Thanks For Sharing Your Leftovers

Posted by amy.

The advent of microwaves ovens created a brave new world at work. The office no longer needed to reek of printer toner and whiteboard markers alone. The office could now smell of microwave popcorn!

Ah, but it didn’t stop there. We can pop something out of the freezer (with the notes on it about cleaning up after yourself) and cook a lasagna or chicken potpie. Going even further, the microwave is now the new home for cooking leftovers. How many of us have been distracted by what we know is a reheated bean burrito or beef chow mein that was nuked just a little too long? The smell of reheated burritos can be as distracting as the guy in the cubicle next door who talks to his mother all day.

I dare you to hold a serious meeting when the smell of the garlic in the clam linguini works its way through the halls. The mind wanders in the hope that we don’t sit next to that person in the next meeting. What was not eaten at the restaurant last night does not go home, it ends up in the office microwave. The odors are shared by all.

Some say that leftovers in the office create community when everyone goes out into the hall and asks, what is that smell? Who is cooking that? Left-overs allow colleagues to share their restaurant experiences, and leftovers are the inspiration for the ironclad rule about implementation: whatever is left in the refrigerator on Friday will be thrown away.

It is always good to know that inspiration about execution can come from new sources, like leftovers. And sometimes they are best left at home.

It’s More Than Just Coffee

Posted by amy.

Photo by on Unsplash

Lunch is dead. It takes too long, it’s too crowded, and it’s a hassle. Besides, it is often offered for free or at a big discount if you stay in the company cafeteria. So instead of lunch out at the local restaurant where one can network and maybe even interview for new jobs, we are stuck with our colleagues, who complain about the boss. The solution is coffee, whether you drink it or not.

Coffee is no longer an innocent drink to have with the morning dough-nut in private. Coffee isn’t even a drink. Coffee may not even involve coffee. When someone asks you out for a coffee, it means a short meeting outside of the office. It could be purely social (even a date), it could be all about business, it could be just good networking, or, most likely, it could be an interview. Most importantly, “coffee” means not too long.

There are many benefits to “coffee,” including:

  • It’s possible to have five coffees or more in a day. You can only have one lunch.
  • Lunch can be lots of calories. Coffee is nonfattening unless you order a huge Mocha Frappuccino with extra caramel.
  • Coffee frees up lunch to get real work done. You can still have that turkey sandwich at your desk at lunch, knowing that you already had five coffees.

In our drive for efficiency and productivity, lunch is being replaced with coffee. Lunch is now reserved for true friends and making deals. It is a special event.

The place for the two activities is reversed. Lunch is probably now in the office and coffee is outside of the office. A typical coffee shop is more like a career fair, with interviews taking place at every ­non-private little table. I see people discussing their strengths and weaknesses everywhere while their coffee gets cold. So I tried conducting an interview in the local beanery, thinking that it would put the candidate more at ease. The alternative was a stark conference room, which does not lend itself to participants feeling at ease. In the coffee shop, as always, there was a line while the barista did her thing, so we broke the ice over small talk. When it came our time to order, my candidate ordered a Mocha Coconut Frappuccino, blended, with foam on the side. Extra hot.

“Is this a person who is going to be high maintenance?” I wondered. If ordering a coffee is this complicated, how will this person do when it comes to putting a plan together? Is it right to judge people by the coffee they order? Right or wrong, when looking for a job, we are all judged by every small movement. Could be our clothes or hairstyle or where we went to ­school — or our coffee order.

When I entertained yet another candidate for a job, I learned about coffee names by chance. My candidate, who was named Joaquim, was asked his name. He replied, “Joe.” It turns out, about half of us have coffee names, and that’s a good thing. Coffee names are all about clarity and ease of completion. No need to spell Ann, Joe, or Scott. Coffee names are all about efficiency, and short names make the line go faster. Coffee names are all about creativity too. What name can we dream up that captures our essence without having to spell it every time? Coffee names can create an alter ego too. If we can change our name at the coffee corner, the superhero in the office can’t be far behind.

Coffee is an important part of the workplace that can make or break a career all at once. Coffee is more than a caffeine buzz; it is a parallel universe to the office. Remember what can happen over coffee and save the mocha frappes for when you get a job.

Don’t Become Labeled As Unresponsive

Posted by amy.

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

My first boss told me in no uncertain terms: THESE ARE THE RULES, and they should never be broken if you want to be successful.

  • Every phone call should be returned within ­twenty-four hours. Even those from people you don’t know.
  • Every memo should have a response by the next business day. Even if the response is, “I am in receipt of your memo, stay tuned.”
  • Each piece of correspondence received should be acknowledged and a response prepared and returned within three business days.

Today, it is rare to make a phone call or to receive one. No one even knows what a memo is anymore, and no one receives written letters unless the letter is from the IRS. The rules have changed and are now, well, a little ambiguous. There are some general guidelines, like:

  • An e‑mail needs to be returned the same day. Probably.
  • A text should be returned in five minutes. Probably.
  • And a phone call? Depending on who it is, maybe someone will get around to it eventually.

Some would say that these guideline response times are too slow. This group would say an e‑mail should be returned within the hour and a text within a minute. This same group would be forgiving on returned phone call times because this is the group that never makes phone calls or would die before posting an automatic out‑of‑office response.

Others would say e‑mails, texts, and calls are the source of all distractions and inefficiencies. This group would choose not to be measured by response time.

The workplace is moving so fast today that “the quicker the response, the better” is always a good rule. Acceptable and exact response times today are a moving target with lots of variables that dictate the right answer.

One thing I do know: to be labeled as unresponsive in today’s workplace is the kiss of laziness and a step toward the exit door.