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Too sexy. Too frumpy. Too conservative. Women can’t get a break when it comes to what they choose to wear to work.

A female sports reporter covering the NFL was recently raked over the coals for wearing form-fitting outfits on the job, prompting players to make rude comments. Hillary Clinton and her colorful pantsuits became the butt of late night talk show jokes for months.

So what is appropriate female work attire? It should be common knowledge by now that what you wear to work can impact your career and whether or not you get a job. The boss is watching what you wear and so is everyone else even if they don’t say anything.  In fact, I read recently that 93 percent of managers said how you dress at work influences them and one third said work attire “significantly” impacts your chances for advancement.

While men also face this issue, fashion and workplace experts said, it can be harder on women. Professional women are expected to find a subtle balance between many different elements of their look.  They face criticism if they are too frumpy — Janet Reno or Hillary Clinton — or too sexy —Ivanka Trump. Their clothes can’t be too expensive — Sarah Palin — and they can’t be so attractive that they are accused of making their appearance their most important characteristic. Wow this gets complicated, doesn’t it?

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Women have way too many fashion choices, while men typically have their “uniforms” including a dark suit for those days the boss is in the office or for job interviews; khakis and a polo shirt for casual Fridays.  While women have to be careful or they will find themselves scrutinized when it comes to what they choose to wear. If an outfit is too revealing, she get a bad rap for sure, but too buttoned up and conservative can mean she’s not hip, or worse, a b@#**.  Women send messages through clothing. It’s referred to as ‘the silent language’ and there are feelings that are often attached to what they wear.

 When you invest money in a work wardrobe it’s costly. And then if you have to change careers or you go from a very casual environment to a Fortune 100 Company (or vice versa) you’re buying a new wardrobe again!  Women are trading up and trading down.  And women are often pressured to take their cues from the trend of the moment. Take the popular series “Mad Men,” for example, which is bringing back retro and vintage clothing to offices nationwide.

Indeed, one of the biggest issues for women in the workplace is coming off as too sexy. Some research shows too much sex appeal undermines a women’s authority.  You can be elegant and polished while feminine in every sense of the word.  It’s important to dress with style and grace and add your personal signature while keeping in sync with the corporate culture in which you are employed.

Many would argue that a woman can never be too conservative when it comes to dress.  After all, you’re trying to sell your intelligence, your capability, your education. You can be artsy and trendy, but proceed on the side of caution during an interview, particularly, b y wearing a traditional suit. Once you get the job you can be a bit more creative if you like.

Bottom line…. It’s incredibly important for women to manage how they are perceived or risk being disregarded by men, who still make up the bulk of the top leadership positions in the workplace. Yes, it’s easier for men than it is for women and that’s unfair.

It’s yet another reason to get more women into those corner offices. Then we can wear whatever we want.

 
 

Bullies in the Work Place

Increasingly we hear horror stories about bullies our children are facing on busses, in school hallways and the playground.  Now, in the digital age, there seems to be no end to how quickly and how far and wide abuse can be spread. It’s made me weep to hear of the disfiguring acts like throwing acid on a pretty girl’s face or the “targeted weakling” that was set on fire; nearly killing him.  And most recently was the gut wrenching story of a young Irish student, a beautiful teen, who was bullied so brutally that to stop the pain she took her life.  This morning I heard of yet another incident where a father entered a school bus to confront the bullies that were terrorizing his special needs daughter.  Yes, he was threatening and now faces 4 months incarceration, but when does the abuse stop and who is responsible? The family?  The school authorities?  The legal system?

That leads me to today’s topic.  Bullies in the workplace!  Oh yes they do exist and these are most likely the bullies that were the same abusers as children.  Some are more passive than others, but they certainly do exist and they certainly need to be dealt with.

Do you have co-workers who constantly tell you how to do your job? Do they criticize your work while bragging about their performance, which is actually mediocre at best? Do they take credit for your ideas and diminish your authority? If so, you’re probably dealing with a workplace bully.

Office bullies are basically those with behavioral problems and have been ALLOWED to run amok.  Understanding what’s at play can help you feel better and survive, if not thrive.

The Basic Office Bully Personality Types:                     

1) The Alpha Dog. One quick growl and everyone takes heed.  They know if they don’t it’s only going to be worse so they submit to this personality type

Figure out who the alpha dog is in your office. It may not be “the boss.” It could be the assistant or the VP. Determine their ego needs–flattery, reliability, staying late–and give it to them. Although I hate to say it, if you can learn how to fake sincerity with these people, it’ll make your life easier.

2) The Territorial Kingdom Builder. Ever wonder why organizations have departments? Because different employees have different skills and serve different functions? Yes that’s part of it, but there’s more to it.

The “kings” and “queens” in your office are territorial creatures. When others encroach upon their territory, they get take any steps they see as necessary to maintain their authority.

We’re all territorial to some degree, but the bully takes it too far!  Do you have co-workers who tell you how to do your job? Do they offer unsolicited advice, even when they’re ignorant on the subject? It’s a lateral land grab and we may or may not take action to keep our “territory”.  This is normal to a degree, but the difference is highly aggressive bullying-type behavior and an indication of territorial dominance, anxiety and insecurity.  The bully may even try to tell you they are “just trying to help.”

3) The Blamer. This person’s game is distraction through detraction. They trash you and tell you how you should be doing your job in order to draw attention away from their ineptitude and incompetence. This is a common tactic of the workplace bully. You know this is occurring when the facts don’t back up their allegations. Furthermore, when you challenge them with the facts, they make up the craziest points to refute them.

I once worked with a guy who was a master of this technique. Unfortunately, it was the only thing he’d mastered. He made noisy, unfounded public disparaging remarks about my department; meanwhile, every business deal he made cost the company money instead of making it money. Distraction through detraction.

4) The Control Freak. If you spend all your time worrying about and trying to control others, when do you get your work done? Do you really have that much time on your hands? The answer is, yes, these bullies do have that much time on their hands because they’re not doing their work; they’re too busy telling you how to do your work. By spending every waking moment trying to control people and situations, they give the appearance of being busy without accomplishing anything of their own.

This type believes his or her way is the only way. They try to leave their thumbprint on so that they can take credit for everything. It’s definitely another form of bullying that involves domination and micro-management. Eventually, this behavior undermines your confidence and causes physical and psychological symptoms from the stress of being under constant attacks and monitoring.

5) The Scavenger. They’re after your job. This happens all the time, hence the expression, “Dog eat dog world.” Enough said.

6) The Terminator. They don’t want your job; they want you gone! This person is territorial and will do anything. Watch your back. They prey on the vulnerable and weak.  They also go after people who see through their facade, their mediocrity and vicious attack behaviors.

Deep down they have an inferiority complex.  This is another bully behavior. Although their attacks feel personal, they seek and destroy others, particularly those who are smarter, more talented, more creative and more successful, in order to feel powerful and better about themselves. After, they force you out, they’ll move onto their next target within 2 hours to two weeks. This type always has an “enemy” in the cross hairs.

When an office has infighting, territory disputes, and withholds supplies and information, it’s a clear sign that it’s a workplace in which bullying is rampant and/or is tolerated by management. If you recognize any of the above personalities at your office, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with how bullies operate and how you can protect yourself. Isn’t it time to get rid of these adult bullies that have most likely manifested this behavior all their lives?

I’ll be writing more on this subject so stay tuned so you can be prepared, be forewarned and no longer a victim.

 

 
 

Gender Pay Gap Smallest on Record But That’s Not all Good News for Women

The earnings gap between men and women has shrunk to a record low, partly because many women are prospering in the new economy and partly because men have been hit hard by the recession.

Certainly this is good news that the wage gap is closing.  The bad news is the reason. Men have been losing jobs at a faster rate than women in the recession because of troubles in manufacturing, construction and other industries. By contrast, job loss has been slow in government and health care which tend to employ more women.

In the categories of race, age and occupation here are what the numbers look like and why we are experiencing the shift.

Race.  Women outperformed men in every race and ethnic group.  The median weekly wage for black women especially rose while wages for black men fell.

Age.  No matter the age, women did better.  They saw wages rise higher than men.  However, I still need to point out that in almost all age brackets, women still earn about $200 less per week than the typical man.

Occupation.  Women have been moving into high-paying professional jobs such as accountants, lawyers and physicians.  At the same time, men have been moving just as fast into relatively low paying jobs – bank tellers, switchboard operators, librarian – long dominated by women.

It’s not good news for women to have men making poor economic progress.  This isn’t a gender war.  If men lose, that doesn’t mean that women win.

U.S. women still earned only 77 cents on the male dollar according to the latest census statistics. To highlight the need for change, since 1996 the National Committee on Pay Equity, an advocacy-group umbrella organization, has marked April 20 as Equal Pay Day. There are some signs of progress: the first bill Barack Obama signed into law as President targeted the U.S. pay gap, and the Senate is considering a bill that is meant to address underlying discrimination. But the question remains: Why has it taken so long? Nearly half a century after it became illegal to pay women less on the basis of their sex, why do American women still earn less than men?

One reason is due partly because women tend to cluster in lower-paying fields. The most-educated women, for example, gravitates toward the teaching and nursing fields. Men with comparable education become business executives, scientists, doctors and lawyers — jobs that pay significantly more.

This diminishing pay gap just doesn’t tell the whole story. Women earned less than men in all 20 industries and 25 occupation groups surveyed by the Census Bureau— even in fields in which their numbers are overwhelming. Female secretaries, for instance, earn just 83.4% as much as male ones. And those who pick male-dominated fields earn less than men too: female truck drivers, for instance, earn just 76.5% of the weekly pay of their male counterparts.

I’d like to point out that ensuring an end to discrimination would benefit more than just women.  Considering that nearly 40% of American mothers are the primary breadwinner in their households, America’s children would benefit as well. Women’s wages have increased just half a penny on the dollar for the past four decades. How much longer can it possibly take for equality to arrive?

 
 

E-Mail: When is Enough Enough?

Did you ever feel like deleting your entire inbox and starting all over again? Or better yet did you want to send all your contacts one final e-mail to say, I’m done!  You can reach me by phone or send me a snail mail, but I am officially signing off!

People who don’t want to go through the drastic measure of declaring total e-mail “bankruptcy” are resorting to gently discouraging the use of e-mail in their communications in favor of more personal calls or instant messages.

I was shocked recently when I read an article about how many of our children, in fact, no longer know how to write cursively. Guess why?  With the increase of texting and typing e-mails, the beauty of cursive writing seems to be a dying art.  What’s even worse, their communication skills are also negatively being affected.  Our young people are getting accustomed to communicating with quick, brief statements and seriously lagging behind when it comes to oral or written skills not to mention their ability to spell!

The supposed convenience of electronic mail, like so many other innovations of technology, has become too much for some people. Swamped by an unmanageable number of messages — the volume of e-mail traffic has nearly doubled in the past two years and plagued by annoying spam and viruses, some users are saying “Enough!”

E-mail overload gives many workers the sense that their work is never done.  A lot of people like the feeling that they have everything done at the end of the day and this is virtually impossible especially when you consider the number of employees carrying company paid Blackberries®.  In this case, they are responsible to be “on” 24/7 and the emails are always coming and awaiting a response. Evenings with their families are ruined and executives are living likes physicians – always on the clock.  Increasingly we find a lot of workers are saying we just can’t take it anymore. So they’re moving back to the telephone as their preferred means of communication.

While doing my research on this topic, I found that my feelings about escaping the burden of e-mail were shared by an overwhelming majority. Bogged down workers channeled my same sentiments and wholeheartedly believe that if they didn’t have e-mail, they’d get twice as much done.

That’s where I find myself these days.  Wishing I could just say, “From here on out I am going back to voice communication as my primary mechanism for interacting with people?”

 Have you ever felt that way?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 
 

Older Workers: A National Treasure

Over the Labor Day Weekend we just celebrated, CBS Sunday Morning News ran a feature story I found intriguing and eye opening. The subject was BMW, the German auto company long known for its excellence in producing “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” The story revolved around its aging workforce and the steps the company is making to accommodate their employees on the assembly line.
After careful review, BMW found that their workforce was aging dramatically. It’s no surprise really as it’s a part of the demographic developing in Europe as a whole. Demographers call it the “Silver Tsunami:” a rising tide of grey hair.
It’s important to mention here that in our own country, Americans over 65 will soon make up more than 16% of the population within 10 years. By 2015, more than a fifth of the country (21.6%) will be over 65. Germany is aging even faster: More than a fifth of the country (21.6%) will be over 65 by the year 2020.
Back to BMW … The stage is set in Dingolfing, Germany where 18,000 workers build the brand’s luxury cars. Sure BMW could force its aging workers to retire, or even fire them, but the BMW group saw that it was not the solution they were looking for - especially since they just don’t have enough younger people to replace them with.
They were quick to recognize that their older workers have some very important talents such as more patience and skill that comes from experience and that their skills have been and continue to be responsible for their excellent brand reputation. On the other hand, their research unveiled that as a whole the older workers have less flexibility, strength and vision - real liabilities on a production line that depends on precision engineering and a lot of hard work to turn out more than 1,200 cars a day.

In what the Harvard Business Review called “an experiment defusing its demographic time bomb,” BMW decided to look ahead. Management made changes to one assembly line in one division of a huge auto plant, and turned it older overnight. They staffed it so that the average age of workers would be 47 - exactly what it’s projected to be seven years from now. They then asked the workers how to make things better.

When workers said their feet hurt, the company made them special shoes, and put in wooden floors. Some got a place to sit: a hairdresser’s chair, modified for the assembly line. Some tools were improved, and new computer screens were introduced, with bigger type. They even installed an exercise wall for periodic stretching to reduce or eliminate tight, sore muscles.

In all, the company says it made 70 small changes in the workplace, to cut the chance of errors and reduce physical strain. BMW says the project only cost about $50,000, including lost time. Other things also changed: Productivity went up seven percent. Absenteeism fell below the plant’s average. And this assembly line’s defect rate dropped to zero.

Not all of auto manufacturing can be re-engineered for an older workforce. But BMW says enough can so they are testing and refining the experiment in other plants, including in the U.S. And guess what? They no longer call it a project to aid the elderly; it’s simply BMW’s fresh new plan to improve productivity.
I’m hoping this TV segment or the Harvard Business Review story has caught the eyes and ears of our American companies and that they will follow the lead of BMW in hopes we can utilize what I’d like to refer to as a national treasure.
As always, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on this topic!

 
 

Making Your Business Amazing Begins With Your People

 In spite of the advancement of technology and the expansion from a local to global economy, people still do business with people. So if you want to make your business amazing, then your first step is to develop two plans.

The first plan, your strategic business plan is an overview of the following the traditional key areas within any organization:

  • Marketing/Product Development
  • Sales
  • Customers
  • Management/Leadership
  • Growth and Innovation
  • Financials

Your second plan (and this is the one that 99% of most organizations never consider) is a Human Capital or Employment Development Strategy. Here you work on developing your employees, to be the best that they can be.

Effective employee development is truly not that difficult provided you are willing to embrace new ideas and remove yourself from traditional thinking. Research from organizations such as the American Society for Training and Development continue to report that anywhere from 50% to 95% of all dollars invested in training and development do not stick. This failure to deliver measurable and sustainable change through training is why so many executives view human capital as a liability instead of an asset.

But, keep on searching for the very best methods to train your team as it is so very important to the success of your organization. There is a wide array of great employment development tools and surprisingly, they do not cost an arm and a leg. For example, a simple workshop on goal setting and achievement is very affordable and beyond that necessary since organizations run by goals. Unfortunately, consistent goal setting is not taught during our school years and is one skill that cannot be learned without training.  Some of us may be lucky to get this training from our parents, but in most cases on-the-job training for this skill is a must.

Another employee development tool is to know how to craft and use positive affirmation statements.  Due to negative conditioning, many people have pre-wired their brains to think what is going to go wrong instead of what is going to go right. You probably know some people who always look at the glass being half empty, right?  The good news is that by reprogramming your mind, you can change your result which is pointed out eloquently and is the basic premise in the book, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

A third employee development tool is a talent tool that assesses a person’s attributes strengths or talents. Most people from my experience truly do not know their strengths and focus far more of their energies on their weaknesses and what they can’t do. Just imagine if your people knew what they did well! Awareness is the first step to improving any situation.

To make your business amazing does require you to be ahead of the flow. And this may mean you may need to find mentors, colleagues, business round tables, mastermind groups or even hire a business coach or executive consultant. By all means, continue to invest in yourself and your people through training and education.

Do you have any employee training programs you would suggest?