Archive for the ‘Office’ Category

Service of Some of My Best Friends Have Been Office Friends

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Photo: sheknows.com

I’ve often told the story of an office friend at my first job after college who called in sick for a week and returned to the office with a nice tan. She’d spent seven days in Florida. We worked in NYC and it was winter. I knew her plan and was relieved that the boss didn’t ask me anything about her absence or state of health. I’d never have the nerve to pull such a ruse then or now and wouldn’t have been thrilled to have to cover for her. We were close enough that we attended our respective weddings.

Melissa Dahl wrote “Why Work Friendships Can Be So Awkward” pointing first to a set of ex friends. Why?  One felt betrayed when the other voted against his proposal in a meeting. Another example: friends tired of fixing the mistakes of a pal who is terrible at his/her job.

Photo: nudge.ai

In her New York Times article Dahl quoted Rutgers associate professor of human resource management Jessica Methot, PhD, who said: “You’re co-workers first and friends second.”

Dr. Methot observed that office friends “don’t address problems they have with each other.” She found “One of the problems we see is that people who become closer with each other don’t actually communicate well. We see this with spouses really frequently—they expect the other person to read their mind and we see a watered down version of that in friendships. ‘You already know this about me, do we really need to talk about it?’”

Did any of your office friendships last after you changed jobs? Have you succeeded most easily in the workplace when you made no office friendships? Were you ever placed in an awkward spot involving an office friend? How did that impact the relationship?

 

Photo: express.co.uk

 

Service of Taking All the Credit: When Your Boss is a Glory Hog

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Photo: projid.com

I recently wrote about humble bosses. This post is about a different kind.

Many bosses don’t realize—or don’t care–that they are doing themselves a disservice in the long run to take credit for or steal their staffers’ ideas. It doesn’t cost anything to give due credit but some can’t help themselves. That was the topic of Sue Shellenbarger’s article in The Wall Street Journal, “Hey, That’s My Idea! When Your Boss Steals Your Work.”

Photo:work.chron.com

Eventually, the people who report to such a superior ask for a transfer, leave the company or save their ideas, divulging them only at an opportune moment, such as when they walk out of the office with the boss’s boss or when they substitute for the boss at a meeting.

A close cousin of this behavior is what has happened to women in meetings for generations and still does. They’ll propose an idea, nobody reacts and a few minutes later a man makes the same suggestion. At this point the team leader goes bonkers with praise and the strategy is added to the “to do” list. Joanne Lipman, author of “THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together,” addresses it.

Photo: money.usnews.com

If you’re chairman of a volunteer committee and you pull either stunt you’ll eventually find yourself to be a committee of one.

How have you handled a credit-grabbing boss? Have you manipulated such a boss into proposing something that benefited you? Do you think it’s the boss’s prerogative to take all the credit for a good idea as he/she would be given the blame should a project in the department go south?

Photo: plaidswan.com

 

Service of a Humble Boss

Monday, November 26th, 2018

Photo: medium.com

 

“I made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you won’t believe it. And I mean, you see it, but so much stronger that people can’t even believe it.”–DJ Trump on Thanksgiving 2018

In contrast to the quote above, my best bosses were humble and I was lucky to have had a few.

A standout was president of a major PR firm–he was my boss’s boss. He never stood on ceremony. If a phone rang on a secretary’s desk as he walked by and nobody else was around, he’d answer it. If a team was working into the night preparing a major presentation or award entry, he’d be editing, proofing, stapling and collating with the rest. Many of us would walk a plank for him.

Photo: thestatesman.com

Elizabeth Shellenbarger’s article, “The Best Bosses Are Humble Bosses,” backed up my experience. She wrote in The Wall Street Journal that while charm and charisma are sought by some corporations for their leaders, humility trumps those characteristics. [The best boss I describe above had these traits too.] Shellenbarger wrote: “In an era when hubris is rewarded on social media and in business and politics, researchers and employment experts say turning the limelight on humble people might yield better results.”

She reported: “Humble leaders can also be highly competitive and ambitious. But they tend to avoid the spotlight and give credit to their teams, Dr. Sherman says. They also ask for help and listen to feedback from others, setting an example that causes subordinates to do the same.” Ryne Sherman is chief science officer of Hogan Assessments that makes workplace personality tests.

Photo: no1blog.net

At Patagonia, a manager will ask the receptionists how a potential recruit treated them. Arrogance and/or self-absorption are usually deal killers.

“If you think you know which of your colleagues are humble, you could easily be wrong. Humble people don’t flaunt it. And many workers, including arrogant ones, try to be seen as humble and helpful to make a good impression, says Kibeom Lee, a psychology professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta.”

Humility and honesty are considered stable personality traits. The H factor, as it’s known, usually comes with other traits which Shellenbarger lists as sincerity, modesty, fairness, truthfulness and unpretentiousness. “The same people tend to avoid manipulating others, bending the rules or behaving in greedy or hypocritical ways.”

Photo: livescience.com

There are exceptions. Shellenbarger wrote: “Some challenges may call for a different leadership style. For example, employees facing extreme threats or intense time pressure might perform better when a leader takes a more authoritative, top-down approach, Dr. Owens says.” Bradley P. Owens is an associate professor of business ethics at Brigham Young University.

I’ve observed that some workers need to be nudged to perform and in certain industries, others might misinterpret humility for weakness.

Do you agree that the best bosses are humble? Have you had any who were or some who were arrogant and manipulative? Did either have any impact on your performance?

Photo: mindful.org

Service of Office Friends: Who Is Invited to Special Occasions?

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Photo: thoughtcatalog.com

I met some of my oldest friends at or through work. And while the article that inspired this post focused on weddings, there are many special occasions—50th birthday parties, 25th wedding anniversaries, a child’s momentous event–that might create the same dilemma: which office friends to invite when faced with constraints of a budgetary nature or of space?

The title of Sue Shellenbarger’s Wall Street Journal story “The Dreaded Wedding Decision: Which Co-Workers to Invite?” covers a lot. You spend more time on the job, shoulder to shoulder with colleagues, more than with most family and friends. It’s natural to share event plans and glitches or address family kerfuffles with these folks as you munch lunch. But who gets cut from the list: Cousin Frank and his nasty wife–which will cause a rift with your aunt and uncle and create stress for your parents–or Frieda and Fred in accounting?

Photo: one-stop-party-ideas.com

According to Shellenbarger, the reaction of one groom with 18 office friends and space for only three: “Just because you’re really cool with and close to a friend at work doesn’t mean you’re going to be cool and close in your personal life.” When a bride’s work friend told her she couldn’t wait to attend her wedding, she said: “I’m really sorry, but we have kind of a strict guest list. I hope there are no hard feelings.” There weren’t.

One bride in her story opted for fewer flowers and a less expensive dress so she could invite all 15 of her co-workers. A wedding expert shared the obvious point that you should invite the entire group if you’re inviting most of a small team of co-workers. As for inviting the boss, another expert suggested to think twice if she/he is buttoned up and your family is wild and loves to party.

Photo: excelle.monster.com

“Couples agonize over which co-workers to include and how to cushion the hurt among those they leave out. Balancing your needs without damaging important relationships requires nuance.”

One couple who worked in different departments at the same airport invited 30 guests and kept mum about their wedding. When they returned to work the bride was bombarded by co-workers with questions as to why they weren’t invited. To smooth things out she promised to invite to a housewarming party one person who would no longer speak with her.

Shellenbarger reported on a survey by The Knot of 13,000 couples which showed that guest lists shrank last year by 13 people to 136, as couples are increasingly passing on spacious banquet halls in favor of smaller venues like historic mansions or barns.

Social media postings spill the beans at work even if you don’t: Shellenbarger reported that nine out of 10 couples post engagement pictures.

Have you been in this situation or observed others who were? What is the best way to handle the stomach-wrenching dilemma if you can’t, or don’t want to, invite the entire office gang? Do you have other issues to consider if you are a manager?

Photo: historicwaynesborough.org

Service of Happy Surprises: Contango IT Will Make Your Day

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Photo: solelydevoted.net

I associate a surprise with a treat. I enjoyed both recently.

The place: The kitchen in my office

The time: Lunch

One of my office friends was making a cup of coffee. As I walked past him to get my daily seltzer I mumbled that I was so much in the mood for lemonade but would settle for the cold fizzy water I’d stored in the fridge.

As I returned to my space a few of the others in the office were milling about, putting food in the microwave, washing a dish or walking down the hall.

Sean Galvin, service coordinator, Contango IT

Around 4 pm Sean Galvin, a service coordinator fairly new at Contango IT, one of the other businesses in the office, walked into my room, put a bottle of Tropicana lemonade on my desk, didn’t say a word and left. Imagine that! The surprise made me so happy. The lemonade was delicious.

Contango is a leader in IT consulting, wiring/infrastructure and custom programming–a pioneer in cloud computing since 2008 with a client list of household names. This growing company is staffed with young and bright, informed millennials with a range of extracurricular interests making them fun to speak with after hours. Danny Mizrahi, founder and principal, knows how to pick staff. They work hard; are conscientious, and at the same time are thoughtful neighbors. Previously they’ve cheerfully participated in posts on this blog, sharing titles of their favorite scary movies and IT buzzwords that irritated them.

We are bombarded daily with examples of greed and selfishness so that a kind act takes on additional significance. Have you benefited by a surprise lately that warmed your heart?

Photo: culinaryservicesgroup.com

Service of Office Temperature

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Office thermostat

Sue Shellenbarger’s Wall Street Journal article rang so many bells that I had to toss out all plans for other topics and cover “Let the Office Thermostat Wars Begin: In summer air-conditioning season, nothing is more divisive than where to set the temperature; dummy stats and wading pools.

My office is in a space shared by many businesses, but clashes over heat and cold are just the same because temperatures vary from room to room and by nature, some like it hot and others not. Bet this conversation takes place in many a home or shared dorm room as well.

Some companies install fake thermostats. “Research shows office workers perform best when they have control over their physical environment,” [even if they don’t]. And if they work at their ideal temperature, their “work memory” is at its peak.

Freezing in officeDue to their slower metabolic rates, reported Shellenbarger, women generally prefer warmer temperatures, from a 2015 study in Nature Climate Change. The goal of building managers is to hit a temperature between 68 and 74 degrees, she wrote.

“Never mind messy desks, noisy colleagues and smelly office kitchens. No workplace dispute is as divisive as where to set the office thermostat. Some 3 in 5 employees tamper with the thermostat without asking colleagues, according to a 2015 survey of 301 employees by Survey Sampling International for OpenWorks, a Phoenix commercial-cleaning company.”

Tape on office vent turnedSome tape cardboard over air vents, she writes, calling such a step a guerilla tactic. Mine is the coldest office so I have done this [photo at left]. It was necessary. Either I’d be a block of ice or if I lowered the temperature so I could remove a layer, we might very well hear officemates crash to the floor in dead faints from the heat.

Shellenbarger mentioned a seven year old survey of 452 facility mangers who shared the temperature complaints they parry. She wrote “3 in 5 participants use personal fans or heaters or don lap blankets and fingerless gloves. Some employees stay cool by placing a ‘small wading pool under the desk to ‘paddle’ their feet,’ one participant wrote.” I stash a winter sweater in mine.

One company installed a Comfy smartphone app in which employees select to warm or cool their spaces or note that they are “comfy.” If at least two people in a section have the same request within a 10 minute period, they can expect 10 minutes of cool or hot air. Another app, CrowdComfort, lets employees alert the facilities manager immediately so he/she can regulate temperatures, fix broken AC units or do the necessary to restore comfort.

Is the temperature where you work or live to your liking? How do you deal when it’s either too cold or too hot?

 Hot dog with fan

 

 

Service of Scheduling Stand-Ins and Stretches

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Sit at desk

There are days when suddenly it’s 6 pm and I realize I’ve not left the office for a second—or my desk chair more than twice. This week after a day like this my eye caught yet another article about the dangers of sitting too long in one place. A few months ago there had been a rash of them promoting that people ask employers to buy them an architect’s drafting desk so they could stand at work, perhaps encouraged by a furniture manufacturer.

Sumathi Reddy wrote: “studies have found that sedentary behavior including sitting for extended periods, increases the risk for developing dozens of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”

It appears to be serious. She wrote in her Wall Street Journal article “The Price We Pay for Sitting Too Much: New formulas for how long we should spend sitting and standing in a workday” that “Various studies have shown that even regular exercise won’t compensate for the negative effects from sitting too much during the day.” She shared insight of John Buckley, a professor of applied exercise science at the University of Chester in England. “Sitting causes physiological changes in the body, and may trigger some genetic factors that are linked to inflammation and chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, standing activates muscles so excess amounts of blood glucose don’t hang around in the bloodstream and are instead absorbed in the muscles, he said.”

Stretch in officeSo what I suspected all along is true: that marathon sitting binges to get a project under control may be good for peace of mind but not for me. But the advice in Reddy’s article isn’t practical. Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University suggests breaking up the work day. “For every half-hour working in an office, people should sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes and then move around and stretch for two minutes. I’m sure he’s right, but who has the time? You may be ready for your eight minute break but a colleague may not be ready for your visit. So what do you do for those eight minutes to accomplish what you’re paid for? You may catch up on your phone calls to friends–which after a while they’ll resent–but what about work?

Standing while workingShe also shared a panel’s guidelines published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine to stand two to four hours along with “light activity spread throughout the day.” That works if you’re a sports pro but for people with office-based jobs? She continued, “And research from NASA has found that standing up for two minutes 16 times a day while at work is an effective strategy for maintaining bone and muscle density, Dr. Hedge says.” You could stand during phone conversations if you didn’t have to take notes but few people make 16 calls a day.

Do you think that bosses in offices will encourage staffers to get up and down countless times daily to save on future medical costs and lost workdays due to illness? Are you able to do this? Can a person concentrate if he/she must leave the computer for eight minutes every 30 minutes and at the end of the day, have they accomplished as much as before? Are there other situations in which the solutions to avert a potential health issue aren’t complicated yet because they are cumbersome, impractical, or distracting, people may have a hard time changing their habits? Why do you think that we are hearing more and more about this dangerous situation now?

health risk

 

Service of Keeping a Messy Desk

Monday, November 11th, 2013

messy desk

Whether I’m frantically busy or not, my desk is a mess [though not as bad as the one pictured above]. I’ve written before about pilers or filers and admitted I’m of the former school. As soon as I put away work, it might as well be in someone else’s file as it can take me ages to find what I need. Sort through the piles on my desk and voila! I find the information in a snap.

The thought of filing everything on the cloud in a paperless office gives me the shivers.

I’ve gotten better at being methodical about selecting file names in my computer but when rushed, I often type the first thing that comes to mind which subsequently doesn’t ring any bells.

So I’m drawn to any study that shows the benefits of being messy.

Gretchen Reynolds reported on what she called a well known fact that organized, predictable people live longer because typically they eat better. She noted that “they also tend to have immaculate offices.”

neat deskOops! I wonder if life insurance companies ask for photos of a person’s office. By the way, I eat just fine thank you. And I’m organized.

In the article “Clean Up Your Desk! But not if you’re looking to be creative” in The New York Times Magazine, Reynolds covered results of University of Minnesota experiments that she read about in Psychological Science. College student choices after answering questionnaires in neat or messy environments were predictable: Offered an apple or chocolate when they were done, more of those in the former chose the fruit and those in the latter, the candy.

However in a second experiment under similar neat/messy circumstances, the students in chaos “were significantly more creative” when asked to propose new uses for Ping-Pong balls. According to Reynolds, Kathleen D. Vohs, a behavioral scientist at the university, was surprised by these findings because “few previous studies found much virtue in disarray.” My bet is that Dr. Vohs’ office is neat as a pin.

smoothieIn the last example, when offered a classic or new health boost in a smoothie, more adults in the messy office chose to experiment than those in the orderly one. Wrote Reynolds: “’Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition,’ conclude Dr. Vohs and her co-authors, “which can produce fresh insights.’”

Dr. Vohs advises: To “think outside the box let the clutter rise.” Best neaten up if your goal is to eat well or exercise. “By doing this, the naturally messy can acquire some of the discipline of the conscientious.”

Do you agree with Dr. Vohs that being messy means you are neither industrious nor diligent? Is your desk naturally neat or messy?

exercize

Service of Work Rooms: Where Authors such as Peter Ackroyd, Jhumpa Lahiri or Richard Dawkins Write

Monday, September 16th, 2013

 

The Writer’s Room” in the Sunday New York Times Magazine a while ago got me to thinking of spaces in which people are comfortable doing their jobs and where, within them, they are most productive. I previously touched on the subject in “Service of Telecommuting.”

In the article author Julian Barnes noted that he handwrites first drafts and moves to a typewriter for second ones. He wrote that his office has been the same Chinese yellow for 30 years and that he types on his IBM 196c of the same vintage. However his desk has changed from the original placed at right angles to a table to “almost a horseshoe” shape since he had one built and added on to over the decades. He concluded: “The room is usually very untidy: like many writers, I aspire to be a clean-desk person, but admit the daily reality is very dirty. So I have to walk carefully as I enter my study; but am always happy to be here.”

The Lowland Jhumpa LahiriJhumpa Lahiri’s desk was previously owned by a pope’s cardiologist—a healthy pedigree. She doesn’t always work there, where she types. “Otherwise I sit on the sofa to write by hand or read.” She admits that when she first saw the apartment—in Rome—she knew which room she’d like to work in, the previous tenant’s dining room. She reads copy on the terrace on occasion but never writes there.

Richard Dawkins is driven to change where he works by the messes he makes, starting on a clean table moving to others, even if they are outdoors. Jonathan Lethem doesn’t say how long he’s written in the home and office in which Esther Wood once lived and wrote, but he still feels it’s hers, not his. Wood died at 97 in this house built by her grandfather.

Faces in paintings and photographs inspire Edwidge Danticat. She wrote: “I keep a pile of pictures, intriguing faces torn from newspaper or magazine pages, from which I might borrow distinctive features and gestures for my characters.” She continued, “Sometimes when I’m stuck and can’t write, I just sit there and stare at [a photograph of Jean-Michel] Basquiat. Or I sit under my desk and stare into space.”

Peter Ackroyd LondonJust this weekend The New York Times Style Magazine ran a piece about author Peter Ackroyd, “Man of Many Words,” by Jody Rosen. The introductory photo shows Ackroyd at his cluttered desk. Rosen wrote: “Ackroyd writes nearly all day, nearly every day. Each morning he takes a taxi from his London home, in tony Knightsbridge, to the office he maintains in Bloomsbury, where he typically divides his workday between three books. He begins by writing and doing research for a history book, turns to a biography sometime in the afternoon and finishes the day reclining on a bed in a room adjacent to his book-lined office, writing a novel, in longhand.”

Ackroyd’s, like some of the others, is an example of disorderly desk, clear mind–which I relate to.

I admire friends who work in the living rooms of their one bedroom apartments. I don’t even notice their computers and papers when invited for a visit. They are organized and neat and either single or their significant other works outside their home.

I remember the woodshop a retired family friend kept in the basement of his home in Forest Hills, Queens. He’d make a collage of photos of annual gatherings, paste it on wood and make memorable jigsaw puzzle gifts for us. He’d been a businessman but I’d wager that his shop was his favorite workspace.

You’d think a traveling salesperson’s car or a photographer’s studio would be best for them but not always.

Have you worked in a dream space or can you envision what it would be? Are you most effective in what some might call an unexpected place?

Photo: davisphotographic.com

Photo: davisphotographic.com

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