Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Mantra: Let's Get Down to Business - The Mindful Approach

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: The more you know, the better
I've been thinking about doing a post like this for quite some time, but just lately realized why it was an important topic to touch on. While this blog deals with other life topics, the working world is a part of each of us - a large part. Why not better ourselves around this time consuming, life-required thing?

You've already been given, or should have (I hope) the basics: Why it's important to become a subject matter expert, how to build your personal brand, why it's important to get your on and so forth. Today, I want to talk about things you most likely haven't heard or haven't heard enough of.

Alright, friends. Let's get down to business.

Get Invested in Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality
If you want a successful company, a successful team, or a successful career, you need to get on-board with this key thought process.

Why? Because the ability for a person to bring their whole self to work is critical in being able to perform, think, and function at their highest possible levels. Hiding any part of who they are will hinder their ability to think outside the box, to be creative, and to come up with brilliant, much needed ideas.

Think of diversity like this: Each and every background of each and every one of our diverse ancestors is what's provided the variety of how people look, how people think, how people talk. It's given us the amazing smorgasbord of foods we love so much: Sushi, Mexican, Italian, Chinese. Our dinners would be horrifically boring without diversity, as would our culture. I would be deeply sad if British accents didn't exist. I would also be devastated if there was no Gandalf as I know and love him today. Why? Because Sir Ian McKellen is gay and in some countries people face criminal punishment. Criminal punishment for simply being who they are. 

Let's touch on this piece a little further. Why are there such variances in the world like that today, where you can be gay and live in Zurich and be accepted, but if you're in Russia your life may very well be in danger? It's because being different scares people when it shouldn't. Let's put that into perspective. 

We love, dare I say crave, different. We want variety in almost every single aspect of our lives: food, clothing, movies, music, hairstyles...but for some odd reason having variations in people, whether it be the color of their skin or the gender they're attracted to, freaks us out (well, some of us). Having a variety of people/employees is just one more thing we should love and aspire to have, not fear. Spiders - those we can fear, especially the Australian ones, but people that look and think differently? Completely unnecessary and illogical. 

Diversity, inclusion, and equality is good for us. All of us. It's good for our personal lives, our work lives, and our whole planet. We've come a long way from days gone by but the world still has a long way to go on this journey toward equality. YOU are a key piece in making this happen.

Be Human
I know, I're probably thinking, "Well duh, Melia. I am human. Obviously." That's not what I mean.

Too often we leave our real, genuine selves at home when we go to work. We put on our Career Faces and our Career Personalities and we become who we think our bosses and our peers want us to be. We check our humanity at the door when we should bring it along. 

Think about it like this: When a leader in your company shows you who they really are - when they crack a joke or share a personal story - you instantly feel more connected to them. Why? Because they suddenly become a real person to you. Not a face, not a name, not a suit who sits in their mighty office in their mighty Tower of Power.

Bringing your humanity to work means connecting with people on a human level. When you do this, you genuinely want good things for the people around you- in both their personal and professional lives. You become invested in them and, in turn, they become invested in you. That human connection is crucial to building quality relationships that lead to quality work that all lead to success.

Be Your Own Compass
It's a fact: We emulate what we've been shown. Very often employees do what they see their managers or peers doing, even when these things aren't necessarily correct. Why? Because we use the actions of others as a compass to guide us.

Example: Let's say your company is all about work/life balance. They preach it all day long, even your manager says how important it is, yet this same manager has absolutely no work/life balance of their own. They never take a lunch break, always work 12 hour days, and when they do take vacation (which is rare) they work the whole time, sending you emails and calling you. This manager is pulling the classic "Do as I say, not as I do" move, which is dangerous for you because actions do speak louder than words. This is a fact. 

What does this demonstrate? Sadly, that they have no respect for themselves or their personal lives. In fact, this behavior is often something people do because they either fear for their job, have absolutely no time management skills, or are trying to escape some other aspect of their personal lives by filling it with work. No matter the case, this behavior will give you an unconscious reaction to follow in their footsteps. We do what we think our bosses would want us to do based on how they act, how they perform, how they lead. This is horrible for our health. And theirs.

I have a challenge for you, to help you gain more awareness of this and to help, hopefully, set a positive example for others at work. The challenge: Take your lunch break. Set an example of respect for yourself and your time by doing this one simple thing. This may sound like no big deal, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do it.

Sometimes we need motivation to act, so think of this little challenge like this: Once upon a time, we didn't have employment laws. This also meant we didn't have things like lunch breaks or anyone at all caring about our health. People suffered (in a lot of terrible ways) and because of this they fought long and hard to get us all the privileges we have, and should be enjoying, now. DO NOT waste the efforts of these people. Uphold what they fought for. 

You are not your manager. You can and should learn from them, but they can also learn from you.

Remember: A compass is only as good as it's navigator. Just because it points a certain direction, doesn't make it the right one.

Understand Your Company's Morals and Ethics
This is particularly important for reasons you may not normally associate it with. A company doesn't have to be ethical or have morals - they just don't. And a company without these two critical things is a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off. It's important for you to keep this in mind when dealing with or working for a company such as this. You don't want to be anywhere near that bomb when it explodes.

We all need jobs to support ourselves and our families, but we also need to do our homework, know what we're getting into, and know what dangers we could face if we work at a place where they lack sound judgement in ethics and a completely immoral approach to business. Case in point: DuPont. I recently did an entire research project on them thanks to a recent lawsuit stemming from employee deaths at their La Porte plant. This company is literally killing it's employees due to poor management decisions and budget cuts that have led to incredibly unsafe work conditions involving highly dangerous chemical leaks, which multiple sources (including their own) have shown to be deadly to employees if no action was taken to correct them. Guess what? No action was taken. 

Don't let yourself be a victim of a company that only cares about their dollar signs and not the safety of their people or the communities around them.

Know How to Protect Yourself
This one may seem obvious, but because it's one of the most important, I wanted to cover it.

One of my favorite writers, EJL from Flourish in Progress, recently wrote a post about the people in our lives: The good, the bad, and the broken. Sadly, the good, the bad, and the broken are all people we will encounter in our personal lives as well as our work lives. The bad and the broken - those are the ones you have to watch out for. What I previously mentioned about morals and ethics in a company is just one reason, but here's another:

When I was 17, I was sexually harassed. I was working as a line cook at a restaurant and the new chef was some horrible combination of both a bad and broken person. He was racist, filthy, sexist, and drunk. All the time. The management as a whole was no better and the few good ones were afraid for their jobs. One evening the kitchen staff was plating dozens of sorbet dishes for a Jewish party. The chef, openly disapproving of this group of people, came over to the dishes of sorbet, picked his nose, and proceeded to touch the top of every single sorbet scoop with his disgusting, filthy hands. Some of the management saw it take place. Those of us that witnessed it tried to get them to do something - anything - to stop him. Nothing happened. The plates went out.

That was just the beginning.

On a different night, I was in the back of the kitchen mixing chocolate ganache in one of those giant, industrial sized bowls, when the chef walked up to me. He reeked of alcohol and dirt. In one very swift and unexpected movement, he dipped his finger into the chocolate and shoved his vile hand into my mouth. I was, of course, shocked. I stepped away from him, putting distance between us. He stared me down and told me to lick the rest of the chocolate off of his hand, which I refused to do.

Bizarre and creepy don't adequately sum up the experience. I had absolutely no idea what to do next. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one sexually harassed. One of my friends and co-workers experienced the same hand-forced-in-mouth scenario, along with a few other things, and decided to fight back. She helped me and countless others in a time when we didn't know something everyone should know: This behavior is not only highly unethical and immoral, but illegal. We went to the EEOC, hired a lawyer, and fought for ourselves when the people who should have been protecting us, the management, didn't. We won, for the record.

The moral of my twisted, horrible story is this: Once upon a time, people were not protected by employment laws. Those same people suffered countless acts of horror with their instigators facing no punishment whatsoever. Those people fought and fought and fought and now you, me, everyone has laws to protect us. Even though terrible things still happen, we have ways to fight back. 

Know that. Know the laws. Learn about the Civil Rights Act, Title VII, and every other employment law out there. Do not ever think you can't protect yourself. You can and you should. 

A mindful approach to work encompasses all of these things, and more. With the right mindset, a positive approach, and a dedicated focus to awareness in all actions, we can help each other along the path to better things in everything we do, including our work interactions.

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