Winston Salem

    Reprinted from the Winston-Salem Journal, April 14, 1997

    There is a great sense of insecurity.
    If you can't look to the company, where do you go?

    To your own resources.”
    — Maida Rogerson


    Soup for the Soul

    Book offers ideas on how to deal with job changes


    By Eleni Chamis

    As a group, Americans are committed to their jobs and loyal to their employers. At the same time, they are overworked and fearful that their jobs will be eliminated in downsizings, layoffs and technological improvements.

    It's not easy to keep a positive outlook these days.

    Two authors of a recently released self-help book say, however, that the atmosphere seems to be changing.

    "I think we're moving from dependence to interdependence," said Maida Rogerson, a co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work. "We were dependent on a company which defined us, looked after us, cared for us and promised us a secure future and retirement. I feel like that agreement, that covenant is broken.

    "There is a great sense of insecurity.... If you can't look to the company, where do you go? . . . To your own resources."

    Rogerson, an actress, singer and writer, and Tim Clauss, a business educator and counselor, were in Winston-Salem last week to promote Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work, first released last October.

    They are two of the five co-authors of the book, the ninth in the Chicken Soup series, started in 1993 and going strong. The original Chicken Soup for the Soul has been on The New York Times bestseller list for more than two years.

    Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work contains more than 100 inspirational stories, quotes and cartoons, intended to revitalize and renew the spirit. It is a lighter look at how small changes in the workplace can revolutionize the way employers treat their employees and how the employees respond.

    The ideas are nothing new.

    Offer to help a co-worker with a deadline. Lend a helping hand to someone who is unemployed and seeking work. Acknowledge a job well done.

    The stories are there for inspiration, encouragement, and motivation.

    It's a trend more companies are starting to recognize—dealing directly with human needs such as love, compassion and support and helping workers overcome obstacles, Rogerson said.

    "We all spend the majority of our lives at work," Clauss said. "It has to mean something to us."

    Stories were solicited from friends, colleagues and motivational speakers. There also are selections from such recognized people as Alex Haley, the author of Roots; Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoon; and Dave Thomas, the founder of the Wendy's hamburger chain.

    Some of the book's nine chapters, Clauss said, signify lessons for the workplace — The Power of Acknowledgement, Setting New Standards, Follow Your Heart and Creativity at Work.

    "We feel people focus on negativity," Clauss said. "Really, that is only 5 (percent) to 10 percent of the problem. We don't hear about the other 90 to 95 percent.

    “We don't acknowledge people. We don't thank them.

    "We're workaholics in this country . We're pretty stressed out. A thank you goes a long way toward company support."

    In today's "dehumanized" workplace, companies need to "buy back" their workers' spirit. Ask about their sick child, offer support on a large project.

    As one of the quotes in the book states, "Caring is a powerful business advantage."

    Things your company isn't doing you can almost bet your bottom line that your competitors are, Clauss said. The ones that make it "set high standards for themselves."

    The ideals in the book aren't always widely accepted, the authors acknowledged.

    "People are skeptics," Rogerson said. "Some of the bosses are skeptical by what could be accomplished. But many of them are up against a wall. Their budget has been cut. "A lot of them are willing to try something new."

    Rogerson and Clauss work as consultants in establishing Chicken Soup groups, a weekly or daily gathering when employees read stories from the book, talk about them, and offer stories of their own. Inevitably, deeper issues arise.

    "That's when they realize, you know, we're parents together, we're people together," Clauss said. "They start discovering things beyond their roles at work."

    The groups have been conducted at such large corporations as Southwest Airlines, Federal Express and Sony Entertainment. Many companies have started them on their own.

    In May, the 10th book in the series, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul win be released. A television special on the Chicken Soup phenomenon will air in the fall.