Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is Your Job Flushing Your Self-Esteem Down the Toilet?

Most bosses have read at least a few articles or even some books that offer advice along the lines of "Employee Recognition in Five Seconds a Day" or "Meaningless Pats on the Back -- How It Can Work For You."

Let's face it: In today's fast-paced, high-stress working world, many bosses may start out with good intentions on recognizing and rewarding employees for good performance, but the truth is that it sort of slips away after a time. The weekly meetings to recognize employee contributions get put off until it's once a month...then once every few months...then, nothing.

Or, the recognition program becomes a joke: "Jane is employee of the month because she answered the phone! She now gets the top parking spot for a month!"

It's no wonder many workers go home at the end of the day completely demoralized. They see an endless road of 10-12 hour days, with little appreciation of what they do. They're just another body filling a spot at a company that gives them a paycheck, but does little for their self-esteem.

Believe me, I'm not belittling that employers offer a paycheck, especially in this tough economy. But I do think that more and more, workers are losing sight of what makes them feel good about themselves. Namely, a job well done.

Sure, we can give ourselves little pats on the back, but if the boss or someone else doesn't really recognize our contribution, what does that mean for us in the long run? I'm afraid it means a workforce that is always feeling like they can't keep up, as if they are chasing an endless list of tasks they can never hope to complete. They are never given a chance to stop and be recognized that what they do matters, that what they contribute should make them feel good about themselves.

So, what's the answer when your self-esteem takes a beating because of your job? The answer may be to find ways to recognize and reward yourself.

Some options:

* Do something every day that you enjoy. Work in your garden, tinker in your workshop or create a spectacular meal. The point is to create something that makes you feel good about yourself. Even if you can only devote 15 or 30 minutes a day, it's important to do something that bolsters positive feelings about yourself.
* Give yourself a gold star. It's a simple thing, but write down something every day that you feel good about at work. Maybe you helped a co-worker with a problem or dealt with a difficult customer that went away happy. Those are things to be proud of -- by the end of the week you'll be able to look back at your list and see what you accomplished.
* Have happy reminders around you. Most workers have photos of their kids or loved ones nearby, which are great reminders they have a lot to be proud of in their lives. But you can also have other tangible proof: a race medal; a note from the boss praising your efforts; an industry article mentioning your contributions. Change these items if you begin to not "see" them anymore. It's important they really make you think about the good things you've done.
* Stop the cycle of negative thoughts. If you're hanging around at work with other people who complain and whine a lot, they'll start to drag you down with them. Have lunch or coffee with those who seem to be upbeat, no matter what else is going on. If you can't find anyone, spend your lunch hour or coffee break reading upbeat or funny articles or books. Tell yourself that when you make a mistake, it's because there is a lesson to be learned.

What else can someone do to boost their self-esteem?


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Monday, January 7, 2008

Everyone's a Winner!

I recently was sent an article by Mother Jones magazine, which touted the headline: "WE'RE ALL #1!"

The article included a list of the ways we have become a nation of navel-gazers, continually telling ourselves and our children that we're all terrific. Really terrific. For example:

* An analysis of 16,000 students' results on the Narcissistic Personality Profile concluded that undergads are 30 percent more self-absorbed that they were in 1982.

* Last march, a West Virginia high school sophomore sued the teacher who failed her for a late paper. She sought damages for "loss of enjoyment of life."

* You can send yourself a "standing ovation" from the Playfair website, a team-building consultant. It advises, "Don't worry about whether you've earned it."

Recently I spent some time with friends talking about the jobs held by our parents and grandparents: house painter, railroad worker, steel mill employee, delivery truck driver, cook, teacher, factory worker. At the same time, we discussed how most of our grandparents and some of our parents often worked two or three jobs, rarely taking vacations and often being home only long enough to grab some sleep or a quick meal. So, yes, there had to be workplace stress and there had to be bosses they hated and co-workers they couldn't stand.

But did our grandparents demand happiness from their jobs? Did they believe they warranted parties for a good job or feel snubbed if the boss didn't send a thank-you note?

It makes me wonder. I know my parents and grandparents worked long, hard hours, sometimes in difficult situations. But they also survived wars and the Depression and children dying young. When did work become more than work? When did we begin to expect -- demand -- that our jobs make us happy? And, is it really a good thing that we've handed so much control over our own sense of happiness to a job?


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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Another Day at the Orifice

It's time for Tidbit Tuesday, the time of the week I prowl around the Web and see if I can find some interesting things to share. Also, my thanks to those who sent in items that saved me from having the prowl around the Web looking for items to share.

We're happier than we let on: The Wall Street Journal notes: "So many people tell you to 'follow your dreams' -- from commencement speakers to executive coaches -- that it is easy to get the impression you aren't. But there is scant evidence that people aren't doing pretty much what they want; and putting the kids through school often tops the dream list.
While people may talk about freeing themselves from work once they're done with the bulk of child-rearing costs, they usually don't. The Families and Work Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, found that only 3% of parents over 57 years old whose youngest child is between 22 and 25 said they were very likely to leave their job in the next year. And the same paltry percentage said they were 'somewhat likely' to leave their job in the next year."
The bottom line: While complaining about a job is a popular pasttime, the truth is that many people like their jobs, and wouldn't go to the Bahamas at a moment's notice even if they had the time and the cash. They're just as happy staying home, taking care of the family and living their lives.

That eggnog is a killer: With cold weather and holiday parties just around the corner, the office can be particularly hazardous for putting on extra pounds. Forty-nine percent of workers say they have gained weight at their current jobs, according to a recent survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, of more than 5,600 workers nationwide.
Tips to keep the extra pounds off include: stocking your desk drawers with healthy snacks (Krispy Kreme doesn't count...I checked); drinking water throughout the day to curb your snarfing tendencies; packing a healthy lunch from home; chewing gum or chatting with co-workers to keep your mouth busy with something other than shoving in that last piece of chocolate cake; and starting a support group.

Wait until you see what I can do with Legos: There appears to be a "creativity gap" between American creativity and what their job demands of their creative resources. According to the Creativity Survey:
* 88 percent of Americans believe they are creative
*75 percent of Americans believe their employer values their creativity
*61 percent of Americans believe they work for creative company
*63 percent of Americans believe they work in a creative position

Somebody's gotta do it: Crime scene cleaner. Bull semen collector. Bikini area waxer. Some of these jobs may not appeal to everyone, but for the people who do them, there's a real sense of satisfaction in completing the job. Reports Forbes: "People who do the dirtiest and sometimes most stomach-turning jobs say they enjoy seeing the quick results of their labor. Unlike a banker who might take months--even years--to complete a deal, or an author who works on a book for a similar period of time, the dirtiest jobs can often be the most rewarding. And for some of these workers, it's all just another day at the orifice."

"Hi, my name is..." ":The way you manage the first weeks with a new employee can boost someone's entire career. And if you're the new guy, there's no better time to make new relationships and start your career off in the right direction," says Fast Company. If you're the newbie, some ways to get off on the right foot include: introducing yourself to as many people as possible; talking to the boss and finding out three things you should do and three things you should never do; helping everyone; and becoming an expert in something that will really help your employer's bottom line.


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Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy and Laughing at Work

I spend much of my time listening to people gripe about their jobs and their bosses.

That’s why when I had two surveys land on my desk that show – gasp! – that not only are some people happy at work but – double gasp! – think their bosses have a good sense of humor – I knew that either I’d fallen down the rabbit hole or things weren’t really as bad as sometimes portrayed.

I decided that there’s no better way to start the work week than to cite some positive statistics about the workplace, so here goes:

1. You think your boss is funny. Some 87 percent of workers polled said their supervisors have a good sense of humor, which is good thing since a whopping majority (97 percent) of professionals said they thought it was important for managers to have a good sense of humor.
2. Most of you are happy at work. And if you live in the West, are married and Hispanic, you’re more likely to be content.

So, while I get plenty of letters and e-mail from people griping that their boss is an ogre and their workplace is one of the seven levels of hell, it’s nice to know some of you are happy – and laughing with the boss along the way.

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