Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: workplace

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to workplace issues.

When Co-Workers Interrupt Your Discussion

This article by Mark Swartz was originally published on the Monster Career Advice blog.

“And now for the key point of this articlWhen Coworkers Interrupt Your Discussionse. It’s that –“

“Hey,” says an interrupter, “I have a question. Also I disagree with what you said earlier.”

“Umm, we can come back to that shortly. Now…ah, where was I?”

Getting cut off while speaking is irritating. At work it’s like handling a heckler. You get disrupted and your idea is hijacked.

A good communicator can deal with interjectors. Even for chronic disruptors there may be no need for drastic measures.

Allowing Interruptions Can Harm Your Credibility

Part of any job is conveying your thoughts and ideas effectively. If you frequently allow colleagues to walk all over your words, what sort of impression do you make?

People may begin to think you lack confidence to assert boundaries. Your ideas may be viewed as less valuable since you don’t protect them from interference. A lack of protest could also imply they can take credit for your ideas with few repercussions.

Why People Don’t Let You Finish Talking

Not all interruptions are bad. Sometimes colleagues have something really helpful to add. They simply don’t want to risk letting the moment pass. It could also be their brain works faster than yours does. They’re impatient to comment. Or culturally they’re still learning Canadian business norms, not realizing they are being rude.

Then there are creeps who try to undermine or one-up you. Their intent is negative. These are people – along with chronic offenders – who’ll need special treatment.

Could It Be Your Fault Too?

You probably aren’t a trained communicator. So it’s possible you’re making some basic conversation errors. Here are several that invite listeners to jump in abruptly:

  • Be concise and highlight your main point early. Otherwise people interject to stop you from being longwinded.
  • Speak at a level that people can hear easily. If you’re too quiet it might be interpreted as a lack of confidence.
  • Did you prepare adequately? How about rehearsing to reduce hesitations such as umm, ah, mmm or long silences?
  • You get nervous and start losing your place, saying the wrong thing, not speaking with authority or conviction.

Keep an eye on your body language too. Facial expressions, the way you sit or stand, eye contact and hand motions can support (or work against) your spoken words.

 

How To Stop Interrupters

Handle transgressors appropriately. Coworkers who seldom disrupt can be treated very politely. Announce as you begin that you’ll gladly deal with questions and comments as soon as you’re done speaking. If one or two people interject anyway, acknowledge them but remind them of your earlier instruction.

When that fails try more aggressive approaches. Start by asking for input from others. That can block repeat interrupters from taking over. Next fight fire with fire: cut the person off and tell them you are going to finish now. A brasher tactic is to speak over the offender until they stop.

Chronic interlopers should be spoken to in private. Be pleasant. Point out that you’ve noticed their actions and wonder if they realize the effect they’re having on you and others. Hear them out. If possible reach an agreement to be mutually respectful from now on.

Defensiveness Can Backfire

Over-reacting to getting interrupted reflects poorly on you. Keeping your cool shows you’re made of the right stuff. But try to avoid letting yourself be a doormat.

Is it your boss or their supervisors who won’t let you finish? Communicating with managers takes special care. It may be worth letting them say their piece.

Save your objection for encounters you have a better chance of winning.

The “Taskification” of Work

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Regional Vice President at Eagle

“My father had one job in his life, I’ve had six in mine, my kids will have six at the same time” – Robin Chase, Co-Founder of Zipcar.

The “Taskification” of Work It would seem that up until recent times, human ingenuity focused mostly on increasing the efficiency of work. Improvements of basic tools and machines, completely new inventions and the change from mostly rural, agrarian economies to large-scale, urban-based capitalism changed forever the kind of work we did and how we did it. And through all these changes, workers have had to adapt. Globalization, free trade, off shoring and automation have all impacted workers.

So what are the new or next big disrupters? Lots has been written on the future of automation and the outsourcing of work to machines. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning is fascinating. And the “Gig Economy” is already here. Studies vary but some are saying that by 2020, upwards of 40% of Americans will be involved in some sort of freelance or contracted work (a “gig”). Uber is a great example of that new model. But this model is being refined even further. “Crowdworking” refers to websites or “apps” where users/employers can advertise simple or repetitive tasks and gain access to thousands (millions?) of potential “employees” around the world who undertake the tasks advertised. Sites such as Amazon Mechanical Turk or Microtask act as the gathering point for requestors and workers. Instead of hiring employees or negotiating complex freelance contracts, anyone who needs a job done that can be done on a computer can simply go to the market and instantly pick from any number of willing workers. Need a group of photos labelled “Scotland”, or the contact information for businesses in a specific area confirmed or a set of images described in French, there are countless workers who will do it.

The idea of breaking down a job into simple or micro components is not new. Think of the classic assembly line with each station responsible for a specific repeatable task. Off-shoring used this logic to remove the more “mundane” tasks of customer service and call centers or even computer programming from high cost labor centers to countries with a well-educated and populous workforce where wages were low. And while these workers were expected to learn about and be connected to the task owners business, in the case of crowdworking, the workers have no relationship with the task owners at all, except as a point of revenue.

The success of the model means that larger businesses are investigating the usefulness and utility of posting jobs to these sights. The “taskification” of jobs might mean that companies start looking at any number of simple tasks that make up a full-time or part-time employees’ day which could more economically be carried out by a worker in Bangladesh who has a master’s degree and is chronically underemployed vs the North American worker earning $50,000 a year.

And as was demonstrated by off-shoring even traditional knowledge worker roles can be “taskified” into smaller fragments. This on-demand, task-based approach offers companies the ability to tap into an unlimited network of resources including technical experts, seasoned professionals, robots or simply human labor to complete a wide variety of tasks. What this means for the future of work will be played out soon and one thing that we can count on is that new generations of workers will once again, be forced to adapt.

Stack Overflow Says This About Developers in the Workplace

We recently shared some results of the 2017 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, specifically as they pertained to technologies used around the world. The survey was completed by over 51,000 developers and covered off a myriad of topics from technology trends to work habits to values and opinions. For example, the majority of professionals use both Agile and Scrum methodologies and less than 20% of developers work remotely more than half of the time (only 10% of Canadian respondents work remotely full-time).

Job Satisfaction Among IT Professionals

If you’re not satisfied with your current career path and think it’s normal for professionals in the technology field, think again. Most of the respondents rated their career satisfaction 8/10, with a high percentage rating it a 9 or 10. Interestingly enough, that satisfaction had a slight jump for IT professionals who had four or more years of experience.

Keeping in mind that a large proportion of respondents were full-time employees as opposed to independent contractors, there were some evident priorities that developers look for in a job in order to be happy. Compensation and benefits packages, as well as the technologies they get to use were second and third most important, respectively, but topping the list of preferred perks is professional development. It’s safe to conclude, then, that most developers and technology professionals understand the importance of keeping their skills up-to-date. If you’re not, it won’t be long until you fall behind and become less competitive.

Developers’ Values in the Workplace

Understanding what developers value and what they expect from their peers is a helpful way to fit in with a new team while on contract or manage a client’s employees should you end up in that position. Stack Overflow took a thought-provoking approach achieve this by asking developers how they would recruit and manage, if they had the opportunity. First, respondents agreed that the top priorities for hiring a developer should be communication, a track record of getting things done and knowledge of algorithms and data structures. Note how the ability to perform the specific role isn’t even in the top 3! Once on the job, they prioritized customer satisfaction, completing projects on time and budget, and peer ratings as the top performance metrics for people in their field.

As Cameron McCallum, Eagle’ Regional Vice President pointed out on in a recent post, diversity in the IT industry not only exists on a large scale, but it’s extremely valuable for companies. In his article, Cam points out that the industry still has a ways to go but Stack Overflow shows that we’re making good progress. In fact, almost 90% of respondents agreed that diversity is important in the workplace. It’s interesting to note that of all survey participants, women were more likely to value diversity than men.

The Really Important Findings

Stack Overflow works hard to understand important trends among developers and, thankfully, they captured answers to the questions that make us lose sleep, like if developers prefer tabs or spaces and their true thoughts on noisy key boards. Perhaps the most urgent is the proper way to say the word “GIF” and those results are displayed in the graphic below.Stack Overflow Says This About Developers in the Workplace

This is just a very quick summary of the many, many details you can find in the complete survey results. If you find this interesting (and you have time to kill) take a scroll through the results and see how you match up against the developers who took the 2017 Stack Overflow Developers Survey.

Get More Positive Stress at Work

Positive pressures create a way to balance out anxiety and worry

This post by Mark Swartz was originally published on the Monster Career Advice Blog.

Get More Positive Stress at Work (Positive pressures create a way to balance out anxiety and worry)Here’s some sunny news about stress: certain types can actually be good for you. A bit of pressure and nerves gets you focused.

But too much of what happens at work creates “distress” (negative tension). Like lack of control. Or not enough resources to do the job well. That can lead to ailments of the body and mind.

Creating more positive tension, also known as “eustress,” takes a conscious effort. A number of techniques are available to turn this into a healthy habit.

Good Stress Builds You Up

We all know the symptoms of stress. Over time the bad kind can lead to health problems, or play havoc on emotions unless dealt with.

Eustress does the opposite. There’s still tension and pressure involved. Only it challenges you to try harder, reminds you to concentrate on what’s important, and generates results that improve self-confidence.

Good stress is a great antidote to negative tension. There is less wear and tear, more drive toward accomplishment.

How Eustress Is Experienced

You know that feeling of butterflies in your stomach? Not the kind that makes you violently nauseous, or leaves you paralyzed with fear.

It’s more like the nervousness you feel on the way to a job interview you’ve prepared for, or before making a presentation in front of your colleagues.

The adrenalin is flowing. Your heart pumps faster and louder. All of your senses seem amplified. This fight-or-flight response makes you more alert and ready for the tasks at hand. It seems like whatever is about to happen will be within your coping abilities.

When the challenge you’re facing is completed, relative calmness returns. Eustress tends to be short-term and event-specific.

Typical Good Stressors At Work

There are lots of examples of positive personal stressors on the job. These may include:

  • Starting a new job or career you’re excited about
  • Receiving a desired promotion or raise
  • Relocating for work after asking to be re-assigned
  • Getting ready for a much needed vacation when things are busy
  • Preparing for retirement

 

Big events such as changing jobs or relocating don’t arise frequently. So you’ll have to produce your own eustress on a more regular basis. Consider the examples below.

Learn a new skill

It can be stressful to try and pick up new knowledge or skills. Yet it ultimately brings about self-improvement and increased personal marketability. Those are the hallmarks of eustress.

Set Firmer Boundaries

Have you said “no” recently when the boss asked you to work nights and weekends? Standing up for yourself takes gumption. It often creates tension at first, which encourages you to take care and do it respectfully.

Volunteer To Do A Presentation

Few things boost your profile like giving a well-prepared talk. Yet few things are as nerve-wracking as public speaking. The secret is to know your stuff, cater to the needs of your audience, and rehearse till it hurts.

Deal With Workplace Conflicts

It is risky to confront an annoying colleague or supervisor. However if something must be done, proceed in ways that are likely to generate eustress. Plan your approach carefully. Try to propose win-win solutions. And do your best to keep emotions in check.

Take On A Stretch Assignment

Step out of your comfort zone every so often. Offer to work on a committee that puts you in a leadership role. Attempt to solve a problem that no one else has been able to.

Eustress Versus You Stress

Worry and strain are among the many aspects of working life. They need to be balanced with positivity in your daily routine.

Eustress is beneficial pressure that ignites your resolve to succeed. Insert more of it into your overall activities. At first you may feel increasingly vulnerable. But as you learn to manage the fears, you can harness those butterflies to fly in formation.

How to Handle Office Pet Peeves and Annoying Coworkers

This post by Joe Issid first appeared on the Monster Career Advice Blog

How to Handle Office Pet Peeves and Annoying CoworkersIf you’ve ever worked in an office, it is inevitable that you have held on to some unhealthy feelings towards one (or more) of your colleagues. Whether it is your impolite boss or a hygienically-challenged cubicle mate, ill-feelings can develop pretty quickly and can linger for longer than necessary. Personally, I have had my fair share of annoying co-workers over the years (my personal favourite was the co-worker who built a temporary wall to divide our cubicle because he suspected that I was stealing his work). I am also reasonable enough to admit that I must also be guilty of being that guy to other people with whom I have shared an office over the years. No matter the case, no one is immune to these feelings of frustration and we are all equally eager to rid ourselves of these regular annoyances. Here are some suggestions that may help:

Don’t suffer in silence

One of the worst things you can do in a professional setting is to hold on to grievances. If there are some elements in your work life that are not living up to your expectations, it behooves you to discuss then with the relevant people involved. I’ve seen far too many people suffer in silence, which only serves to further their feelings of frustration and alienation. So, if you share a cubicle with someone who insists on cutting their toe nails at your desk every week or floss right in front of you, it is probably best for you to address this before you get to the point of destructive confrontation. So, how do you do this?

Effective feedback

Whenever we consider providing feedback in a work context, it is usually perceived negatively as it is often associated with some form of consequence. As such, it is somewhat understandable why so many people refrain from providing unsolicited feedback. However, providing effective and constructive feedback is the single best option that you have to resolve any work issue you may encounter. According to Chantal Westgate, Adjunct Professor of Organizational Behaviour at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, “[for] feedback to be perceived differently, one has to convey that it is the only way we can improve.” So, if you have a colleague whose behavior is distracting and/or bothersome, providing constructive feedback is an excellent way to address an ongoing issue.

When to speak up?

While I would certainly advocate an open dialogue in all offices, there are certainly some situations that may be best left untouched. For example, a former boss did not like the fact that one of my team members came to work wearing a very short skirt and asked me to address it with her. After deliberating for a while, I chose not to raise this with the team as I did not feel that it had any real merit. Firstly, the company did not have a formal dress code, so my staff member was not violating any defined protocol. Additionally, her attire was not impacting her work nor was it impeding anyone else in the office from performing their work. As business was not being impacted, I felt that raising the issue may have had a negative impact on the workplace despite the fact that the boss’ sensibilities were being tweaked.

It’s not getting better

As with most work-related disputes, I would suggest you try and resolve them among yourselves. In some instances, however, you may need to escalate the matter if the issue has grown into something more substantial. Personally, there have been some situations where I simply could not reconcile the differences between a co-worker and myself. In such a case, you need to be honest with yourself and determine whether these differences are deal breakers. In some cases, these annoyances are minor and can be ignored when looking at the bigger picture. For example, are you really willing to go to war over a co-worker who noisily chews gum during meetings? On the other hand, is the issue significant enough that it is impacting productivity and happiness at work? If so, you may need to look into speaking with your boss or someone from human resources before the issue gets out of control.

Am I the problem?

To paraphrase a bawdy expression that my grandfather used to say: if everyone around you is annoying, maybe you are the problem. If you find that your default mood at the office is aggravation or hostility, you may want to consider the possibility that you may be the source of much of this negativity.

Over the course of my career, I have been very well-served by looking inward whenever I encountered difficult situations. Let’s face it: we’re not all perfect!

20 Biggest Mistakes of Your Career (Infographic)

Whether it’s your first day and you’re terrified of making a rookie mistake, or you’ve been working for the last thirty years and you may have gotten a little complacent, we have all made at least one of these seemingly harmless mistakes.  This list created by lostgenygirl.com is a great compilation of 20 easy to forget things that could be holding your career back.  Nobody intentionally does any of these things, but hopefully this list will make you more cognizant in the future so you avoid them.

Which of these rules are you breaking and how will you change that?

20 Biggest Mistakes of Your Career

Graciousness in the Workplace… Where Did it Go?

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Graciousness in the Workplace... Where Did it Go?In today’s fast paced world full of never-ending negative social media blitzes, over-hyped reality television, shock-jocks/journalist rants, and larger than life politicians, it appears that the concept of being gracious to one another has been lost.  People are too focused on trying to get our attention with outrageous and unkind behaviour.  They fail to see that the simple act of being gracious can have a more positive and lasting outcome and, yes, get our attention too!

In speaking with contractors, I always ask them why they left their last place of work.  Did the contract end? What were the people like? What was the work environment like? I often hear how negative workplaces have become, how managers and executives don’t seem to care, and that everyone is too stressed out to focus on basic human decency.  This is one of the main reasons contractors do not take an extension with a current client or want to leave a project early. On the other side of the coin, “Was a candidate gracious?” is not the top reference question a client asks, but they do ask if that person was a team player and were they easy to get along with. Therefore, there’s an argument for everyone, clients and independent contractors, to bring graciousness back into the workplace. So how do we do that?

The simple act of saying THANK YOU goes a really long way.  Often, people will stay in a busy work environment if they know they are working with great people in a team who recognize their effort.

Another easy way is by being in the moment — giving someone your full attention and time. When you are in a meeting, or even more importantly, speaking with someone directly, put away your device.   It shows the person you respect them and value what they have to say.

Give positive feedback along with the negative.  People want to hear the good and the bad but want to hear it in a constructive manner.  Graciousness goes along way when working with others on how to improve their work.  You can still get the same message across without being overly negative.

Be open to helping others.  How?  Some simple ways:

  1. If a new person joins the team, introduce them to others.
  2. Say HI to your co-workers
  3. Recognize people’s achievements – privately and publicly
  4. Be genuine
  5. Share your project knowledge capital and help them get set up for success
  6. Be responsive

I know graciousness is sometimes hard to embrace because it demands our time and it can seem counter intuitive to business strategies that promote looking out for #1. However, graciousness does lead to a better workplace.  A better workplace leads to happier people, and happier people lead to better project outcomes, which lead to better references and more work in the future.  WIN-WIN-WIN for all!

How Technology Will Change the Workplace Forever

It’s an awesome time to be alive! The world is changing at accelerating paces and, as long as you can keep up, the ways technology changes our lives are nothing short of exciting. One area that’s seen some change and still has plenty of space for technology to revolutionize, is the workplace. While there will always be a place for humans, this short video from The List explains that the office as we know it today will be drastically different in the near future.

Before Sending a Rude Email, Ask These 5 Questions

5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Sending a Rude EmailMost people don’t intentionally send rude emails to recruiters, clients or fellow independent contractors. As stress increases, time decreases, and tense situations arise, though, it’s easy to fire off emails that quickly send your recipients into a defensive mode, and leave you perplexed as to why they’re so sensitive. What is even worse, though, is that you can damage your reputation and chance of getting future IT contracts without even knowing it.

If you’re still scratching your head to determine why people are being put off by your emails, have a look at the list below. Next time you’re sending an email, especially one that’s potentially sensitive, take a couple of extra minutes to ask yourself these questions and ensure you’re not going to start an unnecessary conflict.

Did I start and end the email nicely?

Some emails should be no different than a face-to-face conversation (many should be an in-person discussion, but that’s a different post all together). If you walk into a client’s office, blurt out a bunch of comments, and then leave, without the slightest greeting or closing, you can bet they’re going to be lost and offended. Since the average person types 40 words per minute, “Hello” and “Thank You” should take you all of 2 seconds to write. Please don’t be lazy.

Did I include enough information?

A vague email can lead to terrible miscommunications that seriously hurts an IT project. Depending on how vague it is, it can also leave the recipient making their own assumptions about your mood. To solve this problem, start with a clear subject line so they know exactly what the email is going to say. In the body, ensure you let them know precisely what you need, why you need it, and include any timelines. Feedback should also come with some context.

Additionally, refrain from blank, or nearly blank, emails, especially when forwarding. Jeff Bezos’s famous “?” emails are effective at Amazon, but you’re not Jeff Bezos. Including context clarifies your tone and keeps out the guess work.

Finally, although it’s important to have enough information, too much fluff is also an issue. People are busy and don’t want to read your emails as you dance around a topic. Be polite, but be direct.

Am I making them do the work?

When you send an email that references another document or email, do what you can to prevent the recipient from having to dig it up (and possibly dig up the wrong thing). At the minimum, including the date range and recipients of an original email so it can be sought out is better than “Find that email from Jane where she talks about that thing.” For attachments, also copy and paste the information directly into the body of an email. Many emails are checked on mobile devices and previewing attachments can be a hassle – your recipient will appreciate being able to scroll rather than download.

Did I include negative undertones?

This is the most important question to ask. It happens when we’re in a hurry and for many of us it’s just a bad habit, but negative undertones are easy to include in your emails without knowing it.

First, look at the basic punctuation. DON’T YOU THINK WRITING IN ALL CAPS WITH MANY EXCLAMATION AND QUESTION MARKS IS RUDE???!!!!????!!!! We do, and so do your other recruiters, clients and colleagues.

There are also more subtle signs to consider. Negative words such as “don’t” can affect the tone of an email. “Try writing it differently” sounds nicer than “Don’t write it like that.”

Even who you copy on an email could cause unwanted tension if it is perceived as tattling or pointing out mistakes to belittle. Think about who you are copying and why it’s important for them to be included.

Am I straight up being rude?

As much as you think that that lazy team member or neglectful recruiter deserves it, very rarely is a rude email going to solve your problem. Avoid barking orders, being pushy, or harshly criticizing. Instead, ask questions and provide solutions. If the conversation is going to be rough, then pick up the phone or walk over for a face-to-face conversation.

The moral of the story is that independent contractors should never send a rude email. It’s easy to fall into the trap during busy times or when you’re under pressure. When you know you’re at risk, take a few extra minutes to review what you wrote. You can also try saving it as a draft and returning to it later or asking a friend to review it. Remember, friends don’t let friends send rude emails.

How to Communicate Effectively at Work

A couple weeks ago, we shared a post with tips to come across as confident, not arrogant, either when working with clients or meeting with a technology recruiter at a staffing agency. This is just one element of great communication that can make a difference in a job interview, but even more importantly, while on contract.

The ability to effectively communicate your point helps explain requirements to clients, provide instructions to employees, and sell your ideas. Even if you think you’re already amazing in this area, we recommend you have a look at this infographic from Davitt. Especially when discussing complex technologies, great communication can be the difference between a project’s success or failure.

How to Communicate Effectively at Work the Ultimate Cheat Sheet #infographic