Sunday, October 16, 2016

Is It Okay to Quit Without Giving a Two Week Notice?

I recently talked with a 55-year old woman who had been so stressed working as a freight logistics specialist she quit without giving a notice.

When asked why she didn’t give a two-week notice she says she gave a two-year notice:

For the past two years she repeatedly asked her boss for an assistant and complained about her workload. She had told him if her work load didn’t improve she was going to quit. She felt it wasn’t her fault he hadn’t taken her seriously. After a particularly grueling Friday she went home, sent an email to her boss telling him she quit and never went back.

She spent the summer relaxing and spending time with her family. She had recently gotten a part-time retail job for the holiday season and is searching for permanent employment with a placement agency. She wasn’t looking for career advice from me. Instead she wanted to vent about her former employer and receive reassurance she had done the right thing.

My response:

She isn’t the first person I’ve met who has complained about this company. I had talked to another employee around the holidays who had been furious when this company announced a surprise weekly shut down over Christmas. If employees didn’t have PTO time available they had to take four days off without pay. Since they received holiday pay for Christmas day, they would not be eligible for unemployment. So much for a holiday bonus.

This woman confirmed the shut-down story and also told me she had also received a pay-cut.

I told her many companies, including my own, had to institute these types of cost-cutting procedures to stay in business. I also think the business economy is more competitive than ever. Companies that don’t get scrappy don’t survive.

She did not like my answer, so I moved on. If our conversation had continued I would have told her the following:

There were two employees that left my company last year. Both had been with our company for several years. One had worked for me.  This employee had also been stressed for years and had asked repeatedly for an assistant. Her requests were denied because I and the managers above me thought she was inefficient and resistant to more efficient procedures. After a particularly grueling year-end she resigned to work at her son’s company. She gave a three-week notice and agreed to work part-time for several additional weeks to train her replacement. Since leaving, our company has utilized her son’s company a few times giving his business thousands of dollars of revenue. Also, my boss came to the conclusion my former employee was right – her job was too much work for one person and we have hired an additional part-time employee. We talk fondly about this employee and reminisce about her accuracy and knowledge.

Contrast this story with the other employee who quit last year. His wife suffered from a debilitating decease that required him to go home every day at lunch to care for her. He was assigned a new manager who felt these lunch breaks were excessive and told him he had to make other arrangements. This employee came in the next Monday supposedly to give his notice. When he discovered his boss was scheduled to be out of the office the entire week he sent the following email to all employees:

“It has been nice working with everyone. I quit.”

He gave another manager his keys and phone, left and never came back.

To this day when someone talks about being stressed at work they laugh and say, but I’m not going to pull a “Jerry.” This employee whose excessive lunches most likely were protected through FMLA, after 20 years of employment was now a company joke.

In hindsight, when the above woman realized her boss wasn't going to improve her situation she should have started to plan her exit; getting her finances in order, updating her resume, and taking much needed time off.  When the time was right, she could then resign with a two-week notice.

So is it ever okay to quit without giving a two-week notice?

I think unless your employment is severely effecting your mental or physical health it is in your best interest long-term to give a two-week notice. Who knows they might escort you out the door regardless, but at least you are giving them the opportunity to ask you a question or two and are giving your co-workers time to wish you well. As Michelle Obama says, “When they go low, you go high.”

What do you think – is it ever okay to quit without giving a two-week notice?

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Do I Have to Give Presentations?

I received the following email this week from a reader:

I'm writing to get some advice from you and your readers on a small issue I'm having at work. I work at a large university in the enrollment division. I am a content writer, in charge of content marketing for the departments in my division. I update websites, write press releases, create newsy blog posts, write emails to prospective students, and write and review hard copy publications like brochures. I do not actively recruit students for the university. I am behind the scenes. This type of work pretty much exactly suits my personality. I'm an introvert. Shy in some situations, but not all. I like to write. I do not like leading meetings, but will if I have to, and I do a good job of seeming personable. My problem is that some of the people in my department are on call to give presentations to visiting prospective students from time to time (when there are no admission counselors available to give them). My boss has hinted twice (but not outright asked or told me) that she'd like me to give a presentation once in a while. Which terrifies me because I am not a confident public speaker. Especially when I'm essentially pitching the university (like a sales pitch). Should I ask her if she'd like me to start giving presentations and, if so, voice my concerns to her? Or should I continue to do my job per my job description and hope she stops hinting?
Dear Reader:

I too am an introvert. Growing up I was also painfully shy. So much so, that when I ran into an old classmate from high school he said the thing he remembered most about me was how shy I had been. During my entire 12 years of undergraduate education and most likely my entire college education too, I never once spoke voluntarily in a class setting. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to overcome this shyness and reluctance to speak in public. Now I routinely share my ideas in meetings and ask questions during seminars and presentations, but I still am and always will be an introvert. Please see my post Why Can't I Think on My Feet? Also, if you haven’t read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking read it now.


How did I overcome my reluctance to speak in public?

I became active in my professional organization. For three years, I introduced the speakers at our monthly meetings. The first few times, I dreaded those introductions and had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach just like I did during my former public speaking classes in high school and college. Then I realized that by practicing – for me five times was key – I felt prepared enough to make it through the introductions without embarrassing myself. Slowly I started asking questions during the presentations and during our meetings. The more successes I had the more confident I became.

Your boss is a weakling:
I actually think your boss is at fault for not being more frank. Hinting or guilting an employee into doing something they could be afraid to do is not a healthy management strategy. Meeting with prospective students should have been part of your job description. Since it was not, she should have formally discussed this with you. Since she did not…

What should you do?
I think you should bring this up with your boss sooner rather than later. Another thing I’ve learned over the years is to not spend a lot of time worrying about things my boss may want me to do. I now come right out and ask him – “do you want me to do X?” You could wait until you have a formal performance review or bring it up during a discussion about your work load or your job duties, but I wouldn’t wait too long or lose too much sleep over this one.

If your boss insists this is something she would like you to do, I would provide your reservations and tell her you don’t think quick on your feet. Ask to practice first. See if you can observe the admissions department give a tour, have them observe you during a presentation and interject if you struggle. At the very least she should be providing you with a sample script you could read through ahead of time. She can’t just spring this on you and expect you to do a good job and not be flustered.

It is also possible once she hears your reservations she may say you don’t have to do give these presentations. There have been board members in my organization who never give a speech at a major event. They are not comfortable speaking in public and since we want to give a good impression we have a more seasoned speaker fill in for them. There is also a manager at my company who had a panic attack a few days before a presentation that resulted in a visit to the emergency room. His presentation ended up going very well and he and our company received industry recognition for it. Afterwards when our President heard about the emergency room incident he said despite the good results he would never “insist” my co-worker give a presentation again.

Readers – what do you think? Should our reader talk to her boss or continue to hope she stops hinting?

Please note I am an Amazon affiliate.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Born for This by Chris Guillebeau

Motivation for Reading:

I'd been following Chris Guillebeau's blog for a few years, but hadn’t read any of his books. I even signed up to attend one of his events held in Milwaukee, but didn’t attend due to his flight being delayed. When I saw his book Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Dowas available for review on Blogging for Books I decided to give it a try.

What is Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do about?

It is basically a career guide to help readers find the work they are meant to do.

My Thoughts:

Before attending the first seminar of my working life, a colleague told me if I take one thing away from the seminar it was worth my time. I finished reading Born for This several weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about the 24-hour project. The project is exactly what the title suggests:
Call it your personal “hackathon,” a type of event popular in tech circles where small teams compete to launch start-ups or solve a specific problem in a limited period of time, typically fueled by caffeine and the occasional break to play ping-pong. You too can use this model to make a quick-and dirty product in a short period of time. All you need is 24 hours and, to be fair, a bit of advance preparation so you know what you’re getting into.” (Pg. 167)
Perhaps this is how I finally get my eBook written.

So for me, reading Born for This was not a waste of my time. Overall, I thought Guillibeau’s writing was engaging and I enjoyed the career stories he included to reinforce his ideas. As to the career suggestions themselves: identify what we really want, make better decisions and to take more risks. There really isn’t anything new. The benefit of Born for This is Guillibeau’s ability to motivate. His own story – setting a goal to visit every country in the world and actually achieving it is motivating in itself.

Bottom Line: 
If you are looking for a book with engaging stories to motivate you to make a career change you may enjoy this book. If you are looking for a step-by-step guide to make that change you will probably be disappointed with Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do..
Have you read this book?  If so what were your thoughts?

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Note, some of the links included in this post are affiliate links.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Want to Motivate Your Employees? Appreciate Them

After last week’s episode with my company's HR Manager, I was taken by surprise to hear she had told another employee he needed to buck-up and be more like Savvy.* She told him, "She’s been doing both her job and the CFO’s since he’s been out and you don’t hear her complaining.” She even said something to the effect that I was doing a good job. I couldn’t believe it. My body immediately relaxed, I became calmer, more energized and more motivated. I was surprised after all these weeks of feeling stressed and as if I wasn’t measuring up my company’s management felt otherwise and by how much I needed to hear it.
Thursday our CFO returned. When he walked in the door I started cheering and our entire staff clapped. He said he hadn’t received this big of a welcome from his family when he returned home the previous day. I told him the old saying “Everyone is replaceable” did not apply to him.
Then on Friday, my big 50th birthday, I arrived to an office decorated in black and a little party that included a cake. The employees who work for me and one of our owners were laughing (something I haven’t seen in a long time) and making jokes. They posted neon green post-its with the number 50 on them all over the office (so I wouldn’t forget how old I am). We haven’t celebrated anyone’s birthday in the office in years.
In the midst of all this I accomplished more work than I had in a long time. When I left Friday night I was almost caught up. This was quite an accomplishment considering the previous week I had left the office fearing I may never be caught up again. I honestly think feeling appreciated made all the difference.
I try to make an effort to publicly thank or show appreciation for employees when the opportunity arises. It is easy to do if you are paying attention. Recently I have done the following:
  • I publicly gave credit to an employee for providing new information on a manufacturer’s policy change to all employees via email. (As opposed to our HR Manager who recently touted this same employee’s idea as her own)
  • Via email, I thanked an employee in another department for assisting me with an audit when I was in a bind. I cc’d her boss who later told me how much my email had meant to this employee.
*This comment which was so helpful to me was deflating to the employee who is supposed to buck-up. He was absent the next day, isn’t as sharp as he usually is and seems depressed. Telling someone to buck-up and be like someone else is probably some of the worst advice you can give an employee.
Speaking of advice, the comments I received on I'm 50 Years Old and Still Can't Think On My Feet may be the most helpful comments I’ve ever received on this blog. I sincerely thank and appreciate every one of my commenters.
How about you? Does your employer let you know they appreciate you?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Stop Talking About Sex at Work

Recently I received the following comment on my post: My Co-Worker Won't Stop Talking About Sex:

I'm having an issue at the moment. I work in a very small workplace with only women where I am the manager. Our oldest employee (29) has been describing her sex life in GRAPHIC detail to my youngest employee (15). I have NO idea how to handle this. I've already rang my area manager and he's getting onto HR about it. Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

You are the manager. Pull this employee aside immediately and tell her she needs to stop talking about her sex life at work, her conversations are inappropriate and unprofessional and that HR has been contacted. HR will most likely perform an investigation and will at the very least place a note in her file and send her to harassment training. They also may give her a written warning. HR departments do not mess around with sexual harassment complaints.

A few weeks ago I had a question from a different anonymous commenter describing sadistic sexual activities a co-worker wanted to perform with her. (Her comment was too graphic to post). Her question for me was if she reported this harassment to HR, would they think she was a co-conspirator if she had initially played along.

My answer:

No. No. No. They will not. It sounds to me like you initially didn’t want to be mean, but your co-worker has now become bolder, you want him to stop and are afraid to tell him so yourself. Plus, the things he is saying (putting you in a cage, etc.) are scary and need to be taken seriously.  

While reading her question about playing along I couldn’t help but be reminded of the new male manager my company hired. In a casual conversation about getting his company vehicle repaired he asked me if I’d come along and sit on his lap. I don’t remember exactly what how I responded, I think I made up an excuse why I couldn’t. I didn’t play along, but I didn’t tell him he was out of line either. Unfortunately, these type of comments continued. I’m not sure what his motives are other than a boast to his ego, but I am offended. It bothers me that he thinks of me as a female, rather than the professional I worked so hard to be. No wonder women feel the need to dress in drab colors and not draw attention to their femininity. I now don’t acknowledge his flirtatious comments and stick to business when talking to him. As I write this post, I can’t remember the last time he made a suggestive comment.

As a follow up to my previous post, the co-worker I talked about has not talked about sex since I told him he was being inappropriate. As to the female who shared her favorite sexual positions with her co-worker was finally promoted – twenty years after the incident and with reservations from HR. 

Talking about sex at work is a major career blunder – knock it off.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole Plakias

Why I wanted to read Anastasia Cole Plakias’s book The Farm on the Roof: What Brooklyn Grange Taught Us About Entrepreneurship, Community, and Growing a Sustainable Business:
Since "good" business books is one of my favorite reading genres I immediately added Plakias’s book to my reading list after receiving the following email from a marketing coordinator at Penguin Random House:

I met Anastasia Cole Plakias and the other founders of Brooklyn Grange on their rooftop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Of course, there was “the wow factor” of standing on a farm in the middle of the concrete jungle. That night I enjoyed the aroma of fresh basil and listened to Anastasia jokingly lament keeping their adorable but expensive chickens. But mostly, I was impressed with the team. The group spoke so eloquently about how they’d come from backgrounds as diverse as food writing, finance, and hospitality, but had been drawn to this project—building the world’s largest commercial rooftop farm.

In The Farm on the Roof, Anastasia describes how she and her cofounders quit their jobs in the middle of a recession to turn their passion for food and farming into a functioning business. What they discovered was a world rich in opportunity, challenges, and hard-won losses. Today, Brooklyn Grange has established itself as a self-sustaining business that harvests more than 50,000 pounds of organically cultivated produce per year and partners with numerous nonprofits to promote healthy and strong communities.

But their story is about more than just farming. It serves as an instructional guide for anyone looking to start a project that is successful while making a positive impact. Anastasia writes with a wit and flair that transforms anecdotes about partnering with investors (some of whom supported the farm for reasons that had nothing to do with farming) and lease negotiation into scintillating, edge-of-your seat tales from the front lines of entrepreneurship.

As a creator of original content who writes with purpose, I believe you’ll be blown away by the Brooklyn Grange model. They’ve figured out a beautiful intersection of commerce and community. And at its core, The Farm on the Roof is an incredible story about utilizing whatever resources you have to turn your backyard idea into a sky-high success.

My thoughts on the book:

If you are looking for a book on how to create a rooftop garden or an agricultural book you will be disappointed in this book. The Farm on the Roof: What Brooklyn Grange Taught Us About Entrepreneurship, Community, and Growing a Sustainable Businessis Plakias’s account of how Brooklyn Grange, a company she co-founded in 2010,went from a dream to a viable socially conscious business over the course of five years.

I enjoyed Plakias’s writing style which is never academic and the entrepreneurial insight she provides:

Plakias and her partners quickly learn that in order for their business to be sustainable they needed to be profitable and in order to be profitable they needed alternative income streams. To do this they added events and began hosting classes. They also slowed down their growth plan and concentrated on the two gardens they already had. They discovered a good site with a landlord whose values complemented their own is more important that expansion.

I came away with a few tips for my own garden:

Kale, herbs and tomatoes are their most profitable crops. Summer squash needs a lot of space and carrots take 80 days to reach maturity. And I think of them every time I try to harvest lettuce in my husband’s newly created garden – the rows are too wide. A lesson they learned after the first couple of harvests and ended up changing ed their row’s depth during a redesign.

Bottom line:
The Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole Plakias is a valuable read for start-ups looking to create a socially conscious business or for those who enjoy reading about business or are looking for  entrepreneurial advice. To learn more about Brooklyn Grange visit their website. I would love to attend one of their butcher paper dinner events.

Do you enjoy reading about business? What business books do your recommend? 

Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing me with a review copy of this book.

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

The E-Myth Revisited: A Book Every Entrepreneur Should Read

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Why I read Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City:

I was a renter in the City of Milwaukee for five years before moving to the suburbs. During that time I spent a few months living in a not-so-nice neighborhood on the north side to save money. I ended up breaking my lease early, moving and losing my security deposit after my landlord refused to make necessary repairs. Fortunately, I had options,  the money to pay another security deposit and a new landlord that didn’t bother to call my previous landlord for a reference. When I heard Matthew Desmond had written a book about Milwaukee’s rent scene I had to read it.

What is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American Cityabout?

Wanting to understand the role housing played in poverty Matthew Desmond, a sociologist, moved to Milwaukee. He lived in a trailer park on the south side and in a rooming house located in the black north side. Both allowed him to befriend two landlords and interview numerous renters. His book is an investigative account of the lives of these landlords and eight renters who he followed for over a year.

What I learned:

The details of this book are heartbreaking and hard to read. It took me two months to get through the entire book. I had no idea how Milwaukee (and cities like Milwaukee) are set up to fail our poor residents and families. The renters are far from perfect, but once their lives take a turn for the worst it is easy to fall into a cycle of poverty that is difficult to escape.

For the most part poor renters are trapped:

Financial guides recommend spending no more than 30 percent of your income on housing while many of the renters Desmond met spent up to 80 percent of their income on rent in substandard housing often with plumbing problems, no refrigerator or stove, and broken windows. (Apparently it is okay to rent out a unit in need of repairs as long as you disclose the defects up front). High rents don’t leave much to pay utilities, child expenses or to be able to purchase a reliable automobile to drive to work. Once tenants fall behind in their rent it is only a matter of time until they face eviction.

Most landlords won’t rent to those who have incarcerations or evictions on their record, so the system is designed to keep them out of good neighborhoods, good schools and decent housing.

Desecration of neighborhoods:

When a long-term resident of a neighborhood is evicted the block they lived on suffers.
The key link in a perpetual slum is that too many people move out of it too fast – and in the meantime dream of getting out. With Doreen’s eviction, 32nd Street lost a steadying presence – someone who loved and invested in the neighborhood, who contributed to making the block safer, but Wright Street didn’t gain one. (Pg. 70)
Shocking accounts:

When a landlord learns she isn’t liable for a house fire in which a tenant’s baby died (she did not have enough operating smoke detectors) she asks if she is obligated to return their rent money. The fire occurred just after the 1st of the month. She was not.

The nuisance property ordinance:

This ordinance allows police departments to penalize landlords for the behavior of their tenants. Most properties were designated “nuisances” because an excessive number of 911 calls were made within a certain timeframe. In Milwaukee the threshold was three or more calls within a thirty-day period. (Pg. 190)

Each time this happens the landlord receives a nuisance citation. In almost all cases, the only course of action accepted by the Milwaukee PD is eviction.

Why is this a problem?

A battered woman either has to keep quiet and face abuse or call the police and face eviction. This ordinance also prevents neighbors who should call 911 when they hear sounds of abuse to stay quiet and mind their own business.

How much money these landlord’s make?

Granted most people are not up to the task of renting to those living in the inner city, but those who do are making money. This is achieved despite tenants not always making rent payments on time or not full.  Landlords make money by not making necessary repairs, purchasing cheap properties and charging high rents. 

Final Thoughts:
Matthew Desmond only included the stories in Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City he was able to verify as accurate and backed up all of his findings with extensive research. I enjoyed that despite having been present for many of the events included in the book Desmond kept himself out of the story until the final chapter. Evicted is written in a conversational tone and would be a great choice for a social justice book club. I guarantee you will have a lot to talk about.

I highly recommend this book.

To learn more about Matthew Desmond and his project go to this website.

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Note, some of the links included in this post are affiliate links.