Recently I was working with a client and going through my book, Reboot Your Mind for a Healthier Workplace, when I realized there are two very important subjects that I didn’t address: Grieving and Sarcasm. I plan to add them to the next version of Reboot, but in the meantime, here are some thoughts:
GRIEVING: In 2009, Barbara and I spent the better part of a weekend with our counselor, Lisa. We were struggling big time with one of our children, and Lisa suggested we schedule an extended time together. During our sessions, Lisa, who’s an associate professor with the Center for Counselor Education & Family Studies at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, asked a lot of hard questions.
In addition to helping us deal with our “challenged” child, she dug into some things that had been impacting my life more than I realized. At that point in time, I was within two years of my mandatory retirement from my 40-year career at Plante Moran, my dad had undergone a medical procedure that caused a personality change, and my body had broken down. (As Uncle Dan likes to say, “Are you really surprised? You’ve abused your body for years through high school and freshman college football; wrestling; aggressive water-skiing; competitive tennis, often five times per week; running 25-30 miles per week; and alpine skiing on most of the double-black-diamond runs in North America.”)
Barbara had her own areas of concern, and Lisa ended up diagnosing us both with multiple grieving issues. At that time, I knew very little about grief and grieving. So, in typical Tom Doescher fashion, I began a study. For men, the symptoms of grieving are anger, irritability, withdrawal, rumination, and substance abuse. The experts offer the following advice to men:
1) Give yourself time to grieve.
2) Watch out for harmful behaviors.
3) Call your man friends.
4) Know when to seek help.
They offer these tips for helping the grieving person:
1) Be there.
3) Allow him to experience his grief his way.
I’m guessing many of these suggestions would apply to women, as well.
I admit I’m way out of my area of expertise here. However, in my opinion — and especially with the impact of COVID over the past 15 months — there are team members who are suffering. As a leader, I would strongly suggest you be on the lookout for anyone who is struggling, and encourage them to get help like I did. Barbara and I have several counselors that we recommend to clients.
SARCASM: I can still hear Frank Moran’s voice as he told us, “Sarcasm is the language of the devil.” At the time, I didn’t realize he was quoting another philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, who died in 1881.
Having spent many years in locker rooms, I’ve experienced some pretty awful sarcasm. I think my readers know exactly what I’m talking about, especially the men (although women can dish out sarcasm, too). So often, the sarcastic messenger would say they were just kidding. In my humble opinion, rather than being funny, their words destroy the environment around them. If it’s used in the workplace, sarcasm is toxic, unacceptable, and creates unnecessary and long-lasting scars.
I’m not going to waste your time with a lot of words. Suffice it to say, the best workplaces forbid the use of sarcasm, and if someone slips — like we all do, from time to time — they police it immediately.
p.s. On a side note, there were some team members at Plante Moran who possessed an incredible gift of humor. My mentor, Ken Kunkel, was one of them. He used humor very effectively when we were dealing with what appeared to be a hopeless situation. Ken’s strong advice was to never use another person as the target of your humor. Instead, he encouraged making fun of yourself, and he modeled it very effectively for us.