The Impersonal Workplace Is About You | Making It Different

It’s no secret: The business world can be cold. The greater the competition, the higher the stress, and the tighter the budgets, the more we feel it. Job demands expand, the pace increases, and the time for building relationships shrinks. At least, that’s how it seems.

How much do you care?  

High workloads get us to hunker down, tune out distractions, and grind out our work. The job gets to be all about us when the pressure’s on. We tend to block out our coworkers, customers, and sometimes even the boss when the heat’s on.

Work can either separate us or bring us together. It’s our choice.

A lot of negative things can happen when we let the work consume us. We often:

  • Find fault with coworkers and criticize their contributions
  • Dismiss questions and keep people at arm’s length
  • Become impatient with indecision by the boss, coworkers, and customers
  • Treat complaints as interruptions rather than insights
  • Act rudely or miss opportunities to provide great service
  • Neglect the needs of others who rely on us 

There are plenty of companies with policies and practices that don’t make their employees feel valued. But that isn’t the majority.

We’re the ones who humanize our workplace. The way we treat the people in our paths every day creates the work environment.

I know that you’ve met people at work who always:

  • Have a smile
  • Find something upbeat to say
  • Perform an unexpected act of kindness
  • Pitch in when you’re struggling
  • Laugh at their own mistakes 

They act this way with everyone. You and I can and should do this too. Think of the difference that we’d make. Then imagine how it would be if everyone around us did that too!

So, what about our coworkers? 

Most everyone we work with lives a life with burdens. Few of us are immune. Some bear heavier challenges than we do; some less. Some carry their burdens more easily than others. But all of us, at some time, need a lift!

That means we are never without an opportunity to lighten someone’s load. I don’t mean engaging in protracted conversations or becoming a confidant. That’s not appropriate at work.

Instead, it’s about taking a moment to acknowledge a need or to express support. Most of the time, all we need is to be noticed, valued, and validated. It’s simply about kindness!

A lot of good feeling came my way when I:

  • Engaged in grateful conversation with a new customer who, I learned, had just returned from Ground Zero a month after 9/11 where he’d volunteered his time as a forensic dentist identifying victims 
  • Took a little time to talk to a disheveled customer whom others shunned because of his appearance and awkward manner 
  • Praised the work of my support staff, encouraging their interest in learning new skills and helping them feel positive about themselves 
  • Showed patience with employees when things went awry, said funny things to break tension, always looked for the upside, and helped keep things in perspective 

These actions don’t compromise productivity, even when it’s crunch time. They are simply small gestures of humanity and kindness that ultimately energize people, creating a climate conducive to getting more work done right.

The concept of “paying it forward” applies to the way we treat others. We need to remember how it felt when someone was kind to us and give that gift to someone else. 

We make the difference! 

Leading by example includes the way we interact with the people around us.  Anyone of us can brighten a dark climate at work. We just have to want to. No one can stop us from being kind, warm, optimistic, and caring. Our business fitness reflects our ability to bring a genuine regard for others to the workplace. Spreading a spirit of kindness creates a powerful legacy! Please let that be yours.

Do you have a story where an act of kindness at work made a difference? What more can we do to humanize the workplace? Thanks.


A Must Do! Career Due Diligence |Your Life Is Your Business

We spend hours pouring over newspaper inserts to find the best clothing buys and grocery store coupons. We spend hours Googling information about vacation spots and fitness regimens. All, before we commit.

Shouldn’t we do this for our career choices too? 

Ask any high school student facing college what s/he plans to major in and you’ll hear: English, econ, accounting, pysch. 

Then ask, “Why?” Typical answers:

  • “It’s my favorite subject.”
  • “I get good grades in that subject.”
  • “I want to be an accountant [doctor, teacher, marketer]….”
  • “My parents said that would be a good major for me.”

The problem isn’t these answers: It’s the questions left unanswered like:

  • What careers paths/jobs will that major open for you?
  • Do those paths match what you want from your life? 

A college education today is still believed to be a “leg up” to better jobs, mainly  higher pay and promotions. It doesn’t necessarily mean better for your happiness, satisfaction, or health. So a lot is riding on your major and the jobs attached to it.

Why due diligence? Because it’s your life! 

Students pick majors with romanticized notions about the great jobs they’ll get by being accomplished students. They never talk to anyone currently doing those entry level or supervisory jobs to get a behind-the-scenes look.

I once coached a graduate from a prestigious university whose major was criminal justice. Just before graduation, she realized that starting jobs in her field meant street assignments. No way! So she stayed on, switching to journalism until she realized that starting reporter jobs meant evenings and weekends chasing stories. She switched again to English lit and graduated with no direction, huge tuition bills, and no viable career path.

Hard to believe she didn’t investigate  those job realities the second and third time? It just didn’t occur to her and she’s not alone.

I’ve also worked with many, career-weary adults who took a long time to admit that they had invested years in a career that never fit them. Each one had to either reinvent him/herself or start over. Even with their own experiences behind them, they don’t teach their children how to avoid the same mistakes. Why? Because no one showed them how.

Don’t get me wrong. Every career is an adventure. That’s good. What isn’t good is committing to a career path blindly. Due diligence helps minimize painful disappointment or reasons to start over. You can’t control for everything, but you can avoid lot of missteps.

You need to do this! 

Whether you are a student, an entry level or veteran employee, each time you say to yourself: “I want to be a [job title]:”

  • Write down the name(s) of 5 people in your family, community or among your friends, who are doing that job or one like it
  • Ask them to spend 15 minutes explaining to you what they do on a daily basis
  • Ask what they like best or least, what skills or education they needed, what it takes to get promoted, and who else you can talk to
  • See whether or not their work environment fits you
  • Ask yourself: Can I see myself in that line of work for a long time? 

(This is called information interviewing, a technique credited to Richard N. Bolles, who’s book, What Color Is Your Parachute?, gives the details. Find more on line. See, it’s all out there for the Googling!)

CBS contributor, Ben Stein, says, “The giants I have worked with in my life… found the thing that they were very, very good at, and did that with extraordinary focus.” Then he adds: “…harmonize your goals with your talents.”

That’s big! If your goals aren’t rooted in a realistic understanding of what the job market is all about, harmony is harder to come by. When you’re business fit, you’ve achieved the understanding and insights you need to build your best career. Let the explorations begin!

Have a story about a student who isn’t making the connection between his/her studies and the job market? Any ideas why students don’t explore the real story behind the kinds of jobs they’re after? Your insights can make a big difference!