Archive for the '5. Workplace Q & A' Category

Workplace Q & A

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008


Click Here for the September 2008 Issue


Question: Where can I go to get computer training?

There are a number of places around campus to get computer training – some free, some for a fee:

Penn ISC Technology Training
Penn’s ISC offers fee-based training on a variety of applications such as various levels of Microsoft products, FilemakerPro, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator and Flash. Conducted both on- and off-campus.

Financial Training
The Department of Financial Training provides programs focused on the University’s financial processes, procedures and systems. These programs cover a wide range of topics which include Penn’s Business Enterprise Network and the University payroll system. Many of the programs have pre-requisites for attendees and all are offered free of charge.

Penn’s Library
The library offers a variety of free classroom courses, from training on applications such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Photoshop, to how to use sites such as Pubmed and Scopus. They also offer free online training in selected topics such as PowerPoint and Excel.

Unique Advantage
Unique Advantage, the University’s Temporary Employee provider, offers basic computer training in some of the Microsoft applications. The training is online and free.

Also in the September 2008 issue

SOM Staff Lend Voices to Online Sexual Harrassment Training
Preventing Communication Breakdowns
Supervisory Skills Certificate Deadline
Leading Success™ Program Members Selected
Harnessing Strengths
Knowledge Link Help Desk



Workplace Q&A

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Click here for the January 2008 issue

Q: I’m an International Staff member who would like to improve my English pronunciation and vocabulary so that I can communicate better with my U.S. co-workers. Are there local resources that can help me?

A: Yes, there are several resources available in the area, some under the auspices of Penn, and some independent of Penn but serving the Penn community.

Penn English Language Programs (ELP)
215-898-8681 or

Penn’s English Language Programs (ELP) has been teaching courses in English as a second/foreign language for over four decades. While most of their students are enrolled in the ELP full-time, they do have part-time options appropriate for SOM staff. These include:

  • Evening Courses
  • One-on-One Coaching/Tutoring
    - Just-in-time help for improving your communication skills for a presentation or a written assignment
    - Ongoing pronunciation and intelligibility improvement

Penn’s Graduate School of Education, Educational Linguistics program

  • Tutoring
    If you are interested in private tutoring, you may find some graduate students in the Graduate School of Education’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TOESL) program who would be interested and available. Contact Mary Schlesinger, 215-898-7912,

The International House – Spoken English Program
Barbara Warnock, 215-895-6541

The International House at 3701 Chestnut Street is home to international and American students and scholars, and offers both evening and daytime courses in Spoken English.

Intercultural Friends
Sarah Mitchell, 215-382-4613 or Roger Converse, 215-964-3563

Intercultural Friends is a faith-based organization that offers English as a Second Language classes at Penn’s Graduate Student Center (3615 Locust Walk), and at other locations in the vicinity of Penn’s campus.

Also in the January 2008 issue:

How to Communicate with Your U.S. Co-workers
How to Communicate with Your International Co-workers
Newest Supervisory Skills Certificate Graduates
Knowledge Link Help Desk

Workplace Q&A: Unlawful Questions

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
Click here for the October 2007 issue

I know that there are some questions that we can’t ask during an interview – such as about their race, or whether or not they have children. How do I know what other questions are unlawful? How can I make sure the questions I ask during an interview are legal?

This is definitely an area where it’s easy to skate out onto thin ice. Sometimes it’s done with complete innocence.

For instance, at the start of an interview a hiring officer named Kirk may ask Tamika, the candidate, “I see you went to Grove City College. I have several friends who went there – when did you graduate?”

Kirk’s motive could be innocent – to see if Tamika was attending Grove City at the same time as his friends, on the chance that they may have mutual acquaintances. Kirk could merely be engaging in the normal social chit-chat we use to break the ice with someone, as often happens at the beginning of an interview.

Or, Kirk’s motive could be to use the graduation date to help him guess Tamika’s age, because he wants to hire someone young for the position, (despite the fact that it’s illegal to discriminate against people over 40 because of their age).

No matter what the motive, the question could cause trouble for Kirk in the long run.

The rule to remember is that it is illegal to base a hiring decision on anything other than Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications. So to be safe from both the practice and the appearance of discriminating, design your questions around the competencies you identified when you were filling out the Position Information Questionnaire (PIQ). Make sure your questions are directly related to finding out whether or not a candidate can do the job.

For examples of unlawful and lawful questions, click HERE.

Also in the October 2007 issue:       

SOM Supervisory Skills Certificate Program
First Supervisory Skills Certificate Series Cohort Graduates
Creating Persuasive Presentations
All Aboard
Organization Effectiveness Resource Library
Knowledge Link Help Desk

Workplace Q & A

Monday, April 9th, 2007

Click here for the April 2007 issue

How do I write effective performance goals for the upcoming appraisal cycle?

The simplest way to write effective goals is to use the SMARTS acronym. Have goals that are:

Specific – The staff member should know exactly what is expected

Measurable – Measurements are established so both the manager and staff member can monitor performance or progress toward meeting goals

Achievable – The goal is not just a wish, it has a basis in reality

Results Focused – The goal is focused on accomplishments, not activities

Time Bound – The goal has a specific deadline or time frame for accomplishment

Stretch – The goal will be a challenge to meet, not an automatic accomplishment

From the University of Pennsylvania Human Resources website. “Guidelines To The Performance And Staff Development Program.”

Also in the April 2007 issue:    

Write You Own Performance Review
Four Steps to Writing Performance Appraisals
Meeting & Retreat Design and Facilitation
Knowledge Link Help Desk

Workplace Q&A

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

“I would really like to get more feedback from my supervisor about how I’m doing in my job. How can I get my supervisor to give me more feedback?”

Supervisors are often very busy with their own workload and deadlines. When it comes to giving their staff feedback, too often supervisors take the approach of “no news is good news.” In other words, the only time you hear from them about your performance is when something is not going well. You can increase the chances of getting feedback if you try these suggestions:

Take responsibility for getting the feedback. Take the initiative with your boss to schedule a time for a feedback session. Busy people often appreciate the help in scheduling times for things they feel are important, but have trouble getting around to.

Give your supervisor the opportunity to prepare. When you do schedule a time to get feedback, send a confirmation email and include the specific questions or areas you would like to discuss. Your boss will be able to provide you with better feedback if he/she has time to think about it in advance.

Be clear about what you want. Simply asking your boss, “How am I doing” is not likely to get you detailed, thoughtful feedback. Clearly identify the kind of feedback you are looking for. Some examples of this might be:

  • “My goal at the end of the year is to be rated better than ‘meets expectations.’ Am I on track for that or are there some things I need to be working on?”
  • “What do you think my strengths and weaknesses are in this job? Do you feel that I am collecting the patient data appropriately? Is there anything you think I need to be paying attention to that I am not right now?”
  • “Do you think I have the potential to become a supervisor? What have you observed in my work that makes you think so? What have you observed that might be working against me?

Stay open to what you hear, even if it is not what you expected. A barrier to getting good feedback can develop if you go into the process trying to confirm a perception you have of yourself rather than truly understanding someone else’s perspective. A sign that you might be doing this would be if you find yourself arguing with the feedback you are hearing. Resist the temptation to convince the other person that their feedback is “wrong.” Instead, become curious and ask additional questions to determine what has created their perception. This approach is more likely to give you information you can act on and will also make the person more comfortable about giving you feedback in the future.

Take action on the feedback when you get it. Develop a specific plan to act on the feedback you get, send a copy of the plan to your supervisor, and then do it! Getting feedback should be seen as a means to an end, not the end itself. The point is to improve your ability to do your job, and/or to develop skills for a potential future role. People are much more willing to provide good feedback when they see that it is having some impact. Check in with you supervisor periodically to see if they think you are making progress on your action plan and goals. Use that feedback to adjust your plan as needed. Make getting and using feedback an ongoing process rather than a periodic event.

Do you have questions about how to deal with difficult workplace issues?

Send your questions and comments to with subject line “Workplace Q&A” and you may see them answered here.

Workplace Q & A

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Have you ever wished you had a resource to provide you with some practical insights into dealing with difficult workplace issues?

Send your questions to with subject line Workplace Q&A. You may see your questions answered here!