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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Keeping the office upbeat…

Last week’s Business Week magazine focused upon life in the office, with features on toxic bosses, work/life balance, how to prioritize your work and much more. One of the articles that I found interesting was entitled "Glum Chums? Call in the Happiness Police." It was about the extraordinary things that some companies are doing to keep people’s spirits and attitudes up, during admittedly tough times. There were examples of providing entertainment for workers, or feeding them or letting them work from home to save on commuting costs. All of these things were designed to get people’s minds off the facts that their companies were struggling and downsizing and that there would be no bonuses this year and likely no vacations. In other words to lift the gloom and let the sunshine of happiness in.

I got to thinking about our little office in Milford and the dynamics of keeping us upbeat. Now, I’ve written about our adventures staring at a little green dot placed on the wall as a coping mechanism – somebody give me an Uhmmmmm! And I know that I’ve talked about Vicki who manages our office – probably the most upbeat person that I know (I sometimes refer to her as Little Mary Sunshine). It has to be a bit of a challenge for her to have to try to keep 15-20 agents, who are really independent contractors and not employees, from becoming gloomy, in the midst of one really tough real estate market. But, I’ll give her an “A” for effort. We have weekly sales meetings and she always has some little game or exercise for us to go through (after the groaning dies down) that eventually results in everybody feeling better.

Vicki and I talk about this from time to time, since I’m one of her biggest challenges. She has a nickname for me, too - Mr. Grumpy. She uses it when she sees that I’m down or having an issue that has left me grumpy and mumbling to myself. My wife is used to life with Mr. Grumpy and she is herself more of a Little Mary Sunshine personality type. I’m not really grumpy, just a bit in the cynical side and I can get a bit negative or down at times; or, more often than not, I'm mad at myself for something that I didn’t do, forgot to do or don’t know how to do- so you can see that I have lots of opportunity for grumpiness there.

Anyway, Vicki and I have reached a détente of sorts. I try pretty hard not to slip into my Mr. Grumpy mode and she otherwise tolerates me up to that point. As for the weekly exercises, I join in with as much enthusiasm as I can muster at the time and try hard not to let my natural cynicism creep in to my participation. Most of the time, I end up enjoying them, in spite of myself. I just can’t see myself evolving into Little Normy Sunshine. I always hated that Normy nickname when I was growing up, anyway. But maybe Mr. Grumpy can evolve into Mr. Happy, at least part-time. Who knows what miracles Little Mary Sunshine can pull off. It’s at least comforting to know that there is someone who cares enough to try to help me and the rest of the crew find a rainbow in the midst of all of the gloom.

I suspect that most successful businesses or offices all have their own Little Mary Sunshines; otherwise they would all sink into despair. There needs to be someone, a cheerleader, in every group, especially in times that are tough, to keep refocusing everybody away from the negative and towards the rainbow - the better things to come or the best things about where they are; so that hope is kept alive. Presidential candidate Barack Obama wrote a book entitled "The Audacity of Hope". He might just as well have titled it "The Need for Hope." The cheerleaders of the world keep hope alive in us all, whether it be at a national level or in our little local office. And hope, backed up by faith keeps us all going.
Wait...is that a rainbow I see outside? Little Mary Sunshine must have just pulled into the parking lot. Got to go now...I'm due for a happiness infusion.

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