Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Eventually, people who need people are indeed lucky...

Thank you Barbra, for in your best Fanny Brice, charmingly serenaded the ruffles off Omar Sharif's shirt in Funny Girl you tell us that "people who need people are in the luckiest people in the world."

I couldn't agree more. Some of you out there may concur, some of you not so much. However, if you would have asked me a year ago, I would hesitate a bit. You see, I was ready to embark in a new adventure of the job-changing kind where I was to work virtually, leading a team of professionals located in several call centers across the USA. The task at hand to build employee engagement that would result in retention.

Stationed in Ohio, I worked with engagement "teams" of volunteers for a Fortune 50 company, as I was constantly and quite condescendingly reminded off. The Fortune 50 company way is this, the Fortune 50 company way is that... You get the idea. Well, for a closet introvert, as my "thirties" would tell you I'd become, was totally up for it. OK, I can do this. I have managed volunteers and teams before. Let's plan strategy for engagement, events and let's have fun!

Did I say I'd be stationed in Ohio working virtually with teams all over the nation?? Yes, I had multiple meetings and calls a day with my colleagues, but it was done virtually. Week 1 turned into month 1, then month 3 and by the time month 6 rolled around, I had carpel tunnel in my right arm because I'd spent at least nine and a half hrs a day on my computer and on the phone. I had hardly any face to face, real interaction. The people on the floor where my office was located were all, like me, on the computer, phone headset on, doing their thing. "Good morning!" I'd cheerfully greet everyone I passed by. Nothing... My supervisor who lived an hr away, commuted, but stayed home three days a week and on days we'd have our one on one meetings, she'd stay in her office and call me over the phone. One day I had a bad cough and she asked me not to come in because I'd likely get her sick. Sparing you the details of what came later, you can say that there ended up being not so much positive engagement in the employee engagement world. Why? My theory was because the definition of engagement there had a lot to do with invoices, numbers and orders coming from top down, and not with the "engagement" of people.

I eventually began working from home. I mean, what was the point. Not one person I worked with was physically IN the office. Might was well roll out of bed, make my own coffee and have Hoda and Kathy Lee in the background-no wine, though. ;)

When that adventure (term used loosely and full of sarcasm) wrapped up I took a leap of faith and began working on new projects from home. Loved the classes taking, the planning and writing I was doing, essentially, the work was mine, and I felt productive. Unfortunately, I was starting to feel something huge was missing.

Disclaimer- there is NOTHING wrong with staying home, working from home, or doing "nothing" at home, if that is your choice. It was definitely, NOT for me.

This closet introvert is that: CLOSET introvert. More of an extrovert I began to desperately miss human interaction, actual, interpersonal interaction. Screw the phone, texting, emailing or the use of any other piece of technology available to us mere mortals to hide or shelter physical contact. In a nutshell, and before I went nuts, I realized I am a people person who needed people, who needs people,... Cue Barbra! How lucky I was to wake up from my "stay at home" comfort zone and wave away the fog that had attempted to blind me with thoughts and voices inside my head that justify and glorify the benefits of working on your own, from home. Again, this is MY story. Don't knock it. Some professionals out there have made it, and made it big, while working either alone, of from home. Again, not for me. It was simply too isolating.

I will say one thing, and here's where the true appreciation comes in. Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Still basking on the joy of rejoining a real, living and breathing work team, there were voices, presence of certain somebodies, all good people, but too "loud" for my mind and my heart, and even way more opinionated about MY life, career choices, parenting skills, etc. They may all mean well, but quite frankly I had to tune them OUT! I deactivated social media accounts, unplugged everything that needed a chord to stay "alive," turned off ring tones, changed ringtones, deleted ringtones and decided to focus on what was right in front of me: human beings, real people. Just like that I re-committed to tuning out voices and influences outside of my control. The point I want to make is that I put myself on a self-imposed "retreat" and was silent, disconnected and by choice, not interacting with anyone who was not in physical proximity. I was able to reflect, write and read, then relaxed and not stressed in order to peacefully enjoy the here, the now and the moment.

Then a miracle happened... the one app I had not deactivated was Skype. Through Skype calls, three by the same person in one week, I was able to re-connect, talk, laugh and even cry, looking into eyes, smiling in unison. Two people who live thousands of miles away, in countries apart, felt human (albeit visual) contact and that made all the difference...

So, in closing, and acknowledging the occasional need for any person to either work alone, from home, or other wise, disconnect himself/herself from the world if needed to regroup with ONESELF, to first and foremost listen to YOUR voice (internal and external) and be OK with yourself, your life and your own decisions, people need people. At least I do. I am a people person. I love to be around people, to work with people, to see, talk to, touch and laugh with people. And yes, I am one of the lucky ones.

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