That Early Morning Calm

Looking for a job is obviously a process filled with stress. Stress is also what many currently employed people talk about when they describe their days. And around Christmas time, it increases as many organizations have work requiring completion prior to closing down for the Christmas break.

Finding some relief from that hustle and bustle is not only a good idea; it’s downright critical. The reason of course is you – yes you the reader – have to have some balance, some control over your schedule and your day, and some time to just relax and exhale.

So I thought I’d share a morning routine of mine that accomplishes this for me, and perhaps if you will, you might either try it yourself or find a way to build something similar into your own day. I usually leave around 6:30a.m. each day for the 1 hour drive to work. Although I don’t start until 8:00a.m., that half an hour cushion on the way, gives me time to get to work without rushing, risking a ticket, getting annoyed with delays, or being shocked and stressed by traffic, detours or bad weather. Ah but my body generally wakes me up just prior to 5:00a.m. on a regular basis.

So from 5:00a.m. to 6:00a.m. I’ve got this hour…and it’s all mine! Now I could lie there wide awake and think of all the things I’ve got to do in a day, or I could try to sleep again, and then worry that I might sleep in past 6:00a.m. but I don’t. Up I get and usually make myself a nice cup of tea. It’s warm, wet and ever so gently removes that toothpaste coating that happens when you brush your teeth and then sleep for 6 or 7 hours! Then out I go to the living room.

Now usually I turn on a small lamp, but now at Christmas why not just turn on the tree lights? So here I sit looking up at that 11 foot pinnacle of soft white light; each casting a refection off any shiny surface in the room, like CD cases, the entertainment unit glass, the windows, the clock, the snow globes on the coffee table. Hit a button on a snow globe and it illuminates and snow swirls around and on the ceiling there are images cast that defy the need for any lamp. And I breathe and exhale. My moment. My wife is still chasing another hour or so in the land of lullaby’s and the clock is no enemy as it says I’ve still got twenty-five minutes or so of me-time.

Now on my laptop, I’ve been browsing the net since just after 5:00a.m., checking my blog history, LinkedIn, home email, sports updates, Facebook maybe…the usual suspects. After fifteen minutes of that, I turn myself to the blog. Hmmm what to write about today? If inspiration doesn’t come, I know that half hour I usually get to myself as soon as I get to work will be blog time. I can usually count on the news or the drive in to spark a thought or two, or three!

That warm cup of tea is just now drained, my neighbour is up, lights on, and will soon warm up his truck and be on his way just as I turn off that laptop and head for the shower. Something else to look forward to as the morning shower scrubs away the grunge from lying inert under flannel sheets and the duvet for hours on end. It invigorates the skin, wakes up the little grey cells, and today I’ve even got a new pair of pants to look forward to wearing to work. Small things in my personal time to look forward to.

Now this morning hour from 5:00a.m. to 6:00a.m. is the calm transition period that fits nicely between just waking up and having to get going to start my day. Some might wave off this time as wasted when other things could have been done, like dishes from the night before, or tidying up the living room, or cleaning a bathroom, replying to work email or well…more work….that’s not transitioning into one’s day, that’s just starting work early.

Finding some moment for yourself is all about whatever works for you personally. My routine isn’t necessarily going to work for you personally, but it’s my routine and it works for me. Sure sometimes I vary it, or manage to wake up just before 6:00a.m. so I get another hour sleep. But then I miss the time to slip peacefully into my day.

This period of time allows the mind the opportunity to feel replenished, and instead of having to react to things all day long brought about by the actions of others, I get this time totally to do whatever I want myself and I’m free to initiate whatever I want. In short, I’m in control to start every day. You might be surprised at the power of that feeling.

I would strongly suggest that you find some time each day to recharge your batteries and relax. Avoid the television in my opinion as it decides what you will experience and again, react to. Choose some activity that is pleasurable however, not a job that must be done. Read a book, write a journal or blog, sit and stare at the Christmas tree, think of all the things you do have to be thankful for, pull out a sketch book, enjoy a warm tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Maybe just do nothing at all but pause and reflect…like the lights on the shiny surfaces here in my living room.

Have yourself a smooth transition into your day with whatever you have planned. I have to go now and take that shower…sorry…you’re not invited into that experience!

What’s Wrong With Me?

Feeling lethargic at work lately? Don’t seem to care about much anymore? Feeling more and more isolated
from those around you who seem to always be connected, engaged, happy and successful? Starting to wonder what in the world is wrong with yourself?

If you feel down from time-to-time, and out of balance, but those times are infrequent and sporadic, you may just actually be experiencing the normal highs and lows of life. There are some jobs let’s face it that just don’t provide tremendous gratification and fulfillment for some of the people performing those jobs, and if you look around every so often and want something different and new, there’s nothing wrong with that. It may even be that after a short holiday, or with a change in something like the weather, you find yourself once more engaged in your work, happy to be doing your job and you dismiss any thoughts of unhappiness as transitory.

However, if you are feeling down and depressed on a fairly frequent basis, more and more you find yourself tired, achy, grumpy and not even the pay cheque is reward enough for the work you do, wondering what is wrong with yourself is a good course of action. One of the first things I suggest you might do is make an appointment for a physical with your doctor. You’ll want to get an early start on anything that is physically throwing you out of balance. A discussion with your doctor might lead to seeing someone else if deemed appropriate such as a Mental Health Counsellor.

Looking into your mental health can be helpful if you are dealing with depression, feelings of poor self-worth, and just communicating and sharing your feelings with someone in a private confidential setting can be just what it takes to unburden and move forward. If it turns out that you and the Mental Health Counsellor feel a single meeting is all it takes, then that’s something you can rule out and feel better about. On the other hand, if a series of visits and conversations is the plan of action that you settle on, you’ll be glad to have had that first conversation and begin the process of talking about what is on your mind. Let’s face it, if you’ve got some heavy baggage weighing you down, you need to establish a comfort with your Counsellor, and that can take a few meetings while you establish the relationship.

“What’s wrong with me?” is the right question to ask even if you find initial hesitation to ask the question. It is entirely normal to question yourself in times of unemployment and career stagnation. There could be nothing all that clinically wrong with you at all, but it is normal to wonder if you are doing all that you can if other people around you appear to be happy, content and successful. “Why can’t I be happy like them?” you might wonder. Why does everybody seem so engaged, why am I the only one to feel down and out of place?”. Of course, use of words like, “everybody” is the broad sweeping type of comment that is technically inaccurate but we don’t care at this point, because it SEEMS like everybody is happier than we are.

You might find that the weather is affecting your mood, especially at times of the year when the season’s are changing, the weather is colder, the skies are grayer, and the sun isn’t shining for days on end. People around you might be talking about regular weekend activities that make you feel excluded because you weren’t there, or you aren’t involved in that discussion between two colleagues. It isn’t intentional that they are excluding you, but you might really believe it to be intentional.

Check out your employee benefits and see if your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program that you can access. It may be that there are free confidential services you can take advantage of and that none but your Supervisor knows you are taking advantage of. Maybe you can meet off-site or after hours if that suits your schedule. Look into all the resources you can.

Taking stock of your thoughts, actions and decisions you’ve made can be very helpful in alerting you to making better decisions and coming to other choices in the future. Rather than beating yourself up mentally for poor choices, examine things and learn from them so that your future behaviour is positive and advances your career.

When things are wrong and you are out-of-sorts, stay connected with people and avoid the natural tendency to retreat and withdraw. Isolating yourself will only add to your feelings of inadequacy and give you more to worry about.

Remind yourself of your strengths, your positive qualities and your likes. Do some things that you can count on to bring you some relief and happiness. Take in a movie at a theatre even if you could watch the same movie home alone.

All the best.

Reaching Up, Out And/Or Down

Interesting that the human machine we call our body comes conveniently equipped with two hands, two connecting appendages called arms, and through a mass of tissue, bone structure and fluids, is ultimately attached to a brain for intelligence and a heart for compassion.

In order for our hands to be of much use to use, whether it’s to grasp, hold, type, feel etc. we all generally have to reach out and extend our arms in some capacity. I mean without those arms well, go ahead and drop your arms limply at your sides and try to accomplish much with the full use of your hands but not your arms. Okay stop that now, you just look ridiculous.

Interesting then that posters and pictures that symbolize working together and connecting always focus on the hands. Well I know of course why because, it’s the hands that actually are the point of connecting between people. But it’s the arms that raise the hands to the point where the hand is capable of doing what the brain wants to do.

So here’s my question to you when you are relating back to a job search or carrying out your daily work; do you reach down to help others up, reach out to engage with others, or do you reach up for a helping hand yourself? You see the hands in all three situations make contact with hands belonging to others, but it’s the arms that really determine the direction.

Unfortunately there are many of us that are only willing to reach up and get a hold of someone else who is extending us a helping hand. That’s often viewed as a self-interest kind of move. However, if you are trying to get ahead in a job, or find a job, accepting the offered hand of another is a logical move to make. It shouldn’t be your only connection with others however.

There are many generous individuals thankfully that are thoughtful enough to have remembered when other’s helped them out in the past, or equally may have had to forge their own careers without much help and therefore want to reach down and help others along to make their ascent easier so others can benefit from their experience. Very thoughtful and considerate indeed. These folks are referred to as our Mentor’s, our guides from whom we can learn much.

A sizeable number of people; in fact the majority in my experience, have also learned the art of reaching out on a lateral plane, connecting, sharing, and conversing with each other with the intent of bridging distances, working cooperatively and moving ahead in unison with our peers. I for one am very thankful of this.

The wisest realize that helping each other out in any of these three situations actual has the potential to not only help one person but both. Reach down to help pick up someone’s spirit, give hope, guidance, encouragement and help and you can’t help but know internally you’ve done a good thing. Reach across to someone and you’re likely to find that your extended offer of help is not only welcomed but hopefully extended in return creating a “you help me, I help you” or win-win situation. Reach up to accept an offered hand and not only do you benefit in the immediate, but the person lending a hand is enriched with improved self-esteem and benefits from someone else now sharing some of what they themselves see as desirable.

I would suggest to anyone looking for work, or in fact looking to get ahead in their career that it is equally important if not more so, to turn your energy and thoughts to extended your arm and by association your hand out and down to others. How can you help others when you need help yourself you ask? Well words of encouragement and support are financially low-cost. If you are out of work and money’s a problem, do a little volunteer work. That’s reaching down to help raise the spirit of others and perhaps help them out of poverty. Be a part of a team that feeds others, houses others, and you benefit yourself in ways beyond the bricks, mortar and cans of food.

If you are employed, what can you do to improve the working atmosphere for your co-workers? Do something that makes your job more fun, more productive and leaves everyone working with enthusiasm, and you are well on your way to being well thought of yourself, and that can only help your chances of upward movement in the organization. Should this only be your motive? No. However, if you need that motivation, take it for what it is.

I would also hope that no matter whether you are helping out someone below, even or above your situation, you find your actions appreciated but this may not always be the case. Do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. You will run into people sometimes who will take and take and then take some more without giving back. Don’t be discouraged because there are more people out there who would really appreciate some help than there are who don’t.

So reach out in some direction and help each other along. Your brain has the intelligence to know when and how to do this, and your heart has the compassion and caring to know it’s the right thing to do.

All the best.

Naughty Or Nice?

At the start of December, my co-worker came in to work one day to find the office completely transformed with Christmas decorations. Now this isn’t anything new, as they were bought at a local dollar store last year. There are gold Christmas balls hanging from the ceiling, gold tinsel over our workstations, small foil wrapped boxes tied up with string dangling from overhead storage areas, and small coloured boxes taped to the monitors and on our outside door. We even splurged last year and hung two Christmas stockings on the door; and that’s where things are different this year.

One of those stockings reads, “Dear Santa, I have been a good boy” and the other reads, “I’ve been very very naughty”. Last year we each just put something in one of the stockings for the other guy and took them home on the last day of work to open under the tree Christmas morning. For some reason, we started a conversation yesterday with other co-workers who were asking us which stocking belonged to which of us. At that moment, an idea came to Trevor, my co-worker.

“We should have a contest and let staff decide”. What a great idea I agreed. So I hastily put together a page that was titled, “Naughty or Nice!” On it, I explained about the two stockings on our door and that we were both throwing it out to our co-workers to decide who would claim ownership of each stocking so ol’ Santa wouldn’t be confused. I even searched and found two images of the words, “Naughty” and “Nice” on the internet and put them on the sheet with instructions to cut them out and put our names on whichever they felt was appropriate. Staff then put one slip of paper into each stocking when we aren’t around. On our last day of work, we’ll tally them up and in go the presents we buy for each other – small items.

This is more than just goofing around in the office. This is an example of some social interaction between co-workers that creates bonding, levity, some inexpensive stress relief as people laugh over how they’ll vote. When people come together in a positive way it often translates into positive working relationships and of course some good memories.

So why share this with you and what’s it got to do with job searching or getting ahead in the world? Well, sometimes it’s important to do the lighter things in life. At work, if you can find small ways to bring happiness and laughter into the lives of those with whom you work, it can make both your work lives enriched. You may find yourself less stressed about interacting with others, they may be more open and approachable to you when opportunities arise to work together on projects and assignments. You’ve heard of team spirit, this is akin to creating Office Spirit – much more powerful and much desired. Get a number of people all together who truly enjoy each others contributions, personalities and strengths and you’ve got one powerful organization.

Now if you want to steal this idea, by all means you just go right ahead. On the other hand, I suspect what may happen is that you yourself may find other ways to have some fun in your office that won’t necessitate memorandums from Management curtailing activities that may actually detract from productivity and make itself felt on the organizations’ financial ledger. That’s the beauty of a small idea that is essentially low-budget, big return. Goodwill and happiness can be contagious, and you may find that other employees do little things that make your workplace a better place to be.

You know what? Things like this have a way of spreading even beyond the specific workplace. Workers go home and tell spouses and friends small things in conversation that spark other ideas. Maybe some colleague at work takes a picture and you find yourself in the company newsletter under the heading, “Christmas joy in the workplace!”. Hey, wait a minute….again with the job search and getting ahead stuff….you, in a newsletter? Pictured creating merriment and happiness with other workers? Getting credited with instigating some workplace positive energy? What would that be worth to you in the long haul? Priceless. You can’t buy that kind of reputation, but you can earn it.

Think about what you yourself can do not just during the month of December, but in other ways throughout the year to create good relations with your co-workers that doesn’t distract you and them from the work at hand, but rather enhances working relationships and brings energy and enthusiasm to your workplace.

All the best.


Throw Yourself A Party

I was reading a blog yesterday which was offering advice to people looking for work. As I do the same, it was natural to open it up and see what advice was being given. Ironically, the blog was giving the advice to keep the job search in full gear over the month of December instead of doing what many do and wind it down. Ironic I say because I recently blogged about the same thing and gave the same advice.

One piece of advice I hadn’t given really struck me as unique and potentially very rewarding, and that was the idea of throwing yourself a party and inviting people to it that might be in a position to help you out. What an idea. Sure money is tight if you are out of work, I get that. However, what a way to bring together your contacts, friends, references and potential job search boosters all in one place for a few hours.

So let’s have a look at this further. First of all, you yourself have to commit to being sober the whole time and on your very best behaviour. It’s going to be a two or three hour-long interview in a way with temptations everywhere including alcohol, people you might be attracted to, and the chance to gossip, curse, bad-mouth, etc. people from your past or present. If your goal is to keep yourself in the forefront of other people’s thoughts, you sure don’t want to leave a lasting impression that you sure can throw a party, but you’re not co-worker or employee material. If you don’t plan things out and commit to good behaviour before the first guest arrives, you could be in trouble.

So who to invite? Well invite some of your friends who you can rely on to speak positively about you. Everyone’s going to have unique circumstances, but consider inviting past employer’s, people you have worked with, references you’ve used or would like to in the future, maybe clients or customer’s if you have their contact information.

Plan your evening out in such a way that you don’t advertise the party as a pity party, or a party to land yourself a job. The party should have something in it for your guests. Might be a dinner party with only six or seven people, or it could be a house party where people drop by to see the Christmas decorations and nibble on cheese with wine etc., that’s up to you. During the get together, you’ll want to plan a response to questions like, “So what are you up to?” or “Had any luck getting a job?”

The desire to pounce on your guests and corner them up against the china cabinet with multiple copies of your resume might be tempting, but keep your desperation in check. It’s a party. What’s in it for your guests? If they sense it’s you trying to make them uncomfortable with your unemployment and your job search, they may invent reasons to stay away in droves. Those that do show up, might look for reasons to escape then if they are the only ones to show up.

Keep things light, and play the good host. You’ll want to make a positive impression, where you can be honest about looking for work, maybe even ask or remind your guests to keep their eyes open and think of you if they hear something you might be interested in. However, you should still be a generous host. A really good idea is to make it a goal to line up further meetings days after the party to sit down in a different setting and discuss business. So for example, instead of a vague, “We should get together sometime” as a guest leaves, aim for “I’m glad you dropped by. Hey this isn’t the time or place but I’d like to chat further and wondered if I could get together say over lunch with you one day this week?”

Lining up future meetings is networking in action. You’ll feel like the party accomplished something tangible if you can accomplish this, and if you can set up meetings without making it appear orchestrated, then you’ll find yourself feeling that your time and money has been well spent. Somehow you’re going to want to write down the dates and times during the party in order to not confuse things the next day. After all, what’s the point of setting up a meeting with Ramjeet if you show up at a different diner on the wrong day waiting for him? A day later, he’s thinking you blew him off because he’s waiting for you and you’re a no-show. Ouch. That’s going to require more damage control. A daily agenda slipped inside a drawer that is within easy access with a working pen or pencil can be discreetly available and yet out of sight at the same time. Set up a meeting or two this way and you can relax somewhat and enjoy yourself for whatever time remains. If it’s a larger party, you might even want to have someone designated as a bartender or host to keep guests involved, mixing and happy. If you know a friendly outgoing personal friend, give them a call and ask if they could take on that role. This frees you up to chat and entertain your guests.

December can be a busy month, but it’s also a month where people are invited routinely into other people’s homes to visit. A party in December or a party early in the new year gives you a reason to celebrate and see people without making them too suspicious of your motives.

Give yourself permission to indulge not so much with gallons of alcohol, but to indulge in some fun, and some laughter. You are unemployed perhaps at this moment but that doesn’t have to mean you are somehow undeserving of a laugh, friendship, human contact and enjoyment. One night to bring other people in your life and being a generous host will demonstrate your positive attitude at a time when others might be too frugal and depressed. Walking that fine line between being honest about things without depressing or making others feel uncomfortable is a skill like any other.

Think about this party or get-together idea. It may be something you hadn’t considered before but could be exactly what you need!
All the best.

Did You Ever Consider That The Problem Is You?

It started when you rolled over in bed, dreamily half-opened your eyes and had your first look at the illuminated clock on the end table. No worries, you’ve still got an hour or so to drift off again before you rise. Ah but then the eyes jolt open as the brain screams, “This isn’t Saturday! Get up! Get going!”

In a flash, you’re barking at kids in other rooms, flicking on lights that seem to have magnified in intensity, you slam your knee into the ‘stupid’ dresser that somehow during the night must have moved on its own and put itself directly in your path. Another bark to the kids to, “get up or else!” and no time now you realize for a shower. Kids are up and moving at least and you’re in the closet standing in your underwear looking for a specific pair of slacks. Like the dresser, the cursed pants have somehow conspired with your other pants and skirts to conceal themselves as you separate hanger after hanger angered at your inability to find the stupid things.

“What’s for breakfast?” a voice from the kitchen is calling. “Can’t you see I’m getting dressed? Get your own!” Really though, how could they see you’re getting dressed? X-ray vision? The dog is panting and pawing at the door, unable to fend for itself like the kids. Now dressed, fed, and out the door, you put the car in reverse just ever so quickly and nick the bottom of the garage door which couldn’t get out of your way fast enough. “Stupid door!”

You’re finally within a block of the school when the siren is heard and the Officer is signaling you over to the side of the road for speeding in the school safety zone. The steering wheel is choked by the intense grip you’ve got it under, and if it had previously come to life like the dresser and your pants, any life has since been squeezed and snuffed out in your death-grip.

Whew! Fate really has it in for you today! It’s like the gods all conspired or were bored and you got picked in the ‘let’s mess up somebody’s day lottery.’ Or is it possible – just possible mind, that it is YOU that started this entire chain of unfortunate events and the decisions you are making are continuing to attract disaster? I think if you are honest with yourself, you might arrive at the same conclusion that yes in fact, the actions you’ve taken based on the decisions you’ve made, contributed to the kind of day you’re having based on the things you’ve got control over.

When you are having a really rushed, busy day and things are getting out of control and not moving along positively, sometimes the best thing you can actually do is exactly the last thing your fire-fighting instinct is suggesting. So instead of reacting to a new stimulus in an immediate way that in retrospect may not be the wisest, it’s best to do the oppostie and switch that auto-pilot over to manual and take a breather. Get in control.

What often happens, and I’ve seen it again and again, is when people are out of control and rushed they get sloppy, work is of a lower quality, and ‘accidents’ always seem to happen. Maybe the saying, “things always happen in threes’ is because it takes some time to actually get back in control, and by then on average, three bad things have happened? Could be.

If you are running late, it’s always best to call ahead, inform your boss and indicate you are going to be in as fast as you can. If you have a dependable record to rely on in terms of attendance, you probably have a boss who will understand the ocassional day you’re a few minutes late. Better to arrive there in one piece than slam into another car because you were distracted and rushed and never show up at all. A quick pause when things seem out-of-control can give you a few precious seconds to inventory your available resources in a crisis, and determine what assets you can put into motion to mitigate your problems and most importantly avoid multiplying your worries.

Oh and a word of caution; while you might call the dresser and the pants stupid, best to hold back on calling the Officer stupid. That would be most unfortunate!

Losing Employment In December

Losing employment is rough no matter when it happens, unless of course whatever you are falling back on is better than the employment you had. Losing a job in December however can magnify the grief, depression and sometimes humiliation. In the blog today, I want to tackle this situation and offer some perspective.

Of course not everyone celebrates Christmas, and whether you do or you don’t, you will still likely encounter all kinds of people around you who are more upbeat, happy, optimistic and walking around whistling or singing jolly Christmas songs. You’ll hear the happiness on the radio where some stations are only playing Christmas tunes, you’ll find your regular television shows replaced for Christmas specials, and you’ll have people wishing you a merry Christmas in shopping excursions.

All this merriment at a time when you are feeling vulnerable due to recent unemployment can create such anxiety and heighten feelings of failure to such degrees that people sometimes feel no option but to resort to all kinds of poor coping behaviours. Some will drink to forget, take drugs to mask emotions, closet themselves away from family and friends, cancel any house parties they were giving, and some unfortunately will go so far as to commit or attempt suicide; an extreme and final choice of avoidance. Movies such as A Wonderful Life have tackled this issue too.

It’s normal to feel negative and down after losing employment, and it’s common to just about anyone who experiences job loss. What can make the situation appear magnified of course is that at this time of year, people are encouraged to be merrier, friendlier, more giving and happy than at any other. Amid all this merriment and happiness, you might be dealing with some pretty dark feelings including anger, fear, lack of self-worth, shock, depression, and denial if it’s happened recently.

What troubles many too of course is the expense of Christmas on top of everything else; trying to keep things as normal as any other year, especially in the case where children are concerned. I’ve known some people to return presents purchased for others to try and get money back, go without a Christmas tree, and sell furnishings and household items to make a buck or two. Understandable in some situations as people try hard to cope and normalize their experience.

One way to look at things is to realize that the year is ending, and while the new year might find you unemployed, if the job you had wasn’t your dream job anyhow, perhaps it might be a good thing in the long run to have been fired from a job you hated but wouldn’t have left on your own until forced out. You may not realize or accept this until you start another job, or look back in a few years. You might years from now say, “Remember that Christmas of 2012 when I got sacked during the holidays? I thought the world was ending but you and me…we’re survivor’s. Now look at us”.

While your personal situation has temporarily turned bad, objectively you should remember that businesses go on 12 months a year; meaning there are hires and fires happening all the time. Some industries shut down over the holidays and others gear up, some fields continue to need people year-round as in the Medical profession, Social Services or Education, while for others like Retail, Construction and Campground Operator’s the lay-offs are high.

December and early January might mentally be a good time to take stock. Do an inventory of your skills, your interests and your contacts. Rather than rushing out to just get a job, perhaps a short break would help you take larger steps forward next month. Don’t stop everything of course; but getting your resume up-to-date and lining up references is sound advice at any time of the year. Meet an Employment Advisor, maybe your Doctor too just to ensure you haven’t got anything happening you can’t manage. Make it your goal to end 2013 better than 2012. Think about the luxury of time you now have to do some upgrading, take a course, meet with a Financial Advisor to get your money situation stabilized.

Losing a job that defined you isn’t likely something to celebrate or feel good about. Please do your best to stay connected to those around you rather than pulling away. Share your situation with your friends and family if possible and be open to offers of help, even if for a short while. Allowing others to help you and your family out when you really could use some help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of wisdom on your part. Be grateful and appreciative. Think of it like giving your friends a chance to good for others, namely you.

Losing employment in December is not something I’d wish on anyone, but then again, when would I wish unemployment on anyone at all? Doing an inventory of your skills, strengths, positive qualities, interests, values and beliefs may help remind you just how rich you are.

Remember too that if you know someone else in this situation, why not pick up the phone and see how they are doing? Maybe offer to meet over lunch or on the weekend if they are family and lend a hand or make a gift of some money to help them along. Do for others what you’d imagine you’d like done for you if the situation was reversed. It’s caring and being willing to reach out to someone in need, and that’s a wonderful thing to share with your own family.

Beware The Grumbler

I really hope you didn’t arrive at work today to find this anonymously left on your desk or pinned to your inbox. On the off-chance that you did, it would appear you are the subject of today’s blog and someone is probably attempting to help you out by giving you a chance to see yourself. So rather than scrunch the paper into a ball and toss it away, read on and digest what follows.

The Grumbler is one of the personality types that sometimes can be found in the workplace and predictably is often avoided or shunned by colleagues because of a pervading negative undertone. This is the person who much of the time actually goes about doing their job, completing their assigned work but seldom does it with any real enthusiasm and genuine positive attitude. When asked to fill in for a colleague or share some responsibility for helping someone out, they agree to do so, but grudgingly. Under their breath, the mutter things like, “Typical…not my job” or “5 o’clock can’t come fast enough for me”.

Working with The Grumbler can leave other employees feeling somewhat drained; as work moves forward, others feel like they are dragging a ball and chain along with them when they could be completing things faster and with greater pleasure. The Grumbler is usually not someone who rises in an organization beyond entry or mid levels in an organizational chart. On the odd chance that they do rise to Management levels, employees who work under them may be envious of other workers who report to other Supervisor’s, and will often seek out opportunities to network with those other Supervisors, hoping to lay foundations for a transfer.

It’s difficult for staff to really complain or criticize overtly the behaviour of The Grumbler, because work does in fact get done, deadlines do generally get reached, and attendance isn’t always a problem. In short, this person does their job; however, at the same time, there is no passion or excitement for the work at hand, no real enthusiasm or interest in completing work with any energy beyond what is minimally required. This is puzzling to others who may openly wonder, “What happened to make The Grumbler so reluctant to find the joy in their work?”

You know, I have done a fair bit of acting on stage in community theatre in the past, and I can tell you that every actor I’ve known prays for one thing when they first make an appearance on the stage. What is hoped is that the audience returns to the actor some applause, some positive energy; the actor in turn is motivated to excel to new levels, and if all goes well, nothing is left at the end of a performance. In this case all go home happy. On the other hand, a flat audience who seldom smiles let alone claps or laughs is a drain on the actor, and the actor has to use all their reserves often resulting in a mediocre performance.

This is much like the case of working with The Grumbler. A great deal of reserve energy has to be found in things like inner-resolve, strength, fortitude and self-motivation. The Grumbler does little to reciprocate any words of support or encouragement, and receives words of encouragement themselves with moot appreciation muttering things like, “No big deal…it’s my job”, “Whatever”. These kind of comments discourage others from further dialogue and praise if not appreciated is not extended to The Grumbler often in the future.

Unfortunately, people working with this mentality and attitude may find themselves being increasingly isolated from others who seek out co-workers who do find joy and happiness in completing their work. The Grumbler will get paid the same wage, work the same hours, and the biggest threat they make to an organization is their influence on other workers, who may at some point if they are not careful themselves, find themselves one day morphing into some resemblance of The Grumbler.

So as I said, let’s assume you have found these words upon your desk. Someone, or some people, are trying to send you a message which they may find awkward to pass along verbally. After all, you may be actually doing all the things in your job description so a complaint can’t be made in this area. Let’s take the assumption that you’re being shown something akin to a mirror. While not pleasant or welcomed, the intent may be well-intentioned in an effort to suggest you shake off the dregs of The Grumbler and brighten your disposition.

So tangibly speaking, try a small smile when working, show genuine interest in your work and that of others. Recognize the contribution of your peers, their accomplishments and use words of appreciation when others do things at work that help you complete your own tasks. A total makeover here isn’t required as much as a subtle shift in your working attitude, which is expressed in your non-verbal and verbal language. Others want to work with you in a positive and fulfilling way so that at the start of a day, everyone brings a positive outlook to the work site.

The Venting Room

Doesn’t really matter whether you personally work in an office, a factory, a school, a store or any other place you could name, today’s subject applies to your workplace. From time to time, (and hopefully not very often) you’re going to come across some person who is going to really annoy you.

Oh you can be the kind of person who is almost always positive and upbeat, but sooner or later somebody is going to push a button that sets you off. So when you find yourself in a situation where your threshold of tolerance is pretty thin, and you just want to fire back a volley of verbally charged venom whether offensively or defensively, what you say and where you say it is critical.

My suggestion is that you get to know your workplace. Where is that one spot in your daily work life where you can retreat to and vent your frustration, amazement, or even anger and bewilderment? I learned this lesson about 20 years ago now when my job involved visiting numerous schools in rural communities. I entered this one school and was meeting with a school official in the teacher’s lounge. Just prior to the lunch hour, the official turned to me and said, “In a couple of minutes the bell will ring and most of the teachers will come in for their lunch. Please don’t put too much meaning into what you might hear; this is the safe room where they can vent their frustration”. Huh?

Now in my ignorance of this behind-the-scene practice, I asked for some clarification of what they’d just said. Well it seemed that the school staff had come to an understanding that the staff room was to be the one place a teacher could come and just share openly some incident that had occurred in the class that they were frustrated by. They could apparently voice comments like, “Oh that kid, I just wanted to scream!” Now in reality, no teacher was going to actually scream or resort to physical violence etc. however, the staff sometimes needed a place to put a voice to their feelings rather than repress them, and by doing so, they could return to the class with less stress and carry on.

I’ve seen this in other work settings too. I myself have worked in a situation where a fellow co-worker is so frustrated and angry that without some way to release what was building up inside, they might otherwise be in danger of lashing out with a verbal barrage at a client and say things that they would immediately regret having said, and possibly have long term career implications. Rather than have to go into damage control and have some kind of disciplinary hearing, I remember getting my co-worker’s coat and just saying, “Walk with me”.

What I did that day is simply remove the individual from the situation long enough for them to step outside the moment until they could regain their composure and swing that pendulum of emotion back to some sense of balance. It doesn’t matter in a situation like this really what you personally say to your co-worker, but rather that you get them out of a pressure-filled volatile situation and give them the chance to vent and blow off some steam. How long that process takes can be a few minutes up to half an hour. This isn’t a counselling session, so it’s not something you need to have experience in. I think you’ll find that the person who is boiling over will carry most of the conversation.

Even when your workplace doesn’t have a designated room or area for this, it’s not a bad idea to take a few minutes just to remove the person from the source of the person who at the moment is the source of the problem. Now most of us are professional and can keep our emotions in check until lunch time, break time, or the end of the day. However, all of us are human; keeping these frustrations and stressors bottled-up inside will only result in the pressure being jacked up and then in some completely different setting, some trigger could happen that sets off an explosion.

This is why sometimes you might get into some massive argument with a spouse who says or does something that is rather innocent but is similar to what you’ve been experiencing a work for weeks on end, and finally you can’t take it any longer and the cork is out of the bottle and you’re yelling, gesturing, and essentially losing your self-control. While your partner is bewildered at your outburst, you’re only venting all that built-up stuff you’ve been repressing, but your partner is lost to explain your behaviour. Don’t let it get that far.

If you in your workplace know all too well what I’m speaking about and you don’t have some kind of safe area to vent, you might want to talk this over with your Management group and see if there is some merit in creating this space and then go about informing staff of the area. A good idea too is making sure that everyone knows that anything said in that space is only venting and not always exactly what the person really means, or really intends to do. So for example, an overly frustrated salesperson that has been rudely treated by an overly demanding customer for 45 minutes but kept her cool the entire time might retreat to a backroom and say, “Ugh! I could kill that woman!”, but there really isn’t any point in over-reacting and placing a call to 911 for the Police.

By releasing frustration, anger, heightened emotion and restoring balance to your inner self, you can continue to be a valued employee who is in control of their emotions, and can be relied upon to work with a strong personal work ethic and professionalism.

When A Co-Worker Is Down, Do YOU Step Up?

Any organization will from time to time experience situations where staff are not able to perform their job responsibilities at their usual top production rate. Why? Well the reason is of course because organizations are made up of people, and life events outside of work influence how people perform. When those outside influences impact on us, we expect that the employer will make provisions to have our work completed by someone else, or a rotating group of people. When one of your co-workers isn’t operating at 100% efficiency, how do you personally respond when you are asked to pitch in?

Okay so imagine you are arriving at work and just settling in for the day. You’ve got your favourite beverage at arms reach, your to-do list is out and you’ve just started working on whatever is at the top of your list. About 5 minutes in, your Supervisor pops by to inform you that one of your co-workers has called in and won’t be at work today, and you’re needed to cover off on whatever they had to do. What do you say, and more importantly, what non-verbal body language do you immediately and reflexively portray that indicates your true reaction to this news?

Sure what you had planned to do may not get done immediately, and your own workload will suffer a little. On the other hand, the Supervisor has to be given some credit for having considered who would best be suited for filling in during this employee shortage, and you’re at the top of their list. Say it’s no problem, and you’ve just eased a stressful situation away from the Supervisor and demonstrated to that co-worker that you can be counted on to have their back. You just made a deposit in the old, “I’m a team player” bank account. This is a future story that will demonstrate your commitment to the organization, your flexibility and teamwork, and can be brought up during some future interview.

Another benefit is that your Supervisor comes to depend on your positive and co-operative attitude when in a pinch. Maybe you won’t get written up in the company’s newsletter or find a bonus on your paycheque, but your behaviour and response to a small crisis will be noted.

Now suppose that another situation comes up whereby your co-worker isn’t away at all, but nonetheless is so impacted by some external event that they are just not capable of performing their job at their best. Say it’s a death in the family over two weeks ago, marital discord or extreme dental pain. How willing are you to extend an offer to essentially take over someone else’s role and responsibilities for an afternoon while they close the door to their office and just take some time to work quietly in isolation? Essentially, how much empathy do you have for someone who reacts to something in a way that you yourself would react differently to?

Extending an offer to someone to another co-worker in such a situation shows true compassion and caring. Your thoughtfulness may be very much appreciated and may or may not actually go noticed by a Supervisor if you extend that offer directly to a peer and on your own initiative. Of course hopefully you aren’t just helping out a co-worker to be seen to do good deeds, you are doing a good deed because you truly see the need and respond out of honest concern.

I have known at least one person in the past who actually took this caring and empathy too far, and their job performance went from good to poor because they were always pitching in helping others do their work and their own responsibilities became neglected. There is that balance to find where your first responsibility is to pull your own weight and live up to your own duties, and at the same time, assist others to complete theirs when and as you are able.

Can you be counted on to pitch-in and help out your co-workers? Do you step it up when someone else is experiencing a drop in their normal performance? And as previously mentioned, do you undertake this teamwork with any enthusiasm or do you do a slow burn where your body language gives away your total annoyance with having to do somebody else’s job? At the end of the day, you will still get a paycheque from the organization and you’ll have done work to earn that money; be it your work or work for another person. That work however, is work completed for the same employer. The best advice I can offer is to accept the shared workload with genuine readiness, adapt as quickly as you can, take a moment or two to best adjust your plans, and get a quick start on whatever needs to be attended to first.

Working together is so much more than just taking your breaks and lunch with your favourite co-workers.