Friday, February 27, 2015

The 10 Elevator Passengers Most Likely To Press Your Buttons

Elevators. We can't work with them, and we can't work without them. Unless we want to take the stairs, and...meh. No, thanks. Going up?

Yes, you will probably choose to take the elevator, simply because it's faster and less likely to leave pit stains in your best work clothes.

If you're like the rest of us, however, you've probably encountered more than a few elevator passengers who seemed, shall we say, behind the proverbial sliding doors when the rules of Elevator Etiquette 101 were handed out long ago. Without further delay -- and I'll make it quick because you have to make an elevator pitch in a few minutes! -- here are the 10 Elevator Passengers Most Likely To Press Your Buttons:

1. Passengers who block the entryway. You'd like to exit the elevator, but there's a scrum of people standing right outside the doors blocking your way. Perhaps you're trying to get on the elevator, but there are passengers blocking your way just inside the doors. Sheesh. Pro Tip: While waiting for an elevator, never stand in front of the doors so passengers may exit. After boarding an elevator, never stand just inside the doors so new passengers may enter. Always stand to the side, or move to the back, freeing up the center. And if Miranda Priestly is boarding the elevator, well, you already know what to do.

2. Passengers who block the buttons. Standing next to, or directly in front of, the elevator buttons entails a certain level of responsibility. That being, as the well-mannered person standing closest to the buttons, you are tasked with asking other riders where they are going and kindly pressing that button for them. Otherwise, they may have to invade your personal space to press their desired floor number. Just ask them already, because it's the nice thing to do!

3. Passengers who talk too much. Your ride from the underground parking garage was blissful and quiet -- until you reached the lobby and two Chatty Cathies from the 20th floor boarded and immediately kept over-sharing jaw-dropping details from their personal lives. Then there's the harried professional who walks in talking loudly on his or her cell phone, until the call gets disconnected because you're riding together inside a metal box. Time is money, but self-awareness is priceless.

4. Passengers who let it rip. You're silently riding along, when...oh, wow, it suddenly smells like rancid broccoli in here! You can't get to your floor fast enough as you breathe through your mouth. You entertain yourself by trying to guess which fellow passenger let loose mid-floor. Why is the guy in the back smiling like that? Hmm...

5. Passengers who let the doors close. This is the passenger who sees you making a run for the elevator and -- denied! The doors close right before you reach them. Bummer. Sure, this person could have helped you out by holding the door open, but this Greta Garbo of the elevator world wants to ride alone. Someday, you'll get the elevator all to yourself, too. Living the dream.

6. Passengers who let small children press the buttons. Allowing a preschooler to press the elevator buttons can be a teachable moment, but working professionals could run late waiting for pint-sized Olivia to find 12. And 9. And 2. Then Olivia swipes aaaalll the lower buttons at once. Ugh! Don't get me wrong, Millennial parents: Your kid is as cute as a button, but nobody wants to get stuck between floors because Aidan managed to press the wrong button. The nervous passenger in the back will quietly appreciate your parental gate-keeping skills since he's already 12 minutes late to a meeting, and counting.

7. Passengers who complain the elevator is too slow. This passenger is compelled to point out how slowly (or quickly) the elevator is moving, possibly comparing this elevator ride to the smoothest, most awesome elevator ride he (and it's usually a he) has ever taken. "Wow, this thing is jerky and slow, isn't it? Have you ever ridden the elevators at...?" To his credit, this fellow passenger is usually a very friendly, engaging sort of person with a nice smile.

8. Passengers who seem to be contagious. This fellow passenger sneezes without covering his mouth and wipes his runny nose with his index finger. Then he kindly volunteers to press a button for someone entering the elevator. Oh, no. It makes you wonder: Is it allergies, a cold, the flu, or something else? And will you be next, considering how we're all standing together in close quarters? Unfortunately, you can't hold your breath until you reach your destination. Maybe the stairs aren't so bad after all.

9. Passengers who get on the wrong elevator. You're going down when a new passenger suddenly blurts out, "Wait! Is this elevator going down?" in a semi-irritated tone of voice. A few passengers nod, or simply glance up at the lighted "down" arrow located squarely over the elevator doors. This passenger grumbles all the way to the ground floor, or hits the button for the next floor and leaves the elevator in a huff. Hey, was it something we said?

10. Passengers who don't make way for the elderly. The elevator doors open, and everyone rushes to squeeze past the frail, cane-wielding senior citizen who boards slowly, and sometimes with great difficulty. I don't care how late you are. I don't care how busy you are. I don't care how important you think you are. Stand back and allow our senior citizens to enter and leave the elevator first, full stop. They have earned the right for the rest of us to wait a minute.*** Someday, if we're lucky, we'll earn the same courtesy from younger generations who grew up observing our good manners.

See? We can all make our elevator rides more enjoyable with a few simple, gracious changes. It's something to think about while we're waiting for the next elevator after someone aced us out. Again. And don't forget to hold the door!

*** I apologize greatly for my ranting tone, but it really bothers me whenever I see a senior citizen treated disrespectfully. /rant.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Doing "Office Housework" Might Help Your Career After All

A few weeks ago, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg co-authored a New York Times article that discussed the perils for working women in performing "office housework" tasks.

Now a new study is here to swipe its finger across our dusty office desks by telling us how cleaning the office coffee pot might just fill our cup of job security to the brim!

A new academic study published online in the journal Human Resource Management explores our "employee citizenship" behaviors at work. As in, "Wow, the break room microwave is completely disgusting and I can't take it anymore, so I'll be the brave one to clean it out!" If you work with this employee, then please take the time to thank her. (And if Sandberg's article is accurate, then chances are good that it's probably a "her" in many offices.)

We feel like a team player, but we might question ourselves as we reach for a handful of damp paper towels to clean the dirty break room microwave:

Will taking on this menial task make me look somehow less professional? Am I setting a bad precedent as the one who always performs this task from now on? Will volunteering for trivial office tidying "projects," or generally volunteering to go outside my job description, hurt my future chances of promotion?

Well, it might not hurt us as much as we think, according to the new study. Instead of hurting us, taking one for the team might send the message that we're willing to do what it takes to keep everything on track for the greater good.

This task isn't in our job description, but nobody else in the office is willing to take it on, so here we are, paper towels in hand, furiously scrubbing refried beans from the top right corner of the microwave as our impatient co-worker stands nearby with bean burrito in hand waiting to use said microwave. Well, don't just stand there, hand us another damp paper towel and cover your burrito as you're heating it!

The sparkling break room microwave has never looked better, and taking it on may benefit us in the long run on the job. According to an article in today's Washington Post:

"There's a choice we make about how to spend our time at work," [researcher Chris Zatzick] said. Although performance may matter most, "having a good attitude and being a good 'citizen' can protect you as well."

So it takes a village to raise a workplace, or something like that. We might just help our careers -- and possibly insulate ourselves from future layoffs -- by pitching in, staying late, volunteering, and, yes, willingly taking on the most unheralded of office tasks. Stepping it up as a good "office citizen" might just provide a protective effect. It is in our job description sometimes after all, but only at strategic, key points along the way!

Okay, I can already hear the commentary undertow. Not true, I once had a job where I helped out way more than I should have and I was a terrific team player every day, and they promoted my peer instead! Then I was one of the first to get let go as soon as they initiated layoffs! I hurt myself by helping out MORE than I should have in unheralded ways!

Perhaps you've steadily risen up the corporate ladder to find that you're a female senior manager still singled out to perform grunt work such as fetching new clients a cup of coffee. And don't forget the cream and sugar! Grr.

Personally, I admire anyone, man or woman, who steps up to take on a menial office task everyone else refuses to do even when they had a hand in creating the mess (see dirty office microwave example). We need more village-minded employees in today's self-absorbed, me-centric world, not fewer. CEOs can enhance their credibility with employees by getting their hands dirty, too. Pitching in by putting more paper in the printer shows that leadership isn't above it all, and is in touch instead of checked out.

It's a complicated topic -- nearly as complicated as figuring out which co-worker left a stack of moldy, unlabeled Tupperware containers in the disgusting, smelly break room fridge as we're cleaning it. (And if you're regularly stuck cleaning the office fridge, then you might suggest the company look into hiring a local cleaning company to clean it once per quarter.)

Smart managers will start a conversation around who is doing "office housework," and how these tasks could be spread more equitably between "busy" co-workers. Yes, this conversation represents pie-in-the-sky thinking that probably won't happen in many modern workplaces, but we can all dream, can't we? By the way, the office birthday cake is ready for pick up at the local bakery. I'll let you get to it, since no one else will.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Department Most Likely To Have An Office Romance Is...

Vault.com has released its annual office romance survey, which reveals that romantic wooing in today's workplaces is so commonplace that even someone in the HR department could be crushing on our co-worker. Hey, who says that human resources doesn't have a heart?

Chances are good that someone at work will catch our eye as we're climbing the career ladder: Slightly more than half (51%) of professionals surveyed this year admit to engaging in an office romance of some kind, ranging from casual encounters to dating to finding a marriage partner or long-term significant other. Of these professionals, 63% said they'd do it all again.

Perhaps the most surprising survey finding, however, concerns our co-workers in human resources! It turns out they're among the most likely employees to engage in an office romance. A full 57% of HR employees in this year's survey have been involved in a workplace romance at some juncture in their career trajectory.

In fact, HR employees rank third, behind retail (62%) and technology/manufacturing (60%), as the employees most likely to romance someone at work.

Meanwhile, 43% of all employees surveyed said they were unsure if their employer had an office dating policy in place, and 47% were aware of infidelity on the part of a married or otherwise relationship-committed co-worker. A full 31% think their infidelity-minded co-worker has gained a professional advantage from it, too. Paging HR, where are you on this? Oh, nevermind.

Where are we least likely to encounter romantically-inclined co-workers? The survey finds our friends in marketing are the least likely to get together with other marketing employees. Don't count on employees working in accounting, healthcare, energy, and finance/banking to be eager about office romance, either.

But office romance is a fact of modern workplace life.

So, there it is. Your obligatory February 2015 inter-office romance round-up blog post, starring...the HR department? Well, this workplace blog is about putting the human back in human resources since 2009, isn't it?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

This Valentine's Day, Give Your Employer the Gift Of Two Weeks' Notice

Before you quit your job on the spot, a new OfficeTeam survey is here to remind us how quitting spontaneously is a bad idea. How you break up with your employer still matters. A lot.

The vast majority (86%) of 600 HR managers OfficeTeam surveyed said that how employees go about quitting a job has an impact on their future career opportunities.

As if we need a reminder of this fact of work life, but then again, we live in the self-absorbed social media age. Quitting a job in these "YOLO," upload-to-YouTube times can result in thousands, if not millions, of views.

At the very least, we've all worked with someone who quits on the spot, or finds some other "creative" or rather unprofessional way to end things quickly at work. It can be easy to act in haste, and then repent at leisure upon the realization that it's going to be a long, hard slog to find a new job based on a previous job exit. Because reference checks.***

So how do we quit well?

The OfficeTeam survey offers hints on how not to quit a job. The HR managers surveyed were asked to share some "unusual" ways in which employees quit. Here are a few of them:

You can find more examples here.

The trick to ending a work engagement is to do it gracefully, and thoughtfully. OfficeTeam has five tips for employees who just aren't that into their employers anymore and want to quit on the spot: (1.) Offer the company proper notice; (2.) Wrap up loose ends; (3.) Leave instructions for your impending replacement; (4.) Do an exit interview, if one is offered, and keep your comments constructive; (5.) Say goodbye to your workmates, and offer to stay in touch. Then leave on a high note.

This Valentine's Day, give your employer the gift of two weeks' notice. Depending on the complexity of the job, you might give your supervisor even more lead time to find a replacement. It's classy, it's kind, and it doesn't cost three months' salary. Let the company down gently.

Refuse to do a fade out where you don't show up one day or suddenly stop texting -- or worse, have your significant other send an "I quit" text message -- only to leave your confused boss wondering what is going on. This is the online job market, not online dating.

Of course, your employer can still drop you on the spot in our at-will economy, but you'll be taking the high road by quitting with panache and professionalism. No matter how much you dislike the job, and the company. The good vibes from quitting classy will last a lifetime. At the very least, they'll last for the remainder of your stellar career until you can finally retire and spend your days watching popular "I quit" videos on YouTube.

*** Millennials: Underwhelming reference checks are sort of like the professional version of swiping left.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Japanese Are Giving Us Wearable Workplace Happiness

Japanese electronics maker Hitachi is gearing up to introduce a wearable workplace gadget that tracks and monitors employee happiness levels throughout the work day. Oh no, we're all going to get fired!

According to an Uproxx article:

Japanese electronics company Hitachi has developed a device for people to wear that will track their overall happiness with their employer. It looks similar to an ID badge, but it’s embedded with an acceleration sensor that monitors an employee’s motions during the day. Hitachi claims that there’s a correlation between people’s physical movements and their sense of happiness, and the data across an entire office full of employees wearing these badges can be collectively analyzed to measure workplace happiness on a scale of 0-100.

It appears that the gadget, which will be sold on a subscription basis, tracks happiness levels across an entire department rather than on an individual employee level. Whew! We were all really worried there for a second!

If happiness is measured according to movement, however, then the outside sales department should regularly revel in higher happiness levels than, say, the accounting department, correct? Outside salespeople get to go outside, after all. So managers who use these devices may need to ponder the typical motion in the ocean of each department before they analyze these happiness ratings.

What will managers do, exactly, with the data they gather? It's one thing to gather data; it's another thing entirely to interpret data. What does it all mean, and how will it be applied to real people in a real workplace setting who are doing completely different jobs?

Sorry Accounting, we've run the numbers and you guys are the least happy people of any department in the entire company with an overall happiness score of 62.

Okay, now what? A 60-day probation period pending higher happiness levels? Free food in the break room? Free yoga classes? All Pharrell, all the time? I'm partial to the D.C. version myself.

Also, we bring our emotions from home to work. We can't help it. We try to forget our sadness over a sick pet or an upset friend, but we can't block it out entirely during the work day. It's still in the back of our minds; we just manage to hide it well.

So how does the device deal with the complicated emotions in our personal lives that might get lumped into the overall happiness score? Our overall department score would have been better if it weren't for you and your messy divorce proceedings!

Wow, this blog post is quickly growing complicated amid an increasing number of variables. But the point is: The future is here, everyone! In the form of small, wearable I.D. badge-type thingie that says "Human Big Data" on it. Are you happy now?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

This Is Literally the Worst Workplace Problem You'll Ever Have, Ever!

Do you have a breathless co-worker who can make an average, ordinary work situation sound like an extraordinary plot line from a thrilling movie script? Let's talk -- in dramatic fashion, of course -- about the co-worker who exaggerates everything!

I've been following the Brian Williams saga as it twists and turns and morphs and misremembers. I'm not going to comment on his situation, other than to say I've noted random comments accompanying various stories on the topic that read something like this: "I totally have a co-worker who exaggerates everything, all the time." To which someone inevitably replies: "Yeah, every office I've ever worked in has someone like that."

Just add eggs and water, and bam! -- instant blog post that took hours and hours and HOURS to write!***

The Office Raconteur is always ready with a long-winded story, that, ahem, seems to exaggerate the circumstances. Sometimes, you're in the position to know if the details are entirely accurate, and sometimes you're not.

Did your co-worker's Tijuana vacation actually include a police chase and a donkey cart full of manure? Did he really stay up all night working on The Big Account? Because in all honesty, the goal posts on the project don't look like they've moved an inch since yesterday.

Was the client truly over-the-top angry in your co-worker's one-on-one meeting this morning, or was the client simply terse, and incredibly matter-of-fact, in making his case? Did your co-worker, in fact, make seventeen Michael Jordanesque slam dunks in the course of playing a pick-up game of basketball with his buddies last night -- and with a painfully pulled hamstring, to boot? Is this co-worker's excuse for being late for work (again...) entirely workable? Does it really matter if he or she tends to bend the details a bit to suit the moment, and the assembled audience? Hmm. I guess that's the question.

Sometimes, however, we're actually there to see it happen. No, the client didn't use that phrasing at all. No, our thoughtful, considerate co-worker would never, ever do something like that at a business lunch. No, this typical, run-of-the-mill task isn't nearly as "impossible" as this co-worker is describing it a new hire. We know the details of the situation, and the answer is: NO.

So, what can, or should, we do about the random "exaggerations" we hear from this co-worker every day on the job? A simple rule of thumb: If it's not affecting your job performance or general perceptions of you, then ignore it the best you can as a workplace annoyance. If it is affecting your job performance negatively, however, then it's time to do something.

If a co-worker regularly seems to exaggerate the details regarding his or her personal life or extracurricular activities, then that's on her. Chalk it up to TMI, coupled with a heavy dose of dramarama. Oh, there she goes again! If he or she is greatly exaggerating work-related details that somehow involve you, then you have every right to call it like you see it.

You might start by seeking this co-worker out for a quick, one-on-one private conversation. You might say something like, "I noticed you exaggerated some details in the conference call this morning, and I hope it won't happen again because it made me feel very uncomfortable." This co-worker might try to start a "Are you saying I'm a liar?" type of argument, but stay calm, cool and collected, and don't engage in debate. Simply say, "Well, I saw what I saw (or heard what I heard) and I needed to say something privately to you about it." Leave it there. This co-worker will now know that (1) your B.S. meter is finely tuned; and (2) you're a brave soul for pointing it out.

You might also make sure, as often as possible, that your future interactions with this co-worker are conducted in a group setting. In other words, there is always a third person (or more) within earshot to experience situations as they happen. Think of it as a form of recollection insurance should problems arise down the line. In some cases, you may decide it's best to avoid this co-worker entirely.

Should you ever take this problem to management? It's best to work it out one-on-one whenever possible to avoid involving HR, which could exaggerate the problem office-wide before it's duly noted in a file somewhere. Again, you'll have to decide if what this co-worker says is negatively impacting your job performance and damaging perceptions of you as a hard-working, diligent, good employee.

This workplace problem is a tough one -- akin to surviving the worst rush hour traffic we've ever seen in our whole lives, only to turn around and get yelled at by a barista who literally got up in our faces and made us cry when we asked for a stir stick! You'll have to decide whether it's worth calling this co-worker out, especially if you fear this co-worker might retaliate somehow.

Whatever you decide to do, just know that you're not alone. I would love to hear your workplace tales on this topic. Just stay away from making your tales too tall, and it's all good.

*** It took about an hour, and that hour was incredibly uneventful.