17 Things The Boss Should Never Say

1. "That Client Drives Me Nuts!"
We all experience crazy deadlines in a high-pressure environment. Passing along our feelings of stress to our staff can cause them to feel less motivated working for a particular client. Make sure they don't lose sight of the fact that every single client is equally important, even if you have an 80/20 portfolio.

2. I'm the Boss!
No one wants to work for an organization that doesn't respect their commitment level or humanity. If your co-workers wanted to take orders, they would have joined the army. Unless you are the military, avoid pulling rank. Every decision is a dialogue. Even if you do have the final say and aren't in full agreement (which is probable), don't make "I'm the boss" the ultimate reason for any decision.

3. "I'm Too Busy"
This statement is terse and shows a lack of empathy to the needs of your staff. It also makes your employees feel that what they are doing is not that important. Instead of telling them you're too busy, try asking them to come back at a specific time when you do have availability. This gives them confidence that they have your ear, your respect, and your sincere care about the work they are doing.

4. "What's the Latest Gossip?"
When you're running a company, you set the tone for the workplace culture. If you gossip about staff members, it tells your staff that it's okay to gossip, which ultimately sets up a toxic environment for team relationships. Leave the gossip at the door.

5. "What's Wrong With You?"
It's easy to get frustrated when your staff does something incorrectly but this question goes right to the heart of their competencies. It not only assumes that they have a fundamental flaw but it conveys that you've lost all trust in their abilities. It's only downhill from there.

6. "You're the Only One Having a Problem"
This will only isolate your employees. It will break your staff down and make them feel alone. I believe that a majority of the time, if you were to google a question or problem, you will find many others have similar issues and concerns, and are truly seeking an answer.

7. "I Don't Care About That"
You need to care about every aspect of your business -- small or large. If you let you staff know that you don't care about something, why should they? Treat every aspect of your business the same and your staff will have more pride in their work.

8. "Do What I Won't"
As business owners and bosses, we need to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Never ask an employee to do something you wouldn't do yourself. If I'm assigning a somewhat overwhelming or complicated task, I always make sure to offer myself as a helper or resource. Follow the guideline of leading by example. Get in the trenches with your employees if need be.

9. "Don't Argue With Me"
No boss should dissuade their staff from arguing or disagreeing with them. Sometimes you may be wrong, and it's important to get that insight from your staff. Hearing their thoughts and ideas is crucial to building a business.

10. "We've Always Done it This Way"
Just because something's been done a certain way for months or years doesn't mean that it's the best way to approach a problem. Empower your staff to think of new solutions. Openness breeds creativity, which in turn breeds innovation. And startups need all the innovation they can get, regardless of whether it comes from the CEO or an intern.

11. "Just Let Me Do It"
You can’t grow your company by doing everything yourself. If you feel you have to step in every time things get hard, your staff will never learn to be self-sufficient. Give everyone a chance to succeed and encourage management to do the same. You will build a stronger company.

12. "You're Doing Okay"
When an employee asks for feedback, never tell them they're doing an okay or fine job. Asking for feedback is a sign of potential; a desire to grow, change and get better. We typically have a good sense of what we're good at, but we don't always know what we can do better. Telling someone "you're doing fine" without giving the gift of improvement is a hugely missed opportunity.

13. "This is MY Company"
That may very well be true on paper, but you won't be much of a leader if you don't have any willing "followers." Being "in charge" is like being "cool" -- if you have to say you are, you're not.

14. "It's Your Problem"
Maintaining an attitude of shared responsibilities with your employees is important to order to create the best experience and generate the best work. If an employee knows you feel personally involved in all tasks, they view their own work as being a valued part of a larger effort.

15. "This is Just a Small Client / Sale"
Teaching your staff to treat the high-paying clients or the big sales differently than smaller ones is a huge mistake. This sets up your company not only for bad customer service but also for arguments amongst your staff over who gets to work on which accounts.

16. "We Just Need PR"
Although PR is important, the staff should always be working to improve the product. Placing the focus on only needing PR insinuates that the product is complete and success is out of everyone's control. Never make your staff feel like anything is out of their control.

17. "I Don't Care What You Think"
This sentence can end many different ways. It could be "I don't care what you think," or "I don't care if that's what XX does." Regardless of how the sentence ends, "I don't care" is a phrase that shuts down conversations rather than encouraging dialogue. It suggests you aren't open to considering others or their ideas. Exercising your role of power unnecessarily leads to a negative workplace.

23 Life Lessons You Get From Working At A Restaurant

1. If you don’t have a thick skin and complete abandonment of political correctness, don’t go near the kitchen. You will immediately learn there that what you consider to be off-limits is just the baseline of someone else’s sense of humor.

2. Bad tippers are the worst kinds of people, and are often terrible in many other ways than just being cheap.
3. Correction, the worst people are those who don’t tip or tip very badly, and accompany their financial insult with a snarky note left on the receipt.
4. The pain of a bad seating chart is a real one, and not a single customer will care or understand that you got slammed while someone else is totally dead.
5. The difference between the people who have never worked in food service, and the people who have, is always clearly visible. And a lot of time it has to do with the basic degree of respect they give to the people who are serving them.
6. Make back-of-house’s life easy, they will make yours easy. Working is always about scratching someone’s back so they’ll scratch yours, and you’d better not break that chain.
7. The only people you’re going to be able to hang out with — and often date — are by default going to be other people in the industry. So you better like the people you work with it, because no one else is going to be coming out with you at 1 AM.

8. There is absolutely zero shame in eating the plate that gets sent back barely-touched because someone either misunderstood what they were ordering or is incredibly fussy about their perfectly-good food. People who will judge you over shit like that are people who don’t know the joys of a pristine plate of onion rings coming back to you when you are starving.
9. The most important friend you will make is the one who will cover for you while you eat, crouched next to some appliance in the kitchen. True friendship is about taking the fall so someone can eat.
10. There are a lot of people who are going to look down on you for working a restaurant, and treat you with massive disrespect, and you just have to get over it and remind yourself to never be like that in your own life.
11. If you are good to your server, your experience will be about a thousand times better, and you might even get free stuff if you’re lucky.

12. There is nothing better than a chef who is currently trying out new stuff and has tons of excess food for everyone to try. The best friend anyone can have is a good chef.
13. Line cooks are some of the hardest-working, most humble and honest people in the working world. And many of them happen to be felons. And when you see them get off a 14-hour shift and still manage to make jokes with you at the end of it, you realize that every judgment we make about the guy with neck tattoos is completely off base.

14. If you’re a female waitress/hostess/bartender, some of the more drunk male customers will take it upon themselves to also designate you “professional receiver of gross comments and inappropriate touches.”
15. A good manager is the one who will shut shit like that down, because they would rather lose the money from that customer than have someone who mistreats their staff.
16. Even the best establishment can be run into the ground by a petty, spiteful manager.
17. There is no worse an experience on this planet than working a busy brunch shift when you are brutally hungover.
18. If you don’t make friends with the bartender from the get-go, your life is going to be difficult. And you quickly learn that this also applies to the places you don’t work at — treat your bartender well, reap the rewards.
19. The calm before the storm (also known as the rush) is one of the most precious, fleeting moments in life. And as soon as you see that first customer looking at the specials board just a little too long, you know that it’s already over.
20. Never be the person who comes in just as the kitchen’s closing and orders something really complicated. Just don’t be that person.
21. In the best restaurants, you’ll become like a little family, and live through several very important moments together (especially because you don’t get days off for normal, human things such as holidays or birthdays).
22. There will be one item on the menu that you fall in love with so much that you actually start having dreams about it, and go through withdrawal when you don’t have it for a long enough stretch of time. You can actually get that way over, say, a cream of crab soup. It’s like heroin.
23. Going back to a place you used to work and seeing all the old group — and getting to eat and drink all your favorites again — is one of the best feelings you can have. 

The 10 Reasons You’re Not Getting a Raise

You might think you deserve a raise, but that doesn't always mean your boss agrees with you. And no, you can no longer heap all the blame on a bad economy. At 7.7%, the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since December 2008. In February alone, the Labor Department reported that the economy added 236,000 jobs. So, what does this mean for you? It's the perfect time to ask for a bump in pay.
If it's been a while since you increased your salary and you're coming up against a wall, the most likely reason Here are the top ten reasons you haven't landed the increase you so desperately want, and how to fix them.

1) You Have Unrealistic Expectations
In 2012, a typical merit raise averaged 1.9 to 2%, while the highest-performing employees received closer to a 4% raise. To determine if you're worthy of that 4% (or more), it's vital to check in with your boss regularly so you're on the same page about your performance. Does your boss think you turn in above average work or is there an area she thinks you're struggling with?

Also, does your company give raises at a certain time each year (say, at annual review time), or are they rolling, based on performance? If it's the former, make sure to time your request for optimal results.

Finally, remember to consider your company's financial situation. Asking for a big raise when the company is struggling can come off as out of touch.

2) You Didn't Do Your Research
Before deciding how much of a raise you deserve, look up the standard industry salaries for similar positions on sites like and That will give you a point of reference for framing the conversation. But it's not enough to cite averages-you also have to make a case for your personal performance, and how you're going above and beyond your job duties. Which brings us to...

3) You Do Only What's Expected of You
Doing your job is what you are paid for, whereas a raise is a sign that your boss sees that you're contributing at a higher level than what you were originally hired to do. One good rule of thumb is to be an employee who makes your boss's job easier: Volunteer to take on additional projects and think about what you can do to lighten her workload. Or notice what she is complaining about, and figure out how to solve a problem within your department. If you present solutions for her now, you'll find your superior more willing to meet your demands later.

4) You Don't Call Attention to Your Accomplishments, or You Act Entitled
Neither of these extremes will help you get that salary bump. And, admittedly, mastering the fine art of self-promotion isn't easy. First, make sure that your boss is aware of everything you've taken on. And feel free to share your successes—they show that you're capable and competent. Just be subtle about it: Set up a meeting to discuss the projects you're working on, mention key wins you've had and ask for feedback on how you could still do better.

Another good strategy: Rely on third-party praise. Copy your boss on an email chain discussing a successfully-executed project or forward her a particularly moving compliment from a client.

5) You're Not Staying Current
Evaluate your skill set: How much has it changed since you started in your industry? In certain jobs, a lack of tech finesse, or the ability to stay on top of the latest trends, can trip you up—and cause your salary to stagnate. That's especially true for older workers, who, unfortunately, can face age discrimination in the office: In a survey of people 50 years old or older, over one-third of respondents reported that they or someone they know has faced age discrimination at work, and 25% of all complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission involve age discrimination.

But there's no reason to let a lack of skills hold you back. Bookmark and follow industry blogs, and look into workshops and courses teaching the latest industry developments. You can even mention them to your boss and see if the company will foot the bill for your continuing education. Bonus: He'll see that you're trying to sharpen your skills.

6) You're Unable to Problem Solve, or Love to Complain
Be honest with yourself: Is your gut instinct to tell your boss every time an issue arises, or do you try to navigate through hurdles yourself?

If it's an issue that truly needs to be escalated, by all means, manage up. But a broken printer is a good example of what not to kick up the food chain. Also, beware of becoming the employee who's always got a gripe, whether it's about company policy or your coworker you just can't stand. Ultimately, the people who get raises are the employees who consider it their jobs to provide solutions, not raise problems.

7) You Don't Pay Attention to the Details
Does your boss tell you to fix the same type of mistake over and over again? Do you constantly need reminders? Do you usually ask the same question twice? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, a raise is (most likely) not in your near future.

Take notes while your supervisor is giving instructions, see if you can find the answer yourself before asking questions, and each time you make a mistake, write down for yourself what it was, why it happened and how you'll prevent it from happening in the future.

8) You Made it a Personal Matter
Your argument for why you deserve a raise should be focused on your work ethic, your accomplishments and your value to the company—and those three things alone. What should be left out of the proposal? Your student debt, your rent, your hospital bills or the fact that you "just can't make ends meet on this salary." Bottom line: A raise will be awarded based on your merit, not your sob story.

9) You Didn't Ask for One
If none of the above eight reasons apply to you, then seriously, ask for a raise. Don't expect your boss to bring it up.

10) You Were Unfairly Penalized for Being a Woman
Unfortunately, even in 2013, this happens: In a study by Harvard researcher Hannah Riley Bowles, participants were shown videos of men and women asking for raises—using the same script. The results: Participants agreed to give the male participants raises, while the women were considered too aggressive and their requests too demanding.

While sexist and unfair, it may still be a reality female employees need to work around. In another experiment, two techniques helped to eliminate the different perceptions of women and men. First, says Riley Bowles, a woman should focus on how her performance has helped the company, and solicit feedback, with a simple: "What do you think?" It can also be effective to bring a third party into the conversation. For example: "My leader advised me to do this."


So this funny CV bounced around Twitter. If, in turn, it now offers you some Monday morning cheer then my work here is done.

Funny as I found this, it did make me think about how Recruitment Consultants often get it wrong when compiling their own CV's. Now why is this? Surely any half decent Recruitment Consultant knows how to put a decent CV together - so why fail so often with what must be their most important CV of all?

Of the many CV's over the past week I would estimate that at least half of them would be rated as poor, irrelevant or just plain inappropriate. So, being helpful soul that I am, here are a few examples of what NOT to do when preparing your CV:

DON'T moan about your current employer - Massive turn off 
DON'T give reasons for leaving your previous job i.e. you were headhunted - Nobody believes it
DON'T send your CV without spell-checking - So basic
DON'T include some dodgy photo that looks like it was taken at the wrong end of a night out - No explanation needed on this one
DON'T use weird fonts  - Why would anyone do this? Why?

If you do want to prepare a winning CV and job application then you need to get inside the "head" of your new potential employer and consider the following and include it in your CV:

  • What positive reasons do you have for seeking a career move?
  • What valuable skills do you possess - LIST THEM!
  • How would you add value to your prospective employer?
  • What are your values and how do they align with the organisation you would like to join?
  • Go crazy and include some references from clients and candidates
  • What are your recent key achievements?

When you are applying you have to "sell" yourself just like you would a candidate. This is what you are great at - don't sell yourself short!

Have a great week :)

How To Write A Personal Statement For College Applications

Writing a strong personal statement for college applications can be a great tool to help get accepted. Learn how to write a good personal statement.

A personal statement for college and university applications can be a great addition to your application. In some cases, a strong personal statement can even draw attention away from any negative aspects of your application. Writing about yourself can be tough, but once you get a grasp on how to write a good personal statement, you'll have no problem at all.
The first thing to do is consider a few general points. What kind of school are you applying to, and what kind of program are you applying to within the school, if any? As with any writing project, it's important to consider your audience. If you're looking at a conservative college and applying to their business school, for example, you'll probably want to give your personal statement a more professional, direct tone. If you're applying to the art program at a liberal school, you'll likely have more room to be creative and write something that might be a little more casual in tone. If you're not sure who your audience is, then it's always safe to take a middle-of-the-road approach. Be professional, but let some of your personality through as well.

Some applications might be specific about what they want you to address in your personal statement, but many will be very general about your content. Think about it this way - colleges are asking for personal statements because they want you to tell them why you should be chosen above other students. This is no time to be shy or timid - you want to use your personal statement as a way to really shine. It's the one piece of your application that allows you to get your personality across, and to communicate your passion for education, for the subject you wish to study, your enthusiasm about life, and your long-term goals. In the content of your personal statement, it's also important to talk about the school itself, if only in a few sentences. It's important to show the admissions staff that you're excited about their institution, and to drop a few details about the school that tells them that you've done your research and you're serious about wanting to go there. Even if this statement is for a "safety" school, don't let that come through. No school wants to accept someone who doesn't look like they really want to attend - they'd rather give that slot to someone who really wants it.

The last, and possibly most important detail about your personal statement, is this: Have someone else proofread your final statement! Especially if you've worked on your statement for awhile, it's important to get a pair of fresh eyes to look at it. Even after you spell check, a person can catch errors or details that a computer cannot. Having someone else read your statement is also a good way to get feedback if you're unsure about whether what you wrote is interesting and reflective of you.

So take your time, and make sure that your personality comes through in your personal statement. Good luck!

What not to ask in a job interview

"Would you go on a date with me?" and "Could I get a pay advance?" are among the most, um, memorable questions interviewers have heard.

Some people arrive at job interviews with a well thought out list of smart questions. And then there are the other kind. Staffing firm Office Team recently asked 650 human resources executives and hiring managers to recall the oddest or most off-putting queries posed by applicants. A sampling of the results:
  • "What job is this for?"
  • "Do I have to be at work every day?"
  • "Would you go on a date with me?"
  • "Do you want to take a ride in my new car?"
  • "What color is the paint in this office?"
  • "Can my husband finish this test for me?"
  • "Is the boss single?"
  • "Do you have a job for my partner?"
  • "What are the women who work here like?"
  • "Do you allow midday naps?"
  • "How much time do I have to put in?"
  • "Could I get a pay advance?"
  • "Can I place my desk near the cafeteria?"
  • "Could you help me find an apartment?"
  • "Can you help me with the employment test?"
  • "Can I get every Tuesday off?"
  • "How soon can I take my first vacation?"
  • "Can I have three weeks off every three months to pursue my music career?"
  • "Can I have my birthday off?"
Regarding those last four, Office Team executive director Robert Hosking notes that vacation time is part of compensation, which "is best discussed after an employer has expressed a serious intent to extend a job offer" -- however unlikely that might be.

10 Lies Disorganized People Like to Tell

Disorganized people leave a wake of non-productivity in their path.
They impact not only themselves, but entire teams around them.
And yet, disorganized individuals love to deny their disorganization.
They will say almost anything to cover their lack of getting things done.

I’m Not Disorganized, Just Too Busy

We all know that disorganized individual who will pine to the end-of-the-earth that they are not responsible for their disarray.
Even worse than their disorganization, are the tall tales they tell to justify their lack of productivity.
They make excuses. State outlandish claims. And even lie to cover their tracks.
Which of the following denials have you heard?
9 Lies that Disorganized People Like to Tell:
  1. “I’m not disorganized, just too busy.” Like many things in life, if someone has to boast about how they are something, it means that they probably aren’t. (Bonus tip: This applies to those who brag about how honest they are, as well…)
  2. “I just don’t have time.” Actually, they have the same amount of time as the rest of us. However, how they choose to spend it isn’t getting the job done.
  3. “I am overloaded.” This is a bold statement from someone who can’t list all the things they are working on. This is usually a broad brush excuse for everything they are not getting done.
  4. “I know exactly which pile I put that paper in.” Disorganized individuals will often try to explain their messy desk as organized. When a desk is a mess, it’s a mess.Piles are not organization.
  5. “I was late because I was held up.” Late is late. Blaming traffic or the train or whatever, only means that you didn’t leave early enough. Tough, but true.
  6. “Someone else is keeping me from doing my job.” Everyone faces obstacles in getting their work done. Find a way around that wall, but don’t blame-shift.
  7. “I didn’t get your email.” Of all the emails that were sent on the planet yesterday, apparently the email-man lost this one. 
  8. “I’ll get that done by tomorrow.” Of course, by tomorrow they mean the day after next. And tomorrow is always tomorrow.
  9. “I’ll get right back to you.” Assurances of returned calls that never happen. Don’t wait for the phone to ring on this one.
  10. “I’ll send that right over.” Ah, the often promised delivery. Yet, the email never comes. The package never arrives. And the person never ships what they promised.

Lies or Disorganization?

Are these disorganized individuals guilty of lying?
Or are they so in denial about their disorganization that they truly believe their statements?
Either way, beware when you hear these tall tales and outright fibs.
And if someone has to brag about how organized they are… run the other way.
Question: What lies have you heard as excuses for disorganization?

Preventing Sexual Harassment and Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual Harassment

Preventing Sexual Harassment and Harassment in the Workplace

Definition: Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination, in the United States, that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Sexual harassment occurs when one employee makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee, against his or her wishes.

According to a current issues update from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment occurs, "when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment."

Examples of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of situations. These are examples of sexual harassment, not intended to be all inclusive.
Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing, and unwelcome comments and repartee.
Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker's back, grabbing an employee around the waiste, or interfering with an employee's ability to move.
Repeated requests for dates that are turned down or unwanted flirting.
Transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual or other harassment-related nature.
Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters.
Playing sexually suggestive music.
When an employee complains to a supervisor, another employee, or the Human Resources office, about sexual harassment, an immediate investigation of the charge should occur. Supervisors should immediately involve Human Resources staff. Employees need to understand that they have an obligation to report sexual harassment concerns to their supervisor or the Human Resources office.
Policies to Adopt to Prevent and Address Sexual Harassment

Your policy handbook needs a:
sexual harassment policy,
general harassment policy,
policy about how sexual harassment investigations are conducted in your company, and
policy that forbids an employee in a supervisory role from dating a reporting employee and that details the steps required should a relationship form.
I'm not a fan of non-fraternization policies. I think the workplace is one of the logical locations for people to meet and fall in love, as long as the employees engaged in the relationship follow common sense guidelines. But, dating your reporting staff is never appropriate. After creating these policies, you need to train all employees about these policies.
The Role of Managers in Harassment Prevention and Investigation

Managers and supervisors are the front line when it comes to managing employee performance and needs from work. First, and most importantly, you do not want a workplace culture that allows any form of harassment to occur. Out of your commitment to your employees and your company, harassment, in any form, is never to be tolerated.
In harassment, as well as in other law suit-engaging topics, as an employer, demonstrating that you took appropriate steps is crucial. In fact, demonstrating that you took immediate action and that the consequences for the perpetrator were severe, is also critical. And, the front line leader is usually the person initiating and following through on those steps, so they have to feel confident about what they are doing. Any form of harassment can create a hostile work environment including sexual harassment and how it is addressed. The court's definition of what constitutes a hostile work environment has recently expanded to coworkers who are caught up in the situation, too.

As you think about sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in your work place, keep these facts in mind.

The employee harassing another employee can be an individual of the same sex. Sexual harassment does not imply that the perpetrator is of the opposite sex.
The harasser can be the employee's supervisor, manager, customer, coworker, supplier, peer, or vendor. Any individual who is connected to the employee's work environment, can be accused of sexual harassment.
The victim of sexual harassment is not just the employee who is the target of the harassment. Other employees who observe or learn about the sexual harassment can also be the victims and institute charges. Anyone who is affected by the conduct can potentially complain of sexual harassment. As an example, if a supervisor is engaged in a sexual relationship with a reporting staff member, other staff can claim harassment if they believe the supervisor treated his or her lover differently than they were treated.
In the organization's sexual harassment policy, advise the potential victims that, if they experience harassment, they should tell the perpetrator to stop, that the advances or other unwanted behaviors are unwelcome.
Sexual harassment can occur even when the complainant cannot demonstrate any adverse affect on his or her employment including transfers, discharge, salary decreases, and so on.
When an individual experiences sexual harassment, they should use the complaint system and recommended procedures as spelled out in the sexual harassment policy of their employer. The investigation should be conducted as spelled out in the handbook.
The employer has the responsibility to take each complaint of sexual harassment seriously and investigate. The investigation should follow these steps listed in How to Address Sexual Harassment Charges.
Following the investigation of the harassment complaint, no retaliation is permitted, regardless of the outcome of the investigation. The employer must, in no way, treat the employee who filed the complaint differently than other employees are treated nor change his or her prior-to-the-complaint treatment. If it is determined that the employee lied, disciplinary action is necessary, however.

Please note that I make every effort to offer you common-sense, ethical management advice on this blog, but I am not an attorney and the articles on the site are not to be construed as legal advice. The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel.

The antidote to bullying

Do you know what the number one thing is that stops bullying in its tracks? It is genuine empathy for others. There is growing body of research that has found that genuine empathy by bullying students towards targeted students is the most effective antidote to bullying.

Punishing the bully is less effective and often results in the bullying continuing but out of the sight of adults. Research has also found that students who have greater empathy for others tend to have happier relationships, both now as well as in their adult relationships. Furthermore, the more emotionally intelligent they are, the more likely they are to achieve academically.
So what can parents and adults do to encourage greater empathy in their children? One of the best ways to do so is to set the example by modelling caring behavior  Young people will not always remember what we say, but they are more likely to remember what we do. Show genuine care both to loved ones as well as people outside of your family. When you have hurt someone, even unintentionally, show them it is the right thing to do to respond in a caring way, apologizing and making amends if necessary.
Praise your children when you see them doing the right thing in caring or being considerate for another. When their behavior has been hurtful to another, you can ask them to reflect on how that person may be feeling. You could also ask them to remember a time when they were unhappy. When that child is able to do so, you might then say that you believe that the person who has been hurt is probably feeling the same way.
Most children or adolescents who are able to genuinely appreciate how their behavior is affecting another, are better able to change their behavior or make amends. Those who take pleasure in causing pain to another need to reflect if their behavior is really helping them be the person they want to be. Or they need to be taught about how good relationships work.
We can also encourage empathy in our children by encouraging care for a sibling or even a pet. Of course, there are many adults who also need to develop greater care for others. As we develop greater empathy, we not only become more whole people, but also more aware of how our actions can impact on others, and the need to take action to make things right.

What are your customers saying about you?

A couple of years ago, I was running a workshop at a major hotel in Sydney. Firstly, no-one at the venue was available to assist me with the room setup which had been done differently to that requested. Despite advising the venue beforehand of 55 people attending, at morning tea, they had set up only one coffee station which resulted in a very long wait for coffee. I also had to chase them up when food ran out at both morning tea and lunch. Eventually, the Function Co-ordinator made an appearance. When I told her what had gone wrong, I simply received a shrug of the shoulders.
Yes, we have all been on the receiving end of very bad customer service. We certainly know it when we experience it and gain some satisfaction from telling others of the experience. But if we receive great customer service, we love it and are certainly happy to repeat that story too. What stories are your customers saying about you?
Here are five areas to consider that can help you to take good service to great at your workplace.

  1. Make a great first impression: One of the best ways to make a great first impression is simply to respond immediately to customers. Answer the phone within four rings. Return calls and emails quickly. Greet people in a warm and friendly manner when they walk into your premises. Use their name if you know it. Making a great first impression is part of what differentiates great service from service where you feel treated like a number.

    One doctor I know gives  a warm greeting to new patients who are waiting. His secretary also makes them freshly brewed tea or coffee in nice china served with gourmet biscuits. All of his patients receive also a warm greeting from his secretary and a welcome pack which includes details of his services at his practice and also vouchers for discounted meals, hair-dressing, or massages with local businesses.
  2. Give customers a great experience. Can you anticipate what your customers are needing? If so, you might simply offer these things or ask how you can be of help. One lovely person in charge of catering who I dealt with recently while running a function in Canberra made a point of greeting me when I arrived in a friendly and personable way. She checked with me what had been arranged for catering and the break times. She also let me know how I could contact her if there were any difficulties. The catering, of course, was exceptional - with beautifully prepared and presented food provided on the day. I told her (and management) that she was the most pleasant and professional person I had dealt with in that hotel.

    Management can do their part to help - communicating clear expectations, setting the right example, and providing training if needed. Most importantly, if management can help their staff to be happy at work, this will help create a positive and welcoming atmosphere. Customers can certainly tell if your workplace is a great place in which to work.
  3. Deal well with challenges when they occur. Customers do not expect us to be perfect, but they do expect us to take action when frustrations occur. Here we need to be prepared and clear about what we can offer to our customers - whether this be an explanation, some empathy, or some practical action by us.

    Recently, when flying on Virgin Airlines, one of our children's car seats was snapped in half while begin transported. This could have gone very badly. Before we had a chance to become upset, we received a very genuine apology from Virgin staff, an offer to reimburse us in full for a replacement, and a loan safety seat we could have while on holiday.
  4. Exceed their expectations. Don't you love it when you go to a restaurant and they bring out some complimentary food for you to sample? Or you order a smoothie at your local cafe and they bring out some extra smoothie that was made in the process. One Janitor Groundsman I know at a local school makes a habit of leaving fresh flowers from the school grounds for the staff in their tea room. A business consultant I know always sends his customers a box of chocolates or a nice bottle of wine to thank them for doing business with him. What can you do to exceed your customers' expectations by doing something extra?
  5. Stay in touch. People who give great customer service know that it takes less effort to get repeat business from existing customers than it does to gain business from new customers. But to get repeat business takes at least two things. Firstly, the customer needs to have had a great experience in dealing with you. And, secondly, you need to have put in place some way of them staying in touch with you or you staying in touch with them. Out-of-touch can sometimes mean out-of-mind. You might stay in touch with your email newsletter. But there is also a personal touch where you give them a call and ask how they are going in relation to the product or service you have provided.

    If they are happy, they will let you know. If they are not happy for some reason, that is still good as it gives you a chance to work things through. A speaking colleague of mine stays in touch by genuinely caring for her customers when they are dealing with challenges. Recently, she was aware of a number of her clients who were directly affected by natural disasters and made a point of calling them up, asking how they were, and offering help where she could. This is certainly great service.
You would think that great customer service would be important to everyone, but sadly it is not. 
This is good news - as it only takes some smart thought and effort to stand out in your customers' eyes, resulting in them singing your praises and you feeling more proud of the work you do.

People who play the blame game

It can be extremely frustrating when you work with someone who thinks a problem to which they are contributing is simply being caused by someone else.
On the one hand, this is a very human thing to do. It has been suggested that human beings are born with a negativity bias that helps us to identify problems and thus ensure our survival. However this tendency can also be manifested in lots of blaming, complaining and criticising.
The trouble with blaming others is that it tends to provoke a defensive response. It also puts us in a powerless position as, when we are in this place, there is nothing we can do to change the situation as the problem is completely due to someone else.
So how do you help others take responsibility for doing their part to help?

  1. Let them tell their story. If we can allow people to get their story out and demonstrate that we understand how they are seeing things and feeling, this can put them in a better position to consider another perspective. If they can vent their emotions well enough, this can often help them to settle and begin to see things in a more balanced way.
  2. Be human. By this I mean being real, approachable, and not taking a superior stance - that you know what is best for them. Instead you want to convey that we are all human, that we all make mistakes, and we can all do things better. You might even consider whether a brief story about yourself might help. You could speak of a similar situation you were in, something dumb that you did, and what you learned as a result. I don't recommend telling stories about yourself as the hero.
  3. Suggest a trade. If you are on the receiving end of their blaming, you could offer what you are willing to do to help, saying something like, "If I do .., will you do ..." or "How about we both ..." Here the focus is what you will both do differently in the future rather than debating the accuracy of what the other person is saying. Some people gain greater commitment by writing down, with the other person's permission, what each person will do.
  4. Ask questions. After they have felt properly heard, you could ask questions like, "What do you think you both can do to help?" They may well run off a long list as to what you or the other person needs to do. Agree where you can, but then consider asking, "What are you willing to do to also help?" or "What do you imagine the other person would say they would find helpful?" If your timing is right, you may well be able to get away with asking them direct questions about their behaviour. "When you ..., did that make things better or worse?" Here we are wanting to get them exercising the frontal cortex of their brain, the part that helps us to think about our choices.
  5. Offer a different perspective. If they can find a kinder way of seeing the situation, this may well put them in a better position to act more helpfully. You may well have to suggest kinder or more balanced perspectives rather than expecting the person to generate them. If appropriate, you could suggest, "Is there a chance this was a simple communication breakdown / you were both very stressed / you were both inadvertently pushing each other's buttons?" (I suggest one of those options, not all three). Remember that their openness to a different perspective will depend on the degree to which they feel fully heard and the level of respect they have for you.
The great majority of people are capable of self-reflection. However, like any new behaviour, taking responsibility for one's own behaviour takes conscious practice over time. When next speaking with someone playing the blame game, experiment with the above and notice what helps. 

Why people miss their appointments

You would think that everyone who has personal challenges and in need of professional help would be moving mountains to gain that assistance. But the reality is that many people simply do not keep their appointments with agencies and professionals whose role is to help them in some way.
Counsellors, Youthworkers, Dieticians, Doctors and other helping professionals all know what it is like to bend over backwards finding an appointment for someone in urgent circumstances only to be sitting around twiddling their thumbs when the person does not turn up.
In some agencies which provide free services, up to a third of their clients do not turn up for their very first appointment. (In my private practice, the rate was under 5%). Then there are other clients who drop out early from the helping process.
Why does this occur? Many professionals believe people discontinue due to dissatisfaction with the help given. But this is not always the case. I believe there are five common reasons people disengage from helping relationships and here is what you can do about it.
  1. There is some personal challenge. Whenever a client misses an appointment with me I try to believe there is an ordinary explanation - they or their child was sick, they forgot their appointment, had trouble with transport, or were abducted by aliens. Of course, these sorts of challenges are common. Well, maybe not the last one.

    Of course we can simply cut people some slack or simply give people a reminder about their appointment the day before. However, I have found when people miss an appointment, they will be more likely to do so again. When they do attend, it pays to check that the following factors are not contributing.

  2. You have not established a relationship of trust. Apparently, the majority of people stress about seeing a psychologist, social worker, counsellor, etc - knowing they will be discussing very personal issues, concerned that they will be judged in some way, or perhaps because they have had a bad experience when seeking help in the past. When people initially enquire about making an appointment, your job (or that of your secretary) is to be as personable and reassuring as possible.

    My secretary would often tell my new clients that I was a lovely person to speak to ... even if this was bending the truth a bit. The better the connection when they enquire or present in person, the more likely they will continue.

  3. You are not working with the client on what they really want. Perhaps Centrelink has obliged them to see you for help in gaining employment, for example. Or they have been mandated by a court to have counselling for their problematic drinking. They may well be saying that they want to gain work or address their problem drinking, but perhaps they really don't see their behaviour as a problem and what they really want is for others to get off their back.

    Once they are through your door, your job is to work with them on what they are wanting, if possible, and see if this parallels what others want for them. Everyone is motivated for something. Your job is to find out what they want and link this to the changes that they, and hopefully others, want to see.

  4. The client is not happy with you. Upsets between you and your clients will occur from time to time. Times when I have accidentally double-booked a session come to mind. When upsets or disappointments occur, we need to be quick to repair the relationship and offer what we can for the future. We will at times also have clients who are not finding the way that we are working helpful. This is not necessarily fatal to the helping process, but it is if we are not open to changing the way we are working.

    Outstanding professionals in helping roles are always adjusting themselves for the individuals they see. I must confess that I was at times tempted to give people a menu as to what sort of therapist they needed while they were waiting to see me. Did they want they want the caring Ken who simply listened and empathised with their circumstances? Or did they want the affable Ken who could also make them laugh? Or the practical Ken who could give them some advice on moving forward?

    Of course, I don't really recommend giving people a menu, but you can at least ask how you can be helpful and adjust yourself accordingly. You can also ask what you can change next time you both meet so you can be more on track. I remember one client who was frustrated with me that I wanted to talk things through when she was visual. That was very helpful for me to know.

    Openness to client feedback will not only reduce early drop-out from the helping relationship but also produce improved outcomes. You can make it easier for clients to give you feedback by setting this expectation from the start, by making it a routine part of how you work, and responding non-defensively - perhaps apologising if you were off the mark, but at least offering to make that change for future meetings.

  5. They are happy to continue by themselves. Sometimes clients conclude the helping relationship, not so much because they have achieved their goal, but more because they feel able to continue by themselves. Sure we may think differently. But as professionals we need to appreciate that sometimes people get what they need from their contact with us, or their circumstances change, and seeing us is no longer a priority.

    If one of your clients has ended the helping relationship, you can at least touch base with them by telephone or email seeing how they are going. You can check if they were unhappy with your approach for some reason and let them know you are happy to make changes. And you can also let them know if it is OK for them to re-present in the future.
There are, of course, those clients who you are happy haven't turned up, but that's another story!

Why people resist change

You would think that everyone who has been caught drink driving would want to change their drinking habits. You would think that everyone who has been to prison would never re-offend. You would also think that everyone who is unhappy at home or work would be doing whatever it took to build a much happier life for themselves.
Why is it that many people are so reluctant to acknowledge that their behavior is a problem? Even those who do are slow to do anything about it or they find change very hard.
Of course, we all struggle with changing our behavior at times. I believe there are five main reasons why this occurs.

  1. Unhelpful thinking. Many people tend to minimize how problematic their behavior is - convincing themselves that their behavior is not so bad or that it is more other people who need to change.

    People can also have unrealistic expectations, giving up when change has been hard or they have experienced a relapse. Other times, the problematic thinking is not thinking at all, simply being on automatic pilot, repeating the same behavior that is not working for them.

    Here we need to identify thinking that is a barrier to helpful action and find more helpful thoughts that will be motivating for the individual.

  2. The status quo is comfortable. Why change if you are relatively comfortable? Sure your partner is upset about your drinking, but they are still there. Yes, your smoking may increase your risk of heart attack, but ... you haven't had one yet.

    Sadly, for some of us, it is only when the status quo becomes very uncomfortable that we see the need for change. Even if we are open to change, the thought of putting in the effort and coping with the related challenges, is enough for some of us to return to the familiar.

    Here we need to help people to appreciate more the costs of inaction, perhaps allowing the status quo to become more uncomfortable, emphasizing the benefits of change. But it is important to search until we identify what is most motivating to the individual concerned. It is not always what we think.
  3. Changes are being imposed. I believe that most people don't mind change. It's just that they don't like being changed by others - whether this be their partner, their manager, or their therapist. The more one person argues why the other needs to change, the more the other person can sometimes resist.

    If you believe your approach is producing resistance, you need to immediately reconsider what you are doing. People tend to be more open to changes which they initiate themselves, where their ideas are included.
  4. The problem behavior is need-satisfying. Problematic drinkers, for example, will sometimes say that drinking helps them to socialize with others, feel more in control of their life, gain freedom from painful emotions, have fun, or simply to relax.

    For those in helping roles, the challenge is to help people identify the needs underlying their behavior and make choices that are effective in meeting the same needs, respectful of the needs of others, and take them in a good direction.

  5. Physiological barriers are present. It can be easy to mistakenly label someone as resisting change when they actually have a medical condition inhibiting their ability to change problem behavior  Clinical depression and chronic pain are examples of conditions that, when effectively treated, can greatly increase an individual's ability to embrace change.

    Other physiological conditions such as brain injuries or neurological diseases may mean that some people may never be in a good position to behave as others would like. With such individuals, the focus is more on managing the environment around them.
Of course, when people are resisting change, more than one of the above factors may well be contributing. If you are helping people to embrace change, it can help to form a theory as to what may be contributing, adjust your approach, and to notice what helps.

This article is from:
Ken Warren BA, M Soc Sc, CSP is a Relationships Specialist

10 Tips to create a better Working Environment

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” — Hans Hoffman
Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” — Henry David Thoreau
For today’s knowledge workers, every distraction is a drain on productivity and sanity. Every ringing phone, instant message, flashing email reminder, pile of papers, cluttered sticky notes and phone messages and knick knacks and memo posted on the wall — each of these things slows you down, wastes your time and energy, and stresses you out.
To achieve calm, and simple productivity, create a better working environment.
Imagine for a minute that your desk is completely clear, except your computer monitor, keyboard and mouse, your inbox and phone, and perhaps a framed photo of a loved one. Imagine the walls around you are free of visual clutter, except for a photo or painting or two of a serene nature scene.
You are able to focus, you can crank out your tasks, and you can lower your level of stress.

It’s not hard. Here’s how:
Clear papers. Take all the papers on your desk, and around your desk, and put them in your inbox. If they don’t fit, just put them in a single pile. Now go through that pile, one document at a time. Don’t put any document back on the pile — deal with it immediately, and then move on to the next document, until you’ve cleared the pile (this may take several sessions for some people). With each document, your choices are to 1) Trash; 2) Delegate; 3) File immediately, 4) Do it immediately; or 5) Put the action on your to-dolist and the document in an “action” folder.

Clear clutter. Now clear as much of the other stuff on your desk as possible. And it’s all possible. Knick knacks, post-its and phone messages (those should go in the inbox to be processed), most of your framed photos, folders, etc.

Clear gear. You don’t need your office gear to be in sight. Put your pens, stapler, paper clips, digital camera, and any other assorted gear in a drawer, organized neatly. While you’re at it, clear out your drawers and only put in the essential stuff. It’s easier to keep organized that way.
Clear the walls. Clear every scrap of paper and most of the artwork from your walls. You don’t want your surroundings to be too busy. Put one or two pieces of simple art on each wall.
Have an inbox. Have one inbox on your desk, and have all incoming documents, notes, phone messages and other papers be put into this inbox. Process it to empty at least once a day, using the steps above. From here on out, don’t let any other papers clutter your desk except the one thing you’re working on.
Simplify your computer. Clear your desktop of icons — it’s an inefficient way to launch documents or programs and organize yourself, and they’re just visual clutter. Clear everything from your menubar too, if possible. On your desktop, use a simple and serene picture as the background, and only have the document open that you’re currently working on. Turn off all email and IM notifications, and only do email at 2-3 set times a day. You don’t need all the interruptions.
Simple filing system. Use a simple alphabetical filing system with plain manila folders. Have plenty of labels and empty folders on hand, so you have nothing stopping you from creating a new file quickly and filing a document. Don’t let your filing pile up.
Edit, edit, edit. Once you’ve cleared the clutter, there’s usually still stuff you can clear away. Edit your surroundings. For each item in view, ask yourself, “Does this really need to be in view?” In most cases, the answer is no. Find a way to get it out of sight, or get rid of it. When you’ve gone through this process, do it again — you can usually still find ways to get something out of sight.
Simple furniture. Go for the simplest furniture possible, a plain floor covering (solid-color wall-to-wall carpeting or undecorated hard-surface floors), bare windows or simple window coverings such as blinds, plain shelves and lamps if necessary.
Simple decorations. Skip the bric-a-brac, and only have one or two simple decorations, such as a few flowers in a vase or a Zen garden.