Thursday, January 22, 2015

Psst, Workplace Gossip? Now There's An App For That

Workplace gossip is everywhere, but forget the office water cooler and instant messaging because now there's another app for that.

A new app called Memo debuted last month that offers employees an anonymous venue to say what is on their minds. As Quartz reports:

Memo, a new messaging app, wants to modernize office gossip. The app debuted on the Apple App Store last month, and follows the recent trend of anonymous messaging apps, such as Whisper, Secret, and Facebook’s Rooms. While these apps’ popularity have started to wane, Memo may have something that the others don’t — focus. By centering on the workplace, Memo could thrive where other apps have failed.

Whisper? Secret? Rooms? What? Obviously, I've been in the other room and didn't get the memo amid secret whispers about our questionable app economy.

But back to the topic. There's a "focused" workplace app that allows employees to say what they're really thinking. Nobody has to stand by the proverbial water cooler anymore to speculate on how much the CEO really makes, how a co-worker's PowerPoint presentation was a complete waste of time, and why the free snacks in the break room totally blow!

Some employers apparently aren't big fans of Memo, and they are trying to stop its use at work. I'll be waiting by the workplace water cooler to see where this one goes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Is Your Desk A Mess? The HR Lady Probably Doesn't Care

Call it generational change or a result of the Great Recession, but a new OfficeTeam survey finds more than two-thirds of HR managers don't have a big problem with our paper-strewn, disorganized mess of a work area. Let's all celebrate by eating something crumbly at our desks!

A majority of 300 HR managers OfficeTeam recently surveyed said: "Eh, okay, I'm cool with the clutter. I'm not going to judge." Busy hands are happy hands, and messy desks are clever desks: Nearly 10% surveyed said that a messy desk is a sign of a very "creative" employee.

So the leaning pile of paper that's about to topple on to our keyboard can be a sign of an innovative attitude and winning, innate aptitude. We're not too lazy to deal with it; we're simply too amazeballs to notice!

Here's an infographic with the official statistical breakdown of managerial attitudes toward modern employee messiness:

We still have a way to go, though. You'll notice that nearly one-third surveyed (32%) said a "messy" work area is NOT okay, and it's enough to make them wonder about our "effectiveness" on the job. They may even question our penchant for professionalism.

However, employees might in turn wonder about a microbemanaging manager who is obsessed with work area cleanliness and starts making snap judgments about our work abilities. Living up to some managers' unattainable expectations of clutter control around the office can be an incredibly stressful way to work. It's time consuming, not to mention creatively draining, since valuable mindshare is spent looking for clever ways to hide our coffee cup behind a three-tiered inbox so the boss can't see it.

I left a slight coffee ring stain, therefore I am!

It's important for managers to keep their expectations somewhat in check to avoid creating an employee morale problem. Maybe it's a good sign that the majority of modern-day HR managers are willing to tolerate at least a certain level of employee clutter. Let the work bags roam free!

Of course, "mess" is becoming a relative term in the cubicle-free 21st Century. What does it mean to be "messy" as our work clutter moves online? Sure, our work area looks spotless, but we can't find the updated document we "just saw" on our desk(top). Where did it go?! It's probably somewhere in the cloud, or in a re-named file somewhere. Hmm. Too bad we can't hide our coffee cups in a ghost database. Yet.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Does Facebook At Work Need Work Relationship Statuses?

Thanks to Facebook, everyone knows when our personal relationships have turned "complicated." But now that Facebook is rolling out Facebook At Work, should we be able to say when our work relationships are "complicated," too?

The headline of this article got me thinking: If social media for work purposes is the wave of the future, then shouldn't it follow that we'll be able to update our work-relationship "status" in real time, as well?

Just imagine the possibilities. Our work relationship with one co-worker could be "complicated," while we've been in a "committed work relationship" with another co-worker since last year. Employees who have just given two-weeks' notice can be getting "divorced" from the company. Employees on 90-day work probation can be "separated." The recently-promoted employee can be "engaged" in new management duties, while the office workaholic is proud to be "married" to his or her work since 2009!

It's been unclear to me what the real management value of Facebook At Work is going to be, but it all makes sense now. The future of Facebook At Work is to let us know, in real time, who is getting along at work today. More importantly, it can let us know who is NOT getting along lately so we can avoid putting them on the same work teams! It's the up-to-the-second web of workplace politics laid bare online for everyone at work to see in an effort to increase overall workplace productivity!

Just think about how much time, and how much face, these up-to-the-work-day work relationship "statuses" could save the average closed-door manager, who might otherwise pair two co-workers on a project only to find out (too late!) that their work relationship has "it's complicated" written all over it. Egad, don't pair Jane with Jim -- they can't stand each other now! Don't you ever read Jane's relationship status updates? She says it's been 'complicated' since Tuesday! Now management can keep these two far apart, and cut down on the number of workplace morale problems! This social media "trend" was simply meant to be, because I can't think of any other productive, non-marketing-related reason for using social media on the job.

There are risks, though. On the one hand, our up-to-the-morning work-related break-ups could create some new problems around the office. What if one co-worker gets upset when another co-worker, without any warning, signals that her work relationship with this co-worker has taken a turn for the worse this afternoon? "Why are you doing this to me? Was it because I exploded a burrito in the break room microwave yesterday and didn't clean it up before you used it to reheat your fish leftovers?" Hey, nobody said we have to explain why we're breaking it off. And don't eat stinky fish leftovers at work. Please?

On the other hand, announcing to the company that a work relationship is either good or back "on" could make up for the risks and complications. We really, really like working with each other, and we want everyone in the office to know it! (But please don't cement this work relationship by putting your heads together in the office restroom to take a duck face selfie. That's going over the line.)

Updating our work relationships on the hour, and in real time, would surely to be a hit with the younger generation, which doesn't seem to know how not to put everything out there. The rest of us will simply have to turn the other cheek when using Facebook for work purposes. Status: It's complicated.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Are You Jealous Of Your Co-worker For Quitting?

We've dreamed of quitting our jobs, but one of our co-workers is actually doing it. Now we're feeling quite jealous that she gets to leave and we have to stay. How should we handle the personal envy involved in a co-worker's impending exit?

Perhaps our workplace has become less than ideal, thanks to the long hours, the constant backbiting, the drab decor, the bossy boss, the fickle clientele, or a hundred and one other factors that might drag us down on a daily basis. We may have spent the last few years daydreaming of the moment we can finally march into our manager's office and announce: "I quit!"

But it's our co-worker who is walking around the office today with a huge, relieved smile on her face. I just gave my notice, I'm so out of here, I'm moving on, we'll have to stay in touch! Perhaps she has a new job lined up, perhaps not. Either way, we're watching her live the dream.

Of quitting.

But how should we deal with our own emotions as this work colleague prepares to walk out the door? Here are five tips for making our own transition when a co-worker quits:

1. It's okay to feel shaken. The initial news of a co-worker's impending exit can jolt us to the core. If we like this co-worker, we might feel emotional pain at the thought of a work day without them. We might even feel oddly pained at the exit of a co-worker we've sparred with since Day One. It's normal to feel this way. Change is hard.

2. Spot the opportunities. A quitting co-worker makes us examine our own reasons for staying. It might not feel fair that our colleague "gets" to leave, but his or her departure can also present new opportunities for us at work. It could be an opening to delve into new projects, to volunteer in the void to take on a new task we've coveted from afar, to befriend a new co-worker, and so on. How can we harness the change in the air to make this workplace work a little better for us?

3. Make a new pact. We may feel overwhelmed in the face of this news and all of its unknowns. How will the work get done in the short run without this colleague? How will his or her exit change the playing field around here? How will the rest of us pick up the slack in the meantime? Will this co-worker really stay in touch? Watching a colleague leave, however, can provide us with a sense of motivation to reinvent ourselves in small ways. What will we do to keep ourselves motivated though this transitional time?

4. Re-align and self-reward. We may feel down as we realize quitting simply isn't in the cards for us right now. It's important to be kind to ourselves, and think about the One Thing (for extra credit, Three Things) we like about our jobs. It might be a great clientele, an upcoming project that utilizes our best skills, a fully-stocked break room, a flexible schedule, a fair and fairly understanding boss, and/or good pay and benefits. We might also treat ourselves to something we don't normally do during work hours as a reward for working through the chaos of a colleague's impending exit. Splurging on a designer latte, taking a drop-in fitness class, or going out for a nice lunch are small pick-me-ups that can energize us and put a smile back on our face.

5. Get excited -- for our colleague. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to wrap our heads around the news that a colleague is really leaving. At the same time, workloads are being re-assigned as co-workers jockey for position. When we feel a sense of inner calmness at work, we'll know we're turning the corner. The initial shock has worn off, and we're adjusting to a new normal. We can wish our exiting co-worker all the best at the goodbye lunch, and really mean it this time.

Use a colleague's impending exit as a powerful learning opportunity, too. How did the employee break the news to everyone, and is this how we would go about it ourselves? What would we do differently, based on what we're seeing and experiencing?

We can pick up some valuable insights as a work colleague goes about the messy business of exiting the company. We'll know what to do (and what not to do, ahem) when it's our turn to leave with humility, grace, and a sense of professionalism. The rest of us promise not to feel too jealous.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Employers, It's Time To Quit the Multi-Stage Interview

Are you an employer looking to hire this year? If so, then you'd better make it snappy because a new survey finds job applicants are no longer willing to wait on your time-consuming, multi-stage interview process!

Anyone who has been hired in the last five years knows the drill. When we finally hear back from the employer to set up a job interview, the process moves at a snail's pace. We're interviewed by one person, then another person, and then -- if we're very lucky -- we'll speak with a few more people in the coming days, or weeks. Perhaps we're put to the test further by taking an exam, or performing some on-the-job exercises as well.

Valuable days and weeks might go by before we hear anything back.

That was hiring in the Great Recession and employees are so over it: A new survey from recruitment firm CPL reveals that HALF (50%) of those surveyed will now reject a job offer with a lengthy, drawn-out hiring process, or a potential job that requires more than three interviews. Drag out the process, and job applicants are ready to move on. Buh-bye!

Business stories keep saying the economy is looking up, and this simple statistic is a sign that the ground is starting to shift. Smart employers will begin refining their hiring processes by exploring way to shorten them, perhaps substantially, to hire the best talent. No more lengthy, multi-stage interviews. Less hemming and hawing. Fewer time-consuming tests. Arriving at a final decision much faster. Wow, I'm loving 2015 already!

It's been a long time coming, too. And by "it," I mean an uptick in employee confidence. Welcome back, it's nice to see you again.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Burp, Slurp! Seven Tips For Dealing with Noisemakers At Work

We're trying to concentrate in our 1'x 2' patch of workplace real estate, but the only thing on our minds is our co-worker's constant thumb drumming. Let's all chew loudly on ice while we hammer out a solution to our co-worker's non-verbal noise!

We've all suffered in close quarters alongside the physically-loud co-worker. This co-worker isn't a yapper; she's a pencil tapper!

Or an unrepentant pen clicker. Or a chronic nail clipper. Or a squeaky chair rocker. Or a frequent farter. Or a disgruntled grunter. Or an angst-ridden exhaler. Or a desk-bound soup slurper. Or a stentorian spit swisher. Or a boisterous knee bouncer. Or a fragrant flip-flop footer. Or a soda-imbibing burper.

Or a baroque nose blower. Or a clamorous keyboard user. Or a jingly-jangly jewelry wearer. Or a deafening drawer slammer. Or a brazen bubble gum smacker. Or a never-ending knuckle cracker. Or a potato chip snacker. Or a post-chip finger licker.

Ew. Whatever the noise, it rises above the din of the office den to leave us slightly knackered by the end of the work day. Could you please stop doing that and just be quiet?!

What starts out as a innocuous habit in a new co-worker can quickly morph into a squeaking, thwacking daily productivity problem. We try not to let this co-worker's non-verbal noise get to us, but over time it becomes highly grating and nearly impossible to ignore.

It's the little things that get to us, particularly in today's cavernous open office environment, where the walls that once separated us from our co-worker's constant body rock have mostly come down in the name of sleek, modern office design. Let me hear your body talk, indeed.

Before we continue, it's important to note that some non-verbal noises may be indicative of a health condition. Perhaps our co-worker has a nasal issue, a digestive issue, restless leg syndrome, or another condition that makes them a bit more noisy than the rest. If so, then please tread lightly with care, compassion and caution because our co-worker may already be highly aware of his or her non-verbal noise level. Be kind and considerate.

How should we handle the physically-loud work colleague of the constant drawer-slamming, gum-smacking, knuckle-cracking variety, however? In other words, noise that the employee should, we assume, be able to control?

The path of least resistance is to suggest that we "simply ignore it and pretend it's not there." Well, we've tried that and it doesn't work! Here are seven tips for addressing a co-worker's constant taps, slurps and burps:

1. Set up a makeshift partition. Too bad walls are going the way of the dodo, because they can do wonders for blocking out noise at work. We'll have to find a makeshift solution that utilizes plants, posters, cabinets, sticks, hay, mud -- whatever works. Of course, management might not approve. If the boss had to hear what we must hear, however, then she would be using the poster from last week's conference as a makeshift cubicle wall, too.

2. Get earplugs or headphones. We risk looking anti-social around our teammates, but it's all in the name of concentration and rising productivity, isn't it? Earplugs and headphones do work to ease the problem. Of course, our boss is going to wonder why we're wearing them, so it might not be worth the risk of having to explain as the never-ending knuckle cracker does his thing.

3. Find something else to focus on. It might be meditative breathing, a favorite song in our head, quietly tapping our foot to our own drummer -- anything that draws our attention away from the noise so we can concentrate on the work. Slam! Was that a filing cabinet door? Whew, we didn't hear that one coming! Well, deep breathing doesn't work for sudden noises, but it could come in very handy when our co-worker returns from break with a giant bag of Bugles and a 20-oz. bottle of soda. Ready, set, breathe in, breathe out...

4. Speak with the noisy employee. Ah, now we come right down to it: The most obvious solution of all, but often the hardest one to put into action because how, exactly, do we tell a co-worker to stop making non-verbal noise without creating a bigger problem? First, remember to be kind and diplomatic, and employ the words "please" and "thank you." Tell the employee how the noise has become a productivity issue, and how we'd appreciate more noise compliance on his or her part. Also, we should ask if we have any noise problems that grate on this co-worker. We might be taken aback at the answer. But when I chew gum, I'm QUIET about it! Uh-huh.

5. Speak with management. It's always best to work this problem out one-on-one with the offending co-worker without involving management. Most employees will appreciate the opportunity to work out morale problems on the down low without a manager in the middle. Elevating the issue should be a last resort, especially if the office spit swisher is the boss's special snowflake. We'll have to decide if it's worth complaining -- and worth losing our co-worker's trust forever -- which brings me to Tip #6...

6. Relocate to another work space. The grass is always greener, especially way over there, far away from the chronic nail clipper! It seems so near, yet so far as another nearby co-worker farts on the quarter-hour like a foghorn. Perhaps we can disguise our sudden willingness to relocate as a creativity and productivity issue? A change of scenery could do us good. Let me know if it works. If our workplace doesn't offer permanent desk space, then problem solved! Simply sit somewhere else next time.

7. See the positive side. No matter where we go, there we are. We'll run into the same problems over and over again. If it's not the noisy noodle bowl inhaler, it's the fragrant flip-flop footer or the jingly-jangly jewelry wearer. Different face, same problem. Focus on the noisy co-worker's many positive qualities, and look on the bright side: Our friendly, finger-licking co-worker is always offering us potato chips! That's nice. We might politely decline before offing this co-worker the gift of watermelon-scented hand sanitizer. Have you heard that the job market is improving?

In sum, we're noisy because we're human. We have to accommodate each other's non-verbal body noise on some level, and make sure that we're not expecting too much in terms of complete quiet. It simply isn't possible in the modern office, the library, the movie theater, a yoga class, an upscale restaurant, or anywhere else these days. (Burp.)

See? We can, and we will, navigate the architecturally-abysmal, 21st-Century workplace together! I'm not sure we've hammered out a solution here, but we've made some noise on the topic. It's something to chew on, anyway, preferably with our mouths closed. Now let's pipe down and try to concentrate, shall we?