Confessions of a Hard Worker..(because I take my breaks)

I’m sure a lot of us think we are hard workers on the job.  We also tend to feel guilty about taking our breaks at work, to the point that we might eat at our desks and never leave the workplace.  So, is that a good idea?  You might think you’re showing your Superman or Supergirl powers at work, but truly, you are doing yourself, your boss, and your customers a disservice.

Here’s why not taking breaks through out the day at work is a bad idea. When you work out at the gym, or play sports, or move your whole household in one day, or work in the yard, don’t you allow yourself a break once in a while?  Why?  To recharge, of course.  Recharge your body, right? Your brain needs recharging too.

RECHARGE: verb; to make a new charge, especially to attack again. To revive or restore energy, stamina, enthusiasm.  To refresh and revitalize.

I need my energy restored throughout the day, both physically and mentally.  I’ve worked in both types of cultures, where every one takes their breaks, or no one takes breaks.  As a supervisor myself, I make sure my immediate reports take their breaks. I’ve seen it too many times when a person plays tough and refuses to take breaks or lunch, then comes back and sues the company. Worse, the work culture frowns upon breaks, so a person feels like they shouldn’t take breaks.  Yes, legality is part of it.  The real part though, is that I want my employees to come back  refreshed and revitalized. (hopefully)  Happy employees usually mean happy customers.

I do not agree with workplace cultures where the unspoken rule is not to take breaks. It encourages judgement and gossip against coworkers. In the reverse, taking breaks together when possible can build teamwork and comradeship.  Eating at your desk  encourages your boss or direct reports to interrupt.  Of course, there are sometimes certain circumstances where you might have to push back your breaks or lunch to take care of a crisis.

Not sure what to do during a break?  Here’s what I do sometimes.  Read a book. Get to know a coworker better. Play a game on my phone. Read the news. Come up with blog ideas. Stretch. Take a short walk outside.  Eat a snack to feed my body.  Meditate.  Practice mindfulness.  Check on my kids.  Check on my mom. You get the point. The important thing is to take a real timeout from work.  I can attest that when I come back from lunch, I’m ready, recharged and revitalized to face the second half of my work day!

 

 

Have You Smiled Today?

What does a smile mean to you? Have you smiled today? 

This blog was inspired by a post I saw on the social network beBee. The writer was remarking how some people who don’t smile and frown actually have facial expressions stuck that way. It reminded me of a coworker of long ago.  She was cranky, grouchy,  negative and rarely smiled. Her face was stuck in a permanent frown, even with her resting face.  The lines around her mouth were turned down like a perpetual sullen child, forever cracked into her aging skin.  I often wondered as I looked at her or listened to her, was it worth it?  Worth it to be so negative, glum, sister to Eeyore? Your face is stuck that way!

The funny thing is, she reported to me.  I say funny because I don’t have a lot of tolerance for negativity at work.  (What’s the point?  If you aren’t happy on the job, leave.  Don’t infect the rest of us.)  The other funny part is while I don’t tolerate constant negativity out in the open, I will listen to negative concerns privately.(As a supervisor, I will listen.  As an equal, I don’t like to be involved with gossip and negativity on the job)  I also appreciate that negative people can take the Devil’s advocate side, and I like to hear all sides of a solution or procedure before we implement it.

So, ironically, while I’m going on about a negative side of her, let me talk about the positive side.  She was incredibly smart, with a dry sense of humor.  We actually had a lot of interests in common, certain movies, certain type of humor, a love of books, a love of history, a love of art and a love of travel.  Seeing her positives helped me deal with the negativity.  As her supervisor, while I often addressed her grouchiness and/or negativity, I also understood that the negativity is who she was.  Like the color of her brown eyes, or her freckles, she couldn’t or didn’t want to change that part of her.  I couldn’t force her to change, but I could address it when she crossed the line with customers or coworkers.  (She had worked at the company for a long time, and no one had documented her behavior. I also inherited her. Everyone would say, oh well, that’s how “Shirley” is.  Not me.  Either she was going to get it or not.)

I documented every coaching conversation with her.  It took awhile, but eventually the conversations and write ups became a thick file.  Still, I was always patient and respectful to her. Eventually she figured out that I wasn’t giving in, and she decided to retire.

What’s the big deal about smiling? 

  1.  I know I feel better when I smile and really mean it.
  2. My customers brighten up.
  3. I hope I cheered up my customer if they need it.
  4. I know customers can tell when I smile while talking on the phone, so I do it all the time. 
  5. I smile at strangers, a hard thing for me to do.  (I don’t want to be seen as a crazy creeper!) But I love the human connection when they smile back.
  6. I get compliments all the time about my smile. Who doesn’t love a compliment?
  7. It’s healthy for your brain and emotions.
  8. It’s an act of kindness.

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”  Mother Teresa

PS-the picture is me and my youngest daughter, smiling because we are so happy to be at a baseball game!

Human Connections are Important!

Something happened to me this week that made me start thinking about human connections and our careers.  Social media is great for connecting, networking, educating, and marketing, but wow, nothing beats the human connection.

Let me tell you some back story.  I’ve been in the book business since 1996 and of course, have met many people.  Coworkers, bosses, customers and vendors, just to name a few.  It’s the vendor aspect that I want to talk about.  I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of people in my position don’t always respect vendors.  They are sales people, to be sure, but that’s their job. I’ve always treated them with respect, not as a nuisance.  Truth be told, most are a delightful way to break up the day.  Not to mention, learning about new products is always interesting.  That respect tends to pay off in all kinds of ways.

So, a few days ago I got a phone call from a former co-worker who told me that a vendor we both knew left me some books at my old office.  My feelings: surprise, curiosity and warmth.  I’ve known the vendor, (we’ll call him Tim) for a long time, probably since 2004.  He represents all types of genres in books.  Tim is quiet, smart and very knowledgeable about books.  We’ve always had a good working relationship.  Him selling, me buying for the business. He knew what would sell at our store, and between the two of us, we had a relationship of give and take.  One of the best things about Tim was that he remembered the subjects that I personally liked.  Once in a while, he brought me free samples and galleys.  (book talk for a preview of a book that has not been edited, nor has the right cover, and is not for sale).

Tim didn’t know that I had left my last job, yet still, he asked my coworker to contact me.  To his honorable credit, my coworker did! I stopped by the old office.  Imagine my surprise that Tim had remembered that I love Dr. Who, and left me a book set of Dr. Who books!  To say I was excited and touched is an understatement.  Now, I’m not saying make a human connection to get free stuff.  I’m saying, make those connections to make work more interesting.  Make those connections to help each other succeed.  Make those connections because maybe you will need a job someday and that vendor can vouch for you. You can bet, in my current job as a book buyer, that I’ll be thinking of Tim now and wondering how I can sell the products that he represents.