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Transform Your Workplace from the Inside Out with These 5 Simple Steps


When you’re having a bad day at work, it seems to affect everything in your life. Add in some holiday stress, some in-law drama, and it becomes tempting to pull the covers over your head and call it a day at 7am.

I know that the magic of the holidays often feels lost with the stresses that are around us. These stresses are magnified at work, which makes every trigger seem even stronger. The good news is that there are ways for you to transform your workplace from the inside out. I’ve got 5 simple steps for you to follow.

Step #1: It’s Not About You

I know stuff at work can be tough. It seems like people are sometimes out to get you. Here’s the problem: other people feel like you are out to get them. So it becomes important to remember that the stress that is happening isn’t directed at you personally.

It’s a reflection of what everyone else is experiencing.

Acknowledge your feelings. Be aware of the moments that are making you feel stressed out and avoid them if you can. Implement a coping skill if necessary. And if the feelings seem like they could be related to depression, get some professional help.

Step #2: Take a Deep Breath

Breathing really can make a big difference when you’re having a bad day. I like to breathe in for a 4-count, then breathe out for a 4-count, and do this a handful of times. On the last breath, I breathe in as deep as I can, then I let it go as slowly as possible. Try to do the deep breathing exercises at least once per hour.

It has a remarkable effect on the nervous system. You will feel calmer and ready to become productive once again.

Step #3: Set Meaningful Priorities

I sometimes get these big projects, but they’re due in 5-6 weeks. That doesn’t mean I won’t stop stressing out about it. The stress sometimes hits as soon as the assignment comes through. What I’ve learned to start doing is setting clear priorities for myself.

In other words, take things one day at a time. Focus on what needs to be done today. The present has enough worries of its own. The future can wait for tomorrow.

Step #4: Make an Effort to Be Compassionate

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays – or even a long day at work – the focus tends to go inward. I know in those times I feel like I just need to take care of me. When you can put the focus outward and be compassionate toward others, you’ll find that the response often comes back the same way.

I’ve found this is also a great way to stop arguments with co-workers as well.

Step #5: Take Care of Yourself

You need to recharge your batteries from time to time. Tension will drain your energy like crazy. So spend some time decompressing. Go take a walk. Grab some lunch. Leave your desk or cubicle and do anything other than work. That way whatever stress is going on can be left alone for a few minutes.

We all have bad days come our way, but it doesn’t have to say that way. By transforming how you look at each moment with these 5 steps, you can begin to change everything from the inside out.

How do you handle stressful situations? What coping skills have worked wonders for you?

Why Fair Division Is Essential for a Healthy Team Environment


“Why does he get less work than I do?”

“Why does she receive more breaks every day?

Questions like these are the start of division within any team. Even when a manager is trying to be fair in assigning work and offering incentives, the perception of favoritism can cause a festering and hidden sore that destroys the team environment.

I know it’s tempting to give your best people and hardest workers more tasks and responsibility, especially if their quality is better. Yet a team is only as strong as its weakest link. Through fair division, you can bring a team together and reduce the risks of it tearing itself apart.

So how can a fair division of work be achieved? Here’s what I have found to be successful.

#1. You must clarify specific team roles. There must be clarity in the roles everyone on the team happens to have. There is always that one person who thinks they get to be the boss when you’re gone. I’ve found it beneficial to bring the team together so each role can be clarified in a group setting. This reduces those team members who try to “jump ship” and go to a different role when not directly supervised.

#2. Create a block of time on your calendar for “delegation time.” For fair division to work, you must take time to organize the delegation process. I’ve always found the last two hours of the work week to be the best time for this. It’s not a difficult task, but it’s an important one, and you’re usually left undisturbed by others because everyone wants to start the weekend right away.

#3. Set clear expectations. People will work to the bar that you set for them. You’ve got to be careful not to set the bar too low, but your expectations can’t be in the stratosphere either. They must be high, but realistic. I walk each team member through my expectations for them with an individual meeting to make sure any questions can be answer. Then we sign a statement which says they understand their expectations so I’m not stuck with the “I didn’t understand it and you didn’t help me” excuse later on.

#4. Force the workhorse to take a break. There’s that one team member you rely upon more than anyone else. They’re good at what they do and you know it. They know it. For the workhorse, their productivity is a way to establish team leadership. You need that leadership. I’ve found it useful to force a break on that team member. Give them a low priority assignment that they could do in their sleep. It will give them a mental break and you’ll be able to work on skill-building with the rest of the team.

#5. Stay as flexible as possible. Some people will struggle when a policy of fair division is implemented because they’ve been skating under the radar. You know – the people who do the least amount of work possible. Be flexible, but also be firm, in bringing these team members up to speed. They are going to feel like this isn’t fair to them, especially if they haven’t been held responsible for productivity levels for some time.

Fair division reduces stress, improves morale, and can be a boon to your team’s productivity.

How have you implemented a policy of fair division? Have you implemented these strategies with your team? What were the results?

Why Are So Many People Quitting Their Jobs?


Many companies are experiencing higher-than-normal turnover rates these days. Job satisfaction in some industries are at all-time lows. We also live in an area where employer monitoring of employees is at an all-time high. Accidentally click on an email that takes you to your LinkedIn profile and you might find yourself having a conversation about your workplace happiness.

Employers have a right to be concerned about high turnover rates. The costs of training new employees are much greater than the cost of maintaining the current work force. Instead of creating Big Brother scenarios that make good people want to leave their job, however, some are looking to actually answer this very important question.

Why are so many people quitting their jobs?

And the answer, it turns out, is pretty simple: dissatisfaction.

Dissatisfaction with the Boss: The #1 Issue

Most people have had at least one bad boss in their life. It’s the one person who is always looking over your shoulder, telling you everything that you do wrong, and then takes credit for all of the hard work that you do. Employers are finding out that employees aren’t quitting jobs. They’re quitting bosses.

To stop this issue, a multi-faceted approach is being implemented. Ongoing educational opportunities for entry-level and mid-level managers is becoming mandatory. Larger companies are also tracking employee behavioral patterns through ID swipes or building entries/exits to determine if someone could be interviewing for a new job. If those patterns are positive, then a closer look at that employee’s boss happens to make sure the supervisor isn’t the cause of losing a great employee.

The Problem of Employee Undervaluation

“It’s 2008. Our economy is in the gutter. We need to be lean and mean.”

It’s something many companies told their employees nearly a decade ago. It made sense then. Unfortunately, some employees haven’t seen a raise since then. Others have had to endure pay cuts or benefit reductions. Fewer people are doing the same work and it leads to burnout.

“If you don’t want this job, there are a dozen people who will take it in a heartbeat.”

Undervaluation in certain positions is another reason why good people are quitting in droves. Telling people that they are expendable only increases the chances of someone quitting. This is why internal recruiters within some companies have started to contact employees directly to let them know of new job openings that may have better hours, better pay, or both.

Credit Suisse starting doing this and estimates it has saved over $100 million in rehiring and training costs.

Avoiding the Counteroffer Scenario Completely

So maybe you found something great when you accidentally clicked on that link to LinkedIn. You got a pretty great offer. You decide you’re going to accept it, but then as you tell your boss that you’re quitting, they agree to beat that offer you were given by 10%. What do you do?

If you’re like half of the people in this type of scenario, you’ll take the counteroffer and then wind up quitting in 12 months or less.

For this reason, employers are being more proactive about identifying their best talent. Those people who are always going above and beyond expectations. Then they are offering them something to recognize that offer – a raise, a couple extra vacation days, or flexible scheduling are popular options.

Why? Because recognizing the extra effort is also a reward for that employee. Add in the perks and the appreciation offered becomes the chance to build loyalty with that employee.

Sometimes people quit jobs because they need to move or the circumstances of their life has changed. Employers can’t really do anything about those employees leaving. When there is dissatisfaction present, however, then employers can and should do something. The evidence is clear: when an employer is proactive about keeping their best people, then turnover rates can be lowered.

How You Can Stop a Personal Passive-Aggressive Cycle


It happens all of the time. There is that one person in a group who is upsetting everyone else. Maybe they show up late all the time. Or maybe they ignore emails. Or maybe they just expect everyone else to clean up after them. Most of the time, you won’t see people outwardly reacting to such a person.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t reacting at all. Many people internalize their anger and frustration when this happens so it is kept from being out in the open. As that anger festers, however, it needs to have a release at some point. This is how the passive-aggressive cycle begins.

The symptoms of being passive-aggressive can be as mild as a sarcastic response to extremely hurtful actions. Instead of creating such a negative cycle, you can stop passive-aggressiveness before it requires a release. Here’s how you do it.

#1. Evaluate the situation. What made you upset in the first place? For many, passive-aggressiveness begins when it feels like someone else is trying to take away your personal power. They’re invading your boundaries. So ask yourself this: will you be angry about what has happened next week? If not, then choose to let the anger go.

#2. Summarize the problem. Why is it that the actions which have triggered you are so bothersome? Sometimes the roots of our anger have grown quite deep. Childhood trauma, religious teachings, personal bias – they can all affect the levels and depth of our passive-aggressive responses. We must honestly summarize the feelings which triggered the cycle in order to stop it. It’s usually not the person, but an accumulation of internalized feelings that causes us to spiral out of control.

#3. Connect the feelings to your response. We always have the chance to make a choice. We choose to be passive-aggressive. We choose to let things go. We choose to let anger fester. When we can connect the feelings to our triggers that cause us to lash out, then it becomes easier to recognize and avoid situations and people who create such an internally toxic environment – often through no fault of their own. It’s not about them in most cases. It’s about you.

#4. Explore alternative outcomes. Instead of being sarcastic with someone, what is another way you could respond to them? Could you walk away? Could you give them an honest answer? Maybe you could tell them that you didn’t appreciate their actions? When we explore more acceptable ways to respond than what passive-aggressiveness can provide, then we are giving ourselves a chance to improve our future.

#5. Practice the best alternative. Stand in front of a mirror and practice saying an alternative response. Or practice walking away from a difficult situation with a trusted friend, co-worker, or loved one. Bring a journal with you if writing down your feelings and thoughts is your alternative to letting anger and frustration fester. If you can practice this skill once per day for just 7 days, you’ll be able to have it available as an option when the next frustrating event takes place.

Dealing with passive-aggressiveness is more than just learning a new coping skill or trying to return yourself back to “normal” functioning. Unless each of us can clarify the events which cause us to enter a passive-aggressive cycle in the first place, those negative spirals will never really stop.

Take a moment, be honest with yourself, and think about why you react when someone makes you angry and frustrated. Then implement these steps to stay in better control.

Have you used these steps to help you stay out of a negative passive-aggressive response? Did it help? Was it challenging? I’d love to hear your perspective about how helpful these steps happen to be.

7 Ways To Stop a Negative Conversation Immediately


We’ve all been there at some point in time. You’re having a nice conversation with a friend. You talk about the weather or grilling in the backyard to break the ice. You might get asked about your family, your health, or if you like the new break room at work. Then, as if it were scripted, the conversation turns negative.

Now I know we all need to vent sometimes because frustration levels have built up to the point where it feels like an internal explosion is about to occur. I’m not talking about venting here, the use of coping skills, or dealing with difficult emotions. That’s a healthy process. Focusing on the negative components of what happens in the world around you is an unhealthy process.

Here’s the good news. You can recognize this negativity before it gets out of hand and then stop it from having a death grip on your conversation. This is how you do it.

#1. Change the perspective. There is a positive way to look at virtually every difficult circumstance that happens throughout the day. It’s not always to see that positivity on your own, but you can certainly look for it when someone is trying to make the conversation become negative. Reframe the issue being discussed so that the negative energy doesn’t receive the outlet it wants.

#2. Change the words. Words are powerful. They have a dramatic impact on each of us every day. Certain words are designed to be negative. Words like “stubborn” or “hate” or even offensive words you wouldn’t want someone to say in front of children. It’s easy to let words like these slide, but they contribute to the negative energy a conversation may have. Choose positive alternatives which still get the point across, but won’t let negativity fester.

#3. Change the memories. We often associate failure with negative emotions. Failure, however, can also be one of the most powerful motivators to strive toward real success. If you know this person has achieve something great, especially in the recent past, then revisit that event. Remind them of the positive emotions. It can help to diffuse the negativity rather quickly.

#4. Change the tone. It’s easy to inadvertently cause negativity to grow because of our own words. Offense can happen even thought it is unintended. Instead of becoming defensive, try being quick to apologize instead. When it happens to you, give the other person the opportunity to do the right thing as well. Sometimes we just have to give each other the benefit of the doubt.

#5. Change the dynamic. Ask for clarity. Maybe you heard something negative that wasn’t actually negative at all. Asking a question about what you’ve heard will help to make sure you’re on the same page.

#6. Change the balance. When you allow negative energy to corrupt a conversation, you’re also allowing the other person or people involved in that conversation to have power over you. This leaves you feeling miserable and for me, it can even cause me to lose my focus for the rest of the day. Our feelings are caused by our choices. We can choose to be positive, even when everyone else is being negative. Go into every conversation refusing to get upset.

#7. Change the priority. The project is due in 3 weeks. Your co-worker is being extremely negative because they feel pressured to get the job done right now. By shifting the priority of issues, you can stop a negative roadblock from appearing.

Negative conversations are always going to happen. When you’re prepared for them, you can turn that negative energy into something a little more positive. This helps to reduce the stress levels we often feel at work, especially when certain co-workers want to come talk with us about something.

How do you handle negative conversations? I’d love to hear some of your strategies that you’ve found help to diffuse the negative energies that others may try to bring your way. 

How You Can Be an Extrovert in Your Next Meeting

I hate talking in meetings. Even “hate” may not be a strong enough word. Everyone watches you talk, judging every word you say, waiting to pounce on something with which they may disagree. You have to convince everyone of your expertise, become vulnerable, and sometimes you even have to speak above the loudest voices in the room. It’s enough to turn even the biggest extrovert into an introvert.

That’s actually my secret to being able to engage in meetings. You can become an extrovert by following many of the traits introverts have when it comes to a conversation. I listen first. I process all of the information that is coming my way. Then I speak only when I have a well-thought opinion that can influence the discussion in what I believe will be a positive way.

There are other ways that can help you engage confidently with others during a meeting when you don’t really want to say anything. Here are some of the methods that help me and hopefully they’ll be of help to you as well.

#1. Do your prep work before the meeting. It always comes down to your information. If you don’t know what’s going to be discussed at a meeting, then you’re going to have a steep learning curve in a chair that will probably be uncomfortable. Take an hour or two before the meeting, go through the information that will be discussed, and you’ll be able to think on your feet – or in your seat – more effectively.

#2. Be forthright. There will be questions that someone may ask that you cannot answer right away in a meeting. Instead of trying to fake it to make it, try offering a honest approach. I like to say something like this: “That’s a great question. I’ll need to think through that for a bit to give you a good answer.” You can ask people to come back to you. You can say you need time to research the subject. If you need extra time, I’ve found there’s nothing wrong in asking for it.

#3. Practice your public speaking. Whether you’re in a meeting with 5 people or 500 people, the butterflies in your stomach will float around when it’s time to make a presentation. This is why I make sure there is time to practice my presentation before I have to make it. My family are often my first draft volunteers, but I also try to make sure I have a dress rehearsal with some trusted co-workers. This way I can get feedback, know where my stumbling points are, and be able to reinforce my confidence. I also highly recommend Toastmasters.

#4. Learn to ignore your discomforts. Some people get so worked up that they get sweaty or red in the face when they have to speak in meetings. I’ve even met folks who break out in hives – as if they were allergic to speaking during a meeting. People go to meetings for ideas. They’ll ignore your discomfort if you can present a solid idea. As you get more comfortable, these physical symptoms will typically disappear as well. Take a few deep breaths, push forward, and you’ll find people are listening more than they are looking.

#5. Contribute by asking questions. Sometimes there really isn’t anything for me to say during a meeting, but I might be asked to contribute anyway. In those times, I like to ask questions about what I’ve heard. I always write down a question or two so I can start a discussion if called upon and this helps as it seem like I’m speaking when in reality I’m encouraging others to speak instead.

You can hate meetings, but still get a lot out of them with the right approach. Take the lessons learned from the introverts and use that to be an extrovert when needed at your next meeting, even if you don’t want to be there.

How do you handle dealing with difficult speaking situations at work? I’d love to hear about some of your strategies and coping mechanisms and how you use them.

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