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Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you make the most of staying home.
Visit the hub

You may have had a job when the pandemic struck – and may still have one. But the future is uncertain. So this is a good time to think about how to increase your odds of staying employed when things return to some semblance of normality.

At the start of the year, consultant Sharlyn Lauby offered some advice on improving your business acumen in 2020 that is more valuable than ever today. If you don’t know how your organization makes and spends money, you should learn – fast – so that you can contribute to the business in the most effective way possible. Early in her career she bought the controller a cup of coffee to chat about those issues. Consider a virtual coffee now.

Ms. Lauby recommended reading books that will increase your business acumen and building a business-book library, an idea I recently wrote about with a list of recommendations for your shelves.

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She also urges you to step outside of your regular responsibilities. “The next time your boss is looking for a volunteer, consider raising your hand,” she wrote on her blog. This can help you learn new knowledge and skills, build new working relationships and get noticed by the organization. The problem she noted is that our calendars are usually crammed, so we can’t take more on. But maybe now you have some slack in your schedule for this career-development option.

Executive coach Anne Sugar offers advice for those who have a difficult relationship with their boss. Ms. Sugar says the way to start is to track every interaction with him or her. No, that’s not to fight back against a dismissal – it’s to prevent one.

“Whether you purchase a hardcover journal or keep a folder on your desktop, write about your manager’s leadership style and how you react to your boss’s behaviours. Through these observations, you will see real-time triggers in your relationship with your boss. You’ll also have an opportunity to reflect on the type of leader you want to be, how you want to lead, hot points with your manager, and also triggers,” she writes in Inc.

Over time you’ll see trends and connections that you might not have noticed. One of her clients found the source of his outbursts of anger about his boss could be traced to e-mail exchanges that left him feeling unrecognized for his contribution. Solution: Share the concern with the boss and limit e-mails.

When we run into conflict with a boss or a colleague, psychologist Anna Maravelas says we succumb to two assumptions that she calls “the stinky twins.” They both involve contempt, the difference being the target for that scorn.

The first assumption is “I’m frustrated, and it’s your fault.” That leads to self-righteousness, indignity and hostility, and further inflames the situation. The second is “I’m frustrated, and it’s my fault.” Now the contempt is turned inward, which can add to the hostility and create depression or other negative health effects.

Instead, she suggests in her recent book Creating a Drama-Free Workplace embracing a third assumption: The other person is reasonable, and you need to know the whole story so their behaviour will make sense.

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When you feel angry about a boss or colleague – or someone else is angry at you – in an era when she says blame is on the rise, she urges you to try the EASE approach:

  • Empathy: Be empathetic to the other person’s frustrations.
  • Appreciation: State your appreciation for their commitment, expertise and efforts.
  • Search for solutions: Speculate on reasons for the situation.
  • Explore: Find some next steps you can work on together

Dealing with conflicts is not fun, so we put it off. But this unstable, uncertain period may not be a time for procrastination.

Quick hits

  • Productivity is as simple as one, two, three, according to University of Washington professor Cal Newport. 1) Do fewer things. 2) Do them better. 3) Know why you’re doing them.
  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the average adult spent five hours a day watching television and more than two hours on social media. With physical distancing, consultant Nathan Magnuson notes the temptation will be to overdose on media that plays on our fears and desire for distraction, rather than our hopes. He encourages you to be careful about what you feed your mind and who you spend your time with online now that normal interactions have dissipated.
  • Similarly, productivity coach Chris Bailey warns that we live two lives – one in the analogue or physical world and the other in the digital realm. As we have fewer activities to engage in with gyms and coffee shops closed and no drive to work, make sure you don’t wallow in the digital world, which can be depressing. Get a physical life.
  • Working from home also makes it easy to overeat. Health and wellness coach Christine Norwitch recommends the 20-minute challenge. When you’re in the mood for a snack, distract yourself for 20 minutes either by taking a walk, listening to music or reading a book. It will show if you’re actually hungry or if you’re falling prey to mindless snacking.
  • Virtual presentations and meetings require a faster pace, says trainer Roger Courville. Don’t cut your content, but in presentations, opt for more slides so the screen changes more frequently. Draw the audience away from checking their e-mail with comments that bring them back to the screen such as “Look at the data on the right-hand portion of your slide.”

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.

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