16 Feb

How to Make Yourself Indispensable at Work

Blog, Lists 1 Comment by Mary-Frances Winters

So you survived the first round of lay-offs, but what about the second? Or maybe you just landed your dream job and want to know how to keep it for the long haul.

You may not be able to control the job market, but the following simple, concrete actions can help you become indispensable to your company.

  1. Let’s talk basics. Indispensability is reliability. That means not calling in for frivolous sick days or turning in projects late.
  2. Be interested. Approach your boss with new ideas and constructive suggestions that show not only in-depth knowledge but also interest in your work.
  3. Excel at one of your boss’ weaknesses. Does he hate drafting proposals? Ask him for the challenge.
  4. Be proactive. Stuck on a problem? Find someone in the company who has solved a similar one and get her advice.
  5. Be flexible and adaptive. Learn new skills and introduce them into your work immediately. Make sure your boss knows about any relevant extra certifications or classes you have completed.
  6. Present a united front. Take opportunities to work as part of a team, and if you have internal disagreements, do not air them to your boss. Even if you are correct, your boss will see you as a “backstabber.”
  7. If you manage others, consider outsourcing non-critical functions. The truth is, no one can afford to hang onto people waiting for business to pick up. Learning how to manage contact workers can help your department’s bottom line.
  8. Finally, indispensable employees do not stop representing the company after hours. Advocate for your company at social events, and make sure your boss knows it.

If you’re uncertain how indispensable you already are, take this short quiz to check. You might already be well on your way to professional peace of mind.

15 Feb

Managing Generations

Articles, Blog No Comments by Mary-Frances Winters

Managing four different generations at work is tricky business. In fact, Ron Zemke, Claire Raines and Bob Filipczak in their book Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace describe it as “diversity management at its most challenging.”

Not surprisingly, there are some management practices that work for every generation: for example, meeting one-on-one, asking about employees’ goals, and opening lines for providing and receiving feedback. But after that, management practices must become more nuanced.

So how do successful managers reconcile their employees’ different attitudes and expectations? According to Generations at Work, they build nontraditional workplaces, exhibit flexibility, emphasize respectful relationships and focus on retaining talented employees. But what do these buzzwords actually mean?

Nontraditional Workplace

Google is the most famous example of a nontraditional workplace, but you do not have to offer free haircuts and on-site laundry facilities to encourage new creative capital from Generation Y, the most recent age group entering the workforce. Simple adjustments can make Gen Y employees feel more at home while still respecting older colleagues.

A recent Progressive Business Publications report states that members of this generation spend 15 hours each day using media and communication technologies, and they view work as a place to express themselves. Therefore, one way to manage them effectively is to let them be creative in their workspaces and listen to music. Nontraditional workplaces incorporate employees’ values and lifestyles into the office whenever possible.


Flexibility means being able to adapt your management style to bring out the best from all employees. It means being able to empathize with each generation’s life experiences and interact with all employees in constructive ways.

Some recent trends in workplace flexibility, according to CIO.com,  include working from home (even if only a day or two each week), increased parental/elder-caregiving leave (very important to the Boomer generation) and compressed work weeks. But flexibility may also mean getting off email and sending a handwritten note to an older employee.


Respect is important to everyone, but what constitutes respect may be another story. For members of the Traditional Generation, authority and experience are important, whereas a Gen Xer may feel that respect means letting everyone’s opinions be heard.

Another aspect of respect is how you reward people for a job well done. If you approach a Baby Boomer about taking some time off, he might say that he works hard to get a promotion, not to take a vacation. Understanding his goals and motivations can help you tailor your incentives to effectively show thanks for his hard work, perhaps in the form of a bonus next time.

Of course, employees are not one-dimensional representations of their age, so when in doubt, a one-on-one discussion of their values and goals will yield the most helpful feedback. But understanding key generational differences can illuminate the basis of some conflicts and help employees feel appreciated in the ways that matter most to them.

14 Feb

Fighting off weight gain at work

Blog, Lists No Comments by Mary-Frances Winters

For a lot of us, the most challenging physical activity we do on the job is getting in and out of our chair. The result: We are all turning into tubs of goo. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can take steps every day to help stave off weight gain at work that can be used as part of a plan for a general healthier lifestyle.

  1. Grab a bagel or a bowl of cereal. We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But it also is vital in helping take the edge off of your hunger. Those who choose to skip breakfast, may feel starved later, and be tempted to reach for a quick fix, such as candy from the vending machine. When you skip breakfast, it can increase your body’s insulin response, which in turn increases fat storage and weight gain. Skipping breakfast actually increases your risk of obesity. Also, eating breakfast gets you on track to make healthy choices all day. People who eat breakfast regularly tend to eat a healthier diet — one that is more nutritious and lower in fat. When you skip breakfast, you’re more likely to skip fruits and vegetables the rest of the day too.
  2. Bring it from home, put it in the fridge. If your office provides a refrigerator for you to use, do it. Bring a healthy lunch and snacks and low-fat drinks or water.
  3. The vending machine is evil. What a seductive temptress it is. Always there. Easy. Cheap. And ultimately bad for you. Your quest to stop a late afternoon hunger makes the vending machine’s offering an all too viable option. We mustn’t give in to it because that quick fix is actually causing a long term problem. Healthy choices are not there but fat and calories are. Stay away from it.
  4. Drown your hunger. One of the best ways to keep hunger at bay is to drink water. Lots of it. When you get hunger pains, instead of getting something to eat, pick up a glass of water. Thirst is many times mistaken for hunger. When in doubt, drink water, and the benefit is a lessened hunger and more focus from being hydrated.
  5. Walk the walk. Technology has robbed us of even the smallest office exercise. Try walking over to a coworker’s desk (if a reasonable distance), instead of sending e-mail, or an instant message, or making a phone call. The benefits of occasionally getting out of your chair outweigh the convenience of being able to push a few buttons. Also try taking the stairs. Walking one flight of stairs burns just 50 calories, but exercise of any kind increases the protein that curbs hunger.
  6. Hit the sack. Sleep is not only vital in improving your overall health; it also is beneficial in lessening weight gain. When we don’t get proper rest, we try to compensate for it by scarfing down food for an energy boost, but are loaded with calories, like a candy bar. There’s more. Insufficient sleep may increase your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol, which may be linked to the development of extra belly fat.
  7. Get involved in a program. For those who work at places that have a fitness center or provide discounts for area fitness centers, take advantage of it. For those who don’t have them, ask about implementing a corporate wellness program like LEAN WORKS, one promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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