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What to do when your work problem isn’t a legal issue

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A boss starts cancelling your check-ins after you give them feedback. A co-worker routinely undermines and interrupts you during meetings. You’ve been passed over for a promotion twice. Even after speaking to a lawyer, you’re not sure what to do.

Every day, across every workplace in America, people face challenges that don’t necessarily fall into a legal category. Instead, they fall into a vast gray area where solutions are rarely black and white. These issues–while not legal in nature–affect how we show up at work, and can have a lasting impact on a career. In a recent study, over 95 percent of people surveyed faced at least one challenging situation at work. Half left their job as a result.

Meanwhile, resources to help people navigate these challenges haven’t evolved to meet the needs of our vibrant, dynamic, and diverse workforce. Employee-provided resources are largely distrusted. Nearly 80 percent of people surveyed had never used a service provided by their employer. Moreover, the rapid growth of the gig economy often leaves employees feeling even more isolated. When people don’t get the support they need they’re more likely to take a step back in their career or leave their job without having another lined up.

Empower Work is a new resource that fills this gap by putting employees first. We provide free, anonymous, and immediate support for people facing non-legal work issues. Anyone can text 510-674-1414 and connect to a vetted and trained peer counselor within minutes.

Our approach is rooted in inquiry and empathy. We provide the space to talk about your experience and work toward an outcome that feels right to you. Our goal is for people to leave the conversation feeling empowered with the tools and support they need to move forward. Over 90 percent of people say they feel better after talking to an Empower Work peer counselor.

“Thank you for being [there] for me in the midst of a truly horrible, awful, depressing work situation. You helped me figure out my next steps.” -Empower Work Texter

Our peer counselors are working professionals who volunteer their time to support people through their most difficult experiences at work. They are leaders, coaches, mentors at every stage of their careers. Peer counselors undergo a selection process and receive hands-on training that blends best practices in coaching, counseling, and business.

We believe everyone should have access to support for tough work issues. What’s tough varies from person to person. You might be grappling with the decision to take a pay cut to pursue a dream job; questioning whether your company’s values are aligned with your own; or need support preparing for a big performance review. Next time you’re facing a difficult situation or decision at work remember you’re not alone.

Having a non-legal work issue you’d like to chat about? Text: 510-674-1414. Peer counselors are available Monday-Friday, 8:30am-8:00pm PT. To learn more visit www.empowerwork.org.

About the Author: Lauren Brisbo is a social impact communications professional with over a decade of experience. She’s worked with a range of nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies to launch communications initiatives that win hearts and minds, give a voice to those less heard, and help people make well-informed decisions. She’s passionate about helping organizations promote good causes externally, and creating supportive internal work environments that help employees thrive. Lauren currently leads communications and outreach for Empower Work, a free, accessible, and immediate text hotline for anyone facing a tough issue at work.

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Efficient At Your Job, Inefficient With Your People

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Image: Bob RosnerEfficiency. If today’s workplace has a holy grail, chances are that it is summed up by the “E” word. Okay, I know what some of you are thinking, what about profitability?

The days of being “inefficiently” profitable are over. If there is a “location, location, location” like mantra for being successful today, efficiency is undoubtedly part of the equation.

Unfortunately there is one place where efficiency must take the back seat, with our people. Why?

Because people are inherently inefficient. We have to take time to earn their trust, to get to know them to appreciation their subtle contributions.

I’m born again when it comes to appreciating that people are a powerful tool, but like all powerful tools, it takes time to learn how to use them properly. Loads and loads of time: coffee breaks, drives to offsite meetings, email exchanges, furtive glances during meetings, all that and much more.

With my new job I’ve been working the halls. Getting to know people and learning from them what works and what doesn’t. It’s been insanely helpful. Heck it’s even been fun.

Back to the “E” word, so many of us are in such a rush that we increase the time, odds and difficulty factor for our projects by taking the people we must work with for granted. And then we get sabotaged or just plain struggle.

The key is to see your time bonding with people as an investment, an investment for you, for your company and for your desire to accomplish something at work.

If you’re a leader, here is a simple tactic to use. Next time someone comes to you with a problem don’t seek to be efficient, don’t just tell them what to do. Ask, “What have you tried?” “What worked?” “What didn’t work?” And the one we all overlook, “What can I do to help?”

You’ll learn something. So will they.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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Got Feedback?

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Last time I talked about how most of us treat feedback like castor oil, something that may be good for you but is tough to swallow. As a registered member of the Feedback Junkies, I solicited feedback from readers and colleagues. This week I’ll review the most interesting comments, both good and bad, to hopefully inspire you to get out there and solicit some of your own feedback.
First the questions that I asked people to respond to:

1.    What do you like best about me?
2.    If you had a magic wand, what would you like to change?
3.    Do you have a favorite story that sums up the essence of who I am?
4.    Anything else?

Readers comments were uniformly upbeat. Sure I’ve gotten my share of flame emails in the past, but for some reason this week the missives were all kind. Here is a representative sample:

“I just caught up to your latest column–How am I doing?–and wanted to let you know I’m still here reading it, enjoying it and, at times, disagreeing with it.  As I’ve written you before, we come from the opposite sides of the political spectrum.  Politics aside, I enjoy your ability to craft an insightful post which always makes me think.  You have a great writing “voice” so please keep up the great work, even the posts that tweak my conservative sensibilities.”

“A friend is trying to coach me toward a successful conversion from regular worker to entrepreneurial leader. My feedback to you is not very specific, I’m afraid. My friend selects various articles for me to read each day, and I go over them carefully, sending my responses back for his evaluation. My feedback to you is: When I find a Bob Rosner article in the mix, I smile. That’s it.”

“I read your column today and you wanted to know how you are doing.  I think you’re doing fine. I hope you continue to do the column for a long time to come.”

I guess it was a good week for readers of this blog.
My colleagues had a bit more to say. I’ll group their comments with the questions above.
1. What do you like best about me?
“Endlessly cerebrally entertaining. Always find a new way to look at things in the world, which brings new insights and realizations about what we take for granted. If I were going to live on a Mars base, I’d want you along.”
“I like best your sense of humor, your chutzpah and your impact on the world in areas like second-hand smoke and in helping employees (and employers) make some sense of work situations.”
“Great spirit and enthusiasm.  Honesty and appreciation of real feedback.”
“This question sent me running to the dictionary because I knew there were two words that apply here. They look alike, but they mean different things. One is indefatigable – which means basically that you are impossible to fatigue or wear out. The other one is undefeatable. (I’m not sure this is a word.) They both apply to you. You are so positive and optimistic and “I can do it” oriented that I think if somebody tried to knock you out, you might go down for a minute but you’d pop right back up like a rubber inflated version of yourself.”

2. If you had a magic wand, what would you like to change?
“Your Color Palette! Man, with what you wear, you look too bland for that technicolor personality of yours. Let that lady of yours take you shopping and pick out some threads that put some color on your visible persona.”
My brother offered to pay for an appointment with a therapist. You just gotta love your family.
“Better sense of humor…just kidding.  I can’t think of any needed magic wand transformations at the moment…I need more time to learn you’re really annoying qualities.”
“I’m not into doing a magic wand thing. You’re very much your own person, all of a piece. I think you’re making the things you want to have happen in your life happen and I have no desire to toy with the workings.”

Well, I guess you could say, except for my brother, I got mostly a pass on that question.
There you have it, I’m glad I asked for feedback and chances are good that you will be too.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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How Am I Doing?

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When Ed Koch was Mayor of New York he was famous for asking, “How am I doing?” He’d ask CEOs, bus drivers and everyone in between. When it came to feedback he was almost indiscriminate in terms of who he’d ask.

Which leads me to this week’s confession. I’m Bob Rosner, and I’m a feedback junkie. Like Mayor Koch, I love to hear how I’m doing. And not just the good stuff either, because if I’m screwing up, and I screw up a lot, I’d rather hear about it sooner than later.

But when I think of feedback I don’t only think of Mayor Koch, I also think of Melissa. She was a top executive of a publishing company in Seattle. I served as her coach for the better part of a year. After a series of conversations, I felt that Melissa had no idea of her strengths. So I encouraged her to ask for feedback from a people she trusted—former coworkers, friends and family. To make the process totally safe for her, she alone would pick the people to ask for feedback.

Melissa resisted making the feedback calls for months. Something always came up that prevented her from doing it. Finally she got the courage to contact a former coworker. She said that the coworker gushed about how Melissa was always there for her. Melissa was so moved that she started to cry. Then Melissa called her brother who surprised her by saying that she was his hero. He recounted a series of stories describing how much she had helped him through the years, most of which she had forgotten. Melissa said that her only regret was that she waited so long to ask people to take a Melissa moment.

I’m sure that at least a few of you who are reading this are in the Melissa-before-she-made-her-request-for-feedback camp. Feedback conjured up a picture of castor oil, something that was good for you but that undoubtedly would trigger your gag response or the gag response of those closest to you.

That’s why I decided to conduct an experiment to see if I can encourage you to join the Feedback Junkies Club. I’m going to ask everyone who reads this column to email me your feedback about this column, past blogs or Working Wounded (bob@workingwounded.com). I’m also going to write to a group of people who I’ve worked with or known through the years and ask them to answer a few simple questions:

1.    What do you like best about me?

2.    If you had a magic wand, what would you like to change?

3.    Do you have a favorite story that sums up the essence of who I am?

4.    Anything else?

I’ll be back next time with the good, the bad and the ugly from the responses. But hopefully this won’t just be about me and will encourage you to ask similar questions to the people who matter in your life.

About the Author: Bob Rosneris a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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