Did you know that there’s a “taxonomy of hugging”? No, me neither. But according to this Wall Street Journal video on hugging in the workplace, there’s an American lawyer who takes employees through what’s ok and what’s not ok in the world of workplace hugging. It’s pretty weird, to be honest.
But I think the key points are: not everyone likes to be hugged; and there is nothing wrong with a good old high 5 with your colleagues. I would also add: don’t be creepy. As general HR guidance, I’d say don’t hug someone at work unless you know them very well and know that they want to be hugged – and even then, don’t linger, or be creepy or handsy. Honestly, I’d actually prefer it if you just gave the other person an affectionate (and gentle) pat on the head instead. As long as the recipient is ok with head pats.
I still remember the time during the GFC when someone complained to me about the removal of the “good” biscuits from the kitchen. (The chocolate and cream-filled biscuits had been replaced by plain biscuits = human rights abuse.) And in a Braveheart-style speech, they said they could take the good biscuits, but they’ll NEVER TAKE OUR FRUIT BOXES. (I think we did, from memory.) And by doing so, we could maybe save some jobs, but more likely just send a strong message that times were tough and we all needed to try harder and do more with less. Then I had someone complain that they were worried about maintaining their three investment properties, so they really needed a pay rise. I remember having to grit my teeth so I didn’t yell, YOU ARE LUCKY TO HAVE A JOB. (Also, thank you for trying to make your problem my problem.)
Speaking of problems, this video is not a new one, but I saw it for the first time earlier this year and loved it. I would like to show it to all workplaces and high schools to get the message out there. Sometimes, the best HR advice I can really give is shut the full cup. (Also around the GFC time, I had a similar conversation with a senior lady who came to discuss her salary review concerns with me – she was significantly overpaid and underperforming, yet somehow convinced herself she was worth a lot more. My advice was, literally: DRY YOUR EYES, PRINCESS. But I delivered it in a super charming way, obvs, and she got the message.)
Consultants tend to get a hard time. But I’m sure it’s the case (at least some of the time) that the problem really starts with the client. If they’re not sure what they want, or they have mistaken the consultants for magicians, or the company’s leaders are basically dumbos, there’s a clear limit to what consultants can achieve. This video nails it, and also makes me incredibly agitated. Mostly because I’ve been in these meetings, and I’ve met these people, and it’s painful…
I don’t really like talking on the phone. I like to be able to see people and gauge their reactions, rather than just listening to them agreeing or saying whatever it takes to end the call. I also like to make sure people are actually paying attention, and not distracted by a crossword or cat video or Jenga tower.
So it follows that a conference call at work is basically my worst nightmare. I know I’m not alone – with the dial-in requirements that always manage to confuse; the people forgetting to mute; the people forgetting to un-mute; the cross-talk; the awkward silences. It’s basically the worst idea ever. Which is why this video makes me laugh, but also makes my blood pressure rise as I watch it, as it’s spot on.
Today, another (sort of) oldie but a goodie, in case you missed it. Or if you, like me, will laugh at the Nigerian prince interruption every time you see it. Like all of the videos these guys have made in their business “in real life” series, this one is funny, but also a little bit painful to watch due to its accurate portrayal of office life.
As an aside, my favourite email sign-offs are when people customise the standard Regards, shaking things up with Best Regards or even Warm Regards. I still hope to see Moderate Regards or Lukewarm Regards or perhaps With no regard at all. Once, we worked with a migration agent who revised her sign-off each season – as the months ticked over, we were given Sparkling summer regards and Warm winter regards. And I am sure there was a separate festive greeting too, at the appropriate time.
And then there’s the opening greeting of an email – from the standard Hi to Good Morning to Dear all. I prefer a slightly warmer greeting, rather than just using someone’s first name, but I realise not everyone can pull off Ahoy there as I sometimes do, just to mix things up a bit. My least favourite greeting is sometimes seen in emails to leadership teams: Gents. It became particularly awkward when I joined a certain leadership team and received an email addressed to Gents and lady. Yes, really. And it was in the mid-2000s (AD). #inclusion
Please don’t be confused – this isn’t a post with suggestions of what to wear for Halloween. It’s actually about one of the most hated HR guidelines – the Dress Code. Believe me when I say that those things are as painful for us to write as they are for you to read.
I am not a fashionista, or stylist, or dictator, so I am generally uncomfortable with telling people what to wear. Maybe it’s a little easier now – back at the turn of the century, such lists had to include references to cargo pants and Juicy Couture tracksuits. And then we saw the launch of Casual Fridays – forever to be misunderstood by those in their late teens and early 20s, who seemed to forget that a day in the office stood between their arrival at the nightclub.
Now, the concept of “business casual” is confusing a new generation of employees. And good luck to those working in a startup or tech company, with their Star Wars t-shirts, ripped jeans and sneakers – may you never need to be constrained by wearing a belt, or combing your hair, or taking off your hoodie.
At Work Tips For Humans, we’re here to help. Our general advice on dress codes? Remember that you’re going to work. Sounds obvious, but it means that when you look in the mirror, you should probably see something different to what you see when you’re going to the shops, or the pool, or the gym. (Unless you work in those places, but even then, please double check yourself in the mirror.)
In an article on Monster entitled “What Not To Wear To Work“, Amanda Frank outlined a long list of things to avoid. I’m not sure about some of the items on the list, including, “heels that clank”, “jingly jewellery”, and “hood ornaments”. But “dresses without underwear” are also out, as are “dirty bra straps”, which sounds like pretty good life advice right there.
I think ladies can also look to almost everything worn by Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City. And disregard it for work.
Men’s Journal featured an article called How to Look Like Don Draper: A Beginner’s Guide and since that gives me an excuse to include a photo of Jon Hamm, I am going to take it. I think the article is about grooming, or hair products, or something like that. Whatever, here’s the picture.
In my professional opinion, a big price tag doesn’t automatically make your outfit work-appropriate. Exhibit A: the finance analyst at a big corporate (admittedly, we had a very relaxed dress code) – I saw him lounging at his desk and said, “Ummm, Garry*, are you wearing a tracksuit?” His response, “yeah, but it’s Ralph Lauren”. In my caring way, I asked, “HAVE YOU GIVEN UP ON LIFE? YOU CAN’T WEAR A FREAKIN’ TRACKSUIT TO WORK, GARRY.” And then he explained that he was going to the gym at lunchtime anyway, so thought it was fine to be wearing a tracksuit. Yeah, well, I might be going to McDonald’s at lunchtime, but you don’t see me dressed in a curly red wig, yellow jumpsuit and giant red shoes, do you Garry? (I wish I thought to say this at the time, instead I think I just walked away in shock.)
And now, I think we have solved all of your workplace fashion issues. We can deal with grooming and hygiene in another post – there’s another source of delight for HR professionals! If you’re still not sure about dressing for success, maybe scrawl this mantra on your mirror as a reminder: Whoever you are, whatever you do, please dress so HR doesn’t come after you.
Not everyone loves the space in which they work. Whether it’s at a big desk, or in a small cubicle, or behind a counter, or up a tree, some workspaces are just not so great. But here at Work Tips For Humans, we’ve found a few ideas to help you pimp your workspace – you’ll soon become the envy of your colleagues, or at the very least, a solid topic of office gossip. And if it’s more that you don’t like your actual job than your workspace, these ideas might just help to distract you from that fact too.
Wheel of fortune
Ok, so this “dry-erase spin it prize wheel” has potential written all over it. (Not in this picture, obvs, but the smiling lady could totally write it on there if she liked.) You could keep it on your desk and use it to help make decisions, or set strategic directions, or determine who gets a pay-rise and who gets fired…endless possibilities! And even though it seems random to the participants, YOU get to choose what you write on each colour (just don’t use permanent marker), so it’s basically rigged. But will still seem like a fun game of chance – meanwhile, YOU CAN’T LOSE! Genius. Love your work, Office Oxygen.
Extra brain power
Sometimes it would be handy to have extra brain power. And if you’re not going to get it from your workmates, you can buy it on etsy, of course. Your Organ Grindersells handmade anatomy and medical art. This specimen is a brain (don’t worry, it’s made out of wool) in a jar. Whether you want to hold the brain in your hand when thinking about a complex issue, or tap it longingly while your colleague rambles on and on about nothing, or maybe even loan it to someone you think is in need, this will definitely smarten up your workspace.
Stationery can be boring. Stapling and sticky taping things can really get you down. Which is why I was so glad to spot these beauties in a gift shop – I think you’ll agree that this is how stationery was always meant to be. Maybe you just bring them out on Fridays, or special occasions, or maybe you use them every day to bring a little razzle dazzle back to your workspace.
A can of Radiant Farms Unicorn Meat is sure to endear you to everyone who sees it. (Unless you work with small children, or unicorn fanatics, as they will probably presume the worst and maybe even call the authorities.) You can find out more about this miraculous snack, and purchase your very own can of magic for your workspace here at Think Geek.
So, there you have it. Four ideas to pimp your workspace and bring a little more joy to everyone at work. You’re welcome!
Paul Keating is a former Prime Minister of Australia, and a personal hero to many, including me. Whatever your political perspective, you can surely appreciate the many sharp barbs, biting observations and absolute zingers that he hurled across parliament and the media. Clever, witty, and always on point, PJK was a genius – and still is, even if his more recent commentaries have a touch of the ‘nutty old man’ about them.
I could go on all day, but there’s a point to this, I swear. Today begins our series of inspirational Quotable Quotes, gifted to you to recycle at the right time in your workplace. Whether shouted directly, muttered under your breath, or sent by secret message, we hope that you will find these Quotable Quotes useful, particularly in your working life.
We begin with one of my favourite quotes from PJK – he was using it to describe then-Treasurer Peter Costello back in 2007, but I’m sure we all have (at least) one of these miracles of nature in our workplace…
On the first day of my HR role at a small consulting company, I noticed this bottle on the desk next to mine. Channeling the HR equivalent of Amy Poehler’s character in Mean Girls (“I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom“), I looked the other way.
Then, I thought about duty of care/health and safety/risk management/wellbeing etc, and I took my usual circumspect approach to dealing with such issues: when the guy was away from his desk, I whispered to his neighbour, “PSSSSSST. What’s the go with the vodka bottle?”
I was reassured by a number of people that it contained water, and they all laughed a jolly laugh at my sort-of concern. Then I asked, “has anyone actually checked?” And the laughter stopped. So, I put myself in the danger zone and checked. (The bottle was full of water.)
I was torn between admiration for the guy using a Vodka bottle for his water, and concern that I might just have to check it every day, in case he was mixing things up. (I didn’t, and he wasn’t, although he left the bottle behind when he exited the company some months later. And it was never used again…)
So, today’s tip is to stay hydrated at work. And, if you’re going to use a vodka bottle, or a bleach bottle, or a bluebottle to serve up your water, make sure you (a) declare it to HR, (b) are not drunk at work, and (c) are so good at your job that no one second guesses what’s in the bottle.