- Identifying Toxic Work Environments: Recognize toxic behaviors such as verbal abuse, bullying, and inappropriate exchanges. Pay attention to team dynamics and management styles during interviews to assess workplace culture.
- Managing Work-Related Stress: Prioritize self-care and set boundaries to prevent burnout. Avoid overcommitment and practice disconnecting from work outside office hours.
- Achieving Work-Life Balance in Remote Work: Designate a specific workspace at home, set clear work boundaries, and engage in activities outside work to maintain a healthy balance.
- Preparation for Salary Negotiation: Research industry trends, company financials, and average salaries. Present your case by demonstrating your value and impact on the organization.
- Communicating Value in Performance Reviews: Track and present your achievements, feedback, and outcomes. Share your long-term goals and examples of taking on additional responsibilities.
- Leadership Qualities and Team Building: Develop emotional intelligence, a passion for people management, and conflict resolution skills. Foster team culture through collaboration, cross-training, and regular team-building events.
Overcoming Workplace Challenges
How do you navigate the complexities of today’s workplace and emerge as a successful leader? In this Q&A, Chelsea Jay, a renowned Career and Leadership Development Coach from Seasoned and Growing, shares her insights on overcoming workplace challenges. She delves into identifying toxic work environments, managing stress, and maintaining work-life balance. Chelsea also offers strategies for effective salary negotiations and impactful performance reviews. Plus, she explores essential leadership qualities and techniques for fostering a positive and productive team culture.
What are some red flags that might signal a toxic work environment, and could you suggest the first steps to take if you find yourself in one?
“It’s important to remember that “toxic” looks different for everyone. Often times, toxic behavior is recognized from what one individual deems as acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior and this can be based on previous experiences, trauma, or personal boundaries.
Although, there are some toxic behaviors that the majority of professionals should be able to agree on such as.
Verbal and mental abuse from managers.
Bullying from coworkers.
Sabotaging actions between colleagues.
Inappropriate verbal exchanges between employees.
You can identify these behaviors in two ways, watching and questioning prior to joining an organization.
As you enter an organization, pay attention to how people treat each other, talk about each other, and work together. Toxic behaviors are usually easily recognizable because they’ll make you feel a “pit in your stomach” or uneasy when the situation is taking place.
You can identify signs of a toxic workplace during interviews by watching how the panel interacts with each other and you. Ask yourself questions like,
Are they treating me and each other with respect and kindness?
Do they seem to throw each other or previous employees under the bus?
Does the atmosphere feel tense and uncomfortable?
Do they use sarcasm often?
Are they being condescending towards me and each other?
To gauge whether or not the environment is toxic, you can also ask questions during the interview regarding the culture, management styles, and philosophies on teamwork and collaboration.”
In high-pressure jobs, stress seems inevitable. Do you have any go-to strategies for managing this stress and avoiding burnout?
“I’m a big advocate for practicing self-care while in and outside of the workplace. Many professionals fall into the habit of working overtime to meet deadlines, saying “yes” to every project given to them, and not prioritizing fun and rest time.
I recommend setting aside time for self-care activities throughout the week. Think of hobbies you enjoy doing and schedule time to indulge in that hobby or activity at least twice a week. Also, avoid taking work home with you. Make an effort to shut down your computer and phone after the workday ends.
Do not get in the habit of checking emails and taking calls outside of work. Once colleagues, clients, and customers see that you’ve formed the habit, they will assume that you are always available and expect answers after-hours. Remember that your time and well-being are valuable and irreplaceable.
Finally, I recommend asking for help when you need it. For years, many professionals believed that “asking for help” was seen as a weakness. The truth is, there is strength and power in knowing when and how to delegate when needed. As amazing as you are, you cannot do it all. If you try, you will fast-track yourself into burnout. “
Working remotely has its own set of challenges. What’s your advice for maintaining a healthy balance between work and personal life in such settings?
“While remote work has been an amazing experience for many professionals, there is also a downside to it, lack of work-life balance. Many professionals that I’ve spoke to over the past few years have shared their dilemmas with not knowing how to “shut down work” at home since now its only 10 feet away.
Setting boundaries and changing your mindset is key to achieving balance in remote and hybrid work environments. You can start by having a designated workspace, preferably a room that is considered your “office only.” Try to avoid having your workspace is a common area or one that you often visit outside of work. Having a designated space with a door that you can shut after work ends is helpful to signal to your brain that “work is closed.”
Also, shutting down your computer and phone at the end of your work day can help you switch from work-mode to home-mode. You want to avoid being able to hear notifications because they will tempt you to check what’s going on.
If you can, set up activities to partake in after work. Having a gym appointment, dinner with a friend, or some type of scheduled event also helps prevent you from working overtime. “
Salary Negotiation and Career Advancement
When it comes to salary negotiation, what should we keep in mind? How can we best prepare and present our case?
“If you are preparing for a salary negotiation, information and research is going to be your best friend. Some of the knowledge you should know and information you must have is,
Current industry and market trends (is the market struggling and succeeding right now).
The companies financial standing (have they recently laid off people, are they hiring/promoting right now, are they currently going through reorganization and assessing positions and salaries).
How much does an entry-level, mid-career, and senior level employee make in your role.
What’s the average salary in the company for your level role?
What’s the average salary for professionals in your geographical location?
How much are similar companies offering?
This information will give you an idea of what the going rate is as well as the demand for your skills. Sharing this information with your employer shows that you are well-informed on what your compensation should be.
Also, if you have additional certifications, education, and experience, make sure to share that as well. Your goal is to sell yourself as a much needed asset to their bottom line. When you can demonstrate that you can bring results and money to the organization, they are more willing to invest in what you’re requesting.”
Performance reviews can be tricky. How can professionals effectively showcase their value and achievements to support their case for a raise or promotion?
“Employers are always looking for “proof” and “outcomes.” This is why it is important for professionals to track their own progress which can be in the form of achievements, kudo messages, accomplishments, and project outcomes. Keep these in a spreadsheet or folder so that you can have a list to share with your supervisor when discussing a potential raise or promotion.
If you are comfortable with your supervisor and want to grow at your company, also make sure to share your long-term goals and specific cases of how’ve you’ve demonstrate your ability to complete tasks that are considered extra or at a “higher level”.”
If someone feels they’re not being paid what they’re worth but is worried about risking their job, what would you advise them to do?
“If you are underpaid and feel that your job may be jeopardized by requesting fair compensation, you are probably at the wrong company. Healthy work cultures empower their employees to feel safe and confident enough to ask questions and share their needs. Take time to reassess why you’re feeling this way, your long-term goals, and ask yourself if it may be time to look for a new opportunity.”
Leadership Development and Team Building
From your experience, what qualities really make a leader stand out? And how can one develop these qualities?
“There are many important qualities to be a successful leader, but my top three recommendations are:
Having a high-level of emotional intelligence: Leaders need to be able to connect with, understand, and relate to their employees in order to build trust, relationships, and loyalty. Aspiring and current leaders can develop this skill through training, ongoing practice, and asking for feedback.
A passion for leading and developing people: Most management roles have a people management aspect. As a leader, you’ll work with different personalities, people with different cultural backgrounds, and a variety of perspectives. You have to be a person that genuinely likes people and enjoys teaching, mentoring, and guiding.
This is a quality that isn’t taught, it has to be a natural trait. If you’re an aspiring manager, you can develop/ or see if this is something that you’d enjoy doing by taking the time to volunteer for leadership roles. Whether it’s leading a project, volunteering to lead a committee, or joining a local board as a lead chair member, these situations will give you opportunities to see if you enjoy being the go-to person who helps and leads others.
Comfortable with managing conflict: As a leader you will be seen as the advocate and mediator (that comes with your role). With a variety of personalities there will always be some type of conflict. As a manager you will be responsible to managing the conflict, encouraging peace and collaboration, and fostering respect among your team.
For some, this isn’t a quality that comes natural, so I highly recommend pursuing training workshops on conflict management, taking a course, and finding a mentor or fellow leader who is skilled in this area to provide you with feedback and support.”
In a team that’s diverse or spread out, what can leaders do to nurture a positive and productive culture?
“Leaders can foster a positive and productive team culture both virtually and in-person by encouraging and finding opportunities for collaboration. Encouraging team members to work together on projects or committees is a great way to build relationships.
Cross-training and job shadowing is also a great way to develop relationships. Finally, putting together team building events on a regular basis can help keep team members engaged, inspired, and connected.”
Conflicts in a team are inevitable. What techniques have you found most effective in resolving these conflicts while keeping morale and productivity high?
“Incorporating emotional intelligence and communicating clearly and by using channels preferred by employees is beneficial to resolving conflict. As a leader you always want to remain neutral and remember that conflict often occurs from misunderstandings.
As you bring employees together to resolve conflict, it’s important that you communicate your intentions, goals, and expectations clearly. Emphasize that you want to create a safe space for everyone to be heard and understood. Share that your goal is to build an inclusive and respect-driven environment. These types of statements often help bring an individual’s walls down and helps them be open to an understanding with a mutually beneficial outcome. “