What Does Your Handshake Say About You?

September 20th, 2019

At some point in the post-war 1950s, an age that left us with much of what we recognize today as “office” culture, handshakes evolved from a simple way of saying hello into a deeply nuanced and presumably meaningful form of communication.

It may have been JFK who initially infused the handshake with extra significance, or it may have been any number of self-appointed gurus who promised their audience a host of easy moves that could rocket them to top of the business ladder. But however it happened, a “firm handshake” came roaring into style. If you clutched your associate’s hand in a death grip, he or she would see you as a confident, commanding winner, an important person. Someone to be taken seriously.

But in the generations since then, we’ve all come to recognize handshakes as a form of performance and a transparent attempt to come off as winners, and we’ve all been trained to grasp tightly, just like Lee Iacocca (or whoever) told us to.

Because we’ve been taught to overthink and overperform our handshakes, there’s really only one rule for shaking hands in 2019: Don’t. If your handshake is noticeable, that’s no good. Keep your shake easy, breezy, and over. Here are a few simple ways to remove the focus from your hand and keep it on your face and voice, where it belongs.

Don’t clutch.

Pressure may have once conveyed confidence, but now it just conveys that you’re thinking really hard about the pressure of your handshake. Grip the person’s hand about as hard as you would grip the knob of a door that you’re about to open. Then release and move on.

Eye contact matters most.

Keep your eyes on the person’s eyes and smile. Repeat their name back to them as you squeeze their hand. Tell them it’s nice to see them.

A single shake and let go.

Shake once with warmth and eye contact, then let go. Don’t comment on the handshake. Don’t act impressed with its firmness. Don’t make a joke about the shake being limp or sweaty. Don’t apologize for your shake and don’t apologize for not shaking if you prefer not to shake. Don’t assume that a gentle handshake means a weak person, and don’t assume that a firm handshake means a reliable person. Assumptions like these are always wrong, and they rarely support clear communication; they only cloud it. The less said (and thought) about the shake, the better.

Don’t wipe your hand on your pants.

The reflex may be strong, especially if you’re nervous as you enter the encounter. But even if your hand comes away as clammy as a Florida swamp, wait five seconds before you attend to it.

Your associate should notice you, not your shake. Focus on the person and your relationship, not your hands. For more on how to stay cool and stay ahead, talk to the career pros at PSU.

How to Confront an Underachieving Worker without Demotivating them Further

September 6th, 2019

As you review your list of direct reports, you see one or two who stand out, but not for great reasons. For example Sally, who used to be a superstar but who just hasn’t been crushing it this week (or this year). And Steve, who showed great potential during his interview but who never seemed to fulfill that promise. His “new-hire” grace period started in 2015 and still seems to be underway.

In both cases, you know these employees well enough to know that yelling at them, criticizing them, or threatening them won’t bring the results you desire. Besides, those methods don’t reflect your style as a manager or as a person. So what should you do? How can you confront Sally and/or Steve with some rough news about their performance?  And how can you do it without making things worse?

First, look at the big picture.

If the employee is truly a drain on the company and its culture, don’t waste time asking these questions. Just gently but firmly explain that you’d like to see three specific areas of improvement within a clear time frame, or the employee will face probation and/or termination. A long-term action plan will only be necessary if the employee genuinely wants to be here, but seems to struggle with motivation.

Second, allow the employee to talk first.

Invite Steve (or Sally) into your office to talk. Ask him how he feels about his situation, his workload and his performance. Then just listen. Chances are, something is wrong. Steve may be suffering from depression or burnout. He may be facing an unresolved conflict with a coworker. He may not fully understand the parameters or expectations of the job. He may be sick or in pain. He may be disappointed that the job isn’t taking him where he’d like to go. Any of these are possible, and so are an infinite number of other options. Listen carefully before you develop the next stage of your strategy.

Be kind.

Once Sally has described her issue, pause. Recognize that your job is not to help Sally at the expense of the company. And it’s not to help the company at Sally’s expense. Your job is to use your ingenuity and management skills to identify alignment between the needs of both parties. You need to help the company gain from Sally’s labor while helping Sally feel more engaged. How can you satisfy both sides of the table? Ask for her help and input.

Do the next part on your own.

Sally may need more training, a raise, a coaching plan, a promotion, a demotion, a different office, more resources, or more support. Make a plan to provide these things. Set a timeline. Then take one step at a time toward a better and more productive relationship.

For more on how to encourage an employee while also delivering a difficult assessment of their performance, talk to the staffing team at PSU.

Can’t Seem to Focus? Here’s How to Refocus Your Energy at the Office

August 16th, 2019

The summer is here, and the weather is sunny and beautiful…outside of your office window. Everyone seems to be having fun except for you, and all the fun and inspiration seem to be happening somewhere outside of your cubicle. In fact, what may have started as a mild tendency toward daydreaming and distraction have now become genuinely concerning, since you’re staring to space on your deadlines and you sometimes complete two solid hours of work in an eight-hour day. What should you do? Try these small but helpful moves.

Get up and walk away, literally.

Forcing yourself to stay in the chair and stare at your work won’t do the trick. It may actually have the opposite effect. Why? Because the mind is just like a person, and if you force it to do something it doesn’t want to do, it will stiffen and rebel. And when this happens, if you’re a healthy, well-rounded person like most of us, the contest will not be equal. The mind will win. Decisively. So don’t go to war with it; instead, meet it halfway. Show your restless mind some respect and consideration, and later it will show the same consideration to you. Tell your boss or teammate (or whoever needs to know) that you are getting up for a while. Then get up. Don’t come back for 30 minutes.

Don’t worry about wasting time.

If you walk away from your desk for 30 minutes to make peace with your restless mind, you may fear you’re “wasting” those 30 minutes. But you aren’t. If you sat there for a half hour, glued idly to your chair, determined to engage in a losing internal wrestling match, you would truly have wasted the time. A short walk will return you to your seat rested and ready to actually do some work, for real.

Try to remember the big picture.

Let’s say you have to complete and file 30 tedious forms before the day ends. You’re unfocused and you’ve lost interest in this task, but it needs to be done. Try backing up and remembering what these forms are really for, who needs them processed, and why. Do they affect real people’s lives in a meaningful way? Recalling that meaning can help you focus and commit to the task until it’s over.

Break your big task down into smaller tasks.

When your chores seem overwhelming and your heart has punched its time card and headed home for the day (but your body still has to stay for five more hours), make this challenge a little easier by breaking it down into baby steps. Get through three of those baby steps, then stop and assess. Then go for three more. Then stop again. Keep doing this until the work is behind you.

For more on how to move forward with your day even when you’re struggling to focus, contact the workplace and career management experts at PSU.

I Have Plenty of Applicants. Why Do I Need a Staffing Firm?

July 20th, 2012

If recruiting represents your only hiring challenge, and you have a long line of applicants winding out the door for every available position in your company, than you may not need a staffing firm at all. But for most companies, recruiting represents only one small component of the hiring process.

Even after you’ve gathered a pile of applications, you still need to make sure that the right candidates are matched to the right positions. Hiring can be expensive, and every new employee represents a significant investment in terms of financial capital, time, and opportunity costs. Choosing the wrong candidate can be a damaging mistake, especially if it means letting a great one get away.

Expert staffing firms will screen, test, interview and conduct background checks on each of your applicants, which can save resources and provide you with peace of mind. When you outsource these tasks to professionals, you know they’ll be completed correctly and thoroughly.

Screening
A good staffing firm can help you narrow your applicant pool by screening inappropriate candidates through phone interviews or in-person meetings. A great staffing firm hires experienced pros who can make decisions based on subtle indicators, targeted questions, and behavioral cues.

Testing
The right staffing firm can generate testing material to measure your applicants’ existing skill sets and other indicators of success.

Interviewing
Staffing firms can perform your first round of interviews, simplifying your final selection process and leaving you to decide among only the best matches and most highly qualified finalists.

Background Checks
The background check is an often overlooked, but vital component of the staffing process. Candidates who seem pleasant and highly educated often step through the door without a background check when hiring managers are too busy for thorough due diligence. A stitch in time saves nine, and a comprehensive background check can prevent expensive problems down the road.

Ensure your investment lives up to your standards! Contact Personnel Services Unlimited for help in making the right choice.

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