Friday, July 13, 2012

10 Simple Rules for Work

Workin' for a livin' oooo workin'
One of the original titles that I batted about for this blog was "Confessions of a Job Hopping Transplant." It had a nice ring to it and I still may use it for the title of my book. Over my career I have held a variety of jobs, numerous in the hospitality industry, and ohhh dawgie do I have some stories. 

If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you know *exactly* what I am talking about when I say I have some doozies of work stories. After each job, I created a new rule...something that would be on my non-negotiable list of demands for employment. I would like to share with you my ten simple rules for a work environment that encourages harmony not homicide. Your rules may be different, which is completely cool and I encourage you to post them in the comment section.

1.  Don't swear at me
I'm not a prude and admittedly, I can go on a tear that would make a Marine in a drunken bar brawl cover his ears. But not at work. I necessarily mind swearing at work in general. You can swear around me, even about me, but do not, I repeat, do not swear at me. 

I once worked at place that 70 work weeks and no days off for a month at a time was the expected standard. All I asked for in return was to not be sworn at, have a parking spot and business cards. More on those later.

Amazing that you need to make this a rule, but it is one my sticking points, especially after a brutal few weeks and in the middle of wrapping up a project the boss calling me and my counterpart stupid mothertruckers. But mother trucker wasn't what was said. This is a family blog, so I will let you use your imagination.

2. Get my name right
I know, you are sitting at home reading this thinking to yourself, "Duh," but this is an important one. Names are tough to remember, I get that, especially when you have hundreds of employees. I have to use every memory trick in the book, but at least I give it a significant effort. If I forget a name, I ask. I crack a joke, call myself a moron, whatever it takes.

If you can't remember your employee's name, you are subliminally telling them that they are not important, not to mention it is irritatingly disrespectful. 

I would rather someone tell me they forgot my name, apologize and move on than to call me Ralph. 

3. Be Nice
We all learned this rule from our moms and from the fabulous Mr. Patrick Swayze. Be nice. Say good morning. Say hello. Wish someone a happy birthday. Just be nice.

4.  Business Cards
This is a personal one for me. I love having business cards. It makes it easy when a client needs your contact information and let's face it, business cards make it simple to win a free lunch and the local TGIFridays.

5.  Give me a road map
I consider myself a professional and I am great at what I do. But, if a boss wants to do East and I'm going down the stairs, you can see the problem. I'm a grown up and I'm of the generation that I can actually read a map, I can follow directions. 

But I can only follow directions if I am given them. A boss that can not be clear and focused is like asparagus in the microwave - nothing anyone wants to be around.

6. Don't put more effort into asking me to do something than if you would have done it yourself
I worked with a guy once that everyone despised as a boss. He was always a bit of a jerk but I never saw the catalyst for the venom, until I was witness to what caused the staff to plot his destruction. 

During a walk through, I witnessed my fellow boss step over a big fuzz ball on the floor. He then stomped around for ten minutes until he found a staffer to pick it up.  He dragged her away from her task, tromped through the place until he found the fuzz ball and pointed it out, squawking like Donald Duck until she picked it up and threw it away.

7. Fight fair
I know I am less than perfect, and I have made mistakes. In fact, I will make more in the future. It happens. If you see someone that doesn't make a mistake, they are masters at the art of the cover up. If a boss wants to point out a mistake, do it and move on. It is nothing personal.

On this note, we all occasionally lose our cool, but it is important to acknowledge it. I had a boss once that was so mad at me that boss slammed a pen on the desk and started sputtering. Not really the way to get a point across.

8. Be clear that my Magic 8 Ball is in the shop

This is a lot like giving me a road map, with a twist. If a project has changed direction, say something. If a boss hates that I sign my name in blue and wants everything in black, share that nugget. 

I was in a situation once where I had to order *extremely* expensive chocolates for an event. They were so expensive that I was instructed to order them for VIP guests only. Cool. Day of the event, boss wanted to know why chocolates weren't at every place setting. 

After I stopped myself from spontaneously vomiting and peeing, I went over our conversation again about how we were going to cut down on the costs and the chocolates. Boss' response was, "I changed my mind."  In the immortal words of on Miss Liz Lemon, "blergh."

9.  Let me dream big
There are few things more frustrating than a boss that won't let you spit an idea out. Boss makes the assumption that your idea is wrong and slam goes the door.

In one of my many career paths, I worked in higher education. I was working with a fraternity that wanted to have a carnival for the kids in town.  This is the same fraternity that had an entire drawer of their transgressions, compared to a single file folder for the other groups. 

As the young man excitedly told me of their plans, I sat at my desk envisioning a ferris wheel breaking free, tossing families all over the town, and finally stopping after it had crushed every child in attendance. I imagined the entire community doubled over with food poisoning from their concession choices. But I let the young man talk. 

Instead of out right saying no, I told him all the steps he would have to take to make it work. The giant carnival never came to fruition, but they did have a small children's event with a petting zoo, finger printing and face painting. 

If I would have said no, there would have been nothing.

10. Let me do it my way
This is a lesson that  I have struggled with too as a boss. Letting your staff do things their way. I'm not suggesting that you let everyone run around willy nilly. 

There are dozens of ways to get from point a to point b. Some ways may be more direct, some more scenic, some with more lights, some on the interstate.

If a project has all the correct components, but I have done it differently than how my boss would have done it, is it wrong?

I have proofed gobs of letters that were great. Not how I would have written them, but they were still great. The grammar was in line, company standards met, but not how I would have said it. If you go to all the effort of hiring and training great people, let them do their job. 

I promise, as a boss you have enough crap on your desk to deal with.

What do you think? What are your rules for work?

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