SHOW DATE: SEPTEMBER 24, 2014
Every single year, our office manager, Roberto, makes appointments during this time when he should know—just as he’d known for the past five years—that we’re off.
Who makes appointments on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?
Be aware of your boss’s traditions and holidays. Or else it’s just going to be embarrassing.
In fact, be aware of the holidays of people you work with directly. If a co-worker you interact with on an almost daily basis is celebrating year 5774, send him a Happy New Year email.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish, Muslim or whatever. It’s about being aware of your network’s traditions. So when time comes and the holidays roll out, you not only know not to schedule appointments, meetings or events, but also that this is the time you should be wishing people a happy holiday.
Uncle David and Roberto always celebrate the Night of a Thousand Stevies, “the largest and most beloved Stevie Nicks fan event in the world.” Auntie Evan never forgets that this day is off-limits.
And that’s exactly how you should operate in the office.
Honor other people’s cultures, traditions and holidays. Don’t throw a banquet or anything. Just ask them if they’ll need help around the office that day. Acknowledging that you know is enough.
Let’s say your boss is gay. And you just put a little equality flag on your desk on Gay Pride Day. Or you put the flag up on your Facebook profile pic for a day.
The acknowledgement makes all the difference.
It can get you a lot of respect. It’s how you network and get jobs. Don’t miss the opportunity to show that you are aware of what others find important.
It’s also vital to be aware of what you’re entitled to during your holidays.
Private employers can make employees work on holidays. There’s no state of federal law against that. However—and here’s the catch—there are laws that ban religious discrimination.
So it’s illegal to let your employees off on Christmas but not Hanukah if there are both religions in the office.
What a lot of companies do is give you a set number of personal days you can take off.
If your boss isn’t giving you these but she is giving others a day off for their holiday, you need to tell her to give you the equivalent days off.
(The Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to accommodate employee’s religious holidays.)
Wrapping it up, it makes a huge difference if you reach out and acknowledge your employer’s, co-workers’ and friends’ religions and traditions. It’s enough to warrant you respect, grow your network and even grant you a job opportunity.
Also know your own rights when it comes to taking days off. You’re entitled by law.
Till next time.
SHOW DATE: SEPTEMBER 17, 2014
Building a functional team is one of the hardest leadership skills to master.
All the negotiation, all the management that goes into it is paramount to mastering leadership, getting promoted and skyrocketing your career. Basically what Job Talk is all about.
So let’s dive right in.
In essence, teamwork is a bunch of moving parts that all have to work together.
Susan hates Harry. Harry has a thing for Jeff. Jess doesn’t even listen to you because you’re not the “official” boss (the official boss is having a three-martini lunch). And so on.
What are you supposed to do?
This happens all the time. Team members engage in verbal sparing matches and you’re supposed to magically create a functional, respectful team.
It’s just like the coalition building thing that’s happening now.
The U.S. and its allies are forming a coalition against the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) terrorist organization.
In a nutshell, President Obama is building a team that will support an airstrike against ISIS.
One problem though: ISIS is in Syria.
This is turning out to be fraught with disaster.
There’s three big players in the game.
One of the players is the Syrian government. They have to allow the bombing to occur in Syria.
The second player is the Syrian rebels, who are amidst a civil war. The rebels are the people in the frontlines, fighting against ISIS. But they’re also fighting against the Syrian government.
And then there is ISIS itself.
Now President Obama is having to walk this tightrope between the Syrian government and the rebels, who hate each other but have the same common enemy.
The first two players share a common goal: stop ISIS. But they also hate each other.
Sort of like how two co-workers who hate each other have to work together on a project for their boss.
This is happening at our very own office at Forster-Thomas.
Our office manager Roberto (who has an enormous ego) and Dan (who also has an enormous ego), one of the mentor leads for our non-profit group, Essay Busters, have been put together on a team project.
Tension runs hot. Roberto, who’s also the Essay Busters coordinator, either loves or hates Dan—there’s no in-between. Basically they have a hard time working together.
At first we were hoping the problem would get resolved on its own.
That rarely happens.
So Auntie Evan stepped in.
He literally took the two of them and dragged them into a room and said, “all right, now we’re going to work it out.”
But that didn’t work. Auntie Evan figured if he just told them the truth, that there’s a common goal here, to just pull it together, all would be fine.
So why doesn’t Auntie Evan just take over the project and do it himself?
This is actually one of the worst things you can possibly do. We’ll explain in a bit.
There’s several things you can do to solve these conflicts.
Uncle David shares his five most solid points on resolving team conflicts:
- Don’t stick your head in the sand.
- Don’t be the white knight who just swoops in and does it all himself. Yeah, it seems like the only solution. But it solves nothing and only inhibits your leadership abilities and doesn’t get to the root of the problem.
- Understand the conflict has no rational basis—it’s rooted in emotion. It’s about grudges and feelings. You can’t move past a grudge until your address and recognize how the team member feels.
- Create a social event where some relationship building can occur outside the office space. Resolution does not have to happen on the job.
- If you want to be an effective leader, you have to cut to the root of the issue. A simple, “pull it together” will do squat for team building efforts. Yes there’s always a bit of that pep element. But you also have to find out the why behind what their feeling, and then focus your energy on resolving that.
SHOW DATE: AUGUST 13, 2014
Everyone knows when you lie on the job. They can practically predict everything coming out of your mouth is utter..
When we go to the car dealership, we prep ourselves for “lie time,” where Jack the car salesman will talk sales for the next few hours. What a waste of time: when Jack tells the truth, we are more apt to buy and it saves time for everybody.
It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
The other day, Auntie Evan got ready for an 8am meeting at the office with our accountant. The accountant comes in with his gold earring and slicked back hair and double tan, and on the side shadowing him is this big nameless muscle thug that he randomly invited.
Walks in, sits down, we tell him what we want done with our house. The first thing the accountant does, and we could swear his tan triple-darkened and his gold earring started to twinkle a little brighter, was jump in with a suggestion for a realtor—from whom we knew he would get a percentage from.
Not a good start.
He should have addressed us first and then truthfully acknowledged that he knew a REALLY good realtor, and despite him getting a percentage from the referral, the the guy would do wonders. It would have been more honest, less “sales-y” and more authentic.
By pretending that it was just a good referral right off the bat, it only created bad blood between us. The rest of the conversation was virtually OVER.
You do this at work and don’t even notice it: you make promises you can’t keep (you may get busy or forget), you say things to expedite a meeting and you don’t lay it down straight to your boss.
Truthful conversations get things done FASTER. Don’t even look at this from a moral perspective. Things are more efficient when they aren’t marred by bullshit. Either you’re not telling the truth, or you’re allowing somebody else to lie. The last thing we want is a culture of lies and half-truths proliferating the working world.
If you don’t know how to do something, and you pretend that you do, that’s lying. If you don’t say that you’ll be late, that’s lying by omission. I have a suggestion, and this is going to be CRAZY. If you don’t know something (ready for the insanity?): start with, “I don’t know” and… wait for it… “But let me help you. We’re going to find out how to do this together.”
THAT’s the way to go.
Pop culture example? Sure: we LOVE our summer TV guilty pleasure, Big Brother. Everybody was rooting for this guy Cody from the beginning, but he had this nagging habit of saying he’ll do something and never doing it. Now the whole fan base is against it.
After a while, you end up being the lonely guy in the dirty apartment, with a bottle in his hand… OK, maybe we’re getting sort of grim here.
Check in with yourself. Conduct a mini self-interview. Are you telling a client, co-worker, boss, lover etc. something because you want them to like you more or to avoid confrontation? Or are you telling them the truth?
Tell us the truth and you’ll have us on your side. In fact, you’ll have everything: the trust, the job, the promotion and the career.
SHOW DATE: JULY 9, 2014
You give them an inch, they take a yard.
No, that’s not another one of Job Talk’s esoteric sexual puns—it’s the ill matter of performing favors for co-workers. (Do count the sexual puns in this article, though—the number’s listed at the rear.)
Being asked to break the rules for somebody and bending over backwards just because you’re friends not only puts you in a compromising position, it takes away your power and credibility.
The reverse is doubly unsatisfying: nobody wants the victim who always needs to be paid early because his finances are a disaster. Bringing the drama of your everyday life to the office by asking for special favors (especially getting your check early) not only kills your chances at a promotion, it lowers your status in the office considerably.
No matter how small the business, companies’ systems are set in stone for a reason. It’s to prevent workplace sanfus where co-workers are placed in vulnerable positions that detract from office performance and pile on dysfunction.
Business environments, especially at small-mid sized companies like Forster-Thomas, can get very close and familial. If you want it to stay intimate, everyone has to follow the guidelines set in place and not kneel down for any little favor.
You’re going to get ahead at work only when you stop focusing on being liked or looking for others to break the rules for you. Offering leeway only serves to open a Pandora’s box, where the compromise snowballs into a bunch of he-saids and she-saids and workplace drama that gets you nowhere.
Know the rules and stick to them. You might like your co-workers. Really like them. But the only way you’re going to move up and maintain workplace relationships is keeping your power, your dignity and your favors to yourself.
Sexual puns in this article: 69
When you work with people long enough, there are things you should just know and adjust to accordingly. Your boss is a neat freak? Then don’t leave half a sandwich out in your cubicle. And yes, your co-worker Sue is always ten minutes late. So, when she says 2pm, know that she means 2:15pm. Wrong or right, you know who she is. Style, procedures, practices, and personalities: if you’ve been there a year and still don’t have all of these down? #ForReal? Fire yourself.
If you’ve been there a year and still can’t anticipate your boss’s and co-workers’ needs, likes, and dislikes, you don’t deserve to be there. Jobs are like marriage: after a year, there are no surprises.
I had a client who wrote an algorithm to figure out when his boss would need a latte each day. He didn’t have to ask, his boss didn’t have to tell him, and everyone knew where he was from 11:15 until 11:33 each morning. Anyone who didn’t wasn’t at that company for long, and guess what? That client got promoted, and now he has an assistant who’s (hopefully) figuring out his algorithm.
One of the reasons you got hired is because you’re really good at what you do. Therefore, it shouldn’t be hard for you to anticipate what your boss or co-worker wants, because you already know. You just don’t know you know. Here’s how you find out. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself: “What would I want in this situation?” (Example situation: your pants are down around your ankles and there is no toilet paper.)
Some things to remember:
- Know where everything is
- Know what’s missing
- Know what’s needed
- Make sure you can answer any question asked
- Be one step ahead of everyone
The bottom line: just get things done.
P.S. This blog is by Katherine Kennedy, who has worked with Auntie Evan for eight years. (There’s always toilet paper.)
SHOW DATE: JULY 2, 2014
No matter how long you’ve known your co-workers or boss, no matter how buddy buddy you are with your work peeps and superiors, you can never rely on friendship to save your ass on the job.
Let’s make this crystal clear: friendship is NOT leverage.
If you had to choose between your favorite co-worker and your job, which one would it be? We all know the answer. There are very few people on the planet that will willingly throw themselves under the bus for you at work.
Don’t rule out the fact that great work relationships are a bad thing. It’s only when you use them as a support beam for your career when you discover the foundation won’t hold.
You ALWAYS, ALWAYS have to have leverage when it comes down to matters concerning your job. What does leverage mean? It means you have options, some sort of barter than can be taken place to cover your ass in case of emergencies.
Friendship is not barter material. It’s not something used to tip the scales in your favor.
Let’s get practical. You’re walking into your boss’s office, about to have the Talk about the fate of your job. How would you prepare? How do you make sure that you have enough leverage in the interaction to tip the scales in your favor?
Here’s a few golden tips from Auntie Evan and Uncle David:
1) Never walk into your boss’s office asking about the fate of your job. It’s like waddling into the room with your tail between your legs. Powerlessness and pleading only make you an easy target.
2) This is not the most helpful tip when you’re too far down the rabbit hole, but vital to the Job Talk mantra nonetheless: you have to be really good at what you do if you want some serious leverage.
3) Create leverage if you don’t have it. The best leverage is having another job offer. Have a place you can go to in the worst case scenario. Just like your partner looks at you more lustfully when someone else is vying for your attention, you’re a much most attractive prospect when there are others vying for your employment.
4) If you don’t have that offer to fall back on, get out there. Get a headhunter, get your resume out. Afraid you’ll be found out? It’s a bogus fear: if you’re going to be fired, there is nothing to lose. If you’re looking to be promoted, now you’re just that more attractive. It doesn’t mean wave that acceptance letter in management’s face; just don’t leave yourself at somebody else’s mercy.
5) If you’re playing high-stakes job poker and put up the “I’ll quit” bluff, you better be willing and able to follow through with it. To add on to the metaphor, get your poker face primed and ready: walking into an office full of emotions (read: anger) is sure to spell disaster. Emotions are easy to manipulate, and are the biggest form of anti-leverage on the planet. Additionally, when you’re going through your spiel, start off with what you want and need, and then transition to the fact that you’ll be looking for alternative employment otherwise, not the other way around.
Bottom line, steel yourself. Stop thinking everyone is your friend, and if they are, don’t count on their support when shit hits the fan. When the reaper comes knocking, keep the five tips listed above taped to the inside of your eyelid: in the tentative job world, leverage is king.
SHOW DATE: JUNE 25, 2014
Auntie Evan just ran into a colleague who was in the New York area that he used to work for Forster-Thomas. We’ll call her B.
Auntie Evan hadn’t seen her in a while, and she wanted to take on some work while she was in New York. That was fine and all, but there was one small problem: her appearance.
B was 150lbs overweight, her hair was three different colors, she had pimples showering her face and she was unclean.
Auntie Evan’s consensus? Looks matter. Better looking people get jobs. B wasn’t going to get on board looking like that.
Uncle David is horrified at this maxim, but Auntie Evan has a point: the “fact” that good looking people do better in life is, in fact, a fact.
Auntie Evan cites University of Texas economist Daniel S. Hamermesh’s research that attractive people earn $230,000 more over a lifetime. Even an average worker is likely to earn $140,000 more than an ugly worker.
Auntie Evan does admits B was overweight when he first met her, but she was attractive and kept up appearances. She looked good.
Don’t let your ego get in the way when thinking about your attractiveness. Just because you don’t look like Pitt or Jolie doesn’t mean you’re not attractive.
Wash your face. Brush your teeth. Comb your hair. Wear the part. It’s not what you’re born with, it’s how you own how your look.
Take one of our employees, Ben. Classically good looking, a sharp dresser. But he didn’t start off that way.
Ben used to come in looking like a mess: shorts and polos several sizes too large, and generally an unkempt appearance. One day Auntie Evan told him if he came into work one more time dressed liked that he wouldn’t have a job. Ben listened.
Even if you work from home, pulling yourself together makes you feel great. And people can see that mustard stain over Skype, so it’s pretty much a must no matter where you are.
Looking good and being good looking are two different things. You don’t have to feel like you were blessed by the beauty gods to look the part.
Here’s a good tip: dress a level up. If your supervisor or boss wear a suit, adapt their style.
Forster-Thomas is an educational consultation company that helps students get into college and graduate school. Auntie Evan and Uncle David can’t make it fly that they have 50 years of experience between them and that they know what they’re talking about if they don’t look GOOD.
This applies to a creative office, a corporate office, a lax office, whatever office. Good looks matter, but looking good matters a lot more.
Check out our interview with Rachel Lefort on the phone, a former Ann Taylor designer, for some amazing style advice to make you look great no matter how much you were hit with the ugly stick at birth.
We brought Rachel Lefort on the show, a former Ann Taylor designer, to talk about looking good on the job. Check out her amazing style tips below:
Job Talk Daily: What’s your definition of looking good?
Rachel: It’s not what you’re born with, it’s how you package and carry yourself.
Job Talk Daily: What is the one item in your closet that you have to have no matter what job you’re at?
Rachel: The number one staple for men and women is a jacket. For guys a fantastic sports coat, and for women a fitted jacket or blazer. It always elevates your style and makes you look professional.
Job Talk Daily: Can the jacket be more eccentric, like a herringbone? Or stick to solid colors?
Rachel: If you have to choose one, go with the more traditional solid-colored jacket, so people won’t recognize that you’re wearing the same thing all the time. A navy blazer with muted buttons (not gold) is a great choice.
Job Talk Daily: Any other important points?
Rachel: The most important thing is the fit. The clothing item should be tailored to your body, not too tight and not too loose. That’s why your tailor is your best friend.
Job Talk Daily: What about bigger people? Are they hopeless?
Rachel: When you dress for your proportions it can look like you lost weight. Say a woman wants to minimize her hips. She would want to dress in a way that would bring someone’s eyes up rather than down. Bring attention to her neckline. A jacket with a light v-neck blouse and a dark skirt that minimizes the hips would be a great choice.
Job Talk Daily: Any advice for the person who a the fear of shopping?
Rachel: That’s a good question. Start with wardrobe basics. Make a small list of things you need: your basic black trousers, your basic jacket, your basic blouse or shirt. It’s work to find the right things, it can be hard, and it might take a while, but it’s necessary. It’s a commitment you have to take.
SHOW DATE: JUNE 18, 2014
Most people need to be dominated in a relationship, be it in business or in life. One person is going to be the good guy and the other the bad guy.
And if you’re one the one receiving the commands and complaints, it can be quite frustrating. But is it crazy to think that if you removed the dominant figurehead from the relationship, your job, and your life, wouldn’t function as well?
We don’t find it crazy one bit.
If Auntie Evan doesn’t tell Uncle David to take out the trash during an in-home client Skype call, would Uncle David, as frustrated as he is over the domination, ever do it? If Auntie Evan doesn’t forcefully impose the company’s new pricing model in front of their employees and Uncle David says squat because he doesn’t want to embarrass the image of the company, would the business ever progress?
The dominator, essentially the task-master, whips you into shape. Every office has one. We get it (at least, Uncle David does), we realize it can be a pain in the ass to be told what to do all the time.
But it’s necessary. Every yin needs a yang. This doesn’t mean you can’t make the relationship with your dominator a synergistic effort that produces ideal results. You can even become a dominator yourself.
Coming straight from the horse’s mouth, Auntie Evan reveals how you can make a relationship with a dominator work for you, not against you. Use these points to understand the necessity of a dominator, or become one yourself.
There are three things dominators do that lets them stay in the position they’re at:
- They are loud, forceful and tenacious. Like pit bulls. They are the first ones to get their head into the discussion.
- They find a weakness and exploit it (Uncle David doesn’t like loud confrontations, for instance). They know you’ll give in, and they do solely to get ahead with their vision.
- This is the big one. They are willing to walk away from a client if things are not going their way. They have it in their heart that what they have to say is the right thing, and they know they’re really good at what they do. So for the relationship to be maintained, the client must be good at what they do, be a hard worker, and comply with the dominator’s vision. For a successful dominator, everything is replaceable, be it a client, a teammate, a spouse, or even their own role in the company.
A dominator is committed to a cause, such as making more money for the company. If she loses a few clients along the way to get to the ones she needs, so be it.
The office dominator is an essential chess piece, because they’re the ones that gets results. Become one of them, or be dominated by one (and later become one yourself). Either way, you’re moving your career, and more importantly the company, forward.