My bucket and spade . . .

Bucket and Spade

One of the best gifts I ever received as a child was a bucket and spade. As a child, I used to love digging, always determined to find something. The poor earthworms had a hard time hiding from me. I always managed to find them.

As an adult, my plastic bucket and spade has been replaced by books, newspapers and computer (Google) searches. My curious mind always searching for information which I store somewhere always believing that one day somebody will ask me a question which I will be able to answer them.

Beach Ball

Ask me a question and you are sure to get an answer. I try never to say “I don’t know”, my response is usually “I will find out and get back to you” when I don’t know the answer to your question. My long-standing friend (we’ve been friends since high school) calls me her “walking yellow pages”.

My friend called me at work one day – (on a very busy day when I did not have 2 minutes to spare) to ask me a question. She needed to know where she could find something she needed to purchase. I explained that I can answer the question just not right now because I’m very busy. I said she could either call me back later or she could find the information herself in our local Yellow Pages directory. Her immediate response was “but that is exactly what I’m doing. You are my walking Yellow Pages. It is easier to ask you than to go through THAT book”. So on a personal level, I am the “go to” person. Need information or need to know something? Ask Natalie.

At the office it is very much the same particularly when it comes to matters such as Gender, Disability, Diversity and Employee Health and Wellness matters. What can we do to commemorate Human Rights day? Ask Natalie. What can we do for 16 Days of Activism of no violence against women and children? Ask Natalie.

I have a passion for finding answers to questions. Give me a question I cannot answer and I will keep digging until I can find an answer. This is particularly true when it comes to the rights of women and children who have been abused in some way. I am amazed at how many disabled people don’t know their rights. They just blindly accept situations they have the power to change purely by speaking up for themselves.

Bucket Spade and Beach Ball

I just love organising and planning events. I have a passion for connecting people. I am intrigued by forensic science and criminology. I want to know why certain men rape and murder. I want to know what happens in the mind of a serial killer. I WANT TO KNOW!!

So, what am I planning to do in 2015? How do I use what I know to generate a living wage for myself?

Writing a book is not the answer. Too many people have written books which very few people ever read. I considered starting a Hot Line or an Advice Office but what would I call it? How would I draw people to access my services? I also considered being a Virtual Assistant (Personal Assistant working remotely from home).

What do you think about that? Would you hire me as your Virtual Assistant or Research Assistant?

I currently have a regular 8 – 5 job like most people but really would like to leave the corporate world in exchange for more freedom in terms of how I spend my time.

I would like to spend my time doing what I love and what I am passionate about with the flexibility of being available to my family when they need me, to be able to work remotely (virtually) on days when I need to be in my own space.

What do you think I should do?

Let me hear your suggestions of how I can use my gifts and talents and still earn a living at the same time.

Dear Diary: Passion, Commitment and Engagement in the Workplace

Smiley_Crying

My post this week was inspired by this introduction to The Florence Prescription by Joe Tye. This book was meant to answer the question “What would Florence [Nightingale] do?”

You can find a copy of the first three chapters here: http://sparkstore.com/FlorencePrescription-FirstThreeChapters.pdf

It all started recently when I was so frustrated by the health crisis we have currently where I live. I was battling with getting private health care to work together with provincial health care and I kept hitting a brick wall purely because of people’s attitudes towards their work. I’m finding more and more that people have lost their passion and commitment to their work and are mostly not personally engaged with their work. When confronted with a work related problem, instead of finding a solution, they look for ways to “pass the buck” and when there is nowhere to “pass the buck”, they send you on a wild goose chase from pillar to post like you’re a tennis ball in a tennis match with nobody taking responsibility for giving you the answers you need.

This resulted in me tweeting on Twitter: “Private health care vs provincial health care. A headache trying to get them to work together. Why?”

Joe Tye – author of The Florence Prescription responded to my tweet by suggesting I read his book and very kindly sent me the link to the first three chapters of the book. Just by clicking on the link (which I have provided in the first paragraph) I found this about why people are no longer passionate, committed and engaged in their workplaces and it shed some light on why I’ve also disengaged at my own workplace. Let me share with you what I’ve learned from this book:-

Organisations need to have a culture of ownership, one that instills optimism, determination and resilience in the people who work there. This is not present at my current workplace and in many other workplaces I know of.

• People are loyal to [organisational] culture not strategy
• Culture provides resilience in tough times
• Culture is more efficient than strategy
• When culture and strategy collide, culture will always win
• Cultural miscues are far more damaging and potentially fatal than strategic miscues
• Culture provides greater protection against legal and ethical violations than strategy can
• Over time, culture has greater impact on productivity and profitability than strategy

The Florence Prescription describes eight [personal] characteristics of a culture of ownership:

• Commitment (to values, vision and mission of the company/organisation and own personal values)
• Engagement (being fully present, physically and emotionally)
• Passion (loving your work and letting it show)
• Initiative (seeing what needs to be done and taking action to get it done)
• Stewardship (effectively shepherding limited resources)
• Belonging (being included, feeling included and including others)
• Fellowship (being a friend and having friends at work)
• Pride (in your profession, your work and yourself)

Your core values define:
Who you are
What you stand for, and
What you won’t stand for

Organisational culture does not change until people in the organisation change. The book also talks about the Self-Empowerment Pledge (seven promises):-

• Responsibility
• Accountability
• Determination
• Contribution
• Resilience
• Perspective
• Faith

The book also talks about The Pickle Pledge: I will turn every complaint into a blessing or a constructive suggestion i.e.

By taking The Pickle Pledge, I am promising myself that I will no longer waste my time and energy on blaming, complaining and gossiping nor will I commiserate with those who steal my energy with their blaming, complaining and gossiping.

The Pickle Pledge acknowledges that we cannot be a negative, bitter, cynical, sarcastic pickle sucker at our workstations and then suddenly, magically flip an inner switch and become genuinely caring and compassionate towards our colleagues and customers/clients when required to “perform”. The Pickle challenge holds us and our co-workers more accountable for the attitudes we bring to work.

According to this book, people who are committed, engaged and passionate take initiative i.e. if they see a problem, they either fix it or refer it to someone who can fix it.

Just by reading through these notes I have made as I read through the first three chapters, I have seen many reasons for me no longer engaging at work and I can see why so many others in various workplaces I have to contact also have dis-engaged.

Organisational culture has gone out of the window for many. Company/organisation values, vision and mission statements are so strategic that the employees find it difficult to engage and buy-in (commit) to these statements.

This makes it very difficult to have passion for the work you do and to show this passion. Employees no longer feel a sense of belonging (being included, feeling included), they no longer take pride in their profession, their work and in themselves.

Where have we gone wrong?

What can we do to change the status quo?

Conversations with myself: I am Woman . . .

Flowers feed the soul

In South Africa we celebrate National Women’s Day on August 9th each year. Our Government has declared the entire month of August National Women’s month.

In spite of all the new laws and legislation, we still grapple with gender equality in our country. Women who stay home to take care of the home and/or children are classified as “not working” when, in fact, they end up working harder than those who go out to work in the formal employment sector.

Most of the work women do is unpaid labour – what do I mean by this? When the woman is employed in the formal labour sector and gets paid for the work done, she still has work waiting at home for which she does not get paid a salary, for example: washing and ironing clothes, cooking, cleaning the home, taking care of the children. All this is left to the woman to do and she does not receive any additional payment for these duties. Community work – the woman may choose to serve her community in some way by volunteering her time and skills, again, she does not get paid for this work.

Men come home from the office, sit in the armchair in front of the television with their newspaper and wait for supper to be served (by the woman). More and more men are choosing to stay home as “stay-at-home-dads” these days but mostly because they cannot find work – very few do this out of choice.
So where does this leave us? When will the status quo change when a woman will receive acknowledgement for the work she does at home? Let’s take a look at the story below and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

MR MOYO GOES TO THE DOCTOR

“What is your job?” asked the doctor.
“I am a farmer” replied Mr Moyo

“Have you any children?” the doctor asked.
“God has not been good to me. Of 15 born, only 9 alive,” Mr Moyo answered.

“Does your wife work?” (doctor)
“No, she stays at home”.

“I see. How does she spend her day?” (doctor)
“Well, she gets up at four in the morning, fetches water and wood, makes the fire, cooks breakfast and cleans the homestead. Then she goes to the river and washes clothes. Once a week she walks to the grinding mill. After that she goes to the township with the two smallest children where she sells tomatoes by the roadside while she knits. She buys what she wants from the shops. Then she cooks the midday meal.”

“You come home at midday?” (doctor)
“No, no, she brings the meal to me about 3km away.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“She stays in the field to do the weeding, and then goes to the vegetable garden to water.”

“What do you do?” (doctor)
“I must go and discuss business and drink with the men in the village.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“I go home for supper which my wife has prepared.”

“Does she go to bed after supper?” (doctor)
“No. I do. She has things to do around the house until 9 or 10.”

“but I thought you said your wife does not work.” (doctor)
“Of course she does not work. I told you that she stays at home.”

(Source: Presented by the Women and Development Sub-committee Ministry of Community Development and Community Affairs, Zimbabwe to Women’s Regional Ecumenical Workshop, 26 June – 6 July 1989, Harare, Zimbabwe).
The Oxfam Gender Training Manual © Oxfam UK and Ireland 1994: 183

Conversations with Myself: The Search for the Perfect Career

Woman Thinking at Desk Animation

After reading an article by Jeff Haden entitled “Three interview questions that reveal everything” which was based on an interview technique he learned from John Younger, the CEO of Accolo, a cloud recruiting solutions provider I started thinking about my own career in terms of where I started in relation to where I am today and how I got to this point.

In the article he suggests that every recruiter asks three questions when looking at the work experience/career path of the candidate applying for the position:-

1. How did the person find out about the job?
2. What did the candidate like about the job before they started?
3. Why did the candidate leave?

I reflected on my own career and asked these questions about each of the jobs I held over the years.

HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THE JOB: Did I . . .
• Look at all the job vacancy boards available?
• Look at general job adverts in the various newspapers (print) and online newspapers and job portals?
• Attend job fairs and career guidance exhibitions?

This is where most people find their jobs but if you always find jobs in this way (according to the article), you probably have not figured out what you want to do – and where you would like to do it i.e. which company you want to work for.

This method shows the recruiter that you are just looking for a job – any job. It means that any job will do until something else comes along.

By the time you get to job number 3, 4 and 5 in your career and you have not been offered a job or recommended for a job by someone you worked for previously, it shows you did not build relationships, develop trust and you have not shown a level of competence that made someone go out of their way to recommend you.

WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT THE JOB BEFORE YOU STARTED?
Great employees work hard because they appreciate their work environment and enjoy what they do. This means they know the kind of environment they will thrive in and they know the type of work that motivates and challenges them – and not only can they describe it, they actively look for it.

WHY DID YOU LEAVE?
• For a better opportunity?
• For more money?
• The employer was too demanding?
• You did not get along with the boss/manager/your colleagues?

The answer you give to this question shows whether you are a team player and take responsibility for your actions.

Some people never take ownership and always see problems in the workplace as someone else’s problem – they are never to blame nor see themselves as contributing to the problem – it’s always somebody else’s fault.

If you have always “had a problem with the boss/manager/your colleagues” it means that you will always blame others for what goes wrong at work – you will not take responsibility for what you did wrong in the workplace and in that relationship.

The article went on to speak about:

IF YOU ARE BEING INTERVIEWED FOR A LEADERSHIP POSITION . . .
“Great employees go out of their way to work with great leaders”. If you are tough but fair, and ou treat people well, they will go out of their way to work with you. The fact that employees changed jobs so they could work for you/with you, speaks volumes about your leadership and people skills.

All of this has made me think about my own career path and career choices. I have had good relationships with everyone I have worked for and with. I have not burnt any bridges in my quest to move on. I have not gone back to a company I have worked for before purely because I felt it was time to move on – I usually only leave when I have exhausted all the growth prospects available. My lifespan at a company is generally between six (6) and ten (10) years which means that by the time I leave, I have made the choice to never go back.

I am once again in that position. I have been in my current position for the last 10 years but joined the organisation as a temp/casual worker two years prior to that so I’m actually here just over ten years now.

While in my current position, I have been “seconded” to the Human Resources (HR) unit on more than one occasion to assist with organisational transformation – gender and disability mainstreaming, the Employee Health and Wellness Programme, Employment Equity (compiling and submitting reports), assisting on recruitment and selection panels and even being part of interview panels. I have been responsible for internal electronic newsletters (one being an HR electronic newsletter) to keep staff up to date with what’s happening in the HR department and the HR field in general in terms of legislation etc. and even attempted to get the staff involved in Corporate Social Investment (CSI) projects.

I have made one last attempt to apply for a higher level position. If I don’t get that position I’ve applied for, then I have truly tried my best to move on within the organisation. So if asked why I want to leave my current position, I guess my answer will be because I’ve exhausted all my options and it is time to move on.

I will always enjoy the work I do now (Communications) and it will always form part of any other job I do so I will never really leave the field but I really would like to work in the Human Resources field. I have a passion for people (human behaviour) – for understanding why they do what they do.

My passion for understanding human behaviour and why people do what they do has led me to study towards a BA Criminology degree through Unisa. The aim at the end is to work as a Criminologist/Profiler but while getting there I would like an opportunity to use my skills in the Human Resources Department.

In addition to the degree I’m busy with, I am also currently one of the trainees on Disabled People of South Africa (DPSA) Disabled Women Leadership Development Programme (DWLDP) being trained as a workshop facilitator to work within the disabled community helping them to understand their rights as disabled people in their communities and in the workplace.

While in training, I initiated a newsletter for our group as a means of sharing information with other trainees. I am responsible for sourcing content, editing content, layout/design and publishing via e-mail.

I am also involved in an advocacy and lobbying group called Women Demand Dignity (WDD) lobbying for the rights of men, women and children in the area of gender based violence. I am responsible for the social media aspect for the group and manage the Facebook page as well as our blog at: http://www.womendemanddignity.wordpress.com

Conversations with myself: What will I be remembered for?

Lilies__Bible

What does the life canvas you are creating reflect?

What kind of memories are you creating?

What memories or footprints do you want to leave behind? What will you be known/remembered for?

Are you creating good memories? What will people say about you when you are no longer around?

What have you done to make a difference? Have you made a difference in the life of your family, your colleagues, your friends?

I wonder what people would say about me? Would they say “she was pretty”, “intelligent”, “funny”, “smart”? Would they say “she really made a difference in the
lives of others”, “she was selfless”, “she lived for others”.

What memories will I leave behind? What does my canvas say?

Conversations with Myself: When will we ever Learn?

wheelchair_rolling_md_wht

Why is it so difficult for landlords and business owners/managers to make their premises accessible to those with mobility problems?

Renovations (reasonable accommodation measures) as legislated by law are implemented reluctantly and in a manner that leaves the mobility impaired feel that they are a huge burden to the establishment owners or managers.

Hotels in South Africa are particularly at fault. For example: out of more than 100 rooms or suites, they will have only one (or maybe two if you are lucky) rooms/suites specifically for disabled people. What happens if more than one or two disabled people arrive at the same time (like with workshops and conferences)?

The shuttle services provided by hotels from airport to hotel – why do they only have 12/15 seater Kombi’s available? Those with mobility impairments who do not use a wheelchair are not able to climb in and out of a Kombi but can comfortably (and with dignity) get in and out of a motor vehicle (sometimes with some assistance required).

However, no matter how many times you ask, plead, demand, shout and scream for them to send a motor vehicle (car – sedan) to collect you, they will insist on sending a driver with a Kombi and the driver will do his best to convince you that he will pick you up and put you into the Kombi (never mind the fact that you could be twice his weight). No consideration is given to the fact that one adult picking up another is not the most dignified way of being transported (especially for a lady).

Also – in most cases there is a particular way of lifting/picking up a disabled person and not doing this correctly could actually cause injury to the disabled person.

For the purposes of keeping this as short as I can, I will assume that accessibility from the outside of the hotel is possible – I will therefore focus my attention on inside the hotel building.
Once inside, you have another set of challenges to face, i.e.

a) Size of the room allocated – very little room for movement within the room so if you’re in a wheelchair, it is virtually impossible to move around within the room.
b) The TV – is usually placed on a wall bracket so high on the wall that you have to lay on your back on the bed to watch TV (and hopefully not fall asleep in the process). If the remote is not working or you cannot find it, you are unable to view anything on TV without phoning Reception for assistance from the Housekeeping staff.
c) Room with a shower – because you have mobility issues (not only those in wheelchairs), you ask for a room with a shower (because you cannot climb into or out of a bath). You are allocated a room with a shower, as requested, only to find that you have to climb into a bath in order to shower. Now how is someone in a wheelchair or someone unable to lift their legs high enough to get into a bath supposed to shower? Surely one would not go to all the trouble of pointing out mobility issues and specifically asking for a room with a shower if you could actually get into a bath?
d) The restaurant (within the hotel) – why is it necessary for the restaurant to either have steps going down into or up into the restaurant? When a wheelchair ramp is provided, it is not thought through at all – for example: it is either not wide enough, too steep and too highly polished which makes it slippery (as was my recent experience on Mother’s Day this past weekend). One is left with the impression that the ramp is provided because “we have to” because “it is expected or required of us to do so” and not because we really care.
e) Lifts (elevators) – why is it that nobody bothers to check whether the lifts are in working order? Coming back to my recent experience this past weekend on Mother’s Day, before making the reservation at the restaurant which was situated within a hotel, I made it very clear that I have mobility impairment and that I cannot climb stairs. I was assured that I would have no problems getting to the restaurant because there is a lift inside the building to the restaurant. On arrival, however, the lift to the restaurant was not working and the closest alternative was not working either. The third option available meant walking a long distance which was not possible for me either and only when I threatened to leave and have lunch elsewhere, was I given then option of being transported to the restaurant in a wheelchair, which I accepted. The Porter finally arrived with the wheelchair and off we went on one of my most traumatic experiences in a wheelchair. I nearly fell forward out of the wheelchair on my face three times because the Porter had no idea how to transport someone in a wheelchair. He admitted that it was his first time and that he had no training. To make matters worse, he was disabled himself which I only noticed at the end of my traumatic experience. Getting into the restaurant was as traumatic as already explained in point (d) above i.e. the ramp was too narrow, too steep and too slippery.

Why is it that Banqueting Managers or staff dealing with (restaurant and hotel) reservations don’t make sure that the lifts within the hotel and from the parking garage into the hotel are in working order? Surely if you know a disabled person is coming, you can check to make sure the lifts are working and get maintenance to fix them before the date of the reservation – especially on celebratory days like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day (when many mothers or fathers themselves are aged and have mobility issues – that’s besides the disabled people).

f) Staff training – everyone in the hospitality industry – the entire staff from Front of Office, to kitchen, waiters etc receive exceptional training and one seldom has any reason to complain about their service. However, nobody within the Managing structure deems it necessary for Disability Awareness training – why is that?

Coming back to my recent personal experience when trying to take my mother out for lunch on Mother’s Day – besides the Porter not knowing how to transport someone in a wheelchair, the restaurant Manager also had no idea what to do when I finally reached the restaurant.

Without consulting me, he removed one chair from the table assuming I was going to sit in the wheelchair for the entire time I was there (it is not only uncomfortable but in certain instances could cause pain or discomfort if in the wheelchair for too long). When I asked him to bring the chair back to the table so I could get out of the wheelchair to sit at the table, he kept pushing the chair right up against the front of the wheelchair even after I made it clear to him and the Porter that I needed space between the two so I could first get up out of the wheelchair and then sit on the chair. All this caused such a stir I had all the patrons in the restaurant staring at me, which was very embarrassing to say the least.

Why is it that people in general are so totally clueless when it comes to dealing with those with mobility impairments? I am not the first and only person with a mobility impairment (not in a wheelchair) and certainly will not be the last. My experience this past weekend was not the first of its kind and I can guarantee will not be the last.

The problems I have experienced this past weekend, I have experienced at hotels/restaurants in Johannesburg, Limpopo, North West, Free State – just about every province I can think of, so it is not specific to the Western Cape only.

The disabled (those in wheelchairs and those who use other assistive devices) have been with us for generations and will be with us for generations to come. When are we going to open our eyes and try (even if just for one day) to live life through their eyes?

How long is it going to take for able-bodied people to realise that they could become disabled within a second and have to live with the limitations of the disabled person?

When will we ever learn? Will we ever learn?

Conversations with Myself: Anger – why is everyone so enraged?

Angry Stickman Animated

Anger – why is the world so angry? Everywhere we go, people are angry.

Domestic and gender based violence, violence against women and children, children bullying and stabbing friends and peers, drivers forcing you out of their way on the roads, refusing to wait one second longer than they need to – the list is endless.

Why are people so angry? Why are they not able to control their anger?

Is it my imagination or my sheltered childhood that has created this illusion of a more calm society many years ago while I was growing up? What has changed? Why is it necessary for everyone to be so impatient and angry with everyone?

Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion — but it’s important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships. How do you deal with your anger?

Here are 10 anger management tips to help you along:

No. 1: Take a timeout
Counting to 10 isn’t just for kids. Before reacting to a tense situation, take a few moments to breathe deeply and count to 10. Slowing down can help defuse your temper. If necessary, take a break from the person or situation until your frustration subsides a bit.

No. 2: Once you’re calm, express your anger
As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

No. 3: Get some exercise
Physical activity can provide an outlet for your emotions, especially if you’re about to erupt. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other favorite physical activities. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that can leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out.

No. 4: Think before you speak
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

No. 5: Identify possible solutions
Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything, and might only make it worse.

No. 6: Stick with ‘I’ statements
To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes,” instead of, “You never do any housework.”

No. 7: Don’t hold a grudge
Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to behave exactly as you want at all times.

No. 8: Use humour to release tension
Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Don’t use sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

No. 9: Practice relaxation skillsWhen your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as, “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.

No. 10: Know when to seek help
Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Consider seeking help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you. You might explore local anger management classes or anger management counselling. With professional help, you can:
• Learn what anger is
• Identify what triggers your anger
• Recognize signs that you’re becoming angry
• Learn to respond to frustration and anger in a controlled, healthy way
• Explore underlying feelings, such as sadness or depression

Anger management classes and counselling can be done individually, with your partner or other family members, or in a group. Request a referral from your doctor to a counsellor specializing in anger management, or ask family members, friends or other contacts for recommendations. Your health insurer, employee assistance program (EAP), clergy, or state or local agencies also might offer recommendations.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anger-management/MH00102

A response to my last blog from an ex Manager who now lives overseas

Maldivian Island(free_1051670)
Hi Natalie
I hope this mail finds you well on Human Rights Day. In my heart of hearts I hope that this long weekend in SA will not end up in human rights (abuse) day(s).

I read your blog post for this week and I somehow feel that I want to help you find some kind of process or peace in this situation you feel stifled by.

We have come a long way and even before you joined us in Comms (at that time) I used to admire (and still do) the patience, dedication and energy to bring to your job even under the worst management and when people are just absolutely rude and disrespectful. You survived when so many others gave up or was pushed aside. The list of names is endless in your organisation when I think about it.

So many moved on and passed away and yet you are there giving it your best shot and offering not only your best but the energy to search and find the best out there.

And so… as we sometimes say this my bit for the baking…

1. Continue to believe in yourself — you are a strong woman and you will succeed in finding that change you so much desire.
2. Grow your skills and experience every day — this is something you already do with so much energy and enthusiasm (Unisa, sign language, blogging, church life etc)
3. Forget the NO-SAYERS — they will cry the day you pull the door shut behind you…. then their institutions will suffer and they will not have someone like you to pick up their pieces ALL THE TIME. It also says more about them and nothing about you, because they are not brave enough to give you a chance!
4. Collect your salary and give your 8-hours…. keep your impeccable record and only do what is necessary to keep the bonus coming in… we can all do with the little extra!
5. It is the other 16 hours that you buy with the albeit ‘un-stimulating’ 8 hours… this it the time where you can be free to do as you please and this is where you will make the connections to take you to a better place.
6.Nothing stops you from starting something new… (a) Register your company (use your mother’s name if you have to … how you trade is not so important as to what you trade (it is easy and cheap to do apparently) (b) advertise your services and test the waters (c) continue to build your contact base.
7. Continue to volunteer, but only focus on the activities with real buy-in and some returns…
8. Focus on your emotional and spiritual growth — focus on your health (since you have to have some surgery done… take the time out and do it! Do not delay…. the weather will do what it wants to do anyway!)
9. Give yourself a break! This is a very difficult one and something I think we all struggle with….
10. Know that there are many people out there who loves you! WE care and we know that to have you in our lives is a wonderful blessing… the strangers at work will never give us their all and working with someone a long time does not mean that they have our best intentions at heart or that they are keen for us to outgrow them…. Work on your ‘escape plan’ and the best is to think about saving as much as you can every month so that you can build up a buffer for 1 – year kind of like a gap year and this might include being 100% debt free etc…. then you work back from there….

So this is what i have to offer…. Another idea I just thought about… you and your sister can complement each other when it comes to her catering business and your organising skills…. think about that too…

Love you lots
Hugs and greetings to all.

I hope you will have a blessed weekend
Simone

Conversations with myself: I’m in turmoil

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The conversation with myself I planned to share with you this week was supposed to be about the importance of community paralegals. However, I am currently in such turmoil about desperately being in need of a career change that I thought I better get this off my chest first.

The job I have currently (which I am extremely grateful for because it enables me to put food on the table) is no longer challenging. I have been in the same position for the last 10 years and have become bored and stifled with no room for growth or upward (or sideways) movement. I feel like a goldfish in a goldfish bowl going round and round in circles and getting absolutely no where. I’ve exhausted all the avenues via the hierarchal structures for movement within the organisation which has all fallen on deaf ears and, quite frankly, I’m now tired of asking, talking, begging, pleading etc.

I am currently working as a Communications Officer for a national Government department specialising in Internal Communications – managing website content, internal publications (newsletters etc), printed resources, promotional material etc

I’m being trained as a workshop facilitator (Train-the-Trainer programme)by Disabled People SA which is a 3-year voluntary programme I signed up for and which is one avenue I could pursue (to offer my services as a Workshop Facilitator). I would be able to provide advocacy type training as opposed to certified courses for which I am sure there is a need out there somewhere?

I have a Paralegal Diploma and am currently studying towards a BA Criminology degree so a Community Paralegal is also an option.

I have more than 30 years working experience as an Administrator so I’m very seriously considering starting a Virtual Assistant business from home, but, like any business run from home, the risk and financial insecurity is high and as sole breadwinner in my household, I’m not sure I’m ready to take the plunge. I am extremely diligent in the execution of tasks, excellent time management skills and “organised” is my middle name. I am a firm believer in “To Do” lists and have a “To Do” list for a “To Do” list (if you know what I mean?). Setting up database systems, bookkeeping to Trial Balance stage are all duties which formed part of my portfolio over the years.

The other gift/passion I have is event planning and organising. I absolutely loved organising surprise birthday parties and celebrations for my family – coming up with a unique concept, planning, implementing the plan and watching the reaction on the day is priceless to me but, do I want to do this for a living? Will doing this for a living take the fun and pleasure out of it for me? Will this then become “just a job”?

If I have all these options available to me, why is it so difficult to make a decision? I know the perfect career is out there somewhere just waiting for me, I just have not found it yet.

My biggest fear of walking away from what I have right now is the job security. Where I am now, the chances of being fired are almost non-existent (unless I do something terribly outrageous which is not part of my nature to do) and with the unemployment rate in South Africa being what it is at the moment, job security is what you need to hold on to as long as possible.

So what do I do? Do I walk away from the security blanket or do I stick it out? What do I do in the meantime while I stick it out? I’ve exhausted all the possible ways I could make my current job more interesting and exciting and have run out of options.

What do I do? Mmmmmm??

How I became a Disengaged Employee

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I cannot believe how circumstances can make you do a complete 360 degree turnaround. Let me explain . . .

Ever since I entered the workplace way back in the early 80’s, I have always been the employee who:

• Punctuality – was never late for anything under any circumstances. I always left home an hour before I needed to be anywhere (even if it only took me 20 minutes to get there) to allow for unforeseen circumstances which might delay me reaching my destination.
• Attitude towards work – always a “can do”/ how can I help you? (with a genuine smile). No job was ever too big or too small and the position of the person in the company did not matter – from Cleaning lady to Managing Director – everyone was treated equally. I would go out of my way to help (even staying late or taking work home) – I never knew the words “it’s not my job”. I know what I know today because I never, ever said “it’s not my job”. I learnt a lot more in the workplace than any textbook could ever teach me. I carry the lessons I have learnt at each place of employment with me to this day.
• Service delivery – always gave 200 percent of myself no matter what the task. Always delivered on time every time, within budget (often coming in under budget).
• Customer service – the 7 years spent in the Insurance industry working for a one man Brokerage, I often spent up to 14 hours a day at the office (voluntarily – without additional remuneration) purely to deliver fast and efficient service to our clients because that is what I expected of myself – not because my “boss” told me to. In fact – he often threatened to take the office keys away from me to stop me coming in at 06:30 and leaving at 20:00 or thereabouts.

My current working conditions have deteriorated to the point where:

• Punctuality has flown out the window. I have reached the stage where I really don’t care whether I’m late for work or not. This really bothers me because it goes totally against the grain of who I am. I was not raised to be like this. I was raised in a home where you are punctual no matter what the cost. If it means that you have to leave home 2 hours before the time, so be it. That is what you will do. There is no excuse for being late – unless you died along the way, of course.
• Attitude towards work – I have now reached the stage where I’m no longer interested in helping anyone with anything. I come to work and do my job (to make sure that I deliver on my Key Performance Areas (KPA’s) as is expected of me) and that is it. I have become a clock-watcher. I cannot wait for 4pm each day to get out of the office as fast as I can. I live for my weekends and dread Mondays.
• Service delivery – I no longer give 200 percent of myself – in fact, I find it difficult to even give 100 percent of myself. I’m no longer interested in helping anyone with anything – if it’s not in my job description, I’m not doing it.
• Customer service – I don’t have external customers at present, but service to my internal customers has reached the point now where I do what I have to do and THAT’S IT!

Why, I ask myself have I turned into this monster? Is it maybe because . . .

• All my complaints to Management (even with solutions) has fallen on deaf ears?
• Most of my colleagues are not interested in doing more than the barest minimum in the workplace? They prefer to stand around chatting and having coffee than actually doing a full day’s work.
• On the rare occasions when I ask for assistance, everybody is too busy to assist me, does not know the answer to the questions I ask and cannot re-direct me?
A simple example: today I needed to use the photocopying machine for the first time (I have my own 3-in-1 printer/copier in my office and I was not present when all the staff was trained to use the photocopier in the shared space). Nobody was available to help me. The colleagues in the office did not know how to use the copier or were too busy to leave their desks to assist me and those who knew how were not in the building at the time. I am referring to Administrators, who has, as part of their normal daily routine, to make photocopies for their Managers – yet, they don’t know how to reduce the print size on the photocopier?

Is it because they really don’t know or is it just because I have asked? Am I being paranoid?

As recently as two days ago, I had to deliver on a job that was given to me at the 11th hour and was expected to perform miracles to get the job done. The job was done and delivered within the given timeframe (with a smile) – yet today, I ask for help and nobody is “able” to help me?

. . . and you wonder why I have disengaged from my workplace?

I have been fighting this disengagement for the last two years now because this is just not me. I have never disengaged from my workplace, like I have done over the last few months. This disengagement is causing major conflict within me but I’m tired of being the kind and courteous one – too kind to say “no”.

I am trying to get out but the current economic climate is not working in my favour right now so I’ve decided to bite the bullet and stick it out, however, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

I am self-destructing and I don’t know how to save myself – stop me from falling!