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Monday, November 26, 2018

To Check or Not to Check ... that is the Question

One business advice columnist for the New York Times was recently approached on the question of unequal pay. The short version of this story is that the complainant was frustrated that a former supervisor was demoted to her job level, but then paid more money. He’s male. She’s female. She writes to ask whether she should ask for a salary adjustment.

The Times columnist wisely responded by suggesting other factors may be involved. Seniority, experience, and possessing very important skills may be contributing factors. Of course, the company may be trying to offset a significant amount of disappointment and does not want to lose a valuable person who may have advanced to a job over their head. Whatever the reason, it likely would not satisfy the woman who feels shortchanged.

The trouble here is deeper than logic may answer. Employees can easily develop a form of bitterness when they believe that fairness is at stake. Unfortunately, we all have our ideas about what fairness is, and those beliefs are not the same.

This employee's options are limited. Speaking with Human Resources (assuming the company had such a department) could get some understanding. If she still feels wronged, she must learn to accept this or, for the benefit of everyone, seek out another job where she believes she’s treated fairly.

A few years ago, someone submitted a similar complaint to the “Employee X” column in Entrepreneur magazine. This column was for people who needed to “vent” anonymously about a job situation. Pay is pretty personal.

The contributor for this story makes an honest admission in the form of questions. “Why is it that I often find myself obsessing over my salary? Why am I dying to know how much money my co-workers make? I'd like to think it has less to do with my greediness and more to do with my sense of fairness.”

In this case, the writer was working in a great job and environment. All was well until he/she did some research. Observe how quickly job satisfaction changed. The contributor writes, “My excitement quickly began to fade after checking a salary comparison website. I realized that workers in my position and location were making twice as much as I was…Soon, a couple of co-workers left the company and reported back that they were earning tens of thousands of dollars more to do the same work. I knew then that as comfortable as I was at that job, I really was getting played for a fool.”

Needless to say, no one likes to be played for a fool. No one likes to feel used. People want to feel valued and compensation is the main ticket. Note this, however. Our writer has a pattern of discontent over this saying, “At each job I've quit, my salary has left me feeling cheated to some extent.” So add one more frustration: feeling cheated. Ouch!

In my last blog I wrote about how gratitude can change a workplace. Employers can make the world better for everyone with this spirit. But is doesn’t remove perceived unfair business practices.

What to do? On the employer side, be willing to openly discuss questions about pay decisions either directly or through human resources. Transparency can help mitigate the problem without sharing personal information. Discourage sharing of pay and benefit information between employees as most employers do. And the hard-nosed truth, don’t be a weasel.

On the employee side, take step one: be grateful if you have a job that you love and gives you purpose. Be willing to acknowledge there are factors to which you may not be privy about the pay of others. If you still find yourself living with frustration, make the tough decision and go to a place where you feel you’re paid what you’re worth.

One particular proverb is worth the discipline to learn. “It's healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up.” (Proverbs 14:30, CEV)

And you might want to stay away from those salary comparison websites.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

A Thanksgiving Proclamation

Hear ye! Hear ye! A Thanksgiving holiday will be celebrated this Thursday, November 22nd. Hopefully, workplaces across America will use this opportunity to give employees extra time off to spend with family and friends; time to recognize the bounty of goodness that we enjoy in this land. Then we can quickly get on to the purchasing of a massive amount of goods with Black Friday sales. I’m sure Abe Lincoln would give that two thumbs up.

Here’s another important proclamation. This one applies to corporate leaders, managers, and business owners. Use this Thanksgiving time to show appreciation for your employees! It’s becoming more of an “in” thing—and not just around Thanksgiving.

I reference to you an article from September of last year by Kira M. Newman. Kira is the managing editor of Greater Good Magazine where this was published. She also created The Year of Happy, a year-long course in the science of happiness, and CafĂ©Happy, a Toronto-based meetup. The article she wrote is titled, “How Gratitude Can Transform Your Workplace.”

I will cite this important paragraph to get your attention. “The practice of gratitude—and its close sibling, appreciation—has started to infiltrate workplaces, from new software companies to older institutions like Campbell Soup, whose former CEO wrote 30,000 thank you notes to his employees. Though research on gratitude has exploded over the past two decades, studies of gratitude at work are still somewhat limited; results so far link it to more positive emotions, less stress and fewer health complaints, a greater sense that we can achieve our goals, fewer sick days, and higher satisfaction with our jobs and our coworkers." Pretty good payoff!

And did you catch that Campbell Soup item? The guy wrote 30,000 thank you notes! I’m not even sure that this is possible to accomplish and still keep your job!

Then there’s Southwest Airlines, where appreciation is a cultural cornerstone. It helped earn the distinction as America’s #13 Best Employer of 2018 by Forbes. One of their practices is to pay attention to special events in employees’ personal lives. Flowers and cards are used to recognize such events as kids’ graduations to marriages to family illnesses.

Serious effort has been made in researching how to show appreciation within an organization. Results yield some key strategies for the development of a more grateful workplace. Here’s a summary of four best practices from the article:

  1. Gratitude is about the whole person. Consultant Mike Robbins warns some gratitude initiatives fail when they simply repurpose long standing recognition programs. “Recognition rewards performance and achievement…whereas appreciation acknowledges your inherent worth as a person.”
  2. Gratitude isn’t one-size-fits-all. Not everyone wants to be appreciated in the same way. Kind of like knowing a person’s “love language.” Learn these differences or risk miscommunication by assuming everyone likes to receive a card, a coffee, or public praise. One leader has compiled dozens of different gratitude practices varying from “surprise care packages to appreciation badges to a celebration calendar.”
  3. Gratitude must be embraced by leaders. It isn’t something you can force. The recommendation is to communicate the value of gratitude and follow up by offering a variety of opportunities and options for practicing it.
  4. Finally, gratitude has to be part of the culture. Suggestions include adding a short gratitude practice to staff meetings or infusing internal communications with gratitude to keep it top-of-mind. 

There’s much more to be found in this excellent article including appreciation retreats!

How significant is the impact of gratitude and appreciation? One business exec said it this way: “When I’ve seen it work, it’s just life-changing.”

Thanksgiving might be a very good time to start this practice at your organization. It can even work from the bottom up! Everybody can do it.

And while you’re at it, remember this: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 106:1, NLT)

Happy Thanksgiving!

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Thank You for Your Service!

Today is the Monday holiday version of Veterans Day. November 11th is the real deal and it always includes some “real deals” for vets and active duty military. I’m amazed and impressed with the number of companies that want to honor military service with free meals and other kinds of goodies.

Like with any form of employment, how one “serves” can be open to question. We call our government employees “civil servants.” Our military members are honored for “serving their country.” A common greeting to vets these days is “thank you for your service.”

I always feel a bit awkward when those with military background are asked to stand and be honored. Truth be told, I did not volunteer for my military service. In fact, I tried to avoid it. My father died while I was in high school. In receiving a draft notice a couple of years later, moving out of the apartment I shared with my mother would have created a significant hardship on her. At the time, I was paying my share of expenses.

There was another reason to seek a deferment. The Vietnam War was fully engaged. While my patriotism is very strong, most of us do not look forward to combat. I didn’t. So after my appeal was denied for undue hardship reasons, I chose to enlist in the Air Force. Frankly, they seemed to offer the best option for avoiding combat.

And so it was. My duty stations were Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for basic training; Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi for technical training; and then my first true assignment—as “personnel specialist”at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California. Later, I would cross-train into broadcasting and head to a Naval base in Keflavik, Iceland, where I would be seen on the news each evening reporting sports on American Forces Radio and Television (AFRTS). Tough duty, huh?

Overall, serving the military was the best possible thing for my life at that time. The government took very good care of me. I met some of the most wonderful people on earth. And I took away a trade skill that serves me even to this day. Thank you, Uncle Sam.

In no way would I want to diminish the importance of the support services that the military requires. Even our radio and television operations with AFRTS provided a source of information, entertainment, and a sense of “home” to thousands who are separated from families and the land they love. Non-combat types of service are critical to mission support in many ways.

Now a reality check. Many with whom I served hated being in the military. Some even hated the military itself. The work they put in was not “service.” Their heart was not there to serve. They were there to put in their time and get out as fast as possible, doing as little damage along the way.

Even though there is no draft today, I trust there are many thousands who have bought into a recruiter's pitch and joined for benefits to be received. Instead of “thank you for your service,” perhaps what should really be said by those paying their way is, “You’re welcome for your job!”

Discerning people will understand what I am saying—because it’s true. For those who have sacrificed and served our country honorably, I salute you. For those like me who have served out of duty or obligation, thank you for honoring that service request to America. Our national safety would be in peril without these patriots.

For anyone in a job defined as “public service,” be sure you check your motives. You are indeed there to serve. It’s your priority. Your mission.

People of faith know this vital truth. Our leader, our Savior, directed it to be so. As Jesus said, “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.” (Mark 10:43-43, NLT)

So to all with a heart like that, I say, “Thank you for your service!”

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.
(Created by my wife, who I would not have met were it not for the Air Force!)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Under the Influence

“When leaders steward the small amount of influence they have in a God-honoring, life-giving way, it is no surprise when they are handed more influence and more opportunities to bring hope to others. Everyone has influence over someone. Great leadership involves stewarding or managing that influence over others to the best of our ability.” ~Tyler Reagin, The Life Giving Leader

That quote I found in preparing for a recent radio interview with Tyler Reagin. I’d recommend this book as one of the better releases of 2018. And it sets the stage for my third blog on the subject of influence.

Today, I want to work off of five points.

1) You have had, and you continue to have, a level of influence. This is true no matter your age, job situation, or place in life. Your influence could be positive…or negative.

Most of us are unaware of the influence we have on others. We assume that our words and actions don’t carry much weight in impacting others if we don’t hold a position of authority or high respect. Not true. Our self image is often shaped by the stated perceptions of others around us. Words carry power. How we treat others makes a difference. We either pay attention to people or we don’t. We can encourage and build up or tear down. We can be difference makers in helping others succeed or giving the impression they are of minimal value. Never underestimate the power you hold for influence.
2) If you have a spiritual faith, you only have that because of the influence of other believers, and the personal influence of God.
I find it’s easy for “religious” people to denigrate the atheist or agnostic person. It’s like the unbelieving soul doesn’t “get it” and they should wise up. Without knowing it, this develops a sense of superiority within the person of faith. Instead, there must be a humble appreciation that were it not for the influence of others and the Almighty, the faith we hold so dearly would not exist. We can take no credit. Likewise, sharing of faith in any form might well be the door that opens the soul of a life of renewal. Spiritual influence is a game changer.
3) The Bible has been given to you, along with the inner working of the Holy Spirit, to influence your beliefs and behavior related to a loving God.
According to Lifeway research, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible. That same research reveals 37% say it is helpful, 35% call it life-changing, and 52% say the Bible is a good source for morals. Yet even among people of faith, the Bible is often left unopened and unread. In America, it’s easy to find a Bible, and many people have multiple copies. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, if you give it a chance. 
4) Your legacy will be measured in large part by your commitment to the kind of influence you sought…and the influence you exercised.

There are a lot of articles, books, and seminars on legacy. For some, financial legacy is their objective. For others, having a monument in their name is what’s important. I would maintain the most lasting legacy is a faith legacy. Of the funerals I’ve attended, the ones that have greatest numbers of responders are due to lives that have been changed spiritually by the deceased. There may be no tributes in stone, but there are living monuments to a life well lived. 
5) Unless you learn to “guard your heart,” you will find yourself at peril for worldly influencers. (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Percentage wise, there are very few monks in the world. The rest of us have to learn to walk and work amidst the greatest of temptations. There is no easy way out. The wisdom of Solomon must prevail if we are to navigate life in wholeness. And that wisdom tell us to watch what we take in to the soul lest the darkness prevail.

I’d like to return to this subject in the days ahead. It’s so important to our lives to realize we are under the influence. Make that…the right influence.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook. 

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: