Delay

I think I am going to do another post on healthy stress management sometime soon. Things have been a little nuts around here. A representative from Senator James Lankford’s office is visiting my work this week, I had a Chemistry test, and all kinds of other scheduled insanity on my plate. I really hope to make a good impression. Hopefully I can catch up on blog posts in the next week or so. I apologize for the delay.

The Project: Excel Spreadsheet Madness!

Only a short post today, as we go into the weekend. I have a lot going on, so I probably will start back up Monday. Next week, it’s all about Productivity and Leadership.

My Project:

I’m building a huge excel worksheet template to use for invoices for an entire fiscal year, as well as keep accounts up to date as invoices are submitted. What I do, as an Admin Tech, is mostly invoice processing. I receive an invoice or bill and assign it an account from my list of about 150 accounts. Each account is budgeted to have enough money to last a year, and for spending on only what is listed in that account such as: Janitorial Supplies, Office Supplies, Hand Tools, Safety Equipment, etc… Then I plug it in the system for approval to be paid, and receive a Purchase Order. The invoice attached with the Purchase Order go to purchasing and they make the payment. I have to track the company, invoice number, requisition number, purchase order number, and the amount, and then file it away.

The old fashion way of doing things were to log the company name and invoice number on a monthly spreadsheet and keep in on hand this way I knew which month to go look for the file. I’d have to find it by hand. Now, hopefully, it will all be on-hand digitally anytime I need it. The problem is the invoice input keeping the accounting information up to date, as well as change the balances when they’re is a transfer between accounts. The sheer number of formulas and logic function to plug in this monster is taking me forever. My prototype has taken off and the other Utilities departments have taken the one I’ve been in progress on and tried to make it their own. I did receive credit for the building of the document, but now I really want to make a template available for anyone and everyone to use with my name clearly on it.

In essence, everything submitted on this spread sheet table:

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Updates this accounting table:

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The whole thing looks like this:

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And as you scroll down, there’s other accounts for different divisions and different sheets for each month. I’m still working on how I want to organize the document. Maybe having updated accounts available on the first sheet. It’s a long process to build something like this. Wish me luck!

Communication in the Workplace

There are some hard questions to answer when you’re the ears and eyes of the office. Am I jumping the chain of command, and is this relevant information to bring to the attention of the manager? Not everyone has the office dynamic that we have at my office, but we used to have the worst.

Keep in mind, I work in a Waste Water Facility (or Water Reclamation, as we call it).

Here’s how the office dynamic used to go:

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It’s not a very functional flow of information. Everyone was telling everyone what to do, really… When my supervisor became the Manager, he reformatted the web communication to look a little more like this:

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Although it was a good idea in theory, there are gaps. Functioning, it looks like what you see below:

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Now, we have a much smoother operation of communication for pertinent information. Environmental Services coordinates with the administration, but they’re a separate department. It’s not an easy system to implement and we had to have the administration employees on board to handle these responsibilities. Communication is built upon layers and layers of hierarchies. Below, you can see the internal working of the Administration:

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I am the Administration Tech at the office. Now, you can see the chain of command system we implement, but I’m going to throw a monkey wrench in all of it. I’m also an Operator. So I’m in the mix of a lot of things. I hear all the drama, the under-handed jabs, the problems, and personal issues. I also see some changes that could be necessary in the workplace that slip under the radar of the supervisor. It’s not always the Supervisor’s fault because those on the lower branches of communication don’t push all information up to him. So, where do I go with this information? 

Beginning with those hands-on with the issue, I ask their observations and what they would like to see changed. They know what they want to go differently, but they don’t feel comfortable requesting a change.

Then I start with the Supervisor. I space out observations and when I speak my mind (as you might be learning, I do so frequently). Monday: I drop my first observation. Thursday: I inquire his opinion on making any changes. If there is no change, sometimes it’s not worth pushing up, but sometimes there is something I interpret as important and think needs addressed. If the Supervisor says that there is no change necessary, I make sure to ask in order to understand why, then let it drop. More often than not, the Supervisor either doesn’t want to deal with it or doesn’t have the time, and there is no answer at all. The next part is very very important.

If there is an problem, and I’m capable to analyze it as a legitimate enough issue that it needs to continue up the ladder, I must also be capable of finding a possible solution to the problem. If there is an issue that demands the attention of the Manager, I have to be able to present a few ideas to solve the issue. Otherwise, I would be wasting everybody’s time. On the Thursday of the next week is the best time to bring it up. I take my time, as long as the issue isn’t demanding action immediately.

It’s okay to go on to the next step in the chain of command. This isn’t the military. I do have to be respectful, tactful, and be damn sure I know what I’m talking about. 90% of the time, it’s not an issue where someone gets in trouble. It’s a new rule to be safer, a new level in communication to be put in, an idea to make things run more efficiently, or be environmentally friendly. Someone who’s been working with me for years will know my intention, and be willing to listen because I’ve established credibility.

Communication is extremely important. Sometimes I worry that I’m meddlesome or that I’m overstepping my bounds, but I am sure to go back and make sure it’s a legitimate enough to bring up in the first place. I always have supporting documentation or supplemental ideas to solve the issue at hand. When I am the floater that can see most of everything, I’m usually the one who can do next to nothing to change it… Unless I point it out someone who can.

So the problem solving model is as such:

  • Observation of the issue
  • Collect information from all involved
    • Desired changes they want.
  • Submit observations to the Supervisor
    • The problem is solved
    • The problem is not a problem and he/she explains why
    • There is no definitive answer, move on to the next step.
  • Submit observations to the Manager with:
    • Supporting evidence
    • Plausible solutions to the issue

From there, it’s completely out of my range of control. If something happens, then everyone can benefit from it. If it doesn’t, then it was deemed unfit to be problematic enough to change. It needs to be let go. There are more things that I have to let go than I actually change, and that’s okay. I’m doing my job to communicate.

School Stresses for the Working Student

This is my first semester back to college since I left school 5 years ago. There are several things I found that stress me out, and I found some solutions to manage that stress.

Time Management:

You know you have to be organized. You know you have to be organized… It doesn’t always work out though. It’s much harder than it sounds. When dates start getting confused and you double book yourself, you realize that you haven’t slept or had more than an hour to yourself in over a month. I didn’t quite believe it myself, but after 2.5 months, a planner has been a huge benefit. Before recently, I had occasionally bought a planner with good intention to use one, and then never touched it.

What did I do differently this time? When I got to class on the first day, I was given a syllabus. It had a list of dates for every quiz and test. I wrote them all in that planner, that day. I had no idea how useful it was until it came to my work and personal life. I wrote in all the conference dates and weekend events, and then realized that I can schedule me time too. At least once a month, I want a quiet weekend without any obligations. Even if you’re not an introvert and love to go out and do things, a no-obligation weekend is a great opportunity to recoup and do things for you. Like laundry. A lot of laundry. While watching Netflix! And drinking wine. What was I doing again?

Sleep:

Sleep is the easiest thing to sacrifice when you’re feeling overloaded. I know I’ve said more than once “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” and it drives me straight into the ground, dragging everyone down with me in mood. I set myself a cut off time between 8 and 9 at night. Dinner is around then for me, anyway. That time frame might not work for everyone, but by setting an hour to wrap up and be done for the night, and give yourself an hour or two to wind down before bed, you will sleep better. Sleep at least 6 hours, no matter how you’re tempted to sacrifice more. I’ve found that increments of  1.5 hours of sleep is a REM cycle for me. I feel more rested at 6 or 7.5 hours of sleep than at 8.

Naps. Glorious, wonderful naps! They are incredibly useful, but they have to be managed well. A 20 minute nap will rest you, but not let you slip into a REM cycle. Make yourself a cup of coffee before you lay down, and set your alarm for 25 minutes. 5 minutes to fall asleep, and 20 to rest. Then you have coffee waiting to perk you up.

Don’t sacrifice sleep. It’s really a key part of staying calm at work, at school, and maintaining healthy relationships. It’s doable, I promise. Spread school work out and make a schedule, and don’t forget to pencil in sleep.

Difficult People:

Most teachers are not an issue. You go to class after work or before work (for the night-shift folks), and they understand that you’ve got a lot on your plate. When a syllabus is provided, you know what your work load is going to be. Most of the time all of the homework for the semester is on there as well. Unfortunately, not every instructor is like this. I know that there are professors who throw in last minute assignments and email you to demand something that throws off your whole day. Thankfully, I haven’t had one of those professors yet, but I want to cover difficult people in the sense of personality conflicts.

I am not the type of person that keeps my mouth shut when I’m irritated. I have a lab instructor, separate from my lecture professor, who doesn’t realize that he’s not implementing the lessons correctly in the lab. It’s required to have this professor initial off on my lab report to leave. Although he raises his voice at me, tells me that I’m wrong, I have to look him in the eye and say, “I believe I am correct. I will take the grade if you really think I am wrong, but you need to sign this.” It has taken about 4 weeks to learn to keep my cool with him. I have to breathe deep and be the bigger person, and it’s not easy. He’s not this way with just me, either. He behaves this way with the entire class. If his intention is to make me double and triple check my work, and take it to a third party to check, it worked the first few times. Now, I’m just pissy about it but I don’t let it show to his face. It’s a lose-lose situation. There is no winner. As much as I want to cling on to it and fight, I have to let it go each week.

I have to remember that I chose this. Even though it’s not easy, and that it’s only a small percentage of the professors that are this difficult. I will succeed and move on, but he will be there in the same classroom teaching the same thing that he doesn’t seem to enjoy. It will end. I have a goal, and I will get there.


I think these are the three highest stress points when it comes to working full time and going to school full time. Of course there are more, and I may add supplemental information later on down the road. Who knows what the next semester will bring?

“Carrot and Horse” Motivation

I get really sick of the “carrot and horse” method of motivating people to do something in the workplace. Putting an incentive, especially a materialistic one, in front of people to do something that they’re already supposed to do is not really benefiting anyone.

“Your paycheck is the carrot.” Right, but that should be the limit. What I’m talking about is extra things employers give to employees because they are desperate to get them to do the full extent of their job.

This has nothing to do with my current job, but I keep getting offered these seminars to attend… I went to one for administration technicians, and all it was about was how to subtly manipulate your boss to get what you want, and how yourself feel important in the workplace. They mostly cater to women, playing on the inequality of women in the workforce. It’s terrible! The one I received today was “Skip the carrots … Learn employee incentives that really work.”

If this is the kind of method that’s necessary to get people to do their job, you have the wrong people doing the wrong job. It was Mike Rowe that said “The problem is the fact that we have turned work into the enemy. Today, we portray most work as a form of drudgery, and rarely celebrate any payoff beyond remuneration… It’s a shame.” In essence, we have no pride in our work. We work to get paid, and our personal happiness is low on our priorities.

I adore Mike Rowe. If you haven’t seen him on Dirty Jobs, or Someone’s Gotta Do It, then hopefully you’ve heard of him doing good somewhere else. It seems he’s always promoting education and skilled trade. What he’s trying to influence this country to do, in my opinion (he’s not expressed this view, that I know of), is to become more a self-sustainable United States. We’ve lost a lot of skilled jobs in this country so now we import goods from other countries that we don’t build here any longer. By increasing the value of hard work we can increase job satisfaction and productivity.

Opening the flood gates…

031There are a million things to write about. Myself, my work, my family. Today will begin with an essay on why I’m going to college now, after working for 5 years (3 years in the waste water industry). I feel that I am blessed to have quit college after 1 semester and join the workforce, finding a career that I love. Now I am going back to school on my terms, prepared to finish.

Successfully Significant

  In school, youths are taught that an education will lead to a successful career, and that is the objective. The heavy emphasis on choosing a future career is an early influence on the young that creates unrealistic career goals. Similarly, college students struggle through an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree in order to receive what is thought to be a successful career placement with a lack of hands-on experience in their field of study. Granted, there are many career fields in which a more advanced education is necessary in order to understand the job, but are they as high paying or the employees as happy as others? Has today’s culture blurred the line between money and happiness by expecting everyone to earn a college education?

A study conducted by Marwan Al-Zoubi, at Jordan University, shows that people with a higher education level are actually less satisfied with their careers. Most of the workers that participated in the survey did not necessarily require a degree, such as: clerks, craft workers, service sales agents, and operating technicians (Al-Zoubi, 40). In June of 2014, The Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey revealed that less than half, about 48.1%, of workers in the United States are satisfied with their jobs (Cheng). Why are there high labor and lower education requirements on some of the happiest jobs in America? What makes these careers more satisfying for the employee?

In contrast to the definition of success, significance is a more difficult concept to maintain when trying to choose a career placement. A person who feels that their career is significant and that they are imperative to accomplishing the job will find that they are happier in their career choice. Human interaction contributes to feeling significant, where helping other people allow the personnel to feel good about their work because it affects other people’s lives. Another element is that when building something or generating a product, there is a visible accomplishment to appreciate. These jobs take expertise that can be developed and improved over time, it only takes training. A proficient operator, salesman, or author can also make as much as other engineers, researchers, nurses, and educators. They do this by taking a set of skills they are adequate with and spend the length of their career improving them. Not only do these skilled workers have higher job satisfaction statistically, they can be just as well paid.

A college education is far from useless, but to utilize it and receive the best possible benefit requires careful consideration. College is a costly endeavor that drains both time and money, however it is an investment worth making with a secure plan. A different model to a significant career, in which there is financial stability and personal satisfaction, is to take a passion for a skill and build on that foundation. In the workforce, grades from school become irrelevant, and performance reviews critique competency and initiative instead of test scores.

The most stable groundwork for a career path is not automatically a “proper” educational background, but within the core skills and passions of the person. General education, from kindergarten through high school, is intended to be the foundation for an adult to produce their planned path into the workforce. In reality, the only thing that determines how significant, successful, and happy a person is going to be through the majority of their adult life is that person, themselves. No one can be happy if they’re not interested in what they are required to do every day.

In essence, the level of motivational commitment corresponds to the satisfaction of the person, throughout their education and career. There are hundreds of factors that can affect the outcome of a person’s life. Any combination of them could lead to contentment, but engaging with a goal or passion to complete daily tasks is the consistent factor that pulls ahead. Over time, the debt from school can cause depression, as well as the realization that the career path that was set forth upon was much less appealing than anticipated. Attaining a clear impression of what a job entails and establishing secure footing in a prospective career path yields greater satisfaction (Heckhausen, 1397).

When a person finds that they built their groundwork on only the degree path they took in school, and find they do not enjoy it, they can become trapped and unhappy. Society looks at choosing a career path in this order: First, pick a career. Second, pick a college and degree plan, and finally, acquire that job. Throughout the years that it takes to complete a college degree, a person is developing their core personality, maturing into a new adult, every day.  It is perfectly acceptable to experiment in many jobs and fields of study to discover what is the most fulfilling before committing to an educational and/or career path.

There is good intention in trying to motivate young students to be interested to find a future career. Consequently, trying to influence them to commit to a career path causes the motivational commitment of the person to fray as time passes. An education doesn’t necessarily lead to a happy future, but an appreciation for what is done each day can make someone content, considering they will be doing the same thing each day for the length of their career.


Works Cited

Al-Zoubi, Marwan T. “Generating Benchmarking Indicators For Employee Job Satisfaction.” Total Quality Management & Business Excellence 23.1 (2012): 27-44. Business Source Premier. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

Cheng, Ben, Michelle Kan, Gad Levanon, and Rebecca L. Ray. “Job Satisfaction: 2014 Edition.” The Conference Board, June 2014. Web. 07 Oct. 2015.

Heckhausen, Jutta, et al. “Striving For Educational And Career Goals During The Transition After High School: What Is Beneficial?.” Journal Of Youth & Adolescence 42.9 (2013): 1385-1398 14p. CINAHL Complete. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.