Sunday, February 23, 2014

How Not to Feel Guilty When Taking a Vacation

In my post you don't seem happy anymore, I admitted that I did not use nine of my earned vacation days in 2013 – the most ever. This failure to take time off took a toll on me. At the end of 2013 I was lethargic and mildly depressed so much so that my husband pointed out I didn’t seem happy anymore. I vowed in 2014 to get my workload under control, to stop feeling so stressed and to take more time off. To do this I set several goals for myself.

Now that we are more than seven weeks into 2014, I’d like to share my progress:

Re-committing to keeping a gratitude journal:
I have faithfully written in my journal which has evolved into much more than a gratitude journal. I had kept a journal when I was younger, but after the third time someone found and read them (snoopy siblings, roommates and lastly a boyfriend) I tossed them all out and vowed to never write in or keep a journal again. My gratitude journals the past few years consisted of a few sentences some of which were written in code – which I was unable to decipher upon re-reading. My journal writing this year quickly evolved into a full-fledged journal. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I missed journal writing and by how much I was learning from it. One of the themes that stood out was how overwhelmed by guilt I am – especially guilt from not spending enough time with family and friends and for not getting enough work done at work. This has helped me realize that in addition to getting caught up at work perhaps I need to work on eliminating my feelings of guilt.

Control over possessions and time:

Buy what I need and get rid of what I don’t
Another reason I had so many unused vacation days last year was because my husband who had a strong suspicion he would be laid-off for a few months in 2014 refused to take a real vacation. His company allows him to roll-over 200 hours of unused vacation time, so he banked all 200 hours. Sure enough he was laid-off in early January. The old me would have immediately shifted to under-buying and survival mode upon hearing this news. Instead, I reminded myself we had planned for this and that he will be getting a full pay-check for the first five weeks. Then he will be eligible for unemployment. Plus, we do have a sizable emergency fund. So I allowed myself to continue buying what I needed and to not let myself waste energy stressing about this.

My husband’s lay-off comes with a welcome surprise:
In years past, in addition to working on Saturdays during January I would come home and have to clean my house. This year with my husband home all week he cleans the house. In addition, he runs errands, prepares the meals and takes care of our dogs. Not having to think about these things frees up my brain power so I can focus more at work and get more done. Kerry at Breadwinning Mama was so struck by my comment about this on her post trying to hang with the boys in the office she included it in her post the invisible task list. 

Teach and delegate:
I tried to delegate to one of my employees during January – actually it wasn’t really delegating since I was requiring her to complete her portion of the year-end work rather than me doing it for her. This didn’t go well. She immediately became stressed and fought every step. Instead of looking things up herself – which she is capable of doing - she was constantly in my office asking me to look things up for her. She would then ask the same questions over and over. I began wondering if she isn’t experiencing early stages of dementia. Finally, I told her she had to write my answers down because I didn’t have time to keep repeating myself. It was a struggle, but she did manage to complete her portion of that work.

I asked my boss if I could hire a part-time person in 2014. Of course he said no, instead he prefers to have everyone work overtime through-out the year. He must have discussed my request with our President because on two separate occasions our President commented out of context that he did not want to add additional staff to my department. 

I still can’t be out of the office without everyone having a meltdown:
Last week, I stepped out of the office for three hours to attend a seminar with one of our VP’s. While at this seminar our VP received a text that I needed to call the office immediately; an employee needed an obscure license number for one of the states we do business in. I told them I had no idea where to find this number and that I’d look into it when I returned. When I got back not only did I have three voice messages from three different employees asking for this number, there was a message from my husband informing me someone from work had called our house looking for me - they needed a license number. Guess what – the manager at the office in this state did manage to find this number without my help.

I take my first vacation day of the year:  
The worst thing about my husband being off this time of year is that I am too busy at work to take a vacation with him. One of the things he wanted to do while off was to meet with our financial planner who likes to see the two of us together. I picked a Friday after the audit and told him to make an appointment - I would take a vacation day. Then during a meeting the day before I was to be off, our President expressed displeasure that I had not completed and distributed our departmental financial statements. In the past, this conversation would have prompted me to cancel at least a portion of my planned vacation day. Knowing how much I needed this day along with realizing how disappointed my husband would be, I decided to continue with our plan. That night I wrote in my journal:

I will not feel guilty
This is easier said than done, I tried my best to stay in the present and enjoy my day, but every now and then guilty thoughts of work would pop into my head. Then that night as I was reviewing my journal, I came across my previous week’s to-do list. I realized I had accomplished every item on that list and then some. Completing those departmental financial statements are on my to-do list for next week. By reviewing each day’s entries I was actually surprised by how much work I had completed. This snapped my out of my funk - I don’t need to feel guilty. I then plotted out my to-do list for next week and was happy to realize I should have plenty of time to get all of my major projects done. 

I then set a goal for my department to be completely caught up by April 1st. I created a weekly plan that I will present to our staff on Monday. Perhaps, by setting goals and communicating them to the department there will be less stress for everyone involved.

In summary, to not feel guilty when taking a vacation I need to select a time-frame that is not disruptive to my department - long week-ends work the best, create a to-do list then not worry about projects that are not on the list and avoid checking email or answering questions while off – more than one of my previous vacations have been spoiled by answering email.      

How do you keep from feeling guilty when taking a vacation? 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Real Reason You Weren’t Invited Along on that Consulting Trip

Last month, The Savvy Reader Book Club, read Debora L. Spar’s book Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. In an earlier post, I revealed a perfume commercial from the 70's was responsible for shaping my life’s vision. Then we discussed whether greater sexual freedom meant a loss of power for women and why women opt-out of their careers.

Today I want to tell you the real reason you weren't invited along on that consulting trip. In Wonder Women, Spar recounts a conversation she had with a senior executive who openly joked he would never take a woman on a consulting trip. 

"My wife would kill me!" (Pg. 238)

I wonder how many women were not invited to lunch, out for drinks or on overnight business trips because of what others may think. These missed opportunities result in another advancement strategy not available to women.

Spar recommends two thing that will prod the evolution along:

1. We need to get a larger critical mass of women into the organizations dealing with these tensions. The more women there are in an organization, the more openly gay men and women - the more diversity - the less potent the sexual pressures will be on everyone.

2. The senior men in any organization need to engage actively and professionally with the women around them. They need to bring them along on trips, take them to lunch, invite them for golf and to meet their wives.  If there is a hint of sexual attraction involved, so be it. Deal with it, and move on.   

In my position as accounting manager, I am almost never included in management meetings held off-site. For many years I was the only female manager at my company.  I had assumed I was required to stay back to manage the office while my boss was out, then one of my employees pointed out I should be at those meetings - all of the other departments seem to make it through the day with their manager absent. Also, by not attending these meetings I miss out on critical organizational information no one thinks to share with me not to mention the relationship building opportunities I miss out on. It is interesting to note my female predecessor was not invited to those meetings either.

I have a female friend who works in HR. In her first job she was regularly invited to lunch by her company’s CFO.  She often comments that she learned more about finance during those lunches than she ever did in the classroom. Unfortunately her co-workers spread rumors that the two of them were having an affair.

Then there is my former female co-worker who in the 80’s claimed she had been propositioned for sex while on a business trip with her boss. She refused.  Upon returning to work after the trip, working for him became so unbearable she had to leave.

Contradictory to Spar's advice, Anna Runyan in her book The Professional Woman's Guide to Managing Mensuggests:
Be aware of one-on-one meetings with the men you manage at restaurants and coffee shops. These can quickly turn into “date” types of situations.  Try to bring along another work colleague to these meetings. Try to hold the meeting in the office or where there will be a lot of people around.  If you need to leave the office, recommend breakfast or lunch meetings over happy hours and dinners.  You don’t want a business meeting to turn into an uncomfortable situation. (Pg. 38)
She then gives the following advice if a male employee makes an unwanted sexual advance:
The most important thing you can do is to catch this immediately before it turns into sexual harassment.  Try to resolve the situation right away with a conversation.  If you feel comfortable enough, you can use humor to try to keep the working relationship on a positive level and say something like, “Were you flirting with me? I hope not, I really like working with you.” If humor is not working, be clear and straightforward.  Tell him that you are not interested and your relationship needs to stay professional.  If he continues to hit on you, contact Human Resources. (Pg. 44) 

What is your experience? Are you or the women in your workplace given opportunities to network with men at lunch, on business trips or on the golf course? Were they positive or negative experiences?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on Femme Frugality and Savvy Working Gal*

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Financially Savvy Saturday

Welcome to Financially Savvy Saturdays, a blog hop created specifically for personal finance writers! We welcome all things money here. Whether you've written on anything from increasing your salary as a woman in the workplace to savings on the home front, you're invited to link-up. If it ties into personal finance, we want to read it! Tweet about it. You can use #finsavsat when tweeting about the party!

Feature of the Week

As this week's co-host, I get to pick my favorite post from last week's blog hop. This week's feature is "50 Ways to Live for Free" on The Thrifty Issue by Kylie Ofiu. Click on the image to read her great post!
50 ways to live for free
If you submit a link this week, your post could be highlighted in next week's party!  

We do have a couple of rules for participation. Those who don't follow the rules will have their link taken down.

1. Your post must be written in the past seven days and not be a giveaway or otherwise sponsored. 2. Be sure to include a link to one of your hosts by copying and pasting the html in one of the boxes below into your linked up post. You have the option of the button or a text link. 3. Follow your hosts. You can follow Femme Frugality on Google+, Twitter OR by subscribing to her RSS feed via email. Also follow The Frugal Exerciser on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, BlogLovin', OR subscribe to her RSS feed. 4. Comment on at least two other posts that have joined the party. 5. HAVE FUN!  
Savvy Working Gal
OR grab the text link here!
 <em>*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on <a href="">Femme Frugality</a> and <a href="">Savvy Working Gal</a>*</em>

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Professional Woman’s Guide to Managing Men Book Review and Giveaway

I first became acquainted with Anna Runyan, when she included my post 50 Books Every Young Woman Should Read in a Monday motivation roundup on her website Since then I’ve participated in her networking challenge and watched her evolve into a successful leadership coach and now an author. It is only fitting that I would become part of the launch team for her new book The Professional Woman's Guide to Managing Men.

What is this book about?
Anna Runyan spent seven years working with and managing men as a consultant for the U.S. Navy.

She writes:
“I have managed men who were shocked to have a woman in charge, which wasn’t always easy. It took me a while to figure out how to best work with and manage men. There were many times that I had no idea what to do and tried many different things to see what worked. I treated men I managed in the same way I thought a man would treat them. That didn’t work. Then, I treated them how I treated other women. That didn’t work either. It wasn’t until I started to just be myself and lean on my own female leadership strengths that I began to successfully start gaining trust and respect from the men I managed.”
The Professional Woman's Guide to Managing Men is a compilation of what Anna has learned about managing men. It is written as a “how-to” guidebook and includes specific action steps you can take while reading.

The book is divided into five chapters:

Focus on you first
How to be a confident female manager
How to help the men on your team thrive
What not to do when managing men
Handling common management situations

Each chapter concludes with a self-evaluation.

My thoughts:
Anna Runyan has written a comprehensive, useful, well-written guide to working with and managing men. I’ve worked with men in male-dominated industries for over 20+ years. Many of the lessons Anna includes in this book I learned the hard way. In addition, I acquired several new insights and techniques from the book. For example, who knew having a sense of humor is an important factor in managing men. I even discovered a couple of new strategies to better manage my female staff. 

Bottom line:
I recommend reading this book if you are already in a career managing men, preparing yourself to work with men or work in a male-dominated industry. This book which warrants further discussion is a strong contender for a future Savvy Reader Book Club selection. 

Want to read it?
I have one eBook copy to give away. Simply share on Facebook, Twitter, G+ or Instagram and then post here on the blog that you did so. Feel free in include your biggest gripe of problem managing or working with men. Each share and comment gets you an entry. I’ll draw the name of the winner one week from today!

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

How to Identify Your Female Leadership Strengths

This article was written by Anna Runyan, Leadership Coach and Founder of Anna is also the author of the brand new book, The Professional Woman's Guide to Managing Men.   Anna helps professional women upgrade their leadership and accelerate their career success. 

Confidence in my strengths is not something that I always had as a manager. When I first started managing, I tried acting like the team’s previous manager and that didn’t work. Then, I tried to manage like how I thought a man would manage, that failed miserably. Each of these strategies failed because it was pretty obvious to those I was leading that I didn’t know myself very well and I wasn’t really confident in who I was. It wasn’t until I started discovering my own leadership strengths and that I started to feel more confident in who I was as a female manager.

There are many qualities that female managers inherently have that men appreciate. Men often have different strengths than women and that is why diverse teams of men and women work well together.  Remember, the goal is to be proud of the strengths you bring as a woman instead of trying to be like a man. Review this list of the 6 most common female leadership strengths and identify what strengths you have:

1) Collaboration: Women often request ideas from the entire team and get group buy-in. Women are also great at sharing information and delegating.

2) Calm Under Pressure: Women can handle tough situations with a sense of calm without getting aggressive.  Women can also appear less threatening by establishing trust quickly with the men they manage.

3) Attention to Detail: Women are known to be organized and detailed and can usually handle doing a lot of things at once.

4) Openness: Women can be open and honest and share a lot of information about tasks and results.

5) Intuition: From my experience, women can often tap into other people’s needs faster and more effectively than men. Women can often pick up very subtle clues about how the people around them are feeling.

6) Empathy: Women are often more capable than men of showing concern for other people’s feelings and connecting on a personal level.

Take some time to reflect on the above leadership strengths and write down 2 strengths that you have right now. Then, right down 2 leadership skills that you want to improve on and you will quickly become a more confident female leader around those you manage.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Savvy Reader Book Club Selection for February 2014

The Savvy Reader Book Club is an online nonfiction book club created for the serious reader. At the beginning of each month I select one or two books; then host discussion posts covering the books throughout the month.

As a reader, one of my favorite things to do is read books that help me understand the world. Last year, when I saw Tanya at Mom's Small Victories was participating in the Around the World in 80 Days Reading Challenge I was intrigued.  The premise of this challenge is to read 80 books that take place in other countries to get a better understanding of that country and culture.  I've decided it's time I join this challenge, though my book selections are going to be nonfiction.  I've created a Pinterest board to track my progress. 

In the spirit of my new challenge, I asked Tanya to make the book club selection this month.  Since Tanya's parents are originally from India,  we decided she would choose a book that takes place in India. Her selection is:

Thrity Umrigar's memoir about her Bombay childhood First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood.

Thrify Umrigar is considered to be one of the finest Indian authors. Her novel The World We Foundis among Tanya's favorite Indian fiction books.  First Darling of the Morning which reviewers state is told with startling honesty and paints an unforgettable picture of middle-class life in contemporary Bombay should make for an interesting read.

Another of my online acquaintances who currently lives in India - Modern Gypsy of Peddler of Dreams - finds India to be such a diverse country she doubts there is a book or two that would really give us a glimpse of Indian culture. As for women, she thinks the country really isn't as bad as it's made out to be online, though it admittedly can be difficult for those in the lower margins of society. She recommends Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Foundby Suketu Mehta a brilliant book on Mumbai and Sonia Falero's Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars. It's about the dance bar culture in the city and the women who work there. I am jotting both of these books down for future reads.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts? Do you have any other nonfiction books you can recommend that take place in India?

In other book club news, I want to let you know I have one more post planned for Debora Spar's book Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfectionbefore I close it out. Also, I am sorry to report I did not finish George Packer's book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.  I read about three-quarters of this book and can't seem to go on. I am finding it to be disjointed and have no interest in writing further about it. If you've read it and would like to review it via a guest post, please contact me.

In order for you to plan accordingly, future book club selections I am considering are as follows:

March - for women's history month Madeleine Albright's Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

April - for financial literacy month Helaine Olen's Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry

May - open

June - books covering women's friendship - more on this to come

Do you have a nonfiction book or theme you would like to recommend for a future book club selection? I am looking for books/themes that will lead to great conversation.