Friday, December 9, 2022

Fa La La Funk- Dealing With the Holiday Blues


Dear Workplace Wonda, 

Each winter, when the holiday season rushes upon me like a crowd at a Bad Bunny concert, instead of feeling excitement, I experience downright dread.  In fact, the anticipation of back-to-back holidays with less workdays to get everything completed has put me in a funk.  What can I do to ease the stress associated with The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?


Having a Blue Holiday 

Dear Having a Blue Holiday,  

You are not alone in your fa la la funk.  Many people experience emotions not typically associated with the holidays, such as:  stress, depression, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, loneliness, etc.  It even has a name—the holiday blues.  

Typically occurring during the months of November and December, the holiday blues can feel like you are Walking in a Winter Wonderland—full of hand grenades!   While some skip around joyfully tossing tinsel and handing out candy canes, others schedule there day in Grinch-like fashion:  

6:00 a.m.- Drag harried body out of bed

7:00 a.m.- Check mirror to confirm expression of self-loathing and contempt 

8:00 a.m.- Respond “Bah Humbug,” to all cheerful greetings

9:00 a.m.- Change holiday station- tell no one

9:30 a.m. – Rant about the commercialization of winter holidays

10:00 a.m. 5:00- Wallow in self-infected pity

Another words, the reason for the season doesn’t always bring Comfort and Joy to all.  Instead, many of us spend weeks preparing for the holidays—only for it to be reduced to a heaping pile of discarded boxes, wrapping paper, and bows.  

There are unsaid expectations that many of us put on ourselves around the holidays that lead to stress and disappointment when it doesn’t measure up.    Think about it, some of us spend money we don’t have on things no one needs, only to have it regifted back to us on our birthday!   

The holidays can also put a spotlight on issues that normally seem more manageable, such as divorce, sharing custody of children, loss of a family member, or living far from home.   It’s like watching Hallmark Christmas movies on repeat—reminding you of what you could have, should have—but don’t have!  

My advice to you is to find the reason for the season.  I know, I know—steal sayings much?   But it is good advice.  The following tips might help to make your heart grow three sizes larger during the holiday season:  

1. Address Symptoms- Make sure what you are feeling isn’t something that may need medical attention.  Is it a regular occurrence that only occurs during the winter holidays?  You may be experiencing seasonal depression that can be helped with medication and/or counseling.  Is grief or loneliness triggered during the holidays?  Anticipate and acknowledge your feelings and be honest with others how you are feeling when you are having a Blue Christmas.

2. Change things up- Celebrate Christmas in July.  Say no to gifts and go on a trip instead.  Explore, learn, and appreciate how other cultures celebrate holidays.  Gather family and friends and go to the children’s hospital or local retirement centers and entertain them with some Christmas caroling.  Society doesn’t control our traditions—we do.  

3. Set reasonable expectations- Keep things simple and manageable.  I used to make calendars for family members with everyone’s birthday stickered on.  It took me weeks.  Not only was it expensive, but I’d have to stay up for hours after work getting them done.  It became a tradition that I felt I had to continue even though instead of joy, it began to bring me stress, anxiety, and resentment.  I finally gave myself permission to give it the Ho, Ho, Ho, Heave Ho.  

4. Take Care of YOU- Make your own mental health a priority.  Lack of sun, breaks in routine, lack of sleep, and excessive drinking and eating during the holidays can drive anyone to become a Bad Santa.   Stick within your normal routine as much as possible.  The holidays are a busy time of the year, but don’t forego your workout routine to drown yourself in egg nogg and holiday cookies.  Practice moderation 

If all else fails, remember what Linus said on A Charlie Brown Christmas, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree.  It’s not bad at all really.  Maybe it just needs a little love.”   The premise of the story is exactly what you are getting at in your question.  Charlie Brown is experiencing the blues of the holiday and is rejecting the commercialization of Christmas.  Instead, he was seeking its true meaning.   Charlie picks the saddest tree of the lot because he thinks the tree needs him, not because he needs the tree.  

Isn’t that the true reason of holidays regardless of how you celebrate or if you celebrate?  Joy isn’t found in having the biggest and best, but how we care for one another.  And shouldn’t that be every day, not just during the holiday season?  


Workplace Wonda 




Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow


      (Packing up my office- Last day is June 3)

‘Sweet, so would I

Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.

Good night, good night!  Parting is such sweet sorrow.’  

(Act 2, Scene 2) Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

The above scene, from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is arguably one of the most famous in American literature.   Juliet uttered the most recognized line, ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow’ to her star-crossed lover, Romeo as they said good night. 

What makes that specific line so fascinating is that ‘sweet sorrow’ is an oxymoron.  How can something be both sweet and sorrowful?  In the context of this scene, Juliet is expressing the feeling of sorrow at their parting, but the anticipation of reuniting the next day is so joyful, it is worth the pain of separation.

I think this feeling of ‘sweet sorrow’ translates beautifully in many experiences we have throughout our personal and professional lives.  In our personal lives it could be a time when you had to say goodbye to something or someone important to you. Perhaps it was a loved one who passed away or a child who left for college.  The sorrow might be that a period of time (childhood) or a relationship has ended (death), but the sweetness is the memories that will forever be cherished and revisited. 

Professionally, ‘sweet sorrow’ could represent moving to a new position within an organization—or even to a new organization entirely.  The sorrow is maybe leaving co-workers, a boss—and even the job itself.   The sweetness could be the anticipation of learning new skills, meeting new people and being exposed to new challenges and experiences. 

Change is movement.  Change is evolution.  Change is growth.  Without change—and perhaps sorrow to some degree—would the pleasure be as sweet?    

‘Sweet sorrow,’ is the perfect term to define how I am feeling after accepting an exciting opportunity at a new employer and resigning from my position as Human Resources & Communications Director for Proteus, Inc. after 26 years of service.  There is sorrow in leaving my team, coworkers, supervisor and the organization as a whole.  On the flip side, I am filled with excitement, curiosity, and anticipation of learning new skills, sharing my knowledge and challenging my inner voice that has previously held me back from trying new things. 

I’m venturing into unknown territory and with that comes fear and uncertainty.   There is no guarantee that the reward will be sweet, but without tying, how would one know?  Change is scary.  I’m the first to admit it.  But if you are not growing, it’s time for a change. 

If you are experiencing either of the two following career killers, it might be time for a change:

1.  Exhibiting Complacency- If you have become unmotivated or dread coming to work, it might be time for a change.  Change doesn’t mean leaving the organization or job you love.  It may mean applying for a different position within the organization or asking your supervisor for additional duties.  Nothing impresses a supervisor more than initiative!  It may mean volunteering on a committee or asking to support your team on a special project.  If you are complacent, not only are you failing yourself, you are failing the organization.  (Thee needeth to moveth)

2.  Lacking Growth- It might be time for a change if you are not growing professionally.  That could mean that you have reached the height of your opportunities within an organization.  It may mean that you are not learning new skills or being challenged based on your knowledge and expertise.  

If you feel that you are not growing, ask for additional training, research certifications or enhance your knowledge through educational opportunities offered through your organization or on your own.  You may also join a professional group or volunteer on a local board where you can make contacts and access resources to better your career.  Last, read, read, read!  If you are not taking advantage of the thousands of personal and professional books available, you are missing out on  broadening your imagination, improving your verbal and written communication, and developing your emotional intelligence and ability to self-reflect.  (Thee needeth to groweth)

The great thing about both of these career killers is that YOU have control over the outcome.   YOU write the story of your personal and professional journey.  And YOU decide if it will read like a Shakespearian tragedy.   

‘Good night, good night!  Parting is such sweet sorrow.’   To my Proteus family, this is not good night or good bye, but a joyful farewell. 




Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Happy Mother's Day- Good Moms Let You Lick the Beaters

“Ma… Mommy… Mum… Mother… Madre…,” my son rattles off—just in case I forgot my lot in life.  

“Yes, Master Mason, what can I have the pleasure of doing for you today?” I momcastically respond.

“Do you know where my keys are?” he asks.  

I state the obvious, “Did you look?”

“Ya, but you can find anything,” he states.  “Can you just help me?”  

After asking him where he last saw them and backtracking his steps, his keys were found within minutes in his discarded jeans from the night before.

“See mom, you can find anything!” he smiles as he grabs his keys and saunters away.

I stand there for a moment with hands on my hips—like us moms like to do—in silent recognition that I was duped again by the child I chose to give life to.

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I’d like to dedicate this article to all the moms out there “who can find anything!” 

When we think of moms, we think of nurturer, supporter, caretaker, housecleaner, cook, nurse, and referee—among many other job titles.  According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021), in addition to at-home roles, approximately 75.5% of mothers with children older than six are employed in the workforce. 

“I’m off to my other job,” is a regular salutation I give as I leave the office to describe my role as mother and wife.  Rarely is my lunch hour spent leisurely enjoying a sandwich at Papa Johns.  Instead, the time is spent running errands, picking up groceries and sometimes even rushing home to do laundry to ease up my nightly chores.  And I don’t even have young ones anymore!  I shudder to think how I managed doctor’s appointments, teacher’s conferences, sick days and all the other responsibilities that came with having younger children.  But I did it, and I see my amazing coworkers doing it as well.

Although the traditional roles of ma and pa are changing, there is still a large enough gap that I sometimes fantasize about giving a slight push kick to pa’s backside to even things out.  Unfortunately, it is still mostly (not all) women who are having to choose between career and family.  You can certainly have both, but there will be sacrifices.  The goal is to even things out and give yourself a break when things aren’t “perfect.”

It’s kind of like when you had your first child.  You might have ironed all of his/her baby clothes, perhaps you made his/her own organic baby food, or sprayed down all of his/her toys—and please don’t even mention allowing food that fell on the ground from entering your child’s mouth! 

Then you have your second child.  You are lucky to get yourself dressed let alone them, bath time consists of stripping them down and handing them to dad while he showers—and fallen food?   It’s better than no food!  Same goes for working moms.  One can be perfect—mom or career.  But both—we just do the very best we can do. 

I won’t dare give you mom tips or tips on how to juggle career and family.  There is no one fits all.  I’ve learned that no matter what you do as a mom, it won’t be given the acknowledgement and recognition it deserves.  It truly is a thankless job at times.  But the moment you see your children, who you thought were not listening to your lectures on manners, morals, forgiveness, kindness, etc. demonstrate what you taught them—you will know you’ve done your job.     

And you know what part is worth waiting for?  Payback.  The following are some of the things my mom said to me that has now happened to me:

1)  Just wait until you have children!

2)  I can’t wait until you have children!

4)  You think I’m a mean mom?  Wait until you have children!

5)  I worry too much?  Wait until you have children!

And my favorite, “I told you so!”  Yes you did mom!

Happy Mother’s Day to all you momma bears out there who protect and love their cubs every day!  A special shout out to my mom and best friend.  Thank you for always being there for me in my darkest days and in my brightest. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

About Face: What Your Expressions May or May Not Be Saying About You


(Left:  RBF,  Right, Neutral)

“Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.”- Janet Lane

If you have ever seen Kristen Stewart from the Twilight franchise on the red carpet or in an interview, she has an expression on her face that lacks much movement or change.   If her expression could speak it would say, “I’d rather be anywhere in the world than right here with you!” It ranges from a look of unnerving disinterest to a look of utter annoyance.    

In 2013, a meme took over the Internet giving the expression, or lack thereof, a name—Resting *itch Face (RBF).   An unflattering description that is usually (unfairly) assigned to women, RBF can be off-putting particularly when it comes to first impressions.   

Many inflicted with RBF complain that they are being wrongly judged and in most cases that is in fact true.  But regardless of intent, RBF makes others feel as if they are the ones being judged.   RBF is different from a purposeful frown, scowl, or eye roll because it has no purpose, it’s at rest.  If RBF was to have a twin, it would be the monotone voice due to its lack of variation and presentation void of emotion.  So how do you know if you are inflicted with RBF?   

In my very best Jeff Foxworthy, the following is a list of RBF signs you need to be aware of:

1.  If you are constantly being asked if you are okay or if you are mad about something, you may have RBF. 

2.  If people seem uncomfortable about approaching you, you may have RBF.

3.  If when you try to be funny and it’s received with a “Are you being serious?” you may have RBF.

4.  If you are constantly told, “You should smile,” you may have RBF.

5.  If you are told, “I thought you hated me when we first met,” you may have RBF.

6.  If you constantly win playing cards due to your “poker face,” you may have RBF.

Individuals with RBF are often frowned upon by management (get it, frowned upon?) and iced out (ya, I can’t help myself, it’s a gift) by coworkers.  They can be deemed unfriendly, aloof and even cold—which is usually far from the truth.  But as we all know, perception is a powerful thing.  In fact, we make judgements about people based on many outward factors.  Once an opinion is formed, it is difficult to change.   Sadly, RBF can over shadow an otherwise efficient and competent employee.   

Interestingly, many people with RBF either don’t or won’t recognize it, excuse it as being a part of their personality, or know it, but don’t understand the importance of its consequences. 

Anyone own a teen?  If there was a posterchild for RBF, it would be found on a teenager.  My daughter was inflicted with RBF from the age of 12 to around 18.   She would come home and complain that she didn’t understand why girls didn’t like her.  Careful not to ignite a firestorm of “you just DON”T get it mom!” followed by the spin, march and slam of the bedroom door, I suggested perhaps she was coming off as unfriendly and she should smile more.  Guess what happened?  Yep.  “Mom, you DON’T understand!”   Spin…  March…  Slam…   Thankfully after years in customer service, she learned the importance of what her face may be putting out there in the world.

Now that you know what RBF is and you think you may have it, what is the cure?  The following are a few tips:

1.  The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem.  If you answered “yes” to one or more of the RBF signs, you may have RBF.

2.  Ask someone.  I know this may be difficult, but ask someone you believe will be completely honest with you.  If you really want to change, you need to know the truth.

3.  Record yourself during a zoom call or meeting and watch it back.  If you were an outsider, how would you view you?

4.  Be aware.  Are you actively listening?  Are you engaged?  Are you paying attention?  What is your face saying?

5.  Put effort into your expressions.  Even at rest, be mindful of your eyes and mouth.   Smile with your eyes and keep a slight smile on your face?  Lean forward when someone is talking and nod your head at times to show you are listening.  Practice in the mirror if you have to.

Teamwork, communication and customer service all require the ability to be engaged, interested, excited and even joyful at times—even when you may not be.   Putting a concerted effort in your expressions (even while at rest) when meeting people or while attending meetings, conferences or just communicating in general, can improve your interpersonal relationships. 

It’s time to drop the RBF and allow people to see the real you.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Laughter IS the Best Medicine and I Can Prove It


"There is little success where there is little laughter."- Andrew Carnegie

How many times have you heard the saying, “laughter is the best medicine?”  This is a metaphor used over and over again when describing the benefits of laughter.   But guess what?  It’s true—and science backs it up.  In fact, research shows that laughter releases the brain chemical serotonin (a mood stabilizer often lacking in those of us who suffer from anxiety and depression) and endorphins (the feel-chemical in our brain that responds to pain and stress.)  Laughter increases our heart rate, burns calories, improves our focus and reduces the negative effects that stress has on our body and mind.

I don’t remember when “joking around” became the norm for me.  Believe it or not, I was an incredibly shy young girl.  Raised with all brothers, I did have to develop different types of defense mechanisms and teasing and joking became one of them.  There was something powerful about laughing my way out of situations that made me uncomfortable. 

Laughing relieved my anxiety and stress and would put a protective barrier around my otherwise tender heart.  Teased mercilessly by my older brother, I either needed to fight back with an arsenal of zingers or run to my room crying.   I choose to fight.   I could rouse my brother with the simplest form of reverse psychology.  He would call me names and make fun of prepubescent boy like figure and I would simply agree.  “You are absolutely right, my chest is as flat as an iron board.”  His inability to make me cry would throw him into a fit of blind rage.  Me?  I would laugh uncontrollably until I got in trouble for “teasing” my four-year older brother!    

There is just something bonding about laughing with others over a good joke, a funny movie or a corny pun.  In fact nothing gets me giggling like a bad pun.  You are either pun-loving or not, there is just no in between.  It usually starts off innocently enough.  For example, my daughter texted me the other day, “Mom, the cat peed in my room again!”  I responded, “Well, you better clean it up before I get home or urine trouble!”  I receive a text back, “You are lame, mom.”  I respond, “Far pee it from me to disagree.”  Now if that didn’t make you laugh, then you are missing a punny bone. 

Laughter promotes togetherness and builds relationships.  Laughter breaks down barriers, and like a smile, is universally understood across different cultures.  Laughter can uplift an otherwise disengaged and unmotivated workforce.  Laughter can reduce conflict, hostility and resentment among coworkers.  Best of all?  It’s positively contagious!

There is a stereotype about what a professional resembles.  Rarely does funny, witty, silly or self-defecating make the list of admirable characteristics.   Often time, when we think of “being professional,” we think of formal, proper and composed.  In reality, a professional is competent, ethical, a great communicator, reliable, and—presents themselves in a tidy and well-groomed manner.  Now where does it say you can’t be all of those things + funny? 

Speaking of which.  One time, my supervisor asked me to start my training presentation with a joke.  So, I attached my paycheck to the first slide!  No?  Okay, how about this one.  A ham sandwich walks into a bar and orders a beer.  The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.”   Still no?  I guess I’m going to have to pull out the oldie but goodie, a knock knock joke!   Knock Knock.  Who’s there?  A little old lady.  A little old lady who?  I had no idea you could yodel!  

Regardless of your humor track, having a little fun and laughing in the workplace has its benefits.  Research shows that a happy workforce is a more productive workforce.   Sparing time each day to connect and be a little silly is known to increase focus and motivation.  Laughing in a group encourages creativity and thinking outside the “formal” box.   It can also built trust, comfort and comradery among teams.

Now that we know the many benefits, how can you implement more laughter in the workplace?

1.  Allow it- I know that seems obvious, but some supervisors think if you are laughing you are not being productive.  The opposite is true.  An engaged and happy staff is more productive.  Allot a reasonable amount of time to bond or schedule some time each week to do a fun activity, share an embarrassing (but hilarious) story, share or tell appropriate jokes, etc.

2.  Loosen up- Leaders need to be approachable.  Poking fun at your weaknesses or sharing a funny story about an experience can make you more relatable to staff and build trust with your team.

3.  Create a Laughter Committee- If you have some office clowns, have them create a committee and come up with fun and creative ways to bring laughter and joy into the workplace.  The best ideas come from those who like to laugh.

As fun as funny is, always be mindful of your audience.  I've learned that not everyone thinks I'm as adorable as I think I am.  Be sure to keep your jokes and humor appropriate for the workplace and always stay away from humor, teasing or joking that would be in violation of your organization's policies.

I will end this article with a couple of my favorite stories that are not flattering to me, but when I share them, continues to make me laugh and others laugh as well.

1. When I was 30-years old, I was walking by a restaurant and this young man said to his friend, “Ya, she’s hot for being two days past the expiration date.”  At the time I was completely insulted.  The 52-year old me only concentrates on the first part of his comment!

2.  When my son was around Junior High age, he looked at me one day and said, “Mom, you are really starting to look like Grandma.”  “Oh, ya, how so? I ask.”  He responds, “You both have parentheses around your mouths.”    He was referring to wrinkles! 

Now, if you don't think THAT is funny... 





Wednesday, April 6, 2022

If It Doesn't Fit-- You Must Acquit (and let it go)


Why do we hold on to people, places and things that limit our growth?  From relationships that no longer serve us, to guilt for things we can’t change, to grudges whose cause have long been forgotten, we fail to “let it go.”

It’s time to clean house!  And we are going to start by unloading all the unnecessary baggage we hold on to that clutters our thinking and our lives. 

A couple of weeks ago I had a yard sale.  I decided to finally purge my closet of all the clothes that were in the “one day I will fit back into them” category.   This was an incredibly difficult process for me.  In my distorted thinking, letting go of these too small items was like saying to myself, “I give up!”  The reality is, if—and it’s a hefty if—I ever get down to my early 2000s weight, I can buy new clothes!  And no, I am not skirting (get it?) over the fact that twenty-year-old items hung in infamy in my closet.  In my defense, I’ve been alive enough decades to know that everything comes back into style at some point.

So, why do we hold on to things that not only limit our growth, but no longer fit?   Because letting go equals change.  And change is scary.  For example, my niece went through her toys that she no longer played with or outgrew and included them in the yard sale.  At first, she was excited about the potential earnings she would make that would allow her to purchase new and improved toys.  As the day rolled on, I noticed a stockpile of her old toys were back in the garage.   

When we let go of things—even when they no longer fit; or, we no longer play with them; or, they no longer serve us -- we are letting go of a time that no longer is and a piece of us that no longer will be.    The uncertainty of it all can be paralyzing.   Instead of stepping into the abyss of the unknown, we curl up in the comfort of familiarity.  In my niece’s case, letting go of the old toys would equal accepting the reality that she is growing up.

Author John C. Maxwell once said, “Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.”   You can NOT control change.  It is going to happen regardless of how hard you try to hold on.  What you do have control over is how you approach change. 

The following are a few tips on how you can let go of people, places and things that limit your growth:

1.  Acceptance- Repeat each day, “Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.”  Acceptance is the first step on your journey of growth.

2.  Change your Mindset- Once you accept the fact the change is inevitable, you can begin to seek and embrace the benefits that come from letting go.  Opportunities present themselves to us every day; unfortunately, fear prevents us from seeing what is often right in front of us. 

3. Set Yourself FREE- Work on your self-worth.  Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with positive body image and perfectionism.  Letting go of my “skinny” clothes that no longer fit was a step forward in letting go of the unrealistic and unattainable 20-year-old me and embracing the healthier, stronger and happier 50-year-old me.  Once you accept and believe you are worthy and good enough, the people, places and things that are weighing you down will be much easier to rid of.

I want to challenge you to start your spring cleaning today.   List all the areas of your life that are no longer benefiting you, accept that you no longer need it in your life and open yourself to all the opportunities for growth that awaits you.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Fa La La Funk- Dealing With the Holiday Blues

  Dear Workplace Wonda,  Each winter, when the holiday season rushes upon me like a crowd at a Bad Bunny concert, instead of feeling excitem...