Thursday, October 31, 2013

At-Work Balance: Relationships Matter

As I mentioned last week, we spend more time at work than we do with our families. It stands to reason that, just like your family, there will be people that you like and 'just click' with and then there will be others you'd rather not see sitting across from you at the Thanksgiving table. Plus, there are a boatload of people in the middle that don't elicit strong reactions of any kind.

Your Work Bestie
You eat lunch together. You exchange emails all day. You hang out after work. They know your family. Most importantly, they know all of your business. This is your friend and if one of you left the job the friendship will continue. Yet, this relationship looks different to outsiders who might see that kind of closeness as unprofessional. If one of you gets promoted, people will be looking for favoritism.

While breaks and lunches are your time, in other areas and at other times (during meetings, training sessions) try to keep the camaraderie to a minimum. These are not the time to share inside jokes and tales of your weekend escapades. Keep those between the two of you and off of the clock.

Your Work Frenemy
This person rubs you the wrong way. You dread even passing them in the hall. Yet, there will be times when you have to work with them. Keep it professional and respectful. Don't complain about them to other co-workers (including your bestie). Watch your body language in this person's presence. Other people notice the frown, the sighs and the eye-rolling.

This is work, so let's keep it about the work. This one could be difficult though depending on why this person is a frenemy. If the person is a work-avoider and constantly pushes their work on you and others, make their role clear and get their buy-in in writing (email) so their responsibilities are clearly defined. If this person is condescending or a hot-head, do not back down. State your position but do it without getting emotional or frustrated (that is often the reaction that person is looking for)

The Middlers
These people are not the Bestie or the Frenemy and these are the majority of the people you deal with everyday. They watch your relationships with your Frenemy and Bestie. They are there for small talk and chit-chat. While they might not even be a blip on your radar, these are the people who determine what your work reputation is like. They take note of your frustration with your frenemy. They overhear the personal conversations between you and your bestie. They are a silent majority.

Be courteous and professional and focus on doing your work and doing it well. Don't give them any reason to question your work ethic, your integrity or your professionalism.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Peace through The Serenity Prayer

In the month of October, each Monday, I will be writing a post on gaining peace of mind.

A cornerstone of the 12 Step program, the Serenity Prayer is simple and straight-forward; but like a lot of things that are simple to understand, it is often very difficult to apply.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

You cannot change anything but yourself. You are not responsible for or capable of changing someone else’s thought, moods, behaviors, perceptions, desires, motivations, beliefs or ideas. Yet, think about how much time we waste and how much frustration we create because we cannot accept someone else as they are. They don’t do what they think they should do so it becomes a problem.  If someone is grumpy in the morning, why get upset at their surliness? Why waste time trying to get them to change, especially if you know they’ll come around in about an hour and after they’ve had their coffee.

Most things about yourself you can change, but some things need to be accepted. You won’t be getting taller. You can’t change your race or ethnicity. You cannot change the family you were born into or the circumstances you grew up in. In fact, you can’t change the events of the past. It’s done. You can change how you perceive those events but that would take …

The courage to change the things I can

Yet, there are things you can change. Those begin with things within your control, things within yourself. You don’t have to do what you’ve always done. You can do something different. However, something different could very well mean something that opens you up to criticism or failure and that takes courage. Something different might mean stepping outside of your comfort zone and feeling awkward or making mistakes. This takes a significant level of personal bravery.

You cannot change others but you can speak up for yourself and you can offer solutions to situations that are within your control. However, your suggestions and your outspokenness might be met with hostility or even ridicule. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say anything. It does mean that you’ll have to summon the courage to do so.

The wisdom to know the difference

This is the hard part. This is the part that makes something simple in explanation, difficult in practice. What is within your control to change and what isn’t? When do you need to accept or let go and when do you need to be brave and show the determination necessary to change?

I think some of this comes with age. Because we’ve grown in different areas and in different ways, I have lost some friendships over the years. When I was younger, I tried in vain to hold on to those friendships, eventually, I had to let them go.

A lot of this wisdom comes from being open to learning from your mistakes and the events in your life. I don’t believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or wiser or better than you were before. For some, what doesn’t kill you just doesn’t kill you. However, for someone who is willing to learn and grow from there experiences, struggle can bring those qualities of strength, wisdom and betterment.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

At-Work Balance

We hear a lot about work-life balance. However, there is another form of balance that is just as important though hardly ever mentioned. I call it At Work Balance.

There are 168 hours in a week. If we only get six hours of sleep a night, we lose 42 hours. We spend about 50 hours at work (time spent at work plus time commuting to and from work and time preparing for work). And that’s not factoring in any overtime!

We spend more time working than we spend with our families. So how we conduct that time is critical.
Until androids take over the world, humans are the ones that go to work and humans are not machines (a fact often lost on those in management). Humans are social animals. We interact with coworkers, clients, vendors and customers. We make small talk. We will react positively and negatively to the personalities of others. 

At-Work Balance seeks to navigate that minefield by setting some parameters for work behavior and, more importantly, work behaviors.

Over the next few weeks I want to explore this concept from a variety of angles:
  • Workplace Relationships: You don’t want to be everyone’s best friend but at the same time you don’t want to close yourself off to the point where you alienate your co-workers.
  • Time: Using break time and lunch time wisely and taking time required to just be human.
  • Expectations: Realistic expectations for workloads and results should be shared by management and coworkers.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Realistic Expectations

In the month of October, each Monday, I will be writing a post on gaining peace of mind.

Your goals should always be slightly out of your reach … offering something for you to stress and strive for. However, they shouldn’t be so far out of your reach that you cannot possibly attain them. Unachievable goals set you up for failure and discouragement. In fact, it makes achieving any goals that much harder and having these kinds of goals wreaks havoc on your peace of mind.

I call it, The Biggest Loser Effect. On The Biggest Loser, it isn’t uncommon for people to lose five and even ten pounds in a week. So when we diet and exercise for that same week and only manage to lose just a pound (which is a healthy rate of weight loss), instead of feeling happy, we often agonize!

These people have devoted their entire days to losing weight. They work out for hours, they aren’t working, they are away from their families. Even the ones who get sent home, still have the powerful motivator of cameras chronicling their progress and the possibility of returning to the show in front of a national audience.

This is NOT the situation for you and me. We have jobs. We have lives that include cakes and cookies at work, dinners out with friends, church pot lucks and a host of social engagements, not to mention family and friends that aren’t into diet or exercise. We have busy schedules that don’t normally allow for hours of exercise every day.

Yet, we compare our success to this small, group of people who are going an extraordinary transformation with extraordinary circumstances.

You can apply The Biggest Loser Effect to any situation where you are looking at completely unrealistic expectations and wanting those kinds of results for yourself. Real life couples argue and go through rough patches. All office drama isn’t funny and inconsequential as it appears on a sitcom.

There is a quote from one of my favorite talk show host, Dennis Prager, and he is quoting a friend’s mom. She said, “The only happy people I know are people I don’t know very well.” Does this mean there are no happy people? Of course not. What it means is that truly happy people have a realistic happiness, there are still obstacles. There are still struggles but they have happiness in spite of those things. They aren’t living in paradise. They live in real life.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Me Time!

In the month of October, each Monday, I will be writing a post on gaining peace of mind.

To paraphrase a common slogan. There is an 'I' in the word time and there is also a 'ME'! So it makes sense that we can be a little selfish with our time. We make time for everything and everyone else, we need to make time for ourselves. It can be as simple as a half-hour reading a book, taking a short walk or a warm bath, having a power nap or treating yourself to a good movie. We need to make time at least once a week (and that is minimum) to do something for ourselves.

The quanitity of time isn't as important as the quality of time. To do this though, we need to stop thinking of not having time for ourselves as some sort of badge of honor. In too many case, we look at doing too much or making too many sacrifices as a good thing; it shows our dedication. Yet, not taking time to rest and rejuvenate can make you fray around the edges. Your patience is short and if this goes on for too long you become resentful of the life you want so much.

You can make some time for yourself but it involves letting go of control and the desire for perfection - delegation. Spouses, family members, friends and even older children can be given some of your responsibilities. But you need to be able to let go. Here are three suggestions to make delegation easier.

1. Communicate your expectations but give some leeway. Let your son know that a clean kitchen means a swept floor, clean counter tops, no dishes in the sink and the garbage emptied. Let him know the time frame for completing that task (every night, after dinner before bedtime).Then allow him to do those things in his own way. Don't criticize because they do things differently or in another order than you. Focus on the end result and not the means for getting there.

2. Set a realistic bar. If you look for perfection both you (the delegator) and the one doing the work (the delegatee) will just be frustrated. Have a standard that they can meet and you can be happy with.

3. Don't just delegate boring and tedious tasks. Cleaning the kitchen is never fun, but maybe planning and cooking a meal or two a week is. Give a variety of assignments.

4. Show gratitude. Let them know that you appreciate what they are doing. You don't need to gush about it or put a bumper sticker on the car that says "My daughter does her chores." But a kind and thoughful word can go a long way.

5. Make your needs known. Let family members know that you need their help so that you can carve out a little bit of time for yourself. The only way people will know what you need is if you tell them!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Learning to Let Go

In the month of October, each Monday, I will be writing a post on gaining peace of mind.

I said goodbye to my best friend less than a month ago. I also celebrated a birthday. Despite the Halle Berrys and Nace Graces of the world. At my age, it is probably time to move away from the dream of having my own kids. There are a ton of wonderful single mothers but I could never see myself choosing that route. Letting go is never easy but it is some times necessary.

No matter what I do, I cannot bring Marty back. Seeing as I'm not even dating, the chance of me having a kid are slim-to-none. So what to do now. How do I let go and move on?

I did some research and found these tips for letting go:

Accept the Truth and Be Thankful
With Marty, it's about being grateful. When it comes to kids, for me, it's more about acceptance. I am grateful for the almost 13 years of memories that I shared with Marty. He made me laugh on a daily basis! We were a good team. He added so much to my life and for that I will always be thankful. As far as kids go, I have had a wealth of incredible experiences and have been able to take advantage of a lot of amazing opportunities. I'm not sure I would have been able to do half of those things with a kid. The truth is now that I have to accept the fact that the choices I have made have led me to this point. There are other options but having my own baby, and family, the old-fashioned way isn't one of them.

Claim Ownership and Full Control Over Your Life
What happens now is up to me. It's not about anyone else. It's not about handing the reins over to someone else. If I need to let a dream die or find another one, those choices are mine and mine alone. There is no one else to blame and there is no one who can make my decisions for me.

Focus on Today
This is a big one for me. I can often get overwhelmed looking at the big picture. However, I have to remind myself that I can slow things down if I look at it one day, some times one hour at a time! I can't change what has happened and I cannot predict what will happen, all I can do is the best I can do right now!

The blog I 'borrowed' this from is a lot longer. If you'd like to read it in its entirety, click here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Marty Beach: A Life Well Lived

It's been almost three weeks since my partner of 13 years passed away. He outlasted every relationship I've ever had and he was there for me. There have been many tears over the past few weeks. He was a 9-pound dog but he had such personality and zest for life. He left a positive impact on everyone he met. He even made friends at the vet. When I'd pick him up the doctors and vet assistants would come out to say goodbye.

As I grieve his passing, I keep remembering how much he hated to see me cry. He'd watch me like a hawk because he could sense I was upset. At the first sign of a tear, he'd jump into my lap and lick the tears away! If I was writing a painful entry in my journal, he could tell. He would come over to me and put his paw on top of my right hand as if to say, "Stop writing, it's making you sad."

I think of those moments often now. I know he wouldn't want to see me sad and crying. So I remember the two of us curled up on the sofa or taking a little drive. I remember all of the silly songs I'd make up and sing to him.

The end came quickly and unexpectedly. I don't want to talk more about it because I'll start crying again. People that don't get dogs probably think I'm being silly to miss a four-legged 9-pound canine. However, I've lost my constant companion and soul mate.

They say diamonds are a girl's best friend. Forget that. I'd gladly trade the world's biggest diamond for just another hour with my Marty.