Sunday, 16 October 2011

Quoted in the Huffington Post - October 2011

Overcoming Work Mistakes: Learn How to Speak Up And Move On

It's like something out of a bad dream.
You're in the middle of a typical day at the office, feeling like your usual confident, competent self. And than, bam! It's like ice water down your back. You realize you've made a mistake -- a big one. You accidentally sent a sensitive email to someone you shouldn't have. You totally forgot about a lunch with an important shareholder. You misspelled a valuable client's name in a press release. You messed up -- big time. Now what?
Your first instinct (after hyperventilating) may be to hide under your desk. But is there a way to face your big boo-boo and come out of it looking good -- or at least with your job intact?
Toronto-based Human Resources Consultant Sari Friedman says it's better to own up to your mistake as soon as you realize you've made it.
“Otherwise it will come back and haunt you,” she says. “Owning up to a mistake gives you the chance to speak to it before someone puts you on the spot.”
It may be scary, but admitting you made a mistake can actually show strength of character, says Toronto psychotherapist Kimberly Moffit. On the other hand, covering up your error or laying blame on others can make you look bad.
“The ability to admit that you've made a mistake shows not only character, but also confidence because you're not afraid of how you'll look,” she says. “In contrast, making excuses comes across as shallow and insecure, as if you're trying to cover up your personal weaknesses.”
Christian Codrington is senior manager at the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association and he acknowledges telling your supervisor you've messed up is easier said than done, especially if you have an arrogant or difficult boss. But if you fess up with a plan, your blunder can demonstrate your ability to handle adversity.
“We're all going to make mistakes, but the mark of the valued employee is how they recover from their mistake and what they say they learned from it,” he says. “It's really good if someone can come with a solution. It doesn't necessarily mean you will go out and do the solution, but you can say, "This is what I'd like to do, but I wanted to check with you first."”
If you made a mistake that's likely to tick off an important client, fixing it might mean apologizing to the offended party and sending flowers or a fruit basket. Though you might be tempted to keep things hush-hush and do all that yourself, Friedman says your boss could actually help you figure out the best way to fix things, as opposed to making things worse.
“Your boss might be able to say, "I know this client, they would rather not have the ass-kissing, let's just let it go and not send them a basket,"” she says. “Or they could say, "I know Murray, he's going to want a pair of gold hockey tickets.""
As well, your mistake might help your boss discover areas in which your company needs to improve.
“Sometimes the company may need to say, "We need to pull up our bootstraps,"" says Friedman. “"If this employee has forgotten about a meeting, we need to upgrade our Outlook or everyone needs a BlackBerry." They get that chance to make sure this doesn't happen in the future.”
One thing not to do? Don't apologize by email, just to avoid getting yelled at.
“I'd be really careful about how you do it,” says Codrington. “If you normally speak to someone in person and then you try to patch up your mistake through email, it looks like you're embarrassed and ashamed.”
Friedman also warns against email apologies. “Don't use email for emotional things, because email can't convey emotions well,” she says. “You want to have a dialogue.”
Beyond the effect it has on your career, making a big mistake at work can be personally demoralizing and upsetting. Moffit says that it's important to give yourself a break and recognize that everyone makes mistakes. As well, you can do proactive things to ensure it doesn't happen again.
“If your schedule is too packed and your levels of stress are too high -- causing you to make more mistakes -- then sit down with yourself, a friend or a therapist to create a healthier schedule that includes downtime for yourself,” she says. “This way you can feel confident moving into the future knowing that you're doing your best to prevent future mistakes.”
As well, Moffit recommends a lunchtime or after-work chat session with a trusted friend or colleague to help alleviate some of your feelings of guilt or embarrassment.
“Most of all, having somebody to confide in or share work horror stories with will help you feel supported and not alone.”

Quoted in the Globe and Mail - September 2011

Temp staffing agency seeks better feedback on workers’ performance
bryan borzykowski
Special to Globe and Mail Update
Published Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2011 6:00AM EDT
Last updated Thursday, Sep. 29, 2011 9:04AM EDT
Every week, we will seek out expert advice to help a small or medium-sized company overcome a key issue it is facing in its business.
When hospitals are short-staffed, Tanya Sarakinis helps to fill in the gaps through her temporary staffing agency for health-care workers.
But as her business has grown, to an expected $2.5-million in revenues this year, she’s found it tougher to make sure her placements are delivering quality care.
The founder and chief executive officer of Burlington, Ont.-based Emerg-Plus Healthcare Consulting Group has contracts with half a dozen hospitals in southern Ontario, 30-plus full-time staff, and about 400 temporary workers, mostly nurses, on her roster.
She has just signed contracts with another half-dozen hospitals.
But as the number of placements grow, Ms. Sarakinis says she is having increasing trouble staying on top of her work force’s performance.
“We’re sending people to multiple sites, and I don’t have direct supervision over them,” she says. “You’re relying on the hospital’s staff to forward any problems.”
Ms. Sarakinis has been placing workers for about a decade. For the first few years, she took a “no news is good news” attitude.
But that approach has stopped working.
She’s only found out a nurse’s performance wasn’t up to snuff when she’s tried to send the person back for another placement, and been rebuffed.
She has asked hospital managers to send complaints to her 48 hours after a placement ends. But she’s finding they aren’t writing back, and occasional problems still persist.
“It’s small stuff that, if I was right there, I could catch.”
The Challenge: How can Emerg-Plus’s boss better monitor quality assurance?
Barry Levine, principal at Toronto-based RSM Richter
There’s no feedback loop. She needs to create an automated e-mail or survey tool that goes out to the manager to follow up after a placement is completed.
It shouldn’t be obtrusive and it’s something that should only take a few minutes. Keep the questions short, use ranking check boxes [and] it has to be automated.
Let the managers know that the objective is to improve the quality. Tell them, if they want their needs met, there needs to be a feedback loop.
Toronto-based human resources consultant Sari Friedman
She has to set up a performance-based culture, which isn’t always intuitive in the medical field.
She should set up performance criteria for her workers and say, in order to represent this company, you need to be knowledgeable and exhibit good judgment skills in these areas. You can do a test using Survey Monkey or any other online survey tool. Her top-tier nurses will get better placements.
Once they complete a placement, her staff should fill out a form that talks about what their expectations were and what they did at the hospital. If it didn’t meet or exceed expectations, ask them why. It makes them more thoughtful about their own performance.
Kevin Gill, president of Winnipeg-based temp agency, Staffmax Staffing & Recruiting
First and foremost, she must adhere to and document service calls.
Do a first-day-arrival check, where she calls to make sure the person showed up. Then there should be a second-day skills and fit check to make sure that person is a good fit. Then do a weekly service call on a scheduled basis to make sure there are no issues.
It’s not good enough to just check off that it’s been done. Document each detail in the client’s profile. Try to follow up with the person the nurse is reporting directly to, to eliminate any lapse in communication.
We use staffing software like Bullhorn to keep track of everything. You input these calls into the system, and then you can see how each nurse’s performance has been and what specific hospitals had to say about staff.
Create a survey for clients
Instead of asking clients to report an issue, send out a quick survey immediately after a placement. Use check boxes and multiple choice to make the process less time-consuming.
Reward performance
Create a performance-based culture, where better-performing nurses get better shifts.
Remove layers
Follow up with the person the placement directly reports to, rather than waiting for a more senior manager to respond.
Special to The Globe and Mail

Quoted in Chatelaine - November 2010

Is having a personal assistant helpful or stressful?
Rebecca Eckler Thu Nov 04 2010
How is it that someone who is supposed to help me fix my life is ADDING stress to it?
I now finally have an assistant. Whoo-hoo! You’d think it has made my life easier, but, as I’ve said, it’s stressing me out!
For years family and friends, who have seen me stressed beyond belief, have asked why I haven’t hired an assistant. I’m stressed, mostly, not only because of the workload, which is manageable, but mostly because I am so super disorganized.
I thought by hiring an assistant, who I share with another writer, my life would become less stressful, maybe even stress-free!
Only I could possibly become MORE stressed now that I have an assistant. This is because I’m not good at asking people to do things. I’m the hardest worker, but I’m a bad boss. (I always think I can do a better job! Not one of my best qualities, and it's not true!) It’s hard for me to trust someone else too.
I met “my assistant” (love saying that!) to discuss my needs. She seemed on top of things and told me numerous times, “I’m here to organize your life.” She seemed trustworthy, although I did think of asking her to sign a confidentiality agreement. I worried she’d start telling people what I asked her to do, or tell people how I live/eat/what shampoo I use.
But when I actually found myself face-to-face with her, and had to ASK what I needed done, I felt GUILTY. I know she’s “my assistant” (love saying that!) but I couldn’t help but think, “Why am I asking her to call people, when I just could pick up the phone?” And, “Why am I asking her to RSVP for me, when I can easily do that?” And, “Why am I asking her to do research, when I can easily Google search?”
Right! I had to remind myself that well, yes, I CAN do those things, the reason I need an assistant is because I don’t have time to DO all those things. (read my previous post on my Inbox overload!)
There are so many who now work at home, starting businesses, and have to work hard, because they are their own bosses. Many DO need an assistant, because they end up working 18 hours a day. When you are relying on yourself for an income, you have to work it baby, work it.
But my new assistant was adding stress too, because after I hired her, I didn’t know whether the next day I should call her to add on a few more things to the list, because I didn’t want to BOTHER her, even though I’m paying her. Argh.
For all those thinking of getting an assistant (and remember, some will work for cheap if you work in a business they want to learn about) here are some tips, thanks to the awesome Sari Friedman, a Human Resources Consultant and Career Coach in Toronto. If you are in need of Sari's help you can reach her here.

1. Sari reminds me that I have a nanny and how awkward that was at the beginning. It’s true. I felt guilty asking my nanny to do things, but now, two years later, my nanny has my car keys in her hands, before I can scream out, “Where are my keys?” She knows me better than I know myself. She also knows how to read my daughter’s moods. Remember, it takes time to get comfortable with someone new.
2. She suggests starting slowly. Ask your assistant to do things that you know aren’t super important at first and then add more responsibility once you see they are capable. Again, baby steps.
3. She reminds me assistants actually DO want to work. They don’t want to sit on their behinds all day, because that is boring. Remind yourself of that!
4. It’s best to let them know exactly what you expect at the beginning. Because in six months, you don’t want to have to say, “You haven’t been doing…” Then it becomes an issue.
5. You can’t feel guilty. You are paying them to do a job. So STOP FEELING GUILTY!
6. I shouldn’t worry that she’s going to talk about me. Most assistants do understand that they’ll know things about clients that are privileged.
7. Remind yourself that they are there to make your life easier and that they WANT to make your life easier. They, too, take pride in their jobs.
(Just now, I got an e-mail from my assistant saying, "Oh, no! You shouldn't be so flustered! I'll come tomorrow!" So she really does want to help! Sigh of relief!)

Quoted in Today's Parent article - October 2011

The working parents' guide to dealing with sick kids
Struggling to balance the demands of a job and an ill child? Here’s some advice

By: Allison Young
Rebecca Avis-Forsythe winces, recalling the time she sent her three-year-old son to daycare knowing he had thrown up in the night. “Everyone who usually helps me out was busy,” confesses the mother of two from Peterborough, Ont. Out of sick days herself, Avis-Forsythe, an account representative, couldn’t afford to play hooky; neither could her husband, a chef.
Erin Devarennes has been there too. The project manager and mom of two from Moncton, NB, admits that she gave Advil to her feverish daughter so she could send her to daycare long enough to make an important work meeting. “It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it reduced my stress level at the time.”
A child’s surprise illness can push a working parent to the point of panic (“She can’t go to daycare, I’ve got a jam-packed calendar that I can’t rearrange — so now what?”). To help you pull through your kid’s next sick day without neglecting work or parenting responsibilities, we’ve gathered advice from career experts and veteran parents:
Know your rights
Depending on where you live, provincial law may provide you with a specific number of unpaid days to care for your child through a non-life-threatening illness. “What it’s really doing is protecting your job and not making parents have an untenable choice,” says Jody Heymann, founding director of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University in Montreal. “Unpaid leave is very low-cost to employers.” Heymann urges parents to discuss their child care needs with elected provincial representatives and encourages employers who offer paid sick days to allow parents to use them for themselves or their kids.
Get your boss’s OK
Knowing your employer’s policies before you get a midday pickup call from school is a must — something Cheryl Fraser learned the hard way. Let go from her last job after she announced her pregnancy, Fraser recalls, “A single female VP said to me, when she found out, ‘I don’t do kids — I have a dog.’” Needless to say, the next time around Fraser, a trend forecaster and mother of two living in Stouffville, Ont., will ask up front about potentially working from home if her children are ill.
Which may make you wonder: When is the best time to broach the subject? Experts are divided. Sari Friedman, a human resources consultant and career coach in Toronto, feels strongly that if having flexibility to deal with unexpected family responsibilities is at the top of your job-requirements list, then you can certainly bring it up during the interview process. “But then you shouldn’t also ask about getting an extra week of vacation,” she adds. However, Anne Charette Tyler, president of The Burke Group, a human resources specialist in St. Catharines, Ont., recommends saving the subject until after you have a job offer and are negotiating salary and benefits.
If you’re already in a job and unsure of where your boss and company policy stand on sick days, schedule a chat before your child gets sick. You may be pleasantly surprised. For Sheryl Steinberg, a mom of two from Toronto and director of corporate affairs for a wireless company, staying home with a sick child has never made waves at work. A lot of her peers have kids and have been in the same boat. “No one abuses the practice, so it’s not a big deal; we just tote our smartphones and laptops, and work from home,” she says.
Get child care that works
Not all jobs are family-friendly. If you’re a teacher, doctor or pilot, flex hours are out. And if you’re a lawyer, try telling a judge you missed court because your kid had the flu.
When your career isn’t flexible, your child care has to be. That’s why Bliss Prema chose a home-based caregiver who’s “totally OK with runny noses or a cough.” The Victoria mom practises Indian massage out of her home, and needs quiet during appointments, so having her two-year-old home sick is not an option. Of course, she doesn’t hesitate to cancel on clients when her daughter needs her.
When both parents work and balance demanding schedules, a sick child can throw the marriage into meltdown mode. Carmen, a Toronto mother of two (who asked that we not use her last name), knows this first-hand. “Our child had a fever of 104˚F, was hallucinating and throwing up, and there we were arguing about who could spare two hours to take our sick child to the doctor’s,” she admits. The solution: They hired a live-in nanny, and the fighting stopped.
Sick of the sick day cycle, Patti and Terry Fitzgerald, parents of four from Peterborough, Ont., decided to do something radical: Terry quit his job as a shift manager to stay home when the kids were young. “Yes, we could have called family, but the hard thing is you want to be at home with your sick child,” says Patti. “When they’re really sick, no one else will do.”
See the upside of sick days
A lot of parents get frantic when their child is sick, but the right perspective can make all the difference. Instead of seeing it as an inconvenience, look at it as an opportunity to re-bond and reboot. A day of storytime, chicken soup and snuggling could be just what the doctor ordered — for both of you.
4 signs that a sick day might be unnecessary
A study published in the US journal Pediatrics found that 57 percent of “sick” kids had been sent home unnecessarily. Here are four facts to help you head off avoidable sick days:
1. Vomiting doesn’t always signal sickness. “We’ve had children who vomited when they were upset,” says Tanis Sawtell of Sunset Daycare in Vancouver. Ask your caregiver
to look for other symptoms, such as fever.
2. Allergies can come across as a cold. If your child has hay fever, give daycare the 411 in advance, including a list of specific symptoms (such as watery eyes, drippy nose).
3. Your kid’s rash may not be catchable. Get
a doctor’s note confirming it isn’t contagious.
4. If too much juice or certain foods give your child diarrhea, let your daycare know about those triggers in advance.
Backup plans that work
Your child is going to get sick — that’s a given. But if you have a plan, you won’t be forced to make frantic decisions.
Know your daycare’s sick policy
Patti Fitzgerald of Peterborough, Ont., had a rude awakening when she tried to drop off her on-the-mend son. The mother of four was told he had to be on antibiotics for at least 24 hours before returning to daycare.
“I went back to my car and cried,” Fitzgerald recalls. Take the time to read your caregiver’s parent manual and, if anything’s unclear, discuss in advance to avoid surprises.
Cultivate emergency caregivers
“It can be a disaster when you don’t have backup child care,” warns Wendy Sachs, author of How She Really Does It. Having extended family and trustworthy friends nearby will put you and your child at ease.
However, many parents feel uncomfortable asking for favours. “In a pinch, I call my after-school babysitter to come to the house earlier,” says Erin Devarennes, a mother of two from Moncton, NB. Other crunch-time care options include college students with flexible schedules, on-call nanny services or sick-child daycare centres staffed by health pros. Keep in mind, the price tag can be hefty and the lack of familiarity may turn off your kid.
Tag team
Try splitting the day so that one parent stays home in the morning and the other in the afternoon. “The kid is home with a parent all day long, and you’ll be able to put out any work fires,” says Leigh Oshirak, co-author of Balance Is a Crock, Sleep Is for the Weak: An Indispensable Guide to Surviving Working Motherhood.
When all else fails
If you do need to stay home to care for a sick child, tell your boss promptly and professionally. “Your employer doesn’t need to hear about the green boogers or other gory details,” warns Amy Eschliman, co-author of Balance Is a Crock. “Just tell them the facts and how you plan to cover the work.”
Is your kid really sick?
Your tween starts the morning with “Mom, I don’t feel good.” Is he legitimately sick or faking it? Ask yourself these five questions to spot a Ferris Bueller ploy:
1. Is there a test today? He could be bluffing to blow it off.
2. Do the symptoms make sense? A runny noise paired with stomach ache doesn’t add up.
3. Is he eating? A healthy appetite could be a faking-it red flag.
4. Is the headache here one minute and gone the next? Bogus symptoms tend to lack staying power.
5. How quick is the recovery? Be suspicious if 10 minutes later he’s in his room blasting music or playing PS3.
Originally published in Today's Parent, October 2011