The Jolly Librarian and the entire staff of the NSCC Library wish everyone a happy and restful Thanksgiving. For those of you who are finishing research papers over the break, remember that you can access the databases from home with your “A” and pin numbers.
The library will reopen at 7:30 on Monday, November 30. We’ll see you then!
This is not the first time that I’ve written on this subject, but the holidays are always a good time to reflect on how much we’ve been given and how much need is out there. Plus, at the holidays, there are so many easy ways to give. My mail box has been full of requests from charities each day. At the grocery store, I can buy a box of food to give to the local hungry.
And it appears that the need is great. A recent article in The New York Times states that hunger in the United States is at a fourteen-year high.
Many of us are truly fortunate. Our main concern for the holiday is that we don’t eat too much or gain too much weight. In such abundance, it only makes sense that we make room in our hearts for those who are hungry. Please give to your favorite charity this season.
Like most of my colleagues today, I came into work to find that our internet was down. That meant no access to library databases, students’ course shells, or even the simplest Google search. Now, no time is a good time for a college to be without the Internet. But this seemed an especially bad time: there were many, many students who had papers due and who needed research help or just access to their course shells to turn those papers in.
Most people handled the inconvenience well. The librarians guided students to little-used reference materials and found them books on the shelves for their research. In most cases, we all found ways to work around the problem.
Still, there were a few frayed tempers. We in the library were continuously asked when the internet was going to be fixed and if we were trying to fix it. “This is just messed up,” was a refrain that we heard over and over again.
A day like today is a good reminder that when things can’t be changed, perhaps the best solution is to change our attitude. Now, I have nothing against change. I think change is good! 🙂 But no amount of railing against the system today would have brought the internet up any faster. The only logical solution was to accept what was happening and find ways to get work done without it. That’s what happened in the library, and I’m sure it happened all over our campus as well. Having a general attitude of acceptance might not make a bad day a good one, but it surely can make a bad day manageable. And sometimes that’s victory enough.
A recent article in The New York Times reported on a study in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography on the very real and harmful effects of workplace gossip.
But my topic today is not on the evils of workplace gossip or gossip in general. We may have all been taught that gossip is bad, but chances are we all indulge in it occasionally. And we know the difference between the occasional gossip that maybe bonds folks together and that which intends to do damage. My topic today is how to avoid the gossiper who is obviously wanting to do the latter.
The malicious workplace gossiper is depending on two things: one that you will agree and help spread the rumors but also that you won’t report him or her to the subject of the gossip. Therefore, the gossiper is usually eager to get you to say something as well. So one of the most basic ways to get rid of such a person is to simply not agree. Saying something like, “Oh, well, I like that decision” or “I’ve always been treated fairly by our boss” can send such a person running. So why don’t more of us do it? One reason is that we’re often afraid of becoming that person’s next target.
A second approach might be to turn the gossip into a serious discussion. Malicious gossipers are usually not interested in solving a problem, but in blaming someone else. Asking “what do you think should have been done” often turns the conversation in another direction.
A third approach which worked for a friend of mine (at least during the month of January) was to say loudly when someone started in on gossip, “Oh no. My resolution for this year was not to talk about people” and then to walk off.
There is probably no simple answer, but being aware when gossip starts to turn malicious can help us keep our workplaces happier.
I had an interesting encounter with a colleague today. She was telling me about a problem, and I suggested something she should do to solve it. She was quite put out with me. “I just need to talk,” she said. “I want sympathy right now. That’s really something you should work on.”
Which it is. On the whole Mars/Venus thing, I usually come down more on the male side. When people tell me problems, my first instinct is to find a way to solve them, especially in the workplace.
I wonder at what point in our development does communication get so messed up? My three-year-old buddy has no problem. She says what she thinks, and if she asks for something, that’s what she wants, not something else. But for most of us, communication, with both loved ones and co-workers, ranks high on our problem list.
In this month’s O magazine, Tim Jarvis gives some pointers in “Hear Me, Hear Me.” One tip is to simply start noticing how people react to you. Now my colleague made it easy for me. She told me plain out that I wasn’t being sensitive to her problem and that what she needed was sympathy not solutions. But most of the time, the signs are more subtle. Here are some of Jarvis’s tips:
- You think you’re being helpful but notice that people are avoiding making eye contact with you or physically drifting away or nodding just to get you to stop talking. You may have gained a reputation as a know-it-all or someone who is always criticizing others. No one likes to feel constantly criticized. How to get back on track? Take a moment to ask people if they need your help. If they say no, no matter how much it hurts, back away.
- You’re talking, but noticed that others are fidgeting or even interrupting you. What’s going on? Well, assuming that you don’t work with complete social Neanderthals who know nothing about politeness, there could be a case of differing communication styles going on. This happens to me a lot. Although I’m an English major and love a good story as much as the next person, I don’t like long drawn-out descriptions of problems in the workplace. I need you to tell me the problem in one succinct sentence, and if I need more information, I’ll ask. So yes, if people start with the ancient history of the problem and start slowly working their way up to its current state, I’ll be doing some fidgeting, and I may even interrupt. So how to solve this problem? Look at how these people communicate; then work to match their styles more closely.
- Be clear about what you want from the encounter. Like my colleague today, if you simply want someone to listen to your problem, then say so at the beginning.
- Don’t spend a lot of time blaming. It really is a sad truth: No one likes blamers; even when they’re right, most people come away from an encounter with them with a more negative feeling toward the blamer than the blamee. And in the workplace, more is accomplished when the effort is on solving the problem, not blaming someone for it.
These tips just scratch the surface. There are tomes and tomes of books written on communication skills. And I recommend that you take a look at some of them. But if you don’t, just remember that old saying: God gave us two ears but one mouth. So spend twice as much time listening as talking.