Dealing With Work Demons

It’s the time of year when ghosts and goblins are preparing to hit the streets for Halloween. The timing is right to consider what spooks you at work. By overcoming your career-related “gremlins,” you’ll have more on-the-job treats than tricks to look forward to in the year ahead. Here are some tips for turning common fears into everyday successes:

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You’re Too Scared to Ask for a Raise.

Your company is in good fiscal health, but there’s no talk of a raise—despite the fact that you’ve been putting in 110%. Moreover, you’ve checked salary surveys and found that you are underpaid for your industry, position and experience level. While the prospect of asking for a raise can make anyone sweat, don’t give in to the jitters; instead, make a good case. Along with using survey information to support your request, track your successes: Have you gone from managing three people to eight? Were you responsible for a project that saved the company money? Complement your research with these examples of bottom-line contributions when you meet with your manager. Remember to keep the conversation professional and stick to your merits on the job: Your need to buy a new car isn’t a good reason for a pay increase. Also, be open to alternatives. If your manager tells you there’s no money in the budget for a raise, see if you can negotiate a flexible schedule, increased vacation time or a pay increase in six months if you meet certain performance goals.

Your Desk is a Nightmare on Cube Street.

A veritable fortress of paper and files surrounds your desk. While you claim to know where every item is, no one wants to wait around while you dig through the papers to prove your point. The truth is, a messy desk is unprofessional. If you’d be embarrassed for your CEO to see your workspace, or a co-worker would have a hard time finding something in your absence, it’s time to clean up. Start a filing system and sort through your stacks weekly; you’ll quickly discover it’s much easier to locate critical items. If you must work among piles, at least make sure they’re orderly.

You’re Haunted By Past Mistakes.

While everyone makes them, what distinguishes the most successful designers from everyone else is their ability to learn from previous missteps. For example, maybe you’ve been labeled “difficult” after working on a project with a high-profile client. You considered the customer’s demands excessive and, while you feel you produced an excellent product, you hit some significant impasses with this person along the way. Since then, you’ve been relegated to behind-the-scenes work with little or no customer interaction. Honestly assessing your actions and thinking about what you’ll do next time will help you learn from your experience. In this example, you should consider whether your interactions with this client actually were an anomaly or whether you simply aren’t a “people person.” If they were an aberration, talk to your manager about what you learned from the experience and ask for another chance to work directly with clients. If instead you come to the conclusion that you would prefer to remain behind the scenes, your current situation may work out perfectly for you.

Your Manager Spooks You.

Few things can make your work life worse than not getting along with your supervisor. This person controls your assignments, promotions and raises, so it’s in your best interest to improve a rocky relationship. While leaving the company is always an option, it should be a last resort. Instead of trying to change your manager, try changing how you interact with him or her. Consider what you contribute to the relationship that’s causing friction. Maybe you don’t respond well to critiques of your work or you miss deadlines. These actions are in your power to change. Also, check in with your boss to be sure you know exactly what is expected of you. Job functions change rapidly in creative departments and it’s important for you and your supervisor to be on the same page.

This Halloween you can overcome even the scariest work issues by carefully considering the problems and proactively addressing them. And next year, you can leave the chills and thrills to those vying for the best candy in the neighborhood.