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October 31, 2007

Do you mask who you are at work?

Does your work inspire and stimulate you?

Is your work environment and culture one in which you can be your authentic self?
We are social animals who live in social environments which require basic systems of morality and civility to survive. We seek an environment of trust, people with whom we enjoy spending time and relationships that nourish us.

Three options
If you aren’t inspired and can’t be yourself, you can search for happiness at work by
1. Looking for a different job.

2. Adjusting to reality (including pain) with equanimity by looking for nooks and crannies where you can find satisfaction. Develop coping strategies. If change is at the core of your unhappiness, figure out how to adapt. Blaming those who instigate change makes you feel like a victim which perpetuates your suffering. Here’s a site that shows the stages of change, http://www.changecycle.com/changecycle.htm.

3. Thinking about right livelihood.
It’s a concept found in many faith and wisdom traditions. It’s one of the steps on the Buddhist eight-fold path. It’s following an honest occupation that respects other people and nature. You focus on ‘What is the need? How can you help people and the Earth?’ Seek a sense of peace in your work and life that can free your energies. It’s allowing yourself to grow throughout your lifetime. To do that you must find work meaningful to you so you can be your authentic self. You can embrace your present job. One expert advises running your career as though it were a small business; I think that translates to thinking about your approach to work and your life.

Today, identify ways you can make your current job more meaningful, emphasizing things that don’t rely on someone else. On the Path to Right Livelihood, http://www.consciouschoice.com/1995-98/cc095/rightlivelihood.html

That’s three options to take off the mask.
Do you have additional ideas or reactions?

October 24, 2007

Email anatomy

Your email address
What does it say about you? Do most in your organization use one convention and you use something else? A business email address should be professional. Even personal email addresses can appear capricious when you need to be respectful.

When I created a Gmail account, I was pleased that Google offered suggestions using my initials and given name and surname for my address. If you want to know how many people in the United States have your name, (according to this Web site) try How Many of Me? at http://howmanyofme.com/

What the copy (Cc) line means
I want you to know what’s going on, even though you probably don’t have to do anything. When you email people outside your organization, make it clear why you’ve copied someone, i.e. I’ve copied Flora who …..

Subject line—always use it and make it quality
Make it informative. ‘Marketing team meeting Nov. 2’ is better than ‘Meeting’. Good words to use: Info, Action, Request. Subject lines should be updated over the course of an email correspondence.
The entire message may be in the subject line. You may add EOM (end of message) after the brief message that’s totally in the subject line.

Avoid all of these—urgent, notify sender, follow-up flag
Your email should speak for itself.

“Dear” is always acceptable and always correct.
When writing to a group, salutations such as “Dear Colleagues”, “Dear Coworkers” and “Dear Friends’ are acceptable.
When sending email to colleagues you frequently work with, a greeting is not needed because the message is understood to be part of an ongoing conversation. The same goes for a close friend.

The book ‘The Hamster Revolution: How to Manage Your E-Mail Before it Manages You’ advocates a structure of ABC. A is the action summary, the next steps with time elements. B is background, bullet points of the information the recipient needs. C is close with a personal message or the future of the project.
Use acronyms, abbreviations and emoticons sparingly. Would the recipient understand them?

“Best,” “All best,” “Best regards,” “Best wishes,” “Regards,” “Sincerely,” “Cordially,” “Sincerely yours” and “Yours” are all traditional complimentary closings. “Sincerely” is the coldest of the group, appropriate when writing to someone you don’t know well. This is a part of the tone of your message so select a closing for appropriate formality or informality. “As ever” is a nice closing.

Quotes, adages, axioms and morals in email signatures
'A Friend Is Someone Who Senses How To Sign Off an Email', The Wall Street Journal Online,

Primary source: ‘Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home’ by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, published April 2007

October 19, 2007

How to stop bullying in the workplace

Gary Namie, consultant for The Work Doctor® and director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, recommends organizations create a bullying prevention policy rather than going after individual bullies. Namie conducted a Workplace Bullying Workshop last week at Western Iowa Tech (WIT) Community College.

From the Work Doctor site
Employers traditionally create policies to prohibit negative conduct when laws compel them. A good policy to prevent bullying is the cornerstone of a civil workplace. It sends the right message that destructive interpersonal misconduct is no way to run a successful, sustainable business.

Three components to stop bullying
a. An internal, loophole-free policy to specifically address workplace bullying.

b. Enforcement procedures to implement the policy and provide personal and organizational accountability. The policy needs to be applicable to everyone in the organization.

c. A plan to train and educate all employees, supervisors and administrators.

Don’t hire bullies
Robert Dunker, president of WIT, attended most of the daylong session in Sioux City. He changed his schedule that day to come to the afternoon session to hear Namie address how to keep bullies out of the workplace. Dunker asked how to identify bullies in the hiring process. Namie answered you seek the opinions of those who worked under a candidate, not from his or her current place of employment, but from the employer before that. People in that organization will be candid. Current employees will not reveal a bully in their midst.

The United States has not passed a law against workplace bullying

Namie believes laws are needed. Laws will compel employers to correct and prevent mistreatment rather than minimize the problem as ‘personality clashes’. Bullying closely resembles domestic violence in that both were shrouded in silence and the victim is often thought to be at fault. Domestic violence has emerged from that shroud.

Other countries have legislation against bullying. As of Oct. 1, Saskatchewan is the second Canadian province with legislation banning bullying in the workplace. Quebec also bans those activities. Sweden implemented the first national law in 1993; Great Britain followed in 1997 and France in 2002. Two Australian states also have laws.

A Week dedicated to Courage, Support, Inspiration and Peace in the American Workplace
Oct. 14-20 is Freedom from Bullies Week, a project of the Workplace Bullying Institute headquartered in Bellingham, Washington. http://bullyinginstitute.org/studies9.html

October 18, 2007

Most bullies in the workplace are opportunists and workplace politicians

Tactics bullies use
Blame for errors not made
Unreasonable job demands
Criticism of ability
Inconsistent compliance with rules
Threaten job loss
Insults and put-downs
Discounting/denial of accomplishments
Exclusion, ‘icing out’
Yelling, screaming
Stealing credit
Deny resources (time, supplies, help)
Intimidation, hostility
Discount thoughts or feelings
-- ‘The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job’ by Gary and Ruth Namie

Bullying is characterized by unethical actions and harms the organization.
Some competition and conflict is normal and useful in the workplace. Bullying is not non-abusive managerial skills. Bullying is repeated verbal abuse, threatening, intimidating or humiliating conduct. The climate becomes foggy, communication is ambiguous and the interaction can be hostile. Look for
Role ambiguity
Uncooperative behavior
Lack of foresight
Ambiguous interpersonal relations
Organizational flaws
Long lasting and systematic unethical actions
Equivocal strategies
Covert actions and denial of conflict
Oblique and evasive communication
--WHO bulletin, Raising Awareness of Psychological Harassment at Work

Oct. 14-20 is Freedom from Bullies Week.

October 17, 2007

How widespread is workplace bullying in the United States?

28% of U.S. workers are bullied but only slightly over one-third self-identify as targets of bullies.
Respondents were asked how often they experienced 22 (behaviorally defined) negative acts over the past six months. They defined bullying as “at least two negative acts, weekly or more often, for six or more months in situations where targets find it difficult to defend against and stop abuse.” They speculated that 35% to 50% of U.S. workers experience one negative act at least weekly in any six to 12 month period.

--Nov. 2006, Lutgen-Sandvik, P., Tracy, S.J., & Alberts, J.K. Burned by Bullying in the American Workplace: Prevalence, Perception, Degree, and Impact. Journal of Management Studies
The researchers are from the University of New Mexico and Arizona State University. The survey had 469 respondents. http://bullyinginstitute.org/res/Burned.pdf

37% of U.S. workers have been bullied at work, 49% were targets or witnessed bullying.

In 62% of the cases, when employers were made aware of bullying, they escalated or ignored the problem. When the targets were asked, ‘What stopped the mistreatment?’, 40% replied they voluntarily left the organization. That represents 21.6 million workers in the United States.

--Sept. 2007, Namie, G. & Namie, R., U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, The Workplace Bullying Institute, survey conducted by Zogby International. 7,740 respondents.

The silence of bullying
We live in an aggressive and competitive culture where the bullied person is perceived as being weak. The targeted person is shamed by being controlled and humiliated. Coworkers suffer, living in fear of being the next target. Bullying negatively impacts the entire workgroup.

Oct. 14-20 is Freedom from Bullies Week.

October 16, 2007

How does workplace bullying differ from incivility?

Bullying is health-harming
Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee, or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety. Bullying often involves a misuse or abuse of power where the targets can experience difficulties in defending themselves. -- European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

A bully destroys a person’s sense of security and stability. Bullying can cause various stress-related problems including severe anxiety, disrupted sleep, loss of concentration, post-traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression and panic attacks. With prolonged exposure, bullying can contribute to high blood pressure and skin disorders, immune system and other health problems.

Workplace bullying by other names
The term workplace bullying was coined in Great Britain.
Mobbing, originating from a term in animal sciences literally means “to form a crowd around someone to attack him or her”, the behavior of some animal species of expelling one member from a group. Mobbing was used by Heinz Leymann, German psychologist and doctor, who conducted the original research in Sweden in the 1980s.
Psychological harassment is the term used in Quebec law and by the World Health Organization.
Workplace aggression (used in academe), emotional abuse and status-blind harassment are additional terms.

Raising Awareness of Psychological Harassment at Work
World Health Organization publication Protecting Workers’ Health Series No. 4---
Psychological harassment is a form of employee abuse arising from unethical behaviour and leading to victimization of the worker. It is an increasing worldwide problem which is still largely unknown and underestimated. It can produce serious negative consequences on the quality of life and on individuals’ health, mainly in the emotional, psychosomatic and behavioural areas. In addition, society as a whole becomes a victim because of increased pressure on social services and welfare.
Psychological harassment is an old phenomenon present in many workplaces, caused by deterioration of interpersonal relations as well as organizational dysfunctions.

A Week dedicated to Courage, Support, Inspiration and Peace in the American Workplace
Oct. 14-20 is Freedom from Bullies Week, a project of the Workplace Bullying Institute headquartered in Bellingham, Washington. http://bullyinginstitute.org/studies9.html

October 15, 2007

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

Native American proverb


Today is Blog Action Day. The topic is the environment.

Rule 24. Respect the Environment and Be Gentle to Animals
“Only two or three generations ago it was commonplace to describe progress as the subjugation of nature by man. Today we are more likely to think of progress as freeing nature from the lethal embrace of a recklessly wasteful and polluting humanity.”
--‘Choosing Civility: the Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct’ P. M. Forni, cofounder of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project

Responsibility extends into and around the workplace
Civility includes an active interest and respect for the well-being of our communities and a concern for the health of the planet.
• Reduce consumption. Paper. How much do you need to print? Do you need multiple phone books?
• Don’t litter. Pick up after those who do or that which the wind blew in. The grounds outside the workplace are a reflection of those inside.
• Recyle. Paper, soda cans, plastic containers, printer cartridges.
• Don’t use products harmful to the environment.

Give up bottled water
Americans have some of the best tap water in the world. Your tap water may actually be better than bottled water. Why is bottled water a status symbol? Drink tap water from a tumbler or bottle that can be used over and over. (It’s good to wash them often according to ISU Extension.) That should be the status symbol because the user is environmentally astute.

The biggest display of bottled water in Iowa may be at the state fair. It was about fair time that I read Message in a Bottle from Fast Company, http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/117/features-message-in-a-bottle.html
“Americans went through about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year, 167 for each person. Durable, lightweight containers manufactured just to be discarded. Water bottles are made of totally recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, so we share responsibility for their impact: Our recycling rate for PET is only 23%, which means we pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year--more than $1 billion worth of plastic.” The article notes it’s an unlikely business boom and says something about our culture of indulgence.

Bottled water is an emerging target
The Des Moines Register had an editorial on it in early September. KCCI had a story in July. Two nonprofit organizations are asking you to pledge to quit drinking bottled water:
New American Dream, where you can find tap water reports from across the country, http://c3.newdream.org/
Food and Water Watch, http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/Alerts/bottled-water

Oct. 15, 2007
One issue: the environment.
The power of many to increase awareness, take action and make changes.

Another very good article: Bad to the Last Drop, New York Times, August 1, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/01/opinion/01standage.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

October 08, 2007

Punctuality is nonnegotiable; it’s a matter of respect

Civility is all about respect---- for you and for others.

If there’s one thing I’ve tried valiantly to improve since I began studying civility and learned some of the things I do are uncivil…it’s being on time for meetings, lunch dates and all the other appointments of work life. Here are some excerpts about punctuality, sarcastic and not.

‘Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook as told to Scott Adams’ 1996
1.9 Being late for meetings
It’s easy to calculate the number of minutes to be late: Multiply the number of people in the meeting by three and then show up whenever you feel like it. (It’s more of an art than a science.)

Diana DeLonzor, author of ‘Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged’, places the chronically late into seven categories:
The rationalizer has a hard time acknowledging responsibility for lateness and tends to blame outside circumstances.
The producer wants to squeeze as much into every minute as possible; he is always busy.
The deadliner subconsciously enjoys the last-minute sprint to the finish line; she feels more alive when running out of time.
The indulger exercises less self-control; tends to procrastinate.
The rebel resists authority and everyday rules; might run late as a form of control.
The absent-minded professor is easily distracted, forgetful and caught up in his own introspection.
The evader feels anxiety about her environment and tries to control it; her own needs or routine come before being on time.

I’ve not read the book but found this list in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article. (I see myself in five categories. I should read the book.) http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/lifestyle/148658_time18.html

Punctuality goals
• Go to meetings on time, with agenda in hand, notes needed, pen and paper.
• Arrive at the agreed-upon time for lunches, meeting people, etc.

My challenge for you today
Be aware of how many times you are not punctual. And think about how the lack of punctuality impedes others, how your tardiness affects your effectiveness, attitude and work.

Do any of the seven categories ring a bell for you?

October 05, 2007

What My Civility Workshop Attendees Asked

ISU Extension Office Assistants’ Development Conference Oct. 4

1. In the workplace hierarchy, how can you voice your observations and opinions?
We talked about operating from a position of being respected because you’ve laid that groundwork: thinking before speaking, not offering opinions on all topics and approaching topics from a neutral point. Perhaps disagreeing with a superior will be received better in a private conversation. Couch observations and opinions with language such as “My perceptions are….” “I don’t understand…”

2. How do you work with someone who is very detached in the workplace?
And the conversation swung to the opposite…How do you deal with someone who shares too much private information?
We talked about boundaries between work and private lives and what blurs them today—technology, people isolated from extended families and may not have many friends outside the workplace.
For the isolated person—continue to greet them but respect not all people are ‘morning’ people and perhaps conversing with that person later in the day would be better received. Attempt to get to know the person’s interests, feelings. And recognize that none of these attempts may work.
Too much information—Respond with comments such as “I’m not comfortable hearing about…”

3. What if the workplace lacks camaraderie?
One person said team building exercises helped her office get to know one another better, added some fun, helped people identify different work styles and communication styles. The entire office participated.
One commented there is value in changing routines so you don’t always do the same thing with the same people at break time or lunch hours.

4. How do you deal with a client who is powerful in the community, demanding, a bullying personality who takes up a great deal of time with requests that can’t be met?
Referred to a professional.

We talked about ethics at work from not drinking someone else’s soda in the lunchroom refrigerator to conflicts of interest. We talked about how to be effectively assertive. As always, workshop participants had good suggestions for one another’s questions.

These workers have my utmost respect
They answer the phones and talk to the clients who come into the office. They field inquiries on many topics. They hear the problems, the requests and know the current hot topics. From my communications and marketing point of view, I always want to know what they’re getting inquiries and comments about and their sense of those conversations because they are the link to Iowans.

October 03, 2007

Not making this up: Civility in the cow-calf herd

Imagine my delight when I found a news release about civil heifers and bulls. It’s a news column out of North Dakota State University Extension. A beef specialist is writing about weaning calves.

“Although much of the focus on calf preparation for weaning is focused on vaccination protocols, stress is the big culprit. The absolute need to eliminate stress is critical.

“The key to eliminating stress begins with the selection of replacement heifers. That’s done by allowing only civil, well-behaved heifers into the cow herd. Then cows are bred only to bulls that have a similar, acceptable attitude, which means no rodeo bulls allowed.”

And then the writer turns to humans and all their paraphernalia
“As the calving season gives way to summer grazing, are the cattle monitored and allowed to work with humans, horses or other equipment producers haul around? Is the herd allowed to be relaxed as calves and cows are checked? Is there an occasional treat that brings the cows up to the feeder and has them looking forward to a visit from the producer?”

“Are the previous and upcoming fall work sessions planned to allow appropriate time for all the work to be done? Are breaks and lunch scheduled so co-workers maintain healthy attitudes about the day’s work load? Has management accounted for the thoughts and suggestions from those helping for the day? Is the day a serious cattle day or a fun day for outside riders at the expense of the cattle?”

My thoughts on the correlations are endless, but here’s a beginning…..

Select only civil, well-behaved people when filling positions.
Be kind.
Treats are good.
Think of coworkers’ stress and workloads when planning tasks.
Listen to the suggestions of others.
Don’t have fun at the expense of others.

I didn’t even include his line, “Have the hot shots, whips and sticks long ago been cast over the cliff and allowed to rust and rot in the refuse pile?”

If you wonder why I read a North Dakota beef column…I post news releases from across the United States for eXtension, an educational partnership of more than 70 land-grant universities helping Americans with access to timely, objective, research-based information and educational opportunities. http://www.extension.org

This BeefTalk column in full

(I do have fun reading news releases.) Let me know your thoughts on more correlations.