Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Give me an "E" !!

Do you here the drums?

It’s the beat of our new bandwagon. It’s called employee engagement and it’s coming to our company.

There are two major schools of thought on this and it can be broken down to managers (“we don’t have time for this crap”) and non-managers (“yeah, we could use with some improvements around here”).

The sad thing is that the whole concept is so misunderstood. Employee engagement doesn’t mean getting more money, it doesn’t mean getting a pinball machine in the lunchroom, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you are going to love every single minute that you spend in this place. Alas, many do think this and have set their standards at this level – they are doomed.

Realistically, making a couple of easy changes might get things going, but when the dust settles – you are left in the same position.

To me, it’s more about removing obstacles than motivating me. Remove the obstacle of managers that are unable to make a timely decision, remove the barrier of the “us and them” mentality when it comes to communication, and get rid of the “we believe in development – but only in theory”.

When the sign up sheet for the road trip to betterment went up, I could have predicted the names that would go up. Of course, mine was there. I’m of the mind that I shouldn’t complain unless I’m prepared to do something about it– and man, I like to complain.

Where is this going to go? I’m not sure, but if the increasing number of articles in newspapers and business magazines are any indication – this is a growing area of interest. I knew that our company isn’t unique with respect to this issue, but when three people bring in the same article to post on the bulletin board – you realize that it’s on many people’s mind.

As predictable as the sign up sheet scenario, was the lack of manager visibility.

It might not be fair to say that they are in hiding. However, they are.

It might not be fair to say that most of the responsibility falls on them. However, it does.

It is, however, completely fair to say that without their buy-in, nothing is going to change.

Way back when, someone had the brain-iac idea that women should be allowed to vote. Of course, this was a bad idea since things have only spiraled downward from that point. Child labour laws, pay equity, equal opportunity employment…were all evil ideas spawned from the fact that people wanted more.

Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect more than a paycheque for doing a job. Perhaps it’s selfish for me to expect that the place that I spend the bulk of my waking hours be healthy and stimulating.
Perhaps.

However, the drums that I hear are beating out a different message. It’s hard to tell whether it’s a incoming parade a call to battle – either way, I’m willing the join in.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fun and games

I’m getting really sick of being at work and I’m also getting sick of my own griping and complaining about being at work. I don’t just mean the “I want a new job” complaint, I mean the “I’m bored” kind of whining.

As always, I come to a point when I realize that I need to either do something or shut the hell up. I’m not likely to stop talking, so I have been thinking about how I can make the workplace more enjoyable.

Let me clarify that I mean something beyond thinking positively because honestly, if positive thoughts were that powerful, I would have a lot less issues…since they would have all been canned!

So, thinking back to when I was a kid (and even what I tell my own kids) when they are bored – I use to make up or play games to pass the time. However, after going through my repertoire of childhood games and realized that we’re already playing them here.

6 Games that are played at my work

1. Hide-and-seek: I like this one. I have a few good hiding spots that I like to hole away in and get some alone time. Unfortunately, others have figured them out and can find me easily. Still though, this is one game worth pursuing – an organized, albeit covert, game of hide-and-seek with a few people in the group.

2. Telephone: This is the one where one person comes up with a sentence and then whispers it to their neighbour. This neighbour then whispers to his neighbour and so on and so on.. until you get to the end and the last person has to repeat what was said. By the time it makes it to the end, the message is so bastardized that it’s hardly recognizable. At work, this is called the rumour mill. I need not implement this one – it’s a thriving activity.

3. Tag: This is euphemistically called “delegating”. I’ve always hated tag. I suppose the sub-categories would be fit too – frozen tag is what they play in the government building (right, bro?).

4. Musical chairs: this is something we play whenever someone schedules a meeting or info-session in a room where there are more people than chairs. Although there is no music, it’s a bit of a race to see who will get to sit and who has to remain standing. Unfortunately, the people left standing still have to stay in the meeting – they can’t just leave. And there’s no prize for being the last one with a chair.

5. Hopscotch: This game can be played with only a few people here. It involves throwing out a comment at the appropriate place and time and then tiptoeing around certain subjects. Failure to do so will result in being nagged, criticized, and lectured on why you need to do things a certain why, in a certain order. The justification is always the same: “Because we’ve always done it that way”. It becomes more challenging as you move to higher numbers because there are other people’s rocks in the way.

6. What time is it Mister Wolf: This is a tricky one. It’s the one where you ask your supervisor/ boss when something needs to be done and he constantly changes the answer. For example:
“When do they need this report, Mr. Wolf?”
“Sometime next week:
“When do they need this report, Mr. Wolf?”
“By the end of this week”
“When do they need this report, Mr. Wolf?”
“This afternoon”

So, technically speaking, if I am looking for fun and games – it’s all right here, I need not look any further…well at least the games part.

I’m going to have to work on the fun part.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Woe is me...

How to be a modern day martyr in five easy steps

1. Do helpful things with no other thought other than “how good this will make me look”.

2. Tell anyone and everyone, at every possible opportunity, about what it is that you are doing. If you realize that you are doing exactly what you are complaining about, such as being unappreciative of others, be oblivious and continue with the sob story.

3. Choose desired word and repeat frequently: “I am so tired/ exhausted/ worn out”. Looking like shit provides that extra bit of plausibility.

4. Practice turning every conversation back to you and the things you are suffering through - extraneous details and embellishments are recommended.

5. Body language is very important: sighing, rolling eyes, slumping shoulders, shuffling feet are good at conveying your message. Conversely, standing tall – as if you are about to be burned at the stake for the world’s injustices – is also effective

I was going to suggest that we make February “Martyr Recognition Month”, but then realized that if they received the recognition they so dearly deserve – they would no longer have a purpose.

Crap, I better call Hallmark back.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Standards

Is it a bad thing when you start to have high expectations or higher standards? Is it a sign that your taste is improving or is it a warning that perhaps your vision is being narrowed?

I’ve been hemming and hawing over this after a book discussion gone bad – the book was pretty much forgotten and we were debating whether Tim’s puts MSG in their coffee (I still say no) and soon we were talking about the quality of the hotel room we were sitting in.

First off, no we don’t typically have our book meetings in a hotel room. Seven women, one bed, and a bottle of wine…book club is not the first thing to come to mind. One of the (founding) members, who had the audacity to move to Halifax, was back in town for a few days and we took advantage of this.

So, back to my original train of thought.

We were discussing how we’ve become accustom to a certain standard of rooms and level of service. This was somewhat of a surprise to those in the group that have done a lot of traveling, staying in less than ideal hostels. At the time, these places were great and served their purpose. They were, by no means, third world conditions but the certainly didn’t leave a chocolate on your pillow each morning.

And this line of thinking is not limited to accommodations – it’s how we travel, what we eat, the service at the store, the quality of clothes we buy. When did this happen? When did we become “snobs”, as we jokingly referred to it.

Lately I’ve found myself actually passing on things because it’s not what I’m use it. Simple example – chocolate. Never in a million years did I think I would ever pass on a piece of chocolate, but honestly if it’s not dark (and preferably 70% cocoa) then I’m not likely to have it. I feel sheepish just writing that, but it’s true. I’ve become a chocolate snob..uh..I mean connoisseur.

It use to be that I would be happy with having mediocre or average value most of the time, and splurge once in awhile for something higher quality. Now, I’m not really interested in the average and will go without until I can have the good stuff.

Now, compared to some, what I consider high quality is shabby. Then, to others, what I consider average is higher quality to others. So, what is it that makes us move from one level to another?

When we began out book meetings, many of the group lived in one-bedroom or even one room apartments and we thought nothing of sitting on the floor. So, it was rather funny that a few years later we find ourselves commenting on how are going to manage the group of us in a decent sized hotel room.

Of course, this was only a fleeting issue. We overcame our reservations in a flash, threw some pillows on the floor and cozied up to talk about the book. The size of the room had no effect on our talk – we still yayed or nayed it, we still questioned the premise, we still agreed that the book could have been about 80 pages shorter (particularly with regards to a certain…um…mano y mano scene).

Fortunately, for us, good conversation and friends are not something that you can improve on. Our standards and expectations are likely to remain constant.

The space may have been smaller, but it was more than enough room.