I Just Work Here
December 31, 2012
The good news is, the Mayans were wrong, and we get to start a brand new year. The bad news is, we will have to spend most of that year working. (Thanks for nothing, Mayans.)
To keep you from feeling too bummed out about the lack of an apocalypse, I'm introducing Workplace New Year's Resolution No. 1: Go get a doughnut.
Granted, this might conflict with some of your other New Year's resolutions, like "do not get doughnuts," but whatever. Doughnuts make people happy, and being happy at work is the right way to start 2013.
Sadly, happy employees do not live by pastry alone, so I asked workplace and career experts to share thoughts on other resolutions every boss and employee should consider.
Kathy Caprino, a career coach and founder of Ellia Communications, encourages everybody to take a step back and identify what she calls "the pain point."
"What is the one thing that, if you could change (it), would change your job or your career for the better?" she said.
Too often we know what this pain point is but are reluctant to address it — maybe you need to change jobs or have to step out of your comfort zone and ask for a new career path in your company.
Once you identify the biggest source of work dissatisfaction, Caprino said, map out reasonable, small steps to fixing the problem.
"People always think they have to play it safe — they say, 'Yeah, but I've got to pay the bills,'" she said. "This is true, but you can do what you must to stay afloat while planting the seed for your future self. You've got to break it down into bite-size goals."
Peggy Klaus, an executive coach and author of "Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It," agreed that workplace resolutions shouldn't be too grandiose.
"If you've got a big goal, chunk it out so it's doable," she said. "Build some accountability into your system."
Klaus said a simple resolution for workers is: Don't assume — ask.
"That's the thing that I've been seeing a lot — people always assuming things," she said. "I think it's because we're all worried, we're all nervous about our jobs, we're all looking back over our shoulders."
So you assume the boss will say no to the path you'd like to take. Or you assume nobody at the meeting wants to hear your unusual idea, and you keep quiet and plod along.
"People assume things about their colleagues and bosses, and they're usually not positive assumptions," Klaus said. "It gets you nowhere. Don't assume — ask."
After all, the worst you're going to hear is "No."
Pete Weaver, senior vice president of leadership solutions at Development Dimensions International, offered this pithy resolution for bosses: "Remember it's not all about you, not even close."
"Your job is to build better lives for the people in your workplace, to make your workplace a better place to be," he said. "We all want to have meaning in our lives, so the way to have that meaning is to understand that it's the people that count. The wonderful reverse result of this is, you will find that, as a manager, you will have huge success if you manage by keeping in mind that it's not about you, it's about your people."
Weaver offered another resolution: "Seek more than you tell."
Our tendency to shoot off our mouths without asking what others are thinking stifles ideas and makes it more difficult to find common ground.
"Make your seek/tell ratio at least 3-to-1, whether you're a leader or a team member," Weaver said.
I generally hate buzzwords, but "seek/tell ratio" is something I can get on board with because it's a reminder that it never hurts to shut up and listen.
I'll wrap up with a wonderful resolution from Anthony Cawdron, who teaches business etiquette and advanced service courses in Purdue University's hospitality and tourism management department.
"Bring back general courtesies."
"Really, it's little things like holding doors open for people and being aware of others around us," Cawdron said. "Be more aware of people and try to be more inclusive. Remember that a smile can make a huge difference. Thank people. If you've got some station in the office and somebody has done something nice to you, send them a note. Even a few lines in an email, rather than just saying, 'Oh, yeah, thanks' and zooming on. If you pass someone in the hallway and say, 'Hi, how are you?' don't just walk on before they even have a chance to respond."
These seem obvious, but ask yourself: How often have you ignored these common courtesies at work?
I bang the drum of niceness regularly in this column. Maybe that's why Cawdron's resolution rings so true to me.
I'll try to abide by it, and hope others will as well. Perhaps then there will be more to bring us workplace happiness than just that doughnut.
Happy New Year.
TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at email@example.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere, and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC