Catherine Trombley: Workplace New Year’s Resolutions

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The holiday rush has waned, the warm greetings and Yuletide good-will-to-all attitude has been packed away in our corporate mindsets, and we reluctantly begin the trudge through another new year at the office. Our workplace atmosphere undergoes an odd transformation from jolly December when we are praised by our bosses, receive bonuses and small gifts from coworkers to a demanding and drab January. Could there be a way to find a middle ground between these schizophrenic extremes of workplace atmosphere that lasts year-round? Managers and employees alike may find a way toward this balance by taking on a Workplace New Year’s Resolution.

We typically think of a New Year’s resolution as a personal goal like losing weight or quitting smoking, but what is more personal than the place we spend nearly one-third of our lives? Working on our professional development, relationship with coworkers and time management are just a few things that affect the quality of our office life—and we need not wait for our annual performance review to address them.

Begin with the Boss

A recent edition of HR Review outlined the results of a poll done by the Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) which found that a staggering 94% of HR professionals surveyed felt their boss needed additional leadership development. Some of the areas cited in the poll where development was needed included: ability to motivate and emotional awareness.

Bosses reading this may have felt a sinking in their stomach at seeing these figures. In addition to costly training sessions, bosses can also take small steps with their own Workplace New Year’s Resolution. Why not start the year with an announcement to employees of a new initiative to address their concerns or an incentive program to keep them motivated?

By building off the warm glow of office harmony leftover from the holidays, your program may be better received than if your initiative is implemented after someone’s review or in response to a negative event.

Some Bosses may consider establishing office hours (similar to what professors do in Universities) where they dedicate a few hours a week to being available to answer questions or address concerns.

Incentive and motivational programs range far and wide and can be tailored to your team’s needs. You may consider a collective prize upon the attaining of a departmental goal (i.e. a team pizza lunch). Others may feel their team needs to increase positive reinforcement and can create an anonymous compliment board, or a nomination-based service award each quarter. Just remember, Bosses, your Workplace New Year’s Resolution is about you. No matter how many programs you initiate, unless you invest yourself in making them a success, it will likely fall flat along with your managerial effectiveness.

So maybe you can consider some more personal resolutions focused on your image within your team. You may consider making your own professional development goals known to your employees. Post a small list outside your door for all to see (nothing too personal or confidential of course). Wouldn’t it be nice for them to know that they are not the only ones taking a monotonous online training session? What if one of your goals was to learn the daily tasks your employees do?

Your employees may very well begin to see you as a collaborator in their daily plight rather than a distant and disconnected figure that imposes irrelevant tasks.

Coworker Communication
So the lady in the cubicle at the end of the hall who you simply cannot stand managed to melt your heart a bit at the Christmas party by bringing you a small gift. Maybe you have been wrong about her all along.

Start the New Year with a personal resolution to make small talk or simply give someone in your office a second chance who you may have previously written-off you’re your office social circle. You never know when you may need to work with that person on a project or they could well prove to be of help to you in solving a problem. And remember, people behave quite differently at the office than they do at home. You may be surprised you have more in common than you thought (a hobby, a favorite tv show).

Several years ago a friend of mine complained of a woman on her team who seemed to think the entire office should be notified by email of her every move, and who had a joke for just about anything that went on in the office which should be published in each and every inbox. My friend had instantly written her off as someone she would never befriend. But after an unexpectedly pleasant interaction at a Christmas party, my friend changed her perspective. This woman was new to technology and didn’t understand the unspoken etiquette of emailing. She was simply trying to show that she was “hip to the youth” by sending her incessant emails—aren’t kids texting all day on their phones anyway?. The less people reacted, the more she kept trying to find the right joke that would gain her acceptance in the Generation Y and X crowd. Now, more attuned to this older colleague’s personality, my friend seconds her jokes by privately responding to her email, and her older colleague seems more contented and has learned matured in her emailing behavior. Not to mention that this older colleague has even helped my friend researching files on one of her company’s older clients.

Professional Development

For many people this is addressed once a year in an annual review where you are assigned to take an online tutorial or participate in a 3-day canned seminar. But professional development exceeds these event-focused achievements. As your New Year’s resolution why not consider working on improving your work place habits such as time-management or organization?

During the Economic Downturn those fortunate to remain in the workforce have seen their workload double or triple as personnel have been down-sized. Suddenly you have found yourself multi-tasking but it feels like multi-drowning as nothing seems to ever be completely finished. As your New Years resolution focus on strategies to help you cope with the faster pace of your workload.

Perhaps there is an aspect of your department you always struggle with, such as a monthly report log, accounting, proposal writing, or others. Make it your New Year’s resolution to challenge yourself by volunteering to work on this type of project instead of being forced to do it. Consider asking someone on your team for pointers. After a few tries you may find that these tasks that previously dumbfounded you are much easier than you thought.

After all, professional development can only be achieved by working at things that are new to you and not everything that challenges you comes neatly bundled in a tutorial.

Consider organizing yourself by setting 15 minutes a week to simply cleaning your desk or inbox. Make reminders for yourself about project deadlines and chart out to-do lists for yourself. These may sound like clichéd recommendations, but often getting back to basics is the best way to advance.

Several months ago our team hired a very bright 20-something, she caught on to new information quickly and was a whiz at the computer, but her organization left much to be desired. Despite her quick text messaging skills, she could not for the life of her provide a thorough follow-up of her open files. Her tasks kept piling up and for all her technological savvy, she apparently had never thought to open a separate file and add a post-it note for herself on each case. It just goes to show the importance of basic organizational skills.

Attitude, Attitude, Attitude

By now you may be thinking about some area in your workplace that could use some New Year’s remodeling. But much like weight loss goals it is not enough to just think about it, you need to get up and do and believe in what you’re doing.

If your resolution is to improve relations with your coworkers, start tomorrow by rearranging your desk to face your colleagues instead of giving your back to them. The next day hang out at the coffee machine a few seconds longer and say good morning to your colleagues.

If your resolution is to improve your workplace efficiency, decide to come in a few minutes earlier and clean-up the clutter from your desk before your workday formally begins. This small head start in your schedule may help you be more prepared later on in the day as you will have your files organized and ready to go.

There is something special in the air at the start of a new year, perhaps the promise of change or the hope of new opportunities and second chances. This year, decide to bring a bit of that spirit to your cubicle, who knows, it just might be contagious.

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About Catherine Trombley

An international professional, Catherine Trombley brings an innovative approach to the world of international insurance at Rutherford Financial Services Inc. In an industry so focused on the needs of individuals and groups, a truly personalized approach is needed.

Prior to coming to Rutherfoord, Catherine was involved in translation and interpretation. She dealt with clients across a wide range of lifestyles from Embassy personnel to underpriviledged medical patients. My experiences in this field have taught me the need for clear communication across cultures as well as how critical it is to understanding multiple points of view when attempting to disseminate knowledge across a linguistic or cultural barrier.

Bilingual in Spanish and English, fluent in French, with knowledge of Portuguese and Arabic, Catherine is always interested in connecting with people... if it can be in their native language, all the better!

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