How to give constructive feedback to your manager

How to give constructive feedback to your manager

For better or worse, employees are all too familiar with performance reviews by their superiors. It’s helpful to be reminded about punctuality and productivity every now and then. But what do you do when you need to give feedback to your boss or your manager? The task sounds daunting at first, after all, what happens if they get mad or if you come across as insensitive?

We’ll cover the best way to give constructive feedback to your manager in the best way, why you should provide feedback, and how it can lead to a healthier work environment.

 

First, start with writing down your reasons

Feedback is crucial for managers to grow. Without it, they’re prone to making the same mistakes. Ask yourself: “why should I give feedback?” Is it because nobody else on the team will say anything? Has a process been inefficient in yielding the right results? Or is it personal (in which case, you might consider keeping it to yourself)?

Whether it’s positive or negative, formulate the feedback you intend to give, as well as the intended response you’re looking for. You may despise being micromanaged, or perhaps you lack guidance in the workplace.

 

Evaluate your professional relationship

If you’re an intern or a new hire, your feedback will likely fall on deaf ears. Nobody wants to hear the new team member spout off about how the company can run better. But if you’ve developed a rapport with your manager, and you’ve built a sense of trust with one another, you’re in a better position to speak your mind.

Review your relationship with your manager. Do you have enough experience with the company to share honest feedback yet? If not, consider holding off for a better opportunity. Timing is everything.

 

Schedule a one-on-one meeting

You know what to say and you have had significant experience working with your manager. Now you need to find time during the day away from the rest of the team when there is some downtime. That way, you’ll have the full attention of your manager. You’ll also discourage other team members from joining the conversation and avoid putting your manager on the spot in front of others.

There’s no need to make it an hour long or have it in a conference room. Just schedule a quick 15-minute conversation. Keep it short and simple.

 

Be specific and honest

When the time comes to actually share your feedback, choose your words carefully. Understand that feedback can easily be taken as a personal attack if you don’t frame it in the right way. Harvard Business Review makes a great point: stick to your perspective. By framing it as “I noticed that you…” or something similar, you limit the feedback to your own personal experience.

Above all, come from a place of honesty and sincerity. Don’t embellish or exaggerate. Make it a point that you only care about each other’s growth, and your manager will be more receptive whether it’s a compliment or a criticism.

 

Prepare for backlash

Not everything may go your way. It’s possible that your boss may take criticism personally. If this happens, it’s vital that you bring the conversation back to the business and restate that it is not a personal issue. Focus on how the manager’s improved behavior can better benefit the business as a whole.

In any case, thank your manager for their time and end the conversation professionally and amicably. The more you remove yourself personally, the more credible you’ll sound and the less likely the manager will take it negatively.

So let’s review the 5 tips for tactfully giving feedback to your managers.

  1. Plan your response by writing it down
  2. Evaluate your relationship with your manager beforehand
  3. Schedule a one-on-one meeting
  4. Be specific and honest
  5. Stay professional

Giving honest feedback to someone you work with isn’t always easy, especially if it’s a person you work for. But for any successful company to grow and thrive, there needs to be a foundation of trust and honesty. Of course, there are times when criticism can feel personal and difficult to hear. But as long as it comes from a place of sincerity and positivity, constructive criticism can also be inspiring.

 

Read more weekly articles about business and entrepreneurship, whether you’re running a startup or work for an established corporation, at Novel Coworking.

Advice & Tips for Working Remotely

Advice & Tips for Working Remotely

There are many benefits to instigating remote working within your organization, however, remote working requires certain other considerations. A great leader can adapt and change their style in order to maximize the benefits of remote working for the company. In this article, we will examine some of the different strategies and methods you can use to inspire, engage, and empower remote workers to make them feel like a valuable part of the team.

PROVIDE REMOTE EMPLOYEES WITH EVERYTHING THEY NEED TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION

 

Remote working saves your company a lot of money, but in order for this not to be a false economy, it is essential that you don’t skimp on the tools and resources you supply to your staff. Your aim is to make communication as quick and easy as it would be if all parties were in the same office. Email is a poor form of communication, particularly internal email, so invest in tools such as Asana, Wrike, or Slack, so that communication becomes seamless and second nature to all employees. Excellent communication improves teamwork, sparks ideas, and motivates everyone to become more productive. As a leader, ensure you are actively using all of these tools and setting an example. The key is not only supplying the correct tools, but ensuring everyone is using them to their full potential.

 

BE MORE THAN A VOICE ON THE END OF A CONFERENCE CALL

If you actually want team leaders to feel valued and included, then it is essential that every remote worker gets to visit the head office at least once a year. This will allow everyone to put names to faces, to interact closely, and to feel properly included and ultimately more valued and committed to the company. Plan the visit carefully, and build in a social aspect to the visit in order to build that team spirit.

It is also just as important for leaders to make trips, the other way, to demonstrate that they are willing to travel to meet their employees and to experience remote working properly. When you engage in remote visits, consider adding fun and rewarding things to the visit, such as an employee of the month, or maybe even just birthday wishes. The key point here is not to make your remote workers feel that the only time they see you is for an inspection, or for other negative reasons.

 

DEMONSTRATE AN INCLUSIVE POLICY FROM THE HEAD OF THE COMPANY DOWN

It is very easy for a remote worker to feel less important than an office-based employee. A good leader will establish an inclusive policy that values everyone equally. As a leader, this might mean regularly connecting with your remote workers on an individual basis or even just remembering and celebrating birthdays with them, in the same way you would in the office. Other staff members will be watching to see how you conduct yourself, so by setting a good example, others will follow.

One great idea, if your remote workers work exclusively from home, could be to send them a gift voucher for their local coffee shop. This demonstrates that not only do you value them as an employee but also that you have been thinking of them. Sometimes it is the little gestures that have the biggest impact.

 

ORGANIZE CORPORATE RETREATS

Working away from the rest of the team can create a sense of isolation, which in turn can create apathy and inhibit collaboration. Remote workers may work most effectively on their own, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from a corporate retreat.

Something as simple as a company dinner, a birthday party, a summer picnic, or a similar outing not related to work can do wonders for the brand culture. For one, retreats help remind your employees that the company isn’t solely focused on work, but on the wellbeing and happiness of its team. Second, meeting in-person is the only way to humanize work that is mostly done digitally.

 

BE MINDFUL OF TIME ZONES AND WORKING HOURS

It’s easy to forget that remote workers may not just be a few miles, but whole continents away. Just as one developer in Chicago might be getting up for work, a designer the Philippines might be getting ready for bed.

Take advantage of a collaborative calendar to sync your team members’ schedules across the board. This will be helpful even for the domestic/local team, as not all team members work the standard 9-5 routine. Establishing time zones and work hours is crucial when moving as a single unit.

 

LEVERAGE SOFTWARE AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT PLATFORMS

From Asana to Zoho Projects, there’s no shortage of project management platforms in the age of the Internet. Each one offers a unique take on organization and collaboration, so it’s important to take the time to research and find the best one for your business.

Looking for a Kanban-board style system suited for agile workflow? Trello is the right one for you. Want something clean and similar to a to-do list? Check out Asana. Or maybe you want something you can use on your smartphone. In that case, Basecamp 2 might be what you’re looking for. No matter which platform you end up choosing, just make sure it’s one that is suited to your workflow and empowers your team.

Although software and technology are essential for making remote working even a possibility, the underlying priority is your leadership skills. Not every leader has the techniques or capacity to lead effectively from a distance, but every good leader should always be looking to push the barriers, and transform any weaknesses into a strength. Managing a team remotely provides tremendous opportunities for development and once mastered, will greatly assist your future career development.

 

At Novel Coworking, we fully embrace the benefits of remote workers and are at the forefront of developing ideas and strategies to maximize the benefits. Visit our website regularly for concepts and ideas on how to benefit from working remotely.

Flat vs. Hierarchal Organizational Structures: Which Should You Choose?

Flat vs. Hierarchal Organizational Structures: Which Should You Choose?

There’s been a dramatic shift in how modern businesses are organized. While certain structures made sense in the past, today, we’re witnessing new management structures born out of changing cultures and advancements in technology. Most notably, flat organizational structures have become popular alternatives for startups and other entrepreneurial ventures.

 

What is a flat organizational structure?

If hierarchal organizational structures resemble a pyramid, with the power concentrated at the top, flat organizational structures have fewer levels between the managers and the workers. Titles become less important while contributions are accepted from all roles within the company. Here are a few examples of companies with a flat organizational structure.

 

Benefits of a flat organization

Feedback and input from everyone. Instead of limiting the creativity and strategy to managers, everyone in a flat organization is encouraged to contribute and find ways of improving the business.
A shared sense of responsibility. Hierarchal structures sometimes push people to deflect blame to someone else (“It’s a management problem” or “the intern messed up”). Flat organizations force people to be accountable.
Greater communication and cost-effectiveness. When an employee doesn’t have to relay a single message through several middlemen, the company can work more efficiently, saving money and time.

 

Drawbacks of a flat organization

Harder for larger businesses to adopt. In companies of hundreds or even thousands of employees, establishing a flat organization can be chaotic.
Lack of specialization. Flat organizations (particularly startups) may have employees working multiple roles instead of focusing on a single discipline.
Confusing chain of command. Without a direct leader or boss to report to, it may be difficult to know who delivers assignments, and may even cause internal struggles and disputes.

 

What is a hierarchal organization?

Unlike a flat organization, a hierarchal organization has multiple levels, with the CEO sitting at the top. After the CEO, there is usually a secondary group of C-level executives (such as the Chief Financial Officer or the Chief Marketing Officer), who lead a group of managers. The managers can then lead another set of managers, and so on, until reaching the operational workers. Examples of a hierarchal organization: Apple, GE, Sony.

 

Benefits of a hierarchal organization

Clearly assigned roles. Everyone in a hierarchal organization knows what their title is, and what they’re supposed to do. There’s never any confusion about the roles and responsibilities of each person, leading to greater specialization.

An incentive to succeed. Hierarchal organizations are designed to encourage employees to work harder and move up the organizational ladder.

 

Drawbacks to a hierarchal organization

Imbalanced cost distribution. Some managers may earn significantly more than their peers, leading to inequity and a greater cost for the company.
Bureaucracy and inefficiency. With so many levels and different departments, companies with hierarchal organizations may be slow to adopt changes or even grow. Consider implementing a new cultural program- it must first be taught to the C-level executives, then the managers, then supervisors, and finally to the operational employees.
Replaceable employees. Typically, hierarchal organizations are designed so that anyone can be replaced. Managers can be let go and subordinates promoted, while the lower level employees can easily be interchanged with new hires.

 

Should you have a flat or hierarchal organizational structure?

Since both structures have their own pros and cons, the question becomes: which one is right for your business?

First, consider your business’s size. Larger companies and corporations, particularly those with hundreds of employees, will not be efficient with a flat structure. In fact, there are very few corporations with a flat structure. Startups will almost always start out with a flat structure by design- with so few people, everyone will need to pitch in.

It’s also important to think about the nature or industry of the business. Flat organizations make more sense for certain businesses, such as a law firm, than others, like a major tech company. Hierarchal organizations are better for ensuring everyone specializes and has a role to play.

Think deeply about the kind of business you’d like to lead. Is it more traditional, centered around growth and efficiency? Or perhaps more informal, with more direct communication? At the end of the day, the choice is yours to make.

 

To receive more strategic tips and guides to running a business, visit Novel Coworking’s blog today.

Millennials in the workplace

Millennials in the workplace

The millennial workforce

For the past decade, the millennial labor force has grown in numbers and influence. Just last year, the Pew Research Center revealed that millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. Reuters says they are more tech-savvy and adaptable compared to previous generations. They’re also more diverse, confident, and educated than those that came before them.

But employers and media outlets tell a different story. For previous generations, millennials are considered lazy, spoiled or entitled. Millennials (they say) are too reliant on technology, whether it’s using Google to search for everything, or social media for instant gratification.

As a result, businesses either turn millennials away or fail to realize their full potential. In this post, we’ll cover what you need to know about the millennial workforce and how to best incorporate the younger generation your business.

 

Advantages of working with millennials

 

Millennials are entrepreneurial

From affordable workspaces to online networking groups, millennials are more prepared to start their own business compared to the previous generation. It’s not uncommon to see ideas that start in the college dorm blossom into a more serious startup. In fact, that’s how some of the biggest companies started, including Facebook, Dropbox, Microsoft, Snapchat, and Google. And when millennials don’t choose the startup route, they’re working as freelancers and contractors instead of working for larger corporations.

 

Millennials bring a fresh perspective

When it comes to company culture or even something smaller like the imagery on a website, Many businesses are used to a certain way of doing things. Hiring younger employees will not only contribute to a more diverse team but will result in new insights and updated practices. For example, if the product is intended to be marketed towards the millennial crowd, then a millennial employee may be able to assist in better understanding the customer’s needs and wants.

 

Millennials are technologically literate

Millennials are used to being the go-to tech support representatives in their families, helping parents, and older family members set up their new laptop or sign up for a service. Members of this generation were born during the early days of the Internet, and many were raised on social networks and smartphones. Even if the millennial hire isn’t a computer science major, there’s a good chance that they can quickly pick up and learn just about any software or app.

 

Millennials are the most optimistic generation

Despite having unprecedented levels of student debt, poverty, and unemployment, millennials continue to have an optimistic outlook of the future. In Pew’s study, eight in ten said that they have enough money to live the life they want or expect it in the near future.

 

Creating the ideal workplace for millennials

So what do millennials want from their workplace? How do you motivate a millennial? The answer may not always be straightforward or apply to everyone, but there are few common traits between the businesses that millennials prefer:

 

Work-life balance and flexibility

Newer generations don’t want to be tied to a cubicle, counting the hours down until the end of the day. They want to work from home, set their own hours, and work in open or shared office spaces. In the aforementioned Deloitte survey, 55% planned to stay an additional five years after witnessing their company become more flexible in the past three years. In contrast, only 17% planned to stay five years when their company became less flexible in the past three years.

 

Personal development over pay

For millennials, a positive and engaging workplace can be more important than a high-paying salary. According to a survey by Fidelity, 25-35-year-olds are willing to give up an average of $7,600 in pay to work somewhere that places a higher value on work-life balance and personal development. So while competitive salaries and benefits are important, providing the younger generation a chance to take ownership of their work and hone their skill sets is key.

 

Socially conscious company culture

Culture is everything to the millennial generation. It’s important to create a workplace that both welcomes the younger generation and contributes to society as a whole. That might translate as a partnership with a charitable organization, volunteer programs, or eco-friendly policies. Benefits like profit sharing, health insurance, and parental leave policies can also be important factors. Many millennials are in debt because of student loans, so offering some tuition reimbursement can be a life-changing opportunity.

 

Diversity and collaboration

Millennials are officially the most diverse generation, largely because of Asian and Latino immigrants. This generation mostly grew up in integrated schools and connected through social media, so they have greater exposure to people of different races, ethnicities, genders, religions, and lifestyles. Companies should seek to create opportunities for people of different backgrounds to work and collaborate together. In the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 69% of millennials said they will stay beyond five years at a diverse organization.

 

Deloitte Insights Millennial Survey Infographic

 

Hiring a millennial

While millennials influence just about every single industry, they continue to be given a poor reputation. However, many companies are beginning to realize the value they create and the perspectives they offer. For example, Salesforce ranked second on Fortune’s 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials. Millennials contribute to 48% of their total workforce. Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that the company is also ranked as the #1 most innovative company by Forbes.

Take the time to understand your millennial employees, or if you don’t have any, find ways to start including them. You may find that they’re just the right people for the job.

Want some additional help managing millennials? Check out our previous guide here.

How Office Politics Work

How Office Politics Work

Politics aren’t limited to the work of governors and presidents; you can find power struggles in sports, in entertainment, and of course, in business. For many, office politics are a source of anxiety and unhappiness. But the fact of the matter is that office politics are unavoidable. In fact, having a solid understanding of how office politics work is vital to achieving success within the company.

 

What are office politics?

When people talk about office politics, images of corporate backstabbing and watercooler gossip may spring to mind, but workplace dynamics are often more complicated. Office politics are about relationships and power dynamics. Everyone is different and everyone holds different opinions on any given subject, so it’s no surprise that conflict, healthy or otherwise, is bound to come up in the office. It can be as simple as a disagreement over office decoration, to something more complex like competition over a promotion.

 

Can office politics be a good thing?

Office politics don’t always have to be negative. At the end of the day, it all comes down to status and communication. Learning to navigate the waters of workplace relationships can help anyone climb the organizational ladder, and even resolve professional conflicts.

Below are a few cases of both negative and positive office politics:

 

Examples of office politics

Positive office politics: Jim and Andy do not always see eye to eye, but set their differences aside to collaborate on an upcoming presentation. They get into a few arguments, but the end result is something they can both be proud of.

Negative office politics: Jim sets Andy up for failure by refusing to contribute to the presentation, showing up late to the meeting on purpose, and blaming the presentation’s flaws on Andy.

Positive office politics: Ann notices that Leslie made a significant typo on an important document. She notifies Leslie before it is sent out, avoiding any potential confusion on the client’s part.

Negative office politics: Ann notices Leslie’s typo, and says nothing. Instead, she decides to report it to her superiors before telling Leslie.

Positive office politics: Ron calls April to his office to review her work performance. He highlights her achievements and progress while calling attention to areas of improvement.

Negative office politics: Publicly, Ron praises April for her work, but in private, he divulges her weaknesses and shortcomings to other coworkers.

 

Personality types in office politics

In his book, The Office Politics Handbook: Winning the Game of Power and Politics at Work, Jack Godwin outlines eight common archetypes in office politics, each with their own personality and approach to handling moments of professional conflict.

1. The Servant Leader – This type of leader does not rely on titles or status but on the trust of his or her colleagues. Servant leaders effectively lead and manage because they understand how to follow and listen.

2. The Rebel – Every group or organization has a few people who don’t fit into the company mold. They sometimes relish at playing devil’s advocate or carving their own path. While rebels may influence companies to take less conventional approaches, they may be prone to starting conflicts.

3. The Mentor – From coaching athletes to advising on startups, the mentor is the person on the team with the most wisdom pertaining to a specific field or subject. This person uses their knowledge to inform and educate others.

4. The Recluse – Not everyone wants to get involved in the drama and politics of business. The recluse is the introvert- the one who would rather stay at home than attend the office party, who would rather stay silent during heated debates. Their greatest strength and weakness is their reticence.

5. The Judo Master – Judo is the “gentle way”, the inspiration for this particular archetype. Instead of approaching each conflict with power and might, the judo master instead learns to master how to maximize their position by using the least amount of force. Their goal is not to beat the opponent but to succeed through preparation- without the need to fight.

To learn the other three archetypes, read Godwin’s article on TLNT.

 

Tips for approaching office politics

  1. Know your role. Where do you stand within the organizational map? What is your goal, and how will you try to achieve it? It’s easy to get lost in petty conflicts and meaningless titles, but there are far more important goals, such as developing an innovative service or creating an engaging workplace.
  2. Don’t take it personally. No matter how rough things get, try not to take things to heart. The more you can detach your personal feelings from the work at hand, the better your output and the faster you can make progress.
  3. Learn to listen… It’s not all about you! Learn to understand the point of view of your colleagues and your managers, and what they need. The more you are able to help others solve problems the more likely they’ll help you in return.
  4. … And communicate. How will others be able to help if you never ask? Speaking with others is a skill that must be honed over time. If you have a problem with someone, build the courage to confront them directly. If you want a promotion, think about how to demonstrate the value of your work. Communication may be easier in an open work environment like a coworking space.

 

Office politics are here to stay. Instead of trying to fight it, learn to navigate conflict. You may find that it isn’t always about deceit and drama, but about communication and problem-solving. Many of the common challenges can be avoided by learning to listen to others and developing win-win situations for both parties.

Want more tips and guides on entrepreneurship and running a business? Follow Novel Coworking’s blog for weekly content.

Freelance vs. Self-Employed: What’s the Difference?

Freelance vs. Self-Employed: What’s the Difference?

Employment, as we’ve come to know it, has changed drastically in the past two decades. Nowadays, people are free to work wherever and whenever works best for them. One of the results of this trend is the rise of dozens of names and titles that seemingly describe the same thing: freelancer, entrepreneur, self-employed, and so on.

While all these terms have come to refer to someone not employed in the traditional sense, they do have their own definitions and differences worth understanding. First, let’s start with simple definitions.

 

The Definition of Self-Employed

Adj.
Working for oneself as a freelance or the owner of a business rather than for an employer. ‘a self-employed builder’Oxford Dictionary

Think of self-employed workers as anyone who calls themselves the boss of their business. If you get to decide which hours you work, what you work on, and how you work on it, you’re self-employed. Entrepreneurs, business owners, and startup founders can fall into this category.

It’s not uncommon for a freelancer to refer to themselves as self-employed on government documents or client negotiations. In this context, self-employed simply means “not traditionally employed”.

Examples: Daniel owns a business fixing up broken computers. Lisa runs her own service coaching people within their career. Both would be considered self-employed.

 

The Definition of Freelance

Adj.
Self-employed and hired to work for different companies on particular assignments. ‘a freelance journalist’Oxford Dictionary

Freelancers, or contractors as they’re also known, are also self-employed. The main difference is that freelancers take on a variety of jobs from a variety of clients. While self-employed, you can typically focus on doing the same work and make money off products or services you sell, freelancers may drift from client to client, one day working on a webpage, another day working on an ad.

Examples: Joe is a freelance programmer. Last month he was designing a website for a client, this month he’s working on a different client’s app. Melissa is a freelance writer- she may be writing press releases for a client one day, and writing blog posts and articles the next.

 

The Similarities Between Freelance and Self-Employed

 

Autonomy

For the most part, both self-employed and freelance workers get to enjoy a certain level of control over their work. Both get to decide when and how to work. A freelance writer has freedom in the words they choose and sequence, while a self-employed business owner has freedom in running his business how he pleases.

Taxes

When tax season rolls around, both the freelancers and self-employed people will have to fill out Form 1099. You can find a copy of Form 1099 on the IRS website here.

Creative Freedom

Both freelancers and self-employed people have the ability to express themselves through their work. For the self-employed business owner, the control is over what kind of business the brand works on. For the freelancer, they have the freedom to choose which clients they want to work with. Traditional businesses don’t always have the ability to choose who they work with.

 

The Differences Between Freelance and Self-Employed

 

Level of Control

While both freelancers and self-employed people can choose how they work, the freelancer doesn’t always have the ability to choose what he works on. He can choose the clients, but at the end of the day, the client chooses the project and sets the expectations.

Titles

Freelancers are always self- employed, but self-employed people aren’t always freelancers. They may own a business or startup, and focus primarily on a certain line of work. Titles matter even when people pretend they don’t – self-employed may connote a sense of individualism and achievement, while freelance might imply one works for multiple clients and is not necessarily dedicated to one.

Commitment

Speaking of dedication, freelancers and self-employed people differ greatly on who they deliver their work to. Self-employed people are loyal to their own business’s work, and to the customers that purchase their product or service. Freelancers tend to drift between clients, so if one relationship sours, he must find a new one (potentially abandoning the project he’s been working on with the previous client). Check out our previous post on building trust with your clients and customers.

 

Which One Should I Call Myself?

 

At this point, you may wonder- what should I refer to myself as? Well, that is entirely up to you. No one will bat an eye if you call yourself self-employed when you’re a freelancer, and similarly, you can consider yourself a freelancer at times when you’re self-employed. What you need to think about is the connotation.

Freelancers have a certain reputation for working on several projects. Ask yourself- is this something you want your clients to know? Do you want to emphasize the fact that you work alone, and perhaps on multiple projects at a time?

On the other hand, self-employment can mean a number of things: from business owner to freelancer, it’s simply an umbrella term for anyone that pays themselves through their own labor. That can be helpful if you want to give off the idea that you are independent and autonomous.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Either way, it’s not about what you call yourself, but how you do it!

Check out our other comparisons: between a leader and a boss, or an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur.

For more guides and resources for businesses, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, visit Novel Coworking’s blog today.