The Daily Grind

Are You Looking for Community or Solitude at Work?

Time Magazine recently featured an article about a new trend of communal dining. According to the article, a number of popular restaurants now offer group dining experiences for their patrons. These swanky establishments allow guests to break bread and share an evening getting to know a group of strangers. It seems people are hungry for more than just a good meal – they’re looking for companionship.

What’s behind this trend? Have modern communication tools like e-mail, blogs and social networking sites left people longing for more face-to-face interaction?

At many jobs, workers rarely speak to each other except through e-mail and the occasional phone call. How do you think modern communication has affected workplace relationships? Do you find yourself missing human interaction and seeking ways to interact with your co-workers in a more personal way? Or, do you sit in a cubicle or work closely with others all day and crave more privacy?

Corporate Culture’s Influence: Simon Says Fit In

How many of your habits and ideas do you think you’ve picked up from the people you work with? Most people pride themselves on being individualistic and independent. We like to think we’re only influenced by the role models we choose, not the everyday Jims and Kates we share a cube with. People may not be lemmings, but we’re not impenetrable brick walls either. Our surroundings and co-workers affect us.

Rebel Dad blogger Brian Reid’s guest post on the Washington Post’s blog On Balance – Juggling Work and Family discusses how the workaholic habits of a former boss rubbed off on the entire organization. Reid used to work for former Bloomberg CEO and current New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and he describes how Bloomberg’s penchant for long hours and limited family time created a company culture that followed his lead.

Sure, Bloomberg was the CEO of the corporation, so it’s logical that his employees would seek to emulate his behavior. But a CEO alone can’t create a potent culture without a majority of employees buying in to it. In a recent post on Ben Yoskovitz’s blog, Instigator, he discussed how upper management can’t control culture, they can only instigate it and then allow it to incubate.

Peer pressure can be much stronger than “CEO pressure.” While supervisors control whether you get a raise or promotion, co-workers determine if you are accepted and respected by the group – something that many people value more than money. 

When a person starts a new job, sometimes they mesh or clash with the culture at their workplace immediately. But more often, over time, they will develop behaviors and attitudes about work that mirror those of their co-workers.

For example, if you start working at a company where the employees rarely use their vacation time and never call in sick, after a while, you’ll probably either adopt these unspoken norms or leave the company. Similarly, if you work at a company where being aggressive and blunt is the way to get noticed, you might find yourself saying “please” and “thank you” less and opting for words like “immediately” and “no offense” instead.

A strong company culture isn’t a bad thing though. Without a united front, a company will struggle to accomplish its mission. But, since we’re all likely to be affected by our environment, it makes sense to work at a company and with people whose values you respect.

How do your co-workers’ values match with your own? How do you think your co-workers have influenced you? Do you feel the influence has been positive or negative?

What Would Keep You at Your Current Job? The Career Advancement Dilemma

Job hopping is a common phenomenon these days, and the average worker stays at any given job about two years, according to career blogger Penelope Trunk. A lot of this is because they’re impatient and frustrated with a lack of opportunity.

A recent Wall Street Journal story highlighted the frustrations of young workers who crave more responsibility. They’re dissatisfied with the work they’re given, the responsibility – or lack thereof – they have, and the feeling that the wait to start climbing the career ladder is too long. Especially for entrepreneurial types.

Blogs like Escape From Cubicle Nation and Employee Evolution highlight the frustration of many workers today. Employee Evolution was founded a few months ago by Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh as a way for millennials to voice their frustrations about trying to move up the career ladder. They’ve been featured in the Wall Street Journal about their efforts. With all they’ve been able to accomplish blogging about their career frustrations, imagine what these people could do if their employers only gave them more opportunities.

Too many job descriptions these days seem to say “experience required” rather than “experience offered.” Now’s the time for employers to step up to the plate and invest in their young, eager recruits, or they’ll lose them to companies that do, or perhaps, to entrepreneurial ventures.

Career Overload: Making Time for Your Life

Do you have dinner with your family every night? It seems like family dinners, time with friends and actually balancing work and life have gone the way of the Beaver Cleaver. It’s so rare, in fact, that when someone actually makes family a priority, it makes national news headlines.

That’s right – a man named Cameron Stracher decided that for one year he would be at home every night for dinner with his family. He wrote a blog – dinnerwithdad.com – and a book, Dinner with Dad, all about the experience. His story has been featured in USA Today and other major papers. All because he chose to make time for his family – and share about it.

Do you ever feel like making time for your friends and family is so much effort, it might be a newsworthy event if it actually happened?

Best and Worst Business Jargon

In every workplace there are buzz words and lingo that identify employees as insiders. There’s also a lot of business jargon that adds nothing but confusion to a conversation. Usually, if you squeeze more than a couple buzz words into one sentence, the meaning will be lost to all but the most fluent business-ese speakers. Not all jargon is bad though. It can serve as shorthand for complicated ideas or unite a group through a common language.

Some of my favorites business speak is:
Bottom line – This one’s been around so long that it doesn’t feel like jargon anymore.
Brainstorm – Again, it works because most everyone knows what this means. Also, I like the mental picture of little clouds and lightening bolts coming from my co-workers’ heads.

But, I’d be happy to never hear these again:
Synergize – This just seems like something you should do to batteries not people.
Strategic planning – Shouldn’t all planning be strategic?
Mindshare – This euphemism for generating ideas in a group reminds me of the scene in the movie The Matrix where you see all the people lying in chambers connected to the Matrix by a bunch of wires.

What business lingo do people use at your work? Does it drive you crazy, or do you think it improves communication?

Oops – I Accidentally Forwarded an Insulting E-mail to My Boss!

What do you do when you blow it big time at work? E-mail’s the easiest way to inadvertently offend dozens with the click of your mouse. Usually damage control from workplace gaffes involves apologizing and then lying low for a few days. Other times, you have to pay for the mistake in a more substantial way (forking out some money, getting a write-up, etc.)

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you at work, and how did you deal with it?