Please G-d In The Workplace

Lookign To Heaven.jpeg

So here is a true story that happened to me at work.


You know how you put on your “out of office message” in Microsoft Outlook when on leave…


Well, I was responsible and did just that. 


My message was typical informing people that I was out, when I plan to return, and who to contact about urgent matters in my (brief) absence. 


But something astonishing happened then…


I actually got a reply to my out of office message from an executive scolding me about it–imagine this being how government time is spent. 


Yes and dun da da dum…here was my big offense to this senior executive, in my out of office message, I simply used the words “Please G-d,” as in:


“I am out of the office and plan to return, please G-d, on [such and such day and date].”


The message I received back in my inbox:


“I’m not sure what the ‘please G+d’ reference means. It’s a bit confusing. You may want to delete it.”


OMG, I was being admonished in the federal government for using the words “Please G-d” in my out of office message–for simply respecting and recognizing Him/Her. 


– What is confusing about “Please G-d”?


– And how can anyone ask that I delete G-d from my message or in any way from my life???


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states under religious discrimination and harassment that:

 “Harassment, can include, for example offensive remarks about a person’s beliefs or religious practices.”

 

Further, “the law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employees religious beliefs and practices,” barring an undue burden. 


What burden to the government was there in me saying, “please G-d.”


And why did I get back a mocking message spelling it this way, “G+d,” which I read as being a cross in the middle, mocking me as someone of Jewish belief.


Understand that I write the word G-d with a hyphen, because I was taught out of respect not to spell out ( or even say) G-d’s name in vain, which is the 3rd commandment in the biblical Ten Commandments.


The executive’s comments to me were not only extremely rude, offensive, and discriminatory, but also illegal.


It is outrageous that this type of behavior should be allowed to go on in 21st century America, let alone in the federal government itself that writes and enforces the law of the land–the land of the free and the home of the brave–read it, it’s in our national anthem and our constitution. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Say W.H.O.

Hand Rub

So a colleague submitted this photo to me to share on my blog. 


So funny!


This was posted by Federal Occupational Health in the organization’s gym.


Publisher is the World Health Organization.


I don’t think this translates well from Switzerland. 


I’m not going to say another word.


(Source Photo: Colleague)

Conventional “Wisdom” On Terrorism

Conventional Wisdom.jpeg


Define “Terrorism”.


If a Jew/Israeli defends themselves or their ancestral homeland, it’s illegal, deplorable, and will utterly be condemned by the United Nations and in the media. 


If a radical Islamist attacks innocent civilians and commits extreme violent acts, they’re freedom fighters, resisting occupation, or maybe it’s just workplace violence. 


(Source Comic: Andy Blumenthal)

The Millennial Workplace

Keep Mouth Shut

So a colleague from a law enforcement agency told a funny story the other day.


When he was an agent-in-training he said they told them, “Keep your eyes open and your mouths shut.”


Basically, you are new–so watch and learn before you do something stupid and potentially get yourselves or someone else in trouble. 


But now as someone who been there for decades and is a supervisor, he was interviewing someone right out of school, and in the interview the kid says, “I want to be in charge!”


The difference from Generation X and the new Millennials couldn’t have been starker. 


But what did this guy do, he didn’t show the candidate to the door by his earlobes, but rather he ended up hiring him. 


Times have changed–not only with all the technology we use–but also in terms of people’s expectations from the job.


What do people want these days–aside from good compensation and comprehensive benefits?


Engagement through challenging and meaningful work that has tangible outcomes from day one

Innovating and creating versus pushing paper and doing routine, repetitive work

– Using current and cutting-edge technology

Opportunities to stay and advance or building the resume to “move out to move up”

– Lots of feedback, teamwork, sharing, and transparency

– Considerable work-life balance 


The bottom line is don’t be surprised by the kid who wants to be in charge from the get-go, instead relish their gusto and unleash their talent in your organization–with guidance, they can do amazing things. 


It’s not your fathers workplace anymore. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to g Tarded)

Going To War, In The Office

Indian
So occasionally in the office, people perhaps forget where they are…



And instead of working together to solve problems, they go to war with each other and make more problems. 



Yes, there are power politics and plenty of my slice of the pie versus your slice of the pie–whose slice is bigger, whose got more cheese and toppings, and whose slice is pipping hot. 



Most often these office controversies happen behind the scenes or closed doors.



Behind the scenes, you can’t see the knives violently slashing and behind paper-thin closed doors you (usually) can’t hear the screaming!



But every once in a while the “passion” of the work spills over into the public domain–sometimes in a meeting, hallway, cafeteria, or the even the company picnic. 



In all these cases, the professionalism goes out the window way too fast and out comes the drawing of lines in sand, the I’m right and you’re wrong (including wagers for a good lunch or even maybe a nice crisp $100 bill), and threats to escalate (as if this wasn’t ugly enough already).



What comes over people in the moment–perhaps they simply feel like they are in the right or that they are simply defending themselves, or maybe there is spillover from problems at home, ego at play, socialization issues, or even personality disorders.



Whatever the reason, as one of my best friend’s fathers used to say, “When 2 people fight, they are both wrong!”



Or some people say that “they both end up with black eyes”–even if one comes away worse than the other…



And I think if you’ve ever had a car accident with another driver, you would know that the insurance companies agree with this principle, and attribute some portion of blame to each driver–whether 50/50 or 99/1–everybody plays a part whether in an accident, dispute, or an all out brawl.



What’s interesting watching these unfold is how the participants are almost in their own world with everyone else as bystanders, sort of just fading into the distance–so they do everything wrong:



They speak emphatically in absolutes (and maybe even yell a little), cite chapter and verse (but from different books), name drop (ever bigger executives in the organization whether they really know them or their positions on the issues or not), name call and make personal digs, and perhaps–although it should absolutely never come to this–get physical (like slamming their portfolios, coffee mugs, and doors, or I heard one person who even threw something at their colleague).



Aside from these folks typically losing the argument and whatever they were after, what’s worse is they lose everyone’s respect, and maybe even their jobs. 



The arrow of the workplace fight shoots way up, and comes down hard and fast right in their behinds…it’s a stupid, but endlessly painful and deserved ouch.  😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Coworker to Killer

Going_postal

People are people, but there are some who walk a fine and dangerous line.

Some are stable, rational people–those, that we hope we can depend on.

Others are prime time wack jobs–they are not “safe” and everyone knows to beware of them.

Finally, there are those who are like firecrackers, one step away from explosion–and these can pose a nasty surprise.

These last two perhaps invoke the fear of someone in the workplace “going postal”–a reference to the 1986 killing by a postal worker of 14 people and then himself.

In light of the workplace shooting this week in front the Empire State Building, Newsweek (3 September 2012) asks “How to Spot a Workplace Crazy?”

Their default answer–see the Department of Homeland Security’s Active Shooter Booklet, which includes a list of 16 “indicators of potential violence by an employee” (page 10) from addiction to depression, over reactions to mood swings, unprovoked rage to paranoia, and more.

Perhaps, their more genuine answer is that anybody can be the next workplace shooter–and that it is hard to really tell what demons lay in wait inside a person’s head or heart or what can set them off.

They reference  the book, Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion, which states: “it can be anybody who’s getting completely screwed in the workplace–so that’s most workers in this country.”

When people feel a “perceived injustice” or they are “grievance collectors”–harboring hurt and anger at their mistreatment day-in and -out, they may be one step away from dangerous.

As leaders and managers, we cannot control for everything that people feel or for all their personal struggles and life’s circumstances, but we can do our best to treat others fairly, with compassion, to listen to them, and try to accomodate genuine needs.

I was reminded of this again, recently, when I went with my daughter to a car dealership.  At one point in negotiating for a new automobile, I asked a question about the current odometer reading.

The Manager yells over to a worker and tells him harshly to get on it and quickly.  It wasn’t what he said per se, but how he said it–ordering his subordinate around like a thing, not like a person.

My daughter turns to me and she is clearly uncomfortable with what she saw.  I asked her about it.  And she whispers to me, “Did you see how they treated the worker? It’s not right.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. And when the man came back with the information–we thanked him so much for helping us and told him what a good job he was doing getting everything ready–the paperwork and the vehicle.

Is he going to “go postal” today, tomorrow, or never…I don’t know–he seemed nice enough, but if people get pushed too far and their mental state is frayed, anything is possible, and we shouldn’t tempt fate–more importantly, we should treat everyone with respect and dignity.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Charlie Essers)

Let The Handicapped In

Disability_symbols

We can build “the bomb” and sequence human DNA, but we still are challenged in caring for and accommodating the handicapped.

Some of the major legislative protections to the disabled are afforded under:
–  The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal programs, and
–  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which covers things like employment, public programs (state and local) and transportation, public accommodations (housing) and commercial facilities, and telecommunications.

Despite these protections, our world still remains a harsh place for many disabled people–and we see it with older facilities that have not been retrofitted, broken elevators in the Metro, managers being obstinate to providing reasonable accommodations, and people not getting up from seats designated or not, for the disabled.

In yet more extreme cases, some people can show their worst and be just plain cruel toward the disabled:

On the Metro recently, there was a near fight between two young male passengers squeezing onto the train; when one tried walking away, deeper into the belly of the car, the other guy pursues him, and literally jumped over a guy in a wheelchair–hitting him with his shoe in the back of his head.

On yet another occasion, also on the Metro, there was a wheelchair with it’s back to the train doors (I think he couldn’t turn around because of the crowding). A couple gets on the train, apparently coming from the airport, and puts their luggage behind the wheelchair.  At the next station or so, when the wheelchair tries to back out to get off the train, the couple refuses to move their luggage out of the way. The guy in wheelchair really had guts and pushed his chair over and past the luggage, so he could get off.

To me these stories demonstrate just an inkling of not only the harsh reality that handicapped face out there, but also the shameful way people still act to them.

Today, the Wall Street Journal (17 August 2012) had an editorial by Mr. Fay Vincent, a former CEO for Columbia Pictures and commissioner of Major League Baseball, and he wrote an impassioned piece about how difficult it has been for him to get around in a wheelchair in everywhere from bathrooms at prominent men’s clubs, through narrow front office doors at a medical facility for x-rays, and even having to navigate “tight 90-degree turns” at an orthopedic hospital!

Vincent writes: “Even well-intentioned legislation cannot specify what is needed to accomodate those of us who are made to feel subhuman by unintentionalfailures to provide suitable facilities.”

Mr. Vincent seems almost too kind and understanding here as he goes on to describe a hotel shower/bath that was too difficult for him to “climb into or out” and when he asked the CEO of a major hotel chain why there wasn’t better accommodation for the disabled, the reply was “there are not many people like you visiting the top-level hotels, so it does not make business sense to cater to the handicapped.”

Wow–read that last piece again about not making business sense catering to the handicapped–is this really only about dollar and cents or can decency and compassion play any role here?

Yes, as Mr. Vincent points out, “modern medicine is keeping us all older for longer,” and many more people will require these basic and humane accommodations for getting around, bathing, going to the toilet, and more.  Let’s make this a national, no a global priority–every one deserves these basic dignities.

I am not clear on the loopholes, exemptions, deficiencies in guidelines, or insufficiencies of enforcement that are enabling people to still be so callous, cruel, and just plain stupid, but it time to change not only what’s written on paper, but to change people’s hearts too.

(Source Photo: here)