Category: money

Create a culture of care and respect in the workplace

Most advice columns offer tried and true practices, and they are soothing to us, but they also limit our options, and often render us complacent. Mary is about possibility; I approach the questions I receive and the answers I deliver as inventions. My theory is that all of life is a story we tell, which in some ways makes everything very easy. If you don’t like what is happening you can always rewrite the story. So in this column I pay attention to the narrative elements of the question, and I pen answers that create new spaces to walk into. I hope to give readers the experience of coming upon an undiscovered room in a house they have long inhabited and thought they knew every inch of.

Dear Mary,

I would like there to be a culture of caring and mutual respect in my workplace. When it gets really busy and some people in management get stressed, tempers flare and they resort to name calling, ie. “why don’t you understand how this is done? You are stupid” (and that is an example of a rather mild interaction). How is it possible to reframe this situation to something like “You don’t understand? Let me help you.” How is it done?

Beverly

Dear Beverly,

I applaud you for being willing to tackle such a widespread condition. Stress pairs nicely with the notion that a business must grow and exceed its prior results. A very common reaction to feeling unable to cope is to blame your neighbor or you colleague, or indeed, any man, woman, or child standing in your line of view. Blaming is also a cultural norm, so it is probable that this is a way of acting that people in your business find normal, and like a rising tide, it floats all boats regardless of the will or direction of any individual craft.

Short of overthrowing our economic system in favor of slowing down growth, I would suggest you undertake a gradual culture shift:

1. Rename the blamer

Gather a small team of like-minded people, perhaps three or four, and speak of your vision of a best-place-to-work, where there is caring and mutual respect. Agree to intercede, when stress levels are escalating, by asking the blamer “Is there anything I can do to help?” Acknowledge that the blamer is under stress and not acting like his real self.

2. Enroll others in your vision

Concurrently, ask at a staff meeting for a show of hands as to how many people share your dream that your company could be a best-place-to-work. Say what that means to you. All this is much easier to do if you are in a position of authority, but it is also perfectly possible to lead the culture shift from any position in the company.

People may try to trivialize what you are doing by making jokes. Simply laugh good-naturedly and keep moving the conversation along. Ask for suggestions on how to mobilize the new culture.

3. Manage the new conversation for possibility

Meet with your original group of three or four for lunch once a week and have an obviously good time. Talk about possibility; talk about wonderful events and things you love about life. Pretty soon one or another of the staff, as in Harry Met Sally, will want some of what you’re having, and your team will expand. Be sure you are being an ambassador for possibility, which means you will not complain about how hard this is, or how certain people just don’t get it.

Make staff meetings festive, signaling “we love to be together.” Institute acknowledgement of some kind for contributory behavior and make sure that you and your team can find an act of the habitual blamer that you can celebrate for its generosity or kindness. Be specific about what you found positive. Start using humor in a constructive direction, like awarding frog-into-prince statues or a sheep in wolf’s clothing, or a story of Beauty’s Beast in bliss.

Keep asking people in the workplace if they notice a change.

4. Invite communication and expression

Solicit suggestions from everyone about what might make the workplace more pleasant or more enlivening for them, so that they feel heard and see that they have a hand in changing things. Then, if you have regular staff meetings, the dialogue will begin to open up between you and them and possibility will spread beyond you.

The buy to let market in Anson County

mountain-lake-properties-nc14You can now choose from a wide range of buy to let mortgage deals, including fixed rate, discounted, tracker and flexible schemes. With latest figures telling us that the rental market is booming, it is a great time to speak to a broker who specializes in the buy to let market.

Investing in residential property to rent out in Lilesville can be very lucrative, especially over the last few years where properties have appreciated in value year on year. So if you are looking for an investment plan to buy a house and let it out we can help with your mortgage in seconds.

a-beautiful-house

In the late 90s only a handful of lenders started offering special buy to let mortgages. Now with the market having increased significantly over the last few years most mainstream lenders cater for this market. Buy to let investors can now choose from a vast selection of products but with the offerings varying so much and different lenders requiring different criteria it is wise to talk with a mortgage lender that is a specialist in this field. Not only will theyt give you advise on the best deals around at present but will help guide you through the whole buy to let process.

Requirements for a Buy to Let Mortgage

Generally you will be required to have at least a 15% deposit. The rental that you will be charging for the property will normally need to be at least 125-130% of your mortgage repayments. This is put in place to protect you too since there may be periods when your property will not be let ‘void periods’, either because you have no tenants or perhaps need a few weeks to redecorate before new tenants arrive.

Some lenders have limits to the amount lent on a buy to let property, some are lower than you may think so do check.

How many buy to let properties can I have?

This varies with different lenders, some will limit you to the number of properties you have in your portfolio, others have monetary limits to the portfolio but there are lenders who may allow you to expand your portfolio with no preset conditions except that each additional property makes sound business sense.

Where should I buy?

It is very important that you research your area very well before deciding to purchase a buy to let property. Speak to the local estate agents, especially those that have a letting department within their agency. Find out what the local demand is for, whether their is over supply in the area and which properties are in demand, e.g Flats for professionals or perhaps 3 bedroom house for families because the area has a good selection of schools.

Where can I get help and information?

For all potential landlords the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) is the best place to go. They have a panel of recommended buy to let lenders and their website gives some very useful information regarding the buy to let market for both landlords and tenants and the potential pitfalls you may expect when entering the buy to let market.

What additional costs may I expect?

You will need to decide whether to instruct an agent to fully manage the property or to just find the tenants and perhaps collect the rent. Letting agents charge different commissions for this and you may get a better deal if instructing one on a sole agency basis. Standard rates vary from 10-15% depending on the service you require.

You are also responsible for the upkeep and general maintenance of the property, so some savings kept aside is advisable. Buildings insurance will need to kept up on your property and you may also wish to instruct the services of an accountant or tax advisor, although many letting agents offer a tax service as an additional cost.

Russia with Love

Omega presentation to the Russian Scientific Community

We were approached recently by Professor Howard Ward to write a paper on the design and development of the Omega computer to be presented by him at a scientific conference in Russia.

According to Professor Ward, Russia has shown great interest in the now ageing Risc PC computers, so I wonder what they will make of the Omega, I would imagine they will be very impressed.

Apparently a delegation came over the the UK and they were staggered by the lack of interest shown in desktop RISC technology, so much so that one university now has a Risc PC computer laboratory.

I am not at all surprised that their scientists should be interested in RISC technology which delivers powerful efficient processors, because they have an almost direct equivalent in rocket motor design. Were their technology delivers small lightweight motors which produce a much greater thrust than equivalent western designs.

Arm in digital television

Samsung Electronics has announced that it has built a single chip system for digital TV based around a 200MHz ARM920T processor core, the chip is aimed at high definition TV and set top box markets.

This is especially good news for ARM, who are pushing hard to get its processors into ever wider consumer markets.

Recognition for ARM RISC Processor

Stephan Furber, Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Manchester has been elected a Fellow of The Royal Society for his contributions to electronics, including his role in the designing of the ARM RISC processor.

Over 1 billion ARM RISC cores has been shipped making it the worlds leading embedded processor design.

Should you buy brand name or go with the cheaper alternative?

It’s really easy sometimes to stick with what you know and never think about alternatives, but with the economy on a downturn more of us are thinking about whether we should try cheaper alternatives to our normal brands as a way to economise. Is it really worth it though? Will the food taste as good, will the shampoo last as long or will the quality be poorer generally and if so will we really notice it.

It seems to me that some things are a pretty safe bet and yet when I’ve tried them, I’ve still found myself disappointed. Others, I’ve tried with trepidation, and been very pleased with the results and there does seem to be a fairly large amount of trial and error involved. An example of this for me was that cheaper wrapping paper seemed pretty obvious to me when I bought it – after all, you wrap the present, and someone unwraps it and then the paper is thrown in the bin, but sadly it was a false economy as the stuff was so thin you could read the title on the dvd I was trying to wrap, and so I had to use twice as much as I would have of the more expensive paper.

So how do we get it right? I’ve found that discussing things with friends helps, particularly people who I know have similar tastes and values to myself. If one of them tries something different and says yeah it’s not bad, then I think hmm maybe I’ll give it a go. If they say don’t touch it, it’s rank then I’m likely to not bother trying it.

Forums and discussion boards are useful too I think – people can talk about their choices and preferences and that helps everyone. Also I think some people feel a bit self conscious talking to friends about economising, but talking to strangers when you can use a ‘username’ and no one knows you, doesn’t feel so embarrassing.

10-minutes! My bath’s last longer!

In a recent article Ross mentioned buying cheap batteries and having them only last 10 minutes, and feeling disappointed that he’d wasted his money while trying to economise. I find myself going the other way, I buy the rechargeable batteries so that they last – well if not forever then often for longer than the product I’m putting them in anyway! – Ok, it still costs me money on my electricity bill to recharge them, but less than replacing them each time would. I’ve not sat and worked out whether I’m reeeally saving money or not, but it certainly feels like I am by doing it that way, and I also feel I can pat myself on the back because I’m being a bit greener too.

How do you do it? Have you found a way to balance the money saving advantages of the cheaper no name brands with the quality of the brand name products? Or do you think all brand names are just that – names and nothing else?