Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Because the Indolent Generation is All Your Fault... And How to Fix It.


This topic again. But it’s just never-ending. The discouragement, the negativity, the fear: Why can people not see that their pessimism towards our generation’s lack of work ethic only makes it worse?

Now, I understand the perspective. As a generalization, there is a significant difference in the effort and trying that my generation puts into a job or task as compared to an older age bracket. But I think it’s finally time to recognize that the derogatory comments are only making us defensive. And as with most adults, defensiveness leads to closed mindedness, and close mindedness means no one is improving. I must ask, if you really are that concerned and distraught that your rant regarding our indolence is never ending, then why not use your creative intelligence and energy (which we so apparently lack) to motivate us?

Why should you be bothered? How is it your problem to fix?

Well... you made us this way. Multiple decisions you made during our upbringing created us to be the lacklustre cohort as you view us. But I’m going to focus on just one of these decisions.

Naturally, we want to protect our children and want what’s best for them. No one likes suffering. No one likes seeing their kids endure grief and frustration.

But life is difficult*. There will always be problems, fighting, anger, despair, sadness, and hurt, - the list goes on. Responsibility as a parent is to teach your kids about life and how to deal with it. So I must ask, in taking all measures to avoid the discomfort that life so readily delivers, what are you really teaching your children?

Are you teaching them how to be problem solvers? Are you teaching them the concept of delayed gratification (i.e., work before play?) Are you teaching them about over-coming challenge and frustration to grow and learn maturely? Are you teaching them about work ethic?

No. You are teaching them to avoid suffering and problems. But, this is not how we grow and learn. We need to go through the suffering, not around it*. And teaching this to your children is an extremely important part of growing up. As a child, when you witness an over-protective parent, or a parent who they themselves do what they can to avoid dealing with their problems and finding solutions, then that is what you learn about how to live life.

Now, don’t twist my words. You know I’m not saying that you should put your child through undue harm or just let them do things that could hurt them. I shouldn’t even have to explain that there is a necessary balance.

The next time little Tommy hits little sister Sally, rather than screaming ‘No!’ and running to a psychologist as to why your child could possibly behave this way, how about sitting down and going through the suffering and the problem solving WITH your kids. Teaching them that issues and problems are something to face and work through.

Because in those moments of problems, fighting, anger, despair, sadness, and hurt, the opportunity of solutions, peace, calm, joy and relief are ready to shine through.

Anyway, this blog isn’t meant to be “how to parent your kids,” or even finger-pointing at all the parents of my so-called non-working generation. It’s something to think about regarding possibly why we have become this way, and maybe what we can learn about how to make it better;  about how we can learn some self-discipline, delayed gratification, and the concept of valuing our time through valuing ourselves*.

So now, I encourage us all (my peers included), to put our heads together and work through the problem of our current lethargic nature. Don’t ignore it and pretend it’s not there. Don’t become exasperated and pass the trouble on to someone else.

Please, if you love us, take some portion of responsibility, and be willing to go through the suffering and the problem solving with us.

*Select thoughts and points taken from “The Road Less Traveled“ (C)1978 – M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Well, I’m home. When I say ‘home,’ I want you to picture me making silly quotation marks with my fingers. Why? Because home is not home when you haven’t lived there in eight years.

Truthfully, I haven’t felt "at home” anywhere for a very long time. This past eleven and a half months in Australia was the longest period I’d spent in one country in over four years. Despite my constant moving about while being there, Oz felt more familiar than anywhere else.

I've been “home” for four days and I’m already feeling a wee bit antsy. More precisely,  I should describe it as a full-on anxiety attack rather than a simple travel bug. I knew this was going to be hard for me simply because it always is. (I can just hear the “woe is her” sarcasm now. “The poor thing had to TRAVEL for four and half years. How unlucky can you get?”)

So I’ve traveled the world in search of a home and am finally ready to just make one for myself. I want a puppy, and a garden, and a livingroom I decorated, and my own kitchen with my own groceries so Rylan and I can cook what WE want for dinner when we want it.

I want to invest in one little part of this massive world so that one day something feels like home...

Hmm, but let's be serious for a moment. Knowing me, staying still is not an option. Maybe I can just stay still Monday through Friday so my weekends can involve adventurous excursions with Rylan and friends. And my annual leave will take me as far overseas as my bank balance will allow. And if in a couple years I've had my fill of domesticated life, Japan awaits patiently on my bucket-list!

Now I just need my man to get his b-u-t-t over here so we can create this wonderful thing that I'm told is where our hearts have been kept all this time.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The People Vs. The Money

I think people are more important than money. I don’t think this is a radical concept either. In fact, when faced with a rating people and money on level of importance, I’d like to think 99.9% of the world would agree with me. Life, in all its infinite wisdom, is showing me that when you phrase this question differently, that order of value is easily rearranged.

I think it’s well known in the business development world now that part of creating a successful corporation includes how employees are treated. Thus, HR departments are necessary, as are management training programs and team building exercises. That cohesiveness - that need to feel important and find meaning in a job - is very well recognized in this century. Companies like Google, Telus, Marriott Hotels and even McDonalds have this “better employees” concept down to a fine art. And no, they didn’t just get lucky picking great people; they created a great environment for people to shine. Like I said, there is no new, radical concept here, yet I’d say at least half the companies I work for refuse to acknowledge this concept (the other half were spectacular, but that’s not the point of this article). Or at least, they refused to critically look at how they are treating their employees and how it’s affecting their employees’ work ethic. Just so we agree I’ll summarize: treating your staff with respect, producing proper training, providing access to resources and further education to improve roles, and ensuring consistent feedback and accolades where needed are some of the many tools used to create a strong work foundation, and thus, a strong company.

We all agree? Ok! Now let’s think bigger…

The government (I know, I know. We just finished elections – do we really have to keep talking politics?) is essentially a big company, right? At least, I hear a lot of capitalist expressing that it’s a business and needs to be run just so. Personally, I’ve always just taken the stance that because people are more important than money it seemed shallow and greedy to place your vote in business mindset direction. However, I get money makes the world go-round these days. I know money is needed in order to take care of the people.

Now I ask, is it the chicken or the egg?

With my sad state of up and down financial fortunes these days, I’ve started getting smarter with my money. I’ve been reading a lot of books (and watching a lot of YouTube, the more opinionated less calculated approach) on how every day Joes make some money. See, I grew up thinking that the less you spent the more you would have. And I still hear people say this to me all the time. Funny how the people who say this to me are usually the ones most stressed about money. I’d have to say the most important way to have money is to make more. Don’t get me wrong, learning how to spend it/ invest it/ use it to your advantage is also a big part of the process of “having” money, but the first step, is learning how to make it. Or at least, make more of it.

It’s the same way a new company invests bucket loads into a really good marketing campaign to ensure initial business. Or how when a store starts going under they hire a business developer to reset them and get them back on the right track. That old adage, “you have to spend money to make money” I guess. Well, with all this new knowledge, I’m starting to find it quite silly how when some companies think they may be losing profit in the upcoming quarter, the first place they choose to cut corners and tighten the budget is with the staff; less money in training, cut out the perks and team building expenses, put a hold on salary raises, and where able, show some people the door. Can’t they be a bit more creative? Why not look for an avenue to invest in and make changes that can bring more money in rather than look for avenues that they assume will keep money from going out? I truly believe that the “corner-cutting exercise” is a slippery slope: shortly thereafter service standards will drop, company loyalty starts to slide, and the next thing you know the company reputation starts to diminish. It’s not looking so good for business now.

Before this blog turns into a novel I will tie it all together.

Say for instance, We, the people of a government, are all staff. View for a moment that us paying taxes is how the company makes it’s profit. Without analogy, I can easily say that the more successful we are at our jobs, the more taxes we pay. Therefore, when we are successful, the government has more money. So let’s say that as a company, they provide us with proper training (you know what I mean, proper grade school education by ensuring our teachers are looked after and happy, and subsidizing college) and because of our proper training we are good in our role and therefore successful for it. Ah ha! Making more money so paying more taxes – happy government! And let’s say they provide us with proper health benefits (which includes ensuring our preventative care through educating us on healthy lifestyles, and ensuring our mental and emotional stability through proper care facilities) so that we are able to stay employed longer, they have to spend less money insuring us and paying out of pocket when we are sick. We make more money (ie, more tax to them) and… well, we just make more money (yay for us!). And lets say they government, our company, spends a little of that extra money to ensure we are happy, to ensure we feel community, so that we can, again, feel fulfillment in our roles in society and cause less havoc on the world and push harder to move forward.

That sounds like a successful employee business model to me. So, if I agree with the capitalist approach that money is needed to move forward, than I find myself back at my original position that people are always more important. The people should always come first.

So why then, do governments think that cutting corners by decreasing budgets on education, health care and community building is the efficient thing to do? How do they not see that it can only cause a company to fail?

So is it that we need the money to keep the people happy, or do we need the people happy to make the money?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

How to be nice to your Waitress - for Dummies.

It’s been seven long years of off-and-on work in the restaurant industry. Obviously, I now have quite a few “pet peeves” (to put it nicely) regarding service and how guests treat servers. I feel as though many people who have never worked in the service industry are absolutely clueless about how their behaviour can be seen as rude, disrespectful and downright inconsiderate towards the person bringing you your meal. While no one will ever spit on your burger or urinate in your coffee, your “under cooked” steak (which you order rare) may end up in the deep fryer, or your “too-strong” martini will simply be filled with soda water.

There are reasons other than feared culinary punishment to treat your waiter or waitress with dignity. Beyond simple Karma and the “do unto others” golden rule, I’m giving you the following list of “Restaurant Etiquette” rules simply so you don’t look like a total @%$hole  the next time you feel you are unhappy with your service or meal.

  1. Smile. At least once. And not one of those patronising, demeaning smirks; I mean a genuine, kind smile! For the sake of your servers nerves, if she greets you with a smile, meet her with one. This really simple, no-money transaction will make your experience with her 10x better. Why? If your server thinks you are already unhappy with them, or possible just not a very nice person, they are going to avoid your table. Well, at least make their trips past you as infrequent as possible. While really good servers may do the opposite in order to win your accolades eventually, I beg you, make my day a little bit easier and provide me with some body-language feedback that you are satisfied with your service.

  1. Don’t waive your server down or snap your fingers.  This one should be a given, and yet, I still feel I need to tell people this is considered rude!

  1. Mind your manners. This one is simple. You look like a spoiled brat when you don’t use them, and it makes me feel like a slave, not a person trying to make your dining experience enjoyable. Saying, “I want,” “I need,” “Gimme,” and “Are you competent enough…” makes me want to slap you and quit on the spot. Listen to your mother.

  1. Don’t get angry if your server comes by too often. Who in their right mind complains because someone wants to make sure you are enjoying yourself?

  1. Complain – but only when you actually want to be compensated. If you are unhappy with your service, your food, or the fact that your seat is covered in dessert from the previous guests, and you feel something should be done about it, make yourself heard! However, if you are just complaining because you like complaining, and your going to finish your complaint about how dry your turkey is with, “but it’s okay, I ate it,” or, “I don’t want to make a fuss, I’m just letting you know,” don’t bother saying anything. You might think you are doing the restaurant a service by letting them know, but most of the time (not all the time) the Chef really couldn’t give a rats-ass and you’ll just end up making the server feel awkward and overly apologetic. However, if you really feel something should be done about your watery tasting cocktail, or the fact that your food took over 40minutes to reach your table, let your server know in a nice way and tell them you’d appreciate it being brought to the manager’s attention.

  1. Don’t get mad that it’s busy. You can see it’s busy; you can therefore rationalize to yourself that everything will take a bit longer. No one is forcing you to eat there; you can go somewhere else! Why are you then complaining that service is slow? You look like a moron when you do this and everyone will be too busy and stressed to care that you are unhappy about it.

  1. If you are going to complain, make sure your server is the first one aware.  No one likes someone going over their head. Give your server a chance to amend the situation before taking it to the next level. You need to realize how much trouble that server will be in after you write a long email about how terrible everything was to the General Manager. There is nothing worse than being blindsided with a page of complaints and a lecture from your boss when you didn’t even know were problems. If you have brought it to the attention of the server, then the manager, and no one is addressing your concerns, write to your hearts content! But do not do it when you haven’t already addressed your concerns with the person who spent their evening trying to make sure your meal was enjoyable.

  1. Chefs are not servers; they don’t care. In fact, they’d probably flip you off if they were waiting your table. This is an over generalization, but I’ll easily say that 90% of the chefs I’ve worked with could really care less about your complaints. It falls in two categories of chefs: the ones that think their food is a work of art and you’ve just insulted it, and the ones that just follow a recipe and don’t care about their work or your enjoyment of it. Therefore, your little request to tweak something after you’ve ordered it may not be taken lightly. While the server genuinely has no problem amending your meal to make it more enjoyable for you, she secretly fears the repercussions of the kitchen staff upon timidly telling them that the French fries are soggy.

  1. Again, be nice when you complain.  Sometimes what seems like a very small request on your part cannot be accommodated for simply because of house policies. This includes things like free extra bread for a dip you ordered or no-charge side of cola for your $17 shot of whisky. I hate admitting it, but getting mad at your server, or expressing your distaste through sarcasm, bullying (which happens more than you think), and overall rudeness, will probably get you what you want. (Hey! What do you know! The spoiled brat approach works!). But I’d also like to let you know, that persistent complaint about it in a polite and respectful manner will also get you what you want. Whatever a manager will bend to in your rudeness, they will also bend to in your politeness. There is no need to cause a scene or ruin some ones day simply to look like an arrogant prick in-front of all your friends.

  1. Again, Chef’s don’t care. No matter how badly the server wants to please you, if the kitchen won’t do it, stop holding your breath. This especially counts if the kitchen is closed. If a server walks into the kitchen with an order while the chef’s are cleaning up, you aren’t getting your order. And if somehow you do manage to get your order, it’s because the server blackmailed, bribed or flat out ruined a friendship in order to avoid your complaint. So when this does happen, ensure your tip is big. She earned it.

  1. Don’t want to tip? Don’t eat out.  While this only applies to cultures that tip, it’s a big one. Servers have to tip-out on their sales. That means up to 7.5% above the cost of your meal goes to the hosts, kitchen hands, and servers assistants. I.e., Your bill is $100 and you tip $10, the server will only receive $2.50 after her tip out. So say you eat out by yourself, and your bill is only $20.00, so you decide it’s not worth tipping on, the server then has to take $1.50 out of their own money to pay the other staff for having served you. Not fair and again, you look like a prick. If you are not happy with your service, make it known to your server and the manager. If she went out of her way to piss you off, I can understand wanting a little revenge by not tipping. But if you are just being a cheapskate, make sure your tip at least reaches that 10% mark so the server does not have to pay for having served your cheap-ass.