Archive for the ‘The Office’ Category
I’ve been managing the Employee Engagement Group at work for almost a year now, but I’ve finally encountered a situation that I no longer know how to handle….
I’ve been asked by the CEO to select a thank you gift for the members of this team. We’re all volunteers, and this is all on my head to figure out.
And I’m at a complete loss as to what to do.
Here’s the details:
- Price–Up to $100 or so
- Seven total recipients
- Three women, four men
- One offsite (Georgia)
- One unmarried
I had thought about gifting them each a one-night stay at a B&B, but that wouldn’t work for the offsite or the unmarried member.
Sigh…. I have no clue what to do. I want it to be a meaningful gift, something that truly has significance for the volunteers. I also want it to be somewhat visible for the rest of the company. I want people to be proud of what they’ve done this last year, and I want others to see that.
And I’m drawing a complete blank.
I’ve been managing the Employee Engagement Group at work for almost seven months now, and as part of that, I’ve made it a habit to scour a handful of sites for ideas and research on employee engagement, morale, leadership training, and so forth. Today I ran across an article that put forth what is, in the eyes of the author, the most important career question you could ask yourself. I kind of like some of the direction that question is going, so here it is:
Imagine that you are getting fired. Now imagine that your severance package is a million dollars annually for the next 20 years. The only thing you have to do to get the severance is agree to a very broad non-compete agreement that basically prohibits you from doing your current job in any form for anyone for 20 years.
How do you feel?
If you’d take the money and run, perhaps your current career isn’t the best fit for you. If you have mixed feelings, you’re probably in a good spot.
Me? I don’t know. There are certainly aspects of my job that I’d ditch in a heartbeat. At the same time, I would deeply miss some others. I find my job overall satisfying with twinges of GRRR at certain pieces. I did send that question to a good friend, and her answer was that she’d take the money and then turn around and use some of it to hire an arson to take down the business.
The article continued on to point out that many of our frustrations with work and jobs in general can often be tied to the margins of what we do, and margins are always adjustable. Sure, the core of your job may not be open for debate, but if the issue is one of schedule, commute, or pay, those are often negotiable attributes to our jobs. The point is, of course, when was the last time you tried to negotiate any of those aspects?
I saw a recent bit of research that pointed out that of people who asked for a raise or job change, over 87% of them received at least something in return. Most did not get exactly what they wanted, but they got something. That’s 9 out of 10.
If you’re in an environment where you are not happy, change what you can.
Another thought that has been particularly helpful for me is to remember a simple question: Would I want that anyway?
Sometimes I find it difficult to see others progress in ways that make them truly happy. It clouds the reality that I, too, have seen some remarkable growth in my own career and life. It’s a pride issue–a touch of jealousy as well–and I find it useful to consider whether I would find the achievement they’ve reached a positive change in my life. Sometimes we see the peripheral glow of achievement without recognizing what that actually means, and whenever I ask myself that question, I typically find that the answer is no, I wouldn’t want that change.
There you go… a trifecta of personal job satisfaction:
- Ask the million dollar question.
- Focus on changing those things that you can change.
- Focus on the true realities of the successes you see around you and ask if that’s what you’d really want anyway. While doing that, pay attention to your own growth and recognize the reality of your own successes.
I feel like I’ve disappeared the last week or so. And I have.
We’ve been preparing all the background work for the Office 2010 exams at work, and that means lots of focus groups with experts. These are long, multi-day sessions of grind-it-out, beat-your-brains work. Exhausting at best. What’s worse, is that you find yourself packing handfuls of high-calorie foods (read M&Ms, nuts, crackers, etc.) in an effort to stay awake. By the end of each day, I feel sick to my stomach, can’t sleep, wake up early, go back, and do it all again. But we finally finished today.
Last time, it took me almost two full days to recover from the experience. Oddly enough, though, I completely enjoyed the experience as well. It’s an active, engaging process that tests your abilities and allows you to learn plenty. Could I do it for a career? No. Period. Could I do it every now and then. Sure. But for now, I’m glad it’s done.
On other news, Katherine has said a few extremely funny things recently that I wanted to record:
- While pouring a glass of water the other day, she missed the glass ever so slightly and poured half the water on the table while partially filling the glass. When she put the pitcher down, she noticed the spilled water. Very carefully, she picked up her glass, looked it over, and then summarily announced, “This glass has a hole in it.” Case closed.
- Last night, she was telling us about playing Mario Kart on the Wii (I think it was Mario Kart anyway), and she mentioned a particularly vicious hit she made. When she was done, she sat there for about five seconds and then very nonchalantly and gently said, “That’s how I roll.”
And thus it is. Roll on, Katherine. Roll on.
If you need me, I’m going to bed.
Last week, my work hosted a bowling tournament. I love bowling, and I’m normally a fairly good bowler (right around 150). However, this is the first time I have bowled in about 4 years, and I was also being extremely careful because I’m just now coming off of having the whiplash.
Let’s just say that I pretty much single-handedly kept my team from advancing out of the first round. Fortunately, I had a fairly good-natured team, but still….
To console myself, that night I challenged Katherine to a bowling tournament on the Wii at home. Final score?
But the best part of it all was that she sat there very quietly after the game with the fanfare playing on the TV. She didn’t even look up at me, and we had this short conversation….
Me: Yes, Katherine.
Katherine: I beat you.
I’ve been writing professionally for seven years now, and in all that time, I’ve been searching for the best analogy to describe why professional writers are essential. Many organizations still operate under the idea that the person who designs and builds something is the best person to write about it. It’s just not true, and I finally found an analogy that shows that. It’s not perfect, but it is good.
I recently saw a show where the process of making a grand piano was detailed from beginning to end. I think I suspected, but I never realized, how lengthy and complex that process was. It really is an art, and many piano builders are masters at what they do. However, despite their skill and mastery over this art, they do not write the music. Moving that to professional writing, designers, programmers, and so on are all masters at their art, but similarly they should not write “the music.” I should.
Professional writers are masters in their art. In the same way that a piano builder isn’t necessarily, although they might be, the best person to create the next musical masterpiece, the programmer isn’t necessarily the best person to write the user information. Similarly, the piano itself did not create the functionality and beauty of Mozart’s great masterpieces just as the software is not, of itself, generally fully functional, useful, or otherwise usable; it takes a writer’s touch to explain it and document it in a way that it becomes such.
As I thought my way through this analogy, I naturally thought over my career. I certainly didn’t start out as a Mozart of writing. In fact, my first project (an employee manual for a donut company) had the strength and chart-topping thunder that Mary Had a Little Lamb had so many years ago, and maybe not even that much. But it has been seven years since then, and I wonder where I’m at. Perhaps Mozart is still out of reach for me if not most professional writers, but couldn’t I be around the level of say… I don’t know… the Eagles? Or perhaps Bon Jovi? Certainly not the greatest of musicians, but also no one to laugh at. And someday, hopefully, I’ll be a Mozart.
Until then, all you piano builders, stop trying to write the music. We’ve got professionals for that.
With the strike of but one key, I took my day from being quite good to somewhat chaotic. A single key.
This week has been a nightmare project of redeveloping one of our major processes to accommodate some fundamental organizational changes. It’s a very big project; probably the largest project I’ve ever worked on in terms of overall impact to the company.
A key portion of this project is a help tool that I developed. I was putting the finishing touches on the main page in the help tool, a page with over 160 individual links and navigation tools, when I made my fatal error. In an effort to keep my workspace clean, I decided to remove the old, and now defunct, main page from the help tool. So what did I do? I promptly clicked on the one I had just spent an hour building, and pressed Delete.
A normal man would have screamed at the computer or hit something. Me? I immediately went to the vending machine and bought chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Then I ate it.
I feel only moderately better.
I came in to work this morning having forgotten that it was April Fools Day. I’ve never been one to celebrate the day, but I do enjoy being on the receiving end of a harmless joke. Today’s was grand.
Some coworkers of mine stole my keyboard and replaced it with another keyboard… that was encased in about 15 lbs. of cherry Jello. It was priceless. Definitely one to remember for future April Fools Days. But that had nothing on the rest of the day.
I lost systems access over the night. As a freelancer, my access has to be reset each time my contract is extended. Last night was one of those extensions, and I thought it had been taken care of. Unfortunately, my manager tore her ACL a few weeks back and has been out, so it got missed. It took exactly 7.5 hours to restore access. My work day consisted of lots of little paper tasks that were really a grand waste of time compared to what I could have been doing.
Still, since my keyboard was encased in 15 lbs. of cherry Jello, it’s not like I could have used my computer anyway.
Happy April Fools Day!
Years ago, I used to work with a good friend. It became somewhat a tradition between us that whenever anything even moderately bad happened, we would ask if we could go home for the day. It really didn’t matter how small the event; it was considered a viable excuse for asking the question. Dropped a pen on the floor? Had the hiccups? Closed a window on your computer accidentally? All viable excuses for the question.
Today I need to go home. Really.
The morning started bright and early with Cooper doing “the deed” in his kennel. How do I know? Pretty simple. I walked into the living room bright and early and was just about floored by the stench. In an effort to quickly escape the smell, I managed to forget my work laptop at home. Finally, I got to work (late of course) and was greeted to the Blue Screen of Death on my work desktop. And all this before 8:00….
Can I go home?