“Plenty of offices will be empty until well into 2021, so there’s no time like the present to seek feedback from the boss and brush up on your skills.” J. Weed, The New York Times (November 2, 2020)
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: How to Keep Climbing the Ladder While You Work From Home, By Julie Weed — The New York Times (November 2, 2020)
“You’re stuck working from home, but does your career need to be stuck, too? Worried about keeping employees safe, many companies are pushing return-to-office dates deep into next year, so workers face more months toiling from spare bedrooms and kitchen tables. To keep progressing professionally, reach out for feedback, polish your skills and stay visible (on Zoom, Slack or however you keep in touch with your bosses).
It’s OK to seek feedback more often now that people aren’t in the same office, said Wonya Lucas, chief executive at Crown Media Family Networks, which owns the Hallmark Channel. It’s also more important than ever to keep track of your to-do list, with quick check-ins to clarify or confirm directions.
Employees may wonder if they are checking in too frequently — or not enough — to make sure they are on the right track. The simplest solution is to ask your manager how he or she wants to be briefed (by Slack message, email or phone call), how often or under what circumstances, and with what level of detail.
‘Managers can be struggling, too, so they’re not necessarily thinking about you,’ said Elizabeth Umphress, a management professor at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.
‘Sending an email asking to meet about communications expectations gives them time to think about what they want,’ Dr. Umphress added, “and you can come to that conversation with ideas, too.’
Level Up Your Skills
Ask your manager what you should focus on improving or which skill he or she is using most right now, Ms. Lucas said. There are plenty of free or low-cost online classes, video tutorials and other resources on every aspect of the business world. It may even be beneficial to go back to school part time… Volunteer for tasks outside your job description to gain new knowledge and get in front of new groups, Ms. Lucas said. Experience and exposure go hand in hand…If you’ve made the effort to acquire a new skill or do some interesting research, offer to hold a ‘lunch and learn’ virtual meet-up to share your new knowledge and gain recognition that way.
Seek out employees with different job descriptions like marketing, finance, human resources and learn what they do. ‘You will always be judged on how well you do in your own area, but unless you understand how your group’s work fits into the company’s overall goals and strategy, you wont rise far,’ Ms. Lucas said.
Take advantage of the virtual break rooms, happy hours or lunchtime hangouts your company is hosting, to meet people, she said. Connecting with someone about a shared interest like sports or pets ‘can lead to the courage to ask that person to a virtual lunch,’ she added.
If Your Boss Doesn’t Support You
Gaining visibility can be especially challenging in a virtual workplace if your boss isn’t passing your good work up the chain or, worse, is taking credit for it. Ask to join the meeting where your work is being presented. Ask peers to speak up for you and acknowledge your contribution to the project.
Give Yourself a Break
If you do need to tread water at work, that’s OK, too. Careers can span 50 years, and for this moment, personal health may need to eclipse professional growth.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine the photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You can use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- You’re stuck working from home.
- Workers face more months toiling from spare bedrooms and kitchen tables.
- It’s OK to seek feedback more often now that people aren’t in the same office.
- It’s also more important than ever to keep track of your to-do list.
- The simplest solution is to ask your manager how he or she wants to be briefed.
- Ask your manager under what circumstances you might talk to them.
- Managers can be struggling, too, so they’re not necessarily thinking about you.
- If the time you’re saving on your commute travel hasn’t been subsumed by your children’s online schooling you might study improving your skills.
- Learn a new skill like wrangling complex PowerPoint presentations or wielding infographics software.
- Try to come up with one smart comment or provocative question in the meetings.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- Your stuck working from home during the pandemic.
- To keep progressing reach out for feedback.
- Be sure to clarify or confirm directions.
- Employees should make sure they are on the right track.
- Ask your manager what you should focus on now.
- Getting started can sometimes take courage.
- Don’t be shy about asking a co-worker for help.
- People like to be noticed for there strengths.
- Figure out the other person’s style and adapt to it.
Reading Comprehension: Identify The Speakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from speakers in the article. Then try to identify the speakers.
- “It’s OK to seek feedback more often now that people aren’t in the same office.”
- “Managers can be struggling, too, so they’re not necessarily thinking about you.”
- “Getting started can sometimes take courage. “Terrified of writing? Take a writing class!”
- “Figure out the other person’s style and adapt to it, to communicate most effectively with them…Learn how to express empathy better, as well. “
II. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- What does the author suggest doing to keep progressing professionally?
- How do you make sure that you are on the right track with your boss?
- Where can you find classes and tutorials if you need to improve on a skill?
- Which skills are very important?
- What advice does Jean Choy give for communicating effectively with other people?
- What advice does Ms. Lucas give for engaging in online meetings?
- Name at least three things you can do to gain new knowledge and exposure in your job.
- What can you do online to to meet people involved with your company?
- What advice does Dr. Umphress give to managers?
- How do you handle a boss who does not support your work?
- List 3 questions that you would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Share questions as a class.
Directions: In 5 minutes to write down three new ideas you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.