Conquering a Sick Day

By Dr. Farzanna HaffizullaDr Farzanna Haffizulla

It’s a crisp Monday morning; your agenda is interwoven with meetings, projects and the usual “catch-up,” from the week past. You awake with shaking chills and muscle pains that feel like you’re being pulsed by a million tiny lasers. Every time you swallow, your saliva feels like gasoline fueling an already rip roaring fire in your throat. You have too much to complete at your office, staying home is just not an option – or is it?  How do you know whether to stay or go? Though many often feel that they should fight through and go to work, there are many signs that indicate that you could be contagious; definitely a sign to stay home.

It is imperative to avoid spreading your infection and be evaluated for treatment to accelerate your recovery.  Signs that you are contagious, which should simplify your decision to not only stay home but to seek medical care to accelerate your recovery process, are as follows:

  • Fever

  • Persistent productive cough with fever

  • Outbreak of rash with or without fever

  • Red eyes with mucus discharge that seal your eyes shut in the morning

  • Severe sore throat

  • Muscle pains and achy joints with any of the above symptoms

  • Vomiting with or without diarrhea

  • High fever, stiff neck and headache

The spread of either a viral or bacterial infection can cause a negative trickle-down effect on the entire workplace. Realize that not only are your co-workers at risk from contracting your infection, but so are their families and loved ones, some of whom might have fragile immune systems such as the elderly and newborns.  Plus, it is unlikely that your coworkers will thank you when they contract the same cold or flu!  When your coworkers develop your illness, resulting in many other sick days across a department or office, productivity inevitably declines – many sick days could have been prevented by one or two!  There are many ways you can manage your workload while sick, especially if your coworkers or boss are willing to lend a hand and be flexible.  Some strategies that will allow for productivity during this “down” time include:

  • Work via remote computer. There are many projects in day-to-day office life that could be completed from your home computer while you are in your pajamas in bed! If you can link your office computer to your home desktop or laptop, you can tackle any computer-based projects you have lined up.  Another option is to have work scanned and sent to you for your home viewing and completion, allowing you to stay on top of your workload and recover at the same time.
  • Convert physical meetings to telephone or Skype consultations. Utilize technology to your advantage.  Most cell phones have the ability to add in multiple callers, allowing you to set up conference calls.  If you are supposed to call in to a conference line, have one of your coworkers send you the number and instructions.  Ask a coworker to set up an automatic, outgoing message with your “number for the day” and your Skype information. Not only will you impress your colleagues and clients with your innovation and dedication, but you show your consideration for not spreading your infection.
  • Take work home with you. This scenario works well if your symptoms start before the next work day.  Bring home that proposal that must be finished before the end of the week, and work on it in between naps.  Always prepare for the worst!
  • Arrange for coverage with a trusted colleague for these unplanned emergencies.  Along with letting your boss and other coworkers know that you will be at home, sick, arrange for a specific coworker to cover what they can of your workload.  Let them know of any pressing work or engagements, potential problems, or expected calls. This will allow a “physical” presence if one is needed in your line of work.
  • Utilize the time to work on “back-up work.”  This can be anything that needs to be done, but often falls by the wayside: expense reports, industry research or other tasks that you have pre-assigned yourself and have readily available. If you run your own business, this is a good day to review your budget, employee productivity and profit trends.

We cannot predict when an illness will punctuate our lives but we can certainly try to prevent such annoyances! The old adage “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” rings true here. There are many ways to protect your immune system and body against such infections, such as: diets high in Vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants that boost your immune system, avoiding sleep deprivation, smoking and alcohol, washing your hands regularly and encouraging your workplace to have hand sanitizers strategically placed for staff use, and taking time to de-stress.

You should also have regular medical checkups to screen for any underlying diseases that can compromise your immune system.  If you do find yourself sick and your primary care physician is not available at a moment’s notice to evaluate you, you have other options. You can either walk in to an urgent care center or have a telemedicine consult with a physician via web or phone.  There are also many walk in clinics at various pharmacies that can evaluate and treat you efficiently.

Many of us have experienced how a sick day can set you back. As professionals, parents and productive citizens, it works in our best interests to not only plan for these unforeseen sick days but incorporate prevention and maintenance of our wellness into our daily lifestyle. A healthy attitude and a positive spirit are also a basic foundation to achieving this art of health balance.  We are the architects of how we choose to deal with obstacles, such as sick days, that sometimes unpredictably insert themselves into our busy lives. Conquer them; don’t let them conquer you!

Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a speaker and expert in work/life balance. Her book, Harmony of the Spheres, offers methods to streamline workloads, solve interpersonal workplace issues and offers practical advice on integrating work and home life. In addition, she runs the website busymomMD.com, an informative site for modern, educated women juggling career and family.

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In Hiring, Beware the “Ace of Spades:” Why Personnel Selection is No Poker Game

By Patrick ValtinPatrick Valtin

John was a successful physical therapist. Pressured by the expansion of his practice, he decided to hire an office manager. Alice had the perfect resume – on paper, she was an “ace of diamonds.” She was hired the same day and started the next. What happened in the next 5 months unfortunately looked like a very bad end to “Casino Royale.” When John found out that Alice’s rough personality (undetected during the interview) was the major reason for his patients’ sudden lack of loyalty, he fired her. The next week she sued him for breach of “implied contract,” as her probationary period was over. Final resolution of the case was an award of $550,000 to Alice. John was forced to sell his practice in order to comply with the legal judgment.

There Are Four Aces in Hiring: It is not about playing cards, it is about picking people who will help you win – and won’t make you feel like you lost your last dollars playing poker. These Aces are your most important “hiring cards,” yet they are not equal in value. You must know exactly what you want to measure and in which sequence, in order to avoid John’s kind of experience.Your four aces of selection are, in the proper sequence:

Performance Mindset: This is your Ace of Diamonds. Detecting top players who are naturally high performers is your highest priority. The “number one” reason why you hire someone is to get the job done – no matter what it represents. Most business owners and hiring managers evaluate candidates with their heart rather than with their head. Emotions control the process.

When looking for the performance mindset, consider:

  • Does the applicant mention measurable results/achievements in his/her resume or job application?
  • How about references which clearly support his/her achievements?
  • Does the applicant provide practical, results-oriented examples of some past performance, rather than mostly action-oriented ones?
  • Does the applicant feel at ease with your results-oriented questions?

Willingness: This is your Ace of Hearts. Many call it “positive attitude.” Some people are naturally willing to work hard, to learn more and to do new things. Showing a positive attitude when problems arise can make the difference between hell and paradise in the working environment, especially when working in a team.

Willingness to learn accept heightened responsibility, and exceed expectations is so important! When asked why they usually fire employees, only 9% of business owners said “inability to do the job.” But 69% of them cited attitude-related reasons such as absenteeism and tardiness, bad attitude or work ethics. 22% mentioned other attitude-related reasons.

There are a few good detectors that can help you separate top players with high willingness and the right attitude:

  • When asked, the applicant can easily provide examples of situations on the job where he/she had to demonstrate a positive attitude in order to solve a problem or challenge.
  • When challenged during a simulation or role playing, the applicant shows evidence of willingness to respond and solve the problems.
  • The applicant can show evidence of willingness when he/she had to solve problems in order to help a group.

Know-How: This is your Ace of Clubs. You want to have competent employees who can at least master the basic technical skills as required on the job. In a 2010 national survey of employers, more than 70% of managers revealed that recently hired high school students proved to be deficient in basic academic skills, such as grammar, spelling and written communications.

The best and easiest way to measure an applicant’s practical, non-academic skills is to put the person to the test. Here are some important rules, no matter what the desired technical skills are:

  • Never trust academic or educational evidence of know-how found in the resume.
  • Never rely on an applicant’s previous experience to demonstrate technical know-how for your vacant position.
  • Test. Do not be afraid: right in the interview, put the applicant in a real (best) or simulated (second best) situation and observe his/her action – and reactions.

Personality: This is your Ace of Spades. You should measure personality last; not because it is the least important evaluation criterion but because if you let yourself be influenced by a “nice” personality, it could offer trouble, or destroy your business! The golden rule is: never trust what you see during the interview. Too many employers fail to detect the difference between temporary personality and the lasting one.

Why is personality your Ace of Spades? If you play cards you might know that the Ace of Spades is usually called the death card. Personality can be called your hiring “death card” for two good reasons. First, if you allow yourself to be influenced by an applicant’s temporary personality, chances are you will fail and hire the wrong people. Second, you definitely need to detect those vital job-related soft skills because you know this is what will determine success on the job.

Our experience has shown that the simplest and most effective approach in detecting job-related personality factors is the following:

  • When you develop your job description, make a full list of soft skills vital to the job.
  • Honesty being a crucial soft skill, you can start checking it through resumes/job applications and phone screenings. If you have doubts or reservation, challenge the applicant on any nebulous topic during the interview. Also use reference and background checks to confirm your doubts.
  • During the first interview, focus on the first three Aces. Ensure that you have prepared simulations or scenarios that challenge the applicant on each of these selection criteria.
  • Remember: people reveal themselves best when they are confronted with unprepared or unexpected situations. Challenge is the key word.

Ensure your hiring procedure focuses on “invisible” personality-related skills. Business is often a gamble, and the odds of success lean on your ability to judge the aces at your disposal.  Don’t trust the poker faces that present themselves in interviews; know your hand so you can guarantee that the house will win.

Patrick Valtin is the author of the “No-Fail Hiring” book and an international public speaker. He has evaluated over 22,000 applicants for the account of 5,000 customers in more than 30 countries. His No-Fail Hiring System has been used by thousands of small businesses of all kinds of industries. Patrick has trained 85,000 business owners and executives in the field of people management, personnel selection, Sales, business strategies, leadership and organization. To find out more about his speaking and training, visit http://patrickvaltin.com or call 877-831 2299.

The Trials and Triumphs of Telephone Support

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about customer service via the telephone, even more so than usual. There are some things that I am excited about, while others are a concern.

On the negative side, consider a large telecommunications company that provides cell phone, Internet, and long distance. Another is a large national banking institution. You know them both. They are notorious for their consistently abysmal record of poor customer service. If I were to name names, there’s a good chance that either you or someone you know has had a bad experience with them. Actually, saying “bad” would be kind. Uncaring, unconscionable, and unethical come to mind.

With these companies, it seems that once a problem occurs, there is a strong likelihood that it will never be resolved. This is not an overstatement. People have only so much patience, and then they give up. Excessive runaround, hours spent on hold, and limited energy to pursue a satisfactory resolution eventually overwhelm frustrated customers. Either they decide to accept the problem or they switch providers.

Although some of these companies’ frontline staff truly do care and try their best, others do not. Regardless, there seems to be cumbersome bureaucracy thwarting every move and complex support systems that make no allowances for nonroutine problems.

There is a real opportunity awaiting these two companies – and others like them – if they can just provide effective telephone support. With best-in-class phone support, I envision their cancelation rates dramatically decreasing, customer satisfaction levels skyrocketing, and a whole lot less negative press.

Maybe these companies are simply too big or offer too many services to be effective. Perhaps their help desks are mismanaged or bogged down by bureaucracy. But I suspect the underlying reason is that upper management treats support as an expense item that needs to be minimized. The reality is that providing good customer service is good business – but one that requires an investment to fully realize.

I recently experienced the trials and triumphs of phone support after my house took a minor lightning hit, affecting our phone, Internet, and TV service. I called my satellite provider and spoke with a woman named Beth in the Oklahoma call center. The first time I encountered a call center agent telling me her location, I thought it was a bit hokey and an overreaction to the backlash against offshore call centers. But it actually helped me establish a personal connection with her. In the same way, I was positively predisposed towards Beth from Oklahoma. While waiting for various diagnostics to run, we had time to chat about call center stuff, which I greatly enjoyed. A service call was soon scheduled for the next day, when the problem was quickly fixed and service restored.

However, 2 weeks out and I’m still waiting for my phone and Internet service to be repaired. Multiple phones calls, missed commitments, wrong instructions, and conflicting information: that’s no way to run a business.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

The Saga of a Telemarketing Failure

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Last year my local phone company changed. There was much to-do surrounding this news, arriving in the form of frequent mailed communications and email messages and spanning several months. Throughout this, the phone company repeatedly promised that there would be no rate increases — all that would change was their name. I’m still not sure if this was the result of new ownership or merely a rebranding effort. Of course, these missives also made hazy hints of new services, but withheld helpful details.

My first indication that something was amiss came with my first bill. Contrary to their repeated promises, their charges went up, almost doubling. When I called to complain, evoking their pledge, I was informed that my past bills had been incorrect. Therefore, they were not bound by their aforementioned assurances and were actually under legal compulsion to correct the errors. Fortunately, it would not be adjusted retroactively.

This should have been sufficient warning to be wary of what they said, but I was bit slow to master that lesson. When they called me a few months later — a new marketing tactic — to “lower my monthly rate,” I was quite excited. With this new plan, I could recover much of what I had lost when they had previously “corrected” my bill. The rep’s mastery of English was questionable, so at each step I repeated back to her everything I understood her to say.

“You are going to lower my monthly base rate for local service to $17.95,” I concluded.

“Yes!” she confirmed and then transferred me for third party verification.

Giddy with excitement, I listened to a recapitulation of my order. “You’re signing up for our unlimited long distance calling package at $17.95 a month; this requires…”

“No,” I quickly interrupted. “That’s not what I want at all.” Fortunately, the verification rep’s communication was clear and effective, saving me from something that I did not want.

So began an all-too-frequent barrage of solicitation calls from my “new” local phone company. Realizing that I could not rely on what they told me, I would extricate myself from each intrusion as quickly as possible and return to work. When my irritation over their incessant interruptions became intolerable, I began begging them to stop calling me. This proved unsuccessful, so I resorted to hanging up as soon as I heard mention of their name. That hasn’t stopped the calls, but it has provided a small degree of vindication.

When their most recent incursion breached my normally idyllic workspace, I listened to their spiel with a more critical ear. To recap: they called a business line about residential service, they did not know my name, and they did not have access to what services they were providing me. At that point, I wondered if the call was even from my phone company. Was it a scam?

When telemarketing is so poorly executed that it is indistinguishable from a scam, things have gone terribly awry. Intervention is clearly in order.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

The Total Cost of Ownership

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love to have the latest, fastest, and most powerful tools and toys, but I hate the time it takes for implementation, requiring that I preempt more important activities to install, fine-tune, and master my new technology. Therefore, I tend to stick with what I have.

However, it became time where I had to buy a new office computer. Given my reluctance to spend time migrating from one computer to the next, I had successfully found reasons to put this off for over a year. But my aging computer was clearly being taxed, so I finally made the switch.

My new computer is much faster, and Windows 7 is a great operating system, with an easy learning curve from Vista. This computer is my first with a DVD burner and my first without a floppy disk drive. Also absent are the modem and parallel port – an oversight on my part, given that my old faithful printer requires a parallel connection.

The cost of the computer breaks down to about 50 percent for hardware and 50 percent for software (Windows and Office) – and 50 percent for unforeseen expenses. Yes, there were costs overruns. I’ve had to upgrade several of my other programs to work with Windows 7. Aside from my parallel printer, my other printer lacks a Windows 7 driver. Although I have temporary workaround solutions for both, a new printer is in my future as well. That will push the cost overruns even higher.

My other frustration is with Office 2010, specifically Word. Had I been using Office 2007, the switch would have been easy, but my migration is from Office 2003. For my prior computer upgrade, I purposely retained Office 2003. The user interface on Office 2007 was quite different (a learning curve issue) and cumbersome to use (an efficiency issue). I had hoped that the 2010 version would return to an Office 2003 type of interface, but that was not the case.

With Office 2003 showing its age, I made the leap to 2010. Despite my frustrations that common routine tasks now require more mouse clicks, I am discovering new features, pleasing improvements, and some nice shortcuts, so it will eventually be okay. Even so, two months into it, I am still not as efficient as I’d like to be when I write.

My new computer has cost me both time and money. The cost overruns were my fault: I overlooked the need for a parallel port and all my driver problems stem from the fact that I bought the 64-bit version of Windows (32-bit drivers were available for all my programs). The time issue, however, was unavoidable. Fortunately, I scheduled my purchase during a slower period of the year. This afforded me extra time to spend converting to the new system and learning new software versions.

Upgrading a single PC pales in comparison to replacing technology in throughout an office or workplace, but I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing that; the benefits are just too great. What I do want to communicate is to be extra careful in spec’ing the system and allow additional time to learn it and become proficient. The results will be well worth it.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

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