Pressure, Stress And Mental Health

By any chance, have you noticed people around you seem to be dealing with increased pressure? Perhaps too that not only are they experiencing more pressure, it’s coming from multiple sources and rather than being resolved quickly, these pressure linger?

Pressure and the stress that comes with it, seems to be more wide-spread these days. You know, there was a time when a person kept their troubles and stressors to themselves. After all, they didn’t want to appear incapable and put their work in jeopardy. When the worked piled on and piled up, the thinking was you’d roll up your sleeves, bear down and ramp up the speed. You’d come in a little early, work through a shortened lunch, stay a little later, then at some point, that mountain of work would become manageable again. Your stressors would dissipate and everything would fall back into balance.

What I see in 2019 however, is many people are putting in more effort and still falling behind. Not only are they working hard to get through the work they’ve been assigned, there’s more coming and it’s coming more frequently. So many people are playing a shell game; working on something until they have to switch tasks because something has a shorter deadline, then putting some time back into an earlier assigned job whenever they can squeeze it in. The result for many is finished work that isn’t their best; passable perhaps, but they know the result they’d love to have realized just isn’t what they’ve produced.

When a busy person takes on more, there’s two possibilities; they can handle the extra work load or they can’t. If the extra workload is successfully managed, they often get rewarded with a hearty thanks – and additional work, as they can obviously handle the increased work! The person who can’t handle the extra work; albeit they may have said they believed they could take it on – now has a known limit. In other words, the boss knows the maximum amount of work they can handle. In a just world, the boss would ensure the employee doesn’t get assigned or take on more than their capacity, but in reality, that boss is under pressure too. If the pressure they are under is get their team to deliver more, that extra work might just keep funneling down to the employee.

Pressure and stress impact our mental health and our mental health is something we don’t just put on when we get to work and remove at the end of our shift. We carry the state of our mental health in our travels back home, to the supermarket, when we spend time with our families and friends. When we aren’t observed to, ‘be ourselves’, guess what? We now feel additional pressure to be the person others have come to expect us to be not just at work, but at home too.

The result can be consistent and constant pressure to perform. Our homes; traditional places of sanctuary and places to retreat from the world and relax, become places where we are still experiencing pressure. Everyday tasks like washing the dishes, dusting and preparing meals seem taxing. Someone makes an innocent comment like, “we’ll have to buy some milk” or, “have you seen my car keys?”, and well that’s it; we snap back. Suddenly that pressure that’s been building bursts open. It’s not that the car keys or the milk alone are major issues, it’s that they are that one extra thing that you just can’t take on at the moment.

That stress you’re carrying with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is invisible much of the time. There’s no cast as there is with a broken limb, there’s no label that identifies you as stretched, no hourglass in your hands that shows just how little you’ve got left to give. Some of your precious energy reserves have actually been put into covering up your stress. That forced smile, the longer trips to the bathroom where you’re actually just trying to escape and have some, ‘me’ time for 5 minutes alone. When nobody knows – even though you think they should – they are the most surprised people when you act out of character and tell them to get in the car and go get the milk themselves; find their own car keys and stop leaving them just anywhere in the first place.

Sometimes of course we can work past our limits. Typically we do so for short periods and then return to our normal state. It’s even good to push ourselves the odd time to see what we’re capable of. But then, this new level becomes what others interpret as what we’re capable of all the time. That’s not right; that’s not fair and it’s not accurate. When we put extra energy into something at home or work, that extra energy is derived from somewhere; it doesn’t just materialize. Energy is finite.

Replenishing is the key to productivity. What is it you do in other words, that restores your capacity to deliver on the expectation of both others and yourself to perform? Reading? Meditation? Getting out for a walk? Whatever it is you do to recover and restore your good mental health is as important as any work you do.

It may sound counter productive, but in a day when you’ve got a ton of things to do, you may get more done if you go for a walk around the neighbourhood. Thirty minutes outside or with your door shut at work and a good engaging book in your hands. Maybe close your eyes, breathe deep, some quiet music playing through some noise cancelling headphones? Whatever it is in other words, consider building it in to your busy day so you restore some of that balance you have when you’re at your best.

Low Self-Esteem? Lack Of Self-Confidence?

Are you the kind of person who others at first glance would assume has it all together when in fact you’re struggling with self-esteem and confidence issues? Do people look at you and say, “I wish I could be more like you”, and your response is to silently form the reply, “If you only knew; no you wouldn’t”?

I think many would be surprised to learn just how common this is. When I say that I run into people on a daily basis who are coping the best they can with issues of personal worth, self-esteem and self-efficacy, I’m not exaggerating. On the outside they appear to just be ordinary folks, blending in and going about their business, but they do so with higher degrees of personal stress, anxiety, and doubt.

These people face a number of personal challenges. First and foremost because they appear ‘normal’; (and the word itself is up for debate and defining) they don’t attract concern or empathy for what they feel. While they do their best to mask any visual clues that might reveal a lack of confidence and self-esteem, which helps them in some ways, they simultaneously make it harder for those around them to acknowledge their experience and provide support. The result is that people around them may hold them to higher expectations than they are capable of performing at, and when they falter, the cause of their failure may be incorrectly attributed to a lack of ability rather than a lack of self-confidence to perform a task.

Placed in the right environment with supportive people around them, such people can and do not only function well, they thrive. The issue then becomes finding such workplaces that have the right combination of supportive co-workers and management; where the culture is one of building up each other and people are truly valued as the most important resource the organization has.

It’s also easy to understand why people would try their best to go about concealing their lack of self-worth and low self-esteem. They certainly don’t want pity, nor do they want to be viewed as broken or fragile; even if from another’s point of view fragile they are. The last thing they want to is to be labelled as weak and vulnerable. So disclosing and sharing their self-doubt with respect to their abilities could cost them jobs at interviews, or opportunities for advancement when working and looking to make an internal move within an organization.

I find that low self-esteem is often deeply rooted in people who have been belittled and put down over long periods of time by others in positions of trust and authority; people who held meaningful places in their lives. It could be parents who said their children weren’t smart enough, strong enough, good enough for years. Then it could also be an abusive partner that preyed on them with the message, “You’re nothing without me” or, “You’ll never amount to anything”. Hear these kind of messages enough and you can understand why a person might just come to believe them.

It is of critical importance therefore that we all then become good caretakers of those around us. We do this when we extend thanks for work performed, acknowledge the good work of others around us or just check in with how someone is doing. It can be a genuine compliment on some action a person is taking, a word of appreciation for help received; small things perhaps but each one building on another. The cumulative impact of these small gestures can and does have a remarkable effect on long-term change for the better.

But to you…

You’ve got this nagging self-doubt about what you’re capable of and the fear of living up to what others expect from you. You fear failure; even the appearance of failure. You wonder about the implications of that and how that might alter what others think of you and what you don’t need is further proof that you aren’t up to what needs doing. You might be thinking it’s best not to try at all because you’re likely to fail and then what? More evidence that ‘they’ were right all along…

May I tell you that you need not live up to others expectations. Yes employers do have expectations of their employees, and just like everyone else, you want to do your best to meet those expectations. Start with work that has a high likelihood of success. As you master the basics and string together small victories and successes, you’re personal confidence will improve. If you look around with an objective eye, you’ll see every around you has their ups and downs, success and challenges. Some of us actually have the most spectacular fails but look and see how they still have the respect of those around them and still go on breathing and working; as will you.

We all have our own self-doubts; times when we call in professionals, excuse ourselves from participating because we are out of our areas of expertise. Likewise we all stretch ourselves just a little at times to take on new challenges to find out what we are capable of and grow.

Rebuilding your own self-worth, self-esteem and coming to realize your contributions are valued as are you as a person make take time. It is strength to share your feelings with someone you trust, and that can make all the difference.

Replaced When You’re A Top Perfomer

When an employer decides to part ways with an employee, it’s typically when the employee is underperforming; they fail to meet quota’s, miss too much time away from work or their behaviour is problematic. I suspect most of us would agree that these reasons lend justification when the parting comes. However, what is less immediately understood is why an employer would remove an employee from their position when they are excelling; performing at a high level.

Think it doesn’t happen? Well of course it does and furthermore, it’s not a bad thing. It’s often in the best interest of not only the company but the employee themselves. “Surely not” I can hear you thinking. “How could dismissing an employee who is performing at a high level of excellence be in the best interest of the employee themselves?”

Well, re-read my opening paragraph and you’ll notice I never said the employee was being dismissed at all. No, I said the employer might remove an employee from their position. The difference is significant and not just a play on words. Dismissing an employee means the employee and the employer part ways. Removing an employee from their position leaves open the possibility that the employee is retained by the employer but put into a new position; a position that makes better use of that employees knowledge, experience and qualifications. So yes, it can be in the best interests of the employer and the employee.

From an employers perspective, the worst time to replace an employee is when they are performing badly. This is the typical time when people are replaced not of their own choosing of course. You see the employer has a problem that can’t be allowed to continue in this case. There’s pressure to find the right replacement, someone with a better attitude, appropriate skills and who can quickly address the immediate needs of the company so production can return to full capacity.

The best time to replace an employee? An interesting way to look at things I admit, and not one the typical worker thinks much about. The best time to replace an employee is when things are running efficiently, there’s no crisis at hand, production is high, morale is good. As for the employee themselves, the employer; (the good employer I should say) sizes up the employee and while they appreciate the good work they do, wants to retain the employee over the long-term and seeks ways to both provide new personal challenges for them and seeks to leverage their excellence the best way they can to benefit more people in the organization.

In other words, if you’re doing great work, your employer might just want to put you in a position to best spread that performance excellence around, hoping to capitalize on the chance you’ll influence others to work similarly. This new work could result in a promotion, or a change in work duties to keep you stimulated, keep you motivated and satisfy your own needs for creativity or change.

Now not everyone realizes they need change when to those around them it’s obvious. Change is neither inherently good or bad, yet many people hear the word change and feel a rise in their own anxiety level. “Change? Oh, I don’t think I’m ready for change”, they say. Yet change is not only necessary but sometimes highly desirable. Many professional athletes reignite their careers and take their performance to new heights when they are traded to another team. They may not have wanted or asked for the change, but quickly adjust out of necessity to meeting new teammates, putting on a different sweater and learning how to contribute with their new co-workers.

An employer may as I say have an employees best interests at heart when they take a top performer out of their comfort zone and put new challenges before them. Perhaps an employer sees a bigger picture here; looks at past employees who excelled in their jobs but who, left too long in the same position, started to rot away. By moving the top performer around, they just might lend their expertise and improve performance in a long-standing low performance area, or they might have to take on the new responsibilities that come with a promotion.

The trick for an employer is to sell not only the employee affected but also the other workers affected by the change on the positive implications of such a move. If a great employee has a severe aversion to change; perhaps their one weak area, the intended reward could backfire. The high performance employee might be adversely impacted and a drop in productivity occurs in the short-term. Don’t explain the move to co-workers and they might get the wrong message; perform at your best and the company will move you to a job you didn’t ask for.

Not all leaders in an organization work on the top floors of the office towers; some of the best leaders are the people on factory floors with their shirt sleeves rolled up, steel-toed boots scuffed up and broad smiles on their faces. Being in a position of authority does not a leader make. It’s an intelligent organization that realizes leaders are needed at every level and so are top performers.

Perform to the best of your ability; see where it takes you. When you make yourself replaceable for the best reasons, opportunity may come knocking.



Elevating Performance

There’s room for improvement when it comes to your customer service performance and it’s in your own best interests to do better. Whether you want to hang on to your present job, gain respect from peers, are hoping for a promotion or want to feel better about the work you do, now is the time to rearrange your priorities and make customer service number one.

Do you find yourself thinking someone in your workplace should be reading this? Fine; share with them. However, name the person who is proving such superior customer service that there is no room for improvement whatsoever. Those who provide the very best customer service are always striving to offer more, do what they currently do better, and their biggest fear is not doing enough. Those that provide mediocre customer service seldom if ever worry about elevating their own performance.

Think about your own experiences when you’re the customer. Whether in a store, at the Doctor’s, dealing with the person who picks up your garbage or talking to the Newspaper Carrier, you can tell when you get great service vs. poor or even average service. When there’s a problem with the service you receive, often a senior employee assigned to address your concerns will ask point-blank, “What could we do to make things right?” At this point, you find yourself sharing with the person your expectations, and the gulf between those expectations and the customer service you actually experienced determine your degree of dissatisfaction.

Now think about what you would expect if you were the customer experiencing the level of service you currently provide. Would you be thrilled, happy or dissatisfied if someone provided the same service as you currently provide? That is certainly one way to evaluate your own performance. There is of course another way to measure your performance that is much more personal; your moral compass. Your moral compass is something you carry with you every day and it’s always there, indicating whether your service was exemplary, good, average, underperforming or flat-out poor.

Allow me to use myself as an example, because like you, I too have a moral compass that I carry with me day in day out. When I sit down with someone who comes to a resume workshop, the first thing I know is that they didn’t come expecting to leave with a resume. You may think I made a typing mistake there but I assure you I didn’t. No they don’t come expecting to leave with a resume; they come expecting to leave with a great resume. No one walks in and says, “Can you just throw something together – it doesn’t even have to be good.” Their name is at the top of the page; this is their personal marketing document, and I’m the resume professional. The term professional dictates that I act in a professional way and do the very best I’m capable of – no less.

If I were to do a rush job, say because my colleagues invited me to go to the local coffee shop and I put our relationship ahead of this client and their resume, I’m clearly not doing my best. My moral compass would swing around in another direction and point to ‘poor’ in terms of my service to this person. While they might not have the knowledge or skill to know the difference in the quality of their resume, I certainly do.

There are many people who completely ignore their moral compass of course. They could care less about what they know to be customer service excellence. They strive for customer service mediocrity. “Let me do the least I can to keep my job but I expect to be paid the same as the best of my peers. I just don’t see why they push themselves to do more when less gets you just as far.” What I’m pointing out here of course is a poor attitude. Do you see yourself or someone you work with like this?

Now those that don’t need this post are likely providing great customer service already; well done. The people who under-perform on a regular basis may indeed recognize themselves, but shock of shocks won’t feel any inclination to make any changes in their performance; after all it’s probably break time. That’s sad for their customers of course and the businesses that employ them.

However, let’s be optimistic here and believe that at least some of those who could and should elevate their customer service do want to improve and provide a better experience for those they serve. It’s the little things you could do. Treat customers just as you yourself would like to be treated – as if they were in full possession of the knowledge you have. You can tell when you’re doing your best and when you’re under-performing and doing the minimum required.

Give the customer your full attention. If they are right in front of you, focus on them, look at them, smile and hear them out. If you work on an assembly line and never see the actual customer who will end up with your product, picture them buying it and expecting a defect-free product. Do your very best.

The best provide superior customer service because it’s the right thing to do. Customers and employers have every right to demand and keep the best. Elevate your performance; heed your moral compass.

Superstars In Your Workplace

In almost every organization you can categorize employees as being weak, average, good, very good and then you’ll have your superstars. Do you admire those people who are the best of the best or do you find you resent their excellence. What does that say about you?

It’s reasonable to expect that employers strive to hire the best, train their existing employees to be the best and reward the best. After all, not many entrepreneurs set out to set up a company with a goal of hiring sub-par employees and encourage them to strive for mediocrity.

Superstar employees work with a philosophy that goes, “What more can I do?” while poor employees work with a philosophy that goes, “What more can the company do for me?” If you are the kind of employee that goes about your work striving to be better – whatever better translates to in the course of your work, you like where this blog is going. On the other hand, if you’re the weak link in the chain, just doing the barest required of you to keep your job, you’re likely no longer reading, or shrugging your shoulders while muttering, “Whatever…”.

In order for organizations to thrive, the people working in those same organizations have to thrive. Why shouldn’t an employer want their employees to be the very best they can be? The best of these organizations put people in positions of leadership where they can positively influence others. These leaders assess talent and when they identify people’s needs, they design training for those people as a way of giving them every opportunity to improve.

Let’s face it, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Your job-related weaknesses present you with a choice; improve or be moved. I think the best fit is when a company’s needs and an employees skills, interests and experience fit those same needs. If you find yourself terminated from your employment due to performance issues, it may be in the most positive sense, that the fit just wasn’t there. You’re skills might be adequate, but your enthusiasm for the work wasn’t there. You may have had the right attitude, but the expertise required to perform requires someone with a higher education, more experience etc. There’s nothing to be ashamed with in that kind of departure.

Say we look in on two people working in an automotive department performing oil changes, checking brakes etc. When the cars are rolling in both are quite good at performing their jobs. It’s when there are lulls during the day, 20 minutes here and there that we see a difference. While one employee makes himself busy cleaning his tools and replacing his diminished inventory of parts, the other employee is making himself busy brewing a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. Sure there’s no cars, but which one is the employer getting better value from? One’s an all-star, the other an average performer.

Go to any mall and you can stand in the centre court and observe staff in stores performing very differently. Some staff may be idly standing at their registers chatting away about their lives, their problems, their plans for the evening. Another employee will be seen to be folding clothing, straightening up what customers have mixed up, dusting, getting replacement stock on the floor, maybe calling customers whose special orders have arrived. Again, you see the average and the superstar.

Would it be fair to dock the pay of the employees who are standing around doing nothing to improve the business? Would they feel hard done by and complain, “What do you expect me to do? There’s no customers in the store!” (I’m not advocating docking pay of such employees by the way, just citing that possibility). Such employees not only don’t add to the value or reputation of the store, they actually detract from it. Potential customers are put off by self-absorbed employees who feel their continued conversations are of more importance than acknowledging customers.

Imagine your company announces it’s all-star roster if you will; the best of the best. You come to work and hear the announcement over the PA system: “From Accounting, a perennial superstar and winner of the employee-of-the-month award 2 month’s running, Mary Anne. Give it up for Omar in sales who as a rookie improved on last weeks sales by 7%! Way to go Omar!” No one is going to make an announcement that goes, “Congratulations to Juanita  whose sales have flat-lined for the sixth consecutive week!”

Now of course we don’t all want the limelight, we don’t want the fanfare. No issue there. However, employers do want the employees who perform the work they pay them for to be fully engaged, interested in improving, striving to excel both as employees and as individuals.

Let me wrap up with a suggestion. If you aren’t striving to be the best you can be and have flat-lined, take action now to save yourself. Re-ignite some passion for the work you do and invest yourself in training and improvement. Alternatively, look for other work that will stimulate you in a new and different way so you can excel one way or the other. This other work might be with a new company or in a new role.

Every decision you make carries consequences. If you fail to better yourself, you may find you’re not only left off the all-star roster, you’re dropped from the team.



Excellence In Trying Times Rewarded

Two retail employees who are soon to be out of a job demonstrated friendly, knowledgeable service last night while helping my wife and I. When they have every reason to be bitter and let their mounting stress show, they each made a choice instead to be the best they could be. What happened next? I found myself in a position to reward those attributes and give back.

Let me first take you back to my drive into work yesterday morning. On CBC radio there was a short story where an employee agreed to have his feelings shared as long as someone else’s voice was used and his name not mentioned. He talked of low morale, people concerned for each other, couples soon to be both unemployed, he himself planning on buying a home that now wouldn’t happen etc. Employees are quitting outright and everyone is job searching. Tough times for sure and possibly a cancerous setting to work in.

Okay so my wife and I are shopping along with all the other vultures, err…shoppers, looking for the big bargains promised. We actually showed up to buy a cube freezer and bar fridge for the basement we are renovating. As it turns out we couldn’t see if they were in fact on sale down that particular aisle, and so it became necessary to look for an employee. As I went looking down the aisles, I wondered what kind of reaction I’d get because they were hard to locate, probably in demand and might be exasperated with the sudden flood of people in the store to scavenge when we all apparently stayed away in droves causing the stores to close.

I found two women who were in the process of concluding a conversation with another customer. One of these looked to be in her twenties and the other in her fifties. As they turned their attention to me, I asked about the items and if they were in fact on sale as no sign could be found in that area. “Well let’s go find out” said the older woman and all three of us headed over to find out.

As we walked over, I said to them, “Sorry to hear about your jobs ending, and I understand you’ve been told not to say anything negative.” The older woman smiled, gave me a knowing wink and didn’t say a bad thing. “Well”, she said, we’re just trying to do our best under the circumstances.”

When we got to the two items, the younger of the two scanned the items, told us they were both on sale (only 10% unfortunately) and then we were told if we decided we wanted them, they could call one of the guys with a dolley to help get them to the front check out. I indicated we wanted them and she called for help.

It was at this moment my wife started talking with the older woman and saying how sorry she was to hear about the situation. That left me with the younger employee. “So what are your plans when the store shuts down?” I asked. “Well, I had been hoping to stay here for a long time and earn enough to head back to school and get more education. I’ve got a degree but I want to be a Professor so I need to get my masters. I might just decide to backpack around Europe though and look for work wherever I am and do the poor trip thing.”

Ever thought of getting help from an Employment Counsellor for example?” I asked, knowing full well that business cards with that exact job title were in my left pants pocket. “Well I live in a small town and there aren’t really any jobs there, so I’d have to drive, but my mom is going to need her car back if I haven’t got a job so I’m stuck.” She was right by the way; the town she named is little more than a dozen streets branching off a main road and the employment opportunities are next to nothing.

At this point, my wife and the other employee had rejoined the two of us and I asked the older woman what her plans were after the store closed and she was out of work. Her answer was that she really hadn’t thought that far and it wasn’t apparently because she was in denial but it appeared more like she was trying to just focus on the job for the moment.

At this point I said I was in a position to make them an offer, and I pulled out the business cards and gave them one, stating that because they had such positive attitudes in trying times and provided good attentive customer service, I’d be happy to help them craft a resume and more free of charge. “Really?” said the older of the two. “Sure, why not?”

This story could be about me and doing a good deed but it isn’t. This story is really about two people who have not only good customer service skills but more importantly solid work ethics which govern how they perform under trying circumstances. Sometimes, good things happen to good people when it is most needed and least expected.

So if you find yourself in a fix, remember that’s when your character is revealed. And if by chance you can help somebody, seize that opportunity to do so.

Overcoming Trepidation Part 2

In short, the answer is yes. If you haven’t got a clear idea of that to which I refer, I’m following up on my blog of yesterday, in which I shared the fear, anxiety and excitement of performing a guitar/singing performance in front of my co-workers.

So the question some folks asked me in reply to that post was, “So how did it go? I hope there is a follow-up.” And that’s why I start today’s blog by saying that yes things went well and I did overcome this trepidation.

Gayle Draper who is a valued connection of mine picked up in my post that by sharing my story and illustrating the steps to overcoming my own fears, other people and specifically my own clients can transfer my process to overcoming their own fears. Gayle is like that; insightful. And make no mistake, she is spot on in her summation, otherwise it’s just a nice little story.

So to share what happened, I was fortunate first of all to have had the responsibility of teaching a class all morning on learning computer basics. I shared with the class what I’d be doing at lunch time and what I had done to prepare myself leading up to the performance: getting into the empty room to play myself days before, practicing with three women who were singing along with me, and then growing in confidence as a few passers-by over that period remarked how nice we sounded.

The setting was a staff appreciation luncheon, which based on the time of year leading up to Christmas day, would involve some music as entertainment. First up was a colleague of mine who played 5 songs on his accordion. Some we knew, some we didn’t but it was nice to hear his playing and discover his talent in the process. Then it was time for our little quartet to step up.

So there I was sitting with the music in front of me and my guitar on my knees. For some reason I can’t fathom at the moment, I notice the three of these ladies accompanying me are not standing beside me as I’d expect but moved slightly back and behind me. Then it dawned on me that they were having a little bit of doubt themselves and were more comfortable behind me and standing up against the wall. The second thing I immediately noticed was the chatter of co-workers in the room and not the absolute stillness of the room when we had been practicing and no one but us four was in it. That was my clue to play louder than I’d practiced in order to signal we were beginning.

So for the first song, we launched into Silent Night. In no time, the room stilled, all those eyeballs turned our way, and I sunk my eyes onto the music on the table in front of me. Sure I could have looked up along the way and looked directly into what I’d envisioned and hoped would be smiling faces and kind eyes, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to be distracted and miss a line or hit a wrong chord because I couldn’t find the page again, so I kept the eyes focused on the music.

At the end of the song, we got some claps and an assortment of positive comments. Now we moved on to the second song and I acknowledged that I was still breathing and no one had left or appeared to have stuffed napkins in their ears to block out terrible singing or guitar playing. This would be the number where I’d sing solo the John Lennon part of Happy Xmas, and the three of them would be the refrain and chorus sung by Yoko Ono and a choir.

So there I was singing along when something unexpected happened that I had to overcome mid-song. My right heel had been elevated to keep the guitar at the height I wanted and suddenly it was going up and down on its own due to the adrenalin of the moment. So I put the heel flat on the floor, adjusted to the drop in height of the guitar and carried on. That was just weird, but no one knew what had just happened. Odd.

In the end, things worked out great. Apparently some of the staff even started welling up and had started to cry. Really? To provoke an emotional response is more about the song, the lyrics and the meaning of it than the actual performance of it, or were they crying because the sound itself was painful? I’ll choose to believe the prior.

In our workplaces, we get opportunities to step out of our normal comfort zones periodically. It could be heading up a committee, making a speech as someone retires, making a presentation, or leading a training workshop for the first time. That nervous excitement we feel is good for us, keeps us alive and it’s good to stretch ourselves and learn new skills.

In my own situation, were I asked to play some other time, I’ve got one success upon which to build, and everything starts with one small step. Another benefit is that if others see me outside something I’d normally do and risk it all in front of them, maybe they can be motivated to overcome their own challenges and risk a bit too.

Working For A Tip

One custom that many people have is to provide a monetary tip for a waitress/waiter in a restaurant after having received your bill. Some establishments go so far as to actually build it right into the bill itself, to presumably save you the customer the trouble of having to figure out how much you should provide for the service. This practice would appear on the surface to predetermine your satisfaction level with the service to be provided, and your willingness or ability to pay the gratuity or extra charge. Interesting.

So following this logic, if you as a customer sat down and advised the Server that you would not be providing a monetary tip at the end of the meal, does this imply or give the Server the green light to provide anything less than their best service? Should someone else at the table indicate they will be tipping receive better food, a friendlier service, more attention?

Looking outside the restaurant industry, consider why if the same logic is used, other professions that provide personal service don’t receive tips. As an example, I once had a job selling shoes. Now I was trained to welcome customers, determine what they were looking for, observe their normal walking pattern, examine their existing shoes for wear patterns, measure their feet both sitting and standing, provide multiple shoes for consideration, explain features and benefits including structure, composition, durability, performance, style, materials, longevity, widths, lasts, comfort, go over treatments and protection and then how to close the sale and leave the customer feeling valued and happy. My involvement was extensive and yet there was never any tip provided for my time, my knowledge, my expertise. I can honestly tell you that I spent much more time providing a service than many Servers  did with me over the years. I also was providing the customer with a product they would use for a very long time on a daily basis that would help or hinder their joints, muscles and comfort. The impact would last much longer than the consumption of a single meal no matter how elaborate or well prepared. I never asked for a tip, nor received one, and I made at that time a dollar more than minimum wage.

Here’s a way to get ahead and help your career. Whether you expect to get a tip or not, treat each customer with whom you interact as if they were your very best customer. No matter how many clients you have, when you are dealing with that one individual, act like they are the ONLY client you have at that moment. When you speak with a customer, look at them directly, and when you are listening, give them your full attention. Be efficient, be polite, be courteous and professional. Do your best to provide customer service excellence.

While some shoe stores are turning into self-serve establishments, just as gas stations have evolved into over the years, if you are a customer that gets offered some help in selecting your footwear or having your gas pumped or window washed etc., express your appreciation. It isn’t necessary to provide a financial tip, but what would really be appreciated is some verbal acknowledgement of thanks for the employees time, their knowledge and their level of service. I’ve sometimes gone to an employees Manager and passed on my praise for their friendly service.

You may be in a profession where tips are totally unheard of. I would suggest you still conduct yourself professionally and hold yourself to high standards. If you are in a profession where tips are more common, it would be wise to work on a daily basis as if the tip was truly a bonus rather than an expectation. When you expect a tip and it doesn’t come, or it’s not quite as much as you feel you deserve, you’ll only be disappointed if you are truly just working for tips. Imagine if Restaurant owners actually paid their staff a decent hourly wage and the practice of tipping was eliminated. Not only is this not a crazy idea, it is the normal everyday practice in most other professions around the world. And I’d argue there isn’t a single job in the world that at some point, doesn’t impact on customer satisfaction.

So here’s a ‘tip’; perform your role to the best of your ability and just like cream, you’ll rise to the top. This could mean getting a promotion with your current employer, a raise or it could also result in a job offer coming your way from a customer who sees the value in having you working for them and an unexpected offer comes your way!