24 x 7 Virtual Career Mentoring

Emp-RSS is a free knowledge repository where successful women share their business & work-life balance insights to


women to achieve their unrestrained potential.

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Emp-RSS is a collaboration of Carrie Doyle, LLC and Springboard Content & Publishing, LLC | Contact us at GirlzGo@SpringboardPublishing.com

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Some of Our 24 x 7 Contributing Mentors
Carrie Doyle

Principal at CarrieDoyle, LLC / Leadership Trendsetter & Curriculum Shaman


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How do I deal with fear?

Fear is a natural reaction to the unknown. Fear can paralyze progress, cause you to lose focus, create self-doubt, and sabotage performance and morale. More often than not, it's best to face your fears.

Here are some steps one can take when dealing with fear:

  • Don’t react too quickly. Instead, take a deep breath, and try to understand what it is you are really fearful of.
  • Talk about your fear with a trusted friend, colleague or therapist.
  • Write about your fear in a blog, journal or private diary.
  • After talking and writing about your fear, you may find you've mitigated a good deal of your concern or sense of panic. So consider how you would handle the worst case scenario.
  • Then jump right in, and don’t look back.

Answer Contributors: Carrie Doyle, Anita Renzetti, Ellen J. Nusbaum, Alyssa Hampton, and Micala Alpers.

Helen Darling: I prepare, so that I am confident. I pray so that I am at peace. I relax by calling a friend. I recall a quote that will encourage and inspire me. Success comes from having dreams that are bigger than your fears.

How do I create Social Change?

Answer Contributor: Masharika Prejean Maddison

How do I know my "core values," and why are they important?

Answer Contributor: Masharika Prejean Maddison

How do I know who to trust at work?

Anita Renzetti: Overall, I tend to trust introverts more quickly than extroverts because it’s easier for them to be discreet. I watch and see how much worker(s) share about confidential info and think carefully before I share too much.

Carrie Doyle: This is a tough one, because I have been burned in the past. I see the best in people, which is a beautiful thing, but sometimes that too can lead to problems. If I am honest with myself, I truly do get an intuitive warning signal if I meet someone new and it doesn’t feel right. If you sense this type of a sign or that something seems disingenuous, listen to yourself.

Do I listen to my head or my heart at work?

Anita Renzetti: Both, but I try to listen more with my head since the heart can get you into issues, especially with personnel challenges. For example, we need to coach people on behaviors, not what we perceive as their intent, and it all needs to be documented.

Carrie Doyle: The key is a healthy balance when you are evaluating a situation and making decisions.

Brenda Finora: Most of the time, the answer to this question is…both. Your head will direct you in a rational, black and white fashion, while your heart will lead you with emotion and humility. You will face many different situations during your career, and I often find I have to consciously use both to be my best. For instance, if you are a supervisor and you have someone who is underperforming in their job, but you really think they are nice …it can be very difficult to terminate that person. However, you can counsel the person with your heart while giving them specific points to improve their performance. And at the end of a predetermined amount of time if they are still not performing to your satisfaction and termination is the only option, there is always a way to do so that allows the person to maintain their dignity and keep their ego in check. Supervising people is similar to this part of the Hippocratic Oath: “First do no harm.”

Mary-Jo Kovach: Both! Our brains (especially the female brain) use both the left and right side all the time. So when listening, one side interprets the factual information, while the other side factors in all the other information such as tone of voice, group dynamics, mood, etc. The two sides of the brain act in many ways like the "head and heart." If only one side of the brain listened, we would be like a machine; a computer, really. As females, we are especially gifted to have both sides ("head and heart") working all the time.

How do I really know what my priorities are?

Alyssa Hampton: Reflect on what you choose to do. Consider how you would feel if you didn’t do those things. The ones you can’t imagine living without are your priorities.

Carrie Doyle: Priorities are interesting because they can be dynamic depending what is going on in your life. Stop and check in with yourself----write down what is most important to you regularly (every 3-4 months). List people, things, and values. Now evaluate what you are doing with that list in mind.

Anita Renzetti: Age and experience have taught me. For example, when commuting to San Francisco from the North Bay wore me down, I decided I wanted a shorter commute as well as to serve the community where I resided. It took a while, but I found a job closer to home and am much happier in all areas now.

Brenda Finora: This is a hard one…they often can shift in a matter of minutes if you are talking about your priorities for that day or week. The best piece of advice I can give is: if you don’t know the answer, always communicate with your supervisor so he or she knows what you are working on, and they can help clarify individual priorities and how those may fit into the larger organizational priorities.

How do I deal with work-life balance?

Alyssa Hampton: Everyone’s different. My life is fuller if I’m doing meaningful work, so I allow work to have more time in my life. But my life is emptier if all I do is work, so I have time standards for that too.

Carrie Doyle: You are no good to anyone when you are burnt out. So make sure you stop and regularly check in with yourself as to what is important to you, because that is where the balance lies. In terms of making time for yourself, actually schedule time for your self-care as if it was a meeting or important call -- whether that means setting a time to do your nails, write in your journal, or watch a favorite streaming TV episode. Put it in your calendar and abide by it. You can do this with family time, too. Establish parameters with work colleagues so people understand how to work with you and your priorities because everyone is different. If you are feeling like you are out of balance, talk to your boss and your family and those who constitute your priorities.

Anita Renzettit: I exercise most mornings (30 minutes on the treadmill) and at least stretch every night. I get 7-8 hours of sleep and eat nutritiously most of the time. While I do check emails and texts from home, I also try to turn them off periodically (say, during dinner or a film). I work a reasonable number of hours in the office, take little walking breaks to get chai, and enjoy nature hikes on weekends. While work-life balance is a goal, I also believe at times it will be out of whack (say, when starting a new job) and that’s fine as long as it is temporary.

How do I deal with work bullies?

Alyssa Hampton: Use a multi-tiered approach…record everything, speak with trustworthy senior leaders, try to only work with bullies in groups or communicate with them only when others are included in emails, be assertive, use humor and kill them with kindness.

Carrie Doyle: Work bullies really make me angry. You need to understand that work bullies are coming from a place of insecurity, as tough as they seem. Bullies get their energy from making people feel intimidated and powerless, so DO NOT let them see you feeling intimidated or feeling powerless and certainly do not let them make you feel that way. And if they do impact the way you feel, don’t let them know. Avoid interacting with bullies as much as you can. If you are being harassed to a point that you feel emotionally or physically abused, do not hesitate go to your HR department.

Anita Renzetti: I try to stand up to them, consult their supervisors, and if I cannot change it because it’s part of the culture, I eventually take another job. Sometimes the culture supports bullies, and if it’s coming from the top down, you should try to remedy the situation. But leave if it doesn’t work.

Mary-Jo Kovach: I wish I had THE answer to that one! Each situation warrants a different response and luckily, it's not a common occurrence. When faced with that type of behavior, I try to stay calm, practice breathing (seriously...it's a proven method) and focus on "intent." It is possible they don't intend to be that way, but aren't sure how else to behave. Perhaps you perceive it as bullying, but it's intended as assertiveness or just a strong personality. What else is going on there? Can direct communication help? However, if the person truly intends to be a bully, you will have to involve your teachers, managers, human resources, etc.

How can I get myself on a track for promotion?

First, ask yourself if you have mastered your current role. Are you honestly ready for a promotion, or are you just anxious to climb to the next rung on the ladder? A promotion is wonderful, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility and a learning curve.

Backwards plan from where you want to be to where you are, acknowledging your weaknesses. Let it be known to your supervisor in a confident and respectful way that you are looking to evolve both the company and yourself through a promotion. Brainstorm action steps to fill in each gap. Then, bring this plan to your manager to demonstrate and get his/her input on your gaps and how to fill them. Set up follow-up meetings to chart your progress.

Once you know you are ready, look for the obvious promotion opportunities, but also look for things that are not as discernible. Be prepared to back up your assertions with facts and accomplishments. Show, through anecdotal data or even a presentation, how your skills qualify you for a promotion, generally, or for a specific listed job opening.

If you're seeking a position that puts you in a supervisory or managerial role, demonstrate how you are seen as a good, fair, and calm or even inspiring manager. See the big picture and demonstrate that you see things from a leadership level even while putting out fires.

Response Contributors: Alyssa Hampton, Carrie Doyle, Ellen J. Nusbaum and Anite Renzetti.

Can my manager be a friend, too?

This can be a slippery slope. As long as one person has power over another at work, it’s not a true friendship. That said, you can be close to and enjoy spending time with a manager. When you work with someone all the time and trust in someone, a natural bond happens. However, you need to keep parameters around the relationship to protect both you and the manager.

Response Contributors: Carrie Doyle and Anita Renzetti

Brenda Finora: Yes, but only if you both agree to the ground rules. There is a time and place for friendship, and there is a time and place to be manager and subordinate. I have had this situation arise numerous times and I found it helpful that when I needed to have a professional conversation, I prefaced my discussion by saying, “Okay, I need to put on my Manager hat’"…that let the other person also get in the right frame of mind. No matter the relationship, it is always important to be able to balance the relationship part of working with people and being able to have difficult conversations. A great book that I have my teams read together is “Difficult Conversations" by Stone and Patton.

Can I be friends with the people I supervise?

This can be a slippery slope. As long as one person has power over another at work, it’s not a true friendship. That said, you can be close to and enjoy spending time with those you supervise.

However, you need to keep parameters around the relationship to protect it. It is also vital to consult your Human Resources policies and guidelines on socializing with those you manage.

If you socialize with some but not all underlings, you can find that other members of your team become suspicious and resentful. Likewise, when issues arise among those with whom you do feel you've forged a friendship, you may find it awkward to coach them back to excellence. You may even avoid taking the necessary steps to correct work problems with those whom you now consider friends. Avoiding corrective action with friends on your team can leak into the team dynamic and create unnecessary workplace and productivity problems. Proceed with caution, and always be fair and even handed.

Response Contributors: Carrie Doyle, Ellen J. Nusbaum and Anita Renzetti

Micaela Alpers: Check on this blog entry: http://lifewithoutlimitation.com/2015/12/19/adaptive-leadership/

What overarching qualities and values should I look for in someone I hire?

Carrie Doyle: I look for clues about work ethics and integrity, self-discipline, emotional intelligence, ability to problem solve, and thoughtful thinkers. Don’t be afraid to look at values you have, and make sure those you hire support and cultivate your own values.

Anita Renzetti: Integrity, communication skills, ability to treat people at all levels of the organization with respect, positivity, and attention to not only tasks but also relationships...

Alyssa Hampton: Imaginative, accountable, curious, and passionate...

Micaela Alpers: Check out this blog entry: http://lifewithoutlimitation.com/2015/12/21/buyer-beware-watch-out-for-emotional-talent-purchase/

Mary-Jo Kovach: First, I look for a strong work ethic and the desire to do the job I have available. Experience is a factor, but a candidate's potential and coachability are equally important in most cases. The overarching qualities are the ones you would expect: honesty, a friendly demeanor, professionalism (shows up on time, speaks clearly, dresses appropriately, politeness), someone I believe reflects the team culture and would work well with others.

How do I improve my confidence?

Carrie Doyle: I have a plethora of strategies that I turn to at different times, depending what kind of boost I need. I will share some of them below:

  • List your past accomplishments.

  • Take some time to read.

  • Give yourself a very small goal, reach it, and relish that success.

  • Remember that everyone makes mistakes.

  • Keep positive people around you.

  • Do things that make you feel good about yourself (for instance exercise, paint your nails, take a nature walk).

  • Find the good in people.

  • And most importantly, concentrate on all the good in yourself.

Anita Renzetti: I use affirmations and pep talks to myself, outside activities like Toastmasters and leadership programs, and reminders that not everyone will like me.

Alyssa Hampton: Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound), work towards them, achieve them. Repeat.

Helen Darling: I believe to improve your confidence, you need to work toward becoming a master at what you do. Look at your mistakes or failures as an obstacle to growth. Whenever I’m corrected or make a mistake, I take the time to learn from it and add it to my mental knowledge tree.

Brenda Finora: One of the best mentors I had once told me to ‘fake it until you make it’…this works!

What are some good books to read as a young woman wanting to accomplish my dreams?

Ellen J. Nusbaum:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

  • Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

  • Changing Your Life Using Handwriting Analysis, Ellen J. Nusbaum

  • Journal to Fulfillment, by Carrie E. Spagnola

  • The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron

  • The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

Anita Renzetti: Anne Lamott books.

Alyssa Hampton:

  • How Will You Measure Your Life?, by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, Karen Dillon

  • StrengthsFinder 2.0, by Tom Rath

  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink

  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg

  • Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Jean Greaves and Travis Bradberry

  • The Empathy Era, by Belinda Parmar

Carrie Doyle:

  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is the debut book by Malcolm Gladwell, first published by Little Brown in 2000.

  • Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull

  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink

  • Start With Why, by Simon Sinek

  • Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg

What is the difference in having a woman vs. a male boss?

Carrie Doyle: A woman boss is going to give you the possibility of having a connection and a relatability that a man is just not going to have. However, I am truly finding that it is more about the person and less about the gender. Men and women do think and operate differently, but as long as your boss is cognizant of that, and welcomes and leverages difference, you will be fine. A good boss is a good boss, and a bad boss is a bad boss, regardless of gender.

Anita Renzetti: Depends on the boss, but there are generalizations. Women bosses can be more intuitive, but sometimes men are easier to please since they are more task and results-oriented.

Alyssa Hampton: There is a biological tendency to be more honest with people like yourself. Therefore, same-gender bosses may give you more honest feedback and responsibility, while opposite gender bosses may not think you can handle honest feedback, so they’ll tell you something’s fine and then they’ll take on the work themselves.

Helen Darling: When I played basketball, I grew up playing for male coaches. It was all I knew, so when I went to college to play for a female coach it was very different. The biggest difference for me was my female coach empowered me to be a leader, to never take a back seat to anyone. She was a Title IX activist, and if we told her that the men’s basketball team had something that we didn’t, she would always say, “don’t worry…you will have it in your lockers next week,” and we did.

Now don’t get me wrong, I also learned a lot from my male coaches, but I definitely felt closer to my female coaches because I felt they could relate to me more. With that said, I do believe that men and women possess different stereotypes, but I also believe each individual is different. Some men retain the stereotypical traits of women and vice versa. I encourage you to get to know your boss’s personality to help you better understand expectations.

Is it a good idea to go back to school while working?

Carrie Doyle: It is always a good idea to give yourself the opportunity to continue growing and learning; however, it has to be with the right circumstances in mind. Going back to school is fine while you are working, if you feel that you can handle the workload. Also critical is that those around you at work, home, and your social circle will be there to support and motivate your undertaking.

Alyssa Hampton: You’re fortunate if you have the choice because most people need to keep working so they can pay for school. But in my experience (I worked while getting my Masters…sometimes part-time, sometimes full-time), I did not get as much out of my Masters as I think I would have if I hadn’t been working (because you get out of school what you put into it and I didn’t put as much into it as my other classmates). However, I do believe that if you want to get something done, you should give it to a busy person because they don’t fluff about. And that’s what I did. I kept it real (applied my learning to my work) and got it done.

Anita Renzetti: If necessary, but return on investment should be carefully studied.

Helen Darling: Sometimes that is the only time. I went back to school during my last two years of playing professional basketball. It was tough with all the traveling and having three little ones to take care of. There were many times that I wanted to quit, but I always thought about the end goal. I knew furthering my education would help me in the long run. I wanted to work in the education field, so I knew how important a master's degree would be. After two years, I finally finished school, and getting my masters allowed me to land a position at my current job. Having a master’s degree was a requirement

What is it like to have a job with high travel?

Carrie Doyle: Traveling regularly can be very wearing. Just like anything, though, you get used to it, and you figure out the most effective methods. It can be fun visiting different places and meeting new people. The downside for me was that I was sick more while I was on the road, and my health would take a backseat because of eating out more, exercising less, and sleeping less. Again, traveling for work today is common, so there are a lot of amenities while you are traveling in order to help support comfort and mental and physical health. I would imagine it might be easier and more enjoyable if you do not have a family, but traveling and having to leave your family and the daily routine can also make work travel tough.

Anita Renzetti: Exhausting, exhilarating, and sometimes unhealthy. I commuted to St. Louis from San Francsico Bay Area every other week for a year. I gained weight and an achy back.

Mary-Jo Kovach: Tiring, stressful, and fun. You do have to make sacrifices such as not being able to attend some social events with friends and family, missing your friends and family when you are away, flights being late or canceled, etc. But you also get to meet new people, see new places, and expose yourself to opportunities and adventures you may not otherwise have.

Alyssa Hampton: Great because it exposes you to new people and places, which is an education in and of itself and can keep you more grounded in what work really needs to be done because you’ll be in better touch with your customers (internal or external) -- not to mention providing helpful variety in your day-to-day and week-to-week work. But with that comes the negative of it being so time-consuming and routine-killing, which means you’re working more and more detached from your home base.

Helen Darling: My husband didn’t like it, but I loved it, even though it was a little stressful.

My husband’s work schedule was crazy, but we had great friends who would help out. I had to be super organized. I prepped and prepared as much as I could to help take some of the pressure off my husband and friends. My kids were self-sufficient for the most part. They could get up, eat breakfast, make their lunch, and be ready to walk out the door. The times when I would be gone for a long period of time, I would always Skype my kids at night to help with homework or to chat. I informed their teachers when I would be traveling, and the teachers would sometimes give me their weekly work/homework so that I could help them during our evening Skype time. My husband and I would sometimes play Skype games together like checkers…lol. It was our way of spending a little time together.

How do I handle a situation where someone is disappointed in me?

Carrie Doyle: If it is someone I care about, it really kills me to have someone disappointed in me. And, therefore, I usually tell them. I want them to know how important their belief in me is, and also, that I am going to do everything I can to earn back their trust and belief in me.

Anita Renzetti: I try to regain trust by apologizing and sharing a strategy for doing better. This is easier at work than in my personal life.

Alyssa Hampton: Apologize and ask if they’re willing to discuss their disappointment. Then, in the most natural way possible, patiently but diligently earn back their trust.

What are the secrets to good networking?

Anita Renzetti: Using the person’s name, writing down details on their business card, following up with a LinkedIn invitation within 48 hours, listening more than speaking.

Alyssa Hampton: Be genuine and extroverted! And then set reminders to actually keep in touch…update emails, birthdays, etc. as well as the spontaneous, “this made me think of you” communication.

Carrie Doyle: LinkedIn as a networking tool is powerful. I call it a secret because I don’t think people realize its power...LinkedIn boasts more than 380 million users. If it were a country, it would be the fourth most populated country on Earth. Its presence spans over 150 industries and 200 countries, and 3 million businesses boast LinkedIn pages. Two new members join LinkedIn per second.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: When possible, I like to lunch with clients and friends regularly without having any established agenda or goal in mind. I do this even with clients with whom I haven't had business dealings for a while. You never know what opportunities can arise when just sharing a relaxing meal and chatting.

For clients who live in cities other than where I work or travel regularly, I'm always sure to check in with these folks, even when we're not working on a project together. I might send them an article or statistic that reminded me of them and that they might find useful. Sometimes I'll remember that I haven't spoken with someone in a while and just send them an email checking in and letting them know I appreciated our past association. Maybe I'll inquire about the status of something they were doing i.e. "Hey whatever happened with ..."

It's important to go to networking events. I like to go to these with one friend or colleague. It's hard for me to strike up conversations when I'm alone because I am introverted amongst strangers (though extroverted around people I know). I need a second person, a wing person, to achieve a comfort level that allows me to make small talk with new people.

Helen Darling: Follow up and follow through. Understand that not everyone you meet will turn out to be a good fit with what you are doing, but it may be a great connection for others you may know…pass the information along.

How do I create and support my own personal brand, and why is it important?

Carrie Doyle: Here is a fitting excerpt taken from my friend Ron Nash’s book: LinkedIn: The Power of Your Profile


“In order to build a rock star personal brand, I think the first thing we need to do is discuss what a Personal Brand means. There are a lot of different interpretations of what personal branding means and a lot of them are extremely complex, so I turned to my friend Jenna Lynch, a Human Resources Executive. She has helped both individuals with their personal brand and corporations with their internal brand as it relates to the company culture. Her definition is simple: “brand = ‘the experience.’ Your brand is what people experience every time they see, touch, hear, feel, and even smell you. And they expect to have that experience every time. The same definition translates over to the branding of a product by a User or even the branding of a company by the Customer or Employee (both Users) experience. So let me ask you this, what does a potential employer or customer experience when they meet or see you right now?”

Alyssa Hampton: Reflect on the values and qualities you already exude and you want to exude. And then consistently exude them because you’ll become known for them. And being known (for the things you want to be known for) opens doors for you.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Over the years I've used many personality profile tools to gain an understanding of what I'm naturally good at, what I like doing, and how I want to convey the intersection of those two things. Such tools have included Lifo® Method (www.lifeorientations.com), handwriting analysis, How to Fascinate (www.howtofascinate.com), and www.16Personalities.com. These are all great tools for getting to know yourself and what will bring you fulfillment.

The next challenge is how to articulate and convey that.

Robin Fisher Roffer (www.BigFishMarketing.com) is "America’s premiere brand strategist and storyteller." She offers a lot of tools and inspiration for helping you articulate your personal brand the way she has hers. I recommend her highly. Google her to find her books, follow her on twitter, get links to her videos and tools, or to read her bio. She's a phenomenal speaker and workshop presenter. If she comes to your city, run, don't walk, to sign up.

What does true empowerment really mean?

Carrie Doyle: A belief and support in you being the best you can be–no judgment or ulterior motives–authentic support.

Alyssa Hampton: True empowerment is believing you can achieve your dreams and having the capacity to achieve your dreams.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: In a philosophical sense, empowerment is having the ability, self-confidence, and authority to be your authentic self. Malala Yousafzai is an excellent example of empowerment. Her ability comes from her natural talent to see and articulate truths in a way that transcends culture, distance, age, or other impediment. Her self-confidence is evident in that not even attempts by assassins to silence her voice could cow her determination. Her agency comes from her tenacity and resilience and the impact that these characteristics had on the world hearing her message. When one–despite all obstacles–walks in truth, integrity, forgiveness and responsibility, one is empowered.

In the work setting, authority also requires being given the tools and power to perform a job and support from management to fulfill job requirements as described. Without this authority, one cannot fully achieve role empowerment. However, a person can respond to these challenges in an empowered fashion.

How important is it for me to be technology savvy?

In this day and age, it is pretty critical to be tech savvy because strong communication and community rely on it and most basic skill sets depend on it. Savvy aside, you need to be effective. Some people put too much faith in technology or get caught up in its flash. Technology can both save and waste time. Don’t neglect paper and pencil–it has and will continue to solve a lot of problems. You should be willing to be as tech savvy as the job you want requires. If you're not willing to be as tech savvy as a role requires, then you really don't want that role.

Response Contributors: Carrie Doyle, Alyssa Hampton, Ellen J. Nusbaum, Anita Renzetti.

How can I get more respect in the workplace at a young age?

Have respect for yourself and others who have been there and done that before. Always be willing to learn, assist, and be humble. However, don’t ever be afraid to let your talent shine. Don’t act entitled. Read about any negative stereotypes regarding being young in the workplace, and work diligently to show others your value. Do such great work and carry yourself with such natural professionalism that those are the strongest messages running through your colleagues’ minds when they think about you. Use polite humor and don’t feel insecure about your age. If your coworkers are making a reference from a decade that’s before your time, act interested. They’ll likely say (condescending or not), “You don’t even know what that is, do you?” Either you will or you won’t, but don’t let it be a big deal. Everyone gets it because everyone was a young age in the workplace at one point in time. Leverage your age in positive ways but don’t draw attention to it by how you work, talk, or dress.

Response Contributors: Carrie Doyle and Alyssa Hampton

How can I knock down walls of prejudice as an older employee?

  • Always be willing to learn.

  • Be open and honest and have a sense of humor.

  • Be adaptable and dynamic.

  • Don’t ever hold back in sharing your knowledge and the impact you have made throughout the years–but keep a humble tone.

  • Familiarize yourself with negative stereotypes of being older in the workplace, and work diligently to show others they are not your truth. For example, keep current on trends and tech. Whiten your teeth occasionally. Show confidence in hard-won wisdom, and always show an interest in others’ perspectives. Don't refer to yourself in terms of your age.

Response Contributors: Carrie Doyle, Anita Renzetti, and Ellen J. Nusbaum

Can I discuss religion or politics at work?

Stay away from these topics at work. There are so many other things to discuss at work. Also, most companies have policies and guidelines about these topics, especially as they pertain to managers. Everyone should be well-acquainted with company policies to avoid potentially discriminatory and offensive practices that could lead to job loss and legal problems.

Is it okay to date someone at work?

Most companies have policies and guidelines about dating folks from your place of employment. Everyone should be well-acquainted with company policies to avoid potential dating practices that could lead to job loss and legal problems.

Even if your company allows dating at work, that doesn't mean that dating an underling or a supervisor can't create a potential job loss or legal problem.

However, if your company policy permits dating amongst employees and you're willing to take on other risks, proceed with caution. You want to avoid the appearance of impropriety, favoritism, resentment and all the bad things that can happen if a relationship fails. And let's not forget that people gossip–and all the dysfunction that can flow from that.

Yes, we do understand that for some folks, work is the most likely place to make dating connections. So be mindful of all the risks, and then manage yourself and your expectations about repercussions accordingly.

How do I deal with a difficult boss?

Difficult can mean so many different things. Figure out his/her management style and then try to adapt. If they are unreasonable, you can try to resolve the problem with a direct discussion. If that doesn't work, you can find a senior leader you trust to ask for help and advice. And if that doesn't work, you can go to Human Resources for help. Often times a company will send you to a workplace communication seminar or workshop to give you tools for dealing with difficult people at all levels. For example, the Lifo® Method (www.lifeorientations.com) offers great tools for identifying personality types and communicating with them in a way that avoids conflict.

Response Contributors: Carrie Doyle, Alyssa Hampton, Ellen J. Nusbaum, and Anita Renzetti

Helen Darling: As a disagreement. I believe it is okay to disagree with your boss. My boss and I disagree on several things. However, I would encourage you to be open-mined and flexible. Our way is not the only way things can be accomplished. Teal Swan said, “The purpose of disagreement is not victory or defeat, it is progress.” Think about it, have we ever learned anything in life from someone who agreed with us? We should humble ourselves and be willing to compromise.

What do I do when somebody at work is stealing my ideas?

Carrie Doyle: I would confront the person(s), but in a non-threatening way with humor. Such as “I am flattered you like the way I think and appreciate my ideas, but can you please just make sure you give me credit when you use those ideas?" If the thief is your boss, that is a whole other conversation.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Many bosses feel they are entitled to pass off the ideas of their team as their own. You can and should document all your accomplishments and contributions, especially in organizations that have employees prepare their own annual reviews. You can then get your accomplishments into your Human Resources file regardless of who has taken credit for them.

Of course, the best bosses never take credit for anything; rather, they give their team credit. That strategy, in fact, makes the boss look even more empowered and effective as a good leader and motivator who knows how to bring the best out of the people they manage.

All that said, if you're endeavoring to grow your career opportunity, then you do want credit for your great ideas–or at least you want the people who potentially want to help you to know that your great ideas are being implemented. In these instances, be sure to network with the folks who can help you on your career path. When you’re chatting, lunching, or meeting with these folks, you can advise them of your specific ideas that your boss has implemented. And regardless of your boss taking the credit, you can still point out your ideas and accomplishments in YOUR résumé.

How do I search and sell myself for a job right out of school?

Carrie Doyle: Begin networking with individuals and professional organizations immediately. Again, LinkedIn is a great place to start. For your last year of school, work on obtaining an internship. Doing this, for me, helped me realize I didn’t want to be in the industry that I thought I had wanted to be in! Bottom line--networking and connecting early on!

Alyssa Hampton: Informational interviews and internships are the best way to find a job you’re interested in. To sell yourself, prove what value you can bring.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: When networking, leave no stone unturned. Whether on Facebook, LinkedIn or meeting with people in person, let everyone know you are in the hunt. This includes your friends' parents who know you. Whenever I see my daughter's friends on LinkedIn and Facebook talking about needing work, I ask for their résumés and push them through my network. Do not be afraid to talk with anyone who is in a career that interests you. Ask if internships are available where they work. Solicit their tips and advice. This includes family, friends, parents of friends, and anyone you meet in the course of your networking. Join professional organizations that are pertinent to your career aspirations, and attend the weekly meetings. Be an active volunteer in your community, churches, synagogues etc., and be sure to share your career aspirations. Volunteer on organization projects and committees. You will be surprised at how social and community connections can lead to finding your way to your career aspirations. You will be even more surprised by how many people will try to help you and connect you to the right opportunities.

Do I need to go to college?

Carrie Doyle: Whether it’s through college, trade school, or certification, you should obtain further training outside of high school to help support the expertise you would like to leverage in your chosen career. Make sure to not only strengthen your expertise in the area you would like to go into, but also check out 21st century skills at http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework and make sure you strengthen those skills as well.

Alyssa Hampton: For most professions, yes. An economical way is to do two years at a community college and then transfer to a four-year college. But, make sure you plan ahead and have everything you need to transfer. Students who intend to graduate from a four-year college but start at a two-year college are 35% less likely to graduate from a four-year college than students who went ahead and started at a four-year college.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Not everyone needs to go to college to make a good living. If college doesn't seem like a good fit for you, trade schools and vocational certification are excellent options. Think about what you like and what you're good at, and research vocational certifications in those areas. Are you mechanically inclined? Perhaps you should investigate careers in automotive services. Do you like to use machinery and build things with your hands? Perhaps you should pursue a welding certification, a plumbing certification or an HVAC certification. You can peruse community college and career colleges for vocational certifications that don't require you to go to college yet do provide you with the opportunity to make a great living and have a fulfilling career. From health care to criminal justice, certification programs are a great route.

How do I negotiate for a new job salary and benefits without being too aggressive but making sure I am being fair to myself?

Anita Renzetti: I express deep interest in taking the job but explain that the salary is a sticking point and say the role is worth XYZ. I also ask, “Is that the best you can do?” and let the awkward silence work.

Alyssa Hampton: Ask! Define what you are asking for and rational reasons why you think you have earned what you're asking for. And then respectfully, but assertively, ask.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: I have hired dozens upon dozens of people in my time. It never ceases to amaze me how forward and entitled men naturally are when they are seeking certain salaries and benefits and how tentative and embarrassed so many women can be. Sometimes it seems like men behave as if they're doing YOU a favor by letting you make them an offer. Conversely, women, more than men, seem apologetic for wanting a good salary.

Anita and Alyssa are dead on. Male or female, you must speak up confidently and convey your salary/benefit expectations. Some people make the mistake of telling you what they need to meet their monthly obligations. That's not the hiring manager's concern, however. Instead, with confidence and no sign of hesitation, 1) ask to know the salary range for the position, 2) honestly assess where you sit with expertise in that range (do you have a lot to learn/, can you hit the ground running?, will you immediately be an expert that can lead?) and then make your salary demand accordingly, and 3) as Anita said, embrace the awkward silence. In any negotiation, the rule is the first person who speaks loses.

If a hiring manager refuses to tell you the salary range for a position, they are playing a game with you that is not fair, and be warned, that company might have financial or organizational problems. However, if you're desperate for the job, you can say that you're flexible and really more concerned that you find the right match of skills and opportunity. That can often work.

However, if the hiring manager insists you provide a salary expectation without sharing any range information, you will need to provide a number. So before you go to any job interview, do some research on salaries v. experience for a specific job. You can get this information for most any job from such places as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics–and the annual Robert Half Salary Guide also provides salary guidelines by region for many professions–from technology to accounting.

How are your 50s different than your 40s or 60s?

Ladies in your 60s, can you please help complete this response? We want to hear from you.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: I cannot speak to the 60s portion of this question yet. However, in my 50s I can tell you that I am exactly where and who I need and want to be. I'm confident. I know what I'm good at and how to leverage that. I know what to avoid. I've been humbled, and yet I'm proud of what I know and what I can share.

In my 40s I began to chart a course that would ensure I would succeed. Emp-RSS.com is the culmination of all the tools of reflection, strategizing, self-motivating and problem-solving necessary to achieve my goals. Carrie and I share them here freely.

For me, being in my 50s is more about trying to share my lessons learned, but it's also knowing that as much as I think I know, I can learn more. I feel professionally invincible because I have street smarts, good instincts, the ability to change, no ego about feedback and a genuine desire to be of service to my clients. I can still stretch myself, but I know my limits. I feel I can inspire and lead, but I will never hesitate to turn that role over to someone who is ready.

In my 40s I felt powerful. In my 50s I feel entirely effective but more zen. Mostly, I feel gratitude.

How long should I be at each of my jobs?

Carrie Doyle: I don’t think you can quantify this, but I do have a theory. You need to be at your current job until you truly learn everything you need to have learned in both skills and life lessons. In some cases it might be 9 years, and for others it could be 9 months. Sometimes we feel stuck at jobs when we know it’s time to go. I argue that maybe it really is not time to go, but rather that you still have learning to do.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: As a hiring manager for a couple of decades now, I can tell you I'm turned off by job hoppers. I'm not talking about the folks who move up the ladder from job to job in one company. I'm talking about folks who seem to work for a different company every year. We expect that from some individuals at the early part of their career. But once you've been working professionally in one field for 3-5 years, we want to see some commitment. Otherwise, my interpretation is that the candidate is restless, hard to satisfy and lacks loyalty.

Beyond that, when your career path and/or salary opportunities seem to be diminishing in relation to your goals, that's when you should start to consider changing jobs. Of course, if you're in a toxic environment, that is also a time to think about changing jobs. If the career or job role you're in no longer provides you satisfaction, then you should think about changing jobs. Otherwise, if opportunities to grow your skills and salaries are evident and rewarding, then the goal should be to retain that job and its associated opportunities.

How do I deal with a boss who is younger than I am?

Carrie Doyle: You have to assume your boss is the boss because he or she is qualified. Age should not be a factor. Having an unqualified boss is a whole other story.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: If your concern is that your boss is younger than you, the problem may be with you, and you may need to get your ego in check. I work for many project managers, most of whom are younger than I am. I even work for clients who used to work for me! Some of the client managers I work for were once job candidates I hired straight out of college. I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to work FOR them now -- to see how much they've learned, changed, excelled and, in turn, led. I judge a boss by how well they anticipate and support the needs of the people they lead to achieve their goals and the goals of the company.

How do I strategize starting my own company?

Alyssa Hampton: Experience, ask, dream, think, and reflect. Then once you have an idea, share it with people you trust. You’ll learn a lot when you have to repeatedly explain what you want to do and why you want to do it and then see trends and outliers in people’s perspectives and suggestions.

Carrie Doyle: Having your own company and being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. But for the right people, like me, it’s a beautiful option. Here are three very important first steps when considering your own company. Do the following before you begin any strategizing on the business itself:

Ask yourself why exactly you want to start your own company. Be very honest with yourself.

Talk to at least 5 different people who have started their own company and ask for the pros and cons, as well as the skills, attitudes, and behaviors that have made them successful in starting their companies.

Understand your own strengths and weaknesses and see if they are aligned to what other entrepreneurs say are important skills, attitudes, and behaviors to have in successfully starting your own business.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Alyssa and Carrie are bang on, but I would add a few more items. Understand your acceptable level of risk and plan accordingly. Maybe plot out a course in baby steps instead of biting off more than you can chew immediately. Do your research and thoroughly understand what it takes personality-wise and financially to own a service-based or retail-based company. Research issues like insurance and tax filing responsibilities. Speak with attorneys and CPAs to thoroughly understand your fiduciary responsibilities. Reflect on your comfort managing people, inventory, and client relationships. Ensure you craft a business structure that speaks to your strengths in these areas. In the end, when you think you have a vision that can be supported by skills, interests, and resources, don't be afraid to take the plunge. Just ensure you have put together the proper plan to protect yourself to your level of acceptable risk.

What is it like to have a mostly commission-based job?

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Well it's just terrifying. At first! Until you've built up a clientele and fail safes. Then it's bliss. Commission-based work is some of the most financially rewarding and liberating work, but it takes a long time to build a business. That's called high risk, high reward work.

You also have to be aware that there will be feast years and famine years, so plan accordingly. It takes financial discipline, a strong commitment from others in your family, and a strong will. It's just not for everybody. I was lucky. I had a husband to pay the core bills while I built my commission-based business up. I'm not going to lie. The first years were tight. We lived on a tight budget from paycheck to paycheck with zero wiggle room. One illness or home repair could create financial mayhem.

You have to know that at any minute any number of factors, from client politics to an economic downturn, can come crashing down on your house of commission-based cards. So don't live beyond your means. Don't get mired in credit or consumer debt.

Don't get a fat head. Keep a minimum of 6-12 months living expenses set aside to ensure you don't lose your house, cars, insurances, or retirement.

Is there such a thing as a dream job?

Carrie Doyle: I believe a dream job is one that matches your priorities, passions, and values. A dream job is time sensitive, too. Meaning, a dream job may be different for you at various times in your life, depending on where you are at with your priorities and passions. Priorities and passions change throughout your life. Values generally do not change.

Alyssa Hampton: Jobs will have plusses and minuses. But I do believe in finding a sweet spot where you are contributing what you can and receiving what you want.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: I absolutely think the dream job is the holy grail, but that it is achievable. I have my dream job. So at least for me it is a real thing. The hardest part of finding your dream job is articulating it. If you can define it, then you stand the chance of making it a reality.

Helen Darling: Everyone’s dream job is different; I believe I have MY dream job. I don’t feel like I work a day of my life because I love what I do. Do I get overwhelmed and discouraged at times? Absolutely! At the same time, I enjoy challenges and I enjoy success and I couldn’t have either one if I didn’t have to overcome obstacles and road blocks.

How can I tap into my creativity when things are so busy?

Alyssa Hampton: Stop for five minutes. Brainstorm from a different location. Strategize with pencil and paper. Approach a task from different angles.

Carrie Doyle: You need to make time. The Artist's Way: A Spirtual Path to HIgher Creativty by Julia Cameron provides the tools for doing just this.

Anita Renzetti: Repose pose in yoga, meditation, notebook by bed, avoid social media, take ½ day a week to telecommute.

Helen Darling: Set aside 15 minutes a day to write down your creative thoughts. I do my best thinking before I go to bed and when I wake up. I always carry a note pad with me and when I am waiting.

How important is sleep with respect to performance?

Carrie Doyle: It’s incredibly important! Check out this article from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/28/brain-sleep-_n_5863736.html

Ellen J. Nusbaum: This year I had a terrible time sleeping. I became unfocused, lost massive amounts of productivity, and my morale was sinking fast. My doctor discovered I had a Vitamin D deficiency and needed to add Magnesium to my diet (hello 50s). Suddenly I was sleeping again. Within a couple of weeks I was back to my old self. (This response does not constitute medical advice. If you're having trouble sleeping, seek the advice of a qualified medical professional.)

Do I still go to work when I am sick?

This response was updated 3/28/2020 to reflect the global pandemic’s impact on going to work when sick.

America and the world are currently in the grips of a global pandemic the scale of which we have not seen since the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic that killed 50-100 million people around the world and 650,000 in the United States. It is terrifying to think that we will not know for years the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic will take abroad or in the United States. The world has changed to be sure. It is no longer ethical or even an option to go out in public if you know you are sick or even suspect you were exposed to a disease and might be contagious as an asymptomatic carrier who can infect others but may never become sick yourself.

The world has changed drastically in our lifetime. There was a time when it was simply incredibly out of integrity to expose your co-workers to illness. Now it could literally be a matter of life and death for the next many years to come.

Fortunately, a vast majority of businesses are finding ways to allow their workers to telecommute. While it may take years for the pandemic to run its course, the proof that businesses can still thrive with a large remote workforce is being proven in condensed real time. Necessity is the mother of invention, it is said, and most non-service based businesses are finding ways to overcome what they saw as obstacles to creating and managing a remote workforce.

How often should I be checking in on my personal goals?

Carrie Doyle: I think that is a personal preference. I like to journal, so I am continually checking in on myself and my growth. At the end of the year, usually on New Years, I read my journal for the past year. It’s emotional. I celebrate the wins, tear up at the harder times and triumphs, and I slow down and relish the beautiful things and growth I had forgotten about because the year went so quickly. Each year I pick a new theme for my journal like “the year of work, life, balance”--or “the year of speaking my voice”, etc. I choose a broad theme in an area that I feel I should focus on for the coming year.

What does it take to write a book?

Carrie Doyle: I have written three books, so I feel like I can boil this down succinctly:

  • Relentless passion and determination

  • Timeline and project management

  • Accountability (Tell others you are writing the book, so it’s real.)

  • Helpful resources

  • A plan for publishing and marketing the book whether it’s self-publishing or through a formal publisher

  • Good editors

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Writing a book and publishing a book are very different things. I've written and self-published 6 books (five how-to books and one children's book). Writing a book does require all the steps Carrie outlined above.

And to augment Carrie's response, I'd like to add that to publish a book it takes:

  • A compelling idea

  • Intense tenacity and follow-through

  • A realistic expectation of what it takes to get an agent and a publisher

  • A realistic expectation of what it takes to self-publish from desktop publishing to financial investment

  • A realistic expectation of what it takes to create and sustain sales

  • An understanding that without a publisher, you will have to do all your own marketing and PR work constantly to make any money

  • An understanding that most books don't make money or profit

  • An understanding that royalties are low unless you can get into a second printing

What is the best way to thank coworkers for being supportive?

Carrie Doyle: Know that any acknowledgement you take the time for is thoughtful and meaningful; however, just like anything--customize it to the person. Some coworkers may like you to say something positive to them or write them a card. Other coworkers may like a present or you doing a nice favor for them. Personalize, and you and your coworker will be happy you did.

Anita Renzetti: Thank you cards, time off, snacks, listening to them and incorporating their ideas.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: The Lifo® Method teaches you how to identify what methods of appreciation are most meaningful to each person because not every individual is motivated by the same thing. Some are more appreciative of a personal thank you, others a more formal written thank you, others prefer an acknowledgement of their contribution in a public meeting or in a formal work review, and yet others are embarrassed by formal ‘thank yous’ and may prefer just another opportunity to help or a new challenge or responsibility. It's always best to know what motivates the person you're trying to genuinely thank. All that said, the handwritten thank you note is all too often forgotten and one of the most effective ways to convey true appreciation.

How should I handle peer pressure at my job?

Carrie Doyle: When you say no, say no firmly. Stay away from the peer pressure cookers as much as you can. Have some very pointed and smart questions to ask when confronted with peer pressure. Use it as a reminder to make sure you are not peer pressuring anyone.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Self-confidence and strong self-esteem. If you don't have these, then invest in some therapy or workplace seminars. Peer pressure can lead to many bad things, from participating in offensive and unethical behavior to taking bribes. If you lack the personal fortitude to remain in integrity, get training or therapy to learn ways to combat peer pressure.

How should I handle peer pressure at my job?

Carrie Doyle: When you say no, say no firmly. Stay away from the peer pressure cookers as much as you can. Have some very pointed and smart questions to ask when confronted with peer pressure. Use it as a reminder to make sure you are not peer pressuring anyone.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Self-confidence and strong self-esteem. If you don't have these, then invest in some therapy or workplace seminars. Peer pressure can lead to many bad things, from participating in offensive and unethical behavior to taking bribes. If you lack the personal fortitude to remain in integrity, get training of therapy to learn ways to combat peer pressure.

How do I telecommute most effectively?

Carrie Doyle: When I first started telecommuting in the 90s, I only had dial-up. With technology today, telecommuting is a breeze. It's very effective for the right situations. If your head's down trying to get work done, telecommuting is a nice way to get authentic peace and quiet. If you are working on something where it would be beneficial to work with many colleagues, you can leverage online collaboration and teleconferencing tools. To me, I feel more flexible and calm, but I like the mix of face-to-face office time, along with telecommuting. Make sure you have a quiet office space that is decorated and set up to bring out the best in you. Make sure others understand that telecommuting does not mean you are not working, and to please understand and honor that. When I first telecommuted, and it wasn’t common, I think people took that to mean I was free to hangout during the day. It’s no different than a normal day at work; it's just in a different location.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Everyone who works for me is in a home-based office; hence, we all telecommute. Most of our clients are full-time telecommuters as well. We are all very focused and driven people, so we excel in this dynamic. One must get organized and self-motivated to telecommute effectively. For those who procrastinate, understand that this is still your job, and set a routine that honors that job. The main drawback is that even for someone like me–who likes to work uninterrupted for long periods of time–the solo nature of telecommuting can get old. However, with teleconferncing and online collaboration tools, you can connect with your coworkers just as if you were in the office. Our team, for example, will jump into a Zoom meeting and eat lunch together for working lunches and just for relaxing chit chat. You can also jump into meeting rooms and do face-to-face meetings to work out an issue and then jump back out, just as if you popped into someone's cubicle. It is vital, however, that every day out of your pajamas and actually dress for work, to promote that professional approach you should be providing just as if you were in the company office.

How can I persuade my employer to let me telecommute?

This response was updated 3/28/2020 to reflect the global pandemic’s impact on going to work when sick. With the onset of the pandemic, this discussion has been largely made a moot point as most any employee capable of performing a job through telecommuting is doing so. Should this situtation return to the old normal, the following responses might provide some guidance:

Carrie Doyle: First, evaluate why you want to telecommute and the outcomes you are trying to achieve. Map the benefits of working from home around your outcomes and be ready to walk your boss through those outcomes and associated benefits for him/her, the organization, and yourself.

Anita Renzetti: I did it as part of my employment negotiation.

Alyssa Hampton: Illustrate to him/her how reachable and effective you will be.

What is it like to relocate for a job?

Carrie Doyle: From personal experience, it can be a bit difficult with a family. Companies are poised to offer packing and moving services, relocation specialist, temporary corporate housing, etc. While all this is very helpful, moving is always going to be a hassle. Getting adjusted to a new job while your family and you are also adjusting to a new living situation, can be challenging.

Alyssa Hampton: Exciting, emotional, and time-consuming.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: When relocating for a job with your current employer, remember that it is a negotiation. Despite any benefits the company offers you, know you can ask for more to try to optimize the package. Also, if the move is short-term and maybe even out of the country, make sure you have a job to come back to when the placement terminates. Get agreements in writing. Even if you trust your boss implicitly, there's no saying that boss will still be with the company to ensure promises are kept.

How do I deal with gossip?

Alyssa Hampton: Don’t engage in gossip. If it’s happening around you, give the knowing expression that conveys that you don’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Anita Renzetti: I try to address it with the person and, if necessary, their supervisor.

Carrie Doyle: Do not partake in conversations where people are gossiping. It is very dangerous. If the gossip becomes slanderous, consider approaching Human Resources or the person at the root of the gossiping. Always maintain professionalism and integrity no matter how angry you may become.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: I have never had a problem confronting a gossiper and advising them to stop it. I might frame it as being a potential HR or morale problem, especially if it were a peer or a boss doing the gossiping.

How do I become strategic when it comes to office politics?

Alyssa Hampton: Establish a good reputation for yourself.

Carrie Doyle: Treat it like you would any community. Think about how you want to be perceived and make sure your behavior reflects that. Understand the important players in your world and the best ways to deal with those people. Be professional and decent to each and every person in the office--it always pays off because it's the right thing to do. Like any community, avoid the negative and surround yourself with the positive.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Do not become embroiled in gamesmanship, power building, or undermining anyone–for any reason. Understand each person's agenda then walk in truth. Be honest. Avoid taking sides. Avoid confronting people when you're heated. Do not send emails when you're angry, and don't CC: folks just to be vindictive. Step back. Cool off. Be seen as the level headed person who does not constantly try to blow up situations but rather the one who advances resolution.

How do I know if a work culture is right for me?

Anita Renzetti: Talk to some people who work there. Ask specifics, like whether people eat lunch together and how communications are handled.

Alyssa Hampton: Reflect on how comfortable you feel being yourself. Consider if the things you find most natural (i.e. change, autonomy, politeness, directness, sociality, etc.) are valued or stunted in the work environment.

Carrie Doyle: Do a simple mapping exercise. Bullet out the top 10 traits that are important to you in a company culture. Next, list the top traits of the company culture in question. Now, compare! You will have you answer pretty quickly.

How do I assess work culture at a prospective employer?

Carrie Doyle: I read up on the company, but the very best way to assess a culture is to talk to people who are currently in it. You are interviewing the right fit for an employer as much as the employer is assessing you for the right fit. You can tell the prospective employer that you would like to talk to a few people at the company to learn more about the culture. And aside from that, go on LinkedIn, find connections that know or are at the company and ask around.

Anita Renzetti: Talk to some people who work there before I start. Ask specifics like whether people eat lunch together and how communications are handled.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Glassdoor.com is a website where employees anonymously review their employers about everything from job satisfaction - to pay - to company culture.

What do I do if a company’s culture changes?

Carrie Doyle: It happens. I think there are two important steps. Sometimes when we are right in the middle of things, we don’t even realize that things have changed so greatly. So... Step one is to take a step back and re-examine your company culture every six months. Understand the difference between short-term and long-term changes. Secondly, if you feel the culture has changed, conduct a simple mapping exercise. Bullet out the top 10 traits that are important to you in a company culture. Next, list the top traits of the company culture in question. Now, compare! If the culture has changed and now does not match what is important to you in a company culture anymore, you probably need to start looking for another job.

Anita Renzetti: Adapt or leave.

Brenda Finora: This is hard. Sometimes your heart can tell you that it may be time to leave a company if you have no control over the culture. But if you are a loyal person or your particular job skills don't leave you with a lot of options, this can be a difficult choice. You are at a job for the majority of hours in your day. Be sure you still find enjoyment in your job and the people you work with…and if you decide to stay…be sure to find the positives that are keeping you there and focus on those. If you see that the culture is a negative force that you are bringing home with you every night, it may be time to start dusting off that résumé.

How do I handle a difficult client?

Alyssa Hampton: Set expectations, document agreements, communicate early and often, and find an executive sponsor or champion on the client-side.

Carrie Doyle: There are several ways to deal with a difficult client:

  • Listen closely to them.

  • Understand their needs and what makes them tick.

  • Do the little things that matter to them a lot.

  • Steer clear of their red flags as much as you can.

  • Make time for them.

  • There is a difference between difficult and abusive clients. If you are doing all of the above, and the client is responding in a negative and toxic way, you need to have a conversation with your boss.

Editor's note: Carrie Doyle is widely perceived as an expert in this very topic. I have seen her handle difficult clients and project participants more times than I can count. One other thing she brings to the table is genuine empathy for the client and a predetermined authentic belief that she can get all parties to not only play ball but to enjoy and appreciate each other. She also checks in frequently with all parties, bringing them together formally in regularly established meetings to ensure that the agreed upon resolutions are staying the course. At that time, she will troubleshoot any emerging concerns and get buy in from all parties on what it will take to remedy emerging concerns.

How do I prevent burning bridges, and why is it important?

Carrie Doyle: Take it from someone who has been in my industry for a long time, you WILL run into the same people again in different roles and situations. Therefore, you it is critical you do not burn any bridges. Always take the high road. Express the positive and be professional. Just know that anything you do can and will be repeated to others, so make sure it’s a story you want told.

Alyssa Hampton: Consider the implications of your actions as part of your decision making process for whether or not to go ahead with a decision that could burn bridges and proactively communicate your reasoning with whomever is on the other side of that bridge. Being aware and honest can mitigate damage as much as possible and that’s important because your reputation matters–and it’s a small world!

How do I dress for a new job?

Carrie Doyle: It’s less about dressing “nice” and more about dressing to align with company culture. Do your homework and find out the dress culture of your company...all you have to do is ask.

Alyssa Hampton: As my coach always said, “look good, feel good, play good.” Despite the incorrect grammar, it’s an accurate sequence. Let your company dress code define “good,” and take it up a half step.

What is appropriate etiquette when participating in video conferences?

It’s pretty simple. The person on the other end can see you and the background behind you. With that in mind, what brand and image do you want to portray? Then do it! Turn your camera on. Mute your line when you aren’t talking. Try to take the call in a quiet place. Leverage the benefits of an online meeting (e.g. Screen share–and if you’re company can let their hair down a little bit–Google Effects). Lock out the pets and kids. If you’re new to technology, do a dry run to work out potential kinks before the actual meeting.

Can I take personal calls at work?

Carrie Doyle: If you are in an area where people can hear your calls, it’s not a good idea. Personal calls should be limited and made in an office or outside on your cell phone where you have privacy. You may run into a situation where you need to take the call where you are sitting, and if you do, keep it short and remember others are listening.

Alyssa Hampton: I choose to accept personal calls when I’m not engaged with colleagues because if I didn’t, sometimes the places would be closed or people would be asleep by the time I left the office and could call them back.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: The new reality, especially with the long hours workers put in these days, is that some personal business will have to be conducted from work. That said, keep it to the minimum necessary. Follow your company policies. Catching up with friends and family can be done outside of work hours.

How do I strategize presentations for varying audience demographics: mostly male, mostly female, and mixed gender?

Carrie Doyle: More than gender, I think it's important to assess an audience's overall goals for a presentation and map to them. You can’t go wrong if you are adjusting to the audience’s goals. You also want to look at audience size, skill level, and understand the culture of the group. In presentations, always stick to strategies you are comfortable with, as comfort transcends any presentation. Myself, I am comfortable embedding wit and humor within my presentations.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Don't get caught up in gender. Rather, assess the vibe of the room. If you're audience consists of executive level folks short on time and attention, you better be ready to cut to the chase, back up assertions, and look put together.

How do I deal with someone that just doesn’t like me?

Carrie Doyle: First of all, are you certain that the person doesn’t like you? Maybe they act that way with everyone. Once you have established that a person indeed doesn’t like you, instead of trying really hard to make them like you in an indirect way, be direct. Maybe you can say something along the lines of, “Working together well is important to both the company’s and our success. That being said, I just wanted to make sure that you felt confident in us collaborating, or if you have any ideas on how to make our collaboration even better?” It’s a respectful way to open the conversation and keep positive without injecting blame.

Alyssa Hampton: Kill them with kindness.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: If the dislike gets in the way of work, your morale, or team productivity, then you need to take steps like team building or conflict resolution to bridge the gap. If you're feelings are just hurt because an individual doesn't seem to find you their cup of tea, you might have to toughen up. Not everyone is going to like you, which is harder for some people than others.

Helen Darling: You can speak with them in private to find out why they may dislike you. Continue to be amiable with them and hopefully your kindness will soften their hearts.

How do I handle a disagreement with a boss?

Alyssa Hampton: Stay calm. Ask questions to understand his/her position on the subject. Simply state your position on the topic (use visuals if possible). Find the similarities in your positions. Suggest and ask for ways to come together on the differences. Acknowledge that he/she might pull the trump card.

Carrie Doyle: I think the most important thing is not to let things linger and go unresolved. Be professional, courteous, and direct, letting him or her know just how important resolution is to you.

If I am dealing with something personal at home, do I tell my boss?

Carrie Doyle: If you feel like it is something that could potentially interfere with your work performance, schedule, or mental state, than you probably should. You are not obliged to go into any more detail than you are comfortable with.

Alyssa Hampton: If you have a personal issue that is affecting your work, ask to speak with your boss about a “personal issue” (so he/she has a small heads up) and then tell your boss the appropriate level of detail.

What is the difference between not giving up and being unrealistic?

If you fail to achieve a goal and can honestly say you tried everything you, your team, and your manager could strategically think of, then the goal was unrealistic. If you fell short because you didn’t do something you could have done, then you gave up.

How do I know the difference between a minor setback at work vs. a real problem?

Do your best not to let anything become a real problem by addressing minor setbacks with confidence–swiftly and proactively. Whatever the state of the problem, once you recognize it exists, your best bet is to be direct and speak with your supervisor about the issue and what you can do to rehabilitate your reputation.

Response Contribtors: Carrie Doyle, Alyssa Hampton and Ellen J. Nusbaum

Does it set a bad example to work crazy hours if I am the boss?

Carrie Doyle: Sometimes we have no choice but to work crazy hours when workload is high and deadlines are looming. When I was in this situation, I very deliberately said to my team, “You may see me at the office late and on email late at night working, but that doesn’t mean I am expecting you to put in those hours, too. I try and keep work life balance, but there are times when you have to kick into high gear, and I trust that you know when you are in those situations at work as well.”

Alyssa Hampton: Yes. The boss’ work ethic sets the expectation for the team work ethic (too much and too little). Your employees will understand seeing early and late time stamps when work is seasonally high. In fact, they’ll appreciate it because you will have opened up the bottleneck for things they needed from you to be productive the next day. But if you keep that up, they’ll think you expect the same of them, which they may or may not want to give. Conversely, if they never see you or hear from you because you aren’t working enough, then they’ll definitely lose respect for you and probably work less.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: You want to model an appropriate work ethic that epitomizes a healthy work-life balance, while respecting the nature of mission-critical projects that arise from time to time.

How important is it to voice my opinion at work?

Carrie Doyle: It's vital to be heard, or people have no idea what your needs and feelings are, and therefore your needs could be easily overlooked. You don’t have to go overboard, but respect your own and others’ sharing of opinions.

Alyssa Hampton: Know what you want to say, assess the appropriateness of when to speak, and say it.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Do not voice an opinion you've contrived merely to demonstrate your desire to contribute or to simply further your own agenda. If your opinion can help improve a strategy or troubleshoot an issue, pipe up. But don't speak just because you like attention or are looking for validation.

Is honesty always the best policy?

Carrie Doyle: I think if you are not honest, it finds a way to catch up to you. Understand your audience and serve up the truth with filtering and emotional intelligence in mind.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: I can see no upside to dishonesty. However, keep in mind diplomacy and what is relevant to the mission at all times. For example, if you are evaluating ideas and one idea is simply ridiculous, while your honest opinion might be that the idea is ridiculous, it's best to find a better way to convey that (for example, "That idea may not be practical given our budget and timeline.")

What is the best way to get involved in the right professional organizations?

Alyssa Hampton: Ask peers, supervisors, and Human Resources for suggestions and then ask to participate. Too many great and employer-sponsored resources are untapped.

Carrie Doyle: Start researching organizations in your field, look on LinkedIn, and ask others what groups they belong to. Many organizations have new member interest nights. Give those a try before committing.

How do I know when its right to ask for a raise?

Alyssa Hampton: If you can show growth in your qualifications and capabilities, then it’s time to ask for a raise.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: You're entitled to ask about a raise after each year in a role, upon a promotion or increase in responsibility, and if you know that others in the same role doing the same level of work are being paid more than you. You're entitled to ask for a raise if during hiring you were made promises about raises at specified intervals. You're not entitled to ask for a raise because your mortgage has increased or you want to buy a new car. You should take the temperature of the company. If the company is in financial struggles, that's maybe not the best time to ask for a raise.

Why do I have to have to have another job offer to get a raise? It feels wrong.

Alyssa Hampton: When your company likes your work but undervalues you salary-wise, and then you receive a better job offer, your company should fear losing you and hence become more motivated to respond quickly. Without an offer, they will be more inclined to minimize costs, and minimal salary raises are a great way to keep overhead down.

Carrie Doyle: This is just the way that corporate America works. I struggled with this situation, and the very first time it happened to me, I said to myself, and even my boss, “why can’t you just give me a raise simply because I deserve one?” I never wanted to say I had a job offer unless I really did have full intentions of going somewhere else. It felt dishonest otherwise. After almost taking a job at another place, and then swiftly getting a $30K plus raise, the truth set in. This is just the way it works.

How do I handle receiving critical feedback from my boss?

Encourage it. Write it down. Ask for concrete examples. Repeat it back so you make sure you understand it. Ask for suggestions on improvement. Arrange a follow-up meeting to track progress. You want to handle feedback with professionalism, pride, and openness so you can work together towards what you can do best with the critical feedback in mind.

Response Contributors: Carrie Doyle and Alyssa Hampton

Helen Darling: Be receptive. I believe being able to receive critical feedback is a great attribute to possess. I also believe it’s a great way to grow, get better, and understand your boss’s expectations.

What happens when I get blamed for something I didn’t do?

Carrie Doyle: I think it's very important to clear my name regarding something I did not do.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Sometimes it's appropriate to document the correction in writing, such as an email. Sometimes a comment to someone can suffice. Measure the severity of the situation for which you were assigned blame. As a vendor, if something is wrong with a deliverable that we did not create but the client thought it was our deliverable, you better believe I will immediately clarify that we were not involved. My company's reputation is tied to perception of our work product, so in an instance like that, rehabilitating perceptions is paramount to our image.

Life isn’t always fair. What is the conversation I should have with myself regarding gender politics?

If you strongly believe in something, don't be afraid to fight for it. Life isn’t always fair; but ask to receive what you have earned.

Response Contributors: Carrie Doyle and Alyssa Hampton

How do I know what I really want in life?

Alyssa Hampton: It’s trite, but ask yourself what you think will matter when you look back on your life. Then, consider different extremes and narrow in on your sweet spot along the spectrum (CEO – unemployed, nomad – never left home, rich – poor, scheduled – spontaneous, self-directed – managed). Chances are you’ll be somewhere in the middle, but envisioning yourself in that spectrum will help you find your fit.

Carrie Doyle: You don’t always know what you want in life, and when you think you finally know, it's liable to change. Just listen to both your head and your heart, pay attention to what your priorities are, and most importantly, enjoy the journey of finding out all the things you want in life.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: For me, I discovered handwriting analysis. It helped me confirm and zone in on what I was naturally good at and what was important to me from my basic drives to my spiritual needs. From there I brainstormed both on my own and with friends and family about goals (family-wise, hobby-wise and career-wise) that filled those needs. I then wrote down my goals for what I wanted now, in 5 years, and then in 10 years. Each year I revisit those goals.

How do I decide on the right plans for after high school?

Alyssa Hampton: Write down a list of all of the things that interest you (at this moment). At the bottom of the list, add “things I haven’t learned about yet.” And then consider what next step will get you closer to the options you are interested in and more exposed to the things you haven’t learned yet. Do you need an undergraduate program? Do you need a year abroad? Learn about your options by talking with people who have gone before you and visiting them first, if possible, so you are informed and can get a gut feeling for how it feels to be somewhere new.

Can I start my own legitimate business in high school?

Absolutely! There are many child, teen, and young entrepreneurs out there, and you can be one of them too. Let these youngsters provide some inspiration: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5051-young-entrepreneurs.html

Is online high school an option for me?

Carrie Doyle: Everyone learns differently, so exploring online high schools and what they are all about is not a bad idea–keeping in mind the way you learn best.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Just be mindful that you will need to be a responsible self-starter to succeed with online learning.

How can I be a role model?

Carrie Doyle: Live your life positively, with conviction, and be the best you possible, and I guarantee there will be people who are watching and learning. The best role model is not a formal role, but one that naturally occurs as people interact with you.

Alyssa Hampton: Lead by example by living a life that positively influences others.

How do I stay up on advances and changes in my industry while balancing everything else?

Alyssa Hampton: Establish systems–block time in your calendar to read your carefully curated RSS feed, set up your phone to automatically download podcasts you can listen to during commute time, organize a lunch-and-learn group with your colleagues so you’re being intentional about peer learning–or do this more casually, just bringing up topics of conversation at the coffee machine or lunch table about something you learned and thought they would be interested in knowing if they don’t already.

Carrie Doyle: The best ways for me are:

  • Joining at least one professional organization in my industry and attending an annual event or conference

  • Joining groups of interest on LinkedIn so I can stay up on pertinent discussions

  • Having discussions with people in my industry

  • Subscribing to articles and websites in my industry

How do I best fund my education?

Alyssa Hampton:

  1. Post-graduate – Get your employer to pay for it.

  2. Undergraduate – Apply for tons of scholarships (academics, athletics, extracurricular activities) and get a work-study job.

How do I know the salary I should be making?

Alyssa Hampton: Check industry standards, ask Human Resources for “band” information.

Carrie Doyle: There are many resources out there that can help you understand baseline salary for your industry. My favorite is Glassdoor.com.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics and the annual Robert Half salary guide

How do I negotiate a raise?

Alyssa Hampton: After you have received a favorable performance appraisal, ask to speak with your manager and Human Resources. Present a straightforward rationale: “Before I was able to do that, and I was paid that. Now I’m able to do this, and know I am worth this.” Use industry standards to gauge and validate your request.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Most experts agree that timing and preparation are key to winning a raise negotiation. Your bosses expect you to ask for a raise every year during your annual review. If you don't like the offer, do not hesitate to counteroffer. Men do this all the time, and women should not hesitate. And don't be afraid to push back when you're boss bristles and tries to shut you down. You have come in prepared. You know what the industry average is. You know what the regional average is. You may know what your male counterparts are paid.

Be willing to also negotiate perks as part of your raise package, especially if your company's purse strings are tight. Such perks might include telecommute days, attending conferences, mileage reimbursement, or a company-paid cell phone. Also, consider the timing of your raise request. Obviously, asking for a raise shortly after a layoff is ill-advised.

Likewise, time your request in advance of the company setting its new annual budget. Again, the annual review time is the expected time to ask for that raise.

Also, demonstrate how you saved or made the company money as part of your negotiation–did you increase productivity, find ways to decrease time to market, reduce spending or manufacturing costs, etc? Did you help Sales win new clients?

If your company still refuses to budge, show how your salary is not in keeping with salary ranges in the region and that you're seeking parity. If you're paid less than your male counterparts and can prove that, make that case.

If you sense discriminatory pay practices are in play, you might want to get with Human Resources or your union, if applicable, about your concerns.

Understand how willing you are to push your cause, because the ramifications of going to HR could be highly charged politically.

At what point are you willing to dig in your heels and seek employment elsewhere vs. sticking it out vs. taking legal measures? Work through all the scenarios in your head before you begin the negotiation.

You can go online and search for dozens of great articles on how to research, plan, and negotiate pay raises in dozens of scenarios. Find the scenario applicable to you and role-play it with friends and family until you’re comfortable.

How do I negotiate a promotion?

Alyssa Hampton: Plan ahead. That means planning backwards to address the gaps from where you are to where you want to be. Then agree to take action steps as well as follow-up meetings with your manager. Bring progress updates to future meetings with your manager. And when you’ve filled the majority of the gaps, ask for the promotion.

My boss told me there’s a glass ceiling I cannot rise above. What should I do about that?

Helen Darling: It's glass…bust through it!

Ellen J. Nusbaum: It's time to go to Human Resources. Your boss is not allowed to say that to a woman. Set that boss straight. Or, suck it up until that boss leaves the company or is promoted away from your area. The choice is yours. I actually had that exact experience. My boss promoted me to the area supervisory position, and then told me to enjoy it because there was a glass ceiling not of his making that I would not be able to transcend. Of course, I transcended his prediction many times over. I felt that was his misguided opinion, and that I would prove him wrong. I did that in short order and was promoted to executive management less than two years later. Don't let other people define you.

I keep getting passed over for promotions by men with less seniority and/or skill. What should I do?

Carrie Doyle: I would have a very direct and respectful conversation with your boss about what it takes to be promoted. I would say something like, “I have been looking at the current people who have been promoted within, trying to learn for myself what it takes. I am having trouble deducing a pattern of what they are doing that I can learn from. Can you help me understand what you look for when you promote, so I can get myself on the right track for growth and promotion?"

Alyssa Hampton: Keep it about you. Inquire about development areas where you need to grow in order to earn promotion. Write them down, strategize, and agree on action steps with your manager. Then, update him/her on your progress so it’s blatantly obvious that you have filled in your gaps. If after being this assertive you are still passed over, talk with Human Resources.

My boss has promised me a promotion for a long time but keeps making excuses why now is not the right time. What should I do?

Carrie Doyle: Start by documenting goals and associated promotions in your reviews with your boss, so it's officially in writing and sanctioned by the company and Human Resources.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: You should not be afraid to meet with HR to discuss all opportunities– immediate and down the road. HR is there to help you grow. They should help you plot a course that might include company paid training to help get your career moving. If your boss is slowing you down, HR may or may not be able to help with that boss. However, they can also point you to other opportunities in the organization and help you develop a plan to get there.

I keep getting in trouble at work. What should I do?

Carrie Doyle: First things first. What do you mean by getting in trouble? Is it serious? Does the trouble stem from an underlying theme or person? Boil the issue down before digging in for resolution.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Then begin to directly take action to address the issues. For example, if the trouble is related to missing deadlines, ask your boss or Human Resources to send you to a time management workshop. If you're getting into conflicts that don't seem of your own making, ask your boss or HR department to send you to conflict resolution training. If your boss is not happy with the quality of your work, sit down with your boss to map out a remediation plan that may include more on-the-job training. In all cases, you need to be honest with yourself about the causes of the issues and deal with each one directly, proactively, and with an open mind.

I don’t understand how to play office politics. What should I do?

Carrie Doyle: Start by reading the book Office Politics 101: Silence of the Backstabbing Lambs by Ethan Powers.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Also find a champion at work who seems like an office politics savant and who can guide you informally by giving you feedback based on observations as well as offer advice for specific situations.

I want to manage, but I have no experience. What should I do?

Carrie Doyle: The first thing I would suggest you do is to ask yourself why you want to be a manager. Understand if this ‘want’ is from a true love for people management or if it’s just because you want to be promoted or want more power in a job. If you feel it’s for the wrong reasons, try and find other ways you can meet your needs beyond management. If it's for the right reasons, I highly suggest asking your Human Resources if they have management training, look at what the American Management Association offers, and read some good management books. And even with all this knowledge, nothing is better than practical application, so hopefully you can start small with one direct report and grow from there.

Alyssa Hampton: Share your desire with your manager and backwards plan action steps to prepare yourself. He/she needs to know you have this desire (not all people do), and he/she needs to believe you’re ready. Doing both ensures he/she will think of you and when he/she does, he/she will believe you’re ready.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: Some people are meant for management, and some people have management thrust upon them. I fell into both buckets, and both scenarios converged at the same time. Fortunately my company recognized that while I had great management potential, I needed work in every area from people skills to legal responsibilities. As a condition of promotion, I had to complete supervisor training. I did so through the Arizona Government Training Services' Supervisor's Academy. This was a comprehensive 82+ hours training program of courses that occurred over 3 months. I was sometimes out of the office two full days a week. The company really committed to my growth. In return, I fully committed to the learning and to embracing every workshop. It was not easy. It was not a rubber stamp program. I had to work hard and participate fully. I learned about:

  • Grievances and litigation

  • Improving morale and productivity while lowering turnover

  • Discrimination and harassment laws

  • Conflict resolution

  • Teambuilding

  • Managing diversity

  • EEO laws

  • Meeting skills

  • Hiring, review, and action planning

  • Managing through change

Management is great responsibility, and it should not be taken on lightly. Your goal should be to help the company and your direct reports prosper and grow. Take it on for all the right reasons, not because you want more money and power.

How do you know when you have outgrown a job?

Alyssa Hampton: Write down the new skills you are learning and how often you feel challenged. If you are dissatisfied with your answers, then look for a job that stretches your potential and teaches you more.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: When you're no longer excited to come to work and instead get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, it is most definitely time to move on. Life is too short to dwell in that frustration.

Carrie Doyle: One of my favorites: http://idealistcareers.org/10-signs-youve-outgrown-your-job-and-what-to-do-about-it/

Brenda Finora: Each year you should be able to establish ‘stretch’ goals…goals that challenge and stimulate your professional growth. If you find that within the realm of your duties this is no longer possible, it may be time to assess what your next move is…it could be that you have outgrown the company…not necessarily the ‘job.’ Be sure to differentiate between the two, and make the best decision for YOU.

How can I combat insecurity that I am not doing a good job or that people don’t like me

Alyssa Hampton: Reflect on why you’re insecure. Can you identify things you can do better or legitimate reasons why people don’t like you? If so, work on those things. If not, keep doing what you’re doing and create an opportunity to get constructive criticism from someone you trust but who doesn’t just want to be your “yes” man/woman.

Carrie Doyle: Take a step back and understand why you are truly feeling that way. Then evaluate it factually. Most insecurity comes from a made up perception that cannot be linked factually. But if you can link it factually, it gives you something to tangibly work on. Don’t worry about everyone liking you. That has been my Achilles heel for years, and I still check myself regarding wanting everyone to like me. Not everyone will like you. Be the best you can be, treat people well, and only focus on the people who really matter most to you and your job fulfillment and performance.

Anita Renzetti: I use affirmations and pep talks to myself, outside activities like Toastmasters and leadership programs, and reminders that not everyone will like me. Work needs to be only one part of a balanced life.

How can I tell if a work relationship is toxic, and what should I do to resolve a toxic relationship?

Alyssa Hampton: Ask yourself what positives does this work relationship bring to the other person, me, and those around us? If positives are few and far between, it’s toxic.

Carrie Doyle: I address this very topic in my book Journal to Fulfillment. Toxic relationships are relationships that drain your energy and bring you down. Generally, toxic colleagues fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Competitive to a fault

  • Jealous to a fault

  • Narcissistic

  • Overly demanding

  • Blaming

  • Negative thinking all the time

  • Insecure to a fault

  • Do your best to recognize and avoid toxic colleagues and behavior.

Ellen J. Nusbaum: If the thought of interacting with a person at work makes you feel scared or ill, causes you to lose sleep or lose weight, makes you unable to concentrate on your work, then it's a toxic relationship.

If the toxicity has reached a stage in which you don't feel you can safely convey your concerns with that person, then it's time to take action.

First, document the issues and occurrences, providing dates and specifics as much as possible. Next, bring your concerns to your supervisor and/or Human Resources as is appropriate for your work situation. I have experienced this. Our HR department brought in an organizational relationship consultant to help us find common ground and a common language, and we eventually were able to work well together moving forward. This need and technique is not uncommon. However, if your organization refuses to take action, then you may be dealing with a larger systemic problem. And if that's the case, you have such choices as seeking alternative employment or taking legal action.

Is it okay to leverage the fact that I am a woman with a woman boss?

Carrie Doyle: I think it is something that will naturally happen in your interactions without having to be blatant about it. It's a commonality, and having things in common can help with any bond.