5 Ways to Instantly Reduce Virtual Meeting Fatigue

Let’s face it…at this point we’re all probably experiencing some level of virtual meeting fatigue. I mean, at first it was fun….a little different…but fun. You probably looked forward to logging in 3 – 4 times a week and seeing your co-workers through the computer. You even got to see a little glimpse of their world when their children went running across the room in the background or you noticed some interesting artwork on the wall. On top of that, you didn’t have to drive into the office or sit in conference rooms AND you only had to dress professionally from the waist up. You thought to yourself, ‘This is great! I could get used to this!’

But, slowly it got old…you started begrudgingly accepting meeting requests as the virtual meetings became more and more frequent. Then the meetings started to get boring, monotonous, and a little predictable.  Now you find it difficult to stay focused and you keep looking at the clock to see how much longer before you can log off and spend some quality time with your family.  Just admit it…the thrill is gone! You are officially experiencing Virtual Meeting Fatigue.

Now, luckily there are ways to combat this fatigue and I have listed 5 ways you can instantly reduce it during your virtual meetings:

1. Spend the First 10 Minutes Having Fun!

Instead of starting off your meetings in a traditional way, put a fun topic on the agenda first. For example, Show ‘N Tell is always a crowd-pleaser. Simply have a few team members pick something personal to show and tell the team about. It could be their son’s high school graduation picture that they’re proud of. It could be a new recipe that they’ve tried lately. Or it could be a movie on Netflix that they’ve been binge watching. Whatever it is, you can’t go wrong with a good ol’ fashioned game of Show ‘N Tell!

Next, you can have a team scavenger hunt where team members are given a list of items to find around their house. Be sure to put some not so common items on the list. Whoever finds all or most of the items within a certain amount of time wins a prize (Starbucks gift card, 1-year subscription to the Calm app, etc.). Now, the fun will really start when the winning team member explains why they actually have certain things in their home!

Another fun thing you can try is sharing health and fitness tips. Have the team share what they have been doing to stay healthy during this time. Maybe give tips on new workout videos or good deals on bicycles, jump ropes, and other workout equipment. Some team members may even want to share weight loss goals and become accountability partners. Do I hear a weight loss challenge!?! And don’t forget your mental health! Encourage others to share places to find daily devotionals, inspirational readings, yoga tips, etc.

2. Add Breaks During the Meeting

Believe or not, but this simple necessity is often overlooked. Part of the reason for the fatigue is the fact that you may be sitting in the same spot for the entire meeting. Simply taking a break instantly increases energy and gives you a moment to clear your mind. Now, you can take breaks in 2 ways. You can stop the meeting for a brief period so team members can step away from their computer and use the restroom, get a drink of water, eat a snack, etc. Or you can have a break that the team takes together while staying at their computer. The latter may be for a shorter amount of time and could require a leader. You may want to have someone lead a 3-minute break by asking everyone to stand and do some basic stretching exercises together. You can have a different break leader for each meeting.

3. Rotate Meeting Facilitators

No offense to the supervisors out there, but sometimes it may help to spice up your meetings by letting other people facilitate. I’m sure you do a great job, but having a different facilitator for each meeting can really increase energy! This minor adjustment allows team members to be more involved and take ownership and not just simply listen to the manager do all (or most of) the talking. It will take minimal effort to organize a meeting facilitator schedule.  Try it and see how it works!

4. Implement Nuggets of Learning

Just like you started off the meeting with something fun and interesting, end on the same note. A lot of professionals are currently using this time to upskill and gain new knowledge to prepare themselves for the workforce of the future. Allow 1 team member each meeting to share something that they’ve learned that could be beneficial to the entire team. They can share by doing a mini-presentation, showing a quick video, or listing websites and resources in the chatbox. This will ultimately be a win-win for everyone.

5. Start Using an Ergonomic Laptop/Computer Stand

Again, part of the reason you may be experiencing fatigue is that you are sitting in one spot for the whole meeting.  This can definitely cause you to feel drained by the end. Using an ergonomic stand obviously allows you to stand up while using your computer, which is really the more healthy way to work. Standing more frequently reduces back and neck pain and helps you maintain a better poster. With an ergonomic stand, you will also be able to raise your computer to an appropriate level and reduce screen glare, which can lead to eye strain and headaches. Studies have shown that standing desks ultimately improve mood and energy levels. (Side note: You can actually do some exercises while you are standing during the meeting. But shhh….don’t tell your supervisor! And be sure your camera is turned off!)

These are just a few examples of how you can reduce virtual meeting fatigue.  It seems as if teleworking will be the new norm, so it will be best to implement some non-traditional practices to keep it engaging. I’d love to hear other ways you and your team are making your meetings fun!

Is Your Email Etiquette Costing You the Job?

hey dena its michael, here is an updated  resume…thank you so much for taking time out of your day for helping me with my resume!

Would you respond to this email if it came from a complete stranger? No? An employer wouldn’t either.  This is an actual email I got about 3 years ago while working at a university from an alumnus who had graduated a year prior.  He called me because he was having a hard time finding a job in his field and wanted me to take a look at his resume to see if it needed improving.  A few days later that one line is what I received in my inbox with his resume attached.  My initial response was to delete the email because I was so put off by the lack of professionalism and not to mention he didn’t even capitalize my name!!  After a few hours of thinking about what I am called to do as a Career Consultant, I retrieved the email out of my trash folder and took a look at the resume he sent.  I responded to the email with my suggestions and explained to him the inappropriateness of his email. I told him that his lack of email etiquette is a reflection of his lack of professionalism and this could very well be contributing to his inability to get the job he desired. I explained to him that I initially deleted his email and that an employer would have surely deleted it without a second thought.  I reminded him to always be professional especially with those whom he does not have a close relationship with and is requesting help from.  This was the response to my email:

Good afternoon Ms. Bilbrew,

I am so glad for your help with my resume. Your time and effort is greatly appreciated!  Here is my updated resume with the following corrections that you advised. Hopefully I am getting somewhere with it. Thank you so much for your help with this.

Michael Jones

I am convinced that something happened in January 2014.  I think I missed the memo that said all email etiquette has gone out the window.  Did anybody else miss it? I mean there must have been a memo that went out because this is when I started receiving an abundance of emails with no subject, no greeting, and nothing written in the body.  I guess the memo said that the person whom you are sending the email to will just automatically know what you want them to do with the document you attached??!!  Also, I believe our daily messaging on social media and in text messages contributes to our lackluster email habits.  In case no has told you, communicating on social media is different from communicating with an employer.  Employers receive hundreds of emails each week from potential candidates and their time is very valuable.  They don’t have time to try to figure out what you meant to say and they most definitely do not have to give you a second chance like I did with the person I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

I get emails everyday from people requesting my help and keep in mind these emails are from people who want assistance with getting to the next step in their career.  If you are unprofessional with me, how unprofessional are you when communicating with potential employers?  Your email etiquette is a reflection of you and your professionalism.  Sometimes it may be the only thing a person has to go by if they do not know you personally and it should ALWAYS be professional.  Now of course, I’m not talking about the emails you send to your family and friends.  I’m talking about the emails you are sending to a potential employer to apply for a job, follow-up to an interview or networking event, or inquire as to your status in the hiring process.  Failure to effectively communicate in the emails you are sending could very well cost you the job!  Most of the time you will only get one shot and there are some important tips to keep in mind:

1) Be Professional

Be as professional in your emails as you would be if talking to them in person.

2) Include a Subject

Employers receive tons of email so you want to choose a subject that will get their attention and perhaps cause them to open your email first.  Examples of subject lines would be – “Assistant Manager Job Opening” or “Thank You – Assistant Manager Interview” or “Professional Networking Event Follow Up” or “Jane Doe Resume for Assistant Manager Position.”

3) Start with a  Greeting or Salutation

When you walk up to people in person, you normally speak first, right?  Well a greeting/salutation serves the same purpose in an email.  Something as simple as “Hello Mr. Smith,” or “Good morning Michelle,” will suffice. (Note:  Use their first name only if they have told you it’s okay or you know them well enough to do so.)

4) Get to the Point Quickly

Did I mention that employers are busy?  They don’t have all day to read an email with you beating around the bush.  You should be able to say what you want to say in a few sentences.

5) Give Them a Reason to Respond to You

This may take a little thought as you will need to be strategic.  If following up to an interview or networking event, you can always ask them a question about something discussed when you met.  If you are reaching out for the first time, mention what you are wanting from them without being too overbearing.

6) Type the Email Address Last

When sending an email to an employer, you will probably be nervous while you are making sure you are communicating effectively.  Be sure to type up your email and attach any documents FIRST and THEN type in the employer’s email address last.  This will avoid you inadvertently hitting the send button out of nervousness and your email wasn’t ready.  Oops!

Keep in mind that employers are using email more and more these days to communicate with candidates. They are more likely to respond to you via email to set up an interview or follow-up with you than call you on the phone.  So email etiquette is more important now than ever before.

Happy Emailing!!





All Promotions Are Not Vertical

When you think of someone getting a promotion, it normally goes like this – Assistant Director > Director > Executive Director.  People normally move up the chain of command in a pretty orderly manner.  Once you have proven yourself and have performed satisfactorily in your current position you can be elevated to the next level.  Promotion by definition means “the act of moving someone to a higher or more important position or rank.”  But who really decides what a promotion is for YOU?  Only you can decide that.

Most people look at what they do everyday as just a job.  It is just something that they do to make money to support themselves and their family.  However, you should look at your job in a different way.  You should look at it as an assignment and it is what you have been assigned to do for a particular period of time.  Once you have finished your assignment, then it is time to move on.  At that point you are eligible for a promotion.  BUT not all promotions are vertical – some are lateral or horizontal and may come in many forms.

I was promoted to a manager position a while back, then later transferred to 2 other locations doing the exact same thing.  Even though my job title and duties didn’t change, it was a still a promotion because my assignment at each previous location was complete. I had done what was required of me – trained employees, increased sales, organized the store, built customer base, etc.  Also throughout my career I have been laid off twice, but I considered each time to be a promotion. Why? Because with each lay off, I was able to reprogram myself and switch industries and take my career to the next level.  So, for me personally, I was moving up in rank.

Do you want a promotion? Do you want to be elevated to the next level? Do you think it is time for you to move on?  You first have to perform your current job satisfactorily and complete your assignment…..THEN your promotion will come.  I know you think you are ready now, but perhaps you need just a little bit more training and/or experience. One thing I have learned throughout my career is that each assignment is just preparation for the next.  Just be patient, your promotion will come and it may come in a different form than you expected.


Don’t Suffer from Job Application Phobia – FAQ

I was on Twitter the other day and a young lady commented, “Having to fill out the job application makes you not want the d*mn job!” It was at that moment that I knew it was time to write this article as I totally agreed with her and felt her pain.  During your job search, you will probably fill out several LONNNNNNG online applications.  It can be a very frustrating and tedious process; however, you needn’t suffer from job application phobia.  While each application is different, there are some general guidelines that can be used across the board.  I hope my responses to these FAQs help get you through the process while keeping your sanity!

1) Why are job applications so long and detailed?

Sometimes I secretly think they make them so long to see if you actually really want the job and want to go through and answer all their questions!!  But seriously, filling out the job application is very important and should not be minimized as employers use this as a screening device. If they see a half-completed application, they may assume that the person is not really that serious about the job and you will most likely be skipped over for the interview. Employers have carefully designed their questions to get the information they need to determine if you are a good fit.  The saying is true: “Resumes tell the employers what YOU want them to know and job applications tell them what THEY want to know.”  So be prepared to spend 30 minutes to an hour per job application.  In case no one has told you, looking for a job IS a job!

2) Do I have to fill out the entire application?

No you don’t, but keep in mind that might cost you the chance to interview.  If you want to proceed to the next step, you definitely have to fill out at least the required fields.

3) Should I have my resume and cover letter prepared beforehand? 

YES!! This will save you a lot of time.  Having your cover letter and resume already prepared means all you have to do is upload it or copy and paste it.  Some applications require a cover letter and some don’t, but it is better to have it prepared beforehand then to have to stop in the middle of the process and develop one.

4) What information do I need regarding previous/current jobs?

Most applications want information on the last 3 – 4 jobs you’ve had.  So it would be a good idea right now while you’re thinking about it to make a list of pertinent information for those jobs.  You know they are going to ask for this information so having it already written down BEFOREHAND will save you so much agony!!!  You should have the following information:   A) company name and address, B) supervisor’s name, title, and phone number, C) hire date and end date, D) starting and ending salary, E) your job title and accomplishments and F) reason why you left that job.  Basically, your success in filling out applications will be determined largely by how prepared you are.

5) What if I worked for a company that no longer exists or my supervisor no longer works there?

Just give the most recent contact information that you had for the company and/or supervisor.  You can explain in an interview that the company shut down or your supervisor left.  If just your particular location doesn’t exist anymore, give the information for the main office or headquarters. Human Resources should be able to verify the information employers need.

6) Should I submit my references at the same time as my application?

If you are given the option to include references, I would go ahead and submit them.  Now remember, your references should be 3 people whom you’ve had a professional relationship with for about a year.  That could be a supervisor, co-worker, professor, or someone you’ve worked with in a volunteer capacity – not family or friends.  Your references should be up-to-date and not go back to someone you had a relationship with more than 3 years ago, but there may be some exceptions.  I normally update my references every 6 months whether I am looking for a job or not.  That way when the time comes I already have the people and information I need.  Oh yeah, be sure to give your references a copy of your resume and give them a ‘heads up’ if an employer will be calling them about you.

7) Why do they ask you your graduation date from high school and/or college?

My guess would be to try to figure out your age.  Most people graduate high school at 17 or 18 and college at 21 or 22.  So depending on the year of your graduation, they can add it up and figure how old you are.  They may use your age to discriminate against you if they feel that you are too old or too young. I only fill in the graduate date if it is mandatory.  (If you haven’t actually graduated yet, you can put the month and year that you plan to graduate.)

8) What should I put as my reason for leaving a job if I was fired?

You can write “would like to discuss in the interview.” That way you can explain the circumstances surrounding your termination.  Now you can’t do this for every job, but if there is one job that you feel needs to be explained in person, then it is acceptable.  I was a hiring manager for a number of years and when I saw that someone wanted to discuss in the interview their reason for leaving a job, that did not stop me from calling them.  (Tip:  Make sure when you discuss it in the interview, you discuss it positively.  See my blog:  “How Do I Talk About Being Fired In an Interview?”)

9) What should I put when asked about desired salary?

Always give a range if you can such as $50,000 – $55,000/year or $20.00 – $25.00/hour based on research you have done in your field or what was mentioned in the job description. Having a range gives you more flexibility when it’s time to negotiate.

10) Is it okay to put “see resume” anywhere on the application?

Absolutely not!!  More than likely you can just copy and paste the information directly from your resume.  Don’t be lazy!!  Remember, applications are part of your first impression.

11) What should I put if an answer is required but the question doesn’t pertain to me? 

You should write “NA”  or “Not Applicable.”

12) Is it okay to say that I don’t want my current boss to be contacted?

That is perfectly fine. I always say that I don’t want my current boss to be contacted because I don’t want them to know that I am looking for a job.  The only exception was when I was transferring to another team/location within my same company.

13) Do I have to answer questions regarding ethnicity, sex, veteran or disability status?

No, you don’t have to answer these questions.  Ideally, these questions are asked to ensure fair hiring practices of all genders and ethnic groups.  As a hiring manager I had to submit a form monthly to my corporate office detailing how many male, female, Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Hispanic, etc. applicants I had.  This was to ensure I was giving everyone a fair chance and wasn’t just hiring people who looked like me (African-American women).

I have seen an increase in applications wanting to know if you are a veteran.  My personal belief is that due to reports in recent years that veterans are not able to find jobs once they return home, companies have been given incentives to hire them.  As far as the disability question, it should be done to assess what additional assistance would be necessary for disabled candidates to be able to perform the same job as everyone else.

Now of course, all of the above information could be used to discriminate against you.  That’s why I said you don’t have to disclose that information and you can simply select ‘I prefer not to answer.’

14) Do I have to give my social security and driver’s license numbers?

Only if it is mandatory.  Other than that, you can leave it blank or put “will provide later.”  This information really shouldn’t be needed until the background check is done and you can provide it at that time.

15) What does the fine print on applications really mean?

This is the part normally at the end of the application and you should definitely read it carefully.  Most of the time it is regarding the truthfulness of your responses and confirming you didn’t knowingly give false information.  Some applications may have statements authorizing them to do a background, employment, and credit check.  So again, make sure you read the entire application and are in agreement with what you are submitting.

16) Is it okay to email my resume and cover letter to someone at the company AND submit an application?

You always want to be mindful of the directions in the job description.  If it says “No emails or phone calls,” then make sure you follow instructions.  Of course, if you personally know someone who works at the company and want them to pass your resume/cover letter along to the hiring manager, that is okay.  Just make sure you always submit the application regardless because there are legal ramifications regarding companies not following the proper hiring procedures.

17) How long does it take to hear something after I have submitted my application?

That depends.  It could be 3 – 4 days up to 3 – 4 weeks or more.  How long it takes could be determined by how many applications they get, how soon they are looking to fill the position, how busy they are or when Human Resources gives them the green light to start setting up interviews.


PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD! PROOFREAD!  Most applications give you the opportunity to proofread before submitting.  It is very important that you take the time to do this so that you don’t have any mistakes or misspelled words. Also don’t use abbreviations.


Human Resources Q & A – I Asked the Questions You Wanted to Know

I recently spoke with 3 Human Resources professionals and asked the questions YOU wanted to know.  They gave answers to the questions that they felt most knowledgeable about.  HR Professional 1 has 17 years of experience, HR Professional 2 has 15 years of experience, and HR Professional 3 has 20 years of experience.

1.  Does someone from Human Resources or the Hiring Manager actually look at ALL the resumes that are submitted for a job?

HR Professional 1:  It depends; if an overwhelming number of good resumes are received, the H.R. Department will not review all the resumes. The H.R Department will stop screening resumes when they have a sufficient number for interviews.

HR Professional 2:  Yes, in most cases the hiring manager will review the resume. If it’s a large company the recruiter will filter through resumes and then pass them on to the hiring manager.

2. How many resumes on average are submitted for each job that is posted?

HR Professional 1: The number varies from the time of year the position is posted. More resumes are received from May – December due to new grads entering the workforce.

HR Professional 3:  200.  It truly rangers from 100 – 700.

3. Does Human Resources or the Hiring Manager actually read cover letters?

HR Professional 1:  Sometimes but not always. The H.R. Department is more concerned with what is on the resume.

HR Professional 2:  Yes, the cover letter gives the recruiter a summary of the candidate applying instead of having to review the resume in details.

HR Professional 3:  No. I do if I have time and something isn’t making sense when I read their resume.

4. How closely does a candidate’s experience need to match the job description to be considered a good fit?

HR Professional 1:  For most positions the candidate’s background does not have to match, but the resume must show that the candidate has the potential to be trained for the job. This conclusion can be drawn based on the candidate’s degree or volunteer work in the community.

HR Professional 3:  Very closely.  If not, I would hire an internal person and train that person.

5. How often are companies utilizing phone interviews to determine the top candidates? How many phone interviews are done on average?

HR Professional 1:  My company will conduct a phone interview for a referral out of state. Otherwise we will not conduct a phone interview.

HR Professional 2:  Some companies are using videos to interview candidates as well as phone interviews. 10 to 15 depending on the position needing to be filled.

HR Professional 3:   As the recruiting person, I am interviewing everyone on the phone. Then I decide if they should come in to meet the manager. We conduct online interviews for remote candidates instead of flying them in.

 6. Do employers view candidates on social media as a way to eliminate them? If so, which social media is utilized the most and what are employers look for?

HR Professional 1:  My company does not have a social media policy in place, so we were advised by legal counsel not to utilize this tool.

HR Professional 3:  LinkedIn.  I like to connect with the person, see how much time they spent on their profile and if it lines up with their resume.

 7. What are you typically looking for in a background check? How far back do you go?

HR Professional 1: We go back 10 years. We are looking for felony convictions. A conviction does not necessarily mean the candidate will be denied employment.

HR Professional 2:  This is industry specific.  For an accounting position we are looking at the person’s background to make sure there’s no fraud or theft in their past. For drivers or anyone dealing with customers no illegal activity or warrants, etc. In some cases 7 or more years if they have violations.

 8. If a former employer is listed as a reference, what information can they legally provide?

HR Professional 1: Most companies will only provide dates of employment, position and whether or not the candidate is eligible for rehire. If the candidate signed a release salary information may be disclosed.

HR Professional 2:  Dates of employment, job title and if they are still employed there.

9. Do companies sometimes check your credit report? Is that legal?

HR Professional 1:  It is legal if the position is a management position and the candidate is required to qualify for a company credit card or the position involves working with money.

HR Professional 2:  Yes, they can check your credit report if you are applying for certain positions and it is deemed legal in certain areas.

 10. What are some illegal interview questions?

HR Professional 1: Where were you born? Are you married? Do you have children? How old are you?

HR Professional 2:  Birthdate, marital status, religious, etc. – anything personal.

11. Why does it take so long to make a job offer?

HR Professional 1: Waiting on reference, degree and background checks. Also, new hire paperwork must be sent up the chain of command for signatures.

HR Professional 2: There are several factors: budget for the position(s), background and reference checks etc.




Is There a Cure for Boredom in the WorkPlace?

It is 3:00 PM. You are staring at the clock on the wall thinking to yourself – “Man, I have 2 more hours.” This is the same time each day that you have to push yourself to concentrate just a little while longer so you can get through the rest of the day. You go through your daily “3:00 routine” – go to the bathroom, go to the vending machine downstairs to get a Coke, stop by your co-worker’s office to chat for a minute, and then reluctantly head back to your cave….uh… I mean your office. You sit there for a while thinking to yourself –  it has happened again…I’m bored.  This boredom is not because you don’t have work to do and it’s not necessarily because you don’t like the work that you do, but you are just simply bored. You contemplate leaving early for the day but you know you can’t because you want to call in “sick” later in the week.  And you have a report you need to get to your boss by EOD.  So, you are stuck at work. To pass some of the time away you check your personal email, get on social media to see if anyone commented on the last thing you posted, and you may even spend a little time perusing some websites looking for a job. BUT after all of this only 25 minutes has passed and you are still bored.

Why does this happen? Why do we get bored in the workplace? Initially when we started working at our job, we were excited to be there and couldn’t wait to tackle the issues for the day. Now some time has gone by and we’ve mastered our job duties.  We’ve built a good rapport with our team members and clients and our boss treats us good (most of the time).  We even have some great perks.  But what happened? Where did the enthusiasm go? At what point did we start hitting the snooze button on the alarm multiple times to prolong the fact that we must get up and go to work?

I’m sure we could go on and on with reasons why we get bored in the workplace, but I think there is something more important to focus on – is there a cure? I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I want to propose a few suggestions.

1) Tell Your Supervisor

I know you are thinking to yourself….No way, I’m not telling my supervisor anything because there may be repercussions.  Well, I don’t exactly mean walk into your boss’ office tomorrow and say, “I’m bored.”  You will have to be a little bit more creative in your approach.  Perhaps you could mention that you aren’t feeling challenged anymore and would like to gain some additional skills.  You may be surprised at how simple it can be.  I did this once and I must admit I was nervous, but I was very candid with my supervisor.  I said something like “When you hired me, you hired me to do my best work and I can no longer do that in my current position.  I feel that my skills would be better used in another area.  I am very passionate and like to do quality work. I want to be able to give 100% everyday and if I’m not able to do that I don’t feel like I’m doing my part.”

Remember what I said about a creative approach?  Pour it on thick.

2) Switch Roles/Teams

After you tell your supervisor you want to gain additional skills or use your current skills somewhere else, figure out if there is another role you could play on your current team. Another option would be to move to another team altogether within your company. This could be a win-win situation and hopefully an easy transition. The only change will be that your office will be on the 4th floor instead of the 3rd.  (It will also help with those who are concerned about how job hopping will look on their resume.)

Now the conclusion to my story…..After I told my supervisor I could be better used in another area, he asked me what I would like to do.  I said, “I would like to be the Career Planning Instructor.”  He asked me why and I gave him my reasons and literally within 1 week I moved to another department and was teaching my first class.

3) Change Your Schedule

Perhaps you have been working 8:00 – 5:00 Monday – Friday for the last 4 years.  Try coming in 9:00 – 6:00 or 10:00 – 7:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Sometimes just making a slight change in your schedule makes all the difference.  A few other suggestions are working from home 1 – 2 days a week or working 9 hour days Monday – Thursday and a 4 hour day on Friday.

I recently implemented a change in my work schedule myself.  I was working 8:15 – 5:15 most days and I felt rushed trying to get to work by that time and normally was dragging in.  Now I work 9:00 – 6:00 and was amazed at how much of a difference 45 minutes made.  I don’t feel like I have to rush in the mornings plus I miss some of the rush hour traffic; thus, I am much more relaxed when I arrive at work.

4) Attend Networking Events / Professional Development

Do a little bit of research to see what professional organizations are in your city pertaining to your industry.  I don’t think your supervisor will have a problem giving you some time to attend an industry networking event or a conference.  You can also enroll in some classes and get another degree or some certifications.  Be sure to mention that the more you learn about the industry, the more knowledge you have to bring back to the company.  (wink wink)  Hopefully your department has a professional development budget that will pay for your costs associated with these things.

5) Spice Up Your Personal Life

Now you can interpret this any way you want to but what I am suggesting is maybe taking salsa lessons or joining the choir at church or remodeling your home or taking more vacations.  If you have more exciting things going on in your personal life, it takes your mind off the frustration that can be caused by your job.  You actually have something to look forward to once you leave work and it can make the day go by faster.  (And don’t get me wrong……if you meet someone “special” that would be great too!)

6) Find Another Job

Unfortunately (or fortunately) this may be the only option. After you have exercised all of the above suggestions, this may be the only cure.  But BEFORE you start looking for another job, do some soul-searching and figure out what you truly want in a job.  If not, you will be right back in this same spot in a few years.  Hey, having to find another job is not always a bad thing and can be quite rewarding if you do your research beforehand.  When you are interviewing for your next job, be sure to ask how they value work/life balance and how they feel about professional development.  You can ask about the management style and culture of the office and if there is an opportunity for a flexible schedule.

Like I said, these are just some of the things that I suggest and have actually done.  I am eager to hear from you and what you do when you are bored in the workplace.  Leave your “cure” in the comment section.

12 Things You Do to Annoy your Co-Workers (That They Will Probably Never Tell You)

I have worked several different jobs during my career.  I have worked in 3 different industries in 5 different states.  I have been a manager and I have been an employee.  I have worked on small teams and big teams. Sometimes I was the youngest on the my team and sometimes I was the oldest.  I have been the only female on my team and I have also been the only African-American on my team.  With all of these different experiences, one thing always remained true….sometimes my co-workers annoyed me.

I know this is a touchy subject but somebody had to address the “elephant in the room.”  We go to work each day and interact with hundreds of people and let’s face it…people are different.  And because people are different, their work ethic is different.  Their idea of what is appropriate and not appropriate varies.  They have individual ideas of what is acceptable personal space.  I mean, has anybody stopped and really thought about this?  What happened to respect and etiquette in the workplace?  Are there any “rules” anymore on professionalism?  Or do we just do whatever we feel is right without regard to other people and how it may make them feel?

Regardless of how you may feel personally, hopefully you can agree that there should be a difference between how you act in the office and how you act in your own home.  Things that may be acceptable to do around your family and friends may not be acceptable to do around co-workers.  So since I’m not your co-worker, I felt it was safe for me to just bring a few things to your attention on their behalf.   Take a deep breath….here are some things that you do in the workplace that your co-workers find annoying (but will probably never tell you):

1.  They would like you to stop opening their office door and walking in without knocking.

Generally when people have their door closed it is because they are trying to concentrate on their work or may be on the phone or may be having a private discussion with a co-worker.  It’s kind of a way of saying “only disturb if really necessary” and when you just open the door and walk in, it is a lack of respect for their personal space.  Think about it this way…would you walk into someone’s home without knocking?  Of course an office is not the same as a house, but it is sort of their “home away from home” and your walking in without knocking it is borderline intrusive.

2.  They really would like you to not leave your dirty dishes/trash all over the break room.

I know some of you have seen the sign that says, “Please clean up after yourself. Your mother does not work here.”  Please, please take that to heart and clean up after yourself when you are eating your lunch or a snack in the break room. Remember, other people have to use that space as well.  I mean really??!!  Who is going to throw your trash away for you?  It only takes a few seconds to throw something away or wash your bowl after you are done using it.

3.  Your team members do not like when you assign a task to them when they are absent.

I have had this happen to me before and I was very displeased.  And then to make matters worse, my team lead told everyone I volunteered to do the task!  What?!!  Put yourself in the absent person’s shoes.  You wouldn’t like it if you missed a meeting and then were informed that you have been assigned to do a task that no one else wanted to do.  Give your co-workers the professional courtesy of knowing about the task and having the opportunity to decline if they are not interested.

4.  Not everyone wants to see pictures of your pets.

Your pets may be cute and like a part of the family to YOU but not necessarily to everyone else. So please keep this in mind the next time you are eating lunch with your co-workers and decide to pull up pictures of your pets on your cell phone and pass it around the table….multiple times!

5.  They would like you to wait more than 5 minutes after sending them an email before asking if they received it.

There is nothing more annoying than when you send an email to someone and then go knock on their door or stop them in the hallway 2 minutes after sending it to ask them about it.  Of course, I know there are some emergency situations that require an immediate response, but most emails can wait.  Also, if you are continuously overbearing in this area it may give the perception that you feel your work is more important than theirs.  This could be insulting to them.  Try being more patient when waiting for responses from your co-workers.  Remember, they are just as busy as you are.

6. If you are going to bring your children to work, they want you to make sure they are well-behaved.

I won’t say anymore so you don’t get upset and stop reading this blog.

7.  Supervisors, all of your employees do not want to have lunch or go to happy hour with you.

Your employees spend at least 8 hours a day at work and oftentimes their lunch break is the only “free” time they get.  It is the time they use to decompress and take their mind off of work for a minute or perhaps run an errand.  They don’t necessarily want to spend that free time with you as their supervisor because they feel like they are still at work and can’t relax completely.  Honestly, there are certain comments they can make in front of their other team members that they can’t make in front of you. So if they have to be on edge or watch what they say then it’s really not free time, but more of an extended team meeting.  And when it comes to happy hours, they definitely want to be able have a good time and unwind and that’s not always possible if the boss is around.

8.  If you drink coffee and eat birthday cake regularly, they want you to contribute to the coffee/birthday fund.

This is self-explanatory.

9.  Managers, your team members want the meetings to be shorter and less frequent.

Your team members do not want to sit through weekly meetings and listen to you do all the talking for an hour or more.  If there is no way around the frequency or length of the meetings, at least try to make them more interesting.  Team meetings are actually a great time to do in-house professional development; in that, during each meeting a different team member could do a mini-presentation on a topic. I am sure there is plethora of knowledge on your team and this way everyone showcases their area of expertise.  Sometimes, incorporating a team building exercise makes the meetings more enjoyable.  You could even include snacks during the meetings every now and then to ease the mood. Trust me…food ALWAYS works!

10.  They really wish you wouldn’t play your music or talk on the phone so loudly that it/you can be heard down the hall.

You have to share the same work space with your co-workers for 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. So a little bit of consideration on your part would go a long way.  Not everyone has the same taste in music and I am 100% positive everyone does not want to overhear your conversation with your mother about Sunday dinner.

(True story:  I had a co-worker who sat in the cubicle next to mine and made/answered EVERY single phone call on speakerphone.  The most annoying part was every Monday he was on a conference call for over an hour….and yes he had it on speakerphone LOUDLY.  This went on for weeks.  I went to him twice and asked him to please turn the volume down and/or get a headset to listen to the conference call, but of course he ignored my request and continued to do it.  One day during the Monday conference call, I could not take it any longer and went over to his cubicle and turn the volume down on his phone myself.  He looked at me in utter disbelief but it solved the problem. He never listen to the conference call on speakerphone again and shortly thereafter got a headset.)

11.  Your team members wish you would stop being so nosey.

Ouch! I know this may sting a little bit so I will be very gentle.  Not everyone is an open book like you are.  Some people are just very private and conservative.  My dad used to always say, “People will tell you what they want you to know.”  All of your co-workers don’t want to talk about what they did over the weekend or show you pictures from their vacation.  You cannot make other people act or think or be like you! And for heaven sakes, stop being so paranoid and asking a lot of questions whenever you see them talking to someone who you don’t know in the hallway or in their office!!  It doesn’t mean they’re up to something or conspiring behind your back.  (Let this marinate…….)

12. Managers, your team members do not like you when immediately start talking about business first thing in the morning.

Most people quit jobs because of their manager – not the actual work itself.  Your team members are human beings and not robots.  They have personal lives. They have issues and they have feelings.  It CAN’T always be about work all the time.  You have to take a moment and show some compassion and speak to the human side by asking about how their sick son or daughter is doing.  I am sure by the end of the day the project will be completed and all the emails will get answered, but first thing in the morning is not always the best time to ask about it.  If you show genuine concern for your employees, they will be more enthusiastic and the work you are concerned about just might get finished by noon!

Now, these are just a few that I’ve noticed and I know you want to add some of your own.  You probably also want a few of your co-workers to read this blog as well, but the hard part is getting them to see it, right?  Well, maybe you could post it anonymously in the break room….right above those dirty dishes.

How Do I Tell My Supervisor His Leadership Style is Negatively Affecting the Team?

There may come a time in your career where you need to have a difficult conversation with your supervisor.  It’s not always easy to do, but it may be necessary.  Let’s face it…supervisors are human too and they are not perfect.  There is no real rule book on how to be a good manager.  I mean, yes, there are a lot of books that have been written with tips and suggestions and of course you can go to training, but a lot of learning actually happens on the job.   The most important lessons about being a manager actually come from trial and error and practicing daily.  Oftentimes, great leadership skills come from making a lot of mistakes, which results in learning what not to do.  Therefore, I am a firm believer that the majority of the time when supervisors are difficult to work for it is because they honestly don’t know that there are some issues.  Maybe your supervisor is not aware of how his leadership style is demotivating to the team.  Maybe his ignoring an important issue is completely unintentional.  Perhaps his communication needs some improvement and he could be a bit more transparent but he doesn’t know how.  So, before you decide to tell your supervisor about his undesirable management style, give it a lot of thought and keep in mind he might honestly have no idea that his leadership style is affecting the team.

I am fully aware that addressing something that you want your supervisor to change could be a scary thing.  What if he doesn’t receive the feedback in a positive way?  What if he accuses you of being too emotional?  What if there is retaliation?  Yes, I agree that there are definitely some risks involved but I believe if you handle it correctly, it minimizes the chance of it backfiring on you.  There have been 2 instances in my career where I have had to give feedback to my supervisor.  In both situations I had to be the ‘mouthpiece’ for the team.  It took a lot of thought on my part, but what ultimately gave me the courage to do it was the work environment became unbearable and even more than that I knew no one else would do it.  So, maybe this is you and your situation.  Maybe you have to be the ‘mouthpiece’ for your team.  Maybe your co-workers have confided in you and have delegated you as the person to make the change happen.  Maybe you have the best relationship with the supervisor and the information would be better received coming from you.  Whatever the case may be, I hope to give you some tips that will help you.

1)  Give Feedback Gently and 1 on 1

The most important thing to remember is to give your supervisor feedback 1 on 1.  We all know how it feels to be confronted or “called out” in front of other people.  It is not a good feeling and instantly makes you defensive.  This is a sure way to make an already uncomfortable situation worse.  If it was you, how would you want to receive feedback?  You would want to receive it respectfully and gently, right?  So extend this courtesy to your supervisor.  At the end of the day, he is human and has feelings (even though he may not show them) and he is your boss so he deserves respect for this reason alone.

You also must decide the best time and method to have the discussion.  If you decide you want to address the situation verbally and you regularly meet 1 on 1 for meetings, that might be the best time to do it.  If you feel that removing yourself from the work environment and discussing things over lunch would help, then go that route.  Some supervisors actually communicate better through written communication and the information may be better received if you typed it up in an email.  Also, you can combine both methods by simply typing up some bullet points and sending it in advance to let him you would like to discuss those items in your next meeting.

2) Remove your Personal Feelings

You definitely don’t want to have a difficult conversation when you’re angry.  If something has recently happened, you may want to wait 2 – 3 days until you can be rational and have a professional conversation.  Now, don’t wait a month and then rehash stuff that has already happened, but do give yourself some time to calm down and reflect on the situation. This will help you to remove your emotions from the equation.  It’s not about how you feel.  It is about how your supervisor’s actions affect the team.  So when you have the conversation, you should never start your sentences with “you,” which are emotional (E) statements. Instead, use results-driven (R) statements.   In doing this, the focus is always on the team and the positive outcomes and not the negative behavior of your manager.

(E)  “You don’t communicate to the team.”

(R)  “The team is really affected when we don’t have clear communication from you.”

(E)  “You don’t appreciate us.”

(R)  “The team morale would greatly improve if we felt like you appreciated us more.”

(E)  “You’re never in your office.”

(R)  “The team could really benefit from having access to your schedule and/or being notified if you are going to be out of the office the majority of the day.”

3) Have Specific Examples

OK, because you and your team are the ones being affected, you probably can rattle off a number of wrongdoings by your supervisor for the last 6 months.   But, remember your supervisor may honestly have no idea so you must have specific, recent examples that illustrate the less than desirable behavior.  So that means don’t have a list of 20 things to talk about because that’s too much for anybody to take, but have 3 – 4 examples that speak to the most important areas you want to address.  Be able to state specifically what happened and what action the team deemed inappropriate.

4) Have Solutions

When you mention these examples in step 3, be sure to have solutions.  If not, you will just seem like you are whining and/or complaining.  The whole point is to alter the behavior.  So if your supervisor doesn’t know he is doing something wrong, then he won’t know how to fix it either.   So that’s where you come in.  Come up with some realistic suggestions on how things could improve.  You also have to be willing to do your part to ensure the changes are effective.

5) Listen Just as Much as You Talk 

After you have mentioned all the points you wanted to speak on, be sure to listen.  Conversations are a 2-way street and should never be one-sided.  You may be surprised how well it goes if you will give your supervisor a chance to acknowledge what you are saying and add his input as well.  All of this may be new to him and he may need to ask some questions of you to fully understand how to fix the situation.  Listening is a form of humility which will be key in your conversation.

6) Don’t Spill the Beans

That’s a fancy way of saying don’t gossip about the situation.  If your co-workers want to know the outcome of your conversation, just simply say that you made him aware of the issues and there should be some changes.  Again, you should be approaching this situation as if  you were in your supervisor’s shoes.  If you yourself needed to make some improvements, you wouldn’t want everybody talking about it.  Furthermore, if you are able to get through to your supervisor and it is a positive outcome, you don’t want to jeopardize the trust your manager has in you by gossiping about your discussion with the entire team.  And definitely DO NOT discuss it with people outside of your team.  It really just makes you look bad.

So, those are the steps I have found to be most effective when dealing with things of this nature.  I know some of you are saying I have tried all of this and nothing has changed with my manager.  Well, you have to give your supervisor a reasonable amount of time to process what you have said and modify his behavior.  Change is difficult for most people and it will not happen overnight.  After a reasonable amount of time, you may have to have a follow up conversation. And unfortunately sometimes you even have to go a step further and involve someone else. But let’s hope it doesn’t go that far and that won’t be necessary.

I know someone is wondering what happened in my 2 situations??!! Since I mentioned them, I guess it would only be fair to tell you the outcome.  In the first instance, my supervisor seemed to understand where I was coming from and appeared to be appreciative that I let him know how the team felt.  He had conversations with other team members and they all confirmed what I said.  However, in the coming weeks he began to distance himself from me and we starting interacting with each other less and less.  Ultimately, he made no effort to change his actions, which forced me to get another job.  In the second situation,  my supervisor received the information very well and very humbly listened to what I had to say.  There was an immediate change in his behavior and the whole atmosphere of the office instantly changed.  Other people commented on the change without even knowing I’d had a conversation with him.

Hopefully, your situation will turn out like the latter and be the beginning of a fresh start for your supervisor and your team.  When you approach situations the right way and come from a positive place it makes all the difference.  Your supervisor should be receptive to the insight and want to make things better for his team.  I sure hope so!

What Does Your Phone Etiquette/Voicemail Message Say About You?

What Would I Hear?

If I were to call you right now at your job, what impression would I get of you?  Would I think you were professional?  Unprofessional?  Tired?  Would you make me feel like you were busy and not really listening?  Or would I be able to tell that you’re having a bad day or upset with your supervisor?  Hopefully, my impression would be the first one because you are answering the phone in a professional manner at all times.  Regardless of how you feel at that moment, you should always answer the phone pleasantly because you never know who is on the other end – especially if you receive phone calls from the public.  State your name and your company/department clearly and sound enthusiastic when receiving a call.  Do this simple experiment tomorrow when you go to work…..answer each call with a smile on your face (whether you feel like it or not) and see if it doesn’t put some “cheer” in your voice.  I know it’s not always easy to do (especially on a Monday morning), but it works!

Placing Calls At Work

When placing a call to someone else in the workplace use proper phone etiquette as well.  Your co-workers are human too, so take a second to ask how they are before getting right down to business.  It takes 2 seconds to ask someone how their weekend was before you jump into asking them to send a report to you or fix a problem.  The more you get to know them on a personal level, the more prone they are to want to work with you and send you the reports you are requesting.  Think about it….you would also appreciate the same.

Personal Phone Calls

Now, let’s switch to your personal cell phone………UH OH!! If I were to listen to the voicemail message you have on your cell phone, what would I think?  Would you want a potential employer to hear the voicemail message you currently have?  Did you know that your voicemail message says a lot about you?  It is one of the first impressions an employer has of you.   As a hiring manager, I called potential employees all the time and judged them based on their voicemail message.   Was it fair?  Maybe not, but that’s what I did.  Having music playing as your answer tone or on your voicemail message is NOT appropriate.  When job searching you should record a simple, but professional message because a potential employer could be turned off by an unprofessional message.  Below is an example:

Hello, you have reached the voicemail for Dena. I am not able to come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name, number and a brief message I will return your call as soon as possible. Thank you and have a great day!

Do’s and Don’ts

When looking for a job, be sure to check your missed calls and voicemail regularly and return all calls ASAP.  A missed call or an ignored message may mean a missed interview or job offer.  And whatever you do…..DO NOT put an employer on hold when they are calling you to offer you a job or set up an interview.  I actually know of a situation where a candidate was on the phone with an employer and they were discussing the job offer.  The employer wanted the candidate to come in and sign the paperwork and finalize when the first day of employment would be.  The candidate received a call on the other line and clicked over to answer it.  By the time she clicked back over, the employer rescinded her job offer and no longer wanted to hire the candidate.  I called the employer later that same day to ask what made her change her mind.  She said she didn’t think the candidate was serious about accepting the job because she clicked over to take another call.  So, those few moments of answering another call actually cost the candidate the job!

Answering the Phone While Preoccupied

When answering the phone at home or while driving in your car, you shouldn’t have loud noise or music playing in the background.  If an unfamiliar number comes up on your caller ID, it could be an employer so turn your radio or TV down BEFORE answering the call.  You do expect them to call you, right???  So be prepared.  If you are driving, it is perfectly okay to ask them to give you a minute to pull over so you can get paper and a pen to write down information.  Don’t ask if you can call them back…..just ask them to give you a minute and pull over and park your car as quickly as possible.  (Tip:  If you can’t pull over and happen to have someone else in the car with you, put your phone on speaker and have the passenger write information down for you.)  The same is true if you are out having lunch or at the mall and an employer calls, ask them to give you a moment to get to a quiet place.  You don’t have to say where you are, just let them know you would like to be able to hear them clearly and would like a moment to step away from the noise.

Placing Calls to Employers

If you are calling an employer to follow up to an interview or maybe networking with an employer over the phone, jot down the key points you want to discuss beforehand in case you get nervous.  This will help to keep you on track and keep you from stumbling over your words.  Also, have your 30 second commercial memorized if you are introducing yourself or trying to “sell yourself” to the employer.  If you will be setting up an interview or appointment, have a calendar in front of you so you can readily set a time to meet.  Be mindful of the employer’s time and discuss what’s necessary without dragging the conversation out.  Lastly, if you need to leave a voicemail message for them, keep that brief as well.

So, the next time you receive/place a call or record your voicemail message, think about what it says about you.  At your current job, you just might win a customer over by answering the phone pleasantly.  Also, you may be surprised how much your co-workers appreciate a genuine inquiry about their day before requesting something from them right away. When interacting with employers, hopefully you have realized that your phone etiquette and/or voicemail message could very well cost you the job!