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What Business Women Wear Makes a Difference

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.


Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…It’s all Small Stuff …at Work!

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t sweat the small stuff… and It’s all small stuff?”  Or better yet did you read the best-selling book with the same name?  It’s been so successful that a version with this premise has been written regarding the workplace. I have enjoyed both so much and found some of the suggestions to be extremely valuable and worth repeating.  The one I’d like to discuss today advises on the issue of dealing with controlling behaviors in the workplace.

When I talk about being “controlling,” I am referring to attempts to manipulate the behavior of others, having the need to control the environment, insisting on having things be “just so” in order to feel secure.  When things do not go as the controller would like he (she) becomes immobilized, defensive or anxious when other people don’t behave as wanted–the way they think they should be. To put it in the context of this book people who are controlling “sweat the behavior” of others when it doesn’t match their own expectations.

I have made several observations about people who are controlling; two in particular. First, there are too many of them. Second, the trait of being controlling is highly stressful–both to the controller and to those who are being controlled. If you want a more peaceful life, it is essential that you become less controlling.

A person who is controlling carries a great deal of stress because, not only does he (or she) have to be concerned with his own choices and behavior, but in addition, he insists that others think and behave in certain ways as well. While occasionally we can influence another person, we certainly can’t force him to be a certain way. To someone who is controlling, this is highly frustrating.

Obviously, in business, there are many times you want to have a meeting of the minds, or you need others to see things as you do. You have to sell yourself and your ideas to those you work with. In certain instances, you must exert your opinions, influence, even power to get something done. There are times you must insist on getting your way or think of clever and creative ways to get others to think differently. That is all part of business. And that is absolutely not what I’m referring to here. We’re not talking about healthy, normal attempts to come to a meeting of the minds or balancing points of view. We’re also not talking about not caring about the behavior of others we are discussing the ways that insistence, rigidity, and the need to control translates into pain and stress.

What hurts the controlling person is what goes on inside. The key element seems to be a lack of willingness to allow other people to fully be themselves, to give them space to be who they are, and to respect–really respect–the fact that people think differently. Deep down, a controlling person doesn’t want other people to be themselves, but rather the image of who they want them to be. But that’s not real life now is it?  So, if you‘re tied to an imagined image, you’re going to feel frustrated and impotent a great deal of the time. A controlling person assumes that he knows what’s best.  Within the need to control, there is a genuine lack of respect for the opinions and ways of others.

The only way to become less controlling is to see the advantages of doing so. You have to see that you can still get your way when it is necessary, yet you will be less personally invested. In other words, less will be riding on other people being, thinking, or behaving in a certain way. This will translate into a far less stressful way of being in the world. When you can make allowances in your mind for the fact that other people see life differently than you do, you will experience far less internal struggle.

In addition, as you become less controlling, you will be a lot easier to be around. You can probably guess that most people don’t like to be controlled. It’s a turnoff. It creates resentment and adversarial relationships. As you let go of your need to be so controlling, people will be more inclined to help you; they will want to see you succeed. When people feel accepted for who they are rather than judged for who you think they should be, they will admire and respect you like never before.

Hope you find this advice to be truly worthwhile!



How to Recognize 7 Personality Types in Office Politics

Do you feel like you’re going crazy at work? Up is down? Left is right? Day is night?  Welcome to the wonderful world of office politics–there’s never been a better time to telecommute.

It’s a jungle out there - literally. Even if you make a conscious effort to stay out of the fray, it’s almost impossible not to be sucked into the vortex of people scrambling for power, favor, or recognition.

There are some basic office politics personality types that can be found in most work settings. It’s helpful to be forewarned, if not forearmed.

1) The Ego Monster. They’re right. They’re always right. They’re the smartest person in the room. Their ideas are the best and the only ones that count. These are the folks that pay the most lip service to “teamwork” (i.e., do what I say or suffer the consequences).

2) The Bully. I have been talking about this a lot lately because this group seems to be everywhere!  They use verbal and intellectual (if they’re capable of it) intimidation. They openly belittle others’ ideas, work, dress, speech, etc., (with the exception of their immediate supervisor(s) and/or boss). They only feel good about themselves when putting others down. Be careful if you choose to confront the bully. They become quite malicious and vindictive when someone tries to unmask them.

3) The Climber. They have to be on top. It doesn’t really matter if the top is a glory-less position. If there’s a rung above them, they’re going to climb it. They usually reach their goal/summit on the backs of others.

4) The Good Intentioned. They’re a variation of the Climber, but disguise their agenda with “the best of intentions.” They smile as they take advantage of you and the system.  Only real agenda they have is their own.

5) The Suck-up.  My personal most despised personality is the suck-up.  They’re shameless. They will do anything to ingratiate themselves to get what they want while hoping to avoid attacks from the Bully and Climber, while gaining favor with the Ego Monster.

6) The Incompetent.  Colleagues are always cleaning up their messes. They’re the masters of Dump & Run. They submit incomplete tasks and/or non-usable projects. They’re continuously reassigned to different departments to “help out,” when, ironically and inevitably, they create more work instead of lightening the load.

7) The Innocent Bystander. You can never stay entirely out of the fray, not really. Even working from home doesn’t make you immune. The best you can hope for is a reasonably grounded leader who creates an environment of sanity.

There are many reasons office politics exist, including:

·         Feeling undermined at home and compensating at work.

·         Adult bullies in the grown-up playground.

·         Power hungry.

Whatever the reason, it makes for a thoroughly unpleasant workplace.

The crazy thing is, 20 years from now, none of the things we rage and plot over matters. Ultimately, the workplace one-upmanship in which we engage to bolster ourselves against life’s petty indignities is silly. Can’t we all just get on with it?  What are your thoughts?


Business Mistakes: Tylenol

On May 27, 2010, Johnson and Johnson recalled several products following over 700 reports of serious side effects.  Following the most recent recall, Johnson & Johnson has suspended production at McNeil’s facility in Fort Washington, Penn., that manufactured the children’s drugs.

McNeil’s latest recall is its fourth in the past seven months:

  • In November 2009, five lots of Tylenol Arthritis Pain 100 count with the EZ-open cap were recalled for unusual odor leading to nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • In December, the recall was expanded to include all product lots of Tylenol Arthritis Pain caplet 100 count bottles with the red EZ-open cap.
  • In January 2010, the recall was widened to an undisclosed number of Tylenol, Motrin and other over-the-counter drugs after complaints of consumers feeling sick from an odor.

McNeil has maintained that its recall of the children’s drugs was not “undertaken on the basis of adverse medical events,” but as a precautionary measure.  This is similar to the Tylenol recall in the 1982, when the company pulled all products off the shelf following a series of disturbing murders in Chicago.  Several bottles of product were found to be infected with cyanide that had been injected into the bottle after it had been placed on the shelf at the store.  In response, Johnson and Johnson replaced all products with a tamper-evident cap to protect consumers.

The Tylenol recall is an excellent example of a company acting in the consumer’s best interest.  In 1982, the company went well above and beyond the minimum involvement to solve the problem.  Today, in the latest line of recalls, Johnson and Johnson continues to be honest with the public and pull product off the shelves of stores across the world without hesitation.


The Three Types of Management: Number Three: Laissez Faire

Over the last two weeks, I have introduced and discussed two major types of management, directive and permissive autocratics and participatory styles.  The first type of management, directive and permissive autocratic, is signified by micromanagement, a lack of delegation and authoritative leadership.  The second style of management, participative, grants employees a greater degree of freedom and provides a team-oriented environment. 

The third style of management, laissez faire leadership, is best described by its lack of rigid hierarchies and creative atmosphere.  In addition, laissez faire features a horizontal organizational chart, thus placing employees and their leaders on the same level. 

This type of management is best suited to a creative environment, where new technologies and innovations are the lifeblood of the business.  By offering a platform of unrestricted support and creativity, managers delegate a large percentage of their authority to willing and capable employees.  I have dedicated several previous posts to the many benefits of delegation, including increased employee training and independence, greater productivity and soaring levels of motivation.   

However, the laissez faire style of management is difficult to maintain in a competitive marketplace.  With multiple demands and a stressful economic climate, managers are under pressure to meet deadlines, stay within budget and remain on the cutting edge of technology and creativity.  Deadlines are an inherent component of conducting business, regardless of your chosen industry and market sector. 

Next week, I will unveil the final installment in this series, choosing the style that meets your needs.


The Three Types of Management: Number Two: Participatory Leadership

Last week, I discussed the autocratic and permissive directive styles of management and their impact on worker relationships.  Although the autocratic style is a useful tool when managing an emergency or crisis situation, too much micromanagement can create dissention and dissatisfaction among employees.  In addition, autocratic managers tend to devalue their employees and never truly allow organizational members to work independently or earn increased authority and recognition for their work.

Conversely, the premise of the participatory management style is the belief that the worker can make a contribution to the design of his or her own work. The belief system was originally put forth as a management theory by McGregor, who named his thesis “Theory Y.” Theory Y postulates that workers are internally motivated and capable of self-efficacy.  In addition, McGregor concluded that employees take satisfaction in their work, and would like to perform at their best. 

Business managers who practice the participatory style of management tend to engage in certain types of behavior.  To empower their employees, they establish and communicate the purpose and direction of their organization.  Through open communication, the shared vision of the organizational mission statement, goals and values are emphasized and revered on all levels.

The business manager’s role often requires leadership and knowledge of human resources. Through collaborative team building efforts and the creation of innovative work groups, participatory leadership can drastically improve productivity and maximize efficiency.

Participatory leadership divides authority and gives each organizational member on a functional team shared responsibility and a piece of leadership capability.  While this is an excellent method to empower and motivate employees, some difficult situations may require the guided leadership of one experienced and capable leader.  In times of crisis and emergency, participatory leadership may lengthen decision making process and delay an appropriate response.  Also, when the group is divided strongly by an issue, office politics may increase workplace hostility.

Next week, I will introduce and discuss the third style of management, laissez faire.