Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Service of Rip Van Winkle: Where Have I Been?

Monday, October 30th, 2023

A child in bubble wrap.

Every once in a while I wonder, “where have you been, jb?” I’ve not budged from the most populous city in the country that many consider a trendsetter yet I’ve fallen behind and it’s time to catch up.

I’ll start with talking styles that irk

When I first heard Valley girl talk years ago I cringed and still do, though thank goodness its popularity has greatly faded. You know what I mean: at the end of sentences the pitch of the speaker’s voice jumps higher, forming a question mark. It’s also referred to as “uptalk.”

Only recently did I learn the name of a speaking style that I find even worse– “vocal fry.” I notice it most among women in their 20s and 30s. They lower their voices to achieve a gravely, creaky sound. It’s unattractive to me and achieves the reaction of nails on a blackboard but I suspect they think it sounds sexy. To quote a friend “it gives me the willies.”

This is whack

Do you know what that means? I won’t make you guess though it means what it sounds like it might—something or someone is crazy, unappealing or abnormal.

What about looking fly? If I said that to you would you smile?

Definition: Looking stylish or good.

Helicopter, Snowplow and Bubble-Wrap Parents

Even if you don’t know a helicopter parent, you may well have heard the term as it’s been around for quite a while. Under the same umbrella are snowplow and bubble-wrap parents I’ve not heard those descriptions in conversation.

According to Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D. in an article in psychologytoday.com, snowplow parents are “the overprotective ones who ‘plow’ onwards before their child, removing everything in life that might be a potential obstacle before their child encounters them.”

His article was about parenting styles that fuel anxiety. “Well, maybe parents who swathe their children in protective bubble-wrap do have a lot to answer for when it comes to their offspring’s anxieties. We’ve known for decades that anxiety seems to run in families, with over 80 percent of parents of children with anxiety problems exhibiting significant levels of anxiety themselves.”

Coffee Badging

Here’s another term new to me. Google it and you’ll read from tech.co/news that it “refers to the practice of showing up at your physical workplace to interact with coworkers just long enough to establish that you showed up, before leaving to get your real work done from home.”

Any terms or concepts you’ve discovered lately? Were you familiar with these?

Service of Too Much of a Good Thing or When the Cure Adds Another Challenge

Monday, September 19th, 2022

So often a solution brings other problems.

Bag it!

In ridding the world of plastic bags–they are no longer permitted for use by retailers in many states–we create another problem.

People are piling up the reusable plastic totes especially if they order grocery deliveries. The producer of an early morning NYC metro radio program admitted she had a garage full. New Jersey’s problem with the tossed bigger bags took up a segment on NPR along with an interview with Senator Bob Smith who wants to amend his state’s single use bag ban. He suggests that delivery services use paper bags, currently forbidden, or the cardboard boxes food is shipped in.

I can’t stand it

We were told that sitting all day is as unhealthy as smoking and a few years ago companies began ordering special desks so employees could stand as they worked at computers.

But standing all day isn’t so good either. According to New York Post reporter Zach Williams: “Research shows prolonged periods of standing can cause health problems big and small from tired feet to cardiovascular problems, according to a legislative memo accompanying the so-called ‘Standing is Tiring (SIT) Act.'” Assemblywoman Karines Reyes (D-Bronx) and NY state Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) are sponsoring the bill. Reyes is an RN.


Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

Williams wrote: “Albany Democrats have introduced legislation to allow some foot-weary working New Yorkers to sit on the job.” He continued: “Supermarket cashiers, bodega clerks and those with jobs requiring lots of screen time are examples of people who Reyes says her legislation might help while workers in other jobs, like prowling security guards, might have to stay on their feet.” I’d add doormen and doorwomen to the list.

The prick that saves

What about reactions to lifesaving vaccines? We voluntarily submit our bodies and some of us become extremely ill with nasty reactions. The repercussion is better than the disease so….

Fizzy or still

Those of us who prefer seltzer or sparkling water to tap do potential damage to our teeth. But fizzy is better than no water at all. And use a straw.

Let the Sun Shine In

What about glorious suntans? We need Vitamin D that the sun provides and what looks better than a tan?  But some suffer consequences of too much such as wrinkles and worse.

With the exception of vaccines, moderation and/or planning ahead is the answer to averting new challenges brought on by cures.

Do:

  • You toss reusable grocery bags?
  • You stand while you work at your computer or get up from your chair and walk around?
  • Potential reactions keep you from getting vaccines?
  • You use straws to bypass your teeth when you drink seltzer?
  • You protect yourself if you’re a sun lover?

Service of Public and Private Personalities

Thursday, July 14th, 2022

Jeopardy contestant

I wonder if winner Steve Clarke’s comment on “Jeopardy” on July 12 resonated with as many others as it did me.

He’s a trial lawyer and he said that by contrast, in his personal life, he is nonconfrontational. There was a stranger using his backyard as a golf driving range recently. “It’s lucky my wife was home,” he admitted. She shooed the man off their property. He said had he been alone he might have offered the fellow lemonade.

Like Steve, I am two different people. I can be bold on behalf of clients or in other work situations otherwise, if at a friend’s party where I don’t know anyone, I’m the person taking pictures [which I love to do], passing hors d’oeuvres or washing dishes.

I welcome industry board positions that involve membership where introducing myself to strangers is part of the job. Out of such a context I anticipate someone saying the equivalent of “SO?????” to my “Hi, I’m Jeanne Byington.” It happened twice.

The first was at an event where authors were looking for publishing contacts and book agents and publishers and agents were looking for famous authors. I was a magazine editor at the time. I would have been more welcome if I’d worn a sandwich board touting I was a smallpox carrier. The second time was at the holiday gathering of a now defunct PR association. A friend was president and I went in support. I took several stabs at speaking with others but the members only wanted to catch up with friends. I was not surprised when soon after the organization shut down.

Conversely, when I enter a crowded room with the mission of finding someone for work–asking strangers if they might point out Joe Smith for example–it’s an easy task.

I went to countless “how to network” workshops until the tips became repetitive. The one that stuck with me was to arrive at an event where you don’t know a soul with a question that you are pretty sure others might answer. For example, if it’s an assemblage of PR or media people, ask if they know a moderately priced interior, headshot or event photographer. If you’re at a party you might ask: “do you know any good Italian restaurants in the east 80s?” or “Can you recommend an accountant?”

Do you have two personalities, one for work and one in personal situations? Have you merged the two? What are your foolproof networking tips?


Image by Edward Pye from Pixabay

Service of Lunch Breaks Here and in France

Monday, June 20th, 2022

Front of a long line of people waiting for takeout at lunchtime on Third Avenue in the 40’s last week.

In the last office in which I rented space, before the pandemic raged, a bevy of IT workers in there also never left their chairs except for brief trips to the WC or unless they were called out on a job. I admit to too many similar days even though I never had a nine to five job. But if I lunched out daily for 60 to 90 minutes I think I’d tack on work at the beginning and end and would have to budget for the added expense as well.

The pandemic has changed white collar workplace culture in NYC in countless ways, slowing the frenetic pace for some, I suspect, especially for employees who continue to work remotely some of the time. On the days they’re in an office many bring their lunches from home while others order takeout and eat quickly, if they work at companies that don’t have cafeterias.

But not in France where there is a labor code, launched in 1894, forbidding workers to eat at their desks. “La pause déjeuner” can last up to an hour and a half according to Gregory Warner in his NPR podcast, “Rough Translation.”  

The lunch break started in France, said Martin Bruegel on the podcast, some 130 years ago during the Industrial Revolution when, to avert disease, workplace airborne poison was thought to be cleaned out by opening factory windows. It survived a few almost reversals, said the historian.  Women workers went on strike in the beginning because they felt harassed on the streets and wanted the protection of eating in the factory, but they lost. It was suspended during the recent pandemic, but it’s back.

Bruegel concluded that after research he is convinced that the break has all sorts of benefits–well-being and happiness for starters. He reported less burnout and depression and increased productivity despite the 35 hour workweek. As employees get to know their colleagues their work becomes more collaborative. Although addressing work-related subjects at lunch is discouraged, coworkers learn more about each other such as the background to why one insists on an approach to a challenge or why another is super stressed which is impacting attitude and output.

A labor law here, like this one, would thrill restaurants and takeout businesses but, I imagine, not employers. Do you think it would work or would we, in certain industries, perceive a long daily lunch break away from our desks as slothful? Do or did you eat lunch at your desk?

Service of Women Confronted by the Same Old Hurdles

Thursday, November 4th, 2021


Image by Ernesto Eslava from Pixabay

Working women of a certain age in senior positions have countless stories about meetings at which they were asked to serve or order refreshments, take notes or were talked over by a man who was praised for a great idea–the one the woman had just suggested but apparently nobody heard.

Sad to report that little has changed according to speakers and participants at an event I attended this week. Sponsored and produced by #DisruptAging from AARP and Tuenight, the topic was ageism and equity focusing on Gen-X women. Some attendees were younger than 41 to 56 and some older. I don’t know the demographic makeup of the viewers who were streaming the program on their devices. Note: All the tech people installing and running the streaming equipment were men.

Here’s a headline on the #DisruptAging website: “Don’t you hate it when people make assumptions based solely on someone’s age? It’s time we shed the negative stereotypes and unconscious age bias.” Anecdotally, I propose that ageism is worse for women than for men–especially women older than Gen-X. But enough about what I think–on with highlights of the program.

Margit Detweiler, a veteran on the topic and founder of Tuenight, welcomed attendees and introduced the speakers. The 40 over 40 website described her organization as “a cohesive, safe place for women ‘to hang out’ with their peers. It’s the ultimate book club meets Girls’ Night Out.” And about Detweiler, she “combats the idea that women over 40 are somehow meant to be put out to pasture rather than in the prime of their life. She’s truly walking the walk for the ‘over 40’ mission.”



Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

To ace the interviews for a job one of the speakers, Tracey Lynn Lloyd, used the formula for over confidence she’d observed resulted in the [irritating] successes by what she called the “mediocre white man.” She had the techniques down pat and snagged a prestigious marketing position which, in the end, she declined. As she didn’t tell the audience why, I asked her afterwards and she said she wasn’t qualified and that she wanted to be a writer, which she is. She admitted that her Dad was disappointed that she’d passed on such a lucrative salary, but she realized that money doesn’t mean that much to her. [I couldn’t help suggesting that most people are severely deficient in some part of every new job but admired her self-knowledge.]

Another speaker, Abby West, was urged by a friend in HR to ask for $20,000 more even though she was thrilled with the salary, bonus and stock options of a job she coveted. She did ask, after describing to us the reasons she was reluctant to, and with her friend’s guidance with wording, said that she was then offered “significantly more.”

Women continue to discount their worth. In a conversation during the break a manager said that the men who report to her consistently ask for raises–some twice a year–and that the women never do.

I was alarmed to hear Marcelle Karp, well on the road to 60, say she didn’t get a job, in spite of a stellar career that made her a match, because she didn’t have a college degree. She now has one and is working towards a Masters. And how old fashioned am I? I would weigh job history and success over a degree any day. Silly me: I know an organization that insists on Masters degrees for what I’d consider menial administrative positions.

Have you observed advancements for women in the workplace–no more coffee runs, note taking requests or discounting/ignoring their contributions at meetings? What about opportunities for those over 40 or 60–are women still at a bigger disadvantage than men? Is the most viable option to strike out on their own and give up hope of working for a large organization? In spite of the increased number of single mothers and women in the workplace, do companies still think of men as being the primary breadwinners which once was the excuse for paying them more? What do you suggest women do to change the paradigms about them?

Service of Worker Shortage

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Have you been impacted by worker shortage? The answer would be “yes” if you were trying to renew your passport. Debra Kamin reported in The New York Times that it could take 18 weeks to renew by mail vs. six to eight before the pandemic. Appointments at one of the 26 official passport centers around the country–if you hope to fast track a renewal–are almost as hard to come by as winning lottery tickets.

A shortage of Transportation Security Agency (TSA) workers has created inordinately long Airport lines.

Yet service was perfect at the Hudson Garden Grill located in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx last Sunday. One of my friends asked the waiter if they were serving monkey bread and he explained that the restaurant is short-staffed and not fully back to where it was before the pandemic, so not yet, but soon. [I’d never eaten, seen or heard of this bread. Next time.]

I was happy to find an item that was out of stock at the three CVS stores within walking distance of my apartment when I happened to be on East 72nd Street. The store was clearly short staffed as it took too many minutes to get someone to free the item from behind locked doors. And then there was trouble with an express checkout machine and only one cashier. A valiant very young man was trying to answer questions, assist at checkout and open locked items.

CVS usually sends a “how did we do?” query after I buy something and I gave my experience an 8–because I was so happy to see the hard-to-find item. There’s space to explain your score. I was blown away when the store manager wrote the day after my response. Here’s an excerpt of his email: “As the Store Manager, I deeply regret that we were not able to meet your expectations regarding the items you wanted being locked up and your checkout experience.

“Good news or bad, feedback from our customers helps us understand the experience for all, and when necessary, make improvements to meet your expectations. We will continue to get better at unlocking items. I truly apologize for the inconvenience. In terms of your checkout, we do have some new hires that we are training and it takes some time to get them up to speed. They will get better as well. I hope next time your experience is a 10!

“I would like to personally invite you to let me know how we are doing. Please respond directly to this email with the best date, time, and phone number to reach you.”

Now that’s customer service!

Has the worker shortage affected you? Have the businesses and services you frequent been able to work around it?

Service of Advice II

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Pauline Phillips, the Abby of “Dear Abby,” had just died at 94 when I first wrote about advice in January 2013.

I loved being a mentor to college students which is vaguely related. I devour advice columns and like to read Philip Galanes’ “Social q” column in The New York Times. What fun to be responsible for such a column as long as the questions–and my answers–don’t involve life and death.

Here are a few topics of recent Galanes columns:

  • “How can I tell my mother-in-law to buzz off?” [She intrudes on the writer’s little time with her parents on a visit home.]
  • “My son is being bullied, and I don’t know what to do.” [He’s a teenager.]
  • “How do I get  parents to stop bankrolling their adult son?” [Query from a sibling.]
  • “Do I really have to tip?” [carpet cleaning service staff.]
  • “Can my kids forgive their brother for his secret wedding?” [It was a surprise to both sets of parents who, along with one best friend, were the only ones in attendance.]
  • “I shouldn’t tell my employer I’m vaccinated, right?” [The writer was leery of the company. It gave gift cards to those who shared photos of vaccination cards.]

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

David Brooks wrote an opinion piece in the Times recently “Why is it OK to be Mean to the Ugly?” He noted that “We live in a society that abhors discrimination on the basis of many traits. And yet one of the major forms of discrimination is lookism, prejudice against the unattractive. And this gets almost no attention and sparks little outrage. Why?” I’ve seen it in action. All female employees of a company with which I was once familiar were remarkably beautiful–8 level attractive at the very least.

Brooks also wrote: “In survey after survey, beautiful people are described as trustworthy, competent, friendly, likable and intelligent, while ugly people get the opposite labels. This is a version of the halo effect.” He lists the interviews, preferred jobs and bigger salaries they attract, the better grad schools that accept them–even the number of times they are quoted by media. He praises Victoria’s Secret that has opted to change its strategy by switching out its body-perfect models for women with a range of silhouettes.

What questions would you ask an advice columnist? Would you enjoy that gig? What have you observed about what David Brooks called “lookism?”

Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Service of Respect

Monday, January 25th, 2021

I pluck a vital quote from last week that I hope will be imitated by organizations and companies around the land:

I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No if, ands, or buts.” —President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on Zoom at the swearing-in ceremony for staffers of his new administration on Inauguration Day.

I’ve worked at companies that set one employee against the other–not a fit for me. I’m plenty competitive but I work best in collaborative environments. I’ve also worked for magazines or agencies at which bullying and nastiness didn’t exist because management didn’t practice or tolerate it.

For every personality there’s a management style that inspires. To do their jobs some need to be prodded which feels like abuse to me because I know what’s expected and when and try to deliver before deadline. Others do best if they respect–not fear–their clients or boss.

Do you think the administration staffers got President Biden’s message and will abide by it? Was he micromanaging? Are there situations in which such an approach wouldn’t work? In what environment do you excel?

Service of Pride in Work

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

Hair-raising

I have been going to the same hair stylist and salon for years. Support staff in the establishment changes frequently. Most recently this neighborhood business hired a hair washer who, when he’s finished rinsing, adds a spectacular head massage for minutes–no extra charge [though my appreciation appears in his tip]. Heaven. When not washing hair he never sits still, sweeping away every hair practically as soon as it hits the bright white floor. Who knows if he loves what he does but his pleasant nature and fervor insure that he’ll always get work. He’s at the salon a few days a week and is a bartender at night.

Hauntingly Charming

I forgot I’d dashed off a note to the manager of my apartment building. I admired the fall decorations that appeared in the entrance early in the month and the abundant flowers planted outside. When I passed him in the lobby weeks later he beamed and thanked me for my note. I’ve written before about him and the 510 apartments he oversees. He runs the 38 story building as though it was his private home.

Brick by Brick

In the 30s, east of Second Avenue in Manhattan, there are sterile streets spanning two blocks–no stores, no doors to apartments or offices–just road and narrow sidewalks on either side, which is unusual. The passages permit vehicles quick access to the Midtown Tunnel that runs under the East River connecting this borough and Queens.

I walk through one almost daily on my way to and from work [photo left and below]. It was out of commission and closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic for a few days to lay down new sidewalks and brick walls. This particular morning a crew was adding some finishing touches. As I sauntered past I said to the crew chief “looking good” and he stopped me to point out particulars of his men’s handiwork. He was so pleased someone noticed the brickwork and sidewalks and joyfully shared some finer points.

It is a pleasure to be around people who act as though they like what they do, who do their work well and with pride. Can you share examples?

Service of an Obnoxious Co-Worker

Thursday, June 20th, 2019

A friend who directed a large department at a major corporation advised her staff about dealing with difficult people at the office. “They are like mosquitoes,” she said, “they can’t hurt you; they are just mindless irritations that you can swat away.”

At least one insufferable person works in almost every office, organization or business. Most of us have faced or observed them. “They’re the people who demean and disrespect you. They might steal credit for your successes, blame you for their failures, invade your privacy or break their promises, or bad-mouth you, scream at you and belittle you. As the organizational psychologist Bob Sutton puts it, they treat you like dirt, and either they don’t know it or they don’t care.” Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, wrote this and shared his tips on how to best endure in a New York Times article, “How to Deal with a Certified Jerk at Work.”

Becoming defensive isn’t the solution, wrote Grant. He approached a heckler in the audience of one of his presentations. He called for a time out, approached the offender and said “You’re welcome to disagree with the data, but I don’t think that’s a respectful way to express your opinion. It’s not how I was trained to have an intellectual debate. Were you?” The critic had called him ignorant and said Grant didn’t know what he was talking about. After Grant sent him backup data, the fellow apologized. Dr. Sutton calls a person like this “a temporary jerk.”

Grant reported: “Research on the psychology of certified jerks reveals that they have a habit of rationalizing aggression. They’ve convinced themselves that they have to act that way to get the results they want.” The way conflict mediation expert Sheila Heen told Grant that she might respond to an aggressive person is by saying “Really? It was my impression that you were smarter than that, and more creative than that — so I bet you could come up with some other ways to be just as clear without having to actually rip somebody else apart.”

You might not be able to speak with a boss or manager this way so Grant suggested decreasing your independence and minimizing your interaction with the chief while at the same time increasing his/her dependence on you. Dr. Sutton had a different idea: consider the person a “spectacular, amazing specimen” for your study of jerks to change “your attitude toward the situation.”

How have you dealt with an obnoxious creature at work? What do you think the inspiration is for a person to act this way? To use my friend’s analogy of treating work jerks like a mosquitos, what repellant do you use to divert their attention? Are there any positive outcomes of surviving the negative dynamic?

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