I have two pieces of jewelry that are unique in that they were designed and made for me by a master jeweler.
Recently I was in a petrol station and the attendant commented on the jewelry. This was not unusual as I receive many comments when I wear the pieces. It was his genuine interest in not only the pieces but what inspired me to have such unique jewelry made for me that got my attention. He really wanted to understand me! In the end, I had to tell him that I needed to leave as I was running late for an appointment.
My partner and I regularly eat at the same coffee shop and we know some of the wait staff. We were attended to by a person we had never seen before recently and she had an interesting accent. My partner asked her where she was from. When she replied “Estonia” we began a conversation around traveling and her experiences in Australia. She was genuinely excited and grateful that we had shown an interest in her, beyond ordering our breakfast.
My favorite thought leader, Seth Godin, posted recently about the 4 TED imperatives and how they can also be applied beyond TED. With the previous two stories swimming around in my head, I was drawn to imperative number one, “Be Interested.” You see, I don’t think many people are that interested beyond their own wants and needs.
Perhaps with so much information so readily available we have become less interested as we scan items without really engaging with them, rush to get projects completed on time and see people as resources rather than human beings. How many times do you stop and just talk with someone? How often do you ask interesting questions of a colleague? Do you know the major challenge that is facing your child/partner/colleague/manager at the moment?
Think about a typical day and how much time you spend “telling” compared with “asking.” If you spend the majority of your time telling, consider what you might be missing out on. This is as relevant for the workplace as it is for your home life.
Ask questions, be interested. Life is much more meaningful that way.
Brand matters. It really does. At the beginning of the year, I accepted a learning and development role with a major not-for-profit brand here in Australia.
I happily took the significantly reduced pay to work for an organization that had such a fantastic public profile. As I started my role, I was filled with pride and wanted to let everyone know that I had ditched the corporate world for a kinder, better place to work.
That lasted about 3 weeks.
I then began to realize that something was horribly wrong. I remember at my induction being somewhat overwhelmed by the guiding principles of the organization. There they were on the wall in the boardroom – large plaques with explanatory notes of each principle underneath. A significant amount of time was spent explaining these during the induction process and I wondered how the principles would be upheld internally.
As I said, it took about 3 weeks for me to find out that the principles were not upheld very robustly internally. In fact, if I am brutally honest, this organization has a pretty poor track record of treatment of its internal people. This shows in the retention rate (I won’t name a figure here but the number of people who resign in the first year is extremely high) and the general day to day conduct of some internal employees.
I personally experienced some of this first hand, where I had some very challenging and highly unprofessional interactions with several people. The end result of these experiences was my resignation after 6 months in the role. It doesn’t really end there though.
At the moment I am still grieving for the organization I thought I had joined, I am coming to terms with being let down by people who I assumed were better than they turned out to be. The whole experience has left a bitter taste and has impacted the way I see the not-for-profit sector.
While I am professional, amongst my friends I am not exactly singing the praises of the organization I worked for and I would never recommend the organization as an employer of choice.
My point in telling this story is to draw attention to organizational branding and to share that it is possible for an organization to have a brilliant external brand while internally they are struggling. This is unfortunate for those potential employees who are drawn to an organization based on its external brand (which would be most of us).
Now, consider your own organization and think about the following questions:
- How do your external clients see your organization?
- How do your internal employees see your organization?
- Do your internal and external brands match?
What do the answers have to say for your organization? How would current and past employees answer the same questions?
Photo credit iStockphoto
Here’s how my work life balance operates: I work 5 days a week and have my life on the weekends.
In short, the balance is really in favor of the work part.
The only time I had real work life balance was when I didn’t work full time. I was able to choose when and how I worked and I always arranged my work around my life. Now that I have returned to full time work, I fit my life around my work.
I don’t know how to achieve true work life balance in the full time workforce today. How can you have a life during the week if you are expected to be at your desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days per week? I’m exhausted when I get home each day and the last thing I want to do is go out or exercise (well, I never want to exercise but that’s another story) or do anything except what I absolutely have to do to get ready for the next day.
What does work life balance mean anyway? What percentage of work versus life are you supposed to have to be balanced? Who ever decided that it takes 8 hours a day to perform your role satisfactorily? Why is the working week allocated 5 days? You see, words like “flexible working hours” and “work life balance” are just catchy terms to get you thinking that your organization is a proud supporter of your life. Most often, they are not.
I’ve come to the conclusion that, on a personal level, I cannot have work life balance when I choose to work full time. So, my week days are dedicated to work and my weekends are for living.
That’s the best balance I can get.
Photo credit iStockphoto
“You would cry too if it happened to you”
Yes, I might, but I would do it in private because overt emotional reactions to situations do not belong in the workplace.
Here in Queensland, Australia we have had disastrous flooding recently. The situation has played out like two sides of a coin; one side is full of loss, grief, pain and disbelief; whilst the other side of the coin has seen some inspirational leadership by our female Prime Minister and Premier.
Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland (pictured), has been praised for her quick response, rational approach, logical actions, detailed understanding and regular communication with the people affected. The Premier delivered regular press conferences throughout the crisis where she briefed the people of Queensland in a calm, controlled way.
One recent press conference, amidst the worst of the devastation, she almost broke down. Her voice cracked and her eyes filled with tears as she talked about the strength of Queenslanders. She managed to compose herself quickly and continued. Anna Bligh later apologized for her emotional reaction but I think it only strengthened her position in the eyes of the state. It showed that she really did care.
This brings me to my point – overt emotions are only ever OK in the face of an absolute emergency in a work situation. Any other time, it is never OK to cry, shout or show any other type of overt emotional response in a work situation.
If you do cry openly at work it is likely to be interpreted in the following ways:
- She can’t cope with the situation
- She could never be a strong leader or role model
- She can’t manage her stress levels
- She cannot be relied upon
- She is not up to the task
Add to this the fact that people will treat you differently after your outburst (they will be reluctant to say or do anything for fear you will get upset) and it is just not worth it.
Consider this. A male colleague shouts at a team member when he gets angry, stressed, or tired. He lets his emotions take over. A woman who cries in front of a team member when she gets angry, stressed, or tired. She lets her emotions take over. The situations are not much different yet, as women, we often seem to be much less accepting of shouting than we are of crying. I wonder why?
As women, we cannot afford to cry at work and as people we cannot afford to display any overt emotional reaction to workplace issues and incidents. We do ourselves a huge disservice if we do. If you have to let off steam, I recommend the bathroom as a great place to do just that!
So, how do you manage your emotions so you avoid outbursts? Well, that’s another post!