Sunday, November 28, 2010

Difficult Co-workers, Supervisors & Managers

This week while dining out with friends I had an epiphany moment; I realized previous, “girl’s night out” conversations tended to focus on how to find a boyfriend, difficult boyfriends and quirky husbands. We would ruminate over whether we should stay in or leave a particular relationship. I’m not sure if it is a sign of the times or if it’s because we are a little bit older and happily married, but the focus of this week’s conversation was how to find a new job and the challenges of working with difficult co-workers, supervisors and quirky managers. The question of the night was should we stay or leave a particular job. We came to the conclusion we are all happy to have a job and it is impossible to change our co-workers/managers, so we need to either accept these people the way they are and learn how to work with them or leave.

It appears many of my blog readers also have issues with the people they work with. According to my blog stats, “Working with a difficult co-worker, supervisor or manager,” I hate my supervisor,” Manipulative co-workers,” and “ A personal attack at work” are all popular searches bringing traffic to my blog. I’ve written about all of these topics in the past and have decided to create a “difficult co-workers post” linking all of my previous posts covering these topics. I am also including links from other blogs and book recommendations I have found helpful.

My posts:
Alyssa's new supervisor tries to get her fired in I hate my supervisor. She asks me if she should continue to endure her supervisor's abuse or return to her old job which is less prestigious.

I wrote about how things turned out for Alyssa in an Update to I hate my supervisor
In A personal attack at work, I write about my HR manager personally attacking me.
Here are my experiences Working with a Master Manipulator.
In Verbal Judo Communication I try to assist a reader who is having difficulty communicating with her manager by providing tips from George Thompson's book Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion.

In Moving on after a personal attack by a co-worker a reader asks just that, "How to move on after a personal attack by a co-worker."

Here are some of my favorite posts dealing with difficult co-workers written by other bloggers:
Penelope Trunk's post Do you have a good job? Take the test helped me realize maybe my job isn't so bad after all. Sometimes the crappiest job isn’t bad when your co-workers are your friends. 

Suzanne Lucas of "Evil HR Lady" has written before about working with bullies. In Petty Tyrant she links all of her workplace bully posts onto one.

Anita Bruzzese's post Five ways to handle being personally attacked at work is the post I read shortly before my own personal attack at work. This post became a life-saver in the days following my attack.

If you are like me and can't think quickly on your feet you need to read Anita's Learn to handle verbal smackdowns. She provides tips to help us respond to snide comments from colleagues.
Miss Minchin’s post Workplace dangers - manipulate people helped me understand what the motivation was behind the master manipulator I work with.
Books mentioned in the above posts:
For a good book dealing with jerks in the workplace, check out Robert Sutton's The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving.
George Thompson's book Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion was recommended by my favorite librarian.  He attended an entire seminar on this book; apparently library patrons can be just as difficult to work with as co-workers.

Megan Hustad's How to Be Useful: A Beginner's Guide to Not Hating Work.  In addition to providing ways to make work not suck, she provides the most helpful networking tips I've ever read.

In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George K. Simon, Jr., Ph. D. is a useful guide to help identify tactics used by manipulators. Once you recognize their tactics you can change the game and control the outcome.

Comebacks at Work: Using Conversation to Master Confrontation by Kathleen Kelley Reardon and Christopher T. Noblet offers advice for handling difficult conversations. This is the book Anita Bruzzese sites in her post Learn to handle verbal smackdowns.

If you have a book or blog post you've found helpful in dealing with "Difficult co-workers" let me know; I'd be happy to add a link.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

50 Books Every Young Woman Should Read

What does a 13 year old farm girl, whose best friend has suddenly become too cool to hang out with her, do with her time?

She reads every book her American Political Science teacher puts on reserve in the library. The assignment was to read one book each quarter, there were 25 in total, but I enjoyed them so much I read every one of them. When I think back on those books I realize they were paramount in influencing my life-long love of reading and learning. I honestly believe my life would have headed down a different path if I had never read those books which opened my eyes to a world a secluded farm girl never dreamed existed.

Unfortunately, the only books I can remember reading from that assignment are:

Patch of Blue by Elizabeth Kata (a favorite)

Love Story by Erich Segal (my mom wouldn’t let me see the movie)

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (now considered dated)

Go Ask Alice by James Jennings

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Anne Frank - The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Afterwards, my quest for knowledge led me to read whatever books I could lay my hands on including encyclopedias. Recently a reader emailed me a link to 50 Books Every Young Woman Should Read. Can you imagine how ecstatic I would have been to come across a list such as this as a young woman. Actually, I was pretty ecstatic to come across it now. I have read several of the list’s selections including many of my favorites.  My favorites include:

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (This book should have been included on my list of Non-Fiction Books Every Woman Should Read) See my book review here.

And my all time favorite book from young adulthood A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Books from the list I read shortly after my APB Project:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Two books from the list are currently on my TBR list:

Howards End by E. M. Forster

My Life in France by Julia Child

Books not included that in my opinion deserve an honorable mention:

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless by Susan Jane Gilman – I decided to read this book after Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness wrote this book inspired her to meditate on what it means to be a feminist and whether she could consider herself one. This is a coming of age novel consisting of a series of essays Gilman describes as “Getting a Clue” many of which a young woman could relate to.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant a book based loosely on the story of Dinah, Jacob's daughter from the bible. It gives a fascinating insight into the everyday lives of women during the biblical period.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - A book I read after reading this review written by Becky Holmes. Jeanette Wells recalls her life growing up in extreme poverty with an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother. Her story is an inspiring account of survival and triumph.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler This book is considered a fantasy thriller, but is so much more than that. Its depiction of slavery is one of the best historical fiction accounts on the subject I have ever read.

Out Of The Dust by Karen Hesse This is a book written in verse I recently read after reading Penelope Trunk’s post Being a Snob Creates too many Limits where she describes it as the best depiction of dust bowl life that she had ever read. Was she right! I could almost taste the dust. Plus, the character of Billie Jo reminded me of Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a favorite from above. I decided to include this book after reading a comment from a young gal who hated the book and had been forced to read it by her teachers. She listened to it on tape and thought it was hilarious to hear how Billy Jo pronounced things. She found her accent to be really stupid and funny. Perhaps more young women need to read books about others who have not been raised in this era of “entitlement.”

How about you?  What books have you read from the list?  Are any among your favorites?  What books do you think are missing from the list?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Should I pay off my mortgage with 401(k) monies?

Jack a co-worker asks:
I turn 59 1/2 this month and plan on retiring when I’m 62. You’ve told me in the past I can access my 401(k) monies without incurring an IRS penalty at age 59 1/2. I would like to withdraw my money now and use it to pay off my mortgage. I want to be 100% debt free; I hate paying interest plus, I’ve always heard you should be mortgage free when you retire. Once retired, I plan on deeding my home to my children, so it doesn’t go to the nursing home. Is this a good plan?

You are correct at age 59 1/2 our 401(k) plan does allow employees to access their monies without incurring an IRS penalty.

Is it a good idea?
It is if you plan on rolling your money into another qualified IRA. Our company’s 401(k) plan offers a limited selection of investment choices plus, our plan fees are excessive. Please see my post 401(k) fees rant. I recommend you consult with an independent fee-only financial planner for advice on setting up a self-directed IRA consisting of low-cost investments.

If you choose not roll your money into another qualified IRA, and use this money to pay off your mortgage any money you withdraw will be added to your 2010 income for tax purposes. This will push you into a higher tax bracket resulting in a hefty Federal and State tax bill. Also, you will lose any future interest payment tax deductions. If you really want to use this money to pay off your mortgage I’d wait until after you are retired and no longer collecting a paycheck. Instead, make extra payments against your mortgage now while you are still working. You'll also still benefit from tax deductions on the mortgage interest you pay.

Longevity risk is the biggest financial risk facing retirees today.
If you use your 401(k) monies to pay off your mortgage are you sure you will have enough other monies (savings, social security, pensions, etc.) to sustain your lifestyle for your entire retirement? Paying less interest is a good thing, but not if you can put your money to a more productive use. You tell me your fixed interest expense is 5.4%. Look at the relative rate of return on your 401(k) vs. your interest rate especially now when the stock market is on the upswing. I’d hate to see you miss out on this up tick.

Once you are retired and are sure you have enough money to sustain your retirement, go ahead and use your 401(k) savings to pay off your mortgage. I've heard Clark Howard recommend callers pay off their mortgage even if the numbers don’t make complete sense.  He says it is best for risk adverse investors like you Jack to own their home free and clear than lose sleep worrying about future market losses.

As to deeding your home to your children, check with a lawyer; legislation has been passed closing this loophole. There is now a “penalty period” (a period of disqualification from Medicaid). Simply defined if you transfer your home to your children, you will be disqualified from receiving Medicare benefits when needed until the penalty period has been met.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Unsolicited Financial Advice

Previously, I wrote about a co-worker who received a pair of toning shoes as a gift. I had politely informed him that Clark Howard cautions his radio show listeners from purchasing toning shoes claiming people suffer injuries from wearing those shoes. I suggested my co-worker return them for a normal pair of shoes.

This week while chatting with my co-worker he said, “Tonight I’m going to clean the soles of those toning shoes so I can return them. They are the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. The store should allow me to return them even though I wore them right? Especially if I make a big stink about how uncomfortable they are.”

This conversation got me to thinking, “Does anyone ever listen when given unsolicited financial advice?" In thinking back on previous conversations, my friends and family members have never reconsidered making a purchase such as a too expensive car, home, or wedding based on my advice. In the end the only thing I accomplished was straining my relationships.

I’ve come to the conclusion, if someone’s dream is to purchase a $30,000 car when they graduate from college despite not having a job nothing I say is going to change their mind; especially if Mom and Dad are co-signing. So why jeopardize my relationship. The bottom line is people don't listen to “You can't afford it,” but in instances like the one above where a purchase is clearly a scam, I will continue to give my unsolicited advice. Hopefully someone will listen.

How about you? Do you give unsolicited financial advice? Does anyone listen?