Thursday, December 17, 2015

What Not to Do

As we rapidly approach the soft, gooey center of the holiday season, I've decided to share one more tumultuous tale of workplace distress.

This particular occurrence did not trickle down to me from a second or third hand source, oh no, this was witnessed by my very own eyes.

A few years ago one of my regular clients was kind enough to extend me an invitation to their holiday party.  Normally I would graciously decline an offer like this thinking that my presence might somehow hinder everyone's good time, and ability to relax.  But, I had been working with them for about ten years and we all felt pretty comfortable around one another. I accepted.

After a few hours of good tunes, and a few more glasses of holiday cheer, the mood was joyous and festive.  And then, the owner walked in dressed in a santa suit from head to toe. He wasn't passing out gift cards for coffee or company paper weights, what he was doing however, was inviting all of the office "hotties" to sit on his lap.  

Sure everyone was having a good time, and they might have appeared to be distracted, deep in conversation with one another.  THEY WERE ALL WATCHING.  Trust me.

The struggle is real.
Don't do this.

Happy Holidays everyone!  See you in 2016!


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Silver Lining in Performance Reviews: Career Development

People Feature: The Silver Lining in Performance Reviews: Career Development
Article published on November 30, 2015
By Clare Trapasso
Annual performance reviews may be unpopular with many employees, but the development plans that typically accompany them can pave the way to gain the skills and experiences workers need to get ahead.
Firms such as State StreetPrudential Financial and Securian Financial Group encourage employees to consider stretch assignments with other departments and lateral moves to introduce them to different parts of the company. The firms also offer online and in-person training to help prepare workers for the next rung on the corporate ladder.

“Getting new experiences is really important in developing people’s careers,” says Alison Quirk, chief human resources and citizenship officer at State Street. “It could be continuing to do your job, but working on a project that will get you exposure to either another part of the business or a product or process you don’t have familiarity with.”
The onus is on employees to manage his or her own career and articulate goals to their supervisors during the performance review process, she says.
“Don’t let a manager assume they know what your career aspirations are,” Quirk says.
State Street’s more than 30,000 employees undergo performance reviews in December and then set goals and development plans the following month.
Employees at the Boston-based firm can apply for short-term assignments in different departments or offices around the globe to learn new skills, she says.
State Street also launched a professional development program this year for mid-level employees, where 36 workers rotate through four different assignments in various divisions and locations within the firm over a two-year span to fast-track their development. The firm hopes to expand the program to about 50 participants. A similar opportunity is offered to new recruits.
“Building careers means you really need to learn about what’s going on in different departments … [to] be able to progress,” Quirk says.
Staffers should be able to pinpoint their dream jobs within their companies and know the skills required to move into those positions, says Alexandra Levit, author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. They can then pitch projects to their managers through which they could attain those skill sets.
“Even if you want to stay in your current job for the next 30 years, you need to be upping your game,” says Levit, who is also president of the Chicago-based workplace consultancy Inspiration at Work.
Like State Street, Prudential Financial encourages employees to figure out where they want to go professionally and candidly share those aspirations with their managers.
This helps managers identify opportunities for them, such as interdepartmental "stretch" assignments, jobs shadowing colleagues in different departments or finding new mentors, says Julie Stone, VP of learning and leadership development.
“We’re looking for a development plan that’s not just going to meet the company’s needs, but meet their own professional and personal needs,” she says.
The Newark, N.J.-based insurer starts its annual review process in February for its roughly 48,000 staffers, and development plans are encouraged, says Stone.
During performance reviews, professionals should discuss the development and training they want from the company to improve, says Jen Shirkani, founder and CEO of the Bedford, N.H.-based leadership development consultancy the Penumbra Group.
Workers interested in moving into other parts of the business should research the role they want by looking at the job description on hiring websites and talking to people in those positions.
They should also be on the lookout for educational opportunities. “If your company offers free workshops internally, take them,” she says. “It only adds to your value.”
Most employees are keen on professional development, says Victor Lipman, author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.
“It leads to a lot of dissatisfaction, and ultimately retention problems, when employees don’t get the career support that they want,” says Lipman, a MassMutual alum who worked in corporate communications at the company.
State Street offers chapters of Toastmasters to help workers with their public speaking, as well on-site chartered financial analyst designation preparatory courses. It also maintains an internal website stocked with tutorials, online courses and videos on topics ranging from project management to beginner Microsoft Excel skills.
In addition, managers can send workers to certificate programs or to local colleges if their budgets allow.
Securian has an internal website for employees who want to learn more about particular business areas and skills that includes workshops, lists of books to read and links to training videos, says Mary Streed, head of human resources. The St. Paul, Minn.-based firm also offers about 100 in-person or online courses, with topics like how to cultivate talented teams.
The financial services company holds its performance reviews, which often include development plans, during the first quarter of each year. It has more than 4,000 employees.
“[A performance appraisal is] a wonderful opportunity to assess where you’ve been and position yourself for where you want to go,” Streed says.

Clare Trapasso is a print and multimedia journalist at the New York Daily News with experience writing breaking news and feature stories in urban and rural communities.

As a general assignment reporter on the Daily News’ Queens Bureau and Metro Desk, she covers everything from schools being closed, to naked bike rides, to grisly murders, local politics and everything in-between.

Prior to that, she was an Associated Press reporter in the wire service’s New Hampshire Bureau. During the six-month assignment, she covered state and national news and put together several multimedia projects. She also edited stories and wrote broadcast news.

She became passionate about journalism at the State University of New York at Purchase College, where she graduated with a B.A. in journalism in 2002. In her senior year, she created a campus women's newspaper called The Cycle.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, she joined the Peace Corps. She was sent to Independent Samoa in the South Pacific, where she learned Samoan and taught college-level journalism classes in the capitol.

When she returned to America, she began graduate school. In 2007, she earned a M.A. in Journalism from New York University. As a student, she interned for the Daily News and The Village Voice. After graduation, she did an internship in the Associated Press New York City Bureau.

Clare Trapasso is interested in writing stories that can effect change. She can be contacted at

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Focusing on What We Can Control

Once again we have another tragedy involving violence against innocent people. It’s an odd paradox: we are living in a global community that is more connected than any time in history, yet it seems to me that people feel disconnected and disenfranchised and desperate to be noticed more than ever. I am starting to feel overwhelmed by the lack of empathy and uncertainty in the world. As the live news feed rolled in on the TV tonight, all I could do was focus my mind on making dinner for my kids like it was any other Wednesday, wistfully remembering the days before 9/11. Since the Paris attacks, I have been thinking that maybe instead of allowing our attention to be glued to our devices, social media and events out there, we turn our focus to the people in our lives, right here. We must do a better job recognizing when someone is unstable, getting desperate, or needs coping skills. People cannot feel invisible. I am as guilty anyone for allowing the distraction of world headlines, news feeds and business priorities to pull me away from what is most important. I am going to make a focused effort to be present, to focus on the people and relationships in my life. Even if for 30 days we cut off technology, political blather, and meaningless distractions and worked hard at being good parents, responsible family members, accountable employees and community citizens, I believe we can stop this alarming trend. Each home can positively influence a town, each town can positively influence a state, and each country can positively change the world. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Three Career Skills Boomers are Better at than Millennials (Part II)

This is a continuation of an article I posted in our monthly Performance Pointer.  If you would like to subscribe to the monthly newsletter click here

Skill Three – Perseverance
Perseverance is tied to the emotional intelligence skill of motivation - staying productive even despite headwinds. Boomers have a strong stick-to-itiveness. They don’t just leave jobs if they are frustrated, they don’t call in sick because they want to avoid a co-worker, and they don’t want to change assignments every year because they are bored. Millennials do bring a great enthusiasm to their work and require it be fulfilling and engaging – all great traits. But in reality, all jobs have periods of stagnation. It just can’t always be fun…Boomers understand this and just slog through it when they have to. Millennials can gain key maturity skills by going to school on their Boomer colleagues.

As the Boomers retire in big numbers we are surely losing institutional knowledge, but we are also losing some key functional skills too. Organizations should be working to promote cross-generational mentor-ships to encourage the transferring of these vital career skills. Boomers should use their emotional intelligence to spot “coachable” moments to provide insight on business challenges. Millennials can use their emotional intelligence by recognizing when they are wanting too much too fast, identifying their triggers for creating unnecessary urgency. With all strengths, if they are overused they become a weakness. The strengths and weaknesses of the Boomers and Millennials nicely offset each other creating strong teams when both parties are open and willing to collaborate. For more ideas, check out this article on “reverse mentoring.”  At our firm, we have seen several family owned organizations with multiple generations working together in the workplace and the ones who are successful are leveraging the knowledge, experience and maturity of the older generation by keeping them active in on-boarding programs, leading small group discussions with younger employees, and assigning them to newly promoted employees as mentors. Ten thousand people turn 65 every day, don't hesitate to transfer vital EQ skills across the generations in your workplace.