Kevin and I drag ourselves to the office party.
Kevin looks for his coat and tails to wear for the office Christmas Party. He doesn't need to look far. His luxurious fluffy coat and bouffant tail makes him good arm candy at any event.
With the holiday season upon us, stores begin to showcase evening wear for that once-a-year party where you can prove that you own clothes in other fabrics than denim or corduroy. It is also the party where you have the opportunity to glimpse into your co-workers personal lives - to see them with their significant other or observe them being unusually candid when speaking with you. At this iconic office affair, there is the anxiousness that for once your teammates can see the "real" you and they will parade about you with fresh eyes. The "real-ity" - most co-workers will sit at dinner tables with their work peeps - or with those they feel most comfortable talking to. Others will have to awkwardly engage in conversation with "that guy" who works on the other side of the office as they are late to the party and all the other tables have been filled. Like playing musical chairs - the last one standing gets booted from game.
After the second glass of free wine, as you drank the first one quickly to avoid looking bored, lips begin to loosen and the room gets louder. Proceeding the speeches and entertainment, the "Yawn, I am soo tired, I think it is time to go" vanish into the night not willing to take a part in the stories whispered in the staff kitchen on Monday morning.
The third, fourth, and fifth glass of free wine are poured. The bar is now serving shots. The party can be heard on the street by passing pedestrians giggling at the knowledge of what kind of day tomorrow will bring for the merrymakers. Closet smokers open the doors of inhibition and light-up for all to see. Lines form at the washrooms and necklines plunge even further - both for the suit shirt and the strapless dress. Pictures from the wee hours of the office party resemble childhood photos where we appear kooky dressed-up in our parents fancy clothes. Our make-up smudged around our face as our small hands struggled with the lipstick tube. Several people are now half-in-the-bag.
Men come alive with the sound of music. They no longer have two left feet, but the dance moves of Jagger. Their one dance move makes them the Prince of the Ball and women their Cinderella. As energy fades and the liquor runs dry, those left hail cabs or find hotel rooms for the night.
Over 30 office Christmas Parties I have attended, I have been everything from the Yawner to the Cinderella. I don't believe in regrets - just misguided decisions, so I do not deny my actions. However, I have fond memories of meeting people with whom I worked and had never talked to. If I hadn't been seated across the dinner table from them at the Christmas Party I wouldn't have known they preferred Cyndi Lauper to Metallica. Or I wouldn't have met a co-worker's significant other in the washroom line-up. Or wouldn't have met the account manager if I had not dropped my bun on their foot in the buffet line. There should be more times that don't include copious amounts of alcohol or dress code where we are all free to be comfortable with our co-workers. We should have this relaxed environment in our everyday work and we should endeavour to make our teams want to share some morsel of their lives with us. It is how we learn who they are and how they can work better.
Kevin looks handsome as usual. This year I go to the Christmas Party with no expectations and no curfew. We will see where the evening takes us and who we will meet. Hopefully, no one is allergic to cats.
Exercise is good..keeps you from punching a team member.
Like many, I am not a born athlete blessed with naturally chiseled abs and a perky posterior. I have to drag my sorry sass once a week to the gym. There, I begrudgingly lay on a mat and try to make my elbows reach my knees, or try to lunge low enough to hear my ankles crack. Thankfully, I do have someone nagging me to work harder and his name is Mikey. For a dog, he can be a quite the drill sergeant when I am supposed to be getting results. Mikey often has to bark loudly as it is hard to hear anything over my complaining.
Days can be long with multiple meetings, disapproving consultants, and balancing budgets which can make it difficult to do any physical activity other than lifting the latte to your lips. However, even a short walk can help with stress or fatigue. I know that going to the gym only once a week isn't quite enough to maintain good fitness or to see dramatic results, so when I can, I look to other activities to stay active. Cleaning the house may be included, but vacuuming sucks. :)
After polling my co-workers and friends, all confirmed that they do feel better after engaging in physical activity. It is the initial motivation of going to the gym, changing, and starting an activity that creates the biggest barrier between people and their fitness. Picking-up the workout bag and arriving at the gym really is the hardest part of intense exercise. At home, walking down the stairs to the basement and jumping onto the treadmill can be the challenge. There isn't a good answer to overcome the motivational challenge of starting an activity as it is different for everyone. The knowledge that there will be more energy to help you through those meetings and increased patience to calm the consultants is a good motivator to get moving. Also motivating is the awareness that there are things to do outside of work that can help you have new experiences or meet other people who are also trying to stay active. Thirty minutes of walking on a treadmill while watching the glube-tube, or doing a few sit-ups and push-ups at the park with the kids, all count for some activity beyond sitting. Every time you do a small activity, make it harder and it will help.
Mikey sees me complain during my sets, but he is unmoved. His goal is my goal - to complete the next 50 min. Each time I collapse on the mat and fain tears, I know that I am doing this for my own good, and the good of those around me whom I need to help guide and motivate. When the week has been extremely hard, and your patience pushed beyond the threshold of reasonable emotional tolerance, there really is nothing more satisfying than hitting a punching bag. The punching bag can't sue you.
Mikey can be found at - www.britannicafitness.com
The Seniors in the Office
This is Alex and he is old.
Alex is in his 21st cat year which makes him about 100 in human years. He stopped grooming himself about a year ago, and takes pills everyday for his heart and high-blood pressure. He is able to jump-up on his favourite chair, climb stairs, and find the litterbox. The vet says that apart from his minor health issues, he can continue to trudge the corridors of his little life. He isn't going to let himself give up just yet.
Alex is "that guy" (gal) in the office who keeps on working despite the hip replacement and seniors discounts. In the predominately younger offices, these individuals are truly relics. However, like old relics, they can be treasures. If you can be patient through the anecdotal evidence of how things were harder when they entered the corporate world, and the politically incorrect rants on humanity, you find nuggets of golden insight that they have cultivated over 40 years of experience.
The senior, senior staff, contribute to the company in unique and often intangible ways. You need to respect the thousands of meetings they have attended, hundreds of invoices they have processed, numerous failures and accomplishments, and voluminous daily tasks. They appear not as fast or technologically savvy than their younger counterparts, but those years of experience mean that they do not have to think as hard or work long hours to solve a problem.
Occasionally, golden individuals do need to be escorted to the exit door, but only if their distaste and resentment has reached the corporate tolerance saturation point. At this time they become disruptive and unruly - not caring how loud they are talking about the idiots they work with or eating any lunch they want out of the staff fridge.
These individuals can also be the most relaxed and unwavering on a project team. I watch them navigate the intense and chaotic deadlines with calm and ease. On my first large project, a golden consultant told me to chill - the project would get done with or without me. It really is about the project process - the journey, not the destination. Although, if you aren't good at your job, you will not like the destination. Years later I am still trying to explore this word "chill", but looking to those golden individuals, I have hope that I will enjoy a better project temperature. When you are on a team with them or in the staff kitchen, remember that they are as scared of you as you are of them.
Kevin walks over to Alex and gives him a bat on the ears indicating that he wants to play. Alex stares at Kevin in silence - Kevin disarms himself as Alex clearly isn't taking his bait. Then, with a steady paw, Alex thumps the unsuspecting Kevin to the ground. That is the elegance of age and experience. Even with technology on our side, we too shall get old.
Body Language in the Boardroom
Kevin can't speak English.
I am convinced he tries to speak to me with his pathetic meows and his tail flicks - he really does have a tiny meow for such a big cat... I also believe he listens for the intonations in my voice when I talk to him and watches my movements which indicate when he is going to get fed and when it is time to go out. (let's get this over with now - yes, Kevin gets to go out during the day for 1-2 hours. I am fully aware that this is not good for him in the long-run, but he loves being outside and his precious time he gets to chase birds keeps him fit. He is not allowed out at night as this is when the cat gangs appear in the alley and he would get his furry butt handed to him by some inner-city kitties who know how to handle themselves. Alex, the old cat who you will meet later, is strictly indoors)
Although some of us like to just use words to convey information with people as the current state of technology demands instant answers via email or phone, we don't realize that we miss what is being said with our body language and subtle nuances. Subtle nuances like how Kevin licks his paws or how your co-worker always walks to the right of their chair to sit down. When Og and Zog were hunting sabretooth, I don't think they were yelling grammatically correct full sentences with each other as they were moments away from the "coolest-in-the-cave" kill. I suspect that they were using some form of non-verbal signal to give directions in "operation-kill-sabretooth".
There are great links online to blogs and forums about how to read body language. This isn't a perfected science and there still seems to be discussion about how many emotions humans can convey non-verbally and what can be detected by watching body movements, however, there are some simple basic gestures that can help to understand what peoples body language is trying to say.
Understanding your teammate or opponent, whichever the relationship may be, can help your project success. Are their arms crossed in defence or indifference? Are they covering their mouth when they speak? Are they playing with pens? Are they eating their pen? Are they turned away from you? Are they looking at their phone when you are speaking? All these and many others gestures can reveal much about how people are feeling towards a topic, you, or a situation. Not everyone has the ability to naturally watch and read body language, and some people really don't care. However, a little time spent looking at someone to see what emotion they have can determine if your idea or direction is being received correctly. It was described to me once this way - "you can say one thing but your body is something else. This is why we don't like bad actors. They don't act with their whole body."
For us HSP's (highly sensitive persons), we can get so passionate about what we believe or think is right that we ignore all body language. This is where we need to stop and regain poker-face composure. The poker-face. Those experienced in business and corporate management are excellent at the poker-face. It is difficult to read the poker-face, but if you can get the poker players to feel comfortable, maybe share a laugh or good story, then slowly the body language starts to reveal emotion. Like hosting your own house party, making people feel comfortable in a meeting helps to relax individuals enough to want to look at each other. When we know we are being watched as we are talking, we feel that we are connecting to our audience. A large part of disappointment in meetings is when no one feels like they have been heard or that anyone was listening.
Kevin doesn't have a cat door. He also doesn't have opposable thumbs, and he can't successfully scratch at the metal door, so he is left finding another way to ask to come inside. He steps onto the patio furniture outside and looks anxiously into the window. If I didn't take the time to look-up from my work, then Kevin would become a catsicle in the cold or be left for those bad-sass cat gangs. If a cat can find a way to use body language, I am sure we can.
Fiona Warren - 17 years experience with large high-profile projects and teams.