Bliou Enterprises


Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Work can be tough when everything depends on how the boss communicates.  Is it simply a matter of adapting, or constantly bending over backward for someone who’s never going to be satisfied?  See what Esther* and Fern* did.

When Esther* came to me, she was worried.  As an older employee, she felt that starting a job search at her age would be a never-ending task, since she expected to face a great deal of age discrimination.

On the other hand, she told me that she already was, in her opinion.  Since her new manager came on board last year – a much younger manager – it seemed that he wasn’t really interested in hearing any of her ideas when he asked the team for their input.

The new manager made a point over the past year to emphasize that he wanted “everybody’s” ideas, Esther told me; however, although she contributed nearly every time by emailing him a suggestion or two – well before the stated dealine – he very rarely brought her ideas up for discussion during the bi-monthly staff meetings.  In fact, there had been occasions when similar ideas to hers were discussed . . . and other staff members were credited.

I examined Ester’s process of submitting her ideas more closely – particularly when the similar ideas made it to the meeting, asking her, “How did other staff members submit their ideas to the manager?”

Esther discovered that most of the (younger) members actually sent him text messages, rather than emails, much to her surprise.  She also reviewed her emails on the topics and found a couple of responses from the manager, asking her to send him a consolidated version prior to the meeting.

“I thought that I had,” Esther recounted, “But I’m pretty sure that was the month that he presented (and credited) someone else’s similar idea.”

I told Esther that I believed she could Fix It! by learning how to communicate with her Gen X boss in his preferred medium: texting.  Something that would help her become more comfortable and skilled in this area would be to open a Twitter account and learn how to tweet.

Not only does Twitter teach users how to succinctly make a statement, but the 140 character limit forces writers to make every word count.  Clearly, this type of writing is important to Esther’s boss, who just wants the bare minimum when collecting ideas for staff meetings.

Esther applied this new tactic, and within a few meetings, not only did she get her ideas on the agenda, but was complimented on her improved writing skills.  She is very pleased to know that she can continue being appreciated for her talents in her current job, rather than begin interviewing.

Fern* had seen firsthand how difficult the economy was for people.  For the past couple of years, her cousins had been out of work – searching, to no avail – and living with her.

She had a very difficult boss, but didn’t feel she had any choice about putting up with him.  It was obvious to her that the job market was difficult, and she felt lucky just to have a job.  Besides, other people were counting on her – it wasn’t just about her.

Recently, though, the fog had begun to lift.  Each of her cousins had found positions that were permanent, and had begun to save some money.  In several more months, they were planning on moving out, to get their own apartment!

Just knowing that things were going to settle down was making her home life much less stressful, which had the side effect of allowing Fern to really notice exactly how stressful her workplace really was, though – with a kind of laser-like focus.

Fern began to see that the CEO’s odd behavior wasn’t solely directed at her, for one thing, but that others had similar frustrations, not knowing what to expect from him, one day to the next.

She could see that this was the crux of the difficulty, actually:  he was so unpredictable and moody day to day, that his mood swings often greatly affected her mood afterward.

The CEO’s demeanor frequently would oscillate to great extremes, often playing out during meetings, as well as affect policy decisions.

For example, there were numerous planning meetings, where the CEO sat nearly sullen and silent, leading others to speak up more, ultimately heading the project and making the decision on what would happen, because as everyone looked to the CEO, he either nodded or clearly didn’t care, from his shrug.

Later, (often much later) when a great deal of the project was in the works, the CEO would step in, sneer, and either dismantle it altogether, or find so much fault that it ended up getting such a makeover that it didn’t even resemble the original design!

Other times, the CEO was so engaged from the start, nobody could get a word in edgewise during the planning stage, but it was just as well.  Clearly, he only wanted “yes men,” so people either nodded vigorously, or sat silent, waiting for their assignments and watching the clock.

Those who had been through his “mania” before knew that he’d lose interest in whatever he was currently feverish about soon enough, anyway, so there really was no point in volunteering for something that would be altered or shelved, so why bother?

As Fern considered this repetitive pattern, she told me, it gave her a bit of relief.

“I suppose it could have made me even MORE depressed, but I think it was what I needed:  a chance to step back and look at the situation rationally.  My fear of my circumstances had just gripped me before, but now, I could see that it really was him, and not me . . . and that I needed to Forget It!

Without others depending so much upon her, and an indication that the job market was a bit better, Fern decided to start looking for a job for herself.

Although it did take several months, Fern feels that she wouldn’t have been a good candidate before her change in attitude and outlook, anyway.

“I am so relieved to be in a new atmosphere,” she says.  “It’s incredibly different, to be headed to work and think about the tasks I’ll be facing, rather than wonder – with trepidation – what sort of emotional storm lies ahead today!”

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Merle* and Naomi* deal with age gaps in the workplace

Lynn* deals with her OCD manager

Gabrielle* found a way to be more relevant

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Previously, I discussed people with long term career goals in mind.  This economy has focused many on the here-and-now, however.  The only reason here-and-now people interview is that they’ve reached their breaking point.

Everyone has a “deal breaker” (or more than one) when job hunting, and it’s best to know what those are when going in for the interview.  Even better: Consider how to pose questions that will get these situations and attitudes revealed, prior to accepting an offer.  It stings to discover later that you’ve landed into a breaking point situation only after having taken the job . . . especially if you left another position to do so.

Of course, not all of these circumstances can be anticipated or screened for ahead of time.  Gretchen* had no idea what she was getting into when she accepted her position as office manager at a company’s local office.  During the interview, everyone seemed pleasant enough.

Actually, the people at her office are nice to be around, but she quickly discovered that the brunt of her job entails fending off creditors for the regional office, including explicit instructions to lie outright to them.  Her company deliberately doesn’t position anyone with power at the local office, and if they happen to visit, local staff are instructed not to call them by name in front of any visitors, lest they be bill collectors.

Gretchen has also been given a litany of instructions, including only to “take a message” or give callers the local address for mailing statements, rather than ever give out contact information about the regional office to anyone.

It didn’t take long before the stress levels of Gretchen’s daily routine rose immensely, since she ended up dealing with hostile people that she was blamed for giving the runaround to.  They wanted answers, and she could only cite the speech she’d been given, knowing that they’d fall into the hole intended for them.  They knew it too, eventually, and would be furious with her.

Gretchen could only take being the scapegoat for so long, and decided to Forget It! when she contacted me to start looking for another position.  Of course, it took several months of looking before she found something, so in the meantime, we worked on her detachment from the hostility, so she didn’t feel personally hated by so many callers.  We also made a point to search for consumer – and other – reviews online when interviewing with future companies.  This action, we discovered, would have helped shine a light on her current company’s reputation.

Holly* never has understood why she’s been treated differently at her job by her boss than her co-worker.  She arrived first at the sales firm, with a good record, and showed stellar performance in telemarketing for the first year.  Her feedback from the boss was always a sanitized “That’s nice,” but she figured that he wasn’t the warm and friendly type.  That was ok with her.

When he hired an outside sales person, however, things changed.  He did provide warmer feedback to her.  She didn’t just get good feedback, she got praise.  When new items came up for sale, he made a point to tell her, mentioning the employee discount – and on some occasions, offering an additional one.  Holly happened to overhear this, but no mention was made to her, and no extra discounts on any items.

Later, after the co-worker returned from maternity leave, the manager made special arrangements with her work schedule so that she could work from home one day per week.  Holly thought that this was nice for the co-worker (and reasonable).  A couple of months later, she asked the manager for permission to work from home on a special project that lasted for two weeks and was lectured instead!

While Holly bore no ill will toward her co-worker, she couldn’t see how it was more reasonable to let someone who does outside sales to work from home for a several month stint, versus someone who does telemarketing, for a very limited scope.

Holly was frustrated over these inequities when she contacted me, but wasn’t quite sure she was at the deal breaking point.  On the other hand, she wondered how much farther it would go.  Also, what – if anything – could she do about it?

The more we discussed her overall situation, Holly explained that she had a great many responsibilities at home, and unless and until she absolutely had to, she would rather not add another task such as a job search to her to-do list.  However, she was tired of feeling helpless at work, while her manager continued taking advantage of her.  What if he crossed a line?

Holly decided to stay and Fix It! by doing a couple of things differently.  She diligently wrote down each and every example she could think of where she had been treated outright unfairly in comparison to other employees, including the (approximate) date, place, and anyone it happened in front of.  (She even brought them up in conversation casually to the witnesses, with, “You remember when . . . ?” for verification, which helped not only jog their memory, but hers, when they mentioned things she’d forgotten.)

She also made a point to record anything her manager did moving forward, including saving emails.

For preventive measures, Holly made attempts to socialize a bit more outside her department, particularly with the co-worker that her manager seemed to like so much.  They hadn’t liked or disliked one another strongly, but didn’t really spend much time together one way or another previously.   We thought it couldn’t hurt to improve her PR image within the company.

Finally, regardless of what anyone else thought of Holly, we sought to reduce her daily stress by making the trip to and from work more pleasant with her station cued to jazz, and her workplace rearranged with some photos of loved ones.  Various audio and video cues helped to remind her throughout the day, during stressful times, why she was there – and for whom.  She and a friend also text each other once a day, to check in.  They have an arrangement so that there’s always at least one person to say something nice to them daily . . . and nobody overhears the conversation.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Gloria* and Herman* felt stressed and isolated at work

Xavier* and Wendy* worked for difficult bosses

How Best To Prepare To Fix It Or Forget It?

Fix It Or Forget It?

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Whitney,* a middle marketing manager, attended a staff briefing, where the VP was explaining various processes performed by each department.  She counted him using the word minion in his presentation at least half a dozen times.

There is evidence that the pendulum is slowly swinging back in favor of employees, but a great many employers have used the desperate times of the last few years to take advantage.  This doesn’t look to fare well for them as the market opens up again.

Companies would do better to view their employees more as they do their customers: assets.  Over the next year or two, the organizations that will retain more people and avoid large turnovers will be the ones who made a point to communicate regularly, openly and honestly with their staff, and this isn’t strictly about salary.

Being appreciated for a job well done is something that everyone wants, whether they are in non profit or for profit.  Certainly, pay is also a factor for nearly everyone, but it is simply one of several means of demonstrating respect for a worker’s time, experience and skill, along with title, benefits, vacation, etc.

This week’s Fix It Or Forget It? stories come from contributors who have found it difficult to be with employers who make it known that they “hold all the cards”:

Yolanda* tells of a staff meeting she attended a couple of years ago, when the economy was seriously troubled.  She is a middle aged woman in an all-women department.  Her (woman) director paused during the agenda and yielded the floor to a specific staff member, to make an announcement.  It turned out that she delivered the news that she was pregnant, and everyone congratulated her.  What followed was abrupt and unexpected, however.

“As the director attempted to close the pregnancy news and return to the meeting, I guess, she turned to another young woman on staff and (jokingly?) informed her that she’d better not be thinking about going on maternity leave anytime soon!  Then, she turned to the other/older side of the table – what she apparently deemed ‘the barren women’ (?) – and remarked, ‘I know I don’t have to worry about (all of) you!’ and laughed.  It was difficult to know what was most offensive,” Yolanda recounts.

The meeting progressed, and at the conclusion, Yolanda decided that taking any further action regarding someone so insensitive would probably prove pointless, and possibly antagonistic.  She decided to Fix It! by making a concerted effort to leave all personal details out of her conversations, her office and her computer, opting not to have any personal communications, such as documents, email or phone calls, other than on her handheld device.

Yolanda wanted to keep her job in this economy, but saw no reason to engage someone who would probably only use personal information against her, so why provide any at all?  She’s tried to keep things as distant and professional as possible.

Zelda* started in her position a few years ago initially as a temporary hire, and was glad to get the position, considering the economy.  She made the most of her Administrative Assistant post at her non profit, always seeking additional work, and was hired on permanently in less than a year, although it was made clear to her that there would be no increase in her pay, unfortunately.

Zelda was enterprising in her position, however, and learned enough about social media that she created the organization’s Facebook and Twitter channels and built a fairly significant following over the next year and a half.  She also diligently documented her work and was successful in acquiring a summer intern to further the project at no cost to the organization.

When it became clear to management that the organization had to take social media seriously (because Zelda had made it so successful by now), she responded to their request and wrote up a proposal for a permanent staff position of Social Media Director.  Zelda fully expected to be considered for the position, although she could understand the legal requirements of publicly posting the position and interviewing other applicants prior to management’s deciding who to hire.

Zelda was stunned when her director later informed her that the job description needed to be amended to require a college degree, and since she didn’t have one, she would be ineligible to apply; however, he expected her to train the new Social Media Director, once s/he was hired, on everything she had accomplished thus far!

Zelda decided to Forget It! and immediately began scanning job listings for people with expertise in social media.  It turned out that there are quite a few now, and her wait wasn’t as long as it might have been a couple of years ago.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

What Are You Learning?

Monday, September 27th, 2010

People never stop learning.  In one form or another, we all continue to discover, absorb and conclude, whether we do it in a classroom or not.  Ideally, organizations realize the need for employees to continue keeping up with current trends and they budget for this.  Unfortunately, this isn’t typical, so what’s one to do?

Of course, everyone should grow and learn new things on the job, but some jobs require a steeper learning curve than others, because the evolution of their field is moving more rapidly than others.  Annual Giving is one such sector, since technology affects this part of fund raising more than, say, Planned Giving.  Certainly new laws on estate planning are important for professionals to know, but it’s doubtful that they are changing as quickly as the landscape of social media, for example. Often one feels that if you blink, you might miss something.

A recent study by Guidestar on the economy’s effect showed that five of the top six ways that nonprofits used to reduce costs were related to staffing, salary and benefits, which surely translates to less funds for training as well.

Couple this with the fact that when training budgets are doled out, Annual Giving professionals typically receive the smallest allowance, and you have a double whammy of those in need of the most training having the least means to receive it.  Seth Godin makes a good argument about how the old business model of worker and employer is disintegrating, and stresses the importance of a worker being “fast, smart and flexible” in our new, emerging economy.

Here are but a few examples of items that Annual Giving professionals will need to add to their toolbox:

•     Facebook has a reputation for changing its features on a regular basis.  Facebook Places is one of the newer features to learn.
•     Twitter is rolling out several major changes, including the ability to view photos, video and past tweets without scrolling.
•     Video – It’s going to be more than just creating something on YouTube or Vimeo and inserting it into an email or posting it onto your Facebook page.  Soon, every individual, company and organization will be able to have its own web-based “tv” channel.
•     RSS (Real Simple Syndication) or text messaging – see some examples of how it can (and is) being used, including a non profit example.  How can you use RSS to keep in touch with your constituents?
•     SlideShare  –  Beth Kanter has great suggestions.  Although I clearly don’t utilize it enough, you can see results of various polls I’ve taken on social media habits from audiences over the years.
•     LinkedIn is changing the specs on its site, upgrading the social networking and other features a great deal lately.  What will that mean for how you market yourself online?
•     Technology requirements to handle all of your applications and other needs.  The Seattle Public Library launched a matching gift campaign, and their site crashed soon after the campaign began, in response to the outpouring of the unanticipated support.

Patrick* made a point to sign up for as many classes as his organization – and professional society – offered during his first year on the job, in order to learn as much as he could.  He wanted to be well versed, and take full advantage of what the company (and his membership) had to offer.

At the end of his first year, he had raised a great deal more money than his predecessor and also implemented some successful new events, etc.  He arrived at his performance review with a list of his accomplishments and a calendar of the trainings that helped him learn how to achieve said tasks, as well as a proposed schedule of upcoming courses.

He was stunned at his manager’s reaction:  Instead of praising him for having a good plan and learning so much, he chastised Patrick for having taken so many courses:  “I had no idea you were spending this much time out of the office!”  His manager denied Patrick’s proposed training schedule for the new year, and said he would have to cut it by half.

“When I asked ‘Why?’ since I had clearly raised more funds,” Patrick recounted, all I could get was, “‘It doesn’t look good for you to be gone that much.‘”

Patrick made a point in the future only to highlight the end result (his accomplishments) and not the means of achieving them (his training) during performance reviews.

Ramona* also met with difficulty over getting training.  She knew that budgets were tight, so she rarely asked to go to seminars, but there was one that she felt was very valuable and was not terribly expensive, so she asked to attend.

When she approached her director, he only pretended to review the materials and listen to her argument, but turned her down almost immediately.  Ramona decided not to give up just yet, and searched the seminar website for scholarships, since she couldn’t afford the entire cost herself.  Finally, she contacted the conference organizer when she found no scholarship application online, and explained the situation.  She was successful in getting a free admission to the two day conference!

Ramona made a point to network with others in her professional society – locally and nationally – and had a friend in the nearby city, within a day’s driving distance.  She arranged to stay with her friend, rather than pay for a hotel.

Because her manager hadn’t bothered to notice the details of the conference during her initial request, Ramona simply put the dates down as a vacation request, stating that she was “visiting a friend,” and said nothing more about it.  She returned with more skills – and contacts – to put in her professional toolbox.  She knew enough about her manager’s dynamics to realize that he wouldn’t reward or praise her for her resourcefulness, but most likely subtract future opportunities from her if he knew she had received this training.

While neither Patrick’s nor Ramona’s situations are ideal, they each found ways to continue developing their skills professionally, working around the limitations set before them.  Although it’s important to invest in yourself when necessary, it’s also essential to know when to draw the line and realize if you’re simply not being supported – and never will be.

What then, are some tangible, low-cost actions that Annual Giving professionals can take, to sharpen their skills and become more knowledgeable about this profession that seems to be moving at the speed of light?

•     Network within the professionJoining a professional society such as AFP, AHP, APRA, CASE, NTEN, etc. is advisable.  Connecting with others who are dealing with similar issues can be invaluable.
•     Invest in a mentor relationship – Ask someone you admire to coach you in an area you’d like to learn more about, but also offer your skills to another who is eager to learn.
•     Research scholarships – Many organizations offer scholarships for membership and/or conference attendance.  Investigate and use these applications sparingly, since they’re often only valid once.
•     Take online courses – A great deal of training is available online, and because there is no space to rent or perhaps a limit on attendance, the cost is often very low or even free.  The Bilou Calendar lists many courses related to Annual Giving, and you can subscribe to it.

In the end, you have to drive your career and determine its direction.  You’re learning new things constantly, regardless.  The question is, what do you most want to learn?

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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