Workplace Wellness – find your friends

One of the biggest drivers of employee engagement is having someone who you consider a good friend (or sometimes best friend) at work.

Or at least that’s what I used to read about when I was an operational manager at Medtronic. I was a little skeptical. But I think I understand what all those employee engagement surveys are trying to say:

It is important to have colleagues that you trust at work, people who may, over time, become friends. I certainly felt like I had a lot of friends at Medtronic. It’s one reason why it was so hard for me to leave.

WORKPLace wellness on wednesdays

At the University, I am only 2.5 weeks in. I feel like I have a lot of “potential” friends, and people who share common interests. It takes time to form relationships. I am not expecting to adopt a bestie right away. It might take 6-12 months before I find out who my real friends are. People tend to be polite in Minnesota, and it’s not always easy to discern who is a true friend.

Also I sometimes encounter people who are excessively concerned with titles and prestige, so they are likely to wait it out a bit before being too warm and friendly. As a “newbie” in this organization, I don’t have networks yet. I am untested, though my boss told me that the people I had met so far gave her positive feedback about the impression they had from our first meetings. So I will count that as a win.

In any case, I think I am fairly good connecting people and ideas. But like anything, I am being patient with it, since I know that every work place culture is different. I am confident that all of this will shake out eventually.

Back to the mantra I used a couple of weeks ago: You have time. 🙂

Happy Wednesday, friends!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

51 percent

From a young age I have been encouraged to strive for excellence. My parents did not exert much pressure, mind you. But I think the fact that they were teachers probably drove my expectations about academic achievement. I thought that “winning” was doing well in school, and since learning came fairly easily to me, I aspired to this type of achievement.

Looking back, I remember taking on a heavy course schedule, especially in middle and high school, when we could select our electives. I also participated in many school activities, band, forensics (what they called public speaking) and various other extras I was encouraged to add because I was deemed “gifted” due to test scores.

At the same time, some teachers in middle school in particular thought that I was not working up to my potential. I distinctly remember my 6th grade reading teacher explaining this to my parents at conferences. We had page number requirements for books we had to read and I remember that 1500 per quarter was considered grade A level (1200 = B, 900 = C). My reading list typically listed 4000-5000 pages for each quarter, or about 300% of A level.

I was (and am) a voracious reader, but not as excited then about writing reports or summaries of what I had read. Of course, I did not always remember a lot of what I had read (and I now know variable attention was a factor). At the speed I was going, I just wanted to cover as much ground as possible. Even today, I typically get through books quickly. But now I tend to read them more closely a second time if they have a larger impact on me. This habit worked well in college for getting through vast amounts of material, and then selecting what needed to be studied rather than simply read.

Fifty one percent

At work, it has been my habit in my career to attempt to give 110%, to go above and beyond what is needed. I realize this was a cultural norm for the company I recently worked for, which had in its mission statement the words “striving without reserve” for the greatest possible reliability and quality. While I appreciate the intent, the “without reserve” part always bothered me.

For many years, my personal “reserves” ran low constantly. By giving so much to my work so consistently, I short-changed close relationships, friendships, and even my own health at times. I received promotions and advancement, but at what cost? Since I experience variable attention, I often arrived early or stayed late so I could work while it was quiet and there were less interruptions.

Ironically enough, in my final year I realized that cutting back on work hours generally, and giving less (more like 90% rather than 110%) made me much more effective in the hours I actually worked. When I use the tools of more sleep, meditation, better mental and emotional management, and good quality food and exercise, and more time away from work to rest and play, I make better decisions.

In yoga teacher training, we are learning about the concept of non-striving, about giving 51% in our practice, the just right stimulus for growth, rather than 110%. As someone who has taken a break from the full time work world for 9 months, I likely embrace the concept more readily than many. It chafes against our cultural conditioning. And that can be a good and necessary thing.

In a world that often tells us we are “never enough” we need to re-think what is essential, and what is extraneous. Not all days or phases of our lives are identical, of course, and we may need to adjust accordingly. But sometimes giving 51% and keeping some energy for ourselves is appropriate and what gives us resilience for the longer term.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Showing up as me

Do you ever feel like you are playing a role when you show up for an interview?

You know, there is a “song and dance” routine and you are expected to go through certain motions. You know the answers you are expected to give. You have been on the other side of the interview table, perhaps, on a selection committee a few times. And yet, you are unable to play the game in the way that you did before.

Salt and pepper hair
This photo was taken a few weeks ago before I covered some gray. Okay, full disclosure: I showed up as me with a little root touch up. And I’m unapologetic about that too! 

I think being 2 months shy of 45 has given me certain perspective on what I value. It has change the way I choose to show up these days. I no longer have a need to put on a “front” when I talk with people, at least beyond some social graces.

There’s a comfort level in my body, within being in my own skin, showing up as me,  unapologetic and real. It is freeing. I have gained experience in many challenging situations in the past couple decades. I’ve made lots of mistakes. And I’ve learned valuable lessons along the way. I’ve had success in a lot of areas, and I can own that success, and not be sheepish about claiming those victories.

I give tremendous credit to years of yoga and the past year of dance classes. Trying new things, and risking appearing foolish as a beginner has given me more confidence in trying other new things. I know that new moves (whether they are dance routines or yoga poses) can be learned and practiced, and that skills are built over time and with regular commitment.

I found out on Wednesday (after my Tuesday interview) that I will be asked for the third (and presumably final) interview for a position that excites me. I am getting better at showing up as me, rather than some image of who I think I am supposed to be. Perhaps that is ultimately the work of our lives, knowing ourselves and honoring those calls to grow.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – food and social pressure

This week I am introducing a topic which may be one of a series, since it is complex topic. But it arose for me as I was attending a work gathering last night and observing the way in which I and others approached the food and alcohol service on a patio restaurant for a social event.

First let me say that work social events have always made me a bit uncomfortable. Over the years I have learned ways to enjoy them (generally without alcohol) but as an introvert, they wear me out. Especially after a long day of meetings, a work event to attend can feel like a special brand of hell to those of us who just want a break from having to interact with people.

For many years, my approach was to be sure I had a glass or two of wine, or a beer, to help myself relax during these events. Many of us know alcohol to be a “social lubricant” and rely on it for loosening up our tongue and not feeling as tense or nervous about having to make small talk.

delicious food.JPG
Photo credit link

A couple of years ago I decided to stop drinking completely for a period of time. While I am not alcoholic I noticed I was relying too heavily on wine to relieve my discomfort, and I did not like the habitual nature and automatic desire every evening. It was at the same time that I realized I am in a work culture where many, many people drink at work social events. It is a norm, and I suppose among a lot of introverted engineer types, social lubricant many seem like a necessity sometimes.

When I was not drinking, I felt a lot of pressure from colleagues, and the only answer that caused people to back off from asking why I was not drinking was to tell them it interferes with my sleep. Somehow, then it is less socially acceptable to pressure someone to drink.

But the same goes for pressure around desserts: when you do not have a dessert on my team, everyone gives you crap about it! Tons of pressure.

So the point I want to make in this brief blog (since I will need to run off to meetings again today) is that we often eat, not because we are hungry, but for other reasons, like social pressure. We drink for reasons like that as well.

There is a great episode of Hidden Brain which discusses this topic, and I encourage you to listen if you are interested in the topic of food and psychology. Why we eat goes far beyond actual physical hunger. It sometimes has to do with being unable to tolerate social pressure or personal discomfort.

But we can teach ourselves how to pay attention to our own hunger signals and become comfortable with the momentary discomfort of rejecting food when we really do not want it. Learning this skill we strengthen our ability to make other challenging choices as well, and for me, that has transformed my ability to manage my weight.

Okay, time is limited and I think I will make this into a series, continuing the topic on my next Wellness Wednesday when I will be home and not at all-day work meetings. Happy hump day!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com