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Water Cooler

Information and insight about your career and the workplace at large
June 2004

News and Views

Working-class kids face obstacles in the white-collar workplace. Education brings these "Straddlers" into a larger world but also divides them from their parents and the people with whom they grew up. This disconnect begins early (in school, with depth and breadth of language) and continues into one's career -- "Straddlers" lack patience for office politics and have problems with networking. Read more

Most workers did not take enough time off during their last vacation, reports Amy Joyce. The average number of nights spent away from home was only four days in 2003, compared with 5.4 days in 1985 and more than a week 25 years ago. All that may change this summer. More

Create a signature life®, a life you're proud to sign your name to when the day is over just as the artist or clothing designer signs a finished piece of work. How? Follow Dianne Booher's principles for getting a life without sacrificing your career, so that you can do the things most important to you. Read more

Some companies have learned to listen to their front-line employees -- and have profited as a result. It's not easy to do -- many companies bypass the insights of its workers, and employeees aren't always willing to speak up. Not Joe Perrone of Fed-X, though. He shared a simple idea about adding a drop- off box to Fed-X mail trucks, took more than a year to develop the idea on his own but with the company's go-ahead, and then was later promoted several times (the idea was a hit). Not only did the company (and Perrone) profit, but they also created a culture of mutual respect and camaraderie. More


Information overload robs us of productivity and effectiveness. A no-cost, on-demand webinar (Managing Information Overload: Drinking from the Firehose, presented by Ken Braly, president of InfoMastery) takes a light but serious look at the problem and some strategies for dealing with it. The webinar is approximately 50 minutes long and will be available continuously for 24 hours (whenever you choose to view it) on 03-Jun-2004 to anyone who registers before that date. Register here

Make peace with time, says best-selling author Chin- Ning Chu, whose Chinese name means "making peace." Chin-Ning says that rather than trying to manage time, we must learn to manage ourselves in terms of how we utilize time. "Managing me is so much easier than managing time," she said in a Washington Post Interview, and points out that the Chinese word for busy is composed of two symbols: one for death, the other for heart. American society glorifies being overwhelmed with work, of always doing more rather than figuring out how to do less -- and, Chin-Ning says, deep down, we all die a little bit because of it. Source: Washington Post, October 27, 1998 (page D5). Link to her book here

Reclaim your evenings and weekends, even if you're a working mom, says Laura Stack in her new book, Leave the Office Earlier. Granted, getting out the door is a big challenge, but rethinking your priorities and sticking to your own rules will help you get to work on time and get home sooner. Read her advice

Are you promotable? Even if you've already assumed some senior responsibilities, which in today's economy tends to precede title changes, try adding these five things to your "to do" list if you're thinking about asking your boss for a promotion. 5 essential to-do's

Making It Work for You

Readers, this is your space—for tips on how you've solved a problem on the job, "gotten over" not tooting your own horn, or anything else related to being your own best advocate in the workplace. Send your "a-ha's" to and watch for your byline in a future issue.

Editorial comment: We tend to think we can't demonstrate some skill unless we're already an expert. This month's contribution from Beth Hand shows that by volunteering to do the thing we're not yet an expert in, we not only gain expertise but also visibility and recognition from those who can help us advance in our careers.

Just DO IT!

Early in my career in a very large organization, I decided that I wanted to improve my skill at leading groups and teams. Over several years, (and with my supervisor's approval) I volunteered as a trainer for the annual Ethics training, taught a few software courses, and as my competence increased, served as a facilitator to senior teams for group problem-solving. These opportunities gave me an abundance of desired experience. The bonuses? I got great visibility with senior leaders and colleagues who saw me in leadership roles, and I regularly received recognition from the top executive in our division for my contributions -- something that shone a favorable light on me and importantly, on my manager and his manager. I also gained insights into the organization that helped prepare me for a senior level position.

Not surprisingly, I was then called upon to help other leaders improve their team leadership and presentation skills -- something I love to do today, too, in my role as coach. It is amazing to look back and realize how my enjoyment of speaking to, training, or leading groups has its roots all in those voluntary, developmental experiences. (Yes, my heart still beats faster in front of a group of 300 than it does a group of 30 but I call that anticipation or excitement -- not stage fright.) My only wish? That I'd had Joanne's book Mentor Me so I could have gotten even more out of my experience as an employee!

--Beth Hand, Executive Coach, Hand Associates, Inc., Alexandria, VA

Coming Up

Workshops and Book Signings

Virginia Business Education Association Summer Conference , Reston, VA, August 3 - 5, 2004. Contact: Kathy Waldron, 703.219.2257;

Meet the Authors, International Women’s Writing Guild, New York, NY. October 17, 2004. Contact: Hannelore Hahn, 212.737.7536;