Category Archives: anxiety

HELP! I hate my job!

I HATE my job!

What to do when you HATE your job with a passion!
I spent time last week coaching a young professional who hated his job in a small, family run organisation. In fact he hated it so badly that the things he claimed he would rather be doing instead, covered all manner of unspeakable things, too awful to mention involving finger nails, dentists and Kabul. You get the picture.

Stress
He hated the work, he hated his bosses, he hated his colleagues. He vented for a while, but when we got into specifics, mostly he hated the way he was treated and spoken to, but above all he hated the chaos and the stress. He outlined some of the issues that especially caused him grief and truthfully those practices at best would be considered bad management, and at worst, workplace bullying. Attempts to self advocate had been unceremoniously dismissed and there was no HR function.

Leopards and spots
I have worked in this type of family run, small business and know the environment well. The words leopards and spots, blood and water come to mind. It is unlikely that any employee will be able to make a dent in that can of worms and undo not just decades of working habits, but also family culture, when normal business protocols generally don’t apply. In a small organization, transferring to another department or changing job functions are not options, so for this young man there seemed to be 2 choices – stay or go.

Hating your job isn’t good. We spend 2000 hours a year in the workplace at least, so it’s hard to pitch up at the office to do something you passionately dislike. Usually if you hate your job everyone can tell and will interact accordingly. Being desperately unhappy will also affect performance and added stress leads to mistakes, creating a vicious cycle of poor interaction, escalating tension and mis- managed expectations.

Why
There are many of reasons people end up in jobs they hate: inadequate hiring processes and poor candidate decisions to name but two. During the recession many people took jobs that weren’t ideal simply to pay their bills. Jobs and situations also change after the start date creating unanticipated circumstances.

Work on you

In any situation the only person you can change is yourself.

Manage your emotions. Don’t resign in a fit of desperation. Pique doesn’t pay the bills, you do and they will not go away. It is also easier to get a job from a job.
Do some inner work. Time to review your life and professional goals and complete a C.A.R.S. analysis (Challenges, Actions, Results , Skills). Make sure you know what you’re good at and what you goals are.
Make a list of what you like about the jobs – there will always be something.
Change your attitude. If you go into the office looking down, are detached, act dejected and withdrawn, your colleagues will feed off that and respond accordingly.
Check your work. Stress impacts accuracy and you are more likely to make careless mistakes. Create a “To do” list every night for the following day, making sure you schedule the work you hate the most first or at your period of highest energy. Feeling that you have achieved something, even when you loathe doing it will make you feel better.
Find a mentor – someone who can guide you. Even in a small company there has to be one person you can ask for advice.
Silence is golden – don’t post your dislike of your work situation on Facebook or Twitter. Bosses use social media too.
Monitor your health – stress impacts everyone in different ways. Exercise, see friends, eat healthily, have enough sleep and make time for you. If you find you are struggling with anything seek professional help.
Start your job search discreetly and reach into your network. Let search and recruitment contacts know that you are open for a move.
Prepare your interview story. Don’t bad mouth your company. A skilled interviewer will be able to interpret what you don’t say if you focus on your future requirements.
Resign correctly – give the appropriate amount of notice and leave your desk and workload in mint handover condition.
Leave graciously – you may not realise it yet but you have had a substantial learning experience and developed many key skills: resilience, diligence, commitment, focus. If your colleagues behave badly you will always know that you did the right thing.

But above all , you will make better choices next time!

10 ways women supposedly sabotage their careers!

Citibank’s career advice for women! ( updated September 15th 2010)

My good friend Silvana Delatte sent me this link from Business Insider about a laminated sheet supposedly issued by the HR department of Citibank on how women sabotage their careers. If this is not a spoof (which I suspect it might be) then it makes interesting, if not incredible (as in unbelievable) reading.

Nowhere does it mention doing a bad job, so perhaps good performance isn’t necessary to advance a career in Citibank! This list would be infinitely less risible if the almost all male board had not been part of a group of testosterone driven mis- managers which brought global economies grinding to a halt. The subsequent government bail out was at great cost to the tax payer and impacted the lives of millions. Perhaps some of that money could be used to invest in constructive gender based management training, clearly sorely needed. I can make any number of excellent recommendations, so please contact me Citibank!

So let’s look at this list and analyse it!

  •  Women tend to speak softly – you are not heard. Anyone speaking softly isn’t heard, especially in the company of people who talk too much and don’t listen! Good managers listen! Being heard is also not about the volume of the voice but the pitch. Women could be advised to reduce the pitch of their voices by half a semi-tone.
  •  Women groom in public – it emphasizes your femininity, de-emphasizes your capability: Grooming in public is a no no – for anyone. That’s why companies have bathrooms!
  • Women sit demurely – the power position when seated at a table is forearms resting on a table and resting forward. Good posture in business meetings accompanied by positive body language and facial expressions with head tilted to one side, indicating engagement is a given. Nowhere, even in AskMen, have I seen any suggestions that leaning forward and appearing aggressive is a bonus.
  • Speak last in meetings – early speakers are seen as more assertive and knowledgeable than late speakers. Thinking before speaking and measured contribution is never to be under estimated. This is probably because the people who are making this judgement are poor listeners and have the attention span of pre-schoolers.
  • Women ask permission – children are taught to ask permission. Men don’t ask permission, they inform. I actually agree with this one. However polite deference is not to be confused with approval seeking and definitely preferable to arrogant bamboozling.
  •  Apologize – women apologize for the smallest error which erodes your self-confidence. Men tend to move into problem solving mode. I agree with this one too. But having said that for many the word “sorry” is missing from their vocabulary. Problem solving is not the same as admitting a mistake and dealing with it. Problem solving can be aka covering up. and /or reactive management.
  •  Women tend to smile inappropriately when delivering a message, therefore you are not getting taken seriously Well I did some quick research on this little gem and would be interested to see the metrics on that. Women do smile more than men, mainly to soften situations that is true. Smiling would only be inappropriate when delivering extremely bad news. I seriously doubt if a woman would do that unless she really disliked the person. Then she might well do.
  •  Play fair – women tend to be more naive. A women might assume the rules have to be obeyed whereas a man will figure out a way to stretch the rules and not be punished. So is the message here ladies, playing dirty is fine? May I suggest that stretching the rules was what got Citibank into its little pickle. There is surely no substitute for professional integrity. Besides the activities of the mascara mafia have been well documented. Women can and do play dirty, but target mainly other women.
  •  Being invisible – women tend to operate behind the scenes and end up handing credit over to the competitor. This is a fair point – women have to stop waiting for recognition and step up. But then whoever is stealing their thunder should have a little more professional integrity (see above). Good managers recognise and reward.
  • Offer a limp handshake – one good pump and a concise greeting combined with solid eye contact will do the trick. Agree with this too except this isn’t an arm wrestling contest. I would suggest that firm contact would be infinitely preferable to “one good pump” which implies a potential dislocated shoulder.

So ladies, what advice would you give the gentlemen of Citibank?

Apart from ” Do try not to bankrupt anyone today, darling.”

Written with a smile! Please see also follow up post “Trapped! Women and the Smiling Myth

September 15th 2010 -Update! An interesting post came across my screen today, which now makes some sense of the aforementioned problem-causing laminated sheet issued by Citibank. It isn’t a spoof , although it seemed that way. I was right to apply some cynicism.

Writing for The Thin Pink Line Blog, Lois Frankel says that this sheet has taken points from her book ” Nice girls don’t get the corner office ” completely out of context  and she tries to set the record straight in her post .

I did read the book some time ago and will have to revisit it. Condensed to bumper-sticker style homilies these points seem dated and Lois was right, taken at face value they don’t make a lot of sense, so they need to be evaluated in context, which I will certainly do. On her own admission the title including the term “nice” was forced upon her by her publisher. Some of the most successful people ( corner office holders) I know have been simply all around “nice” ( male and female).

That sheet certainly aroused a good discussion!

Ladies – It’s never too late to start up

I saw a  statistic last week that suggested that more than half the women of pensionable age in the UK are choosing to work beyond retirement. Whether this is because they want to work, have to work  or simply because  men are incapacitated/rich/lazy or dead wasn’t clear.   The one thing  we can deduce from this statement is that for whatever reasons,   even the older age range of  lady Boomers,  are in the workplace in some shape or form in a third career.

This isn’t surprising .  It is the most highly educated, economically powerful,  healthiest and physically active  of this  generation of women –  ever.  But with the risk of unemployment increasing, permanent job opportunities shrinking  and divorce rates rising – what other possibilities can you ladies consider to protect yourselves financially or give your lives purpose in your golden years? 

Self employment!

Prime Initiative  a UK charity that helps people over 50 ( “olderpreneuers”)  set up new businesses,   estimates that about 20% of  the over  50s are self-employed, and actually achieve  higher  business survival rates than younger people. Research carried out by  the Kauffman Institute indicates that the older entrepreneur will be at the forefront of the post recession upturn. According to Professor E. Litan ”  Contrary to popularly held assumptions, it turns out that over the past decade or so, the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity belongs to the 55-64 age group.” The grey economy seems to be full of potential. 

Stephanie Holland ,  Executive Creative Director of  Holland + Holland in  She-conomy  ,  tells us that in the US   70% of new businesses are set up by women. Meanwhile back in Europe the figure hovers at just under  30% . Recognising that  the female entrepreneur is an untapped resource , the EU  has set up the ‘European Network of Female Entrepreneurship Ambassadors’ to encourage women  into entrepreneurial activities. 

We know that  60 % of all European graduates are women  – so it’s not lack of brain power or talent. We know that more and more of us are staying in the work place longer,  so clearly have the energy and drive. So what  is holding us back?

Here are some of  the major factors cited to me as a coach   for not becoming entrepreneurs :

  •  Lack of security:  one of the lessons of the past 15 months is that we all have to adjust our ideas on job security.  But the 50 somethings  group is the hardest hit demographic in terms of unemployment  – so the traditional workplace  is no longer the guarantee of security that it used to be.
  • Lack of confidence :  This is covered by the  most common objections:  I don’t know what I want to do / I’m not good at anything/ I can’t or won’t sell. Any career transition coach can support you in this process of identifying your transferrable skills, where and how you can re-train and helping you formulate some goals. There are many organisations which will support budding entrepeneurs and learning new skills. Employees  are  now the new breed of entrepreneur. You have to sell yourself to get a job anyway. You are only changing the product.
  • Fear of failure:  Whether your transition is into the workplace,  into an entrepreneurial sphere or even voluntary work, it is normal to  feel insecure and full of doubt when you are moving out of your comfort zone.  Taking action helps!  Identify your strengths and transferrable skills and take care of your skill deficit. With a strong personal and professional plan,  goals can be achieved in small incremental steps. This will become a great confidence booster. Sign up for courses, seek out a coach, attend workshops or add to your skill set on an ongoing basis.  Feeling in control  leads to increased confidence.   
  • Fear of rejection  :  You are the boss.  In setting up your own business you are avoiding the glass ceiling. The Harvard Business Review cites only one  female   CEO  in their top 100 Best CEOs list.  Realistically there’s only one show you stand a chance of running  now and guess what?  It’s  your own!   

I started my own business in a very typical way, as means of staying in the business community  while I supported  my family, following a second international move.  Executive search was an avenue where my transferrable skills gained in HR and sales and marketing could be successfully combined.  My thinking was that I could work from anywhere with a telephone line and internet connection,  near an airport, I could be self scheduling, it was a sector where being experienced was actually an advantage,  plus I could work as  long as I wanted to. I have never looked back. In terms of risk,  the recession obviously had an impact on business and it was a period of acute anxiety. Ibprofen   became one of my major food groups,  as I chained myself to my computer to cope with the challenge ( tendonitis… don’t worry being dealt with non – chemically now). However,  I’m sure it would have been just as stressful being employed , feeling constantly at risk or possibly being on the job market having  been made redundant. 

I  talked to  some other  women  of a “certain age” who decided to set up their own businesses  at a time in their lives when many are  planning retirement. These women  are just a small sample  from my group of  friends – not even my business network.  Their success stories  have been so inspiring and they have responded to my questions with such passion and insight, that I couldn’t bring myself to edit them. My next  post will be dedicated exclusively to them. They are not rags to riches,  or zero to hero stories,  just ordinary women responding to transition and changing circumstances in their own lives, within their families and in the economy – in a positive way.

  • Carol  from the US –  trained as a  teacher,  turned stay at home Mum, turned realtor 
  • Jane   from the UK  – trained as Communications Manager, turned trailing spouse, turned event manager and caterer  
  • Meicki  from Germany:    trained as a  pharmacist, turned stay at home Mum,  turned Pilates coach 
  • Sacha from the Netherlands:  trained as dentist:  turned stay at home Mum,  turned Virtual Assistant and Project Manager

So what are you waiting for?

Career reflection: Could you get your own job?

What would happen if you had to apply for your own job?
In the past year I have been conscious of , and written extensively about,  the pace of change in my particular  field which seems to be greater than ever before. It’s hard to keep up!  Every time I learn something new, I have to get to grips with something  even newer.  I cannot imagine I am alone in this position!  I also coach people in transition in various professions and sectors and advise them always of the need to stay up dated in their fields.  But what about  people not looking for jobs or directly at risk in any way?

Could they successfully apply for their own jobs?

Could you?

One of the cruellest spin offs of any organisational re-structuring is that sometimes employees are invited to re-apply for their own jobs, frequently when they have been in post for many years and have considerable seniority and  experience. But does this mean that they are necessarily the best candidate for the job as it exists now in the current environment and climate? Regrettably not always.

There are a number of counter arguments to this thesis.

Organisational responsibility
Many will say it’s the  responsibility of the organisation to ensure than their employees are trained and up to date in any developments in their field and are performing to the best of their abilities. To  some extent this could be true.

Any switched-on company committed to employee development  will do this,  seeing  peak employee performance and talent management  as  intrinsic to bottom line success.  But in times of economic stringency and turbulence,  when training budgets have been slashed, updating employees  and keeping them up to speed may not be their top priority.  This is set against a background of quite often incomplete , inadequate, and irregular performance appraisal  which limits meaningful feedback from any manager to  his/her reports. Essentially many employees have no real idea of how they are actually doing, or where their strengths and weaknesses lie on the ideal candidate spectrum.

Avoid complacency
Many of you will also say that it’s no way to live,  or work,  in a state of permanent insecurity always worrying about someone coming in to take over your job. That’s also true.  But complacency isn’t a good state either. One of the things we have all learned in this current economic crisis is that there are no certainties in life. So perhaps  it would be foolish to sit and wait for someone else to take responsibility for your career  and ultimately your life. Many people who are moved sideways, demoted, have promotion disappointments or who get fired,  very often don’t see it coming.   Many of  us are wedded to our tried and trusted ways of operating. Even though we might acknowledge a need to do things  differently at one level (mainly intellectual),  we still struggle to implement  practical change. It doesn’t matter if it’s C-suite level of Fortune 500 companies  or middle managers in SMEs, taking that step to honestly and brutally self appraise is never easy.

It’s also not just about the arrogance of captains of industry such as Fred “The Shred” Goodwin,   or the senior executives of General Motors or Lehman Brothers who failed miserably to understand the limitations of their own performance, until of course it was too late. It’s important for us all to  consciously examine our own roles in relation to the market and be aware and take care of any short fall.

So  maybe start asking  yourself the following questions:

  •  How qualified  am I for this position,  not necessarily always  in  terms of educational certificates,  but in experience?
  • Is my knowledge current?
  • What improvements could/should I make to may own skill set and performance to achieve better results?
  • What other changes would I make ?
  • What is my mission statement?
  • Can my contribution be measured?
  • Do I look for ,  process and act on constructive feedback?
  • What value do I add?
  • Do I know my own worth? Do my bosses, peers, and reports?
  • Who could replace me?

So… would you hire …you?

Cave in… or leave the cave?

I’ve  had  lots of comments on my series of posts on women :  salary negotiation and the gender divide ( Let’s go girls… Negotiate!   and   Don’t be Afraid of “No” ). Thank you!   One topic still to be covered  is the issue of  us ladies stepping up to the negotiating table in our current organisations, as much as six times less than our male counterparts. This can mean a loss to net life income of up to half a million dollars.  So, let’s look at what can be done about that.  Just to be clear, this is only about women taking control of their own situations and dealing with passivity,  rather than covering flagrant cases of outright discrimination ( bullying?) where there are separate procedures both internal and legal to take care of those sort of issues.

Easier than you think!

It’s complex , but  not harder, or impossible, or any of   other those self sabotaging words  to initiate salary negotiate at this point.  The process just needs a minimally different type of preparation and understanding.  And can be learned which is very important.   So it’s all good. Women are long on empathy and process orientated.

So where to start?

You're going to hate this, but I'm afraid it's back to basics and preparation

This has been going  on for a while, right?  Feeling discontented and “put on” ,  so another few months won’t make any difference, seeing these guys making more money than you? But  you’re in a marathon,  not a sprint,  so  intensive training is required to undo lots of bad habits and perceptions  ( theirs and yours)  to position yourself for the finishing line.

Laying the foundations: Now is the time to be strategic, active  not re-active.

Reality check : The suggestions that I am going to make are based on the premise that you are at least a competent performer! If you have any chinks in your armour – absenteeism, missed deadlines, any performance warnings – deal with those first.

Also make sure that your understanding of your situation is based on fact. Perception can be  misleading.  You may have been in the job longer,  but if Joe and Pete in the next offices earn more than you,  if  they have an MBA and a PhD in Rocket Science, speak 3 languages  or are more measurably productive in some other way, then your  case isn’t necessarily clear-cut.  Sitting at your desk whingeing about your workload, miserable conditions and generally playing the victim will not help.  Squeaky wheels sometimes get changed instead of oiled.

So back to basics:

Positioning : try and volunteer for projects with strong visibility. Some shameless self promotion never goes amiss when preparing for salary negotiation.  What you are doing is paving the way to create opportunity. Start taking greater initiative, even if your efforts are turned down at least you  are practising  being assertive. If you keep getting negative responses,  establish  if there is a pattern. What can you change?

Ask for feedback:  get into the habit of  doing this and also asking if there’s anything you could be doing differently to meet expectations.  Do not use the word better.   Respond with an email of thanks to positive comments.  It’s good to have a  trail, even a soft one,  so that everyone starts believing your message about how good you are and the high standard of your work.   Including you!

Personal Development : if there is an area of personal development you can undertake which will increase your added value – do it,  even if currently it might be at your own expense.  Discuss this with your boss – and make sure that he/she is aware of what you are doing and connect this effort  to future added value for the company.

Know yourself.  Decide on your life and professional goals.  Where are your strengths and skills and where do you ultimately want to go with them?

Know your metrics ( e.g  turnover, transactions per day, customer satisfaction ratings.. etc) You are the product  – so manage your business.!  What have you achieved and contributed or could possibly contribute further in the future?

Know your market. Where do you sit on the salary spectrum both within the organisation and outside it? Facts.

Craft your elevator sound bites: your USPs  and success stories.

Anticipate objections :  “no budget, it’s a recession, you’re a poor performer ( yes, they might play dirty) ,we’re going bankrupt, boss is busy etc”.  If there is any implied criticism you should have your feedback email trail to back you up. In any situation that is potentially intimidating,  ask for precise examples and dates of the issues.  That normally  de-fuses situations.

Rehearse your  constructive communication strategy:   Socratic questions ( What makes you say/think that? How do you reach that decision?  etc)  and Attentive Listening  (” Help me understand”,  I feel that…”)

Set your ideal outcome and the fallback position you can live with ( benefits in kind, shorter hours, review in 6 months, childcare , working from home, flexi-time etc) benefits in kind have a high monetised value when grossed up.

Prepare for “No:”  Remember you love “no.. , ” make it work and use all the strategies you’ve prepared. But have a clear plan if the  answer is final.

Know your audience :   You  have  worked in this organisation for some time and have a relationship with the players. You know the corporate culture and  have observed him/her in other or similar situations.  What are their own goals and aspirations  and what is the business plan for the department?  You are prepared,  but be cautious. You might have coached yourself into neutral mode  for this  transaction, but there is no guarantee that the person sitting across the table from you will be in biz mode too. They might see this request as some sort of personal slight on their managerial skills and become ego defensive. That is not your problem.  Maintain  your cool no matter what,  but  be aware that this is the point when  any negotiation could become adversarial.  They  may not even have realised that there is a new, evolved, assertive you in front of them.

Living in the village

Now it is important to be clear in your own mind what you are prepared to settle for and what happens if your request is firmly rejected in any form. You still have to  “live in the village  ” to quote my friend Wally Bock .  So if you decide to let it go,  it’s important not to close doors and to remain measured and business like. The alternative is  of course outside the cave.

One size fits all

A number of you emailed or messaged me ,  truthfully a little angrily and frustrated. Your stories were of being single parents , living in areas of  high unemployment ,  with domestic circumstances that limited your flexibility and mobility.Plus your company is the main employer  in the region and could call the salary shots, so voting with your feet was not an option.   “What  have you got to say about that? You’re targeting high fliers! ” you  commented  somewhat belligerently!   But coaching is not elitist.

Without knowing all the individual circumstances and if these concerns are real,  or FEARs  ( false expectations appearing real)  the answer is that there is no one answer.  But no I’m not – these strategies are a one size fits all. They can be tweaked and adapted to fit most situations.    My suggestion is that you focus on you. Add to your skill set and if this can’t be done in a professional context in your existing company,  set yourself some goals for personal development.  Think long-term. No situation is ever static, so at least you will be prepared for any changes that may arise. Kids graduate, companies get taken over, recessions end and opportunities come around when you least expect them.  Can you work from home or take on-line classes for example?

There are always a multitude of possibilities. You just have to be open to seeing them.  In the words of someone even  older and definitely wiser than myself  ( Seneca)  ” Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”

Boomerang Kids – The New Executive Stress

The main challenge is to find a balance between supporting and enabling

A number of executives have  listed  in recent coaching sessions one of the major sources of stress in their lives as the return to their previously wonderfully empty nest, of unemployed adult offspring. In the vernacular Boomerang Kids.  This is not my area of expertise at all,  other than having a newly graduated son facing a desperate career  market and either unemployment or unpaidemployment (aka internships). The reality is that the thought of any part of his life  (or person) being centred on or  close to my sofa, actually fills us both  equally with horror. But it might happen yet if his best efforts fail.

After multiple mentions in coaching sessions and friends talking endlessly about the same topic, it was clear that some  in-depth  research was required.

This is what I found.

The kids
In 2007, 55 percent of men and 48 percent of women aged 18-to-24 lived with their parents, and certainly those numbers have only grown since the recession hit. In the UK, the most recent labour market survey shows unemployment growing fastest in this age group with employment prospects for the class of 2009 the worst in over 25 years. In the US The Department of Labor reports that the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders under age 27 has is at an all time high since 1983. In addition to a difficult job market, students are graduating with higher debt levels than ever before, with the cost of living outstripping entry-level starting salaries, which have been driven downward (happily for employers) by excess demand they are unable to make their rent money.

Not unsurprisingly kids are returning home to reduce costs. This is damaging to their self-confidence and threatening their budding sense of independence. Young people with high achieving parents are stressed by their inability to meet their parents even unstated expectations. They struggle with the notion that they may have to downgrade their own ambitions and take lower level jobs, as companies have their pick of top graduates from elite universities. In some cases depression kicks in. Factor in  that the kids of baby boomers have been sheltered from hard times and this is possibly the first serious recession which has impacted them. During the last one in the early 90s most of them were less than 10 so can’t be blamed.

My observation  from personal experience, is that they feel anxious, overwhelmed and vulnerable about their long-term abilities to support themselves in the way they had hoped to  ( i.e. have been used to) and with some there is also a certain sense of righteous entitlement. They now exhibit all the usual symptoms of stress. I hear stories of web loafing ,  Laurent Brouat’s great phrase for sitting at the computer, doing nothing productive and  busy-ness , my less great word for being busy when you’re  really not  being productive  at all; erratic schedules (late mornings and even later nights) TV marathons, erratic eating and so on.

The parents
So what is going on for Mum and Dad at this point, my beleaguered executives, as Junior heads home? Any one or all of a number of things.

For the most part this is one of the most stressful period of their lives. If they still have a job they are under severe pressure, or possibly at risk. Otherwise they are unemployed with everything that implies. Pension pots are reduced, their property has decreased in value. Costs are rising. Any plans to downsize and travel in retirement are looking like pipe dreams and the future has become a black hole of anxiety. They might even now have to defer retirement. When in more buoyant times they could have funded their returning child to some degree, that will now put a strain on the family budget. A young adult is now living, or even taking over, their home and creating tension which is percolating into their professional and even marital lives.

For senior executives used to managing teams and being in control, they now have a “team member” who somewhat inconsiderately is not responding at all, or if they are, it’s in a non business fashion.  My C level  execs are contending with door slamming,  feet on coffee tables, pouting and petulance without being able to call HR to fire the kid. Sensitive issues  they would deal with correctly and constructively in the office escalate in the family environment. Two executives reported serious stand offs with their child as tensions  rise. Tendencies to helicopter manage the young person’s job search efforts or activities intensify as does the stress.

Managing transition
The bottom line is that Gen Y and the Boomers are both in transition – but just not the ones they hoped for. Mum and Dad had planned to move effortlessly into their well deserved golden years and Junior was all set to blaze a glowing trail along the career path of choice. Instead, both generations are dealing with stress and anxiety not just about their present lives but their futures too. Result = massive tension and discord.

So is there a solution?
Of course – but the ideal way according to the experts if not always easy and centres on not reverting to the traditional roles  as the carer and cared for, which is what we tend to do in our role as parents. It actually does involve a more business style approach ,including negotiating and agreeing clearly defined ground rules and boundaries.  Pretty much like in the office – but easier said than done at  home for many. It obviously also varies between cultures – in some countries young adults traditionally stay at home longer. So the litmus test is presumably is it a problem?

The main factor according to Diane Viere  a specialist in setting boundaries for adult children, is to learn to make a distinction between “enabling”, doing something for young adults that they could do themselves and ” helping”  them,  i.e.-supporting them constructively on their road to independence. She also advises us parents to beware of the need to control – something we are used to doing in our professional lives.

How to do that?

Close the bank of Mum and Dad:  It may be tempting to bail your kid out financially and protect them with all the luxuries and security of the family home, but this will not help them in the long run. It fails to teach financial responsibility and as most actually want to be independent will end up damaging their self esteem. The best solution is to support them re-structuring their debts thus giving them life skills. It is inadvisable for parents to co-sign credit cards, leases or other loans. If your child misses payments,your credit rating could be damaged. Make a formal contract with them if you need to.

Don’t sacrifice your own financial future. Decide how much you want and can afford to help. Some parents provide more financial support than they can actually afford. One executive I deal with who was the guarantor on her young  adult’s rental agreement found that her son had defaulted on his payment for 6 months. It was Mum and Dad who scrambled around to find the cash, cutting into the pension fund to prevent legal action. Young adults have many years to build their financial security, while you may be only a few years away from your retirement date. Ironically, if you are not careful, you could end up depending on your children for help in your old age.

Home does not = hotel: Insist on responsibilities, which may include paying rent and/or payment in kind, such as taking on household chores. This can often be negotiated. One method is to ask the returning child what he or she believes would be reasonable rent. This is also the area, when not clearly laid out, that can result in the most misunderstandings, as adult children return to old habits of expecting to be taken care of.  If the returning adult is old enough to stay out late, drive a car ( possibly yours) and have adult relationships – they are old enough to take out the trash and cook dinner.

Set out guidelines: covering curfews ( I  am no stranger to the young adult clock and trust me,  it’s not like mine!  ) visitors ( ditto – or like me you may find kids in your kitchen having breakfast at 3 in the afternoon ), smoking  (it is perfectly acceptable to have a house rule ) vehicle usage. Another professional runs a tight ship in the office and was frustrated because her graduate sat in front of the TV all day and refused to do tasks that he considered demeaning ( cutting the grass or washing the car). Mum however did this when she got in from a 10 hour day in the office.

Agree a schedule:  one young grad I recently coached started his day at 0930 and  seriously,  was genuinely taken aback when I expressed surprise at  what  looked very much to me like a lie-in. After coffee, his day kicked off at 1000.   This is not the real world. They need to be up, dressed and good to go in job searching mode for 0900. Looking for a job is their job. It’s about self-discipline and structure. Not only  does it help with getting a job,  but structure and action do reduce anxiety. This is  all hard to monitor if parents work, but a goal I urge entry-level coachees to strive for.

Encourage goal setting: encourage the grad to set him or herself realistic and achievable goals (remember all those SMART/SOLVE workshops you attended as a manager) . Recognise achievements without being indulgent.  They are not in kindergarten. Getting out of bed and making coffee does not count!   Encourage physical exercise , volunteering,  plus social and professional networking.  Gen Y are light years ahead of us in technology, but are sometimes reluctant and inexperienced when it comes to physical actual networking.

Set a deadline: Kids should not be given an open-ended invitation to move back home. A deadline is important; it enables you and your child to measure the progress he/she is making towards becoming independent. If your boomerang kid has a job, perhaps the deadline could be based on a date: After X number of months, he or she will have saved enough to meet X, Y, and Z financial goals and then can move out. If your child is unemployed, perhaps the deadline is based on finding a job or paying off a certain percentage of debt.

Charge rent: Even a nominal amount is advised by the experts, so the young adult feels he or she is contributing something. It’s a good idea to write up a rental agreement and stick to the payments on a regular basis. Whether you do this on a scientific basis of a percentage of actual bills or on a felt fair basis is up to you, or simply operate a barter economy. Chores for cash.

If your Boomerang Kids are unemployed over a  long period without success in their job search, then seeking professional support is a must. Most countries operate programmes for young people  within the community. If they are graduates  they may still may be eligible for support from their alma mater colleges.

With all these strategies firmly in place, the executives should then be able to get on with their own lives… right? .

Watch this space!

Facts Talk!

Last week I posted a blog about dealing with negative thinking. Surprisingly, two words prompted more response and questions than any other part of that piece. Facts talk. What did I mean? My response was met with disbelief!
 
Facts get us out of our comfort zones.
 
FEAR
 
 A commonly used acronym for FEAR is: False Expectations Appearing Real. I first saw that phrase in the early 90s, but ironically, I have actually seen it twice in the last week alone in blogs written by Lolly Daskal  and Conrad Palmer. It’s worth repeating.

When we feel any sort of pressure or stress, we all have a tendency to lose sight of things as they really are. This is no “holier than thou ” stuff, so don’t think I’ve got it all sorted . You are reading someone who has begged for air-rescue from a bunny ski slope! Essentially we become fearful (full of fear).

Back in the cave

When we all lived in caves that sensation very conveniently kicked in to make us more alert for any potential “attacks”. To protect ourselves against lions, tigers and bears our bodies are hard- wired to educate us to anticipate risk ( things that may or may not happen). So adrenalin kicks in and we shift into fight or flight mode, activated by the best kind of stress – motivation, energy, whatever you want to call it, the upward part of the curve. Now this good feeling switches to anxiety, when at a basic level we “fear” that we don’t have the resources ( physical or psychological) to cope with perceived threats to our security and well being. We believe rightly or wrongly, that ultimately we might fail. Good stress therefore becomes bad stress (de-motivation). When lions, tigers and bears are involved, one could reasonably be forgiven for preparing for a gory death, a horrific maiming, or perhaps a long hard run for it.

Clearly now in our more evolved state, that is less likely to happen. However, our primal response facilities are still in place. Nobody told our DNA that. These fears are activated by more subtle circumstances: the unknown, rejection, or people discovering who we are, with all our weaknesses and flaws and that we will be deemed unworthy. For most of us, being full of fear is not the greatest sensation ( racing pulse, churning stomach, sweating, high pitched voice) The best way to avoid feeling out of breath, nauseous, sweaty and sounding squeaky, is simply to avoid fear inducing situations. Makes sense right? This means that we withdraw into a nice safe place when we feel fearful. Or we don’t act at all. This means we stay in our nice safe place to prevent feeling fearful. In my case the hotel lounge!

What makes you anxious?

We all have different things that make us anxious ( our weaknesses, actual or perceived ), so it is impossible to make sweeping statements in any generic fashion. But happily that too enables us to escape discovery. Someone might skydive with impunity, but worry about writing a mission statement. An engineer might deal with complex technical problems, but feel nervous about interviews. A graphic designer might make brilliant lay outs, but have no idea how to write a CV. Who would have thought? Exactly! No one. We’re free and clear plus totally undiscovered. But wait…

Guilt

At the same basic level we know that we should be out doing the things that make us breathless, sick and sticky, ( aka guilt). We have bills to pay, expectations to meet and our partners or friends are asking probing questions, so we have strategies in place to convince ourselves and “others” to create smoke screens. A computer is great for “busy-ness” and not doing anything. We tell ourselves that it is simply events or circumstances that are conspiring against us. Today, more than ever we are able to pass on our individual responsibility ( blame) to something amorphous and unaccountable. The recession.

But sometimes “others” don’t buy into what we’re saying , because they have “other” fears and somewhat inconsiderately, they feel perfectly comfortable with the job search process. Then we start making excuses. I could fill a whole page with the reasons I have invented not to ski so I wouldn’t look “less than” or disappoint people who were important to me. Some of them were very creative. So in the words of Peter Williams Unworthiness is the foundation of the comfort zone” .

Facts provide messages

Finally we’re here. This is where facts talk. Facts are a big step. They get fear and guilt out into the open. You can then see that although everything is not perfect (nothing is ever perfect) , but they can be perfectly manageable. Facts provide messages. Messages lead to thought. Written thoughts leads to actions. Actions lead to solutions.

 When looking for a job everyone should keep a job search log/progress sheet whatever you want to call it. Doesn’t matter. You can make one yourself or use an online tool such as Jibberjobber (http://www.jibberjobber.com/) Keep an accurate record of all the positions applied for and each stage of the process with dates: position, company, contact, date CV sent, method ( direct, on-line), response( telephone interview, direct interview etc) feedback. Most people, when asked, have no idea how many jobs they’ve applied for. Most people claim that they spend 6-10 hours a day looking for jobs. I can usually tell by the results, how engaged they are. It’s quite often less than 6 -10 hours. If they need to network and only have 10 LinkedIn connections – I know they’re not putting in the hard yards and so do they. More guilt. Having all that information laid out in factual form enables you to easily track all the detail relating to your job search and time management. Even not having feedback sends you a useable message.

Facts and job search- be brutal

So, if you are sending off CVs (more than 10- 15 depending on level, function, geographic location) with no response at all, what is that telling you? You need to play around with the CV, change something and monitor that result. Change it again if that doesn’t work. If you get no further than a telephone screening – could it be that your telephone interview techniques needs some work? Same if you fall at the interview stage. If you can’t find any jobs to apply for ( and there are still some jobs, they are just not advertised as openly) then perhaps you need to expand your network or online presence. But unless you can see it written down you will convince yourself that you are active on the job market, when really, although you’re in front of your computer, perhaps spending more time reading something of personal interest (sports results, celeb gossip, international affairs) than researching openings. So track your time too – keep a time management log. Be brutally honest. Are you really engaged as much as you say, or just fooling around on Facebook or Twitter? Facts talk.

If you are struggling with any parts of the process over an extended period, please look at seeking support from friends, family, your network or a professional. You are your best asset – it’s an investment in your future. If you don’t act, you won’t fail, but you won’t succeed either.

Remember .. as Audrey Hepburn suggested, the letters in impossible also write I’m possible!