Negotiation Skills – Raising the Bar

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Most of the time, we do not find time to do things for ourselves.  There are always so many competing priorities at hand – related to our own day time job, raising our children, and managing the logistics of running a household.

So when opportunities present themselves, try to take advantage of them – especially if it is an opportunity that’s going to get you to a different place, make you think a little differently and challenge the way you currently go about doing things. A very dear and extremely talented friend is teaching a course on Neogiation Skills – entitled “Bringing you to the Negotiating Table” at Barnard’s Athena Leadership Lab in New York.  The class is taking place on Saturday, March 5th from 9AM to 12pm.  For more details, go to http://athenacenter.barnard.edu/leadership-lab/course-catalog/negotiation/neg21.

Depending on where you are in life, you may think that you’re past the point where you need to hone your negotiating skills.  But if you truly think about it, there is probably not a day that goes by that you’re not employing some level of negotiation – whether it is with your boss or co-worker, your contractor or electrician, or even your children.

The Athena Leadership Lab at Barnard is dedicated to the theory and practice of women’s leadership.  And if you elect to sign up for this course with Cathy Bonzcek, the instructor, an in demand communications consultant, you will be in for a treat. Cathy’s personal style and keen observation of human communication dynamics – which to a certain extent is a lost art – will certainly benefit anyone who is able to participate in this workshop.  Currently, she is a communications coach to many Wall Street CEOs and executives, preparing them for speaking assignments and relationship selling.  She helped me with a couple of speeches I gave in the past couple years, and her ability to not only fine tune the message but also help with my delivery was invaluable.  Check out her website at www.ccb-communications.com.  And if you can pull off a trip to New York on March 5th, it will be worth your while.

DISCOUNT OPPORTUNITY:

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Take This Job and Shove It!

JetblueI suspect most of you have heard about the Jet Blue flight attendant who, fed up with an uncooperative passenger, essentially said, “Take this job and shove it” in dramatic fashion. Steven Slater got on the intercom system, cursed out the passenger, deployed the emergency chute and then slid away from the parked plane – but not before grabbing a beer from the beverage cart.    

Some have lauded Slater’s actions, calling him a “working man’s hero” for saying enough is enough. Unfortunately for this hero, Slater faces criminal charges, including unauthorized exit from an airport.

The incident got me thinking about the times I’ve given notice from a job and whether any fireworks ensued. I think the worst I did was slip a company stapler into my box of belongings on my way out the door. Or, there were the times I quit three different jobs in my teen/young adult years - before I even started. But in those cases, I basically slunk away, embarrassed by my not living up to my verbal commitment.

I’ve certainly had angry, stressful moments at work in the past. But, not once did it ever occur to me to storm out and burn all bridges. Honestly – I kind of admire Slater’s chutzpah. Don’t think it was a smart thing to do for his career, but he’ll probably make millions on his book deal.

What about you, Wise Women? Did this incident strike a chord with you? Any dramatic work departures of your own to report?

A Hard Question: “How Was Your Day?”

Jack-and-MomYesterday was my first day of “freedom.” I finished up my job 10 days ago and spent last week (the kids’ spring break) touring colleges of interest to my daughter. So, yesterday – Monday – was the first day I officially had nothing to do.

Nothing except make several phone calls/emails about future work possibilities, have a supervision meeting with my social work intern from my former job, drop off my old office keys, do laundry (four suitcases worth of dirty clothes), fill our empty fridge and cupboards with groceries, pick up books on-hold at the library, and talk to family members whom I missed during my round of calls on Easter.

When my kids rolled in after school, Jackson looked expectantly at me and asked, “How was your day?”

I thought for a minute. “Good,” I said and rattled off a version of the list above to illustrate how I spent my day. “How does that sound?” I concluded.

“Well, it’s better than ‘hectic’, ‘fine,’ or ‘OK,” he replied. (Jackson was the first one to point out to me that I had a small repertoire of terse, one-word answers to his daily question about my day. And that my responses might signify that I was not 100% happy at my job.)

Yesterday WAS a good day. However, it was not a great day. It was not terribly invigorating and only somewhat satisfying. The tremendous relief I expected to feel? Not feeling it. Yet. Maybe that sense of liberation will come eventually.

I keep on thinking of the phrase “Even a bad day of golf beats a good day at work.” Honestly? I’m not so sure.

And lest it sounds like I”m complaining, let me assure you I’m not. Just noticing my mixed reaction to my first official day of freedom. And looking forward to the day when I can do my Tony the Tiger imitation and tell Jackson, “My day was Grreeaaat!”

E.Q. Climax or Anti-Climax: You Decide

kumbaya-dammitPREVIOUSLY … on “The E.Q. Saga of Elaine” …

Elaine decides to leave her job because she needs to work part-time and that option is not available in her department.

Meanwhile, the department hires someone for a new part-time position; unfortunately, Elaine – nor anyone else – was advised of the opening. Thus, the preferred (and one and only) candidate slides into the coveted part-time role.

Elaine is pissed. She confronts her boss about the back-room hiring and leaves his office on an angry note.

In this week’s episode … Elaine must decide: Mend crumbling bridges with her boss? Or, hold on to her anger/principles and give him the cold shoulder for her final two weeks at work?

Following our heated exchange on Friday, I manage to not run into my boss on Monday or Tuesday. I know I’m not ready to have an adult conversation with him yet; my raw and wounded feelings are still too close to the surface.

By Wednesday, I’ve simmered down and at least can IMAGINE having a civil conversation with him, even if I’m not ready to actually do so. Our paths cross by the receptionist’s desk around lunch time on Wednesday.

Me: “Hey, I’ve been trying to catch you.” (Yes, a slight white lie. There has been no inclination or effort on my part to seek out my boss, but I figure it was a safe opening salvo.)

Boss: “I’m catchable” (in a friendly, neutral tone).

Me: “Great. I’ll find you later.”

The rest of Wednesday passes, and I’m still not feeling the urge to chat with him despite laying the groundwork. I figure, when the right moment arrives, I’ll know it. (Right moment for what, you may ask … Right time to stiffly apologize? Eat crow? Lay out my concerns again? I’m not sure. You, Wise Women, gave great guidance for me to ponder. I figure I’ll know what to do/say when the time comes.)

It’s Thursday morning, and I see my boss’s door is open. I’m finally moved to deal with this lingering mess. However, as I sit down in my boss’s office, I’m still not too sure what’s going to come out of my mouth.

Me: “Listen, I’m sorry I lost my cool last week.” (Partial truth – I’m not sorry I got angry. I just wish I could have expressed my anger in a more emotionally detached way (i.e., sans the quivering voice and red splotches on my face and neck)).

Boss: “No apology necessary. I completely understand where you were coming from and why you were angry. It’s a very brave thing to get angry with someone.”

Me: “Yeah – especially when that someone is your boss.”

Boss: “I’m sorry that all of this happened. You’re a terrific employee, and I’ve been telling other department heads they’d be lucky to get you.”

Me: “Well, thank you. I would appreciate any good words you can put in for me.”

Boss: “Consider it done. Now, I want to talk to you about something else. It looks like the person we’re hiring to replace you can’t start for another month. Would you be available to work part-time in April – as many or as few hours as you want?”

Me (without missing a beat despite the bitter irony of his request): “Let me think about that possibility and get back to you next week.”

I exit my boss’s office softly humming “Kumbaya” to myself while thinking, “There’s no way in HELL I’m sticking around for another month.”

So, after three months of lame-duck status, this is my final week at work. (Please take note, Wise Woman Stacy. I am ACTUALLY leaving!! This may have been an anticlimactic ending to the E.Q. saga but it’s the right one for me. It’s time to begin the next chapter.

Emotional Intelligence: Part II

Elaine’s work-related E.Q. saga unfolds …

Wednesday: At a staff meeting, I hear the announcement that a former colleague has been hired to work part-time at my soon-to-be-former place of employment. Given (1) I’m leaving because my job can’t/won’t be modified to allow for a flexible schedule and (2) I was not even aware that they were recruiting for this “new” part-time job, I am angry. And hurt. I leave shortly after the meeting, worried that I might say something I’ll regret due to a sudden deficit of emotional intelligence (E.Q.)

Thursday: Ahhh … a previously planned day off. After moaning and gnashing my teeth the night before, I’m ready to turn the page and embrace a new perspective.  Life’s too short to let things like this upset me … Things happen for a reason … The Universe clearly does not want me to continue working here … THEIR loss if they they can’t figure out a way to keep me … The Magic 8 Ball responds “Definitely so” when asked if I’ll get a better job (courtesy of my friend’s new favorite app) … and, my other pet mantra (and most lacking in E.Q.)  — *$&# him!

Friday: While I’m in a better place, I still want to look my boss in the eye and ask him, “What the hell were you thinking?” I seek him out first thing.

Me: “I wanted to talk to you about the announcement at Wednesday’s staff meeting. About how so-and-so has been hired for that specialized part-time job. Since you knew I was interested in working part-time, I’m wondering why I wasn’t considered for that position.”

Boss: “I didn’t even know that you were interested in that specialized position.” (Note: The newly-created position had been filled for two months last fall, and that person left abruptly and without any acknowledgment by my boss in December. Nothing has been said about the vacancy since that time.)

Me: “The reason I didn’t mention any interest is that my understanding was that the position required a particular background, which I don’t have. Now, with so-and-so’s hiring, it seems that the background was not a requirement.”

Boss: “Well, so-and-so has always been interested in working with this population. He came to me and asked.”

Me: “But, do you appreciate that I didn’t even know to ask since this hiring process was not out in the open. I didn’t even know you were planning on filling the position.” (My voice is starting to rise a bit.)

Boss: “I get why you’re angry.” (Note: I’ve used this technique before – acknowledge that a person is angry while not agreeing with/assuming responsibility for the reason for their anger. Now that I’ve been on the receiving end, gotta tell you, it didn’t mollify me at all.)

Me: “I’ve worked very hard for you for the last 18 months and you KNOW I want to work part-time in some capacity at this company. What I don’t understand is how it didn’t occur to you to at least let me compete for the position.”

Boss and Me: We do another few rounds of the above discussion. Finally, we just look at each other. Me – stiff and expressionless. Boss – hands clasped with an earnest “we’ve just had a simple misunderstanding” look.

Me: “Well, I just wanted to let you know that I’m very unhappy with how the whole hiring process went down.” Get up and walk to the door. My hand is on the door knob …

Boss: “Can you allow me to say a few more things?”

Me thinking to myself: I know where he’s going. He’s going to start some hyperbolic B.S. about how valued I am, blah, blah, blah. I’ve seen him go into that insincere, you’re-the-greatest-thing-since-sliced-bread  mode with dozens of people. If he starts that crap, I’m going to lose whatever composure I have left.

Me saying to Boss: “You know, I’m so angry right now, I don’t think whatever you would say could be heard.”

Boss: “Fine then.”

I walk out the door.

Rest of Friday and Monday: Our paths have not crossed since Friday morning, which is not unusual. I’ve cooled down now and have embraced a new perspective. (No, really, this time I have!) Part of me knows I should seek out my Boss and clear the air. The other part of me (the part lacking in true E.Q.) is digging in my heels and refusing to take that step. As of blog time, the latter part is winning.

Any guidance to offer, Wise Women, emotionally intelligent or otherwise?

E.Q. of (Wo)Man’s Best Friend

dog-intelligenceWould Fido really follow you, his beloved pet owner, to the ends of the earth?

Does Mittens know to give you extra cuddles and purrs when you’ve had a rough day?

Check out these fascinating anecdotes about the emotional intelligence of pets shared by veterinarian and columnist Dr. Michael W. Fox.

In one instance, a chronically ill man named John died. Immediately after the funeral, John’s dog disappeared. Several days later, a family friend found the dog “hungry and haggard, lying on John’s grave” – a site which was “many miles outside the city” and where the dog had never been before.

Another story featured a young woman who moved out of her family’s home into an apartment seven miles away on the other side the city. One day, her cat, which had been living with her parents, was waiting for her outside the young woman’s apartment. The cat had never been there before.

Now here’s my anecdote about the emotional intelligence of our dog Toby:

I came home early yesterday after a tough day at work. Just a few hours earlier, I had been sitting in a staff meeting jotting down my to-do list for my final weeks at work. (With regret, I gave notice to a FT job because they could/would not allow me to work part-time.)

Despite my multi-tasking during the meeting, I listened to my boss’s flow of announcements. After one particular announcement, my pen stopped moving. Did I just hear that correctly? My boss declaring that a former colleague was rejoining the staff? In a 20-hour per week position? The part-time position that had been vacant for months and did not look like it would be re-filled. That job I did not apply for because the position required applicants to have military experience? The same military experience that this former colleague did not possess either?!?!? Did I miss something? Was the job re-posted? Did my boss NOT recall my telling him that I really loved working for the company and would appreciate any help/guidance he could give around connecting me with a part-time job in another department since that option wasn’t available in his?

My list scribbling resumed, but now it took another form. In teeny, tiny letters, I wrote, “Do not cry. Do not cry. Do not cry.” I was furious about the news of this backroom hiring. And when I get angry, I cry. OK, I was hurt, too. And when I feel hurt, I cry.

After the staff meeting, on the drive home from work, and for the first few hours at home, I gave myself full permission to cry. How did  Toby, our middle-age Chocolate Lab, react to his distressed owner? He barely noticed when I entered the room. Kept on licking himself. I don’t even think his head turned to acknowledge me.

I love my dog dearly, but clearly he won’t be profiled by Dr. Fox for his emotional intelligence anytime soon.

As for me? Once I regain my emotional intelligence, I will be having a chat with my boss. I’ll keep you posted.

Contemplating “The 4-Hour Workweek”

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where …” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

- Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland

The above passage takes on new meaning for those of us in the midst of a career/life transition (or on the brink of one). It captures the importance of deliberate planning so you can go in the “right” direction and, ultimately, arrive at your desired destination. However, one could also say the words validate (and maybe grant permission to) a bit of meandering in the journey of self-discovery toward still-unknown goals.

winding-pathLewis Carroll’s prose was cited in The 4-Hour Workweek, The New York Times Best Seller by entrepreneur Timothy Ferriss. It’s safe to assume that high-energy Ferris, a 3o-something who speaks six languages and runs a multinational firm from wireless locations worldwide, promotes the former, purposeful approach toward life. His 2009 book (an expanded and updated version of the 2007 release) includes a step-by-step plan that promises to help you “Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich.”

It would be easy to dismiss the book as a gimmicky informercial. A get-rich quick scheme that hustles you through the process of setting up the latest and greatest dot.com. That dangles the juicy possibility of a 4-hour workweek to the time-starved masses.

But, you know, the guy with frenetic energy makes some really good points!

There are true nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout his information-packed book and self-promoting blog. For example, The Not To Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now is the 2.0 version of Steven Covey’s exhortation to focus on “First Things First.”

Ferriss’ ultimate goal – for both readers and himself – is to free up time and money to maximize the time spent on one’s passion. While I couldn’t see myself sitting down for a cup of coffee with the guy, I can’t argue with his aspirations.

Has anyone else read this book? What’s your take?

And, if you’re interested in reading it and comparing notes, send me a quick email at elaine@wisewomencoffeechat.com. Maybe we can set up an informal and virtual “study” group to talk through some of the ideas.

Gotta Hand It To You …

Palin-Tea-Party

Exhibit A: Check out Sarah Palin consulting notes written on her hand as she addresses a Tea Party crowd last weekend.

Lesson Learned: Never, ever write reminder notes on body parts. Some bloggers have questioned Palin’s intelligence given her need to write down her talking points (e.g., “Lift American Spirits”). Not me. I constantly write reminders to myself about simple, everyday tasks (e.g., this a.m.’s list “blog, car, lasagna, call re: derm appt”) and, like Palin, spell-out in advance the take-away points I want an audience to remember when I give a presentation. Palin’s problem was that she relied on a method (writing on one’s hand) that comes off as juvenile and a bit sneaky. Any other writing surface would have worked - note card, post-it, corner of newspaper, napkin, Kleenex, and, of course, paper. Bottom line - my son writing on his arm to remember to bring in lunch money is O.K. An aspiring leader of the free world furtively consulting her palm to recall her “inspiring” rhetoric is NOT O.K.

gibbs-press-secretaryExhibit B: Now watch Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs later poking fun at Palin’s use of “hand-written” notes.

Lesson Learned: People are either innately “Mean Girls,” or they’re not. Gibbs is not. For those who are not naturally snarky, it is very difficult to pull off snarky humor. (You can hear the groans in the press room at Gibbs’ cheap shot.) Listen, people who can quickly come up with a biting/sarcastic/wry/cynical quip have had a lifetime of practice. If you must plan in advance and put effort into being a Mean Girl, don’t bother. You’ll be the one who ends up looking silly. (Alas, as a person who is not quick on her feet, this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way.)

Wise Women, what’s your reaction to Exhibit A or Exhibit B? And, if you’re one who jots down reminders on your hand or arm, please feel free to amend the “lesson learned.”

Awkwardness in the Workplace

world-wish-bead

Let me begin today’s post by offering a public (and definitely NOT awkward) thank you to those Wise Women who bought bead necklaces last month in support of My World Wish campaign and the second annual Wise Women Big Bucks Giveaway. As promised, for every necklace purchased, Anne and I made a matching donation to Global Colors, an organization that promotes self-sustaining grassroots economic projects.

The necklaces – beads made by women in Kenya and cords by women in Cambodia – are simple, yet elegant … and connect us to our wise sisters across the world. May you and your loved ones who received them as gifts wear them in good health!

******

women-runningChanging gears, I just had to run the following scenario by you for your reactions. Put on your advice-columnist hat and read on:

After the department director left 18 months ago, Mary and Jane are the only two people who work in a critical, high-pressure, and understaffed office. The higher ups name Mary as interim director and proceed to conduct a national search for a permanent director. Initially, Mary places herself in the pool of candidates for the permanent position, but later withdraws.

Despite a year-long search, the position remains unfilled as the few applicants who are offered the job reject it (too little money for too many headaches.)

Now the higher-ups approach Jane. They say Mary isn’t cutting it as interim director and needs to be replaced. The higher-ups say the options are: (1) for Jane to assume the role and, after six months, both parties can decide if the job is a good fit permanently, or (2) for a new, interim director to be brought in from elsewhere in the company and Jane and Mary will work for that person.

Jane considers the offer to be a career opportunity of a lifetime and decides to take the interim director position.

Mary considers the reassignment to be a slap-in-the face and is not talking to Jane, who is now her boss.

Can this working relationship be saved? Both Jane and Mary are good, hard-working people. If you are the work friend of Jane or Mary (or both – as I am), what do you say to them?

A Woman’s Nation

shriverI’m sure most of you have seen Maria Shriver over the past month on the news programs speaking about her recently released report regarding A Women’s Nation that Changes Everything.  I found that I was just catching a bit of her interviews – and was interested in learning more.  Ms. Shriver, along with the  Center for American Progress, have just released The Shriver Report – a report about the status of today’s woman.  A report of this depth and magnitude has not been conducted in nearly 50 years – when John F. Kennedy asked Eleanor Roosevelt to chair the first Commission on the Status of the American Woman.

The results are not surprising.  Half of all US workers are women, and women are the primary breadwinner or the co-breadwinner in nearly two-thirds of American families. Furthermore, four in five families with children at home do not comprise the traditional model of Dad being the breadwinner and Mom being the homemaker.  The study points out that the managing of daily life (work and personal) rather than being the traditional model of battle of the sexes – is transforming in to a negotiation between the sexes as it relates to work, family, household responsibility, childcare and elder-care.

The common concern, of course, is that kids may be left behind.  In families where both parents work, sometimes it’s a necessity, sometimes it’s a choice.  Regardless, today’s parents are spending a lot less time with their children.  The challenge becomes that our workplaces, the government, and our religious institutions haven’t quite figured out how to embrace this reality.  Flexible work schedules, comprehensive childcare policies, redesigned family and medical leave and equal pay – are still non-existent or in the infancy stages at most places.

Somehow I’ve managed to work three days a week since my oldest was born 15 years ago.  Now I work as a consultant – but I worked as a part time employee for two different companies for ten years.  This balancing act is not only something for parents to figure out, but also the workplace.  And while I wish corporations were more advanced in figuring out how to better manage flexibility – I also understand it is a huge challenge. By publishing this report, Maria Shriver is at least trying to promote this topic as part of a national agenda and force a serious conversation about this topic. Rather than continuing to dismiss, ignore, or table for a better time, hopefully corporate America will put some heavy lifters focused on this agenda to develop a solution that is both a win/win for employees as well as the corporation.

To read this report in its entirety or just excerpts, click on the link above.  If anyone has personal stories to share as it relates to this topic and the realities of balancing, please reach out to myself or Elaine.  Guest bloggers welcome!

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars
Les Brown

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