Current Activities in Longterm Care
Kate Lynch, Editor
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Advice For The Office

Not all incentives are created equally, and some might not be good at all, says Rick Brenner and
the folks at Chaco Canyon Consulting ( in the Point Lookout e-
newsletter. As a matter of fact, incentives are usually less effective than we hope, and sometimes
less effective than we believe, Brenner says. Are your incentives counterproductive? Here are
some things to remember when considering an incentives program:

• Remember that motivational power is not always equal to market value. For instance, if you’re
hawking an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii, an employee with a chronically ill child is possibly not
going to appreciate it because he or she might never be able to go on such a trip.

• Parallel awards programs can cancel each other out. Do you offer several program but
disqualify an employee who has already won one award from winning another? This can
discourage high-performing employees. You don’t want to demoralize your employees or
cheapen an award you have already given out. Watch that you don’t ruin the chance of getting
the results you set out to attain.

• Rewards can be given out too closely together. Space them out. For rewards to have a full and
powerful effect, you have to make sure they don’t occur in a fashion that waters them down.

• Give out rewards when they will be most meaningful. Align awards with the work being done. If a
project was really an award winning effort, design and give awards at strategic times. If a project
takes more than a year to complete, for instance, don’t give out the award too early just because
you have an annual awards program scheduled. Appropriate timing will make your award more
memorable, valuable and motivating.

• Don’t give out awards that unintentionally demotivate. How can awards negatively influence
workers? Well, if you’re only giving out one “Engineer of the Year” award, but you’ve got a lot of
top-notch, high-performing engineers on your team, you might be passing over many important
contributors. That could leave a feeling of injustice among your unrewarded employees.

New leadership role? Don’t do these things

There are several pitfalls new leaders can fall victim to when negotiating a transition in the
workplace. Michael Watkins ( gives a few tips in his
book The First 90 Days (“Pitfalls readymade for new leaders,” by Rachel Zupek on and Here are some problems to look out for:

• Becoming remote or unapproachable. Leaders sometimes rely on reports and other written
analysis of problems in lieu of meeting with colleagues. This can lead to isolation and an
impression that your need to know about the organization is stronger than your desire to deal
with the real issues at hand.

• Appearing arrogant or insecure. While these two qualities might seem worlds apart, they’re not.
If you need to be seen as the person who always has the answer, beware. You could come off as
a jerk or an incompetent leader. Instead, it’s advisable to develop a strong curiosity about what’s
really going on, along with a willingness to listen to what others have to say. Coming in with your
ideas about what is going on is natural, but attaching yourself to those ideas no matter what else
happens is a bad idea.

• Being all over the map. This usually arises from trying to do too much and from not having a
real plan—or not sticking to a plan you do have. Try to prioritize, Watkins says.

• Choosing the wrong influences. You will be judged by the company you keep and the advice
you take. Be careful when you choose whom to listen to, as many people, competent and
otherwise, are going to try and bend your ear.

• Failing to get in touch with everyone. Many leaders communicate to those above them and
those below them but fail to touch base with those “horizontal” to them, says Watkins. Practice
getting in touch with your peers and you will strengthen your position.   

Skip these excuses for missing work

Need the day off and tempted to make up an excuse? You’re probably better off telling the truth
rather than lie says Andrea Nierenberg, president of The Nierenberg Group, a management
consulting and personal marketing practice firm (“Ten excuses for missing work,” by Michele
Marrinan on

Here are some excuses you’ll probably want to skip, according to Marrinan:

• A death in the family. Never, ever use this excuse if it’s not true. If your boss finds out, you will
probably never be trusted in the office again. One PR executive reports that he had an employee
whose mother died twice, and who lost 12 grandparents in two years.

• I’m too sleepy to come in. An IBM manager says one of her employees called in and said she’d
accidentally taken some medicine with codeine in it instead of her vitamins.

• I can’t get my garage door opened. An employee called his manager and said he couldn’t get
his car out of the garage due to a power failure—until she reminded him that he could open the
door manually.

• I can’t find my polling place. One employee told her boss that she needed the entire day off to
find out where she had to go to vote.

• I have a personal emergency. Too vague, and just about every boss knows it when you try to
use it.

Try these tips to save time

Need to run a tighter ship so you can have a little more leisure time? These days that’s a pretty
common problem and goal. People work more hours and are spread pretty thin. But don’t
despair. Here are a few time management tips from’s (
com) CEO Jim Bird:

• Use a daily planner. Electronic or paper, it doesn’t matter. Choose one that gives you at least
on page per day, and then make sure you always keep it with you. Jot down your commitments
as you go.

• Get rid of your to-do list. Why? To-do lists often end up being frustrating and futile, something
you never quite get to. Instead, take your to-do list before you toss it out and transfer the items
to a particular time and day in your daily planner. You’ll be amazed at how much your stress level
goes down and how much you accomplish when you do this.

• Set aside a block of time to return phone calls and answer e-mails. Choosing early morning to
do this is often best since the other person will have the rest of the day to respond. Of course,
urgent messages and phone calls should be returned in a timely manner.

• When talking on the phone or in face-to-face conversations, give the other person your full
attention. Don’t page through your e-mail in-box or fill out your daily planner when you’re talking
to someone. Make sure that your communication is clear and focused, which will reduce the need
for clarification and other time-wasters in the future. Don’t multitask when you deal with people. It
never pays off.   

Are you clinging to the past?

Some people hate change and so cling desperately to what they know. They find comfort in
routines, even if those routines no longer produce what is needed. Instead, according to Price
Pritchett and Ron Pound in The Employee Handbook for Organizational Change, some
employees merely want to hang on to the familiar, to snuggle into the comfort of what they
already know.

People like to feel in control. And generally they dig in their heels because they are afraid of the
unknown, rather than being in love with the way things have been.

But in this day and age of seemingly constant change it’s a good thing to consider how you react
to change. Does ambiguity make you nervous? If so, you’re probably going to have to do some
work to let go of your grip on the past.

But here’s one thing about change that can have a huge impact on your life: If you resist, you’re
liable to seriously damage your career. Even if you’ve been a good and reliable employee for a
long time, resisting change can earn you a reputation as a troublemaker. You could become
known as someone who gets in the way of progress—and that could hurt your career. A few
words to the wise: You’ll probably be better off taking hold of the future, rather than hanging on
to the past.

For more information about this issue and to order The Employee Handbook for Organizational
Change, browse  

Smiling can change emotional turmoil

Anger at work is not unusual. However, learning to master your anger so that it does not harm
your career is essential.

But how can you get some space around your anger? Author Lewis Richmond (
www. recommends in his book Work as a Spiritual Practice, that you try a smile—
or at least a half smile.

Richmond’s not suggesting that you break into a toothy grin, but instead that you try a gentle
slight upturn of the mouth—a sort of half smile—the one that images of the Buddha often depict.

While this might seem simple or feel a little silly, Richmond points out that research shows that
emotions and facial expressions are wired both ways. That is, we make facial expressions in
reaction to emotions, but we also experience some emotion in response to facial expressions.

When researchers wired electrodes to subjects and asked them to imitate certain facial
expressions, scientists found that a facial expression devoid of any emotion still caused a
physiological reaction in subjects, Richmond says.

So if you can squeak out a half-smile when you’re mad at someone, there’s a chance that you
might be able to break the emotional pattern you’re experiencing and move into new territory.   
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