To Party or Not to Party

It’s coming to a workplace near you – the annual company Christmas party. So, are you psyched about it? Do you and your coworkers bask in the collegial glow of mandatory corporate togetherness? Do you appreciate that your company spends time, effort and money to organize a celebration to reward its tireless workers for their dedication?

I get the sense that some of you are rolling your eyes right now. Could it be that you dread the holiday party? Maybe you don’t want to spend more time with your coworkers, as delightful as they may be to work with day in and day out. Perhaps you wish your company would take that holiday party money and give you more CASH or donate it to a local charity. Some of you may even prefer to go home an hour early to spend a little extra holiday time with your family.

Celebrating the holidays with a company party is perfectly acceptable, of course. But if you’re an employer, you may want to ask your employees what really matters to them before you spend any money on eggnog and reindeer shaped sugar cookies. If you’re an employee and you can think of a dozen better ways for your employer to spend that holiday party money, speak up.

Party or no party, a handwritten note thanking someone for his or her hard work goes a long way.  A cupcake wouldn’t hurt either.

Don’t Kill Your Message

The good news is that social media has made it easy for just about anyone to communicate with the world at large. Unfortunately, you may have to wade through a swamp of bad writing to find anything remotely interesting and well-written. 

While bad writing never killed anyone (at least, not that I know of), bad writing certainly kills your message. Your message is probably in the danger zone if: 

  • It’s boring. Most people are constantly multitasking and will overlook or immediately forget a message that doesn’t grab their attention immediately. 
  • It’s is so filled with industry-specific technical jargon and acronyms that it is devoid of any meaning at all. 
  • You’ve tried so hard to sound intelligent that nobody has any idea what you’re talking about. 
  • It’s so sloppy or full of errors that people assume you’re careless in everything you do.

Keeping your message off of life support doesn’t have to be difficult. For starters, don’t waste people’s time with too many communications or unnecessarily long or detailed information. Take the time to understand who your readers are and make sure you have a good reason for communicating with them. Finally, have something compelling to say, say it well, and be open to feedback.  

Happy writing…

Think Small

I know so many people who’ve had a monstrously horrible year, struggling with health issues, financial problems and craziness of all shapes and sizes, I’m convinced that the entire universe is just out of whack.

Certainly there is no shortage of people in need this holiday season, but if your own finances are tight and you don’t have a free minute to spare, there are still ways to give. Just think small. 

Here’s an example of a small gesture that made a big difference. Years ago, in the midst of  an out-of-state corporate relocation, I stayed behind with our two young kids, waiting for our house to sell, while my husband began his new position 1,000 miles away. Needless to say, it was not a lot of fun. One morning, I opened the front door to get the newspaper from the end of our long driveway, only to find that my neighbor had already placed it on my front steps. Every morning after that, the newspaper was waiting by my front door. I promise you I’m not the mushy sentimental type, but that newspaper showed that someone was thinking of me and it made a difference.

 

It takes nothing to hold a door open for a frazzled mother struggling with a baby and shopping bags, to let another driver take the good parking space, to smile at a store clerk who’s having a bad day, or invite a neighbor to join you for a walk around the block. Perhaps the collective good karma will push the universe back into alignment.

The Woeful Tale of Chin Hair Lady

One day in the after-school carpool line, I glanced in my rearview mirror and discovered the woman in the car behind me enthusiastically yanking stray hairs out of her chin with a tweezers. My daughter and I dubbed her “Chin Hair Lady.”

 

I assumed this was nothing more than an unpleasant behavioral aberration, but just a few days later I had the misfortune of encountering Chin Hair Lady II. Carpool line, rearview mirror, different woman. This time, it began with an aggressive dermatological assault, then the chin hair plucking, and finally, the plucking of stray hairs from a nostril. At this point, my eyes began tearing and I forced myself to look away. I acknowledge that unsavory personal grooming is sometimes necessary, but there is an appropriate place for such tasks. That place is not the carpool line.

Why am I sharing these experiences with you? It is not my intention to gross you out. Rather, I’d like to pass along the lessons I’ve deduced from them. The first lesson seems obvious – OTHER PEOPLE CAN SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING IN YOUR CAR. The second lesson – can’t we all exercise just a little self-respect and consideration for those around us?  If you’re not sure whether your behavior crosses the line, imagine you’re being watched by your mother, or better yet, my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Rosenblutt, who could wither the toughest child with just a subtle change in her facial expression. As for me, I will not, will not, will not, ever again let my gaze stray to the rearview mirror while sitting in the carpool line.

(Photo copyright 2010 Carly Clark.  Many thanks to Barbie for her moving portrayal of Chin Hair Lady.)

A Rare Find: Truth in Advertising

The annual pre-holiday deluge of catalogs is well underway. I flip through them all, scanning for interesting gift possibilities, but rarely do the descriptions stop me in my tracks and actually make me smile.

Lots of catalogs boast about their high performance fitness apparel that stretches, breathes, wicks away sweat, chops, slices and dices. Robustly healthy models pose in complex yoga formations, swish down ski slopes, and hike rugged trails in these remarkable garments. From my experience, real people wear these comfy clothes while doing the laundry, running errands, couch potatoing, and occasionally to work out at the gym.

 

So I was pleasantly surprised to come across this little copywriting gem in The Territory Ahead clothing catalog: “Inactivewear. For the broken resolutions, the televised golf, the post-feast slumber, and the procrastinated chores – we offer the greatest in winter inactivewear. Roomy pullovers, sprawl-tolerant pants, paunch-friendly elastic waistbands, easy-faded cotton and comatic soft fleece.”

Love it. It’s honest, funny, and makes an instant connection with 99.9 percent of customers who, by the way, are not planning to snowboard off Mt. Everest this winter.

Is it too much to ask?

A friend, frustrated by a coworker, recently posed the question “is it too much to ask that people behave professionally?” While the question was rhetorical, it got me thinking and I concluded that while most people in any given workplace behave professionally most of the time, there will always be at least one who utterly fails to understand the whole concept of professionalism.

 The most egregious unprofessional behavior is outright criminal activity, like the jewelry store manager who was stealing merchandise from his store. Then there’s garden variety unethical behavior, like the colleague who pretended to hang up the phone when our participation in a conference call ended, but who really just pushed the mute button and continued to listen in to the other parties without their knowledge. And, going way back to one of my first jobs as a stock girl in a specialty bra store, there was the rude and insensitive behavior of the saleswomen who would step out from helping customers in the fitting rooms and silently mouth obnoxious comments to each other, like “oh my gawd, she’s down to here,” gesturing to indicate breasts that nearly dragged on the floor. Finally, there’s simple immaturity, which is not confined to the young and inexperienced — case in point, a senior partner at a prestigious law firm who went out of his way to entertain and impress young associates by, among other things, tossing sharpened pencils into the ceiling tiles of his office like darts.   

 

So, while it may not be too much to ASK for professional behavior, sadly, it is apparently too much to expect it.