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Desparate Times

Sarah drives 25 miles to the grocery store, on the other side of town, to avoid running into anyone she knows. She is embarrassed to be seen using her EBT food stamp card. Times have gotten so bad that Sarah cannot feed her family without the food stamp assistance provided by the federal government. For an accomplished woman with a history of working and earning an income to support her family, this feels like a handout.

James hides in his house filling out job applications online, too ashamed to make the effort to get out and go to lunch with friends for fear that they will ask about his job prospects. Unemployed for the first time in over 20 years, James struggles to maintain optimism about his job opportunities. James is not alone. According to the Employment Situation Summary published by the Department of Labor, 13.1 million people were unemployed in December 2011.

Vanessa owns a small consulting firm. But, she has not generated any income in over a year. Too embarrassed to let her friends and colleagues know, she runs around town pretending to be on her way to an appointment with a revenue-generating client. She talks a big game and pretends that her consulting practice is still making money.

Taylor sits at the desk of the only employment he could find after being laid off from his six-figure job. Everyday he is browbeaten by his manager, treated like he is dumb, unskilled, and uneducated. He goes to work everyday, full of optimism, intent on making a positive contribution. By day’s end, he is exhausted by being mistreated and belittled. Taylor suffers quietly. He is too ashamed to tell anyone what he is experiencing.

All of these professionals share a common thread – – shame. Millions of Americans are suffering silently. This is the unfortunate consequence of the current recession. The amount of pain and suffering begs the question – – is there a better way to navigate desperate times?

In a recession, the decline in sales revenues and profits, threatens the sustainability of large corporations. In response, corporate leaders exercise cost cutting measures such as lay-offs, hiring freezes, and curtailing expenditures for new products and services.

Even if Sarah, James, Vanessa, and Taylor are the most skilled, accomplished, and resourceful professionals; they may still find themselves living with the consequences of the current economic crisis happening across the United States. There is no need to suffer in shame. This is not a personal crisis.

The United States of America is in a state of flux. During the past 24 months, we have experienced a slowdown in industrial production, a decline in real income, and a slump in consumer spending. So, why are so many Americans taking on the shame of struggling to take care of their families?

The answer lies in the experience of shame. Rightfully so, many of us should have managed our finances more responsibly. However, the recession was also brought on by many conditions outside of our control.

The sense of humiliation and distress causes many of us to suffer in isolation. When Sarah actually opens up and tells her friends and family what she is experiencing, she will find that there are several other families receiving help from the federal government.

James is basically keeping himself from finding employment because the people in his social and professional circles are unaware of his plight. When James finally confesses his lack of success in landing a job, his friends and colleagues will be able to engage and refer him potential employers.

Vanessa’s self-imposed isolation has kept her unaware of funding opportunities available to struggling small businesses. The hesitation to seek counsel, prevents Vanessa from exploring employment opportunities. If she were to make others aware of her available capacity, they could refer business or jobs to her.

When Taylor begins to share his story of degradation at the hands of his manager, he will finally be able to get some guidance on how to address his situation. Perhaps Taylor has friends that are in the same situation. Together, they can create a community of support and leadership to transcend their current working conditions. Whether the solution is a new job or a new attitude, Taylor will have the support to persevere.

The take-away is the same – – suffering in isolation, humiliated, and owning the recession as a personal burden is unproductive. Breaking the silence is the first step toward breaking the pattern of self-flagellation. If you see yourself in the stories above, take the first step and tell your story. You are not alone. There are resources and people willing and able to help you get back into the game. Begin to build your community of support and be empowered!

Dr. Wesley Carter authors a weekly business column in The Charlotte Post newspaper. Carter holds a Doctor of Management (DM) degree from the University of Phoenix with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership, an MBA from the Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest University, and a B.A in Management from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This information may not be copied or shared without permission from Dr. Wesley Carter. If you have a question, email or call (704) 992-1211.

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Bossy Co-workers

Everyone works with at least one. They are easy to recognize. They typically know everything about everything. They lord their infinite wisdom over the office and often have the first and last say on most issues. Never short of an opinion, is the bossy co-worker a productivity nightmare.

Bossy co-workers provide an over abundance of unsolicited advice and direction. According to them, and only to them, they know best. The stress in the workplace created by bossy employees manifests itself in decreased productivity and team cohesiveness.

Organizations lose productivity due to disruptions created by bossy employees. More often than not, bossy co-workers impose rigid codes of conduct on others and excuse themselves. Masquerading as experts, bossy co-workers impose their will on others and create a tense work environment. If the bossy co-worker outranks co-workers, it can be particularly bothersome. Abusing their power, bossy co-workers micro-manage lower ranking employees. Resistant to respecting organizational boundaries, bossy co-worker do not respect the rights of others.

Bossiness can result from insecurity, inflexibility, or over confidence. If a co-worker is insecure because of deficient or outdated skills, bossiness serves as a deflection strategy to divert attention away from their inadequacy. Unbeknownst to them, bossy co-workers are quite transparent. Still, they continue to hide behind a displaced sense of purpose, dispensing advice like cough drops. Conversely, if bossiness is a bi-product of over confidence, it can manifest itself as arrogance. In this case, co-workers should hold their ground and avoid interacting with the bossy co-worker. The lack of relationships may be enough to motivate a bossy employee to stop those behaviors that alienate others. If all else fails, a private conversation with the leadership may alert them of the productivity impact of a bossy employee.

Inflexibility is a clear indication of a bossy co-worker’s insecurity. While it is totally appropriate to adhere to company policies and procedures, few employees enjoy working under the watchful eye of a bossy interloper. Bossy co-workers would do well to focus on their own performance.

Bossy adults were likely bossy children. Left unaddressed, little tyrants have become big tyrants. There are several strategies for dealing with bossy co-workers:

Do not over-share. A bossy co-worker only needs a tiny morsel of information to start commanding and directing. Clearly, but tactfully, establish your boundaries. Simply state, “I’ve got it under control.”

Some bossy co-workers precede their intrusions with a rhetorical comment, such as, “If it were me.” Listen respectfully, evaluate whether you can use any of the guidance constructively, and proceed appropriately. No need to feel obligated to follow their instructions to the letter. When you have heard enough, politely excuse yourself.

It is doubtful that you will be able to get a bossy co-worker to change. However, you should establish boundaries to minimize the interruptions. Politely say, “No, thank you.” Those three words clearly articulate your decision without a lengthy dialogue. Teach your bossy co-worker that their advice is unnecessary and unwelcome.

Remember, you are at your place of employment and therefore, should always conduct yourself professionally. Work diligently to minimize the time-drain spent interacting with your bossy co-worker. Focus on doing your job very well and leave the bossy co-worker to their antics.

Dr. Wesley Carter authors a weekly business column in The Charlotte Post newspaper. Carter holds a Doctor of Management (DM) degree from the University of Phoenix with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership, an MBA from the Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest University, and a B.A in Management from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This information may not be copied or shared without permission from Dr. Wesley Carter. If you have a question, email or call (704) 992-1211.

Selling through Presentation

Making presentations can increase the heart rate and anxiety level of even the most tenured executive. In business, the oral communication and the physical document are the two most common components of every presentation. Public speaking terrifies most individuals. Thankfully, there are organizations dedicated exclusively to helping individuals develop their speaking skills. A quick search on the Internet will provide a list of resources.

Presentations should be developed based on the specific audience for the information. In business, presentations are typically geared toward selling an idea, product, service, or concept. Therefore, it is critical that the presenter is very knowledgeable about the respective topic.

The oral portion of a presentation is different than the actual physical document used to convey an idea. Both, the oral and physical presentation must tell a story. And both must contain an introduction, middle, and conclusion. However, the oral presentation actually sells the idea, product, service, or concept. Hence, the importance of making a presentation that is memorable, persuasive, and succinct.

Before making a presentation, gain as much knowledge about your audience as possible. Will your audience consist of experts or will your presentation be their first introduction to the topic? If your audience consists of experts on the topic, your oral presentation can be presented at a high level with details included the Appendix, should you need to explain a concept in more detail. However, if your audience is not very knowledgeable of your topic, your presentation should be designed to teach and sell.

Know your topic! Nothing is more ineffective than listening to a presentation made by an individual with little or no knowledge of the topic being presented. Reading to the audience is a presentation no-no. Skilled presenters practice their presentations, and some even choreograph their gestures for emphasis, until they are smooth and natural. The tempo of the presentation should be conversational. Beware of rushing through the presentation.

At the beginning, the presenter should introduce themselves and the topic. Experienced presentations speak clearly, making frequent eye contact with the audience. Attire should be neat and professional to minimize distractions.

Generally, presenters should plan to spend about one minute per presentation slide. Upon the conclusion of the presentation, the key points should be reiterated. The presenter should invite questions. It is wise to repeat the question before responding because the audience may have difficulty hearing the individual posing the question.

The physical presentation typically consists of slides produced on a computer. There are several presentation tools available. It does not matter which tool presenters use as long as it produces professional presentations that can be accessed easily using the hardware that will be available at the presentation site. Design themes and templates should chosen to align with the presentation topic.

The slide layout is absolutely critical. Slides should be consistent and easy to follow. Dark words on a light background are easier to read from different vantage points in the audience. Punctuation, fancy fonts, and words spelled using all capital letters, tend to detract from the presentation. Presentation experts recommend that each slide consist of no more than five bullets, no more than two different fonts, and less than 35 words. However, this is a guide rather than a rule.

Slide transitions and animation should be kept to a minimum. Presentations that include numerous slide transitions and lots of animation are clear indicators that the presenter is a novice. When an audience is presented with heavy animation, it can be a like a dog chasing a squirrel, the audience becomes preoccupied anticipating the next transition. The topic of the presentation gets lost in the animation theatrics.

Just like the oral presentation, slides should be organized with an introduction, middle, and conclusion. Spell-check is a presenter’s friend. Typos can destroy the effectiveness of any presentation. Slides should include page numbers.

Finally, skilled presenters generally arrange for a trusted individual to review the slides before actually making the presentation. Another set of eyes will often uncover errors or inconsistencies missed by the creator of the presentation. A carefully prepared presentation is a valuable sales tool.

WESLEY CARTER DM, authors an advice column that leverages leadership and management strategies to solve common business problems. Carter holds a Doctor of Management (DM) degree with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership, an MBA, and a B.A. in Management. Carter is a partner at KRS Consulting, LLC in Charlotte, NC. If you have a question, email All submissions become the property of Wesley Carter. Call (704) 992-1211 or email to book an engagement. This article originally appeared in “The Charlotte Post”.