Here are three sure-fire methods to get a bad reputation at work
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.
In business, it’s easy to forgive an oversight. We all make mistakes, and few of us possess a perfect ability to complete every project on time and on budget.
You might hear some grumbling around the office about that presentation you made last month, the one where you had the sales forecast numbers mixed up with the expenditures, but most of your co-workers will forget all about it.
But what if you really screw up? In a few cases, you can create a reputation for yourself that fosters a negative vibe in the office–or even earns you a pink slip. It can be hard to recover from that. Here are the recipes for total disaster–a way to create a lasting reputation. Avoid them if you can.
1. Take credit for someone else’s work
Nothing gives you the mark of a scoundrel like taking credit for something you don’t deserve. People get fired over lesser evils. The best way to avoid earning a reputation as a credit-stealer is to carefully analyze the success. What role did you really play? Should you take credit for the pre-sales work only? Is it enough to let everyone in the office know you are happy with the overall outcome? Here’s the secret: Don’t even bother taking the credit in the first place. When you make a big sales win for the company or score that investment from a big shot across town, let the work speak for itself.
2. Cover up an error
I know someone who was fired for one infraction related to a cover-up. Call it the Lance Armstrong mistake. It was in a small business and the person made a pretty big mistake on a customer order, then tried to hide it by deleting some e-mails, lying to everyone in the office, and stuffing some paperwork in a drawer. What that person didn’t realize is that the truth always finds you. The more you’ve done to hide a mistake, the more you will be despised. The alternative? Fess up right away. The sooner you come clean about losing a signed contract or getting into a fight with a competitor, the more time everyone has to deal with the problem and take corrective action. Let the mistake stay hidden and you are setting off a time bomb. When people find out, your reputation will suffer.
3. Let your tasks slide routinely
Having a bad day is one thing. Maybe it’s an expense report you need to fill out or a summary of that last sales demo you were supposed to send in to the team. Fine. In a work setting, no one is really expecting you to be perfect and complete every task on time. The problem starts when you earn a reputation for not completing tasks because then you are making everyone in the office look bad. Slowing down one project is a problem for that specific project and your reputation will likely recover; not completing tasks on any project is going to make it seem like you can’t get anything done. The ultimate solution? If you screw up on a few tasks, work extra hard to compensate on the next project. You’ll be surprised how forgiving people can be if you start finishing up your work early.
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With hiring and job turnover up, a new survey finds that companies are having trouble attracting and hanging on to talented workers. Use that to your advantage.
Boss brought in cupcakes for no particular reason? Sweet. Even sweeter? You might be seeing more morale boosters at work these days, whether in the form of baked goods or bonuses. A new survey finds that employers are having a tough time attracting and retaining top talent—and with a little smart negotiating, that could mean good things for your career.
According to the new Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey, hiring and turnover are on the rise in offices around the world, including in the U.S. And mobility has its downsides.
Of 1,637 companies surveyed worldwide, nearly two-thirds report difficulty attracting top performers (65%) and high-potential employees (64%), an increase from two years ago. More than half of employers surveyed say it is hard to hold on to high-potential employees (56%) and top performers (54%).
Pay to Stay
Of course, one approach to getting workers to stick around is to offer them more money. And employers know that. “The survey data would indicate that they understand compensation is an important retention driver,” says Laura Sejen, managing director at Towers Watson.
Just last week, a survey by a major business group found that employers are starting to expand payrolls and raise wages. After years of decline, sign-on bonus programs are at an all-time high, and retention bonuses are surging, according to an analysis of bonus programs and practices by WorldatWork released in June. Of the businesses WorldatWork surveyed, 74% used sign-on bonus programs this year and 51% used retention bonus programs this year.
What Money Can’t Buy
So how come bosses still can’t figure out how to hold on to their best workers? Another new Towers Watson survey suggests they’re a little out of touch when it comes to judging the importance of other factors, such as perceived job security and confidence in senior management. In a separate survey, the Towers Watson Global Workforce Study of 32,000 employees worldwide, the group found that employees rank job security and confidence in senior leadership among the most important reasons they stay with a company. But employers didn’t rank either factor as a key attraction or retention driver.
“Those are really important to employees,” says Sejen. “Employers don’t necessarily rank those as highly as they should.”
To get a better sense of what it takes to keep employees enthusiastic, some bosses are trying to listen more closely, says Rose Stanley, a Total Rewards practice leader for WorldatWork. “A lot of organizations will do satisfaction or engagement surveys,” says Stanley.
They’ll even conduct “stay interviews” (as opposed to exit interviews) to pick employees’ brains about how their rewards packages, schedule flexibility, and work environment could be improved to inspire them to stay.
“It’s a way to connect with employees and figure out what’s going on,” says Stanley.
How You Can Leverage the News
Even if your employer hasn’t reached out to you yet, come up with your own requests. If you’ve been craving a more flexible schedule or higher pay, now could be the right time to ask, says career consultant Maggie Mistal.
Mistal has noticed that many employees have lingering anxiety from the financial crisis and fail to realize their own worth to their employers. “Some folks I work with are in a mindset of ‘I’m just lucky to have a job,’ when in reality they’re the people bosses want to hold on to,” she says.
To improve your own situation, Mistal advises, first figure out what would improve your job and make you likelier to stick with your company. Once you have a good idea of your goals, let your boss know you’d like to talk.
“The magic term is: ‘I’d like to get your feedback on some ideas,’” says Mistal. “Managers are willing—and a lot of them are even excited—to have that conversation.”
Open your discussion with gratitude, emphasizing how much you enjoy working at your company or with your boss, advises career coach Roy L. Cohen. Then make your request clearly, with a positive angle. If you’d like to telecommute two days a week, for instance, highlight that a more flexible schedule could make you more productive.
“Focus on how you’re helping the company achieve even greater success,” says Cohen.
Instead of making an ultimatum, stay open to feedback from your boss, Mistal advises. If your boss isn’t sold on the idea of telecommuting, offer to check in periodically throughout the day, or to give your flexible schedule a two-week test run.
But don’t demand too much all at once. Even in an environment where your boss is working harder to hold on to great employees like you, you don’t want to come off as smug.
“Never be greedy,” says Cohen. “Greediness is always remembered. Even if you feel you’re worth it, make sure you can back up your request.”
You can learn quite a bit from misguided, wrongheaded, or simply hellish bosses
This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.
Many of us can point to former bosses and corporate heads who inspired us to become more well-read, better at communication, or more engaged because of their shining examples. But what about those leaders who shaped our behavior and management style because of the negative example they have set?
“We learn from everyone we work with, whether they’re good or bad experiences. They can be examples of things not to do,” says Gay Gaddis, chief executive and founder of T3, an Austin-based digital agency. “All of us have had people who were obstacles, who were bad examples. Sharing that is just as important as going, ‘Rah, rah!’ “
So, what have Gaddis and other executives learned from misguided, wrongheaded, or simply evil bosses?
The cost of a closed mind
When Gaddis was a marketing executive, her chief executive was overbearing, assumed he was always right, and failed to listen to others. During an economic downturn, Gaddis developed an idea on how to change the company’s direction to recover from the slump. She wrote a business plan and, full of excitement, presented it to her boss and mentor.
“He said, ‘I don’t support your plan and I’m not going to be a part of it.’ I was so shot down by that,” she recalls, that she quit to pursue her idea. “I learned that is a very important quality: you’ve got to listen to the people around you.”
Gaddis never would’ve thought to go out on her own if the door hadn’t been slammed so firmly in her face by the CEO. Indeed, his refusal to listen was part of her motivation to hit the ground running.
For the rest of the story, please visit Fortune.com.
Earning every penny you're worth when you join the workforce can pay off for the rest of your life. So don't hesitate to negotiate.
For many people, negotiating pay is not a welcome task. In fact, almost half of U.S. workers simply accept the first offer. And when you’ve just graduated from college and are interviewing for your first real job, your focus is probably on landing the job, not demanding top dollar.
I’m here to say that more often than not it’s worth asking for a little bit more. I’ve been there, and if I could sit down with my 22-year-old self, there are a few things I’d tell her about that first salary negotiation.
Employers Expect You to Negotiate
The greatest fear I’ve heard people express is that a job offer might be rescinded if they try to negotiate the pay. As long as you’re respectful and reasonable, that’s very unlikely.
The prospective employer has already expressed interest in hiring you. As in any negotiation, they expect you to do just that—negotiate. It’s okay to simply ask if the salary is negotiable or to suggest a number that is slightly higher than what’s proposed. Most employers will have a salary range in mind when they make you an offer, not a hard-and-fast number. If they are first to float a figure, they usually won’t start at the top of that range.
The best thing you can do for yourself is come to that discussion prepared so that you know what an appropriate counter-offer would be. Do your salary research ahead of time. You want to know the potential pay range based on the job title, city, company size, and industry, as well as what you bring to the table—your education and any relevant experience. Negotiating blindly is not a great plan. Proposing a salary number that’s too high or too low for the position just indicates that you haven’t done your homework.
Your Salary Will Level Out Around 40
Typically, your biggest opportunity for pay increases is in the first 20 years or so of your career, so keep negotiating well. When PayScale delved into the data, we found that pay essentially goes nowhere after age 40, once you account for inflation. Your early career is when you have the most opportunity to rise up in the ranks.
Once you’ve reached a certain level in your chosen career, meteoric growth just isn’t as possible as it was when you were starting out. Additionally, even if you continue to see pay increases in your later career, if your raises are not keeping pace with inflation, you may not be able to stretch your paycheck any further year after year. In fact, it could be shrinking.
Not Speaking Up Now Means Working Longer
I know retirement seems a long way off, but the earlier you start considering it, the happier you’ll be later in life. According to the 2013 Wells Fargo Retirement Study, 34% of the middle class expect to work until they are at least 80 years old because they will not have saved enough for retirement.
You don’t want to be one of those people, do you? You want to be in the group that planned early so you can retire in your sixties and travel the world.
Even a small difference in starting salary could mean some serious money over the course of a career, according to a recent study by researchers at George Mason University and Temple University. The study concluded that “a 25-year-old who negotiated a starting salary of $55,000 will earn $634,000 more than a non-negotiator who accepted an initial offer of $50,000” (assuming a 5% average annual pay increase over a 40-year career.)
Just remember to invest that extra $5,000 in a 401(k) plan or other retirement fund, especially if your employer offers a 401(k) match. Your 80-year-old self will thank you.
Lydia Frank is editorial director at PayScale.com, a site that provides on-demand compensation data and software to employees and employers.
Make these and hiring managers will cringe
By Lily Zhang
Cover letters don’t get a lot of love. And considering how tough it is to write a good one, it’s kind of understandable that people tend to throw them together at the last minute (or update one they wrote last month), attach it to their resume, and call it good.
But this, my friends, is the biggest cover letter mistake you could make. In fact, this document is the best chance you have to give the hiring manager a glimpse of who you are, what you bring to the table, and why you—above all those other candidates—are the one for the job.
Don’t give up your chance to share your best qualifications in a fresh, unique way. And while you’re at it, don’t make these seven other common cover letter mistakes I see all the time.
1. Starting With Your Name
How do you start a cover letter? Let me set the record straight now and say it’s not with, “My name is John Smith.” Unless you’re already famous, your name just isn’t the most relevant piece of information to start with. Not to mention that your name should be listed on your resume, the sign-off in your cover letter, and in other parts of your application.
Start with a relevant qualification as a way to introduce yourself. If you’re a recent grad with a passion for environmental activism, go with that. Or, maybe you’re a marketing professional with 10+ years of healthcare industry experience—introduce yourself as such, and connect it to the position you are applying to. (Here’s a bit more about kicking off your cover letter with an awesome opener.)
2. Rehashing Your Resume
If your cover letter is basically your resume in paragraph form, you’re probably going to need to start over. Your resume likely the first thing a recruiter looks at, so you’re wasting your time (and the recruiter’s) if your cover letter is a harder-to-read version of something he or she has already seen.
Focus on one or two (OK three, max) examples of your work that highlight what you can bring to the position, and try to help your reader picture you doing the work by really diving deep and detailing your impact. You want the hiring manger to be able to imagine plucking you out of the work you’re describing on the page and placing you into his or her team seamlessly.
3. Not Being Flexible With the Format
Remember those three paragraph essays you wrote in middle school? Your cover letter is not the place for you to be recalling those skills. Rather than fitting your message into a particular format, your format should be molded to your message.
Consider what message you’re trying to get across. If you’re going to be spending the majority of the letter describing one particular relevant experience—maybe that three-paragraph format makes sense. However, if you’re thinking about transferable skills or want to explain how your career has taken you from teaching to business development, a more creative approach could be appropriate. I’ve seen cover letters use bullet points, tell stories, or showcase videos to (successfully) get their point across.
4. Going Over a Page
There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, for resumes and cover letters alike, don’t go over a page. Unless you’re applying for a managerial or executive position, it’s unlikely a recruiter would look beyond your first page of materials anyway.
Keep it concise and, ideally, wrap up around three quarters of the way down the page. Remember that you’re not trying to get everything on one page—you’re trying to entice the hiring manager enough to bring you in for an interview. Think of your cover letter as the highlights reel of your career.
5. Over Explaining
Are you a career changer or doing a long distance job search? No matter how complicated your reasons for applying to a job are, it would be a mistake to spend an entire paragraph explaining why you’re moving to San Francisco from New York.
If your reasons for applying to a position would be made clearer with some added explanation, add them in, but keep them short. Limit yourself to a sentence either in the first paragraph or the last paragraph for a location change, and no more than a paragraph to describe a career change.
6. Focusing Too Much on Training
Maybe you just finished your master’s degree or finally got the hang of coding. Great! But even if your most relevant qualification is related to your education or training, you don’t want to spend the majority of your time on coursework. At the end of the day, what hiring managers care about most is your work experience—what you can walk through the door and deliver on Day 1.
Certainly mention your educational qualifications if they are relevant, but focus the bulk of your cover letter on experiences. Even if your most relevant experience is education, present it more in the form of projects you worked on and job-related skills you gained, rather than actually explaining course content.
7. Sharing Irrelevant Information
Cultural fit is one of those big buzzwords in the recruiting world now, and there’s no question that it’s important to tailor your cover letter to each company to show your compatibility. But it starts getting a little weird when you start writing about your bowling league or active social life. (And don’t try to tell me this doesn’t happen—I’ve seen it.)
A better way to show that you’re a good cultural fit for the job is to focus on values—not activities. Mine company websites for the way they describe their company culture, then use that intel to show how your own values align. (Here’s some moreon how to show you get the company culture in a cover letter.)
For the companies that have moved away from a cover letter requirement, an additional opportunity to show off what you have to offer is lost. But, for those that require cover letters or at least make them optional, you should absolutely make the most of them—and, of course, avoid these all-too-common mistakes.
Read more from The Muse:
Q: I work in a regional office and report to someone who works at headquarters. How do I maintain a good relationship with my boss if we never see each other?
A: Getting your job done and done well is the foundation of a good relationship with your manager. But if your boss doesn’t see you every day, you may be missing out on opportunities to advance, says Ellie Eckhoff, a vice president at ClearRock, a leadership development and executive coaching firm.
“When you’re out of sight, you’re not going to be top of top of mind when it comes to landing important assignments or even promotions,” she says. If you can’t stop by your manager’s office for an impromptu chat, you have to work harder to connect on a personal level and build up trust, and it’s up to you to find ways to foster that connection.
Check in with your boss regularly, and don’t do it all by email or instant message. Research into how we communicate finds that about half of comes from non-verbal cues; 38% is the tone of your voice. Set up a regular time to talk by phone to give updates on projects and plan out future assignments.
Obviously going to headquarters regularly helps. “Get as much face time with your boss as you can,” says Eckhoff. But you may have to be creative about coming up with excuses to show up, especially if your company’s travel budget is tight.
Attend important meetings in person, sign up for on-site training classes, or volunteer for a team project that requires you to visit the main office. Another tactic is to attend conferences that your boss is going to and catch up at the event’s social functions. If your travel budget is limited, make trips that will give you the most interaction with your boss the priority.
Your manager shouldn’t be the only one you know at headquarters. Build relationships with colleagues who can help you navigate office politics and keep you informed about what’s going on behind the scenes. Recruit a mentor who works closely with your boss and can talk you up. Check in with these co-workers regularly and make lunch or drink plans ahead of your visits.
As for connecting on a more personal level, you don’t have to be a cyber-stalker to find out more about your boss’ life. “Simply reading his LinkedIn profile may help you find common ground if you know where he went to school and companies where he used to work,” says Eckhoff. Following him or her on Twitter may spark topic of conversations too.
You’ll have to go the extra mile to get to know your boss — and, more importantly, have him or her know you. For your career’s sake, do it.
Have a workplace etiquette question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Millennials and new college grads still face a tough job market, and that can create strains in your social circle. Follow this script to keep everyone happy.
You and your best friend graduated from the same college and moved to the same city at the same time. But while you landed a promising entry-level position, your friend’s been out of work for months. Even though you know that shouldn’t affect your relationship, you’re starting to feel that the two of you are drifting apart. Or maybe you’re simply sick of hearing yourself repeat the same chirpy platitudes (“I’m sure something will come up!”).
As millennials and new grads enter the job market together, one friend’s unemployment can easily become a point of tension. Landing a position is an uphill battle for some young job seekers. The unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds stood at 10.5% in June. Although that number has been on the decline, it’s still higher than the overall unemployment rate of 6.1%
“This mirrors a lot of other life-stage issues, whether it’s getting married or getting pregnant. One person is moving forward, and the other one is stuck,” says Ken Clark, a certified financial planner and psychotherapist.
The good news? You can take steps to ensure that your relationship doesn’t crumble as your friend scrambles for a job. No matter how long this stretch of unemployment lasts, here’s what you can say (or not say) to preserve your friendship.
YOU SAY: “A couple of people are coming to my place for happy hour this week—want to join?”
While your friend looks for work he or she may pull away from you or your group of friends. It’s normal—many people are embarrassed and reluctant to spend money on socializing when they’re unemployed. But if you notice your friend hasn’t been around much, try to draw him or her back into your social circle.
“A sensitive friend should take a leadership role among their circle of friends,” says Clark.
If your group of friends tends to spend a lot of money at bars or eating out, subtly push for a change. Invite a close group over for drinks at your place, or suggest a half-price movie or a free concert you can all attend. If spending time together doesn’t mean spending money, your unemployed friend may find it easier to join in.
“People have a tendency to self-isolate when they’re trying to be careful with their money,” says Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist and author of financial behavior blog The Good, the Bad and the Money. “Go above and beyond in terms of making offers to your friend.”
YOU DON’T SAY: “How’s the job hunt going this week?”
Avoid the impulse to dig for details on the job search. Trust that you’ll hear when a major development comes up.
“Stuff doesn’t change that much in a week,” says Clark. “If you’re asking more than once a month, it’s too much.”
That said, don’t stop checking in. Retreating from your friend could cause him or her to become even more isolated.
“Your presence and availability is huge for someone who’s hurting,” says Maggie Baker, a psychologist specializing in money and relationships. “The worst thing you can do is pull away.”
YOU SAY: “I could really use a running partner tomorrow.”
Be aware that unemployment can quickly give way to depression. Exercise is an easy, natural way to shake the blues. Invite your friend out for a brisk walk or run with you. It’ll give you two time to talk one-on-one and help your friend re-energize.
“Physical exercise outside is both beneficial and free,” says Clark. “You’re helping elevate her mood, decreasing anxiety, and building your relationship.”
YOU DON’T SAY: “I can give you feedback on your résumé if you’d like.”
You might want to offer to help edit your friend’s résumé or forward job listings that seem relevant. Tread lightly. Your offers could backfire if they come off as condescending.
“Just having a job doesn’t make you an expert on résumés,” says Clayman. “Don’t presume that you have the solution.”
Instead, make a gentle, broad offer to help in any way you can. Beyond that, let your friend’s reaction guide you.
“Usually if people are scrambling to find whatever work they can, they put off a very strong signal. If you aren’t seeing them ask for help, better safe than sorry.”
Read more Face to Face columns:
- How To Tell a Wealthy Friend You Can’t Afford to Vacation Together
- How to Tell a Do-Gooder Friend You Can’t Donate. Again
- How to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Pay Cut
Everything you need to know, nothing you don't
Thankfully for your careers (and our jobs), there’s always new advice out there, and this week we went in search of just that. Check out the articles below for a collection of the most unique (but seriously helpful!) advice we’ve ever seen—but never heard before—along with our favorite tip from each article.
Read on to get inspired—and get the know-how you need to get ahead.
- You may have heard these seven pieces of advice, but they are often forgotten—and perhaps the most important! (Inc.)
You don’t become a star doing your job. You become a star making things happen.
- These 23 nuggets of wisdom will help you out no matter what level you’re at or industry you’re in. (Mashable)
Just when you think you’ve got it 100% right, you can be taken down.
- Check out these five piece of traditional career advice—that have been turned on their heads to reveal some seriously helpful guidance. (Forbes)
It’s not what you know—or who—it’s who knows what you know.
- You may not want to hear this sage piece of advice, but paying attention to it could really help you get ahead. (LinkedIn)
Do the jobs no one else wants to do.
- While you may have zoned out during your college graduation speech, there are plenty of inspiring bits of advice in these 14 amazing ones. (DailyWorth)
Take pride in who you are, but leave room for the pride of others…
- Want some Reader’s Digest-style career advice? Check out these 50 tips—that are shorter than 10 words long. (The Simple Dollar)
Whether you realize it or not, you’re self-employed.
- Finally, make sure to read these 13 important considerations that people don’t talk about enough. (AOL Jobs)
Never, ever cook fish in the office microwave.
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Last year was a banner year for executive compensation
Corporate America is still largely run by men. But women are catching up. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Sixty percent of the top U.S. companies now have at least two women on their executive committees.” Female leaders have dominated headlines in recent years, leading mergers, overseeing IPOs, acquiring companies, and defining their organizations’ overall strategy. So who are these powerful women? Research engine FindTheBest studied public company filings with the SEC to find out, compiling the following list of the 15 highest compensated female executives of 2013.
Perhaps the best-known name from the list above is Sheryl Sandberg, who served as VP of sales and operations at Google before joining Facebook as COO in 2008. The Lean In author has since helped Facebook through a shaky IPO and refined the company’s increasingly important mobile strategy. She earned $16.1 million in total annual compensation in 2013.
Also an ex-Google exec is Marissa Mayer, who left her position as a VP in 2012 to help bring Yahoo—then floundering to stay afloat—back above water as CEO. During her first year, Mayer acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion and saw Yahoo’s stock prices rise by 73 percent. She returned $3 billion back to shareholders through selling Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba (a Chinese e-commerce company) and, in the process, made $24.9 million for herself.
Another powerhouse from the tech world, Meg Whitman made $17.6 million in 2013. Although she’s the former CEO of eBay and current CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Whitman’s credentials extend beyond tech. She’s held executive positions at a swath of companies including Hasbro Inc., The Stride Rite Corporation (a footwear company), Bain & Company and Walt Disney. She also ran for CA governor in 2010.
Although Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and Meg Whitman are among the biggest household names for female execs, none of them took the spot of top earner. Number one went to the CFO of Oracle, Safra Catz. Not only did Catz make more than did any other female executive ($44.3 million), but she topped the The Wall Street Journal’s report of the highest paid CFO’s in 2013, earning more than every male CFO. This article was written for TIME by Kiran Dhillon of FindTheBest.