Strategy Break: Let’s Bring Back Lunch and Other Retro Workplace Traditions

workplace 1960sThe workplace has evolved at such a break neck pace — that we often struggle to comply. So many things have transformed. Social media has revolutionized the tenor of communication and we have all jumped on the mobile carousel. However, 21st century developments, do not necessarily demand that we abandon every example of the “old” ways of doing business. Sometimes, tried and true traditions still hold quite a bit of workplace punch.

In that vein, here are a few methods to enhance your work life with a bit of “retro” flair.

  • Do lunch (and not at your desk). I love social media, Skype and a great Google hangout — but there is nothing like having a conversation with a colleague or friend over a bite to eat, at your favorite lunch time joint. Try this once a week and see what develops.
  • Hold an “unplugged” meeting. You may not remember what meetings were like before the ever-present distraction of devices, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a whirl. At your next meeting turn all phones, computers and tablets off  — then place them in the center of the table for the duration of the meeting. I dare you. Really.
  • Say “thank you”.  Showing gratitude — now there is a topic that never goes out of style. Has someone gone above and beyond as a contributor? Gone out of their way to make your work life easier? Send them a hand written note. (Yes, these still exist.)
  • Start early or stay late. I don’t know about you, but working when there is no one else around can be a liberating experience. No calls or interruptions — simply dedicated time to think deeply. Everything knocking around within your mind has a chance to ferment and just “be”.
  • Celebrate a success. I don’t mean landing on the moon – I mean “We completed that Goliath of a proposal” or “We dealt with that important client or customer problem effectively”. Buy a cake – bring in coffee drinks. Any small gesture to mark the occasion.
  • Engrave something. We may not stay at a single organization for 30 years – but many of us do achieve a healthy level of tenure. A gold watch might not be feasible, but marking the occasion of a 1, 5 or 10 year anniversary deserves more than a moment of recognition. If you are a freelancer, mark your relationships with organizations in the same manner.

Taking a cue from the past is not always the wrong way to run a business. What “retro” practices would you like to see make a comeback?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and US News & World Report.

Interviewing with New Purpose: The 5 Interview Questions I’d Like to Ask


We have an engagement crisis in today’s world of work. According to recent research, the majority of our employees do not feel a real connection with their work. I find this both alarming and incredibly disheartening. However, the question remains: How might we rectify this epidemic? I do feel that we have the tools (tests, assessments, etc.) and knowledge base to move forward — but our mindset has yet to catch up with the pressing need. The proof is there — we just need to “breathe deeply” and process the information.

We must provide more opportunities for honest conversation. More sharing — more trust — more exploration into what really connects an employee with their work. We need to lay it all out openly and discuss what really matters. No gimmicks. No excuses. We simply need to examine what makes us tick and embrace whatever that might be.

This type of “career transparency” can begin with the interviewing process. To impact this staggering lack of engagement, we need to interview with new-found purpose. This means using the interview platform as an opportunity to discover information that might directly impact future levels of engagement. In particular, we might probe areas that have been linked with higher levels of engagement: Feeling valued, appropriate feedback and support, and how to sustain directed, energized effort.

Here are the questions that I’d like to ask:

  1. What elements of your work energize you?
  2. What kind of performance feedback (specificity, frequency) is most useful to you?
  3. What type of supervision helps you to become maximally effective?
  4. How does the role we are discussing align with your strengths?
  5. If you could implement one innovation (or idea) within our industry, what would that be?

What questions might you ask? Share them.

Special thanks to one of my readers Dave Erikson ( The 10 Career Questions I’d like to Ask Just About Everyone), whose comment motivated me to write this post.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and US News & World Report.

Sunday Notes: What’s in a name?

name1Have you noticed how key workplace topics are renamed and re-branded over the years? Lately, I’ve been observing more of this.

When organizational culture became the latest “buzz”  – everyone became hyper-focused upon the concept. Can culture be measured? Who was measuring it? How is it done? But those in the organizational development realm had really been examining (and measuring) culture all along. It might have been labeled an “attitude survey” or “employee insights”,  but key aspects of culture always lived (and were revealed) there. We knew that without taking the “pulse” of an organization, we couldn’t help them become healthier with a new training program or hiring initiative. We may have not called it a “culture assessment” – but in essence it was.

The same re-branding process applies to evolving roles in the workplace. At first glance, it appears that some of the newer job categories are highly revolutionary – but that’s really not accurate. These roles have simply evolved. For example, the role of Community Manager seems to have materialized with the rise of social media – but that is really not the case. The is role has much older roots. As explained by Tim McDonald, Founder of My Community Manager:

” It is important to realize that a community manager may or may not leverage social media. It’s grown because of social media. We’ve seen them in the form of receptionists, non-profit organizers, dock foreman, and many others, but didn’t call them community managers.”

This is absolutely true. The importance of connecting with a community of clients or customers, didn’t originate with the advent of social media. The basic need has always existed – and has been a priority for intelligent organizations. Just as the culture of an organization has always been at the core of organizational success.

We update enduring workplace concepts, and they become interesting to us once again. This gives us another opportunity to master the subject and create value.

The names may have changed – but the primary power behind the ideas has not.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist located in East Lansing, Michigan. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

A List of Great Workplace Inspired Films

Working Girl

Do you love a great film set in the workplace? I certainly do. (An occupational hazard, I suppose.)

Here’s a collected list of some of my favorite workplace inspired films. Comedies and dramas are represented, listed in no particular order.

It’s interesting to note how workplaces have changed with the times. Some of the newer films, such as Up in the Air and The Devil Wears Prada are great additions — and represent the current Zeitgeist quite well. Yet, Modern Times — and its view of factory life, is a classic.

The list:

  1. Modern Times (1936)
  2. 9 to 5 (1980)
  3. The Apartment (1960)
  4. Working Girl (1988)
  5. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
  6. Silkwood (1980)
  7. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
  8. Up in the Air (2009)
  9. His Girl Friday (1940)
  10. Clerks (1994)
  11. Network (1976)
  12. You’ve Got Mail (1998)
  13. Stage Door (1937)
  14. Broadcast News (1988)
  15. Wall Street (1987)
  16. Boiler Room (2000)
  17. The Crowd (1928)
  18. The Help (2010)
  19. Office Space (1999)
  20. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)
  21. Norma Rae (1979)
  22. Horrible Bosses (2011)
  23. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
  24. The Social Network (2010)
  25. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
  26. In Good Company (2004)
  27. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967)
  28. Baby Boom (1987)
  29. Mr. Mom (1983)
  30. Glengarry Glen Ross

Do you have a favorite that I missed? Let me know.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. Connect with her on Twitter and Linkedin.