How to Navigate Controversial Topics at Work

A Guest Post

My thanks to Jessica Pyykkonen for this guest post.

Picture this: you’re on your lunch break and have been invited to sit with a group of coworkers who appear to be deep in passionate discussion. When you sit down and ask what’s new, two colleagues on opposing sides of the table begin disparaging each other. You quickly learn that their opposing political views are the source of their disagreement, and you begin to feel uncomfortable.

Have you been there? Or perhaps you have been in the seat of one of the debaters at that table, and didn’t realize that you may have made a coworker feel uncomfortable?

Controversial topics seem to be everywhere in the workplace these days. If conducted with respect, they have the potential to bring coworkers together, but they’re also ripe for sticky social situations. This article and infographic can help you navigate these delicate situations, no matter what your role in them, so you stay professional and avoid creating difficult moments for those around you.

Four Small But Mighty Changes That Will De-Stress Your Email Life


“I don’t understand why we send people the information they need and they don’t read their email!”

My frustrated friend was lamenting how people don’t READ their email, causing more inefficiency.

I told him that maybe it’s because when people need information, they feel the quickest thing to do is ask again instead of digging through an over-filled in-box to find it.

I’m not excusing that behavior–I’d done something similar a day before. I was confirming a meeting and could not find the street address for it. So I stopped digging and asked the person again to confirm the location.  

But I can understand my friend’s frustration. It interrupted his morning,when if his colleagues would keep up with their messages, everyone could go about their work more easily.

So how can we, as a professional society, change this?  Here are some thoughts:

Change our attitude.  Many professionals live with the opinion that email is the enemy. I have news for you. It’s not. It’s just a means of communication no different than phone calls, texts, or social media posts. Whether you like it or not, much of your business takes place in email and will be negatively affected if you don’t respond. It’s not a separate task from your work. Get over it and find a system customized to you.

Keep up with your email. Find a system that works for you. Perhaps you won’t be able to practice “Inbox Zero” but you can still keep up with the important things. (My course, Forget Inbox Zero: Be an Inbox HERO goes deeper.)

File the important items in a logical place. The address I needed? I could have attached it to the calendar appointment. Waiting to hear back this week? Have a “briefly hold” folder in your email system (don’t let it pile up!)

Set up rules.  Filter messages from vital connections so they are saved in folders or marked with a different color. Auto-direct emails related to a certain task to their own folder.

These small but mighty changes can help you handle email with much more efficiency and prevent people from getting frustrated with lack of information or response. Be a pro–give it a go!

Five Ways You are Making Your Work Harder than It Has to Be

Are you overwhelming yourself?

“I’m so busy.”

“I’m overwhelmed.”

“There’s too much to do.”

Do you ever say that? Feel that? I do.

But sometimes, we’re our own worst enemy.

We can be the blame for our own overwhelm. Here are a few ways we sabotage ourselves, which fall into four categories of  stress and opportunity, a line of thinking I’ve been considering lately.

H – Habits
O – Organization
P – People Skills
E – Email

  1. We don’t keep up with email. By not using the ADD method (act on, delegate, or delete) on a regular basis, we create a stagnant puddle of information that zaps a little bit of energy every time we look at it. (Email) 
  2. We pack too much into a time period. I’m guilty of this. I THINK I know what I should be able to get done in a day, but don’t leave adequate breathing space to think, deal with interruptions, or account for technology issues. (Organization) 
  3. We make relationships difficult.  I like to say, “We don’t have time to be difficult people.” (Notice I didn’t say “be around” difficult people.) We can easily create energy zapping drama by misconstruing a colleagues words, being too sensitive to other’s tones, or snapping at those getting in the way of our agenda.  This can lead to relational issues that take a lot of  time to figure out, and may even draw from the energy of other co-workers or bosses that have to step in to get the parties on the same page again. (People skills) 
  4. We don’t practice adequate self-care. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher. We need regular rhythms of rest and self-care to be our best for our work. But we cut corners on exercise, nutrition, and rest. Then we wonder why we feel grumpy or fatigued.  (Habits) 
  5. We don’t utilize good systems. We react to the tasks that come our way based on the urgency of the moment, rather than having an effective system in place to capture the task and assign it a time. I’m working on this myself–responding, not reacting. As an administrative professional, I tend to try to get everything done quickly, because it’s my job to take care of those details. But I can only take care of so many details in a period of time. It’s better to have a system to capture the tasks and plan a proper time to deal with them. (Habits, Organization)

So the next time you say, “I’m overwhelmed” ask yourself, “Am I overwhelming myself?” You may not like the answer, but honest consideration will help you make some changes.



One potential solution to overwhelm is to get some assistance. Our unique model of a virtual service collective puts a team at your disposal without the headaches of managing one, and the freedom to use us on a sporadic or minimal basis. Because of these flexible models, you can retain an assistant even if you don’t own your own business. Click here for more details.

A Free Tool to Help You Face the Overwhelm in Life

A project sponsored by the Give HOPE Fund

The project itself was a picture of life.

It involved people.

It was a journey over time.

There was a need for funds.

There was a shift in focus.

There were edits, and edits, and edits.

There was creativity.

There was logic.

There were hiccups.

There was joy.

Doesn’t that sound like many projects–or even life itself? Going from “Start your engines” to the checkered flag involves a series of twists, turns, bumps, re-starts, pit stops, etc. I’m delighted to share with you that we’ve crossed the finish line on a major project.

One of HOPE Unlimited’s core reasons for being is to provide hope to others. The usual focus is to give hope in the overwhelm of careers and small business, but the foundation of the values behind this business is my view of lasting hope.  We use what we call the Give HOPE Fund to sponsor projects and other initiatives that will give back and help others.

For several years, I served on the board of Life In Abundance, a non-profit that provides counseling and life coaching to women, and has also started a program called Wings, (Women In Need Gaining Strength.) I continue to serve as a board advisor.

I also have a friend and former colleague, who years ago felt called to write Bible studies. I watched her go through seminary training while also keeping up with full time work at a church where I used to be on staff. After she graduated, a thought came to mind to make a connection.

HOPE commissioned Barbara Lynn Seibel to write a study for Life In Abundance that would encourage those going through unemployment or underemployment (something I have experienced several times in my career.) So she selected a Psalm and began the process.

Once the first draft was done, Stephanie Baker, the Executive Director of LIA (and co-author with Karina Whisnant and me of Organizing from the Heart,) reviewed it, and felt it was so meaningful that it may be even better as a study for anyone going through a disappointment or troubling time of any kind. So Barbara went back to the drawing board to re-vamp the study.

Then, we utilized Raydell Tedder, and Amy Tedder of AT Your Design, (both are members of HOPE’s collective) to proof the study, and do the layout/design, utilizing creative elements such as images to color, hymn scores, and journaling space.

I had the privilege of being involved in the creative and management process, and HOPE was able to fund the whole project, which tangentially involved quite a few people due to how the Give HOPE Fund is, well, funded.

It is with grateful joy that I present to you completely free of charge the following study.  It is the property of Life In Abundance, and they produce an encouraging blog, so if you’d also like to receive their posts, you can visit their site. However, they graciously agreed that HOPE and Barbara could share the study directly on our sites as well.

This study is based on the Psalm, not any particular church, denomination, etc. We hope it will be an encouraging exercise to many who feel overwhelmed, or even just unsettled, by anything. I’d love to hear how it impacts you. Contact me to let me know!

Click on the image to download.

LIA Psalm 3 study COVER

Why You Should Be a Professional Fountain

Venetian fountain

“I took this picture of a fountain at the Venetian for you.”

A friend was on vacation, which included a visit to Las Vegas. Knowing my love for fountains, she sent a photo by text of a fountain at the famous hotel.

My online nickname for certain things is FountainB.

My town is named after a fountain.

I collect pictures of fountains for a Pinterest board.

Why the interest in fountains?

I already like water features, but I’m actually not sure where the interest in fountains started. However, the more I consider them, the more I can sense connections between fountains and my philosophy of life, much of which connects to my professional life.

Here are a three ways fountains can inspire us professionally:

Fountains are a source of refreshment. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a fountain. They are often the subject of pictures, and some become famous. I remember viewing an Instagram story of someone visiting the Trevi Fountain in Rome. It was a natural gathering spot. There’s just something refreshing about stopping and enjoying a fountain, whether it’s the cool spray you feel, the steady splashing sound, the artistic presentation or the group of people all enjoying the same thing.

Professional application: Are you refreshing to be around? Do your clients or teammates feel like their life is better because you are in it? Are you a “fountain of information/wisdom” for them?

Fountains are rhythmic. Fountains repeat the same movement constantly. The water is pulled up from pool are travels out through creative outlets. They are consistent. This rhythm and consistency reminds me of efficient systems in place in our work life–the routines and strategies that keep us moving forward and completing the tasks on our plates.

Professional application: Do you have a rhythm to your work life, that allows for spurts of energy and focus and then some time to step back for rest and refueling? Have you thought through strategies that will make you more efficient and help your work flow more easily?

Fountains need refilling and care. The person filming the Trevi fountain mentioned that it had recently been cleaned. Because of evaporation and mineral deposits, and trash from people throwing things into it, fountains need regular maintenance. How true for us as well. We cannot go full-out seven days a week and expect to be effective for the long-term. We also can’t hang on to the “trash” thrown our way by people we can’t control.

Professional application: What are you doing regularly to maintain your health and spirit? How do you handle the negativity that comes your way?

Drawing a parallel between a water feature and our professional life may seem unusual at first, but the next time you see a fountain, let it be a reminder of refreshment, rhythm, and refilling, and become a pro at being a fountain.

How the HOPE Family Encouraged Me

Some time ago, I faced a season of discouragement in this business. This defeated feeling was prompted by a mistake I’d made in book keeping despite my attempts to be careful and strategic in how I have my business set up.  But numbers are not my strongest point. (I defer bookkeeping clients to a member of our collective!)  

I can be good at visioning what information I want. I am strong at developing a system.  I can come up with a strategic approach. But I can also get over-complicated, making it easy to miss (for example) formulas that aren’t consistently applied throughout a workbook or a series of cells.  Thankfully, I discovered the mistake before any major damage was done. However, there was an effect on my income for a short time so that my account could build back.

I chose to post on Facebook about my discouragement. My approach to sharing with my readers (whether through blog or social media channels) is to be real, and generally optimistic. I don’t want to only portray the fun stuff of life, but I don’t believe in using these channels for pessimism or being whiny either.

However in this case, I admitted I was discouraged. And a community of people (both in real life and online) rallied around me and helped me navigate the journey of questioning that I found myself taking.  Here’s how they helped:

They reminded me I was not alone.  Several friends had gone through similar feelings in their own projects, and helped me see that “down times” were part of the business journey.

They affirmed what they saw in my character. It was touching and meaningful to be reminded of what others see in my character. I know my own brokeness, and that any good thing people see is the work of God in me. I am both humbled and encouraged that people see that values are important to me, despite inperfection.

They prayed for, and over, me. One of my friends used a video app to pray powerfully over me. Others expressed that they were praying.

They acknowledged that they read what I write. I wear many hats, writer being one of them. From time to time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering if what I write makes any difference. But in this season, people responded who normally don’t comment or say much. But they were prompted to chime in, and sometimes suprised me. You just never know who is reading in the background, and receiving benefit.

Other things happened during the time around this brief season of discouragement–Scripture coming to mind, an unexpected interaction with two former bosses, a completely surprising gift of financial support, a sermon about the meaning of our work, even an out-of-the blue gift of a HOPE necklace–all of which served to remind, reaffirm, and re-energize me toward the calling of this season of my life.

I’m grateful for the HOPE family–whether you are primarily a reader, a client, a product-user, or a friend or family member–you are all collectively part of my HOPE Unlimited family. Thank you for helping me stay the course, realize my blessings, and continue the call to help overwhelmed professionals excel.



Guest Infographic: 14 Ways to Improve Your Self-Discipline

The start of a new school year, even if you don’t have immediate family going to school, creates an atmosphere of new beginnings and a desire to return to routines. This infographic gives you several ideas about self-discipline, which is likely on your mind these days. Enjoy!

Courtesy of: CashNetUSA