Tag Archives: work

Winter Survival Guide (18) ~ Plan Ahead.

It’s 12th November 2019 as I write this. We’ve already heard it so many times now: “I can’t believe it’s November already!”. People tend to say things like this a lot, commenting on ‘how fast’ the year has flown in. It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose, but we’re undeniably bedded in now in the latter part of the calendar year, and before we know it people will be saying “I can’t believe it’s 2020!”.

This means that ‘before we know it’ we’ll be in the midst of the Christmas, festive, holiday, New Year (and other, depending on what this time of year means to you) season.

It’s a good ‘survival’ tip to plan ahead a bit so that things don’t unexpectedly creep up on you and you find that anxiety is knocking on the door of your heart.

Let me break this down a little, just to give us all a bit of perspective, and help us to visually see what and where we might gain from a little bit of forward planning. Keeping it simple, here is a visual representation of the next few weeks ahead:

November 2019:

Tues: 12th November (today), 19th, 26th

Wed: 13th Nov, 20th, 27th

Thur: 14th Nov, 21st, 28th

Fri: 15th Nov, 22nd, 29th

Sat: 16th Nov, 23rd, 30th.

Sun: 17th Nov, 24th

Mon: 18th Nov, 25th

 

December 2019:

Sun: 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th

Mon: 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th

Tue: 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st

Wed: 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th

Thur: 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th

Fri: 6th, 13th, 20th , 27th

Sat: 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th

 

January 2020:

Wed: 1st.

 

Maybe you float through your days, and planning isn’t much of a priority, but personally as someone who has anxiety (and who also incidentally can be a bit forgetful), planning is pretty essential for me, and I like to break things down into smaller more manageable ‘chunks’. Together with the fact that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I like to make the most of the time I have and to do things well, and encourage other people, so that’s another reason I need a bit of an idea of what’s ahead of me, and what I need and want to do, as well as how this fits in with the needs and expectations of others, and my general obligations.

I’m not sure what the next few weeks ahead look like for you, but here are some of the things that I personally will need to factor in and begin thinking about and preparing for:

Work:

  • Finish up work projects (I’m usually ahead of schedule as I am just now, so I can relax with this one, considering nothing new or major lands on my plate) and tie up any loose ends before the office closes for Christmas.
  • Complete my personal work review which is just something I do for myself and is not a requirement, as it helps me to see just how much I have been involved with, what I have learned, and how to go forwards. Sometimes we fail to realise or appreciate just how much we have accomplished in a year, and it’s good to review that at the end of the year.
  • Support colleagues / team with anything we collaboratively need to accomplish / tie up.
  • Take annual leave that I have remaining from mid-December.

 

Social:

  • End of November, early Christmas work lunch out with colleagues.
  • Mini reunion with friends visiting from another part of the country, but just for the day.
  • Christmas dinner out (mid December) with a couple of close friends.
  • Catch-ups, exchanging gifts and doing some fun Christmassy things with various friends before we head our separate ways for the holidays.

 

Charity:

  • Plan and carry out some acts of kindness to help those less fortunate, and encourage others with ways we can all help.

 

Personal Devotions, Church and Fellowship:

  • Only six more Sundays before Christmas, so it would be nice to spend some time in advance really preparing myself spiritually, thanking God and reflecting upon the year gone by, and prayerfully looking at what is ahead. The Centre of Christmas and of Life for me Is Christ, so it is important that He Is my Focus throughout this whole season, filled as it is with distractions aplenty.
  • Connect with friends, encourage others who are struggling this season, and participate in the many beautiful events celebrating Christ, as He leads me.

 

Prepare for Birthdays, Christmas Presents, gifts for God-children, friends’ kids, and prepare / recycle things to create Environmentally Friendly Packaging:

Pack and plan for a short holiday to see Christmas markets in Europe – finances, clothes, etc. all to be prepared.

Hospitality and Home:

  • Decorate, have people over for festive fun.

Pack and prepare for visiting family.

Reach out to support friends who are grieving or struggling this year.

Other bits and bobs: plan some crafts, use up coupons before their expiry dates, send things in the post on time, and create a photo book of memories for 2019.

red ceramic mug on white mat beside notebook
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A sensitive mind at work…

Friends, I admit I’ve been struggling a bit. The mental, emotional and spiritual renewal continues and with C-PTSD, etc. things sometimes get more challenging before they get better. I’m pleased to think that I’m through the worst of it after many years of suffering. And I’m generally doing pretty well. However, the ups and downs still come and go, and I can feel the physical pain in my head, in my mind and the churning over and reprocessing of thoughts and experiences. I’m in a place where I’m quite aware of what may be happening and what ‘tools and techniques’ I can employ to help myself.

If you also have health challenges and go out to work where you have to encounter other people, you know that this can in itself present a whole host of challenges for you to overcome or manage. Sometimes these can be very significant, such as in my previous experience, needing help to advocate for reasonable adjustments (which I’m pleased to say I finally have been granted), to managing your wellbeing in the workplace, in amongst the unpredictability of other colleagues who may not understand, in my case, ‘hidden disabilities’.

Today, I had an encounter with a colleague / friend who when I went to the kitchen was asking about train times and delays as we often get the same train. As we walked back to our desks through the open plan floor, she thought I had got a much earlier train, and expressed in her normal voice which is fairly loud as I walked passed colleagues her thoughts about my morning routine. She is a work friend and respects my high quality of work and knows about my conditions, and I have done work to help her, but perhaps she didn’t realise that talking about such things even in passing in a public environment was very uncomfortable for me.

She said, oh have you started getting up earlier and changed your morning routine. I expressed quietly that I still struggle a lot in the mornings with my health, not wanting to go into detail and she expressed that she knew that but didn’t think it would always be the case and that people can change. She wasn’t trying to be inappropriate but in front of people who may judge me or not understand or know about my condition it could be taken as someone being lazy or not committed rather than someone fighting hard every day to stay in work and manage some severe symptoms.

I kind of expressed that I have been trying but it is still difficult, and as she mentioned my morning routine I just said, ‘I’m trying, it’s still hard, maybe next year’.

Something so small can trip us up. There are big and little challenges at work, and sometimes people are just inappropriate when they’re just making conversation or not meaning to be. For people with existing mental health conditions, these ‘niggling’ things can build up to have an impact on how we are around our colleagues.

I personally want to retreat from people and just put my head down and get on with things. Thankfully I’m known among managers and other staff to be an excellent worker and always go above and beyond with a high quality of work. But not everyone knows that. And not everyone on the open floor who overhears these snippets of conversations knows that.

We all have different ways of dealing with things. Perhaps someone would raise it in conversation or a polite email with the person talking out of turn in a public place. I haven’t done that, I’ll let it slide, it’s more in my mind than it probably is to other people. But nonetheless, it did affect me.

And that’s all I really know to say. Not a post about what you should do, but just one to share and to find help any encouragement myself from simply getting it out my head, as it’s not good to keep things inside, but also it’s not always the best course of action to express this to the person in question…I don’t know….?. Sometimes just doing that externalising of our thoughts on ‘paper’ is the first step to growing in confidence and holding our heads high at work. Because even if other people don’t see what we go through just to make it through, the tears, the sleepless nights, the panic and anxiety attacks, the nightmares, the dizziness the fear etc etc….we know….and can walk in integrity knowing that we’re doing our best.

Sorry that this wasn’t more positive a post – it just got to me a bit but I’ll come back with more encouragement soon. x

two women using on black laptop computer
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Lunch bites – bite sized inspiration on your lunch break…

Just as with life more generally, at work we go through changing seasons. There are some seasons that might seem more stressful, where we are working alongside what Ron Swanson from ‘Parks and Recreation’ would term as ‘work proximity associates’ rather than friends.

However, there are also happier and more fulfilling seasons, working alongside people whose company we enjoy and respect and we find that certain colleagues become friends.

It is such a blessing to be able to come into work, knowing that you have even one or two people that you can consider friends.

Therefore, the ‘lunchbite’ for you today comes from something that sprung out of such a work-friend relationship yesterday. I have a friend at work (the only person I work with who has access to my blog – so Hi! 🙂 ) and sometimes we have lunch together. Yesterday we were chatting over lunch about some of the sad and terrible things going on in the world and how much need there is in the lives of people in our city, such as homeless and hungry people, and those suffering in all different kinds of situations.

While we could have just left the conversation there, we decided that as friends and colleagues, we will find a way to collaborate, work together, and do something to help others as the winter season approaches, when many people are in desperate need in the city where we work. This isn’t part of our job roles, but just something we have a common concern about as people, and so as friends we are going to put our heads and resources together to help others. I’m not sharing this to say look at what we are doing, but instead to inspire you to connect with the like minded people around you, some of whom are the people, colleagues and friends you work with.

Instead of letting a conversation about the problems of the world end as just a conversation, decide to use your lunch breaks not only to chat about such things, but to inspire, motivate and encourage each other and work together to make a change, no matter how small that change might seem. One small random act of kindness can mean so much to the person who receives it. So be inspired this lunchtime that you and your colleagues and friends can make a difference, and although we might do this individually, there is something special and powerful and inspiring about working together for the common good.

I wonder what inspiring and motivating things you are going to come up with this lunchtime….? 🙂

working in a group
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Communicate like a diplomat to avoid the proverbial iceberg!

So, you see, I’m in this situation at work, and perhaps you have experienced similar situations yourself, where I’m working in collaboration to take forward an innovative idea (or at least innovative for a technically slow moving local authority). Basically, this involves creating our first ever company podcast for internal communications. It’s a great idea, and the people involved are energised, and I’m one of the key people in this work. However, the person whose idea it was is about to hit an iceberg, and his team are afraid to tell him that, so diplomatically I have to politely (and perhaps quietly) sound the alarm bells. The draft intro to the podcast (can you call it a draft if it relates to audio? I’m not sure 🙂 ) is, let’s just say, not to everyone’s tastes, it is probably not to most people’s tastes, certainly not to the tastes of Senior Management, and it is at odds with the company culture. My colleagues have thanked me for politely expressing written feedback when requested, and I made sure to remember that I am giving the feedback to a person, and as such, open and close with positives, and be constructive in any observations that may seem to take the form of ‘criticism’. Privately other members of the team have thanked me for the feedback which they felt was ‘spot on’, which they themselves are too afraid and reluctant to give to avoid the repercussions that might ensue. However, the greater risk of avoiding the issue for fear of offending someone and experiencing an uncomfortable team dynamic is that by not raising those alarm bells, you allow that person to steer their way straight into an iceberg and face criticism and ridicule from a far larger group of people once it is ‘out there’.

So what can we do? I think it’s important to remember that we all have blindspots, and we all need to look out for each other. We do need to ring that alarm bell when we see the iceberg approaching, but in a work environment, we sometimes need to ring the alarm bell politely, quietly and diplomatically for it to be effective, as ludicrous as this analogy might sound.

While other colleagues may know, and say to you that so and so’s idea or execution of that idea is terrible, and all are too afraid to say anything, you can’t let them hit the rocks. Be diplomatic, be kind, and be sensitive. Try to understand both your and their communication styles and take time to consider how to address these issues, while providing suggestions of an alternative approach. This may take time, but don’t give up, and ‘listen’ to what is not being said, as well as what is (a person’s tone, body language and ‘vibe’ can say a lot so take it on board but without jumping to conclusions) and pay attention to how things are affecting the team dynamic, and know when to take a step back.

Easier said than done, right? I know, but at the end of the day the diplomat in you might just save your colleague, team and team’s reputation from crashing into an iceberg and sinking into the bottom of the sea!

woman wearing purple shirt overlooking at body of water and snow covered field
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Lessons on the job….when two worlds meet…

People watching – are we more similar or different?

Have you ever been to an airport, in a foreign country, and watched on as people similar, and yet in so many ways different to you, came and went, crossing your path as they continued on a very similar journey to you?

What were the things that you noticed and observed? Were you more taken by the commonalities of being complete strangers from perhaps different sides of the globe who were now living in the bubble of shared experience, or were you more struck by how differently you inhabited this shared experience?

Observing the unfamiliar:

Perhaps you noticed that you and all of these unknown people were all there for the same purpose, going to the same destination, all with passports to that place, boarding cards, suitcases and travel bags, maybe wearing similar clothing and all headed in the same direction.

Or perhaps what caught your attention was how differently you all looked, one from another, the unfamiliarity of overhearing languages that weren’t your own, or the rituals and traditions of families that were so unlike your own. Maybe you noticed that your passports were different colours, and that the clothes you wore were of contrasting styles.

It is fun to notice similarities and differences when we observe people passing through shared spaces such as airports, train stations, bus stations and such like. We can observe without being overly affected because we are all just passing through our shared experience and going on to perhaps a shared destination, but one in which we can part ways with our fellow travellers and continue on our own journey.

Interesting experiences:

The similarities and differences can therefore remain interesting facets of our experience without being intrusions on our more familiar ways of living life.

When ‘cultures’ collide:

However, sometimes cultures ‘collide’ or come together in a more permanent situation that causes quite different reactions than those of amusement, fascination, interest or curiosity for the traveller. What if the shared spaces you were inhabiting with unfamiliar people were to be more enduring than the fleeting experiences of passing through an airport terminal for example?

What if the different culture or cultures you find yourself faced with are not those of people you will see only briefly, but those you will spend time with day after day on a very regular basis? How would that change the way you perceive and experience change? What if the ‘cultural differences’ are not to do with countries, nationalities or location, but are new and different ‘company cultures’? How would you feel then?

Company Cultures:

I’m learning about this in real time. Last year my organisation was absorbed into its parent company, and particularly into one specific department of that company. The merger brought about a new name for the department and a new identity.

I was involved in the preparatory work of ‘business transfer’, novation and helping to coordinate certain formal aspects of the due diligence and legal work that needed to be done. It was a good opportunity to be involved in something I had never done before, and good to work as part of a wider team from both sides, as the formal transfer of the business was progressed.

Formal and Informal Transitions:

That was the formal side of things. Management often talked of it as a ‘lift and shift’ approach. Priorities were covering all aspects of due diligence, legal compliance, HR, payroll and physical moves, etc. Staff obviously had to be communicated with, but once again this focused on the formal and practical changes and logistics of the merger.

What was not as high on the agenda, however, as the key goal was to legally process these formal changes, was addressing the ‘softer’ transitions that were taking place, particularly in regards to communicating the ‘little things’ to staff, things that may take shape over time, and thinking about how to successfully bring two differing company cultures together.

The Destination:

The situation now is that fellow travellers from one location have now arrived at their ‘destination’ together. However, this new and shiny destination is already inhabited, and this is not a temporary ‘holiday home’ – it is where all of us, old, new and everything in between, will share a space and work together under the same new banner of what we have all merged into. However, being in the same place doesn’t necessarily mean that we are all of one mind, and that is going to be a fascinating and interesting learning curve for all involved.

Birds of a Feather:

Initially, as people began working in their new location, there was a tendency for those who knew each other, even only slightly, from their previous workplace to stick together, have lunch, and take comfort in the familiar. Totally understandable, and shared human nature. They were learning that the ones already here were also having to adjust to changes – changes perhaps in and between teams, working with new colleagues, perhaps even saying goodbye to people they had worked with for a long time who thought it was a good time to move on, and dealing with physical moves and relocation of desks, rooms, and teams. There was also the uncertainty for all regarding ‘what happens next?’, therefore finding comfort in the familiar was a totally natural and expected occurrence.

“The Times they are a ‘Changing”:

Now we’ve reached the stage where most people have relocated into the same building (although others work in different parts dotted around the city, but the majority of the workforce for this newly formed department is now in the one building). People are less reticent about mixing, work has been progressing and new faces are gradually, slowly but surely becoming more familiar. People are gradually settling into new routines, finding their way around, and the new is less daunting. There is more discussion and collaboration between teams. So everything is going smoothly, right? Well, not quite…at least not yet.

“Where Everybody Knows Your Name”:

I wonder if you’re familiar with the old American sitcom set in a bar / pub in Boston, starring Ted Danson as the main barman, and featuring regulars and staff such as Carla, the sharp-tongued and tom-boyish barmaid, contrasted with Dianne the gentle, feminine and intelligent waitress, and many other lovable characters from different walks of life including a baseball coach, a postman, a psychiatrist (who later starred in his own programme – ‘Frazier’) among others.

If you’re familiar with the programme, “Cheers”, then you’ll also be familiar with the nostalgic theme tune, and it’s reassuring lyrics:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got,

Taking a break from all your worries, sure can help a lot,

Wouldn’t you like to get a way, and go someplace where

Everybody knows your name, and you’re always glad you came,

You wanna’ go where you can see people are all the same,

You wanna’ go where everybody knows your name”.

Isn’t this what we all long for? However, management of change when it comes mainly from the top down, is often focused heavily on strategic objectives, and forgets the human touch. I’ve been involved in some new emergent work following the formal transfer that is focused on engaging with staff to find out their views and to work alongside the Communications team to create a strategy for engaging staff, addressing issues of company culture, of communication, and finding out what they really think. Unfortunately, this has been an afterthought with the powers that be, but the good thing is that at least now, something is beginning to happen.

In one of the staff engagement sessions, I was struck by some feedback where one person commented on the lack of introductions, and the management of change, such that they didn’t even know the names of the people sitting in the desks next to and around them.

Everyone wants to be somewhere where people know their name, and where they know the names of those around them. It takes time, and some may be pessimistic but I view this as a great opportunity not to let slip by. And I am excited to be part of a new piece of work that I haven’t been involved with before.

So as I share these initial observations with you, I encourage you also to find a way in your day today to make someone feel a little more ‘at home’, known, and valued….because sometimes the greatest impacts for positive change are the collection of ‘small things’, little acts of genuine kindness that start from the ‘grassroots’ and grow to eventually reach the top.

people sign traveling blur
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Lunch bites – bite sized inspiration on your lunch break…

person painting woman in dress
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If you work, whether full time, part time or freelance, life can get busy. Whether you travel the world with you work, or are in an office or a depot or work from home, you might find yourself from time to time dreaming of the things you’d like to do when you retire. If you work from home, you probably have more flexibility, but still I’m sure you also have times when you daydream of doing something when you have more ‘free time’.

My challenge to you today, for this ‘lunch bite’ is to do something during your lunchtime that you dream about doing when you retire. Obviously, you’ll need to work within the parameters of your situation here, and keep it fairly reasonable. If you dream of skydiving in your retirement, or traveling around the world, or lying on a beach, well, you’re going to probably have to just leave that for another day. But if you see yourself also doing more simple yet enjoyable things such as reading more, exercising, taking a walk, writing poetry, going to coffee shops, writing a book, making model planes, drawing, learning a language, or whatever it may be, then use your lunchtimes as an opportunity to invest in yourself and your enjoyment of life now, rather than waiting until you retire.

‘But I don’t have the time!’ I hear you say. Are you sure about that? What if you were to keep a book you’ve wanted to read for a long time, on your desk at work. Pick it up during your lunch breaks and soon you will find the rewards of giving yourself that little bit more time to enjoy reading if that’s something you like to do but feel too rushed for. Or why not keep a sketch pad to practice a bit of drawing when you have ten minutes spare, build it up over time. Or you could have a notepad with you where you can scribble down thoughts, ideas, stories, characters, insights from your day to day life, for that novel you want to write…..”someday”.

Or if you dream of relaxing days sipping coffee and reading the newspaper, I’m sure this is something you can factor in at least once a month into your working life – can you take a longer lunch break once in a while? Go out for a walk, listen to podcasts, listen to immersive language teaching and learn what you’ve always wanted to.

Or if you’re sporty, why not go for a run during your lunch break? It’s become quite a trend among my colleagues, and many people bring in their kit to work to go jogging or running during their break. Others might take a stroll down to the park. If you don’t have those options, but still want to keep fit, why not climb up and down the stairs or do some simple stretches.

There are so many things you can do now, that you dream of doing later, “when you have the time”. But the thing is, the time is now. You don’t know whether you’ll be able to do the things you enjoy later, so why not invest in yourself even for ten minutes every lunchtime, and add that little bit extra to your life today. If you keep waiting for ‘tomorrow’ or the ‘golden years’ of your retirement, you may just miss your chance. So carpe diem, friends….seize the day! 🙂

Variety is the Spice of Life -give yourself the gift of a new challenge….

Life as it happens to be, just now, seems to be opening up doors of new opportunities to me. Little by little, things that make for my health and wellbeing seem to be falling into place, and I am grateful. After many tough times with my health, including panic attacks at work, and after several meetings, assessments, and recommendations for reasonable adjustments, I have been moved out from the open floor into a little corner room by myself, with big glass windows, and a view of trees and sky, and the main road. Today it is a rare bright and sunny day, and I am sitting at lunchtime in my little sunny spot, and for the first time in a long time at work, my brain, my nervous system, and all that has been distressed, is being given some relief and a chance to heal, recover, and grow stronger. And at this time new work projects and creative ventures are opening up to me at work and I am finding myself feeling not only ‘safer’ but more engaged, interested and happier in the challenge.

I don’t know about you, but it can be all too easy to get ‘stuck in a rut’ whether in work, in our personal lives, with how we spend our ‘down time’, and sometimes it feels like we are just dragging ourselves through our days, feeling bored and uninspired. It’s not a great place to be. Sometimes we just have to ‘do what we have to do’ to keep things ticking over, and we may not be able to change much about a situation we are in other than our thoughts, attitudes and perspective towards it. However, as important as it is to do that ‘inner ground work’ to encourage ourselves to be positive, perhaps we are allowing ourselves to believe that we can’t make a change. That things have always been done a certain way and so we just do the expected to fit in with the ‘tried and tested’ rather than challenging ourselves and others with the possibilities to innovate.

One of the projects I am embarking upon at the moment comes from the innovative idea of a colleague to introduce something new into our organisation that hasn’t been done before. They were met with an initial ‘resistance’ as their proposal is unfamiliar territory to management who are perhaps a bit more ‘old school’ in their thinking. I was asked to conduct some research into whether and why this would be a good idea for the organisation, providing the formal backing and facts and figures to validate this great idea from my colleague – the paper is going straight to senior management having been received well at a lower level, and now I am getting the chance to be part of the creative team to design, produce and implement this new idea, a team which I’ve wanted to be part of for a long while now, because I am both a very creative and analytical person, but need creativity in my life and a variety of outlets in order to thrive, and not just survive or go through the motions.

The reason I was asked to do this piece of work is because I volunteered to help out other teams – I asked my boss if I could broaden my skillset and because I am industrious, fast and efficient in providing a high quality of work for him, he knew there’s capacity for me to do more. Sure, there are no financial rewards that go along with this additional work, but there are the rewards of satisfaction of developing my skills, engaging my creativity and working with other inspired individuals – in a word, ‘fulfilment’. My boss therefore told a couple of fellow managers in two other teams that I was available to help out, and so the knock on effect has been new opportunities and connecting with other people with innovative ideas.

Sometimes we find ourselves wishing for a change, but not taking the first step to realise that maybe it is us that needs to do something about it. Change and new challenges or opportunities may not be handed to us on a plate, but we can take our inspiring ideas, and pitch them to the people with the power to make those changes. We might be knocked back, maybe at first, but at least we tried. So if you are looking for variety, more interesting challenges, and opportunities for creativity, maybe it is a gift you have to give yourself – in whatever area of your life – challenge yourself to create a new challenge, to ask new questions, and to break new ground – you may just find you really enjoy the opportunities that you yourself create! 🙂

assorted cooked food on tray
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Lunch bites – bite sized inspiration on your lunch break…

A simple ‘thank you’ can do wonders…

Sometimes at work we come across people who do things to help us, whether that is something as big as advocating for us in some way, or as ‘small’ as bringing us a cupcake on a Friday afternoon. The world is full of hostility, but where we are blessed to encounter kindness, friendliness, a helpful attitude, a job well done, respect in any big or small way, then it is worth pausing to show our appreciation. The appreciation may not be in the form of an award, a bunch of flowers, or even a card – it might given circumstances be a simple ‘thank you’ expressed in person, or even by email to a colleague or fellow office worker. Show your appreciation. Say thank you. Because the kindness of others should never be taken for granted. And your kindness in saying thank you might just make a bigger difference to that person than you think.

man in white dress shirt and maroon necktie holding hands with girl in white dress
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