When Life Happens, Ask for Help

As much as we may strive to be, we aren’t perfect. There are days, weeks, and sometimes months, when our best isn’t quite enough. You may have a sick kid, be taking care of an elderly family member, or be dealing with physical or mental illness yourself. Whatever it is, the challenges of life are unavoidable, and sometimes they start to affect our performance at work.

It happens to the best of us. But it can easily feel like you’re the only one having a rough time. Think about a life challenge you’ve struggled with. Did you feel alone? Did you compare yourself to others at work and feel isolated? It’s incredibly common for humans to feel this way. Chances are, you’ve experienced it yourself.

While it may be unfortunately common for us to deal with personal issues that affect our work performance, it’s critical to remember we aren’t alone in our struggles, for more reasons than one.

Understanding you’re not alone is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself and getting through whatever it is you’re dealing with. But it’s also essential to recognize how it influences the way that you act at work and the impact you have on your peers.

Unwrapping yourself

It’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up with your struggles and to feel like you deserve a break at work because of it. While this may indeed be true, it’s critical to approach any change of responsibilities in a way that takes into account the people who rely on you to do that work.

Ignoring the work until someone asks about it isn’t a solution. Think about the last time someone failed to follow through on work you were relying on them to do. How did they break it to you that they hadn’t completed the work? It can be frustrating, stressful, and create resentment between colleagues when a peer fails to hold up their end of the load.

Dropping the ball every once in a while isn’t so bad. But when someone has extended time dealing with personal problems, they are likely to drop the ball more than once. This can put intense pressure on their teammates and start to damage morale.

Feeling like you’re alone in your struggles may seem real at the time, but it isn’t ever true. Every one of us faces challenges every day we have to navigate around, often with only partial success. So telling yourself it’s ok to drop the ball at work because you’re going through a difficult time isn’t just bad for your standing among your peers, it’s also misguided and damaging to the community you’re a part of.

You may need some extra space and support to help you get through a challenging period of time. But it’s critical you gain the courage and insight to recognize when this is the case and to do something about it before you fall behind.

Reach out

Get in touch with your manager or your team members. Let them know what you need. It’s scary to ask for help. You may be afraid you’ll look weak, or your manager will retaliate. But a strong leadership team will recognize it’s much more cost-effective to help existing employees through rough times than to hire anew.

Working with employees in times of need builds loyalty and trust and will help you recover and be able to return to your best all the sooner. Your colleagues will thank you for preventing things from falling behind and making an effort to find solutions that support the team and the work.

It takes strength and insight to ask for help, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll ensure your peers aren’t left to deal with a mess and that you don’t get lost under a pile of projects you can’t complete. Above all, it shows you have the integrity to be honest and to take the necessary steps to care for yourself and your team.

 

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Photo by New Africa

Productivity: What’s Mine is Yours

Every day, the average American is interrupted 50-60 times, adding up to approximately three hours of wasted time. Every day. That leaves five hours a day a person gets to concentrate at work.  

Now add in the time it takes to prepare for and participate in meetings, take breaks, and eat lunch, and you’re left with a relatively small window of time for uninterrupted productivity.

This is not merely an issue of meeting the bottom line. Being able to work productively and actually accomplish projects and tasks is a significant part of avoiding workplace burnout. When people are flustered, trying to accomplish too many things at once, and having difficulty prioritizing and managing tasks, they’re going to work themselves to exhaustion. 

Remember that kid in school who would arrive with a backpack full of loose papers and assignments, much to the frustration of their teachers? They’d miss homework deadlines and could never seem to find anything. When your schedule is unstructured and disorganized like that kid’s backpack, you’re going to feel completely overwhelmed by the smallest tasks. You’re less likely to enjoy your work, and more likely to build up accumulated stress. No one wants to be that kid.

Learning to take accountability for your time is essential for managing stress, staying on top of deadlines, and growing in your role. Whether it’s you who needs some ideas to become more structured, or people on your team, here are a few great tips to help you along the way. 

Block it out

As small as it sounds, setting time aside on your calendar for specific projects or tasks is a great tactic to stay focused. 

  • It forces you to intentionally think about your priorities and time in advance.
  • If you share your calendar, others can see you are busy and avoid communicating with you during this time.
  • It helps you stay accountable to your commitments and priorities and pinpoint potential disrupters that get in your way.
  • It can offer insight into how long it takes to accomplish certain tasks, which will help inform future planning.

Answer your own questions 

How often do you ask others for help? When you come across a problem, what is your first instinct? If you’re in the habit of first asking for help, think about how you might become more self-sufficient. When you stop what you’re doing to ask a coworker, you’re not just halting your own creative flow; you’re asking someone else to do the same, so be sure your questions are targeted and necessary.

Take consistent breaks

There are many schools of thought around the best way to break up your day, but it’s safe to say no one can focus for eight hours straight. Learn to identify when your mind begins to wander, or when you reach for your phone. Watch the clock and see how long you go between these moments. Schedule breaks that correlate with when you naturally begin to lose focus.

Learn to listen to your inner clock and adjust your day around it. By personalizing your schedule, you can set more accurate expectations, reduce stress, and develop greater confidence. Everyone is different. Some people need music to concentrate, and some people like noise or absolute silence. Your attention span is the same.

Keep meetings on task 

Whether you’re running or participating in a meeting, make sure you’ve clarified the agenda and stick to it. If you have something you need to talk about, but it isn’t on the agenda, hold it for another meeting or manage it outside of the meeting through other appropriate discussion or project-tracking channels. The more efficient and precise you can keep your sessions, the more productive they will be. And the happier the participants will be. It’s a win-win.

Cleanliness is focusedness 

The average person who works at a messy, disorganized desk wastes an average of one and a half hours every day attempting to locate things or being distracted by what’s in front of them. Take the time to clean your area. It will help you focus on what needs to be in front of you, allowing you to prioritize the focus of your attention.

It’s a group effort

Remember, not every day is the same. Be kind to yourself. Take each day as an opportunity to learn and improve. Regardless of your role as a leader or a team member, the way you manage time will create a ripple effect among those you whom you work.  

Either by setting an example or creating some simple boundaries around your availability, you empower others to do the same. When you take the time to develop a schedule that enables you to be at your most productive, you bring your team one step closer to that goal.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Theeraphong Khamsawat

It’s Not You, It’s Me: Breaking Up With Toxic Company Culture

Your company culture is at the center of whether or not your business runs successfully. It sets the stage for the level of success your employees will have collaborating, accomplishing goals, and pushing your company forward.

However, just because your culture is a critical factor influencing the success of your business doesn’t mean it can rely on importance alone to maintain its health. In fact, workplace culture may be one of the most fragile and easily damaged components of any business. 

With just one bad hire, you can derail a once quiet and synergistic atmosphere, right? Not exactly.

All too often, leadership is quick to point to bad employees as the source of toxic workplace culture. The reality is that company culture comes from the top down, directly set by leadership and the expectations created by those in charge. So it’s actually more common for a company culture to turn toxic from poor leadership than anything else.

Blaming toxic workplace culture on an employee is merely shifting the responsibility from those who have a duty to protect the culture to someone who is there due to a poor hiring decision. Or who is being allowed to contribute negatively to company culture. For an employee to truly damage a culture, they have to have been given the opportunity to do so by leadership. 

So what’s the first thing a leader should do when they face a toxic workplace culture? Take ownership. 

It’s not you, it’s me

As uncomfortable as it sounds, it’s vital for leadership to take full responsibility for the state of their company culture. If they want to make any difference, they’ve got to start with themselves and move forward from there.

If your team is suffering at the hands of a workplace bully, incompetent managers, or poor communication, it means that somewhere down the line, someone got away with doing something they shouldn’t have. And as a result, the bad behavior continued until it became too much to ignore. It means that someone let them get away with it

The key issue here is that what could have been stopped at the beginning was left to grow and fester. For a culture to be protected, there must be an expectation of immediate corrective action if someone acts in detriment to it– without excuses or hesitation.

Here’s an example

Rose owns a small business with a handful of employees. She hires a new employee, and within their first couple weeks, the employee becomes involved in several disagreements with other employees. The owner listens to all sides of the stories but doesn’t take any action, hoping it will just go away.

A month goes by, and there is no positive change. Instead, the disagreements have escalated to bullying. The owner of the store tells the employees to work it out themselves and scolds her staff for not getting along better.

Before Rose realizes the significance of the interactions, half her team has quit. 

By not responding to the toxic behavior and attempting to put the responsibility of fixing problems on those who are experiencing the issue, Rose made a statement with her lack of  leadership: she valued one employee over the psychological safety of the rest of her team.

The employees didn’t quit on account of the bully; they ultimately quit because they weren’t being protected or valued by leadership.

The moral of the story? What you tolerate at your workplace might as well be what your business promotes.

Time to make a change

So you may have issues with your company culture, and you’re ready to take accountability, but you’re unsure of the next step. Do you fire everyone? Or give everyone bonuses because you want them to stay?

No. The answer is a little more complicated, but a whole lot cheaper. 

Thankfully, your company culture is as resilient as its leadership. Which means you have the power to guide it back to where you want it to be. Here’s where to start.

Clarify and promote your values. If you haven’t already create a values statement for your company. (If you have a values statement already, then you need to ask yourself why it hasn’t helped you so far.) Identify the core values you want to use as a foundation to guide your employees toward the culture you envision.

This isn’t something you put at the top of your employee handbook and forget about. Make sure it’s top of mind and visible to your team, all the time. When you onboard new employees, use it as a reference for everything you do with them. Your values statement will be the basis for all the ways you seek to improve and protect your culture as your business grows and changes.  

Set clear expectations and boundaries. Using your values statement, design a transparent system for holding employees accountable. Make it clear you will not tolerate behavior that goes against your values. Create a well-defined path for your employees to take when they are experiencing issues with other employees. The idea is to make it as obvious and easy as possible for employees to address problems they are experiencing, without fear of retaliation.  

Don’t think of this in terms of punishment. It’s about protecting something you love, not punishing something you don’t. When you create a culture that values happy employees, they’ll be your first line of defense against misconduct. Over time, protecting your culture becomes a team effort.

Don’t be afraid to make moves.  It can be extremely difficult to untangle workplace conflict, which can make finding a fair solution seem unattainable. But there are ways to identify the sources of conflict. Look for the common denominator in the issues you see. If one person keeps popping up, they are most likely playing a negative part.

If you keep coming up against the same person (or people) who are responsible for damaging workplace behavior, it’s time to let them go. Chances are if someone keeps causing problems, they aren’t happy anyway. And if they aren’t satisfied working for you, then you shouldn’t want them on your team. 

Don’t be shy

It’s your company. Do you really want the legacy you leave behind to be of frustrated, betrayed employees? Obviously not—you’re not the bad guy.

But hiding from facing difficult facts, uncomfortable conversations, and, most of all, change, isn’t going to help you or your company. Be proactive. Be confident. Take accountability. Remember that leading people to a healthier, happier environment is only going to gain you a more engaged, loyal, and dedicated team. And that only means one thing: good business. 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by lucid_dream

Empowering Employees Through Financial Wellness

The heightened frustration around the rising cost of living in the US is unmistakable and likely felt in your organization. Extreme healthcare costs, massive student loan debt, and rising housing costs have put an enormous strain on the American workforce. 

In a study on employee financial wellness in 2019, it was found that the leading source of employee stress across generations stems from financial issues. Despite record-high employment, employees are still struggling to meet rising financial demands across the board. Nearly half of all employees struggle to pay their household expenses on time each month. More and more people are expecting to work into their retirement to pay for healthcare and living costs.

So what does this mean for employers trying to attract, retain, and care for their talent?

It’s an opportunity to find ways to empower and support your employees financially.

But how?

There are many ways to provide financial support services to your employees, but it’s critical you understand the particular needs of your workforce. What might be right for a start-up tech company may not work for a retail store or small insurance agency.

To identify what services are right for your employees, it’s always a good idea to start by asking them! Conduct an internal survey to pinpoint where your employees need help. You can decide how to best address the needs once you know what they are.

There are a few common financial pain points; however, you can expect to find in most communities. Here are some ideas to address them.

1. Offering 401k plans with matching contribution

It isn’t far-fetched to assume that everyone—really, everyone—wants to retire someday. And with 80% of people expecting to work during retirement, you really can’t go wrong by providing an opportunity for your employees to get in (or ahead of) the game. Tax breaks are available to businesses offering 401K matching plans to their employees, which helps mediate the overall cost of set-up and maintenance.

To those employees you’re hoping to attract and retain, offering a 401k plan with matching contribution says you care about their future and are willing to invest in it. Doing so will help build loyalty to your company and will play into a company culture that values the empowerment of its employees.

2. Student loan repayment 

It’s widely known in the US that student loan debt has increasingly damaged people’s ability to thrive. It’s common to hear graduates working extra jobs, moving back home with their parents, and living in poverty to pay off their bills. Here’s what the numbers tell us:

Ok, so these numbers are pretty scary. Thankfully, there are ways that employers can help support those employees who are struggling to pay off their student loans. Two options are Student Loan Replacement Plans (SLRPs) and student loan matching programs. Do your research on the available options to make sure the benefits program you choose is right for your particular employee population. 

3. Short and long-term disability (STD and LTD)

Statistically, a quarter of all adults in the US will live with a disability in their lifetime. Offering long and short-term disability benefits can play a critical part in your employee benefits strategy. However, it’s essential to understand the different programs available and exactly how they provide support. Not all plans are created equal. For instance, STD and LTD programs define disability in a variety of ways. Some follow the definition followed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is more rigid, where some have a broader and more flexible definition, allowing a more comprehensive range of people to access support.

Join the cause

Whatever options you choose for building a financial support system for your workforce, make sure you communicate with your employees about their level of need and interest and do your research accordingly. Providing relevant and easy-to-use solutions will make your employees feel supported and cared for.

Whether you choose a benefits package to help employees with student loans, get the upper hand on retirement savings, or offer financial protection in a time of need, you’re showing employees you’re invested in their well-being and care about their future success.

People want to work for a company that wants to see them succeed. There’s no better way to show you believe your employees are valuable than offering benefits that will provide real value to them. It’s not just good for your company culture and brand image; it makes a positive and lasting impact on the lives of the people working for you. Now that’s real value.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Wavebreak Media Ltd 

Five Signs It’s Time to Re-Train Your Managers

Employee engagement and satisfaction can make or break a business. Everything from company culture to benefits to schedule flexibility can affect the employee experience. Companies to go great lengths to maintain a happy population of employees, but what is the one thing with the most power to influence the employee experience? Managers.   

Frustratingly, many managers are placed in their position without being trained. Often high performing employees are selected to become managers because they’re great at their job. However, just because someone is excellent at organizing and executing their own work doesn’t mean they’re ready to manage a whole team of people  

When you have a manager who needs training, your employees are going to know it. But will you?  

How to know your managers need some help

1. Employee frustration at seemingly small internal hiccups  

If you’re finding that group morale dips when relatively small issues need to be addressed, you might be seeing a symptom of poor leadership. Employees that are already at the end of their rope dealing with poor communication or direction, due to lack of leadership, are going to get easily frustrated when issues arise, even if they’re relatively small.  

There is a threshold for the amount of juggling and direction change a group can take, and if their manager is adding to it, they’re going to have a much lower bar for what frustrates them. Are you familiar with the term “the straw that broke the camel’s back?” Then you get the gist. 

2. Confusion about role clarity 

As a team is organizing a project, do you see confusion around responsibilities? Do things slip through the cracks?   

If employees are unclear about their responsibilities, it could mean they aren’t getting enough direction from leadership. Or it could mean their manager isn’t following a consistent plan when delegating projects. If you have a manager assigning projects and tasks based on whom they prefer, and bypassing employees’ job roles, it’s going to create confusion at bestand downright resentment at worst. 

3. You don’t hear new ideas from your employees
 

If you’re wondering why your employees aren’t offering up new ideas and solutions to streamline processes, fix issues, and strengthen your company, you’ve probably got a problem with management. The fact is, everyone working at your company is going to have opinions and ideas. They just won’t share them if they’ve been shut down in the past, or if they’re afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes.  

Your employees are your best resource because they’re on the line doing the work. Your managers should be doing everything in their power to engage them and get them thinking about how to improve the company. If your managers are critical, dismissive, or even uninterested in their team’s ideas, all you’re going to get is a lot of silence and wasted opportunity.  

4. You get pushback when things change
 

Company culture comes from the top down, and if you have a manager or leader who is resistant to change, you’re going to see that translate to the way employees handle change. Lets face it, you can’t run a successful business without continually looking for ways to improve and grow, which means you have to be open to change.   

Managers who resist change are working against the natural flow of any company and ultimately end up stifling innovation and growth. Train your managers to expect change as part of the job, so they take it in stride and see it as an opportunity for growth. By doing so, you’ll develop a more agile and robust company.  

5. You only hear about the same few people on their team
 

If a manager only ever reports on the same people, this could mean one of two things. Your manager has favorites among their team who get special attention and recognition. Or your manager is failing to properly coach and lead their entire team, leaving people to become isolated and lose support.   

Either way, your manager likely isn’t looking at their team holistically but is picking out (either subconsciously or consciously) people they more readily connect with. This favoritism is detrimental to promoting diversity, which has proven to be an excellent resource for building teams. Plus, you never know what Shy Sam from tech might have to offer if he isn’t coached into being more comfortable sharing his thoughts.  

If any of these are hitting home for you, don’t lose hope! There are countless ways to train your managers and help them learn the skills they need to become great leaders. Chances are, you just need to give them the opportunity. When you provide your leadership team with development and learning opportunities to help them grow as leaders, you’re investing in them, in everyone they manage, and in your company 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Rachata Teyparsit