Subscriber Services

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Handling job stress

Did you just snap at your co-worker? Must be job stress. Leadership trainer Linda O'Connor says job stress surfaces first in our emotions, then as physical symptoms. Coaches try to help leaders figure out their individual signs of stress.
There is a correlation between job stress, how much you work, and your health. Check out these grim statistics: People who work more than 50 hours a week are nearly 30 percent more likely to report having high blood pressure than people who work less than full time, according to the survey of 24,000 working Californians.
Baker said the health problems associated with long workdays can also be attributed to the byproducts of working overtime -- less sleep, less exercise and more trips to the vending machines.
Women who work long hours and suffer job stress particularly are at risk. Only 13 percent of women think heart disease is a threat to their health, a statistic the Sister to Sister: Everyone Has A Heart Foundation is trying to change as it reaches out to female executives at a breakfast in Miami on Friday. The breakfast will be at Ola Steakhouse at Merrick Park in Coral Gables at 8 a.m. For women who would like to get their companies involved, the National Women's Heart Day Health Fair is Feb. 17 at the Radisson in downtown Miami. For more information go to
Here are tips from Miami fitness guru Matt Pack of Impack Total Fitness and leadership coach Linda O'Connor of Farifax, Va. for managing stress:
* Take a deep breath or two when you're anxious.
* Set a reminder on your computer to stretch throughout the workday.
* Take a break from multi-tasking. Do a common activity slowly with focused attention.
* Stay positive and say, ``I can deal with this.''
* Make a conscious decision not to stress over something you can't make different.
* Aim for eight hours of sleep a night.
* Identify the feelings that signal an oncoming "stressed" condition and then develop methods to deal with these emotions

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stress and an untimely death

The business community was shocked last week when Deborah Natansohn suffered at fatal heart attack at the young age of 54. Natansohn was fun- loving, vivacious and a hard worker. She broke the glass ceiling as the first female CEO of a cruise line, Seabourn Cruise Line. But the high profile job and her rise up the ranks, came with stress, lots of pressure and a hectic lifestyle that required travel. Her death caused others think about the stress in their lifes and how they handle it. I thought about Deborah when I exercised this morning. No more excuses!
Harris just released its nationwide survey adults of about 2,400 adults and found 14 different "hassles" which tend to be associated with stress: money (rising prices, 74%; concerns about money for emergencies, 53% and not having enough money for basic necessities, 36%); having too many things to do (56%); having trouble sleeping (53%); concerns about health (43%); and the illness of a family member (36%).
Many, but fewer, people say they experienced having too much information to process at any one time (33%), feeling lonely (29%) or problems at work (24%).
Miami life coach Pat Morgan says people who put in long hours at work tend to neglect themselves. She suggests putting yourself on your priority list. Here are Pat Morgan's suggestions.You can e-mail her at or visit her website at
1. Claim responsibility for yourself – it’s your life(Blaming others or outside circumstances and expecting others to make you happy only serves to make you feel powerless)
2. Un-busy yourself (Busy may make you feel more productive, important or popular, but an endlessly full schedule can be exhausting)
3. Make self-care enjoyable (Build activities into your day that you enjoy and look forward to.)
4. Say yes to yourself (Try simply saying no to someone else once in a while)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A look inside IBM

I caught up today with Randall MacDonald, vice president of Human Resources for IBM, on a visit to Miami (probably to escape frigid weather up north. It's interesting how so many mucky mucks from cold places find reasons to visit South Florida in the fall and winter months).
Anyway, Randall was on a tight schedule. He was heading out to hold town hall meetings with IBMers in Miami. But we chatted a bit about his take on the big HR issues. It seems IBM is concerned about its future workforce. Fewer people are studying math and science, engineering and technology. This reflects badly on IBM's prospects for future employes and future customers.
Randall says his company noticed the Hispanic community is growing more than other populations. But the graduation rate is lower in the Hispanic population. So, IBM wants to influence Hispanics to graduate and particularly to study math and science. The company has set up some programs to do so. Randall says IBM also is encouraging its retirees to become high school math and science teachers. Pretty interesting.
Along with the Hispanic issue, here are some hotpoints Randall plans to bring up at his town hall meeting with employees (These are issues he also discusses around the world, recently in Asia and Western Europe): Women leaving the workforce for childcare and eldercare reasons; leadership and how to get more workers interested; career management and who should be resonsible for it, workers or their supervisors.
I asked Randall how IBM's efforts to promote work/life balance were faring. His response surprised me: telecommuting is not going all that well. He feels it has affected communication and teamwork.
"Flexibility is not as successful as it is deemed to be. People love to work at home but they feel very alone,'' he said.
Randall thinks young people and their emphasis on technology are realizing they are missing out by not having face to face interactions. I don't really agree. But I do agree that working from home can be isolating and carry risk, which is why I go to the office most of the time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Give your employees health insurance

What's wrong with you? You, the employer, need to wake up. More Americans are working for companies that don't offer health insurance plans, two reports released last week concluded. One report found even as the economy improved, fewer people have employee-sponsored insurance or are eligible for coverage. The report also confirmed what we already knew: people who are self-employed or work for small businesses are more likely to be uninsured than those that work for larger companies.
Don't you realize, health insurance is critical these days. Sure, it can be pricy. But don't be penny wise and dollar foolish. An employee who doesn't have health insurance will come to work sick, ignore warning signs and pass germs along. Or, he will get so sick, a small medical problem will turn into a larger one, forcing a leave of absence.
There are ways to offer affordable health insurance even if you are a small business. Industry associations, chambers of commerces and even some civic organizations offer access to group plans. Going without health insurance for yourself is risky. Denying your employee affordable health insurance is bad business.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fortune's Most Powerful Women in Business

Fortune Magazine has just released its 50 Most Powerful Women in Business list. The top seven position on the 2006 list are held by CEOs. Topping the list is Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo. She rose to CEO even though she never ran a line operation at Pepsi. Fortune says the list of brand-name companies with women chief executives is longer and more impressive than ever, after a year of stunning breakthroughs in corner-office hiring. Women hold top jobs at PepsiCo, Xerox, eBay, ADM, Kraft Foods, Sara Lee and Avon.
Included on the Fortune list are filled with rising stars, the young and powerful and those who are highly compensated. There also is an explanation of who fell off the list and why, including women like Karen Katen, who jumped after being passed over for CEO.

To see the list in its entirety, click here .

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

College students are smarter than us

Some call them lazy, but a new study shows college students volunteer at a rate that's grown sharply over the past few years. The growth rate is more than double that for all volunteers. About 30 percent of college students are volunteering, with tutoring and mentoring the most common activities.
What does this indicate? To me, it says college students have figured out how to take classes, study, party and still have time to volunteer. I bet they could teach us a thing or two about balance.
Here's another figure that wowed me: Students who work part-time (up to 15 hours per week) volunteer at higher rates than students who don't have jobs. The study realsed by the Corporation for National & community Service is revealing. It found students stuck to commitments to service that they made at the time of 9/11.
While we adults struggle with work/life balance, college students have found a way to do it all. Perhaps the rest of us should take lessons from them.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Marriage and work/life balance

This weekend, I had a million to-dos on my list. In between my daughter's girl scout activities, watching my son play basketball and getting an important package to the post office, I forgot about my husband. Actually, with all the volunteering, work and kid obligations, lately my husband has fallen to the bottom of my priority list. Partly, because after almost 20 years of marriage, I've taken for granted that he's always around. Last night, he reminded me that he deserves attention too. He's right. Whether or not you have children, balancing work, time for yourself, and marriage can be tough. It can be even harder when you work long hours trying to prove yourself on the job, or make extra money.
Not long ago, I wrote a column about balancing work and marriage. I consultant expert Joel Block who authored Making It Work When You Work A Lot. This morning, I took the book off my shelf and cracked it open again. For those who need it (me, of course), here are some of Block's tips:
* Don't count on your marriage being low maintanence.
* Create new common interests
* Don't forget to be polite -- kiss each other good night or good bye.
* Cut down on television and communicate with each other. Be in the moment and really listen to what your spouse is saying.
* Be positive. It is easier to increase positive behavior than it is to directly eliminate negative behavior
* Reach out and touch each other.
Block's book is filled with tips and toolkits. But his main message is focus on the bottom line: your spouse can be your biggest ally in work and life.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The art of the exit

Thinking about slipping out early from work? Don't. Get the results you need to for the day, and walk out with your head held high. At least that's what a business etiquette guru suggests. From what I've learned, the art of the exit requires mutual respect for the boss/employee relationship (respect for co-workers too!).
I interviewed about a dozen bosses for my Balancing Act column in the Miami Herald and all of them said they want their staff to either check in or wave goodbye at the day's end. And, if you need to leave early, manage expectations by letting your boss know in advance. I interviewed employees, too. Their issues were with bosses who bring up all kinds of new projects or issues to discuss as they attempt to exit the office.
I especially liked the feedback from reader Paula Musto, director of communications for Miami-Dade county. Musto has managed employees in the private and public sector for more than two decades. She writes: "It gets stressful in my county department at 7 p.m. when even the workaholics want to go home but we’re till dealing with the day’s issues. Her observations:
* The clock watchers tend not to be the truly productive employees. If you need to catch them on the way out the door, it’s because they are so hard to find at other times.
* It’s the long and miserable commutes and that are often the real culprit for end of the day tensions.
* Technology has driven the demand for immediate action. Says Musto: "I do ask my managers to check with me on their way out the door—no matter what time…it saves me from having to call them at home.''


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Networking for many reasons

I loved the scene in the movie Hitch where the lead man, tries to chat up his new love at a singles networking event. I have since learned that these events are catching on in the business world as a way to mix business with pleasure. I regularly receive e-mail about networking for social and business purposes from a company called Fast Pitch. This company's concept encourages up to 30 local professionals to take part in 15 one-on-one conversations during the 1 1/2 hour event. Each conversation lasts for 5 minutes. At the conclusion of the event, a Directory of Attendees gets handed out with the attendees' names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. I am wondering who goes to these events -- small business owners looking for customers or single professionals looking to find love? Maybe both? Let me hear your experiences. You can e-mail me at

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Stirring the pot

Are you worried about the rising cost of healthcare, paychecks not keeping up with the cost of living and not having retirement benefits? I am and a survey of about 25,000 working women shows you are worried too. Today, the AFL-CIO will host Stirring the Pot meetings across the country, giving women an outlet to do something about their concerns.
The movement is expected to be the largest, single-day, all-women voter mobilization with women in 48 states gathering for ‘Stirring the Pot’ events. The plan is to discuss economic concerns going into the mid-term elections and to urge women to vote on November 7.
This is not about politics. It's about working women having a say in issues that affect them. It's about women -- mothers, daughters, friends and co-workers -- letting politicians know we are getting squeezed between stagnant wages, failing policies, inflexible work schedules and poor publicly funded childcare. In Miami, Maritiza Reyes is hosting a Stirring the Pot event. Reyes says if she doesn't get active now, she'll regret it later. So many of us feel that way, but here's how Reyes is doing something about it: Reyes is hosting a small gathering of about 10 working women. Rather than have potluck, she's cooking dinner and all the women have to do is show up. Reyes says the women will play an ice breaker game, read articles and talk about current events. "Things are starting to concern us like social security, jobs, the future of our country and how they will affect our children,'' Reyes told me. She says working women get so busy they don't get informed about who they are voting for and why. (This is too true!) She wants to motivate the women she knows to become more active in their civic responsibilities. If successful, that's 10 more women who can make a difference. To learn more,

Monday, October 09, 2006

The jolting death of a mother

As a working mother, I make choices every day. So did Anna Politkovskaya. This weekend, her choices had a horrific result. The headlines around the world read, "Russian journalist and mother of two shot to death."
This was the first I had heard of Anna Politkovskaya. It shouldn't have been. Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist internationally acclaimed for her work exposing her government's human-rights abuses in Chechnya, was found shot to death Saturday inside an elevator at her Moscow apartment building. Politkovskaya's enemies had threatened her with death on numerous occasions and she claimed to have survived a poisoning attempt.
There's little doubt her death was connected with her writing. This 48-year-old mother of two knew her life was in danger on a regular basis. Her specialty was exposing the horror, corruption and chaos wroght on civilian victims of the first war in Chechnya from 1994 to 1996 and the one that followed from 2000 onwards. It has been called, "one of the most dangerous assignments anywhere." It also has been called one of the most important.
What must a mother of two be thinking when she goes to work every day believing in a cause but knowing her work carries a big risk that may take her away from her children -- forever. I don't think I could make the same choice she did. There's something about being a mother, that makes the life-death, work-family decision more difficult. I want to be around to influence my children for many years.
For Anna Politkovskaya, her choices were about more than having a career. I wonder if Politkovskaya ever spoke to her children about her choices, her purpose. I searched the world newspapers to find clues about her children and their reaction to their mother's murder. I learned Politkovskaya was divorced and both her daughter and son are in their early 20s.
I applaud Politkovskaya for understanding the power she held to evoke change as a newspaper reporter. And, while I'm sure her children are proud of their mother, I have to wonder how they feel about her choices. How will her death affect their lives? Most working mothers live with their choices. It's too bad for her children, that Politkovskaya died from hers.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Woman in Sports

Jill Strafaci says it was the sheer frustration(exhaustion) of long hours at her accounting firm that led to her becoming one of the few women in sports administration. Jill works as vice president of finance for the Miami Dolphins. I zipped out of my office yesterday with little notice to a luncheon where Strafaci encouraged about 100 women in Broward County to work hard and take risks. Jill is a mother and wife who has achieved success in a "traditionally" man's world. She says she has burned out on 80-hour work weeks and approached her client to let him know she was leaving her accounting firm. Her client, Mr. Robbie (then owner of the Miami Dolphins) hired her on the spot.
Jill shared her secret weapon for success in an almost entirely male workplace: she's a great golfer. She learned when she was young and played on her college team. Says Jill: "Golf taught me to play tough and work hard." It also gave her equal footing with men in the sports world. While balance is never easy to achieve, Jill says a bonus for her is that her young sons love coming to her office. "They think my career is really cool," she says. What I liked most about Jill is that she wants to mentor young women in sports administration. What's not to like about a woman like Jill!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mixed messages about telecommuting

Is it realistic to believe that more companies want to offer their employees telecommuting? In 2006 Working Mother 100 Best Companies the magazine says 99 percent offer telecommuting on a part-time basis (compared to 26% nationwide). Maybe there's a huge divide between the best, and all the rest.
Many workers I have interviewed say the high gas prices (and horrible South Florida traffic) have given them more interest in telecommuting, at least a few days a week. But some of them think face time is critical, particularly with office politics what they are today.
I just received an e-mail from International Data Corporation (IDC) that predicts that by 2009, the number of mobile workers in the United States will reach more than 70% of the total workforce. The company says it surveyed HR managers and a majority said it's likely that telecommuting will increase over the next two years. I disagree. Any increases in telecommuting will be insignificant. The fear factor plays a stronger role in our decision to telecommute than any corporate policy. Simply put: managers fear opening the door for staff to work from home and workers are afraid of what they'll miss if they aren't in the office.
Time will prove me right, or wrong!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Making money outside our workplace

Controversy is stirring in The Miami Herald newsroom this morning about the resignation of our publisher. It stems from activities over the last three weeks. It was reported in our paper that journalists at El Nuevo Herad, our Spanish language newspaper, were fired for taking money for appearing on Radio Marti. At the time, our publisher, Jesus Diaz, said their activities go against newspaper policy and the objectivity we stand for. They shouldn't have taken the money, he said. Those journalists were reinstated this morning and our publisher quit. The explanation: our policies weren't clear.
So many of us in different professions are involved in activities outside our workplace. We coach our kids' sports teams, teach Sunday school, maybe even run small dog walking businesses. Most businesses don't have policies about what outside activities we can be involved in. Should they? Should our boss care if we are a teacher and making money at night as a cocktail waitress? Journalism has standards about our outside involvement for good reason. We can and should be objective when reporting the news. But should these rules apply in other professions as well. How much control should an employer have over our outside lives or our other sources of income? I think an employer should be aware if we are making money from other activities. I would rather my employer know and give his approval than learn later and make an issue of it. What do you think?