The workplace superstar: someone who gets things done, who’s production is driving the organization’s success. The toxic employee: someone who prevents others from doing what they need to or who stirs up trouble. What happens when this is the same person? Can you just bid them adieu — choosing culture over organizational success? The Workplace Therapist Brandon Smith has some interesting thoughts about how to deal with one of these toxic superstars.
Summer’s a great time to think about a little vacation. But on this episode of Working, we’re not talking about that kind of break. Rather, we’re considering the mental health day — a day off to decompress, re-gather your wits, and just breathe for a minute. It’s a hard thing to do. But Workplace Therapist Brandon Smith says it could be one of the most important things you can do for your career.
Life at work is changing faster than most of us can keep up, aided in no small measure by the Great Recession and its aftermath. Consider: many people don’t have to work in a traditional office anymore, they don’t just work between 9 and 5, and their career path is much more murky than used to be the case. On this episode of the Woking podcast, Workplace Therapist Brandon Smith explains how employee life is evolving — and what it means for many of us.
Summertime means a whole new batch of people in the job market — teens starting summer jobs, college students starting internships, new grads starting their careers. How do make a great first impression and stand out in these early days? Workplace Therapist Brandon Smith has some suggestions on this first episode of the Working podcast.
Economists have long been talking about the day when the bulk of the baby boomer generation finally retires.
The recession has put off that day as older workers stay in their jobs longer. But economists at the Conference Board now say those retirements are imminent, and they’re going to contribute to a labor shortage in the United States in the next 10 to 15 years.
That spells opportunity for younger workers.
“If you’re in [Generation X], you might feel squeezed right now, but you’re going to have a heckuva lot of opportunity in about the next 10 years,” said Brandon Smith, a workplace and career consultant who also teaches business students at Emory and Georgia State universities. “[There will be] way more openings than there are people. Immigration may be filling some of that void, but you’re going to see a huge demand.”
Some career advisers say a personal website chronicling your work is better—and more dynamic—than a resume nowadays. (See here, here and here for a few examples.)
The argument is that having a unique website dedicated to a job-seeker’s career accomplishments and work examples helps build a tightly focused, controlled brand.
Brandon Smith, GPB’s regular commentator on work and career issues, said the personal website has a place—just not for everyone.
“A marketing job, an advertising job, a social media job—great for having a personal website,” said Smith, an independent workplace adviser and career consultant who also teaches business students at Emory and Georgia State universities. “[Any] job where you can show what you did versus tell about what you did, because essentially, it’s an online portfolio.”
If you knew how much money all of your work colleagues make, would that irritate you? Or might that knowledge spur you to work harder?
It may seem a silly question, but a new study from Cornell University found it’s not. In fact, openness around pay can boost productivity.
“It creates greater transparency,” said Brandon Smith, who studies and advises companies on workplace culture and communication. “People eventually get clear on what’s expected of them. They know how people get rewarded, and so then they can model that. That’s where we see the increase in performance. There’s a greater clarity on what’s expected.”
Smith said salary transparency also will quickly eliminate wage gaps between women and men.
“Now no longer are you going to pay Susan 70 percent of what you pay Bob,” said Smith, a business professor at Emory and Georgia State universities. “It’s going to be quite obvious, and looking at it in the face, you’re going to change all that and make it even.”
If you have a “5” in front of your age, our Working guy says you’re in trouble when it comes time to find a job.
An avalanche of data is starting to show that having a “1” or a “2” in front of your age might not be so great either.
Nearly 21 percent of young people aged 16 to 24 are unemployed in Georgia, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, the rate is just over 14 percent.
Part of the problem is that employers aren’t creating many new jobs, said Brandon Smith, a career coach and business professor at Emory and Georgia State universities. Plus, their current workers aren’t leaving to go to other companies. And the jobs employers do have open attract a large number of more-experienced candidates than these teens and early 20-somethings.
What makes successful people, well, successful?
Certainly it’s a combination of lots of different habits, skills and approaches. But authors and career coaches have found in talking to high-achievers that the way they handle their weekends is one element.
Most aren’t using those days to cram in more work. Instead, they’re using them for what is, ostensibly, their intended purpose: recharging, resetting and relaxing.
“[Successful people] know that they need that day or two to reset and to nurture the other components in their life,” said Brandon Smith, a career consultant and executive coach who also teaches business students at Emory and Georgia State universities. “What these people realize is that life is like a report card: it’s not about doing well in one class, it’s about doing well in all aspects of life.
Lots of professionals are now supplementing their income as freelancers or striking out on their own altogether.
A study last fall from the consultants at MBO Partners found nearly 18 million independent workers nationwide. No doubt some of those people are running businesses with their friends, even though that can be fraught with challenges.
“It requires so much up-front hygiene to do it well,” said Brandon Smith, a workplace consultant who teaches about workplace culture and communication at Emory and Georgia State universities. “It can be done well, and then it can be a beautiful thing. But if the hygiene isn’t done well, it is so combustible, and you end up not only with a failed business, but now you’ve lost this valuable friendship.”
Smith said a business partnership between friends is a lot like a marriage, and two people considering creating a business need the same kind of premarital counseling.
Accepting a great career opportunity sometimes means workers have to leave a position they’ve had for only a short time. Consider this example from someone who reads Brandon Smith’s blog about working and career issues:
“I started a job 4 months ago because of the promise to build a particular skill set on the job. I learned on day one from my manager that there will be no time to develop this skill set,” she wrote to Smith (she has asked to withhold her name).
The writer says she spent some time looking for other work and found “a position that is a near-perfect match with my existing skills and track record.
“I was encouraged to apply, and I just recently received an offer,” she wrote. But: “I am worried about my reputation with [my current] company if I leave after four months, and I am wondering whether I should also worry about future jobs down the line.”
The bad news: such a short stint in a job has the potential to raise red flags with future employers, said Smith, a workplace and career consultant who also teaches in the business schools at Emory and Georgia State universities.
When Cleveland marketing professional Kelly Blazek got a LinkedIn invitation from a young woman she didn’t know, she didn’t just ignore it.
She sent Diana Mekota a blistering response calling her “entitled,” “inappropriate” and “tacky.”
Mekota was about to move to the Cleveland area and wanted access to an online job bank Blazek runs. She said her LinkedIn invitation was designed simply to show Blazek her resume. Blazek has since been blasted across the Internet for her biting reply, and she has offered several apologies.
Setting aside the wisdom of putting such a response in writing, was Blazek right that Mekota’s anonymous invitation was a bad idea?
Brandon Smith is often asked how people can tell if their boss doesn’t like them.
He’s asked so frequently, he has developed a few tell-tale signs (the highlights are here, in last week’s Working conversation). And when it happens, Smith—a career coach, leadership consultant and professor at Georgia State and Emory universities—said the employee must get to work repairing the relationship.
“You’ve got to get this better,” he said. “Either that, or you have to find another [job].”
And the first step is seeking out more time with the boss.
It’s one of the questions our Working guy, Brandon Smith, gets most often:
“I think my boss doesn’t like me. How can I tell?”
He says, bluntly, that’s because bosses are usually terrible communicators, and maybe slightly scared.
“They don’t do a good job of letting people know where they stand. As a result, what pops in our head is, ‘Does she like me? What if he doesn’t like me?’” said Smith, who teaches about workplace culture and communication, among other things, at Emory and Georgia State universities.
He said it’s common for bosses to dislike some of the people they supervise. But instead of being able to handle that, it “often plays out in unhealthy ways.”
Religious issues in workplaces have been popping up in the news in recent months, prompting questions about how much faith employees can practice at work.
A judge ruled in favor of a Sikh man late last year after a car dealership wouldn’t hire him because he has a beard. Another judge said a business owner couldn’t lecture an employee about the owner’s religious beliefs.
Workplace consultant Brandon Smith said religious discrimination claims are rising in the United States—doubling over the last 15 years, though they continue to be a small slice of overall workplace discrimination issues.