Tracy Cashman, a partner at recruiting firm WinterWyman in Waltham, provides placement services for all levels of IT positions, including high-level IT Managers/Directors and CIOs.
On page A16 of the January 29 New York Times, a headline announced, “Stop the Honking. New York Suggests It’s a Lost Cause”. The article goes on to explain that the Big Apple has a noise ordinance banning honking, but that the ordinance is rarely enforced. In fact, it is so rarely enforced (only 206 summonses were issued in 2012 compared, for instance, to 141,000 summonses issued for the use of a cell phone by drivers) that the Transportation Department is now removing signs from lampposts across the city that say, DON’T HONK $350 PENALTY. The Times reports that the rationale for the decision is, “the move was part of an effort to declutter the streets of often ignored signs.”
New York’s “Signgate” reminded me peripherally of a key point I make in every seminar I teach: the importance of being on time. As part of the discussion, I recount the experience I had with one of our first clients. The organization had about 250 employees, and we were to teach our business etiquette program to them in groups of 25, beginning with the most senior people. Start time was 2:00 p.m., but at 2:00 p.m. the room was virtually empty of attendees. People straggled in, and finally we got started at 2:20 p.m. Apologies were mixed with explanations that meetings routinely did not start on time. This pattern of behavior had evolved and now was engrained in the organization. We then discussed the importance of being on time not just for meetings with people from outside the organization, but for meetings within it as well. Being on time is a measure of respect and shows you as an organized person. Being late is nothing more than being disrespectful of others and demonstrates your disorganization.
I then pointed out to the group that culture change was possible. To do it they needed to establish a clear expectation and then abide by it. Nobody would be held accountable for past transgressions, but from here on forward, the expectation would be that people would arrive on time and meetings would start on time.
Interestingly, by the next scheduled session word had gotten out and most of the participants arrived by 2:00 p.m., and the presentation started on time. By the third session, everybody was on time and that continued for the remaining sessions. The key here was to set an expectation and then hold people accountable. One of the biggest mistakes companies can make is to make rules or set expectations and then not abide by them.
The organization was willing to change its culture and in the process became a better place for establishing an on-time culture. New York set an expectation about establishing a tolerable street-noise culture but was unwilling to enforce it. As long as that’s the case, it’s time for the signs to come down.
Q: I have not interviewed in many years, and I am dreading the whole process. Thinking about it makes me so nervous that I know it will affect my performance. What can I do to prepare and get over this so I can get a job?
A. Interviewing can be an anxiety producing event, and many people see the entire process as a meeting with people who are there to judge you or find fault with your experience. Some interviewers do their best to increase anxiety; while others believe the best way to find out about a candidate is to make them comfortable with the process. Unless you are interviewing for a high stress job, anticipate interviews as an opportunity to talk to others about all that you have done, which they have already told you they are interested in hearing more about. Also take it as an opportunity to interview them to determine if their organization is a place you want to work.
I consulted with Dr. Paul Powers, a career coach and author of "Winning Job Interviews” (Career Press), who notes that job interviews are anxiety producing because a lot hinges on their outcome; this is a totally normal and predictable human response. He says it is par for the course and to use the word par to remember three keys to reducing interview anxiety.
P is for preparation. Before the interview review your resume or application and know every aspect of the information you have included. Many interviewers will use our resume as a guide or script for the interview so have a positive anecdote for every item. “WJI” has a comprehensive list of many typical questions you might encounter which you can use as a guide to your preparation. Take the time to write out the answers you will use so that your comfort level increases. Review your notes from previous interviews to remind you of things you feel comfortable talking about, and were well received in other interviews.
A is for attitude. You've gotten this far in the process- pat yourself on the back. No one has so much time on their hands that they can waste time interviewing candidates whom they think can't do the job. This interview is proof that you are making solid progress - no matter how many you've had.
R is for relaxation. A moderate amount of stress is not a bad thing and can actually enhance memory and performance. But if there's too much and it's getting in your way you should utilize the stress reduction technique that works best for you. Others have successfully used deep breathing, gentle exercise, meditation, visualization (either of past, positive interviews or just of calming natural scenes).
And finally, just before you meet your interviewer put a smile on your face and say to yourself “This is going to go great!” Paul and I agree that this will help you make it so.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
The “Jeep wave” is a tradition among Wrangler drivers, symbolizing loyalty, fraternity and a common passion for adventure and freedom. For Peter Catanese III, waving to other like-minded enthusiasts as they pass on the highway is just one of the reasons he loves being a “Jeeper.” “There isn’t another vehicle on the road that’s like a Jeep. It’s an iconic brand that’s fun and sporty,” said Catanese, the mastermind behind JustForJeeps.com. He says the website has expanded his family’s dealership, Central Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Norwood, into a popular source for Mopar parts (equipment manufactured for Chrysler vehicles.) JustForJeeps.com, launched seven years ago, draws about 3,000 visitors a day and generated $2 million in Internet-based parts sales last year, including to drivers in the Australian Outback and Tahiti. JustForJeeps.com also carries accessories and gear for Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, Liberty, Cherokee, Compass, Patriot and Commander, including Jeep-branded golf balls, hoodies, umbrellas, and even socks. “Jeep owners are among the most loyal,” said Catanese. “Their enthusiasm is endless.”
Q: This summer, you held the first annual Jeep Festival at the dealership. How did Jeep owners respond?
A: It was a rainy day in August, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but 300 Jeep owners showed up with their vehicles, mainly Wranglers. Caravans of Jeeps met up at service plazas and other places around Boston and drove down together. We had raffles, country music, and just hung out. One of our slogans was, “Jeeps, Jeeps, Jeeps! It’s a Jeep thing – you wouldn’t understand.”
Q: Jeeps used to have a reputation for unreliability – is that still the case?
A: Not at all – Jeeps are completely different now. Starting in early 2000, the entire Jeep and Dodge brand changed. The new Grand Cherokee is amazing, especially for the price, mid $30,000. There’s an updated Wrangler too; they came out with four-door vehicles that made it a practical vehicle for the family instead of the vehicle that always sat in the driveway.
Q: What’s the most popular item or accessory that you sell?
A: Even more than parts, Jeep clothing – like children’s Jeep overalls – are popular. In the last year, we’ve also sold a lot of cargo liners, splash guards, tote bags, and folding chairs. Running boards, or side steps as well as roof racks also go quickly.
Q: How did you happen to start JustforJeeps.com?
A: After I finished college, I started working at the dealership, managing the Internet sales department for new vehicles. But I just didn’t enjoy the price- haggling part of my job, and one day, a Mopar sales rep visited and told me about how another dealer was attracting a lot of customers by selling Mopar parts online. I decided we needed to do the same thing. It’s a good niche, because only dealers can sell Mopar parts – regular customers can’t just go out and get them.
Q: Did you expect to be selling worldwide?
A: We have shipped anywhere you can think of, including Vanuatu, a remote island in the South Pacific where one of the Survivor seasons was filmed. We haven’t gotten many orders from Africa, but we’ve had Jeep customers in the Middle East, South America, the Caribbean, and a huge business to Australia.
Q: What was it like to grow up the son of a dealership owner?
A: When I was 16, I got a demo car, lucky me. It was a new Grand Cherokee. Even up to today, I’ve never owned a car; all my cars were owned by the dealership. Today I drive a green Wrangler.
Q: Of all the Jeeps, which one is your favorite?
A: The Wrangler. It’s practical and a lot of fun, and practically the only car where other drivers wave to you. I recently put the Wrangler to the test and went off-road at the Rocky Mountain Terrain Park in Maine. I often thought, “We’re going to tip over” or “I can’t go up that incline,” but the car proved me wrong.
Q: My career has spanned over 25 years and I have been very successful in the corporate world. I have managed large, successful sales teams as well as large project and development programs. Past employment was secured through relationships. I never finished college, and now I find that I can't even get a call back from an employer, even for jobs I am perfectly suited for. Do I have to go back to school in order to get a job? Or is there something else I can do to get over this hurdle?
A: Congratulations on having a successful career. The most important sentence in your question is "Past employment was secured through relationships." You are proving one of the most important strategies in the art and science of job hunting. Relationships matter. Most job seekers still find out about new opportunities through their personal and professional networks.
Let's start with the positives. You have had a successful 25-year career in corporate roles. You have worked with successful sales teams and large project and development teams.
However, most of the candidates with whom you are competing probably have completed a college degree. An article published by the Boston Globe on December 15, 2010 paints a picture of who we are in Massachusetts. According to the article, written by Globe staffers Peter Schworm and Matt Carroll, “Massachusetts has a greater percentage of college graduates than any state in the country.” This article, entitled “A portrait of the state’s population,” was based on a five-year survey called the American Community Survey (ACS), published by the US Census Bureau.
Let’s return to another positive though: your network. Your network is likely filled with professionals who have worked with you and/or understand that you have worked hard to achieve some success in your career. These contacts are critical! Education is important but relevant experience is more important.
A few pieces of very specific advice:
1. Lead with the positives when you pitch your background and career. Focus on your success, tenures with companies, experience, enthusiasm and energy for past roles.
2. Use your network. Get active on LinkedIn.
3. Don’t ever lie about your lack of a bachelor’s degree. It will come back to haunt you. Instead acknowledge that you never completed your degree, but you believe that your 25-year career with lots of success if far more important.
If you are close to attaining your degree, think about how you could finish your degree. Could you look at online courses if you are two courses short of a degree? Or could you consider a school that would award you credit for some of your work/life experiences. If you choose to return to college, research the college thoroughly in advance. You will want to make sure that the college is accredited.
Unquestionably, email is the most requested topic of my business etiquette seminars. As well as being concerned by how grammatical and proofreading mistakes reflect negatively both on individuals and the company, managers also recognize the problems caused by the sheer volume of email each employee receives. I routinely hear people bemoan the fact they have literally hundreds of emails to wade through each day. One of the most exasperating causes of the volume of email is the profligate use of Reply All.
Just today a client sent me an example of an annoying email. The email congratulated and welcomed a new employee. It must have had at least fifty email addresses in the cc field. You can only imagine what happened as a number of the cc’d individuals hit Reply All and added their congratulations. Yes, those congratulations went to everyone cc’d on the original email instead of just to the new employee. The result: legions of unnecessary emails gumming up people’s inboxes.
There are countless examples of misuse of Reply All. It happens to me on a regular basis. In one case I receive an email from an individual who communicates with a group of professionals. Inevitably, individuals in the group hit the Reply All when they send something as innocuous as a “Thank you for the information.” Now all the members of the group, including me, are subjected to these completely unnecessary emails. Yet, I have to open each email because some actually will contain valid information. Unfortunately, that means I end up opening and scanning those “Thank you” emails as well. Ugh!
One of my pet peeves concerning Reply All is when a person sends an email asking several people to a meeting. Inevitably, some recipients will hit Reply All, and let everyone invited know if they are coming. Unnecessary. Instead, they should hit the Reply button, and let the organizer of the meeting know if they are coming. Everyone else does not need to know their status.
The Reply All button is located too conveniently right next to the Reply button. So it falls to each of us to make a concerted effort to use the Reply All button only when it is really called for—for instance when you have something of substance to add to a discussion. Do your colleagues a favor: before you hit Reply All, ask yourself if it is really necessary for everyone on the original email to receive your response.
Q. I have been at my company for three years, and I have done well, with only positive reviews. I have a new boss, who hovers over me when I am at my desk and touches my arm and shoulders. He also spends too much time in my office on things that are not work related. He has invited me to lunch several times which I have done because he is my boss, but it makes me nervous. I want to keep my job. What should I do?
A. You should be able to feel comfortable at work, with clear boundaries as to what is professional behavior, and what crosses the line. Massachusetts and federal law protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace. This includes overt “quid pro quo” harassment where a boss asks an employee to provide sexual favors in exchange for a raise, promotion or even to keep her job. There is also a “hostile work environment” in which a boss, co-workers, or both, say or do things which make the work environment so oppressive that no reasonable person would tolerate it. The catch is that the harassment must be based on your gender (or race, age or some other protected category) and it must be genuinely intolerable, not just to you but to any reasonable person. For example, having a boss who is mean or unreasonable is not illegal.
I consulted with Valerie Samuels, an employment lawyer at Posternak Blankstein & Lund in Boston. Attorney Samuels notes that this is a difficult situation because, although it’s your right to raise your concerns with senior management, it’s likely that your boss won’t be thrilled to be called onto the carpet. Given that your boss has not done anything clearly inappropriate, your first step should be to tell him that you feel uncomfortable about his actions. Your boss may just be touchy-feely and not even realize he is making you uncomfortable.
Attorney Samuels advises that any retaliation by your boss or others in the company is unlawful. If talking it over with your boss does not do the trick, or makes things worse, she suggests you promptly report this situation to human resources. Explain your concerns and provide the names of any co-workers who have witnessed the conduct. Human resources should investigate your concerns and address them with your boss. If this does not resolve the problem, seek advice from an attorney or you may file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Employees no longer have to put up with harassment based on gender, race, religion, age, disability, national origin or sexual orientation. Know your rights and call attention to these issues but keep in mind that not everything rises to the level of unlawful harassment. In this situation your boss may be clueless, have poor interpersonal skills or be just too friendly
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Yacht broker Marc Winder admits his name is apropos for his job at Sailboats Northeast in Marblehead. He gets teased frequently about his surname, but says for boat buyers and sellers, it’s an apt reminder of his maritime services. As a yacht broker, he acts as an agent, assisting with negotiations and helping clients locate vessels to purchase. “Unlike a house or car, people who are buying a yacht are doing it because they want to, not because they have to. So it’s a very pleasurable experience for all of us,” said Winder, 62, who likes to say that he “jumped ship” four years ago from construction management to become a yacht sales professional. Most of his customers are families looking for a recreational yacht, but he also has “high enders buying very exotic race boats.”
Q: What’s the difference between a yacht and a boat?
A: The two terms get thrown around interchangeably, but boats tend to be row boats or dinghys, whereas yachts are serious boats with sophisticated rigging, mechanisms, and electrical systems. We often also refer to them as ‘vessels,’ since that is how the Coast Guard refers to anything that floats.
Q: What types of yacht are in currently in high demand?
A: There is a great deal of activity in high-performance sports boats, sometimes called ‘one design’ because they are a uniform style that is used for racing. They are fun boats with minimal cruising accommodations but still suitable for a couple nights out on the waters. A family might do a Wednesday night race and then head for a weekend jaunt on an island.
Q: What’s the typical price range for a yacht?
A: Anywhere from as little as $2,500 to $250,000 and up. It’s important to work within your budget. One of my early questions is, ‘What are you comfortable spending?’ It makes no sense showing yachts beyond their reach – it’s cruel.
Q: Is brokering a yacht still very bound up in tradition?
A: It continues to function in a very polite way, where there is a great deal of trust invested in brokers. We sit down without attorneys, and often I equally represent both buyer and seller. Some first-time buyers are a bit surprised by the level of care that goes into the transaction, including documenting the vessel and transferring documentation. My commission is 10 percent of selling price, which gets divided up in multiple ways.
Q: What kind of boat do you own?
A: I used to have a wonderful Freedom 32 which I sold, much to the gnashing of teeth of my two children. So I am still hunting for my own boat. A yacht broker is his own worst customer.
Q: I work for a family-owned business. I have worked here for three years. There is an owner who is here 3-4 days per week. Two of his kids work here full-time. I think the plan is for the kids to take over the business one day. The kids are in their twenties but act like children. They bicker, fight and spend hours trying to sabotage each other. The kids drive us really hard but they don’t push themselves as hard. Instead, they spend hours texting friends or shopping online. It makes for a difficult work environment. All the non-family employees walk on eggshells. I don’t see a future here because I am not a family member. Do you have an opinion on how to make this a better work environment until I can find another job?
A: Working for a family business, as a non-family member, presents unique challenges. Conflict, however, occurs in all types of business, whether family-owned or not. Conflict can occur in any type of relationship, including work or personal relationships.
I consulted David M. Karofsky, President of the Transition Consulting Group (TCG). His firm works with family-owned businesses helping family-owned and closely-held businesses grow, thrive and work through inevitable conflicts in a healthy way. Remember, conflict is normal. How you approach and resolve conflict is essential to any positive work environment. Talking about how you will approach and resolve conflict is often helpful.
When I shared your concern with Karofsky, he offered the following recommendation: “I’d encourage you to talk with the owner directly about your concerns. Perhaps you could suggest a confidential, anonymous 360 performance appraisal for all employees, including family members, in order to gain objective feedback. If the owner seems unwilling to listen or address concerns within the workplace, you may want to consider looking for a new role if the conflicts become intolerable.” Only you can decide how much conflict you can live with on a day-to-day basis. Some of us have a high tolerance for conflict while others are more conflict averse.
Many business leaders, across all types of business, avoid conflict. No one truly enjoys confronting conflicts but some of us are better than others.
We’ve already looked at how actions and appearance can affect your relationships. Now we’ll look at the words you use and how you use them.
I learned my lesson about how words can have a negative effect on a relationship when I gave a seminar in Dallas several years ago. I responded to a question a participant asked by saying, “Oh my god. What a great question. Thank you.”
At the end of each seminar I ask participants to fill out an evaluation. I was stunned to see one evaluation which had a message scrawled across it in three-inch high letters: “How dare you take the Lord’s name in vain!” I had meant no disrespect. I have used that phrase and heard it used by others numerous times. But all that didn’t matter. What mattered was that when I uttered the phrase, my relationship with that participant was irrevocably damaged.
I realized from that moment on that I had to be more careful with my words. Even if a word is not derogatory to me, but it potentially could be problematic to a person with whom I am communicating, then I need to adjust my word choice. In business, words matter, and the opinion of the other person about the words we use matters.
Not only do the words you use matter, the quality of your voice and how you say the words matter as well. Consider how the following characteristics relate to you as you do your self-evaluation:
Tone of voice. Even if your message is meant to be helpful, a negative tone, such as sarcasm, may be hurtful
Speed. If you speak too fast, people will have a tough time understanding you. Slow down, especially on the telephone where the other person doesn’t have visual clues to help interpret your message.
Inflection. Try talking in a dull, monotonous tone for even a couple of minutes. Stressing certain words can bring emphasis to your message and engage your listener(s).
Laughter. A pleasant laugh is great; but a shrill, nasal, cackle à la Fran Drescher in The Nanny is grating and unpleasant and a turn-off to people with you.
Accent. If you have an accent, it can be difficult for others to understand you. Combine accent with speed and you have a sure-fire recipe for people not being able to understand you.
Pronunciation. Get the pronunciation of words correct. Here are five commonly mispronounced words:
Athlete. It’s ath-lete, not ath-a-lete.
Candidate: It’s can-di-date, not can-i-date.
Specific. It’s spe-cif-ic, not pa-cif-ic.
Espresso. It’s es-pres-o, not ex-pres-o.
Often. It’s of-en, not of-ten.
And thank you to all those readers who wrote in to explain the difference between a tic and a tick.
Q. I work at a restaurant full time, and most of what I earn is based on tips. We have always kept our own tips, but the new manager decided [we] are now going to pool tips. No one on the wait staff is happy about it, and we are now making less than we used to. I’m not saying he is skimming, but I want control of the money people leave me. What can we do about this?
A. Changing the way anyone gets paid is not something employees typically enjoy unless compensation goes up. How organizations deal with tips has been a matter of much controversy over the last few years. To get accurate information, I consulted with Daniel Field, an employment attorney at Morgan Brown and Joy, LLP in Boston who explained: ‘unless the restaurant is skimming or distributing tips improperly, the new tip pooling policy at this restaurant is probably lawful’.
Massachusetts and federal law allow employers to mandate that restaurant employees participate in a tip pool; this is often done to ensure that all employees who serve customers receive a fair share of the tip. Tip pools are subject to several important legal restrictions. The Massachusetts Tip Law forbids an employer from requiring any wait staff employee to participate in a tip pool where tips are distributed to anyone other than wait staff employees or service bartenders. A wait staff employee is defined by law as a person who provides direct service to patrons, such as serving food and beverages, running food or bussing tables. Service bartenders do not have to provide direct service to share tips, but can simply prepare "alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverages for patrons to be served by another employee." The federal minimum wage law, (Fair Labor Standards Act) further prohibits tip sharing with employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, such as kitchen and administrative staff.
Management employees may not share in tips, whether they are pooled or not. According to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, which enforces the law and where Field formerly served as Chief, “Workers with limited managerial responsibility, such as shift supervisors, assistant managers, banquet captains and many maître d's may not participate in tip pools. Managerial responsibilities can include supervising banquet events, making or influencing employment decisions, scheduling shifts or work hours of employees, supervising employees and assigning servers to their posts.” A federal appellate court recently ruled that this means that employees, such as servers in coffee shops who act as shift supervisors and who have only “exceedingly slight” supervisory duties, may not participate in tip pools.
Massachusetts law provides for significant penalties when a tip pool is administered incorrectly– whether it is employer-mandated, or employee organized. Even inadvertent mistakes by restaurants can have serious consequences, and can permit employees to recover from their employer three times the amount of their lost tips, plus their attorneys’ fees. Many local restaurants, resorts and coffee shops, large and small, have faced multi-million dollar judgments after erroneously including supervisory, administrative or kitchen staff in a tip pool. The law is controversial and some employers have responded by forbidding tipping altogether, while others have cut lower level supervisors out of tip pools, as seems to be mandated by the law.
Daniel Field is partner with Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP which represents employers exclusively in employment and labor law matters.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Scot Hopps gets plenty of teasing at the Lenox Hotel for his incessant attention to detail, including his vigilance to “light patrol” – swapping out the occasional rogue incandescent bulb to more energy-efficient LED. Hopps, the “Director of Green,” an environmental program manager for the Boston luxury hotel, is responsible for championing the hotel's numerous environmental initiatives, including hybrid vehicles, filtered water stations, LED roof signs, waterless urinals, and an entire hypo-allergenic floor. It’s more than a “green” hotel movement, though, said Hopps. “ ‘Green’ is definitely the term du jour but the duration and scope of what we are doing is more about sustainability and a long-term scope that encompasses not just the environment, but also a dedication to community, service, health, and business.”
Q: Isn’t it difficult to be green and also a luxury hotel?
A: That’s one of the myths about sustainability – that it limits or reduces pleasure, or that “I don’t get to have as enjoyable an experience because I’m thinking about being green.’ But the opposite is the truth. For example, if you’re eating local seafood and taking the T instead of driving, these are all enhancing your experience of green travel in New England, as well as allowing you to really enjoy the city. For the Lenox Hotel, many of our environmental efforts are behind the scenes, such as employee uniforms created from recycled plastic bottles, soy-based ink for all our printing, or washable plates and cups in our employee cafeteria.
Q: What projects are you currently working on?
A: We’re making an ambitious attempt to completely eliminate plastic water bottles from the hotel by installing filtered water stations on each floor as well as having attractive carafes and glasses in each room. And instead of single-use shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer bottles, we’re also working on implementing amenity dispensers in guest rooms, which eliminates a huge amount of waste.
Q: The Lenox is over a hundred years old. Does that make greening the property more difficult?
A: Yes, it does, and I’ll give you an example. The lobby has incredible chandeliers and when I tried to replace the decorative candelabra bulbs with LED technology, it didn’t have the right warmth and charm. So instead of using an inadequate off-the-shelf solution, we partnered with a vendor who customized the LED bulb till we were able to put it side-by-side with the existing bulb and not tell the difference.
Q: What's the best way to find out if a hotel is sustainable?
A: More travel search engines are adding the option for guests to be research which hotels are ‘green.’ But there is an overuse of green marketing online – almost all hoteliers are making environmental claims, so the best way is to ask questions when talking to the front desk or when calling to book a room.
Q: How did you get interested in sustainability?
A: Before I earned my engineering degree, I worked in just about every hospitality role, from overnight bellman, room service, housekeeping, and hotel manager. Later, I worked for a company that installed renewable energy systems. So it was a great marriage of the two. In addition, as a scuba diver, I am very interested in protecting our natural world.
Q: What energy conscious measures do you take at home?
A: I am the one who runs around the house and turns off all the lights, much to the dismay of my wife, who is often walking right back into that same room. I would also like to create a system where my dog’s rambunctious energy can somehow be harnessed into heating the house, but I haven’t figure that out yet.
Q: I have been to two job interviews for a position and received positive feedback both times. On my second interview I met with the department manager. After the second interview the person to whom I would be a direct report told me not to worry and she would contact me soon. She planned to talk to the manager the next day. It has been over one week and I have not heard anything. I sent thank-you e-mails immediately after each interview and after one week I sent another e-mail asking politely for any feedback and offering to provide any more information they may need to help with a decision. I still have not heard a word. Is it time to move on and is this the norm with employers?
A: Unfortunately, the scenario you describe is increasingly common. I call it the “black hole syndrome.” You may never learn why you were not offered the job. However, hold your head high. It sounds like you interviewed well and you were smart to send thank-you emails to the individuals with whom you met. There are several possible explanations for what occurred. Some include:
- The company offered the role to another candidate.
- They don’t understand the “unwritten rule” of re-connecting with a candidate (especially one that has interviewed) to tell the candidate the final outcome of the selection process.
- The role was put on hold.
- The position no longer exists and the responsibilities have been absorbed by others.
- The company is being acquired or merged with another company. Often when this occurs, open positions are put on hold indefinitely.
- The company representatives are uncomfortable giving you feedback.
I would suggest exploring other opportunities. You don’t want to continue to waste time and effort on a role that may no longer exist.
The coach's advice was simple—it may not have been any good—but some of us are still following it, years later, at work. You may be too.
"Run as fast as you can," he told us.
At the time, we were a herd of 8th grade boys, about to run a stomach-churning mile on an outdoor track. The gym coach, stop watch in hand, would yell out our times as we finished.
The coach never gave a reason to run fast, such as, "People are watching—some of them are girls."
He could have threatened, "If you don't run fast, you'll flunk gym, you'll never finish high school, and one day, when you least expect it, you'll be eaten by wild animals."
Maybe he didn't need to give reasons. We were competitive. And no one wanted to look bad.
That's similar to work. The clock is always ticking, there's never enough time, and no one wants to screw up, or be eaten by wild animals. Run as fast as you can.
Back in 8th grade, I'd never heard of Roger Bannister, a runner with a different approach. In 1954, Bannister broke the 4-minute mile (his time: 3:59.4).
Before 1954, people assumed it was physically impossible to break the 4-minute mile, and therefore, if anyone ever did break it, that person would immediately have to die.
Bannister was a talented 25-year-old runner (and medical student), motivated by a public defeat two years earlier at the 1952 Olympics.
But he had something else, a specific target—it wasn't "run as fast as you can." He was smarter than that.
And he set specific milestones: 10 straight quarter miles, averaging 58.9 seconds; 7 straight half miles, averaging 2:03; a half mile in 1:54 (St. Petersburg Times online sports, 12/17/99).
And he worked on his target every day.
After he broke the record, a strange thing happened. Within 3 years, 16 other runners broke the 4-minute mile. Suddenly, the impossible had become possible.
What's possible for you this year? You may be too busy running to even think about that.
Still, it's worth thinking about.
Tip: Set a specific target. Make it compelling. Then start moving.
Best wishes for the new year!
© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
Last week I challenged readers to conduct a self-review as a way to increase the opportunity to build stronger relationships at work. That review entails looking at actions (which were focused on last week), appearance (this week’s column) and words (next week’s column).
Your appearance has a direct impact on people’s image of you. Realize that no matter how good you think you look when you gaze at yourself in the mirror before you leave for work, if you walk into the morning meeting and people look at you and wonder, “What on earth is he/she wearing that for?” then you chose the wrong clothes. In business, it is the other people’s opinion that matters.
Here are four attire tips:
- Do my clothes conform to the company policy or do I push the limits? Adhering to the company policy is respectful not only to the company but to your colleagues as well. Are my clothes bordering on too tight, sheer, low cut, loud, or short?
- Are my clothes in good repair? Are they washed and odor free? Do they have stains, rips or tears? No matter how expensive it is, if that silk tie or blouse has a stain on it, it’s not appropriate for work anymore.
- Do I dress appropriately for the situation? A meeting at Ben and Jerry’s may necessitate different clothes than a meeting at a private equity firm. Clothes for a causal lunch will be different from those for a business dinner at an upscale restaurant.
- Am I ready for an emergency? You’re dressed casually when your manager asks you to accompany her to a meeting with the company’s most important client. Or, on the way to work you spill a cup of coffee on your shirt or blouse. Keep an extra outfit at work for these situations.
In addition to your attire, appearance also is reflected in your body language.
- Eye contact. Do you engage people by looking them in the eye, especially during greetings and when saying good-bye?
- Posture. Check out Amy Cuddy's great TED talk on power poses for more information on the importance of posture. By standing or sitting straight and tall you convey a confident image as opposed to slouching.
- Gestures. Do you sit back in a chair with your arms folded across your chest? This indicates you aren’t receptive or interested as opposed to sitting up and forward which shows your engagement in the conversation.
- Nervous ticks. You want to indicate you are a confident person, but your twitching foot or tapping of the pen on your notebook makes you look nervous and uncertain.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.
Q. I am a manager in a technology company and I am concerned about one of my employees. Two employees came to my office to say they were worried this individual as he seems more angry than usual and he recently blew up at one of them over a seemingly small issue. They wonder if they are overreacting, but he has been violent in the past at non-work events. I know that this person has been faced mental health issues. As a manager, I'm not sure what I am supposed to do. Maybe the recent incident in Newtown, CT has us all on edge and confused.
A. Tragedies like Newtown cause all of us to notice things that we might have overlooked before. It is part of the manager's job to notice changes in employee performance, attitude and behavior, including emotional outbursts. You need to have a difficult conversation with Bob, but you don't have to face it alone. You should alert your Director about your concerns and make sure your Human Resources representative knows as well. HR can be a great resource because they may have other data to consider.
I also recommend that you call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider to discuss your concerns and get some coaching on the conversation. Many managers believe the EAP is only for the employee at issue, but they are a resource for management as well. I consulted Kathy Greer, Founder and Chairman of KGA about your situation. “Managers should not overlook people who are struggling or acting oddly," Kathy said. “An EAP counselor can help a manager find the right words for a conversation. For many employees, an attentive manager may be just what someone needs,” Kathy added.
Once you are ready to have the conversation, and have discussed this thoroughly with HR, use the following suggestions from Ms. Greer.
1. Gather your observations objectively. Make a list for yourself of specific incidents and behaviors. Focus on what has changed or is new behavior.
2. State your concern, and give examples and how they affect the job.
2. Be prepared for each possible reaction.
3. Remember that your goal is to open some dialog, not to diagnose the problem.
4. Tell the employee that you need his help in solving the problem.
5. Establish a timetable for follow up and stick to it.
Remember that as a manager, you can help to change a life, or save a life. Make a New Year's resolution to notice people in distress and take action.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
The human nose is the most sensitive instrument in the world, said Roy Desrochers, a sensory analyst at GEI Consultants in Woburn. People can detect odors in even infinitesimal quantities, so if a product smells foul or a manufacturing plant is giving off a stench, highly-trained experts like Desrochers are often called in by manufacturers to address odor and flavor issues. His tasks range from the absurd, such as eating dog and cat food, or smelling used feminine napkins, to the enjoyable – such as tasting beer, ice cream and chocolate. “Sensory evaluation helps companies evaluate their products and services to ensure product quality, consumer satisfaction, and marketing success,” said Desrochers, 51. “Odor and flavor issues can be complex and aren’t always easy to understand.”
Whether it’s trying to determine the best shelf life of products; detecting possible smells from paper or plastic packaging; or examining a tainted water supply, Desrochers deploys a panel of human evaluators to respond to the products being tested. Test results are recorded, then a statistical analysis is deployed to generate insights and inferences regarding the product, said Desrochers, who also spends more than half the year traveling the globe to provide sensory staff training in places such as India and Taiwan. “As consumer preferences change, businesses must also frequently re-evaluate flavors, tastes and odors to determine product strategy,” said Desrochers.
Q: What’s the difference between your nose and the nose of the average person?
A: The main difference is that I’ve worked very hard to smell and taste a lot of things and memorize what they are, so I can put a correct name to it what I’m smelling and tasting. You might say, ‘this is a funny taste,’ while I would say it’s nonanoic acid, which is a rancid tasting beer. While we are both tasting the same thing, I can identify what it is and what to do about it. It’s like practicing a musical instrument. It’s important to have a vocabulary that expresses how something smells and tastes.
Q: What is your typical day like?
A: I show up for work at 7 a.m., and by 7:30, I could be sitting at a beer panel tasting six different beers. Then, at 8:40, I’ll be conducting a second panel, tasting orange juice. Then I might get a complaint about odors in a neighborhood, so I’ll drive around the streets and go to the factory grounds to try to pinpoint the cause. In the afternoon, I’m back in the lab, sniffing new plastic resins to use for a beverage bottle; then later, I’ll have a video conference with a group in India, Internet tasting with people around the world. My last panel of the day might be new prototypes of low-sugar chocolates.
Q: What do you do if you have a cold?
A: If you are just congested and a little bit of air still gets through, that’s all you need for the nose to work. The nose can be somewhat fickle at times, though, with certain safety mechanism to protect you. If you smell something really strong, such as hydrogen sulfide, a smell from sewers, the nose will shut down and won’t let you smell it anymore.
Q: How did you get into this line of work?
A: I have two degrees, in chemistry and geology. I thought I’d be working in a lab doing analytical chemistry, but I interviewed for a job that ended up being for a beer taster. The woman asked me, “Do you have any objections to tasting beer?” I spent my first 19 years at this company, doing all sort of sensory, environmental and packaging work, not just beer.
Q: What’s the future of sensory analysis?
A: There’s a lot of activity around e-noses, or electronic noses, especially for testing tobacco or alcohol. The technology is getting better, but I don’t think instruments will ever replace people.
Q: What’s your favorite smell?
A: That’s a tough question; it’s like asking which one of my kids is my favorite. But I’m a bit of a romantic, so I like things that remind me of the good old days, like musty books. I also love the smell of good perfrume, especially a nice fruity, floral scent.
Q: My son just left a job where he was paid on a salary basis. He had been at the job for about six years and was owed for 13 vacation days. Upon his leaving, the company figured his "daily rate" by dividing his salary by 365 days. Is this typical of how a business would determine a vacation day rate of pay for a salaried employee, even though he worked a five-day work week? They ended up paying him about $600 less than what he would have been paid had they divided his weekly pay by five days.
A: Your instincts are good. You are right to question the five-day work week vs. the 365 days in a calendar calculation.
I consulted Valerie Samuels, Esq., Partner at Posternak, Blankstein and Lund. Her response: “Your son has been cheated.” Samuels explains: “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law which governs certain wage and hour issues. We need to know your son’s regular schedule to calculate his vacation pay rate. The FLSA regulations provide that if an employee is employed solely on a weekly salary basis, the regular hourly rate of pay is computed by dividing the salary by the number of hours which the salary is intended to compensate. In the absence of a regular work schedule, a 40-hour workweek is the standard. This may also be calculated as a per diem rate based on a five day work week. Based upon a 40-hour workweek, your son would be entitled to vacation pay based upon his weekly salary divided by 40-hours.” Samuels and I both agree that using 365 days to calculate his vacation time is absurd.
Samuels offers, “The good news is that your son has an effective remedy at his disposal. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 149, Section 148 provides that vacation pay is equivalent to wages and must be paid immediately upon termination if the employee is terminated or in the next regular payroll if he leaves voluntarily. In the absence of such payment, your son is entitled to mandatory treble damages plus attorneys’ fees and costs. It is irrelevant whether your son’s former employer made an honest mistake or was ignorant of the law. Your son should contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office or seek the advice of an employment attorney to make sure that his former employer promptly pays the balance of his vacation pay.”
In Massachusetts, employers are well-advised to pay close attention to these laws so as not to be caught up in a potentially expensive situation. Additionally, employees should educate themselves so they know their rights and make certain they are paid correctly for their work.
It’s the first weekend of the new year, a time for resolutions and self-assessment. Businesses often use this time to do annual reviews. Perhaps this would be a good time to do a quick annual review on yourself.
You can break your review down into three components: actions, appearance and words. Be honest as you consider each component, and ask yourself if you’ve let your professional standards slide during the past year. This week we’ll take a look at how our actions affect how others see us. In the next two weeks, we’ll continue the self-review focusing on appearance and the words we use.
Certainly, think about those big things you do that affect the people around you. Recently, I heard from a reader who was so frustrated because a couple of his colleagues were blatantly surfing the Internet for personal purposes. Not only was productivity being hurt, but so, too, was the image of their department.
Subtle actions can be harmful, too. Do you find yourself interrupting others, not introducing a colleague or discounting a colleague’s idea in front of others? These actions can be deal breakers—actions that aren’t easily forgotten or forgiven.
On another often frustrating note, are you in control of your smart phone or is it in control of you? In spite of the fact that you know you shouldn’t answer it, text on it, or review an email while you are meeting with someone, do you find yourself doing exactly that and asking the person you are with to excuse you? Once in a blue moon, it may be okay, but if it’s becoming a habit, this would be a good time to resolve to change.
How’s your email etiquette? Are you following the who, what, when, where, and how rule, or do you devolve into the why and opinion in your emails? Do you find yourself sending an email instead of getting up out of your chair and visiting a colleague? Do you automatically hit the “reply all” button, or, when it’s appropriate, reply just to the sender?
Where’s your focus? I know I sometimes play with my phone while I’m in a meeting or maybe deconstruct a paper clip. I know I’m listening and engaged, but what kind of an image do these actions create for others in the meeting?
Do you do your share? When the photocopier runs out of paper, do you take a moment to fill it? If you find someone else’s papers in the photocopier, do you take a moment to deliver them or do you leave them there? Same rules apply in the kitchen: Do you take care of your own dishes right away, as well as the random glass or two you find left in the sink?
Your actions affect other people’s opinion of you. As you do your self-review, identify actions you could improve, even just incrementally. That’s the first step to building better, stronger, more positive relationships in 2013.
I have to write a self-evaluation as part of my annual review with my manager this month. Should I be tough on myself so they know I’m open to constant improvement, be honest about my strengths and weaknesses; or go easy and let my manager point out my development opportunities?
Congratulations on taking the strategic approach to your performance review and development plan. Evaluations are intended to help further your career and provide benchmarks that may impact monetary rewards. As uncomfortable as it can be to evaluate your own performance, it is critical that you sing your own praises as honestly as you share your areas for development.
Depending on the size of your company or team, you may work for a manager who is less aware of your day-to-day activities and responsibilities. Therefore, your self-evaluation is a great place to reflect back what it is you do for your organization. You don’t need to provide finite detail, but providing an overview is helpful. Even if your manager is very hands-on, it’s still important to communicate what your role entails, your achievements, and challenges.
When detailing your accomplishments and successes be as specific as possible. For example, use quantifiable terms like ‘demonstrated strong leadership and budget management skills on X project’ as opposed to using subjective adjectives like ‘great’ or ‘excellent’. Where you can, tie results and outcomes back to productivity; how much revenue was driven (if possible) or how much money or time was saved.
Provide concrete examples of where you went above and beyond to help specific people or teams on specific projects.
As you discuss your professional shortcomings, give specifics on how they have been a hindrance and how you have worked on them and plan to continue to work on them. Give an example of a project where you felt you were not at your best, what you learned and what you are doing differently now. Also remember that everyone has areas where they need to develop and your manager will appreciate your honesty and your self-awareness. If there are ways your manager can help, whether through a class, or teaming with him/her, make that suggestion.
Your self-evaluation is an opportunity for you to drive the dialogue about your professional growth and livelihood. You should always be just as honest about your assets just as you would be your liabilities. It’s not bragging; it’s a requirement for managing your career.
By Cindy Atoji Keene
In the decade that she has been studying marine ecology, Randi Rotjan has seen major changes in coral reefs, including reef loss due to a boom in coastal development,; an increase in invasive species such as lionfish, and other changes in the ocean. As a New England Aquarium scientist, she has been collecting real-time data on warming oceans and reef loss in her research as she explores the tropical waters near places like Belize, Saudi Arabia, and the Bahamas. “It’s amazing to dive into the oceans and get a glimpse of the way it should have been before people started interfering,” said Rotjan, 35, of her studies at the far-flung Phoenix Islands in the Central Pacific Ocean, so remote that they are a five-and-a-half day boat trip away from Fiji. “But even in such a remote locale”, Rotjan says, “human-induced change is evident”.
Q: Why the interest in Phoenix Islands as a research site?
A: It is one of the most spectacularly far-off locations you can image, almost 1,000 miles away from any other land mass. Their remoteness has protected them from local human activities that stress coral reefs in other parts of the world. They are a barometer, a bellweather for understanding global changes.
Q: How do you do data collection and sampling in the field?
A: We mostly work underwater, on SCUBA, doing work with our own two hands. The interesting thing about working in water is that it is 3-dimensional: I am working on not just a horizontal plane but vertically as well, which I use to my advantage. W do studies that require counting the number and status of fish and corals along a given distance. To make these measurements, I take a camera, clipboard with underwater paper and pencil, and take notes while swimming along. Sometimes I’ll bring a hammer, chisel or drills to put samples into tubes.
Q: How do you prepare for an expedition to the middle of nowhere?
A: It’s a giant undertaking that requires several years of planning and fund-raising to make it happen. For the Phoenix Islands, we don’t see another human being for a month except for the people on the boat, so we need to bring fresh water, food and medical supplies, and all of our scientific and personal equipment. This can include underwater photography and video equipment, small robotson a tether, measuring tapes, tags, and temperature loggers.
Q: How did you become interested in coral reefs in particular?
A: This was totally by accident. While an undergraduate at Cornell, I focused on honeybees, insects that live in colonies. Later, I spent time on plant genetics. With this background in biology and ecology, I found myself drawn to marine systems, and I eventually focused on coral colonies, which are both colonial (like honeybees) and depend on sunlight (like plants).
Q: How do you cope with seasickness?
A: I do get very seasick and there’s no good remedy for it. The term I use for it is ‘feeding the fishes.’ You just need to work through it and eventually find your sea legs.
Q: What’s your must-have treat that you pack to get you through expeditions?
A: It’s herbal tea. I bring it with me everywhere. A good cup of tea, something decadent like ginger chamomile, is ultimately calming, no matter what environment you’re in.