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March 31, 2009

April Fool's in the workplace—at a stressful time

Humor may be one of our best antidotes to stressful situations, writes David S. Sobel M.D. in Good Humor, Good Health. Some of his advice includes try humor instead of anger and use humor to handle anxiety.

So here we are at a day before April Fool’s Day, a time of good hearted pranks, hoaxes and giggles according to AprilFools.com. People are apprehensive about their jobs and the economy.

Laughter is a remedy, something that can bring back some civility in the workplace. Will others believe April Fool's jokes are valid news? Don’t those who originated the pranks don't have any 'real' work to do?

I think humor is an important part of our real work if it helps us join with others to relieve stress and tension with a hearty, sidesplitting belly laugh. Here are two videos to start you down the road to laughter.

Happy April Fool’s Day a day early.

Sleep Better, Save More http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPCCe3xK0QI (2:29)

Try this file in realPlayer: Portapotty.wmv

Thanks to Dennis Hinkamp and my sister for sending laughter my way.

March 27, 2009

Maya Angelou on civility

"It would behoove us all to learn some grace," she says. "Grace is not just posture. It really is civility and that's civil rights at the highest level. Civility, courtesy, well-chosen words, kindness, interest in other human beings, not just interest in oneself."

People, she says, ought to look less at possessions and more toward one another for personal fulfillment.

"It's time for us to stop looking at things ... and look at human beings. Look at the children. Look at the men. Look at the women."

Angelou, who will turn 81 on April 4, teaches at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. She captured the world's attention when she read a poem she composed for President Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration.

This is from a Detroit Free Press March 8 article ‘Maya Angelou, in Detroit next week, reflects on life, grace and self-esteem’.

March 25, 2009

Stewardship in the workplace

A whole lot of the anger today in the United States is directed toward those who have mismanaged money. Toward people who felt they were entitled to bonuses, to special expense accounts or to high pay.

A good outcome of the economic recession is the management of resources is being scrutinized and challenged. Mismanagement is not respectful of the people who provided the money, whether taxpayers or individuals who trusted others to practice good stewardship.

Stewardship……..I think of that word in conjunction with land or a faith-based organization. But the word applies equally well to how we manage resources in our workplaces.

Stewardship from Merriam-Webster online
1: the office, duties, and obligations of a steward
2: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care

A steward can be
3: a fiscal agent
5: one who actively directs affairs: manager

Stewardship in the workplace questions
Am I productive working towards goals that will help the organization (or dithering about in irrelevant tasks)?
Are the expenses I submit honest and in compliance with company policy?
If I want professional improvement, can I get it from books or other economical methods?
Am I able to elicit creativity and passion from my fellow workers so we create better products and services than one person alone could create?

Americans are asking for a new level of accountability
Being a good steward of work resources is a form of civility, being good citizens with what is entrusted to us and what we’re paid to do.

What other stewardship questions do you think of?

Entitlement in the workplace (Jan. 29, 2008)

March 19, 2009

Relieve stress by getting back to nature

We walked out with our luggage because the road was too muddy for the chiva to drive it.

Recession anxiety—we probably all have it. Sometimes we deal with it by indulging in comfort food or inexpensive fast food. Sometimes we escape to the movies or read a book. We eliminate vacations. What we may not do is look at our actions to assess them. What’s good for our physical and mental health and what is not?

I started reading ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder’ by Richard Louv on my Panama trip. He talks about the growing obsession with order in housing developments with rules (no tree houses allowed), about overly-structured lives and unwillingness to leave air-conditioned buildings. He says direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health.

Nature awakens our senses and helps take away the feelings of containment and isolation
The book advocates wandering in natural landscapes for therapy and restoration and cites research that shows how strongly and positively people react to open, grassy landscapes, scattered stands of trees, meadows, water, winding trails and elevated views.

Jerry Hirschberg, founding director of Nissan Design International, the Japanese auto company’s design center in America, said the Japanese recognized Americans’ creativity comes from our freedom and physical space and mental space.

I spent three Panamanian days with my two daughters and son-in-law living with no electricity, an outhouse, an outdoor shower. Walking was our only mode of travel. The days were filled with hikes, conversations, and observations. We all helped prepare meals cooked on a propane-powered stove. We got 10-12 hours of sleep each night. This area is rain forest so rain moved through several times each day and night pinging off the tin roof.

We then spent three days in Panama City, population three million. We did wonderful things—museums, walking tours, eating at a fish market and a day on an island beach. My Minnesota daughter, a forester living on the river bordering Canada, and I both thought the rain forest time was the highlight of the trip. It was a therapeutic escape because we had no deadlines or demands; we had nature and one another.

Nature awakens our senses and gives us perspective about our lives and our organizations. Find nature in evening walks, in weekend jaunts to a park, in work outside. Preparing meals from scratch, particularly if you can use local produce, is another sweet connection to nature. Nature refreshes and gives perspective to return to work.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson

March 03, 2009

Observing rest notes in life

We rush. We obsess. We seek perfection. We wear down. We need to be in contact via technology. The busyness of life encompasses us and often makes us less observant, less tolerant and less respectful.

Be still and silent.
Lose yourself even for a few moments to observe a sunrise, a sunset, a snow, the rain. Listen. Breathe deeply. I’m part way through reading ‘Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going’ by David Kundtz and he is making me think about this.

Several occurrences told me this was the post I should write this week. The days have more light. Each day is a celebration that spring is getting closer for those of us in the snowy parts of the Northern hemisphere.

On Sunday I advised a friend to take the day off. I participated in a discussion group about spirituality that evolved into talking about stopping and appreciating the generosities we have. I’d been trying to write a different post…in fact, been trying for more than a week. And then it occurred to me it wasn’t time for that post.

So take a deep breathe with me. Practice stopping and expressing gratitude each day. Respect and give thanks for the earth, for the people we love and those who try our patience. Think about your values. It can contribute to civility in the workplace. I’ll write more about the book some day. Just let me tell you Kundtz writes about three kinds of stopping: stillpoints, stopovers and grinding halts.

I’m taking off this week for Panama to visit my daughter and son-in-law who are Peace Corps volunteers there. It’s a stopover. There’ll be no post on this blog next week and just maybe the one I’ve struggled with will come easier when I return. I’ll be observing some rest notes in life. I encourage you to do the same, to plan rests whether for five minutes or eight days as I’m doing.