By Rebecca Davis, REDBOOK
Whether you're climbing the corporate ladder or building your own home business, harboring negative feelings about your job can poison every aspect of your life. Here's the good news: "While it may not always feel like it, we are each in charge of our own work-life balance," says Cathie Black, president of Hearst Magazines (which publishes REDBOOK!) and author of the new book Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life). Read on for Black's tips on how you can call the shots-and create success-in your own life.
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1. Break the rules once in a while: You've had a brilliant brainstorm-but it's a tough sell to your boss. You may have more luck if you buck protocol-skip the memo your boss usually prefers and get your plan off the ground without getting a green light first. "If you know your boss well, what's the worst that's going to happen?" asks Black. "Someone's going to get mad at you? Big deal!" Even if your boss doesn't like the results, she'll likely respect your fortitude. In turn, you can be proud of having taken a risk-and feel secure about taking others down the line.
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2. Never panic: You suddenly realize that you sent a client the strongly worded email you meant to send to your boss about that client. Don't freak out: Everyone makes mistakes at work. The secret is to keep screw-ups from snowballing into bigger catastrophes. "You can't do your best work when you're in panic mode," says Black. To get a grip after a flub, go for a coffee or a short walk to clear your mind. Then make a plan: Who can help you? What damage control can you do? A concrete plan will push you forward and stop you from dwelling on the problem.
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3. Don't take work personally: It's difficult not to take work slights-real or perceived-to heart. Watching your coworkers go out for a planning lunch without you or hearing someone shoot down your idea hurts. But ruminating on office politics only keeps you from focusing on what's most important: your job. "While you let things fester, everyone else has returned to work, leaving you in their dust," says Black. And no matter how tough things get, don't ever let them see you cry at the office. It's a sign to everyone else-and yourself-that you've lost your cool. Next time your eyes well up over some criticism or comment, ask yourself if it's really worth your tears. Just disappear for a while instead to pull yourself together, says Black, and then move on with your day.
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4. Value your experience and your time: "Many women are so concerned with being liked and wanting to please," says Black, "that they don't speak up and ask for a raise for fear they'll be rejected." Don't make this mistake! Get smart about your worth. Black suggests meeting with your human resources department to discuss where you fit in on your company's pay scale. Also check out online job boards to determine what the average salary is for someone with your education, experience, job responsibilities, and title. Then schedule a meeting with your boss. "Lay out your case carefully and listen closely to her feedback," says Black. "If you've presented a persuasive argument, she'll be impressed by your research and drive-and will probably consider your proposal."
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5. Don't try to have it all: Just because women can do anything doesn't mean we should do everything. Over-promising at work and at home will likely result in under-delivering-and not only will you disappoint your boss, your kids, or your husband, you'll also feel guilty and be less productive. Instead, be honest about your priorities. Do you want to be the captain or can you feel good about being a valuable team player? Do you want to be an ever-present parent or will you feel better contributing to the family income? "Keep reevaluating your life," says Black. "Ask yourself, What kind of life do I want?" Being candid with yourself and those you love is the only way to carve out the work-life balance that's right for you.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.