This article explores five ways you can protect information you have on your computer screen from the peering eyes of others. You may be working on a sensitive document, drafting an email of a personal nature, responding to a performance issue, writing down your unfiltered thought process where you want to go back and edit later, or for whatever your reason you want to keep the information private.
So, what can do to guard against wandering eyes? Here are five suggestions.
1. Find a Private Place
Keeping things private may be more difficult when working from home and if you find this to be the case, you will need to sit your family down and explain to them the nature of your work. One thing you don’t want to do is have your children spreading information with their friends about what they read; and you may also need to have a discussion with your spouse about privacy issues and why you cannot share certain types of information with him or her. If you need to, move yourself from a central location in your home to a more private one, such as a bedroom or den, and close the door.
Another difficult situation occurs when you decide to go to a restaurant for a coffee. I have observed many folks working away at their computer sitting at the coffee bar with their computer facing outwards so that anyone walking by can see the computer screen. On other occasions I have walk by a restaurant window and saw people working away with great concentration with their backs to the window so that anyone walking by could observe their activity.
Guard against placing your back to doors or windows where strangers can peak in. You can do three things here: a) close your door; b) place an opaque covering over your window that lets light in but blurs the window from people looking into your space; c) situate your desk so that your screen on your computer is facing a wall and not the door or window. This will also prevent those who want to look over your shoulder.
Many people work in an open landscape office or have another employee seated next to them or close by. If you find yourself in this situation, make it difficult for people to see what is on your screen. You can place a privacy filter over your screen. A privacy filter is a low-tech polarized plastic sheet that works as an optical filter blocking out light from angles except the one right in front of the screen.
If you can, pick up your computer and move to a more private space. This could be a board room or a meeting room.
2. Watch Out For Those Who Are Listening
Be aware of those who want to eavesdrop on your conversations, even inadvertently. Remember people may be able to hear your conversations even when you are wearing earphones. So how do we deal with this in different office environments?
Earphones and headsets are getting better at blocking noise from the outside and keeping the conversation you are having with someone in your ear. I recently purchased wireless earbuds, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, and found that they do reduce outside noise and the incoming conversation were kept private. Of course, when I spoke other people could hear me. (By the way I found the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 had great sound rendition and consequently I have really enjoyed listening to music, even while I write this article. But I digress!)
Some people lower their voice to almost at a whisper when they talk on a phone. Unconsciously or consciously when people hear someone whispering, they strain their ears to hear the conversation. What is going on here is something called “respect”. Respect for the person talking and recognizing that that person doesn’t want others to hear the conversation for whatever reason. It’s not proper nor acceptable to eavesdrop.
Now there are legitimate reasons to eavesdrop for instance for training purposes. In those instances, the person with whom you are speaking with needs to know that someone else may be on the line or that the conversation is being recorded for training purposes.
When working from home you may also need to have private conversations with other employees, your boss, supervisor, or customers. Again, it is important to have conversations with your family about the privacy of telephone calls and the need to close your door or go into another room. This is not about keeping secrets from your family. It is about maintaining trust with those you are speaking with and they knowing that the conversation you are having with them will not go anywhere except between the two of you. Also, depending on the conversation, the information that is being shared or sought, may be of a sensitive nature that it is in the best interest of your spouse or children that they remain protected from the conversation.
There is, what looks like a muzzle you can wear when speaking with someone. It’s called BLOXVOX. You put over your mouth and looks like something out of the “Silent of the Lambs” movie. I have never used BLOXVOX, but the reviews indicate that it is an effective tool for keeping phone calls private. How it works is that it blocks your voice to the outside world, and with a silencing headset your conversation can not be heard by others.
Now back to the restaurant, bar, or any public place for that matter, be careful about how you raise your voice. If you speak loudly by habit, you will need to learn to lower your voice, and remember if you have a drink or two your voice will tend to be louder when speaking. One other cautionary note, make sure your ‘speakerphone’ is off on your cell phone when speaking with others. You may not recognize that the speakerphone is on so check it before you answer. I usually have my earbuds in whenever I’m in public places and this mutes the speakerphone.
>Enjoy unrivaled high-end stereo sound.
> Active Noise Cancellation provides high-fidelity sound.
3. Lock It Down
When you are away from your computer make sure you lock it down. Many of us have a delay for several minutes before our screen locks out. My experience shows that often people walk away from their computer – sometimes they are off to a meeting and other times they are walking around to stretch their legs. And, while they are in a meeting or walking around their computer screen is showing their work for all to see.
Here is a neat trick protect your privacy. There is a lockdown key you can use – For Windows “Press Windows Logo Key + L or if you have a Mack Control + Command + Q. These commands will quickly lock your screen so others can’t see it. Depending on your privacy requirements use them when you walk away from your computer even if you are going to grab a quick bite to eat or to the bathroom. When you return just sign in again and everything should be back to normal.
Speaking of "Lock It Down" consider attaching a 'laptop lock' to your computer. A true story. When I was working out of my office in downtown Regina I had a meeting over the noon hour with potential clients in our boardroom. Sometime during the meeting someone came in a stole my laptop off of my desk. The good news is that I got it back. I notified the police. The thief tried to pawn the computer at a pawnshop. Fortunately I had a 8 digit password to open the computer. When the culprit attempted to open it at the pawnshop, he failed. The owner kept him busy while he notified the police. They came and picked up my computer, charged the young man with theft, and gave me a call that they had my laptop. I was lucky that day. Most people do not get their computer returned. From then on I double secured my laptop with a laptop lock.
4. Use Encrypted Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi encrypted with WPA-2 is more secure than Wi-Fi that is open for all to access. Know that all routers support encryption so make sure your home Wi-Fi network is encrypted. To find out your Wi-Fi encrypted security on Windows 10:
To find out your Wi-Fi encrypted security on a Mac.
5. Use VPN When Connecting to Your Work Network
A VPN establishes an encrypted tunnel for your network traffic to flow through and makes it more difficult for others to intercept your traffic. Many organizations have a Virtual Private Network (VPN) set up so that you can get resources, like servers, that require you to connect to your work’s network. Use it if VPN is available within your organization. You can find this out by checking with your organization’s IT personnel. The VPN helps provide a more secure connection and access to your company’s network and the internet when you are at home, at the coffee shop, library, or airport.
If you are use Window’s 10 make sure your VPN is on. You can do this easily by:
If you use a Mac here are the steps you can use:
I hope you found these security suggestions useful. Thank you for reading and as always remember your personal growth and development matters.
Stay Safe. Be Well. Be Kind.
PS. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying information.
One of the real problems we have when we work from home is how to deal with all the information at our disposal. Being connected 24/7 causes information overload.
Here’s the deal whenever we try to improve what we do or learn something new we turn to researching the topic. While we generally think that the information that is only a push-button away is a good thing it does cause confusion for us; too much information impacts our health, causes us to lose focus and distracts us from our goals.
To keep you from being overwhelmed from all the information out there here are 5 ways to help you prevent information overload.
1. Know When To Stop Researching
Whether it is researching for developing a product, searching for images that will enhance your article or e-Book, reading material for your copy, or surfing the net for anything remotely close to what it is you are trying to develop, it is quite easy to get caught up in gathering too much information. Information is for one purpose and that is for us to take action. Too much information often freezes us from taking action. And therein lies the rub.
When we are beginning to feel overwhelmed by all the information it is time to break away from researching material. It’s now time to take a few days off from researching and let the information gel in your mind. The old adage “sleep on it” applies here. In essence we need to ‘detox’ and regain our energy.
2. Know When To Take Action
When we have too much information we often procrastinate. We put off taking action. This is one of the worst things we can do. Whether we think we have enough information or not, it is best to start your copy, or whatever you are working on. The whole point here is we usually research and gather information to do something. So take action. Just by starting on your action plan relieves your mental pressure. It takes the weight off of your shoulders, so to speak.
When we start the ‘doing part’ we become motivated. We strengthen our confidence because we begin to see results. We can always go back to gathering more information when we come to a ‘blank’ or when we feel blocked or run into a problem we don’t know how to solve. Following this tactic allows us to gather the information we need yet keeps us moving ahead.
3. Find Trustworthy Sources
Certainly, we find that there is a lot of information out there. Some of it is poorly constructed and poorly sourced. We can overcome this by selecting sources that we trust and then rely on them for most of our information. So what should we consider as trustworthy sources? Here are a few clues:
4. Be Wary of Internet Forums
Use forums and message boards sparingly. Make sure the forums are carefully moderated and showing clear and straight forward answers to your inquiry.
The other day I was looking up something regarding an issue I had with my ‘Outlook’ app and searched the internet for an answer. One forum that recommended a solution was so confusing and disjointed that it gave me a serious headache. Not really but you get the point. The problem was easily resolved by another forum that gave me clear instructions to follow and the problem was resolved by a few clicks. Needless to say, I will bypass the former forum and go back to the latter one.
And that leads to this consideration: When you have found a trustworthy forum or message board bookmark it as your trusted source.
5. Take Time To Breathe
The internet has become both a blessing and a curse. It provides us with information at our fingertips. Yet, it does cause information overload so be careful in how you use it.
The internet is here to stay. We will not get rid of it, will it away or destroy it – although there are negative naysayers, scammers, poisonous viruses that cause damage to our processes and systems that give us heartache. These things are part of our internet reality and we need to find ways to deal with them such as using antivirus programs and pressing the delete button when necessary.
The point is the internet is here to stay and we have to watch how we use it and not let it abuse us.
So take a breather once and awhile. Eat right. Sleep right. Exercise right. Meditate. Take the time to breakaway from the virtual world and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.
Hope this helps you.
Thanks for Reading and Take Care Out There,
COVID-19 has reshaped the entire way we now work. The office cubicle, coffee time with colleague and team meetings on round tables have become the things of past. Most organizations have already taken 'work-from-home' measures and established 'work-from-home' as their response to social distancing.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of distraction when working from home and some days those distractions test us and hamper the entire work flow. With a clear plan and dedication, you can stay away from those distractions and enjoy productive work when you're working from home.
Stick to your regular schedule:
We often are tempted to sleep in or do some household work before starting the work day. That can end up being harder for you to approach your work with the right attitude. So start your work in the same way or with the same mindset that you would if you were going into the office. Keeping a familiar schedule or routine always helps you focus more on your work and maintain the right work-life balance.
Enable Do Not Disturb Mode:
If you live with a family or a roommate, you need to set aside time when you will be able to concentrate on your work without being disturbed. Let your roommate and family member know when you want to remain 'in do not disturb mode' and when you are available for them. This way you will be able to set a disciplinary boundary for yourself.
You can use a visual aid, especially for your children. You can use a red and green sign. Red for "Do Not Disturb" and green for when you are 'Available'.
Put Yourself in Work Attire:
You don’t need to wear fancy jeans or formal dress. But, you do need to change your pajamas. Get dressed in something that you feel comfortable but not what you would wear when you want to hit the bed. You can wear a comfortable t-shirt and track-pant as an alternative to a formal dress code.
This may seem as small thing but it can bring you out of your comfortable zone and put you in work mode
If you still find yourself distracted, you should then put yourself in your normal work clothes. It gives your mind a signal that it’s time to get to work.
By the way if you want to wear your pajamas all day, do it on a holiday, I find it is a great break from the norm.
Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time:
Don’t let your meal time be your distraction. It takes time to figure out what you want to eat and then it takes time to prepare the meal. If you prepare everything ahead of time, including your snacks, you will definitely not lose anytime or get distracted from the work. Make your snacks in advance so that you can grab them and continue on with your work or use the time to complete priority chores, take a walk-break, or a needed break.
Turn-off Your Phone Notification:
Enabling silence mode is not enough as you still can see the notifications pop ups in your phone. Disable social media notification and anything that is not related to your work or assignment. This will help you avoid the temptation of picking up your phone. If you don’t require your phone for your work purpose, you can keep it in silent mode.
While your at it, turn off notifications for your e-mails. The message here is to answer your phone and emails at scheduled times rather than responding immediately.
Thank you for reading,
P.S. To understand some of the causes and cures of stress when working from home you may want to consider this resource.
Why write an article of this nature when most businesses are closed due to COVID-19. Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on your workplace culture practices and make suggestions to change the way you approach your organization and the people within it.
Brian Kristofek once said, “Being a great place to work is the difference between being a good company and great company.”
The success of your company or organization depends largely upon your ability to develop a positive company culture.
How you develop or adjust policies, procedures, and processes to meet the needs of a rapidly changing future has a profound impact on the atmosphere, values, structure, and morale of people within your organization.
So what can you do to foster a positive company culture? Well that is what The Workplace Culture video found in FORTIS MEMBERSHIP is all about.
This 30-minute video covers a wide range of topics that will assist you in developing a positive culture among your team and within your workplace. The following are five suggestions from that video.
1. Assess Your Current Culture
Assessing your company culture is easy when you are just starting out. After all, culture starts with the very first person you hire. You begin setting your company culture right away by setting out the type of person and values that suites you and your company.
However what happens when your company is already well established? What do you do then? How do you maintain and improve your existing company or organizational culture? Basically you will need to reassess and define your company culture if you want to see some improvements.
Here are some simple steps to understand, change and improve your existing culture.
a) Evaluate your on-boarding process. If your hiring and training methods are antiquated consider transitioning into more personalized, open and participatory processes.
b) Determine whether the leadership is fluid and agile. Your organization will have difficulty moving forward if your leadership team is static and resistant to change.
c) Review your organization’s recognition and rewards program. Give employees several options on how they want to be recognized and rewarded.
d) Assess the interaction among team members and the interaction among teams. The goal is to establish relations that will pave the way for effective collaboration.
2. Know and identify the values that underpin your business operations.
If you don’t do this it won’t be easy to identify what you want your company culture to look like. Some questions you should ask yourself when uncovering your company values are:
3. Institutionalize the culture
After you have identified the kind of culture you want and need, commit the policies and processes to reinforce the new culture. Make sure these policies and processors are scalable so that they can meet growth and change. You can do this by engaging a number of employees in the hiring process, essentially involving them in determining if a new hire is a good fit with the culture. Other things you can do are:
4. Build Trust
The foundation to every company success is employee trust. It is unfortunate that a lot of major companies have high levels of alienation and distrust among leaders and employees. Communication issues are often the culprit in this regard. The foundation to building strong trust within an organization is always good communication. Make sure you:
5. Reduce Micromanagement.
Micromanagement holds employees back. In smaller organizations bureaucracy and micromanagement can almost be eliminated. The barriers between management and owner in smaller organizations can be encouraged. A flat organizational model can work when there is a close connection between managers and employees. Bureaucracy is reduced when there is direct access to the leadership team or business owner. Make everyone feel that they belong and that they are capable of handling and finishing their own work. When employees own their own work they feel valued and have a sense of belonging.
Thank you for Reading,
PS. If you are a member of FORTIS MEMBERSHIP go to Masterclasses and Training. The video "Workplace Culture" is under the heading LEADERMANAGER. if you are not a member consider joining HERE.
There are several essential skills and habits you need in order to work well with others. It’s important that you develop proper habits early on in your work or career, as they do help you improve your relationships with your follow teammates, supervisors or managers. They also may be the sauce that gives you the opportunity to move into a leadership position. Essential skills and habits are extremely important in the workplace these days because of the number of people looking for work. If you don’t have them you can be sure others do.
Many of these habits may seem obvious to you but they are not so for everyone else they wouldn’t have to be listed. To be sure these five essential habits are not the only ones you need to exceed, but they give you a good place to begin. These suggested five are really easy to put into practice so there’s no reason to get excited thinking that you have to change your entire way of life.
If you look at essential skills separately, they don’t add up to much, but taken together they could mean the difference between keeping your job or getting fired. And very few people I know want that to happen to them
It’s always important to take responsibility for what you do, especially if something goes wrong, and things can go wrong very quickly. No one is perfect. Often people think they are perfect, but the reality is they are not. We all make mistakes. The best approach when you make a mistake is not to claim that it wasn’t your fault. Own up to the mistake and don’t pass the buck. That way you will be telling the truth and owning up to the fact that you were in control of the situation
When you take responsibility you will notice to important things: One, your co-workers will likely be more willing to help you correct the problem and thus help you to succeed. Number two, your co-workers will be more comfortable around you, as they will recognize your honesty and that you don’t get into the blame game.
Keep Your Mind Open
George know he was absolutely correct, but he kept an open mind. You see George was in a team leadership position and he knew that by keeping an open mind he gave his team members an opportunity to try something different and still succeed. You see when you come across as a know it all you don’t leave room for alternate ideas. And when you come across as a know it all you put others on the defensive and its downhill from there.
Practicing a bit of humility and concern about finding the right answer for every situation and problem, is more important than soothing one’s ego. You see there is more than one way to solve a problem and others just may have a different problem-solving process than you. Teamwork does have the potential to come up with alternative ideas much faster than working alone. And because the ideas and solutions have gone through several filters and perspectives the resolutions have a greater chance of being successful.
Honor Your Commitments
Those that succeed in life complete their tasks and projects in a timely manner even when the unexpected puts barriers in front of them. They learn to rise above the challenges, find a work-around or seek help so that they can honor their commitments. They also plan their projects well in advance, building in time to resolve the unexpected. It’s much better to give yourself more time to finish what you are working on, rather than underestimating the time to complete your assignment. This way you don’t have to be anxious about not meeting deadlines and disappointing your colleagues or your employer.
Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile. Set your personal bar high, but not so high that you can’t accomplish what you have set out to accomplish. And follow up on commitments you have made to ensure that to ensure that your team leader and team members are satisfied with the result. This accomplishes two things. First it strengthens workplace relationships, and second you get needed feedback on your work giving you the opportunity to learn and grow as a person and colleague.
Turn Off Your Phone
It’s safe to say that almost everyone in the workplace has a cell phone these days. If you work in a large office – or even a small office – and your phone is not necessary for work, turn it off. Build in self-discipline so that you don’t check the incoming message when you are talking with someone, turn off the phone in meetings, keep your personal stuff separate from your work stuff, and deal with your personal stuff on your own time. Keep to these four habits and you will not be seen as rude by your team members and others, and you will continue to build positive relationships with all those in your workplace
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
One way to fall out of favor with your teammates is to steal their ideas and suggestions and spread them to others as if it were you who came up with them. The word” steal” may seem a little harsh here but think about it. When you take something that doesn’t belong to you, it’s called “stealing.” Well maybe that applies to ideas and suggestions as well. It’s is sign that you are working well with others when you give credit where credit is due. Your co-workers will come to respect you for it as they see you as an honest co-worker.
When you share credit when credit is due, you will build your reputation as someone who is unselfish and not someone who is out to sabotage everyone else in attempt to get ahead. Even if you get away with it without your co-workers complaining don’t waste your time celebrating or thinking that you have ‘pulled the proverbial “wool’ over their eyes”. In the long run truth usually prevails and in the end you may become isolated as your co-workers will guard what they say to you. They will begin to see you as someone who can’t be trusted with their ideas. And this is not conducive to you building healthy relationships.
You may wish to consider becoming a member of FORTIS for further ways to grow your relationships with others whether that be in the workplace or elsewhere. Want to find out more. Click here: FORTIS MEMBERSHIP
Abundant thinking is a form of positive thinking. It is about creating a mindset of positive values that allow you to perceive your life as one of abundance, not one of deficit. It teaches you to flip over your mental attitude from negative to positive and appreciate how much you have in your life to be grateful for.
However, it doesn’t suggest that our gratitude should cause us to stop striving for more and just accept our lot in life. Rather, it teaches quite the opposite: that by acknowledging how abundant our lives are already, our minds will embrace the concept that the good things in life are potentially unlimited.
Abundant comes from the Latin word “abundare” meaning abounding. It means to be richly supplied; to be plentiful. Just as the word abundant means plentiful so are the synonyms describing it. I counted over 30 of them including copious, ample, profuse, rich, lavish, large, generous, and bountiful. This means that we should have no fear of asking for more because we can be confident in its delivery. Abundance is a store that never runs out of its goods.
Abundant thinking is a philosophical approach to life. It isn’t just concerned with money, although there is a strong financial aspect that can be applied. Where money is the issue, it is viewed as a tool or a way to achieve a better quality of life– not just the material aspects, but most crucially the freedom to spend time doing the things that matter with the people that matter.
Similarly, being someone who is rich may not relate to money at all. It can even negate the willful drive for extra finances, especially where that works against the more important aspects of life, such as love and family. We all know of rich, unhappy people. We read about them every day in the news that flash across our telephones or pop up on our computers and we see them on the television; people who have a clear abundance of finances but do not feel satisfied or fulfilled. .
Abundant thinking is all about changing how you view your personal circumstances so that you can change how you view the world at large. It is realizing that you have been the cause of your sadness and struggle in life through your focus on what you don’t have, rather than on what you do have.
Here are some questions to ponder: How does the concept of abundance play out in the way you approach your work? How much of your attitude towards your work relates to your own negative thinking? Can you view things differently by turning your mental attitude towards more positive outcomes? Do you, through your negativism, feed into a toxic workplace culture?
Thank you for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie
A team leader who strengthens the level of trust with his or her team is one who is skillful and effective. I think it is also true that a team leader who lacks trust with team members will have a difficult time, if not an impossible one, improving and expanding a trustful environment.
It’s not critical that team members like their leader, but they have to trust him or her. If not, she won’t be able to lead them and as a result members' motivation will wane and fall.
There is an old axiom that truth and trust go together. You could be honest for years, but one lie can destroy the trust you have built during all those years and no doubt that regaining that trust is very difficult. I liken it to breaking a glass window. A glass window works beautifully as long as it isn’t shattered. When it is shattered it is extremely difficult to patch up and most often needs to be replaced. So too, when a team leader loses the trust of his team he often needs to be replaced.
Team leaders have to be honest. Don’t say “I don’t know” when you do know. Be straight and say exactly what is on your mind. Of course you want to do that in a respectful way. When you say, ‘No” mean it. Again say it respectfully. There are certain times in the workplace when a ‘no’ is the appropriate response. The leader may not be popular during those time, but in the long run his truthful response is better than if he tried to fudge an answer or to lie about it.
In line with truth and trust is the willingness to accept criticism from both team members and colleagues. Sometimes it’s hard to accept comments – especially negative ones – but in order to lead effectively you will have to accept both negative as well as positive feedback. The key here is to listen to other ideas and suggestions without being defensive. In this way you encourage open discussion and engagement. Non-defensive listening doesn’t mean non-decision. Decisions need to made based on facts and these often come from critical criticism.
Show, as in demonstrate, is one of the hallmarks for trust. Saying “I trust you,” is important but not enough. Demonstrate trust by clarifying roles and responsibilities, communicating clearly and providing training, information and doing what you say you will do.
Another demonstration of building trust is recognizing a ‘job well done.’ Don’t be afraid to show appreciation when someone works hard and finishes an assignment successfully. Communicate your praise directly but don’t mix the praise with a negative ‘but’ – keep it simple and honest – and keep the negative comments for a private setting.
Building trust in the workplace is quite simple: Be truthful, say what you mean respectfully, be integral with what you say and what you do and be an example for others through consistent action. Building trust is all about carrying out the values of honesty and truthfulness and reflecting in your behaviour what you expect others to do. If you don’t do this expect trust to disappear and cynicism and negativism to grow in your workplace.
Thank you for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie.
A note before reading. Workplace shadows can reflect both positive and negative characteristics. Shadows used in this article reflect the darker or negative aspects found within workplaces. Read the other articles on the shadow: ‘The role of LeaderManagers in removing the shadow,’ and ‘Bringing Light To Our Own Shadow'.
All organizations and institutions be they business, not-for-profit, or religious, cast shadows. The shadow reflects the darker side of the organization. This article focuses on those darker shadows that exist in the workplace – those things that get in the workers way by stopping or slowing them down from doing good work. They cause serious vexing and discontent in the workplace.
Here are four of those things:
1. Poor communication. Communication is the grease that lubricates the systems and processes within any organization. It is one of the necessary nutrients that nurture relationships between colleagues, across boundaries and at all levels within any given company and institution. Sad but true, many leaders within an organization keep people in the dark. They don’t share needed information, encourage collaborative effort or cross boundary communication. One of the constant complaints I received during my work with organizations related to poor communications. I heard people say: “People don’t communicate here,” or “I’m not sure what I’m suppose to do. Nobody tells me anything,” or “We know changes are coming, but we don’t know how they will affect us. We’re kept in the dark.”
Poor communication causes anxiety, in-fighting, fear, discontent, relational difficulties, and sometimes public outcry. The poorer the communication the darker the shadow becomes, until employees start walking away or the quality of their work suffers.
2. Limited Engagement. Poor communication within the workplace often brings limited engagement. Workers, who complain that they don’t know what to do or are kept in the dark, are complaining not only about poor communication but also about their lack of engagement within the organization. Engagement brings light to the shadow. Disengagement fosters discontent. What does the disengagement shadow look like?
3. Lack of mutually established objectives. Concomitant with the lack of engagement and poor communication comes poor performance. Poor performance often is a result of not knowing what is expected and when that expectation is due. What frustrates workers is not that objective are set, but that they are set without their involvement. They are given to them and then told to achieve them. This is an easy way to encourage complaining in the workplace and a lack of performance because there is no ownership for the objective.
Another factor that causes frustration is when the objectives are not attainable or realistic. We live in a time where changes and shifting priorities occur rapidly. So setting timelines for the objectives that are too far into the future may not be realistic for today’s realities. In short order the objectives become obsolete and workers then wonder why they were set in the first place, and the shadow begins to darken.
4. Poor wages. There is a growing discrepancy between the wages of leadership teams and workers, especially within large corporations. It is hard for workers, and people in general, to understand the wide gap between highly paid CEOs, Vice Presidents and others within the leadership team and those on the ground floor.
Why do employees want higher wages? It’s simple. They want to care for their families, put food on the table and buy houses to make a home. My experience with business owners and their leadership teams is that they often have two complaints: taxes are too high, and they can’t afford to pay higher minimum wages. Yet, I see these same people driving big cars, owning cottages at the lake, living in large houses, and vacationing in exotic resorts. I also hear them say the highways need to be fixed, health services need to be improved, education costs are too high, and welfare programs are being abused. What is wrong with this picture?
The shadow produces a toxic environment, and unfortunately when workers criticize or complain about the darker side of the organization leaders grumble about the workers. Here’s the deal, just because workers criticize doesn’t mean they don’t like their work. What they seek is a more pleasant workplace where people get along, they want to understand the big “Why” of the company so that they can commit to it and they seek processes that allow for green tape rather than red tape.
When the shadow becomes too dark, workers walk with their feet to other places of employment. This is a recipe for high turn-over rates and in turn, higher costs; or, it results in workers organizing for higher wages, better working conditions, and improved workplace cultures.
Does your organization or place of business have a looming shadow? What do you think will happen when the shadow becomes too dark in your workplace?
Thanks for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie
You may have read several interesting articles about the difficulty some managers have with Millennials. They say Millennials lack focus, discipline and communication skills. They give several reasons for this and often suggest it relates to essential skills (some call these soft skills) not taught in their early school years (see : Trevor Muir)
Here’s my take:
Frankly, I wonder whether the problem is with the new batch of workers we call the Millennials, or with the managers who have difficulty adjusting to the new challenges they present. I also have difficulty placing people in 25-year chunks as if all people who were born during those years act in the same way. I don’t think they do but there does seem to be a few common traits among those born in each generation. So my advice is don’t lump all young people in the same category but treat them as individuals with strengths and weaknesses in the same way we treat others who have strengths and weaknesses.
Given the above rider here are some suggestions that may help you relate to Millennials and everyone else in the workforce:
Engage Workers in Strategic Thinking. Help people understand the big company picture through small group discussions. Give them meaningful issues to resolve that relate to the vision of the company. This means you don’t tell them what you want to hear but listen to their suggestions for improvement. By taking the time to paint the big picture, not in some esoteric frame but in real practical terms, will help people link their everyday work to the overall vision. If people don’t see the link between what they do and why they should do it, they won’t become fully engaged in your company.
Shift Your Power Structure. If you operate from a command and control, hierarchical structure, you will have difficulty with most workers these days. This will be a harder adjustment for the leader/manager than the worker. The leader/manager needs to understand that his power comes through others and not through his own ego, or some hierarchical structure. There are still too many mangers and leaders who want to do things there way, as if there is only one way to do them. Often managers diminish employee morale and weaken long-term results when they consistently operate from a command and control stance. When leaders find ways to shift appropriate power, and hence decision-making, to the lowest level within an organization they will achieve a more efficient and satisfied organization.
Develop Face-to-Face Essential Skills Learning. Many companies are moving to a more technological approach to staff development. As a result several training and development firms are developing more and more on-line courses for those in the workplace. Companies have bought into this method, not because it is always the best teaching method, but because it is a cheaper alternative to face-to-face learning, can be accessed at any time including after hours, and allows leaders and managers to easily check off staff training from their list. However, this may be a short-sighted approach particularly when it comes to essential skill development.
Essential skills are those which are often considered soft skills such as influencing, communication, time management, decision-making and critical thinking. My experience is that these skills are best learned through face-to-face teaching methods. Take communication for example. We don’t need to teach young people how to use social media or email. They already know how to use them, probably better than most managers. What we need to teach them is how to communicate effectively using the social technological medium, but more importantly how to communicate face-to-face using techniques that are designed to improve skills for listening, paraphrasing, understanding non-verbal language, questioning, dealing with different personalities and profiles and customer service. These skills are best learned through face-to-face facilitation methods. By the way they are also skills that many managers and leaders have told me young people lack.
Improve Self-Discipline Techniques. Self-discipline is best taught from a young age, but frequently it isn’t. Consequently young people entering the workforce are required to learn the skill, often the hard way. Many leader/managers find their employees have too many distractions at their fingertips – literally, their fingers pound the keyboards on their computers and Smart phones.
Self-discipline is an individual skill, but managers can suggest a couple of strategies to help improve self-discipline:
Manage Self-Accountability. This is another skill that should be taught early in life, where parents need to take corrective action when they hear excuses, or when children place blame on others and shift responsibility for their poor behavior onto others. If you find the lack of accountability is an issue for an individual, try this five-point approach.
Thanks for Reading,
Richard P. Fontanie MSW
See also my article on Leadermanagers encourage self-directed, accountable and an engaged workforce here:
According to an article in the New York Times, by Olga Mecking we are caught up in a busyness trap and one way out of it is to do ‘nothing.’ She points out the Dutch call this ‘niksen’ Her article is here ‘Niksen’ suggests we put away all distractions, such as telephone, emails, television and everything we do with our minds. It is completely emptying oneself and doing nothing. Contrary to popular believe she claims that doing nothing is not a waste of time but frees us up to daydream, which I think still puts my mind at work. However, I do like the idea of daydreaming as it allows us to conjure up new ideas and frees our mind to do creative thinking. I find completely zoning out in ‘niksen’ format is difficult for me, although may have its place for some.
Unfortunately daydreaming has had a bad rap. Our early childhood schooling (at least mine) frowned upon daydreaming as a waste of time. Day dreaming was also often frowned upon at home and the negative aspects of daydreaming has crept into the workplace. In the workplace I have heard supervisors say, “Stop your daydreaming and get back to work.” Or sarcastically ask, “What are you doing, daydreaming?” The inference here is that daydreaming isn’t productive. It doesn’t lead to anything worthwhile or is a form of laziness. It’s as if someone is telling us, “Get on with what we’re paying you for and we’re not paying for your lazy daydreaming.”
Here is my take on this for what it is worth.
Daydreaming in and of itself is not laziness but a prelude to creative ideas and gives us space to become more productive. It allows the mind to wander from the tasks at hand and gives it a rest, which in turn becomes an important requirement for ideas to generate or refreshes us so that we can focus on the next task. From my perspective daydreaming is not ‘doing nothing’ or ‘niksen’ but allows our minds to wander in weird and wonderful places where creativity resides. It is a form of what I call ‘mental spacelessness’ which allows us to see things differently using creative inventiveness.
Now in order to daydream we do need to set some time apart and give ourselves permission to do just that. Because we have pushed messaging which downplays daydreaming we need to tackle it in the same way we do when we learn or relearn anything. We need to focus on the positive aspects of daydreaming as a form of creative thought engineering. And, we need to allow for some daydreaming to take place in the workplace.
However, if on-the-job safety becomes a factor, we need to be very cautious about daydreaming. The thought of daydreaming while driving, climbing, sawing, banging nails, lifting heavy objects, and such scares the heck out of me. In these instances, the supervisor or manager has every right to bring someone out of their reverie.
What we can do
Take Daydream Breaks: Give yourself permission to take daydream breaks. Look out the window, sit back and relax and free your mind of thought, stare at an object without trying to define it. It’s a bit ironic that we have to give ourselves permission to daydream, yet many engineers, artists and entrepreneurs have gone on to achieve great things because they have allowed themselves to daydream. Larry Niven once said, “Everything starts as somebody’s daydream,” and Deepak Chopra pens, “Daydream, imagine and reflect. It’s the source of infinite creativity.”
Reorganize your space. Redesign your physical space to lend itself to ‘mental spacelessness.’ Turn off the TV, put down the tablet, put away the SMART phone, put comfortable chairs in the office, turn away from your computer, add plants and flowers to the office, move a chair to allow you to look outside, or add scenic paintings to your walls. The point here is that sometimes we need to change our decor in order to change our thinking. Yes, this is about changing the way we have allowed ourselves to think which in turns affects the way we behave. The old dictum applies, “Change your thinking changes your behavior.” In this instance we are giving ourselves permission to daydream so that we can become more productive.
Break away from your space: Another technique is to break away from your space. Go for a walk in the park and let the surrounding embrace you without you thinking about what it is you are doing. Sit on a park bench, a patio, or stop along the highway and soak in a sunset, a farmer cultivating his land, or birds and critters flitting about. Lay on the grass and look up at the sky, whether that be watching the clouds during the day or the stars at night. Perhaps some of us can remember when we were kids and were struck by the various cloud formations or the flickering stars and the bright moon at night. It was during those times that our creative juices were heightened, and we saw all kinds of things in those clouds – puppies, ice cream cones and happy faces – and were struck by the vastness of the expanding universe and the smallness of the self.
Daydreaming takes us away from busyness, gives your minds a break and kick starts our creative juices. And that is OK because it just may allow the breakthrough we were seeking or the dream that sends us on a path toward greater personal or business rewards.
Thank you for reading,
Richard P. Fontanie MSW
Read how my colleague Sherry Knight from Dimension 11 responds to the question, "Does family have a place at work?" Read more of her posts here.
You may be thinking, "Dumb question!" And if you are a Baby Boomer (or heaven forbid, a Traditionalist) you are probably right. Those two eras spent much time separating work from family. You did not bring your family problems to work and hopefully, you didn’t take your work problems home.
It’s 2019 – today we have the Millennials already in the work force and the Gen Z just entering the work force. This is a whole new dynamic. These are the latch-key kids! They spent time without mom at home preparing cookies and milk as they walked through the door – instead they were off to after school babysitters or daycares. They would much rather have had mom or dad at home to greet them and yet, for most families, that is just not feasible.
Jenn, of the Gen Y generation, is a single mom – her kids mean the world to her and yet she does not have the capacity to stay home with her 3 youngsters. So, she does the next best thing – each child has a cell phone so they can call her with their fears, their excitement and their questions at any time. As she raised her children, they recognized they could count on mom to be available whenever they needed her by phone.
These Millennial children have grown up recognizing, yes, perhaps demanding, their offspring have the opportunity to connect with their parents. That means, cell phones, iPads and even being on site or having mom or dad leave work to look after their needs.
So, why do I bring this up – the simple reason is, as a work place, if you choose to continue in the decades old manner you will have staff leave your employ. Employees today, especially parents, demand a different approach. Some work from home and thus have an easier time shifting from work to family as the need arises. Some work from a physical work place and will leave whenever a child is in need.
Right or wrong? Neither, just consider whether or not you want staff! The world has changed – in many cases it is an employees’ world – there are too many jobs and not enough people to fill them. Thus, you may want to accept that work and family meld today – only, of course, if you want to keep those Millennials and Gen Z’s on your payroll.
Oh yes, I hear all about the lazy, self centred Millennials – yes, some are – and so were some of the Gen Y’s, the Boomers and the Traditionalists. Yet, many aren’t – they just realize there is a need to live a more balanced life. To connect work and family so both are blessed with the energy of a mom or dad who does his or her best to ensure the best for everyone.
How do you do this:
Want to go a step further? Get rid of the 3 week holiday and allow people to take whatever holidays they need. They just might surprise you when they have that opportunity to impact their family and their work based on personal needs. May some disappoint you – yes! And yet, many others will appreciate the chance to lead a more family balanced life. Family and work do indeed go together.
Sherry Knight points out ways to replace negative thoughts in the workplace with positive ones. Read more here
What is the "soft stuff" we must deal with in an organization?
The "soft stuff" is the stuff we don’t see on the surface. It lurks behind the scenes but, it's the fuel that keeps organizations going. You see, organizations are made up of people and people do and say things that are not readily visible. People think and have habits, skills, emotions, beliefs, values, attributes and attitudes. All of these people characteristics make up the "soft stuff".
Another area where "soft stuff" lurks is in the vision, mission and values that drive the company, as well as in the systems and processes a company has to get the work done. These are often referred to as “that’s how we do things around here,” and show up as major contributors to the company’s culture.
Companies often produce or sell "hard stuff". They make or sell such things as machinery, vehicles, computers, bottled water, groceries, construction material, and office supplies. These are considered “hard” because they are made up of hard materials and appear “real” to people. Inside the business employees work with computers, office equipment and supplies, telephones, vehicles and other mechanical devices which are also considered “hard.”
Let's put it another way. I am writing this article with a computer. It is a piece of machinery with a keyboard, monitor, hard drive, mouse and many other components. These are the hard things. The computer doesn't work, however without two things. Someone to make it work and something inside it to allow it to produce the letters, visuals, files and such on the monitor. On the inside we have the software. It’s invisible and made up of numerical equations and programming language that tells the computer what to do and when to do it. I don’t see all that “soft” stuff. What I do see is the images on my screen. When my computer breaks down, I take it to a computer repair shop. They fix the hard stuff. When my software has a glitch, I refer it to the software company and the people there fix the soft stuff.
The analogy also applies to businesses, although I like another analogy. That of an iceberg. On the surface we see the visible hard stuff but underneath lies all the soft stuff that gives life to the business. And, like the iceberg there is more that lies beneath the surface then floats on top. What lies beneath is deeper, sometimes more difficult to fathom, but is absolutely fundamental to keeping the iceberg afloat. It's the soft stuff that keeps the business afloat. Without people functioning at peak performance, effective systems and processes and a healthy culture, companies are doomed to breakdown and in some cases fail completely. They go the way of the melting iceberg.
None of the "hard stuff" that is manufactured, sold or worked on, works without people. And, although people make or sell hard products the people themselves interact and relate in ways that exhibit the “soft stuff.” The "soft stuff " becomes everyone's business in the organization. But it is the manager's responsibility to encourage the development of "soft stuff" and remove barriers to let the "soft stuff" flow. "Soft stuff" becomes the manager/leader's product – it becomes their "hard stuff." And it’s often this stuff that gets in the way of a well-functioning business. That's why we often hear the phrase from managers, "I really like my job, if it wasn’t for the people issues I have to deal with." Basically what they are saying is "this soft stuff is really hard."
When things go awry in companies there are usually two major reasons. First, there is “hard stuff” failure such as equipment and vehicle breakdown, or there is "soft stuff" failure caused by people, systems or process breakdown. The first can easily be fixed or replaced in a timely fashion; the second is usually “harder” to fix and takes more time. That’s why many people refer to the “soft stuff” as their “real hard stuff.”
Questions to Answer
How is your "soft stuff" working in your business? Are communications open and clear? Do people work effectively in teams? Are roles, responsibilities well thought out? Do you have a clear vision and set of values that give people a sense a purpose? How are decisions made - collaboratively or top down? Do you have high turn-over rates which are symptomatic of a toxic organizational culture? Are you satisfied with how people relate to each other and your customers? All of these questions get to your "soft stuff." If you have issues in any "soft" areas, fix them before they become "hard wired," within your organization.
How is your "soft stuff" working with your colleagues? Do you communicate non-defensively with them? Do you listen empathetically to them? Do you collaborate effectively with your team members? Do you value integrity, compassion, and kindness in the workplace? Do you engage with others peacefully? Do you work at building trust with colleagues and customers? Do you respect other's point of view?
Is your "soft stuff" hardwired? Do you maintain a high level of ethics? Do you consistently act on your values? Are you calm in times of stress? Do you manage anger well? Do you extend a helping hand when not asked? Do you relate to others with honesty and integrity? Are you vengeful or forgiving? Are you highly self-motivated, or do you expect others to motivate you?
Most of the articles on Fontanie|Magazine are about the "soft stuff." This is by design. We hope they help people in business, at work and throughout their lives become better equipped to deal with the "soft stuff" that is so important for them and others; and, just maybe some of that "soft stuff" won't be so hard.
Author: Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Leadership is often linked to a position within an organization. The trouble with this notion is that we can sit and wait for the leader to act, rather than taking a leadership role ourselves. A leadership attribute which can be viewed as outside of a position, but important for anyone who aspires to become a leader, is one of interpersonal influence. Positive interpersonal influence is something we can assign to ourselves in our dealings with others. In short, when we take the initiative to build strong interpersonal relationships within the workplace we begin to act as leaders. Three prized principles underpin our ability to influence in a positive way include: simplicity, humbleness and authentic service. These are also fundamental principles underlying the qualities so widely discussed in the literature regarding Servant Leadership.
Simplicity: Simplicity is about making the complex understandable in a way that is genuine and without pretence. They say a mark of a genius is one who boils down that which is complicated and makes it simple for us to understand. The genius of Einstein was his ability to take the concept of relativity and express it in a simple formula. The genius of Job was to simplify digital devices so that everyone can use them. The genius of great spiritual leaders is to reduce religious complexity to something as simple as love, forgiveness and compassion.
So how can we use the principle of simplicity in the workplace? Here are three suggestions:
Humility: Simplicity begs for humility. We can be boastful and arrogant about how simple we have made or explained things, or we can do so in a way that keeps our self-inflating ego in check. The principle of humility embodies an unpretentious way of presenting ourselves with quiet confidence. In a way, humility has less to do with confidence then it has to do with reducing a sense of being self-righteous. Most humble people I know are confident and can express themselves without bragging or exuding self-conceit.
Sometimes we don’t want to act humbly because we are afraid others may perceive us as weak or vulnerable. Yet, precisely by admitting our weakness and showing our vulnerability we are acting with strength and courage.
There are many ways in which we can express the principle of humility in the workplace. Here are three:
Authentic Service: The term service is used to denote everything from a religious ceremony to a fee for completed work. I use the term here as an action of helping or doing work for someone. It means providing, rendering or giving something to someone. To provide service should be the real stuff around which our work revolves such as helping our customers, colleagues and those who pay us.
The key to service is not so much about what we do but more about how we do it - it is more about our attitude. Certainly this is not to down play the substance of what we do as the actual work we do is critically important. It is about how we approach that work. We can approach it with authenticity, optimism, helpfulness, and kindness. Or, we can approach it mechanically devoid of feeling - as something we “have to do” in order to get a paycheque.
Here are Three easy actions we can do to improve our service to others:
Once we recognize and accept that we benefit immensely by striving for simplicity, humility and service, our attitude towards others change.
Author: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC