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Tag Archives: workplace

Language in the workplace: should leaders and managers swear?

Some people couldn’t care less about swearing while others are highly offended by it. Bad language can be a divisive topic in it’s own right, but swearing at work seems to cause an even greater split.

There is evidence to suggest swearing in the workplace can have a positive impact on morale and relieve stress therefore boosting productivity, creating a better team spirit and improving bonds between colleagues.

The reason for this is that it enables people to be themselves and express themselves in a way that they naturally would outside of the office. When colleagues see this happening, it helps to break down barriers because you are seeing more of the personality behind the job title.

Others might argue that swearing is just rude, immature, unjustified, and a lazy way of expressing feeling. Of course, context is everything. It can be very easy to interpret swearing as nothing more than straightforward anger and aggression.

While cursing the computer system for crashing on you for the tenth time today may be seen as humorous, using foul language to abuse your boss for increasing your workload will probably paint you in a bad light. 

But what about when bosses and managers swear? Does this make you feel comfortable? These are the people you are supposed to look to for leadership so you want to see someone who is strong and in control and if that means using ‘strong’ language then that’s great, right?

On the other hand, if the person managing your team is always ‘effing and blinding’, doesn’t this display a lack of control? Shouldn’t they be more sensitive to their team members since the negative consequences of not swearing surely outweigh the positives of swearing?

Think back to Barack Obama’s reaction to the BP oil spill when he was said not to care enough about the incident – until he told a reporter he wanted to find out “whose ass to kick”. And it was only recently that Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron was widely criticised for referring to a member of the opposition party as a “muttering idiot.”

In some workplaces, they play it safe by having a zero tolerance policy on swearing in any context, be it humorous, light-hearted or otherwise. Others may want to encourage an open environment, freedom of expression and so forth. Whatever is decided, it’s important to be consistent and practice what is preached.

What are your feelings on swearing in the workplace? How much depends on where you work? Would you speak out if you manager’s language made you uncomfortable?

 

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Five reasons why you should take a break from work

Over here in the UK we recently had what we call a ‘long weekend’ – well really it was a bit more than that. Thanks to the Queen’s diamond jubilee there were two days of public holiday on top of the weekend that, for many people, meant a four-day weekend.

It got me thinking about the benefits of an extended break from work and how that rest and recuperation time can be harnessed positively upon returning to work. There are benefits for you, your colleagues, your boss and of course the work you produce and you may not even realise your work and even your working relationships are suffering until you return.

Here are five reasons why you should consider taking a break from work:

1. Let’s start with the obvious one – productivity. Taking a few days away from your workplace can be rejuvenating and give you the energy you need to step up your game. If you are in a better place mentally then it will show not just in the quantity of work you are able to produce but the quality as well. Isn’t 50 weeks of top level production better than 52 weeks of sub standard efficiency?

2. It shows you care about your job. Understand that taking a break is not giving up or running away or any other form of escapism. Mental fatigue can take its toll on you with the effects being felt on everyone around you. Although it’s counterintuitive to think stepping away from a heavy workload is a good idea, in the long run, it can be the best thing for you.

3. Passion. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’, although you possibly haven’t applied it to a work setting yet. Having time away from your desk can eradicate feelings of jadedness and reignite your passion for your career. You will return hungrier and possibly even with some wonderful new ideas.

4. In this digital era of Smartphones, netbooks, tablets and laptops it has never been more difficult to disconnect from work. Consequently, poor physical wellbeing and burnout are a bigger threat than ever. All the minutes spent, for example, checking and responding to emails on your daily commute can soon add up – and this is even before your working day has actually supposed to start. In isolation you may think nothing of it, but long-term it certainly takes its toll.

5. You get the opportunity to behave differently. You are your behaviour and if the person you behave like is a brain-fried, stressed out workaholic for 40 or 50 hours a week then having a break will let you be somebody else for a week or so. Something as simple as not having a strict schedule to adhere to day in and day out can be hugely refreshing.

I want to leave you with the results of a psychological study that showed how just the simple act of even planning a vacation alleviated stress and increased happiness for up to eight weeks. Certainly food for thought.

For more insights on what Catalyst offers in terms of people skills and learning & development, visit out website for free downloadable material at http://www.cbduk.biz/Downloads.asp

 

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How to overcome procrastination

Most people are guilty of procrastination at work for one of a variety of reasons:

  • The task is difficult or unpleasant so you either don’t want to or don’t know how to do it
  • The task is a small one, it won’t take long and can wait until later
  • The task is huge, it’s difficult to know where to begin
  • The task is low priority, you will do it when you’ve finished more urgent things
  • If you delay the task, it might not need doing at all
  • You don’t want to run out of work; you might look expendable.
  • You do your best work under pressure so let’s wait for the task to become a more urgent matter

To deal with procrastination, focus on the result, not on the process. Think about how satisfying it will be to get that monkey off your back and do this any time you start to feel unmotivated or negative about the task.

If you are tempted to leave the task thinking if you ignore it for long enough it will go away then you are taking a risk. It could suddenly become something that needs top priority and you end up having to start from scratch to get it done quickly – meaning the quality suffers. 

Try the following recommended techniques for overcoming procrastination:

  • Tackle the job you least want to do first thing when you get to work. You will experience a great sense of achievement and the day can only get better after that.
  • If you’re not sure how to do the task, analyse exactly what information you need and where to get it. Seek help now rather than on deadline day when no one is around.
  • The task may be simple but sometimes the unexpected happens and you have no contingency time left. Schedule a start time for the task on your ‘to do’ list and get it done.
  • Break down large tasks into manageable chunks; scheduling each with both a start time and finish time, and tick them off on completion.
  • You may believe you do your best work under pressure, but this attitude can convey an arrogant disregard for others whose input or participation is needed. Set a new earlier, deadline to allow for any unavoidable delays.
  • Promise yourself a reward on completion of the task. This works well if you are a ‘towards’ person – someone who is motivated by moving towards the attainment of targets and goals. This is also known as a pleasure motivator.
  • You may, however, be an ‘away from’ person, in which case, the painful consequences of not completing the task may be so dire that they give you a real kick-start to get it done. To activate this kind of motivator, imagine the worst consequences of not doing the task, and then multiply the seriousness of these consequences 100-fold. Not surprisingly, this is known as a pain motivator.
  • Finally, you could set yourself a challenge. Decide how long you are prepared to work on this task for and then use a digital timer to count down the minutes until it alerts you with a ‘ping’ that your allocated time is up. This works particularly well with mundane tasks such as filing or a housekeeping activity on your PC. You will find yourself competing against the clock to see how much you can achieve before the time goes.

There is an unwritten law around the concept that work expands to fill the time available. However, if you do complete all your workload, this leaves you time to be proactive and seek new opportunities that could enhance your career and professional standing.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy – for access to the Alchemy for Managers online resource visit http://www.peoplealchemy.co.uk/catalyst

 

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How to build a successful team

First of all, let’s establish what a team is. The Collins English Dictionary describes it as a “group of people organised to work together” which sums it up quite well. Would you define it differently?

Numerous experiments have been performed examining team building and group dynamics, one of which was put forward by Dr Bruce Tuckman in 1965. Tuckman’s developmental model consists of four stages which showing the behaviour and performance of teams in the workplace.

The four stages are as follows:

  • Forming – The team is not yet a team, rather a collection of individuals. They start to understand the goals of the team but they are not yet clear on their role within it.
  • Storming – Individuals tend to argue and even get upset about their role as unexpected difficulties arise and it becomes apparent that the task is more complicated than anticipated.
  • Norming – Only now do the individuals begin to work as a team. The ground rules have been established, roles have been defined and there is more focus on the task at hand.
  • Performing – The pinnacle of team building. Individuals understand what the other members of the team are good at and where their weaknesses lie. There is a sense of loyalty and total co-operation to the cause.

Getting from one stage to the next is not always straightforward though; it takes time, effort, perseverance and  patience. Invariably, there will be members of the team who don’t get along, which can be challenging for everyone on the team not just those directly involved.

If there is someone on your team with whom you struggle to get along, consider the following:

  • It might be the role they have to play that you find disagreeable rather than the person behind it.
  • If you have history with that person which may be the cause of the friction, talk it out with them and iron out where any differences lie.
  • Sit down and clarify what your role is what that person and vice versa so you both gain a better understanding of the pressures each of you face.
  • Make sure your focus is on the task rather than the person. Keep it civil and don’t put your energy towards feelings of anger or frustration.

Please click here to visit our website to find out more about how we can help improve your team as well as our other ILM accredited Leadership & Management courses.

 
 

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How do YOU create a happy workplace?

We’ve all been in jobs where the atmosphere is, shall we say, less than harmonious. People grumbling, gossip flying, unmotivated individuals and conflict galore. Nobody wants to spend eight hours of their day in a place like that.

While it’s not so straightforward to create and maintain a happy working environment but there are certain things that can be done to help cultivate one. The result is a more productive workplace with motivated personnel and a happy workforce.

There are so many factors at play so here are just five things that can help. We encourage you to let us know what works for you in the comments section below.

1. Be Positive

Show that you are positive, approachable and willing and able to lend a hand if asked. Even things like smiling and pleasantries convey a positive demeanour and people will remember you for a simple, ‘hi, how are you?’ Also, be respectful; do not engage in tittle-tattle or gossip, and ask questions before making assumptions – particularly when talking about other people.

2. Be Sociable

Ask you’re colleagues how their weekend was, chat about whatever sporting event took place the previous night. Does your company have a football team? Join it! 

Be the one to buy someone a birthday cake or get the morning coffee and don’t be afraid to suggest a quick drink after work. Getting to know the people behind the job titles you see day in and day out can really stand you in good stead should problems arise.

3. Personal Space

Don’t invade personal space whether you are talking to someone at their desk or sitting next to them spilling paperwork everywhere. If you share a desk or workspace, come to a mutual agreement as to where the boundaries are and stick to it. This shows a mutual respect and means if there is a pre-arranged agreement both parties know where they stand.

4. Be Honest

Be ethical and do the right thing. Don’t promise things unless you know you will be able to deliver them. Whether that is a reward for a completed task or saying you will have something delivered by a certain time.  If you say yes just to appease somebody then this will only lead to trouble further down the line so be honest about what you can and cannot do and don’t feel pressured into taking on too much responsibility. 

5. Don’t Assign Blame

Or at least, don’t vocalise this even if you do think someone else is at fault. This normally leads to snippy remarks, arguments and a general unproductive and unpleasant atmosphere. If you are the one to appear only too happy to listen to the other person’s point of view and willing to show empathy then the person with whom you have a problem will likely be much more receptive to negotiation. 

 

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The Skills/Motivation Matrix – do you recognise any of these?

Skills and motivation are the two key components needed if you want to achieve optimal performance. Having one without the other, both or even neither obviously has a massive impact on what a person can achieve.

As you will see from the words below, depending on the skill/motivation combination determines what kind of approach is required in terms of managing that person and maximising their performance.

Directing (low skills/low motivation)

Raising skills and motivational levels through training of short-term tasks.

The manager helps the person to envision a future they can construct, own and direct, and they set themselves short- and long-term goals to achieve this. Learning is structured through a series of cumulative events or short-term tasks with deadlines.

Guiding (low skills/high motivation)

Raising skill levels through on-the-job training, guidance, envisioning, support and encouragement. 

The manager needs to effect a real commitment to the employee’s vision of their future, ensuring that activity is consistent with this goal and is founded on what this future would really be like if the skills are fully developed and embedded in different practice.

Inspiring (high skills/low motivation)

Increasing motivation through opportunities for short-term successes, brokering resources, making connections.

Find out why there is low motivation. Skill is required to work adeptly on the positives expressed by employee in the dialogue, without being trapped into agreeing with or joining in the dissatisfaction. A range of short-term actions should be agreed that will bring a raft of successes to build on further and generate new enthusiasm.

Delegating (high skills/high motivation):

Exploiting connections, creating rich opportunities, disseminating benefit through delegated freedom to experiment.

The freedom to experiment needs to be well supported to allow mistakes to happen and to gather learning from such eventualities. The manager will be careful not to supervise the processes, but to work alongside with subtlety to evidence their interest, maximise the on-going dialogue about the learning arising from the experimentation.

To find out more about Catalyst’s accredited Leadership & Management courses and for information on our FREE seminars call us on 0207 436 3636 or click here to visit our website.

 

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Time Management – how you can be more efficient at work

Time is something we all have and that, famously, waits for no one. “I just haven’t got the time” is a common workplace complaint and it can be frustrating when everybody wants a piece of your time, tasks start to build up and it can become overwhelming.

So, here are some tips and on how you can better manager your time, get more things done and ultimately feel more satisfied at the end of your working day.

Group and prioritise your activities

  • Use lists. Create a list of all the activities you are involved with and put them into groups/categories
  • Prioritise. Think about what your main objective is and which group is most important in terms of achieving that goal

Make a daily To Do list

  • Get into the habit of updating it at the same time on a daily basis. Remember, human beings are habit machines so do this regularly and it will become second nature.

Set your priorities 

  • Label them as High, Medium and Low Value and keep the list in a prominent place  where you will always see it and it’s always accessible.

Tackle each item based on its value, starting with the High ones

  • It is also a good idea to have a list of small tasks to be completed for when you need a break or you have some spare time – which you are sure to have when you follow these time management tips!

Make sure you limit your To Do list to one that is achievable for that day

  • That way you will have that overwhelming sense of achievement when you finish work at the end of the day.

Don’t put off the things

Don’t be tempted to postpone the tasks that you dislike and, by the same token, include things you do enjoy. It will help give you the juice to keep going.

Allow for unexpected interruptions

  • Have a contingency plan in place for those interruptions which are unavoidable. If you deem any of them unnecessary then see what can be done to minimise them or at least the chance of them happening.

Set time limits

  • For when people ask for your time such as a meeting request, and be firm about it. If it’s not suitable offer up an alternative solution such as a different day.

What do you find works well when it comes to time management? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

 

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