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Friday, February 27, 2009

Helping an Employee Cope with Grief

Death is a difficult reality, especially when an employee loses a loved one. Individuals deal with grief in different ways and often are unaware of a change in there behavior. Managers, by and large, are not mental health professionals, but should be compassionate human beings willing to demonstrate that compassion and help their employees through a very difficult time.

Having lost one of my parents when they were not even 50 was pretty traumatic. While I had lost my grandparents as a child and adult, losing my mother when I was 27 was pretty terrible. I found myself in a state of shock and emotionally very unsure.

While my manager and coworkers showed compassion, what was lacking was guidance on how the grieving process would impact my work.

When I was an officer in the US Army, we were trained in how to handle grieving soldiers. Much of that training has been very helpful and relevant. In general, the enormity of the emotional stress from a death consumes a significant portion of critical thinking resources. In a sense, a grieving person isn't functioning at full strength.

To help manage that, the employee needs to be reassured that they are supported in their attempt to get back on with their life. Additionally, the employee needs to know what to expect, specifically, difficulty focusing as well as limited short-term memory. It is also wise not to require any significant decision making for at least six weeks, as it can take that long to begin to regain a sense of normality.

If possible, encourage the employee to have a "buddy" or colleague keep an eye on them and QA their work if necessary. Also, a grieving employee may need flexibility in attending to final arrangements of the deceased, such as legal matters, property and asset disposal, etc. Additionally, many employers have Employee Assistance Plans (EAP) which allow the employee to speak with a counselor via phone.

Death is inevitable. As employees face the death of a loved one or major figure in their life, managers need a sensitivity as well as realistic expectations in supporting that employee. Flexibility, communication, and the buddy system can help the employee regain a sense of normality and give them the support they need in one of the most difficult times of life.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

How to Survive Matrix Teaming

Many of us, especially those with project management experience, work with matrix teams where there is no clear power structure. How does a person survive this type of environment and why is this even a question?

While most people are used to a linear organizational chart, matrix teams are quite a bit different and also challenge certain personality types. Executives & Professionals: Changing Jobs? is known for matrix teaming and having a very flat organizational structure. The matrix teaming model allows for very rapid project execution and flexible resources allocation. However, it does make for some sticky situations where there is no clear authority and considerable ambiguity. (For more information about this Web 2.0 style, click here to find the first of a 5-part series on the topic.)

Certain personality types flourish in an environment filled with ambiguity as it promotes creativity and free flowing collaboration. Other personality types don't do well in these groups as they are structured thinkers and are good at developing boundaries and putting form to the formless. Elite Jobs for elite professionals! Let Doostang help accelerate your career.

If you are one of the more structured thinkers, it helps to identify who in the group has the most influence and has the attention of the person requesting the output of the team. It also helps to develop key requirements and identify who in the team best can deliver those requirements. In short, facilitate the group to organize itself and provide a framework for how the work should be structured to deliver the output (product) of the team. This facilitation isn't constraint, but rather a method of delivering accountability and insuring success. Try RingCentral Fax FREE for 30 days

If you are a less structured thinker, recognize that there is a shared goal to the project. Also recognize that nobody is trying to stifle creativity when they set boundaries or ask for deliverables. Rather, seek to find the balance between your creativity and others' need for a framework. While it is difficult working with those who have "control issues," definitive action should be the result of cooperate work.

It is a compromise of styles. Free thinking personalities bristle at control. Structured thinkers are riled by ambiguity. Allowing both styles requires a balance of both. When accountability becomes an issue, influence is the best way to resolve it. Open and honest feedback also encourages accountability as it highlights competency and commitment. Online incorporating services backed by people.

Surviving a matrix team requires compromise. Structured thinkers must accept the need for a free flow of information. Less structured thinkers must accept some boundaries to facilitate success. Both types must accept each other as valued team members. Matrix teaming can be successful when people work to their strengths and accept a compromise of styles.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Helping Employees During a Recession

Here in the early days of 2009, people the world over are feeling the effects of the global recession. The daily news is blaring stories of massive layoffs, cutbacks, and closures. After a while, all of this bad news takes it toll. As a manager, how can you help your employees during this difficult time?

If your business is doing fairly well or has stabilized after downsizing, it is a good time to help focus employees on doing their best to retain existing customers. Good customers who pay on time are golden! Elite Jobs for elite professionals! Let Doostang help accelerate your career.

During the period of focus, remind your employees of their successes. While it may sound like a pep talk, its more than that. It is a vote of confidence for the individuals who are sustaining the company through hard times.

Remind your employees of often overlooked or under utilized benefits, in particular, educational reimbursement. New thinking and skills lead economies out of recessions. Having your employees ready, from an educational point of view, is good for them and for the company. It can also be a tax benefit for the company. Don't forget retirement and 401(k) plans either!

Difficult times also call for imaginative thinking. When resources are cut the old saying "necessity is the mother of invention" stands out. Encourage employees to imagine both new products and services, as well as new ways to run the business. Maybe, just maybe, there is a transformative idea that will set the business on the path to new success.

As managers, we should see the human side of our employees first. Recognizing the needs of our employees allows us to best execute our corporate mission. Recessionary periods increase the need for positive communication and reassurance. Focusing on the positive can help to inspire employees who are fearful and distressed and motivate them to do their best. Recessions are hard on companies and employees, but managers can do their part to see the business through by nurturing their most valuable assets, their employees.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

How to Network Inside Your Company

Once you have been in a job some length of time, you generally have met people from different organizations who perform different functions from you. In some cases, the meeting is serendipity, or it is required cross-group teaming.

This type of networking is good for your career, and if properly maintained, can lead to new positions in the company and possibly promotions.

The best tools to network internally are organizational charts, corporate directories, and existing contacts. To use these tools effectively is not difficult. Need an easy online web conferencing solution without an installation? Try Dimdim, it's easy, open and affordable. Sign up Now!

Suppose you are interested in how the company markets itself. Start by asking your colleagues and management what and who they know about the Marketing team. If they don't know, consult the corporate directory for the names of Marketing team. If necessary, cross check with available organizational charts to determine if you are calling a VP or a peer.

Often a blind call to the target organization will yield new people to call or at least, a direction to follow. In general, people like to help others and most would be willing to put you on the right track. Additionally, people like to talk about what the do, so gather additional knowledge along the way.

Once you have identified a contact, arrange a phone call, lunch meeting, or just a simple email to introduce yourself and make clear your reason for contact. Be willing to offer your knowledge and experience to help the contact do their job better. Like any relationship, there has to be a give and take, so be prepared to give. Executives & Professionals: Changing Jobs?

As you repeat this process, not only will you learn more about your company, but also who pulls the levers of power. As you build and nurture relationships, you can consider new possibilities and ask you contacts for the inside track. Be ready to return that favor!

Finally, building your corporate network also allows others to see you as a point of contact for your group. When people begin to rely on you for information, it builds your reputation and influence. Increased visibility and a good reputation are two of the key ingredients to building a successful career. So, use the resources available and build your network!

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