Career Development Opportunities: boondoggle or survival skill?

"I am provided career development opportunities"

How about you?  Are you satisfied with the range and quantity of career development opportunities for you at work?

What does “career development opportunities” mean, anyway?  And if you don’t have “enough” of them, what can you do about it?  Plenty!

“Career development” can mean anything and everything that helps you advance in your job or role, your long term career and path in the company or industry, or it could mean something as pragmatic and important as time management and life/work balance. 

How can you get it?  It can be in the form of classes or seminars internally or externally.  It can be in the form of mentoring and coaching from others.  It can be in formal management development programs at the larger companies, or it can simply be in an apprenticeship with a “master” practitioner (if you’re lucky enough). 

What if your company is lacking in programs and formal offerings?  Go out and grab the opportunities yourself!  Sign up for industry and trade seminars and programs.  Go to conferences.  Help organize and volunteer at industry and trade events.  You can do so and get entrance free in most cases.  Take the initiative to set up a speaker series in your company to have internal experts and external gurus share their experiences and expertise and advice.  It gives you personal exposure and relationships with these amazing leaders.  Find a mentor and ask for coaching.  Be a mentor.  Teach others what you know.  All of this adds-up and creates confidence, builds a reputation for you as a leader, and puts you on a great track, no matter who you are or what your goals.

So don’t wait around for your company to come up with a menu of career development opportunities!  Make up your mind and start taking advantage of the many local activities and rich content available in your industry, and start reaching out to assemble your own program of tutoring and leadership coaching.  

Its easy and in most instances it’s free or nearly free.  Stay away from boondoggle "business courses on cruise ships" but aside from that, once you start to explore the possibilities you'll see more than you can possibly take advantage of.  Most employers will pay for costs you do incur even if there is no formal “program” in place.  Just ask.  Great companies and great leaders know this is the best expense they can ever cover.

And remember to offer to help others and share what you’ve learned.  It’s the fastest way to the top--- helping others.  It’s rewarding and it’s a lot of fun!

The little things that matter for worker engagement

At WorkersCount we measure sentiment daily using a fun mobile app.  Additionally, we ask a single Question Of The Day.  Recently we asked our users (who report-in from hundreds of companies each day) whether or not their employers buy coffee, donuts or other treats.  We were very surprised when 53% of our users reported “rarely.”

We shared these overall results with some of the many WorkersCount workers for their comments.  What follows are comments from 20 of them we felt were enlightening and insightful.  There are lessons for leaders at large and small companies, departments and working groups.

Pam-The small things matter. It is a way to thank employees for their hard work and it helps management bond with their employees. Pam shared about her group receiving bagels and cream cheese at end of the work week.

James-It’s not surprising that employees cherish the small things like food and refreshments. And it is disappointing to see such a high number of employers not taking advantage of this. In the end there is no excuse for not taking care of your employees or customers.

Karen-I agree. I buy bagels and donuts on the first Monday of each month. I also bring in birthday cakes and flowers. I think the most important thought is remembering to thank each one of my staff at the end of each day!

Tom-Treats are simply a method of demonstrating that employees are valued and that is all any wish to feel.

Fred-I believe that treats and food are even a substitute for a raise/bonus because it simply says employers care.

Terry-Treats are a great way to thank employees, it costs very little, but the payback is huge in morale. Personally thanking employees is, also, huge in showing your appreciation at work. But don’t forget to ask how they are once in while, they want to know they matter as much as their work.

Tommy- Saying good morning to each person and asking how they are today…and above all really listening...tells you lots of things…and yet personalizes each person’s day by making them feel you care about them.

Judy-In our office we treat ourselves. It would be nice if management would show a little appreciation with a treat now and then.

Sue-Our company has a treat day each month. We celebrate the birthdays and work anniversaries for that month. Everyone brings in a dish/treat to share. When we have a milestone birthday, we decorate their office/cubical with a fun theme. Our President will surprise us with cookies or Frosty Fridays on these occasions as well. We appreciate the treats and the atmosphere is definitely more relaxed and fun in these days, and yes work still gets done.

Kate-Many companies fail to realize the importance of recognition these days. They tend to focus on the negative aspects of their employees' work rather than what the employee have achieved. It is important to realize and reduce the negative aspects of someone’s work of course, but there is the important part about how you approach it. I know many who constantly feel stressed, unappreciated and aggravated in their work place because they never get a simple "Thank you" or a treat. This small gesture would change their feel for their work, their loyalty to the company they work for and their drive to prove that the recognition placed in them was justified.

Kathy-I don't call these things "treats", I call them "Thank You". As a mid-level manager, I don't have the authority to give a bonus or any other monetary recompense. I do have some input into the amount of the annual raise. I do, however, have the authority to say "Thank You".

Terry-Yes, we agree that the little things do matter. Providing treats to your employees shows that you appreciate them, which in turn puts them in a better mood. A better mood usually means higher productivity and more pleasant work environment.

Judy--I had a manager who thought that you should not reward people for the day-to-day. That's what a paycheck is for. He thought you should only treat for people who go above and beyond. I don't think I ever saw him treat anyone. I agree that it does increase the bond between management and employee, and it is a great way to say thanks for a job well done. That being said, he was one of my favorite managers I have worked for. He was a great mentor with a good sense of humor. I could always count on him to put a bright spot in the day.

Dave--Treats do boost up the morale of employees. I worked for a real estate company where the managers were often stressed out from the job they had to do day in and day out - property management. Management was very supportive in having buffet lunches from time to time.

Hope--Treats do boost up the morale of employees. I worked for a real estate company where the managers were often stressed out from the job they had to do day in and day out - property management. Management was very supportive in having buffet lunches from time to time.

So at the end of the day, what we learn is that several things impact worker engagement and loyalty:

-Little thinks including sweets, coffee, and food... as a symbolic gesture of respect, acknowledgement and a bit of fun

-Those magic two words:  "Thank You" mean more than anything

-Many managers don't "see" the relationship between these small and relatively inexpensive things and the impact on worker enthusiasm, and "chemistry" in the workplace

Next time you see a big pink box in the coffee room of an office, look for the boss.  You can be sure that he or she "gets it" with respect to those little things. 

Conversely if you are visiting a friend at another company and you see pay vending machines for chips, candy and snacks, and pay vending machines for soft drinks and/or coffee.  Beware!  It's a sign that these "little things" are not respected or understood.

What's it like at your office?

Tell us how you'd rate your office in comparison to peer-group companies.

Is that “million-dollar smile” really worth a million bucks? Now it may be.

“Just The Facts” research insight series

From time to time we will use “personal time” blog space to share insights about working and workplaces with our community.  Today’s post is dedicated to healthcare workers and how this impacts the quality of your care.  If you happen to land in the hospital or urgent care, these are workers upon whom you depend for treatment, care and handling and well-being.  Sometimes your very life depends on their care and their “engagement” with their work.

"When that “million-dollar smile” from your nurse or healthcare worker can really mean a million dollars"

Hospitals and healthcare delivery organizations have long since been “local” one-off affairs, with long-term workers and friendly, familiar workers (many of whom may have been your neighbors).  Sadly, these organizations have consolidated, the healthcare system has expanded, and these are now outposts of extremely large and complicated corporations. 

This is not to say that the great folks who dedicate their time to treatment and care of others are not wonderful.  This is simply to suggest that life “inside” of a huge healthcare organization is no longer simple, nor is it free from many conflicting priorities, complex paperwork procedures and legal mandates…. Which all contributes to a sometimes frustrating working environment, to say the least.   And this is what you walk-into when you are ill or injured.

Is “attitude” and “engagement” and workplace happiness relevant to healthcare delivery quality?

Yes it is.  That nasty front desk receptionist, or that grouchy advice nurse can really do damage.  Similarly, that angelic nurse practitioner or on-duty physician’s assistant can turn disaster into “problem solved” for patients.  It’s that important.  But what about the “bottom line” in terms of finances?

Research clearly shows that workplace happiness can affect the bottom line of most enterprises.   As we said, hospitals and healthcare delivery facilities are now large enterprises.

Until now, it has always been more anecdotal to say that it also affects the business top line. Whether you agree or disagree with what is known as “ObamaCare” (The Affordable Care Act), there are new rules inside that act that have changed this equation forever for healthcare organizations.

For the first time ever, patient care, and the level of quality they report (patients) will directly impact the reimbursement (payment) received by healthcare delivery organizations.  This is such a dramatic change we’ll say it again:  The healthcare organizations with above-average patient satisfaction scores will stand to earn more money, and those with below-average patient satisfaction scores will earn less.  Much less.

A whole lot of healthcare industry administrators just got a new metric, and they now share it with their CEO, CFO and Board of Directors.

Let’s now connect the dots.  Happy workers result in happier “customers” and a higher level of satisfaction.  Happy workers = happy customers (patients) = more revenue / earnings to healthcare organizations.  Unhappy workers = unhappy customers (patients) = less revenue/ earnings to healthcare organizations.  And this is more than pride.  This is a matter of millions of dollars.

How this new “carrot and stick” concept works:

Through the Affordable Care Act that goes into effect this year, Medicare’s reimbursements to hospitals will be partially dependent on patient satisfaction scores, including bonuses that will be paid to the hospitals that show the highest rates of patient satisfaction.  The “winning” hospitals will be determined based on patient satisfaction surveys.  Patients will rate how well their doctors and nurses communicated with them, how responsive hospital personnel were to the patients’ needs, how clean and quiet the hospital was, how well their pain was managed, even how accurate and easy-to understand the accounting and billing was.

All of a sudden this “happy workers = happy patients” is of central focus.  While we suggest that most great healthcare organizations have always put “happy patients” and superior patient care at the top of their priority list, this gives the entire topic a new and super-charged level of importance.

Worker satisfaction and happiness is now a leading indicator for patient satisfaction and thus a leading indicator for financial performance and reimbursement trends at these organizations.

Can you “track” and “manage” worker happiness with an annual or Quarterly survey?  It’s possible, but as sailors know, making frequent, small adjustments to direction is much better than discovering you are hundreds of miles off-course after a few days or weeks between measurements.  The same applies to worker satisfaction and happiness measures.  Daily polling, using simple, short (and even fun) reporting experiences, will give everyone a much better read of (pardon the medical pun) the “pulse” of the organization’s happiness.  With such an early warning (or affirmation), it’s much simpler and easier to alter course, or do more of what’s working.  It’s just common sense.

WorkersCount is such a daily service—and it provides the daily “pulse” of the organization’s worker satisfaction and happiness.  Using a fun, simple mobile experience, the WorkersCount service enables workers to “check-in” multiple times in a day (or just once if they wish), and make their voices heard.  If they’re excited about work, it shows.  If they’re frustrated, that also shows.  All anonymously and safely.  Games that reward users for prompt regular check-ins and other fun interactive features keep it light and engaging.  Users are in-and-out in under 30 seconds…. So they can get back to their work providing amazing care to patients!

Here is an example of a WorkersCount check-in screen.  Just 2 radio buttons and no typing.  A simple “how do you feel about your life at work today?” and a single “question of the day.”  That’s it.

People are naturally curious about how their experiences compare to others.  After pressing both radio-buttons, workers can then see the previous day’s results for the “whole world” and also for people with profiles just like theirs.  Again, all of this is aggregated and anonymous.

Workers get tremendous validation, as well as super-important “context” about their feelings and experience.  For example, a worker may be able to see that their overall organization is well-rated by workers, but their individual experience is poor, perhaps due to a conflict with their direct supervisor.  This may mean that as a worker, I’d be willing to “stick it out” and try to find a way through the current issue, or look for another boss (rather than look for another job).  Most importantly however, this may give a worker more perspective, and remove some of the drama.  The benefit of perspective and “context” is that they (workers) may be less likely to be prickly or grouchy to patients.  And that makes all the difference here.  Engaged and focused healthcare workers make fewer mistakes, do better work, and provide overall superior patient care.  Just that simple.  Think of your own experience at home—when you have a rain-cloud over your head, how focused are you on detailed matters?  Now translate this to your doctor or the nurse about to take blood or perform a delicate procedure. 

How can we help healthcare delivery organizations manage this on a wide-scale basis?  Simple again.  We provide dashboards and reports that display just this type of “early warning” or “confirmation” of great results.  It’s kind of like a blend between an “early warning system” and a “magic mirror into the future.” 

Here is one look at a dashboard:

Things to notice include the fact that the average happiness level is down for the week of September Additionally, something occurred on Thursday in particular. The “question of the day” shows some interesting variance from the average or benchmark level.  It’s evident that Employees do not feel that problems are resolved in an innovative manner.  Meanwhile, it appears that management could use some training on criticism and debate, as well as expressing how valuable the team is.  

All of this from two radio-button questions per day per worker.

In summary, there is no better way to measure worker happiness and satisfaction than walking around and watching and listening and engaging with workers.  But this is difficult to do on a daily basis in today’s reality.  One tool to keep an eye on the “pulse” of the workforce is the WorkersCount service.

And in the context of the new healthcare Act and the “carrot and stick” consequences, this kind of inexpensive, fun (did we mention games and rewards for participation etc?) and simple engagement measurement is a no-brainer, in terms of “diagnostics” and “prognosis” for a healthcare organization’s financial performance and worker happiness level.

The next time a healthcare worker gives you a million-dollar smile, a pat on the shoulder and a kind word, remember that, in fact, it could very well be a million-dollar smile if that’s what you walk away wearing as well.

Is Work Life imbalance a personal choice?


Is Work Life imbalance a personal choice? Or does it just reflect a changed work environment?

We recently asked the users at WorkersCount about their Work/Life Balance. 38% responded that they do not have a positive work life balance. A slightly higher number earlier said they are frequently at the office at 8pm. We assume this means virtually as well.  What’s amazing is that 80% say their organization actually supports work life balance. What can explain this disconnect?


An always-on generation

The discrepancy fascinated us so much we asked a series of workplace engagement experts. Our first expert said that the notion of the 9-to-5 model was an outdated construct of the industrial revolution. As we have almost all become knowledge workers, it is increasingly difficult to "leave work (and especially work problems) at the office." Simply put, we work in our head - which travels with us everywhere.   And so does our smartphone, email and SMS. 

Beyond this is the issue of an increasingly global economy where business partners, suppliers and customers often are in different parts of the world – and different time zones. When economies were not on global time, everyone worked with “colleagues” in the same time zone and went home at the same time.   Today, someone is always awake, working and sending work-related communications to others.  “It’s five O’clock somewhere” has been changed to “It’s 8:30 AM somewhere.”


A greater work ethic than previous periods or obsessive-compulsive?

Our second expert suggest that many peoples’ personality and work ethic are such that that they devote themselves completely to work when they are "on the clock." However, because of their level of commitment and focus, they find it hard to leave work at work or obey “the clock.”  Selfishly, some employers take advantage of this and encourage working groups to “continue to collaborate” from home and after hours.  This essentially extends the workday from 8 to 10 to 12 hours and more, as workers receive communications from colleagues and bosses that they feel obligated to return in real time.


What I say versus what I do

Another expert relates the discrepancy to the difference between what is written versus reality.   He said: “Many companies also have codes of ethics and conduct that aren't worth the paper they're written on. I've found the work life balance not to be as much the interruption of electronic means or being always on so much, but rather from things like workplace bullying where people get work dumped on their desk with no consideration for their capacity, or where junior staff have to fix up the mess their bosses have made, because they'll be blamed when the wheels fall off anyway, despite their seniors being the ones at fault. More fair play leads to better work life balance.”


Lacking a subordinate experience = lacking management skills

The last expert claims that many senior managers and executives have jumped levels, moving from being individual contributors and “ super-workers” directly to becoming managers of many people and processes.  Thus they have not been working as subordinates in any real sense.  This means that they have very little empathy or experience setting reasonable work-life balance limits.  They were those obsessive-compulsive, super-workers and thus they don’t know anything different. 


So what is reality?

It is probably a mix of what each of our experts had to say. Clearly, we can be “always on” –which is to our detriment ultimately.  Is there any pure “down time” in today’s Generation Y worker?  Perhaps not if we define it as being “OOO” or the old “Out Of Office” Outlook auto-reply to email.  For many of today’s workers there is no “OOO” –ever.  Additionally, today’s workers (especially Gen-X and Boomers) are so afraid of “failure” that this is mistranslated into “always being available is a great work ethic.”  The consequence of this misalignment are that personal limits are gone; workers don’t know when to push-back, set limits and shut off the “office.”  Burn-out is more likely to happen, and productivity drops.


The prescription? 

Create limits, know your own addictions, and force yourself to shut-off.  If you must, carry 2 phones.  Give your laptop and phone a nice home in your apartment or house that is far away from the dinner table and family room.  Turn your ringer to “vibrate” or “silent” when you have family time.  Resist the urge to check email five times an hour.  Set your phone’s email notifications off when you leave the office.  Take walks with the dog, friends and family and don’t carry a phone.  Insist on leaving the office and make up an excuse like “I promised my family I’d be home for a special dinner by 6:00 today.”  Get a buddy in the office or in your building to carpool or commute with you and use that as the excuse to stand up and announce you’re leaving for the day.  You’ll earn big-time respect and people will magically figure out how to work with you to get the work done.  It’s amazing how that happens.

Want to read more about how some workers are achieving work-life balance?  Read this interesting article from Business Insider @businessinsider :

“HOW TO HAVE IT ALL: Advice From 10 Rockstar Startup Executives Who Are Parents”

We think it should be re-titled however to read:  “Rockstar Parents who are also executives.”  Think about it, and consider which is the more important job.   No question about it. 



I have time to listen to what is happening with people in my organization"

"How are you doing?"

On Fridays and in the summertime, people tend to drift into ad-hoc conversations about their weekend plans, soccer games, football season and end-of-summer last-hurrah vacation plans.  Sound familiar?  

Much of this "water cooler" coffee-break conversation is fantastic.  It's what we've been talking about when we mention "a good cup of coffee" at the workplace, and casual hallway chats.  All very healthy things for an organization.

Avoid the core-dump
What happens when "listening" becomes more than a 2-minute update or rave about a restaurant or beach?  What happens when that "how are you doing today?" results in a core-dump about everything that's not working in your co-workers life, including kids, spouses, love life, politics and the state of the world?  >Arghhh<

Be human, and set limits
There is a happy balance and it's important to be a real human being, to have empathy and be truly interested in what your co-workers are saying and feeling.  Knowing how to draw the line and cut-off this kind of cascade into total productivity sabotage is important.  Perhaps you can say "hey- I'm really interested in your sister-in-law's car problems, but I've got a 9:30 call.  Can we pick this up at lunch?"  Make up an appointment and beg-off so the person is not offended.   

Think of 140 characters 
If the "how's it going?" results in a tirade about work, and the unfair or unjust state of affairs, this is different.  To be frank, when most people ask "how are you?"  they don't want the "real" answer if it's complex or lengthy. It's a cultural courtesy, akin to a friendly waive and smile.  They really don't want to hear any bad news....or any great news for that matter, if it takes longer than the verbal equivalent of 140 characters.  Really.

Listen for real work-related issues
However, if you hear real pain in a co-worker's lament about "what's happening" in their work-life, listen carefully to make sure you're picking up cues that may be consistent across your entire organization.  Resentment about perceived unequal treatment or unreasonable expectations can build and blow-up important projects, teams and even offices.  It's not pretty.  So be on the lookout for this, whether you supervise others or not.  

Re-direct and be neutral
Now what to do about it.  That's a bit more tricky.  You don't want to sink hours or even dozens of minutes into this murky area, so it's important to listen, but be empathetic to the point of asking some leading questions such as: "have you brought this up with So-and-so?"  And: "would it make sense to share your feelings with XYZ?" And: "what do you see happening if this doesn't resolve itself?"  

Act cautiously and carefully
Should you surface these "complaints" and issues back to your management?   Typically not, unless what you're hearing sounds like hot issues such as harassment, discrimination, tyrant bosses, bullying, or unreasonable expectations.  You should not advocate for the complaining person.   You should just share "hey, I think I was hearing something that was unsettling.  I may be wrong, but I wanted to share it with you to follow-up."  You don't want to be manipulated by someone else's drama, and yet you also don't want to allow colleagues to suffer really bad situations that need remedy as well.  It's a tough line to walk.

Bottom line, you want to make time to listen to "what's happening" with others at work. 

Here are some tips to set limits:
-Set a time limit and defer gory detail and pictures to a break or lunch
-Restrict topics and defer conversations about love life, politics and other juicy items to a break or after work
-Avoid "complaining" sessions about co-workers, bosses or others 
-Never offer to solve someone else's problems.  Never.
-Do not get sucked-into others' drama.  Listen and help direct them to take their own actions.
-Focus on work topics, projects and other positive or "appropriate" topics that are worth spending talk-time.
-Be positive and try hard to remind your co-worker that you have to get back to your work.

Be friendly, patient and open.  You'll learn a lot.
Follow these guidelines and you will be a "friendly listener" and also get a good sense of what's happening inother projects, working groups and get valuable new perspectives about your projects.  Everybody likes to talk about themselves.  That's okay.  Just set limits.  Remember that when someone asks you "hey, how's it going with you?"

Have a fantastic weekend!   (And please just send a link to your photos so I don't have to waste time at work looking at them with you).  :) 

How important is a great cup of coffee to your company’s employee engagement?

Clearly not every business can afford to have a cafeteria like Google.   And everybody can’t stock every break-room with Peet’s or a super-expensive espresso machine.  But what about having a good, simple cup of java?  And how important is this to business anyway?  To find the answer, we started by asking our users at @WorkersCount whether they felt they are getting great coffee at their offices.  We then we asked a series of employee engagement experts about this information and the implications.

So let’s start with the results. As you can see in the graph below, only about 41% of WorkersCount users are frequently happy with their coffee at work.  And about 36% are sometimes happy with it. So our conclusion is that 59% of @WorkersCount users say they are not often excited about the quality of their office coffee, and by extension the “coffee talk” around it.

Engagement Experts Say:

One expert said, “go to any office environment and you will notice that many of the employees bring coffee with them, spurning the free stuff you offer them.”  This often means that they stopped at Starbucks, Peet’s, or Dunkin’ Donuts—good news for those businesses.  This expert went onto say that usually this is because commuting has become so lengthy that many employees simply can't wait until they get to the office to have their shot of Java.  Not much you can do about that.

But what’s the big deal about having mediocre coffee on hand in your break room?  The big deal is that coffee is often a social behavior as well as a dose of stimulant.  People get a chance to talk to one another.  People from different departments and working groups often exchange thoughts, have impromptu discussions and learn a lot about what’s happening during a quick break.  This is “the water-cooler” of today, and it’s not trivial.  You want those conversations and interactions to happen at the office, not necessarily down the block. 


Another expert said, "I am not at all “excited” by the coffee at work (nor at any previous workplace, for that matter); it is however a critical requirement to have, for employees to be productive. 

So while many workers will suffer dishwater-quality coffee because they have no quick (and free) options, you’ll make a huge impact on the quality of life in the office by making a few inexpensive changes to your “fueling station” and it’s supplies.   Don’t force them out of the building for a fix and a breather.

How much impact does a great cup of coffee have on engagement and retention?

The expert went on to say: “But before you pack away the free coffee, tea, hot chocolate or bottled water just to save a few bucks, keep in mind that these niceties represent powerful symbols about how companies view their workers as well as a barometer about the health of the company. Employees will always view the removal of free (and quality) coffee as a dramatic step...and a sign that something isn't quite right.

You may take it away (pardon the pun) to wake-up people, and get them to realize the seriousness of a company's financial predicament, but be careful.  If employees don't share your same sense of urgency, they will simply view management as “cheap.”  It’s not smart to use coffee as a stick or a carrot to motivate or get the attention of your workforce.  It will usually backfire.  Don’t get between a worker and their java! 

And remember, a good cup of free coffee means that each worker “saves” between $3 and $4 per cup, per day.  That can add-up for many of your top workers.  If it’s not coming out of your office budget, it’s coming out of their wallet.  And that’s not good for morale.


Coffee time as a tradition or ritual

Another expert said something really important. “If a manager/supervisor sits down and has a cup of coffee while talking with their people, then that's an important cup of coffee!”  If done right, it could become a ritual or tradition that people (even non-coffee drinkers) could get excited about.

So think twice about ignoring the value of a good cup of coffee and a good down-home tradition of coffee breaks as socialization, team-building and overall good times.  It’s a real American tradition and something worth keeping inside the building if you can.  If you have no facilities or just can’t pull it together for a good coffee station, consider bringing-in quality coffee hot from a local Starbucks, Peet’s or local merchant on regular days.  Your team will look forward to it, and it will be a fun experience. 

You are now free to talk amongst yourselves.



Are Your Accomplishments Recognized?

Today's question of the day:   "My accomplishments are recognized"

Do you receive recognition for great work?  Even if it's "expected" that you will do great things and produce top quality work, break sales or production records, or produce incredible projects, it still helps to get that recognition, doesn't it?  

Some old-school leaders used to say "hard work is its own reward." What do we make of that today?  We think it's just silly, selfish and mean-spirited.  Some managers and leaders are reluctant to give too much praise and recognition.  They subscribe to the out-dated idea that everyone can't get the trophy and the "A+" grade.  

Or can they?  In today's world, it should be possible for the entire team to receive hearty recognition for work well done.  There is no zero-sum game.  Is it possible for the whole team to win a trophy? Of course!  

So when you see someone do great work and accomplish great things, take a moment and recognize them in front of others.  They may protest, but deep-down they're flattered and happy for the recognition.  It will make you feel good too.  And that's a nice bonus.

What happens in your office or company?  Do workers receive recognition for great accomplishments?

Let us know anonymously on and if you are inspired, share your story on our LinkedIn discussion page, on our Facebook page or on our blog!

Do you develop new social and professional relationships at work?

Have you ever heard the expression "trapped in my cave" or "I'm too busy to socialize" or "I'm in tunnel vision right now" from colleagues at work?   These people eat at their desk, stay late at work and generally aren't available for after-work activities, office get-togethers and even informal small-group lunch gatherings.

Why? Don't they like people?  Well, they do, but the're trapped.  Sometimes great workers and great people get wrapped-up in projects and get in over their head and are just trying to catch-up.  Their project may be in crisis mode. Other times they fear making "connections" with co-workers because of the possibility that personal relationships may cloud professional interactions and make any "possible" conflicts or unpleasant events in the future a bit more messy or full of even more discomfort. 

As a leader, how can you help prevent this from happening in your team, or to you?  For the people who seem too swamped to "come out of their cave," take a look at their workload and figure out if they need help or if they are being buried by work.  

Then take steps to help them get a balanced workload.  Another way is to "force" them to interact by "bringing the break to them" by dropping-by during lunch (they will be eating at their desk) and "kidnapping them" to lunch, or to the office lunch-room (in a friendly way).  

They will likely appreciate it, even if they protest.  Just respect their situation and be aware that they may really feel overwhelmed.  If they are a peer worker, think about probing to see if you can help them find a way to speak up about being overwhelmed.  Great leaders don't want teams to feel buried.  Your team leader will likely be keenly interested in resolving this situation. 

What about people that seem to "fear" developing friendships at the workplace?  Look at the office or company history, and at their history in particular.  Have there been painful re-orgs or even layoffs that resulted in close friends being separated?  Has this person lost a close co-worker to a sudden layoff?  To understand them, remember that it can seem less painful to isolate yourself than to lose a close friend to a re-org.  Encourage them to connect "generally" with groups of co-workers.  This is an easy way to get them to ease-into socialization and into building relationships.   Groups are "safer" than 1:1, and can be a good way to get these people to connect more frequently with the greater team. 

Watch your own behavior.  Are you (or are others) *very close* to co-workers?  That's great, however it can be a bit intimidating to shy or introverted workers.  Try to be sensitive to wall-flowers, and invite them into your group activities and spend time asking them lots of personal questions to get to know their story.  You will be surprised how much even "shy" people enjoy it when others are genuinely interested in them. 

Tell us what you do to alleviate stress in your office!


Does it often seem like time is in just two modes--- either passing so quickly that you can’t possibly keep up with deadlines and projects….or inching so slowly that each minute seems like an hour (meetings, anyone?)….

The biggest source of stress in the workplace is related to time.  Time management on the part of the manager or on the part of the person doing the bulk of the work.  Often it's nobody's "fault" - a situation just comes up.  And everyone has to scramble. 

And the pressure mounts and stresses people out, right?  Of course!

So what happens when we get stressed-out?   We lose focus, we make mistakes, we get cranky. 

What do experts tell us to do?  Yes, get into that zen-like place.   Sure.  But what about in “real life?” 

Those same experts have some more practical tips as well.  Get up from your desk.  Take a brisk walk around the office.  Leave the building .  Use the stairs if you have them.  Move to decaffeinated coffee.  Turn off email and turn off your phone for a while. 

When you’re back into your project, go “off the grid” for a  block of time, say 30 minutes.  No incoming email, no phone calls.  Just you and your projects.

Engineers call this “maker mode” and it is a great way to cut the stressors out of your pressure-filled day.    One way to “hide” from interruptions is to borrow a colleague’s office if they are gone (with permission).  Since it’s now Spring, take advantage of the gorgeous day and sit outside on a bench or on the grass and work for a while if you can. 

Find a friend and take a nice walk together around the building to clear your head.

College professors have it all figured out.  They can work “outside the office” on a beautiful green lawn and still get just as much work done. 

So find your “zen” place – in the office or outside.  And take a breather, unplug and move around a bit when the stress gets to be too much. 

Tell us what you do to alleviate stress in your office!  

Share your tips with the WorkersCount community.  

Because together, we make workers count.

What do you think?

Friends at the office

Friends at the office

Back in the day, it was deemed “preferable” to separate personal and business life.  Many companies even had policies forbidding dating in the same company (even if the pair did not work in the same division or reporting lines).  Those were also the days when people went home at 5:00, had “separate lives” from work, and of course, did not have email chasing them home via their phones and tablets.  A simpler life indeed.

Yet even then it was obvious that we spent as much or more time with our work family than with our “real” family.  Today’s reality Is that close friendships do blossom and last lifetimes.  Romances occur and for better or worse, run their course.  Companies no longer meddle in worker romances, except when there is a direct reporting line.

Do you have close friendships from work?  Platonic or otherwise?   Do you go on vacation, go to concerts, participate in sports or even just play poker with some of your office-mates?

If you’re like most of the WorkersCount community you do.  In fact over 80% reported this week that they have workplace friendships. 

With good friendships at work, it can seem that together you can conquer the world!  Difficult projects become bearable, even fun.

What is the impact on this “chemistry” at work when flex time and teleworking occur?  Yes it’s convenient and satisfying to work from home and at cafés etc.  But what do we sacrifice when we give up “face time” and “hallway conversations” at work?   What do we give up when we forego casual lunchtime conversations, coffee break chats and chance introductions to co-workers from other divisions or work groups made by mutual friends at work?  A lot!

Hijinx is a way to blow-off steam that you just can't do via a video conference line, for example.

That VP you wanted to meet may be a good friend of one of your work-mates that went to school with him/her.

That killer UX engineer may be sitting by herself at lunch, and your good friend from your last project can introduce you, so you can ask her about a project you’re supervising.

And so it goes.

And here’s some hard evidence:  A recent study showed that people with three close friends at work were 46% more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and 88% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

That’s a big parachute.

Before celebrating the benefits of working outside of the office, consider what you need to do to build “relationship equity” by being present and being part of the team in person.

And as we discussed in a prior post here, it is essential to continue to reach out, build new relationships, make yourself a known quantity to build your “parachute” internally.  You will make new connections, and some of them will become friends.  A few of those will become good friends and if you’re lucky, lifelong ones, inside and outside of your company.   But it won’t happen unless you consistently practice little steps to expand your circles.

Enjoy the holiday weekend and here’s to seeing all of our WorkersCount community have fun expanding their personal and professional circles, and also making time for the friends we’ve already made.  These will be the ones that introduce us to the friends and colleagues we don’t yet know about.   Serendipity.  Kismet.  Fate.  Luck.  But it’s really not random and it’s really not by pure chance.  Make your own luck.  Get out there and expand your “footprint.” 

See you on twitter @workerscount, join the beta and make your voice heard, and post on Facebook.  We also have a Pinterest page.  Come visit and pin / re-pin!