Apologizing on the job

How to say 'I'm sorry' when you've messed up
By Justin Thompson, 

You're going to make mistakes at work. Perhaps you're in the middle of a presentation to your business team, and you spot a major typo. Or your boss's email made you so angry that you share a scathing diatribe with a co-worker, later realizing you hit "reply all" when sending your message. Maybe you complained about a team member in the kitchen, and he walked in to hear every scornful word.
It's happened to all of us, and it's not fun. However, you can atone for your workplace sins. Take responsibility and quickly remedy the harm you've caused. Determine if your mistake is of the professional or personal kind and figure out how you can fix it. 

Shauna Heathman, owner of Mackenzie Image Consulting, shares four basic steps for fixing a workplace goof:

1. Weigh the impact of your mistake: You need to figure out how big a mistake you've made and how to apologize without blowing it up into an even bigger issue -- or worse, not acknowledging your mistake at all. Always analyze the best medium to use when apologizing, whether it's via email, face-to-face or a public announcement. If you mocked a co-worker who was right behind you, go to her directly. There's no need for a grandiose public apology, but an email is not personal enough.

2. Apologize quickly and sincerely: Transparency is best, and you should take full responsibility for your actions. Attempting to be elusive to save face rarely works, and dallying doesn't help matters either, so make your apology clear, to the point and sincere. Don't overdramatize or make excuses for your actions. Just apologize.

3. Be able to laugh at yourself: There's no point in throwing yourself into a complete tizzy unless you've broken a cardinal rule, such as flinging an expletive directly at the CEO. Otherwise, know how to laugh at yourself if it's something non-personal and minor like typos or unintended accidents. Still apologize, but recognize that you're only human and that everyone makes mistakes. 

4. Take preventive measures: As part of your apology, provide reassurance that you'll do your best to never let it happen again. The bigger the blunder, the more reassurance you'll need to provide. If typos or smaller issues were the offender, having someone edit your work can help minimize such mistakes in the future. When it comes to bigger mistakes, like an infamous "reply all" or being caught slandering your co-worker, just let the person or your boss know that if you have serious concerns you'll just address them in person next time. 

Shane Wagg of marketing agency Search Tactix shared some mistakes he's encountered at his own company and while working with other companies. 

"As an employer, I have had employees come to me with pained looks on their faces admitting to an oversight or error which could have resulted in financial liability," Wagg says. "But they got in front of it and in front of a manager sooner rather than later, which helped to contain the damage.

"And speaking of [other work-related errors], one of the larger technology companies in the world came to us with a pitch idea this week, and a competitor's name [was] on it. In fact, when we called it out, they claimed it was a typo," Wagg adds. 

So as you can see, everyone has to be mindful of their work and their mouth in the workplace. If you have serious concerns about certain issues, talk to your co-workers or your boss and address them head-on. If you're getting caught in petty emotional wastelands, take a breath and refocus your energy on your work.

Tense times: Overcoming workplace incivility

Feeling the pressure? You've got plenty of company. Many employees today feel maxed out, on edge and ticked off, and it's eroding workplace civility.
Consider these telling statistics from a handful of recent studies and surveys:

  • Managers said they spend, on average, 18 percent of their time dealing with staff conflict, according to an Accountemps survey.

  • Forty-three percent of employees said they've experienced incivility at work, according to the "Civility in America 2011" poll conducted by Weber Shandwick, its Powell Tate division and KRC Research.

  • A Baylor University study found office incivility not only stresses people out during their working hours but also serves as a significant source of strain and strife at home.
Now more than ever, it's critical to find ways to effectively deal with stress and conflict at work. Following are some tips:
Take rudeness for what it's worth.
Being on the receiving end of an unnecessarily sharp barb or inconsiderate brush-off can ruin your day. Why let it? Constructive criticism merits reflection; rudeness does not. So, don't overthink the situation. While you can't control how someone else treats you, you can limit how much it affects you. A person's poor manners or behavior says less about you than it does about him or her. 

Don't go it alone.
What do you say at the end of a hard day when you're asked about work? "I don't want to talk about it" is a common response. But in many cases, bottling your feelings only exacerbates the problem.
Opening up to supportive friends or family can be cathartic. Likewise, seeking the wisdom of a mentor or sharing work-related war stories with a trusted member of your network often yields valuable insights and new coping strategies. 

Rise above the fray.
Pessimism is contagious, and it's all too easy for chronic complainers to bring others down. Don't get caught up in the negativity. It's possible to keep tabs on office undercurrents without feeding the grapevine with additional gripes, groans or gossip. Displaying a toxic attitude doesn't solve anything, but it will likely make you look bad -- and feel worse.

Give yourself a break.
You might believe you can't afford to take time off. But can you afford not to? Whether you jet off to a tropical island or do a "staycation," stepping away to recharge your batteries is healthy. Getting some distance and decompressing has a way of putting even your biggest workplace woes in perspective.
Similarly, it's smart to take mini-breaks during the day. When tensions are running high, go for a quick stroll to collect your thoughts and cool off.
Finally, take an honest look at yourself. It's very easy to point fingers and identify others' annoying personality flaws. But what about your own? Try to be more mindful of how your bad habits, moods and behaviors might negatively impact co-workers.
We all have days when stress gets the best of us. If you've been unfairly gruff, critical or impatient with a colleague, be willing to say, "I'm sorry." Those two simple words will go a long way toward mending fences. 

How to overcome phobias in the workplace

By Debra Auerbach,

Few people truly love public speaking. So when you have to give a big presentation to your boss and a room full of your peers, it's normal to feel nervous, get a little sweaty and rejoice once the presentation is over. Yet for some, the idea of public speaking evokes such fear that it's debilitating and renders them unable to participate. That kind of anxiety may be considered a social phobia. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 5.3 million Americans suffer from a social phobia, an overwhelming anxiety and self-consciousness in social settings. What's more, the institute estimates that more than one in 10 Americans have one or more specific phobias. WebMD defines phobia as "a lasting and unreasonable fear caused by the presence or thought of a specific object or situation that usually poses little or no actual danger."

A variety of phobias -- both social and specific -- could be manifested at work. Psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of "A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness," names fear of heights, elevators, flying and germs as examples of phobias that could interfere with work. Others may be more specific, such as the fear of making a decision, the fear of computers or the fear of speaking on the phone. So what should a worker do if he has a phobia he believes may hurt his job performance? 

Be upfront in an interview
If you have a phobia that is associated with any part of the job description and you don't think you'll be able to perform that task, you should be upfront during an interview. "The only time you really need to mention your phobia during an interview is if the phobia will prevent you from doing the job for which you are interviewing," Lombardo says. "For example, many people who are phobic of flying still do actually fly. So in this case, there is no need to bring up your fear. However, if you refuse to fly and the job description includes travel that requires flying, you need to mention this during the interview."

Work with human resources
A phobia can be considered a disability if it limits a major life activity, says Scott Barer, a labor and employment law attorney. "For example, if the phobia rises to the level of, or causes, a mental disorder that limits a major life activity, then the phobia could be considered a disability," he says. "In that situation, the employee has rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and likely under similar state laws."
If the phobia rises to the level of a disability, "then the employer has to engage the employee -- or applicant -- in an interactive process in order to try to find a reasonable accommodation that will allow the employee or applicant to perform the essential functions of his [or] her job," Barer says. "Only in the rare situation where an accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship is the employer not required to accommodate an employee's disability."
So what does this mean? If you believe your phobia will get in the way of your job performance, say something to human resources, and they can work with you to develop a plan that will work for both you and the company. 

Build confidence
If having to deal with a phobia in your workplace is inevitable, Lombardo recommends gradual exposure as a way to build confidence and address the fear. "Take smaller steps to allow you to be more comfortable," she suggests. "For example, if you are fearful of giving a presentation, try speaking in front of a group of three to five people for five minutes, three times a week. As you do, your fear will decrease. Then, increase the number to seven to eight people." Beyond working with co-workers, Lombardo also suggests looking into organizations that help build specific skills. One such company is Toastmasters International, which is dedicated to helping members improve their speaking and leadership skills.

Attempt to overcome your phobia
Lombardo shares three tips for working to overcome your phobia:

  • Address your stress: Phobias become stronger when overall stress levels are high. So take steps to reduce stress, such as meditation, exercise or deep breathing.

  • Distraction: What you focus on gets bigger, so, for example, rather than focusing on your fear that the plane will crash, distract yourself by having a few good movies and magazines available to keep your mind on something else. The topic should be light, not stressful.

  • Exposure: Ironically, avoiding your fear makes it stronger. A technique called systematic desensitization causes you to couple your fear with relaxation techniques. So, just like how Pavlov's dog salivated at the sound of the bell, people's bodies will relax, or at least not be so tense, when they are exposed to their phobia.
Seek help
The best approach to overcoming a phobia is to seek help. While every phobic person is unique and requires a treatment plan that specifically addresses his phobia, Lombardo says that phobias are very treatable with the right approach. "Sites like PsychologyToday.com, and many insurance company sites, allow you to search for a psychologist by location and specialty -- in this case, phobias," Lombardo says. "If you are really in a bind for money, community mental health center[s] could be an option. Or look into a local graduate program for psychologists or counselors. Often students, under the supervision of licensed professionals, will work with clients for little or no money."

How to structure your day when working from home

By Debra Auerbach, 
In today's technology-driven workforce, it's easier than ever to set up a home office and work remotely. There are a lot of reasons people work from home: They move to a new city but remain with the same company; they have children and can't pay for a full week of day care; they are self-employed. Working from home has its benefits: They have more flexibility, they can spend more time with their children, and they more easily avoid common workplace distractions.
Yet those advantages can just as easily become disadvantages. No set schedule, personal distractions and less face-to-face communication with co-workers can suck the life out of your productivity. In fact, a recent CareerBuilder survey found that 17 percent of Americans who telecommute at least part of the time spend one hour or less per day on work. So how can you avoid being one of the 17 percent? Here are some tips for making working from home work for you. 

Create a daily schedule and stick to it
While increased flexibility is a benefit of working from home, it's important that you still have some structure to your day. Create a schedule that works best for you and stick to it so you form a daily routine. Consider both personal and professional factors when creating the schedule. Do you like to work out? Do you have daily check-in calls with co-workers? Do you need to pick up your kids at a certain time? Then work around those factors to plan your day. Also, determine the time of day when you are most productive, whether it's right when you wake up or early afternoon, and designate it as the time to accomplish your most important tasks.
Merrily Orsini, president and CEO of Internet marketing firm corecubed, which operates as a remote workplace, also suggests implementing a project management program, such as BaseCamp, that does some of the work for you by assigning tasks and timelines.

Share your schedule with family and friends
Often, one of the biggest distractions is family and friends -- they assume that since you're working from home, you have time to meet them for coffee, run errands or do household chores. To ensure others around you respect your unique work situation, share your schedule with them and be firm about it. "Tell family and friends you have business hours," says Karen Southall Watts, consultant, coach and speaker on the topic of working from home. "Don't allow those around you to assume that because you're working from home you have endless 'free time' to entertain drop-in visitors or run their errands."

Write out your to-do list the night before
In order to hit the ground running each day, take time at the end of each day to write your to-do-list. "Plan in advance the three to four tasks that you must accomplish, and focus solely on those," says Tim Parkin, president of Parkin Web Development, based in Orlando, Fla. "Be sure to include any fixed events such as lunch meetings, conference calls, etc. Forming this plan the night before is a good exercise to clear your mind from the day and be prepared to tackle the next in the most efficient manner." Parkin recommends referring to your list throughout the day to help stay on track. 

Deal with distractions effectively
While working at home may help you avoid common workplace interruptions, there is a whole other set of distractions one can encounter when telecommuting. The best way to avoid disturbances is to set up a home office that resembles one found in the workplace. If possible, find an area with a door that can be shut, and don't be afraid to use a "privacy please" sign for extra emphasis during those high-productivity hours or while on a conference call. Also, rid your home office of any distractions such as TVs or pets. "I know it's hard, but sometimes you have to switch off the television," says Louise Gaillard, writer, book production consultant and owner of One Stop Books. "It is a drag on your productivity, especially when your favorite show is on. Turn on music instead; listening to your favorite playlist helps make you more productive."

Kids are often a source of distraction, so scheduling them into your workday will help you avoid getting off track. "If you have kids coming home from school in the afternoon, stop working when they arrive, and spend an hour with them," says E. William Horne, owner of William Warren Consulting, who works from home himself. "Ask them about their schoolwork, cover the homework that they're going to do, and help them plan how to get it done. Then kick them out."

Take breaks
There are some good kinds of distractions; ones that can help with productivity by breaking up your day. If you sit and stare at a computer all day long without getting up or taking a few minutes to recharge, you're bound to lose focus. Parkin suggests taking breaks by getting up, having a drink and walking around for a few minutes. That way, when you get back to work you'll be more focused on what needs to be done.
Parkin also recommends getting personal tasks accomplished early in the day so they don't become distractions. "If you're an early bird, wake up sooner to take care of personal matters first thing in the morning. Not only will your chores be out of the way, but your mind will be freed up to focus on the work at hand." 

When the workday ends, stop working
CareerBuilder's survey also found that 35 percent of telecommuters work eight or more hours. That's often because they don't have a concrete end to their day, so they end up finishing projects or answering emails well into the evening. Horne recommends establishing a reasonable and realistic quitting time, and sticking to it. "It's important to feel like you're 'off the clock' at a reasonable hour, because you'll always have things that you couldn't get to today that must wait. And it's also important -- in fact, very important -- to realize that you're not Superman and can't do everything in one day."

How to tactfully say 'no' at work

Justin Thompson,

Many of us have been in a position where our boss, our co-worker, a client or customer has asked us to do something that we know is a bad idea or a complete waste of time. More often than not, we bite our tongues for fear of being the office Debbie Downer. But if we can save the company from a giant public relations or financial fiasco, why shouldn't we speak up? 

I asked several professionals to share their experiences and tips on how to turn a "No" into a suitable arrangement for you and your counterpart.
Diana Booher, author of the new book "Communicate with Confidence: 

How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time," has tips on how to handle a questionable work request.

1. Start on a positive note: Remember to keep your body language and tone in check, and be supportive of a new idea. Don't be defensive and go for the negative right away. Allow yourself time to mull over what the person has said and see if you can accommodate it in any way.

2. Learn to say "Yes, and ...": Instead of offering up a "No" right away, go with a "Yes, and." Then, explain how the work could be accomplished and if that means certain elements would have to change or wait in order to complete the project or task.

3. Offer explanations: This is another time to watch your tone and body language. Explanations shouldn't be excuses, nor should they focus solely on your lack of time or ability to get certain tasks done. Sometimes people make unreasonable requests because they don't have a grasp of the amount of work that goes into certain projects. Help them understand the steps and time involved, and if that's the solution they want, how it would affect the business overall.

4. Provide alternative solutions: Focus on figuring out the other person's goal versus his course of action. By understanding what he wants to achieve, you may be able to come up with alternatives that are more cost-effective, timely and manageable within your workload but provide the same results. By giving these options, you can also be seen as a valuable resource with a vested interest in either the company you work for or the client you are working with.

5. End with goodwill: Always try to wrap up a "no" conversation with a positive, and outline what you'll be able to achieve and the next steps or timeline of milestones. If no alternatives are possible, offer to join future discussions or talks -- that will show that you're willing to be a partner in upcoming projects.
It's also worth investigating the "Disney Process," which Leigh Steer, co-founder of Managing Better People LLC, recommends. She suggests that companies use this process to uncover how some "pipe dreams" can be achievable.
It's also good to note that regardless of the request origin -- even from your boss -- don't think you cannot reach out to someone senior and ask for help in setting priorities or coming up with a solution that will address everyone's needs. By keeping a list of priorities, you're able to document the things you've been asked for but also give realistic expectations and deadlines to those who've asked for your help on projects or tasks. Also, keeping a record of the request you receive will hold you accountable. It can then be used to your benefit later when negotiating for a raise or promotion. 

Could your cube mate be your soul mate too

Our annual office romance survey
Kaitlin Madden,

Is that a co-worker knocking on your office door, or is it love? Turns out, theres a good chance it could be both.
Dating a colleague may be considered a faux pas at many companies, but thats not stopping workers from doing it anyway. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, interoffice dating is not only common, it has a fairly high success rate. Thirty-eight percent of people surveyed said theyd dated a co-worker at least once during their career and of those, 31 percent eventually went on to marry said co-worker. Still, interoffice dating should be approached cautiously. Whether youre dating someone higher up or a colleague at the same level, office romances are always tricky, says Rosemary Haefner,vice presidentof human resources at CareerBuilder.
First and foremost, it is important to know your companys office dating policy. Remember to stay professional and draw a boundary line between your personal life and the workplace. Want to know how many people date the boss, what industries are most conducive to office romance and where most relationships between co-workers begin? Check out the infographic, below.

What to think about hugs in the workplace

Acceptable or personal-space invasion?

By Debra Auerbach, 

The hug. It's a simple gesture that can make a happy situation happier or help someone overcome with sadness feel a little better. Studies have shown that hugs can actually make a difference in one's health; research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that a hug can lower blood pressure and reduce the harmful physical effects of stress.

Hugs are thought to be so beneficial, there's even a day dedicated to celebrating the gift of a hug. Jan. 21 has been deemed "National Hugging Day," and according to the organizer's website, the day was "created for family and friends to hug often and freely with one another."

Yet, when it comes to hugging in the workplace, the act may become less of a kind gesture and more of a liability. According to a survey by staffing agency The Creative Group, seven in 10 executives interviewed said embracing co-workers in a business setting is inappropriate.

"The thing about hugging in the workplace is that if it makes anyone uncomfortable, there can be legal ramifications," says Donna Flagg, workplace communications expert and author of "Surviving Dreaded Conversations." "And because of hostile work environment and sexual harassment suits, innocent hugging is always vulnerable to being construed as something else – that is, something not so innocent."

So is hugging a co-worker or showing any signs of physical affection ever acceptable? Or is it better to avoid any gesture that could be considered a personal-space invasion? While opinions may differ, here are some things to think about when going in for an office hug.

Consider where you work
To determine if hugs are tolerated in your workplace, first think about where you work. The type of company it is and the culture it promotes may give you some clues as to whether signs of affection would be acceptable. Is your company more by-the-book, or is it laid back in its methods or practices? Does the company culture encourage working in teams and being open to others, or is it more of an independent, cut-throat, every-man-for-himself environment?

In addition, the type of field you work in can make a difference. If you work in a more corporate environment, affection may be frowned upon. But some fields – health care, for instance – may be more open to hugging, and the act may even be part of the job.

"In my world, there are times when hugging is the most appropriate thing to do," says Dr. Diane Radford, a surgical oncologist specializing in breast cancer. "There are times when I interact with patients that giving or receiving a hug is part of the whole spectrum of communication ... A hug can be a reassuring way of indicating they will be OK, but I'm there if they need me. One has to be astute and know when a hug is the right thing to do. In my workplace, it often is the right thing to do."

Take cues from others
It's also important to keep in mind that everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to public displays of affection, especially with people who aren't family or close friends. While you may love giving hugs, they may make your cube mate uncomfortable.

"Recognizing that not everyone shares the same personal-boundary line is essential to maintaining a pleasant and professional workplace environment," says Roshini Rajkumar, a national speaker and communication/image expert.

"Remember that personal touch is not about intention, but rather, how it is perceived by the person receiving the touch. If they are uncomfortable, then the touch is wrong. Be aware of co-workers' personal boundaries before entering into a 'physical relationship' with them, no matter how passive or limited the touch."

Respect cultural differences
Someone's comfort level for workplace affection may be influenced by their age, upbringing or cultural background. While some cultures embrace hugging, others show respect or thanks in other ways, so it's important to keep such differences in mind.

Also consider one's gender and role within the company. Hugging someone of another gender could more easily be misconstrued than hugging someone of the same sex. There may be sensitivities around hugging a boss or subordinate but not necessarily around hugging a peer.

"Keep in mind the recipient's gender and ethnicity," Rajkumar says. "Different cultures have different boundaries ... Generations have different expectations as well. Today's younger generation is more touchy-feely, while the older generation is more formal."

Watch how you hug
There are different ways you can hug someone, and they can mean different things. Hugging from the front or back may be awkward, but a casual side hug could appear less threatening and personal.

"A big smothering bear hug may not be appropriate, but the handshake and one arm around the shoulder hug – which tends to be more of a hit-and-run type of hug – could work fine," says Regina Barr, founder and CEO of Red Ladder Inc., a consulting, executive coaching and speaking company. "The latter hug might be more comfortable for folks in the workplace, because it's a hybrid hug."

If in doubt, handshake it out
"If you work in a friendly/casual environment, you may be able to substitute hugging for handshaking, but when in doubt, don't hug," Rajkumar suggests. "It's usually best to err on the side of caution when it comes to physical displays of affection. Consider a big smile and enthusiastically clasping your hands together while you express gratitude verbally as an alternative." Rajkumar also recomm

5 ways to stay connected to former co-workers

By Luke Roney,

Much has been written about how to expand your professional network -- attend events, make connections, build relationships, etc. Building your network, of course, is worthwhile, but while you're busy looking for new connections, don't overlook the older ones -- namely your former co-workers.

Ongoing relationships with former co-workers "are the cornerstones of networking," says Jodi R. R. Smith, president of Massachusetts-based Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. "They provide resources for questions, industry trends and recommendations. And, should you find yourself looking for work, they are your first line of defense when job seeking."

Don't miss out on a great career resource by letting yourself fade away. Consider the following ways to stay connected:

1. Connect while you're still working together
It's a lot cheaper to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Likewise, it's often much easier to maintain an existing professional relationship than to start one from scratch. With that in mind, make it a point to foster good relationships with your colleagues while you're still working with them.
Granted, not every co-worker is going to be a weekend friend. But you don't need to be joined-at-the-hip confidants to have a mutually beneficial professional relationship. The goal is to have people remember you fondly when they reflect on working with you way back when. 

2. Use social media
No longer merely a dumping ground for random thoughts, social media sites are a place where professionals connect and share ideas. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are a great way to maintain connections to co-workers past. By friending them, following them or adding them to your network, you ensure that you remain in touch.
Life coach Jennifer Lee suggests creating a "former co-workers list" on Facebook and using it to stay connected. "I look at my previous co-workers' posts every day and make sure I comment on their posts as often as possible," Lee says. "Every week I choose a few to reach out to personally via a Facebook message or phone call. I have received a ton of business and personal referrals from my previous co-workers because I stay 'top of mind.' "
LinkedIn is a great way to track the career triumphs of former co-workers -- and spark conversations, said David T. Jones of Chicago marketing firm Third Street.
"I always send a note of congratulations when I see an old friend has been promoted or started a new job. These notes have led to conversations and business opportunities," Jones says. 

3. Reach out
You know that person -- the one who keeps you on the pay-no-mind list until he needs a favor? Avoid being that person. Don't just sit silently on someone's friends list only to chime in when it serves you. Communicate regularly -- but don't overdo it -- and be sure that the bulk of your communication has value for the former co-worker. Share some new information, wish them a happy birthday, inquire about the kids or give them a good laugh.
"If you see something that reminds you of a former co-worker, make an effort to reach out and tell them about it, especially if it's funny," says Gillian Casten, founder of fitness reviews website RateYourBurn.com. "If you can show someone you haven't forgotten about them and make them laugh, it's a double whammy."

4. See each other
Communicating in cyberspace is fine, but nothing compares to some good old-fashioned face time -- and no, not on your iPad. Make attempts to see former co-workers every so often. Attend networking events together, invite some former colleagues to a party you're hosting or put together a fantasy football group to keep everyone connected.

5. Lend a hand
Look for ways that you can assist former co-workers -- we're talking about lending a hand in the career realm. But feel free to baby-sit for them, help them move or assist in applying sunscreen -- it's your call. Helping out needn't be overly taxing or time-consuming -- make an introduction, forward some pertinent information, let them know about job opportunities or send some referral business their way. Let them know that you're a valuable connection and that you're looking out for them. They are sure to reciprocate. And if they don't, focus your energy on others.

8 ways to take the sting out of criticism

By Justin Thompson,

No one is perfect. In trying to be the best version of ourselves, we must occasionally fail and learn from our mistakes. Part of this learning process involves receiving criticism from others. While it can be difficult to hear criticism from peers, co-workers, a manager or any authority figure, there are often lessons to be learned from their feedback.
In her book, "Communicate with Confidence," author Dianna Booher shares eight tips on how to accept and learn from criticism more easily:

1. Take a reality check: You're asking for criticism on the job if you're typically late, unprepared, disorganized, uncooperative, disrespectful of others or apathetic toward your duties. If you think you're under constant scrutiny, it may be worth evaluating whether the comments are true. Think about how you can change your behavior to avoid such problems.
2. Stifle your denial and counterattack: If your manager sits you down for a healthy dose of performance feedback, don't immediately shut him down. Have an open mind, be willing to understand his viewpoint and ask for elaboration. By choosing to "one up" the person talking, you only aggravate what is likely an already awkward situation. 

3. Own up: Don't blame others for things you can control. If you needed more help from teammates or co-workers on a big project rollout, ultimately it's your responsibility to ask a manager for help. Don't blame the folks in IT or design over what is your responsibility. If a project fails to meet a deadline or your manager's expectations, accept responsibility for your part. Don't list all the reasons you're not at fault. Booher also says that accepting blame in a superficial or sarcastic way doesn't fix a long-term problem, and that convincing yourself that the issue is no big deal perpetuates problematic behavior. However, there is a difference between accepting responsibility and accepting blame. By disengaging from the anger and resolving to help correct the situation, you move the conversation beyond finger-pointing.

4. Get facts or descriptions, not opinions: Opinions are assumptions made about you based on things that have transpired; if you're receiving criticism, be sure to get details and descriptions of the things that specifically caused the work problem. Don't accept generalizations; instead, ask for clarity or specific examples so that you're able to address issues in the future. This also keeps the conversation focused on your work instead of your personality or lifestyle.

5. Focus on the future: After owning up to a mistake or situation that may have gone awry, rechannel your emotional response and begin focusing logically on how to avoid such conflict in the future. Ask your boss what she might do in your shoes, agree on a plan for change and set timelines to help reinforce positive change. Mapping out a course of change is easier than just sitting at your desk and knowing you have to do something differently. 

6. Take your time: If you're not sure whether to agree with someone's criticism, or if the person giving it seems to be upset or angry about something else entirely, feel free to take a moment to process it all. It's OK to acknowledge the criticism and ask for time to think it over. Instead of immediately reacting, your calm and collected demeanor can keep the issue from escalating or extending beyond the facts at hand. 

7. Keep your perspective: As Booher suggests, "Either change your goal, change his or her opinion or decide that this person's assessment doesn't count." Bitterness is usually felt for things you can't -- or in some cases won't -- change. It's also good to remember your list of strengths and not let one weakness cloud over your positive traits or skills. 

8. Evaluate word choice and body language: When dealing with criticism, try to understand the person offering it and the value of what is being said. By listening to the word choice and observing body language, you'll be able to tell if his comments are logical or emotional. "If that person's intention is to help you improve, try to forget the framework for the comments and latch on to the benefit," Booher says. She also says that some people are more inept at offering criticism than others. Some criticize just to criticize and pick apart someone's lifestyle, behavior, appearance, etc., without sharing anything constructive. It's important to remember that constructive criticism can help you improve your efforts in the workplace, but you shouldn't beat yourself up over one mistake. 

By listening to and accepting constructive criticism, you'll not only improve your skills, but you'll also strengthen your ability to communicate and handle conflict in the workplace. 

Don't let your good work traits go bad

Successful professionals often share man attributes: optimism, helpfulness, commitment, perseverance. But sometimes, the good traits you possess can work against you in the office. 

For instance, being known as a nice person is certainly a good thing. Being too much of a pushover, on the other hand, may lead others to take advantage of you by directing unwanted assignments your way. Being seen as someone who's always "in the know" also sounds like a compliment -- unless you earned the reputation by trolling for office gossip.

Below are some other examples of positive attributes that can help you succeed in your career, provided you know when and in what measure to apply them:

Attention to detail
When it comes to ensuring top-notch work, you're the champion. But getting so caught up in confirming that every "t" is crossed and "i" is dotted could be hurting, not helping, your co-workers. For example, if you continually obsess over every minute detail before sending something out the door, you may be putting deadlines at risk. Likewise, if you're constantly double-checking their figures and reports, your colleagues may assume you don't trust them to produce quality work.
There's no doubt that producing error-free work is crucial to your company's reputation and to your own. But your level of scrutiny should be based on how important each assignment is to the business. For example, it makes much more sense spending more time carefully editing a client presentation than a draft report to a co-worker in another department.

You enjoy your job and take pride in being good at what you do. That doesn't mean your ideas and approaches are always right. In fact, insisting that they are is not only presumptuous but also rude to colleagues who also have valuable input.
Another potential pitfall: Self-confidence can lead to overconfidence. Take care not to bite off more than you can chew just because you're convinced you can handle anything and everything that comes your way. That's a quick path to disaster.

Work motivates you. Nothing is more satisfying than completing a project and clearing your desk so you can take on the next challenge.
But an upbeat attitude can backfire if you sugarcoat problems or make promises you can't keep ("Sure, we can deliver twice as much in half the time!"). An overly positive attitude isn't always realistic, particularly if you don't give yourself the chance to vent frustration or disappointment when faced with significant setbacks.
If you lose a major client or are passed over for a promotion, take time to acknowledge the loss, and then use that reflection period to develop a plan for moving forward. Just be sure you don't dwell on a setback or respond in an unprofessional way.

Multiple deadlines? Heavy workloads? Demanding clients? "No problem!" you say. "Bring it on!" While you may indeed have a higher-than-average tolerance for stress, everyone has his or her limits.
Even if people look to you to be their port in the storm -- and you relish that role -- there's nothing wrong with raising a warning flag in rough seas. Doing so will do four important things: ensure that deadlines are met, work quality doesn't slip, co-workers and clients aren't let down, and you don't suffer a massive case of burnout.

You love to make people laugh -- in fact, levity should be your middle name. When things get stressful at the office, you know just what to say to ease the tension.
Although humor plays an important role in employee morale, timing is everything. Know when a situation calls for a serious demeanor, no matter how tempted you are to break the ice with a joke. And take care not to offend co-workers you're trying to amuse. Everyone is different -- and so are their senses of humor. Remember, it's much better to be viewed as a quick wit than a clown.
Getting ahead in your career requires a mix of positive qualities, but, as in all things, practice moderation. After all, you can have too much of a good thing -- even the qualities that make you successful at work.

I know more than my new boss

By Susan Ricker,

Everybody has an opinion about what makes a good leader, but you know one when you see one. You also know an incompetent boss when you see one. If you've just started a new job, or you're working with a newly promoted boss, what should you do if it's clear you know more than he does? Don't resign just yet. There are plenty of ways to make the relationship work for both of you.

Be an asset
Instead of approaching your boss as an obstacle to be dealt with, look at the relationship with an open, positive mindset. What might seem like shortcomings in your boss may actually be opportunities to complement his management style. Ken Rupert, strategic life coach, offers these three tips:
"First, always understand you might know more in a given area or discipline, but you do not know everything. Therefore, learning how to manage the relationship between you and your new boss will ultimately dictate the level of your success. Knowledge gets you in the door, [but] relationships get you to the next floor.
"Second, learning how to coach up can position you as a thought leader. If you develop the ability to coach your boss in areas where you are more knowledgeable, you will be seen as a team asset and not a team liability. Instead of telling the boss what he should or should not do, phrase your statement in the form of a suggestion. This way, you preserve the positional authority and plant the seeds of success in the boss's mind. There may not be a lot of glory in this, but you will have the ability to influence team success.
"Third, learn to give a little grace. No one has the same level of experience as you do concerning you. Your boss will not know what you know. Therefore, giving him or her a little grace to step on your toes will go a long way. It also allows you to make a few mistakes along the way without repercussions. Remember, this is a new relationship. First impressions are filtered through each person's own filters. Learn to look past first impressions, and give each other the room to grow. In the end, managing relationships, coaching up and giving grace will strengthen your new boss's commitment to you."

Embrace the dynamic
Beyond learning how to work alongside your less-knowledgeable boss, understand that the dynamic may have been created on purpose.
"There's a great saying that goes, 'If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room,' says Nikolas Allen, marketing expert for BAM! Small Biz Consulting. "Good leaders know this. Just because a person is the boss does not mean they have to be the smartest person in the room. They can hire people who will add value, expertise and experience to the team. In fact, a great boss -- one with plenty of confidence and people skills -- is able to surround herself with people who are smarter, or more experienced, without fearing mutiny from the troops.
"Besides, in business, there are many responsibilities that each position is accountable for. These things simply come with the territory in the hierarchy of the business world. Leaders need to manage people, projects and time, as well as delegate, communicate, facilitate and plenty of other stuff that most employees don't have to -- and may not want to -- concern themselves with."
By changing your perspective of and interactions with your boss, you can create a successful dynamic that plays to both of your strengths and benefits the company, making the relationship a win-win.

The person holding you back at work is ... you

Most likely you were drawn to your profession because it enables you to use your skills, knowledge and talents to their maximum potential. But if lately you feel as though you're standing still or stuck in a rut, it may be time to step back and evaluate your situation.

This type of objective, frank assessment can be challenging because, when it comes to professional dissatisfaction, there may not be any external factors you can point to as the source.

We can sometimes be our own worst enemies when it comes to job satisfaction and career advancement. We set unreasonable expectations, get caught in negative thought patterns or lose sight of our long-term goals and aspirations. Internal factors such as these can stifle motivation, hamper professional growth and curtail our progress.

Here are some of the most common ways professionals can self-sabotage. If any of these seem familiar to you, use the tips below to readjust your thinking and get out of your own way.

Setting goals without a plan for achieving them
It's important to set short- and long-term goals, but that's not enough. If you merely list your professional objectives and stop there, your aspirations will likely be pushed to the backburner by day-to-day demands and deadlines. Years may pass, and your goals will remain unrealized.
To avoid this unhappy situation, anchor your goals to a specific plan of action. Your plan should include interim objectives and deadlines. This will help you stay on track and ensure that you maintain steady progress.

Aiming too high (or too low)
If you feel stuck or trapped, it could be because you're over- or undershooting your target. When you set goals that are not realistic, it's easy to become discouraged and give up. On the flip side, setting goals that are too easily achieved can leave you with the sense that there's nothing left to do.
To remedy this situation, reassess your professional objectives in light of your current situation. It may be time to envision the next five or seven years and develop a fresh set of goals. Or you may decide to scale back to better reflect real-life developments (such as a period of unexpected employment or a change in job responsibilities).

Getting trapped in limiting thoughts
How often do you think to yourself, "I would do ..., but I can't" or "If only I were ..., I could ..." Such thoughts are draining and self-defeating. They can cause you to dwell on your flaws and shortcomings.
Instead, focus on your strengths and abilities, concentrating on what you can change. Reflect on what it took for you to reach this point in your career and think about how you can direct your current skills toward further growth. For example, if you have strong communication skills, you could volunteer to lead project teams or give presentations to prospective clients.

Staying in your comfort zone
Sometimes it's fear of failure or of making a mistake that holds people back. They stick with the familiar, the tried-and-true. This strategy is safe but boring. It zaps energy and initiative.
Try pushing yourself to take reasonable risks. For example, you may decide to pursue a promotion. It will mean taking on additional responsibilities, becoming more visible at the office and getting involved in challenging assignments, but the pay-off will be well worth it.

Undervaluing your skills
It's good to be humble, but it's easy to take this attitude too far and sell yourself short. You may think you're not good enough to ask for a salary increase or a more prominent position.
Avoid this debilitating tendency by knowing exactly what your skills and expertise are worth. Resources such as the 2013 Salary Guide from Robert Half and the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics will help you objectively benchmark your talents and level of experience.
The tendency to set up barriers to your own progress can be a difficult habit to break, but once you experience some success with new ways of thinking and behaving, you'll be inspired to continue. Instead of getting in your own way, you'll blaze a bold new path toward professional fulfillment.

Productivity tips for new telecommuters

Mobile technology and wireless communication are making it easier for employees to work from virtually anywhere in the world today. In fact, in a Robert Half survey, 33 percent of executives said that remote work arrangements have increased at their companies over the past three years. 

But despite the growing popularity of telecommuting, it's not for everybody, and it's not without its challenges. If you're new to working remotely, or you only do it from time to time, here are tips on remaining productive and overcoming some common hurdles, particularly if home base is, literally, your home.

Get off to a strong start each day.
Just because you have the freedom to spend the day in sweatpants and slippers, that doesn't mean you should. Rather than rolling out of bed and heading straight for the computer, give yourself some prompts that it's time to make the transition from personal to professional. Shower, groom and eat your breakfast.
In short, get ready for the day just as you would if you were going into the office. No, you don't need to sport a suit, but wearing the clothes you sleep or work out in doesn't exactly help the brain snap into -- or stay in -- work mode.

Force yourself to be disciplined.
One of the advantages of working from home is that you don't have to deal with constant interruptions. There's no boss down the hall or chatty co-worker in the next cube hounding you with countless questions. But potential distractions of a different sort abound: the TV in the next room, that pile of laundry waiting to be put away or those YouTube clips of pets riding skateboards.
Stay on track by creating a prioritized daily to-do list, establishing interim goals for big projects and then holding yourself accountable for meeting each self-imposed deadline. Taking scheduled breaks is a good habit to get into as well. Maintaining a clutter-free work area, minimizing multitasking and simply keeping your door closed also can help.
One final efficiency tip: Limit Web surfing, particularly on social media sites. They tend to be time traps. And because your activities are easily tracked by colleagues who may also be Facebook friends, logging on may give the impression that you're not really working.

Stick closely to a set schedule.
Some managers worry their employees slack off when they telecommute, but the opposite is often true. To prove they're putting in their time, many newbie telecommuters actually "overwork." And without the benefit of an established routine or cues from colleagues, they end up working through lunch or staying at their desk well past normal quitting time.
While it's understandable that you want to prove yourself, your efforts to impress will be counterproductive if you burn out. By stopping around the same time each day, you'll keep your job from bleeding into what's supposed to be your downtime.
In addition, as odd as it sounds, don't bring work home with you. At the end of the day, shut off your computer and move to a different room. Some people even find it beneficial to run a quick errand or go for a walk. This serves as a signal to leave "work" and return "home."
Finally, stay connected to the office. Be accessible during core business hours and provide frequent status updates. Look for opportunities to interact with your manager and fellow teammates in person. Make a point of being in the office when group activities, such as departmental lunch outings or training sessions, are scheduled. Maintaining good rapport with colleagues is critical whether you work from corporate headquarters or your spare bedroom.

The do's and don'ts of befriending higher-ups

By Kaitlin Madden,

Whether you work for a large corporation or a small business, you probably feel at least a little intimidated by your company's executive team. After all, they not only call the shots, but they essentially hold your job security and the future of your career in their hands.

As daunted as you may feel at the prospect of networking with your organization's higher-ups, getting to know them could be one of the best things you do for your career.

"It is quite worthwhile to get to know senior leaders [at your company]," says John Millikin, clinical professor of management at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business and former vice president of human resources at Motorola. "From the leader's standpoint, by getting to know you as more than a name on a roster, he or she can have a face and personality in mind when making decisions that might affect you and your job. You, conversely, begin to have a clearer understanding of who this leader is and how she or he thinks. This can be very helpful in better aligning your actions with the goals of the firm. The leader may also gain from a connection with you, because he or she is getting an unfiltered view from the 'floor,' which can be very helpful."

So how do you form relationships with the upper management at your company? Consider the do's and don'ts of networking up. 

Do find a mentor: Having a mentor in a management position at your company is helpful, because he can introduce you to other executives with whom you may not have a chance to interact.
"From my experience, working in a corporate position as a banker for many years, networking with higher-ups works," says Alexandra Figueredo, motivation and success coach and author of "Sculpt Your Life From Sketch to Masterpiece." "I was mentored by a senior officer, and she pushed me to meet periodically with every one of the senior executives at my company. I was scared to death at first. But within a few months, I was meeting with the top five executives of my company, including the CEO and [chief financial officer]. Eventually, I used their insight and guidance to get promoted within the company."

Don't be a brown-noser: Though networking up is a good career strategy, trying to get an "in" with management shouldn't monopolize your workday. You don't want to develop a reputation as the office politico -- that won't sit well with colleagues or executives.
"Building relationships and networking within an organization can be quite important in a career," Millikin says. "But that doesn't mean that you should spend all your time playing politics in the negative sense of the word. Good working relationships facilitate communication and understanding in an organization, enhancing efficiency. Carried to an extreme, of course, it can become counterproductive. Relationships need to be sincere and transparent. Nobody likes someone who is obviously ingratiating and always agreeing with the boss."

Do create opportunities to network: If you don't have a chance to interact with your CEO on a daily basis, look for ways to do so outside of work. "Employees can network with executives in their own companies by joining and/or heading up committees that are companywide that will have to report to upper management," says Cheryl Palmer, owner of career-coaching firm Call to Career. "This will give employees visibility with the higher-ups as well as networking opportunities."
Other places to "run into" executives? The company gym, office-sponsored happy hours and corporate charity events. 

Don't flaunt your connections: "It might make colleagues uncomfortable if you are chummy with the CEO or other senior people, so you want to make sure you're not gloating about the relationship, or you're not using it as an excuse to not pull your own weight," says Carolina Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of career-coaching firm SixFigureStart. 

Do prepare for meetings with executives: If you have the opportunity to meet with a company executive, make the most of it. "It's important to think strategically about the meeting," says Bobbie LaPorte, founder of leadership development firm RAL & Associates and former executive at GE and IBM. "In order to prepare, define your goal in meeting with them and assess what expertise, insight [and] connections you can potentially offer them -- we all have something to offer. Bring an agenda or plan to the meeting."
LaPorte also suggests researching the executive you're meeting with through LinkedIn or company information, so you can find out who the person is, what she likes to do and what goals she has for the company.
Adds Ceniza-Levine, "Keep abreast of what's happening in your company and industry, so you will have something to talk about when you do inevitably meet senior people."

Discussing politics in the office: Asking for trouble?


By Kaitlin Madden,

At work, there are some topics of conversation that need to be approached cautiously, if at all. Your definitive list of "reasons why your boss sucks," your religious beliefs and your feelings about "The Real Housewives," for example, are all probably better left off of the conversation menu. Expressing your views on these polarizing topics can lead to some pretty intense discussions.

Another topic that's taboo at the office? Politics. Like trying to argue the merit of Teresa Giudice to a "RHONJ" hater, telling a Republican colleague that there's much more to President Barack Obama than a soulful set of pipes is just asking for an argument. And who wants to spend an entire afternoon passive-aggressively arguing with a co-worker?

A lot of people, apparently. According to CareerBuilder's new survey on talking politics at the office, 36 percent of workers admit to discussing politics at work, while 46 percent say they plan to talk about this year's presidential election with their co-workers.

Though not all political discussions lead to bickering, play with fire and eventually you're going to get burned. Of those who confessed to playing David Gregory's advocate in the office, 23 percent said it led to a heated debate or a fight with a colleague.

If you just can't help but get excited each time Mitt Romney wins another red state, keep an open mind and respectful demeanor if you decide to discuss it at the office.

"Most workers opt to keep political debates outside of the workplace," says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "Anytime you're dealing with subject matter that is sensitive or potentially inflammatory, it's important to always be respectful of your colleagues' opinions and avoid emotionally charged exchanges."

Joseph Grenny, co-author of the New York Times bestseller, "Crucial Conversations," agrees that politics can be a touchy subject for a lot of people, and keeping a level head during these conversations is key. "Look at the situation from your co-worker's perspective by asking yourself why a reasonable and rational person would hold that political view. While you don't have to agree with their view, you can still acknowledge that it is valid."

Have a tendency to let your strong opinions get the best of you? Make it through election year with your work relationships intact by following these additional tips: 

1. Look for areas of agreement. "Begin by reinforcing the basic values and purposes you hold in common," Grenny says. "Let your co-worker know you share common goals, even if your preferred tactics for achieving them differ."

2. Focus on facts. "We've all become masters at spin detection, and none of us like when people exaggerate, twist and spin the facts. Consider the source of your facts, and ask your co-worker to do the same," Grenny says.

3. Keep it safe by looking for signs of silence or violence. "If your co-worker grows quiet or starts to become defensive, step out of the content of the discussion and restore safety," Grenny says. "Reinforce your respect for them, and remind them of the broader purpose you both share."

Help! I don't get enough direction from my boss

By Ritika Trikha,

Right now, every job opening gets about seven eligible applicants*, which means you can't afford to do anything but your best work. If that means asking for more direction from your boss, don't be shy, or you might just shy away from having a job.

Whether you have an absentee, extremely busy or downright horrible boss, there are a few tactful ways to get more guidance from your hands-off manager.

First, be realistic. Chances are your boss doesn't have time to make you his protégé, offering step-by-step guidance on your tasks. Find a balance that works for both you and your boss. For every inch that your boss gives you, stretch your own skills as a self-starter to be as efficient as possible. Consider these seven tips to adapt to a laissez-faire manager and become a go-getter:

1. Be mindful of her time. You can extract more information from your boss if you pay attention to her schedule. Is there a particular time in the day when she is less busy, maybe just after lunch or as the day is winding down? If you discuss your project with your boss willy-nilly, you may be interrupting.

2. Craft good questions. After you've delved into the project, write up a list of questions and then rewrite them in as few words as possible. This way, you'll ask questions that tackle the core of the project as concisely as possible.
You should not ask for direction without first trying to understand the task at hand. You'll go much further if you can discuss the project with the higher-ups by asking questions like, "Here's my understanding of the project; is this what you're looking for?" versus, "What should I do?" or, "How should I start?"

3. Practice self-starting. Being a self-starter is a coveted attribute, especially for those looking to attain leadership roles. It means that you're capable of identifying tasks to be completed and seeing them through to produce positive results with minimum cost of management time.

4. Don't butt heads. While becoming a self-starter means running with your ideas to complete a task, make sure that your ideas don't conflict with your boss's ideas. If he has a different method in mind, abide by his suggestion, to show that you're a team player. Most of all, aim to stay on the same page.

5. Set personal deadlines. Once you have a handle on the project, push yourself by creating short deadlines -- especially if you work best under pressure. Allowing ample time may leave too much room for procrastination.

6. Don't fear failure. If you find yourself way off base during a project, figure out what went wrong and do your best to apply the lesson to projects in the future.

7. Schedule performance reviews. After you've completed a few projects, schedule a meeting with your boss to ask for feedback on how you've been doing. This is the only way to know where you stand. Remember: In the office, no news is not good news, so prepare for your performance review.

Want things to change at work? Do something about it

Justin Thompson,

In his book, "Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything," John Izzo, Ph.D., puts the emphasis back on the individual to change their own life, and especially their career.

Have you ever thought, "This job would be so much better if my boss would do ABC," or "If the marketing team would actually help me, I would be able to sell more XYZ"? No matter what the thought, Izzo says that we should ditch the helpless attitude and resolve to do something about it.

According to Izzo's research, many people wait for the perfect plan to materialize before taking action, and the "sit and wait" method is one of our greatest roadblocks to success. Here are ways you can take control of your career destiny:

Create your ideal solution. Change often comes from one idea. If you have ideas about how your job could be better, whether by improving a work process or creating efficiencies and reducing costs, share them with your boss. Your ability to show initiative and creativity will only benefit you long-term, because you'll be noticed as an employee who goes above and beyond. If your boss gives you the green light to spearhead a new initiative, rely on her for support and guidance. Ask for input on how to mark milestones or what a realistic deadline for the project would be. 

Be open to changes, improvements and feedback. When you take on a more active role by asking questions and suggesting change, be prepared for some potential negativity. Some people like the status quo, and they may be afraid you'll either put them out of a job or require them to take on more work. To encourage more collaboration, ask for input or see what ideas others have to improve or possibly alter your original idea. The odds of universal satisfaction may be slim, but being open to group discussion will show you're working toward the greater good. 

It's possible that as you work to improve one process or series of tasks, you may stumble upon more problems. When this happens, determine what workarounds are possible. Be willing to table those insurmountable issues, but alert the project manager about these so the success of the larger project isn't delayed. 

Remember the alternative. Often when you initiate a change at work or in your personal life, you did it because you were tired of the present conditions and you want to improve your life or the life of others. Times will get tough, and there will be points where you hit so many walls that you want to give up, but you have to remember the past and think about the alternative. 

In his book, Izzo says that leadership is not a position. It's up to an individual to choose to take the reins of a project or task and run with it. Izzo gives these three tips for stepping up:

1. State your intention and write it down. Once it's written, it's a commitment for change.

2. Go above your position and weight. Go bigger and try harder than your role commands of you, and know that as you strive to be better, the money will follow.

3. Remember your influence no matter your role. You may not think that you can change anything in your current role, but remember that your voice does count for something. Sometimes all it takes is one person to ignite change. 

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