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Communication Key to a Better Work Environment Everyone knows the story of A Christmas Carole. On Christmas Eve, poor Bob Cratchit, who is working late again, spends his day working up the courage to ask his boss, Mr. Scrooge, if he can have Christmas Day off from work to spend with his family. When he finally does get up the nerve to ask, Mr. Scrooge lets forth a tirade over lazy people using Christmas as an excuse to have a day a off from work. This fictional story unfortunately rings true for a lot of people who have to work up the courage to ask for things from their employers. An employee who has to feel about their employer the way Bob Cratchit felt about Mr. Scrooge is not a very happy and productive employee. To get the most of out of your workers, you have to create a much more hospitable working environment. To create a better working environment, keeping the lines of communication open is absolutely crucial. How does communication work in your office? Do you get the impression that everyone is walking around on eggshells around you? While this kind of fear from your employees may be good for your ego in some senses, it is really bad for your business. When your employees don?t feel like they can talk to you, you will lose control over what is going on with your business. You may be the boss, but your employees are the ones who are actually on the front lines. To know what is really going on out there, you need your employees to communicate honestly with you. If they feel that you are unapproachable, they will hide problems and concerns from you, and you won?t be able to act to fix them. You can?t expect to run your business with half of the information about what is actually going on, and so your business will suffer for your ?mean boss? routine. There are still other problems with creating an office environment in which your employees feel like you are unapproachable. In general, there will be a dark cloud over the office when you are around. The stress will keep employee morale low, and employees with low morale are employees with low productivity. Besides, who wants to work hard for someone they cannot approach or who doesn?t show they any respect? Shutting down those lines of communication will definitely affect your bottom line as employees ?phone it in? because they don?t feel invested in making your business a success. If you want a better working environment, you have to improve the lines of communication. If there has been a communication breakdown in the past, take the time to address it with your staff. If you staff is small, talk to them each one on one, letting them know that your door is always open and that you want more regular communication with them. If you have a larger staff, schedule a meeting to address the issue. Weekly office meetings are a great way to keep communication channels open and swap ideas in the office environment. If weekly meetings are not feasible, find some way of touching base with your staff on a regular basis, either through weekly emails or a weekly newsletter. Also, you should encourage your staff to communicate with each other. Sharing information among the staff is a great way to generate fresh ideas and fresh approaches to problems. If your office is suffering from a communication problem, make nipping it in the bud a priority. The pay off will be more productive workers and a whole lot less stress. Who knew work could actually be a pleasant place to be?

Can Facebook or MySpace Help You Land a Job? The Internet is quickly becoming the vehicle of choice for people looking for a job and for employers looking for people to hire. There are many job sites on the Internet dedicated to matching up employees and employers, and most people turn to the Internet today when they are hunting for a job instead of turning to the classified ads in the local paper. Job hunting websites may all be well and good when you are looking for a job, but what about social networking sites. Everyone knows how popular sites like Facebook and MySpace are online, but can they help you get a job? If you are in the job market, can these sites be your foot in the door, or a one way ticket to the unemployment line? The answer is that there is no easy answer. To know if you can find a job using Facebook or MySpace, you have to know how employers feel about these sites, and employers have mixed feeling about them. Some companies are actively using social networking sites to track down employees that meet their company?s employee profile and have had great success finding workers via social networking sites. Other companies wouldn?t touch these sites as a hiring tool with a ten-foot poll ? in fact, many companies don?t even want you to access these websites from their company computers. The real answer to this question has more to do with exactly what kind of job you are looking for. Are you looking for an executive position at a company? Then stay off of the social networking sites, at least for job hunting (and maybe all together). No company is going to look for its top brass on a social networking site, and you will be wasting your time. However, if you are looking for entry level or hourly wage work, the social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook may be the answer for you. Many hourly wage employers in particular, like fast food restaurant chains and mall stores, use MySpace and Facebook to look for potential employees in their area. If a potential employer sees your profile and thinks you may be a good fit for their company, they will send you an email or an instant message and get the ball rolling. You should also, however, carefully consider the downsides of using social networking sites as a job tool ? and you should carefully consider how and if you use these sites at all if you are in the market for a new job. Most people wouldn?t want their parents to see their social networking site profile, let alone potential employers. If you have rude and off color material, political or religious material, and inappropriate photos of yourself on your profile, a potential employer will be turned off, and you might lose your chance at that job. Most people give up way too much of their privacy when they use these kinds of sites, and your social networking site profile may offer a window into a side of you an employer might not be overly impressed with. Further, you can open yourself up to danger by using these sites to job hunt. If someone approached you in the street and offered you a job, would you accept? Then why would you accept a face value an approach by someone on social networking site? If you do get approached for an interview, never meet anyone in a private place, and do your homework to make sure the facts check out before you go for the interview. One last reality check ? there are over 60 million users on MySpace alone. How will an employer find you in the crowd? MySpace and Facebook may help you in your job hunt, but don?t count on them as your sole avenue into the job market.

Staying Computer Safe while Searching for Freebies on the Net Who doesn?t love the idea of getting something for nothing? Free stuff can bring a smile to anyone?s face, and the Internet is destination number one when you are looking for cash in on a few freebies. The downside of free stuff online is that if you aren?t careful, the free item could end up causing plenty of headaches and heartaches, not to mention a lot of cold, hard cash. If you want to score with free stuff online, make safety your number one priority by following these tips. First and foremost, treat your personal information like its cash. That might sound a little dramatic, but anyone who manages to steal your identity online is after one thing, and one thing only, your money and any addition money they can grab by cashing in on your credit. Protecting your name, address, credit card number, bank account number, phone number, social security number, and so on and so forth when you are registering for free offers is the first step to making sure you don?t get hustled when you?re just trying to enjoy a good freebie. That means that if you are asked for some personal information that you don?t feel comfortable handing out, let the freebie go. Likewise, make sure the site from which you are getting your free stuff has a privacy policy and that you know it, understand it, and can live with it. Speaking of that site that is handing out the free goods: just who are these people? If you were walking down the street and a shady looking person said they would give you a free DVD player if you followed them, chances are you would run the other way. Online, it is hard to tell the legitimate people from the people looking at you like a free lunch, but there are a few red flags you can look out for. Does the website look like it was thrown up in about 5 minutes, full of clip art and bad spelling? Is it hard to find information about where the website is registered, or where the business the website is supposedly promoting is registered? If the website purports to be affiliated with a certain brand you know, does it really look like it is, or does the logo look different/colors look off? If you can?t get a reasonable feel for who are dealing with online, don?t deal with them. Red flag number one? Asking for too much personal info should send you running. Another way to protect yourself is to build a virtual fortress around your computer. The net is filled with people who know how to walk right into your virtual home ? your computer ? and flip through everything you have on there, taking whatever they want. Many of these kinds of hackers draw you in by creating phony freebie websites. The way to keep them out is to keep your computer on lockdown. Make sure your firewall is stronger than you think it needs to be, and make sure it is always updated. Also, make sure you have antivirus software on the patrol for you and that you keep this software updated as well. Last but not least, keep those passwords in the vault, and make sure they are extra strong. No freebie website has any reason to ask you about the passwords for your accounts so don?t give them away ? and don?t give them to anyone else online for that matter. Also, if you?re using your birthday or child?s name as password, don?t. Sure, it isn?t as easy to remember, but your password should be a random word and contain a collection of numbers and symbols as well. This will give you the extra layer of protection to make sure your online house is in order when you cash in on the freebies.