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Promoting Sobriety in the Workplace

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Dan Matthews

Although its effects can be hidden, substance abuse is one of the most common social issues affecting the modern workforce. According to research, more than 20 million American adults are in recovery from some type of substance use disorder. What’s more, the bulk of those individuals are part of the national labor force. Individuals in recovery often find that their otherwise dynamic workplace serves as a trigger of sorts, especially during networking sessions and similar events. 

The issue is so prevalent that top-tier companies and regional governments alike have taken notice. Connecticut’s Department of Labor, for example, offers employers a comprehensive online toolkit for promoting a workplace that’s recovery-friendly. 

For starters, employers should remain flexible and be willing to step in at a moment’s notice to assist employees in recovery who may be struggling. Consider providing mental health days to struggling workers who need a breather. You may also want to take a hard look at your workplace culture and the ways that alcohol is part of it, addressing any glaring issues.

Whatever route you take to promote sobriety, here’s what employers and managers across industries need to know about building a workplace culture that’s inclusive and safe for people in recovery: 

Photo licensed by Unsplash and provided by Dan Matthews.

How to Build a Strong (but Dry) Workplace Culture

Your employees in every stage of recovery have the right to feel safe in the workplace rather than burdened by their addiction. The unfortunate reality is that addiction often carries a negative stigma. Recovering workers are thus likely to hide their previous substance abuse from their coworkers and managers alike.  

As such, it’s your duty as a compassionate employer to build a strong workplace culture that’s free from alcohol and other illicit substances – a “dry” environment. Start with your networking strategy. To better promote sobriety in the workplace, consider hosting dry networking events for your team, where the focus is truly on building work relationships rather than getting intoxicated. 

Further, make sure to maintain your healthy networking and workplace culture strategies over time, ensuring a continued safe environment for employees in recovery. You can’t completely take away workplace triggers, but dry networking events may help reduce stress among your employees.

Reducing Employee Stress via Workplace Wellness

Even for those of us who love what we do, the workplace can be stressful. For individuals in recovery, stressful situations at work – like a looming deadline or an unsatisfied customer – can be powerful triggers, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. 

While you can’t mandate that your workers give up alcohol entirely, you can offer incentives and implement initiatives in the name of employee wellness. For the greatest benefit, workplace wellness programs should be tailored to the personal needs of your employees as well as their overall goals, including substance abuse recovery. Via wellness initiatives, workers can build healthy habits over the long term. 

To keep workplace anxiety low and cravings at bay, employers can also offer stress leave to those in recovery. Even just a few days off can make a huge difference for stressed-out workers on the brink of relapse. During periods of stress leave, whether paid or unpaid, employees are encouraged to prioritize self-care and get the professional support they need.

Key Takeaways

Recovering from substance abuse is a personal journey, and it’s often a difficult one. Triggers can come from everywhere, including the workplace. But that’s not the whole story. Employers can support workers in recovery by providing mental health days, implementing wellness programs, and offering other forms of assistance as appropriate.

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and conservationist. While Dan writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind that help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside.


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A Guide to Workplace Bullying

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Michael Metcalf, Author

Bullying is an all-too-common workplace issue. And if reports are correct, it seems to be on the rise.

Workplace bullying is one of the most damaging issues for any organization, as it can affect employee productivity, financial performance, and brand strength. On top of that, there’s no moral justification for letting it happen.

Employees deserve to work in comfortable environments of psychological safety. They should be able to relax, be themselves, and collaborate with others without fear or emotional upset.

Workplace Bullying Statistics in 2021

  • 1 in 4 UK workers have been bullied at work. The same amount also reported feeling left out in the workplace too.
  • One survey of 3,000 American adults found that workers across the age, gender, and education spectrum experience high levels of hostile behaviors at work.
  • 37% of Australian workers report having been cursed or yelled at in the workplace.
  • 1 in 5 American workers have been subjected to some form of verbal abuse, unwanted sexual attention, threats, or humiliating behavior at work.
  • 1 in 8 American workers have experienced direct verbal abuse or threats.
  • 8% of women aged 25-34 report having had unwanted sexual attention in the workplace during the last month.
  • Men aged 25-34 without a college degree report the highest levels of bullying, with 35% having experienced bullying at least once recently.
  • 1 out of 5 students in the US report being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.
  • Workplace bullying is estimated to cost Australian businesses more than $6bn per year.

Why is it important to deal with workplace bullying?

It’s fairly easy to understand why this is important. Bullying is a workplace issue that can have tons of negative impacts on employees, management, company culture, and overall productivity.

If bullying becomes widespread enough, stories can leak out to the public and damage your brand – nobody wants to do business with a company of bullies, and not many people want to work in a place where bullies can get away with it.

Workplace bullying can have mild to severe impacts on victims, including:

  • low morale/loss of motivation
  • inability to concentrate or complete tasks
  • lowered productivity
  • social anxiety and avoiding people
  • anxiety and depression
  • stress, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and other mental health issues
  • reduced confidence and self-esteem
  • sleep problems
  • other consequences of stress like digestive issues and a weakened immune system
  • more frequent absences from work because of the above issues

If it’s obvious that one person is a bully, others might alter their behavior to avoid their attention. They might be reluctant to do anything distinctive that makes them stand out, or they could shy away in situations that require collaborative creativity. And even when bullies are dealt with by management, there’s a loss of productivity while they have to go through disciplinary procedures, maybe even getting suspended too.

Bullying can cause trust issues within your teams, too; not just directly between the bully and the bullied employee, but across the organization, fostering a culture of secrecy, gossip, and paranoia if left unchecked.

There’s also a measurable financial cost to bullying. If staff leave due to being bullied, there are the obvious costs of replacing them and training new staff. But there’s also the possibility of dealing with costly legal action if things get to a certain point, too. And higher incidences of sick leave and lower productivity will have a financial impact, as well.

No matter how competitive and high-pressure your work culture is, when positive aggression tips over into harmful bullying, you have to act quickly and decisively to stamp it out.

What should I do if I’m being bullied at work?

The first thing to do if you’re wondering how to deal with bullying at work is to tell someone about it.

It’s not always easy to do, of course. You might have a more reserved personality type, or you could have had a bad experience in the past when trusting someone with a personal problem.

But talking is almost always your best starting point, whether it’s with your line manager, a colleague, a close friend, or a family member. Getting it out of your head means you’re under less of a mental burden keeping it a secret, and talking it through will make you feel better. What’s more, you might end up getting some great advice on how to deal with the situation.

It’s also important to keep records of everything. Bullies can spread their deeds out into multiple small-scale transgressions, which individually, don’t seem much. It’s hard to complain about little things without feeling a bit silly – which is the reaction they’re looking for.

But if you note down details of each occurrence, you can build up a timeline that clearly illustrates a campaign of workplace harassment over time. You can take a report like this to management, presenting irrefutable evidence that you’re being victimized. If it’s noticeably affecting your job performance, any competent manager will want to intervene straight away.

Another option is to be proactive and confront the bully yourself – fight your corner.

You might think back to a parent telling you to “stand up for yourself” in the school playground when someone was bullying you – it’s easier said than done. Or how about “just ignore them” – well-meaning advice that’s nigh on impossible to follow when somebody really has it out for you. But if management isn’t being especially helpful, it might turn out to be the most effective strategy.

Instead of going in all guns blazing, you could take a less confrontational route.

You could try letting the bully know how their words or actions made you feel. They’ll already have a good idea, of course, if their actions are intentional, but by putting it all out there, it might cause a wave of guilt causing them to stop.

Try to figure out why they have a problem with you. Offer to lay it all out on the table, apologize for anything you might have done to upset them, and clear the air. This strategy won’t work for every situation and does take a bit of bravery, but it might be the quickest, most effective way to solve your bully problem. You might even end up becoming friends with them.

What are the signs that someone is being bullied at work?

There’s a bunch of different bullying at work signs that you should look out for. When coworkers are having problems with a bully, they might be reluctant to bring attention to it. So here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • They’re absent from work more often
  • They seem dissatisfied, downbeat, and unmotivated
  • They’re not performing so well at their job
  • They make excuses for avoiding work-related social events
  • You hear others gossiping about them

You might see one of these signs on its own, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being bullied. There might be a perfectly reasonable explanation.

But if you start noticing a couple of these signs together, something is probably going wrong for your coworker behind the scenes. Reach out, talk to them, and offer to help.

Final thoughts

Bullying and harassment in the workplace is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Certain social movements from the 2010s onwards have given more people the confidence to speak up when they witness injustice in their organization, but there’s still a long way to go.

Tackling bullying takes a combined effort from coworkers and management. Workers need to be supported both with the presence of official procedures and the confidence that their complaints will be taken seriously.

If workplace bullying goes unchecked, the negative effects on employees, management, and the public reputation of the company can be enormous – so it’s something to deal with swiftly and judiciously.

Read the full article here.

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Michael is a passionate writer and has written for other major publishing sites such as Trello, Unilever, and Timetastic. At F4S, he writes research-based articles and guides covering leadership, management, and everything involving workplace wellness.


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Furious to Curious: 7 Signs You’re Intimidated by Your Employer (… and How to Overcome It)

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Workplace intimidation is often so subtle and insidious that it becomes difficult to identify. This is made worse by the fact that it generally takes on a pattern of bullying actions over a long period, rather than being an isolated incident. When left unchecked, it can become a culture that’s nearly impossible to get rid of. 

The main issue in the workplace is that the person guilty of intimidation wants to control the behavior of the person being bullied. Having your emotions, psychological health, and sometimes even physical well-being controlled by someone is never acceptable. Not even when that person is your employer. 

Being in a position of leadership doesn’t automatically give someone the right to control their employees. True leadership has nothing to do with control, and everything with leading by example, in fairness, and with integrity. 

Below are 7 signs you’re intimidated by your employer:  

1. They Always Have Their Way

If your employer is forever trying to force you to do everything their way, then chances are you’re a victim of intimidation. 

The reason(s) they’re forcing you to do things their way is irrelevant. And the reason for this is that whatever they’re telling you (and often themselves) in an attempt at self-justification is probably not the real reason at all. Instead, intimidation is nearly always driven by a need to feel that their opinion is the only opinion that really matters. 

2. They Play Dirty

Employers who intimidate their workers will often leave no stone unturned if it means achieving their goal. 

These individuals are often sneaky about the ways that they cause their victims harm and discomfort. Of the many tricks deployed by office bullies, the act of ignoring someone is probably the most effective. At the same time, it’s also the least likely to be detected. 

Those who feel the need to resort to intimidation in the workplace do so because of their own shortcomings and insecurities. For this reason, the employer will often follow the path of least resistance and ignore any arguments or input. This makes ignoring others as a bullying tactic especially attractive, as they’re unwilling to own up to their crimes. 

3. Forever Changing Expectations

One sure-fire way to guarantee an employee will never be able to live up to an employer’s strict standards is to constantly move the goalposts. 

Intimidation can often be seen to take on the form of unclear goals and vague directions. The intimidating employer knows how easy it is to create a hostile environment simply by avoiding clear communication. 

4. They Often Interrupt

If your employer is constantly interrupting you when you’re talking, or even chiming in when it’s not their turn to speak, you’re probably being purposefully intimidated. 

An example of this would be to be summoned to a meeting but not afforded the space or the opportunity to give input, ask questions, and make suggestions. Employers guilty of intimidation will often take this route on purpose as it gives them the opportunity to discredit their employees in public. 

5. They Don’t Respect Your Time

Most employees are more than willing to put in extra hours and effort when asked. This is often a reasonable expectation in the workplace.

The point when such a request becomes unreasonable, and a likely weapon of intimidation, is when schedules are constantly changed, often with little to no notice. 

It’s important to realize that your time is just as valuable as your employers. For this reason, it deserves to be honored in a manner that’s considerate and respectful. 

6. They Create A Culture Of Secrecy

A culture of secrecy and exclusion is nearly always a sign of intimidation in the workplace. This can take on several forms when it’s an agenda pushed by an employer. 

Examples include keeping you out of the know about a new project, planning a social event/get-together at the office without you, or even planning something special for occasions like birthdays for select employees only. 

Secrecy is never part of a happy and healthy office or working environment, and is a favorite intimidation tactic. 

7. Selective Micromanagement 

Micromanagement is another favored tactic used to intimidate employees. 

While many managers are repeat offenders in micromanaging because they cannot successfully delegate duties and responsibilities, others may deploy this as a brazen, outright method of intimidation. 

A red flag to look out for is selective micromanagement, where you’re micromanaged more than your fellow-employees for no good reason. This often involves an expectation of constantly upholding impossible levels of performance in the workplace. 

How To Overcome Intimidation

Overcoming intimidation by an employer is a process, and should not be expected to happen overnight. In some cases, it may be best to polish up your resume and move on, but this should only be as a last resort. For the best chance of overcoming the issue, try the following: 

  • Speak to HR about the issues you’re experiencing. Ask them to take steps towards correcting them.
  • Know your rights. A hostile work environment is a form of discrimination. If HR cannot assist, there are legal avenues you can pursue for assistance.
  • Keep clear records of dates and times of all incidents. Create a timeline that shows a pattern and identifies the issue clearly.
  • Confront your employer head on. Tell them that you recognize their actions and be clear about your expectations for the future. 
  • Resist the urge to react negatively. This plays into the bully and gives them the response they want.

Bullying in the workplace is on the rise, and intimidation is a form of bullying. If you know your rights, how to cope with intimidation, and can seek assistance from HR, you can put an end to this undesirable behavior. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Lee Anna Carrillo is a community manager at Resumoo, a resume writing service, and career resource database. Resumoo is owned by Ranq Digital LLC, a marketing and media company located in Charlotte, NC.


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Common Workplace Issues And Employee Rights To Remember

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It is practically impossible to not experience conflicts of one sort or the other in the workplace. This is why there are laws that protect employees in their workplaces, irrespective of the personal dispositions of said employees.

Common Workplace Issues

1. Workplace Politics

A pointer of workplace politics is favoritism. You might notice some favoritism going on. Some employees could never do wrong, and others never seem to get it right.

When you are caught in this web, try to understand the unspoken rules of the workplace. Try to see who wields what power, and how they go about exercising that power. This way, you know how to work your way around their traps.

2. Bullies At The Workplace

Bullies are not only found in schools. If you look closely, you would find them in the workplace as well. 

Bullies may intentionally try to exclude you from team events. Unfair criticism is a form of bullying too. Name-calling coated in jokes isn’t left out either. 

When you find that you are being bullied at work, document such actions and report to the higher-ups.

Finally, as far as workplace troubles go, you may have some issues with your dress sense. In such a case like this, you would probably need to switch up your style. 

Get some stylish and up-to-date clothes as well as top-notch accessories to go with it. There’s no law against looking classy at the office after all. 

3. Inconsiderate Bosses

It is possible that you encounter inconsiderate bosses that never seem to recognize how hard you’re working. Instead, they criticize everything you do and make you feel you’re not well equipped to do your job. 

To handle such situations, make sure that the criticisms from your boss are wrong. Up your own efforts and communication skills. 

Learn to anticipate problems and present solutions. Sometimes, it may not be about you, it could just be a very inconsiderate boss. 

Your Rights As An Employee

It is essential for you to know that there are laws that protect you and your interests at your place of work. 

Lacking knowledge of these rights may land you in positions you could have completely avoided if you were privy to your rights. 

Labor Rights cover you irrespective of your race, gender, ethnicity, or religion. 

Some of these essential rights include the right to:

Here are some other rights you need to constantly remember:

1. Your Right To Complain About Working Conditions

If you find out that there is a workplace condition you’re not comfortable with, you have the right to notify your employer about the conditions that may be harmful to you and your coworkers.

However, you might not get a quick response or even any response at all if the complaint is for your own personal reasons. 

This law doesn’t even protect you in such a situation. Make sure that whatever you are complaining about is something that affects you and your coworkers.

2. Your Right To Refuse Work

When you work in a place that you believe could harm you, you may refuse to work in such a situation. 

However, you must have informed your employer before you pull this card. 

After you have informed the appropriate authorities and they still do not put any measures in place to mitigate or alleviate any hazards, you can then trigger your right to refuse work. 

3. Your Right to Have A Copy Of Your Signed Agreements

You probably signed a folder-full of agreement papers before you started at your job. 

But what you don’t know is that you might have unknowingly given up some important rights in those papers.  

It is possible you agreed never to work for a competitor or that you relinquished the claim to your intellectual property while working with them without knowing it. 

You can request copies of all the agreements you signed. Your employer may be reluctant to give them to you, but it is your right to have them, at least in many states. 

Be sure this law protects you in your state when you want to request these copies. 

When you have the copies, go through them and know what you have signed up for. This way, you can avoid lawsuit troubles should you have a falling out with your employer.

About the Author: Norma Spencer fully enjoys her editor career living an RV life with her family. She’s a devoted tech and finance writer with a Ph.D. in Business Administration (Management). In the moment of writing this bio, Norma is in Germany, planning to spend at least a few more years in Europe in the coming years.


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How to Help Your Employees Become More Productive

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Has your productivity been lagging? Are you struggling to find ways to inspire yourself to work harder for you? Are you inspired by your boss? Perhaps you are trying the wrong tactics. Instead of focusing on what your employer can do for you, why don’t you consider what you can do to improve your life at work?

Here are some suggestions on ways you can improve productivity in the workplace. We think you may be surprised by our advice.

Take afternoon walks.

We all feel that afternoon slump. Our eyes begin to get sleepy, and we lose our ability to concentrate. Some companies fight this problem by offering free coffee or caffeinated soda to employees to give them an energy burst. But having caffeine late in the afternoon may cause you to not be able to fall asleep at bedtime. Instead, maybe try going on a brisk walk outside. Not only will this combat sleepiness, but you could encourage your whole work crew outside at the same time to have a team-building exercise.

Create a more ergonomic workstation.

Perhaps you feel like you’re not performing well because you’re in constant pain. Maybe your backs hurt from the chair they provided you, or your wrists hurt from utilizing a keyboard with little wrist support. Make sure your work stations follow OSHA’s guidelines.

Even if your desks and chairs at work are supposed to be designed with comfort in mind, you could still suffer from back pain. Just as people use a wedge pillow to get better sleep, you may consider bringing a wedge pillow for your chair. A pain-free employee is a productive employee. You should let your employer know that you’re doing this to make yourself more productive and that it isn’t necessarily distracting at all. If anything, this has saved you hours from driving home to work more comfortably or even taking too many breaks during the day.

Take work-from-home days

Are you concerned that working from home will reduce productivity? Why not give it a try? Giving yourself a chance to work from home at least once a week may inspire you to increase productivity to extend the benefit.

There are many benefits to working from home. Not only is less time wasted on commuting, but your staff is less likely to share sicknesses and spend time around the “water cooler.”

Make your schedule flexible

Not every person in your office is a morning person, so why force yourself to have the same schedule?

Flexible scheduling will also benefit you if you’re a parent of young children or caring for elderly family members. This not only will allow you more time to spend time caring for them, but also give you the freedom to finish any project at any time that you feel most productive. If you’re more a productive night person, then this can help you be a better employee.

Work in a quiet work environment

Whoever designed cubicles for offices must not have ever had to concentrate while working. It’s difficult for some people to focus when they hear their coworkers’ phone conversations, the constant thump of the bathroom door, and the chatty Kathy loudly talking about her last date.

If you are able to work in an office space by yourself, do so. At a minimum, always open up that conversation with your boss or assign a quiet workstation for people in your office.

Utilize in-house childcare

If you’re a new parent, you may be continuously distracted if you have to worry about how your newborn infant is doing at the babysitter across town. If you have an in-house daycare at your workplace, you will know if something is out of the ordinary. Also, you won’t have to leave as quickly at quitting time when you know that you can simply pick up your child on the way out of the office.

Create a healthy work environment

Employees will be more productive and happier people if they eat right and exercise. Do what you can to promote healthy living at work. Perhaps this means that you will hold a contest each week to see what team records the most number of steps for your office. Maybe you could suggest the human resources department offer a free salad bar once a week to employees at lunch. Also, consider taking up that insurance policy that offers free counseling and other mental health services.

Schedule meetings for later in the day

Are you wasting the most productive part of your workday by hosting meetings in the morning? If you’re a part of a staff full of “morning people,” they may arrive at the office ready to tackle their inbox and cross items off of their to-do list.

Having staff meetings toward “quitting time” could encourage your staff to be more unified. Instead of one person always playing the devil’s advocate, your team will be encouraged to work together.

We hope that these ideas will help you find a way to increase productivity in the workplace.

Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Susan Ranford is an expert on job market trends, hiring, and business management. She is the Community Outreach Coordinator for New York Jobs. In her blogging and writing, she seeks to shed light on issues related to employment, business, and finance to help others understand different industries and find the right job fit for them. Follow her on Twitter @SusanRanford.


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More and More Workers Demanding Paid Sick Days

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Kenneth Quinnell
Kenneth Quinnell

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than 40 million Americans work in jobs where they have no access to paid sick days. In addition to the potential loss of wages and jobs for working families, the lack of paid sick days forces many people to go to work when they are contagious and get co-workers and customers sick and decreases productivity for workers who show up unable to perform to their normal level of ability. More and more cities and states are recognizing the realities of the damage having a workforce without paid sick leave does to workers and to the economy.

While corporations and their political allies spread falsehoods about paid sick days, more and more localities are ignoring those misrepresentations and doing the right thing for workers and the economy:

In 2006, San Francisco became the first locality in the nation to guarantee access to earned paid sick days for all workers in the city. In 2008, the District of Columbia and Milwaukee passed paid sick days standards that included paid “safe” days for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. And, in 2011, the Connecticut legislature became the first in the nation to pass a statewide paid sick days law, and Seattle became the fourth city. Legislators and advocates continue to advance proposals in Congress and in more than 20 other states and cities.

Numerous labor and social justice organizations also are mobilizing to support paid sick days, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Restaurant Opportunities Centers UnitedInterfaith Worker Justiceworker centers around the country and others.

Paid sick days campaigns or legislation exist in Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York City, New York, North Carolina, Orange County (Fla.), Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Portland (Ore.), Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 5, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.


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Why Picket Lines Matter

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Photo courtesy of Caitlin Vega.   I spent so much time on picket lines as a kid that when I thought my dad’s rules were too strict, I would run to build a sign on a stick and try to talk the neighbor kids into marching around the house with me. I learned early on the power of a picket to protest unfair treatment.

That right is more important today than ever. As our economy has shifted toward a more contingent workforce, companies are increasingly hiring workers as part-time or temporary, or labeling them as independent contractors. This leaves workers more vulnerable to abuse while also shielding companies from accountability. When warehouse workers unpacking Walmart goods in a Walmart-owned warehouse were cheated out of their wages, the retail giant responded that those workers were hired through a temporary agency and are not the company’s responsibility.

These kinds of working conditions make it all the more important that workers be able to share their stories with the public. Consumers have the right to know about the kinds of labor practices they are supporting when they shop at a particular store. In this economy, where workers have so little bargaining power, the ability to picket an employer to expose unfair conditions is more important than ever.

That’s what makes the recent California Supreme Court decision in Ralphs Grocery Co. v. UFCW Local 8 so important. The court upheld two provisions of California law that protect the right of workers to picket. The Moscone Act protects peaceful picketing and communicating about the facts of a labor dispute on “any public street or any place where any person or persons may lawfully be.” Labor Code Section 1138.1 restricts injunctive relief to stop picketing unless a company can show substantial and irreparable injury, the commission of unlawful acts and several other factors. Ralphs sought to invalidate those state statutes, which would have silenced California workers from such peaceful protest.

In upholding California law, the court maintained a critical protection for working people. What is at stake here is far more than where in a shopping center picketers are allowed to stand. The picket line was—and still is—an essential tool in building the American middle class. Workers standing together, making their case in the court of public opinion, helped bring about the eight-hour day, the weekend, prevailing wage, anti-discrimination laws and so many other protections. It also helped working people win wages and benefits that allowed them to buy homes, send their children to college and give back to their community through taxes, service and time.

In essence, the picket sign has enabled generations of working people to achieve the American Dream. Given the economy we face today, it’s time for the next generation to start making signs and marching to demand those same opportunities.

Why Picket Lines Matter,” by Caitlin Vega, originally appeared on the California Labor Federation’s blog Labor’s Edge. You can also view it on AFL-CIO NOW, posted on January 7, 2013.


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10 Tips for Becoming a Workplace Politics Rebel

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The other day, I read an article on Forbes called “Tips For Dealing With Lazy Co-Workers.”

It’s a fun topic, isn’t it, because we all love to feel like we are the only ones working hard. And it’s such a hardship to put up with lazy old Joe in the next cube over. Ugh!

Time to review one of our favorite words: Sludge.

“Sludge” is the toxic language we use to judge people for how they spend their time. It’s based on old beliefs about how work should happen.

Sludge is when someone says, “10:00 a.m. and you’re just getting in? I wish I could come in late every day.” The belief being expressed here is that work happens between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The person who isn’t in the building at 8:00 a.m. is therefore not working.

Focusing on lazy co-workers is a waste of time. It’s Sludge.

Changing Workplace Culture

No one wins when you play office politics, so stop playing the game! For all the lists out there that we’ve seen lately (ahem.. “Tips for Pretending Like You’re Really Working” or “Tips for How to Dress Like a Really Serious Professional” or “Tips to Fake Being ‘On’ 24/7”), I present to you a Results-Only perspective: 10 Tips for Becoming a Workplace Politics Rebel

10. Remind yourself that you are an adult.

That’s right. Ask yourself why, as an adult, you have to ask your boss for permission to do the following:

Take a longer lunch
Leave early
Arrive late
Use the restroom (Yes, some clients of ours used to be required to ask for a hall pass!)
Explain why you’re not putting in extra hours

9. What is fair? Getting paid to deliver results. Period.

Remember college? If you didn’t know the material, you got a bad grade. If you skipped every class and had no clue what classes you were even taking and got a bad grade, you were accountable. No results? No GRADE. You are getting paid to deliver something for the organization. At work, what it should come down to is this: “No results, no job.”

8. Get clear on measurable results.

What isn’t measurable is subject to interpretation. This puts you as an employee in a bad spot and tempts the boss to reward face-time and presenteeism.

Not sure what you’re supposed to be doing or delivering? Do not waste another minute filling time. Go to your boss and be relentless about identifying–in writing–how you are going to measure your work. What is success? And then run from anything that is subjective.

“I’d like you to work on being a team player” is absolutely not a business goal. It’s up to the interpretation of everyone around you and you’ll never win that one.

7. See old beliefs for what they are. Old.

Relationships are best built face-to-face. Some people just need more supervision. People who are in the office are more dedicated. The best collaboration happens in the office. Core hours are important to the customer. People who telework are slackers.

If any of these beliefs made you say “that’s so true”’ then you’re six degrees of separation away from focusing on what is important. There’s a new definition for the social aspect of work.

6. Stop talking about “availability”

It’s time to cease the wasted energy surrounding these phrases: “Who is available?”, “When will you be available?”, “Are you available from 8-5?”, “Will you be available next week?”, “What time this afternoon will you be available?”, “We need to be available for our customers.”

Get a grip! We have voicemail and email–the superheroes that work 24/7 to gather information for us. So that we can get work done. Voicemail and email are on 24/7, but that doesn’t mean you should be! In response to all that gathered information, what people need to do is…coming up in the next point.

5. Respond. Not fast…not slow…but based on the work.

Respond to the needs of the business – the work. Who best knows your job? You. And according to #6, you have superheroes gathering information for you so that you can respond to the needs of your business. Only you know how speedy that needs to be.

An on-call surgeon has a different response time then an accountant (unless it’s April 15th). If someone asks “will you be available on Friday?” respond politely, but firmly, with the magic phrase: “is there something you need?

6. Let go of the clock. Just… let… it… go!

Time only matters if it is about a deadline. Or if you decided to meet at 1:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m. is relevant. Anyone who thinks 8 a.m. is some magical time that work should begin and 5pm is some magical time work should end – for most people – is seriously living in 1952.

If you find yourself looking at the clock and barking out comments like “It’s nine o’clock! Where the heck is Bob?!” please go back and review all of the points in this post.

3. Only ‘meet’ if the work requires meeting.

Find yourself getting caught up in unproductive meetings that are wasting your time and going nowhere? It’s not the meeting organizer’s fault. It’s yours. Look at all the meetings you have on your calendar. For each meeting, ask the following questions:

Is there a clear, measurable outcome that will affect the measurable outcome of your work? Do you know your role? Is a meeting the best way to accomplish the outcome?

If the answer is yes, then meet. If not, ask the meeting organizer to clarify these things for you and if they can’t, politely decline.

2. Mind your own business.

Now that you’ve accomplished #8, this is your focus. What time Susie is coming in, or how much vacation Bob is getting, is not important. Each and every day, reach out to people and tell them exactly what you need and when you need it in order to accomplish what you’ve agreed to deliver, and the rest will take care of itself. Whether Jill is working from home, a cabin, or a cube is irrelevant. And how much vacation time Bob gets – yep. Irrelevant.

1. Focus on what matters

At the risk of sounding a bit Pollyanna-ish, your life is what matters. The old adage “nobody on their deathbed ever said ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office’” had it right. If we continue to play the old workplace politics game that includes who stayed the longest, who put in the most time, who looked the busiest and who was the most effective at sucking up to the boss, then we’re all losers.

This blog originally appeared in ROWE on September 2, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Cali Ressler is co-creator of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). She’s the co-author of the bestselling Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, and a nationally recognized keynote speaker.


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Weighty Matters

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Image: Bob RosnerOkay, this one is a blinding glimpse of the obvious, we have bias against people who are overweight. That’s the boring part. But it gets interesting when it comes to how the bias is different for men and women.

A study by a University of Florida professor found that thinner women had a higher salary. And so did heavier men.

That was interesting enough. But the reason why thinner men earned less was fascinating. Thinner men are often seen as a pushover or nervous.

I didn’t see that one coming.

And I’ve heard that overweight women are seen as lacking discipline. Isn’t it amazing that we can judge the same thing, being overweight, so dramatically different for men and women?

We all know that men earn up to 25% more than women and that this gap has held relatively consistent through the years.

Here is my question, with all of us getting fatter, will this pay differential just keep growing along with our butts?

Call me old school, but I think that bias not only does exist, it should exist at work. But our bias should be focused on the quality of our contributions and not on the size of our bodies.

This sounds to some of you as naive and to others as utopian. But I see it differently. For anyone who is able to see past these biases, there are a large number of high performers who most people are overlooking, heavier women and thinner men.

Get behind these overlooked workers and you’ll pound the competition.

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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What Is the Best Mindset to Bring to Work

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Image: Bob RosnerLast time I discussed the top “mindsets” that we bring to work. For those of you who like things defined, here goes—mindset is “a habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations.”

Most of us bring some “habits” to work on a regular basis. After doing a lot of interviews and research, I came up with five. What I like to call the 5 M’s. Machine, military, motivation, measurement and entrepreneurship (okay, that’s not an “M” word. I put it in because that is one of the problems with mindsets, they tend to lock us in to a limited way of viewing the world).

According to your votes, the mindset that you most often bring to work is machine. 35% of you chose it. Next was military with 27%. Followed by motivation, the choice of 17%. Measurement, 15%, and entrepreneurship at 6%.

Each of these mindsets served a purpose at one time. The problem is that they tend to live on long past the point they continue to provide value. Take the top response, machine. A smooth running machine is a very effective way to run a business. The problem? Machines don’t do so well when it comes to creativity and initiative. And those are two things that most businesses can’t do without today.

In addition, all of the mindsets share two basic problems. First, they tend to struggle when it comes to handling complexity. A new competitor, a worker shortage or a lawsuit against your company aren’t things that any of the 5 Ms can really cope with. The problem is that today’s workplace is all about complexity.

But there is an even bigger problem—control. All of these mindsets do best when there is a heavy hand running the show. And that heavy hand may have helped 60 years ago to make the trains run on time, but today many businesses are starting to realize that the brains of their people are a terrible thing to waste. So rather than trying to produce a certain result from people, more organizations are realizing they have to create a place where the best efforts can flow out of people.

So we need to develop a new mindset, one that gives more control to the people who actually do the work. Not for some soft headed share the wealth idea, but because organizations need to extract everything they can from their people’s hands, heads and hearts (okay, that will be the last bit of alliteration for this column).

Ultimately I’m not going to try to sell you on exactly what new mindset to adopt. My point is simply that we need to become more aware of the mindset we bring to work each day. And not forget the creativity and control as we go along our journey at work. Just realizing this should help us all to better navigate our workday more successfully.

QUOTE.
“No more good can be attempted than the people can bear.” Thomas Jefferson

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. You can also hear workplace911 on BlogTalkRadio weekly. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.


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