When you see offensive behavior at work, speaking up can be scary. But you aren’t doing your job as an employee, colleague, or leader if you let it slide. Research shows that we’re more likely to follow through on difficult things if we acknowledge the challenge ahead. So your first move should be to take a breath and remind yourself that speaking up will be hard. And be prepared for the person to push back when you confront them. Frame your comment as feedback to show you aren’t out to get anyone and aren’t assuming any ill will on their part. If a coworker makes an offensive joke, for example, say, “You may not have meant to offend, but here is how I experienced it.” It’s a good idea to think about different types of situations where you may need to speak up and how you’ll respond. Having a plan will ensure you’re ready to confront bad behavior when you see it.
Change at work can be emotionally draining, which is why we often resist it. But resisting change won’t help you grow. If you want to succeed in your career, you need to learn to adapt. Start by thinking about where your resistance comes from, and then use that insight to take action. For example, if you’re worried an organizational change will make your skills seem obsolete, create a plan to acquire the new skills you’ll need. If a change makes you feel powerless, a victim of executives’ high-level decisions, take control of the situation by identifying new opportunities you could pursue. A key part of adapting to change is recognizing how your attitude and behaviors shape your experience. Studies show that having a positive outlook can open us up to new possibilities. So, although it may feel bleak when you don’t agree with a change, finding ways to make the best of it will help you in the long run.
When your company makes headlines for the wrong reasons, should you look for a new job? To figure that out, understand the specifics of the scandal: Has the company acted to correct the problem? Are you innocent of any wrongdoing? Is the negative publicity likely to die down soon? If the answers are “yes,” you may not need to leave. Many companies weather small scandals — but be aware of how this one may affect your reputation. You should also consider your career prospects if you stay: Will you be able to keep growing at your current company? Is the scandal’s fallout hurting your job satisfaction? On the other hand, if the company’s actions (or inactions) violate your moral and professional code, you might want to take a stand and move on. If you do decide to leave, be ready to answer the obvious questions that hiring managers will ask. Prepare an “elevator pitch” that acknowledges the scandal and distances you from the bad behavior.
Many executives are intrigued by the idea of teaching, whether as a new career opportunity or as a side gig. But landing a position as an adjunct professor can be tricky. Start by identifying leads. Make a list of people you know at the universities you’re interested in; even a tenuous connection might be able to vouch for you. If you don’t have any leads, do some research on relevant people you could reach out to, such as department chairs. Once you’ve figured out who the right person is, write your email pitch. It should include a short bio that explains why you’d be a good teacher; your credentials, awards, and publications; and what you want to teach. Use the school’s class lists to identify holes in the curriculum. You’ll also need to prepare a CV and a syllabus. The CV is a much more detailed version of your résumé. The syllabus should detail the topics you’ll cover and the order you’ll teach them in. You can find examples of both online.
Returning to work after having a baby can be overwhelming. One way to reduce the chaos is to make a plan (with your spouse or partner, if you have one) for how you’ll balance work and family. Think about what kind of parent you want to be, how you’d like your career to develop, and how those two areas overlap. Will you need flex time to pick up your kid from daycare? Would you like to work from home a few days a week? What are your career goals for the next few years, and how will you reach them? Be sure to take your partner’s perspective into account too. Talk together about how much you each want to work, when you’ll spend time as a family, and what your support network looks like. Once you have a plan, meet with your boss and go over the plan together. Lobby for what you need, and explain how you’ll continue to do good work for the company.
Is your home life more chaotic than your work life? If so, you’re not alone, and some of the skills you use in your job can help.
- Planning and scheduling. Do you struggle to finish your personal to-do list? Block out time in your calendar for the things you need to get done (even mundane tasks like laundry and errands). You’ll feel more in control and more productive.
- Decision making. You probably wouldn’t make tough decisions at work without consulting your team, so don’t do it at home either. Ask for opinions from your spouse, partner, kid — whoever should have input into (and will be affected by) your decision.
- Putting people first. At work, would you idly check your phone while a client speaks? Of course not — and our families deserve the same respect. Try to give people your full attention at home, even after a long day of work. It will help you feel more connected to the ones who matter most.
Managing a disorganized employee can be a maddening experience — especially if their bad habits are hurting the team. To address the problem, help your direct report understand the ripple effects of their disorganization. Maybe they keep missing deadlines; maybe they’re causing other team members to fall behind; or maybe it just looks bad to clients. Detailing the consequences of their behavior will drive home the importance of staying on top of meetings, calendars, and email. Talk to your employee about ways to remedy the situation too. If you have a good system for staying organized, walk the person through it. Show them how you handle your to-do list and how you file, label, and review things. You could also start a team-wide discussion about organization to exchange tips — but remember to let people be themselves in how they approach their job. Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
Difficult conversations are never fun, but preparing for them can help you ensure they’re productive. Start by identifying your motives. What do you want out of the conversation — for you, the other person, and any stakeholders involved? Knowing your goals is a good way to keep the meeting on track if emotions rise. Next, gather facts to support your position. If you’re about to ask for a raise, for example, write down notes on how you’ve grown in your role. If you’re going to give someone tough feedback, bring examples of their work and behavior. Be ready to defend your point of view and explain how you came to it. And think through any stories you’re telling yourself about the other person. Do you see your boss as “the enemy” because she can grant or deny your raise request? Consider what your manager will care about in the conversation, and use that to plan how you’ll address her concerns.
How do you mentor someone with imposter syndrome? It’s hard to help an employee who doubts their skills or accomplishments, but a few strategies can help. One is to normalize their feelings. When your mentee worries that they’re a fraud, shrug your shoulders and warmly say, “You and everyone else in the building!” Remind them that those types of feelings are pretty common — and people who don’t have them aren’t necessarily more competent. You can even share your own stories of feeling like an imposter. Another approach is to challenge negative self-talk with concrete facts. If your mentee thinks they botched a presentation, for example, say, “I heard you did a great job. Do you actually mean there are a couple of things you want to work on for next time?” A third method is to remind them often that they do belong in their role. Look for opportunities to let them know you believe in them and affirm their achievements.
How would your direct reports describe your behavior under pressure? Many bosses become emotional, controlling, and close-minded — which can have a hugely negative impact on their team’s morale and productivity. To lead effectively when the pressure is on, think about the team dynamic you want to build over the long term. Then think about whether your stress-driven actions support that dynamic or undermine it. For example, in normal circumstances you wouldn’t try to motivate people with fear or threats, so don’t do it during stressful times, either. Talk to your team about why you’re under pressure and what you need from them, and thank them in advance for putting in extra effort. And normally you wouldn’t get angry or shut down in tense conversations, so don’t let stress keep you from listening to others and engaging thoughtfully. Once this period of stress is over, your team will remember how you led during it — so make sure their memories are positive.
Too many of us treat work travel like a curse, when it could (and maybe should) be one of the best parts of the job. Yes, being away from your family is hard, and yes, jet lag is a bummer. On the other hand, you’re going to a new city or a new country for free, so take advantage of it. Use the time between meetings to explore and seek out inspiration. Talk with locals, eat food you can’t get at home, and stop into a museum — while trying not to check your phone. Squeezing in time for tourism can be tough, but think of it as a way to practice spotting and seizing new learning opportunities. Even on a short business trip you can try something new, such as forgoing a hotel and finding a place to stay on an apartment-rental website. However you do it, find ways to get outside your comfort zone.
It’s exciting to welcome a new hire to the team, but how do you make the person want to stay? One way to reduce turnover is to help new employees feel welcome from day one. Don’t assume they’ll figure things out on their own — make time to talk about their goals, your priorities, and how the company works. A weekly check-in is ideal, but if that’s not doable you can find other ways to catch up face-to-face. Even walking to meetings together can help build rapport. Your team can be helpful too. Have everyone discuss team norms together so that there’s no confusion about what’s expected of people. And push veteran employees to ask for the new person’s opinion in meetings, to ensure everyone is being heard. There is a small window of time when newcomers can share valuable insights as an “outsider,” so take advantage of it.
Not all professionals want to be promoted. Maybe you’re a caregiver who wants to focus more energy at home, or maybe you prefer the freedom of being an individual contributor. But how do you tell this to your boss without seeming lazy or unmotivated? First, think about why you aren’t interested. Perhaps the timing isn’t right, or you love what you do now. Once you’ve identified your reasons, have a transparent conversation with your boss. Show appreciation that your manager believes you deserve to be promoted, and explain why your current job is an excellent fit for your strengths, skills, and goals. Then tell your boss that you still want to keep growing, and offer some suggestions for how you can do it without the promotion. Are there new projects you could take on? Specific ways to develop your skills? Be careful not to say anything that could undermine your future prospects; this promotion isn’t right for you, but the next one could be.
Having friends at work can make you happier and more productive. But those friendships can become draining if they take up too much of your time and energy. What do you do if that happens? Don’t abruptly cut the person off — instead, make small changes to shift the relationship’s dynamic. Try to tone down the intensity of your interactions and spend less time together. If you usually talk in person, switch to phone calls; if you chat on the phone, switch to email. And emphasize your professional relationship by keeping the conversation focused on work whenever possible. If you can’t draw such a hard line, set some boundaries while thinking about which aspects of the friendship you’d like to preserve. For example, if you regularly give your friend advice, pick one or two issues you’re willing to help with, and let them handle the rest on their own. It will take time to find a balance. Stay strong and stick to your boundaries.
When you’ve been offered a job at another company, should you consider a counteroffer from your current employer? It depends why you’re thinking about leaving. If the change is purely about compensation, consider whether taking the counteroffer could hurt your reputation. It could lead executives to question your loyalty, or colleagues to resent you for what they perceive as special treatment. On the other hand, if leaving would be a strategic move for your career, staying might not be the best choice. A higher salary won’t change a job you are dissatisfied with or have outgrown, after all. But if the counteroffer includes a new role that excites you and would let you keep growing, weigh the pros and cons. And think about the long term: If you accept the counteroffer, how likely is it that you’ll want to leave in a year or two? If you’re still unsure what to do, discuss it with a mentor or trusted colleague.
It’s generally a good thing when employees feel a personal connection to their boss. But when leaders share too much of their thoughts and feelings, they can undermine their authority. (Imagine a manager saying, “I’m scared, and don’t know what to do.”) A good rule of thumb is to open up when you think it will be helpful to others. Evaluate a personal comment by considering how you’d feel if your boss said it to you. If you would be thankful to hear it, chances are your team will feel the same. If not, err on the side of caution. For example, telling employees you’re in a bad mood because you’re having a lousy day is probably fine; telling them you’re in a bad mood because you disagree with a decision by senior management probably isn’t. Opening up is also useful when it helps your team feel less isolated: If you sense people are anxious about a project, acknowledge that you’re feeling the same stress, and thank them for their hard work.
Admitting that you’ve made a mistake can be a hit to your ego. But arguing with or blaming others (or trying to dodge by saying something vague like “Mistakes were made…”) will only make things worse. It’s much better to take responsibility for the situation so that you can clear the air and move on. Swallow your pride and simply say “I was wrong,” offering a brief explanation without making excuses. If your error had a negative effect on others, acknowledge it. Really listen to their reactions — don’t get defensive or interrupt. Then explain what you’re doing to remedy the mistake, including its substantive impacts (money, time, processes) and relational impacts (feelings, reputation, trust). Be open to feedback about what you’re doing. And tell those affected by your error what you’ve learned about yourself (“I realize I sometimes ignore people I don’t see eye-to-eye with”) and what you’re going to do differently in the future.