Appreciating Co-Workers

May the 16th isn’t, “Co-worker Appreciation Day”. Come to think of it I don’t know that there is such a day, although if there is I’m confident someone will point it out to me. Good thing actually in my opinion; I mean do we really need a day to remind us to appreciate the good in those we work alongside throughout the year?

Maybe the answer to that question is yes. I mean we have a day for Administrative Professionals called Secretaries’ day in some jurisdictions. That’s often when the various Supervisors in organizations get the Administrative team members out for lunch in our organization and an email goes out reminding us all to show some gratitude for the support we receive.

Seems to me that real gratitude should come from people without reminding or prompting, and it should come throughout the year not just on a specific day on a calendar. However, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it’s a day of celebration and I’m certainly not going to suggest we abolish any of these. Some people do need a reminder to say thanks, whether it’s for a parent or those in the workplace.

I wonder though if we do enough of a good job thanking those we work with for being the people they are; for making our own workplaces more enjoyable places to work. Our co-workers do make our places of employment more enjoyable don’t they? If you can’t think of anyone where you work who deserves a word of thanks, could be its high time you moved on. Good co-workers are first and foremost good people and good people are a treasure to surround yourself by.

It’s these people who ask how your day is going, who mean it when they say you seem different from your normal self and ask if there’s anything wrong or something they can do. These are the ones that celebrate your birthday, tell you to go easy on the days you’re not at your best, and cover for you as best they can when you’re away. If you’re lucky, you come back after vacations to find less work on your plate than you might have otherwise accumulated.

Your co-workers are the ones who support you and compliment you on the quality of work you do. Count yourself fortunate if you share your personal workspace with someone who you see as integral to influencing the kind of worker you’ve become. They might mentor you officially or not, but the way they go about their business surely rubs off on you to a lesser or greater degree. When it’s them on their holiday, doesn’t your work area miss them? Isn’t there a big part of you that truly hopes that they are really enjoying their time no matter what it is they are doing? You know how much they put in when at work and so you wish them sunshine, good weather, lots of reasons to smile and laugh. Most of all you hope they come back feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and you’re one of the first to ask how they enjoyed the time off.

If you haven’t really given much thought to the one who shares your space, just imagine walking in and learning they or you will be relocating to another part of the building. Even if you enjoy change and the idea of working in close proximity with someone new is appealing, hopefully part of you acknowledges the good times you’ve shared together and is grateful for those moments.

In my case, I’ve shared my two-person office with the same person for 10 years now. Wow! 10 years! I’m very appreciative of him and know the positive impact we have on each other’s performance. Even when we swing our chairs around and talk of our families, sports news, plans for the weekend or vacation plans, it’s all productive time. It might not seem productive of course to others, but building and nurturing a relationship with someone you spend this much time with has to improve your working relationship tremendously.

The time will eventually come when one or both of us moves on, either to another place in the office we work at or to another site completely. While the change will be good and the new office mate welcomed, the relationship we have together will never be truly replicated. I’m grateful in the here and now and I know he is too; and that’s significant to note.

The others I work with, be they on my team, at reception, my Supervisor, those on other teams of course are all important too. If I were building my, ‘dream team’, I’d count many of these people among those I want on board. Of course it’s not that every single person has to be a, ‘best buddy’ or a close working associate. I imagine I’m not on every single co-worker’s list if they assembled their dream team either. That would be unreasonable to expect. However, what is important is that each person get their due of credit for what they do contribute.

Consider thanking those you work with not just for a day but each day. What might you point out that you appreciate in your co-workers. Could be the word of thanks you pass on is just what they needed to hear. These people you work alongside make your workplace what it is.

Co-Workers; How You Make It Work

Whether you work at a small, medium or large-scale business, there’s likely going to be some co-worker(s) that you prefer working with over others. If we’re honest, we might even go so far as to say there are some that are positively annoying; possibly some that are…well…just the kind that subtract rather than add to your day.

It’s kind of interesting when you compare how people go about dating and finding that one perfect partner in life vs. how we end up working with one person 35, 40 or more hours in close proximity with. I mean when it comes to dating, we might go about it differently, but typically we’re drawn to someone, feel excited when they are around, take great pains to look and act in ways we hope they’ll find desirable. We look forward with anticipation to seeing them and our imaginations play out how our time together might go. We don’t in short just choose anybody; we see them, we learn about them and share with them who we are, what makes us the person we are and we make all kinds of compromises putting their needs ahead of our own because we really do want their happiness as much as our own.

Our work colleagues on the other hand; the ones we will spend years with day in, day out? It’s not us at all that does the match-making. The Manager doing the hiring decides. As much as they are looking for skills, experience, personality, attitude, education etc., they are also thinking about the chemistry that will occur if you’re added to the team. They know the personalities currently in the workplace; they muse over where they’ll sit you or who they’ll shuffle around in order to get you working next to whoever they are thinking of.

Can you imagine just for a moment being hired and then told you were going to meet various employees over the course of the coming week and at the end of that week you were to tell the employer who you’d prefer to share your work area with? Of course it would go both ways; everyone you meet will be sizing you up too and deciding whether you’ll be a good work partner for them.

Sounds odd doesn’t it? Or what if the employer said you work next to someone for a year and at the end of the year everybody in the organization moves and works next to someone else. Imagine if that happened in our personal lives; we changed partners at the end of December every year. Yeah if that was a great idea it would have caught on with broad appeal by now and it hasn’t. Stop thinking this would solve your current situation!

Being honest with yourself – and no one can hear your private thoughts – there’s bound to be some people where you work that you are naturally more drawn to than others. Even if you are the kind of person who gets along with everybody and tries your best to see everyone equally, I’m betting that given a choice, you’d work best with some folks and maybe go so far as to replace a few with others. If not, good for you, you’re working with your personal dream team!

Do you like sitting next to the employee who has 39 small stuffed animals in their cubicle? Do you sit next to the heavy breather, the person who sneezes and buildings across the street shake with the noise? What about the person who makes more personal calls than work calls? Or maybe it’s you with the stuffed animals and you think the person next to you should lighten up a little and be less stuffy themselves? There’s irony for you!

Do you care who you work alongside at all or are people interchangeable and your own work performance isn’t impacted one way or the other? I believe we are affected by those we work closest to and we of course have an impact on how they work too.

I’ve now worked for 9 years sharing an office with the same person. We know each others’ styles, respect each others space, give each other the courtesy of privacy or at least ask if they wish privacy from time to time. Some days I spend more hours together with my colleague than I do with my wife. Now sure at any time I suppose either one of us could go in and say to our boss that we wanted a shift in scenery if possible. I’ve heard co-workers in the past say they absolutely could not work with a person they were assigned to and stopped just short of demanding a move; then were delighted to change their location as soon as they could. Not always possible however to do so.

The thing is we have to get along and that means making the effort to be someone others can get along with too. This is how good partnerships and relationships go; thinking about others needs in addition to our own. It’s up to you and them to put in enough effort to make things work for both of you. Problems generally arise when someone is making an effort and someone isn’t; not caring to invest in the relationship.

Then again, if you choose not to invest in work relationships, you could consider a home-based business!

Me, Diabetes And The Workplace

Just a few weeks ago I learned I’m a diabetic. That came as a surprise I can tell you and it’s largely for this reason that I haven’t written a blog in a week. Let me if you will share how it’s affecting me in the workplace and what I’ve done in the early days of diagnosis as maybe you can find something in my experience to help you should you or someone in your own place of work go through something akin to this.

I wouldn’t even know to this day I had diabetes had I not taken it upon myself to visit my doctor. I had started 2016 at 220 pounds you see and had made a conscious effort to lose weight and had come down to 177; a drop of 43 pounds over 7 months. I felt great and was proud of my commitment to my goal and the results.

The problem? People at work that once congratulated me and told me I looked great started to say things like, “Oh but you don’t have cancer do you?” or, “I’m concerned about you.” So my motivation in seeing the doctor wasn’t about feeling terrible or having symptoms I could recognize but more to get the good word that all was well so I could assure both co-workers and the people I serve that I’m fine.

The doctor congratulated me on the weight loss but did some blood work as a routine check. That’s when I discovered that instead of a blood reading between 4 and 7, I’d hit 14. It even went as high as 20 over the next few days.

Now diabetes is manageable and perhaps not the big scare for you that it is for me. You see at 57 years of age, I’ve had little more than the odd cold every couple of years and I’ve certainly never been on any medications. I’ve never smoked, done drugs and the only alcohol I’ve ever had pass my lips is in mouthwash. I’ve never even had a sip of coffee either. There’s no history of diabetes in my family either; so it has hit me rather hard.  I can’t help but ask, why me?

I’ve set out immediately with the mindset that I can beat this thing. I’m going to repair this damaged machine called my body and I’m certainly going to have a healthy retirement in the years to come not hampered by illness. Maybe I’m naïve in thinking I can eliminate diabetes from my life but that’s the thinking.

In addition to changing my eating habits, I made the decision last week to tell everybody I work with rather than hide it. Now my diabetes is type 2; no needles, just some pills in the morning and with dinner, cut out the sugar intake and test the blood sugar throughout the day.

My co-workers now know I don’t have cancer; see things could have been worse. I’m glad I told them because I’ve eliminated you see their urgings to have the sweets they bring in from time-to-time. So hopefully they won’t push me to try a bite of cake, share a doughnut etc. We don’t have these sweets all the time, but we do have cakes in the workplace to celebrate the end of our classes and other staff have dangled such treats within my earshot.

I also know that whenever I’m at a conference or meeting where food is provided, I have to alert those ahead of time that I’m diabetic and have them make whatever provisions for a substitute meal that they can. Oh and if I’m off in the staff washroom I might be testing my blood levels once or twice a day.

As for the people I serve, I haven’t told them yet but I will as I see doing so might help them in some way. As I work with people on social assistance; many of whom have mental and physical health issues, it might be good for some of them to hear of my diabetes and how I manage it. Some of them might find my situation and my own ability to empathize with their own circumstances a positive thing.

I’ve yet to meet with a Dietician or Nutritionist, so working on my own with just some changes in diet have brought my scores from the 14’s and 20’s down to a few 9’s and even a 7 and a 6. That’s extremely encouraging and it’s only been three weeks.

Now that I’ve disclosed my diabetes (and I did it at a conference with 150 employees in attendance from the podium while presenting on a topic), I’ve had good support. One fellow came up and shared his own diagnosis which he got two months ago. It was good for him to hear me and I certainly appreciated his words of being surprised with his diagnosis and so it wasn’t only me.

If you have a health issue, I certainly encourage you to share it with your boss, co-workers and of course your family and friends. It’s a load off the mind to do so. These are the people I hope you can trust to hear your story and support you as you deal with it moving forward.

I hadn’t written my blog in a week as I was a jumble of feelings and knew the words I wrote wouldn’t convey what I wanted. So here I am, sharing the real stuff; hope it helps you in some way to know.

Getting To Know A Co-Worker

You might be that person who hangs out after work with your co-workers; arranges Wings Nights, plays baseball or volleyball with some others and is generally the social bunny both at work and beyond. Like I say, you might be that person but I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not anti-social, I just like to separate my work life and my personal life, and the fact that I live in the Town of Lindsay but work 95 kilometres away in Oshawa Ontario makes hanging around after work to socialize more challenging. After all, I don’t want to arrive home with only an hour or two with my wife before hitting the sack and getting up to drive into work in the morning. My home life in my case takes priority.

At the office however I’m known as jovial, fun to be around, full of creativity, positive and use my interpersonal skills on a daily basis. If you find my self-description similar to your own, or if you want to know how to get to know your co-workers better within the confines of work hours, you might enjoy this read and try what I did just yesterday.

One of the new staff in my office is someone I’ve only known by name and face in the past when we’ve run into each other in training workshops we were involved in. Now that she’s here in our office on a full-time basis, I’ve been wanting to get to know her better and opportunity came  calling yesterday afternoon.

You see I was scheduled to facilitate a workshop which, unknown to me, she had approached her Supervisor for approval to attend. When she walked in ten minutes early, just the two of us were there and we started a quick conversation albeit about the topic of the workshop and her familiarity with the content or lack thereof. As the minutes rolled by, it became clear that for reasons unknown, no one else was showing up to this drop-in workshop.

Now normally that would be a huge disappointment for me, but the next 45 minutes would be the highlight of my day. I ran through my presentation for her quickly so she’d have a grasp of what the people we mutually serve normally hear so we could be consistent in our delivery and support each other as well as them.

Once completed, I seized upon the chance to move the conversation beyond the subject matter and more into a personal conversation designed to get to know one another better. The other option would have been for one of us to say, “Well I’ve got work to do; too bad no one showed up” and go our ways. All too often this happens. I’m telling you people, recognize these opportunities and jump all over them and get to know the people you work with. It was so much more productive than hanging out in a neighbourhood bar eating wings and trying to get into  multiple conversations with several people; well for me anyhow.

So what did we talk about that you might similarly talk about with your co-workers? Well it started with a question of mine (I know, big surprise there right?”) about why she made the move from Social Services Caseworker to Employment Consultant. I was thrilled with her motivation because it mirrored my own reasons a decade earlier. Like attracts like and surrounding oneself with others who think similarly to us is most often a good thing.

We talked what I call philosophy of service, and as much as I wanted to learn more about her thoughts and ideas, I took the time to share my service delivery thoughts and also how gratifying and privileged I feel to be in this role I find myself in. Here’s the real interesting thing that I’m sure you’ll acknowledge happens in conversations you have with others: the more we talked, the more the conversation deepened. We got past superficial surface stuff quickly and shared what we were passionate about.

I can tell you that by the end of our conversation I was thrilled to find a kindred spirit of sorts. She also expressed a future desire to join the team I’m currently on which would again transition her role to include workshop facilitation. This lead me to extend an offer of help, support and mentorship. After all, providing answers to her questions, general information and specifics about the most desired qualities to have on this team is good fodder for getting past a future interview and landing a job on the team.

What could have been a huge disappointment turned into a moment of magic. Well, not so much magic because anyone can do this; you can do this. We all have moments each day or several times a week when opportunities abound for dialogue and getting to know someone a little more intimately.

If your nervous or intimidated, breathe and start with, “Hey, do you have a few minutes? I’d like to get to know you a little better than I do if that’s okay.” Open with a couple of questions and you’ll find as they talk, you can stop stressing about your own comfort level and what to say next. Respond with genuine interest and share a little of yourself as appropriate.

When you know those you work with better, you can acknowledge others strengths and become stronger as a whole.

For Me, It’s The Beatles!

Every now and then I have a morning like the one I experienced today; just two hours ago. I woke up at 5:15 a.m. which is about 15 minutes later than normal for me, and I felt groggy, disoriented and tired.

My usual routine is to wake up around 5:00 a.m. and sit down 15 minutes later with a tea and write a daily blog – this blog. Today, I knew better than to force myself to write when nothing was there. Instead, I waited until now. However, getting going was sluggish at best. I hit the shower; which under normal circumstances makes me feel refreshed, alert and gets me going. After the shower today however, I felt better yes, but not really my normal peppy self. (This is the first time I believe I have used the word, ‘peppy’ to describe myself).

After the shower I turned to shaving, and believe me, if you’re a man, you know you’ve got to have your focus on this thin piece of sharp metal that you’re scraping across your face or you’ll end up slicing your cheek or neck. Fortunately, I escaped this daily routine unscathed.

I knew instinctively what I needed and no it wasn’t a coffee. As a side point, I’ve never had a coffee in my life – not even a single sip. I don’t get the obsession with coffee but I don’t have any aversion to those who love it, crave it or need it. I guess I just don’t get those that say they can’t function without it. No, I didn’t need a coffee; I needed John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Once I listened to the news at 6:30 a.m. which is when I roll out of the driveway, I threw on Beatles  ’65. Right from those opening words, “This happened once before, when I came to your door, no reply”, I was singing along. My vocal chords could have used a little warm up as the first verse was a little sketchy at best, but by the chorus, Paul would have given me a wink and a thumbs up for the voice and the smile.

Suddenly I was awake, alert, focused and the grogginess of the morning was shed like a waterlogged raincoat dropped in the mud room. I had found myself and was back. All the way in, I was singing.  From, ‘Baby’s in Black’ and ‘Rock and Roll Music’ through to ‘She’s a Woman’ and ‘I Feel Fine’, I was the fifth Beatle. (Sorry Pete Best or Brian Epstein – no offence intended.)

It didn’t matter whether the drivers I pulled up alongside at street lights mistook me for having a conversation on a Bluetooth device or thought I was having a conversation with my imaginary passenger. I was singing, I was awake and I was ready for whatever the day brings me.

Okay so for me it’s the Fab Four; the Beatles.

What of you? What is it that you resort to and count on to transition from sleep, through your zombie or autopilot period and into full consciousness? Is it in fact a cup of coffee, that cold shower, the sharp intake of minus 30 degree air that assaults your lungs as you emerge from the front door to take your early morning run? Maybe it’s a slower transition period including some Brahms, or some extraordinarily annoying alarm that you must exit the bed to shut off?

Whatever it is that wakes you up, I hope it doesn’t take until mid-morning for it to kick in. In your workplace, it would be unfortunate for your co-workers and clients or customers if they had to co-exist alongside a Grizzly Bear with attitude until you morphed into yourself.

Do you work have a co-worker like that by the way? You know, the one you had to tip-toe around until 10:00 a.m. most days? The one who says, “Don’t even think about having a conversation with me before I’ve bathed in my morning coffee.” Should you even be allowed to get away with having such an attitude when you’re on the company payroll?

My point here is that I think most employers, (and most co-workers for what it’s worth), appreciate dealing with people who have a consistent mood, attitude and outlook. Wondering what mood so-and-so is in today and whether they are approachable or not isn’t productive. Things need doing in the workplace, and if someone’s mood swings or attitude on a regular basis change how others around them go about their work, this isn’t a good thing.

One of your key assets to showcase to your current employer, or to possibly highlight in an interview, is your consistency of attitude and alertness. Not many people go for this soft skill in the interview process. The thing is though that every interviewer probably has some experience in their past (possibly present) where they will immediately think of an employee who starts off their day in slow motion and then picks up speed mid-morning. If you are productive and on top of your game as you walk in the door to the workplace, you’re productive right from the time you arrive. That productivity is a valuable commodity, and cuts down on workplace accidents at the same time.

So thank you Beatles for your songs I love to sing along with. I can hardly wait for the drive home and listen again to, “I’ll Follow The Sun”!

Disrupting Behaviour Leads To Innovation

Innovative and creative people are also some of the most disruptive people in an organization. These are the people who appear to be rocking the boat, stirring things up, challenging the status quo and make some others around them anxious and unsure. And these are their good qualities!

There’s a saying I hear in various versions time and again that goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” The irony is that the people speaking these words are usually trying to get other people out of their comfort zones and open to trying something new. When they themselves are presented with new ways of doing their jobs, suddenly they can become defensive and resistant to change.

Some people don’t want to embrace change as a rule of thumb. These people are satisfied with the known and the idea of trying things that are unknown to them makes them uncomfortable. Imagine if you will a meter with a pendulum that swings left and right. When the pendulum swings a little out of position one way or the other, they are the kind of people who immediately take whatever steps possible to bring that pendulum back to the middle. The embrace the, “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” mentality. This philosophy is embraced by people who like to come to work each day with a high degree of certainty when it comes to what they’ll be doing and how they’ll be doing it.

Now on the other hand, innovators and creators are constantly challenging themselves. They look at what they’ve done and are seldom if ever entirely satisfied that the way they are doing things is the very best way. Rather than seeking change for the sake of change, they seek change for the betterment of processes that impact on users. They are always evaluating the experience people have – whether those people are co-workers, subordinates, customers, clients, supervisory personnel or the general public.

Take for example facilitating a workshop. Those people who facilitate workshops on a regular basis have two general options. One is to take a set workshop and deliver it again and again with no variation; use the same forms, tell the same jokes, have the same discussions. The presentation is packaged in such a way that the subject matter, the delivery, the handouts are consistently shared. The facilitator in this case is either completely satisfied that new audiences will benefit equally from the presentation, or has plateaued themselves, and is not motivated to create anew.

Another facilitator of a workshop may however continually re-vamp their handouts, add anecdotes from previous workshops participants have shared, and may replace content or how they deliver that content striving to get a higher level of engagement from their audiences. They become known for delivering unique workshops, where no two are identical even when the subject matter is the same. They seek out new material, new ways of presenting that material, have passed on PowerPoints and use Prezi’s.

Now disrupting behaviour is often portrayed as undesired behaviour, especially when the person doing the disrupting works under a person who is resistant to change and where the existing culture is to fall into line and do things as they have always been done.

Disrupting behaviour however is what has always sparked new inventions; why the very things which improve our quality of life on a daily basis were created by people who looked for something new. At one time people used horse-drawn carriages to move about and the automobile came along only because someone disrupted the norm. Instead of a faster horse, they rocked the establishment and created what we take now for granted.

Now what about you? Are you the kind of person that constantly challenges the known and is known by your peers as the creative one? Are you the innovative type that overhauls the workshops you lead, envisions new processes that reduce customer wait times, that isn’t just opening another childcare centre, but one that operates solely for children who are ill so their parents can work?

We are all different and have different strengths. Those that are innovative and creative also regularly experience many more ideas than they ever actually implement. They may think of an idea, try it out on a sample group, reject it or modify it, then try it anew. If it works they keep it and share it, and if it doesn’t work, they remain inspired and learn from the failure coming up with other ideas – some of which will still not work but some that will.

There’s nothing wrong with being the kind of person that works best with the status quo. Some people become receptive to new ideas not the first time they hear them, but perhaps the sixth or seventh time. They need to process the new information, mull over the impact on them personally and because it may mean doing things a new way, have to wrap their heads around new skills they will have to develop in order to transition from what they know to what they don’t.

It is equally bad form to force those who prefer the status quo to embrace change overnight as it is to stifle those who embrace change and innovation. You may find your workplace is made up of both types, and getting along together is essential.

Guys: Hands And Eyes Off The Ladies

I’m not the first guy to pen an article on watching yourself around females in the workplace, and unfortunately I won’t be the last either. I think it important however to continue to be counted among those that think visually undressing your co-workers and flirting with the opposite sex is in poor taste in the workplace and for it to come from a male perspective as well.

Thinking of your own workplace, ever had a woman walk by and then saw some guys turn and crane their necks for a long look at her backside? Anything wrong with that? What about the wink between males and shaking one of your hands like she’s soooo hot? She doesn’t know you’re giving her all that attention so what’s the harm? Plenty.

Come on guys. Surely in 2015 you’d think we’d be past all the flirting, sexual innuendos, hugs as excuses to feel their bodies next to yours and brushing up against co-workers and making it look like accidental contact. Come on. Most of us are well past these juvenile high school antics but not all of us – and that’s a problem. And don’t give me any of that, “well her skirts so short she’s just asking for it”, stuff either. You should know better.

Okay let’s play out one of these little fantasies. Where do you think things are really going to go anyhow? Do you honestly think you’re going to have a torrid love affair in the janitor closet, maybe pat her bum while she’s at the photocopiers without any reprisal, or bare it all for your pleasure after hours on your desktop? Really? Not happening. We can do better guys. Give them respect.

Most workplaces have codes of conduct in place to protect all workers; male and female from unwanted attention in the workplace. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s the boardroom, the office, the file room or the factory floor, you could find yourself out of work and fired for misconduct if you engage in inappropriate behaviour. As I write this there is a news story in Toronto with the Canadian Broadcasting Company and one of its ex-employees who was fired for his sexual advances and unwanted physical attention. That case is underway and is going to take a long time to wind its way through the system, but a reputation is lost, a company out a good employee, and a $50 million lawsuit launched by the disgruntled and fired employee for defamation of character. What a mess.

Females don’t dress in the workplace to excite and tease. There are rules for how to dress and what is acceptable and what is not. Any woman, (or man for that matter) who is exposing more skin than appropriate would be reminded of the policy and immediately asked to correct things. What a shame if you personally lost your job on the spot if it came to that, and you had to join the ranks of the unemployed for what amounted to an inappropriate comment, sexual advance or something similar. Not only would you be out of work but instead of kissing that woman, kiss your job, income and your references goodbye. Is it worth it? No!

Rules are put in the workplace to protect everyone. Everybody should feel the workplace is a safe place to be, and workers should respect each other in the same way they themselves would like to be thought of and respected. The days of the ‘old boys’ club where guys on a factory floor would make openly sexual jokes and use crude and vulgar language around their female co-workers are few and far between and hopefully almost extinct. Imagine the stress those woman were or are under having to appear ‘like one of the guys’ and take it in order to fit in, but when alone feel dirty, ill-used and ashamed.

My guess is that in some places you can have all the policies you want but there are still some men who see women as sexual objects to be snickered about and talked about. It’s wrong guys. Do yourselves a favour and be one of the first to tell your co-workers that you yourself don’t appreciate it. Stand up not only for that woman who walks by, but also for the culture and atmosphere you’re trying to create in your own workplace of respect for each other as people.

Social media including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. are all in the news from time-to-time for all the wrong reasons; somebody pressures someone else for some nude photos and then they get shared and then someone’s reputation is soiled and sometimes leads to suicide, ridicule, shame and humiliation. See something you know is wrong? Don’t share it yourself and ask the person to take it down, remove it, stop the sharing and tell them why its wrong.

People have enough to worry about these days just learning their jobs, striving to do them well and fitting in without the added stress of prying eyes to worry about. So no more looks down necklines, mirrors under doors, offering women your lap instead of your empty chair. We are better than this men.

I’d like to ask you to pass this on, to share it with others. If it landed anonymously on your desk, you might ask yourself why too. Respect the women you work with for the women they are and what they contribute to the workplace. We’ll all be better off for it.

Overcoming Trepidation

Today at work, I’m going to be pushing my personal boundaries of comfort and do something I’ve never done before. I’m voluntarily stepping into the spotlight in front of all my co-workers and it’ll be one of those make it or break it moments that if done successfully, will bolster my self-esteem, see my self-confidence grow, and hopefully make my workplace just a little bit happier for having taken the risk.

So what am I doing? Delivering a workshop? Making some kind of address to my colleagues? Sharing a presentation of some kind? No….not really. You see I’m going to be playing my guitar and singing with three other staff members during a noon hour Management appreciation luncheon. Big deal you say? Uh yes! To me it is.

You see I’m comfortable doing community theatre, acting and singing on stage to a house of 700 people, even when it’s a love song involving a few kisses for a leading lady. That may scare some of you, but I relish in that. So if I can get on stage and do that, what’s the big deal about playing my guitar and singing in front of maybe 50 co-workers at the office? Plenty. On stage, I’m playing a part; I’m not Kelly Mitchell, I’m Emile in South Pacific, the Lion from the Wizard of Oz or Professor Hill from The Music Man. And everything is rehearsed and choreographed. But today, it is Kelly Mitchell live and up close. Ahhhhhhhhhh! And no one else is playing an instrument in our group. So I’ll be noticed for good or for ill. Say a prayer for me.

So what has this got to do with job advice and why is it worthy of a column to share with you? Well, overcoming some fear you may have in the workplace may be something you similarly have or may face. Oh you’re not alone by a long shot. So whether it’s delivering a presentation, toasting someone who is retiring, taking the lead on a project with major implications, meeting the press to respond to some inquiry, you may be in a position where you will also be in the spotlight, and you might feel similar trepidation.

Now what I have found comforting is finding a way to take small steps on which I’ve built up my growing confidence in my ability to pull this off. You see up to now, I’ve only ever played in the backyard and inside the safe confines of my home. My audience has only ever been my own ears, and those of my wife and once or twice my daughter. So what have I done to make this easier?

First I envisioned in my mind a successful performance. Not rave reviews you understand, just some polite applause, and a, “good job!” and the odd, “That was nice.” One day I brought in my guitar and went into the room I thought we’d perform in and at 7:30 a.m. while there was no one in the building, I played two songs I feel confident in even though they weren’t Christmas songs. Emerson and Palmers, ‘Lucky Man’ and James Taylor’s, ‘Sweet Baby James’ were played and the guitar all packed away before anyone else arrived.

Next I went into the room around noon, shut the door and played (a little softer) just enough so I was aware that others could tell I was in there. And then of course I got together with one or two of the three people I’d be performing with and we ran over some Christmas songs, but not before just singing some non-Christmas songs that I was comfortable with. That was a bonding experience and we sized up each others capabilities. Then it was 4 or 5 planned rehearsals, but yesterday was the first time we got all 4 of us together to try things out. Did I mention we are performing at noon today?

So this process of visualizing a positive result, and putting into place small steps upon which to build up to the delivery is a model you too could follow with respect to overcoming your own fears and trepidations in the workplace if you find yourself stepping out of your normal comfort zone.

While there is always the possibility of disaster striking just when all seems right with the world, I know that come 1 p.m. it will all be over and I’ll still be breathing one way or the other. This isn’t an audition for me to join a band, go on tour, and no talent scout or Publicist will be in the audience to my knowledge. It’s just me and my colleagues. If things don’t go well, sure I’ll leave them with a poor impression of my skills, but it’s a risk that if pulled off will be a positive for them, make them smile and enjoy the luncheon a bit more. Risk and reward.

And you? Well you could advance your career, grow in personal stature and confidence. You might learn things about yourself you didn’t know you were capable of. Perhaps you’ll stretch yourself in ways you didn’t think you could and it might ignite a desire for more opportunities and lead to a change in jobs WHEN you pull off (not ‘if’) your moment in the spotlight.

So yes, at 55 years old, I’m still growing, pushing my comfort zone a tad and taking a chance. So, “Happy Xmas”, “Frosty” and “Silent Night” don’t let me down!

Facing The Prospect Of A Very Long Day

As I start writing, it’s 4:43 a.m. but I woke up at 2:12 a.m. and have been awake ever since. Up until now I’ve made a hot cup of tea, watched an episode of, ‘Silk’ (British court drama series), and tried unsuccessfully to return to bed at 4:00 a.m. It’s the beginning of a very long day ahead.

So what could sharing this possibly do in any way to help you with respect to getting a job or performing well at the one you’ve got? In a word; plenty.

Generally speaking I’m the kind of person whose head hits the pillow and within two minutes is well on the way to full REM sleep. It’s a wonderful gift that I am very thankful for. And most nights, I’m sleeping soundly until the hour of 5 a.m. When you head to bed just after 10 p.m., well there’s my seven hours. Today though, it’s down to just over four.

You too will have days like this. You’ll wake up at some point maybe worrying about something about to happen; an interview, the big presentation, the prospect of meeting someone new either personally or professionally, giving a speech. Or like me, maybe you can’t quite determine exactly anything specifically that’s on your mind. It doesn’t really matter because reason or not, you’re wide awake.

And when you face the prospect of having to get up – oops, we’re already up – and get to work and put in a productive seven, eight or more hours, the prospect isn’t attractive. So you’ve got options; 1) call in sick when you’re just in need of some sleep. 2) take a sleeping pill or other sleep medication 3) distract your mind with some numbing television or a book you can delve into 4) pace about, sleep fitfully on the couch, get up, lie down and get more agitated, 5) repeatedly ask your spouse if they are awake until they actually are so you have someone to commiserate with your sleeplessness. I don’t recommend number 5; it doesn’t end well.

Now for me personally, calling in ill is rarely an option except when I am deathly ill. Being tired and up half the night doesn’t qualify; and that perfect attendance record I’m shooting for is still intact this late in September. There’s not a prize you understand, it’s just my own standard.

The sleep medication? Oh it might help me drift off to lullaby land, but boy would I find it hard to rise and shine with a spring in my step. The worry over then sleeping in and being rushed or late wouldn’t be a healthy relaxing combination. And driving to work for an hour feeling drugged and groggy isn’t appealing. Your welcome fellow drivers.

Oh and I did try the television show. Not a bad episode at all, but I was actually into it, and it didn’t do much therefore to numb me to sleep. I even tried returning to bed but lying there for a prolonged time usually only results in getting a headache; know thyself and avoid a second problem if possible.

No the solution that really works best is in this person’s opinion is to look ahead at your day. If nothing is on your calendar, do your best to keep your visibility low. After all, despite your little bursts of creative energy, it’s likely you won’t be at your very best. And as the day wears on, you might even find the last few hours of the day to be even more challenging. Although you yourself might not be entirely objective, others might observe behaviour or comments that isn’t in keeping with your usual performance.

By way of example, you may be irritable, quick to dismiss others comments, look strained, yawn, withdraw, be subdued, drink more caffeine-laced drinks like coffee or a Coke. Even your pace around the office might be slower as the day wears on, and you might be short with people on the phone.

If this kind of thing doesn’t happen often and is quite rare, you might even have the kind of job where you can walk in, announce you’ve had a rough night of it, and apologize in advance for not pulling your weight this one day. It might be more of a day to stay out of the limelight and do some background work. On the other hand, you might have the kind of job where for safety reasons, you owe it to your co-workers to step out at some point; say operating heavy machinery when you’re feeling groggy. Not a good combination.

But maybe you feel the pressure to excel and can’t get out of doing anything less than your very best. Could be you’re on probation at work and can’t call in ill and don’t want to make it appear this is a regular thing. Be self-aware as much as you can than throughout your day. Watch your words, bite your tongue, hold off on major decisions 24 hours so you’re clearer of mind.

Some cold water on your wrists actually gets the blood going and a splash on the face might help too. Some folks bring an alarm to work and head out to the car at noon for 30 minutes of sleep to come back more refreshed. Power naps.

Whatever you decide on, remember this day. When you find a fellow employee is having a day in the future you’re experiencing now, give them some slack if you can.

The Optimistic Attitude

Ah the ever optimist.

I like to think that I’m counted in the group of people who are predominantly optimistic. When I wake up, I look forward to the day, to my 1 hour drive from a rural community to an urban area. I look forward to whatever is on my schedule at work for the day, to working alongside my co-workers, lending guidance and support to my clients. I look forward during the day to my trek back home, what I might see along the way, perhaps a good movie or series on the television. I’m thinking about what I’ve got to prepare for supper and looking forward to that, and to spending an evening with my wife and during the evening I even look forward to laying my head down on the pillow and drifting off to the land of sleepys.

Not overly infused with adventure, heart-pounding exercise, amazing highlights worthy of documenting, but days upon days of happy and content moments which multiplied over a period, amass a pretty good life. Sure there are ups and downs from time-to-time, and problems to deal with and things to overcome. It’s not all rosy and sublime, but throughout it all, it’s pretty safe for me to say that I think in the end it all works out, and that it’s good to remember that in the periods of unrest.

Have you ever noticed however that sometimes optimistic people such as me have a curious influence on people we come into contact with? Some genuinely smile just when I walk into their view, and I feel like Norm walking into the bar in Boston named Cheers. “Hey Norm!” everyone turns and then they carry on. Sometimes it’s like that when people look up, smile and say, “Your always in a good mood. Do you ever have a rough day?”

And on the other hand there are people who seem to wake up snarly and ugly, just spoiling for a fight and looking for the least thing to provoke them. Conversations with these people usually start innocently enough with a, “Hey good morning!” to be followed with their, “What’s good about it?” reply. Somehow they don’t appreciate it when I start telling them the many things that are good about it. Hmmm….

“Looks like we’re due for 3 or 4 centimetres of snow this afternoon. Should be a pretty drive home tonight. Be sure to drive safe everybody!” I’ll say as I’m walking into the area where I work during the day. “Really? I hate snow. I just wish we could get snow Christmas eve and Christmas day and then it would disappear for another year”. Ouch. The optimistic attitude rubs the people the wrong way yet again.

Yet overall, I’d say that people appreciate my positive outlook on things. We have a board up in one of the halls at our office called, ‘Keeping it Real’. Your name gets put up for a week with a few other employees and the rest of the staff can go to it and write a little post-it note stating what they like or appreciate about you. Then your name disappears and someone else’s takes your place and you have the chance to return the favour.

In my own case, several people said they liked my happy positive and optimistic attitude. One said they appreciated the fact that I never burdened anyone with my own personal problems – if I have any. And that got me thinking. While it’s true I don’t have major issues and problems regularly, and I’d be hard-pressed to come up with huge issues, I do have minor irritants every so often, but I’ve never felt walking around and sharing those with my co-workers to be appropriate. After all, those are usually personal issues, and I’ve got a partner at home that I work through those things with and it works. Why bring them to work?

But let me ask you a question. Haven’t you had the experience where someone comes in and starts liberally passing around their negativity? They drone on about catastrophes that in reality aren’t any big deal. Such as, “AHHHHHH! I couldn’t believe it! Do you know on the way in today I had four red lights! Four! It didn’t matter how fast I drove to the next light, it turned red just as I got near it! And then I stopped at a drive-thru to get a large coffee with milk and they gave it to me with sugar and milk! I had to stop and go back and say, Excuse me, do you know what I ordered here? This is not acceptable”.

I think I’d rather be seen as the person in the office whose upbeat and positive. It generally gets me surrounded by people on a regular basis who are likewise positive. That doesn’t mean we can’t share our frustrations, we just know they’ll work out and generally see them for what they are, not more than they are.

I’d go so far in this post to suggest that if your work requires you to work with other people, that you try to conduct yourself with more optimism and positivity. Not necessary to be at the extreme end and be phony, but if you’ve got to lean one way or the other, choose optimism. It does a mind and body good!