When You Do These Things, You Might Hate Your Job

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Over the years I’ve spoken to hundreds of individuals about their work. When things were going poorly, the situation could only be solved with hard work and complete honesty. Only then, were we able to identify what was feeding the unhappiness. Although the reasons were varied (and often layered) — most weren’t buried. They lingered right in front of our “proverbial noses”.

There are specific situations that I would consider absolute “land mines”, in terms of achieving work life happiness. (Where happiness contributes to both energy and success,) I thought you might benefit from a brief list of the worst offenders.

  • Consider your family, to the exclusion of your own needs. Sacrificing a fulfilling work life for your family is quite noble. However, this will likely deplete your psychological resources longer-term —  which benefits no one. If your job is intolerable, speak with your family about your hesitation to search for an alternative.
  • Choose salary, in lieu of job alignment. Attractive, yes — recommended, no. I can safely say that once you’ve made this error, it becomes far less appealing. In some cases we must work with the opportunity as it presents. However, if there is an alternative, play the long game. When you love your work — the money is more likely to come.
  • Ignore your “destiny”. In many cases, we aren’t ready to see (or act upon) what is right in front of us. (My journey as a writer, followed this route. I needed to find a way to wed the need to write with my training as a psychologist) Astute managers (and your colleagues) will see your gifts. Deal with your reservations to explore the opportunity to weave your potential into your work life.
  • Stick with a horrible boss. Mastering the devil may be a path that appeals to you. However, it is just like placing a second bet after a significant loss — it is one you should never place. An individual changes only when they wish to change.
  • Over-Invest. Yes, there is such a thing. When you begin to carry the load in terms of dedication, hope, workload — or any other aspect of your workplace — this will become unsustainable both physically and psychologically.
  • Ignore your own personality. We cannot edit ourselves out of the work life equation. If you are a nightmare to supervise for example, your career can be negatively affected — and opportunities will bypass you. Delve into the reasons that cause the “knee-jerk” reactions that do you no favors at work.

Have I missed anything? Add to the conversation.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

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Go Ahead. Put Yourself First.

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Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting. – William Shakespeare, Henry V.

I was completely transfixed when I read Shakespeare’s quote. We so rarely admit that it is good practice to put ourselves (yes indeed, ourselves) first. In our minds we rehearse what we would say — and how we would behave differently — to achieve this. However, it is a healthy exercise that we rarely put into play.

This week I disabled the “Contact” page at The Office Blend. (No worries — I still read each and every comment that my readers share.)

Why? Well, the “contacts” were exclusively one-sided and self-serving. (Please share our study. Please read our report. Please buy our service.) This dynamic was the polar opposite of why I began blogging — to share research, exchange ideas, collaborate and help others create a stronger work life.

So, I felt a need to protect my joy in doing just that.

I decided (at least for the time being) to put myself first and shut things down.

Then I reflected on that very deliberate action — as it would likely be questioned.

When did it become politically incorrect to put “you” first?

Individuals who are gloriously happy at work, have realized this is absolutely necessary. Moreover, you cannot wait for someone else to do this for you.

I challenge you to make a little room and put “you” (and your career imperatives) first. Carve out room to focus on elements that might bring more meaning to your work life.

This is not about ignoring your responsibilities. It is simply about recognizing a responsibility to yourself.

So.

Feed your workplace soul.

Eliminate one useless or draining element.

Say “no” strategically.

Take initiative.

Lean in to the elements that bring you joy.

Enroll in that course you’ve bookmarked.

Read the book that’s been calling your name.

Have lunch with that inspiring co-worker.

Deliberately identify what makes the difference.

Protect that fiercely.

It’s alright to put you first sometimes.

Go ahead.

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Read more on the topic:

Happiness Habits That Will Make You Thrive at Work, by Jennifer Moss.

Work On Yourself First, by Donna Stonehem,

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Problem with Clutter

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“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” – Albert Einstein

I’m sure we could debate the advantages and disadvantages of clutter. However, in real life terms (leaving Einstein aside) — is erring on the side of less clutter and more organization the best path?

I believe it is. When you work in clutter, co-workers may make negative assumptions — and bosses may worry that you are chronically disorganized.

Moreover, a cluttered state can affect feelings of well-being and productivity.

Research discussed in this article at HBR, examined how persistence was affected by exposure to a neat vs. a messy work environment. The researchers found that subjects exposed to a neat environment worked at a challenging task longer (1.5 times actually), than their counterparts who viewed the messier desk.

As the article explains, when our resources are drained by distraction, our performance can suffer. This can affect how we tackle a challenging task. Of course, there has been evidence in favor of a bit of mess to encourage creativity. However, definitive research is in order.

A cluttered mind is an entirely different challenge. If you tend to get lost among your many thoughts and have difficulty zeroing in on what is most important — a strategy is vital. In, many cases this can be resolved by tweaking your power of focus. (It is a noisy world and we  “self distract”.) See one technique here and the supporting book below.

Here are a couple of other clutter busting books to explore. If you’re chronic messy-aholic in the office, start small. Discard papers. Develop a system to retrieve what remains. Remember to give things some time — so you can settle into any change. If you are simply fine-tuning your organization skills, let us know what you learned and how you amped-up your game.

Banishing Physical Clutter:

The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing*
This book delves into when and why you should let some things go. Enough said.

Taming Our Cluttered Minds:

i Disorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less*
Focus is critical in a noisy world.

*This denotes an affiliate link. I often receive emails about suggestions for topic-focused books and products. These links make things quite simple. Purchase or explore as you wish.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Perfection Isn’t Perfect at Work: Here’s Why

Notepad And Crumpled Paper Balls

Most of us view success myopically.

It is a common bias.

We often view the end result (a successful book, project or product) — and hold misconceptions that the path to that end was without flaw.

However, most paths are ripe with snags and changes in direction.

They are imperfect. So are the people that forge those paths.

If we all could accept our own imperfect paths (and lose the expectation to become perfect), we’d likely approach our careers differently. We’d possibly accept more risk — or enter uncharted territory more often. However, we are often more critical (and unforgiving) when we consider our own mistakes.

If you’ve been told you are a “perfectionist”(or suspect this trait)  — you’ve likely experienced this and more. You may push yourself too hard, offer yourself scathing reviews when errors occur and fret at the notion of being evaluated. These scenarios can become wrought with frustration. (Perfectionism can have deep roots. If you feel you the need for clinical help, please seek out a trusted therapist).

Here are a few questions and answers concerning perfectionism applied to our work lives.

Is perfectionism affecting my work negatively? You would know better than anyone if perfectionism is getting in the way — and the signs can be lost in our everyday lives. If you’ve become overly risk-adverse because of the fear of an error or being evaluated — or you frequently experience “analysis paralysis”, it may be time to tackle this head on. Just know that working to achieve task perfection is a little like repeating yourself in conversation. Nothing new is added to the mix. Try to move on and test your results of recommendations to break the ice.

Is there a pattern? Often we have certain “triggers” that bring on perfectionistic behaviors. Some of us feel perfectionism creeping in when we are embarking on a new path or challenge. Others when we might be compared to others. Be aware of your unique responses and attempt to intervene.

Is perfectionism related to procrastination? You bet. When we put things off to avoid being judged or evaluated, they live side by side. This can lead to even more frustration.

Can it hold me back? That depends — and trust in your environment plays a strong role in this dynamic. For example, if you never share a promising idea because it is not perfected, you (and your team) could be missing out on key opportunities. The experts on creativity at Pixar encourage their employees to share ideas much sooner in the creative process and this can lead to feeling uncomfortable. But this also allows contributors to build on ideas together. Attempt (within reason) to share what you have to offer. Start small and don’t use perfection as the lever.

Can I get it under control? The answer is yes. However, be patient with your progress — as old workplace habits often die a long protracted death. Learning to accept some level of failure is likely a part of this process. (Perfectionism can be stubborn and toxic.) Be mindful of irrational fears and try stop the cycle when you see it begin to spin. Learning to let go of the reigns can be challenge — and you must be kind to yourself if you hit a dead-end.

I always think of Sandra Bullock and her very public “fail”in 2010. She might have hidden from her public embarrassment, when she won the infamous “Razzie”for her work in All About Steve. (The same year she won the Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side.) Instead she chose to approach her imperfect performance with levity and humor. Somehow she drew upon her past successes for courage. (I don’t think I could have mustered the courage).

Her Razzie award acceptance speech was a defining moment in self-acceptance. (See it here).

I’d say that was a winning strategy.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

It’s No Secret: Here’s Why Organizations Lose Their Best People

Businesswoman Awkwardly Bending over Yellow Counter

I’ve written previously concerning why people and organizations struggle to change. When we miss opportunities to do so — we fail to unlock an enormous amount of potential.

Organizations also stand to lose talent along the way.

There is one enduring theme that must be acknowledged and added to the conversation. Organizations are made up of human beings. As human beings, we often struggle to let go of old frameworks. Companies dealing with persistent people problems such as low engagement, depleted morale or rising turnover — also struggle to make progress — and there is a clear reason why this is the case.

Let me elaborate.

If there is a single, worrisome story that I observe it is the following:

Company discovers great thing. Company engages with great thing. Company begins to rest on its laurels concerning great thing. Company neglects great thing. Company eventually loses great thing. Company begins to decline.

Sadly we are not talking about customers or products — this story is about people. (Please know that I do not view people as “things”.)

We need to grasp that lamenting declining people-centric metrics will not solve people-centric problems. Identifying sub-groups of contributors in the gravest danger of jumping ship — is not the answer. Quantifying the high cost of turnover, is not the answer. (See a great discussion addressing employee engagement here.)

The answer lies in action. The advice is simple.

Invest in people.

Invest in their experiences (from on-boarding to departure).

Invest in their aspirations.

Invest in open conversations.

Invest in their development.

Invest in their managers.

Invest in their observations.

Invest in their ideas.

Invest in their concerns.

Invest in their successes.

In many cases, the most powerful solution is taking that first step.

Start now. Start small. I encourage you do so.

Has your organization recently taken that first (or second) step? Please share your strategies in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

Leaving Space For the Potential You

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“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Career exploration really begins within our own imaginations — well before we utter a single word or visit a job board. We consider where we currently find ourselves and where we’d like to go, trying on jobs and titles and experiences in the process.

It’s a very quick exercise within our mind’s eye. However, it is a vital step in the career growth dynamic.

How we visualize ourselves in the future matters.

I happened to be reading about mindfulness yesterday, particularly discussions about carving out space between a stimulus that we encounter and our reaction to it. (See a discussion of the one-second rule here.) Research has revealed that taking a moment to suspend making a decision, forming an opinion or choosing a behavior, can have a significant impact upon our work lives.

That has me thinking about our initial responses as we consider our own abilities or potential.

Conventional thinking tells us that all human beings seek pleasure and avoid pain. Yet research has shown that our own regulatory focus — or the way we typically approach risk plays a role. (Some of us are more naturally promotion focused and embrace more risk; others choose a safer path and are more naturally prevention focused).

So, do you dismiss yourself too quickly? Pass over a path that may be fruitful long-term because of the risk or disruption involved? Do you have moments where you consider ourselves in a non-reactive way?

Does a prevention focus hold you back? (Read more about that here.)

We can’t build careers if we don’t fully consider all of the possibilities. Yes, there are risks. But, we can be aware of our reactions to those risks and manage the associated fear.

If you respond with an immediate “nay” when contemplating a pivot or challenge, be mindful of your own natural tendency in that regard. When you pause at that window of possibility — envision yourself succeeding, not drowning — and see what that brings. Keep your desire to prevent failure in check.

I challenge you to hold on to the possibilities just a bit longer.

See what you do next.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

Are You Experiencing a “Crisis of Contribution”?

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No matter your age, area of expertise, breadth experience or career path — there are fundamental components of work life that cannot be negotiated.

When doubt surrounds these non-negotiable elements, we can experience a host of negative emotions. (Reading this post by Sally Blount helped my thoughts on the matter coalesce.)

One such component, is the belief that we are making a worthy contribution. Call this meaningfulness, call this worth, call this task significance, call it anything you like. When you feel as if you are not making a difference — key aspects of work life, such as energy and engagement can be threatened. (See this APA post about the “why” of our work.)

Let’s call this dynamic a “Crisis of Contribution”.

When you explore career paths that no longer motivate contributors, this dynamic is often expressed. On some level, the individual feels that their dedication and hard work fail to bring outcomes they deem valuable to their “work self”. This becomes quite draining — and forces their hand to pursue some kind of resolution or change.

You’ll find this dynamic rearing its ugly head in a number of situations. So — keep an eye out and explore possible adjustments.

Here are a few examples:

  • You do not have an effective voice. Whether you are holding back because of self-doubt, prevailing circumstances or you are hearing a clear message to “tone it down” and take a back seat — having the opportunity to express your perspective fully is crucial to a happy work life. When this path is stifled — feelings of frustration, resentment and disengagement likely follow.
  • What you bring cannot be applied. Sometimes your leading strengths, skill or ideas still cannot make a difference simply because the situation is inflexible. Whether there are extreme time, people or budget constraints — your solutions aren’t being considered. This can create a painful work-related depression, so to speak. At some point, you shut down entirely.
  • You have concerns that your skill set isn’t the right fit. When we start a new role, there is often doubt that we have the “right stuff” to make a difference. (Which is a completely normal thought.) Even with well established careers — contributors harbor doubts that they have the skills and experience to make a strong contribution.
  • Your work isn’t ringing true. When your contribution is valued by others, but no longer has meaning for you,  it is also time to pause and take stock. For example, I’ve spoken to individuals who realized they are now playing in the wrong “career field”. Either they had evolved, the field had evolved or a combination thereof. As a result, an adjustment was in order.

For now ask the following questions and reflect on your answers:

  1. Have you noticed a decrease in opportunities to express your opinions or apply valued expertise to your work? How has this affected you?
  2. Have you sensed a shift in feeling connected to products or outcomes?
  3. Do you no longer identify with serving your customers or clients?
  4. Do you find another role appealing or intriguing? Why are to drawn to the role?

Have you experienced a “Crisis of Contribution”? Did you move on?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

How to Survive When Challenging People Knock You Off Your Game

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No one relishes the thought of meeting the client, colleague or supervisor whose mere mention will become synonymous with pain. However, challenging people (and the situations they create) are a work life fact.

Chances are high that you will encounter one of these individuals along the way. When you’ve landed in a tight spot with someone who just isn’t playing fair — it can feel like a tidal wave of emotions.

Unfortunately, the experience can leave us feeling off balance and not quite like ourselves.

This can become an overwhelming experience.

Feeling undermined or attacked is traumatic and emotions run high. (This si completely normal.) Most of us will immediately formulate an internal counter-attack or argument. However the opportunity for this play out in real life, is often dependent on the existing power dynamic. In some cases, we simply have to process the situation to move through it.

If you are not in the position to openly respond  — or directly defend yourself — you can be left with disturbing after-effects. We might feel a little “hung-over” or dazed. Ultimately, encountering toxic people can affect our ability to thrive in the workplace. This is a real and present danger. So we must address the situation quickly.

Here is a bit of advice to wade through the fall-out:

  • Psychologically separate. The first thing to protect is your work life well-being. This may require applying mindfulness techniques to observe the situation from a safer psychological distance. Most human beings have a powerful response to extreme negative feedback — so ensure that your emotions (and feelings of worth) are not hijacked or destroyed. Think of things this way: What if the situation happened to a friend or co-worker? What advice would you offer them?
  • Seek support. Touch base with a trusted colleague or supervisor to share your experience and gain some perspective. Knowing that you have support, will help your resolve and deter doubts from taking a foothold.
  • Learn from the experience. A post-mortem review might be challenging — especially when you feel you are not at fault. However, reviewing the entire story to identify where things may have gone off the rails (and to revise future strategy) is warranted. Subtle cues can provoke someone who is already difficult to work with. Protect yourself going forward.
  • Exit the battlefield. If you feel your reputation may be at stake, attempt to exit the dynamic entirely. Request another colleague to cover the client or complete unfinished project work. Sometimes, more exposure only breeds more trouble.
  • Focus on resilience-building. Learning strategies that help us bounce back are critical. Protecting our psychological resources should be an ever-present concern. Situations where we feel misunderstood or attacked can have long-standing effects.
  • Give things time. The surprise of the initial shock will fade. However, how you process the experience will matter longer-term. You will change as a contributor — but hopefully you will also emerge wiser, stronger and better prepared.

How have you dealt with unreasonable individuals in your work life? Share your strategies here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. She is a Consulting Psychologist at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum

What’s On My Desk: Nothing Beats the Trusted Notebook

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Throughout much of my career I’ve opted to carry a notebook.

Before that time — I would literally jot things down here, there and everywhere. This quickly became a problem. So, an executive decision to centralize my thoughts was in order. My own form of “idea GPS” has proven to be a wise insurance policy. (Moments of clarity deserve to be recorded before they vanish.)

Notebooks have so much to offer, including a dose of balance to our ever-growing online lives. They are easy companions and can accompany you on business trips, vacations and rare moments of solitude. I suppose other methods might prove to be superior in certain situations. However, there is nothing like putting pen to paper. The physical process of writing helps to commit information to long-term memory and can aid idea development. Any easily attainable advantage is worth the trouble.

Da Vinci utilized notebooks and that alone is good reason to employ one. He often used mirror-writing — but don’t let that deter you.

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I’ve carried standard spiral notebooks (I enjoy college logos). However, today there are so many interesting choices that I splurge on notebooks that catch my eye. They can become a “statement” piece. The purchase is an everyday luxury, not unlike a really great cup of coffee or a high-quality down blanket.

My notebook habit may seem old fashioned. However, it’s a habit I don’t intend to break. Recently I’ve been exploring Evernote, which seems to be a natural choice for an obsessive note taker such as myself. (So we’ll see what develops there.) However, I have some quirky habits that would have to be captured. For example, glancing at my current notebook “system”, there are project notes and “to do” lists at the front and interview notes toward the back, dated with contact phone numbers. On the very last page, I keep a running “playlist” of new songs to note on YouTube.

I’m sure your system is equally as quirky. However, notebooks are very forgiving.

Below you’ll find a list of interesting options.

I hope you find a notebook that can help your great ideas come to life.

Classics:

Moleskine: Here’s a classic pocket version. (You can learn more or purchase by clicking on the icon.)*

Rhodia: Here’s a great option for meetings.*

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Modern:

esmie: Lovely British inspired florals.
http://www.esmie.co.uk/type/notebooks

Fabulous Cat Papers on Etsy: Beautiful embroidered covers.
https://www.etsy.com/listing/174605052/blooming-branch-embroidered-a6-notebook?ref=shop_home_active_10

Joy Tree Journals: Here’s one beautiful option.*

Zazzle: https://www.zazzle.com/s/notebooks

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Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

*This denotes an affiliate link through Amazon. I’m often emailed concerning recommendations — so I’ve made a few “picks” for you. The icon makes it simple.

What You Need to Know About Yourself to Help You With Workplace Change

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I’ve been told (more than once) that I’m not the best role model concerning change. To be candid, I thoroughly agree with the characterization.

I balk at the mere whiff of a change — holding on to hope that it won’t ever come to pass. (Then adjusting my course will not be necessary.) Honestly, it’s a problem.

As you may have read in this post, I’ve struggled with even the smallest of changes. — muddling along until the “new normal”finally appears. Until that moment, I feel annoyed and out of sync. For better or worse, my “go to” reaction is to keep things frozen — until I can carefully consider every aspect of the situation.

Unfortunately, holding time at bay usually isn’t an option.

Regardless, I firmly acknowledge the value of flexing our workplace “change muscles”. But knowing ourselves is likely the very first place to look when building this skill set. I believe that we all have a leading predisposition when faced with change at work — and this represents both our collected experiences and temperament. Of course, this influences our leading strategy when reacting to change as well. That’s where things get tricky. (If you manage others, just reflect on what this means for your team.) We need to come to an understanding of our own tendency and recognize how this affects our response.

The realization that we tend toward one or the another, is a crucial step. I’m sure we moderate slightly with the nature of the change — but we all lean one way or another.

Here are the predispositions I’ve observed over the years:

  • Piners or Grievers. These individuals lament the coming of change, even when it is inevitable or necessary. They may grieve for the roles, policies, procedures and co-workers of days gone by. They do move on eventually — but often with decreased fulfillment, satisfaction and a measure of sadness.
  • Researchers. An unbridled penchant to gather information is the leading response for this group — as looking at the issue from all angles often helps them move on. Unfortunately, a leading by-product of this view is “analysis paralysis”. Another issue: time may not be a negotiable. (This would be where I fall, although I pine at the very start.)
  • Supporters or Embracers. These individuals are generally open to change and feel excited to contemplate the future. They may not be the primary driver of change, yet are happy to see the possibilities and help things move forward.
  • Alarmists. For these individuals an impending change triggers intense feelings of urgency. This could lead to premature or risky career behaviors that negatively affect them longer-term. (Such as quitting on a whim, etc.)
  • Dreamers. This group always manages to see the best in the current situation, even when there is overwhelming evidence to move on and accept some kind of change. (I would add there is a mild level of complacency operating here). Because of this perspective, they might miss opportunities to properly plan a place for themselves in the new “order” of things.
  • Observers. Usually quiet and calm, these individuals take a solid “wait and see” approach. They rarely panic — and prefer to watch things unfold organically. They might superficially support the change, but may eventually exit if the change is perceived as negative.
  • Aggressors or Terminators. These individuals feel anger when they are faced with an unexpected change. They may become a strong “naysayer”, vehemently opposing a change and could exhibit negative behaviors without reflection.

After I drafted these, I searched for other frameworks that capture how we process change. I happened upon the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, which applies the seminal model of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross concerning grief, to change efforts within organizations. (This theory states that we all move through specified phases when dealing with change, rather than identifying a leading emotion that we deal with over time.) I thought it wise to mention it here.

Where do you fall? Have I missed your leading orientation toward change? Share your style in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial & Organizational Psychologist. She is a Consulting Psychologist at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared at The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum