There’s been a lot of talk around the water cooler lately about theyounger generation.  Us twenty-something’s and our lack of respect, work ethic, loyalty and commitment. Oh, and of course, our never ceasing sense of self-entitlement.

Naturally, such discussion gets my back up a bit.  Not that this isn’t old news – I’ve been reading articles about the Gen [insert anything younger than the baby boomers]’s excessive whining since I was beginning my post-secondary education.  What’s frustrating is that it always seems to be coming from the perspective of the older generation.  Furthermore, that while some of it is sadly true (I read one article about parents doing follow up phone calls after job interviews – what?!) it rarely seems to be weighed in context.

I’m going to try and take these on from my admittedly biased perspective and see where it gets me.

The younger generation has a lack of respect in the work place.

Provide me with context.  Do you mean that we talk back? Do you mean that we lack manners? Do you mean all of the above? 

This one is probably true.  My grandfather thinks it’s disrespectful that I wear jeans to work despite this being perfectly acceptable in my work place.  He’d probably faint if he knew that I voice my opinions openly during meetings, or explain my perspective to my boss if I want to approach a problem differently.  I will say that I definitely DO have manners – which I find rare in the office. This doesn’t seem to be a generational issue though; more like a free for all of poor communication. E-mail etiquette, not to mention common “please” and “thank you” is rarer than I care to divulge and brings out a lot of my frustration. Still, I chalk that one up to people being people more than anything else. Again, that’s my perspective.

The younger generation has no work ethic.

If you mean that we don’t want to stay at the office until all hours of the night because we value work life balance then I agree. 

It isn’t that I don’t value my work. But I do get annoyed whenever I’m expected to answer an e-mail at 11:00 pm because that isn’t your time. I happen to value the other aspects of my life (family, friends, outside hobbies or commitments) as much as I value my work.  That doesn’t mean I won’t work my hardest on a project, or give you 100% of myself on the clock.  It simply means that in this particular position, I do have a clock that ends, and that should be respected.

I think this goes back to respect. I respect that you feel you should work 24/7 because as an executive you’re being paid a lot of money to be available.  I don’t do my work on a sliding scale; I give 100% all the time. But there isn’t an expectation that someone on my pay grade work with the same volume and complexity as someone making x4 of what I do!  If you want to pay me more, assign me more responsibility and make it an expectation of the job that’s one thing. I wouldn’t have a high work ethic if I accepted that position and did not follow through.  But as an underling who is offered little respect and even less pay? Do not expect me to constantly go above and beyond without reason.  That’s not a lack of work ethic; that’s a respect for my time, and how much you seem to value me.  Once in a while is fine! I am more than happy to help out. But if you’re going to consistently rely on me; expect me to expect more. That’s just good business.

The younger generation has no loyalty or commitment.  

Imagine graduating with $40,000.00 worth of debt.  You’ve worked very hard for your degree – which is required to get the most basic job in your field.

You get hired on to company for $30,000 per year, doing the most mind numbing tasks day in and day out, for a boss who claims that asking for more challenging work is a sign of your typically spoiled nature. You grind away at it because you know you have to put in some time.

After two years, the company shows no signs of wanting to help develop you. You’re doing the same projects and basically waiting for someone to retire.

Your options are to go elsewhere to gain new and fresh experiences to add to your career – or stay and hope one day (maybe in ten years or so) you’ll get your boss’s old job. If they don’t hire above your head.

Explain to me why you would stay?

If companies want loyal, they need to be able to demonstrate why they are worthy of an employee’s time. Again, it’s a matter of respect. You can’t expect to develop loyalty out of the blue by doing nothing! Sadly, this is the common picture for many graduates.

Then younger generation has a sense of self entitlement.

You are damn right I do.

I understand that you have work experience of 20+ years; that you started at the bottom and worked your way up. 

But you told me I had to spend $40,000 to get this degree. I spent 4 years of my life acquiring knowledge that you are choosing not to value.  I’m not saying that education should replace experience.  But chances are when you started you needed more training and time to get the skills you have than we do today because you didn’t have those opportunities. I’m not saying we should be executives tomorrow – but 5 years in a mail room with a BA is ridiculous and a waste.

Don’t assume I have no experience. I worked my way through University; I’ve dipped my toes in the office pool.  I didn’t spend all of my time at co-ops and volunteering to be told I have no experience! Make use of me!

I’m going to take a low salary; I’m going to do the tasks no one wants to do. I’m probably going to put in more years doing that job you hated despite coming into the work place with more knowledge and skills than you did because you aren’t going to retire any time soon.

So yes, I think I deserve a challenge. Yes, I think I deserve a few incentives after the second year of a crummy salary and boring as hell work to stay here. 

THANK YOU for giving us the opportunities you never had and the chances to better ourselves through education and work place programs. Now please, let us actually use what we’ve learned and teach us what we haven’t.  If you don’t, we’ll find someone who will. Demonstrating that you believe in our abilities and are willing to help develop us is an important part of demonstrating that you as a company value  and respect us. 

Otherwise, if you truly intend to continue keeping us in rut jobs for 5 – 10 years, start hiring people who haven’t put in the work, you obviously don’t value it anyway.

Hello, fellow cubes!

Today I’d like to speak about Queen Bees (QB) in the office.

If you’ve worked with women in any kind of setting, I’m sure you’ve stumbled across the particular type of colleague. For those of you who don’t know what I mean when I use the term Queen Bee, I refer you to the movie Mean Girls:

In particular, the role of Georgia as played by Rachel McAdams.

And if you’re going to be lazy and not do the research I demand before finishing this post, then Google defines it as “A woman who has a dominant or controlling position in a group or sphere”. It’s tempting to categorize these women as something they are not. Let me be clear, not all women in positions of power are QBs. Optimistically, most are women who have worked to get where they are. I’ve actually found most QBs to be women in middle management – just not quite there. Personally, I’d like to think that it’s because motivation by fear only gets you so far.

A QB is someone who will likely be as sweet as honey right until she stings you. Confident to the point of condescension, QB makes it clear that she always knows what’s best. You can’t let this buzzing annoyance pollen all over you and your hard work, but if you swat at her, chances are you’ll get stung.

Infuriating. What’s a lowly worker bee to do?

The problem with QBs, particularly if they are above you in the work place is that it’s very hard to break established patterns of behavior. Whereas approaching QB and saying “When you call me ‘sweetie’ I want to rip my hair out and choke you with it,” is rather abrasive, simply smiling reinforces the old behavior. Neither of these outcomes is acceptable. My suggestions are as follows:

1. Set the example. Treat everyone around you as a professional individual who works hard at their position.

2.  Believe in the importance of your own role. QB needs to realize that everyone deserves respect. You know your job and you do it well. Continue to omit a professional aura. Demand professionalism in return. Use proper language, complete work to the best of your ability on time, dress appropriately and always, ALWAYS demonstrate common courtesy.

3. Document it. There is a thin difference between an annoying QB and a bully in the workplace. Keep a journal of the incidences that make you uncomfortable. What happened, when and why?

4. Raise your voice. Don’t be afraid to speak up in a conversation and voice your opinion. Demonstrate that you have confidence in yourself and your knowledge. Don’t be bowled over.

5. Don’t be afraid to be a coworker and not a friend. Not everyone will like you, and if there is something being a QB fool, she’s as likely to trample you as help you in a tight spot. Don’t be afraid to distance yourself and keep a professional relationship.

6. Report it. If you’re uncomfortable with the way you are being treated in the work place, speak to a supervisor or your HR department about possible solutions. 

Remember, you are entitled to a comfortable working environment, and to be valued for your worth. No workers bee, no honey.

Last week I established that while office politics are part and parcel to the whole cubicle thing, they aren’t something to be ignored. In fact, sometimes what others shrug off as merely office politics can lead to serious damage for both employees and employers.

So what can we, as workers, do about the push and pull of the political?  

I think the most vital part to any solution is communication. Open communication with those involved is the most effective and can be employed in a multitude of situations. Don’t e-mail them, don’t call; go speak to the people involved if at all possible.

It’s important to note that while taking on the source of the problem head on is usually the best way, it’s not always possible and sometimes it can lead to more problems. Sometimes a coworker may not be open to communication, in which case you may need to escalate up the chain of command.

Some notes on escalation:

* Don’t feel like a rat if you need to do this. There is a difference between whining to a manager because you refuse to try to work out an issue and reporting a case of harassment or conflict that you don’t have the tools to resolve on your own. 
* Do try to maintain ownership of the problem by recognizing that you’d like to work through it solo but you need some advice or assistance.  Let your supervisor know that you aren’t simply expecting them to solve the problem.

Another benefit of communication is that you must remain open to the possibility that there is another side to this thing (Hint: 99.9% of the time there is!).  It’s possible there is something you can do to help the situation that you haven’t considered.  

Communication also doesn’t have to mean direct confrontation. Sometimes it means changing how you approach communicating.  

Example? Certainly.

I had the unfortunate experience to have to work in the same tiny room, with a previous manager, in a busy start up office. This manager was a stressed person by nature so the atmosphere was always tense to begin with. On top of this, she had a horrible habit of communicating by firing off questions without actually letting her reports answer back. She would panic from time to time, or ask for updates on a project five minutes after handing it out.  One day after a barrage of questioning I snapped back:

“I don’t know! I don’t have any more information about that than you do at this point!” 

Naturally, this was not an appropriate way to respond to your boss.  I apologized and felt genuinely bad but still frustrated. This person continually demanded answers way above my pay grade and fired off questions like a machine gun.  We were running in circles.

I didn’t feel comfortable going above her head because she was my manager and I needed to work under her – plus she was friends with the director (see: politics 101) – so I decided the best solution was to change how I communicated.

I began to provide updates without being asked to. When I finished a project, when I was midway finished, or taking something else on and putting that project on hold, I would update her. I also sent her my agenda for the day so she would know when I was planning on tackling things.

Now, understand that not all people will micro-manage the way she did (thank goodness). But while I was there it worked for us, she left me alone long enough to actually get some work done. Plus, she ended up telling me how much she appreciated my efforts to communicate up to her – it made her life easier!  

Sometimes the best thing you can do is try a new approach.

The second piece of advice I have is to know your rights as a worker.  You can learn more about your rights, as covered by the Employment Standards Act, here: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/brochures/br_rights.php  and from the Human Rights Code here: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/social_areas/employment.

Take some time and review the legislation. What is your situation like? Has it come to a boiling point so bad that you feel it’s impossible to continue, or is it something that you feel everyone can just work on?  Are you being bullied? Or does your manager or coworker simply speak a different way than you?

Work should be a positive experience for the majority of the time.   You can read more about Ontario legislation here: http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/sawo/pubs/fs_workplaceviolence.php .

 It’s not an end solution to office politics.  They exist and likely always will when people are forced together in right spaces. I hope, however, that moving forward you have some tools to deal with the difficult situations they present.

Now, I have to ask, what are some scenarios you’ve been through and how did you deal with them?

XO

Cube Girl

Everyone deals with office politics. Our bosses deal with them, our coworkers are part of them and yes, even on the bottom rung things will always trickle down to us.

Generally speaking, I’ve found many people think that politics on the bottom rung aren’t as threatening to the business overall. Sometimes this attitude prevails so entirely that managers simply shrug, or treat employees the way one might speak to a teenager. After all, isn’t the behavior of high school adolescents? Wasn’t she just being catty or he just grumbling a bit? It’s just a bad day, one bad relationship, and with one confrontation it will all be over. Right?

Not so.

Office politics played on the lower level can be just as a damaging to the business as those on the top in several ways:

It can lower moral.
Colleagues who are constantly arguing or competing on negative terms drain the work place of any positive energy. A little competition is healthy, certainly, but pitting colleagues against one another for the long haul can result in leaving them lacking in motivation and with a growing chip on their shoulder. Negative attitudes fester and they need to be weeded out.

It distracts from the work.
Employees who are obsessed with the “he said,” “she said” of it all lose out on valuable work time.  If they’re more concerned with the games individuals are playing or snaking their way up the ladder at the expense of their coworkers (because that’s how the game is played!) then they lose out on time and energy they could be putting onto projects.  Eventually this kind of distraction does make its way up to a boss and can result in serious damage to employee credibility or the firm as a whole if clients are affected!

It creates distrust.
If Joe is worried that Suzie is trying to get his job, how forthcoming is he going to be with her on the new information he’s just received that could be vital to her project? How will they work together on a group project that could bring in more money? If colleagues are looking over their shoulders, they aren’t going to be able to function as a team. Again, this brings us back to the issue of morale.

Politics are painful from every direction.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a boss, a coworker or someone reporting to you. If you have to play sneaky games to get your way, it’s painful. If you have to manipulate to get things done, it’s painful. Bad vibes can flow from all sources in an organization and it’s important to address them all.  These situations need to be handled with care, but make no mistake, they need to be handled.

It can result in a lawsuit.
Canadian businesses now have anti-bullying and workplace violence and harassment legislation in place for a good reason. If a poisonous work environment is created or an individual feels they have no choice but to quit their position as a result of a negative situation, it can cause serious legal issues for all involved. 

We’ve identified the damage.  How do we go about handling these situations?

I’m only a small fry in a big pan . . . but I’ll give you my take on that next week.

 

XO

Cube Girl


Celebrations are important; not only for the stuffy business related reasons (improving employee morale, setting new goals etc.) but because some of the time people should enjoy their work lives.

No matter what you do there will be times when you hate it. Unfortunately, more than a few people are forced to spend most of their working lives disliking what they do.  This is a shame when you consider how many hours one will spend at work in a lifetime.  Celebrating gives everyone an excuse to come together and it also provides a time to have some fun!  Colleagues need this time to take a deep breath.

What about sensitivity issues? Laws? Politics?! Surely we can’t celebrate with HR are always huffing down our necks!

Of course you can.  And you should.  People need to be aware of boundaries; you’re still in a professional environment. I’m not saying that you should all hit the pub full force.  But even when morale is low and people don’t seem to have anything to celebrate – you should. Sit together over free coffee and commiserate “This sucks. But we’ll get through it as a team.”   Share a laugh and allow conversation to flow freely. Sometimes great ideas arise out of relaxed brains!

Use celebrations as a time to celebrate small accomplishments as well as big ones.  This is more important than most employers realize.  Sure, they’re always saying it. But how often do we do it? It doesn’t need to be a monetary award that colleagues compete for. Mention someone’s small achievement and give them a round of applause.  Recognize someone’s attempt to do well.  Just be sure to approach someone and say thank you. All of these things will build bonds between good groups of people.  

Celebrate all year long, not just when you have to. If you don’t have a social committee, maybe it’s time to consider one. Put together events that everyone can enjoy (leave out the corny games and team building exercises, please) and put aside a small amount of time when people can truly be present.  Celebrating really doesn’t need to cost a bundle if you’ve got people willing to be creative.

Don’t forget to celebrate solo.  Keep a journal or a gratitude board and choose to consciously remember the things that make you happy!  Make the decision that the task doesn’t define you; the end result does. Make the decision that your end result will be a collage of all of those happy moments. 
  
At the bottom, they may take your sanity . . . but at least we’ll die laughing!  

XO

Cube Girl

                     Alright, so say you’re not content in your current position (Personally, I think it’s great if you are, but more on that later!).  You’ve just spent 4+ years getting a Bachelors degree and possibly 1-2+ more years obtaining an MA or some kind of post graduate college education.  Then you scored an entry level position, which was great because most posts are asking for 3-5 years of experience for anything.

                    Unfortunately, this entry level job really doesn’t take advantage of all the knowledge you paid for.  Sure, you learned to think critically in University, do group tasks with maturity, and tackle lots of stuff in minimal time with only the help of caffeine and your mad research skills. All of this will help, but the technical information that you spent hours pouring over text books to get into your brain, and even more practicing to use to obtain those skills, just aren’t necessary. At this stage in the game you might be handling invoices, doing a lot of administrative paper work and general event/meeting organization for those above you. If you’re lucky you’re getting small projects, which are great, but not always overly stimulating.

                For some people, this isn’t a problem.  You can take the good with the bad and learn enough from observing that once you put your time in the trenches you’ll be ready to go. However, what about those of us on the bottom rung who need to reach for designations?  There are tests to be taken, experience to be validated, and perhaps even more tests!  And  here you stand,  photocopying ANOTHER tree full of paper! How does one prevent those hard earned skills and technical knowledge from going rusty while they pay their dues?

                First, I encourage you to examine if you really do want to progress in your field and just how far you’d like to go.  I know this question seems obvious, but consider what your next job will entail.  Will you truly enjoy the projects you’ll be managing? Can you handle the additional stress? Are you willing to put in the extra hours? Say what you want about grunt work, but there’s something be said for getting to go home at the end of the day without having to think about work all night. Managers and their supervisors don’t usually have that luxury.  I know this isn’t always the case, many administrative folks work longer and harder than others.  However, speaking generally, it’s something worth considering before you plunge further into a career simply because that’s what’s expected of you. There’s no shame in enjoying what you’re doing now.

                Second, do you really require any additional certifications? Many jobs, such as Human Resources, Payroll Managers or Compensation Analysts are encouraged to get designations. However, not all employers require them. In fact some may value experience in the trenches above having a designation. However, if you’re considering tackling a designation, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a preparatory course or class to keep your knowledge base up. This is especially true if it has a work requirement before you can take your test. Don’t end up chasing your tail by waiting for years to take your exam and then not having the knowledge at hand. 

                Third, there has to be a level of trust and communication with your employer.  Do you really trust that there will be opportunities for you to expand down the road if you put in the time now? Has anything like this been communicated to you? If not, sit down with your manager and discuss future opportunities. How long have past individuals typically spent in your role before moving on? Did they move on internally or externally?  In the end if you will be unhappy with your position and can see no indication that you will ever move into a role that you’re passionate about,  there’s very little point to letting your hard earned skills get out of date. Do your research, communicate up, and don’t expect that they will approach you first. You wouldn’t want to quite right before finally landing that project you’ve been so excited about!

 

Assuming you are staying put for now, but you still would like to keep things up to date, what can you do?  Below are some ideas that have certainly helped me:

  • Keep well read. Read journal articles from your field, news articles, and books. Anything that you can get your hands on to keep up to date on prime information.
  • Communicate regularly with others in your field.  What a lovely excuse to have coffee with a former classmate! Compare work experiences, strategies and career goals with others. Join a professional group or club and keep networking. This will help you to build for your future career as well.
  • Utilize social media for professional reasons. Get on LinkedIn and join some groups. Read the discussions and participate when you have something to add. Read the articles that pop up on your main page, and search profiles to see the experiences of others.  
  • Practice whenever you can.  Make sure you communicate your eagerness for new projects, and volunteer wherever possible to take things on. Volunteer your skills outside of your regular work day – you’ll expand your network AND your skills.

 XO

Cube Girl

Generally, I like to stay on topic. However, when I saw that after three blog posts I had been selected as “Freshly Pressed”, I had to take a moment. Then, when I saw all of the wonderful feedback, I had to take another moment. Finally, when Trisha and Carolyn of Simply Om (http://simplyomblog.wordpress.com/) nominated me for a One Lovely Blog Award, I knew I had to make a diversion to show my gratitude.

Thank you SO much for your kind words and support. It resonates with me that even when some of you voiced disagreements with my statements, you did so in a way that was kind and constructive. As a new blogger, I appreciate that.

Now, in order to honour the nomination and the time that Trisha and Carolyn put in to do, I will complete the task according to the terms:

–          Write a post linking back to the person that nominated me.

–          Tell seven things about myself.

–          Pass this award onto other lovely blogs by linking their sites to this blog and notifying them.

Side note: I really enjoy this concept as a whole. What a wonderful way to get to know people. Now onto business!

7 Things About Cube Girl

  1. I work in an office, but I aspire to write. If I won the lottery, I’d write just for the fun of it, and self-publish just enough that the words would hopefully get into the correct hands.
  2. I do not have an attention span strong enough to play videos games for a long period of time.
  3. John Green is my favourite author. I consider myself to be a Nerd Fighter (which shouldn’t come as a surprise from someone named Cube Girl).
  4. I love the idea of makeup but generally don’t have the slightest idea what do to with it!
  5. Soon I will be a Mrs. Cube Girl.
  6. Generally, I love my job because it gives me the opportunity to help those I work with, and I really like the people I work with.
  7. I think that Staple Removers look like Jabberwocky Heads, but no one in the office seems to know what I’ve talking about when I try to explain my fascination with this!

Nominations

These are blogs that I really enjoy, although, I must admit I’ve never “followed anyone” before. Generally, I just pop back and forth. However, this has inspired me to ensure I click the Follow button and I think you should too!  .

  1. http://cancerpurse.wordpress.com/. I found this blog a little while after I started writing. I went back through the archives and read every single post in one day. There’s no descriptive I can give here that you won’t feel for yourself upon reading any of her posts, but, what I love in particular is the honest way she writes. She gives strength in admitting weak moments, and she’s inspiring in a way that I think is really quite rare. Check it out.
  2. http://readingenvogue.wordpress.com/. Books. YA Books. Book reviews. Writing YA fiction. This blog holds a whole lot of similar passions to mine and I love reading it.
  3. http://youngtorontoyto.wordpress.com I’m a big fan of my community, and this blog knows so much more about it than I do!!!