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Water Cooler

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

News and Views

If your company can't support a full-fledged mentoring program, ask if they'll sponsor a scaled- down version. This is exactly what Goldsmith Consulting CEO Barton Goldsmith suggested when he proposed that companies create mentoring programs to help employees deal with "negative" people in their workforce (source Office Solutions, July 2004: volume 21, p. 46). Try a pilot program at your workplace, even if you have to start it yourself. Possible topics could include avoiding job obsolescence by creating a personal learning agenda, rising above a job plateau, and aligning your goals with your company's strategic plan. Go for it!

Beyond the glass ceiling, good news-- Research suggests that women's advancement in the government's senior executive service (SES) appears more real than contrived. Researcher Julie Dolan, assistant professor of political science at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, found that SES women rate themselves as more influential than their male counterparts and better at setting priorities for their organizations, giving advice to agency supervisors, and getting others to follow their recommendations. Though the study was done in 1996, Dolan said that similar gender-equal findings would be true today. More

How productive you are has a lot to do with your company's communication networks, says MIT Sloan School of Management professor and Center for eBusiness director Erik Brynjolfsson. Some of his recommendations for how companies can deal with information overload include learning what to ignore and what to pay attention to; developing intelligent, machine-based filters and automated decision makers (like airport ticket kiosks); distributing decision-making authority throughout the company rather than only at the top; and improving employees' decision-making skills through training, education, and better hiring practices. Read more

Weird but true: U.S. approves blood leeches for therapy. Blood-sucking leeches -- used for thousands of years in medicine -- now have the U.S. government's approval as a tool for healing skin grafts or restoring circulation. What does this have to do with mentoring yourself? Only this: don't immediately discount "primitive" solutions to modern-day problems. Sometimes there's gold in the old. More


Conflict is inevitable, but it doesn't have to ruin your workday or stress you out so much that it affects your health. (Under stress, your body releases cortisol. Excesses or deficiencies of this "stress hormone" can lead to various physical symptoms and disease states.) Check out physician Melissa C. Stoppler's 10 top conflict resolution tips and make your work environment less stressful, more productive. Read tips

Want to mentor your boss? Start by understanding him/her. Fast Company lists 10 questions you can use to figure out what makes your boss tick. Benefit: by understanding your boss, you improve your own work life. Go to 10 Questions

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.

About this selection: Sometimes we think we're too old or too invested in our career to change. This month's selection shows that any big change is possible--if you take it slowly. As the Chinese say, "The longest journey begins with a single step."

Just DOING It: One Step At a Time!

Chapter One in Mentor Me, talks about overcoming obstacles and our own resistance. I identified with that chapter in my own story. After nearly 20 years as a psychiatric nurse, I had hit the wall. I was bored, apathetic, and increasingly irritable-- "burned out." As I looked at the situation, I realized that my irritation was not at the patients or the job, but at myself. I needed to make a change, but I was afraid. I didn't know how to do anything else.

Ironically, the lessons I had tried to impart to my acting-out adolescent patients became my guides. Lesson 1 was that we are all responsible for our own behavior. No miracle was going to come along and rescue me from my fears. I was the only one who could make the needed changes. Lesson 2 was that great leaps can lead to great falls; in the psych world this called "self-defeating behaviors." I needed to take small, achievable steps if I truly wanted to succeed.

I was able to make use of my previous education to change my career from psychiatric nursing to reviewing psychiatric cases (psychiatric utilization review) for a health insurance company. In this job, I learned to use computer systems and thrived in a totally different and new environment. That first little step out of the hospital environment was actually the biggest, because I faced my fears and took control and responsibility for my happiness. The next job I obtained was a training position with a utilization review software company.

Each new position I took increased my confidence and was never, ever as scary as that first decisive step. Today I am a senior project analyst for a technical company working on a government healthcare project.

--Anne Glenn, Senior Project Analyst, EDS Corp., Herndon, VA

Editor's note: Anne is the mom of Julie Zielaskiewicz, whose "Making It Work" piece about finding a new job at her old company appeared in the March 2004 edition of WaterCooler. Let me be the first to say, "Cool--a Mentor Me mother-daughter team!"

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;