TIME Careers & Workplace

Doing This on Social Networks Could Cost You a Job

A portrait of the Facebook logo in Ventura
A portrait of the Facebook logo in Ventura, Calif., on Dec. 21, 2013 Eric Thayer—Reuters

With his Blurred Lines parody, Weird Al is onto something: America’s grammar stinks. And there’s strong evidence that it’s so bad, it’s costing us jobs. A new survey from CareerBuilder finds that about a third of HR managers say they’ve taken an applicant out of consideration because of “poor communication skills” on social media.

Yes, people know by now that posting pictures of them funneling beer or making racist jokes on Facebook will probably take them out of the running, but even the types of grammar errors Weird Al is skewering can be enough to cost somebody a job.

CareerBuilder says a third of the roughly 70% of HR managers who use social media to check out candidates have dropped them from consideration because of “poor communication skills.”

More than nine out of 10 HR professionals say they see poor communication displayed on candidates’ pages, says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at iCIMS, a talent acquisition company. “Job seekers should pay special attention to their social media profiles, ensuring all publicly accessible information is professional,” she says. “It’s difficult for a recruiter to ‘unsee’ these references.”

In other words, sometimes it’s not what you say online: It’s how you say it that can be a dealbreaker. We asked HR pros what would give them pause if they ran across it on an applicant’s social media page.

Bad or nonexistent punctuation: “If they can’t punctuate, if they can’t make a coherent sentence, then they are not, in my opinion, what we’re looking for,” says Thomas Anderson, a panelist with the Society for Human Resource Management and director of HR at the Houston Community College System. “If they don’t punctuate properly, you get a sense that the way they probably write all the time.”

Misspelled words: According to Vitale, 47% percent of recruiters say spelling errors are their biggest turn-off when reviewing a social media profile. Spell-check is there for a reason, people.

Incoherent rambling: “The employer is more apt to question your professionalism if you show a pattern of misspelled words… or your commentary seems rash, uninformed or non-cohesive,” says Jennifer Grasz, spokeswoman at CareerBuilder.

A stuck caps-lock key: “If they’ve got it all in capitals, that’s a big red flag… that indicates in social media or email that you’re shouting,” Anderson says. This is a widely known bit of online etiquette, so an applicant that isn’t savvy enough to pick up on this might have serious knowledge or social skills gaps elsewhere.

Using words the wrong way: Using words incorrectly can also trip you up in an employer’s eyes, Grasz says. If you’re not sure what a word means, look it up.

Texting shortcuts: It might be natural for people — especially young adults — to abbreviate words with letters or numbers when texting, but Grasz says it can be a turn-off for hiring managers if your conversations on social networks are riddled with this kind of shorthand.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Scientifically Backed Ways to Seem More Powerful

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Compassionate Eye Foundation/Jamie Grill—Getty Images

Mail clerk? Administrative assistant? Make the honchos look at you in a whole new light. Here’s how social scientists say you can make people think you’re more powerful.

Take up lots of space. MIT researcher Andy Yap says the way we stand and sit can give both those around us as well as ourselves the sense that we’re powerful. Specifically, what Yap calls “expansive poses,” where people adopt a wide stance when standing, put their hands on their hips instead of at their sides and stretch out their arms and legs when seated. “High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power,” Yap writes. “That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.”

Scientists who study the effects of these hormonal changes say they’re associated with status, leadership and dominance — and all you have to do is take up more space.

Tap into the “red sneaker effect.” This is why Mark Zuckerberg can get away with wearing a hoodie. Researchers from Harvard Business School studied how sometimes looking out of place can have a positive effect. “Under certain conditions, nonconforming behaviors can be more beneficial than efforts to conform and can signal higher status and competence to others,” they write. (They give the example of someone wearing a pair of red sneakers in a professional setting as an example.) Since most of us try to conform to social norms, we tend to think that people who deliberately don’t do so because they have enough social status that they don’t have to care what the rest of us think.

Use big-picture language. Yes, it pays to be detail-oriented, but when you communicate, think in terms of broader ideas, because it makes people think you’re more powerful. Researchers discovered that when people use abstract languages in phrases, sentences and short paragraphs, experiment subjects were more likely to perceive of them as powerful than when they used more concrete verbiage.

Call the shots on eye contact. Social scientists observe that people with lower status tend to make eye contact more than those with higher status — probably because the higher-status person doesn’t need to seek approval or isn’t as concerned with the other person’s response. More powerful people also aren’t afraid to break eye contact, according to Audrey Nelson, writing in Psychology Today.

“Investigators found that people who are more dominant break a greater number of mutual gazes than those who are more submissive or in the power-down position,” she says. Just as Andy Yap finds with our bodies, the amount of space a person’s gaze takes up also telegraphs how high they are on the social or corporate food chain.

Stand at the back of the elevator. In an Australian study, researcher Rebekah Rousi, a PhD candidate at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, observed people’s interactions in an office complex elevator. “As a result of 30 elevator journeys (15 in each building) a clear social order could be seen regarding where people positioned themselves inside the elevators.” She found that senior male staffers, who she suggests have a greater relative amount of power, tended to cluster along the back wall of the elevator.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The 3 Most Important Words You Should Learn Right Now

How To Ace A Job Interview: 7 Research-Backed Tips
Chris Ryan—Getty Images/Caiaimage

Hard to say—but very important

One thing I’ve learned at Buffer is that being open to not knowing things seems to be the best way to learn quickly and teach others at the same time. So many of our biggest hits on the blog have come from saying, “We don’t know the answer. Let’s find out!”

On many matters, we haven’t any authority.

Is this an OK way to get by?

We’ve found great success in not knowing, and there’s no reason why you can’t, too. While we can certainly see the value in establishing yourself as an authority in your industry, being the answer-man or answer-woman isn’t the be-all, end-all of your options.

You can survive and thrive by embracing “I don’t know.”

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

The leading authorities on not knowing

An interesting phenomenon occurs when you’ve been not knowing things for as long as we have. You become an authority on not knowing.

That seems to be the case here at the Buffer blog. We’d like nothing more than to be known as a go-to source for social media content. When you think about social media, we’d love for you to think of us!

At the same time, we understand that we may not be authorities on everything social media—we may not have all the answers right away, near at hand.

And that seems to be alright.

Instead of being authorities on social media, we can be authorities on thorough research, fascinating statistics, and personal experience. In other words, there is more than one way to cement yourself in the minds of your followers beyond traditional authority. If we can earn a reputation as a go-to source for social media content by embracing what we don’t know, then the opportunity’s there for you to do the same.

If you aren’t able to claim authority in your chosen field, you can still seek after a subset of authority. You can be an authority on:

Find whatever it is you’re good at, and become the best you can be. Soon enough, your Facebook and your Twitter and your blog will be known for the quality, exceptional work you do, regardless of what it is that you don’t know.

The authority pyramid

So maybe authority means more than expertise, influence, and confidence. If we expand our definition, we can each find our own path to authority, however it may look.

Impostor syndrome: We all feel like we don’t have all the answers

I’ve had moments where I wasn’t sure I was cut out for my job. Have you had these moments, too?

We’re not alone. Psychologists call this impostor syndrome, and it applies to those of us who are unable to internalize accomplishments. Despite outward evidence that we’re great at what we do, we’re convinced that we’re frauds and undeserving of our place.

This level of “I Don’t Know” is more common than you might think. The term has been around since the 1970s, and researchers believe that up to 70 percent of people have felt the effects of impostor syndrome at some point.

If you’re interested in finding out if you have any characteristics of impostor syndrome, you can take the Clance Impostor Scale survey and see where you land. For each statement in the survey, you mark how true it is of you. For example,

  1. I tend to remember the incidents in which I have not done my best more than those times I have done my best.
  2. I often compare my ability to those around me and think they may be more intelligent than I am.
  3. At times, I feel my success has been due to some kind of luck.

Part and parcel of impostor syndrome is the feeling of not knowing—the lack of expertise that we’ve been talking about so far. Via the Crew blog, here is a simple illustration that shows how impostor syndrome feels:

Impostor Syndrome chart

In the same Crew blog post, Andrea Ayres explains what the manifestations of impostor syndromemight look like, how people may compensate for feeling like a fraud. Do either of these sound familiar to you, whether you’ve done them yourself or witnessed them from colleagues?

Overdoing: When people prepare to an almost obsessive level, putting in much more effort than is realistically needed in order to ensure they don’t fail

Underdoing: People will under prepare or put off doing something until the last minute so they can blame any possible failures on a lack of readiness, as opposed to their actual ability. If you don’t really try you can’t really fail, right?

Of course, neither of these outcomes is preferable. Overdoing will lead to pressure and burnout; underdoing will lead to poor quality and performance.

With the prevalence of impostor syndrome being as great as it is, there must be a better way to survive and thrive while feeling like you don’t have all the answers. Here’s one way that we’ve found.

Giving yourself permission to not know it all

I believe part of the reason for the pressures of impostor syndrome is that there is a stigma around not knowing something. If you feel like an impostor because you don’t have all the answers, it’s because somewhere along the line you learned that it’s best to have all the answers all the time.

Not only is this impossible, it might not even be the best way to go about it.

I’m fortunate to work at a place that embraces the “I don’t know.” Buffer’s values highlight the fact that it’s okay to not have all the answers. We phrase this in terms of curiosity, improvement, listening, and humility.

Here are some choice phrases pulled from our Buffer culture slide deck:

You take the approach that everything is a hypothesis and you could be wrong

You approach new ideas thinking, “What can we do right now?”

You are suggestive rather than instructive, replacing phrases such as “certainly” and “undoubtedly” with “perhaps,” “I think,” and “my intuition right now”

You seek first to understand, then to be understood

Does your company share this belief? I’d be interested to hear which perspective your work takes on the matter of authority and knowledge.

It certainly helps to have an employer so openly embrace the idea of not knowing. And at the same time, there is power in the individual assertion that you don’t have to know it all. Even if your company isn’t outspoken on the matter, you can change your personal philosophy and give yourself a break from chasing authority. You may find this new mindset refreshing, among the many other benefits of embracing the power of “I don’t know.”

3 incredible effects of embracing what you don’t know

“I don’t know” and trust

Jason Freedman of 42 Floors shared a story about a competitive hiring process where one of the key deciding factors for the candidate was Freedman’s openness about not knowing an answer. When Freedman said, “I don’t know,” the candidate was sold. Here’s the reason why:

When people say I don’t know, it lends credibility to everything else that they’ve said.

Think about someone who always seems to have an answer for everything. You’ve maybe wondered along the way if he or she really could know all this stuff, right? But when you admit to not knowing, you give power to the things you do know. People learn to trust your responses to questions and to know they can get an honest answer from you at all times.

“I don’t know” and innovation

Stay hungry, stay foolish

This quote from entrepreneur Sahar Hashemi plays off the idea of embracing the power of “I don’t know” as it relates to curiosity—a key to innovation. Hashemi believes that being clueless and curious is essential to entrepreneurship. Without it, you no longer dream, tinker, and ask “why not.” In this way, knowing too much can actually be a detriment.

“I don’t know” and creativity

Would you hire someone with little experience in your industry? Common sense might say no; however, some would argue that inexperience might be just the thing a company needs.

Nils Sköld writes about this idea on Medium, telling how a lack of knowledge can actually be an ideal way to spur creativity and think outside the norms of an industry. Have you experienced anything similar to this?

My theory is this: when you know everything about an industry, you don’t know whats good for it. What an industry needs is people who have no idea on how it operates. People that don’t know that there are any rules. While it is good to break rules and to push boundaries, it’s much better to just never know that any rules exists.

Our key to not knowing: “We don’t know the answer. Let’s find out!”

In our experience, there’s a bit more to the matter of not knowing than simply embracing our lack of knowledge.

We’d be sunk if we stopped at “I don’t know.” That’s why we follow up by finding out.

Much of our blog content comes from experience. We hunt for answers to our questions (and your questions!) and we report back with what we find.

What we lack in authority on social media, we make up for by seeking input from our audience in chats and conversations and by approaching our social updates with a curious, open attitude.

Embracing “I don’t know” is an opportunity to discover. We’ve found that having an attitude of improvement, experimentation, and curiosity makes it such that there’s no need to worry about not knowing this or that.

If we don’t know, we’ll find out.

Over to you: In what ways has not knowing benefited you?

Having authority in your industry is great, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for growth. You can enjoy authority in many number of different ways from being the expert of experts to being the expert of your unique perspective.

We’ve embraced the power of “I don’t know,” and we’ve seen the benefits for trust, innovation, creativity, discovery, and so much more.

If you liked this post, you might also like The Beginner’s Guide to Putting the Internet to Work for You: How to Easily Save 60 Minutes Every Day and The Big List of IFTTT Recipes: 34 Hacks for Hardcore Social Media Productivity.

Kevan is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he’s always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect with him on Twitter .
TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Amazing Pieces of Advice No One Ever Gave You

procrastination
Office worker playing with newtons cradle Image Source/Getty Images

The best advice for those looking to achieve great things is often the least repeated


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Career advice is in no short supply. In fact, you could probably spend the duration of your working life simply reading through the tips and advice already online. But as in all areas of life, the more common something is, generally speaking, the lower its value.

Many oft repeated truisms are more about wish fulfillment than reality (sorry peddlers of endless, uncritical “follow your passion!” posts). Plus, tips that everyone and their mother (and their college career counselor) knows are unlikely to give you an edge over the competition. So what are the true hidden gems of career advice, the truths that few people are willing to say out loud that can actually transform a mediocre career into a rockstar one?

That’s what a someone on question-and-answer site Quora wanted to know recently, asking: “What are a few unique pieces of career advice that nobody ever mentions?” The community responded with plenty of uncommon, thought-provoking advice.

1. Doing your job well is not enough.

Being excellent at your job is a surefire way to get ahead, right? Nope, say several responders, including Victor Wong, CEO of PaperG. “Most people assume just doing their current assigned job well is enough–so many associates at law firms think doing all the paperwork and litigation properly is the road to partnership, and many PR account executives think that getting a few articles written about their clients will earn them a promotion,” he writes, but “becoming a principal, partner, or senior executive with P&L-level responsibility requires a completely separate set of skills from entry and mid-level jobs.”

How do you make that leap? “To make the big jump to the next level, they’re really being benchmarked on their ability to deliver future value to the firm in ways that are not taught or explained to them: chiefly how much business are they are able to bring in,” he asserts. “People who can think of what to do and deliver are the ones who ultimately are more likely to get promoted to the top levels.”

Another anonymous poster agrees: “You don’t become a star doing your job. You become a star making things happen.”

2. Who you work for is hugely important.

We all wish we lived in a world where who you know matters less than what you can do, but that’s often not reality, and not always for unhealthy reasons. Knowing the best in the business often means you’ve worked with the best, and people rightly admire that.

“You don’t have to be passionate about the product you are selling. You don’t have to be in the most glamorous industry. You don’t have to work for the company with the best ‘brand’ identity or reputation in your chosen field,” insists Jeremy Boudinet, director of marketing for startup Ambition. What does matter is who you’ve worked with.

“Few things are as valuable as going and working for somebody that is going to want to teach you anything and everything they know. You’ll experience tremendous personal and professional growth if you have the best person mentoring you,” he says, so “figure out where the absolute best person to work for would be, and go work for them.”

3. … So is where you work.

Just like who you work for can deeply affect the fate of your career, where you work also has a massive impact. Just saying, ‘I want to work in software or sales,’ isn’t enough. Nor, as Boudinet point out, is it enough just to fill your resume with impressive company names. Your destiny is influenced greatly by the destiny of the particular organization that employs you. Don’t take a job with just any old company because it’s in the right sector or impresses your friends.

“Your career is a boat and it is at the mercy of tides. No matter how talented you are it’s a lot harder to break out in a sluggish situation/hierarchy/economy than a go-go environment. Even if you’re a superstar at Sluggish Co., your upside trajectory (more often than not) is fractional to what an average/below average employee achieves at Rocket Ship Co,” says an anonymous poster with the most up-voted answer.

4. Being seen as super busy isn’t always a good thing.

Think high achievers work endless hours and are continuously busy? Think again, writes Mira Zaslove, director of international sales and trading at FabExchange. “Ironically the busier you appear, often the less you will move up. I’ve seen smart and dedicated employees fail to get promoted, because they have taken on too much, are working too hard, and appeared too frazzled,” she reports. “If you appear stressed, people will think you aren’t prepared to take on more, and you’ll miss opportunities for new and innovative projects.”

5. Take a tour.

When plotting your first (or next) big career move, many of us think very abstractly, musing in solitude or in front of Google about the joys of our supposed dream jobs. But the truth is you can’t decide on a career without seeing the day-to-day reality of where and how you work–the concrete truth rather than the imagined reality. Don’t make decisions without actually going and seeing for yourself.

Alek Mirkovich, founder of campayn.com, once thought becoming an air traffic controller was a great idea, but then he took a tour of where he would actually be working. “Every single guy was BALD! Playing around with a simulator is fun, but apparently the real thing is stressful. Within 30 seconds I knew I wasn’t going to be signing up for this!” he remembers.

6. Don’t hide your failures.

Failures are seen less as a signal of incompetence and more as a sign that you’re willing to take a risk and innovate, according to Zaslove. “Your team will respect you and your career will accelerate if people understand what you are doing and that you are taking risks. Most people do not view someone as credible if they are giving advice and recommendations, but not walking the walk,” she claims. “If you show that you are willing to take risks, and publicly falter, your team will feel confident taking risks too. Lead by example.”

7. Execution matters more than plans or advice.

Many people are looking for the magic recipe of how to make their career take off, but many of the responders agree that there are some serious limits to what other people can tell you. “Advice (like ideas) is not in short supply, there is plenty of it going around,” writes coach Darren Beattie, for instance. “It’s not really the advice in the long run that matters, it’s the execution of the advice by the person being advised. The greatest advice ever in the history of the human race is absolutely useless if you act/execute on none of it.”

Or to put it another way, there’s no real roadmap that you can blindly follow. The trick is figuring out what to apply and what to ignore for your own personal situation. That same popular anonymous responder sums this idea up well: “Career tracks and meritocracies don’t exist: Your career is not a linear, clearly defined trajectory.”

What less well known bit of career wisdom would you add to this list?

Read more from Inc.com:

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

14 Tactics for Reading People’s Body Language

The One Trait That Guarantees a Good Hire

7 Things You Can Do on Friday to Make Monday Awesome

Sheryl Sandberg and the Hypocrisy of Lean In

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Excuses Unproductive People Basically Always Use

Relaxing in the office
Relaxing in the office Hemant Mehta—IndiaPicture RF/Getty Images

Want to spot the unproductive employees? Listen to the excuses they make.


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By John Brandon

They moan. They wail. They shuffle around the office looking for free candy. Unproductive employees have an excuse for everything. Here are a few of the phrases they use to explain away the problem. Listen for them, then correct the action to get things back on track.

1. I’m overworked.

I hear this one constantly. What unproductive people might not realize is that we are all overworked. We’re in an overworked age. Instant access to email and a mobile browser means work is always just a click away. What separates the wheat from the chaff? The really productive people don’t dwell on the problem. They just do the work.

2. That’s not my job.

I’ve written before about staying productive by focusing on your job and not doing the work of unproductive co-workers. That’s always a bad pattern to set. Curious, then, that the really unproductive people always seem to notice when they’re doing extra work to help a project. They focus on their role too much and on what everyone else is not doing. Truly productive people don’t even care. They just do whatever it takes to get things done and plow ahead, analyzing the exact role definitions later.

3. I’ll finish that later.

Forget the Mark Twain quote about procrastination. Unproductive people waste time because they live in a constant state of incongruity. The loose ends of their tasks never meet up, and stay loose. They start one Word document, work on it for a while, drop it, then start working on a PowerPoint. In the “picking up and setting down” process they waste time because each tasks needs a jumpstart, which uses more energy.

4. I don’t have all of the answers yet.

Overly detail-oriented people use this one. They wait until everything is perfectly lined up before starting a task, usually languishing in perpetuity because things rarely do line up. And, ironically, some of the employees in your company who are wasting time mindlessly browsing all day are the ones who think they have to wait for the project pieces to fall in place. The solution? Productive people just do whatever they can now on any tasks that need to be done. They don’t wait for the perfect timing.

5. I’ll wait for the boss to tell me what to do.

For any employee in a small business, a lack of independence is a true productivity killer. While someone is waiting to be told what to do, a project will spin out of control. We all know the “get it done” crowd just figures out the problem and starts working on a task. Besides, if the boss has to explain every little detail, that’s using up valuable time anyway.

6. I don’t understand all of the variables.

Really? Is there an employee who won’t act until he or she has all of the answers? That is a sign of someone who will be waiting a long time because no one ever has all of the answers. The folks who started Airbnb and Uber didn’t wait for all of the regulatory issues to be ironed out. And Google didn’t wait to test driverless cars until every state allowed them.

7. I don’t see the benefit for me.

We are living in a world of narcissists who take selfies every 30 minutes and post about their inner feelings on Twitter. The underlying problem? They’re slowing down a project because they only care about their own rewards. Productive people see the greater reward of a successful company and want to play a part in building something cool. The selfies can wait until the weekend.

8. I might not get the credit.

Related to that problem is another productivity destroyer: the need to take credit for the task. The process of hyping up your work, demanding crediting, and pestering people to notice your actions all contribute to an unproductive day. The employees who are slowing things down the most are spending too much time trying to get the attention of the boss.

9. I’m worried about my quality of work.

Productive people know how to slam out good work in a constant flow of creativity and skill. They care about quality, but they also understand that being productive requires a push to finish. When the goal is to always create perfection, unproductive people create a serious slowdown. Praise quality, expect proficiency, but encourage productivity.

10. I might fail.

The hallmark of every unproductive person at work is being worried about failure. It’s a time-tested truth. If employees don’t ever start a project, they don’t have to worry about failure, right? I’ve written about total failure before, but letting a few tasks fail is okay. It means you are trying new things and staying busy. Holding back because you want every task to succeed? It just means completing fewer tasks.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

Yes, You Can Be Too Talented for Your Job

If you always sort of suspected that some of the problems you encountered at work were because you were just too smart for the job — well, you may be onto something. New research looks at how people perform when they’re part of a team, and it turns out there is such a thing as too much talent.

The study’s lead author, INSEAD assistant professor of organizational behavior Roderick Swaab, writes that almost everybody has a linear view of talent: that is, if a little bit is good, a lot must be better. But an analysis of how well sports teams perform based on the overall amount of talent among members finds that it doesn’t usually work like that — and Swaab says this has important implications for organizations and management.

“[They] are similar to organizational teams that require a high level of coordination between team members,” Swaab says. Soccer and basketball teams have parallels to consulting and strategy groups, emergency response units and surgery teams, he says, whereas baseball teams resemble sales departments.

More talent translates to better performance, up to a point, but Swaab finds that after you hit a certain level, adding more talent doesn’t produce as much of a boost to results. And if the coach (or boss, or company) keeps piling on more talent — hiring away superstars from rivals, bringing on new members who are at the top of their game — the effect actually becomes negative.

“Teams with levels of top talent that are too high perform worse than teams with lower levels of top talent because they coordinate less effectively,” Swaab writes.

It’s basically scientific proof of the old saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

These top performers are driven to succeed, but looking out for number one is a big part of that strategy, and when you have a lot of people with that mentality on the same team where there can only be one actual number one, you wind up with a situation where people start focusing on their own status within the group and their own performance rather than doing what’s best or most productive for the team as a whole.

“It is likely that top talented individuals who are perceived as having high status are more dominant and competitive because they want to maintain the status quo and keep their high status, especially when they need to work with others who are also perceived as having high status,” Swaab says.

In sports like basketball, where every point relies heavily on everyone pitching in all at once, too much talent can be detrimental because of this clash between individual and team priorities. “When teams need to come together, more talent can tear them apart,” Swaab writes. But in sports like baseball, where the score is earned on more of an individual basis, teams don’t run into a problem with too much talent having a negative effect on performance, although after a certain point, the benefits of adding more talent grow smaller.

So if you suspect your workplace is like this, the research offers one possible solution in this comparison of how talent affects performance across different sports. You might need to shift your focus to work more independently if what Swaab calls “status conflicts” are detracting from your productivity.

“When coordination and collaboration with others is required to perform well, the superior task expertise of top talent is not sufficient,” he says. “Top talented individuals will also need to learn how to cooperate effectively” as a team.

TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Terrible Habits You Need to Stop Immediately

Guy checking internet with laptop at late night with dark room, view from above.
Guy checking internet with laptop at late night with dark room, view from above. Artur Debat—Moment Editorial/Getty Images


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Author Tim Ferriss suggests some common bad habits you should definitely add to your not-to-do-list.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a “not-to-do list.” CEOs and productivity experts recommend the idea highly as a huge productivity booster that will help you free up time and headspace for all the things that really matter.

Sounds great. But what should go on it? Best-selling author Tim Ferriss has some ideas. In a recent short podcast he offered nine suggestions of bad work habits that many entrepreneurs and others desperately need to eliminate (chances are you are doing at least a couple of these–I’m personally massively guilty of two and five), so there is almost certainly something here that can boost your output.

Don’t overwhelm yourself, Ferriss says. Just tackle one or two at a time, eliminating counterproductive habits step by step, and eventually you’ll reclaim impressive amounts of time and energy.

Do Not Answer Calls from Unrecognized Numbers

Ferriss gives a couple of rationales for this one. First, the interruption will throw your concentration, costing you far more in time and brain power than just the conversation itself, and second, if it’s important, you’ll find yourself in a poor negotiating position, scrambling to formulate your thoughts when the caller is already well prepared. Instead, use Google Voice to check your messages or a service like PhoneTag to have them sent to you as email.

Do Not Email First Thing in the Morning or Last Thing at Night

“The former scrambles your priorities and all your plans for the day and the latter just gives you insomnia,” says Ferriss, who insists “email can wait until 10am” or after you check off at least one substantive to-do list item.

Do Not Agree to Meetings or Calls With No Clear Agenda or End Time

“If the desired outcome is defined clearly… and there’s an agenda listing topics–questions to cover–no meeting or call should last more than 30 minutes,” claims Ferriss, so “request them in advance so you can ‘best prepare and make good use of our time together.’”

Do Not Let People Ramble

Sounds harsh, but it’s necessary, Ferriss believes. “Small talk takes up big time,” he says, so when people start to tell you about their weekends, cut them off politely with something like “I’m in the middle of something, but what’s up?”

But be aware, not everyone agrees with this one (and certainly not in every situation), and you may want to pay particularly close attention to norms around chit chat when traveling internationally.

Do Not Check Email Constantly

Batch it and check it only periodically at set times (Ferriss goes for twice a day). Your inbox is analogous to a cocaine pellet dispenser, says Ferriss. Don’t be an addict. Tools like strategic use of the auto responder and Boomerang can help.

Do Not Over-Communicate With Low Profit, High Maintenance Customers

“Do an 80-20 analysis of your customer base in two ways,” Ferriss advises. “Which 20% are producing 80% or more of my profit, and which 20% are consuming 80% or more of my time? Then put the loudest and least productive on auto-pilot, citing a change of company policy.”

What should those “new policies” look like? Ferriss suggests emailing problem clients with things like guidance on the number of permissible calls and expected response times. If that sounds like it might annoy your loudmouth customers, his response is, essentially, who cares? Point them to other providers if they don’t like the new rules. “Sometimes you really have to fire your customers.”

Do Not Work More to Fix Being Too Busy

The cure for being overwhelmed isn’t working more, it’s sitting down and prioritizing your tasks, Ferriss believes. So don’t make the mistake of working frantically if you’re swamped. Instead, sit down and decide what actually needs doing urgently. If that means apologizing for a slightly late return call or paying a small late fee, so be it, as long as you manage to get the important things done.

“If you don’t have time, the truth is you don’t have priorities, so think harder, don’t work harder,” he says.

Do Not Carry a Digital Leash 24/7

At least one day a week leave you smartphone somewhere where you can’t get easy access to it. If you’re gasping, you’re probably the type of person that most needs to do kick this particular habit.

Do Not Expect Work to Fill a Void That Non-Work Relationships and Activities Should

“Work is not all of life,” says Ferriss. This seems obvious, but the sad truth is that while nearly everyone would agree to this in principle, it’s easy to let things slide to a point where your actions and your stated values don’t match up. Defend the time you have scheduled for loved ones and cool activities with the same ferocity you apply to getting to an important meeting for your business.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How the Best People Handle Setbacks and Criticism


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Executive Coach Mark Thompson shares lessons from America’s most successful executives on how to gracefully survive a professional drubbing.

When it became clear this spring that Alan Mulally, Ford’s CEO, wasn’t going to be selected for the top spot at Microsoft, the software company’s stock took a hit. You might think Mulally’s ego would take one, too. As it happens, he took it in stride. (Ford showed their love by awarding him another $14 million in stock for the company’s prior year’s performance. And now that he’s announced his retirement this summer, there’s an epic line of companies hungry to recruit him.)

Mulally wasn’t always in so much demand or as sanguine in the face of rejection. When Mulally was Boeing’s president, it was widely expected that he would be made CEO after a decade of successes at the company. He lead the development of the 777 and shepherded the aircraft maker through a vibrant recovery from the financial wounds inflicted by 9/11 (the terrorists used a Boeing 757 and 767s in the attack).

Mulally admits that when Boeing passed him over for the job, he was briefly devastated. But he quickly recovered because, he says, “a bad attitude simply erases everyone else’s memory of the incredible progress achieved.” He did not want to tarnish all “the great progress we had made” by becoming that bitter guy. He chose, instead, to remain a proud and gifted leader – albeit one who had suffered a professional setback. He was promptly recruited by Ford to re-ignite another iconic American manufacturer.

Legendary leaders like Mulally have three coping mechanisms that help them get through times when criticism, failure or disappointment threaten to rob the mojo that made them successful in the first place.

  1. Just let it go! Anyone who’s spent time with Mulally has inevitably heard that signature catchphrase. When I asked how he felt about being slighted by bosses during various turns in his career, he took a long, deep breath and exhaled as deliberately as a yoga instructor. “The competition is out there,” he advised, looking peacefully out the window from his Dearborn, Michigan, office. “Not in here.” Don’t let anyone else’s opinion define who you are going to be.
  2. Turn your wounds into wisdom. When Charles ‘Chuck’ Schwab flunked English and was nearly thrown out of college, he said he was “humiliated because I had always thought I was a reasonably smart guy and I didn’t realize how pathetic I was at the skill of reading and writing.” Schwab recruited friends and family to help him deliver the goods in school. His reading and writing troubles, he would later discover, were, and still are, the result of dyslexia. “It might seem odd,” said Schwab, “but what felt like a deficit was a real benefit.” His reading disability taught him how to recruit a talented, trustworthy team and forced him to become a skilled delegator. Ultimately, those skills enabled him to scale a business much sooner than most of his classmates at Stanford Business School. “Brilliant entrepreneurs think they can do everything, and they don’t spend enough time finding the right people to grow the business,” he shrugged. Failure teaches life’s most important lessons if you’re smart and brave enough to listen.
  3. Face the brutal truth. Criticism usually hurts most when it’s true. Learn to suck it up and face the music. I’ve been on many Silicon Valley boards, including Rioport, the San Jose startup credited for having popularized the mp3 player long before Apple’s iPod. The battle for digital content was in full swing (Remember Napster?!) and we felt full of ourselves because we were actually making real money selling thousands of the newfangled media devices. I was bragging about all this during a speech in Silicon Valley when Steve Jobs wandered up to the front of the room. He smirked at me and said our hot little gadget was a “geeky piece of crap” and that he’d “crush it in about year.” All I wanted to do in that moment was to hit the arrogant SOB in the face with my handheld microphone. I’d just mortgaged my house and was about to invest the proceeds in Rioport. Then there was this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. He was right, and he knew it – and if I was honest, I knew it, too. The brutal truth was that Rioport was a quality product and an awesome step forward in the digital revolution, but frankly those features weren’t enough to overcome the fact that it was way too hard for the masses to use. I spent the following year having a series of dinners with Steve, soaking up his vision for digital media. The good news is that I invested those mortgage proceeds in Apple stock rather than that long-forgotten, but visionary startup. As Alan Mulally often counsels “Winners learn quickly how to get out of their own way.”

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Ways to Deal With Someone You Really Dislike at Work

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

By Jennifer Winter

Most of the time, managing a team—or even just one person—can be super rewarding. As a manager, you have the opportunity to be a mentor to someone who’s eager to learn, and you’ll probably learn a few things yourself. But, what happens when you’re managing someone who isn’t quite your favorite?

You have a responsibility to mentor and manage every person on your team, whether you like them personally or not. But that doesn’t make the task any easier. I’ve had to manage several employees over the years that I most definitely would be happy to never see again. Here’s how I did it, without shirking my duties as a manager—or driving myself crazy.

Find Out Why

Sometimes, our least favorite employees are in that position at no fault of their own. I figured this out when starting a new job as a manager. I had one employee who was outgoing, ambitious, and hard working—and yet, I couldn’t stand her. For the longest time, I had no idea why.

So, I started making a mental note every time she did something that made me cringe and looked for patterns. It turned out, I found her most annoying every time she asked me a question—specifically one I couldn’t readily answer. I realized that, while her constant questions were definitely not on my favorite to-do list, the real issue wasn’t really with her, it was with me—I didn’t like feeling unprepared and put on the spot.

After that, I made a point to bone up on the issues she typically raised and enlisted her help in figuring out solutions to common snags the entire group faced. Not only did I improve my skills and knowledge as a manager, but I empowered her to take on more responsibility—and kept her busy in the process.

If you’ve got an employee you avoid like the plague, try to figure out what exactly it is about that person that’s driving you batty. The answer might surprise you, and trust me, once you realize what’s irking you, it’ll be much easier to address.

Grab a Pen

I’m a big fan of taking notes, and will rarely go anywhere around the office without my trusty notebook and pen in hand. While it’s obvious why this is beneficial in a meeting, I was surprised to realize my notebook had handy meditative powers, too.

A few years back, I was relatively new as a manager, so I hadn’t come across too many employees I didn’t really like, but one guy was a definite non-favorite. Among many other things, he was a talker. Every time he came by my desk to ask me “a question,” I’d find myself nodding off 20 minutes later, without a clue what he really needed. Not good.

So, I started keeping my notebook handy on my desk. Whenever he came by, I’d politely stop him, grab my pen, and start taking notes of our conversation.

My goal was twofold; first, I wanted to keep myself on track and force myself to pay attention to what he was saying—after all, I was still his manager, and I was there to help him—and secondly, I hoped that my furious note taking would help keep him on track, too. After all, it’s hard to ramble on and on when you know someone’s transcribing your every word.

One of the hardest tasks when dealing with your least favorite employees is making sure you give them the attention they deserve. Keep a pen and notebook handy, and you’ll not only make sure you’re paying attention, but you’ll have a sly diversionary tactic to keep your mind off how annoyed you are at the conversation.

Call For Backup

I know, this probably sounds strange, but if done correctly, it can be an elegant solution to dealing with your least favorite employee.

I stumbled across this tactic after I’d been a manager for a while and was lucky enough to have some great people working with me, including my second in command. She was always eager to learn and jumped at any opportunity to take on additional responsibilities. So, when I was getting frustrated with a particularly irksome employee, she asked if she could take a stab at coaching. The issue we were dealing with at the time was minor and, she suggested, a perfect opportunity for her to try her hand at managing.

This, it turned out, was a great approach. Not only did she get the chance to gradually test the management waters, I was able to observe and guide her throughout the process. And an unexpected benefit? I learned a ton watching her deal with this employee. She approached him in a completely different way, which he responded to quite well. I ended up adopting some of her techniques, and he and I eventually ended up getting along pretty well.

The lesson here is, when all else fails, don’t be afraid to call on someone else to pinch hit. Just remember, this should be used as a learning opportunity for both you and your (temporary) substitute, so don’t fall into the trap of just passing off all your difficult employees to other people.

When you manage, all your employees probably won’t be stars, and some of them will likely drive you crazy from time to time. Keep these tips in mind when you’re getting frustrated with one (or, um, all) of your employees, and they’ll never have a clue they aren’t your favorite.

Read more from The Muse:

What to Do When You’re Just Not That Into an Idea Anymore

The Best Ways to be Productive When Your Energy is Gone

What Your Facebook Profile Says About Your Personality

TIME Careers & Workplace

There’s a Good Chance You’re in the Wrong Job

Ever have the nagging feeling that you’re just not in a job that makes the best use of your talents and skills? If so, you’re not alone — and there’s a good chance you’re right. In a new survey, nearly half of more than 1,000 employees say they’re still searching for the “right” career, and more than a third think they’re going to switch careers within the next two years.

There’s definitely a generational component at work here: Two-thirds of workers under 30 don’t think they’re in the right career yet and more than half expect to undergo a career change within two years. That’s understandable given the well-documented challenges young adults have had landing jobs in today’s labor market.

What’s more unexpected is that so many older employees feel the same way: Roughly one in five workers in their 60s still think they’re in the wrong job and plan to make a switch within two years.

“Having a business plan for your own career can help you understand whether you are in the right job,” says Sam Sanders, former HR executive and current college chair for University of Phoenix School of Business, which commissioned the study. Sanders and other HR experts say there are some questions you should ask yourself to figure out if your current career is the right one for you.

How do I envision success? You need to know what you want to accomplish professionally to figure out if your current job is helping you get there or not. “Knowing what you are trying to achieve will help you focus and experience wins on a regular basis,” Sanders says. This can be especially tricky for young adults: A job that offers flexibility and doesn’t lock you into a specific role might seem like a great way to figure out how to chart your career path, but fuzzy boundaries make it harder to identify success, which means you could be stuck treading water instead of advancing your career.

Am I energized by my work? “We all have hard or difficult work days… but if you are truly dreading going to work every day, there is something seriously wrong,” says Art Glover, an expert panelist with the Society for Human Resource Management. This isn’t the same as liking what you’re going every second of the day: Even the most glamorous and exciting careers have mundane tasks and dull moments, but the best parts of your job should rev you up, not make you miserable.

Can I handle a fast-paced job? A lot of job descriptions throw the phrase “fast-paced” in there, but one person’s run-of-the-mill weekday might be another’s hectic headache. “Be realistic about the pace of work you’re willing to take,” says Amy Letke, founder of Integrity HR. If you constantly feel like you’re in over your head, you might need a job where tasks and deadlines aren’t as pressing. “Likewise, if you are a multitasker and require many work elements on your plate at one time, be sure to identify the work expectations in that position,” she says.

Would I rather work with people or data? A common career mismatch is when a talented accountant, programmer or other data-focused professional gets promoted to a sales position, and suddenly their focus shifts from working with numbers to working with people, Letke says. “This sometimes can be in conflict,” she says. “If someone is more comfortable working with numbers, data, and analytical elements of the position, suddenly being thrown into a ‘working with people’ role can be very challenging,” she says.

Can I advance here? “Look beyond your current title and job description [for] opportunities to partner with new teams, solve organization problems or reduce costs,” Sanders says. “Many companies are pursuing unique employee development programs, but you also have to be invested in your own growth,” he advises.

 

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