The Express Lane

express lane

How long have I been meandering through this market? I look down into my grocery basket. I look up at the sign at the checkout line I’m in. “10 items or less.” Do I have more? Oh crap, I might have more. Grammatically speaking, less refers to singular mass nouns – a general term, as fewer refers to actual items you can count.  So, am I going to hold this grammatically incorrect sign to mean that “less” means I don’t need to count my items? Hmm. Were it to say 10 items or “fewer”, and someone actually counted my items, would I have a serious problem? Hmm. No. I am, in fact, okay with them using ‘less’ instead of ‘fewer’. It does not roll off my tongue to say ’10 items or fewer’. Besides, there are only 3 lines open. The other two lanes have people who are shopping for some apocalyptic party or have some disorder akin to OCD–where they absolutely must buy insane quantities of whatever’s on sale. Whatever the case may be, here I stand, in an increasingly long line of people holding baskets of, or just holding, “10 items or less”. I start counting. Are four of the same item, ONE or FOUR? A quandary I find myself in too often. You’d think I would ask someone.  The cashier has a void. Perfect. Now, a man, carrying a basket in one hand, and a single item in his other walks up to me. “Ma’am, I only have the three items and I’m really in a hurry. Do you mind if I cut in front of you?” Well, I have already been here for a while, and I am now sweating the number of items I have, and whether I will be caught by the “market police”. “Well, I think I have more than the 10 items, so…” He looks at me as if I had more than 10 heads and he clearly doesn’t care, so I oblige. Now, there is one person, being rung up, one person with their seven items on the conveyor belt—I counted, no doubles—and Mr. ‘I’m in hurry’ in front of me.

I’m someone who makes up stories about people in line at the market based on their purchases. It’s fun and it’s something to do while you wait. I do this because when I had a cat, and would get off the train late from work, I would stop by the market on my way home. I am pretty sure I was being judged when I plopped down a rotisserie chicken, 6 cans of cat food,  a packet of cat treats, frozen brussels sprouts and a pint of ice cream. Yes, that little array screams sad, single woman, with cats… I know. I could hear the silent pity. Now it is I who wield the title of Judgy McJudgerson. Let’s see. The person now being rung-up has a very large container of greek yogurt, toilet paper, pretzels, soy milk, organic eggs, tampons and the current issue of US magazine. That, my friends, sounds like a party! Actually, I am betting single woman, no date on this Friday night. I could be wrong. It’s actually not as easy to ‘read’ people in the express lane. The big cart filled to the brim is where the fun is at. You can tell if they have children or pets, or both. You can tell which they love more. 😉 You can tell if they are entertaining, or having a barbecue. You can tell if they like odd foods, and then you wonder if you should try them. I imagine as often as I am in my market, that my regular cashiers can likely spin quite the tale about me based on the weird and nonsensical cravings I accommodate. Oh well, I will not be deterred.

Finally, the manager has corrected the voided item, the cashier has rung up Ms. ‘got no plans tonight’, and now it’s Mr. ‘I’m in a hurry’. He’s an easy read. A gallon of milk, box of cookies, and that 12 pack of beer pretty much screams you’re watching the kids tonight. It’s not judgmental, by the way, it is merely observatory. I observe, I draw unsubstantiated conclusions, silently narrate my little story, and move on, feeling awesome about myself. On this very special—meaning unusual—day, I have a cart with fresh salmon, asparagus, a couple of tomatoes, an avocado, container of strawberry’s, multi-grain English muffins, jar of peanut butter and 4 different flavors of bottled water. (That’s either eight or eleven items.) I have long since placed it on the floor, since my eternal wait in this line has somehow made the basket heavier. I lift it up to unload my items, and feel especially proud of my healthy choices—and equally glad I bought the snack foods yesterday. I have my small-talk conversation with my always pleasant cashier—discuss the weather and the increasing daylight. I pay with my debit card. As he assists me in bagging my few items I look back at how long the line has gotten. Part of me is curious what that really good-looking guy has in his cart… but not today. Today—right now—I am going home to throw these items in the fridge and have the snacks I bought yesterday. I’m exhausted.   🙂

Have a great day, grocery shoppers!

Xoxo DDJ

 

Strategy

 

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You’re sitting at work and smiling… Is this a dream?

morale 2

You’re sitting at your desk… someone says, ‘if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” DO YOU?  I know I wanted to…

There are many studies that find a connection between psychological and physical well-being. In other words, Happiness = Healthiness. So, if this is a prevalent theme in society, then the workplace mantra of “a happy employee is a productive employee” should hold similar credibility.  The ‘happy employee’ practices of very successful companies has become increasingly newsworthy and noteworthy. The most fascinating to me is the 52 and 17 rule. Working in sprint like fervor for 52 minutes and then mind clearing breaks of 17 minutes, produces the employees with the highest productivity ratings.  Before I even knew this was a thing, I would try this. Perhaps telling a story to my department. But a little levity was met with the look of “WHY THE HELL AREN’T YOU AT YOUR DESK?” My morale was sky-high–[eye-roll].

Alas, I found myself in the dark ages of low morale. How, exactly, is “if you’re unhappy, you can always leave here. No one is making you stay”, a productive statement to employees? I find myself to be a different kind of manager. One whose methods include teamwork, recognizing hard work, encouraging idea sharing, attentive, (caring about employees as people—friends). We spend so much time at work, it is—I believe—imperative to constantly strive to have everyone HAPPY to be there.  I mean, we work for the same company. I enjoy working towards the same goals and sharing in the success stories.  As a manager, applauding those who work hard and building up everyone to share in the “fun’, is inspiring for myself as well as the group.

Most of us know the stories of the “really cool” companies to work for. We’ve seen the stories of company excursions to fabulous places. However, not every small  company can go to lengths like  Top 10 Forbes companies.  http://www.forbes.com/pictures/efkk45jkjf/top-10-companies-doing-the-most-to-make-their-employees-happier/  But there is definitely room for improvement for some. The jobs site CareerBliss.com has the Leap Awards, honoring the companies that have made the biggest strides to improve employee happiness year-over-year. This is an impressive award. CareerBliss evaluates more than 250,000 company reviews and ratings it receives from employees nationwide to find the top 50 deserving companies. To qualify for the list, each company has to have at least 50 reviews. If you look at the list and do some quick math, you will come to the same conclusion as I did. Happy employees make for prosperous companies.

When one considers the amazing perks of some of the larger tech companies or big retailers, it is no wonder the rest of us are left a little envious—which can leave you less than “happy”. Apple is a good example of real life—real use—perks for today’s world. $300 towards gym, $100 for metrocard (NYC), tuition assistance if the class is related to your job. Intuit has a onsite massage therapist and a great 401K with employer matching. Facebook has an abundance of free food, dry cleaning, parental assistance, personal training subsidies and a spa. (California)

Time. How do you put a price tag on time? No one has enough of it, and generally speaking, if you want to take time off from work—at least where I was, with a  Scrooge school of business mentality—it was frowned upon.  I would like to take a page from the likes of Moz—a software marketing development company that has a GREAT time perk. All employees get 21 days paid vacation AND the company gives them a bonus $3000 in vacation reimbursement for food, lodging, entertainment and transportation. The CEO at Moz believes that this type of perk is essential to keeping amazing people on his team. Right THERE is part of the morale booster. The CEO recognizes that he HAS a great team. Other companies like Netflix have instituted unlimited vacation days—which has its problems as well as its benefits. Not everyone is equipped to hash out how many days is right for your job. Will you feel pressure for taking more or less days than your peers? All in all, though, I personally would like that kind of conundrum.

Food. Food is always welcome. Many companies will offer a pizza day or doughnut day, where more health conscious companies might offer something more on par with their healthier lifestyle, and everyone loves a little gourmet feast we won’t make for ourselves. Food is a fabulous perk. Food offerings, since the first caveman brought a Mammoth gift to his cave neighbor, has always been a great gesture.

Fitness. Encouraging your employees to be fit, energetic and doped up on dopamine’s is a no-brainer. Even smaller companies, without a great deal of money to spend, have found ways to benefit their employees mind and body. A company called Gravity Payments has a weekly running club, where team members can be excused from
their work for an hour to go on an organized run around the neighborhood. This clears minds, provides a mental break, increases camaraderie and is super healthy. A more prevalent company fitness perk is simply paying for or subsidizing gym memberships or classes. And an up and coming perk is having a gym on the premises for employees to use. Again, seemingly a no-brainer to increase morale.

These are just some perks that companies who value their employees use to keep them happy. Low morale can simply not be dismissed. A very interesting survey by Watson Wyatt and World at Work, found that from 2009 to 2010 the percentage of top performing employees that would recommend their employer to others for a job dropped by nearly 20%. Even more telling was that slightly more than 40% felt their pay and benefits changes over the past year had had a negative effect on work quality and customer service. These are the types of costs to a company that, if overlooked, will be more than most employers can bear.

The moral of this morale story is simple. You reward your employees with a few perks and some recognition for their work and you are, in turn, rewarded right back with loyalty, hard work and great press. Word of mouth for any sized company is priceless. Better it be good press than bad.

Some great—and low cost—morale boosters…TAKE A LOOK AT THIS: http://wheniwork.com/blog/10-low-cost-perks-to-boost-employee-morale/

Xoxo DDJ

Are you listening or just waiting to talk?!

BLOG - listening

Dialogue: (verb) take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem.

There is a great divide.  It is People.  Open discussions with people involving hearing AND listening used to be part of my everyday life.  Nowadays, well, there is plenty of talk, and not much listening.  People don’t seem to waver from their stance on ANY subject.  From the practical and sometimes enjoyable can of Beefaroni—see!!! You are already judging—to healthcare, listening to someone say their piece has vanished and been replaced with preparing a verbal assault.

I am the first to admit I have many, I mean MANY opinions. In fact, there is probably very little I don’t have an opinion on. I am lucky or smart enough to surround myself with people I enjoy having a healthy banter with. And, this is what I love about my family and friends–we hash things out.  I look forward to my niece’s take on things that I have clearly not taken into consideration or my brother correcting me because he just so happens to have more information than I am privy to.  It may not completely change where I stand, but I can tell you I always take pause.

I was recently verbally assaulted by a person whose opinions seemed scripted.  Genuinely, as if he had some sort of—don’t take this the wrong way—Liberal handbook.  He had way too many facts askew, so I asked where he got his information.  A question I felt was valid, and in this case—NECESSARY.  My crime for the ensuing onslaught was fessing up to being a fiscal conservative. And in response to my seemingly simple question… there was silence.  I asked again.  I figured I would help him out.  I mentioned I have the Pulse app on my phone and follow 12 News apps and 6 Political apps, encompassing a variety of viewpoints.  I mentioned that I generally like to check things out on Politifact or Factcheck.org and even hit up Snopes occasionally.   So I waited patiently for some sort of a response.  The response was that I must be some sort of “Ann Coulter wannabe”.   I was trying to imagine anything I would find more personally offensive… and at that moment, I couldn’t.  And just when I thought I was going to walk away….. which I promise you, I really was, I decided to say the defusing sentence.  I  said, “Sometimes, with some issues, it is best to agree to disagree”.  I took the high road—not a well-travelled path for me.  THEN, the unthinkable happened.  He KEPT TALKING!!!???  Compared me to Rush Limaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Hannity—He talked about my not KNOWING that we live in an oligarchy, that we are (insert really bad word here), because we can only choose between Pepsi and Coca Cola, and that corporations have bought all the politicians and our votes don’t count…that until there is a revolution and “we take our government back from the 1%” we are all… yes, insert that same bad word.

Well…. What was I to do? There was nothing on earth I could say to him, and he had not yet given me any idea where and how he formed his opinions. Even if I wanted to agree with any part of his tirade, I was pretty sure I was still about to get burned at the stake for being a Republican.  I was curious… I don’t even know this guy, but was demonized as a right-wing fanatic, who as far as he was concerned, was on the side of the super wealthy.  Funny… I don’t make that much money, but what I do, I work hard to keep.

This started with a few simple statements.  I said I consider myself a fiscal conservative, I have a blog page and I sometimes might write about things of a political nature.  Big mistake—HUGE. But this isn’t about one closed-minded, misinformed person.  It was about his simply not working with me on what we disagreed about.

Where is the dialogue?  It is monologue after monologue. I was used to this in the actual political arena, but in what should have been a “get to know ya” conversation?  It became hostile.  Okay, maybe I became hostile.  But every BUTTON I have was pressed.   It was as if some kid got on the elevator of a 30 story building and pressed every single floor!

Perhaps I am not as ‘open minded’ as I hoped, or thought, or wished.  But dialogue certainly involves 2 voices.  Evolution of said dialogue involves both those voices listening to the other. Lack of dialogue very well may be the cause of an ever soaring divorce rate, but that dialogue is clearly for another time.

“It is partly true too, but it isn’t all true. People always think something is all true”—J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.

This lack of dialogue is of epidemic proportions.  It reaches far beyond politics.  People have become so sure of their own voice and their own opinions that a chat about a movie or TV show or a song can turn ugly pretty fast.   GEEZ, people—lighten the heck up!  Perhaps we all have some growing we can do, open our minds, evolve a little! We do not live in a world of absolutes–Just ask any scientist.  So it is in everyone’s best interest to listen, process and THINK… for ourselves.

Problem: People are closed minded, unwavering, and more often than not—ill informed.

Solution: Beats the heck out of me, but I am open… yes I AM OPEN … to suggestions.

I have tried the high road, driven many a mile on the low road, and have hid in the bushes to avoid the road and its traps altogether. As the United Nations General Assembly is in session a few blocks away, I wonder what kind of dialogue is going on there.  Is anyone listening?  Or, are they just preparing their verbal, tactical assault?

“In this treacherous world, nothing is the truth nor a lie. Everything depends on the color of the crystal through which one sees it.”—Pedro Calderon de la Barca

DDJ [here to listen, not here to HEAR]

blog - keep talking

Condescension is not a job descriptor

Office Door Plaque.
Office Door Plaque.

Perhaps I am sensitive. Okay, I know I am.  On an ordinary day, were someone to be patronizing with truly insulting remarks, I might be pushed to counter with, “who the hell are you?” However that same sort of condescension in the workplace forces one to elicit a completely different response. I have not yet mastered the “yes sir/ma’am” reply to any and all remarks. It’s just NOT in my DNA. I am also not one to become argumentative. I do have one line of defense which evidently does not go over well. (oops.)

My knee jerk reaction to being insulted and patronized at my job—a job I take quite seriously—is a deep sigh and less than sincere agreement. I rather despise the word ‘snarky’, though that is what I am accused of.

In my defense, this only happens when there is someone, no doubt with a power trip, who wishes to plume their feathers by degrading my knowledge and expertise. For example, as I tried to explain what I thought needed changing in an office document, I was repeatedly interrupted—I mean REPEATEDLY. Four times, to be exact—I was met with, “you’re wrong”. By the fourth time I sat back in my chair and conceded in a less than agreeing tone that came out, “Okay, fine… I’m wrong.”

WELL… it’s EXHAUSTING. It’s also poor communication skills and mostly, it’s ridiculously annoying to be dismissed in such a manner.  I have no acceptable recourse—that I am capable of—other than abject defeat, swathed in a layer of sarcasm.  I am not saying this is appropriate behavior. It is however a part of me that would take a team of hypnotists, and whomever those people are that reprogram cult victims, to change.

So, clearly the easiest fix to my behavioral issue is to be less condescending towards me—and the rest of the world. Simple, huh?  And, truth be told, there is no place in either the workplace or the world for delusional, overbearing superiority complexes that exist solely to demean and degrade.

In the meantime, as I struggle with this dilemma, I will work on my reprogramming… though I don’t hold out much hope. I wonder how people handle this scenario? I fear it’s more common than uncommon in the workplace. I suppose I could work at becoming impervious to condescension, but I rather like my personality the way it is—adorably acerbic.  🙂

Xoxo DDJ

How about that rain?

how about that rain

There I was, standing among a group of strangers. Brought by a dear friend, who in trying to get me out of the house, dragged me kicking and screaming to a holiday party. I might be exaggerating the kicking and screaming a little–but not much. Once faced with party revelers, my kicking and screaming ceased.  The reality is, when faced with a situation I am uncomfortable in, I become strangely quiet. “Strangely”, because I am rarely quiet.

I surveyed the room with one of my terminator glances, left to right with cyborg precision. Yup, nobody here looks interesting. This has the potential to be an excruciating event. Holiday time is stressful enough. I don’t want to talk about vacations, or gifts, or crazy families or perfect kids, or money or jobs.  But I said I would mingle. (What was I thinking?!) It occurred to me that I have a veritable arsenal of witty, interesting and somewhat compelling conversation starters depending on my audience. In this case, I immediately ruled out NASCAR, mostly because it’s off season. I ruled out football because I am a Jets fan and well… I am a Jets fan. I ruled out dining, because I often wind up with nothing to say to the health conscious, gluten loathing, palette broken exercise nuts. Music: too subjective. Movies and TV are always an option, until someone has the nerve to say they have never seen Blazing Saddles. So, none of that.

What to do! Honestly, synapse firing thoughts and ultimate decision-making takes place in seconds. At the moment I open my mouth to speak, an assembly line of thoughts has passed through my brain.

I speak. “Pretty cold out, huh?” Yes, with my plethora of knowledge and interests that span from food, to music; politics to literature, sports to Broadway, I settled in on weather. In my defense, I really am a weather fan. Dare I say, a bit of a weather geek? I had to act fast as to not have my new circle of strangers be bored into a holiday party coma. I used words like Derecho and Haboob. I spoke with delight of  the Aurora Borealis, thunderstorms and tornadoes.  I shared information on my abundance of weather apps.  I think they were riveted. (I often imagine stuff, so who knows.) You see, I had an option when I opened my mouth to speak. I had control of what a group of strangers would think of me. I could have been the girl who knows everything about sports, or that chick who no one agrees with on politics, or be that snooty literary chick… maybe even that girl that everyone remembers for her love of broadway. No, I opted, in this instance to be a weather geek. For the record, rooms of strangers you will likely not see again are great for trying out conversation “material”.   🙂

My moment in the sun—pun intended—was brief but satisfying.  As happens with topical conversation, ours veered off and inevitably led to ALL of the conversations I didn’t want to have. The weather in different parts of the globe led to where people were traveling for the holidays, and  that somehow morphed into “winter foods”, and I don’t know how but—oh dear—global warming.  I decided to slip out of the circle of strangers, feeling proud for having partaken in pointless, time killing conversation.  I was a success, in my mind anyway.  Yes, weather is my friend, and as dull as it might seem and contrary to Oscar Wilde—“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative”—Hogwash!—I can stand proudly when I say I survived a holiday party because of my weather nerdines. ♥

There is a lesson in here, and it’s not just that when your gut says stay home, you should. It’s that sometimes you can have a blast just trapping people into listening to what YOU love. Maybe that’s not the lesson. Maybe, it’s that everyone has a conversation in them if they speak with enthusiasm about the weather. Maybe not. Does it really matter? I survived, it was fun… the end.

xoxo DDJ

A Slightly Different Sunday – Helper for a Day

catering gig

I have been going through something of a transformation of late. Not one of my choosing, but as it turns out, a transformation thrust upon me that appears to be changing me in a profound way. I was helping out a friend yesterday and while on our way to the wholesale club, BJ’s I went on a tangent—as I often do—about a kitten I had named BJ, (Bumper Jr.—a long story, and I was A KID.) Since there was the BJ theme, (hold the snickering, please), I followed up that superb piece of nostalgia with my rather strange infatuation with a television show, BJ and the Bear, a big hit from 1979 to 1981. Ok, maybe not a BIG hit… but it was on TV for 3 years!  And yes, I watched that show. Honestly, I had a bit of a crush on Greg Evigan. The monkey sidekick was a bonus. Strange how life tends to skew how we see things. Television helps in that respect. I thought driving an 18 wheeler looked so ‘glamorous’. Again, having a monkey sidekick didn’t hurt. But when I look back, I thought this was a cool job with what seemed like endless possibilities of fun. I realize that somewhere between an idyllic childhood and a cynical adulthood my opinions changed, reality took over and maybe my driving a big rig was not as glamorous as I thought. Clearly, I could not be wearing my pair of Donald Pliner couture boots in that particular job. Today I would look at being a travel expert or a food critic or fashion buyer as my slightly more tangible yet wholly unrealistic job choices.  As a kid, where others wanted to be a fireman or nurse, a doctor or a policeman, I was pretty sure I wanted to drive a BIG truck or a Zamboni—holding out hope I could work for the New York Rangers. We are taught that these aren’t necessarily the best jobs at all! At least, not if you want to make a lot of money and a lead a thrilling and glamorous life. Though, sometimes I still think having a truck and a monkey beats almost anything. But I digress, as all of my BJ and the Bear talk actually brings me to a point.

I had a most interesting, enlightening and rewarding experience this past weekend. And it was really just as a favor to a friend who has an emerging catering business. This was clearly not the same as driving a big rig with a monkey or giving the Ranger’s an ice resurfacing they could see their beautiful faces in, but it was the same in that it was something I had never done.  My friend is a wonderful cook, with years of catering experience. She needed a helper for the day of the event she was catering and without a great deal busying up my social calendar, I offered to help. On the day before the party, as she prepared oodles of food, I kept her company. I would love to say that I was a sous chef to the master as she prepared culinary delights, but reality is I was mostly moral support as she literally plowed through six dishes in no time at all.

For the day of the event, I helped her load the food, all the trays, and accompanying accoutrement into the car in what is probably my forte—organization.  I didn’t know what to expect. I have never worked in food service of any kind. Cooking for family and friends is vastly different. Like a seasoned pro, she had me and another woman, (whose ginger cookies were a big hit), helping in the set up as she got ready the appetizers. I was doing my best to aid her, but mostly just tried to anticipate anything she might need and do my best to stay out-of-the-way —even though the warmed brie with brandied pecans seemed to be screaming my name. NOT sneaking food was also a first for me. J

This was a surprise party for a golden anniversary couple. It was the bride who was unaware as the groom was in on the planning. I had my first tray in my hand as I floated through the kitchen and living room presenting nibbles of food to happy guests. The family was all there just awaiting what would be the very surprised woman of the house. I would not have considered myself much in the way of a people person, but found myself graciously offering stuffed mushrooms and tiny pigs in blankets, effortlessly holding a tray in one hand as my other held the fanned out napkins to take with ease. I think I had my epiphany as I knelt down, tray in hand, to offer some much appreciated food to a lovely 92-year-old woman. There it was–appreciation. It turns out I am very capable of smiling and walking around with food. I am equally—it seems—engaging and courteous. I mean I’m REALLY pretty good at it.  It is very possible I am making myself sound WAY better than I was, but everyone seemed quite pleased with our professionalism as well as the quality of my friend, Jenn’s, superb food. I can see where she gets such joy from her business, even though it is a GREAT deal of work to pull off a perfect party.  I saw instantly, the gratification on her face when we were finally packed up and heading home. I understand it. As with anything that you put your heart and soul into, that is as personal as your cooking and putting on a party, there is a level of satisfaction that is acutely apparent—and it WAS. I felt such admiration for her hard work having been received so well, and to be honest… I patted myself on the back a little for not having screwed it up.

I have worked in an office my whole life. There are so many other places to be. And I have to say that seeing how happy people are who have fewer headaches to deal with in putting together a party–like food prep, service and clean up–it was pretty gratifying.  It certainly helps that I am a self-professed foodie who loves to cook—and eat!

I always felt as if this was a job for other people. Mostly because I didn’t see how I would ever manage to prepare, transport and serve a feast, but now that I know it IS possible. I have a friend who loves it so—who is very good at it, and I truly hope she asks me to help out again. It was a pleasure getting out of my comfort zone. It was a pleasure working with a pro. It was a real pleasure getting great feedback.

So, that being said. If you have any need for an amazing caterer, and you’re in the general vicinity, check out:

Simplicity-Catering.com

Tell her Red sent ya!

xoxo DDJ