Few, But Smart and Well Chosen: Six Little Words About Work

Could you describe your job, your boss, or what inspires you at work, in just six simple words?

That’s what makes the new book “Six Words About Work so intriguing. A joint effort between Smith Magazine and consulting giant Mercer, this latest Six-Word Memoir project (Smith Magazine has done a number of them) is about a topic they suspected “would prompt passionate responses.”

Well, they were right. And so it did. As Steven Faigen of Mercer explained it:

People say fascinating things about work. That’s why we approached Smith Magazine about unleashing the collective power of the Six-Word Memoir community on this topic. The timing was right. Mercer had just finished updating its own employee research called What’s Working. We asked nearly 30,000 people in 17 geographic markets worldwide to give us their views about all aspects of work, including their jobs and employers.

This research helped us better understand what was on employees’ minds — an important part of our work with clients. But we also wanted to capture the human dimensions of work: the very personal observations, experiences (both good and less good) and nuggets of wisdom about work that somehow apply to all of us.”

Mercer and Smith Magazine ran this latest Six-Word Memoir competition from June through August 2011 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. It generated 8,000 submissions on work which were described as “witty, uplifting, insightful, pragmatic and funny.” Some 400 of the best entries were compiled for the book.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a challenge, and coming up with six short-but-sweet words to describe various aspects of the workplace experience is something I can appreciate. So without further adieu, here are a few of the entries (six from each of the four sections) in Six Words About Work that I liked best.

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It was a tough work picking just six with so much great wisdom to choose from. You’ll need to check out the book yourself to see if you agree.

My job – why I do what I do

  • The corporate jungle needs a Tarzan.
  • The pay allows me to play
  • Middle school counselor. Teenage angst specialist.
  • Because brilliant ideas die without encouragement.
  • My super powers are needed here.
  • Who doesn’t love the payroll lady?

Inspiration –  what inspires my best work

  • Every Monday the horizon’s the horizon.
  • I like proving the naysayers wrong.
  • The oft-missed beauty of the mundane.
  • Pleasing my inner critic. Worth it.
  • Thinking today will be the day.
  • Like hell I’m being runner up.

Bosses – the best boss I ever had

  • Defined destination without dictating the map.
  • Two ears, one mouth, engaged wisely.
  • Never confused a memo with reality.
  • Hired renewable resources, not expendable commodities.
  • Always brought us the good doughnuts!
  • Promoted truth, justice and, eventually, me.

Lessons – biggest lesson I learned at work

  • Add value — otherwise you’re a commodity.
  • Laughter is the best engagement tool.
  • It’s hard to cross burned bridges.
  • Think twice before you hit send.
  • Don’t laugh while boss is ranting.
  • Whiners never win; winners never whine.

Do you have you own six words of wisdom about work? If so, I’d love for you to post them here. If we get enough, I’ll do a special post about them for the larger TLNT audience.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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