Archive for December, 2007

Should And Want

Monday, December 24th, 2007

We’re wrapping up another year.  A good time to think about what’s up for 2008. 

While you are, consider psychologist Abraham Maslow, who said:  “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write–if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.”

Yup, sure, birds gotta fly, bees gotta buzz.  But he goes on to add a huge thing:  

“What one can be, one must be.”

Whoa.  Do you sometimes feel that what you want to do you don’t really deserve to do?  That it is somehow unavailable to you?  When you were little, did you want to be, for example, a ballerina but became an accountant because it was “practical”? 

Maslow says that, if you have, you have shirked your duty. 

Don’t feel bad!  While it MAY be too late for you to become an actual ballerina, it is never too late for you to find and do the work that you yearn for.  What was it about being a ballerina that attracted you, anyway?  Was it the music?  The costumes?  The adulation?  The fantasy?  The athleticism?  Here’s an idea:  examine your childhood dreams, deconstruct them, and find the “nugget.”  The thing about that dream that turned you on.

You know what?  That “nugget” is still available to you, in some form, today.  Your potential is still there, waiting to be let loose. 

What you can be, you must be.  It’s worth thinking about. 

So have a happy Christmas.  A cool Kwanzaa.  A beautiful Boxing Day.  A merry New Year.  See you on Jan. 2nd! 

Work + Holidays + Deadlines = !!!

Friday, December 21st, 2007

So there’s work stress.  There’s holiday stress.  There’s end-of-the-year-deadlines stress.  Put the three together and what have you got?

You betcha–megastress!  Are you feeling it, baby?

Now, the ideal solution is to take off a day.  Like today, for instance.  It’s the Friday before Christmas.*  Wouldn’t it be nice to just get up, walk out of work, go someplace where no one can find you, and do only what you wanted all the day long?  Now that would relieve stress!

Okay, that just made you feel worse because you CAN’T take off a day.  So consider this:  Your stress is mental.  And you know what?  A really good way to get to your mind is through your body.  With no further ado, things to do with your body that help your mind:

Move it.  Get up from the computer right now, back away from your desk, bend at the hips, grab the edge of your desk with both hands, and make your body into an “L” shape.  Lean backwards, away from your desk, stretching out your arms, shoulders, and back muscles.  Feels good, doesn’t it?  Do this several more times.

See the light.  No, not that light.  Actual real light.  Go outside some time during the day, before sunset, and let natural rays hit your skin.  Lift your face to the sun, if you can find any.  Inside, turn on lamps and light candles.  Why do you think people are hanging Christmas lights all over the place?  It’s to banish the gloom of this, the darkest time of the year.

Cut the racket.  Your cubicle mates’ inane chatter, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer for the 5,000th time–noise is exhausting.  Turn off your iPod.  Reacquaint yourself with the sounds of silence.  Try earplugs (at least in one ear).  Wear noise-cancelling headphones if you can get away with it.  Carve a few moments out of your day and go somewhere quiet (like a seldom-used ladies’ room). 

Eat more of what your body wants, less of what your brain wants.  Take a moment to honestly ask your body what it’s craving.  It may be a cookie (one).  It may be broccoli.  Your body knows.  If this doesn’t work, skip dinner one night (yes, go to bed hungry; it will do you good).  Or devote a day to eating only vegetables (steamed! no butter! no sauce!).

These are small steps that can be tucked into your busy day.  Remember from time to time to slow and deepen your breathing.  All that yoga stuff about your breath controlling your mood is really true.

All together now:  Inhale for a count of seven.  Exhale for a count of seven.  Aaahhh.

*If you don’t celebrate Christmas, you’re probably feeling stress anyway.  It’s catching.

Working Girl Channels The Grinch

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

And here’s what he told her:  “Do not give holiday gifts at work!  Do not give your coworkers gifts.  And, heavens to betsy, don’t give your boss a gift!” 

Alienated?  Offended?  Run, don’t walk, to Florinda’s post today on holiday gift-giving at work–she even lists humorous-yet-useful ideas on what to give the office suck-up, the resident workaholic, the waffler, etc.

Or stay here and get told to just say no to rampant consumerism, political correctness, and workplace power jockeying.  Why?

It is way too much effort.  The psychic energy you spend agonizing over the proper offering for your cubicle mate or the staff of the mail room is psychic energy better spent elsewhere. Like, contemplating peace on earth and goodwill to (wo)men. 

People have too much stuff already.  Save a tree.  Save the planet.  Save for your retirement.  Vote “no” on shoddy imports from China to Chicago (did you know that the best fake vomit is made in Chicago?  Is this the kind of thing you want to encourage?).

You can’t afford it.  Be honest.  Do you have a lot of spare cash around this time of year?  Didn’t think so.  Why are you squandering your precious limited resources on people with whom it’s in your best interest to maintain a cordial-yet-friendly distance?

Your coworkers don’t want presents from you.  Truly.  If you give presents to them, they have to think of what to get you.  Break the cycle of excess.  Be a workplace hero.

Your boss really doesn’t want a present from you.  It puts him/her in an awkward position.  Or at least it should.  If you have the kind of boss who wants/expects a gift—yeeks.  This is not good news!

So what should you do at work during the holidays?  It’s a simple two-step process.  Step One:  Cheer people up by being an example of seasonal joy (you know, peace on earth, etc.).  Step Two:  Extend to everyone your most sincere wishes for a lovely whatever-it-is-they-celebrate. 

No muss.  No fuss.  Happy holidays!

Thinking Inside The Box

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Tis the season.  Working Girl does not generally do the product placement thing but these Corporate Flashcards from Knock Knock are great.

Cute gift.

And educational.

Apostrophe Catastrophe

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Amy writes with this most pertinent question:

Hello,

I bought a present for my friend, which I personalized and put their family name on it.

It said “The Meegans.” Then I noticed that my friend added an apostrophe after N, like “the Meegan’s.”

Could you tell me which one is correct?  Thank you in advance.  Amy

Dear Amy,

You are correct!

Why do people sprinkle apostrophes like confetti?  Working Girl has long wondered why.  Here’s the rule:

Apostrophes are for possessive forms of nouns, not plural forms.  

Here’re a few examples: 

  • Possessives:  Fred’s book, Nancy’s dress, the Burns’s house 
  • Plurals: books, dresses, houses

Of course, there are exceptions, but they are tiny:  When the “noun” is a single letter (as in, “Mind your p’s and q’s); for abbreviations (“I like to collect IOU’s”); in the case of certain odd little words (“She gave many society do’s before her health gave out”); and, depending on the style manual you adhere to, for years (“The 60’s were a difficult decade”).

The great majority of the time, however, you do not use an apostrophe to form the plural of a noun.  Please ignore all those shop signs you see saying, “Egg’s $1 a dozen” or “Mitten’s $2 a pair.”  The proper reaction to these signs is a shudder and prompt averting of the eyes.  Ugh.

Obesogenic

Monday, December 17th, 2007

It’s a phenomenon.  Here’s why:

Once upon a time, Working Girl got a new job.  (Not unusual, WG has had 59).  The first day her new boss said, “We have a tradition around here.  Every new employee has to bring brownies into the office during their first week.”

“Sure,” said Working Girl.  “I’d be glad to.”

Two days later, she got up extra early and mixed up a batch of brownies.  (Being somewhat of a brownie herself, she wanted to bring them in while they were still warm.) 

Brownies in oven.  Timer set.  Shower, hair, make up, etc.  R-r-i-n-g.  Brownies done!  The oven didn’t feel that hot when she took out the pan but this fact did not register at the top of her mind.  She breezed into work, plonked the brownies next to the coffee machine, and proceeded straight to her office (first week on the job = extra diligence).

Around 11 a.m., she thought, “Time for a brownie,” and sauntered off to the kitchen.  They were more than two-thirds gone; a good sign.  She cut one for herself. 

“What the. . . . ?” 

The brownies, crusty on top, were RAW on the inside.  She remembered the less-than-hot oven.  You guessed it.  That was the day her oven malfunctioned.

The thing is, her coworkers ate all the brownies anyway.  

And that is why, boys and girls, people are getting fat on the job.  Yeah, it’s called obesogenics and you can read about it here.  Basically, the idea is that at work, You Will Eat Anything.  Also: workplace vending machines usually dispense only crap; you may experience subtle anti-exercise pressure (e.g., to take the elevator rather than the stairs); and overwork/stress often leads to overeating. 

The funniest line from the article is:  “When people bring in food, it usually isn’t healthy.”

Oh really.     

One Last Word About Power

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Just ran across these statistics from the Workplace Bullying Institute (yes, there is one):

  • 58% of bullies are women
  • women bully other women in 87% of the cases
  • half of all bullying is woman on woman

Were the bullying women ovulating?  The WBI does not address this question.  Even if not, these numbers are surprising.  Who knew. 

But we need to ask: Why do people bully?  In a nutshell, powerless people.  They do it because it makes them, if even for a moment, feel less powerless. 

Of course powerlessness can be in the eye of the beholder BUT it stands to reason that people who truly have less power–say, maybe, women at work–might resort to this behavior more often than other people.  This doesn’t make it okay.  But it may explain these unexpected numbers. 

Check out the site.  Fascinating stuff, and if you are (or have been) the target of workplace bullying, truly helpful. 

Best Time Of The Month?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

News flash:  Science has discovered that lap dancers who are ovulating make $30 an hour more in tips than women who are on their periods.  They make $15 more than women elsewhere in their cycles.

Our intrepid scientists (who gathered their data via a website, not by going to strip clubs and asking women if they were on their periods) do not know how men/tippers can tell the women are “in estrus” (smell? sound?).  But they suggest that their finding “could have implications for women selling cars or giving big presentations as C.E.O.’s,” says Geoffrey Miller, one of the U. of New Mexico psychologists who did the study. 

“Should women schedule big job interviews during certain weeks of the month?” he asks.  “We don’t know.  But maybe.”  

Women taking birth control pills (you don’t ovulate) earned “significantly less” than women who were cycling naturally and had no “estrus earning peak.”

What to do with this information?  File under “Power-How To Get More Of.”  You can read a bit more about it here (Sunday NYT, where WG got above quotes).

The Powersuit & Other Outstanding Outfits

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Speaking of power & clothes (see yesterday’s post), Working Girl has been thinking about what clothes make her feel powerful.

A Suit, Any Suit.  Yeah, it’s a cliché.  But there was this navy blue suit in the eighties.  Very trim, very neat.  Worn with navy blue pumps and a navy blue clutch tucked under one arm.  A simple white blouse.  WG always felt in Complete Control wearing this suit.  Even after someone cracked that it made her look like a stewardess. 

Accessories.  Didn’t someone once say that the only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize?  Sadly, few humans really nail accessorizing.  Whenever Working Girl (accidentally) manages to construct an outfit with the right shoes, belt, and jewelry, she wears it in that exact same way ever after.  Her current fad:  a chocolate brown top, black skirt, leopard-skin belt (faux), and black & brown tights.  Accessorizing well makes you unassailable.

Dresses (red).  Who doesn’t look good in a red dress?  WG has had several over the years and cherished them all.  When the MSM proclaimed 2007 to be the “year of the dress,” she cheered.  A dress is the most comfortable piece of clothing ever invented.  Pretty, too.  But when she sashayed down to the mall (thinking maybe she’d take a crowbar to her wallet and buy something new), there was only one rack of about six dresses.  Nothing worth carrying to the changing room.  Maybe it’s the year of the dress only on the East Coast.

Funky tights.  Thick, nubbly, colorful, wild, eye-catching, statement-making tights.  Comfy, warm, and very very powerful.  WG’s favorite:  orange, purple, and green striped tights she bought in a subway station in Berlin.  It will be a sad day when those babies wear out.

Anyway.  What clothes make you feel powerful?  (Are you a man?  Sure, you’re allowed to comment!)

What To Wear

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Anyone who thinks clothes are not important and that it doesn’t matter what you wear is seriously deluded.

Two artists, Tiffany Ludwig and Renee Piechocki, are showing just how huge clothes are in their art project, “Trappings.”  Ludwig and Piechocki have spent the last five years traveling around the country interviewing women.  They asked everyone the same question:  What do you wear that makes you feel powerful?  You can listen to the answers here

Clothes not only work “from the outside” (they advertise who we are), they work “from the inside” (they make us feel certain ways).  For instance, powerful, of course.  Or sad, comforted, threatened, relaxed, festive, ambitious, and more.  Don’t believe you can influence your mood by what you put on?  Try dressing “up” when you feel “down.”  Your favorite nubbly sweater, your pink clogs, your dangly earrings–YES, they are not only consoling, they can set you up on a path toward regaining your tattered self-image.

Some people refuse to employ this very useful tool, saying:

“I just want to be comfortable.”  You hear this from perpetual sweat-pants wearers.  Looking great and being comfortable are not mutually exclusive!  If you’re not comfortable in your clothes, they don’t fit right. 

“I refuse to spend a lot of money on clothes.”  People, do your wallet and the environment a big favor and check out the nearest consignment shop

“I hate shopping.”  Don’t we all?  You don’t need to make shopping into a hobby to put together a fabaroo wardrobe.  Cruising consignment shops four or five times a year should do it. 

“I don’t want to buy anything new until I lose weight.”  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a jazzy, gently used top is just the thing to reward yourself for shaving off a few pounds.  Fun! 

Check out the “Trappings” website for more inspiration.  Or buy the book, “Trappings: Stories of Women, Power, and Clothing.”  

(Guess what WG has on right now!  Sweat pants!  Oops.)

P.S.  No, WG does not own stock in a consignment shop.  She’s just a real fan.