Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Keeping The Fun In Office Birthday Celebrations

Typical Office Birthday PartyMany offices have parties to celebrate birthdays. Some celebrate on the actual day while larger offices may have a party day once a month to celebrate for everyone born that month. Still others go out to lunch or do something else  in honor of the birthday person. (I tend to think the it’s mostly a way for everyone to take a cake break.)

As fun as these can sometimes be, they also can create problems that could have been avoided with a few guidelines, requirements and limitations.

1. Let employees develop the guidelines, using established criteria or with final approval by the manager.  It’s good to let employees decide about events that pertain directly to them, but the outcome is still the responsibility of the manager.

Sometimes employees aren’t thinking of the big picture or don’t have the insight to know what could be problematic. For example, a suggestion in one office was for each employee to take turns hosting an event–but that can’t be required and may not be possible for everyone. Another office wanted to do a fun “Old Folks Home” theme for an older employee. NOT a good idea. One group wanted to require a sizable monthly donation for parties.  And, I very clearly recall the disciplinary action that followed a Male Strip-O-Gram for a female employee’s birthday.

2. Keep celebrations as simple and inexpensive as possible. The more simple and the less expensive the party, the less set-up and clean-up time is involved and the less money has to be gotten from an office fund, individual contributions or the pockets of managers and supervisors.

Consider really tasty cookies, simple cupcakes, the least expensive source for the cake, a plain fruit tray or one that is made at work. Or, do as some offices do and eliminate a food event altogether, focusing instead on verbal and written birthday wishes.

3. Have equitable parties. It can be embarrassing and hurtful to have a giant party for Betty but only a few cupcakes in the break room for Barbara. Or, to take Bill to lunch but not do anything for Bob. The best way keep it even is to do about the same thing for everyone, every time. If the employee has special dietary needs, get a small serving for the honoree but the usual thing for everyone else.

There is a gorgeous office-wrapping display shown on this site (and I really like the site too!) It looks lovely and probably was fun. However, I am aware of a similar situation in which the next employee with a birthday ( a very nice person who was well-liked) arrived at work expecting something similar, only to find everyone had been too busy to do it. She shrugged it off in front if everyone, but it hurt her terribly and made the other employee feel badly too. 

4. Don’t let birthday celebrations become a reason for conflict. Many people do not like having their cubicles decorated or having similar complicated birthday activities.  Ask ahead of time if someone is OK with having the usual birthday celebration. If he or she doesn’t want the celebration assure them it won’t be a lot of hoopla. If they still don’t want it, don’t try to argue them into it. 

 I’m familiar with an office where they have a birthday bash for every employee, including the ones who don’t attend their own event–and invariably there is some negative talk about the person who didn’t want a party. 

In an office I visited not long ago the manager commented that one of the employees had taken her birthday and the day after off, knowing the weekend followed, to avoid having her cubicle decorated for her 40th birthday.  “What she doesn’t realize”, the manager said with a grin, “is that we’re just going to wait until she comes back, however long that takes.”  My response was, “Good grief! You’re concerned about conflict in your office. Why do you want to create another one for no reason?”  

5. Keep focused on the spirit of the celebration. It”s good to honor birthdays and to have a reason to smile and enjoy a break, perhaps with something good to eat.  However, like most things that are done with good intentions, birthday celebrations can create problems that outweigh the good. Keeping them simple, inexpensive, equitable and welcomed can help ensure success.

May 23rd, 2010 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers, Supervision and Management | 9 comments

Pork Rind Cranberry Sauce–Sort Of

Developing a New Tradition

Several years ago my hair stylist (OK, it was really just the woman who cuts my hair…but hair stylist sounds better) and I were talking about traditional recipes for holiday dinners.  She said: “I always made traditional cranberry sauce until I found a recipe that sounded really weird but good and I decided to give it a try. My family loved it and never guessed what was in it!”

I asked her what made it so different and she said, “It’s Pork Rind Cranberry Sauce. And, before you say you wouldn’t like it–I promise it’s delicious.”

I was somewhat incredulous and asked about the recipe. She said, “You cook cranberry sauce just like always. Then, you stir in the pork rinds. It gives it a different taste, but nothing you can quite identify. My kids were absolutely crazy about it.”

I asked if the sauce had a different texture and she said no, that the pork rinds mixed right in. She made me promise I would try it some time, even if I didn’t think I would like it. I said I would, but would probably also make the regular kind.  She said, “You wait and see. People will eat more of this kind.”

I had already walked out of the beauty shop, but the recipe was on my mind and I turned back and interrupted her while she was cutting someone else’s hair. I asked her how much of the pork rinds she put in the sauce. She said,  “Not a lot, just enough for flavor. About a fourth cup for a regular recipe, but you can adjust that to taste. I just buy those little bottles of port wine at the liquor store.”

That was the first time I heard her clearly–and also the first time I realized the recipe she gave me was not for Pork Rind Cranberry Sauce, but for Port Wine Cranberry Sauce. Big difference.

Now you see why I stick to traditional recipes.

Note: As some of you may have noticed, this is a repeat of an article I wrote last year. I received several requests for it this year and thought I should publish it before the holidays were packed away. (Apparently it’s amusing to read about someone else’s crazy mistakes.)

December 26th, 2009 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun | 7 comments

Gaining Ten Pounds Could Make You More Appealing!

Chocolate flavored cod liver oil. Yum!

Do You Have Starved Glands?

This is from a 1935 magazine, but doggone it, it sounds like a good thing to me! Without a lot of effort–just taking concentrated cod liver oil and minerals a few times a day–I could gain ten pounds and look more appealing!

Until I can order a supply of this product I’ll bet Dreyer’s vanilla ice cream with hot Hershey’s syrup, twice a day, would accomplish the same thing.  Still, I think Vitro-Min Plus should be recommended to almost all Americans since so many of them are skinny. Besides that, who could pass up chocolate flavored cod liver oil? I know I can’t! Yum!

October 27th, 2009 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun | 8 comments

Denver Is A Great City!

16th-streetI love Denver! It’s not perfect (what large city is?) but it’s a great city in many ways!

For one thing, there are few large cities that are so clean, especially downtown. In addition, few have such a low crime rate in the downtown area.  We have a small downtown, compared to some that seem to spread all over the place. You can walk the central part of it–16th Street–easily.

Unlike many large cities, Denver is alive almost all night long! It’s fun to walk the 16th Street Mall at night–and feel safe. At 11 p.m. it’s as busy as it is in the daytime, but with an atmosphere of fun.

Denver also has wonderful communities, excellent cultural opportunities, fun activities, theatre and concerts and everything else you could want in a city, without most of the things that are less attractive.

We don’t have slums as they are seen in some other urban areas; we don’t have scandals and unethical government officials (that we have found out about, anyway!) I think we have an excellent mayor, John Hickenlooper (what a name!) who has tremendous business-sense in a time when that is needed.  Overall, I just love this place!

If you live in the area and haven’t visited downtown lately, do so. Take RTD Light Rail from an outlying area to avoid the pressure of driving and parking. (Kids love the Light Rail experience.) Or, drive if you must and then park and walk. Promise you won’t complain incessantly about parking fees–you’ll ruin the evening!

Do something special–dinner, a play or shopping.  (There are scads of restaurants in Downtown Denver!)  Or, just get a cup of coffee and walk the mall.  During the day go to the Denver Museum of Science and Nature. Visit the zoo. Go to the wonderful Botanic Gardens, near downtown. Walk the area between the City and County Building and the State Capitol. Take photos. Have fun in a truly enjoyable downtown and near-downtown area.

Get to know Denver–it’s a great city!

May 21st, 2009 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun | 8 comments

Don’t Forward the Villejuif Leaflet, Please.

No, citric acid isn't known to cause cancer---yet. While researching something completely different (you know how that goes!) I read about an urban legend of the 1970s and early 1980s, that resulted in millions of fearful people all over Europe and the United States.  I can imagine how many email warnings I will receive from well-meaning friends, if it starts up again!

The pamphlet or leaflet that started the panic was a list of  food additives that contain cancer causing substances.  Among them was citric acid–one of the most prevalent food additives in the world and a chemical  that occurs in every living organism. (Corn syrup is one of the ingredients in a large percentage of the citric acid used in food processing.)

As with many urban legends, whoever originated it (and that was never known) decided to give it more clout by saying it came from the Gustave Roussy Cancer Institute in Villejuif, France.  (Pronounced, I think, as Villzhweef, more or less.) That attribution was untrue and so were the “facts” about most of the alleged toxins and carcinogens on the list.  But, millions of people panicked and products containing citric acid were returned to stores by the bags–there are lots of things with citric acid, you’ll notice.

Apparently Internet access is not required to be suckered in by rumors, innuendos and shocking stories that are not true.  Back then there was no Snopes site to clear things up, but you would think someone would have verified the information. As it was, the list was printed in newspapers and magazines and even pharmacists and doctors referred to it because of  the Villejuif name.  The hospital tried to convince people it was a hoax–but that was seen by some as being a conspiracy to cover-up the truth. As late as the 1990s a few so-called expert nutritionists warned people to avoid anything containing “deadly citric acid”. 

Here is how some researchers think the mistake began:  Citric acid is part of a chemical process called the Krebs Cycle.  In the German language krebs means cancer. So, language confusion probably started it all.  People who didn’t check the information kept it going. Another reminder that just because it’s on the Internet or in an email message–or in a leaflet–doesn’t make it so.

April 20th, 2009 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work | 4 comments

The Ritz-Carlton Way–Impressive!

Do you have Gold Standards for your work behavior and performance?

A few months ago, several of us celebrated Shannon Rowe McCorison’s birthday with dinner at Elway’s at the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Denver.  Shannon had worked with the staff there because of a ProLogis event she had managed, and wanted to go when she and Casey could relax and enjoy the time.

The Ritz-Carlton was formerly an Embassy Suites and I wanted to see how the renovations looked. I also wanted to see if this Ritz-Carlton was living up to the Ritz-Carlton service standards that have created an unrivaled reputation among hotel chains. And, I wanted to try out the steaks at Elway’s, a John Elway owned steakhouse/restaurant. There is another one in Cherry Creek. However, since this one is in the Ritz-Carlton, the Ritz-Carlton Gold Standard applies for the dining experience. Reviews have been great for the restaurant as well as the hotel.

This isn’t a food review–although the food was excellent. The important thing to me was seeing the evidence of Ritz-Carlton service, as exemplified by:

Damian Jenkins, General Manager (highly professional and warmly charming!)
Jens, our lead server,
Lee, another server.
Michael Casey–the outstanding sommelier, who was not present but who sent champagne for a birthday toast,
Tim, the sommelier who helped us with wine choices during the dinner,
The dozen or so helpful staff members of the hotel and the restaurant, whose names I don’t know. They opened doors, greeted us warmly, and generally made us–and the hundred or so other people who were in the entrance, lobby, gift shop and restaurant areas–feel like honored guests.

Every time I have been in a Ritz-Carlton I have been impressed. The Ritz-Carlton in downtown Denver certainly fulfilled the Gold Standards that night.

I’m going to cut and paste what the Ritz-Carlton website says about their Gold Standards, so you can have a template of sorts for creating similar standards for your personal work.

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Our Gold Standards are the foundation of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C.  They encompass the values and philosophy by which we operate and include:

The Credo
The Motto
The Three Steps of Service
Service Values
The 6th Diamond
The Employee Promise

The Credo

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

Motto

At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.

Three Steps Of Service

  1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
  2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
  3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.

Service Values: I Am Proud To Be Ritz-Carlton

  1. I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
  2. I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  3. I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
  4. I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
  5. I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
  6. I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
  7. I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
  8. I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
  9. I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
  10. I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.
  11. I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
  12. I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.

The 6th Diamond

Mystique
Emotional Engagement
Functional

The Employee Promise

At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.

By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.

The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.

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Wouldn’t we be impressive if we had Gold Standards of this magnitude–and lived up to them? Consider what your credo and motto would be. What would be your steps to service? What would make you worthy of the 6th diamond in your behavior, work performance and group contributions? Make your name one of those–like the Ritz-Carlton–which says it all when someone is talking about excellence.

January 25th, 2009 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development, Service to Customers, Clients and Coworkers | 4 comments

Pork Rind Cranberry Sauce And Other Traditions

Developing a New Tradition

Several years ago my hair stylist (OK, it was really just the woman who cuts my hair…but hair stylist sounds better) and I were talking about traditional recipes for holiday dinners.  She said: “I always made traditional cranberry sauce until I found a recipe that sounded really weird but good, and tried it on my family. They loved it and never guessed what was in it!”

I asked her what it was and she said, “It’s Pork Rind Cranberry Sauce. And, before you say you wouldn’t like it, let me tell you it’s different but really delicious.”

I was somewhat incredulous and asked about the recipe. She said, “You cook cranberry sauce just like always. Then, you add pork rinds, stir, and let it set until it cools. It gives it a different taste, but nothing you can quite identify. My kids absolutely loved it.”

I asked if it gave it a different texture and she said no, that the pork rinds mix right in and don’t change the cranberry sauce texture at all. She made me promise I would try it some time, even though it didn’t sound like something I would like. I said I would try it, but would probably make the regular kind too. She said, “You wait, people will eat more of this kind.”

I had already walked out of the beauty shop, but the recipe was on my mind and I turned back and interrupted her while she was cutting someone else’s hair. I asked her how much of the pork rinds she put in the sauce. She said,  “Not a lot, just enough for flavor. About a fourth cup for a regular recipe, but you can adjust that to taste. I just buy those little bottles of port wine at the liquor store.”

That was the first time I heard her clearly–and also the first time I realized the recipe she gave me was not for Pork Rind Cranberry Sauce, but for Port Wine Cranberry Sauce. Big difference.

Now you see why I stick to traditional recipes.

December 20th, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work | 9 comments

Happy Talk

Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day,
than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.

Benjamin Franklin

I was thinking of that quote today, as I thought about all of the conveniences I depend upon to make Winter more tolerable. (It was 11 degrees below zero at my house this morning!) As I thought about heated rooms, being able to wash and dry clothes indoors, a Jeep with a heater and four-wheel drive, a coat and gloves, soup heating on the stovetop, and an electric blanket, I realized that those do more than make life tolerable in the winter–they are a source of happiness for me. They make me smile!

I considered also how I could use that to help me deal with some of the sources of frustration, irritation and–on occasion–unhappiness in my life. There is no more hackneyed happy talk than to say that things could be worse, so I won’t say that. Trying the Pollyanna philosophy that even the worst things have good elements, can be a bit much–and is sometimes not true. Talking about being grateful doesn’t always help either, because there is a difference between being grateful and being happy, isn’t there?

So, I think I’ll simply consider the small conveniences and pleasures more closely and smile in thankfulness for them, just as I am thankful for loved ones, health, safety and security and wonderful opportunities in my life.

Cell phones and group plans, email, music files, Sonic Diet Cokes with extra lime–easy ice, hot water anytime, shower dispensers for five kinds of soap and shampoos, an extra refrigerator, Netflix, Roomba, three sets of colorful measuring cups, home fragrances that don’t give me a headache, a neighbor who is helpful, the full moon, any moon, Juncos in the pine tree….and the list goes on.

There will always be reasons for sadness–life and death makes that a reality for all of us. And, there are many reasons for joy, thanksgiving and contentment. But, I also intend to look for happiness in the small conveniences and pleasures that occur every day.

I’m happy in many ways! I hope you are too.

December 15th, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work | 6 comments

Quick Energy And Some Fitness Time Too

Physical Culture was the term used for fitness activities, in the early 1900s.
Physical Culture was the term used in the early 1900s to describe fitness activities.

Try some of these activities to add energy and healthy exercise to your regular work. They are not complete workouts, of course–just ways to keep your body perking along nicely! When you do something that takes energy you will find you actually create more of it!

1. Keep one or two small weights under your desk. Pick a weight size that is challenging but not so difficult it will make you sweat if you do two or three sets of ten precise curls, with one arm or both.

2. Do wall push-aways to mimic a push up. Stand about two feet away from a wall, hands on the wall about shoulder width apart. Lower your body until your nose touches the wall, then push back. Does that sound and feel too easy? Try doing it s…l…o…w…l….y both directions. Not so easy, is it? Do ten of those. Your goal is to energize and tone muscle, not to sweat and strain in your work clothes.

3. Go to a quiet hallway or a stairwell–places where you can have privacy–and jog in place for a minute–Just enough to get your blood circulating but not so much you are hot and uncomfortable. Do that several times a day.

4. Stretch. Stand on tip-toe and rock back down, then up again and down again. Lift your arms over your head and stretch. Do neck stretches by slowly stretching your neck to look over your shoulder, each direction.  Lean over and touch your toes while sitting.

5. Consider buying stretch bands that can be used for muscle toning and stretching. I tend to avoid suggesting things you must buy–but might not use. However, these are not extremely expensive and can be used in many settings.

6. Walk as much as you can, to as many places as possible. Put some spring and energy into your stride and make it an exercise.

7. Check websites and magazines for other fitness activities you can do in your office or while traveling.

8. Set your watch or cell phone to alert you every hour to remind you to exercise. That might also be a good time to remind you to drink some water.

Work is tiring–but we can add to our energy and our effectiveness by being more fit and healthy. Fitness breaks at work are one way to help make that possible.

November 11th, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun | 4 comments

Are You Waiting For All The Lights To Turn Green?

Samuel Johnson, the venerable philosopher and Dictionary compiler of the 1700s, said,

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”

A modern way to say that is,

“You’ll never get anywhere if you wait for all the lights to turn green at once.”

I was talking this week to someone who is anxious to make changes in several aspects of her life. She was telling me how frustrated she was over not being able to get going with her improvement plans. She had bought a goal-setting workbook but was waiting to start it when things were better. Unfortunately, getting things better was her goal!

I certainly could not criticize her, or even advise her very well, because I have the same tendency. If things are not just right, I tend to not get started. However, the longer I wait for things to be just right, the more there is to do to make them right!

Today, think of the stop lights in your life–the people, situations and things that frustrate you, depress you, or make you wish you could move forward and get to someplace else.  Or, the changes you want to make that require long-term action on your part. As my mother–and many other mothers–have advised about driving, “Sometimes it’s easier to make a bunch of right turns than one left turn across heavy traffic.” Just get going, in any way you can, and head toward your destination.

I know, I know, what you can do today is not enough to make things better. But maybe what you can do today is enough to keep it from getting worse. I also know that the little bit you can do today is not enough to get you where you want to go. But it will get you closer–and maybe that little bit will inspire you to go further tomorrow.

You will probably never find all the lights turning green at once. But if you keep moving, even in tiny increments, one day you will arrive where you want to be. Best wishes as you get moving and keep moving this week!

July 27th, 2008 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work | 5 comments

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