Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Dec 16, 2007

Common Pitfalls of the Internal Transfer

Instructor, Caroline Bender
As the calendar year comes to a close, many of you are engaged in internal transfers (one hopes toward a better opportunity rather than away from a bad one, but we understand that a working girl does "gotta do.") To use a seasonal metaphor, Candidates must beware of black ice -- dangerous patches on a pathway that seem clear and dry ....until you suddenly come to.

Today's Study Guide
10 Tips for a Smooth Transfer

10 Know your rights
Internal transfer policies are usually written with the weight of benefit on the employee. There will be some anti-poaching language included, but mostly the company will say (occasionally with grit teeth) that they want you to be very happy. really.

Your company has a policy on internal transfers, even if that policy is having no policy. More likely, it is a policy full of gaps and strange statements that indicate there is an incident behind them. Locate it, read it, study it within an inch of its life. You will have to play by its rules, but you may luck out on how poorly they are stated.

ex 1: The minimum period of notice is one month, for an employee not on probation, but a lesser or greater period of notice could be negotiated if mutually agreed by the employee and the head/school manager/supervisor of both schools or administrative departments.

ex 2: The HR representative’s responsibility is to remind both the internal candidate and hiring manager about [company's]Internal transfer policy. Internal candidates who are interested in transferring to another department [company] must meet the eligibility guidelines, understand and follow the application process as stated in this policy

Anything not explicitly stated in the Company policy can be assumed to be fair play (until they have to add it later after whatever you are about to pull).

9 Control the information flow
Once you are sure of the rules of engagement, try to control the information to your advantage. If you are not required to give your Manager notice of information interviews, don't. When you approach the Hiring Manager about a posted opportunity, be clear that you would like an "informational." Say that you understand neither party is under any obligation; you would just like to know more before deciding to apply. This is insider language for "I won't tell if you won't."

If you don't have to report where you are interviewing, don't. Some companies require the employee only to disclose she is pursuing an internal opportunity. It is the Hiring Manager who must come learn if they want to pursue the candidate.

Incidentally, it doesn't hurt to drop your resume off on the desks of people you admire, even if they are not hiring. A good opener is, "I know you don't have positions now, but if you ever do, I hope you'll think of me." Hand it over in a folder. Of course, this works better if you actually have a relationship with them, and works great with male executives of some rank. Because it's downright ballsy.

8 Don't fool yourself
That is, don't be blind to what you see every day as an employee and co-worker. You know perfectly well what's-what, who's crazy, where the dead ends are, and where the real power is. So if it sounds like a great job, but nothing good has ever grown on that field, stay away. If it sounds like a lateral move, but the quality of life is better, take it to the next step.

When Young Miss Bender was a fiery-eyed powerhouse, she thought candidates who weighed parking privileges and per diems into the package were shallow and short-sighted. Middle-Aged Miss Bender knows you've probably already had the best job you're going to have. So go into every interview with open eyes and a set of demands. That is never easier than when you are moving internally.

7 Be patient
Job hunts take forever because human organization is completely disorganized. When you are an unknown outsider, you will be stalled by interview schedules, PTO, frozen requisitions, and some hold-up with a nasty business called the "compensations committee."

When you are a known quantity like an internal candidate, add to this the secret references, reading of your personnel file, and political infighting between managers. Stay charming to the Hiring Manager, and respectable to your own Manager, and just wait. An entire quarter is not at all unusual a Time-to-Hire. It is only appalling.

6 Treat it like a real interview, only better
Absolutely dress, prepare, and be on time as you would for a job interview. All the more reason for you to
develop a practice of looking like you are at work on any given day. In addition, use this valuable 1:1 time to ask real-life questions about the job and the company based on situations you both know.

Not as in, "So, Marcy quitting, huh? What was up with that?" More like, "I was interested in your Issues and Improvements segment at the last company meeting. I wonder why more managers don't take advantage of that forum." Or, "I think one example of what you're asking about is this year's sales conference that I coordinated with Special Events...." Practice digging more deeply too. This is a good time to throw back the "where do you see this department in 5 years" question.

5 Make sure you're treated like a real candidate
This is part of knowing your rights. You have the right to the same number of interviews, with the same interviewers, in the same environment, as any other candidate. Don't let them tell you differently. Complain to your recruiter if you have to, making sure to keep it in an even impersonal tone.

4 Get it in Writing
Internal candidates get the short end of this stick at every turn. Insist on a real package -- job description, compensation, benefits, etc. Anything that was suggested verbally ought to be documented, especially talk of salary and departure dates.

3 Never negotiate your own transition
You can't win this. Your recruiter or HR rep should be the broker here. However badly you want to move, never start work on your next job while you are still in the current one. It's throwing time and money in the street, all of it yours.

2 Beware the Verbal/Written Warning
This is a dirty trick to pull, but it is one your Manager has at her fingertips. Not being "in good standing" can negate your transfer. If she has tried everything else and is determined to make you stay, she might resort to this. Have your best mates take you out for beers, call her every name in the book out of earshot. Do not drunk dial, say anything in email, or neglect to get your recruiter in this fight. Your manager has just taken money out of his pocket too. And he'll have something to say about that.

1 Tell the Team before they hear it elsewhere
Congratulations, you got the offer! While you're waiting for it in writing, let your current team know what's happening. Chances are they already know, but they will pretend they didn't and will be happy for you. While you are not looking, they are also casting lots on your desk.

Knock 'em dead!
Best of Everything in 2008!


Nov 9, 2007

Online tools part 4: Family/relationship management

Working women out there rarely find themseleves with too much time on their hands. Having little ones in the home can drive your free time into extinction. This doesn't stop Mom & Dad, Sis, and Grandma from complaining that they never get to see you and why don't you ever call? Thankfully there are many online resources to help you stay in touch with your loved ones when you don't have the time to update them all individually. Here are a few of Ms. Minchin's favorites:

Babysites.com: This site offers an easy way to share photos and updates of your little one with friends and family. You can post video and audio clips, maintain an online journal and growth charts. This site offers a free version (with advertising) and paid upgrades. You can password protect your site to keep out the weirdos too.

The family post: This site provides a great way to create your own family forum. You can share photos, stories and a family calendar. It even comes with a family directory as well as a message board. This is a great tool for keeping the extended family in synch, and planning events such as a family reunion. One problem with the site is how to determine who pays for it. It can be a little pricey, and money always has a way of causing family problems. It would be nice if Family Post could find a way to split the cost across family members (of course gandma and grandpa don't have to pay).

Free Wikis: There are countless free hosted wikis that could be tailored to a family forum format. The downside is they aren't as user friendly for the non-technical family members, and require more time from the site administrator to maintain and customize the site. The upside is they are free, and provide a way to collaborate or jsut share updates with extended family. My favorites are:

Lastly, don't be afraid to try Facebook. The fastest growing demographic for Facebook are people aged 35+. Ms. Minchin signed up and was immediately back in touch with an old High School friend. You may not be able to talk your mother into creating a profile (and probably don't want to) but it is a handy way to keep in touch with friends and colleagues.

Nov 7, 2007

Lady Executives, why do I expect more from you?

It's not right (or is it?), but I do expect more from women executives. Forbes recently launched its "ForbesLife Executive Woman" section, and here's what they believe the Executive Woman is concerned with: (One assumes that they've done the market research to support this, so I feel entitled to my disappointment)

-Sports cars
-Designer clothes
-Money managers
-Vacation homes
-Funny anecdotes about incompetent underlings

I realize that by expecting more from my female execs I am both adding more pressure to the role these women take on and reinforcing a sexist double standard that requires women to be more touchy-feely while being able to infiltrate the OBN. But I can't help it.

What do I expect?
I suppose I expect female execs to be more family friendly, philanthropic, and willing to mentor other women.
I was hoping to see headlines more like:

-Innovative flexible work options
-Nonprofits making a difference
-Why working moms are your best investment
-Benefits plans that make an impact
-Growing talent within your workforce
-Rewards for top talent

I realize that I don't expect really anything from male execs and am pretty content if they show even a basic level of general competence. Is that wrong? Is it wrong to expect that women can succeed and change the rules? That they can't redefine leadership? Is it wrong to recognize that women have to work 3 times as hard to make it to levels that male executives do (and why I don't expect as much from male execs)? Business women out there, what do you expect from your female execs?

It's in the Life & Style section
My crimes aside, the biggest crime of all is the new "ForbesLife Executive Woman" is listed in the style tab under a header "work/life balance".

Aug 9, 2007

Online Tools for Working Women part 3: Meal planning and Nutrition

Those of us fortunate enough to have cushy desk jobs and a laptop often find the line between home and work gets blurred. In this online culture, web-based tools can help us maintain a work-life balance so we can keep our life on track between conference calls. Eating well requires a bit of planning and for those of us with partners and/or children, meal-planning and preparation still usually falls into our domain. If I left it up to Brad, we'd be eating frozen entrees, hot pockets, or fast food for dinner every night. Thankfully, there are lots of great online resources to help keep you organized, healthy and within your budget.

Sparkpeople.com: (free) Though this site is geared toward people seeking to lose weight, you can still choose a healthy "maintenence" mode. Manually track what you eat or follow the suggested automatic meal plan. Track fitness goals, and make sure you drink enough water. Has a large recipe database, community message boards, and a massive amount of healthy lifestyle content.

Cool features: See how much of the daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals you're getting, stay in your recommended calorie range and get "spark points" (gold stars). The spark points are surprisingly motivational.

Drawbacks: too many pop-up windows (not ads), the colorful site is pretty, but makes it difficult to do at work. **See their sister site for expecting moms: babyfit.com.

--Weightwatchers.com has much of the same functionality, with a great interface, but has a relatively large fee. Diet.com is similar and now free, but has an annoying interface with intrusive and distracting advertising.

--Unfortunately, there is no site that I've found which helps you manage family nutrition. Understandably they are geared toward individual diet plans.

Living cookbook: Intense software which acts as an electronic recipe library, meal & nutrition planner, inventory manager, and even tracks cost per serving. You can track the prices of your groceries across various stores to see where you get the best deal. (It's based on software used by restaurants and cafeterias).

Cool feature: It can suggest recipes based on the pantry items (inventory) you have on hand. YOu can also pull in online recipes with some amount of manual work to properly parse the fields to enable accurate nutrition analysis.

Drawback: Way too much manual maintenence needed to take advantage of the cool features. [When every item has an rfi tag and we can download our grocery receipts this will be really cool]. Also, this is software you download onto your desktop. If you work full-time, employ household servants, and have a penchant for stretching a penny, you will want to buy this for your housekeeper.

Meal Planning Services
There are also several sources of fee-based Email subscription or online menu suggestion services out there, but most of them fall short in my view. They usually offer a week or month's worth of meal ideas with recipes and shopping lists.

Most services are far too generic for me to make it worth the fee. I am a bit particular when it comes to my meal-planning needs, I need them to be:
-designed for maximum efficiency (e.g. include ingredients that can be cooked in batches and re-used later in the week - like hard-boiled eggs)
-flexible for "mixed" families: vegetarian/meat-eating, allergies, small kids and adults
-fresh, seasonal and healthy
-a realistic mix of recipes by effort/time required: I want a mid-week break, and would like to put in more effort on Sunday.
-real diversity in types of food, not just American but also Indian, Thai, Spanish, etc.

One of the services, Meal Mixer, is promising. It allows you to tailor the menu suggestions to your personal taste by ranking certain ingredients, and you can eliminate ingredients due to allergies or dislike. It also allows you to easily swap suggested meals for other similar suggestions or for your own dish. Another cool feature is the ability to select preparation time for each day of the week, allowing you to plan more elaborate meals on weekends and easier meals during the week. Additionally, you can choose to display nutrition information, avoid certain foods according to particular diets (low carb, low fat), and request selections based on your body size and activity level. The recipes they suggested sounded appealing and simple enough. Unfortunately the user interface is kind of awful. The blue-on-yellow background design and clunky page style makes it a site I don't want to spend a lot of time in.

In the end, I have found that the only meal plan that will work for me is one I design based on my own needs, recipe repertiore and aptitude. I plan to follow the suggestion by the organizers at The Clutter Diet (more on them later) to write down a month (or more) of meals I regularly make that the family likes, and then rotate through the list. As soon as I get the time....

Those of you who eat anything and can pick up any recipe with ease will probably disagree with me. Please try these services out and let us know what you think. Most have sample menus online and/or free trial periods.

Dinner select
The 6 o'clock scramble
Meal mixer

Recipe sources:
There are tons of websites offering recipe databases, a few of my favorites:
Epicurious - compiles recipes from several publications including Gourmet magazine and Bon Apetit. You can save favorite recipes to your online recipe box, but many of the recipes require confidence and skill in the kitchen, and multiple ingredients that may be harder to find. Worth the effort once in a while.
Real simple - Has working-mom-friendly recipes with lots of shortcuts.
Cooking Light - Has heath-conscious recipes and lots of vegetarian alternatives.

Aug 7, 2007

Online tools for working women part two: Online calendars

Every working woman needs a way to stay on top of things. The working mom and wife is likely to be managing the entire household so accessing her family's schedules from anywhere can help her feel connected and in control. In my search for the Enterprise household management software suite, Ms. Minchin has tested some of the leading online calendar/scheduling products. Unfortunately, none of these meet all of my requirements, but there is hope that they will evolve into more useful tools for family management.


Cozi central: (free) Provides family calendar and shopping list creation. Each family member has their own tab/color and you can view an overall rollup calendar. You can easily assign tasks to others, like when I need Brad to drop off the kids at school. It also tracks shopping lists and makes it easy to type messages to send to Brad's cell phone. There is a downloadable version as well as a web-only version (the web-only version does not have all the features though). You can personalize it with family pictures, and for some reason it will create a screen saver for you of family pictures if you choose to let it.
Cozi also has a helpful blog that covers topics of interest to household managers/moms.

I wish this tool did a lot more such as including a to-do list, automatically sending reminders via email or text message, and of course all the other items in the Enterprise family management suite. It doesn't let you change the calendar view from monthly to weekly to daily, but a recent survey they sent out to users indicates this is one of the areas they are considering for future updates.

UX: It has a nice clean user interface, with warm colors, easy to navigate.
Cool feature: can send shopping list as a text message to Brad's cell phone, or request it via your own phone when you are in the store and realize you have forgotten your list.
Drawbacks: the Outlook synchronizing tool is in beta and froze during the installation.

Google calendar: (free) Provides an online calendar you can share. It has a nice natural entry of appointments/events. Just click on the calendar and type the information into a box (e.g. "Dinner with Brad at Anaconda @ 8pm). You can also overlay public calendars such as local events or Netflix releases. Why it doesn't work for me: I first create a calendar and then invite my hubby Brad to view it. Brad then has to create a Google account to participate, create his own calendar and then grant me access to view his. That's like asking him to go clothes shopping with me and then paint my toenails while I tell him about the way I'm going to organize the pantry.

Another cool thing about Google calendar is that it can be used as a widget in other tools such as a wiki site or Google desktop. (I haven't yet figured out how to keep it logged in to my account however, so I constantly see a blank calendar in my google desktop sidebar.)

UX: It has the simple, spare UI that Google is known for. Nothing offensive.
Cool features: Can send reminders to your cell phone.
Drawbacks: Not designed for my purposes, therefore unwieldy for family scheduling. Also, doesn't synchronize with Outlook - you have to manually import a calendar file.

30 boxes: (free) A shared calendar tool that was designed with social networking in mind. Allows you to share your whole calendar with buddies, or pick and choose which aspects to share with which buddies by using tags. When you invite a buddy to share your calendar, 30 boxes retrieves web information about your buddy for you such as Flickr photos and MySpace updates. It also has to-do list functionality, and incorporates the weather forecast into the upcoming week.

UX: Simple but grey UI. There are some options for changing the color.
Cool features: addresses entered into the calendar will generate a google map.
Drawbacks: Not designed for my purposes.

Scrybe: I wish I could try this!! Still in invitation-only beta. This product puts all online calendar and collaboration products to shame. It has an amazing user interface, productivity features such as side-by-side time zone support and to-do lists and an innovative "thought stream" feature. The thoughtstream feature creates a nicely formatted brainstorm/planning stream with photos, hyperlinks, document links, and text. I can't do justice to this, you just have to watch the video. It will rock your world.

Reminder service:
Ping me (free) is worth a mention here. It's a new online tool that allows you to set up reminders to send to your email or via text message to your phone. Interesting idea and could be useful for remembering future occurrences such as renewing your car registration or anniversary shopping. You can also send reminders to others.

What tools do you use to keep your family organized? Please share!

Jul 31, 2007

Online tools for working women

I have two agendas with this post. The first is to document my brilliant idea for a software suite I have been noodling for a year or two, so that I can claim that I thought of it first when someone more motivated and entrepreneurial takes it to market. The second is to share and invite you to share online tools that make your life easier as a working woman/mom/partner. Ms Minchin will be evaluating these online tools in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

The Enterprise Software Suite for Household Mangagement
In my dreamworld (yes this is how nerdy Ms Minchin is) I would turn to one online tool to manage all the business of domestic life. I have found pieces of this functionality across individual products, but have yet to find a single product that meets all my needs. This impossible tool would provide the following:

Family calendar (which would synch with my outlook calendar at work of course). The calendar would enable individual views and and integrated family view. One would never accidentally plan a "Mom's Night Out" on "Dad's Golf night" again. We could coordinate who picks up the kids, keep track of Shiloh's playdates, Maddox's dance class and Pax and Zahara's karate lessons all in one place. Reminders are a must. Keep track of birthdays for friends and family with plenty of time to buy presents.

Meal planning and Nutrition tools. I could use the tools to plan meals that are appropriate for baby Shiloh as well as my husband Brad. I wouldn't have to worry about whether my toddler was getting enough iron, or if my husband is eating too many hot pockets before a big action movie shoot. I would get suggestions for meals and automatically generate a shopping list. This would help me stick to my budget too! Ideally it would feed into my online grocer of choice and help me schedule grocey deliveries.

Budget and online Bill Pay features would have to be integrated. It would tie into the shopping list and calendar features. Financial goals could be monitored and tracked, and reported on.

Chores would be assigned and tracked online. These days preschoolers are online, so why not give the kids virtual gold stars? How about keeping the "honey-do" list online, so Brad can never say I didn't ask him, or forget what he agreed to do last weekend.

Project planning / Wiki tools would help us to keep track of home improvement projects, plan for the expenses and prioritize. Share pictures and links to the new faucets we are considering for the kitchen, or my dream appliance list, ect. with Brad. He'd add his comments in between acting and managing his fan blog. We could share ideas and options for our next vacation, our next home or plan a family reunion, or create a holiday shopping list.

Goal tracker functionality would be great to help track exercise goals, personal or financial goals, and motivate and inspire each other. How about tracking the 50 things you want to do before you die, or the places you want to travel to, books you want to read?

Other features I'd like to see are contacts management (synch with outlook) and service & maintenence management (when does the boiler need a service check, when does my car need another oil change?). What if the software could make suggestions and link to sites for shopping ans services?

What else should it include?

I continue to search for software or websites that do any of this. Over the next few weeks Ms. Minchin will be sharing her findings and inviting you all to share yours. Stay tuned!

Jul 15, 2007

When it all blows up in your face

Instructor, Caroline Bender

Even you, flawless young businesswoman, will have your moments in the wrong limelight. A lemon-limelight, if you will, when you fear your entire reputation has soured as the result of a project gone horribly (perhaps irreversibly) wrong. You will stand there, remnants of your work dripping through your fingers like strings of dissolved soap, and you will take the next important step of your now fragile career.

Resist the inclination to fall apart with it.
Nothing will feed your credibility bank like Grace Under Pressure. (It doesn't make a good acronym, but it does deserve to be capitalized.)

Step 1: Admit it. Own it.
Small mistakes can be swept under rugs, fringe tasks left by the side of the road entirely. Miss Bender accepts a certain amount of missed targets in any project, and generally advises her students to select 1 task or aspect that can be sacrified in favor of any other.

But when it all blows up in your face, when the catastrophe is holistic -- fish rotting from the head down, as it were -- your best course of action is to present yourself for direction.

Step 2: Offer an Alternative
You must be able to suggest a repair plan. "What the hell do I do now?" is no position for anyone above the rank of intern.

Depending on the damage, and the urgency of repair, you may need to offer a short term ("stop the bleeding," the brass are fond of saying) and long term ("do-over," the Brownies are fond of saying) approach. The best way to ensure you have this to pull from your pocket is to plan it in the first place. You don't have to tell anyone you did.

Step 3: Make no Excuses
Not yet. See Step 9 below. In the moment, simply take charge of executing your resolution plan, once it has been cleared by the Boss.

At this step, apologize "down," to your project team: "I am so sorry we're going to have to start again. Here's what I'm thinking -- please help me troubleshoot it." And listen. Let's face it, hot shot, you didn't have the best idea at the table, so let somebody else have a try. If you hand over the reins, make sure your successor is not going to be a fall guy. Support her in whatever she needs, but watch for low branches. She may not have ever done this before.

Step 4: Get it Done
Execute now, talk about it later. Nobody wants to hear the story replayed for the next half hour.

Step 5: Get Dirty
If your team member has a better idea, as in step 3, and you have put her in charge, take a supporting role. Pick up a bucket and start bailing; don't just stand there. And never ever leave your post until the crisis has passed.

Step 6: Accept Help
In your zeal to punish yourself, you may turn down offers to make you less miserable. Don't.
Call in your people. Divide and conquer. Your credibility bank is made for moments just like this, so start spending your endowment.

Step 7: Document
This can happen later, but make sure you do it. You will be surprised how often you'll need to refer back to this unfortunate incident. You'll need it for your project records and for thanking your team. Unfortunately, the Boss will need it when reporting up, and won't you look professional when you have a report already prepared when asked?

Step 8: Chew yourself out
In the honest, gentle-but-firm developmental way you would have if the staff had made the boneheaded move you did that brought us here. In retrospect, as you are documenting the original plan and the disaster response that saved the day, you will see your errors. Every one is a teachable moment. Teach yourself.

If you have an unhealthy relationship with the Boss, at least you'll beat her to it, and leave her with little else to throw. If she generally supports you (even when you screw up) she'll let you off the hook you've put yourself on.

Step 9: Apologize
Don't fall on your sword, (you didn't literally kill anyone. did you? ) just acknowledge the wrong experienced by the person you're apologizing to. Like this: "Gary, I truly regret that you had to re-enter all 500 records because I mistimed the storage sequence. That shouldn't have happened." "Ma'am, I am sorry we had to redeploy the Project B team to help clean up. If I can share any staff with Project B next week, I hope you will let me know."

Step 10: Put it to Bed
Once you have made your amends, stop talking about it, before you start to sound like you're fishing for compliments.

Jul 8, 2007

When the Boss is Away

Editorial: Violet Newstead, student at large

He left town last Thursday, in a flurry of "I'll have my cell if you need anything, but I'm sure you can handle it." We can, of course, we carry him most days, except for the things he keeps from us entirely. Count on those to be the things that blow up.

Boss trust is a funny kind of trust. Equal parts "Can't you just handle it?" and "You should have known better."

Boiled down, "cover for me," means "do what I would do, but I wouldn't insult you by leaving a list." They'll find other ways to do that.

They will send you to meetings you never knew they went to. The people in the meetings are bound to be tiers above you, so they don't know who you are, and that's just as well because then they don't know how to take you. One plus of today's casual work environment is that execs and drones look a lot alike. When cornered to speak for your department, affect a scowl and say, "I think we both know how Bob would answer that." Hope they don't call your bluff.

They will mistype your name or phone number on the out of office message so no one can really contact you.

They will override your decisions without even knowing what they were. The miracle that is Treo. It's a dance that goes like this: email to Boss bounces an out of office, sender deciphers how to reach the Backup, Backup provides assistance, Boss emails an hour later responding to the Sender and cc'ing the Backup. The CC of the backup can not be accidental, and the effort says, "here's what I want you to do, my backup. I want you to answer my mail, not lead the group."

They will bring you a souvenier, like you are their nephew or their dogsitter. Since you won't get a vacation, enjoy this souvenier of mine.

They will nod sympathetically when you complain later about this, and respond by naming a different back-up next time.

Maybe that's what you wanted all along.

Jun 20, 2007

Maximize Your Work at Home Day

Instructor, Caroline Bender

Ten years ago, as the Internet culture was gearing up, the Company thought of lots of ways to keep you working: bagels, and foozball, and comfortable clothes, and on-site day care and dry cleaning and Friday night movies.

Now that they have us trained, they can support our Work at Home days, which are just like your Work-all-Night days except the termite man can come.

The Work at Home is either a blessing or a curse, depending on both your work and your home, with a little of your ethic thrown in. The Finishing School offers some guidance on making the most of your Work at Home.

OK...Not OK..?
A faculty member of this site accuses the Work-at-Home of squandering their time and running too many personal errands.

a) she has never sent 42 emails between 1130 and 1245, which is almost mathematically impossible...and
b) she is not paying enough attention to what her staff does under her nose.

But let's say you want to make a good faith effort at Rules of Engagement for Work at Home day. What's "in scope"?

Life management phone calls - OK
Just as much as they are in the office. And easier, too, to describe your rash, order lingerie, and beg your mortgage officer. I have a hunch the internet was invented so people could do these things quietly. I know for sure that IM was.

Chores - Within reason
If you're not running the laundry, you're being played for a fool.
Anything that doesn't require fixed attention (oven nachos - OK; planked salmon- maybe not) is fair. After all, you don't have a staff, and the reason these things aren't done in the first place is because you're working all the time.

Poolside/Deckside/Lawnchairs - yes, yes, and yes
Get outside, would you? If you can be contacted by all your lojak devices, no one cares whether you are actually in the home office. Besides, the wireless signal is better out there. Just be working: not at the mall, Skate Nation, or texting through the matinee. And beach sand is hard to explain to IT when they collect your "resource" for maintenance.

Nap - Surgeons do it, why not you?
You have said many times that there should be an on-call room in the office. There should; it's exhausting there. So take a nap. Keep it to an hour and put your away message on.

Lunchtime DVD - Fine by me.
No fair to nap and have a movie on the same day. That's just mean to the lads on the front.

Phone meetings on mute - Yes, or the movie will distract people.
Surfing the web while on the phone meeting is the same as daydreaming in the conference, so just do it.

What about the kids?
Miss Bender doesn't have the first idea. Shouldn't they be at the playground, flirting with the ice cream man and learning how to smoke? Oh, I see your point.
Don't try to be the Kool-Aid Mom and work-at-home, unless you really do work at home every day. You won't do either sufficiently, you'll get on your own nerves, and the next thing you know you're on Dr. Phil.

How to Manage the Day

Own your environment
Whatever hampers your work environment, correct it at home. Adjust the tempertaure, the noise level, smoke at your desk, let the cat sit on your feet, whatever you need to create the ideal space you don't get the rest of the week.

Limit the type of activity
We recommend that you pigeonhole what you do on this day; that is, schedule all your phone meetings, or your writing projects. The budget review, or that Power Point prezo. Why bring the frenzied pingpong of your cubeworld into your nice sanctuary. Treat this time like a project and the day slows down considerably."

Pretend you are a consultant
Finishing School Upperclasswomen know our foundation "everyone is a consultant." In the little consultancy business you run, you are working today for This Company. And they will get your best, until it is time to stop for the day.

Look forward to it
Remember when you were young and energetic and smart? You read the trades and thought up new ideas with all the enthusiasm of a 7th grader making a science project? She's still in there, and she's sharpening up her colored pencils for you.

Jan 17, 2007

Are You in a Cult?: Part 2

Recognizing Stockholm Syndrome

Earlier in this curriculum, we discussed how to recognize the coercive environment within which you may spend your workday.

But lately you've been thinking that things have turned a corner. Your immediate peers have turned into a likeable bunch you actually have lunch with, and you've been seen laughing in meetings. You volunteer for things that don't even need doing, and for about a week you contemplated attending the company party. Just when you thought you might be leaving, they announced your bonus.

Are things truly improving, or have you just been sucked in?
And what's the difference, anyway?

In 1973, a Swedish bank robbery- turned-hostage situation resulted in the coining of the phrase Stockholm Syndrome, after the hostages determined they were safer in the bank vault with their captives than they would be if the police came bursting in. Think Bel Canto, with longer hair.

The condition of identifying with and protecting one's captors is now a recognized state of trauma and post-traumatic stress.
You may do well to be familiar with the symptoms. (from the Iowa Coalition on Domestic Violence,adapted for CWFS use)

Four conditions allow Stockholm Syndrome to develop
• A threat to [terminate] the victim and the ability to carry it out.
• The inability of the victim to escape.
• The victim is isolated from outside views. They are forced to accept the views of the aggressor.
• After a threatening experience, the aggressor displays kindness to the victim.

(well, now you have my attention)

To mix metaphors by way of illustration... New England summer is what keeps us here through a 9 month winter.

Here's how the Coalition describes some of the cognitive distortions your abuser -- that is, Company -- may be putting you through.

Narrowed perceptions focused on the immediate, that is, on surviving in the here and now
In spades. Here at the Big Company, we can barely get from one meeting to the next without crashing into each other.

Denial of abuse: don’t see themselves as abused when they actually are
Because the money, you see. There's just so much money.

Minimization of the abuse
"we've all been there." Also good for using abuse as a rite of passage, Marine Corps style.

Taking the abuser’s perspective: seeing the abuser’s wants andneeds as their own; seeing themselves as the abuser sees them;etc.
Let me take it from here: Parroting what they say...anticipating their needs... thinking of small little nothings to win them over....complimenting their evil prowess...

Rationalizing the abuser’s abuse
I like when they can align the abuse directly with the values. Takes some talent.
Oh, there I go again!

Seeing the abuser as more powerful than the abuser actually is
Good time to remember the foundational lesson of the Finishing School -- make the Boss earn you.

Seeing small kindnesses by the abuser as large kindnessses
$500 "spot award," minus 40% for Uncle Sam! Willikers, Mr Beasley, that's swell!

See their abusers as victims
"We're all in the same boat after all." pfffft

Believe that if they give enough love and understanding to the abuser, the abuser will let them live and may stop the abuse
Apparently this kicks in in the 3rd year at my company.

Believe that the abuser will know and retaliate if they even think a disloyal thought
Why no one will complete the employee survey

To consolidate: The authority tells you the world out there is a scary place, and you have it so much better in here, and they can make good things happen for you if you just wait for the danger to pass. And in the meantime, if they have to be a little tough on you to make sure you're one of the good ones, it's only for the good of the Company. And you really are one of the good ones -- when you apply yourself, when you aren't questioning the authority you work under.

You might want to read these bullet points again after The State of the Union; they are sounding more familiar than I thought.


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