Mariann Main: Becoming more connected


A few days ago, I celebrated a birthday. It was not one of significance, just another year clicking past at increasing speed.

The long anticipation and excitement of a next birthday has vanished with middle age. Now these yearly events seem to cycle with greater rapidity, making the aging process occur at warp speed, not something any woman wants to encounter. This fast-forward age accelerant is just another cruel reminder that “youth is wasted on the young.”

My 2016 birthday commenced with an electrical outage at 7:30 a.m., in 20-degree temperatures, swirling snow and the anticipated doorstep arrival of 10 neighborhood women in just six hours. The planned agenda was for a birthday fest of appetizers, beverages, one sinful chocolate cake and an accompanying decadent half-gallon of ice cream from the Penn State Creamery, delivered as one of the gifts.

Electricity returned at noon and the women arrived an hour later. Spontaneity, especially when encountering adverse conditions, is not my strongest attribute. Despite the challenges, the party was a success and the Penn State Creamery dispenses an ice cream that compares to no other.

Since the afternoon birthday gathering included only women, it was an opportunity to test the premise of a Jan. 17 New York Times article titled “Dating in the Deep End.” Laden with a headline that was a misnomer for the gist of the column, written by Tim Boomer, the piece examines our societal dictate which mandates introductory “small talk.”

This trend has only been amplified by the preponderance of texting as the most accessed channel of 21st century communication. I am not a fan of texting. Directives to clients include “if it takes more than 25 words to say via text, calling would be better.” The mandate eliminates misunderstandings and the potential of “arguing via text.”

Boomer made it his mission to “become more connected,” especially with those he was first meeting, by asking in-depth questions, such as “what inspires you professionally?” versus “where do you work?” His revelation for this idea occurred as he overheard the mindless introductory chatter of a man and woman meeting for a first date. Unknowing of their interloper, Boomer sat a few feet away.

This theory of “quality versus quantity” was tested at my party with few of the attendees knowing each other. Possibly it is easier for women since we are a “more revealing” gender, specific to personal information. However, learning why someone is inspired by their profession, versus just the name of their employer, offers information that is less forgettable.

The same scenario is being tested by Toronto-based FreshBooks, a “cloud accounting” service for small businesses. Employee Mary Grace Antonio hatched the idea for staff members to be paired on “blind dates” for coffee or lunch outside of the building, but without the intent of romance.

The approximately 100 staff members are matched with someone outside of their department so more “cross pollination” and understanding can occur of others’ roles within the company. This included all levels of employee ranks, from management to the mailroom.

A Jan. 25 CBS This Morning segment also emphasized that 79 percent of working Americans polled for a “work satisfaction” study find “positive relationships with co-workers” correlate to a more harmonious workplace and more positive life satisfaction of other non-job related factors, such as their marriages, and fewer cited stressors outside of the office.

Antonio included higher employee morale and less turn-over as benefits of her “blind date” experiment at FreshBooks, along with a few romances between those who were paired.

FreshBooks was founded in 2003 and offers a MicroSoft-type workplace mentality, where dogs are welcome and most of the staff appear to be younger than 40. The “blind date” concept might not be advantageous for all companies, but for large corporate entities, learning to know others outside of their department or down the hallway from where a job is based, should factor into higher employee connectivity and overall satisfaction.

Seeing the human assembly line each morning entering a large office building and exiting in the afternoon seems depersonalizing and isolating. Antonio’s idea could find merit with some of the monolith employers within Delaware County, such as Advance Auto Parts, Jegs, and other corporate entities aligning Polaris Parkway.

Mariann Main

Local Answers to Life’s Questions

Mariann Main is a Delaware native and journalism undergraduate, and is licensed as a counselor in both Ohio and Georgia. She can be reached directly via [email protected].

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