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Get a Handle on Workplace Stress

Manage Workplace StressWorkplace stress is real.

“Brain cells create ideas. Stress kills brain cells. Stress is not a good idea”  ~ Doug Hall

The Mayo Clinic educates us to some of the silent signals of stress.  From headaches, stomach cramps, overactive sweet tooth, heart palpitations, anxiety or shedding hair – your body can have a physical, obvious or not so obvious, reaction to stress. All of us have our “pain points” or triggers that cause some kind of involuntary stress reaction.

Spend sometime today thinking about your triggers.  There may be more than one.

Do you feel you have limited control over your work?

Do you feel like you are being pulled in too many directions?

Are your personal and professional values out of sync with your employer?

Are you working really long hours? Putting in a lot of overtime?

Are you relocating or thinking about relocating? Is a spouse relocating?

Do you work on shift?

Are you worried about job security?

Are you overdue for a vacation, but can’t leave?

Do you get along with your colleagues or your boss?

Do you have a jerk, bully, narcissist, Machiavellian for a boss?

Manage difficulty subordinates?

Unstable work environment waiting for the “other shoe to drop”?

Unrealistic project deadlines?

Constantly changing priorities?

Worklife/Balance out of whack?

Find yourself calling out sick more often than you used to?

Today is the day to start the personal exploration and acknowledge what might be causing your workplace stress.  You don’t necessarily have to find a solution today, but you need to at least acknowledge it.

These three resources can help provide some answers and offer great short term or long term ideas for lowering stress – even right at your desk.



Marianna Paulson (Auntie Stress)

Please share other resources you use.

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Join professional associations; Membership has rewards

Join Professional Associations

Professional Associations

Membership has its rewards.

Man is a tool-using animal…Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all” ~ Thomas Carlyle

We spend a lot of time being members of groups whether we define ourselves that way or not.  As children, we joined play teams, in high schools we were in sports or academic teams; in college we added Greek Life or clubs and as adults we are members of churches, community groups, alumni and civic associations. Memberships work because we are social creatures and as the quote suggests, memberships are tools that we routinely use in our lives – to belong, to nurture, to support and to feel we are part of something.

In your professional life, it is always a good idea to consider your  membership presence in professional associations. Are you currently an active member of any professional association or group? Notice the emphasis on the word active. Many of us even pay dues to belong to associations, but really do not take the time to even read the monthly magazines or any subscriptions we receive.  If you are a student, the same principle applies to campus clubs or chapters of professional associations.  Are you there, but not really using it as the tool to build leadership or administrative skills as you should?

Why join a professional association?

Aside from the obvious networking possibilities with people in the same profession, which could lead to great opportunities, there are other benefits:

  1. Building new skills through on line or in person workshops or webinars.
  2. Helping to shape the future direction of your occupation.
  3. Developing leadership skills through committee involvement.
  4. Staying ahead of trends in your occupation or industry.
  5. Inside information on jobs and internships.

If you are a seasoned professional exploring career changes, or a student expanding your career and industry awareness, joining a professional association should be a no-brainer.  Students should know there are usually significant discounts for membership.

Wikipedia has a great list of professional associations with links to each.  Find a few that you can further explore and possibly join so that you can maybe attend a national conference next year.

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Set S.M.A.R.T. career goals

Career goalsBe S.M.A.R.T about your career goals.  

“Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I’ll give you a stock clerk” ~ J.C. Penney

Set career goals. Write them down.  According to research from Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University, individuals are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals by writing them down.  There is also a 78 percent increase in achievement when sharing weekly progress on goals with a friend. 

Goal setting is one of those things I ask about when I have career conversations with people. It’s interesting, but I have found many people talk about their career wishes, but never actually set any goals.  Routine career actions like getting a professional certification, taking a class or creating a LinkedIn account don’t have to take a lot of time.  However, as simple as those actions might appear to be, without actually making it an actionable goal, it may never happen.

The SMART technique is simply a framework for thinking about your career goals.  It doesn’t just apply to career planning and it certainly is not my original idea.  You will see the SMART goals concept everywhere.  SMART is actually an acronym where the meaning of the letters stay pretty consistent. Expect to see some slight variation in what each letter stands for depending on what you read.  

Using the S.M.A.R.T. framework your career goals are supposed to be:

Specific (S), Measurable (M), Attainable (A), Relevant (R) and Timely (T)

Set your career goals, but at the same time, become comfortable changing, tweaking and modifying those goals as time goes by.  

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Positive Attitude is Key to Career Success

Positive thinking and career successStart Positive – Nothing really happens without that!

We use National Career Development Month to help people recognize the importance of life-long career development and professional growth. This month gives all of us an opportunity to assess our existing jobs and career situations, explore alternatives, and develop plans that will better prepare us for the future we want.

Whether you feel stuck in your existing career; satisfied, but still exploring or just thinking about a transition, or want to set some new goals or measure yourself against your New Years resolutions, this is a good time to begin.

First off, on day one, we want to start the month by emphasizing the importance of a positive attitude.  John Maxwell, world famous leadership expert says that “successful people don’t have fewer problems than unsuccessful people – they just have a different mindset.”

That positive mindset begins with you. Some quick ways to do that:

-Reaffirm to yourself that being positive is a choice that will make a difference and that it is your responsibility to do that for yourself.

-Surround yourself with positive people.  Find a way, if only for the month, to separate yourself from people who only spew negativity.  If you can’t avoid them, then tell them – “I’m taking a break from negativity this month.”

-Know what triggers negative thoughts around your work or career goals and what you need to do to change channels mentally when those thoughts seep in.

-Understand the role that negativity plays in elevating your stress levels.  People can have physical reactions to stress which can’t be ignored.

-Add some inspiration to your workspace. Print out a inspirational message. Yes, it’s on your phone, but seeing it written is impactful too, because others see it and better know who you are.

Bottom line is that it’s hard to stay in a place you hate whether it’s school or work. However, only positive thinking can change that.

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Sexual Harassment and Emerging Professionals

Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong’o speaks out about Weinstein

Sexual harassment in the workplace is real and emerging professionals and new graduates are sometimes the target.  Workplace predators are counting on the naive responses, fearful attempts to push back and lack of knowledge about sexual harassment policies. Often, these emerging professionals, who are new to the workplace, don’t even fully know what is acceptable behavior or expected of them and of co-workers just yet.

When you read the op-ed by Lupita Nyong’o in the New York Times, about her encounters with Harvey Weinstein, you really get some insight into her thinking about how to interpret the actions that she sees coming from him.  Keep in mind that she is an emerging talent who wants to succeed as an actor.  She recounts Weinstein rattling off the names of other actors who had “dated” him and the success he was able to bestow on them as a result.  That can be a very seductive proposition for someone who is trying to break into a career.  Fortunately, Nyong’o appears to have kept her wits about her and left that “relationship” with her values intact.

As Nyong’o describes her own responses, she is giving insight into some of the actions that new professionals could take if they face similar sexual harassment situations.  Make no mistake about it, Weinstein’s behavior is not just limited to the entertainment industry.  The well-publicized cases of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly at Fox News or Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein stories, might lead some people to think this only happens in the world of entertainment or media.  That is not the case.

Some advice and tips for emerging professionals to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace:

Listen to your gut and pay attention to your instincts. You are probably right about what you think is happening.

Inform the harasser that the his or her behavior is unwelcome and must stop.

Tell someone outside of work. A mentor, a mature friend, a parent are all good options.

Keep notes and document activity and dates especially if you find yourself being left out of things or included in things when others are not.

Try to avoid being alone with a person if you feel uncomfortable.

Plan an exit strategy if you find yourself alone with a person. I remember having to lie about being somewhere else in order to get out of an uncomfortable situation several years ago.

Report the uncomfortable behavior to human resources. This one is tricky because you might not be guaranteed anonymity if this is something that needs to be dealt with.  If it ever becomes a legal issue, you will need to have evidence of reporting the matter within the company.

Watch for and document retaliatory behavior if you do decide to speak up. Retaliation is equally bad.

Read the company’s sexual harassment policy. Follow the policy on reporting.

Look for somewhere else to work.

Learn more about sexual harassment:

In a 2015 survey by Cosmopolitan Magazine, a third of the women responding said they had been sexually harassed in the workplace. Thirty-eight percent said the harassment came from a male boss and 70% of them said they had not reported the activity.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

US Department of Education Safe & Drug Free Schools Program (Sexual harassment happens on college campuses too.

Feminist Majority Foundation

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Tougaloo College – This HBCU has a civil rights legacy

Tougaloo NineEvery Thursday, we honor the history of institutions designated as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) through the #TBT hashtag.  For those who don’t know, the #TBT hash tag means “Throw Back Thursday” and on Thursdays, social media lights up with people sharing images of the past.

Today our #TBT celebration is all about Tougaloo College  which was established in 1869, in Mississippi and is affectionately known as – “The Loo”.  Their tag line, quite appropriately, is “Where History Meets the Future”.

HBCUs, including Tougaloo College, have played a significant role in building America’s diverse workforce.  Look at their list of notable alumni and you will see judges, lawyers, artists, sociologists, musicians, healthcare professionals, politicians and civil rights activists. However, these schools were not just about in-the-classroom efforts to educate professionals, they were also about the advocacy needed to change the world into which these students would graduate and build careers.  The photo here is of college students known as the “Tougaloo Nine” as they attempted to integrate the Jackson Municipal Library (Photo – The Clarion Ledger).

Some alumni, like Annie Devine, quit her job in insurance sales to join the civil rights movement.  Devine along with Fannie Lou Hamer and Victoria Gray Adams, became the first black women to speak before the United States House of Representatives.  When Devine was threatened with eviction from her home for attending a meeting, she said “I think I made a decision right there. If I was going to be harassed, be made to move just because I went to a meeting, then I was already in the movement” (Houck and Dixon, 2009, p. 289).

Fannie Lou Hamer gets Honorary degreeTougaloo College recognized the work of Fannie Lou Hamer by awarding her with the doctor of humanities honorary degree in 1969. (Photograph courtesy The Tougaloo College Civil Rights Collection at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History)


Houck, D. W., & Dixon, D. E. (2009). Women and the civil rights movement, 1954-1965. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

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