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!

How Welcoming Is Your Recorded Greeting?


It’s hard to imagine anyone reading this hasn’t at some point dialed a phone number and experienced a recorded greeting rather than connecting directly with the person they were calling.

More than likely you listen to the person reciting some kind of a script that says, “You’ve reached so-and-so, I’m away from my desk or busy, please leave a brief message including your name and number and I’ll return your call.” Some people identify their job title, the organization they work for and the date. Sometimes you hear further instructions, such as in the case of an emergency or other helpful numbers.

Having had experience myself on both ends; (listening to others and making my own messages), like you I suppose, I certainly get a vibe right off the bat as to whether the person I’m calling is positive, upbeat and engaged or bored, barely awake or checked out.

My wife is a great example of someone who always sounds enthusiastic and upbeat. Even though she leaves the same basic message on her phone each day, she changes it up so callers know whether she’s available that day, in meetings, out of the office and who to call if you need to speak to someone and can’t wait. She even says that the other person she’s referring you to will be happy to take your call and provide assistance. When she leaves her greeting, she smiles and while you can’t see that smile, it sure comes across to the listener who’s calling.

Me? I too leave a message that’s upbeat and shows some personality. I know it works because when I do speak to people who have left messages for me, they often chuckle and make some positive comment about the message. When I in turn listen to their messages they are leaving for me, I hear them similarly laugh a little and they almost always sound positive in the process.

I remember in my days as a Caseworker with a large caseload of social assistance recipients leaving a unique message on my phone every day, and having fun in the process. I figured that many of the callers who didn’t reach me live would listen to the message I left in its entirety before leaving a message, and that most of those calls would be people needing me to do something to provide financial assistance. In other words, I thought about the majority of people that would call, and envisioned the state of mind they would be in. No client would for example be calling just to say hello and see how I’m doing like a friend might.

So in picturing my majority of callers, I thought about that message and thought that an upbeat, positive voice on the other end, smiling and enthusiastic might just put a smile on their face too, and in so doing, might even release a few chemicals reducing their anxiety and stress. It worked. Well it worked for the majority. There will always be sour people who go about their lives just looking for happiness to squash in the hopes of bringing others down to their level instead of deciding to elevate their attitude.

I had people calling me and laughing; happy to hear a voice with some personality in it even though the nature of their call was serious. Sure I would help them; they came to know that. So the issue of receiving help if it was in my power to give it wasn’t the issue. So I figured why not speak with someone for help who is positive, happy and upbeat instead of someone who sounds monotonous, robotic and devoid of some personality? In short, I was branding myself each day with that message on the machine that while providing the same essential information was done with vitality and varied.

Mondays for example I see as the start of a new week with new possibilities and a chance to start fresh. Tuesdays is a day to build momentum for the rest of the week. Wednesdays is the day you can evaluate how you’re doing and you’ve still got time to make the rest of the week a positive. Thursday is the ‘hang in there’ day; or the day to make sure you don’t overlook an opportunity because you’re concentrating on the arrival of Friday. Friday itself is a day to sum up the week, finish with a burst of energy.

Holidays? What a great reason to vary that plain old message. I still use accents and an assortment of voices to wish my callers a happy Valentines or St. Patrick’s day. At Christmas the voice callers hear sounds remarkably like Santa inviting callers to leave a message for Kelly and that he’ll get back to them soon. Halloween is fun to because…well….you get the point.

Look, what I’m saying is that injecting a little personality into your morning greeting takes so little effort and the return can be impactful on your callers. I know I’d rather start a conversation with someone who is light and happy, smiling and chuckling a little rather than having someone just launch right into their needs with anxiety, trepidation and be so matter-of-fact.

Different environments dictate how you should leave a recorded message – I get that. I just think it’s important to envision your audience and put yourself at their end.

The Boss Who Replaces Your Boss


Work long enough for an organization you’re bound to encounter a time when your boss moves on, replaced with someone else. If you’ve worked together for many years, it may seem odd to suddenly find yourself devoid of that relationship, especially if it was a productive one built on mutual respect.

I say it may be odd because when you spend years working together, you develop trust in each other, you know what to expect from each other, and you mutually invest in the relationship. It’s not policies and procedures that define a supervisor; it’s the little things like conversations at the start of the business day, inquiries about your family, your hobbies etc. It’s not so much the role of the person, in this case the boss; it’s the departure of someone who you came to develop a close working relationship with. You’d feel this same void if it was your office mate, the title of boss just adds a layer to the change.

Make no mistake, while your job didn’t change, with a change in supervisor, you still experience change. How you adapt to that change defines how well or poorly you perform moving forward. If you had a great boss – even a good boss, you will find yourself happy for them, especially if for a promotion or a lateral move they sought out. If they weren’t the best boss, you may find yourself grateful for the change, even euphoric; hopeful that the new boss will be a welcomed change from the former boss. Change however, it remains; change you must deal with.

Who replaces your boss is out of your control. Upper management usually determines what is needed in the office, factory floor or district. They may think a shake-up is required, some control re-established, or perhaps things need to remain exactly as they are. Depending on what upper management believes is required; you’ll find yourself with a new person in the role who best brings what is perceived to be needed. So you could find yourself with a new Sheriff in town if order needs to be restored, a Visionary if new direction is desired, a Whip Cracker if production needs increasing and some personnel changes are in order.

You could however, also discover that a clone replaces your boss; someone with similar characteristics in the role who doesn’t appear to be rocking the boat, making sweeping changes of any kind. This could be a strong signal that the team you work on, the department you work in, or the shift you work on is doing just fine the way it is. Not that complacency is encouraged, but this kind of change would indicate performance of the group you work within is appreciated.

There is an opportunity here for you when there is a changeover in your supervisor. In the first few days and weeks of the transition, you have a distinct advantage in knowing the strengths and weaknesses of both yourself and your team. You could request a, ‘get-to-know-you’ meeting with the new boss, where you sit down and share your role, your strengths and what motivates you. It’s also where you can demonstrate some genuine interest in the boss; where they came from, what motivates them, what’s their leadership style, their expectations. Yes they probably schedule some team meeting, deliver some message to a larger audience, but this 1:1 meeting is about defining your personal relationship with the new boss.

What a great opportunity to mentor the boss! This could be where you share an individual project you are working on, any unofficial role you play on the team, where the team looks to you for leadership. It’s also a wonderful chance to share your motivation, what makes you tick, your philosophy of service, priorities; preferences you have for getting feedback.

The most important thing about this changeover and your encounters with the new boss is that you be genuine. If you are playing up your role on the team, inflating your own importance or being overly flattering of the new boss, they’ll likely spot you for what you are; disingenuous. It’s probable that they’ve already been briefed on the personnel on their new team anyhow.

One of the best decisions you can make early in the transition to a new boss is to get on board with the plans they have. Being resistant; possibly even defiant isn’t going to win you any favours or put you on solid ground. You may have the advantage of time on the team, but they have the legitimate power to effect change which comes with their position, and probably have the blessings of their superiors too. Unless their plans fly in the face of the organization or will cause you to lose your job, the sooner you adapt to the new direction and the new way of doing things, the better for you.

If you’re fortunate, you’ll have a new boss you’ll come to value as much as the previous boss you enjoyed working with. If the departure of your previous boss is good news for you, see this as a fresh start. People are never identical and it’s important not to compare the new with the old. See and evaluate the person for whom they are and support them as you would any new member to the team.

Pay Attention To Home/Work Conditions


Calculate the number of hours in any given day when you’re at work. That number might be anywhere from 4 – 12 perhaps depending on whether you work full or part-time. To that number, add the number of hours you spend in your home, both before and after work. So what number did you arrive at?

These are the two places you are most likely putting in the bulk of your day. It only makes sense then that to the degree you are able, you create an atmosphere around you that you will find pleasing. Whatever your tastes, if you can be in settings which are to your liking, there is a greater chance the environment around you will have a positive influence on you.

If you work in a place where everyone has their own desk, you might find some folks have pictures of their family under their blotter, or maybe a small plant on their desk, a favourite mug or perhaps some meaningful quote by the phone. If that desk is in a cubicle or office, that personalization extends to the walls, the floor space and maybe the exterior of an overhead storage area. Wall hangings, coat racks, lighting, personalized calendars, floor plants, furniture – examples of what could be personalized.

In a factory setting where almost all the space is shared and there are restrictions for safety reasons on what could be personally modified, you’ll still see individuals personalizing their locker space, their personal protective equipment like their hard hats and maybe even the tools they use.

If you spend your days out in the car and on the road, you might have personal things hanging from the rear view mirror, your favourite music and pre-set radio stations etc. Even the colour of the car in your driveway might be your choice instead of just whatever the dealer gave you.

At home, whether it is in an apartment, townhouse, duplex, condo or free-standing, you’ll have it decorated to your liking to the extent you are able.

So what’s the point? The point is that you should pay attention to your surroundings and ensure that your living space wherever you find yourself spending the bulk of your time, is conducive to either working productively or relaxing comfortably.

Look, it’s been known for a long time now that colours for example can have a profound influence on our moods. Take someone who is agitated into a bright fire-engine red room or a pale green room and have them wait for 3-4 minutes until someone comes to see them. You might find more often than not that the person in the bright red room remains energized and agitated, while the individual in the pale green room has calmed down a little all on their own. Colours influence our moods.

I’ve noticed the working areas of some staff where I work with great interest. Some are minimalistic; their desks are clear of anything personal, all their papers put away and few items in the room are theirs personally. If they retired today, they’d have a single box to carry out as they left and be packed up in 5 minutes.

On the other hand, there are some workers who would have to make their exit with 6 trips out to their car and their desks routinely look like organized chaos. In both cases, the person is able to be productive but if the two shared a space, they might have to work out some kind of boundary issues.

Are there certain people in your working environment who you would really struggle with if you shared the same workspace in some kind of office realignment? While everyone might be pleasant to talk to in shared work areas, when they return to their own space, one persons clutter might adversely affect another persons ability to concentrate on being productive.

Home of course means different things to different people. You might look at home as your oasis; your bastion of relaxation and calm. Or your private domain at home might be the room in the basement or garage where you rock out on your guitar, bang away on your drums or it’s out to the workshop in the yard where the smell of wood stimulates your senses and you exercise your woodworking skills.

We are influenced by our surroundings. Ever had the itch to move the furniture around? Even in a small space, you might say, “What if I moved my desk against that wall or no, turned it to face the door?” You might do it to be more productive or safe in the case of visitors to your office, but you might do it too just to stimulate something inside you and gain a new perspective.

Supposing you worked in a setting where there was no new money in the budget for renovations or decorations. Would your employer go for you coming in on the weekend to paint your own office as long as they approved of your colour scheme? Would they agree if you became more productive? What would happen to office morale if you had a lounge with a television, a pool table, a solarium for readers, a small garden area for staff to retreat to?

Make your living space work for you and those around you. Be it at work or home, it has an influence on your mood and your productivity.

 

 

 

 

Sharing Skills With Your Co-Workers


I sent an email out to my co-workers just yesterday, asking if they’d be interested in a lunch and learn session next week on the subject of social media and LinkedIn specifically. Lunch and learn for those of you that don’t already know is literally where you bring your lunch and eat while someone is making a presentation.

It is known to me that at least some of my co-workers are skeptical of social media, a little gun-shy about putting their personal information out there, and others who do get it might still have reservations about what it can do for our clientele; many of whom are not technologically savvy.

This kind of volunteerism, sharing a skill you have with your co-workers so that they personally and ultimately their clients can benefit has a huge upside. For starters, if you are trying to get noticed in your organization, standing up in front of your peers and facilitating a session gives others a chance to see you in what could be a new role. Speak well, answer questions with intelligence and provide a safe room for questions and you may get a few folks thinking of you in ways they didn’t before.

Another benefit is that in sharing your skills, you upgrade the knowledge and ultimately skills of others. With a shared understanding of the subject matter, you’ll be undermined less. Undermined? Definitely. Suppose for example I was in this case extolling the virtues of social media for a job seeker and one of my peers chirped in by saying that they personally don’t think it’s all that necessary and just a fad for upper level business professionals. Now they haven’t ever done this just to be clear, but as an example it works. All of a sudden the job seeker might not want to put forth the effort required to take my advice, and I sure wouldn’t appreciate having my suggestions cut out from beneath me. Intentional or unintentional, that remark may come out of ignorance of social media itself and how to best exploit it.

Another benefit is that the employer need not incur the cost of bringing in some social media guru who in the end might not be as effective as you. After all, you know your business and if you know social media, you know best how to utilize it. Without knowing your business, clientele and their capabilities, no one from outside is as best positioned to maximize this tool as maybe you yourself.

Now think about your own business whatever that is. Surely there are people on your staffing body who have expertise and skills in certain areas which exceed those skills had by most others. Is there a person who is up on the latest trends, seems to be the go-to person when it comes to technology itself, or just knows how to use the advanced features on the photocopiers!

Instead of doing nothing at all which has the impact of keeping knowledge from being shared, or paying someone to come in and share knowledge but at a price, why not initiate your own lunch and learn activity? Now not everyone is going to jump at the chance to get up in front of their peers and lead a session. I get that. Some people would rather sign up for root canal.

Surely however, there are at least a few people who would be willing to speak with some of their co-workers (a voluntary participation over lunch, not mandatory) about something of interest to their co-workers on a topic they themselves know something about.

Take me now. In doing a short presentation on social media in general, and LinkedIn specifically, I’m hoping to demonstrate to my peers how best to help them help our clients. After all, if someone has heard of LinkedIn but doesn’t really understand it, they are not going to be able to sell it as an effective tool to be used in networking and job searching.

As the business my colleagues and I are in is helping others gain and sustain employment, we should be looking for tools to use that give them a competitive advantage. With social media being so prevalent and common these days, using it actually levels the playing field somewhat rather than giving them an advantage. The advantage is already being enjoyed by their competition!

Suppose however you are a clerk who knows how to add your digital signature to documents produced by the printer or the digital photocopiers. I would think that more people in your office would like to know how to do this too. Why not set aside 20 minutes of your lunch and gather those interested so you can walk them through how to do this. 20 minutes…no formal teaching role just standing at the photocopier…showing them what you know…that might be possible?

Again, think of your role in your present job. What do you know that others would benefit from knowing? If you are in Management why not float the idea of your talented workers sharing their knowledge with each other – say once every two weeks. Then step back and let it morph and grow on its own. Book the room, then sit at the table just as one of the gang and see what you can learn. You might be enthusiastically impressed. Skills on the front-line don’t always need to come from those at the top.

What Do You Do With All Those Quotes?


You see them everywhere; on posters attached to beautiful images, in hallways in offices, all over the internet, and in some publications – quotes.

Some people have a quote or two that are special to them for the inspiration or perspective they provide. One of my own pesonal favourites is an Italian proverb that goes, “At the end of the game, the King and the pawn go into the same box.” To me, it’s just a quick reminder that no matter how important I become, or how important the people I interact with are, we all eventually come to the same end. As much of the work I do is with financially disadvantaged people, it helps keep me grounded.

But my question to you is what do you DO with all those quotes in your workplace? Quotes give some people cause for reflection and for others, they read them and give it next to no thought whatsoever. The posters that adorn some workplaces that have quotes on them are routinely passed in the halls by staff all day long without anyone pausing to think about the words printed there. So of what value are they? There is even a website called Despair.com dedicated to this idea. On this website there are wondferful images matched with sayings that are actually demotivational. It was established in response to the belief that many people just look at the pictures and don’t really read the print message.

If you facilitate workshops as I do, perhaps you integrate quotes and sayings into your lesson plans. What is the response of the people you share them with? Do quotes have a lasting value? Do you yourself try to live and work with some kind of quote that captures your personal belief or philosophy? If so, what is it, and why does that hold such meaning for you that you try to live by that saying?

Sometimes when I’m leading a workshop, I’ll put enough quotes on the board for the number of participants, and after the lunch hour, I’ll ask each person to explain the quote that they have chosen prior to the break. This gets people thinking, and creates some discussion. It also gives me an idea of participants ability to interpret correctly the meaning behind the words. I may discover literacy issues, expanded vocabularies, new meanings I hadn’t thought of myself, and generally provides the group with an interactive learning opportunity. If I have 15 people in a room, I’ll either ask them to choose the quote they want to address on a first chosen first assigned basis (which gets people shooting their hands up quickly) or I’ll just ask people to pick a number from 1 to 15 when they have no idea why they are picking a number, and then reveal the connection with  the corresponding quotes. Number 1 gets quote 1 on the board etc. to number 15.

So what do YOU DO with all those quotes? Let me know, I’m interested.