10 June 2008
We can step on people's toes at work too. Here are some ways I think we can do that:
- By not saying please and thank you and giving common courtesies to our co-workers.
- By assuming too much and not asking.
- By taking credit for work and not sharing the success with our colleagues who assisted us.
- By not paying attention to the tone of our e-mails. People can get the wrong idea from an e-mail. Sometimes it is better to speak on the phone or in person.
- By invading each other's cubicle space or walking into an office without knocking.
- By going over someone's head and doing things behind the scenes. If you work in a team environment it is a good idea to work with your co-workers to come up with solutions.
We spend a lot of time with our co-workers. Let's be kind to one another. Sometimes we are so busy and stressed it is hard to remember to say please and thank you, but remembering goes a long way towards avoiding those work toes.
9 June 2008
I am so thankful for second chances. I suppose if I was perfect and never made a mistake I could be more judgmental and unforgiving, but because I do make mistakes I want to be forgiving of others. You never know when the shoe might be on the other foot.
Someone posted on an interactive forum about a similar situation. They had been fired with cause. They had never done anything like it before, but they did it this time, got caught and they were fired because of it. They wanted to know if there was anything they could do to get back in the workforce after using such poor judgment and now having a criminal record.
I had been thinking about this very thing since hearing about my former co-worker. Are there second chances for those who have been fired for good reason?
Sometimes the business community can be very small. Everybody knows everyone else’s business. When something big like this happens, people talk about it. I think anyone who finds themselves in this situation and they go on an interview, needs to be honest and upfront. The people interviewing you probably know about it anyway or will find out. I think if you are honest and sincere it can show to the potential employer that you have learned from your mistakes and are looking for a fresh start.
It is risky business for an employer to hire someone with a past indiscretion. They are taking a chance, but sometimes the chance is worth it. People who have been given a second chance often make a very loyal employee.
In the situation I am thinking of the person was hired again and by a company who would have known about the problem. They took a chance, but I believe the risk will pay off for them as this person was a very good employee otherwise.
The person who finds themselves in this position has already gone through the shame of being found out. Sometimes their "sins" have been broadcast to the community and they have had to face their friends and former co-workers. They also have to try and integrate into their new place of employment with everyone knowing and they have to hold their head up high and try to do their job the best they can under this shadow. They have earned this initial speculation because of what they have done, but they can shine and find hope even after failure.
Brian from the Job Bored wrote a interesting article about this very thing called The Ex-Felon Job Search Catch 22. I thought he made some good suggestions.
Here is an another related article from The Thin Pink Line called Laid off vs. Fired
7 June 2008
· I did not want to work downtown;
· I did not want to live downtown; and
· I certainly did not want to work for a lawyer.
I was a country girl and loved living in the wide open spaces. I wanted to find a job in the suburbs so I didn’t have to drive all the way into town and I was hoping to still live in my small home town. I hated trying to find a parking spot, so downtown was not my choice to find a job. I had worked for a lawyer while living in Northern Alberta and knew I didn’t want to do that again. It was long hours and no thanks...
I started to pound the pavement looking. I temped here and there for a year. Was I ever going to find anything permanent? Finally, I got a job interview through the temp agency for a one-year contract. It would be the longest contract I had been offered so I was anxious to do well in the interview.
When I got the details of the job I was dismayed to find it was downtown and in a law firm. I didn’t have much choice so I plunged ahead and went to the interview, all the while thinking it was not my first choice, but I needed a job so I had to try. I interviewed first with the HR manager and did well. She liked me and said she would get back to me. I got a call a few days later to interview with the partner who was looking. I was nervous because I really needed the job. The man I interviewed with was very nice, but was concerned about my lack of legal experience. I left the interview not really knowing how well I had done.
I finally got a phone call to say they wanted to hire me and could I start in a few weeks? Now I had to find a place to live and think about my commute to work. I ended up moving to an apartment downtown and walking to work, that's how close I lived to the office. Sometimes what we think we don’t want, ends up being exactly what we need. I never regretted any of the circumstances I found myself in.
A few days ago I went to this man’s retirement party and there were a lot of nice things said about him. As I sat listening to the speeches, I remembered the interview and the chance he gave me so many years ago. He said he wanted someone fast and accurate. I promised him I could deliver. He said he was concerned about my rusty legal experience. I think I started begging at that point...
When I started the job, I was nervous because I didn’t understand anything about the type of law he was practicing. He assured me that he would take care of the legal side of it, if I would keep my end of the deal and work hard and fast.
Eleven years later, I am sitting saying goodbye as he starts this new adventure in his life. He taught me everything I know about the legal field. I got more of an education from him than I ever could have received at school. He was patient and kind and a wonderful teacher. When I got my next job I was now considered a senior legal assistant all because I was given a chance and I said yes and did something I never wanted to do.
Thank you Mr. B for taking me on and I wish you all the very best in your retirement.
5 June 2008
4 June 2008
It seems that documents without spelling errors are becoming a thing of the past. I remember when my daughter was in school she brought home an essay with lots of spelling mistakes and being the perfectionist I am, I had to comment on it. She told me that in her school if you wrote an essay in science then you were only marked on the science content, not the spelling. If you had a spelling test, then obviously spelling would count. I bought that for a time until she came home and on one of her essays she had spelled her own name wrong.
She was right about spelling not being as important however. It seems to be less important to a generation who writes short forms in e-mail, text messaging and on chat lines. But will that spill over into the office?
I notice when I receive letters and e-mails that the spelling errors in them are sometimes pretty glaring. That is something that rarely would have happened years ago. Having a polished letter was considered a reflection of the company and they wanted it to shine. Poor spelling and grammar would never do.
I think with the education system not taking spelling as seriously as it used to and with the use of Spell Check, we are just not noticing anymore or taking the time to look it over carefully.
I still have a hard time when I see a spelling error. I will excuse one, but when there are multiple errors it comes across to me as careless and sloppy. If I am reading an article, if there are too many spelling mistakes I have a hard time reading it from start to finish. It does not seem as important for me to continue reading when I see errors. I suppose I may be thinking if it wasn’t important for the author to watch their spelling then is the content really that important for me to read? Am I showing my age here?
I read my articles over many, many times and proof them and try to get them as polished as I can before pressing “Publish” on my blog. That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes, because I know I do, but I don’t like it. I have even put on my blog disclaimer that I will go back and change articles from time to time. If I notice an error, I correct it.
In the office I proofread letters and e-mails and do a final Spell Check before letting the document leave my desk. I think that is my job and I know my boss is depending on me to catch any typos before something goes out.
With our bosses use of e-mail on wireless hand-held devices however, it is harder to type accurately. Men especially have complained about their big thumbs as they try to type on the small keyboard.
I was joking with my boss while he was complaining about that very thing. He said the keyboard has to be bigger. I told him they did have a bigger keyboard but it was called a laptop. He smiled. Of course we want convenience as well and it is much easier to put a hand-held device in your pocket rather than lugging a laptop around.
Is that why spelling is being overlooked? Is it because a generation is coming up who have been taught expediency comes before accuracy, or is it because the technology is so small that it is almost impossible to get it right? Or maybe it is a combination of both?
I like good spelling habits and think we are losing something if we let them go. The end product to me does reflect on the company behind it. I think it is still important to be as accurate as possible.
3 June 2008
Did you know there is something called "Boss Appreciation Day"? I have never heard of it, but apparently it's on October 16th. My sister told me about it and it got me thinking about some qualities that I have appreciated in some of the bosses I have worked for and some other qualities I have wished for. Here are some that I came up with:
- A boss who is understanding of all we do in a day and appreciates our hard work and let's us know by taking the time to say thank you.
- A boss who respects us for what we know and let's us do our job.
- A boss who does not hover.
- A boss who includes us in their successes.
- A boss who considers us part of the team.
- A boss who lets us run when we have a rush to do and doesn't get in the way.
- A boss who will go to bat for us if needed.
- A boss who is not afraid to admit when they have made a mistake.
- A boss with a sense of humour.
- A boss who has a vision for what they want to do with the company and what their role is and communicates that to the assistant.
- A boss who understands when we are sick or if a family member is sick and allows us to take care of family business without making us feel guilty.
- A boss who does not take advantage of their position by asking us to run personal errands, if that is not our role.
- A boss who does not keep track of every minute late or everytime we leave early, but keeps in mind the lunch hours we work through and the times we stay late.
- A boss who takes the time to teach us the business so we can do a better job assisting them.
I have had bosses with most, if not all, of these qualities. Unfortunately, I have never acknowledged this day to anyone I have ever worked with. This year I will diarize it in my calendar.
OK, so now we've been given lots of notice. No excuses! Let's remember to say thank you to our bosses on October 16th.
1 June 2008
EAPs have received the thumbs up by unions, management and business owners who recognize that helping employees at work and at home is of mutual benefit to their organizations.
I was first introduced to the EAP program when I came back to the workforce after taking some time off to raise my daughter. A co-worker told me that she was getting help for her son. Employers offer EAP to family members as well as employees as they are recognizing that when things are not right at home our performance at work can be affected.
It wasn’t until many years later that I felt the need to ask for assistance. It was a stressful time in my life and I just needed someone to help me put things in perspective. The call was a hard one to make. I think we all have a hard time asking for help, but the person who took the call handled it with professionalism and compassion. I never felt uncomfortable and they were able to quickly assess and direct my enquiry to the appropriate counsellor.
I think sometimes in our busy lives we don’t feel we even have the time to make the effort to get help. I was in that position and couldn’t see how I would be able to fit the appointments into my busy schedule. I was told that I could have the counselling sessions over the telephone at the convenience of the counsellor and myself. That was such a help to me because I don’t own a vehicle and getting places, especially in the evening, could be a stress in itself.
I was also given the option to request a male or female counsellor or someone of my ethnic background if that was a concern for me. If I wanted to speak to someone of my faith background, they would make every effort to accommodate me in this area as well.
Initially I felt uneasy about talking on the phone with a counsellor that I couldn’t even see, but she was able to put me at ease right from the start. She encouraged me to talk to her and offered suggestions and evaluated what she thought might help me. The duration of the session was up to me and my counsellor. If I decided I did not need further assistance, I was not pressured to continue, but was offered a toll free number to call if I needed follow up.
EAP and Work
Our EAP provider sends us monthly newsletters with helpful tips for family and job-related issues. They are available to give on-site lunch ‘n learn sessions to interested employees on a variety of topics including: Difficult Working Relationships, Coping with Grief, Eldercare and many other topics that are relevant to today’s employees.
Your EAP is just a phone call away. Be assured that everything you say is held in the strictest confidence. Not even your employer will know you called. If you are feeling stressed due to work or home, investigate what help is available to you through your EAP or consult with your family physician.