7 lessons learned from TV workplaces

Debra Auerbach,

People watch television for different reasons -- as an escape from their hectic lives, as a means of news and information or purely as a form of entertainment. While some shows (ahem, reality TV, which we fully admit to watching) don't offer much educational value, others can actually teach viewers a thing or two. And with so many shows set in a work environment, the career lessons to be learned are plentiful.

Here are seven lessons learned from some of TV's most recognizable workplaces:

Lesson No. 1: Nice guys can finish first
Show: "The Office"
After former boss Michael Scott left Scranton, Pa., paper company Dunder Mifflin, everyone wondered who would be picked as his replacement. Would it be Dwight Schrute, the scheming, often paranoid salesman who has long been eyeing the job? Or perhaps Jim Halpert, the office jokester, would become the Big Cheese? To the surprise of the office, it was Andy Bernard who took over as manager. While Andy has been known to have some anger-management issues, overall he's a nice guy who puts other people's feelings before his own. While in this day and age it may feel like you have to adopt a ruthless, take-no-prisoners attitude to get ahead at work, Andy teaches us that you can treat people well and win. 

Lesson No. 2: You can be a mom and a successful businesswoman
Show: "Up All Night"
NBC's new hit show "Up All Night" follows the lives of Reagan, her husband Chris and their baby Amy. Reagan is a high-powered producer at "Ava," a talk show hosted by her best friend. When it was time for either Reagan or Chris to head back to work post-baby, it was Reagan who decided she couldn't bear to leave her job. The show covers real topics that working mothers deal with every day -- the guilt of leaving their children, the stress of working a full-time job and coming home to their second job as wife and mother, and the issues parents deal with when one parent is working and one isn't. Yet the main lesson learned from the show is that you'll never be perfect at either -- nobody is -- but you can work at a job you love and still be a great parent. 

Lesson No. 3: Disagreeing is good for business
Show: "Private Practice"
Tune into "Private Practice" on any given Thursday, and chances are at some point during the episode two doctors will be arguing. A common cause for argument among the doctors at Oceanside Wellness is determining the best treatment for a patient. Each makes a case by stating his or her medical opinion, but oftentimes personal beliefs or experiences have some influence as well. While arguing for arguing sake is counterproductive, having a workplace discussion where not everyone agrees can be beneficial to your team and your clients. Hearing different perspectives than your own can help you make a more informed decision and often leads to a better end result. 

Lesson No. 4: It's OK to ask for help
Show: "Parks and Recreation"
The show's star, Leslie Knope, works in the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Ind. Leslie is an ambitious workaholic who has dreams of one day being a high-powered politician. To help reach those dreams, Leslie runs for city council. As Leslie's campaign kicks into full gear, she tries to stay on top of her day job. Her boss, Ron Swanson, urges her to delegate work to others, but she thinks she can do it all. Yet as projects begin to slip through the cracks, Leslie realizes that it's OK to get help from others. The moral of the story: If you're feeling overworked, ask team members if they can pick up some of the slack. If you try to take on too much to prove your worth, you may end up making a costly mistake. 

Lesson No. 5: Bullying only gets you so far
Show: "Boss"
As mayor of Chicago, Tom Kayne rules with an iron fist. He uses bullying, intimidation and even violence to get what he wants and to keep his team in line. While his abuse of power does help him succeed in the workplace, it also fosters paranoia. Even if he is paranoid for good reason, he's often second-guessing his relationships, wondering if he can trust anyone from his wife to his advisers. Sure, bullying may get short-term results, but in the long run you'll burn bridges, damage relationships and always wonder if anyone is truly loyal to you.

Lesson No. 6: Lying, even with good intentions, will come back to haunt you
Show: "Grey's Anatomy"
Dr. Meredith Grey -- the show's star and narrator -- is close with Richard Webber, former chief of surgery at Seattle Grace Hospital. Richard's wife, Adele, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at around the same time Meredith began working on a clinical drug trial for the disease. Participating patients either get the drug or a placebo, but who gets what is kept confidential so the results are unbiased. Yet when Adele becomes one of the participants, Meredith breaks the rules and intervenes to ensure Adele gets the real treatment. Eventually, Meredith's secret is discovered, shutting down the clinical trial and putting her career in jeopardy. The lesson learned: Being deceitful or going behind your boss's back -- even if you think you're right -- will do more harm than good. Instead, be transparent with your boss and try to agree on an approach that benefits all parties involved. 

Lesson No. 7: Zero work/life balance is bad for your health
Show: "Homeland"
CIA agent Carrie Mathison is out to prove that former Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody, who was kept in enemy confinement for eight years, has been turned and is now a terrorist. Carrie becomes obsessed with finding out the truth and exposing Brody. Her work takes over her life, and she'll do whatever it takes to get answers, often breaking rules and ruining personal relationships. While this is an extreme example, it's not uncommon for workers to take work home with them, both literally and figuratively. If you count yourself as an overworked employee, make sure to find some balance by taking up hobbies, leaving your computer at home and shutting off your BlackBerry on the weekends. It may take some getting used to, but it'll do your body -- and your career -- good. 




The benefits of clearing workspace clutter

Spring brings thoughts of warm weather, outdoor activities ... and cleaning. Although few people truly look forward to the last item on this list, almost everyone understands it needs to get done.

Don't concentrate solely on your closet, dining-room table or other household areas. Also look to your workspace. Chances are your desk and computer could use some freshening up, too. 

Here are some of the benefits of cleaning around the office.

It increases your efficiency. Filing emails about the training session you organized six months ago, deleting outdated messages that clog your inbox and going through papers crowding your desk will make it easier to find necessary information. This can be especially important when under a tight deadline or if you're out of the office unexpectedly and need a colleague to fill in for you. 

It reduces your stress. Having a cluttered workspace can be stressful. Just think of the last time you had to rifle through a stack of papers or a mountain of emails for a single buried document. Tidying up can reduce your feelings of pressure and constraint.

Enhance your image at work. When you entertain guests at home, you usually straighten up beforehand so people feel welcome -- and impressed. Take the same approach with your workspace. Why? Because appearances matter. According to a Robert Half survey, 83 percent of human resource managers surveyed said the appearance of a person's workspace affects their perception of that person's professionalism. The tidier your desk, the more put together you'll seem.

Uncover forgotten items. One immediate impact of cleaning your workspace is discovering forgotten ideas from past brainstorming sessions, assignments that never made it to your to-do list or emails that have gotten lost among other unread items. Even if you don't consider yourself particularly messy or unorganized, it's easy for any number of things to slip through the cracks during a busy workday.

Gain a sense of accomplishment. Don't forget that cleaning up simply feels good. Unlike other items on your to-do list, giving your desk a good once-over can be crossed off relatively quickly, and you can see tangible results afterward.
Even if these benefits sound great, you may be wondering where you'll find the time to actually clean up. Don't worry -- you don't have to invest several hours to make a noticeable impact. By taking just a few minutes each day to organize your space, you can gradually clean the clutter and keep it at bay.
The key is to set small goals. If you have thousands of messages in your email inbox, yes, it will take a while to put everything in order. But organizing your emails from last October may only take a half-hour. The next day, you can tackle November and slowly work your way toward present day.
Also, be prepared to make some tough decisions. Do you really need to keep a report from 2008? A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you have referenced a certain document or email in the past six months. If you haven't, there's a good chance you can toss it or, at the very least, file it away. Just be sure you understand your company's policies on handling confidential or sensitive information. You may need to retain certain documents, even if they've been collecting dust at the bottom of your file drawer for months.





How to determine a new employer's expectations

By Alexia Vernon,


When a new hire goes rogue or fails to meet expectations, employers are often blind to their role in the failure. Instead of asking, "Could I have better supported my employee?" they instead say, "I hated to do it, but I had to let Suzie go" or "I had to put Bill on probation."

Hiring managers have a habit of viewing underperformance or shattered expectations as the fault of one person. Once they understand that they are just as responsible as the new hire for the new hire's success, they can develop, apply and refine strategies and corresponding techniques to ensure that new hires, particularly those who are new to the workforce, get to where they need to be.

For sustainable workplace success, transparency is key. New employees can easily become lost and unsure of themselves when employer expectations are not communicated clearly. By the end of the first week, direct supervisors or managers should talk to new workers about their chief responsibilities and the ways in which they will be held accountable.

During this conversation, bosses should also clarify exactly what is expected of a new employee. And if a new employee hasn't received any direction, he should feel comfortable broaching the topic himself. Here are the topics to discuss, categorized as the "4 P's".

Professionalism

  • What is the appropriate use of technology, particularly social media?

  • Can employees take personal calls in the workplace?

  • What kind of relationship can employees enjoy with managers outside of the workplace?

  • Can colleagues date? If so, must they be in different departments? Have lateral positions? Report it to human resources?

Performance

  • What are three to five key indicators of outstanding performance in this position?

  • In which skills and behaviors does management want to see evidence of success?

  • What are key benchmarks in performance that must be met in the first 90 days?

  • What are key project deadlines that must be hit in the first 90 days?

  • How are promotions and raises decided?

Problem solving

  • What are the best ways to handle the "typical" problems that someone in this role will encounter?

  • How should a worker deal with a problem? At what point should a supervisor be brought in?

  • What are company practices for handling internal conflict or conflict with a customer/stakeholder?

Passion

  • What's an appropriate workplace attitude?

  • What values do successful employees carry into their work?

  • How can professionals demonstrate creativity and innovation?

  • How can new hires best adapt to and shape company culture?

While some of these topics may have been addressed before the first day, it's never a bad idea to revisit them. By asking and answering these types of questions, bosses and employees will be able to effectively communicate expectations to each other.



Source: careerbuilder

Quiz: Is it time to quit your job?

By Debra Auerbach, 

If you're unhappy at your job, thoughts of shouting, "I quit!" and running for the door have likely crossed your mind. Yet such a drastic decision isn't easy and shouldn't be made in haste.
So, how do you know if you're just having a bad day or if you're truly ready to resign? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum and love your job a little too much for your own good? Take this quiz to find out where you fall:

1. It's Sunday night. What's your mindset?
A. You're glad the weekend is over -- time to get back to work and use your brain again.
B. You had a good weekend, but now it's time to focus on what you need to do for the week ahead.
C. It's Sunday already? Back to the daily grind.
D. You have a pit in your stomach and feel physically ill about the idea of going to work. 

2. What is it about your job you don't like?
A. Nothing -- it's perfect.
B. You have to work overtime every once in awhile, and you wish you had more vacation days.
C. You feel bored and unchallenged.
D. Everything -- your boss, your colleagues, your role, the way the company is run -- you could go on and on.

3. It's performance review time, and you're about to find out whether you got a promotion. What's running through your mind?
A. You're excited and confident. You know you got the promotion. After all, you'll be running the company one day.
B. You're a mix of nervous and excited. You hope you got it, but you're interested in hearing your boss's feedback.
C. You're indifferent. If you get it, great; if not, whatever.
D. You're dreading the conversation. You're hoping you didn't get a promotion, because you have no desire to take on more responsibility and feel committed to the company for much longer.

4. When you have a bad day at work, you:
A. Wouldn't know the feeling. What's it like to have a bad day?
B. Find ways to relieve stress, such as exercise, shopping or going out with friends.
C. Go home, turn off your phone, pour a glass of wine and watch TV.
D. Pick a fight with your spouse or partner. 

5. How would you describe your health?
A. Overall pretty good. But you don't get to exercise that much, because that's precious time you could be working and proving to your boss that you're totally committed to the job.
B. Healthy. You have good work/life balance and find time to eat well and exercise.
C. So-so. You try to work out every once in awhile but don't always feel motivated.
D. Not great. You aren't sleeping well, you're constantly having headaches, and you're often agitated.

6. In five years, you see yourself:
A. Being in a leadership role within the company. There's no other option.
B. In a managerial role, assuming it's the right fit.
C. You're not sure. Maybe you'll still be working at the same company or maybe you won't.
D. No longer at the company, and no longer doing what you're doing.

7. When you have to talk to your boss about a tough or sensitive topic, how do you typically feel?
A. Good. You have a great relationship with your boss. In fact, she's your best friend.
B. Fine. Tough conversations are never fun, but they're part of life, and you know you and your boss will work through it together.
C. Annoyed. You try to avoid talking to your boss -- or anyone, for that matter -- as much as possible.
D. Scared. You're afraid your boss will start berating you and making you feel like you failed. That's usually how these conversations go. 

8. When a friend asks you how things are going at work, you respond:
A. "Perfect! I love work and wish it were seven days a week."
B. "Work is good. I'm working on an interesting project right now."
C. "Same old; nothing new to report. Although yesterday I did win a game of Facebook Scrabble that I played with my cube mate."
D. "I don't want to talk about it." 

9. How would you describe your company?
A. The best place to work in the world.
B. Good culture, good benefits, smart people.
C. It's fine. It's a place to work.
D. A terrible place to work. All leadership cares about is making money, no matter how overworked, underpaid and miserable their employees are. 

10. You have a client meeting. How are you feeling?
A. You can't wait. You've been up all night preparing.
B. You feel prepared and think it's going to be a good meeting.
C. Ugh. Another meeting with the same client, talking about the same things.
D. Sick to your stomach. It's not that you aren't prepared, but how do you convince your client if you don't even believe in what you're talking about?

Results
Mostly A's: You love your job -- maybe too much. There's nothing wrong with loving what you do. But if work is taking over your life -- because you choose for it to, not because you're forced to make it that way -- you may be making sacrifices in other areas, such as relationships and health. Being motivated is honorable and should be commended, but are you allowing yourself to enjoy the fruits of your labor? And while it's OK to be friendly with your boss, if your only friends are your co-workers, you might want to get out more. Having a work/life balance is healthy, and while you should never feel guilty for wanting to succeed, you should also never feel guilty about wanting to take a break and live life outside of work. 

Mostly B's: Congratulations! You have a job that you enjoy and you have achieved healthy work/life balance. You're motivated and work hard, but you're pretty good about not taking work home with you. Yes, there are times where you get stressed out or frustrated about something, but the positives of your job outweigh any negatives. You also have a friendly, but professional, working relationship with your boss and co-workers. You can speak openly with them about any issues and you can work together to solve them. You also likely have a clear idea of what career path you want to take. You see yourself continuing to move up within the company, but you're open to whatever the future holds.

Mostly C's: You likely have a general attitude of indifference toward your job. Your work doesn't really challenge you anymore, and you may feel as if your career is stalled. You go to work every day and do what you need to do to get the work done, but you don't care enough to go above and beyond. To get out of this work rut, it may be time to explore other opportunities. Before moving on, look first for opportunities within your company. Take on additional projects, ask your boss for different responsibilities, or undergo training courses. Or consider the possibility of transitioning to a different role within your company. Try to get back to a place where work excites you again.

Mostly D's: If you fall into this category, you may want to consider whether it's time to make a change. While it's normal to not want a weekend to end, it's not normal to feel an overwhelming sense of dread or anxiety. Whenever you have a bad day, which at this point is pretty often, instead of finding healthy ways to relieve your stress, you take it out on your family or friends. And heaven forbid anyone were to ask you about work -- if they even get an answer out of you, it's likely along the lines of, "It's terrible, I hate everyone there, and my boss is a monster." Constantly feeling stressed, overwhelmed and miserable will eventually harm your health. And when you've gotten to a point where work makes you physically ill, you need to re-evaluate your situation. Honestly assess what makes you unhappy about your job, and either do something to change it or find another place to work where you feel happy, healthy and fulfilled. 





4 personality types on your work team

Teamwork is crucial to most workplaces. As the saying goes, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link," so it's important that each individual on a team understands his purpose, function and responsibilities in order for everyone else to do their work effectively.

In her book "Personality Style at Work," Kate Ward shares the four most common team styles that individuals adopt when part of a group. Understanding how you function as part of a team can help improve your experience and help the team remain productive and positive.

1. Direct. A direct team member is typically the person who rallies everyone together and gives structure to the task or objective. This person is decisive, likes action and achieving milestones and is willing to push others and help where needed. The direct team member may engage in conflict, but it's for the greater good. Independence is crucial. She'll listen to all ideas presented but will decide what's best for the goal. However, this person can also be impatient and insensitive when giving feedback and often plays devil's advocate.

Potential roles: Manager, project manager, director, producer
2. Spirited. You know the teammate who is full of energy and bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm? That's the team member with a spirited working style. As the cheerleader, this person motivates, excites and inspires others to keep the energy positive. Don't be surprised to hear off-the-wall ideas coming from the spirited team member. He refuses to let the group hit a wall and will always present a solution. However, this person may have trouble sticking to the plan, struggles with deadlines and can be easily distracted.

Potential roles: Account coordinator, marketing specialist, social-media specialist, designer
3. Considerate. Someone has to be the glue that holds the team together, despite the inevitable ups and downs. The considerate team member maintains harmony among the others and is usually the best listener in the group. This person is also the most thoughtful and caring when dealing with others. Considerate team members also have the most flexibility when it comes to achieving the objective and are willing to set aside their own agendas for the group. However, this person may be reluctant to express his own feelings and may at times be too passive.
Potential roles: Counselor, human resource generalist, nurse, office manager

4. Systematic. Systematic team members get things done. However, these members like clearly defined and assigned tasks and are deadline driven. Consider this person the opposite of the spirited group member. Instead of creativity and innovation, this style is more aligned to precision, accuracy and objectivity. The group can rely on this person to provide a fair and honest opinion. However, this person values data over relationships and may get hung up on her own rigidity and perfectionism.
Potential roles: IT, financial services, data analyst, engineer
Ward warns that teams that work together should be careful to avoid groupthink. "When you seek consensus, make certain that you haven't inadvertently engaged in groupthink instead," Ward says. "Groupthink occurs when the pressure to conform outweighs a team's decision-making process."
Typically, groupthink happens when team members are under pressure to achieve a task or meet a deadline, which means they also limit themselves to viable alternatives and rationalize faulty information in order to finish a project.
The next time you find yourself in a group setting, identify your personality style and how you can contribute to the group. If all members of your team share the same style, you can still step up as a leader and help accomplish the task in a timely manner.





Source: careerbuilder

Turn the tables on a bad performance review

A negative performance review can feel devastating, but it may not be quite the setback it seems. If you're ready for this feedback, it's entirely possible to use it to your long-term advantage.

Here are seven tips for not letting a negative performance review take the wind out of your sails.

1. First, do nothing. The most important thing you can do after hearing less-than-stellar input about your performance is to avoid an impulsive reaction. Because criticism of your work can feel very personal, it's natural to become defensive, try to divert blame onto others or dispute your boss's assessment. But a performance review isn't a debate, and lashing out at your supervisor can quickly turn a challenge into a crisis. If you're upset, ask to discuss the matter again after you've had some time to digest it. For now, just listen to the feedback and attempt to understand it. You won't be able to do that while you're angry or hurt. 

2. Put it in perspective. Especially if you're accustomed to successful appraisals, even a mildly critical one can make you feel like you're on the brink of being fired. Unless such a warning was part of your appraisal, that's probably not the case. If your manager is consistently telling you that you need to improve, and the formal review reaffirms these earlier conversations, then you have cause for concern.
Never lose sight of the type of feedback you received, whether it was an ultimatum, a commentary on your overall performance or a concern about a specific aspect of your job. When an employer discusses your performance in terms of how you can be even better at what you do, it usually means he or she wants to protect the company's investment in you -- not abandon it.
While you should take every word of the review seriously, there's probably no reason to panic. Many managers make a point of identifying areas for improvement even among their top performers. 

3. Get clarification. Make sure you fully understand any criticism, whether or not you agree with it. Probing for more information may be painful, but it's a necessary step toward improving.
If any of the shortcomings were vague, such as "poor communication," ask your boss for examples. Be careful to frame the discussion as an effort to better understand the comments, not to question your boss's perception, which is often subjective.

4. Correct errors when necessary. If your review contains factual mistakes -- as opposed to assertions you disagree with -- you should correct this information. Your manager won't be able to accurately assess your progress in the period ahead if any concerns that were raised were based on faulty information.
Just be careful not to be overly defensive. If there is any truth at all to what you are hearing, acknowledge it and move on. If you think you have been treated unfairly, most companies have a process for submitting a written rebuttal or employee response to the review. This is your right, but be sure that if there is truth to what you've heard, you accept the feedback and learn from it. 

5. Make a plan. Try to translate each criticism in your review into specific actions you can take to improve in these areas. For example, if you were called out for missing too many deadlines, look for ways you can prevent this in the future, such as revamping your calendar and alerts system, establishing a different daily routine or being more careful about overcommitting to projects.
Work with your manager to determine how you can address his concerns, what the next steps should be and how your progress will be measured.

6. Enlist help. If you struggle to improve, ask a colleague or two for input -- or even for help keeping you on track with a particular challenge. Your co-workers may have insights into the realities of your workday that you can't see clearly. Ultimately, however, the most helpful direction is likely to come straight from the source of the criticism: your boss. 

7. Follow up. If you were surprised by the criticism, that's a good indicator that you and your supervisor haven't been communicating as well as you could be. Suggest a brief, regular check-in to discuss your progress on key issues. The more closely you work together, the better chance you'll have of avoiding a replay of the negative review.
An honest performance review can help you identify and overcome obstacles that have been holding you back. Many managers are afraid to be candid during these meetings because it can be almost as difficult to give this feedback as it is receive it. If you accept the constructive criticism and work to address it, you'll give yourself a much better chance of receiving a stronger review the next time around. 




5 behaviors that drive bosses crazy

Certain things you do endear you to your boss. And then there are those that frustrate your supervisor and may even jeopardize your future.

Unfortunately, your manager may not always tell you that your behavior is driving him up the wall. Here are some of the top offenses that could land you in the corporate hall of shame:

1. Impersonating an ostrich. You may know problems are cropping up -- a client is becoming increasingly irate, a project has gone awry or there are systemic issues that need everyone's attention.
Don't keep your manager in the dark. Bosses don't like to have to confront problems either, but they also don't want them to be neglected until it's too late.
Speak up when there's a problem that's too big to ignore. You may not relish the role of messenger, but your manager will appreciate that you had the guts to raise a flag, rather than stick your head in the sand while there was still time to rectify the situation.

2. Being high maintenance. This quality may seem like a requirement in the celebrity world, but it's rarely on any other manager's list of desirable qualities in an employee. Bosses appreciate professionals who take ownership of their tasks and can work without constantly needing guidance or positive reinforcement.
Though you should ask for help when you're truly unsure about how to proceed with a project, be careful not to monopolize your manager's time and attention. Focus instead on improving your listening skills and acting on the feedback you receive so you can learn to work more independently.

3. Thinking the office is your stage. Some people think the office is their outlet for drama. Managers don't agree. Few things become more tiresome to bosses and colleagues than working alongside people who make mountains out of molehills and manufacture conflict.
Leave the drama to your community-theater pursuits. Your manager will appreciate you much more if you simply carry out your projects in an unfailingly professional way, rather than complaining at every twist and turn.

4. Talking a good game. A good way to exasperate your manager is to continually promise big things -- "Sure, I'll have that project completed by Friday," -- and fail to deliver. This behavior can become such a pattern that bosses end up feeling uneasy counting on an employee to do what is promised and disappointed in themselves for allowing the predictable cycle to repeat itself. 

If you suspect you're guilty of chronically overpromising and underdelivering, have an honest discussion with your manager about the problem. Maybe one or both of you can shed some light on why it keeps happening. Try to work together to figure out how to escape the pattern. For instance, setting incremental goals may help you rein in the tendency to make grand, but unrealistic, promises.

5. Deflecting criticism. Almost everyone drops the ball at one point or another. But rather than making excuses or being overly sensitive to constructive criticism, own up to mistakes and let your manager know how you plan to avoid similar problems in the future. Your boss will appreciate your willingness to confront less-than-ideal outcomes and will come to see you as someone who can be trusted to respond appropriately, no matter what the situation.
Even the most accomplished professionals occasionally engage in behaviors that are annoying to the boss. Take a look inside to see if you're guilty of any of these offenses. After all, someone who gets the job done is always valued, but someone who gets it done without causing the boss any concern, stress or frustration is the ultimate team player.






6 ways to make meetings exciting

 By Katie Reynolds,

Meetings can be as much a liability as an asset. If you're not smart about how you run your meetings, people will come to dread them. Effective meetings require effective management.

Here are six ways to get your people excited about meetings and let them walk away with as much benefit as possible:

Avoid unnecessary meetings.
The first rule in getting people to not hate meetings is to not have too many. While you may think a Monday morning meeting is just the right thing to set the tone for the week, your staff may not. In fact, many of them are still thinking about the weekend, and the last thing they want to do is sit through an unnecessary meeting. That's not to say weekly meetings are always a bad idea; just make sure that there's truly something to meet about before you do. For many businesses and teams, a monthly meeting is enough, with weekly updates communicated via other means, such as email.

Share ownership of the meeting.
It's a basic fact of human nature: We're much more interested in our own things than we are in someone else's. Accordingly, if you want to get people excited about a meeting, let them make it their own. Devoting even a few minutes to key personnel can let them feel like the whole process was worthwhile. If for some reason it's important to your business to have regular meetings, consider passing the role of facilitating the meeting around your team.

Provide incentives for attending (and paying attention) during a meeting.
Food is often a great motivator for teams. Serving bagels and cream cheese can help encourage meeting attendance and participation. As much as human beings like to think they're motivated by higher interests, over time your team will begin to associate meeting time with delectable treats.

Consider creative meeting venues.
Sitting around a table in a conference room can be a great way to get things done quickly. It's also a great way to stifle creativity. For a change of pace, get out from under the fluorescent glow of the conference room and hold your meetings somewhere else, such as a local restaurant. Even meeting in a different part of the building can help to keep things fresh.

Vary presentation formats.
If the primary purpose of a meeting is to disseminate information, the last thing you want to do is barrage your team with data orally for an hour and a half. Likewise, all PowerPoint presentations start to look the same after awhile. If you have the time and resources, consider breaking things up with a variety of presentation formats. That can include oral, slide shows, videos and even small-group activities.

Use breakout sessions to troubleshoot and collect feedback.
Consider stopping during a meeting to break into small groups. Small groups can do a number of things for you in the middle of a meeting. For example, they can brainstorm possible solutions to a problem presented during the meeting. They can also be a great source of feedback. You can even use a breakout session like this during your next meeting to get ideas about making meetings more exciting.
Meetings can be more than a necessary evil. A good leader is able to identify ways to give people the information they need, have the discussions that need to happen and still keep everyone interested. Try any one of these six tactics, and you may soon find that your people stop dreading meetings and may even start asking when the next meeting will be scheduled.






Quiz: Are You the Office Party Animal?

A parody on "must-have" office handbooks, "Cube Monkeys: A Handbook for Surviving the Office Jungle" by The Editors of CareerBuilder.com and Second City Communications (Collins) offers laugh-out-loud advice on how to make it through the workday.  Full of irreverent humor from Second City Communications, the corporate division of the world renowned comedy theatre The Second City, "Cube Monkeys" features top 10 lists, quizzes, step-by-step guides, games and hilarious advice that will help make the longest 40 hours of the week seem a little less unbearable.

Here's an excerpt:

Are You the Office Party Animal?

Were you the kind of college student who drank to excess every night and could always be counted on to do something wild and outrageous? Most of us stopped partying till dawn when we entered the workplace, but some people -- hint, hint -- don't realize that having perpetually puffy and bloodshot eyes isn't quite as cute at 36 as it was at 24. Take the following quiz to find out if you share any traits with the Office Party Animal.

1. Your cubicle . . .a. Is always neat and tidy.
b. Has a certain homey charm.
c. Has been moved to the strip club down the street.

2. You prepare for the annual office Christmas party . . .a. A few days in advance.
b. A few weeks in advance.
c. In June.

3. How do you take your coffee?
a. With just a hint of cream.
b. With a few packets of sugar.
c. With gin.

4. Your fellow employees enjoy carpooling with you because . . .
a. You always pay for gas.
b. You make friendly chitchat.
c. It invariably results in a spontaneous road trip to Tijuana.

5. You greet new clients . . .a. With polite professionalism.
b. As a future friend and colleague.
c. By handing them a business card that reads:"Sleeping through my job since 1995."

6. Your 401(k) . . .a. Is your retirement fund.
b. Is being saved for your kids' education.
c. Has already been used for keg money.

7. Lunchtime is the right time for . . .a. Getting extra work done.
b. Returning all of your unanswered e-mail.
c. Doing beer bongs in the bathroom.

8. Your weekend begins . . .a. Saturday morning.
b. Friday at 5 P.M.
c. Sunday at midnight.

9. When ordering office supplies, you never forget . . .
a. Extra pens.
b. Refill paper for your daily planner.
c. Visine.

10. Your last birthday . . .a. Was a sober yet festive affair.
b. Was celebrated with a few friends from the office.
c. Was the sole reason parties are no longer allowed on company property.

SCORING: Give yourself one point for each question you answered a, two points for each answered b, and three points for each answered c.

10-15 points: The good news is you're not a party animal.
The bad news is you're also insufferably dull.

16-22 points: You might drink a few too many cocktails at
the office Christmas party, but it's unlikely that
you'll regret any of your behavior the next day.

23-30 points: Party on, drunkie! There's a reason you've
renamed the conference room "Margaritaville."
 
 
 
 

Quiz: Are You Burned Out on Your Job?

It's been a while since you've felt the exhilaration that comes with starting a new job. And you're wondering: "Has that professional spark been extinguished or is it flickering faintly, waiting to be reignited?" Take this quiz to help you identify if what you're feeling is a temporary heat wave or the telltale signs of total burnout.

1. Are you burned out or just exhausted? "Take a real vacation to find out," says Rena Lewis, senior vice president for Lee Hecht Harrison, a job search, consulting and career management firm.
Burnout: If you dread returning to work, you may be burned out.
Temporary Heat Wave: If you come back rested and recharged, you just needed a well-deserved break.

2. Are you reacting to a passing moment or an entire movement?
Burnout: Your company recently underwent a major restructuring, doubling your responsibilities, and there's no end in sight.
Temporary Heat Wave: You're buried in work because it's your 'busy season.' But you do see light at the end of the tunnel.

3. Are the demands of your job weighing too heavily on you?
Burnout: Your supervisor is too demanding and you just can't keep your head above water. You know you'll never get her to change.
Temporary Heat Wave: You're too demanding on yourself and it's causing you undue stress, not only at work but most likely in other aspects of your life as well. Time to let a few things go, like the perfectly clean house or some volunteer responsibilities.

4. Do you find it difficult to focus on your job?
Burnout: You face your projects with total apathy and feel you have nothing left to give.
Temporary Heat Wave: Your lack of focus is rooted in the nebulous mess you call a workspace. Get organized and get rejuvenated!

5. Have you got the urge to find greener pastures?
Burnout: You're feeling more and more detached at work and catch yourself fantasizing about walking out the door to find that 'dream job' and leaving these 'little minds' behind.
Temporary Heat Wave: You're in a rut and ready to venture past the usual lunch crowd and meet some new peers.

So You're Burned Out...
If your situation is illustrated by more 'Burnout' descriptions, it's likely time to start down a new career path or follow a new opportunity to professional happiness. Get your resume together and begin your search.

Temper the Warming Effects
If you saw more of yourself in the 'Temporary Heat Wave' scenarios, then you might need a new focus and new challenges to recharge your professional energy. "You don't have to leave your employer to energize yourself," Lewis advises. Lewis offers these suggestions for putting the spark back in your career:


  • "Look for a new position within your organization," she says. Network internally -- try to catch key people in the break room to get the scoop on a position or new project team being assembled.

  • Examine your current position to identify a new responsibility or element you could include that would refresh your focus.

  • Assess what aspects of the job you really like and do well and then concentrate on expanding those activities.

  • Make sure you get meaningful feedback from your supervisor. Without clear feedback, Lewis warns, you are apt to burn out faster because you will not have clear goals or accurate measurement.

  • Read relevant trade publications to stay up on the latest issues and trends. Find ways to incorporate these into your job.

  • Delegate or eliminate non-essential tasks. Sometimes we get mired down with minutia and lose sight of what we really need to be doing.

  • Investigate opportunities to transfer to a new city. Working in completely new surroundings with different peers could get your professional juices flowing again.




Quiz: How Ethical Are You?

Anthony Balderrama, 

Having a job teaches you a lot about yourself, from the type of employee you are to the kind of people with whom you best interact. Dealing with colleagues, clients and demanding bosses is also a test of strength. How long can you listen to a co-worker prattle on about his daily commute before you scream? 

Perhaps most unexpected is how often you find your moral guidelines tested. Quandaries both small and large pop up every day and make you ask yourself, "What do I want to do? And what should I do?"
To prepare you for these ethical dilemmas, we've put together this quiz. Answer these 10 questions to see how ethical you are at work.

You just printed a 200-page document that used all the paper in the printer.
A. You refill the paper tray immediately.
B. You casually mention that the machine's out of paper to people around you so they know to refill it before they hit print.
C. Eh, they'll figure it out eventually.

Your boss hands you a stack of papers that accidentally includes confidential personnel files.A. Immediately return the files to the boss once you recognize the mistake.
B. Search through the pages just to find your own file.
C. Read everyone's files.

You're running late because you got a little too happy at last night's happy hour.A. You call ahead to warn your team you'll be late so they're not further inconvenienced by your tardiness.
B. You show up late and hope no one notices.
C. You show up late and blame a horrible (imaginary) car wreck that caused traffic to back up for miles.

You haven't had a vacation day in months and realize you'd like to take tomorrow off.A. Tell your boss you need to use a vacation day to unwind and recharge.
B. Start coughing and mention you feel bad so that you've built a convincing reason to call in sick.
C. Wait until the morning when you know the boss hasn't arrived. Leave a message saying an emergency's come up and you can't make it in today.

In the middle of the most boring business meeting, you realize you could be more productive (or less bored) if you were at your desk instead.A. Grin and bear it because it would be rude to leave.B. Pretend to have received an urgent call or e-mail and go back to your desk to work.
C. Pretend to visit the restroom but go back to your desk and update your Facebook.

You find out your cubicle neighbor is having a secret affair with the intern in accounting.A. You pretend you know nothing about it.
B. You tell your closest work friends because you know they won't tell anyone.
C. You tell anyone who will listen.

You just accepted a job offer at a new company. It begins in a month, so you're going to wait two weeks to give your notice. The next day the boss comes in and explains how he wants to restructure the department and your role is pivotal.A. To prevent his plans from going awry, you decide to tell him now that you're leaving in a month.
B. You go along with his plans for now, but still give your two weeks' notice so that he receives ample warning time and you aren't let go a month before your new job starts.
C. You wait until your last day to tell him that you're gone and it was nice knowing him.

You know the boss is in a terrible mood. You also know your co-worker is about to go ask the boss for a ridiculously large raise.A. You quietly warn your colleague that the boss is probably going to throw scissors at him if he goes in there today.
B. You mind your own business because you don't want to get involved.
C. You don't mention the boss' bad mood and instead get your colleague fired up and encourage him to triple the salary request.

It's 3 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving and everyone is on vacation. The phone hasn't rung once and no e-mails have come in.A. You stay at your desk until 5 p.m. because it's your job.
B. You wait 30 more minutes to make sure nothing comes up, and then you leave.
C. Ha! You've been gone since noon.

The boss loves the ideas you pitched to everyone and can't stop showering you with accolades. The problem is, the ideas were a joint effort between you and your colleague.A. You say, "Thanks, but I didn't work alone. Sheila worked just as hard as I did."
B. You take the praise, and eventually tell Sheila what happened and that you didn't know how to tell the boss.
C. You accept the accolades and try to get Sheila fired before she finds out you've stolen the spotlight.

If you scored:
All A's -- You're the poster child for ethics.We should all be as pure as you. As long as you're not gloating about your ethical infallibility, you serve as a great role model for those around you. 

Mostly A's -- You're not perfect, but you're still a role model.
No one's perfect, so you shouldn't feel too bad. Every now and then you stray, so just listen to the little voice that tells you to do the right thing most of the time a little more often.

Mostly B's -- You've forgotten a few things your parents taught you.
You could do worse -- much, much worse -- but you still stray from the right decision now and then. Just think twice before you make a few decisions and you'll be good to go.

Mostly C's -- You're far from perfect but could be worse.OK, sometimes you teeter close the edge of unethical and might be damaging your career. You can still redeem yourself now and then. With a little hard work, you can probably perform some damage control and get on the right track.

All C's -- You'd steal candy from a baby. And laugh about it.
Let's be honest, your reputation is probably not so great. In fact, people probably check their wallets once you've left to make sure nothing's stolen. Now's the time to decide if you want to start fresh with strong relationships and a better reputation





5 tips for dealing with a frenemy at work

Robert Half International
The old adage "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" conveniently omits any reference to frenemies -- people who seem like an ally one minute and an adversary the next. In the workplace, these relationships can be common. For example, consider the colleague who happily collaborated with you on a high-profile project only to claim full credit as soon as the project wrapped.

Unfortunately, distinguishing a true comrade from someone who has an eye on your job can seem like a job in itself. Here are five tips for protecting yourself from the damage and stress a suspicious office friendship can cause:

1. Look at yourself first
Before you address a colleague's iffy behavior, look at your own. You could be contributing to a competitive environment with your own actions. Subtle moves and attitudes -- assuming you know more than a colleague because you've worked for the company longer, for example -- can make an enemy out of a work friend.

2. Avoid assumptions
Misunderstandings sour more workplace relationships than fundamental conflicts do. If you've heard that a colleague has been talking behind your back, for instance, don't overreact. If it's a minor matter, try to let it slide. If it seems more significant, ask the person about it directly. You might find that you were misinformed.
If that doesn't seem to be the case, consider what might have led to the perceived slight. Ask whether it was a reaction to something you said or did. Regardless of your frenemy's response, you've established that you are aware of her behavior. If problems continue, you'll know to treat her much more cautiously going forward.

3. Resist retaliating
When you've confirmed that a colleague has done something objectionable, like taking credit for one of your ideas, it's tempting to respond in kind, or at least to bad-mouth the person to other colleagues. This can turn a minor tiff into a major battle. Indulging in gamesmanship at work not only makes you look petty and untrustworthy, but it also takes up time and energy that's better spent on work.

4. Get it in writing
You can protect yourself from a frenemy without shutting down the lines of communication. In fact, you should err on the side of overcommunicating -- preferably in writing -- when you're in doubt about someone's behavior. Whenever possible, use email for your interactions.
If the relationship becomes more counterproductive, an email exchange can be referred to indefinitely, unlike a half-remembered phone call or hallway discussion. The knowledge that a record exists could prevent a would-be adversary from misrepresenting the facts in the first place.
If you work closely with your frenemy, a clear separation of labor can save you a lot of trouble. An email at the outset of a project that clearly defines your respective responsibilities can prevent misunderstandings and make it much more difficult for a colleague to take advantage of you.

5. Consider your boss's point of view
Prematurely complaining to your boss about a shaky workplace relationship can escalate the conflict. Before you bring the matter to your manager's attention, think about how you'd want the situation to be handled if you were the boss. If you're having trouble deciding, write out a "just the facts" version of your complaint, omitting any subjective judgments or personal gripes. If it still sounds like something your boss would want to know about, present it as objectively as possible, explaining how the situation threatens productivity.
Professional relationships should be handled with care, but being overly guarded for fear of being taken advantage of can prevent you from developing the kind of strong working friendships that can benefit you throughout your career. Give every colleague the benefit of the doubt, at least initially. If your trust turns out to have been misplaced, keeping shared goals in mind -- a more productive workplace, a more satisfying career -- can help you live and work with the problem.






Workplace communication can be derailed by a bad case of 'yes, but'

Matthew Tarpey,
 
Successful communication in homes and businesses alike is being impeded by the growing national habit of "yes, buts." "Yes, buts" are statements that begin with a tentative agreement, followed by a completely different idea altogether, and they've become so commonplace in American life that we sometimes aren't even aware of them.

For the most part, people use "yes, buts" in an effort to sound more polite or thoughtful. However, there are several reasons why "yes, buts" are detrimental to communication. In his book "Conversation Transformation," Ben E. Benjamin, Ph.D., discusses three major ones.

1. "Yes, buts" send a mixed message
People are often concerned that their body language or tone of voice might send a mixed message, but people can usually count on their words to convey a consistent message. "Yes, buts" are the definition of a mixed message; they allow people to offer two opposing ideas in a single sentence. While you may think you sound polite, you're making it more difficult for the other person's brain to process what you're saying. When given two conflicting ideas, the brain will have to focus on just one.

2. People only hear "but"
In a meeting, if your boss says, "That's a good idea, but I think we should keep brainstorming," do you think your boss liked your idea? People tend to notice differences more than similarities. When faced with a "yes, but," most people will focus on the part that disagrees with their own point rather than the part that agrees with it. People may also think the other person doesn't respect them enough to speak directly. If there's too much negative energy, eventually any conversation will break into an argument.

3. Any difference can become a conflict
"Yes, buts" beget more "yes, buts." If you're talking with someone who is even remotely competitive, he's likely to start firing back his own "yes, buts" to counter yours. Before you know it, a civilized conversation can careen off course and become a veritable tennis match of "yes, buts" being batted back and forth. Eventually it seems like one person must be right and the other must be wrong, even if both people's initial points weren't necessarily mutually exclusive. "Yes, buts" have created an argument where there once was conversation. It may not be a shouting match, but it is just as ineffective at resolving conflict and it wastes just as much time.

Curing your "yes, buts"
The first step to kicking this bad habit is to recognize it. When presented with ideas that you don't necessarily agree with, keep track of your train of thought. If you're only thinking of counter arguments, you're in danger of using a "yes, but." When your mind is full of them, some are likely to spill out into conversation. It can also help to ask friends or family members to speak up when they notice your "yes, buts." Odds are they'll be thrilled for the opportunity to call you out.
There's more to it than just catching yourself in the act. You can't simply stop talking and walk away; you have to continue the conversation. Benjamin suggests a strategy called "build and explore. "Think of the 'build' as expanding the 'yes' part of your 'yes, but' by putting more meat on the bones," he says. Rather than offering a generic agreement, point out what you like about the other person's idea, or build on her idea with some points of your own. Adding three specific builds to an argument ensures that you're taking the time to consider the idea, and it shows the other person that you've put some thought into her suggestion.
Once you've built upon the other person's idea, the next step is to raise your concern without phrasing it negatively. This is where Benjamin's "explore" technique comes in: "A good way to do this is to incorporate your concern into a broad -- open-ended -- question." Rephrasing your concern as a question facilitates a considerate conversation just as a "but" facilitates an argument. For example, instead of saying, "I'd love to, but I have to go to work," try saying, "Do you have any ideas about how I could fit a two-week vacation into my work schedule?" This gets the concern out in the open. It also steers the conversation toward exploring solutions, rather than focusing on the roadblock.

Dealing with the "yes, buts" of others
You've dealt with your own "yes, but" habit, but you're still going to find yourself in conversations with people who use "yes, buts." You can defuse the potentially volatile conversation using the "build and explore" technique. Building on their concerns, then defusing the situation with a broad question may not prevent others from using "yes, buts," but it is one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of frustration.



My education differs from my colleagues': Is it an issue?

Your career path doesn't come with a set of rules to follow or a condition to make you stay in the same field forever. A background in chemistry could lead to a career in health-care public relations. A doctor may one day run a bed and breakfast. An orchestra member may eventually start a music blog.
However your professional life has transformed, you can bring your experience to your new job, even if you think you're the educational odd man out. Here's some advice from professionals who have made unconventional career moves.

Know your new field
If you're starting in a new field or your educational background differs from your co-workers', the first step to being successful is playing catch-up. Jason Batt, who holds a dual degree in language arts and secondary education, is a pastoral staff member at Capital Christian Center in Sacramento. His approach to joining colleagues who hold degrees from seminaries was to "learn as much about the field -- study, study, study -- and recognize my alternative training provides a great source of talent to a team that can sometimes be homogenous in thought and procedure."
Learn everything you can about your company and the field, especially the commonly used language, terms and actions. If you're working at a law firm, make sure you're briefed on the different legal processes your firm handles. Being knowledgeable about the latest industry standards levels the playing field. If you understand what's going on without having to seek help from your co-workers, they're more likely to value your input instead of being skeptical.

Share your unique perspective
A perk of having a different educational background than others is your ability to approach your job with a different perspective. While most of your co-workers may be trained to spot problems and solutions in a traditional manner, your atypical background may help you think more creatively.
Liz Rampy, a kindergarten teacher and licensed professional counselor from Easley, S.C., has a master's degree in community agency counseling. Her advice is "to embrace the unique perspective that you bring to the table. After all, you were hired in the first place." Your employer believes you'll offer a fresh viewpoint. Take this vote of confidence and prove him right.

Make yourself relevant
Remember when you were applying for colleges and your counselor told you that colleges prefer well-rounded applicants? The same is true in the working world. Having a wide range of experiences can be advantageous in your new position, as long as you find a way to make them relevant and prove that they connect to your vision for the future.
Becky Boyd works on marketing, PR and social media at MediaFirst PR in Roswell, Ga., but she has a degree in engineering science and mechanics. "Getting hired by a company outside of your degree depends on how much experience and expertise you have garnered in previous positions," Boyd says. "Because I can understand clients' audiences, industry issues and challenges, I am able to help my clients develop value propositions that win the attention of prospects, the media and industry analysts." Making your background relevant disproves that having a different educational background could be a negative.

Find creative connections
Your background and current career are linked, but in less obvious ways than your co-workers may know. Aside from the obvious reasons why you were hired, what other skills and talents can you apply to your position? Elle Kaplan, CEO of the investment firm Lexion Capital Management, received a bachelor's degree in epic Renaissance literature and chemistry. "I took that and went to Wall Street. My first job was in an investment bank, where I was an analyst," Kaplan says. "Epic Renaissance literature was extremely helpful. When studying, I had to read with a skeptical eye, and I use the same skills when looking over Wall Street research. This critical eye has been key in making smart investment choices."
What may seem like an unrelated background could be an untapped resource in your current career. Get creative and find new connections.




Quiz: When your boss says this, she really means this

 Susan Ricker,
 As your boss walks by your cubicle, she casually mentions the team is getting pizza for lunch. But you know that she's really saying, "Nobody's getting a raise this year." Understanding your boss's communication style will save you from sleepless nights of trying to decode her conversations. Take this quiz to see if you can interpret what your head honcho's really trying to say.

1. "Let me focus on big-picture ideas; you execute the details." Translation:
A. "I want to goof off this afternoon, and you seem like you know more about this."
B. "I'll be taking credit for your work after the project is complete."
C. "Do all the work but don't be surprised when I criticize you anyway."
D. "Let's discuss my vision and the steps you can take to make this happen."

2. "I'll be out of the office this afternoon, but you can reach me on my cell phone." Translation:
A. "I'm playing hooky, but if anything funny happens, call me."
B. "I'm golfing and will ignore your phone calls."
C. "I have important things to do, and if you try to call me, I'll fire you."
D. "You'll be fine working on your own, but reach out if you need help."

3. "We're going to be staying late the next couple of weeks." Translation:
A. "My home life stinks. Let's all hang out so I don't have to go home."
B. "I'll still be going home at 4 p.m., and that means you need to pick up my work."
C. "The new hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., permanently."
D. "Everybody will be staying later for a few weeks to get this new project done."

4. "I'll think about it." Translation:
A. "I don't know what we're talking about; I need to find somebody who does."
B. "Let me figure out a way to steal this idea."
C. "I'm doing something more important right now than listening to you."
D. "Send me a follow-up email detailing your idea."

5. "It's good to see you take the initiative." Translation:
A. "Now I have less work to do."
B. "You remind me of me."
C. "Finally, you're doing something on your own."
D. "It's good to see you take the initiative."

Results
Mostly A's: When actor Steve Carrell's character Michael Scott left "The Office," did he join your company? Your boss prefers water cooler talks to board meetings and YouTube videos to PowerPoint presentations. While this managing style can make work more fun, it adds extra steps to getting feedback. Your best bet: Don't get frustrated with your boss's tendency to goof off. Instead, focus on maintaining a positive and friendly relationship. If you two have a jovial relationship, it will be easier to keep him focused when a serious issue arises.

Mostly B's: How many Donald Trump books does your boss have on his shelves? Your boss's role model may be a narcissistic business mogul, but there are advantages to working for such an ambitious manager. In order to create a successful working relationship, subtly model yourself after your boss. If he stops seeing you as competition or as a steppingstone to further his career, you can benefit from his ruthless business practice. Back up his hard-nosed decisions, and show you're there to help, not to get in the way. He'll expect perfection from you, so be firm about what you will and won't do for the team.

Mostly C's: Does the devil wear Prada at your office? This cold and condescending boss is never satisfied with her team's work. What can you do if you're set up for failure? Reject her negative attitude. It's doubtful that your boss will change her ways, so accept that she'll never be satisfied and instead set your own realistic goals. Listen to what your boss's vision is, and execute it the best you can. When she's disappointed in your finished project because she swears she gave you different directions, apply that feedback to your next assignment.

Mostly D's: Who wouldn't love to work for your boss? She supports your ideas, challenges you to work harder and gives you tools to succeed. Take advantage of every opportunity to impress her by taking initiative, working on projects independently and collaborating well with team members. Your boss is setting you up to be a star employee, so make the most of her mentorship.






How to build a timeless work wardrobe on a budget

As fall begins and the weather transitions from hot and sticky to cool and crisp, your work wardrobe will be going through a transition as well. When new-season clothes hit stores, it's tempting to refresh your wardrobe by chasing the latest trends. But if you're on a budget, can you update your outfits without breaking the bank? Yes, as long as you shop strategically.

Focus on staples first
Before spending money on anything else, make sure you have staple work pieces in your wardrobe. Simon Kneen, creative director at Banana Republic, says both men and women need to have a crisp, white shirt in their closet. "You can't go wrong with a well-tailored white shirt, because it is both eternally classic and incredibly versatile," Kneen says. "A well-made white shirt can be worn through the work week and on weekends when teamed with a pair of jeans, creating a casual, yet elegant look."
Since white shirts show dirt and wear more quickly than other colors, consider investing in more than one, especially if you find a style that fits your body well. To get the most wear out of your shirt, treat any spots or sweat stains right away, and wash it by itself or with other light colors.
Invest in timeless pieces
It's easy to get wrapped up in new clothing trends, but consider investing in classic work-wardrobe pieces instead to get the most bang for your buck. Trends come and go, and in a year you may regret purchasing that graphic print pant, fur coat and oversized hat. But there are certain key pieces that will never go out of style and are worth the investment.
"Investing in high-quality pieces like a suit, slim-fit button down and blazer is worth it, since these are the building blocks of your professional wardrobe that can be tastefully mixed and matched with accessories to keep you trend-right every season," Kneen says. "It's especially worth the extra time and money to get the right fit for your body. Accentuate your assets with proper fit and lengths, especially during the warmer months when you tend to show more skin. This is true in the colder months as well, when tailored coats and pants are essential to avoid looking bulky in heavy winter items."
Save with versatility
Buy versatile items that can take you from desk to dinner or work to weekend. Kneen says that workers can save on casual shirts that can be mixed and matched with suits, blazers and pants. Cotton button-downs, being shown in different colors or patterns, are less expensive and can go from day to night and work week to weekend. "[Pair them] with trousers or pencil skirts during the week and chinos or shorts on the weekend."
Accessories are another easy way to incorporate new styles into an ensemble without spending too much money. They're less expensive but can transform an outfit from basic to style-forward. "Accessories are a fun way to experiment with trends without breaking the bank or looking inappropriate in a work environment," Kneen says.
Jewelry is a great add on for women, and many budget-friendly stores are mimicking styles found in higher-end shops. Chunky necklaces and metallic cuff bracelets look expensive, but you can find trend-forward options that cost $50 or less. Patterned or colored belts are another easy way to incorporate a trend without spending all your cash.
For men, ties are an accessory that can refresh a stale outfit on a budget. If your office dress code is more casual, add a pocket square to your blazer or shirt for a pop of color, or experiment with shape. "Adding a pop of color whether it's with a bright button down, a pocket square, or even just the lining of a jacket makes the classics feel fresh and new," Kneen says. Another way he suggests to stay on trend is with the shape of the items. "A modern cut on a blazer is slimming and nods to the tailoring trend without a complicated approach – effortless panache at its best."
"The key is not to overdo a trend, or you risk becoming a fashion victim," Kneen says. "A touch of current pattern and color goes a long way. You can update your look by pairing print and color back to a neutral – always a very stylish bet."
Keep track of your expenses
Be smart about where your paycheck is going by keeping track of what you're spending on clothes. Create a personal budget worksheet, and populate it with your monthly expenditures. If you don't know where to start, find a template online that has a basic outline developed. Microsoft Excel versions are extra helpful, because they'll do the math for you. By organizing and tracking your expenses, you'll avoid spending more money than you're making.
It's easy to get into a rut when dressing for work, but you don't need to deplete your paycheck to create a new look. If you invest in core pieces first and build the rest of your wardrobe out over time, you'll end up with classic yet stylish work attire that'll make you feel confident and professional.




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