5 Ways to Fit in at Any Workplace

ID-100186400While getting a new job is always an exciting time, it’s not fun to be the new kid on the block.  As a new employee, you want to impress your manager, but at the same time it’s important to fit in with your coworkers.  Here are some tips that will help you make a good impression and start to build relationships with the people you will be working with:

Know what is expected of you.  As a rookie employee, you need to make it your mission to understand both your job requirements and the organizational culture.  Don’t make assumptions; just because something was okay at your last job doesn’t mean that it is acceptable here.  Ask a lot of questions and try to uncover the unwritten rules of your new workplace.

Be friendly.  Your coworkers can help you a lot when you are new to the job.  Get them on your side be being friendly and reaching out to them.  Smile a lot, have lunch in the staff lunch room and ask them questions about themselves.  You will find your job more pleasant and a lot easier when you are friendly with your coworkers.

Pay attention.  Part of fitting in is being able to pick up on non-verbal cues to understand how people are perceiving you.  Do they like what you are doing?  Are you getting on people’s nerves?  Are you doing something that is ‘not done’ at this organization?    Watch how your coworkers interact with each other and take notes.  It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the grapevine; but don’t engage in gossip.

Have a great attitude.  For a new employee, attitude is everything.  Demonstrate through your behaviour that you are grateful for this opportunity.  Show up early and volunteer for projects that nobody else wants to do.  Let everyone see that you are a positive addition to the team.

While it is important to fit in, don’t stress about it.  Remember that you are there to do a job.  If you are professional, courteous and true to yourself it won’t take you long to make friends.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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“FIGHT!” Learning the Dance Steps of Workplace Conflict

No matter how much you try to avoid it, at some point you will find yourself in a workplace conflict. If you are unprepared and handle the conflict poorly, it could cost you professional relationships and even your job. If you handle it well, it could be viewed as an example of your strong leadership and communication skills. Learning how to effectively handle workplace conflicts is well worth your time.

Rule #1: Don’t let the conflict get personal. Keep the conflict focused on the challenges of the position and the organization. Don’t attack anybody personally and refrain from getting emotional.

Rule #2: Don’t try to get other people on your side. This behaviour is unprofessional and can make a conflict more complicated and difficult to resolve. Keep the conflict limited to those who are directly involved.

Rule #3: Focus on maintaining the relationship. Even when conflicts are handled professionally, they can still cause strain on a relationship. Minimize this by demonstrating in your actions and communication that preserving the relationship is important to you.

Rule #4: Know when it is time to escalate. You should escalate conflict situations as a last resort. Only escalate the situation if you have done everything in your power to solve the conflict and the conflict is causing harm to the organization. When escalating the conflict, be as transparent as possible. Let the other party know that you are planning to escalate and invite them to be a part of the process.

Workplace conflicts can be challenging and emotionally draining, but since many people do not know how to handle them, it is an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo from: anankkml/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Making Friends and Why it’s Important

We always hear that networking is the most effective way to job search. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!”But what if you don’t know many people? Sometimes despite good intentions, it can be difficult to get your networking plans off the ground. Here is a plan to start your networking strategy in just one day.

Step One: Clarify your goals. Be clear about what you want your network to do for you. Do you want an administrative position in an office, or are you looking for a management position with a telecommunications company? Be clear.

Step Two: Make a list of ten places where you could go to meet people who are working in your industry. It doesn’t have to be a professional setting. It can even be the gym or your child’s school if it gives you the opportunity to connect with other people.

Step Three: Pick one of your ten places and go there today. Start talking to somebody and gently steer the conversation towards your career goals. At the very least, this is good networking practice, but it could also open up an opportunity for you.

Step Four: Go home and celebrate. You have officially started networking. If you stick with it, the possibilities are endless.

Successful networking does not require an elaborate plan. All you need to do is get started and get talking to people.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo from: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Do’s and Don’ts for Disagreeing With a Coworker

When you’re working closely with other people, sooner or later you’re going to have a disagreement.  Each of us bring our own motivations, opinions, experiences and styles to the workplace so it only makes sense that sometimes they will clash.   Disagreeing with a coworker is not a problem, it only becomes a problem when conflicts are not handled properly.  Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you ensure that you deal with workplace conflicts professionally:

1.  Do address the problem with your coworker respectfully and privately.  Most people appreciate it if you come to them directly with a concern.  Find a place where you can speak to your coworker alone and be polite and professional in the conversation.

2.  Don’t gossip about your coworker with other people.  Nothing makes people feel more attacked than having people talk about them.  How do you feel when you know that people are gossiping about you?  Don’t put your coworker in that position.  Speak to the person involved and then keep your mouth shut.

3.  Don’t escalate the problem to your manager until you’ve exhausted all other options.  Don’t be the person who goes running to their manager about every single conflict.  This behaviour will annoy your manager and alienate your coworkers.  Make every effort to address the conflict with your coworker.  If the two of you are not able to find a solution and you feel that the issue is important, only then should you talk to your manager.

4.  Do explain to your coworker why you disagree with them and offer alternative solutions.  When you talk to your coworker, do your best to make them understand exactly why you disagree with their approach.  Without placing blame, explain your position to them and give examples.  Offer them alternative solutions to the problem.

5,  Do listen to your coworker.  When you’re explaining your point of view to your coworker, there is a good chance that they will also want to provide theirs; take the time to listen to it.  Be open and genuinely consider their perspective.  Perhaps you disagree with your coworker because you don’t completely understand their point of view.

6.  Don’t take on every fight; choose your battles carefully.  Have you ever worked with someone who is always in one fight or another?  Did you avoid that person?  You aren’t always going to agree with your coworkers, but not every issue is worth a conflict.  In some cases, it is better just to ignore the situation and recognize that it’s not worth the trouble.

Workplace conflicts are not easy.  They can make you feel uncomfortable and they can potentially impact the way that you are viewed by your manager and your coworkers.  However, if you always remain professional and treat your coworkers with consideration, you should be able to navigate through any conflict with ease.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo by: Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

My Boss is Favouring My Coworker!

You’ve got a problem at work; your boss is favouring your co-worker.  You’re co-worker is always receiving positive feedback and preferential treatment, and you feel…ignored.   How do you handle this discouraging situation?  Here are some suggestions that may help:

Why is this happening?  Start with your own analysis.  Is there something that your co-worker is doing differently than you?  Is your co-worker performing particularly well?  Does your co-worker have a style of working that may be attractive to your manager?  Is there a reason that your manager may be unhappy with your performance? 

Does it really matter?  Sure, it’s no fun to feel like someone else has an unfair advantage, but is it really hurting you?  Do you still enjoy your job?  Are you treated well?  Are you being given opportunities to further your career?  If yes, then it may be best to rise above the office games and keep focused on your priorities.

Ask for feedback.  It might be a good idea to ask your manager how they feel about your job performance.  You could be making a simple mistake that is preventing your manager from joining your fan club.  Most managers would be impressed by an employee taking the initiative to try to improve their performance.

Focus on your job.   Instead of feeling neglected, try to focus on your job.  If you perform well and achieve results, your manager may start to recognize the value that you bring to the organization.  It is also important to be a team player.  Don’t be mean to the manager’s favourite employee.  It is always best to be professional and respectful towards all of your co-workers.

Has it become a serious issue?  There could be many different reasons for a manager to show a preference towards one particular employee.  Perhaps they know someone in common or have a shared passion for French literature.  Whatever the reason, it is best to ignore it until it starts to limit your opportunities or becomes blatantly unfair.  If it does reach that level, directly and professionally address the issue with your manager and provide specific examples of times that you felt you were treated unfairly.  The manager will likely either explain why he acted in the way that he did, or will promise to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.   The situation may improve, and if it doesn’t, it’s probably a good time to start looking for another job.

(Written by:  Karen Bivand, Photo from: Robert Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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Are You a Bully?

People with strong personalities are often successful in the workplace.  They do well because they are willing and able to fight for what they want.  The downside is that they are more likely to exhibit bullying behaviour.  If you think that you might be a bully, consider the following questions:

Do you believe that, on some level, you are always right?

Would you prefer to persuade someone of your point of view than to compromise or collaborate?

Do you find it difficult to work with others?

Do you have more conflicts than most people?

Do you get annoyed when you don’t get your way? (but you usually do.)

Do you feel that other people treat you unfairly?

Have you ever been accused of being a bully?

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, than you may be a workplace bully.  It is difficult to think of yourself as a bully, but many people fall into this trap.  If you have identified this tendency within yourself, you need to make an effort to control it.  Here are some tips to help you get a handle on this behaviour:

Recognize that it is a problem.  The first step is to identify that you can be a bully sometimes, and to acknowledge that it is something that you need to change about yourself.  If you don’t recognize that it is a problem, it will never get better.

Identify your triggersAre there certain situations that make you act like a bully?  Do you act more aggressive when you feel that you are being threatened?  Does a particular type of person cause you to act a little more dominant?  If you identify the situations that cause you to act like a bully, you will be more able to predict the behaviour, and thus control it. 

Stop yourself.  Now that you are aware that you sometimes act like a bully, you are more able to recognize the behaviour.  When you catch yourself falling into your old habits, stop yourself, take a deep breath, and try to approach the situation in a different way.  This will take some practice, but it will get easier with time.

Work at compromise.  If you are a person who prefers to persuade people to your own point of view, compromise may not come easily to you.  Make an effort to hear and consider other peoples’ opinions.  Even if you feel that your idea is the best one, you may get further ahead if you try out your coworker’s suggestion.  An important part of getting along with others is knowing how to pick your battles.

Enlist a friend to help you.  Self change is difficult.  It can be helpful to talk to a trusted friend and let them know what you are trying to do.  Ask them to tell you when you are behaving like a bully.  You can even have them talk you through challenging situations, and help you identify the best solutions.

Your strong personality gives people confidence in your viewpoint, and it makes people see you as a leader.  However, this same strength is a hindrance if you are perceived as a bully.  Take control of this behaviour, and your strength will take you far in your career.

(Written by:  Karen Bivand)

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Why an Office Romance is a Bad Idea

Are you looking for romance at work?  Have you already made a love connection?  Before you get too involved, take a minute to consider why it might not be a good idea:

It could discredit you.  Being involved in an office romance may cause your managers and coworkers to question your level of professionalism.  You could find yourself in a position where you are more known for your love life than for your work performance.

It can negatively impact your career.  A workplace romance can make life a little more complicated.  Depending on your position and your organization’s policies, you may be required to disclose your relationship to the human resources department.  You could be asked to move to a different role (particularly if one of you is a supervisor).  It is also possible for the relationship to get in the way of a potential promotion.  You may be considered an inappropriate choice if there is a perceived conflict of interest.  Don’t forget that even if things are great now, relationships can get messy (particularly when they are ending).  If you do break up, you may find it difficult to work with your ex (and possibly even your ex’s friends.)  These damaged relationships can negatively impact your work performance.

It creates a perception of bias. Depending on your role, an office romance could put you in a position where your motives are regularly called into question.  Are you recognizing the contribution of a particular department because your girlfriend is a member of that team?  Are you trying to go to that conference because you know that your boyfriend will be there?  Being involved in a workplace romance makes you an easy target for this type of skepticism.

It may make your coworkers uncomfortable.  Don’t forget to consider how your new relationship could impact your coworkers.  They may feel uncomfortable working on a team with both of you together.  Also, they may be concerned that you will get special treatment because you are in this relationship.  In addition, your workplace friends could be less willing to confide in you because they are afraid that you will tell your significant other their secrets.

Like anything else, there are no hard and fast rules about romance in the workplace.  You may find the love of your life, and handle it so professionally that it does not negatively impact your job.  However, there is a very real risk that it could make things at work more difficult for you.  In this labour market, it is challenging to find and keep a job that you enjoy.  If you are lucky enough to be in this position, think carefully before you complicate your life by pursuing love at work.

(Written by:  Karen Bivand, Photo From: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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