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August 28, 2007

Labor Day: celebrate work, celebrate life

The U.S. Department of Labor Web site says it is appropriate that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

Labor Day has its roots in employees rebelling against the injustice of long work hours, a never ending spiral of owing the company store, labor walk-outs and strikes. Labor worked to change America’s workplaces so there was leisure time. Have workers reverted to some of these conditions in the knowledge economy?

Focus and work hard at work..and then leave it to enjoy the rest of life
Self-worth defined only by a job and career is a hollow self-worth. We need to examine the focus and balance of our lives from time to time to increase our sense of well-being. Life is fluid. The focus changes over time.

Worklifebalance.com, a training and consulting company, lists four quadrants: work, family, friends and self.

Stephen Covey in ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ writes about self-esteem and direction bringing your perspective on life into focus, which then releases the capacity to act. He examines typical centers of our lives: spouse, family, money, work, possessions, pleasure, friend or enemy, church and self.

WorkLifeBalanceCentre.org in Great Britain has an online exercise that lets you select seven areas of your life beyond work (the eighth area). The site suggests possibilities: mental health, physical health, leisure time, relaxation, family, husband/wife/partner, spirituality, self-development, career development, home/lifestyle, travel, study, voluntary work, community and friends/socializing. You rate the areas by your current or wished-for focus. An interesting exercise. (http://www.worklifebalancecentre.org/briefguide.php)

Celebrate Labor Day
Take the time to appreciate what you have and think about
work, avocations and relationships,
the focus and balance in your life,
what you believe is living life well (the good life) and
what actions you can take to be happier with yourself.

The happier you are with yourself, the higher your capacity for showing kindness and respect to others, the hallmarks of civility.

This article covers how work invades your personal life, overtime obsession and ideas for striking the best work-life balance. It is very good.
MayoClinic.com Tools for healthier lives, Work-life balance: Ways to restore harmony and reduce stress
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/work-life-balance/WL00056

PBS Online NewsHour, The Origins of Labor Day
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/september96/labor_day_9-2.html

Take Time
Old English Prayer, Author Unknown

Take time to work, it is the price of success.
Take time to think, it is the source of power.
Take time to play, it is the secret of perpetual youth.
Take time to read, it is the foundation of wisdom.
Take time to be friendly, it is the road to happiness.
Take time to dream, it shows you what is possible.
Take time to give, it brings joy to your heart.
Take time to love and be loved, it is the privilege of the gods.
Take time to look around, it is too short a day to be selfish.
Take time to laugh, it is the music of the soul.

August 27, 2007

Revisiting VPL (Visible Panty Lines)—a 2007 style show update

Thong.png

Two months ago I introduced you to a clothing fit problem. The judges for the 2006 state 4-H clothing style show declared underwear lines showing through clothing a problem. Not a professional appearance. Not a proper ‘fit’. The state 4-H staff took action. The 2007 entry form alerted 4-Her’s that there should be “No visible undergarment lines”.

How did the 2007 style show go? Only one young woman had points taken off for VPL.

But there’s more (actually less)
The very creative youth who worked during the clothing event gave each of the seven state staff and their volunteers (including one who is 70+ years old) a pair of Victoria's Secret thong underwear.

And one other note from the lead person on this event: “During my people-watching at the fair and mall, I decided there are many who could benefit from our underwear guidelines.”

A bit about thongs ala Wickipedia
"Thongs are believed to be descended from the earliest form of clothing, the loincloth, which were generally a male's clothing item, the reverse of modern western culture where the thong has more acceptance among women. In modern clothing, thongs first became popular as a swimsuit style in Brazil."

I suspect those young women, who probably spent a considerable amount of money for those gifts, got the point -- not much fabric to create VPL with thong underwear.

Remember (this is the condensed version)
Civility is showing respect, including self-respect. Does our clothing reflect favorably upon ourselves, our department, our colleagues and clients? That means garments have a proper ‘fit’ including no VPL.

The original post: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/mt/civility/2007/06/underwear_info_page.html


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August 23, 2007

Plant a Row for the Hungry in Story County

Today's Ames Life & Times lists this site for information on the grassroots program of volunteers encouraging gardeners to donate surplus produce. I work on publicity for that effort and obviously my various projects and their Web sites got tangled.

The Plant a Row for the Hungry organizing committee is asking for fresh produce from home gardeners. The produce is distributed to Bethesda Community Food Pantry, Mid-Iowa Community Action Food Pantry, Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support (ACCESS) and Food at First. Produce is accepted every Monday morning 7-8:30 at the Reiman Gardens maintenance shed.

See http://www.parstory.org/

Civility readers, let me share what I learned this morning. The URL and name of this blog run in my email signature on my two personal email accounts and my work one. I've learned, pretty big time today, I should take that off my email signature when sending news releases.
I would like you to be civil and to donate produce, how's that for a wrap?

August 22, 2007

The six types of e-mail

1. Requesting—one of the most dangerous types of email. Make sure it’s an appropriate request, something you really need, easily understood so the person doesn’t waste time doing something you didn’t really want. Ask for one thing or if several, then related things. When requesting, make the request stand out as one question in its own paragraph, or if several related questions, number or asterisk them.

2. Responding--If you can’t fill a request, be honest and fast. Don’t leave the requester with a ‘maybe’ that’s never going to happen. If a request is sent to many people, let the most vested people respond. You may add later, “I agree” or just not respond. It’s appropriate to use the out-of-office assistant when you’re busy, “I’m in the office but working on a project and may not be able to respond before next week.” You may use phrases such as “On the run” or “Racing to a meeting” or “More to follow” to express you would reply if you could.

3. Informing—sharing information quickly and efficiently. Make it clear you don’t expect a response. You can note FYI (for your information).

4. Thanking—email can be an appropriate method to thank people for small things. It can be the beginning to thank someone for bigger things; continue with a phone call or better yet, a hand-written note.

5. Apologizing—face-to-face or another more personable way is more appropriate. When you apologize, do it in the active voice. “I made a mistake” rather than “Mistakes were made.”

6. Connecting—to strengthen or confirm relationships. This may be the most essential email of all.

All posts about email
, many based on 'Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home' by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, published April 2007
Subject: Your professionalism shows in e-mail
Think before you send. Send email you would like to receive.
The human touch, alternatives to email
Email emotions -- duplicity and anger including sarcasm, loaded phrases and rhetorical questions
The strengths and weaknesses of email
Work email and personal email are quite different in two ways

August 21, 2007

Coming Oct. 15: Blog Action Day

blogaction.jpg

Thousands of voices will converge on one issue-- the environment.

I will write on environmental responsibility in the workplace and the grounds around the workplace. Do you have suggestions on ways to increase respect for the environment in and around our workplaces? Post a comment on this entry. I’m sure some of you will come up with ideas I won’t.
The home page for the effort is http://blogactionday.org/

P.S. This is not a stretch including the environment in a civility blog. Rule 24 in ‘Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct’ by P. M. Forni: Respect the Environment and Be Gentle to Animals.

August 20, 2007

Cherish the nourishing work group

Several weeks ago I had lunch with three former coworkers. I walked out of the restaurant in a good mood. I began thinking about what made this group so good. They are nourishing people. No egos but quiet humility. No one monopolized the conversation. There were good opening questions with responses around the table. Everyone was truly interested in one another’s job, updates on families and other coworkers, where people had traveled recently.

These are people who are comfortable with themselves
They relish open communication. They respect one another and each one’s expertise. Each person is confident and apparently saw no need to impress any one else.

Many good staff people came and went in the Life in Iowa program. We each had a defined role and knew our responsibilities. We had various leaders who set clear goals. Several glimpses into that past will explain the work relationships:
• We had regular staff meetings. Tom always presented his notes from the latest administrative meetings. There was no mystery about what went on because we knew unless it was something confidential.

• When there was a search for the position Tom eventually held, we all were invited to the candidate presentations and asked to comment. We felt we had a voice in the decision.

• Hina shared many course documents and evaluations when I wanted to better understand the program to write about it. Trisha shared company names and information. No hoarding, no questions, just immediate compliance because it would help the program. There was an understanding and trust that the information was proprietary.

Life in Iowa was a service-learning project to place Iowa State students in Iowa internships in an effort to retain college educated people here. The idea was born in the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. I think the concept was ahead of its time in Iowa or needed a more inclusive base. It was a challenge. It was constant change looking for a way to make the program self-supporting quickly. It was a great work experience. We all wish the program had survived its infancy.

Work group repertoire comes down to civility
Put the pieces together: nourishing people who respect one another, who employ inclusion and acceptance, who practice superb communication. We had clear goals, roles and responsibilities. That created trust. And that’s how a workplace culture worth cherishing was born.--- That’s what made this group special. I often read about maintaining networks and relationships. It’s especially good to stay in touch with such nourishing people.

Life in Iowa Staff.JPG

August 13, 2007

Work email and personal email are quite different in two ways

1. Work email benefits my employer; personal email is for my benefit
Separating personal and work email is a matter of ethics. My employer is not paying me to send emails to relatives or friends unless it’s somehow related to work. I view email as I view phone calls. Occasional personal communication at work may be fine but more is not. Managing personal crises, of course, requires immediate attention no matter where you are.

Keep separate accounts for your work email and your personal email. Use Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or an account supplied by your home Internet provider to write to friends and relatives. I’ve had relatives find my work email and send a message. I copy their message over to my personal account and respond, asking that they use that address in the future.

Employers have the ability to monitor all outgoing Internet traffic. When I send e-mails on my personal account from my work computer, it can be monitored. I don’t want more workplace rules so I need to be ethically diligent about personal email. I can send personal messages before or after work from my home computer on my personal account.

2. The tone and style of writing are different
Personal email is not just an exchange of information but preserving or enhancing a relationship. It’s an important connection in today’s world where friends and relatives are scattered and very few people write letters. I don’t have to think about time zones, if they have children they’re trying to calm down for sleep or which stationery to use. Certainly there are times the phone or a mailed letter is more appropriate, but email keeps me connected with people I might otherwise lose in an increasingly isolated and busy world.

Work email should have a more formal tone. Often it doesn’t and that creates an unprofessional image. It’s difficult to decide the tone for different work relationships. How well do I know the person? What is my status compared to theirs? What is the culture of the workplace?

Email is a seductive communication method
The one dimension of it invites ethical and professional lapses. Civility evaporates. We create our own problems such as unprofessional never-ending banter and mixing personal and work email. Think about where and when you are composing and about your writing style before you push ‘send’.

Related articles
The Workplace: Your company monitors your personal e-mail, The International Herald Tribune, http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/05/business/workcol06.php
Surfing the Net on Your Boss's Time, About.com: Career Planning, http://careerplanning.about.com/cs/bosscoworkers/a/net_at_work.htm
Should one answer personal e-mail at work?, Expert Village, http://homegarden.expertvillage.com/experts/personal-email-work.htm
Putting All Your E-Mail in One Basket, The New York Times, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B00E7DA163AF935A15755C0A9659C8B63&sec=technology&spon=&pagewanted=1

August 10, 2007

Home invader caught---it is the work you didn’t leave in the workplace

The victims are the people you live with, your friends, your community and you.

If you earn lots of money, you may be expected to work all the time. But for the rest of us, life is much more fulfilling if we leave work in the workplace.

Why is leaving work at work so difficult?

1. Technology, primarily e-mail. This post is a result of the comment put on my last post. Dennis was home and quite ill but kept getting e-mail requests to do work things. There are times to not respond to email messages. Times to not open work email--- outside work hours, on vacation or illness. But if you do and are tempted to work, convince yourself you are not going to respond.

Maintain a different email account for your personal life. I’ll do a post on that next week that hopefully will convince you it’s a very real necessity.

2. The inner drive to advance at work or convince yourself you are indispensable. Why is there that drive? One is the quest for money. Another is to feed our egos. There are altruistic reasons to want advancement, of course, the dedication, compassion and abilities to be a leader for the public good.

3. Work is your life. This is where I’d fit in community. If work is your life, pursue something else. There are many nonprofit organizations that will connect you with people who aren’t your coworkers and improve your sense of self-worth. Volunteer for a cause you believe in.

Do you see the theme? The ones outside altruism are reasons for or vehicles of incivility.

Read on
How to Leave Work at Work, http://www.dumblittleman.com/2007/02/how-to-leave-work-at-work.html (and more suggestions in the discussion to his post)
How to leave work at work, http://www.davidposen.com/pages/balance/balance3.html
Blackberry Orphans, http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB116553463083344032-Hw4do_os_02DuK2oBISvHHgh_SU_20071207.html?mod=rss_free

P.S. This blog is not part of my job so that’s why the reading, writing and posts are outside work hours.

August 08, 2007

The strengths and weaknesses of email

More notes from ‘Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home’ by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe published April 2007.

The strengths of email

1. Email works for exchanging essential information. (Who is coming to the meeting?)
2. You can reach almost anyone.
3. Email knows no time zones.
4. Email provides a searchable record.
5. You can craft your message on your terms and your schedule.
6. You can preserve and present parts or all of a string of existing emails.
7. You can attach and include additional information.

When I look at the strengths, I can easily see flipping some of those to be weaknesses. Maybe most important is whatever you write and send is preserved whether you like it or not. Don’t hit the send button too quickly.

Reasons you may not want to send email
1. The ease of email encourages unnecessary exchanges. Don’t over respond. Some people just want the last word. There’s a time to end emails. Do you stop by a colleague’s office every 10 minutes for a chat? When someone requests something you’ve already said you won’t do, it’s fine to stop responding. When a conversation is clearly over, you don’t need to reply.
2. Email should not replace all phone calls.
Rule: conveying an emotion, handling a delicate situation, testing the waters—all are usually better undertaken with the human voice.
3. You can reach everyone, but everyone can reach you. Email is so intimate and so easy that it makes unwise actions likely. Don’t assume instant familiarity.
4. Every email is an interruption. Forty percent of workers moved on to completely new tasks after they were interrupted, leaving their old task behind, neglected and unfinished.
5. You can be held accountable for your electronic correspondence. The authors’ rule is: If you’re working with weasels, watch their emails like a hawk.
6. Assume everything you write will be forwarded somewhere.
7. Your words or the sender’s original words can be changed. This is a nasty, nasty thing to do. The one instance I’ve heard about recently, I’d refer you to the rule in point 5.
8. Email attachments are baggage. Pack carefully and travel light. If you’re sending to someone you suspect might be on a handheld, provide a summary of what the attachment includes. That courtesy could be extended for all emails.

August 01, 2007

Respected or loathed, the latter describes the workplace bully

Incivility is mild compared to bullying, but it can be difficult to decide where incivility tips over into bullying. There are full-blown bullies and then those who employ a few bullying techniques. Some practices are simply poor communication. Aren’t we all guilty of that to some extent?

This post is to help you recognize bullying techniques and contemplate if you use any of these techniques or if you work with people who use them.

A sample of bullying actions that affects involvement and productivity
A bully
• Revels in confusion, divide and rule
• Constantly interferes, dictates and controls
• Includes and excludes people selectively rather than including everyone
• Withholds information, releases selectively, uses information as a weapon rather than sharing information freely
• Lacks integrity, exhibits hypocrisy and duplicity rather than abiding by a moral code of integrity

Workplace guru Tom Bay writes about how ideas and moods can aid or sabotage the workplace in ‘Change Your Attitude: Creating Success One Thought at a Time’. He believes toxic managers and the cultures that enable them are at the core of today's job-hopping phenomenon.

The difference between bullying and management
http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/manage.htm
If you think of the seven key needs employees want from the previous post, you’ll find them on the left side of this chart, stated directly or implied. I don’t believe you need to interpret the word ‘manager’ as some one who carries that title. It can be any person in the workplace; we all manage something, and most importantly, our own actions.

From Stop Toxic Managers Before They Stop You, http://content.monster.com/articles/3487/16661/1/home.aspx
Some work situations foster toxic managers. When a company has gone through downsizings, pay freezes or other financial crises, negative management tends to thrive. The emphasis is often on get-tough turnaround. Administrators turn a blind eye to crude management as long as the numbers are good.

Bullying defined, why people bully, whom bullies target, steps to take against bullying, Sticks and stones, Feb. 3, http://www.extension.iastate.edu/mt/civility/2007/02/sticks_and_stones.html

How to deal with workplace bullying and how to tackle bullying at work, http://www.bullyonline.org/action/action.htm

Workplace Bullying: Who's Your Bully?, Monster Career Advice
http://content.monster.com/articles/3493/18162/1/home.aspx

Expert Answers on Workplace Bullying, Monster Career Advice, http://content.monster.com/articles/3493/18191/1/home.aspx

Ten Warning Signs of a Toxic Boss, Monster Career Advice, http://content.monster.com/articles/3478/16946/1/home.aspx