Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Five Tips to Help You Deal with Older or Much Younger Workers at the Office

A powerful way to demonstrate respect for others is to move past labels and treat people as individuals with unique experiences, preferences, and interests. Begin by examining your own ideas about other age groups. Then help others recognize when age stereotypes may be hurting collaboration. To challenge stereotypes:

• Treat everyone as an individual.
• Assess how age stereotypes may color your views.
• Encourage others to reject age stereotypes.

While each of us is unique, we share more than you might think. Invest time discovering what you share—needs, goals, interests, points of view—with individuals from other generations. What you share with and learn from them can strengthen the human connection and sense of community that support collaborative work relationships. To find common ground:

• Ask respectful questions.
• Listen with an open mind.
• Connect on the human level shared by all.

Regardless of generation, everyone has something important to contribute. It’s a matter of taking initiative to find those talents and match them with the challenges at hand. When you respectfully ask about the interests, abilities, and experience of others, you enhance their sense of competence and encourage them to contribute to a shared effort. To find the talents in everyone:

• Assume that everyone has value to contribute.
• Ask others about their interests, abilities, and experience.
• Allow for a range of productive work styles.

Most of us prefer to spend time with people like ourselves, including those of similar age. Working across generations helps realize the tremendous value of diverse perspectives, which often spark creativity and innovation. Your daily effort to offer and ask for help builds strong connections among age groups and makes everyone’s job easier. To mix it up:

• Partner across generations.
• Find collaborative ways to share your perspective.
• Respectfully ask for and offer ideas and help.

Low expectations due to age stereotyping wreak many forms of havoc, in particular the self-fulfilling prophecy. We tend to get what we expect of ourselves and others. In contrast, high expectations—for how and how well people apply their talents—demonstrate our respect for others and promote increasing competence over time. To expect a lot:

• Challenge yourself to learn, grow, and perform.
• Hold yourself and others to high standards.
• Observe how expectations drive effort and results.

The long-term success of any organization depends on contributions from employees of all ages. Employees who apply these practices to see one another as they really are, not as stereotypes, can help support a motivating, collaborative, and productive workplace.

What We Share
Everyone shares at least four universal needs in the workplace. People of any age feel highly motivated when the following needs are met:

RESPECT – feeling valued as a unique individual. A recent study found that respect from peers, superiors, and direct reports is the top-rated workplace need of all generational groups. Conversely, we found that expressions of lack of respect have a distinctly depressive impact on workplace productivity, creativity, and relationships.

COMPETENCE – feeling valued as knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced. People have a powerful need to hone and demonstrate skills, whether technical, interpersonal, or leadership. Opportunities to develop and show competence—as well as recognition for effort and results— are powerful motivators for every generation.

CONNECTION – collaborating with trusted colleagues and co-workers. Regardless of age, people want to collaborate. Studies show this intrinsic need more powerful than extrinsic needs, such as the desire to earn rewards or avoid punishment. Cross-generational effort brings results through a melding of views and experience.

AUTONOMY – exercising self-control within guidelines to achieve shared goals. No one has total autonomy in the workplace because all must contribute to shared results. Still, people crave autonomy, or freedom, to shape their work to support the work of others. This kind of flexibility helps people of all ages to thrive in an organizational setting.

Sources: Deci, E.L., and R.M. Ryan. “Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological wellbeing across life’s domains.” Canadian Psychology 49 (2008): 14–23.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Do you have the Skills to be a Manager?

By Elizabeth Butler, Dreamfedjob editor

A few weeks ago was looking to hire a new Marketing Manager. The position was advertised and we received a couple of hundred resumes, no kidding. There were so many applicants for this position that management divided the resumes between four of us and asked us to set aside resumes that showed leadership, people, thinking and work style skills.

Much to our surprise, the majority of the resumes we reviewed did not include examples or specific information addressing the skills listed below. This made our job easier since we could disqualify most of the resumes in a short period of time. If you are applying for a management job, make sure you address the skills listed below and don't forget to give examples or quantify results, where appropriate, throughout your work history.

1) Leadership Skills
Not surprisingly, Managers and Supervisors need to possess a strong set of leadership skills in order to be effective and constructive. Specific areas of leadership that have been found to be important to leadership success include one’s ability to effectively and willing mentor, coach, and develop their subordinates, one’s ability to empower and motivate employees, and the ability to provide behavioral feedback in a constructive way. Certain types of managerial roles require leadership skills that other managerial positions may not. For example, a Team Leader on the production floor would need to possess leadership skills related to employee safety that requires him or her to correct, address, or educate others about any hazardous situations on the job, where as our Marketing Manager would not.

2) People Skills
Let’s face it: if you aren’t comfortable working and communicating with others in the workplace, a managerial position likely isn’t going to work out. People skills that have been found to be predictive of successful leadership performance include one’s ability to effectively handle and resolve conflicts, one’s ability to work collaboratively and effectively with others, and having an awareness of one’s actions and how those actions impact others. Being able to engage in appropriate, interpersonal behaviors in the workplace is key to building successful and productive Supervisor-Incumbent relationships.

3) Thinking Skills
Having the ability to thoroughly and effectively make decisions and solve job-related problems is critical to supervisor success. One of the most common duties of a Manager or Supervisor is to make sure that client, customer, and employee obstacles are being removed or lessened. This includes making sure questions are being answered, proper actions are being taken, and problems are being resolved. All of these actions require one to use critical thinking and decision making skills. You can have the friendliest manager in the world, who possesses all the necessary leadership skills, but if they can’t solve problems, they will likely fail at being an effective Supervisor or Manager.

4) Work Style Skills
Becoming a leader does not mean that you get to stop being a working employee. Although Managers and Supervisors typically have the power to delegate, certain working skills are always going to be necessary to use and demonstrate. For example, it’s important to be and be viewed as reliable and accountable as a Manager or Supervisor. Other work style skills that are important to managerial success include one’s ability to plan and organize, stay proactive, and adapt to changing circumstances in the work place. Without these powers, becoming a successful manager is unlikely.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Interview: Tell me what you know about our company?

By Elizabeth Butler, Dreamfedjob editor

This question falls into this category as the new employer will be assuming that you want to join their company because it is a sound and progressive career move for you. It is, isn’t it? That’s a hint … Again, this question will come up time after time. If you follow Dreamfedjob’s blog, this question has been addressed before. It is one that you expect to be asked. Right? So you ‘Googled’ them, right? You went onto the corporate website and took some notes, facts and figures.

Well, you employ some 23,000 people around the world, your main areas of operation are outsourcing and managed services, systems integration and consulting services, high-end server technology, cybersecurity and cloud management software, and maintenance and support services, your …Zzzzzz – I’m asleep already. Anybody can repeat facts from a website. It doesn’t mean you know anything about the company at all.

Now while I’m not suggesting that you don’t quote them some devastatingly interesting statistics around their niche market specialisms etc., what I am saying is get behind the facts that they present to you. What is their market share? Who are their competitors? What threats are there to their continuing growth? What opportunities might they wish to exploit? What did their CEO say in their last annual report?

By all means go the company’s website, but don’t just settle for the company line. Find out who their competitors are and what they are saying. Start by going to and see what the company is up to. For this example I am pretending to have an interview with Unisys Corp as a Data Analyst/Developer job.

After 10 minutes on I found this:
  • Revenue for the nine months ended September 30, 2014 was $2,450.6 million compared with $2,460.6 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2013. Services revenue over the first nine months of 2014 declined 1% and technology revenue increased 2% in the first nine months of 2014 due to higher sales of enterprise-class software and servers.
  • Revenue from the company’s enterprise-class software and servers increased 96.5% for the three months ended September 30, 2014 compared with the three months ended September 30, 2013. The increase was due to higher sales of the company’s ClearPath products.
  • More than half of the company’s total revenue is derived from international operations.
  • There is legal case pending regarding a lawsuit between Unisys Belgium SA-NV, a Unisys subsidiary, and the Ministry of Justice of Belgium.
  • There is another legal case pending where Lufthansa AG sued Unisys Deutschland GmbH, a Unisys subsidiary (Unisys Germany), in the District Court of Frankfurt, Germany, for allegedly failing to perform properly its obligations during the initial phase of a 2004 software design.
  • There is also a matter arising from the sale of Unisys’ Health Information Management (HIM) business to Molina Information Systems, LLC (Molina) under a 2010 Asset Purchase Agreement (APA).
Can you imagine interviewing five people and all of them trot out the same facts and figures taken from the same source? What if the sixth interviewee reminds you that in 2011 you were ranked number 7 in Information Technology Services by Fortune 500 Magazine; however, Peter A. Altabef, the new President and Chief Executive Officer effective January 1, 2015, with experience leading MICROS Systems, Inc., Perot Systems and Dell Inc. has a strategy in place to take you to number one in 2015, and that involves … No contest! Get him/her back for a final interview!

I’m asking you to be a bit smarter than the average bear on this one. Be creative about how you illustrate what you know about their company.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Life is not a Dress Rehearsal

by Elizabeth Butler, Dreamfedjob editor

I recently read a motivational article that talked about a "deathbed" exercise. This exercise aims at making you think of the things that you would think about in the last hours of your live, i.e. deathbed.

For example:

  • What are you glad and sad about your work life?
  • Your relationships?
  • Your charitable efforts?
  • Your hobbies?

Or in my case:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Having gone through this exercise, I'd like to encourage you take a few minutes to complete the exercise and find out if you need or should make changes to your life, direction, goals, etc.

Years ago I came across a bumper sticker that said "Life is not a dress rehearsal."  I dismissed it and got on with my day.  A few hours later I started to think about it and the more I thought about it the more sense it made. At the time I worked as a phone collection specialist, for a horrible boss, who had an even more horrible boss. I believe my salary was 19K or so per year. I was a young, miserable, low-level employee at a very small company in Washington DC working for a horrible boss.

Like a plane flying on automatic pilot, I was going through my daily routines thinking I was never going to die and had all the time in the world to make choices, personal and professional. If John McLaughlin, executive producer and host of The McLaughlin Group had been by my side he would had said: "WRONG!"

Pretending you are going to live forever is detrimental to your enjoyment of life. It is detrimental in the same way that it would be wrong for a football player to pretend there was no end to the game he was playing. That player would reduce his intensity, adopt a lazy playing style, and, of course, end up not having any fun at all. Without an end, there is no game. Without being conscious of death, you can't be fully aware of the gift of life.

Yet many of us (including myself) keep pretending that our life's game will have no end. We keep planning to do great things some day when we feel like it. We assign our goals and dreams to that imaginary day called "tomorrow," or "soon." We find ourselves saying, "Someday I'll do this," and "Someday I'll do that."

Confronting our mortality doesn't have to wait until we run out of life. In fact, being able to vividly imagine our last hours on our deathbed makes the cliché “Life is not a Dress Rehearsal” something to really think about. James Dean once said “Dream as if you will live forever; live as if you will die today.”