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.

A Nod Of Thanks To The Invisible Ones


Jobs; there are good ones and bad ones. Then again, what I think is a good job might be one you’d rather not do or absolutely run away from. You have no doubt jobs and occupations you believe to be menial or stimulating, worthwhile or nothing but a waste of your time, excellent all the way to terrible.

Thankfully, there’s enough diversity in the world to go around. There are people who will not only do the jobs you and I might find disagreeable, but they’ll do it with enthusiasm, put in the required investment of energy and commitment to be successful at. These don’t have to be dangerous, dirty, low-paying positions to qualify. In fact many jobs you and I might find unsuited to our particular tastes are good paying and prestigious. Some might not come with fancy titles or be high on the most desired jobs list but we’re still extremely grateful that there are people who do them.

As you go about your day today, how many ‘invisible’ people do you see working? These are the people you benefit from as they go about doing their jobs either directly or indirectly. Take the road crew involved in repairing potholes, widening a road or building a bridge overpass. As your vehicle slows down and eventually stops in front of the Flag Person who stops traffic to let a dump truck turn onto the road in front of you, it’s typical that we think, “Oh great! If I could just have been the last car let through ahead of this truck, not the first car stopped and now behind it!”

But that crew working on the roads makes our drive so much better in the long-run. The Dump Truck Drivers, Flag Person, Coffee Truck guy, Surveyor’s Architects, General Labourers, Pavers etc. they all have their jobs to do. They’re out there in the inclement weather,  sometimes working 24/7 do get work done with the least inconvenience to the throngs of daytime motorists. But do we typically roll down the window of the car and say thanks or give them the thumbs up as we pass? Not likely.

What of the Crossing Guard who holds us up so our kids can get to and from school safely? Who’s the women and men who designed, built and installed our traffic lights, laid our sidewalks, built and service the cars and trucks we drive? We rely on these people to do top-notch work on a daily basis but rarely give them much thought until that moment when our vehicles have a problem, the lights malfunction, the sidewalks crack. Then they are foremost in our minds and we appreciate their expertise in what they do – jobs which we have little to zero interest in doing ourselves.

There’s the teachers who instruct and train our children, role-modelling the love for learning we hope our kids embrace. While we appreciate for the most part the role these people play in our societies and generally elevate the stature of the people in these instructing roles, not everybody would comfortably and confidently want to stand in front of 30 children and be responsible for their education.

Many more people we rely on each day don’t work in the kinds of jobs we typically place a lot of value in. Take the people who brew and serve your morning beverage at a drive-thru. Minimum wage earners, all expected to smile and be friendly with each customer, doing repetitive work for 6 or 7 hours at a time. How many coffee’s and teas do they pour in an hour, a shift, a week, a year? Too many to bear thinking of no doubt. We appreciate that steaming cup of ‘get up and start your day’ but you might not be enamoured with doing their job on a long-term basis; you might need more stimulation.

There’s the people who build our homes, erect the light standards we see by, build the tunnels for the trains we ride, drive the buses we take, print the materials we read – and yes create the tablets, laptops and phones we’ve come to rely on so much. Those jobs might not be high on our list of desired jobs, but we all benefit from the work of those people in them.

So first here’s a nod to them – to you – if you’re in a job where you don’t get a lot of praise or thanks from end-users. You might not get the customers standing in front of you watching how you go about your business and complimenting your good work but it’s appreciated.

Whether you’re an employee in a variety store, a Salesperson in a retail operation, or the people who collect, clean and stack those food trays in food courts of large malls, I thank you for doing what you do each day.

What one person finds menial or hard work is meaningful and a joy to do for someone else. So maybe that could be your goal today – our goal today. You know, thank two people who are seemingly invisible but vital to making the day run smoothly. A quick nod of thanks, a raised cup in salute, a friendly smile or a mouthed, “Thanks”.

What if it started with you? We might make someone feel a little prouder; a little more appreciated. So there’s your challenge. Oh and here’s to YOU for all you do!

 

 

 

Your Own Northern Star


In our night sky there is a star which sits almost directly above the north pole on the Earth’s axis. From our vantage point it seems to be a fixed object around which all the other stars rotate; making it an excellent stationary point from which to navigate and chart one’s place and / or progress. Given that it’s above the north pole, it has been given the name, Polaris; the North Star.

In days of old, many sailors once out in waters beyond the sight of land would use the stars in the night sky to stay the course as they’d navigate their way to distant lands. By day when the stars were not visible, these same people would track their progress using the path of the sun and pray for a cloudless night by which they could assure themselves they were on course and hadn’t wavered too much during the day.

So ironically, they used this one star in the night sky so very far away to keep grounded. The same by the way is true for travellers who were lost inland. When there was no GPS, no radio’s, cell phone or compasses, those lost in the night would hope for evenings full of stars from which they could get their bearings and stay the course as they made their way in lands where it was too hot to travel by day. Again, the North Star was their fixed point from which to gain their bearings.

Let me ask you then if you have a North Star of your very own. Do you have someone in your life who is always there for you? Someone you can rely on time after time to be there for you when you’re feeling lost and need reassurance? Maybe like Polaris they seem distant but when you look for them they can always be trusted to be steadfast right where you’d expect them to be and that stability is comforting to you and from that you draw self-confidence and can then go on your way.

It’s pretty easy in 2017 to find ourselves caught up in the hectic day-to-day. Whether it’s the pursuit of money, prestige, a job title, a house, cottage or yes even a far off destination like those explorers of old, we can get so focused on ‘getting’ things that we might lose ourselves in the process. This is why every so often something happens that gives us pause to think and we find ourselves re-evaluating our priorities. “Is this really what I want? When did I lose my way and become so fixated on making such-and-such my priority? What did I give up or move down my list of priorities by giving primary importance to whatever it is?”

It’s often this one person we see as our sounding board, our voice of reason, our mentor or advisor that helps us put things in perspective. Be it just listening, an afternoon or evenings conversation with them, maybe even just bringing them to mind in some cases; we somehow feel things just make sense when they’re near at hand or near in mind. In short, you’ve got your own Polaris, your own Northern Star.

Sometimes these people are the go-to people we think of first in our moments of need or crisis. When things are bleak, we’re confused or possibly we have a big decision to make, we seek out that one person who can listen to what’s troubling us, rearrange everything we tell them and they give it back to us in a way that just makes sense. Somehow, they make things clearer and without telling us what to do, they just make our decision easier; even when that decision means we’re in for a lot of work and struggle, the decision itself is easier to make.

Stars are by their very place in the universe, always up. Wherever you are on the Earth, you have to look up to see them. You might look down and see them reflected in still waters, but that’s not the stars themselves but rather their reflection. No, to see the stars and find the North Star, you have to look up to the night sky.

The person you see as your own Polaris is probably much the same; you look up to them. Don’t confuse this with meaning they can’t falter now and then, after all you can go a few days with cloudy nights when the stars aren’t visible, or there’s enough passing atmospheric cover that the stars peek out and then disappear. But you and I both know that North Star is always there.  While shooting stars sometimes briefly light the skies and disappear forever in a fiery end, the North Star has always been there.

I wonder if you’ve ever told this person you equate as your personal North Star just how much they mean to you? Is it enough that they should just ‘know’ their value to you? Would it be awkward for you to express your appreciation for them? It’s not hard to imagine however that telling them either verbally or in the written word would be welcomed and appreciated. What does having them in your life do for you? How are you better for knowing them? How much does it mean to have them to go to in your darkest moments for some clarity?

Sounds to me like a wonderful thing to share with your own North Star.

 

My Job Is A Privilige


I am an Employment Counsellor employed with a large municipal organization in the Greater Toronto area of Canada. While I provide help and support to people on people from all walks of life around the globe on my own time; through this employer all those I assist working with the Municipality are exclusively on social assistance.

Now I have to tell you that I consider myself to be an upbeat, positive individual and I do my very best to work with enthusiasm front and center at all times. Some of my personal friends and acquaintances wonder that the job must by its nature be depressing at times, constantly working with this population. I tell them they couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is a true privilege I find myself in to be in this position; to be looked to for support and guidance regarding looking for employment. However, what makes this particular job unique and what new employees soon learn upon taking the job, is that dealing with unemployment is only a fraction of what the work entails.

One of the things I truly love and have come to value highly are the back stories that each individual shares with me when I work alongside them. Now in some organizations the scheduling of appointments is so tight that all an Employment Counsellor can really do is focus on building a resume and any talk outside of past work histories is severely limited. Success is measured by how many people you saw in a day, a week and a month. It might look good on a stats sheet, but these are real people with fascinating backgrounds; backgrounds that are currently impacting on their ability to get and keep employment.

I am so grateful that I came to work in this capacity later rather than earlier in life. By the time I landed in my current role, I’d already worked in Retail, Recreation, Social Services and the Non-Profit sector. I’d been an Executive Director, on the front line and in positions of authority. I been promoted, let go, resigned and worked in both jobs and careers over my prior work history. All of these gave me the gifts of diverse perspective, empathy, understanding, appreciation and resiliency.

Where I am now is indeed a privilege and I’ve found a way to draw constantly on my own past experiences for the benefit of others who hope to move forward. Some people say you should never look back if you want to move forward, but I know that it’s only when you look back that you see others who could use the hand you extend as help moving forward too. Now I’ll never be financially rich in the role I’ve taken but I didn’t set out in life to accumulate the biggest bank account balance I could in the first place.  I am enriched on a regular basis and thankful to be where I am. With respect to finances though, I must say I’m not wanting.

It’s truly an honour and a rare privilege when other people come into your life and trust in you enough to open up and share some of themselves. I have found that the level to which they confide in me requires a corresponding amount of empathy, honest concern and interest in them; not as a client but as a person; a fellow human being. Often the stories I hear are dark, fraught with pain, abuse, loss, trust broken and betrayal. These are the real experiences of real people and therefore their realities however. Maybe these people have never had someone in a position of authority actually care to listen to them with only the best of intentions in mind; a person who isn’t out to take what they share and manipulate it for personal gain. Who knows?

I tell you this however; these are remarkable people who have resiliency of their own. As fragile as they might be in some respects, they are also people of incredible fortitude and determination in others. They are good and decent people deserving of chances; be they second, third or fourth ones. They are skilled, qualified and if given a chance to demonstrate their value with the right employer will prove themselves to be among an organizations finest.

And they’re up against it aren’t they? It’s not just a lack of employment they’re working to change. In addition to finding a job, they often have to overcome abusive, traumatic relationships with controlling partners and ex-partners. Their housing is often substandard, their reliance on food banks well documented, their abilities to live within the constraints of a fixed poverty income tried and tested. Along with all of this they must overcome a stigma of being a social assistance recipient.

Would you be surprised to hear that many are highly educated? You’d be surprised to learn a lot of things as am I. How I learn is really by putting myself in position to listen without judgement, exercise some patience and empathize; create the opportunity for them to take or pass up to share to the level of their individual comfort. This helps me often get to real barriers of course that I see in the way of moving forward with employment, but I feel it really helps them as a person first.

This may not be your dream job but I’m grateful it’s mine.

 

 

 

 

Gratitude For That Which We Receive


How grateful are you for the things you receive and I believe more importantly, the people you interact with that put them into your hands? Here’s a brief tale of two men with whom I had a short interaction with yesterday; both of whom reminded me to be grateful to others but for different reasons.

I found myself covering the mid-morning break of a colleague in our drop-in Employment Resource Centre; a place exclusively reserved for those in receipt of social assistance; welfare or disability support. Here those in receipt of either can come in and either work independently or receive support for the asking with respect to looking for housing, jobs, general advice, community resources or maybe just have someone listen. For some it’s their outing of the day; time to be surrounded by others and connect.

At the start of the day I had gathered a number of winter clothing items such as scarves, hats, gloves, throws and socks; all new and newly arrived. I brought them there for my colleagues to get into the hands of those that need them – free for the asking and the taking. So there I was when one gentleman approached me and asked if he might be allowed to have a pair of socks.

“Absolutely” I replied. The fellow was grateful, expressed his thanks and said that these made his day. There were two pair actually in the bundle and being winter socks for the outdoors, they are thick, warm and the kind I myself wouldn’t mind finding under my own tree this Christmas. It struck me how much happiness he visibly showed on his face; again the gratitude he expressed and the words, “Thank you”.

As he was standing there before me, there was a second fellow within earshot of this brief conversation and I suspected that a similar transaction was about to occur. Sure enough, when the first man turned and left, the second stepped up.

“I’ll have a pair of socks. What else you got?” Quite a different tone in the voice, a change in approach from a request and gratefulness to a statement of fact and entitlement. Now less you feel I’m being judgemental and that I don’t understand or know the second man’s background, upbringing or the harshness he experiences day to day, I’ve worked long enough in the field to comprehend and ‘get’ that at both an intellectual and experiential level.

What I’m sharing is the two approaches and the impact of both on me as the common denominator; the receiver of both their messages. While my reaction may not be your reaction, the approach they each made is what I draw your attention to.

When I gave the second man the new socks he put moved them from the outstretched hand to the other and then extended his hand a second time waiting to receive more. In response to his question about what other items I had available, I asked him what he needed pointing out gloves, hats,  throws and scarves. I then asked, “Would you like a scarf?” “Give me gloves” he answered.

So I gave him a pair of gloves which he tried on and I asked if they fit him okay or whether he needed a larger size. The next words he answered were, “Got any hoodies or shirts?” Now I didn’t have either item he asked for and after saying so he took one final look and walked out of the building without another word. No thanks whatsoever.

Now you make what you want from this encounter and contrast it as you wish or not with the earlier one just moments before with the first fellow. You nor I know the circumstances which these two gentlemen exist in. We don’t know their past upbringing, how easy or tough their lives have been to this point. We don’t know if they learned about please and thank you, and we certainly don’t know… well…we just don’t have much information to go on beyond the information I’ve shared.

The items don’t come with strings attached; there is no requirement to say thank you. At other times when I’m in the area myself for the day, I typically put a few items at a time out for people to hep themselves; most do turn and ask just the same if they can help themselves and say then say thank you, others don’t.

I was raised to say please, to ask before taking and to express my thanks when I received something. I know that this is largely why I was struck with the difference in the two encounters. The need may be exactly the same for each fellow, or even greater for the second. Does it matter?

If you donate new items to those less fortunate, I’d like you to know that whether they say it or not, your generosity matters; goods end up in the hands of those that need them. They are glad to have them when the biting winds blow and the temperatures drop and gratitude may not hit them until they are huddled up against a wall up against a howling wind on a dark winter’s eve.

Maybe there’s a lesson here for me and for you to show our own gratitude in those we deal with be it Cashiers, the Newspaper Carrier etc. See if it doesn’t make a difference.

Give A Gift To Someone In Need


So you’re out in some mall looking for that perfect gift that someone on your Christmas list would appreciate. Or perhaps you’re sitting in your favourite seat at home tapping your fingers and wrestling with the thought of what the people on your list, ‘need’. If you are like many people I know, many of those on your list don’t, ‘need’ much at all.

Each gift received not only comes with the ribbons, bows, wrapping paper and scotch tape; each gift comes with the message, “I am thinking of you.” The gift may be homemade or store-bought, expensive or not, but still each one says, “I think enough of you that I wanted to present you with something to let you know I appreciate you.” Well something like that anyhow.

Sometimes the gifts we give are given to people we’ll never know personally; people we don’t necessarily want to know personally, but we give them just the same. Take the financial donation or food donation you make to the local food bank; the clothes you donate to the Diabetes Foundation, the change you throw into a Salvation Army kettle or some other charity box.

Maybe – just maybe mind you – you’re like the little drummer boy who doesn’t have any money or items of value to give and you wonder, “What could I do?”

And so, here’s some ideas for giving both during this festive holiday season and for other times of the year.

First and foremost, one of the easiest and free things you can do is acknowledge the presence of the down-and-out, the destitute, the poor, and the homeless when you see them on the street. You and I both know they aren’t invisible. You know they are there because you look everywhere but where they sit or stand as you pass them by without a glance. Maybe just having the courage, assertiveness or whatever it is that you need to look them in the eye and actually give them a slight smile would help them feel visible. Sure it’s a small thing; but it’s a start.

When I was in Toronto this fall I was out with my daughter and some people were handing out free bottles of water on the street. While I drank mine down due to my thirst, my daughter hung on to hers for a few blocks and then without breaking stride set hers down beside a sleeping man on the street. Again, not much, but he awoke with something he didn’t have when he fell asleep.

You can also hold back on your judgement of others; we don’t know what they’ve endured or continue to endure. Even when the decisions they make contribute to their current plight and we would rather they made better decisions, we don’t know what events in their past have shaped their present. They probably have multiple problems, some of which are of their own making. Maybe a little tolerance, a little support, or even holding back from voicing our opinions would be a small start.

You can volunteer your time too if you’ve got it to give but draw the line on contributing financially. Yes, you can join a non-profit organization, contribute your talents in bookkeeping, leadership, organization etc. Helping to guide an organization, support the people who staff it and the users who benefit from its services; do it and if you need something for yourself, add it to your resume. Why not?

If you run a cleaning business, offer free cleaning for people who have job interviews coming up and can’t afford your services because they are jobless at present. If they get a job, think how much they might appreciate your help. If you have that, “why don’t they just get a job?” mentality, you’ll actually help them get one and pay their taxes if your motivation must be so inclined.

You can opt to be more courteous too. It costs nothing to give up your seat on a bus or subway, to actually smile instead of frown, to actually look at people and talk instead of walking around with a perpetual frown. When you enter a fast-food restaurant drive-thru, thank the person who takes your money and gives you your food. Break up their monotony with a ‘thank you! Have a nice day!” or ask them where their smile is. You’ll get a smile immediately and make their day.

That harried check-out Cashier who gets verbally abused by customers who think they alone should be served first and hold up the line examining their bills to make sure they aren’t overcharged? Why not thank them for doing a great job and telling them to forgive that rude person. These folks usually make minimum wage and are people too.

It’s not hard to think of all the small things you; you and I, could do to make the lives of others around us just a tad better. If you see a couple with a dog on the street trying to get by begging for change, don’t forget the dog. If you pass them every day, drop off some dog food every now and then – something they can easily carry. That’s just cool.

When you do any of the above, you send them the message, “I’m thinking of you – you’re not invisible.” Good on you for your act of kindness. You never know what your small act might mean.