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  • business-1302849_1280I recently stepped up my workload and position at work. One of my co-workers went into labor a month early and is now out on maternity leave which doubled the workload for another member of my team, and I. I have spoken previously in posts about not handling stress well, it is a known flaw that I am working on day-by-day. My post this week I thought I could give you a list of what I do to help keep myself level both on the job and off. My hope is that if you find yourself struggling to manage your stress, you can implement these strategies and find yourself more calm, cool, and collected when problems arise.

    Intention. I stole this from yoga – at the beginning of each class they ask you to set an intention for your practice. It is the same idea each morning I start my day by setting an intention. The intention or mantra can be a word or phrase, something you hope to accomplish or cultivate throughout your day. Throughout your day repeat this word or phrase to yourself, and it will help you to bring your focus to the present time and place. Recently, my intention for the day has been to breathe.

    Breathe. One thing that does help calm me down is taking a deep breath in and then slowly exhaling. Just taking a few seconds doing that can help to uncloud your mind and focus on the task at hand. I wrote on a piece of paper, ” In life, all we have to do is keep breathing” and I taped it to my desk at work to help me remember throughout my day to take a few moments and breathe deeply.

    Hydrate. It may seem odd that drinking water is on my list to relieve stress; however, a lot of issues can arise if you are dehydrated. I am a frequent culprit of not drinking enough water throughout the day. I either fill up my water bottle and then forget to drink it. Or, during times when work is crazy, I purposively don’t drink water, so I don’t have to go to the bathroom and stop what I’m doing. But, when I am dehydrated it causes irritability, sleepiness, and my productivity goes way done. So take some time to drink water throughout the day and as you drink, complete the first two tips simultaneously to get a full trifecta for stress relief.

    Move. Even if you are just taking a short walk around the office or going to the bathroom, get up and move. Walking around allows you not only to take a break from what you’re doing but gives you some exercise to get the blood flowing which helps you think better. I will take a walk around the outside of our building to de-stress, and it helps to be out in the fresh air. I also will do some light stretches too which relieves the stiffness in my neck and shoulders from sitting at a desk all day.

    Take a few minutes out of your day to try these tips and strategies to help you de-stress; doing so, could help with your physical and mental health.


    Have a good week!

    Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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  • co-workers-294266_1280I work at a mortgage office in the compliance department. My role is to review changes the Loan Officer’s make to a loan and ensure that what they are doing is compliant with the law. I spend a lot of my day speaking with Loan Officers on the phone and through email. Our office has been very busy recently, and so everyone has been under a lot of stress. Therefore, some of the conversations I have had with Loan Officers are asking them to remove a fee that was out of compliance or to redisclose to correct an error. These requests I am making can be frustrating to some Loan Officers as it adds onto their workload; however, I want to note I am not exactly happy about it because it adds onto mine as well.

    Some Loan Officers can become very irritated and short-tempered when discussing these necessary changes and often resort to taking their feelings out on me. So I decided I would write about dealing with difficult people in the workplace for my post this week.

    The first thing to keep in mind is that people handle stress differently. I will admit that I do not manage stress well. I get testy, overwhelmed and reactionary. When a Loan Officer is lashing out at me, I struggle not to react the same way. So keep in mind that the person losing their cool may be responding this way because they are under stress. Just keeping that in mind can help put things into perspective.

    The second thing to do is to look at yourself. Are you frustrated? Or angry? Perhaps you are conveying a tone or are responding in such a way that is triggering something in the other person. It is important to be self-aware of your own, feelings, moods, and reactions to better address the situation.

    The third thing to do is speak and convey your message calmly and if a break is necessary to take one. If the person continues to be difficult or nasty- ask them if you could take a break and pick up the conversation later. Recognize when a conversation is escalating and try to put the breaks on before it goes too far.

    The final thing to do is bring others in if needed. When Loan Officers continue to be snippy with me, I approach my boss about the matter. If you require involving upper management to help resolve the issue you are facing then, by all means, include them. Upper Management tends to have more experience dealing with troublesome people; especially if the individual is a repeat offender and can provide tips and strategies on how to approach that person in a way that won’t escalate the matter.

    At work, difficult people are bound to cross your path, and it is important that you learn constructive ways to manage those situations so that the workplace can remain a safe and productive place.


    Have a good week,

    Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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  • vacation-cc0-public-domainMany employers offer a full range of benefits to their employees. However, many people find paid/unpaid personal time off (PTO) or vacation time as invaluable to meet their personal or family needs. Many times, employers do not provide adequate or sufficient time off for the varying needs of employees. For many of us, vacation time is essential to both rejuvenation and well-being. So, how do we address upfront and ask for what we need?  An often missed opportunity for many employees is to negotiate the terms of time off when they enter a new job.  In the Harvard Business Review article entitled “How to Negotiate for Vacation Time”, Deborah M. Kolb and Sharon. M Brady opens with 3 scenarios and then discuss 5 negotiation principles to use when bargaining for vacation time especially after long, intense hours of work.  To effectively negotiate, the authors suggest making decisions early about your own needs, learning about what is normal in the workplace culture, and showing empathy for your boss’s and other employee’s needs .

    But what if you are already working at your job? Life is not all about work and no play. How do you negotiate extra time off, time off for special occasions, or even time off during very competitive holiday schedules?

    Here are some recommendations for how you might approach a negotiation with your supervisor about time off from work.

    • Know your company’s policy about vacation and personal time off (PTO) as well as the available time you have accrued.
    • Think about how your request might impact your boss and co-workers. Consider what your boss and co-workers’ needs might be in anticipation of your time off and be prepared with alternative suggestions for your request.
    • Provide specific information about the reason for your request to help your supervisor understand its importance. For example, you might say “Our family is planning a very special trip with our grandmother. We expect this will be the last opportunity for all of us to get together and share a lifetime dream with her and to create lasting memories. I am asking to take 3 weeks off in the summer of 2017. I have more than enough time accrued and there is nothing in the company policy that restricts this request. I do have to ask permission and would appreciate your consideration.”
    • Listen carefully to your boss’s concerns and clarify needs by asking questions.
    • Respond first by acknowledging your supervisor’s concerns and then providing an alternative solution. Remember, you need your boss to grant you permission in order to get what you need. Using the above example, you might respond with “I understand that you are most concerned with covering schedules during from Memorial Day weekend through 4th of July. I would like to propose that I schedule our special vacation from the end of July to late August and be back in time for the hectic Labor Day weekend. This would be during our lower peak time.”

    It is important to be prepared with an alternative. We often will not get what we want, but we can often get what we need. To do this, we have to know what that need is. And, it is also key that the boss hears you are working to meet his needs. He will be more open to negotiating with you. Finally, if you find yourself getting upset as you discuss the issue of time off with your boss or you sense his resistance to the request, take a break and take a breath. Keeping your cool is also a skilled practice when negotiating for what you need.

    It is my hope that these tips are helpful and that you have a great upcoming week!

    Ann Margaret Zelenka

    Graduate Student Intern

    University of Baltimore

    Negotiations and Conflict Management M.S. Program

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