Being Thankful

Dear, Anita,

I just hate my job. My pay is low and the managers are morons. This job isn’t going anywhere and I am burned out. I’ve been looking for other work, but none of them seem any better. Where are all the good jobs?

Dear, Negative Nellie,

Girl Sticking Out TongueDon’t like your job? There’s someone out there who would be happy to take it. (Note that the same concept can apply to your spouse!)

Thanksgiving is a great time of the year for an attitude adjustment. No job is going to be a walk in the park every day; after all, it is called “work” for a reason. You may feel the grass will be greener at another place of employment. The fact is, there will always be aspects of any job that you enjoy, and a few that you don’t.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” A worthwhile exercise may be to write down the things you are thankful for. You may want to do a full Pro/Con list about your job. If the pros outweigh the cons, then make a concerted effort to concentrate on the plusses at your position. Here’s another idea: Every day, write a short entry about something good that happened to you in a gratitude journal.

What’s that? You say there is nothing about your current work life to be grateful for? What about the fact that you are getting paid? There are nine other ideas on BizSupplies list of “Ten Reasons to be Thankful at Work.”

By focusing on the positive, you’ll find that your mood lightens. Watch this video clip to see one guy who is enthusiastic about work: While you may not be as happy to go to the office as “Mike,” maybe you can enjoy your current workplace by learning to take yourself lightly, but your job seriously.

Readers: What are you most thankful for in your workplace?

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Understanding COBRA Health Coverage Continuation

Dear, Anita,

I am leaving my current job for a better position. I am confused about the gap between when my old company’s health care policy stops, and when my new company’s benefits will kick in. I’ve heard about Cobra insurance.

Dear, Leery about Lapses,

First, congratulations on your new position! Health insurance coverage often continues until the last day of the month in which employment is ending, but it depends on how the plan was set up. In your documentation, look under “termination of coverage” or a similar title. You may also want to check with your current human resources representative.

CobraCOBRA continuing health coverage is not just for snake bites! The acronym stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the option to continue, for a period, the group plan in which they were enrolled. The qualifying reason for losing your health care coverage could be voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events.

Your employer must provide you with a continuation notice by mail within 14 days after the qualifying event. You must opt in to the COBRA coverage within 60 days. Be forewarned: your premium may be much higher than the amount that has been taken out of your paycheck, as most employers subsidize insurance coverage. While there is no law for how much an employer must contribute to health care premiums, your deduction is generally just a portion of the total cost. COBRA premiums can be up to 102 percent of the cost of the plan.

COBRA coverage generally lasts for up to 18 months. In your situation, you’ll probably only need it until you are eligible for your new group plan. Even though it is expensive, be sure not to go without coverage. With the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014, you could face fines or penalties for letting your health insurance lapse.


There are alternatives to COBRA. You may want to research short-term health insurance, which is expensive, but sometimes more affordable than COBRA. If your eligibility waiting period is long, or if you are unemployed with no job in sight, you may wish to look into major medical insurance (sometimes dramatically called catastrophic coverage). Major medical policies have a high deductible and cover serious medical expenses like ER visits, surgeries, and hospital stays, but not things like routine visits to your family doctor.  If you have a pre-existing condition, however, you may have to bite the bullet with COBRA, at least until Obamacare changes go into effect January 1, 2014. After that date, there may be a question about whether short-term and major medical will be creditable plans. You can check out the insurance marketplace website created by the ACA,, to see health insurance plans for your area.

For more specifics on COBRA, visit the Department of Labor website.

Readers: Have you used COBRA continuing health coverage, or did you find a lower-cost alternative?

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My Job is a Pain in the Neck – Literally

Dear, Anita,

 I LOVE being busy at work. Frankly, I work better under pressure and need a demanding schedule to keep me from getting too distracted. However, when I’m trying to get something done quickly, I tense up terribly. I try to catch myself and stop it, but by the time I start feeling the pain in my back, shoulders, and neck, it’s too late! Then I have to wait until I get home and can lay down to release the tension, and sometimes that doesn’t even work and I’m sore into the following day. What do you do for it?!

Dear, Tense Spence,

I hear you! Neck and shoulder tension is something that, as a writer, I deal with on a regular basis. Check out my previous article on workplace ergonomics:

Tense man at deskI am a proponent of getting away from my desk at regular intervals. You sound like the type of person who regularly eats lunch at your desk. Even if you have a demanding schedule, taking your lunch break can actually help you increase productivity by providing a nutritional as well as cognitive recharge. It’s said that Albert Einstein actually came up with the theory of relativity while on a bike ride.

Management By Walking Around (MBWA) is a concept born at Hewlett Packard in the 1970s. Impromptu visits to employees and coworkers often generate more good ideas, as well as increased morale, than waiting for reports or other more formalized processes.  It’s also a good excuse for supervisors to get away from their desks and move around.

I am fortunate, if you could call it that, to have one of those newfangled energy-efficient motion sensor light fixtures above my workspace. Whenever I am very still for long periods of time (except for my flying fingers), the light turns off. I use this as a not-so-subtle reminder to stretch and wave my arms so I won’t be in the dark and end up stiff-necked.

There are exercises and yoga poses that could ease your stiffness before it sets in. Learn some basic stretches that you can do at your desk in this YouTube video: After you get past the first pose, where you imitate SNL’s Mary Katherine Gallagher with her hands in her armpits, you can complete this yoga break at your desk with little embarrassment.

Readers: Is neck, shoulder, or back pain a problem for you? How do you relieve your tension at work?

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Charitable Involvement in the Workplace

Dear, Anita,

My company would like all of our departments to become involved in the executives’ pet charity. There is one large annual event, for which my department has been given some responsibilities. How can I get the employees I supervise enthused about this extra workload? Plus, the event itself is after hours. Am I obligated to pay overtime to employees who participate?

Dear, Involuntary Volunteer,

Corporate social responsibility is important, so I’m pleased that your company is taking an active role in a community charity. Despite the fact that the company will benefit from favorable publicity and goodwill from their customers and the general public (Ben & Jerry’s springs to my mind), it’s noble and fitting for the “haves” to help the “have nots.” When employees feel they are working for a company with a conscience, they will likely be more engaged in their jobs and willing, if not enthusiastic, to participate in the annual event.

I’ll get off my soapbox now to address the nuts and bolts of your question. Are you and the executives clear on the amount of time and resources the assigned tasks will require from your department?  Asking for employees to donate their personal time is one way to go, but if there are deliverables that need to be executed and plans that need to be made to pull the event off, allotting time during work hours will guarantee the projects get done without excuse.

Select Staffing Santa Barbara International Marathon

Select Staffing Santa Barbara International Marathon

When a company is looking for a philanthropic partnership that their employees will rally around, it helps if the charity relates somehow to your core business. For example, my friends at Select Staffing sponsor the Santa Barbara International Marathon and are partnering this year with a local Job Smart program, collecting donated shoes to help local job seekers put their best foot forward.  To generate enthusiasm, your company executives could announce the new charitable partnership in a companywide meeting or through a newsletter, intranet site, or other internal mode of communication. Sometimes, though, you as a middle manager may be required to be the torch bearer and relay mandates from the executives to your team. Do your best to promote the charity’s purpose and main goals and outline how your department will contribute. Most employees won’t mind a break from the mundane for some once-a-year assignments.

Charity EventAttendance at the after-hours event should be voluntary. I’m not a lawyer, but common sense tells me that if you are requiring people to attend the charity event, then they must be paid.  Your company may wish to promote participation by offering to pay any employee’s entry fee, admission charge, or per-plate contribution. (They are on their own for raffles and silent auctions!)

Readers: In which charity does your company invest time and money? How do employees participate?

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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