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Writing Right

Writing Right

Don't let bad business writing affect your bottom line

As I sit in front of my computer proofreading this feature on Business Writing for the 8th time, I am growing more and more frustrated as I question every ellipsis, comma, and period that I type. With the wide array of subjects in the world of business development and professional growth, I tend to lean towards covering topics like leadership and stress management since I find them to be a little more relatable than those of punctuation and grammar.

But as you are well aware, the world of business development involves many more topics besides leadership skills and stress management. As our company name implies – Elevate Business Development Group  (Elevate BDG) - I consider it my responsibility to cover a multitude of topics that are essential in developing your business. So, here I go…writing about writing and, hopefully, writing it right!

The building blocks of any writing, whether for business or social purposes, are words. Failure to use words properly can affect the overall impact of your prose. Once we have a basic understanding of how to use words, we need to know how to put them together with the use of proper punctuation and sentence/paragraph structure. Pretty straight forward, if you ask me.  In essence, it is,  yet there are so many common writing mistakes being made on a regular basis, resulting in significant financial costs to businesses.

The case of the $5M comma

The far most interesting - and definitely the most costly punctuation error to date - is the case of the missing Oxford comma. In February 2018 the missing comma cost a company in Maine $5 million in unpaid overtime. The controversial comma came into a debate when the truck drivers of Oakhurst Dairy claimed they were owed unpaid overtime. The company believed the employees did not qualify for the overtime pay because of the way Maine’s labor law was written, but boy were they wrong!  In a BIG win for the working class, and a costly oversight for the big guys, one missing comma cost the company millions and the truck drivers were awarded the overtime pay they deserved.

For those of you that do not know what an Oxford comma is a comma that precedes "and" or "or" in a list of three or more words in a sentence. (For example: "I like cherries, candy, and ice cream!”)

Maine's labor laws say that anyone who works more than 40 hours a week is entitled to 1.5X pay, except for certain exemptions including:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

  1. Agricultural produce;
  2. Meat and fish product; and
  3. Perishable foods

Note the lack of the comma in between the words “packing for shipping” and “distribution” in the first sentence of this law. The suit argued that since "packing for shipment" and "distribution" was not separated by a comma making them a single activity; not two separate activities. "Sure, we distribute it -- but we don't pack it."

While a case like this leaves no question about the costly impact of incorrect punctuation, there are other harrowing statistics that substantiate the significant cost incurred to businesses as a result of improper writing. According to a study of 547 business people who write at least two hours per week (in addition to email) by Josh Bernoff at the Harvard Business Review, incorrect business writing is costing American companies a whopping $4 BILLION a year.

According to Bernoff:

          “American workers spend 22 percent of their work time reading; higher compensated workers read more. According to my analysis, America is spending 6 percent of total wages on time wasted attempting to get meaning out of poorly written material. Every company, every manager, every professional pays this tax, which consumes $396 billion of our national income.”

Sure, this is not quite as concrete as the 5 million dollar Oxford comma, but the point is, our writing skills are costing our companies money, and when it comes to business writing training, the proof is in the numbers. Effective business writing skills can help you win that million-dollar contract, while poor business writing can never be undone. The digital revolution has increased the speed at which we communicate, but this should never be at the expense of proper business writing.  Always take the time to proofread that email before you hit send!

Business writing requires deep thought, time, and focus…and sometimes a little practice, which is why we are now offering a combo deal on Business Writing and Presentation Skills seminars with Elevate BDG!


 

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This article was written by Tara Scheing of Elevate Business Development Group. Tara has been managing the digital marketing and writing articles on professional development & business training with Elevate BDG since it’s inception and lives in Southern Oregon with her husband and two young sons. You can connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tara-scheing-28973655/ or contact her directly at tara@elevatebdg.com. 

Elevate Business Development Group is a workforce management, training, and consulting company serving government agencies (federal, state, local), non-profits, and private industry. Our programs make staff, managers, and executives more effective contributors to the workplace by assessing knowledge gaps and crafting tailored solutions. Elevate BDG offers on-site and virtual training, coaching, mentoring, and creative off-site training offerings in 200+ topics. Our “off-the-shelf” solutions can be tailored to meet your organization’s needs or our instructional designers can create a program from scratch to meet your exact specifications.

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Stress and mental health

The Impact of Stress on Your Mental Health

By Tara Scheing | Elevate BDG, Inc.

In response to (what seemed at the time) one the most stressful months of my life, I thought it would be a great opportunity to speak on a subject I am a little too familiar with - STRESS…Trust me when I say that I have many restless nights worrying about the happiness and well-being of my family, but there are certain triggers that I dealt with this past month that left me feeling hopeless many of nights and frantic throughout the day. Overall, I feel like I handled everything fairly well, but let me tell you…it was not easy!

You see, my husband and I are no strangers to financial challenges. Over this past month, it seems like things have come to a head with costly car repairs and the sudden loss of healthcare. These are the kind of challenges that makes what feels like a bad situation feel even worse. I can not tell you the number of times in this past month, that I have I felt like I was the cowardly lion skipping down the yellow brick-road, crying about health-care and child-care and groceries (OH MY!!!!). To top it all off, my 16-month-old seems to be on a sleep strike these days and I found myself awake at 4:30 am this morning stressing about factors beyond my control,  leading me into yet another draining day that started well before sunrise.

All these things are stressful and have affected every facet of my life, but I am doing my best to hold it all together. The thing about stress is that it doesn’t stay put; when I am stressed about something, it tends to seep over into other areas of my life. These financial stresses don't just happen when I open my checkbook - it consumes me…When I start work in the morning, I am not able to magically check-out on my checkbook worries…They still existand yes, this is most likely affecting my productivity at work. (don’t tell my boss!) Fact is, when you are stressed at home, it tends to have an impact on your work performance and when you are stressed out at work, you tend to bring it home with you.

While it may seem as if the stress will never end and that it is negatively impacting my life while I am caught up in it, research shows that in short bursts, stress is actually a good thing, with my thinking skills increasing as my stress increases. I guess that is why they say some people work better under stress. (you can tell my boss that!!!) 

There are, however, connections between stress and mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Now, while stress may very well be my middle name, I am fortunate enough to say that I do not have much first-hand experience with mental illness. Most of the stressors in my life are more like short-bursts of added stressors, opposed to a prolonged or chronic issue. In other words, I deal with it…

According to Ali Carnage, in an article on Stress and our mental health - what is the impact & how can we tackle it?, “changes at work, illness, accidents, problems with relationships, family, money or housing can all cause stress. What links all these situations is that we’re unable to predict and control what is happening to us, and so our body goes into a state of increased alertness. And these events can happen all the time - triggering the body’s stress response over and over again.

When the stress response becomes prolonged (chronic), it has a very different effect to the short bursts that enhance the body’s abilities. In many cases, the system controlling the stress response is no longer able to return to its normal state. Some of the emotional and behavioral symptoms of stress overlap with those of mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, making it hard to distinguish where one begins and the other ends, or which came first."

The trick is learning to deal with stress in a way to ensure that it does not lead to mental illness. I am very aware that I am walking a fine line with the stress in my life and while I may be blessed increased awareness and productivity as a result of these short-bursts of stressors, someone else may be plagued by these exact same stressors, causing a more chronic condition, ultimately leading them down the path of depression or anxiety. While it may not feel like it right now, these short bursts of stress may actually be working to my employer's benefit (hey…I got this article written, didn’t I ?!?!), there is no doubt in my mind that I would still benefit from a Stress Management class. I mean, who wouldn’t benefit from learning to cope with heavy workloads and the demanding expectations that cause stress at work and home or learning how to better react to external situations and deal with negative emotions in a healthy manner?

You see, workplace stress and the inability to talk to someone about it takes its toll.  Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace, found that only 4 in 10 employees feel that someone at their job cares about them as a person. But experts agree that having someone to talk to can help alleviate the isolation, confusion, and fear that may accompany job-related stress. And this, my friends, is where Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) comes into play… MHFA can teach you how to recognize and respond to mental health challenges in the workplace, so you can better recognize the difference between an employee who is simply stressed out vs. one who is experiencing a mental health crisis. The eight-hour course provides you with an action plan to assess risk, provide reassurance and information and encourage appropriate professional help. Many who take a Mental Health First Aid course find the strategies useful in dealing with their own challenges, as well.

End of the day, pretty much every single person, every single day is experiencing some sort of emotional or physical stress and one in five American adults are actually living with a mental illness so you can clearly benefit from both Stress Management and Mental Health First Aid classes with Elevate BDG. In fact, we are so sure you will benefit from both of these courses together, that we are offering $500 OFF when you book Stress Management & Mental Health First Aid with Elevate BDG!*

*Courses must be booked for two consecutive days to receive the discount.


Make Mental Health a Priority! 

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is the initial help given to someone experiencing a mental health problem before appropriate treatment and support are obtained. Regardless of what an individual is dealing with mentally, whether it be the onset of a mental illness, anxiety or depression or simply managing a crisis situation, Elevate BDG’s Mental Health First Aid seminar will teach participants how to recognize the  symptoms of mental health problems, how to offer and provide initial help, and how to guide the individual to professional help, if appropriate. This course is designed to demystify the whole topic of mental illness by increasing mental health literacy and to decreasing the stigma that is attached to it. By detecting the problems early, you can ensure that the person is properly treated and supported. LEARN MORE

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This article was written by Tara Scheing of Elevate Business Development Group. Tara has been managing the digital marketing and writing articles on professional development & business training with Elevate BDG since it’s inception and lives in Southern Oregon with her husband and two young sons. You can connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tara-scheing-28973655/ or contact her directly at tara@elevatebdg.com. 

Elevate Business Development Group is a workforce management, training, and consulting company serving government agencies (federal, state, local), non-profits, and private industry. Our programs make staff, managers, and executives more effective contributors to the workplace by assessing knowledge gaps and crafting tailored solutions. Elevate BDG offers on-site and virtual training, coaching, mentoring, and creative off-site training offerings in 200+ topics. Our “off-the-shelf” solutions can be tailored to meet your organization’s needs or our instructional designers can create a program from scratch to meet your exact specifications.

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The Art of Procrastination

Invest in the professional development of your team

By Tara Scheing | Elevate BDG, Inc.

 

Every time I go on vacation, I procrastinate until the last minute to get myself prepared. With 2 young kids and a husband who wouldn't know his underwear drawer if it slapped him in the face, my procrastination has been getting to the best of me this time around. And to top it off, here I am writing an article on procrastination instead of packing, all because I also procrastinated on this work project.

It seems to be a cycle with me, I guess...In fact, I decided to further prolong my procrastination by doing a little research on the subject in hopes that it may ignite my spark for this work project that I am "oh so stumped on."  I listened to THIS TED TALK  on the "Mind of a Master Procrastinator" and read THIS ARTICLE on "5 Tips to Get the Job Started"... all a good waste of my time, I must say. If you are as good of a procrastinator as I am, you will enjoy these just as much as I did, but for those that tend to manage their time a little more effectively than I do, I am just going to cut to the chase...

At the end of the day, we all just really want to get the job done; it is the path we take that determines how difficult it will be to get there. For me, I guess it works out because, apparently, I am in the business of writing articles about procrastination. But for those of you reading this, things are a little different. In your case, procrastination is not an option when it comes to using the remainder of your 2019 training budget before the year-end training deadline.

The fact is, you have a training budget that you need to spend. At the end of the day, if you do not use it before the July 30th deadline, you risk the chance of your training budget being reallocated next year. There are thousands of options out there when it comes to training and (I am sure) you are hoping to find the time in your (already busy) schedule to do your due diligence of researching the pros and cons of every company out there to ensure you are not just blowing your year-end budget on training that will not have a measurable impact on your team.

Little did you know...the solution has come to you, right here...right now! 

Believe it or not...YOUR EMPLOYEES ACTUALLY WANT MORE TRAINING!  So, if you have funds remaining to allocate to training and you don't want to lose them next year, why not invest in your employee's professional development and help your team to reach their full potential? Leadership, Communication, Time Management, Computers - you name it, these skills are all vital to achieving results within your team and EVERY MEMBER of EVERY TEAM can benefit from this investment. So, long story short...USE IT before you LOSE IT!

Now that you have wasted your precious time reading my gibberish about procrastination, hopefully, it will lead to you doing just the opposite...You have two options...You can either spend your time plowing through the thousands of options on the market only to find yourself right back where you started, or you can stick with a name you know & trust to deliver the learning and management solutions to government employees and managers for the past 10 years - Elevate BDG.


This article was written by Tara Scheing of Elevate Business Development Group. Tara has been managing the digital marketing and writing articles on professional development & business training with Elevate BDG since it’s inception and lives in Southern Oregon with her husband and two young sons. You can connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tara-scheing-28973655/ or contact her directly at tara@elevatebdg.com. 

Elevate Business Development Group is a workforce management, training, and consulting company serving government agencies (federal, state, local), non-profits, and private industry. Our programs make staff, managers, and executives more effective contributors to the workplace by assessing knowledge gaps and crafting tailored solutions. Elevate BDG offers on-site and virtual training, coaching, mentoring, and creative off-site training offerings in 200+ topics. Our “off-the-shelf” solutions can be tailored to meet your organization’s needs or our instructional designers can create a program from scratch to meet your exact specifications.