With so much uncertainty in the workplace these days employers are paying closer attention to who’s really performing and who isn’t. Whether it’s your super extended water cooler conversations or your tendency to be too emotional at work, your day to day behavior might be under more scrutiny than you realize. ESSENCE.com spoke with Atlanta psychologist and author Connie M. Ward PhD on how the little things we do are sometimes put under a microscope in the workplace. ESSENCE.com: Do you feel like we’re being judged in the workplace now more than ever? Dr. Connie M. Ward: In this economy I think we have to be on our toes. We’re being asked to do more with less and we have to be perceived as though we’re a team player and that when we’re at work we’re focused on work. So things like taking too many personal calls or too much time spent surfing the web for personal business or too many conversations in the hall; those types of things are not going to put you in good standing. We also have to really check our attitudes when we get to work. Individuals go into the workplace and maybe they’ve had a conversation with somebody and it didn’t go well or they heard something they don’t like and they go into work with that attitude. People don’t want to work with people that have bad attitudes. ESSENCE.com: One of the things you advise is to have a ritual before you walk into work. Dr. Ward: Yes, whatever you’re bringing to the office, know that the office can’t handle that right now. I live in the metropolitan Atlanta area, for example, and the traffic is horrible on the way to work but I tell my clients they have to practice some sort of ritual to deal with that traffic so they don’t bring that frustration with them. Find a ritual through music rather than talk radio or talking on the phone so that when you get to work you are in a calm place and you can go in with your best attitude. And that’s not to say that if your child is sick or there’s a death in the family you shouldn’t let that affect you. It’s the day-to-day ‘I had a bad conversation with my boyfriend so I’m going to bring it work’ that you have to handle better. ESSENCE.com: What about showing your emotions in the workplace? Dr. Ward: That is one of those things that is perfect if you have an office with a door and you can close your door and get yourself together. If you don’t have that, you have to be able to somehow calm yourself by using some anger management techniques like breathing or counting backwards; anything that can distract you so that when you’re calmer you can assess the situation to see why you got so concerned about it and to see what you can salvage from it. If you’re going to go and address that person you want to be able to address them based on facts not based on just your feelings. ESSENCE.com: What advice do you give your clients about advancing their careers? Dr. Ward: First of all, they need to know as much as they can about the industry they’re pursuing or the one they’re working in. Then they need to become proficient, an expert really, at the job that they do. They need to make social contact and do some networking. In addition to that, many companies have diversity networks so they need to get a mentor there but don’t exclude getting mentors of people that are not of color. That’s important because you will find sometimes that if they take you under their wing they will teach you things that are not written anywhere in a book or expose you to things you may not have access to. I also advise they pay attention to their attitude and their daily interactions with their colleagues and make sure to get as much training or education to make themselves well-rounded. Connie M. Ward, PhD is an Atlanta-based licensed psychologist, at A New Start Counseling Center and a Transitions life coach. She is also the co-author of “Career Counseling For African Americans. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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