“Most managers,” said futurist Alvin Toffler, “were trained to be the thing they most despise…bureaucrats.” Bureaucratic workplace rules, policies and red tape are a major frustration, both for the manager who has to enforce them, and for the employees who have to endure them. Employees often cite baffling workplace rules as an impediment to getting their work done efficiently. Some workplace rules are essential to deal with important considerations such as safety. But arbitrary edicts for every aspect of office life act as handcuffs, limiting people’s ability to achieve the best results.
In the book Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules For Smart Results, authors Bill Jensen and Josh Klein show how today’s top performers are taking matters into their own hands to circumvent all sorts of rules just to get their work done. These are dubbed benevolent hackers who find ways to get around stupid rules to get smarter results. The authors cite an example of employees frustrated because their boss insists that all presentations be delivered in PowerPoint. But collaborating with others on PowerPoint slides took forever to upload (and download) files on the company’s Microsoft SharePoint servers.
Breaking the rules by surreptitiously using Google Documents for the collaborative work, and saving to PowerPoint at the last minute, saved hours of frustration and helped these employees accomplish more. Another example cited is of an employee who was tired of spending six to eight hours a month doing his expense reports according to his employer’s cumbersome forms. He now uses Mint.com to create a one-pager of his expenses and even uses Salesreceiptstore.com to order duplicate sets of receipts to match his expenses so he doesn’t have to carry pockets full of receipts.
What these two examples teach business executives is that there’s an urgent need to keep up with the rapidly changing work environment, not only in terms of how people work today, but also what tools are available out there. The authors state that “the tools we have outside of work are leapfrogging past what we use on the job.” Preventing employees from using these tools makes their life needlessly more difficult. And many will find a way to work around firewalls and use them anyway because these tools allow them to work more efficiently.
Reprinted portion of article by Bruna Martinuzzi, founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd., and the author of two books: Presenting with Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations and The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.
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Patterns of behavior can be interrupted and changed instantaneously, providing either a much needed sense of levity in the midst of adversity, or even a lasting shift in life perspective.
In 1992, civil unrest broke out in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. The radio blared the news: Mayor Bradley had just imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the city. I was driving on the Hollywood freeway during the rush hour, traffic typically bumper to bumper. Looking out the passenger side window, I saw fires ablaze on the horizon. I sniffed smoke from burning buildings that saturated the already smoggy air. I glanced at my fellow commuters, alert to the fear engraved on their faces. Perhaps they were wondering if their houses and neighborhoods were ablaze as well.
The surrounding anxiety was compelling me to respond. Something must be done to ease the sense of despair! But I can’t just leap out of the car and do a stand-up routine on the freeway… I’d probably get run over. Ah…my prop bag was behind the seat. I blindly groped around with my hand and pulled out a show stopper – a two-inch red clown nose. I stuck it on my face. Commuters around me were doing double takes which said, “He must be a tourist. He doesn’t know what’s happening.” I’m sure they were not wondering if I was available for children’s parties. But when I smiled at them, they got the message. I wanted to convey that in spite of the circumstances, we can take a moment to detach and suspend the downward spiral of distress.
The effect was remarkable. People laughed, smiled back, gave the thumbs up, honked horns, nudged their driving buddies and pointed at me. Kids jumped up and down in the back seats and giggled. People of all ages and backgrounds were sharing a moment of fun in the face of adversity. The crowd attitudinal consensus around me had changed. Truly it was one of the finest moments I’ve experienced!
Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
c 2013 Mental Floss Publications
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Consider this an “unrestraining order” from the court of Terry Braverman: Today we are all afflicted to some degree with S.D.S. (Spontaneity Deficiency Syndrome). It is appalling in our society how much we miss enlivening opportunities by censoring our own spontaneity. “Well, I’m trying to find time to be spontaneous,” a harried business acquaintance once muttered. Indigenous tribal people tend to release their pent-up emotions through singing, dancing, chanting, and wearing wild costumes. How many of us would feel comfortable doing that in front of our families?
We have largely suppressed or forgotten spontaneity in the maze of our busyness, our plans, our rational thinking, and our control mechanisms. S.D.S. is a major cause of stress in our world. When we are in a lot of physical pain it takes some strong medicine to get relief. If the pain is emotional, we often need a strong jolt to regain our perspective. A dose of silly nonsense may just do the trick.
One time I was on the phone with a rep from a customer service department to lodge a complaint. My frustration was growing and I decided to vent by singing my complaint in an operatic voice. The rep was laughing hysterically and said, “Wait, I’m putting my supervisor on the line!” I continued to sing and the supervisor resolved my issue immediately in the spirit of fun established, as opposed to tension and conflict.
I cringe when I see people being scolded for acting too silly. Of course there are situations that demand an overall serious tone, but more often than not it’s the “grow up and get serious” parental mentality at work, stifling the natural stress relief of playful expression. It will amaze you to know that the word silly comes from the Old English word saelig, which was a blessing. It meant “to be happy, prosperous and wise.” On the other hand, adult comes from the word adulterate, meaning “to corrupt, debase, or make impure.”
Some claim variety to be the spice of life…I say it’s spontaneity.
In my seminars and workshops, it thrills me to witness accumulated stress draining from the faces and bodies of participants. I’ve received a number of positive letters from various companies and organizations, but none were more gratifying than the following:
Your seminar on humor was great. I particularly related to your discussion on stress, and others sharing their experiences of how stress had manifested itself. I identified totally. Since your seminar, I’ve had no more headaches, no more clenched jaws, no more Valium, Xanax, Halcion or sleepless nights. I’ve shared my experience with co-workers. Thanks for a real eye-opening exchange.
I spoke again with Mr. Simons, three years after the fact. He is still free of the afflictions and takes no medication. I think of the workshop as a collective creation between myself and the participants, where credit is due to no one in particular other than group synergy and intent. Making such a dramatic impact on Mr. Simons’ health says a lot for the value of humor and play. Clearly, there was a shift in his thinking that took place in an atmosphere of mirth, causing a positive physiological response. Dr. Deepak Chopra once said, “Our thoughts, without reservation, tend to make us healthy or sick.” I might add that our reservations (doubts), without changing our thoughts, tend to make us sick.
In times of despair, we instinctively turn to humor, comedy, and play for its uplifting effects. For the individual suffering mental and physical anguish associated with their circumstance, humor can lift the spirit and reduce suffering for the moment, if not permanently.
Excerpt from an Amazon best-seller, When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!
c Mental Floss Publications
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“(Political) words are often used in a consciously dishonest way. Without precise meanings behind words, politicians and elites can obscure reality and condition people to reflexively associate certain words with positive or negative perceptions…As a result, Americans have been conditioned to accept the word ‘democracy’ as a synonym for freedom, and thus to believe that democracy is unquestionably good. The problem is that democracy is not freedom. Democracy is simply ‘majoritarianism,’ which is inherently incompatible with real freedom…how many Americans know that the word ‘democracy’ is found neither in the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence, our very founding documents?” – Ron Paul
“But for the age-old (psychological) question of free will…it looks as if the answer is that we don’t actually have it. Studies now show that the impulse to take the most basic of actions—the movement of a finger, for example—originate in the brain at least a full second before we’re consciously aware of our desire to move it! It appears that the unconscious mind, functioning with an understanding bereft of language, may control far more of our conscious decision-making than we ever imagined—if not all of it.
Philosophers and scientists are speaking out against these results, not so much to deny them but to try instead to salvage the notion of free will by redefining it…there exists good reasons to want them to succeed: studies also show that when we lose our belief in free will, our motivation to act diminishes as well.
…it’s tantalizing to imagine that the elephant of our unconscious mind that we’re all riding and that may be in charge…needn’t only be made to do our bidding against its will, but that we can also train it to want what we want. Perhaps then the greatest potential for freedom lies in creating as much unity between our conscious and unconscious selves as possible.” – Alex Lickerman, M.D.
“(Philosophically), freedom is not that complex of an ideal. But putting theoretical ideals into practice becomes much more difficult; the black-and-whiteness of ideals becomes muddled with the various gray hues of practice’s complexity. I still love freedom, and I adamantly support full-fledged freedom. No matter how you feel about freedom now, I recommend you consider supporting freedom even more. And I beg you to stubbornly resist those who suggest placing limitations on freedom.” – Scott Hughes
Summer is here, and the time is right to commune with family and friends over lavish meals, aided and abetted by healthy gales of laughter.
The positive impact that laughter has on our well-being is nothing new. Throughout history, clowns, fools and court jesters plied their trade not only to entertain, but to heal people, impart wisdom, and exercise diplomacy, acting as ambassadors to other kingdoms for building goodwill and defusing conflict. The court jesters pranced around the imperial courts with a patented blend of whim and wit. It was their privilege to say whatever they wished. Usually a great ruler was surrounded by flatterers, and only from the jester did he ever hear the truth.
The jester’s business was to tickle the royal funny bone, divert the king from the tedium of his daily affairs, and serve a slightly skewed yet enlightening perspective on those affairs of the court. Jesters also assisted his Majesty’s digestion, rubbing the regal tummy the right way with their lively presence at the dining table. “Laughter is one of the most important aids to digestion with which we are acquainted,” said the Prussian professor Hufeland. “The custom in vogue among our ancestors, of inciting laughter by jesters and buffoons, was founded on true medical principles. Cheerful and joyous companions are invaluable at meals; obtain such, if possible, for the nourishment received amid mirth is productive of light and healthy blood.”
Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
c 2013 All Rights Reserved
Mental Floss Publications
Several years ago I was hired to lift the morale of bank tellers at a savings & loan. They were having a difficult time dealing with rude customers, and looked like a group of doleful-eyed, droopy-eared Beagles in need of a nourishing bowl of food. I told them there is nothing they could do about their customers’ attitudes until they shifted their own attitude from one of frustration to fun. Like Beagles that just heard an eerie sound, their heads collectively turned sideways.
At the end of their workday on a Friday, I asked them to gather around in a circle and reveal their worst customer of the week experience to the branch managers and me. There were loud howls of laughter in the room! The managers and I then conferred a reward to the teller with the best “Worst Customer of the Week” story: A customer apparently took out a can of underarm deodorant from her handbag and sprayed the teller’s window, screaming, “This place stinks!” The reward was a gift certificate to a fine restaurant. The following Friday, it was a bottle of champagne (which proved to be quite popular).
The tellers felt supported for enduring difficult customer situations, and morale skyrocketed. Now they were seeking out the rude customers: “Excuse me, sir, you look like you may be having a tough day…come forward. I’ll help you out.” With this unexpected response, rude customers suddenly became more civil. The good will snowballed as customers were telling their family, friends and work associates about the unusual attentiveness they were receiving at their bank. As a result, the bank had a surprising jump in new customers. It was a win-win-win situation. Can you adopt this approach of rewarding someone for enduring a difficult work experience at your weekly staff meetings?
Excerpt from “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
c 2013 Terry Braverman
Mental Floss Publications
All Rights Reserved