The $25 Towel: What does it say about you?

You’re on vacation and the resort where you’re staying provides beach towels. If towel(s) not returned, there will be a charge: $25 per towel. The last day of your stay you take a towel to the beach and when you return home, you realize you left the towel at the beach. What do you do?

1- Get in the car and go back to the beach (20 minute drive each way). Look for the towel (you’re pretty sure you know where you left it).

2- Let it go. Pay the $25.

What you choose to do says a lot about who you are.

  • How you handle mistakes: let it go, beat yourself up, try to rectify.
  • How you manage money: $25 charge upsetting or not a big deal.
  • How you move on (or not): Towel takes center stage for how long?
  • How you deal with disappointment: What if you can’t find the towel?

No right or wrong here. The point is to reflect on your choices in order to increase your self knowledge. The more you know, the better off you’ll be in all aspects of your life. Let’s look at specifics.

  • You are somebody who can’t be bothered going back for the towel. You’re ok with paying the $25 and you’ll enjoy your last evening of vacation. Positives: You forgive yourself and let go of mistakes, move on easily. Make the most of what you have right now. Negatives: You don’t look at your mistakes and don’t attempt to rectify for the future. In a team at work, you may not take responsibility for mistakes- urging a ‘let it go, let’s move on’ attitude.
  • You are somebody who has to go back for the towel. You are angry at yourself and need to fix this. Get the towel and avoid the fee (you hate to waste money). Positives: You address and rectify mistakes. You are persistent and driven when you have a goal. Negatives: You may be too hard on yourself. In a team at work, you may be taking on too much-fixing things on your own, rather than looking to collaborate and seek assistance.


My take on all this? I go back for the towel. No way I can let it go. This is my story– it happened to me and my husband last summer. Lucky for me, we found the towel. We saved $25 but what other price did we pay? I was in a complete panic and our last evening on vacation focused on a towel. My husband says he wouldn’t have gone back. Healthier option? Maybe, but not sure I could have let it go.

Think it through and see what you come up with. See how it plays out in your life and work. Which side of the $25 towel are you on?


VENTING WITH PURPOSE: Why are you complaining?

Last week a friend of mine shared her frustration with an aerobics instructor at the gym (lousy music, boring routine -same every week). When she finished, she said, OK, so now that I’ve vented, I can go on with my day. Big smile and off she went. It got me thinking about the purpose of venting. We all do it, whether we call it venting, complaining or griping. Why? What do we get out of it? In the case of my friend, she simply wanted/needed to say it out loud. Once she verbalized it, she could let it go and move on.

In the workplace, venting is generally frowned upon. You’re not considered a good team player if you share too many negatives and gripe about policies or working conditions. But, if- like my friend- workers could share their frustrations openly, it might be an effective way to let things out and move on to productive work.

The problem is, how do you do that without it becoming a bottomless pit of frustration and depression? Once people start complaining, how do they stop?

Well, like everything else in the workplace and in life- for that matter, there needs to be a clear purpose. Everyone should be on the same page when it comes to WHY we are venting. What’s the end result we want to achieve? It might be to relieve stress, improve connection to co-workers (knowing others feel the same), improve ability to cope with difficulties, or maybe effect change within the team or organization.

You want to be realistic and practical. This means that you and your co-workers are clear on what is possible (or not) and how much time can be spent. For example, if the group is complaining about a corporate policy that has been implemented across all departments, changing or getting rid of this policy is probably impossible. Here the work needs to be about sharing to relieve stress and/or sharing strategies to cope with the inconvenient (maybe ridiculous in your mind) policy. On the other hand, if the group is talking about a policy the boss has instituted that makes no sense to anyone, you might spend time talking about how to approach the boss with a counter proposal to achieve the same results. Time is always relevant in the workplace: Are you sharing over lunch or an authorized break? If not, be aware of who might be listening and how much time you’re spending away from work tasks. You get behind in your work because you were venting- no benefit to anyone- especially if a busybody lets the boss know.

There is definitely a great deal of personal satisfaction and stress relief in venting and sharing complaints with co-workers. If this is your purpose, go for it. Just be strategic and stick to clear purpose and time frame. Is it possible that complaining can actually a team building activity?! More on this in future blogs.

Workplace Conflict: Where do you stand?

WHY 2I was recently asked to write an article about ‘Workplace conflict for LGBT employees and their supervisors.’ As I thought about this and began to formulate the outline for the article, it occurred to me that many of the skills and tools I was explaining and strategies I advocated would be useful for ALL employees. Certainly LGBT workers have specific issues (I elaborate on this in the article), but don’t we all need help managing conflict in the workplace?

The question I raise applies to all workers: When you experience conflict with a co-worker or supervisor, what is your goal- end result you want to achieve? Maybe you want to get the offender fired, quit your job, request change in position or just avoid unpleasantness. Think about this and consider the possible outcomes of your actions. For example, if you attempt to get the offender fired, what happens if you don’t succeed? Will a long investigation in Human Resources serve a purpose for you? How will your co-workers be affected by your attempt to fire one of them?

Setting the goal for yourself is no easy task. Seeking revenge, avoiding, venting anger or just accepting misery are all options but are they really what you want to achieve? More on conflict to come and what to do once you determine your goal.

Boundaries on Black Friday



If you are an hourly employee working on Black Friday, you will undoubtedly be dealing with lots of people in crowded areas. The stores, of course will be packed with shoppers, but also restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels will be busy. Depending on your job, you may be required to move through and around large groups of people- waiter, busser, bartender, host/greeter, shelf stocker, sales associate. People are often oblivious, and do not move out of the way. You can’t shove them (although you might like to!) and “Excuse me!” for the 10th time is not working. What do you do? You need to actively establish boundaries and rules for these people. So, the waiter needing to get through the group, could say, “Folks, you need to move over to the side behind this pillar so I have a pathway. Ma’am, on the end there, you need to back up about a foot.” Be specific and clear. You will inevitably hear “Why?” or “What happens if I don’t?” or “I’m fine where I am.” The answer to all of this is, “You need to move so I can do my job and you can get your food.” Said with a strong clear voice (and a smile if you can manage it!) this directive is not offensive or rude. It establishes much needed boundaries for people and allows you to stay in control of the situation. Now you and your co workers can move through and get the job done.