Archive | December, 2014

Practical Jokes and the Workplace: A Caution

26 Dec

I couldn’t resist the urge – he was sleeping so soundly, his head resting on a cushion atop the break room couch. His feet were propped carelessly upon the table, leaving his brand new sneakers in full view of anyone who entered the room.

He had spent the last two days boasting about the shoes, telling anyone who would listen how great it was that he no longer had to tie his laces. He could, instead, simply cinch up the single loop on either sneaker and instantly be ready to go – the same effect in half the time.

What was his source of pride had, for many members of the staff, become a source of minor annoyance. Fortunately, it was an annoyance which was about to come to a very timely and humorous end.

I watched him carefully for a moment, listening to him snore as I verified for myself that he really was asleep. Convinced that an earthquake couldn’t wake him, I set to work “cinching up” the sneakers in a new and novel way.

I carefully threaded the zip tie through the loops and pulled it tight, ensuring that his first attempt to move would be a less than successful one. Then, with the silence of a mouse, I slipped from the room. It was a perfect plan, and was perfectly executed.

It wasn’t until later, when a staff member who had been unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity when the zip tie was discovered shared the story with me, that I thought better of my perfect plan. It seems that I had done such a good job tying up the sneakers that my handiwork had gone completely unnoticed… until my victim was fully upright and tried to take his first step. He had nearly done a header into a counter. Aside from eliciting a string of profanity and some unfair accusations against an innocent party, my victim had also managed to hurt himself. Oops.

Practical jokes can be a blast, but if I were given the opportunity to share one word of advice concerning them, it would be this: don’t. For every practical joke that goes right, there are dozens more that go wrong. Even then, your ability to devise and cleverly execute such pranks doesn’t guarantee that they will be appreciated by others.

Next week, we’ll take a look at four very practical reasons to avoid practical jokes… especially in the workplace. For now, however, feel free to share a few of your own experiences in the comment box below!

Developing a Game Plan

19 Dec

Sometimes our workplace situation isn’t fair (or safe), but there isn’t a good way out. The economy, our education, and a number of other factors can end up preventing us from leaving. When this happens, the best approach is to develop a game plan for survival and, when the time is right, departure. Here are a few useful ideas for making due until the time is right:

1. Prayerfully Plan. One of the surest ways to grab hold of hope in a depressing situation is to plan a course for the future. Make a list of things that need to change in order for you to leave, take it to God in prayer, then make a plan for achieving those goals. It may take a while to get there, but each task you accomplish will be one more step towards the positive workplace situation you seek.

2. Ask for Assistance. Sometimes we can’t see the way forward on our own. When this happens, one of the best things we can do is ask others for their guidance and advice. Those impossible to fund educational goals may be at your fingertips and you just don’t know it. The right job may be available, it just isn’t listed. Make good use of your network of friends as well as any community resources which may be available. Remember the words of Proverbs 24:6, “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: And in multitude of counselors there is safety.”

3. Prayerfully Perform. C.S. Lewis once said that, “Prayer doesn’t change God; it changes me.” Through prayer, we learn to see people and situations through God’s eyes and from an eternal perspective. Make a list of everyone you work with, of each situation or issue that is causing you stress, and pray through it silently as you work. You will be surprised at how quickly many of the irritations you previously encountered will disappear.

4. Cultivate Community. Work (especially when it’s work we’d rather not be doing) becomes extra stressful when it fills the central spot in your life. So don’t let it. Take time to find people you enjoy being with and things you enjoy doing outside of your job and fit them into your schedule. It’s amazing how much better a day goes when you’re looking forward to time fellowshipping with a great friend after shift or getting some exercise at the local pool.

5. Don’t Despair. There’s an old saying that “when God closes a door, He opens a window”. His plan for our lives often looks quite different from what we want for ourselves… but there is a plan. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” While the verse was written for the benefit of the ancient Israelites, we can be sure that God feels just as passionately about those who follow Him today. He has a plan. And it is one filled with hope!

Quitting Responsibly

12 Dec

As with renegotiating a contract, quitting a job is something to be done with planning and reflection. Here are a few things to consider before handing in your resignation:

1. Do I really have a reason to quit? Knee-jerk reactions aren’t that uncommon, especially in the heat of the moment. Take some time to cool off. Then consider the situation carefully:

a. Is the problem acute or chronic (ongoing)? If it’s momentary, it may be best to let the conflict go. If it’s ongoing, spend some time digging for the root of the problem. It may be an issue which can be easily resolved once it has been uncovered.

b. Is the difficulty with an individual or the company? Some issues are inherent in an organization. Others are inherent in the people who run that organization. It’s rarely a good idea to quit a job just because you aren’t getting along well with a single co-worker. (In fact, you’re likely to encounter similar conflicts at your next workplace.)

c. Is there another less dramatic action I can take? Quitting can be stressful and traumatic – a bit like amputating a limb. That stress escalates in proportion to the level of responsibility an individual holds, i.e., whether your family is depending upon your support. Leaving a job post ought to be a final resort, not an initial one – at least when conflict is the cause of your departure.

2. Am I prepared to leave? This is an important consideration, since more than once, I’ve watched someone walk off a job-site and into a barren job market. You may want out and you may want out now, but that doesn’t mean that simply walking away is a good idea. If you’re going to depart, take the time to ensure that you have something else lined up: another job, further education, or any sort of rationally considered game-plan. Don’t cut off your nose just to spite your face!

3. Am I leaving in a way that glorifies God? While you may be angry and frustrated, simply walking off without giving notice or sabotaging/slacking in your final days will not bring notice to your Savior in a positive way. Make sure your employer knows that you are going… then complete your service with all of the passion and dedication that you would give it if you were serving God, Himself.

All that said, sometimes we really want and need to leave a job, but simply can’t. A bad job market, lack of skill, or any number of other obstacles can get in our way. Next week, we’ll take a look at how to develop a game plan that will help us endure until the situation comes to an end.

Renegotiating the Contract Part II: Practical Tips for a Successful Dialog

5 Dec

Job responsibilities change over time and it isn’t that uncommon to discover that the job you thought we were hired for isn’t the one we’re doing. When this happens, it can be easy to grow discontent with our wages and benefits. Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to help smooth the road for a successful contract renegotiation. Here are a few:

1. Take some time for introspection. Before asking for a raise, more vacation, or extra “perks” take a step back and ask yourself whether you’d give those things to you if the situation were reversed. If you’ve been spreading gossip and malcontent, slacking (even just a little), or fudging your time card in order to “get what you deserve”, you can bet that your boss isn’t going to give you what you ask… or perhaps even a moment in which to ask it. If you wouldn’t give a raise to someone like you, you can be reasonably certain that your boss won’t either.

2. Approach your boss with concrete examples, verified numbers, and hard facts. If you’re doing more work than others on the team, have increased responsibilities, or are just performing to a higher level, that’s great. But it won’t mean much to most employers unless you have some solid documentation of that superior performance. Don’t argue that you deserve a raise simply because you feel like you work hard!

3. Choose your timing carefully. If your boss is busy, in a bad mood, or inattentive, this is not the time to approach him with the examples you’ve collected! Be observant and ensure that your employer is in a fair-minded, attentive mood before you ask for your raise.

4. Be respectful. Rodney Dangerfield used to say, “I can’t get no respect!” It’s a feeling that most employers can sympathize with. Approach your boss with respect, regardless of how you feel about him or her as a supervisor or as an individual. And don’t forget to maintain that respect throughout the conversation… even if things don’t go your way.

5. Be patient. 2 Timothy 2:24 reminds us that, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged.” Recognize that not everyone sees through our eyes… and that we don’t always have all of the information necessary to make a wise judgment. Understand that today’s “no” can become a “yes” once an employer has had time to reflect. Ask clarifying questions to ensure that you understand your boss’ point of view. And remember that God is in control… even when it comes to inequities in the workplace.

If after a reasonable dialogue with your employer, you still aren’t satisfied that you’re getting a fair deal, you can always quit. But do so responsibly! Nobody ever got anywhere trying to cross a burnt bridge and neither will you. Remember the admonition of Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Never leave an employment situation with angry words or actions and always give notice! Two weeks can seem like an eternity in a bad job, but it’s better than a reputation as an untrustworthy employee! (Just because you tell a potential employer not to contact your last boss, doesn’t mean he won’t.) Do your best to make sure that your words and deed bear out your value as a respectful, reliable member of the team!

 

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